Kate Tuttle

Writer & Critic

Kate Tuttle

Writing on books and authors, race and politics, family and childhood.


For Rob Sheffield, the Beatles Are a Love Story

Growing up in Milton, Rob Sheffield spent a lot of time in the town’s public library, sitting in a chair with big headphones over his ears, listening to every Beatles record he could find. Introduced to the band by his older sisters, Sheffield was a fan from an early age. In “Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World,” Sheffield’s fifth book, he writes about what he calls “the world’s most passionately beloved band,” one whose music remapped popular culture and whose legacy somehow seems eternal.
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Skiffle strikes a chord with author Billy Bragg

Best known as a musician with a notably political bent, Billy Bragg is also a talented writer. In 2007 he published “The Progressive Patriot: A Search for Belonging,” in 2016 “A Lover Sings: Selected Lyrics,’’ and now comes “Roots, Radicals, and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World,” a deeply researched yet lively look at the musical craze that hit England in the mid-1950s.
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Story Behind the Book: Finn Murphy's ‘The Long Haul’

“I was squirreling stories away for a long time,” said Finn Murphy. “I had an audio-cassette recorder, and at the end of the day I would just talk into it.”. Those stories form the backbone of Murphy’s “The Long Haul: A Trucker’s Tales of Life on the Road,” published this month — around four decades after he first caught a glimpse of what would become his life’s work.
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Story Behind the Book: "The Gypsy Moth Summer"

Julia Fierro’s second novel, “The Gypsy Moth Summer,” is set in Avalon, a fictional islet off the coast of Long Island, over the summer of 1992. Change is in the air: The Cold War is winding down, and Bill Clinton is poised to enter the White House. But the people of Avalon are facing their own personal upheavals, some of them painful.
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Kevin Wilson's Perfect Little World: It takes a utopia to raise a child

Rather than join her classmates in celebrating, the first thing Isabel Poole does after graduating from high school is tell her art teacher, Hal, that she’s pregnant. the five stages of Hal’s reaction seem to be terror, ambivalence, drunkenness, violence, and disappearance. Izzy is left adrift and feeling alone in her Tennessee town.
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Mark Greif on His New Essay Collection, 'Against Everything'

Growing up in Newton, Mark Greif loved going to Walden Pond with his mother. Long before he read Thoreau, the philosopher took up residence in Greif’s young mind. “Thoreau was incredibly important to me as a kid, in part because I had no idea what he really said,” Greif said. “I just remember circling the pond with my mom and taking up all the things that we talked about that were wrong in the world, or preposterous, and I would find myself saying, ‘Well, what would Thoreau have said about this?’.
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Mathematician Cathy O’Neil’s on the Dangers of Big Data

“I’m trained as a mathematician, and I love math,” said Cathy O’Neil, whose new book, “Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy,” is an urgent critique of what she describes as the rampant misuse of math in nearly every aspect of our lives. From job applications that rise or fall on an candidate’s credit score, to algorithms that determine what ads you see when you go online, math is increasingly used, O’Neil said, as a weapon that too often goes unquestioned, even unnoticed, by most of us.
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Talking Family, Stories With John Freeman

For the second issue of his literary journal, Freeman’s, editor John Freeman had intended to focus on humor. He quickly learned, he said, that “you can’t ask people to be funny in writing, especially the funny people.”. But there were some gems. “The only funny stuff that came out of it was the family stuff,” Freeman said.
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In Brief: Reviewing Mitford bio, two other new titles

Once they were as famous, or notorious, as any of today’s reality television stars. Born from 1904 to 1920 into England’s landed gentry, blessed with health, wealth, beauty, and a ravishingly eccentric childhood, the six girls grew to up blaze wildly divergent paths. “One can chant the careers of the Mitford sisters in the manner of Henry VIII’s wives,” notes author Laura Thompson: “Writer; Countrywoman; Fascist; Nazi; Community; Duchess.”.
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In Brief: Elizabeth Greenwood, Stephen Gaines, Emelyn Rude

Drowning in student loan debt with no relief in sight, a friend’s stray comment got Elizabeth Greenwood thinking: Could faking her own death be a viable solution? “Faking death could be a refusal, a way to reject the dreary facts, a way to bridge the chasm between who you are and who you want to be,” she writes.
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Ian Frazier on country, city, and feral hogs

In “Hogs Wild,” Ian Frazier gathers two dozen magazine stories, previously published in The New Yorker (where he is a staff writer), Outside, The Atlantic, and Mother Jones over the past 20 years. Most are set in the United States, in locales as varied as New York, N.Y., and Sisters, Ore. Many involve animals.
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Grady Hendrix talks about ‘My Best Friend’s Exorcism’

“The title just kind of popped into my head one day,” said Grady Hendrix of his new book, “My Best Friend’s Exorcism,” which he describes as “sort of like ‘Beaches’ meets ‘The Exorcist.’ ”. Set in the 1980s, the novel centers on two high school girls who become convinced, in tune with one of the era’s most prevalent fears, that one of them is possessed by Satan and needs an exorcism.
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Kate Tuttle

I'm currently serving as President of the National Book Critics Circle. My reviews and articles about books have appeared in the Boston Globe, Washington Post, Salon,, and elsewhere. Native Kansan, longtime Cantabrigian, falling in love with Decatur, Georgia.

Feel free to email me at