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Articles by Steve Donoghue

Book Review: Joan of Arc – A Life Transfigured

October 23, 2014
joan cover

The mighty Maid who led medieval France’s armies to a string of improbable victories before being burned at the stake for witchcraft has been immortalized in song, on stage, on film – and in countless books. A new biography is the latest to tell the tale.

Cape Cod!

October 22, 2014
Cape Cod!

Our book today is Henry David Thoreau’s beloved posthumous 1865 book Cape Cod, a collection of pieces he wrote for the Penny Press detailing trips he and a companion made to Cape Cod in 1849, 1850, and 1853. They tramped everywhere, in all weathers, and Thoreau’s razor-sharp observational powers caught every nuance of the local […]

Book Review: Isabella, the Warrior Queen

October 21, 2014
isabella big cover

Biographer Kirstin Downey frees Queen Isabella from the shadow of her husband Ferdinand and sets her center-stage in her own incredible life

Book Review: George Whitefield – America’s Spiritual Founding Father

October 21, 2014
whitefield

In colonial America, a strange, otherworldly English preacher set off a tidal wave of fundamentalist revivalism that shaped an entire generation.

Book Review: The Collapse

October 19, 2014
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Twenty-five years ago, the Berlin Wall came down and the structure of European politics changed literally overnight. A fantastic new book dissects a turning point in modern history

Book Review: Desert God

October 19, 2014
desert god cover

Wilbur Smith continues the adventures of his super-eunuch Taita in his latest novel set in ancient Egypt

Classics Reissued: The Wars of Justinian

October 18, 2014
the wars of justinian

Everybody knows Procopius as the author of the scandalous “Secret History” – but he wrote a long and fascinating work of straightforward history as well, and that work finally gets a great one-volume English edition.

Book Review: The Woman Who Would Be King

October 18, 2014
woman who would be king cover

3000 years ago, a capable, enigmatic woman named Hatshepsut ruled Egypt for over twenty years; a spirited new biography tells her story

Penguins on Parade: The Song of Roland!

October 17, 2014
Penguins on Parade: The Song of Roland!

Some Penguin Classics, as we’ve noted, become curious little gems in their own right, regardless of the advance of scholarship or textual history, and one of those is the 1957 translation of La Chanson de Roland done by renowned mystery novel author Dorothy Sayers. The Song of Roland, that massively popular medieval verse epic about […]

Book Review: The Georgetown Set

October 16, 2014
georgetown set cover

In postwar Washington, a group of smart, well-placed and high-powered friends helped to set national policy over after-dinner conversation – a sparkling new book tells their story

Book Review: New York Mid-Century, 1945-1965

October 13, 2014
new york mid-century cover

A new and raucous (and sometimes destructive) dawn of art, architecture, and nightlife broke over New York City in the decades after the Second World War; a gorgeous new book traces the major upheavals

Classics Reissued: The Annotated Wuthering Heights

October 13, 2014
magnum easy eye wuthering heights

New from the Belknap Press: a lavish new annotated edition of “Wuthering Heights”

Book Review: Autumn, All the Cats Return

October 13, 2014
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Lieutenant Sebag returns in the second installment of Philippe Georget’s top-notch murder-thriller series set in southern France

Book Review: Political Order and Political Decay

October 11, 2014
political order cover

The author of “The End of History and the Last Man” completes his massive study of the life-cycles of human governmental systems

Book Review: The Ugly Renaissance

October 11, 2014
ugly renaissance cover

The age of Michelangelo and Leonardo was also the age of plague and pestilence; a new book finds this fact fascinating

Book Review: 1381- The Year of the Peasants’ Revolt

October 11, 2014
england, arise cover

A fascinating new book uncovers new depths and complexities in the much-studied events of Wat Tyler’s Rebellion

Book Review: The Wars of the Roses

October 10, 2014
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The protracted dynastic struggle of York and Lancaster is the dramatic subject of the new book by historian Dan Jones

Book Review: The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi

October 10, 2014
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An attractive new book collects the vibrant dinosaur artwork of Julius Csotonyi

Book Review: Forging Capitalism

October 10, 2014
ian klaus

A lean and very readable history of the swindling, extrapolating, gambling, and cheating in Victorian England that gave rise to the financial world we have today.

Penguins on Parade: Jason and the Argonauts!

October 8, 2014
Penguins on Parade: Jason and the Argonauts!

Some Penguin Classics, however humbly and unassumingly, make some fairly large claims for themselves, or at least dare to dream big dreams. It’s certainly understandable: after all, the Penguin line has an illustrious history, and several of its editions have gone on to a textual life of their own. These editions are very often used […]

Six for the Ripper!

October 7, 2014
Six for the Ripper!

Just recently I was asked to recommend “the best books on Jack the Ripper,” and my immediate response, I’m almost ashamed to admit, was unabashedly Clintonian: it really depends on what’s meant by “best.” There’ve been thousands of books about the infamous Victorian serial killer who murdered at least five women in one of the […]

Penguins on Parade: Chateaubriand!

October 5, 2014
Penguins on Parade: Chateaubriand!

Some Penguin Classics would have been considered by their authors as only fitting, and one clear example of this would have to be Memoires d’outre-tombe by Francois-Rene, Vicomte de Chateaubriand, his “Memoirs from Beyond the Tomb,” which he worked on for the last fifteen years of his life and which were published shortly after his […]

Comics: Batman 75th Anniversary Commemorative Collection

October 3, 2014
Comics: Batman 75th Anniversary Commemorative Collection

It’s been 75 years since Batman first darkened the nightmares of comic-book villains in Gotham City and around the world; a deluxe new anthology presents three of the Caped Crusader’s most popular graphic novels

Book Review: Nation Builder

October 2, 2014
nation builder cover

John Quincy Adams dreamed of an America very different from the chaotic and largely agrarian new nation he served for the whole of his life, and the details of that dream are laid out in a fine new study

Penguins on Parade: Untouchable!

October 1, 2014
Penguins on Parade: Untouchable!

Some Penguin Classics remain almost as startling on some levels now as they were when they were first published, and surely one such is the slim, darkly 1935 memorable novella Untouchable by the great Indian novelist Mulk Raj Anand, which chronicles the life and personal awakening of the handsome young boy Bakha, a member of […]

Book Review: Ring of Steel

October 1, 2014
ring of steel cover

An exemplary new history tells the story of the First World War from the viewpoints of the aggressors

Book Review: Embattled Rebel

October 1, 2014
embattled rebel cover

Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, gets a new biography by the popular Civil War historian James McPherson

Book Review: Goodhouse

October 1, 2014
goodhouse cover

Goodhouse
by Peyton Marshall
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014
The undergirding premise of Peyton Marshall’s debut novel Goodhouse is stated fairly plainly by young James, an orphan in the late 21st century who’s been transferred to something called …

Keeping Up with the Tudors: We Seymours

October 1, 2014
Keeping Up with the Tudors: We Seymours

Suzannah Dunn’s new novel takes readers inside the lives and tensions of the Tudor era’s Seymour clan – including the timid, practical daughter who will become Queen of England

Book Review: Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance

September 28, 2014
reading lucretius in the renaissance cover

A lively new book traces the fascinating second life of Lucretius’s poem “On the Nature of Things”

Book Review: The Boy Who Drew Monsters

September 28, 2014
the boy who drew monsters cover

After a harrowing near-death experience, a boy begins feverishly drawing monsters – but are his pictures mysteriously bringing them to life, or preventing them from coming to life?

In Paperback: Rhett Butler’s People

September 28, 2014
rhett butler’s people cover

Donald McCaig’s energetic retelling of Margaret Mitchell’s beloved “Gone with the Wind” gets a new paperback reprint

Book Review: The ‘Penny Dreadful’ Dracula

September 28, 2014
martin stiff 1

Bram Stoker’s undying classic gets a new makeover to correspond with a popular TV series

The Oxford Book of Letters!

September 26, 2014
The Oxford Book of Letters!

Our book today is the delightful Oxford Book of Letters from the halcyon year 1995, a beautifully-produced and jam-packed thing edited by Frank and Anita Kermode and devoted, of course, to what is now axiomatically referred to as “the lost art” of letter-writing. Axiomatically, but not, I think, melodramatically; letters were tangible things, after all, […]

No Poems!

September 24, 2014
No Poems!

Our book today is a carefree little 1932 gem No Poems, Or, Around the World Backwards & Sideways that celebrated Algonquin Club wit and raconteur Robert Benchley. By the point in his career when Benchley was writing the kinds of friendly observational squibs that comprise this volume, he’d carved out a niche for himself doing […]

Book Review: The Golden Princess

September 23, 2014
golden princess use

The latest of S. M. Stirling’s novels of the post-technology “Change” takes up the adventures of a new generation in a strange new (and yet old) world

Book Review: Founders as Fathers

September 21, 2014
founders as fathers cover

A new book looks at the family lives of five Virginian grandees during the American Revolution era

Book Review: To Make Men Free

September 21, 2014
to make men free cover

From Lincoln to Roosevelt to Eisenhower to Reagan and beyond – a new book tells the raucous and problematic history of the American Republican Party

Book Review: Welcome to Subirdia

September 21, 2014
jack delap illustration

In cities and suburbs all over the developed world, dozens of species of birds are making sometimes uneasy adaptations to the yards and neighborhoods and suburbs of human habitations – this is “subirdia,” and a spirited new book takes readers on a tour of it

Book Review: Italian Venice

September 21, 2014
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An engrossing new history takes readers past the modern Disney version of Venice

Book Review: The Lagoon

September 21, 2014
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We think of Aristotle as the premiere ancient philosopher, but Armand Marie Leroi’s witty, masterful new book urges us to remember that the philosopher was first and foremost a naturalist.

Book Review: Relicts of a Beautiful Sea

September 21, 2014
relicts of a beautiful sea

A paradox lies at the heart of Christopher Norment’s eloquent new book: the sea life of Death Valley

Book Review: Reynolds – Portraiture in Action

September 21, 2014
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He painted writers, explorers, kings, princes … and Doctor Johnson, and his portraits made him immortal. A gorgeous new book looks at the work of Joshua Reynolds

Book Review: An Empire on the Edge

September 21, 2014
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A spry new history re-examines all the forces that converged to compel the separation between the British Empire and the American colonies

Book-list warmups in the Penny Press!

September 19, 2014
Book-list warmups in the Penny Press!

The long list for the National Book Award has been announced, so for one quick news cycle a few more people will be talking about books than otherwise would. The nonfiction list is a fairly disappointing assemblage of boring books: Nature’s God by Matthew Stewart (the likely winner, in my opinion), No Good Men Among […]

Mansplaining in the Penny Press!

September 19, 2014
Mansplaining in the Penny Press!

As I foresaw, Sarah Boxer’s ridiculous article in the July/August issue of Atlantic drew ample responses. In her article, Boxer does the full-Millions take on why so many mothers are missing from Disney movies. Naturally, her explanation in “Why Are All the Cartoon Mothers Dead?” involved a vast evil male conspiracy, and in the new […]

Book Review: Juliet’s Nurse

September 19, 2014
juliet’s nurse us

The Nurse in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” takes center stage in a new historical novel by Lois Leveen

Book Review: Hate Crimes in Cyberspace

September 18, 2014
hate crimes in cyberspace cover

There’s an entire Internet sub-strata that caters to cyber-attacks and “revenge porn,” and a sharply-reasoned new book urges that this sub-strata be brought under the rule of law, for the good of all.

Book Review: A Century of Sea Travel

September 15, 2014
elder dempster lines

Before the age of commercial aviation, travelers of all sorts spent time on passenger vessels, some of which were very humble and others famously grand. New from Seaforth Publishing is a beautiful book documenting that lost era

Six for Field and Stream!

September 14, 2014
Six for Field and Stream!

Summer’s last true efforts – it’s last firm grips of heat and humidity – have finally faltered here in Boston; the mid-afternoon skies are bright and warm as always, but the mornings now tell a different story: their shadows are longer, and there’s a touch of actual chill in them. Soon the season’s signature languor […]

Book Review: A Deadly Wandering

September 13, 2014
a deadly wandering cover

A gripping new book uses a tragedy in Utah to examine the growing menace of texting while driving

Bad Parenting in the Penny Press!

September 11, 2014
Bad Parenting in the Penny Press!

When I opened the latest issue of my trusty Outside magazine, I thought the worst in bad-parenting outrage I’d have to face would be found in the letters column. Readers wrote in protesting the recklessness that writer Ted Conover had written about in an earlier issue, a monstrous and self-serving article called “This is How […]

Comics! Superboy and … who?

September 11, 2014
Comics! Superboy and … who?

On the one hand, I’ve trained myself over the last two years to hold virtually the entire run of DC Comics at arm’s length, since the comics company I’ve loved for so long is still in the throes of “The New 52,” a top-to-bottom revision of their superhero continuity, a revision almost entirely for the […]

Book Review: Dark Forces

September 10, 2014
dark forces cover

What really happened that night in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, when four US citizens lost their lives when a large group of gunmen attacked the US compound? What were the forces that set the tragedy in motion, and could it have been prevented? A new book asks the hard questions

Book Review: 13 Hours in Benghazi

September 10, 2014
13 hours in benghazi cover

The events of September 11, 2012 at the American compound in Benghazi have proven extremely politically divisive, but Mitchell Zuckoff’s new book strives to stay focused on the men doing the fighting and dying

Book Review: The Accidental Abduction

September 10, 2014
the accidental abduction cover

When a headstrong young woman jumps in a coach in order flee Mr. Wrong, she never guesses she’s got a passenger in the back who might just be Mr. Right.

Book Review: The Accidental Duchess

September 10, 2014
the accidental duchess cover

What does a headstrong gambler do when she makes an all-or-nothing bet with an imperious lord – and loses?

Book Review: The King’s Curse

September 9, 2014
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King Henry VII’s victory at Bosworth transferred the crown of England to the new Tudor dynasty – but it also left many Plantagenets hanging around making Henry VII anxious. His son Henry VIII shared that anxiety, and his gradually-increasing persecution of the last remaining Plantagenets is the heart of Philippa Gregory’s new novel.

Book Review: Rebel Yell

September 8, 2014
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Historian S. C. Gwynne has written an immense – and immensely readable – biography of one of the most enduringly enigmatic figures of the American Civil War, Stonewall Jackson

Book Review: Band of Giants

September 8, 2014
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We all know the names of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams, but a terrifically engaging new book reminds us that the American Revolution’s supporting cast was no less fascinating

Book Review: The Birds of Pandemonium

September 8, 2014
birds of pandemonium cover

Spurred by a chance encounter with a wounded bird, Michele Raffin steadily grew her hobby into one of the world’s most successful sanctuaries for rare and threatened birds in need of rehabilitation.

Book Review: Edge of Eternity

September 7, 2014
edge of eternity cover

Ken Follett’s enormous “Century Trilogy” comes to its conclusion against the backdrop of the Cold War, the civil rights struggle, and all the other trials of the 20th century

Book Review: No Man’s Land

September 7, 2014
no man’s land cover

The First World War provided the dark inspiration for an entire generation of great writing, and a big new anthology assembles a stunning variety of that work, from the familiar to the obscure

Book Review: A Path Appears

September 6, 2014
a path appears cover

A compendium of uplifting stories of ordinary people making extraordinary efforts to find ways to help the poor and disadvantaged of the world

Book Review: Sword of the Bright Lady

September 4, 2014
sword of the bright lady cover

A mild-mannered engineer goes out walking in Arizona and suddenly finds himself transported to a strange and violent alien world in M. C. Planck’s fantastic latest novel

Book Review: Wolf in White Van

September 3, 2014
wolf in white van cover

A tightly-controlled kaleidoscopic debut novel from the lyricist for the Mountain Goats

Book Review: The Emerald Light in the Air

September 3, 2014
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“It’s not your fault.” “What’s not my fault?” “Nothing. Everything. I don’t know.”

Book Review: Dodging Extinction

September 2, 2014
Book Review: Dodging Extinction

In the face of a black wall of facts about environmental degradation and mass extinction, a scientist and teacher offers a much-needed note of hope

Penguins on Parade: The Gang of Four!

September 2, 2014
Penguins on Parade: The Gang of Four!

Some Penguin Classics feel commercially motivated, and of course that speculation applies firmly to something like big, hefty Four Tragedies, collecting the Penguin texts of Shakespeare’s Hamlet,Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth. This edition has been reprinted many times over the last thirty years, for one very commercial reason: schools all over the world use it […]

Book Review: The Rise of the Seleukid Empire, 323-223 BC

September 1, 2014
the rise of the seleukid empire cover

In the wake of Alexander the Great’s death, many voracious sub-kingdoms sprang up along the routes of his famous conquests. One of these would go on to become the Seleucid Empire, and a new book details its first century of existence

Mystery Monday: The Stone Wife!

September 1, 2014
Mystery Monday: The Stone Wife!

Our mystery today is The Stone Wife by Peter Lovesey, new from the wonderful folks at Soho Crime, the fourteenth of Lovesey’s novels to star stolid CID Superintendent Peter Diamond and his equally-stolid crew of investigators based in the lovely, historic old city of Bath. There’s pretty, intelligent Detective Sergeant Ingeborg Smith, and there’re veteran […]

Mystery Monday: The Stone Wife!

September 1, 2014
Mystery Monday: The Stone Wife!

Our mystery today is The Stone Wife by Peter Lovesey, new from the wonderful folks at Soho Crime, the fourteenth of Lovesey’s novels to star stolid CID Superintendent Peter Diamond and his equally-stolid crew of investigators based in the lovely, historic old city of Bath. There’s pretty, intelligent Detective Sergeant Ingeborg Smith, and there’re veteran […]

The Lion’s Den

September 1, 2014
The Lion’s Den

We think of the Middle East as a place of hopeless deadlocks – but once upon a time, an Egyptian president, an Israeli prime minister, and a U.S. president worked for two weeks to hammer out a plan for peace. Lawrence Wright takes readers to Camp David at a turning point in history.

From the Archives: The Battle for Justice in Palestine

September 1, 2014
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A controversial author’s latest and most devastating indictment of Israel’s policies toward its Palestinian citizens and neighbors

Comics! The Wedding of Crystal and Quicksilver!

August 30, 2014
Comics! The Wedding of Crystal and Quicksilver!

Our story today is an oldie from the halcyon days of 1974, when a United States increasingly mired in the Watergate scandal got some much-needed distraction by turning to the pages of Marvel Comics for the comics event of the year (if you don’t count the first appearances of both the Punisher and Wolverine – […]

Book Review: The Organized Mind

August 28, 2014
the organized mind cover

More and more information bombards us every day in what seems like an unbeatable torrent – and a new book attempts to separate the signal from the noise and help its readers to do a little mental triage

Book Review: Star Trek Seekers 1

August 25, 2014
Book Review: Star Trek Seekers 1

Back in the heyday of pre-reboot “Star Trek,” Captain Kirk and his crew had countless adventures – but what about all the other starships in the fleet? Didn’t any of them have adventures?

Book Review: The Loeb Augustine’s Confessions

August 24, 2014
Book Review: The Loeb Augustine’s Confessions

For centuries, the Confessions of Saint Augustine has been considered one of the greatest spiritual autobiographies ever written; the text’s first eight chapters gets a new translation in the venerable Loeb Classical Library

Two Guidebooks … of Venice!

August 22, 2014
Two Guidebooks … of Venice!

Our books today are two unconventional little hand-sized guidebooks to the marvellous city of Venice, 1966′s very popular and often-reprinted classic Venice for Pleasure by J. G. Links and Another Venice from the year 2000 by Jacopo Fasolo. Of course these two books are two little bits on a towering heap of Venice guidebooks – […]

Book Review: A Message from Martha

August 22, 2014
message from martha cover

2014 marks the sad centenary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, whose vast flocks had once darkened the skies of a young America; a new book sounds out the messages of that melancholy anniversary

Book Review: The Poet and the Vampyre

August 20, 2014
the poet and the vampyre cover

Lord Byron’s personal physician was a prolific writer in his own right, and he’s the subject of a pleasingly lurid new account

Roman Revivals in the Penny Press!

August 19, 2014
Roman Revivals in the Penny Press!

It’s been two blessed years since the New York Review of Books reprinted John Williams’s flatulently boring 1965 novel Stoner and the presumably bored grandees of the book-chat world surprised all rational people by taking it up as some sort of lost classic and singing its praises from every literary pulpit in the English-speaking world. […]

The English Country House!

August 18, 2014
The English Country House!

Our book today is a gorgeous 1974 Thames & Hudson volume called The English Country House: an art and a way of life, written by Olive Cook with loads of great photos by A. F. Kersting. The book has one of the most interesting and charming subjects of them all to examine, and it opens […]

Book Review: Hiroshima Nagasaki

August 17, 2014
hiroshima nagasaki cover

A sweeping new history looks back half a century to the only wartime use of atomic weapons

Book Review: The Nixon Tapes

August 15, 2014
the nixon tapes cover

President Nixon secretly tape-recorded his White House conversations for years – it was a habit that would help to destroy his administration, but before it did that, it created a huge archive of recorded conversations, which form the underpinning of a big new book

Book Review: Mona Lisa – A Life Discovered

August 14, 2014
mona lisa discovered cover

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is the most famous painting in the world – but who was the young woman in the painting? A new book narrates the life of the best-known face of them all.

Enrico Dandolo & The Rise … of Venice!

August 12, 2014
Enrico Dandolo & The Rise … of Venice!

Our book today is another recent Brattle find: Enrico Dandolo & The Rise of Venice, a 2003 study of medieval Venice (and its most remarkable citizen, whose life spanned almost the whole of the twelfth century) by Thomas Madden, who has a wonderful way of scraping away the romantic veneer of post-Renaissance Venice and showing […]

Book Review: In the Kingdom of Ice

August 10, 2014
in the kingdom of ice cover

Best-selling historian Hampton Sides takes as the subject of his new book a brave and failed 19th-century Arctic expedition

A Season of Giants!

August 7, 2014
A Season of Giants!

Our book today is an oversized ‘coffee table’ treat, Vincenzo Labella’s lavishly illustrated 1990 tour of the Italian Renaissance, A Season of Giants, 1492-1508: Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael. Labella claims right from the start that his book centers on three titanic artistic geniuses of the period, and when it comes to those three, our author never […]

Book Review: Beethoven – Anguish and Triumph

August 7, 2014
beethoven cover

A massive new biography chronicles the fascinating life of one of the greatest composers of all time

Mystery Monday: By My Hand!

August 4, 2014
Mystery Monday: By My Hand!

Our book today is By My Hand, the new Commissario Ricciardi mystery by Maurizio DeGiovanni – a richly textured and enormously enjoyable series starring a morose young police detective in 1930s Naples who, since his childhood, has had a gift – or, from his own viewpoint, suffered under a curse – that helps him in […]

The August 2014 Boston Public Library Book Sale!

August 3, 2014
The August 2014 Boston Public Library Book Sale!

My last experience with the every-other-month Boston Public Library books sale was so pleasing – not just the sight of lots of enthusiastic young people eagerly browsing the books but also a near-complete paperback set of Patrick O’Brian’s magnificent series of Aubrey/Maturin novels – that I hardly hesitated this morning to make the short trip […]

Book Review: The Dog

August 2, 2014
the dog cover

A fascinating debut collection of short stories set in modern China

Saladin!

August 1, 2014
Saladin!

Our book today is Saladin, the great 2008 biography by Director of Research at Paris’s Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique Anne-Marie Edde, now at last available in a sturdy paperback in an English-language translation by Jane Marie Todd. And although six years is a disgracefully long gap between French intellectual curiosity and American intellectual […]

Book Review: Robert the Bruce

August 1, 2014
Book Review: Robert the Bruce

Robert the Bruce: King of the Scots
by Michael Penman
Yale University Press, 2014
 
This summer marks the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, the epic confrontation in June 1314 between the English troops of Edward II …

Twenty Feet Tall!

August 1, 2014
Twenty Feet Tall!

The third voume of Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland trilogy is sure to fly off the shelves, but those flying copies will be light to the tune of a few needed footnotes, omissions our managing editor finds, to say the least, troubling.

Book Review: The Black Hour

July 29, 2014
the black hour cover

The Black Hour
By Lori Rader-Day
Seventh Street Books, 2014
 
 
Lori Rader-Day’s thrillingly good debut mystery novel, The Black Hour, turns on a dolefully touchstone issue in the 21st century: school shootings. The school in question is Chicago’s …

Book Review: The Quick

July 27, 2014
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A young man from the Victorian provinces comes to London to meet new kinds of people – and hoo boy, does he – in Lauren Owen’s lavish and, yes, seductive debut novel

Book Review: Taken at the Flood

July 27, 2014
taken at the flood cover

Poe’s neat pairing of “the glory that was Greece” and “the grandeur that was Rome” belies the complexity of Republican Rome’s rapid expansion into the greater Mediterranean world and Asia Minor, the fascinating subject of Robin Waterfield’s new book

Book Review: Tudor Adventurers

July 27, 2014
tudor adventurers cover

In 1553, an audacious expedition set sail from England headed east in search of a passage to China – a young historians debut work tells the story of that expedition in all its high drama

Book Review: The Spanish Armada

July 27, 2014
Book Review: The Spanish Armada

In 1588 the greatest war-fleet since the Trojan War was launched against the England of Elizabeth I. A gripping new history tells the familiar story for a new generation

Book Review: The Cougar

July 27, 2014
The Cougar

A great new book of natural history focuses on the history, ecology, and behavior of the mountain lion, the fourth largest cat on the planet

Book Review: Wayfaring Stranger

July 25, 2014
wayfaring stranger cover

When WWII army buddies go into the oil business in postwar Texas in James Lee Burke’s new novel, they encounter an enigmatic businessman who might make or break them

The High Price in the Penny Press!

July 24, 2014
The High Price in the Penny Press!

  … and we’re not talking about cover prices, although they’re expensive enough (it really does make palm-to-forehead sense to subscribe to any magazine you regularly read). No, the real price for reading a lot of the Penny Press is the garbage you confront on your way to reading the good stuff. This is true […]

Book Review: Watching Them Be

July 22, 2014
watching them be cover

A long-time movie critic assembles some of his most passionate and fascinating essays on the great directors and actors of cinema’s golden age

Book Review: The Emperor Far Away

July 22, 2014
the emperor far away cover

A veteran reporter journeys deep into the heart of modern China and brings back predictably exotic stories

Book Review: Michelangelo – A Life in Six Masterpieces

July 20, 2014
michelangelo cover

A new biography looks at the long life of one of mankind’s greatest artists through six of his greatest works

Book Review: Tower Lord

July 20, 2014
tower lord cover

Anthony Ryan follows up his much-praised debut “Blood Song” with a much more ambitious sequel

Book Review: Travels with Casey

July 20, 2014
travels with casey cover

An enterprising young writer takes his dog on a road-trip around America in search of all the dog-crazy people the country can provide

Book Review: A Possibility of Violence

July 20, 2014
a possibility of violence cover

Tel Aviv writer D. A. Mishani’s police detective Avraham Avraham returns to his old precinct and is immediately embroiled in black markets, plots, and counter-plots.

Book Review: The Year’s Best Science Fiction, 31st Collection

July 20, 2014
year’s best science fiction cover

The legendary science fiction anthology series by Gardner Dozois reaches its thirty-first incarnation, with 700 pages of standout stories

Book Review: The Weight of a Human Heart

July 19, 2014
weight of a human heart

A debut short story collection spans the world for its settings and marks the appearance of a notable talent

Book Review: Sisters of Treason

July 19, 2014
sisters of treason cover

Lady Jane Grey was famously Queen of England for less than a fortnight before being executed by Queen Mary I; Elizabeth Fremantle’s new book takes us into the world of Lady Jane’s two sisters, adrift in a royal court that can’t afford to trust them.

The Atheneum Centenary!

July 19, 2014
The Atheneum Centenary!

Our book today is a bit of a specialty item, I readily admit: it’s the sturdy volume commissioned and printed in order to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the venerable Boston Atheneum, Boston’s great private library, and right away we’re on squishy ground, since the long and torturous history of the Atheneum could admit […]

Book Review: Alias Hook

July 17, 2014
alias cook cover

The villainous Captain Cook from “Peter Pan” stars in Lisa Jensen’s new novel – but it’s a far more complex and sympathetic version of the character than Neverland fans will remember

A July Book-Haul!

July 15, 2014
A July Book-Haul!

The dog days of summer have settled into place (although it’s resolutely refusing to feel that way in the entire eastern half of North America), and all my young friends over on BookTube are happily ensconced in making their July book-videos – very much including the book “hauls” they somehow manage to take in despite […]

Book Review: The Great War for Peace

July 14, 2014
the great war for peace cover

Did the cataclysmic First World War actually have a hidden peace-dividend? Did it change the vocabulary of rapprochement forever? A vigorous new study makes a daring case

Mystery Monday: Thus Was Adonis Murdered!

July 14, 2014
Mystery Monday: Thus Was Adonis Murdered!

Our book today is 1981’s Thus Was Adonis Murdered by Sarah Caudwell, the pen name taken by Sarah Cockburn, the witty and delightful sister of famed muckraking journalists Patrick, Alexander, and Andrew Cockburn. She was a London barrister in the eccentric Rumpole mode, and in the down-time from her busy legal profession, she wrote murder […]

Book Review: War of Attrition

July 12, 2014
war of attrition cover

One of the foremost historians of the First World War offers a comprehensive and brutal overview of the conflict that gave birth to the modern world

A Gathering of Shore Birds!

July 12, 2014
A Gathering of Shore Birds!

Our book today is the utterly charming A Gathering of Shore Birds, a 1960 compilation of the wonderful bird-life columns Dr. Henry Marion Hall wrote for Audubon Magazine more than half a century ago. The editors at Devon-Adair (as the outfit used to be in palmier days, happy and sane) had the inspired notion to […]

Book Review: A Mad Catastrophe

July 11, 2014
mad catastrophe cover

A gripping account of the final days of the inept, tottering Austro-Hungarian empire – and the military apocalypse it helped to usher in

Classics Reissued: Richard III

July 7, 2014
richard iii cover

The discovery of Richard III’s skeleton in 2012 has flushed a number of books about the legendary dark monarch back into print – and none more welcome than this snappy volume by veteran biographer Desmond Seward

Pit Bulls in the Penny Press

July 7, 2014
Pit Bulls in the Penny Press

Naturally, I was eager to read Tom Junod’s piece in the new Esquire, “The State of the American Dog,” which is about the unfair stigmatizing of pit bulls in America and their subsequent skyrocketing execution rates in animals shelters across the country. And on a prose level, the piece itself doesn’t disappoint: Junod is a […]

Book Review: Season to Taste

July 6, 2014
season to taste cover

A discontented English housewife impulsively kills her husband and is then faced with the logistical problem of what to do with his body. In Natalie Young’s chillingly readable new novel, that housewife does what comes naturally

Book Review: The Visitors

July 5, 2014
the visitors cover

In Sally Beauman’s new novel, a young girl sent to Egypt for her health becomes entangled in dramatic events surrounding Howard Carter’s discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb …

Book Review: Facts and Inventions

July 4, 2014
facts and inventions

The boozy, gossipy author of “The Life of Johnson” was a working journalist-hack for the whole of his life, but hardly any of that material has been cleaned up and presented to the modern reader – until now, in a groundbreaking new volume from Yale University Press

Book Review: The Unknown Lloyd George

July 3, 2014
the unknown lloyd george cover

One of the greatest British Prime Ministers of them all gets an authoritative new biography

The Third Reich in Power

July 1, 2014
The Third Reich in Power

Our book today is The Third Reich in Power, the massive 2005 middle block volume in Richard Evans’s enormous Nazi Germany trilogy, the first volume of which covers the Hitlerian rise to power and is necessarily the sketchiest of the three and the third volume of which, The Third Reich at War (which I reviewed […]

The Reign of Saturn

July 1, 2014
The Reign of Saturn

Babe Ruth, Mayor Walker, Duke Ellington, Dorothy Parker – New York City in the Jazz Age was a bristling landscape of giants, most of them from out of town. A vast and enthralling new history tells the stories of the people who made the Big Apple.

Mystery Monday: A Face Turned Backward!

June 30, 2014
Mystery Monday: A Face Turned Backward!

Our book today is A Face Turned Backward, the 1999 second installment in Lauren Haney’s delightful series of murder mysteries set in ancient Egypt and featuring stalwart (and easy on the eyes) Lieutenant Bak, commander of the Medjay police force in the frontier town of Buhen during the reign of the Pharaoh Hatshepsut. The book’s […]

Book Review: Price of Fame

June 30, 2014
price of fame cover

Diplomat, author, congresswoman, power broker, playwright – Clare Boothe Luce crammed an enormous amount of living into her life, and the concluding volume of Sylvia Jukes Morris’s essential biography gives it all the sparkling narration it deserves

Book Review: A Literary Education and Other Essays

June 29, 2014
literary education cover

A generous new collection of essays by the legendary Joseph Epstein

Book Review: Queen Anne – Patroness of Arts

June 27, 2014
queen anne patroness cover

John Anderson Winn’s thumpingly good new book studies the life and reign of Queen Anne through the least likely focus of them all – and succeeds wonderfully on all counts

Book Review: The Land of the Elephant Kings

June 26, 2014
land kings cover

One of the hard-chancing successors of Alexander the Great grabbed most of Asia when Alexander died – and then that successor and his successors worked desperately hard to hold onto it all

Comics: Shopping for Art!

June 26, 2014
Comics: Shopping for Art!

It’s always a thing I feel a little bit ashamed to admit, but there it is: I go to comic books mainly for their artwork. I know all about the brilliance of today’s comics writing – I hear about it all the time from comics aficionados, that today’s industry writers are smarter and more literate […]

Comics: The Legacy of Thanos

June 25, 2014
avengers cover

The super-villain glimpsed at the end of the mega-hit “Avengers” movie casts a long shadow in the comic books where he was born – a new Marvel Comics graphic novel fills in some of the blanks

Book Review: Down the Shore

June 24, 2014
stan parish

A debut novel follows a charismatic young man’s partying days from New Jersey all the way to Scotland and back and charts his downfall as well

Book Review: The Nile

June 23, 2014
the nile cover

The entire vast and vivid history of Egypt is outlined to the reader as Toby Wilkinson’s charming new book makes its way down the Nile

Notes for a Star Trek Bibliography: The City on the Edge of Forever!

June 21, 2014
Notes for a Star Trek Bibliography: The City on the Edge of Forever!

The 1967 episode of the original Star Trek TV series “The City on the Edge of Forever” comes up almost necessarily in any discussion of the franchise as a whole. Fans routinely rank it as one of the best episodes of the original series, and a smaller sub-set of those fans, myself included, maintain that […]

Book Review: Independence

June 21, 2014
independence cover

The complicated history of the American Revolution gets its best examination in a generation in Thomas Slaughter’s new book

Book Review: Stephen Crane – A Life of Fire

June 20, 2014
stephen crane cover

The young author of “The Red Badge of Courage” is the subject of a lively and very readable new biography

Book Review: The Explorers

June 19, 2014
the explorers cover

Popular writer Martin Dugard offers a new book about history’s great explorers, men and women who thought outside the box, pushed the envelope, lived every day as if it were their last, ate their vegetables, and voted three times for Ronald Reagan

Book Review: The Battle of Lepanto

June 18, 2014
the battle of lepanto

In 1571 the Christian West and the Muslim East clashed in an epic sea-battle, and when it was over, painters, writers, and poets echoed it in their works. The latest I Tatti volume collects a bounty of those responses

Book Review: No Country

June 17, 2014
no country cover

Two friends flee famine-parched Ireland for opposite ends of the world in this big new historical novel

Book Review: The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar

June 16, 2014
mumble

A man adopts a smart, fussy owl – and the relationship completely changes his life

Six More for the Scribblers!

June 14, 2014
Six More for the Scribblers!

A good many of you responded favorably to that last “Six for the Scribblers” writer-biography round-up (and some of you pointed out that the entry didn’t, in fact, include six biographies but instead only five, against which my only lame defense is to note that this is “Stevereads” not “Stevecounts”), and since there are EVER […]

Book Review: The Novel – A Biography

June 14, 2014
the novel cover

A luminous – and enormous – new account of the novel’s colorful history takes readers on a fun and fast-paced tour of fiction from Fielding to Diaz, with innumerable stops in between

Book Review: The Bombers and the Bombed

June 13, 2014
bombers and the bombed cover

Even in its truncated US edition, Richard Overy’s great new history of aerial bombing during WWII has much to offer its readers

The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters!

June 12, 2014
The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters!

Our book today is Robert Lewis Taylor’s 1958 historical novel The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, which made as much of a splash as any book could reasonably be expected to make. It sold briskly (thanks to an innovatively energetic ad campaign); it garnered an enviable collection of critical praise (The New York Times called it […]

The Allure of the Islands in the Penny Press!

June 11, 2014
The Allure of the Islands in the Penny Press!

Conde Nast Traveler’s latest issue is their regular celebration of islands, which the magazine’s fantastic new editor-in-chief Pilar Guzman justifies with elegant simplicity: Everything just tastes, looks, and feels better on an island. (It’s a little like how airplane altitude adds two starts – and many more tears – to every movie experience.) Maybe it’s […]

Six for the Scribblers!

June 10, 2014
Six for the Scribblers!

Our books today are six sterling choices from that strangest of all biographical sub-genres, the literary biography. A writer friend of mine (too soon gone, but his books live on, which is kind of the whole point, isn’t it?) summed up the strangeness rather well one day while we were prowling the Brattle bargain-carts when […]

Book Review: The Literary Churchill

June 10, 2014
the literary churchill cover

The man we think of as the quintessential politician was first and foremost a working author, as an amazing new assessment makes clear

Mystery Monday: The Queen’s Head!

June 9, 2014
Mystery Monday: The Queen’s Head!

Our book today is The Queen’s Head, a 1988 murder mystery set in the England of Elizabeth I, written by a first-class hack under the pen-name of “Edward Marston” (there’s an in-joke there, but you’d have to be mighty well-read to spot it, and there’s no class of scribblers better-read, of course, than hacks). The […]

Book Review: My Lady Viper

June 9, 2014
my lady viper cover

King Henry VIII’s last wife referred to her as “Hell,” and the Court universally despised her coarse ambition – she was Anne Seymour, and she’s the unlikely subject of a nifty new novel

The June 2014 Boston Public Library Book Sale!

June 7, 2014
The June 2014 Boston Public Library Book Sale!

Even a winter-fancying polar bear (or perhaps arctic fox? I’ve had my nose licked by the latter and only been silently, systematically terrorized by the former, so maybe we’ll go with “arctic fox”) such as myself could hardly have complained about the gorgeous summer day that unfurled today in observance of the Boston Public Library’s […]

Book Review: The Poisoner

June 7, 2014
the poisoner cover

1856 London rang from one end to the other with the celebrated murder trial of Dr. William Palmer. A delightful new history presents the story for a new generation

A June Book-Haul!

June 7, 2014
A June Book-Haul!

My favorites at over at BookTube continue to do their book-challenges and their book-unboxings and their book-hauls, so I thought I’d post my own first book-haul of June 2014! Not my first book-haul of the month just across the board, mind you; in my unofficial capacity as postal-gopher for Open Letters Monthly, I’m in the […]

The Fault in Our Star in the Penny Press!

June 6, 2014
The Fault in Our Star in the Penny Press!

As usual, the “Summer Fiction” issue of the New Yorker had its fair share of good things. In years past with these issues, I’ve often had to look elsewhere than the actual fiction to find those good things, but in 2014 the magazine has been on the run of its life for short stories, and […]

Summer Books: The Iliad!

June 5, 2014
Summer Books: The Iliad!

Our book today is Homer’s Iliad, a choice some of you will have been expecting all throughout this “summer books” thread, since I’ve made no secret of the fact that I re-read Homer every year, the Iliad in June and the Odyssey in August. I use them as mental bookends to what we’ll increasingly need […]

Book Review: Pagan Britain

June 4, 2014
pagan britain cover

For hundreds of thousands of years, humans lived and thrived and worshipped in what is now the British Isles, raising massive monuments and scorching the very ground in the long ages before the arrival of Christianity; a magisterial new history recounts as much as we now know about those lost centuries

Summer Books: Trash!

June 4, 2014
Summer Books: Trash!

Our books today form an essential part of “summer” reading: trash. I mentioned yesterday the peculiar mongrel enjoyability of a crappy book, but I mentioned it in context of the sci-fi/fantasy genre, which is thickly populated with very brainy authors, most of whom, when sober, would sternly disavow the idea that they ever intentionally wrote […]

Summer Books: Sci-Fi/Fantasy!

June 3, 2014
Summer Books: Sci-Fi/Fantasy!

Our books today are yet another steady go-to choice for “summer books”: science fiction and fantasy novels, most of which I tend to read during the lazier summer months. Is there any point in concealing the fact that this is because the books themselves are often lazier? Most of them – even the best of […]

Mystery Monday: Sherlock Holmes!

June 2, 2014
Mystery Monday: Sherlock Holmes!

Our books today might seem like strange candidates for the category of “summer books,” since we naturally equate all things Sherlock Holmes with fog-bound London rather than sun-brightened Boston, but as I mentioned yesterday, an equally-important element of summer books is their feeling of ease, of being a home rather than a journey. I think […]

Summer Books: Wodehouse!

June 1, 2014
Summer Books: Wodehouse!

Our books today speak and breathe of summer, because June traditionally ushers in the long march of summer in Boston. The days are longer, and usually, at least in June, the evenings slowly glide into fragrant, cool relief from the day’s heat, and something ineluctable changes just a bit in the mental atmosphere. Though I’ve […]

Book Review: Tarzan and the City of Gold

June 1, 2014
hogarth tarzan 1

When one comics legend stepped down from the “Tarzan” newspaper comic strip nearly a century ago, another comics legend – Burne Hogarth – took over, and “Tarzan in the City of Gold” is Titan Books’ first lavish reprint of Hogarth’s run on the title

Peer Review: “We’ve All Been Wrong! Incredible!”

June 1, 2014
Peer Review: “We’ve All Been Wrong! Incredible!”

Thomas Piketty’s great mountain of Gallic macro-economics, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, was the hit of the Western world for one heady season. Then the parade moved on, and we were left, dazed and disheveled, wondering if we’ve been fed un truc de ouf. Our Peer Review attempts to sort out the l’affaire Piketty

What Bozzy Told Old Larch in the Penny Press!

May 30, 2014
What Bozzy Told Old Larch in the Penny Press!

The hands-down winner for Most Obnoxious Opening Paragraph for a Book Review This Week goes to New Criterion editor and publisher Roger Kimball, reviewing Christopher Buckley’s new essay collection But Enough About You in the National Review: I’d known for years that Christopher Buckley was an amusing man. His novel Thank You for Smoking (1994), […]

Book Review: A World Without Jews

May 29, 2014
a world without jews cover

A stunning portrait of a people driven by fear and then consumed by hate

Book Review: Why the Germans? Why the Jews?

May 29, 2014
why the germans why the jews cover

A modern classic – now in an English-language translation – examines the roots of prewar German anti-Semitism

Book Review: A Replacement Life

May 27, 2014
a replacement life cover

Remembering stories about the Holocaust shades into inventing stories about the Holocaust in Boris Fishman’s fantastic debut

Book Review: The Possibilities

May 27, 2014
nat wolff

A mother in Colorado, grieving for her young son, confronts the fact that he might have been leading a life she never imagined

Book Review: Invisible Ellen

May 27, 2014
shari shattuck 2

A reclusive young woman meets a high-spirited blind girl whose enthusiasm for life opens a new world

Penguins on Parade: Sagittarius Rising!

May 27, 2014
Penguins on Parade: Sagittarius Rising!

A rip-snorting new Penguin Classic gives us the memoir of a teenager who flew fighter planes during World War I

Mystery Monday: Medicus!

May 26, 2014
Mystery Monday: Medicus!

  Our book today is Medicus, the 2006 debut Roman murder mystery by Ruth Downie starring wry, brooding medical man Gaius Petreius Ruso, who’s chosen, with uncharacteristic impulsiveness, to respond to the death of his father and a painful divorce back in Rome by moving to the farthest reach of the Empire, distant Britannia, and […]

In Paperback: Dark Omens

May 26, 2014
dark omens cover

Dauntless mosaic-layer Libertus returns for another side-job of crime-solving in Rosemary Rowe’s latest gripping murder mystery set in Roman Britain

A Literary History of Rome!

May 24, 2014
A Literary History of Rome!

Our books today are two oldies but goodies, A Literary History of Rome from the Origins to the Close of the Golden Age (1909) and A Literary History of Rome in the Silver Age from Tiberius to Hadrian (1927) by J. Wright Duff, who labored over them for a huge chunk of his life and […]

Book Review: Bumble Bees of North America

May 21, 2014
bobmus vosnesenski

A lavishly-illustrated guide book to the bumble bees of North America, in all their busy glory

Academic Presses – and Pressing Academics – in the Penny Press!

May 21, 2014
Academic Presses – and Pressing Academics – in the Penny Press!

Naturally, Scott Sherman’s well-done article in The Nation on the parlous state of the university press grabbed my attention. Sherman writes about the roughly 100 university presses in the United States but concentrates especially on the vast majority of them that don’t rest on “the feathery cushion of an endowment” but rather face the hurly-burly […]

Book Review: The Steady Running of the Hour

May 21, 2014
the steady running of the hour cover

The life and great loves of a legendary 1920s mountain-climber reach out from the past to grab the life of a young 1990s man in Justin Go’s hugely ambitious debut novel

Genji Days!

May 20, 2014
Genji Days!

Our book today is a delightful curiosity called Genji Days by Edward Seidenseticker, whose 1976 translation of Murakami Shikibu’s great epic novel The Tale of Genji was as thoroughly the definitive Genji of his generation as Arthur Waley’s had been for the previous generation – or, indeed, Royall Tyler’s 2001 version is currently. For thousands […]

Mystery Monday: Shot on Location!

May 19, 2014
Mystery Monday: Shot on Location!

  Our book today is Stan Cutler’s 1994 mystery novel Shot on Location, a snapping-good Hollywood whodunit starring the unlikely duo of fifty-something “fixer” tough guy Rayford Goodman and twenty-something gay writer Mark Bradley – a duo who might never have met each other except that Mark Bradley’s seedy publisher, Pendragon Press, has secured the […]

Book Review: The Marathon Conspiracy

May 19, 2014
the marathon conspiracy cover

Two missing girls, a very dead tyrant, and the possibility of a rampaging bear are only a few of the plot-twists in Gary Corby’s latest murder mystery set in the Athens of Pericles

This Thing of Darkness!

May 18, 2014
This Thing of Darkness!

Our book today is This Thing of Darkness, a whopping-long 2005 historical novel by Harry Thompson about the fateful voyage of the HMS Beagle to Tierra del Fuego in 1828. The ship was captained by 23-year-old Robert FitzRoy, and of course its most famous passenger was the young amateur naturalist Charles Darwin. But Thompson’s novel […]

Book Review: Arctic Summer

May 17, 2014
arctic summer cover

The fateful trip E. M. Forster took to India in 1912 was the inspiration for his greatest novel – and it’s likewise the inspiration for a new novel from the author of “The Good Doctor”

Book Review: Young God

May 17, 2014
young god cover

In this spare and violent debut, a 13-year-old girl from Appalachia enters a lawless life

Back to the ’90s in the Penny Press!

May 14, 2014
Back to the ’90s in the Penny Press!

The 1990s came rushing back into the spotlight for me today in the Penny Press, first in the latest Vanity Fair, which had not only an entertainingly angry piece by Lili Anolik on the whole culture-altering media circus of the O. J. Simpson trial, and then a piece written by Monica Lewinsky, whose scandal with […]

Book Review: The Norman Conquest

May 13, 2014
the norman conquest cover

That same old grand story – William of Normandy’s daring capture of England in 1066 – gets a spiffy new history

A May Book-Haul!

May 13, 2014
A May Book-Haul!

The rest of the world may be unpredictable (earthquakes, tidal waves, polar ice-caps summarily melting, a snowstorm and a tornado on the same day in Colorado, 40-degree temperature drops in Boston in a 10-hour period, etc.), but one thing can always be counted on in a bookworm’s life: the need for acquiring more books. I […]

Mystery Monday: The Mamur Zapt and the Men Behind!

May 12, 2014
Mystery Monday: The Mamur Zapt and the Men Behind!

Our book today is Michael Pearce’s 1991 novel The Mamur Zapt and the Men Behind, the fourth (and my favorite) in Pearce’s long-running series of novels set in Edwardian Cairo and starring a blandly resolute Welshman named Gareth Owen in his capacity as the Mamur Zapt, a strange kind of hybrid police detective-Secret Police Czar […]

Book Review: Philology

May 11, 2014
philology cover

The complicated and far-reaching intellectual endeavor of philology is the subject of a magnificent new history that has an angry edge of its own

The Song of Fire and Equivocation in the Penny Press!

May 6, 2014
The Song of Fire and Equivocation in the Penny Press!

The latest Rolling Stone serves up a double-dish of delights for all those rabid fans out there of HBO’s Game of Thrones – and the books that inspired the show: first, there’s an interview with pouting cover-boy Kit Harington (who was just on the cover of GQ and half a dozen other magazines, in every accompanying interview reciting the […]

Mystery Monday: Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death!

May 5, 2014
Mystery Monday: Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death!

Our book today is James Runcie’s Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, the 2012 entry in his “Grantchester Mysteries,” his series of stories set in the picturesque 1950s English hamlet of Grantchester and starring thirty-something vicar Sidney Chambers, who’s a kind of mild-mannered amateur clerical sleuth in the tradition of C. K. Chesterton’s Father […]

Book Review: Aunt Dimity and the Wishing Well

May 5, 2014
Book Review: Aunt Dimity and the Wishing Well

In Nancy Atherton’s latest “Aunt Dimity” novel, a handsome young stranger comes to the little village of Finch – and he’s chaos follows in his wake

Adrift on the Nile!

May 4, 2014
Adrift on the Nile!

Our book today is a slight little thing: a 1966 novel by Naguib Mahfouz with the title Tharthara Fawq al Nil, here translated into English by Frances Liardet as Adrift on the Nile. I’ve recently reread it as the slow, tidal process of my re-evaluation of this author works its way through my Brattle buying habits. […]

Book Review: Athens

May 4, 2014
athens cover

A slim and jam-packed new history of the city of Athens

Book Review: The Homing Instinct

May 3, 2014
the homing instinct  cover

Birds, turtles, bees, fish, whales … vast armies of living things traverse vast swatches of distance every year in their migrations. But how do they find their way? And WHY do they find their way? Bernd Heinrich’s new book explores the homing instinct.

Great Moments in Comics: Thor Versus the World Serpent!

May 3, 2014
Great Moments in Comics: Thor Versus the World Serpent!

For our latest Great Moment, we harken back to the heady days of 1987, to Thor #380, with writing and page-layouts by the mighty Walt Simonson and very able artwork finishes by Sal Buscema. The issue is in many ways the climax of a storyline that had gone on for a year. In a fit […]

Book Review: The Chance

May 2, 2014
the chance cover

The scenic seacoast town of Thunder Point plays host to more than its fair share of romantic drama in Robyn Carr’s popular series

Book Review: Midnight Pursuits

May 2, 2014
Midnight-Pursuits

An elite mercenary and an elite thief cross paths – with wonderfully predictable results – in Elle Kennedy’s latest “Killer Instincts” novel

Book Review: Risky Game

May 2, 2014
risky game

A muscular NFL demigod is stalked by a spunky blogger in Tracy Solheim’s latest “Out of Bounds” novel

Book Review: Hope Ignites

May 2, 2014
hope ignites

A hard-hearted cattle rancher is intrigued by the young Hollywood movie star filming shoot on his property in Jaci Burton’s latest “Hope” novel

Book Review: Willing Sacrifice

May 2, 2014
willing sacrifice cover

A battle-hardened warrior must fight for the very memory of the woman he loves in Shannon Butcher’s latest ‘Sentinel Wars’ novel

Book Review: The Sweetheart Rules

May 2, 2014
1-The-Sweetheart-Rules

Three old ladies watch over a town in Florida where broken hearts go to mend in Shirley Jump’s follow-up to “The Sweetheart Bargain”

Ancient Egypt!

May 1, 2014
Ancient Egypt!

Our book today is something simply called Ancient Egypt, a slim 1942 volume from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; it began life as a fairly straightforward guidebook to the museum’s vast and impressive collection of artwork and artifacts from ancient Egypt, which a later editor very accurately characterized as “not the most extensive […]

Book Review: The Transformation of the World

May 1, 2014
the transformation of the world cover

A sprawling new history of the world during the ‘long’ 19th century

Circumspice

May 1, 2014
Circumspice

Ronald Reagan single-handedly ended the Cold War at Reykjavik in 1985. And if you believe that, his loyal aid Ken Adelman has a book to sell you.

Book Review: From Pompeii

April 30, 2014
from pompeii cover

Pompeii and Herculaneum, the two most famous lost cities of the ancient world, had a long and vivid afterlife in culture and literature, as Ingrid Rowland’s insightful new book describes

Magic Prague!

April 30, 2014
Magic Prague!

Our book today is Angelo Maria Ripellino’s utterly wonderful 1973 book Praga Magica, published in 1994 by Picador as Magic Prague, marvelously translated by David Newton Martinelli. It’s a forlorn love-song to the weird city of Prague, written in white heat at the height of Ripellino’s powers, and it’s as beautiful and sui generis a […]

Book Review: The Fights on the Little Horn

April 30, 2014
fights on the little horn cover

The darkly iconic Last Stand of George Armstrong Custer receives an exuberantly detailed new account

The Vanished Multitudes in the Penny Press!

April 29, 2014
The Vanished Multitudes in the Penny Press!

The May-June issue of Audubon has a cover story, “From Billions to None” by Barry Yeoman, that takes advantage of a centennial anniversary in its own way every bit as saddening as that of the opening of the First World War: the death in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914 of Martha, the world’s last passenger […]

Book Review: Destroying Angel

April 28, 2014
destroyer angel cover

In Nevada Barr’s latest thriller, her indefatigable main character must track a group of hired killers through the wilderness in order to save their hostages

Mystery Monday: The Cold Dish!

April 28, 2014
Mystery Monday: The Cold Dish!

Our book today is 2005’s The Cold Dish, the first installment in Craig Johnson’s hugely successful series of mystery novels set in the fictional Absaroka County, Wyoming and starring laconic, leather-tough sheriff Walt Longmire and a terrifically engaging cast of supporting characters, from his long-time friend and Cheyenne saloon owner Henry Standing Bear to his […]

Book Review: Hummingbirds

April 23, 2014
male thorntail

The world’s smallest and busiest birds are the subject of a pretty new book

Geographica: Utah’s Dinosaurs!

April 22, 2014
Geographica: Utah’s Dinosaurs!

It’s a sad commentary on our relevance-obsessed and overcrowded society that the editorial Powers That Be at the National Geographic magazine probably didn’t hesitate for a moment before choosing the cover story for their May issue: the looming ecological crisis of mass-produced food supply. That article, by Jonathan Foley, is both fascinating and alarming … […]

A Dark Song of Blood!

April 21, 2014
A Dark Song of Blood!

Our book today is Ben Pastor’s A Dark Song of Blood, her third murder mystery starring Nazi Wehrmacht officer Martin Bora (the first two were Lumen and Liar Moon). The book is out now in a very sturdy paperback from Bitter Lemon Press, and it makes for a very absorbing – although very dark – […]

Book Review: The Sea House

April 20, 2014
the sea house cover

In Elisabeth Gifford’s impressive debut, two couples, separated by a century, each confront Scotland’s legends of the seal-folk.

Book Review: Strange Glory

April 20, 2014
strange glory cover

The famous clerical martyr to the Nazi regime is the subject of a powerful new biography

Book Review: The Price of Silence

April 20, 2014
the price of silence cover

The notorious Duke Lacrosse rape case – and its tawdry aftermath – is the subject of a veteran journalist’s big new book

Book Review: A Great & Wretched City

April 20, 2014
a great and wretched city cover

A fascinating new book looks at the long political and historical writings of the author of “The Prince”

Book Review: The Intellectual Life of Edmund Burke

April 16, 2014
the intellectual life of edmund burke cover

A splendidly brainy new intellectual biography gives us the mind-life of the great orator, writer, and parliamentarian Edmund Burke

Journey to the Land of the Flies!

April 16, 2014
Journey to the Land of the Flies!

Our book today is Aldo Buzzi’s 1996 composite travel book Cechov a Sondrio e altri viaggi, brought out by Random House in a very good translation by Ann Goldstein and titled Journey to the Land of the Flies (poor Chekhov gets the heave-ho). Buzzi’s formal training was as an architect, but for most of his […]

Book Review: The Annotated Northanger Abbey

April 15, 2014
annotated northanger abbey cover

Jane Austen’s posthumous send-up of Gothic novels (and their breathless readers) gets a lavish annotated edition

An April Book-Haul!

April 15, 2014
An April Book-Haul!

As a reader who’s deeply interested in what other people – and especially young people – are reading and why, how could I not be fascinated by the teeming subset of YouTube known as BookTube? That’s the sprawling (and constantly growing) community of channels on YouTube devoted entirely to books – book reviews, book discussions, […]

Book Review: The Medici Boy

April 14, 2014
Book Review: The Medici Boy

Through the eyes of an assistant, a new novel by an American master shows us the life and torturous loves of the great Renaissance artist Donatello

Mystery Monday: Death of the Duchess!

April 14, 2014
Mystery Monday: Death of the Duchess!

Our book today is 1991’s Death of the Duchess by Elizabeth Eyre, which is a pseudonym for the London writing team of Jill Staynes and Magaret Storey (both of which sound more like pseudonyms than “Elizabeth Eyre,” but then, what would I know of pseudonyms?). Death of the Duchess is a murder mystery set in […]

The Three Edwards!

April 11, 2014
The Three Edwards!

Our book today is Thomas Costain’s magnificent 1958 volume The Three Edwards, the third in his “Pageant of England” series, this one centering on the reigns of Kings Edward I, II, and III and thus covering some of the most dramatic and vibrant years in English history. Costain – an old newspaperman from Canada who […]

The Three Edwards!

April 11, 2014
The Three Edwards!

Our book today is Thomas Costain’s magnificent 1958 volume The Three Edwards, the third in his “Pageant of England” series, this one centering on the reigns of Kings Edward I, II, and III and thus covering some of the most dramatic and vibrant years in English history. Costain – an old newspaperman from Canada who […]

Book Review: The Galapagos

April 11, 2014
the galapagos cover

The beautiful Galapagos islands – home to finches, tortoises, and active magma – are the subject of a delightful new study

Book Review: Jack the Ripper – The Forgotten Victims

April 10, 2014
jack the ripper cover

The first and most famous serial killer of the modern era killed five women in 1888 London – but did Jack the Ripper’s crimes start there? And did they end there? The two greatest “Ripperologists” make the case for a killer’s forgotten victims

Body dysmorphia – pro and con – in the Penny Press!

April 9, 2014
Body dysmorphia – pro and con – in the Penny Press!

My favorite ironic, unintentional, sexist contrast of the month comes from the latest issue of GQ: quite by the random chance of advertising space, we get these two pictures side-by-side. On the one side, there’s a young woman who’s dementedly devoted to re-shaping her body into a living simulacrum of a Barbie doll, a self-mutilation GQ‘s […]

Book Review: The Double-Crested Cormorant

April 9, 2014
the double-breasted cormorant cover

That sleek and elegant diving-bird, the double-crested cormorant, faces deep-seated prejudices – and disastrous legal measures – in North America, its ancestral home

Book Review: Lord Dismiss Us

April 9, 2014
lord dismiss us cover

A fantastic British boarding-school novel from another age gets a pretty reprint

Leonardo Da Vinci!

April 8, 2014
Leonardo Da Vinci!

Our book today is Kenneth Clark’s slim 1939 monograph Leonardo Da Vinci, here presented in the very pretty 1989 Penguin reprint in an extra-sized paperback with loads of illustrations. The old Pelican mass market paperback of the book also had loads of illustrations, mind you, but for binding reasons they were all lumped together in […]

Mystery Monday: Dead People!

April 7, 2014
Mystery Monday: Dead People!

Our book today is Scottish author Ewart Hutton’s Dead People, the follow-up to his debut Good People (the latter’s staid title was given a private edge by the book’s plot; this current book provides no such edge, so its title is the equivalent of Murder Mystery, alas), and its basic premise will be familiar to […]

The Demon-Haunted World!

April 6, 2014
The Demon-Haunted World!

Our book today is Carl Sagan’s intensely personal and snarkily intelligent 1995 book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, a reasoned cry of defiance against what Sagan, approaching the end of his life, viewed as the gathering forces of intolerance and stupidity. Sagan spent his entire life waging a smiling, well-mannered, […]

The Return of the Soldier!

April 5, 2014
The Return of the Soldier!

Our book today is a steely, stunningly unsettling novella The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West, best known today for her hefty works of nonfiction like The Meaning of Treason and Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, works written after long periods of intense deliberation. This novella is a very different thing, as thin and […]

Book Review: Louisa Catherine – The Other Mrs. Adams

April 5, 2014
louisa catherine cover

Cultured, erudite, and passionate, Louisa Catherine Adams had a long and fascinating life as wife to John Quincy Adams on the road to the presidency, and that life at long last has a superb biography

Book Review: Wilfred Owen

April 5, 2014
wilfred owen cover

Robert Graves lived to be 90.

Book Review: Roosevelt’s Beast

April 4, 2014
roosevelt’s beast cover

Deep in the Brazilian wilderness, Theodore Roosevelt and his son encounter a mysterious beast who kills without leaving any tracks

Book Review: The Red Lily Crown

April 2, 2014
the red lily crown

A bookseller’s daughter, a mad alchemist Medici prince, and a heroic Cornishman move the plot of Elizabeth Loupas’s hugely enjoyable new historical novel

Penguins on Parade: The Tale of the Heike!

April 1, 2014
Penguins on Parade: The Tale of the Heike!

Some Penguin Classics feel practically inevitable. When the great translator Royall Tyler brought out his groundbreaking edition of the fourteenth-century Japanese epic The Tale of the Heike in 2012 from the Viking press, it became one of that category, and now it’s arrived: a beautiful big paperback Penguin Classic of the Heike edition, which so [...]

Book Review: Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter

April 1, 2014
queen elizabeth’s daughter

Idealistic young Mary Shelton finds love at the Tudor Court – but it’s not the love her Queen has chosen for her

April 2014 Issue

April 1, 2014
April 2014 Issue

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Book Review: The Cemetery of Swallows

March 31, 2014
the cemetery of swallows cover

A morose misanthrope police superintendent investigates a killing in which the murderer traveled half-way around the world in order to murder a total stranger

Mystery Monday: Strangers on a Train!

March 31, 2014
Mystery Monday: Strangers on a Train!

Our book today is the unsinkable 1950 Patricia Highsmith masterpiece Strangers on A Train, which wastes no time in leaping straight to the area of crime-fiction that always fascinated her: motive. Mystery novels love to play with all three of the tenets of crime – motive, means, and opportunity – but every author finds his [...]

Book Review: The Time Traveler’s Almanac

March 28, 2014
time traveler’s almanac

A key element of science fiction DNA is the whole concept of time travel, and a gigantic new anthology assembles all the greatest time travel stories ever told

Book Review: Queen Caroline

March 26, 2014
queen caroline cover

The wife of England’s King George II has been largely forgotten by history, but she was complimented by Swift, Pope, and Voltaire in her own day – and a new book brings her marvelously to life

Memoirs of an Editor!

March 25, 2014
Memoirs of an Editor!

Our book today is Memoirs of an Editor, a big, bustling 1924 volume by Edward Mitchell, who was for a long time the editor-in-chief of the old New York Sun, a position he took over from his semi-legendary predecessor, Charles A. Dana, a brilliant and recondite figure who was always the smartest person in any [...]

Book Review: The Sixth Extinction

March 25, 2014
the sixth extinction

Will the latest age of man – dubbed the Anthropocene – be the last? A new book looks at the tremendous toll the human race has taken on its home planet

Mystery Monday: Pictures of Perfection!

March 24, 2014
Mystery Monday: Pictures of Perfection!

Our book today is 1994′s Pictures of Perfection, one of the incredibly entertaining Dalziel & Pascoe mystery novels of the late, great Reginald Hill, although really I could be just as happy picking any of these delightful novels to re-read and praise here. Hill wrote mountains of prose (the full catalog may never be assembled, [...]

Book Review: The Lady of Sorrows

March 24, 2014
the lady of sorrows cover

On a laid-back little Greek island, a sacred icon is forged, a local painter is dead … and a fat man is on the case

Book Review: Hyde

March 23, 2014
hyde cover

A hugely enjoyable new novel tells the familiar story of Dr. Jekyll from Mr. Hyde’s point of view – and will have its readers questioning who the real monster really is

Book Review: The Pilgrims

March 22, 2014
the pilgrims cover

When two London friends find a doorway leading to a magical realm, they think they’re in luck – but Will Elliott’s raucous new novel has some nasty surprises in store for them

The Embattled Canon in the Penny Press!

March 20, 2014
The Embattled Canon in the Penny Press!

  The New York Times Book Review pauses to take note of the fact that it’s been twenty years since Harold Bloom wrote his big, controversial book The Western Canon, a little anniversary that had completely slipped my mind. To honor the occasion, the NYTBR enlisted two of our sharpest public thinkers, Pankaj Mishra and [...]

Book Review: Lockstep

March 20, 2014
lockstep cover

When a tech-savvy young man wakes up fourteen thousand years after entering suspended animation, he finds the galaxy radically altered – and his brother firmly in charge

Book Review: The Barrow

March 19, 2014
the barrow cover

Ancient magic talismans are almost always more trouble than they’re worth, but that doesn’t deter the rag-tag group of anti-heroes in Mark Smylie’s energetically readable debut novel

The Kings of Vain Intent!

March 18, 2014
The Kings of Vain Intent!

Our book today is the lusty 1970 historical novel The Kings Of Vain Intent by Graham Shelby, a mid-20th century hack book reviewer who struck historical novel gold with his book The Knights of Dark Renown, the prequel to this present book. Shelby is a largely artless writer, but he knows full well the visceral [...]

Book Review: A King’s Ransom

March 18, 2014
king’s ransom cover

The larger-than-life story of captivity and struggles of King Richard the Lionheart

Mystery Monday: Red Dragon!

March 17, 2014
Mystery Monday: Red Dragon!

Our book today is Thomas Harris’s ultra-famous 1981 novel Red Dragon, the perfect shard of falling crystal that triggered an avalanche of such proportions that most novelists don’t even dare to dream that anything like it will happen to them. The book was a moderate seller for Bantam in its modest original printing despite near-universal [...]

Book Review: The Day of the Dead

March 17, 2014
day of the dead cover

A dead street-boy haunts the latest adventure of Commissario Ricciardi in this series set in 1930s Naples

Celebrity Ashtrays in the Penny Press!

March 17, 2014
Celebrity Ashtrays in the Penny Press!

I vaguely understand the value of the celebrity endorsement, the eye-catching strategy of linking stars to products, but I swear, if I live to be thirty I’ll never understand the pursuit of that strategy in open contradiction of its own meaning. Yes, of course if you’re a health magazine, you’d want to find some nice [...]

Book Review: The Land of Steady Habits

March 16, 2014
Book Review: The Land of Steady Habits

An affluent suburban family breaks apart and re-forms in this remarkably assured debut novel

Book Review: The Headmaster’s Wife

March 16, 2014
the headmaster’s wife cover

The confession of a man found wandering naked in Central Park grows more and more problematic as it unfolds

Book Review: Cambridge

March 16, 2014
cambridge cover

A precocious young girl and her family travel far and wide from her beloved home of Cambridge, Massachusetts

Penguins on Parade: The Crusades!

March 11, 2014
Penguins on Parade: The Crusades!

Some Penguin Classics achieve a new relevance for the worst of reasons, and surely the head of that list is this venerable volume from 1963, Chronicles of the Crusades, featuring M. R. B. Shaw’s piously serviceable translation of Geoffroy De Villehardouin’s The Conquest of Constantinople and Jean de Joinville’s Life of Saint Louis, two of [...]

Book Review: Words of Radiance

March 11, 2014
words of radiance cover

Brandon Sanderson’s epic fantasy series set on a storm-raked world continues

Book Review: Murder at Cape Three Points

March 10, 2014
murder at cape three points

A dogged police inspector investigates two gruesome murders at the heart of Ghana’s booming new oil economy

Mystery Monday: Judge Dee – Poets and Murder!

March 10, 2014
Mystery Monday: Judge Dee – Poets and Murder!

Our book today is Poets and Murder, the last of Robert Van Gulik’s mysteries starring the redoubtable (and semi-mythical) 7th-century Chinese magistrate Judge Dee. It’s a series famously born in a bookstore – a used bookshop in Tokyo where Van Gulik found an old Chinese manuscript containing some adventures of the Dee character. Van Gulik’s [...]

Penguins on Parade: Clark Ashton Smith!

March 8, 2014
Penguins on Parade: Clark Ashton Smith!

Some Penguin Classics will feel like a very long time coming, especially to their fervent adherents. When it comes to the work of pioneering 20th century fantasist Clark Ashton Smith, surely one of those fervent adherents is S. T. Joshi, the editor behind the Penguin Classics editions of H. P. Lovecraft, who in the early [...]

Book Review: From the Tree to the Labyrinth

March 7, 2014
from the tree to the labyrinth

If the idea of a big collection of writings about socio-linguistics by the author of “The Name of the Rose” strikes you as a winning way to spend a weekend, Harvard University Press has some good news for you.

Crackpot Letters to the Editor in the Penny Press!

March 6, 2014
Crackpot Letters to the Editor in the Penny Press!

I ordinarily have very little patience with the various species of brontosaurus who decry all the electronic suburbs of the Republic of Letters. I’ve worn out my ‘they’re entitled to their beliefs’ credit-balance when it comes to people who sniff at online-only publication – nowadays I just clamp my mouth shut instead of belligerently pointing [...]

Book Review: A Darkling Sea

March 6, 2014
a darkling sea cover

A murder at the bottom of an alien ocean looks likely to spark an interstellar war

Book Review: An Explorer’s Notebook

March 5, 2014
an explorer’s notebook

An exuberant collection of essays and reviews by trailblazing natural historian Tim Flannery

The Royal Road to Romance!

March 5, 2014
The Royal Road to Romance!

Our book today is The Royal Road to Romance by Richard Halliburton, a rollicking travel-adventure book that became a runaway bestseller when it appeared in 1925. It had been a gamble on his part, a gamble taken in the teeth of the odds and over the doubts of his friends and family – circumstances with [...]

Book Review: A Burnable Book

March 4, 2014
a burnable book cover

14th century court poet John Gower is brought in by his friend Geoffrey Chaucer to solve the mystery of a book whose very existence threatens the realm

Penguins on Parade: The One-Volume Gibbon!

March 4, 2014
Penguins on Parade: The One-Volume Gibbon!

Some Penguin Classics win against tough competition, and one of my favorite of those is David Womersley’s wonderful one-volume abridgement of Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. This volume came out in 2000, hot on the heels of Womersley’s gigantic, utterly definitive three-volume unabridged edition of Gibbon’s masterpiece (the three fat paperback [...]

Mystery Monday: The Face of a Stranger!

March 3, 2014
Mystery Monday: The Face of a Stranger!

Our book today is Anne Perry’s 1990 Victorian mystery, The Face of a Stranger, which introduced her detective William Monk to the thousands of her readers who’d previously enjoyed her ten novels set a generation later in Victorian times and starring Thomas Pitt – novels she’d been writing with clockwork regularity for ten years before [...]

Book Review: Why Kings Confess

March 3, 2014
why kings confess cover

A seemingly random murder leads our hero Sebastian St. Cyr into the dark and dangerous world of international espionage in C. S. Harris’s latest novel

Book Review: The Medicean Succession

March 2, 2014
the medicean succession cover

In 1537, teenager Cosimo dei Medici became the first citizen of Florence, and in the following decades, he set about fashioning a ‘sacral’ rulership for himself – a complicated process at the heart of this fascinating new study

The Medici!

March 2, 2014
The Medici!

Our book today is that hugely durable old 1910 war-horse, The Medici by G. F. Young, a quintessential example of the particular breed of monumental Victorian history that holds up effortlessly under the onslaught of time. It’s amazing, really, how widespread across the breadth of art and literature are these great histories – and it’s [...]

The Danelaw

March 1, 2014
The Danelaw

In her brilliantly scathing new book, Elaine Scarry charges that US Presidents, in maintaining and augmenting an enormous nuclear arsenal, have broken the social contract and become monarchs in all but name.

Book Review: The Queen’s Dwarf

February 27, 2014
The Queen’s Dwarf

A quick-witted and bilingual dwarf is planted in the household of England’s foreign queen in order to spy on her – but he comes to esteem her, outcast to outcast

Book Review: Girl on the Golden Coin

February 26, 2014
girl on the golden coin

An exceptional beauty entices King Charles II and ascends to the heights of the Merry Monarch’s court

Back to the Pulps in the Penny Press!

February 25, 2014
Back to the Pulps in the Penny Press!

I let my subscription to Asimov’s Science Fiction lapse for a bit, and I was amazed at how bleak the lapse rendered my reading landscape! I renewed as soon as I felt this, and today when I jammed my hand into that most bountiful of all orifices, the mighty Open Letters Monthly Post Office box, [...]

Book Review: The Waking Engine

February 25, 2014
the waking engine cover

In an amazing science fiction debut, a New Yorker awakens in a strange new world

Book Review: The Counterfeit Agent

February 24, 2014
alex berenson

CIA super-agent John Wells needs to get back in the field and feel the old adrenaline pumping again – but will his latest adventure (featuring a dastardly nuclear plot and a shadowy female operative with a Biblical code-name) be more than he bargained for?

Mystery Monday: The Crimson Patch!

February 24, 2014
Mystery Monday: The Crimson Patch!

  Our book today is The Crimson Patch, a 1936 murder mystery by the indomitable Phoebe Atwood Taylor, starring her recurrent character Asey Mayo and set, as all her fans know and love, on that sacred patch called Cape Cod. The Cape is a little hooked spit of land jutting out from the coast of [...]

Book Review: Faisal I of Iraq

February 23, 2014
faisal i of iraq

A key figure in the founding of the modern Middle East finally gets his definitive English-language biography

Book Review: The Dream of the Great American Novel

February 22, 2014
the dream of the great american novel cover

The Scarlet Letter? Moby-Dick? Gone with the Wind? Gravity’s Rainbow? Just what IS the “Great American Novel” anyway?

A Hilltop on the Marne!

February 22, 2014
A Hilltop on the Marne!

Our book today is a grim but charming little 1915 gem called A Hilltop on the Marne by Mildred Aldrich, an amplified collection of letters she wrote back to the United States after she moved to France and then specifically to Huiry, a little hamlet overlooking the Marne river. Aldrich had thought to “withdraw from [...]

Book Review: The Depths

February 21, 2014
the depths cover

Jonathan Rottenberg’s new book contends that the modern world’s epidemic of depression is made all the worse by society’s tendency to stigmatize the victims themselves

Book Review: Dancing Fish and Ammonites

February 19, 2014
dancing fish and ammonites cover

Long-time novelist Penelope Lively turns 80 – and turns to memoir-writing

Sexy Stendhal!

February 19, 2014
Sexy Stendhal!

Our book today is Le Rouge et le Noir, the great 1830 novel written by Marie-Henri Beyle under his world-famous pseudonym Stendhal. Actually, our book today is an English-language translation of Le Rouge et le Noir, and not just any translation, oh no! Our translation today is one I came across just recently (at my [...]

Book Review: Raiders of the Nile

February 17, 2014
raiders of the nile cover

In Alexandria as a young man, Gordianus the Finder gets caught up in an elaborate scheme to steal the corpse of Alexander the Great!

Death in the Ashes!

February 17, 2014
Death in the Ashes!

Our book today is Death in the Ashes, a murder mystery by Albert Bell, the fourth in his delightful “Notebooks of Pliny the Younger” series starring, obviously, the famous first-century author and imperial kiss-up Pliny the Younger, here ably assisted (and mocked the whole time) by the even-more-famous historian Tacitus. Both of them are comparatively [...]

Book Review: The Martian

February 16, 2014
earth_from_mars

An unassuming botanist gets separated from his exploration team and finds himself stranded alone on Mars – and his survival rests entirely in his own hands.

Book Review: Hundred Days

February 15, 2014
the hundred days cover

The vivid story of the months when the long, slogging stalemate of the First World War exploded into violence

In Paperback: On Reading “The Grapes of Wrath”

February 15, 2014
on reading grapes cover

John Steinbeck’s bestselling and universally-lauded novel gets a passionate and persuasive reading by a renowned Steinbeck scholar

Book Review: Must Love Dukes

February 14, 2014
must love dukes cover

The lovers in Elizabeth Michels’ new novel get off to a rapturous, then a rocky start – and when next they meet, a year later, the real games begin

Book Review: Much Ado About Jack

February 14, 2014
papp Paul!

A strong-willed countess and a dynamic sailor become Shakespearean-style star-crossed lovers in Christy English’s latest novel