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Articles by Steve Donoghue

Book Review: The Perfect Bet

February 14, 2016
adam kucharski

An illuminating new book takes readers inside the calculus of gambling

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek!

February 13, 2016
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek!

Our book today is one of those modern classics every reader should read: Annie Dillard’s great Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize back in 1975. In these pages – part memoir, part natural history, part crackpot seat-of-the-pants philosophy – she muses on the natural world of her surroundings in Virginia’s […]

A Time in Rome!

February 12, 2016
A Time in Rome!

Our book today is Elizabeth Bowen’s winsome 1960 glory of place-writing, A Time in Rome, in which she blends history and travelogue and memoir in an entirely successful attempt to capture in words what the Rome and its environs had meant to her for half a century. As with everything else she wrote, whether it […]

On the Runways of Alpha Centauri This Season in the Penny Press!

February 11, 2016
On the Runways of Alpha Centauri This Season in the Penny Press!

Fortunately, no matter how frustrating or confusing the Penny Press is on any given week, we’ll always still have the beacon of clarity that is high fashion.  

Send in the D-List in the Penny Press!

February 11, 2016
Send in the D-List in the Penny Press!

The latest issue of Vanity Fair had an amusing little one-page squib that managed to provoke in me an old and often-provoked reaction. The piece, called “Unsung Superheroes,” is written by Scott Jacobson, Mike Sacks, and Ted Travelstead (don’t ask me why – the thing is 300 not particularly taxing words long; I have no […]

Lawrence Osborne in the Penny Press!

February 11, 2016
Lawrence Osborne in the Penny Press!

I’m always pleased when one of my beloved lad-mags pauses from its barrage of plugs for $50,000 wristwatches and full-page ads for cigarettes in order to talk about books; it’s slightly encouraging to me, that the editors of these magazines sometimes think that in addition to grotesquely expensive status-symbol gimcracks and incipient lung cancer, young […]

Yet More Echo-Reviews in the Penny Press!

February 11, 2016
Yet More Echo-Reviews in the Penny Press!

The latest New York Review of Books, in addition to its usual spread of great reviews of books I haven’t read – the standout this time probably being Jacob Weisberg’s “We Are Hopelessly Hooked,” a review of a spate of new books on digital media that was full of great quotes (my two favorite: “We […]

Book Review: Dog Run Moon

February 10, 2016
callan wink

The debut short story collection from a Montana fly-fishing guide

Fanny Burney!

February 9, 2016
Fanny Burney!

Just the other day, I happened to come across a disparaging comment about Fanny Burney (these are the kinds of circles I frequent, alas), and it’s stuck with me. The writer of the comment had no use for poor Fanny, remarking that the world would have been better all around if she’d never put pen […]

Mystery Monday: Death at La Fenice!

February 8, 2016
Mystery Monday: Death at La Fenice!

Our book today is Death at La Fenice from way back in 1992, the very first of Donna Leon’s wildly popular murder mysteries set in Venice and featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti, her steadfast and nondescript working-stiff sleuth. Now, in 2015, Leon has been writing Venice-based novels for a quarter of a century; they’ve sold millions […]

Book Review: Apostle

February 8, 2016
apostle

An author spends years traveling to the various final resting places of the Apostles – and comes back with an unsettlingly insightful new look at the early history of Christianity

The February ’16 Boston Public Library Book Sale!

February 7, 2016
The February ’16 Boston Public Library Book Sale!

Once again I combed my few remaining hairs, donned pants, kissed my frail old dogs good-bye, and ventured out to the bi-monthly book sale hosted by the stalwart City-Wide Friends of the Boston Public Library, even though I need a sack of new books about as much as I need an attack of malaria. But […]

Penguins on Parade: The Tale of Tales!

February 6, 2016
Penguins on Parade: The Tale of Tales!

Some Penguin Classics, as we’ve seen before, take an earlier superb work of scholarship or translation and basically save it from obscurity by adding it to the Classics lineup. In our case today, the name of that obscurity would be Wayne State University Press, which in 2007 originally published Nancy Canepa’s translation of Giambattista Basile’s […]

A Brief History of Rome!

February 5, 2016
A Brief History of Rome!

Our book today is from 1885: the Brief History of Rome put out in New York as part of the old Barnes’ One-Term Series that was designed to put short, affordable one-volume introductions to then-staple subjects like history, science, and language into classrooms in the state of New York (and beyond – many’s the tiny […]

Roman Life in Pliny’s Time!

February 4, 2016
Roman Life in Pliny’s Time!

Our book today takes us back once again to Ancient Rome, this time to the 1st century world of Pliny the Younger. It’s Maurice Pellison’s Roman Life in Pliny’s Time, in an 1897 English-language translation by Maud Wilkinson, with an Introduction by University of Chicago professor Frank Justus Miller, who’s pulling out all the rhetorical […]

Book Review: The Annotated Lincoln

February 4, 2016
the annotated lincoln

A big, gorgeous new anthology presents a virtual life of Abraham Lincoln as seen through his writings

A Day in Old Rome!

February 3, 2016
A Day in Old Rome!

Our book today hails all the way from 1925: A Day in Old Rome by William Stearns Davis, a wonderfully amiable educator and writer who brought out this book as a follow-up to his 1914 A Day in Old Athens, which surprised both its author and its publisher by actually selling briskly in bookshops. A […]

Book Review: Exit Right

February 3, 2016
exit right

A brilliant new book takes an in-depth look at six American cultural figures who took a stand on principle – and then changed their minds

A February TBR!

February 2, 2016
A February TBR!

As many of you will know, I adore the “Booktube” neighborhood of YouTube, the chatty, clubbish neighborhood where book-nerds of all types post videos of themselves sitting in their bedrooms, talking to their cameras about the latest children’s books they’ve read. Not all children’s books, I grudgingly admit, although the preponderance is so great it […]

Mystery Monday: A Prisoner in Malta!

February 1, 2016
Mystery Monday: A Prisoner in Malta!

Our book today is A Prisoner in Malta by Phillip DePoy, out new from Minotaur books, the first in what I hope is a long series of adventures starring a young Christopher Marlowe. Unlike so many actual historical characters who get pressed into service in whodunit novels – figures like Samuel Johnson, Benjamin Franklin, or, […]

Book Review: The Good Liar

February 1, 2016
the good liar

Nicholas Searle’s debut novel stars a canny old swindler who may or may not have found has final, perfect mark

The Lost Boy

February 1, 2016
The Lost Boy

A new book studies the history of copyright and the life and legacy of Aaron Swartz, one of copyright’s groundbreaking interpreters for the new century.

The Books … of Venice! Birth of a City!

January 31, 2016
The Books … of Venice! Birth of a City!

Our book today is Venice: Birth of a City, a marvelous illustrated 1987 gem by the great Piero Ventura, whose picture books just brim with life and idiosyncratic charm. He opens his account of the earliest history of Venice with the customary hymn of praise and some basic geographic outlining: Venice is the strangest, most […]

The Books … of Venice! Birth of a City!

January 31, 2016
The Books … of Venice! Birth of a City!

Our book today is Venice: Birth of a City, a marvelous illustrated 1987 gem by the great Piero Ventura, whose picture books just brim with life and idiosyncratic charm. He opens his account of the earliest history of Venice with the customary hymn of praise and some basic geographic outlining: Venice is the strangest, most […]

Asimov gems in the Penny Press!

January 30, 2016
Asimov gems in the Penny Press!

It’s such a satisfying feeling, to buy the new issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction, slide it into the front pocket of my battered leather satchel, and know with complete certainty that I have absolutely subway-proof reading ahead of me. Each issue of Asimov’s costs $5 – and yet for that price you get, every single […]

Book Review: The Ex

January 30, 2016
the ex

A name from a hotshot defense attorney’s past comes back to haunt her when she discovers her ex is a suspect in a triple homicide

World Pictures!

January 29, 2016
World Pictures!

Our book today is a heavy, sumptuous thing from the first year of the previous century, before world wars and world plagues and looming world destruction, before anybody had ever heard the words ‘nuclear warhead’ or ‘genocide’ or ‘global warming.’ It’s a seemingly innocent tour of the world by the celebrated artist Mortimer Menpes, World […]

Book Review: Lay Down Your Weary Tune

January 27, 2016
lay down

An out-of-work musician is hired to ghost-write the memoirs of a legendary blues singer, but the legend hides some grim new realities

Attending Oxford: Doctor Thorne!

January 27, 2016
Attending Oxford: Doctor Thorne!

The Oxford University Press, centuries old and the biggest academic press in the world, founded its World’s Classics series in 1906 (having bought the imprimatur lock, stock, and barrel from the brilliant publisher Grant Richards in 1901). For over a hundred years, the line has produced reasonably-priced and expertly-edited canonical texts, proving that great and […]

Book Review: Cosmosapiens

January 26, 2016
cosmosapiens

A sweeping new overview of the sciences has big ambitions – and some odd sticking points

Geographica: Denali!

January 26, 2016
Geographica: Denali!

The latest issue of National Geographic is as packed with glorious goodies as all other issues of the magazine tend to be, and one of them brought back a lot of great memories: an article about the sprawling natural park region all around “the Tall One,” the moody and incredible mountain I knew as Mount […]

Mystery Monday: Real Tigers!

January 25, 2016
Mystery Monday: Real Tigers!

Our book today is Real Tigers, Mick Herron’s return to Slough House, the forbidding location on the wrong side of the Thames from Regent’s Park, the sleek headquarters of M15. Slough House is where M15 sends its disgraced agents, the ones so tarnished as to be considered beyond rehabilitation. Thus sidelined into oblivion, these “slow […]

The Books of Venice: Marco Polo – Venetian Adventurer!

January 24, 2016
The Books of Venice: Marco Polo – Venetian Adventurer!

It occurred to me that since the city of Venice is so dear to my heart (Venice, Italy, that is – sorry, all you handsome young weightlifters! Venice, California isn’t our setting today), I should formalize an ongoing feature about the endless stream of books generated by La Serenissima, and how better to start than […]

Book Review: The Lost Tudor Princess

January 23, 2016
lost tudor princess

The little-known matriarch of modern British monarchy, the headstrong niece of King Henry VIII, is the subject of an absorbing new biography

Cat-Scratch Fever in the Penny Press!

January 23, 2016
Cat-Scratch Fever in the Penny Press!

I love a 16,000-word TLS rumination on the lesser novels of George Eliot as much as the next bookworm (the keening sound you just heard coming from Up North was a certain Open Letters Monthly colleague saying “WHAT lesser novels?”), but sometimes, when rummaging through the week’s Penny Press, I get my biggest smiles from […]

Cat-Scratch Fever in the Penny Press!

January 23, 2016
Cat-Scratch Fever in the Penny Press!

I love a 16,000-word TLS rumination on the lesser novels of George Eliot as much as the next bookworm (the keening sound you just heard coming from Up North was a certain Open Letters Monthly colleague saying “WHAT lesser novels?”), but sometimes, when rummaging through the week’s Penny Press, I get my biggest smiles from […]

Cat-Scratch Fever in the Penny Press!

January 23, 2016
Cat-Scratch Fever in the Penny Press!

I love a 16,000-word TLS rumination on the lesser novels of George Eliot as much as the next bookworm (the keening sound you just heard coming from Up North was a certain Open Letters Monthly colleague saying “WHAT lesser novels?”), but sometimes, when rummaging through the week’s Penny Press, I get my biggest smiles from […]

Cat-Scratch Fever in the Penny Press!

January 23, 2016
Cat-Scratch Fever in the Penny Press!

I love a 16,000-word TLS rumination on the lesser novels of George Eliot as much as the next bookworm (the keening sound you just heard coming from Up North was a certain Open Letters Monthly colleague saying “WHAT lesser novels?”), but sometimes, when rummaging through the week’s Penny Press, I get my biggest smiles from […]

Book Review: Bull and Other Stories

January 22, 2016
bull and other stories

Misfits and battered believers fill the pages of Kathy Anderson’s wise and funny debut

Cheap Thrills!

January 22, 2016
Cheap Thrills!

Our book today is a lurid little treat: Cheap Thrills, a short, pithy, and heavily illustrated history of the pulps by the irrepressible Ron Goulart and subtitled The Amazing! Thrilling! Astonishing! History of Pulp Fiction. It was originally written back in 1972, as Goulart tartly observes: “At the time I was researching Cheap Thrills there […]

Cheap Thrills!

January 22, 2016
Cheap Thrills!

Our book today is a lurid little treat: Cheap Thrills, a short, pithy, and heavily illustrated history of the pulps by the irrepressible Ron Goulart and subtitled The Amazing! Thrilling! Astonishing! History of Pulp Fiction. It was originally written back in 1972, as Goulart tartly observes: “At the time I was researching Cheap Thrills there […]

Boston: Cradle of Liberty!

January 21, 2016
Boston: Cradle of Liberty!

Our book on this glorious day is Boston: Cradle of Liberty, a slim hardcover gem from 1965 written by Edward Weeks and illustrated by Fritz Busse. It’s the kind of keepsake tchotchke historic cities like Boston generate on a monthly basis (this March, it’ll be A History of Boston in 50 Artifacts, for instance), but […]

The Spoken Word in the Penny Press!

January 20, 2016
The Spoken Word in the Penny Press!

It was a bit of a thready swallow, working my way past the smug cover photo of Fox News shill Megyn Kelly in the latest issue of Vanity Fair, but I was certainly glad I did, since the issue itself was chock-full of murder, celebrities, and murdered celebrities, plus great photos, grotesque real estate ads, […]

Book Review: Groundless

January 20, 2016
groundless

Rumors and dark stories flew along the rutted dirt roads of colonial America, bearing tales that had virtually no basis in reality. A new book uses rumor to understand the rumormongers.

The Art of the Mass Market: Hornblower!

January 19, 2016
The Art of the Mass Market: Hornblower!

Yet another digression before we even get to our technical main topic! This time it’s the “Hornblower Saga” mass market paperback 1970s reprint run of all the classic Horatio Hornblower adventures by C. S. Forester, each with a gorgeous new cover by an uncredited artist. The Hornblower books have of course been reprinted many, many […]

Universe 10!

January 18, 2016
Universe 10!

Our book today is Universe 10, the tenth installment in the great old science fiction anthology series by one of the best and sharpest-eyed editors the genre ever produced, Terry Carr. This slim volume is from 1980 – the copy I have is a hardcover, although I expect most of the loyal readers Terry amassed […]

Penguins on Parade: Early Fiction in England!

January 17, 2016
Penguins on Parade: Early Fiction in England!

Some Penguin Classics need to work harder than others to define their terms. Take, for example, the nifty recent volume edited by Laura Ashe, Early Fiction in England from Geoffrey of Monmouth to Chaucer – even the title of the book might prompt a quizzical expression from the average reader, who might just naturally associate […]

Book Review: The Butcher’s Trail

January 16, 2016
the butcher’s trail

In the wake of the strife and collapse of Slobodan Mlosevic’s Yugoslavia, a large group of war criminals had to be hunted down and delivered for trial. A riveting new book tells the story.

Comics! Secret Wars Concludes!

January 16, 2016
Comics! Secret Wars Concludes!

It’s been a long time, and a lot of water has gone under the proverbial bridge since Marvel’s latest mega-event “Secret Wars” mini-series began its nine-issue run back in 2007. Writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Esad Ribic launched the event – in which some kind of universe-killing singularity wipes out the entire continuity of the […]

Book Review: Justifying Genocide

January 15, 2016
justifying genocide

A powerful new book looks at the ideological connections between the Armenian Genocide and the Nazi death-camps that followed twenty years later

The Illustrated Tennyson!

January 15, 2016
The Illustrated Tennyson!

Our book today is a grand Victorian thing, an illustrated 1884 edition of the poems of Tennyson published by dear old James Osgood & Co. on Tremont Street in Boston. This is an appreciation, a tribute to the 19th century’s greatest poet; it has no critical apparatus of any kind and certainly cannot be consulted […]

Book Review: Jakob’s Colors

January 14, 2016
jakob’s colors

The Nazi slaughter of hundreds of thousands of European gypsies forms the grim backdrop to Lindsay Hawdon’s debut novel

Romance Roundup: January 2016!

January 14, 2016
Romance Roundup: January 2016!

As we’ve mentioned here at Stevereads before, the tactic some Romance authors take of anchoring their stories geographically seems extremely popular with the core readership. I find this more confusing than not, since, after all, the traditional modern view of romance is that it’s something most likely to take root and flourish in foreign soil […]

Book Review: The Bands of Mourning

January 13, 2016
the bands of mourning

In the latest novel from hyper-prolific Brandon Sanderson, the vast mythos of his “Cosmere” is further expanded

An Island Summer!

January 13, 2016
An Island Summer!

Our book today is Walter Magnes Teller’s An Island Summer from 1951, his sentiment-infused reminiscence of a “happy family holiday” on Martha’s Vineyard with his wife and four children. The book, illustrated by Donald McKay, follows the adventures of the Teller family as they take the ferry and make their way to the Paint Box, […]

Book Review: George Washington’s Journey

January 12, 2016
george washington’s journey

In his first term as president, George Washington packed up and went on long, rattling tours of the new United States, to see the people and let them see him. A new book follows along.

The Perils of Parody in the Penny Press!

January 12, 2016
The Perils of Parody in the Penny Press!

It’s hard to miss the cover of the latest Esquire on the newsstands. It’s a stark, ugly black-and-white close up of Donald Trump’s face, under the banner “Hater in Chief.” And the issue’s contents are politically weighted, in ways virtually guaranteed to irk me – especially the magazine’s specious, irritating accompanying “news survey” about rage […]

Book Review: What Belongs to You

January 11, 2016
what belongs to you

An American instructor in Bulgaria falls into a problematic infatuation with a rough-hewn rent-boy in Garth Greenwell’s debut novel

Moorehead’s Gallipoli!

January 11, 2016
Moorehead’s Gallipoli!

Our book today was a very thoughtful gift! The little old lady who reviews the same novel every week for the Silver Spring Scold recently tapped out her pin money onto the kitchen table, put on her finest bonnet, tottered around the corner to her favorite second-hand bookstore, Puss-in-Books, and procured for me a plastic-wrapped […]

Book Review: The Norton Critical Lazarillo de Tormes

January 10, 2016
norton lazarillo

The great Renaissance classic gets a spryly-translated new Norton edition

Ink Chorus: Malcolm Cowley!

January 10, 2016
Ink Chorus: Malcolm Cowley!

Our book today is The Portable Malcolm Cowley, a compendious volume from 1990 edited by Donald Faulkner that’s one of the best entries in the wonderful Viking Portable Library series not only because it brings together a treasure-pile of great stuff but also because, in Cowley’s case, that assemble stuff is the very essence of […]

Penguins on Parade: Mont Saint Michel and Chartres

January 9, 2016
Penguins on Parade: Mont Saint Michel and Chartres

Some Penguin Classics remain obstinately unclassifiable, no matter how many times you read them. Look, for instance, at Penguin’s 1986 paperback of Mont Saint Michel and Chartres, the deeply, deceptively strange 1904 work by Henry Adams. On the surface, it looks like a passionately impressionistic travelogue of the type that was enormously popular at the […]

Book Review: Blood & Steel

January 9, 2016
Book Review: Blood & Steel

In the third century, the Roman Empire teetered on the brink of implosion, with one man after another claiming power – and Harry Sidebottom’s “Throne of the Caesars” series transmutes it all into first-rate historical fiction

Attending Oxford: The Expedition of Cyrus!

January 8, 2016
Attending Oxford: The Expedition of Cyrus!

The Oxford University Press, centuries old and the biggest academic press in the world, founded its World’s Classics series in 1906 (having bought the imprimatur lock, stock, and barrel from the brilliant publisher Grant Richards in 1901). For over a hundred years, the line has produced reasonably-priced and expertly-edited canonical texts, proving that great and […]

Book Review: Beyond Greek

January 8, 2016
beyond greek

A provocative new book re-examines the startling power and, yes, originality of Roman literature

Comics! Obi-Wan & Anakin!

January 7, 2016
Comics! Obi-Wan & Anakin!

The onslaught of new Marvel Comics titles set in the world of Star Wars will now flow unabated, thanks to the grotesque, obscene box office success of the new Star Wars move, The Force Awakens (as of this writing, the movie has grossed over one trillion dollars and been officially inducted into the official liturgy […]

Comics! Obi-Wan & Anakin!

January 7, 2016
Comics! Obi-Wan & Anakin!

The onslaught of new Marvel Comics titles set in the world of Star Wars will now flow unabated, thanks to the grotesque, obscene box office success of the new Star Wars move, The Force Awakens (as of this writing, the movie has grossed over one trillion dollars and been officially inducted into the official liturgy […]

Book Review: The Happy Marriage

January 7, 2016
the happy marriage

A bedridden famous painter reflects on his unhappy marriage – and his wife gets the last word

Book Review: Only the Stones Survive

January 6, 2016
only the stones

In Morgan Llywelyn’s latest novel, the gods and goddesses of ancient Ireland take center stage

Three Weeks in Europe!

January 6, 2016
Three Weeks in Europe!

Our book today is Three Weeks in Europe by John U. Higinbotham, a gem from 1904 sub-titled “The Vacation of a Busy Man” and aimed squarely at the hectic modern world with its breakneck pace: Most books of travel state that you should give three months to Florence, for example, but map out a three […]

Three Weeks in Europe!

January 6, 2016
Three Weeks in Europe!

Our book today is Three Weeks in Europe by John U. Higinbotham, a gem from 1904 sub-titled “The Vacation of a Busy Man” and aimed squarely at the hectic modern world with its breakneck pace: Most books of travel state that you should give three months to Florence, for example, but map out a three […]

Book Review: The Lives of Frederick Douglass

January 5, 2016
lives of fd

A stimulating new study of the autobiographies Frederick Douglass continued writing throughout his life

Price-hikes and Lookalikes in the Penny Press!

January 5, 2016
Price-hikes and Lookalikes in the Penny Press!

The New Year in the Penny Press started out for me with a nasty little shock. Despite bungling my subscription paperwork to such an extent that I get two copies of every issue of the New Yorker in the mail ever week, I had occasion shortly after the year began to buy a copy of […]

Mystery Monday: The Lady Agnes Mystery!

January 4, 2016
Mystery Monday: The Lady Agnes Mystery!

The further back in history they go, the more inventive mystery writers have to be if they want their sleuths to be women. After all, the crime-solving detectives must not only go down mean streets in search of evidence but also be able to deal with the sordid types they find there – and they’ve […]

Book Review: The Gun

January 4, 2016
the gun

A young man out for a nighttime walk in Tokyo finds a gun. Then he thinks about it all the time. Then he thinks about getting bullets for it. And then he thinks about firing it …

January 2016 TBR!

January 3, 2016
January 2016 TBR!

Our books today have (mostly) not yet appeared in bookstores – they’re a selection of titles coming up in January of 2016 that, for one reason or another, I’m eagerly anticipating. As some of you will guess, I’m a big fan of the sub-culture of YouTube known to its inhabitants as BookTube. It’s mostly filled […]

Now in Paperback: Doomed

January 3, 2016
true love

Now in paperback: a densely-packed graphic novel in which Superman slowly becomes his worst enemy

Immanitas

January 1, 2016
Immanitas

The only reverse-canonization ever performed was by Pius II in 1462, against his hated enemy Sigismondo Malatesta. A new book tells the fascinating story of this “precursor of the Antichrist.”

The Best Books of 2015: Nonfiction!

December 30, 2015
The Best Books of 2015: Nonfiction!

We come at last to the final installment of the Stevereads Best – and Worst – Books of the Year for 2015 (which followed hard on the heels of the Donoghue Interregnum, to make for a very list-y December indeed!), a year in which I read more books than I’d ever done before in a […]

The Best Books of 2015: Fiction!

December 29, 2015
The Best Books of 2015: Fiction!

As wiser heads than mine figured out and pointed out in the public forum, 2015 was characterized by a great deal of audacity in its fiction. Most of this audacity misfired – publishing emails as a novel, straight-facedly telling your publisher that you intend to write 117 800-page novels over the next 251 years, twee […]

The Worst Books of 2015: Nonfiction!

December 28, 2015
The Worst Books of 2015: Nonfiction!

2015 was a very bad year for adulthood. In its twelve months, the aging Baby Boomer generation and the despised Millennials faced challenges to common sense and decency on all sides – and failed every single one of those challenges. Privileged college undergraduates screamed at their college administrators in public and were not disciplined; pampered […]

The Worst Books of 2015: Fiction!

December 27, 2015
The Worst Books of 2015: Fiction!

2015 wasn’t a very good year for fiction. It had highlights, as, thankfully, any year will have, but if you think about it, highlights are all that genuine readers ever get: all years are, in aggregate, bad for fiction (as somebody who reads more self-published books than you’d readily believe, you can trust me on […]

Book Review: The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories

December 26, 2015
big book of sherlock

A legendary editor assembles the biggest collection of Sherlock Holmes parodies, pastiches, and homages ever collected in one volume

The Best Books of 2015: Biography!

December 26, 2015
The Best Books of 2015: Biography!

Biography, as many of you will know, is my favorite genre – it’s as improbable as the wildest-eyed fiction, as grounded in events as the most sober history, and often as unpredictable as any fantasy novel, and best of all, it very often brings out the best in its practitioners, many of whom are faced […]

The Best Books of 2015: History!

December 25, 2015
The Best Books of 2015: History!

I read more books in 2015 than in any other year of my life (I exceeded my previous personal best – which was 2014 – in mid-December of this year and just kept going), and a great many of those books were squarely in my preferred genres of history and biography – in fact, as […]

The Best Books of 2015: Fiction Debuts!

December 24, 2015
The Best Books of 2015: Fiction Debuts!

The greatest pleasure associated with debut fiction, especially debut novels, is naturally the feeling of new avenues of possibility opening up; there’s something extra exciting about watching a new author try to work out a style and find a voice – perhaps only to disregard them both in their next outing, or perhaps to refine […]

The Best Books of 2015: Nature!

December 23, 2015
The Best Books of 2015: Nature!

2015 was a very strong year for the combined Science and Nature category I love so much, a very strong year for books describing and celebrating the mind-blowing wonders of nature. This category is a bit of a sweet tooth of mine, and I’m fairly certain I read every major mainstream example of it published […]

The Best Books of 2015: Nature!

December 23, 2015
The Best Books of 2015: Nature!

2015 was a very strong year for the combined Science and Nature category I love so much, a very strong year for books describing and celebrating the mind-blowing wonders of nature. This category is a bit of a sweet tooth of mine, and I’m fairly certain I read every major mainstream example of it published […]

The Best Books of 2015: Romance!

December 22, 2015
The Best Books of 2015: Romance!

By far the cheeriest of our sub-genres is this one, romance novels (I used to find murder mysteries more cheering – because you’re guaranteed to read about at least one dead human – but I’ve mellowed a bit), and yet the successful crafting a cheery escapism is no small feat of writing, which makes the […]

Best Books of 2015: Science Fiction & Fantasy!

December 21, 2015
Best Books of 2015: Science Fiction & Fantasy!

Our next sub-genre is science fiction and fantasy (“sff” for the initiated), a field of fiction that’s every bit as prone to being formulaic and derivative as its sister sub-genres, although its practitioners sometimes seem oddly, almost defiantly unaware of this fact. Possibly they don’t read as much of it as I do, but in […]

Book Review: “Forward, My Brave Boys!”

December 20, 2015
james rains

A richly-detailed new history traces one Confederate volunteer infantry through the course of the Civil War

Best Books of 2015: Mysteries!

December 20, 2015
Best Books of 2015: Mysteries!

Time now to look at the three specific sub-genres of fiction that mean so much to me: murder mysteries, sci-fi and fantasy, and romance novels! The never-ending abundance of books in these sub-genres always makes me scratch my head a little when book-business friends of mine collectively lament periodic ‘dry spells’ in the publishing calendar. […]

The Best Books of 2015: Translations!

December 19, 2015
The Best Books of 2015: Translations!

The timidity of the English-language book-buying public has been a byword for the last fifty years, and I’m always gratified by how much it’s belied by the breadth and variety of books-in-translation every year. Still only a fraction of the whole, I grant you, but even so: all of these, the best ten translated works […]

Best Books of 2015: Guilty Pleasures!

December 18, 2015
Best Books of 2015: Guilty Pleasures!

Once again we turn to the Guilty Pleasures of the book world, the books that either shouldn’t exist or shouldn’t take up as much of your time as they end up doing, or even books you kind of hate yourself for liking – or all three at the same time. I gave a fair amount […]

Best Books of 2015: Reprints!

December 17, 2015
Best Books of 2015: Reprints!

We begin our 2015 Stevereads year-end festivities with a glance back at a healthy barometer of the book-world around us. That book-world is only as strong as its memory, so a very good gauge of the health of the Republic of Letters at any given time is the state of its reprints, the extent to […]

Book Review: The Day the Renaissance Was Saved

December 17, 2015
the day the renaissance was saved

According to one historian, the battle commemorated in a lost painting by Leonardo Da Vinci was the little-known birth-moment of the Renaissance

The Donoghue Interregnum: Breda!

December 17, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: Breda!

And so, the Donoghue Interregnum comes to an end! In the following year, I created Stevereads and lost no time in pontificating on books new and old, with scarcely a backward glance at the unseemly gap I’d left in the published history of such pontifications. That gap is now filled, and today, with barely a […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: Breda!

December 17, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: Breda!

And so, the Donoghue Interregnum comes to an end! In the following year, I created Stevereads and lost no time in pontificating on books new and old, with scarcely a backward glance at the unseemly gap I’d left in the published history of such pontifications. That gap is now filled, and today, with barely a […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 2005!

December 16, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 2005!

We come at last to the final year of the Donoghue Interregnum, the final year in which the reading public was fumbling blindly for guidance, taking book-recommendations from random strangers or desperate, malodorous librarians. The year is 2005, when Saddam Hussein went on trial, Islamic terrorism continued to rise all over the world, “Deep Throat” […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 2004!

December 15, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 2004!

Our penultimate year is AD 2004, when a tsunami killed a quarter of a million people in Asia, terrorism struck in Spain, Chechnya, Saudi Arabia, and half a dozen other places, same-sex marriage became legal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (and neither the institution of marriage nor the world subsequently ended), and the great Renata […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 2003!

December 14, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 2003!

The year is now 2003, when President George W. Bush invaded Iraq in a fit of pique, Broadway went dark, the Old Man of the Mountain finally crumbled, President George W. Bush declared the Iraq War a victory, and the great Katharine Hepburn died. And the book-world carried on regardless, hitting these high notes: Best […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 2002!

December 13, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 2002!

The year is now 2002, when Queen Elizabeth II marked her 50th year on the throne, Washington, DC spent a month being terrorized by a sniper, tornadoes rampaged across America, and Stephen Jay Gould, Elizabeth Longford, Kenneth Koch, and Caroline Knapp all died. Yet somehow, I still felt like reading, and books kept appearing. These […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 2001

December 12, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 2001

We’ve reached 2001, the year of the 9-11 attacks. Books – and everything else – in America were necessarily overshadowed, but there were of course nonetheless works of great worth: Best Fiction: 10 The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction Colm Toibin ed (1999) – It’s this enormous, unendingly rewarding volume that gave me my first […]

Book Review: Reading The Tale of Genji

December 11, 2015
reading the tale of genji

The Tale of Genji has been enthralling readers for a thousand years; a grand new book collects some of the varied critical responses it’s sparked over the centuries

The Donoghue Interregnum: 2000!

December 11, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 2000!

Our year is now AD 2000, when Slobodan Mlosevic was removed from power in a coup, George W. Bush was placed in power by a coup, Alexandria is discovered again after 2000 years of slumber, and the great Jean-Pierre Rampal died. The top efforts of the book-world looked like this: Best Fiction: 10 The Amazing […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1999!

December 10, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 1999!

We’ve now reached 1999, when the number of humans living on Earth passed six billion, America was shocked to its core by the Columbine shootings, Vladimir Putin came to power, and the indispensable Alan Clark died. But the world of books was alive and well, and here’s how it rated: Best Fiction: 10 The Intuitionist […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1998!

December 9, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 1998!

Through toil and patience, we’ve reached 1998, when the IRA once again laid down its arms, Islamic terrorism rises all over the world, President Bill Clinton is impeached for the 431st Clinton scandal, and the great Martha Gellhorn died. Here’s the book-world outlook: Fiction 10 – A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe – What […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1997!

December 8, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 1997!

We’re now up to 1997, the year when Woolworth’s, Mother Teresa, Princess Diana, and the great Jacques Cousteau all died. But books were very much alive and well, as our list clearly shows: Best Fiction: 10 – The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald – It took me a while to warm up to the quirky minimalism […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1996!

December 7, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 1996!

We’ve now reached 1996, the year Carl Sagan died. The books looked like this: Best Fiction: 10 – The Beauty of Men by Andrew Holleran – This novel about an aging man’s look back on the loves and fucks of his life in the gay demimonde reads every bit as beautifully as Holleran’s consciousness-defining hit […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1995!

December 6, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 1995!

We’re now at 1995, the year that the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed, the year that terrorists released nerve gas in a Tokyo subway, the year Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, and the year the great Jeremy Brett died. These were the year’s best books: Best Fiction: 10 – Rule of the Bone by […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1995!

December 6, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 1995!

We’re now at 1995, the year that the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed, the year that terrorists released nerve gas in a Tokyo subway, the year Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, and the year the great Jeremy Brett died. These were the year’s best books: Best Fiction: 10 – Rule of the Bone by […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1994!

December 5, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 1994!

We’ve reached 1994, when genocide stalked Rwanda, the 145th Clinton scandal broke, Richard Nixon was recalled to Hell, and the great Cab Calloway died. The book-world’s top efforts looked like this: Best Fiction: 10 – The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge – The doomed 1912 Scott expedition to the South Pole is the unlikely subject […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1994!

December 5, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 1994!

We’ve reached 1994, when genocide stalked Rwanda, the 145th Clinton scandal broke, Richard Nixon was recalled to Hell, and the great Cab Calloway died. The book-world’s top efforts looked like this: Best Fiction: 10 – The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge – The doomed 1912 Scott expedition to the South Pole is the unlikely subject […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1993!

December 4, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 1993!

We’re now at 1993, when the Boston winter was gawd-awful, Jurassic Park stomped into movie theaters, and the great Thurgood Marshall died. Here’s how the book-world looked: Best Fiction: 10 – A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth – This sprawling novel set in 1950s India and featuring four families populated by vivid characters is so […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1992!

December 3, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 1992!

We move on to 1992, when Johnny Carson retired, the Clinton era began, something called a “web browser” was first introduced, and the great Wallace Stegner died. Best Fiction: 10 – Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates – I’d never been a big fan of Joyce Carol Oates’s writing, and when I read the advance […]

Book Review: The Iran-Iraq War

December 2, 2015
the iran-iraq war

The brutal 1980s war between Iran and Iraq gets a definitive new history

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1991!

December 2, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 1991!

We continue with the year 1991, when Operation Desert Storm expelled Iraq from Kuwait, Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated, the Soviet Union dissolved at long last, and the great Gene Roddenberry died. This is how the books stacked up: Best Fiction: 10 – Rumpole a la Carte by John Mortimer – Six classic […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1990!

December 1, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 1990!

We begin in that halcyon year of 1990, the year of my return to Boston! Thatcher resigned, the Berlin Wall fell, priceless works of art were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the great Jim Henson died. And in the world of books, this is how things broke down: Best Fiction: 10 – […]

‘Tis the Season

December 1, 2015
‘Tis the Season

Years after the “New Atheism” heyday, a new book by an old hand takes up the atheist cause with renewed urgency.

What is … The Donoghue Interregnum?

November 30, 2015
What is … The Donoghue Interregnum?

The whole while that Stevereads has been rolling out its annual assessments of the best – and worst – books of every passing year – that annual Gotterdamerung so secretly feared and yet so eagerly anticipated by publishers, authors, publicists, and readers alike – there’s been a gap, an omission that’s been bothering me just […]

The Thanksgiving Tag!

November 26, 2015
The Thanksgiving Tag!

Our books today are five for which I give thanks, and in selecting just five I was inspired by the wonderful young people over in the world of BookTube, where a “tag” along these lines is making the rounds. For those of you not hep to the lingo, in the world of BookTube, a “tag” […]

Notes for a Star Trek Bibliography: Child of Two Worlds!

November 26, 2015
Notes for a Star Trek Bibliography: Child of Two Worlds!

The earliest fans of Star Trek encountered for the first time in 1966 something they’d before then only inferred: the past of their beloved starship Enterprise. They’d always known the Enterprise must have a past. They knew that Captain James T. Kirk had been the youngest person ever to command a starship, but there’d never […]

Book Review: In Winter’s Kitchen

November 26, 2015
in winter’s kitchen

A family from New Jersey moves to the wilds of Minnesota and learns a whole new way to think about food

Book Review: Augustine

November 24, 2015
augustine lane fox

A sumptuous new book traces the long and complicated path St. Augustine took to reach his famous “Confessions”

The Literary Essays of James Russell Lowell!

November 22, 2015
The Literary Essays of James Russell Lowell!

Our books today are the literary essays of that great 19th-century American belletrist James Russell Lowell, here in a lovely uniform green edition of four volumes put out in 1890 by Houghton, Mifflin in conjunction with The Riverside Press of Lowell’s home of Cambridge, Massachusetts. I found these volumes, predictably enough, at my beloved Brattle […]

The Literary Essays of James Russell Lowell!

November 22, 2015
The Literary Essays of James Russell Lowell!

Our books today are the literary essays of that great 19th-century American belletrist James Russell Lowell, here in a lovely uniform green edition of four volumes put out in 1890 by Houghton, Mifflin in conjunction with The Riverside Press of Lowell’s home of Cambridge, Massachusetts. I found these volumes, predictably enough, at my beloved Brattle […]

Comics: Yet More First Issues!

November 21, 2015
Comics: Yet More First Issues!

For a solid fourth week of visits to my beloved Comicopia here in Boston, I’ve had first issues in my bag when I left. As I’ve mentioned here at Stevereads before, I remember when the appearance of a first issue was a big deal, fairly rare – finding one on the spinner rack of Trow’s […]

Penguins on Parade: The I Ching!

November 19, 2015
Penguins on Parade: The I Ching!

Some Penguin Classics remain every bit as impenetrable no matter how often you come back to them – especially if they were more or less designed to be impenetrable. I know of no better example of this than the ancient Chinese classic called the I Ching or Book of Change; I’ve now grappled three times […]

Book Review: Battling the Gods

November 19, 2015
battling the gods

The open, even evangelical atheism of the 21st century might be new, but as a sparkling-good new book demonstrates, atheism itself is as old as belief

Idol-Bashing in the Penny Press!

November 17, 2015
Idol-Bashing in the Penny Press!

This late in the year, for good or ill, the year’s publishing success stories are fairly well known – both “success” in terms of sales and “success” in terms of critical worth (and the rare, happy instances where the two coincide). So a negative review of one of these success stories jumps off the page, […]

Good Old William Dean Howells!

November 16, 2015
Good Old William Dean Howells!

Our book today is a sturdy, inviting thing from 1910, the “Library Edition” that combines two books by William Dean Howells, My Literary Passions and Criticism and Fiction. The books were published years apart, and this lovely compendium was a thoughtful gift to me recently from the old lady who reviews the same novel every […]

Book Review: Russell Kirk

November 16, 2015
russell_kirk7.indd

A big and colorful new biography of modern conservatism’s larger-than-life ideological godfather

Book Review: The Mystery of the Lone Wolf Killer

November 14, 2015
Book Review: The Mystery of the Lone Wolf Killer

A penetrating – and bitterly timely – book about the 2011 killing rampage of Anders Behring Breivik

The Art of the Mass Market: Regency Romances!

November 13, 2015
The Art of the Mass Market: Regency Romances!

Once again, I’m trying your patience by taking the long way around the barn to get to the actual feature I intend to call “The Art of the Mass Market”! That feature will celebrate just what it says on the tin: the art of mass market paperback reprints of books originally released in hardcover. And […]

Comics! American Alien #1!

November 11, 2015
Comics! American Alien #1!

Today’s selection of new comics – reached at my beloved Comicopia through a miserable pining chilly mist – was typically broad and had plenty of interesting-looking new titles, including quite a few ever-optimistic first issues. In one of those, The All-New, All-Different Avengers (as with so much in the new, trendy, app-y Marvel Comics line, […]

The Fantastic Art of Boris Vallejo!

November 11, 2015
The Fantastic Art of Boris Vallejo!

Our book today is a great gaudy thing from a great gaudy decade, The Fantastic Art of Boris Vallejo from 1978, with an Introduction by the late great science fiction editor Lester Del Rey, a third-rate hack of an author but an absolute impresario when it came to finding, editing, and packaging sci-fi and fantasy […]

Book Review: The English and Their History

November 10, 2015
the english and their history

A huge – and hugely enjoyable – new book details the long history of the English people

Book Review: London Fog

November 9, 2015
Book Review: London Fog

For centuries, “pea-soup” fog was synonymous with the city of London; a lively new book tells its story.

Six Big Fat Summer Biographies!

November 8, 2015
Six Big Fat Summer Biographies!

Ah, yes: windows open, ceiling fan going, bare feet propped up on the nearest basset hound – all the typical hallmarks of November in New England! And how better to pass a hot, languid November weekend than with a nice fat biography, to take your mind off the sultry weather? Certainly I myself don’t know […]

Book Review: Great Soul of Siberia

November 8, 2015
great soul of siberia

A stirring account of one wild family of critically-endangered Siberian tigers

Book Review: City on a Grid

November 6, 2015
city on a grid

The in-depth story of how it came to be that the Bronx is up and the Battery’s down – the grid system of Manhattan!

Comics: Hercules #1!

November 5, 2015
Comics: Hercules #1!

Yesterday’s comics featured – as they now tend to do on an almost alarmingly frequent basis – the first issue of a new series, in this case Hercules #1, written by Dan Abnett and drawn by Luke Ross (the credits also include the rather hilarious line “Hercules created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby”). I […]

Romance Roundup – Sparkly Cowboys!

November 3, 2015
Romance Roundup – Sparkly Cowboys!

Romance novels have a long history of, well, romanticizing types of men who are entirely best avoided in real life. Arguably, this began with my beloved Regency romances, since as a matter of historical fact, the typical Regency “buck” or “Corinthian” was a thoroughly deplorable creature, chubby, alcoholic, and positively dripping with venereal disease. Likewise […]

Book Review: The Work of the Dead

November 2, 2015
the work of the dead

A fascinating new history details the changing job description of the dead-and-buried over the centuries

The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories!

November 2, 2015
The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories!

Our book today is a nifty gem from the old “Oxford Book” line: 1986’s The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories, edited by Michael Cox and R. A. Gilbert, with its great cover art showing John Atkinson Grimshaw’s endlessly evocative An Old Lane by Moonlight (honestly, what anthology wouldn’t be improved by such a cover? […]

The Art of the Mass Market Paperback!

November 1, 2015
The Art of the Mass Market Paperback!

Lately I’ve been going through all the mass market paperbacks I own (an ungodly number, which is part of the reason I’ve been going through them, but more of that in a later post), and as I’ve been looking again at all their covers, I realized something more clearly than I’d ever realized it before: […]

Generals in Dark and Snow

November 1, 2015
Generals in Dark and Snow

Late in 1944, the defeated Nazis staked everything on one last throw of the dice, a massive assault on the Allied forces in Belgium. Antony Beevor’s latest book tells the famous story of the Battle of the Bulge.

The Folio Society Rumpole!

October 30, 2015
The Folio Society Rumpole!

Our book today is a gorgeous 1994 “Rumpole” volume from the Folio Society, featuring ten classic stories chosen by their author, John Mortimer, who introduces the collection by sketching out the very simple guideline he used to select which bits of his large “Rumpole” canon he wanted to include: In this book I have chosen […]

Book Review: The Annotated Poe

October 27, 2015
annotated

A sumptuously illustrated and annotated new edition of the classic short works of Edgar Allan Poe

The Viking Portable Library!

October 27, 2015
The Viking Portable Library!

Our books today are samples from the delightful old line of Viking Portables that flourished in the postwar years and whose compact, jam-packed format has by now entirely disappeared and, given the givens of our post-literate society, will likely never appear again. They’re instantly recognizable on the shelves of used bookstores, these Viking Portables: they’re […]

Another “Bucket List” in the Penny Press!

October 26, 2015
Another “Bucket List” in the Penny Press!

The lad mags I love so much have a love of their own: so-called “bucket lists”! For some unaccountable reason, the core readership of magazines like Esquire, GQ, Outside, Details, and Men’s Journal – over-monied young white male douchebags – just love “bucket list” features designed to help them tick off the last few things […]

Penguins on Parade: The Deluxe Emma!

October 25, 2015
Penguins on Parade: The Deluxe Emma!

Some Penguin Classics prompt a sigh of relief, especially after the loosey-goosey anything-goes Week O’ Penguins we’ve had this time around (Ray Russell, I ask you!). After watching a coked-up gag-writer like Charles Beaumont pull down his own Penguin Classic (if that happened in a typical three-page Charles Beaumont story, he’d be super-honored until he […]

Penguins on Parade: Ford and Webster!

October 24, 2015
Penguins on Parade: Ford and Webster!

Some Penguin Classics seem like classroom-ready compromises, as in the case of Jane Kingsley-Smith’s new paperback combining the two most prominent plays by John Ford with the two most prominent plays by John Webster. Why, you can almost hear being asked in some Penguin editorial meeting, should we force students to buy “complete plays” editions […]

Book Review: Magna Carta

October 24, 2015
magna carta

A slim and intensely good new history of King John and the creation of the Great Charter

Penguins on Parade: The Penguin Arthur Miller!

October 23, 2015
Penguins on Parade: The Penguin Arthur Miller!

Some Penguin Classics are so physically beautiful they stifle dissent, at least temporarily. This is certainly true for most of the “Deluxe” titles (again, we shall not turn our thoughts toward a Deluxe edition of The Liars’ Club, lest those thoughts become impure …), and wow, even in that company, one of the newest Penguin […]

Penguins on Parade: The Penguin Arthur Miller!

October 23, 2015
Penguins on Parade: The Penguin Arthur Miller!

Some Penguin Classics are so physically beautiful they stifle dissent, at least temporarily. This is certainly true for most of the “Deluxe” titles (again, we shall not turn our thoughts toward a Deluxe edition of The Liars’ Club, lest those thoughts become impure …), and wow, even in that company, one of the newest Penguin […]

Book Review: Keeping An Eye On Art

October 22, 2015
keeping an eye on art

Novelist Julian Barnes takes readers on a tour of some of his favorite French artists

Penguins on Parade: Thomas Ligotti!

October 22, 2015
Penguins on Parade: Thomas Ligotti!

Some Penguin Classics quite inadvertently prompt somber thoughts. That’s been a bit of a theme in this particular Week O’ Penguins, and it continues with another of their latest volumes, Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe, by cult horror-writer and bolt-eyed loon Thomas Ligotti. This is true not only because Ligotti is cut from […]

Penguins on Parade: Perchance to Dream!

October 21, 2015
Penguins on Parade: Perchance to Dream!

Some Penguin Classics, as we seem to be mentioning quite a bit lately, are a bit odd. They call to mind fifty years of mottos the line has used to promote itself to the reading world, things like “The Best Books Ever Written.” They call these mottos to mind in aggressively evaluating terms, because when […]

Book Review: Part of Our Lives

October 21, 2015
part of our lives

A wonderful new book details the raucous past – and the complicated, vibrant present – of the public library in the United States

Penguins on Parade: The Case Against Satan!

October 20, 2015
Penguins on Parade: The Case Against Satan!

Some Penguin Classics, as we’ve noticed, are intensely mystifying. Not in their subject matter, but rather in their very existence – and one of the latest examples is the lovely new Penguin edition of Ray Russell’s 1962 debut novel The Case Against Satan, with a new Introduction by horror novelist Laird Barron. After serving in […]

Penguins on Parade: The Autobiography of Ben Franklin!

October 19, 2015
Penguins on Parade: The Autobiography of Ben Franklin!

Some Penguin Classics provide the best possible invitation right there with their covers, and I know almost no better example of this than the old 2003 edition of Benjamin Franklin’s The Autobiography and Other Writings, edited and introduced by the great American historian and biographer Kenneth Silverman (whose Pulitzer Prize-winning 1985 biography of Cotton Mather […]

Book Review: Evolution – The Whole Story

October 19, 2015
meg

A gorgeously-illustrated new book looks at the long and gaudy history of life on Earth

The Return of the TLS in the Penny Press!

October 18, 2015
The Return of the TLS in the Penny Press!

Ah, the joy of returning to the mighty TLS – or rather, in this instance, of it returning to me! There was a dark interval there where, as many of you will no doubt have noticed, the TLS vanished from local newsstands here in Boston – an annoying interruption in my enjoyment of the single […]

Book Review: After Hitler

October 18, 2015
after hitler

A forensic and often quite moving new history of the last, desperate days of the Third Reich

Book Review: The German War

October 18, 2015
the german war

A new book brings to life the experiences of ordinary Germans during the Second World War

The Morgan Dennis Dog Book!

October 17, 2015
The Morgan Dennis Dog Book!

Our book today is a little gem from 1946, something long-awaited by his many fans at the time: The Morgan Dennis Dog Book, a collection of the dog-illustrations of Boston’s own Morgan Dennis, a dapper and hilarious man who grew up on the narrow streets of Dorchester and became a very successful popular illustrator in […]

Comics: Good Old Lois & Clark!

October 16, 2015
Comics: Good Old Lois & Clark!

Last week’s comics haul from my beloved Comicopia here in Boston yielded quite a bit of good stuff (including the third issue of Captain America: White and the first issue of Sam Wilson: Captain America) and one item that was as confusing as it was heart-tugging for me: the first issue of what looks to […]

Book Review: The Rise of Germany

October 16, 2015
the rise of germany

An ambitious new work of history charts the rise to victory of Nazi Germany – and deflates a few treasured myths along the way

A Tale of Two (?) Douchebags in the Penny Press!

October 14, 2015
A Tale of Two (?) Douchebags in the Penny Press!

As Hamlet would say, look here upon this picture and on this: two young men, both in their thirties, both white, both good-looking in generic kinds of ways, both intelligent, both multi-millionaires, both objects of interviews in a recent issue of New York magazine – and both, on the surface of those interviews, raging douchebags […]

Book Review: In the Shadow of Edgar Allen Poe

October 13, 2015
in the shadow of ea poe

A new anthology looks at the rich, creepy atmosphere that gave rise to the fiction of Edgar Allan Poe – and then was dominated by him as by no other author

Book Review: Xerxes

October 12, 2015
xerxes

The great Persian King Xerxes gets a wonderfully sharp and detailed biography for Western readers

The Picador Modern Classics!

October 12, 2015
The Picador Modern Classics!

Our books today are the neatest little things you’ll see in the rest of 2015’s book-year: a set of Modern Classics from Picador Press, done up in a neat bow! In honor of their own 20th anniversary, Picador has crafted this set of Modern Classics, sturdy little hardcovers beautifully designed by Steven Seighman as compact […]

Book Review: Winston Churchill Reporting

October 12, 2015
winston churchill reporting

While a young Winston Churchill was making history during the waning years of the Victorian Empire, he was also reporting on himself making history during the waning years of the Victorian Empire. A new book tells the old story.

Book Review: King John

October 11, 2015
king john – morris

On the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, a spirited new biography looks at King John

Book Review: The Year of Lear

October 11, 2015
the year of lear

A new book looks at one tumultuous year in the life of William Shakespeare

Book Review: Hell’s Foundations Quiver

October 10, 2015
hell’s foundations quiver

In the latest of David Weber’s “Safehold” novels, Industrial-Age technology is coming to a quasi-Renaissance world, ready or not

Book Review: Cleopatra’s Shadows

October 10, 2015
cleopatra’s shadows

An effective debut novel looks at the story of famous Cleopatra’s much less-famous sisters

Book Review: Napoleon – Soldier of Destiny

October 8, 2015
napoleon broers

The first volume of Michael Broers’ new Napoleon biography follows its famous subject from obscure Corsican boyhood to the stage of world-wide fame.

Comics: Two Grand Old First Issues!

October 8, 2015
Comics: Two Grand Old First Issues!

Among the spread of new comics on the wall at Comicopia this week were two first issues: Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, and of course I bought them both. I liked the pairing in this case; back when I first started reading the adventures of these two characters, neither one had his own book, so seeing […]

Book Review: The Emperor of Water Clocks

October 8, 2015
the emperor of water clocks

A grand and jauntily mythological new volume of poetry from Pulitzer Prize-winning Yusef Komunyakaa

In the Company of Elephants!

October 5, 2015
In the Company of Elephants!

Our book today is a classic of popular natural history from 1975, Among the Elephants by Iain and Oria Douglas-Hamilton, who are now old and wrinkled but who were once lithe and limber back forty years ago when they first set out to study the elephant herds in the vicinity of Lake Manyara in the […]

Book Review: 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories

October 3, 2015
100 years

A big new volume commemorates a century of “Best American Short Stories,” which began – as with all worthy things – in Boston a long time ago

The October 2015 Boston Public Library Book Sale!

October 3, 2015
The October 2015 Boston Public Library Book Sale!

The morning dawned chilly and grey under a low ceiling of clouds, and after spending a few hours reading in bed and catching up on the dolorous news of the day, I decided to venture out to the Boston Public Library’s book sale, since I missed the previous one and there won’t be another one […]

Book Review: The Secret Chord

October 3, 2015
the secret chord

The author of such brilliant novels as “Year of Wonders” and “March” takes on the Biblical story of King David

Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?

October 3, 2015
Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?

Our book today, a winner of a thing by Thomas Kohnstamm from 2008, asks the always-pertinent question, Do Travel Writers Go to Hell? – and like almost all books with questions in the title, the answer is obvious. The book follows Kohnstamm on his transformation from an ordinary white-collar worker – with a steady girlfriend, […]

Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?

October 3, 2015
Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?

Our book today, a winner of a thing by Thomas Kohnstamm from 2008, asks the always-pertinent question, Do Travel Writers Go to Hell? – and like almost all books with questions in the title, the answer is obvious. The book follows Kohnstamm on his transformation from an ordinary white-collar worker – with a steady girlfriend, […]

Book Review: The Ville Rat

October 2, 2015
the ville rat

The odd couple military police sergeants Sueno and Bascom return in Martin Limon’s gripping new mystery set in 1970s Korea

Comics: Paragons of Right!

October 2, 2015
Comics: Paragons of Right!

This week’s comics presented a stark juxtaposition between old and new, tradition and innovation, and as much as I tend to hate the new and the innovative when it comes to superhero comics, my reactions this time around were tempered by quality, which is always a nice way to have your reactions tempered. The ‘tradition’ […]

Book Review: The Dogist

October 1, 2015
pig

Armed with camera and tennis balls, a young photographer takes informal portraits of the dogs he meets. The Instagram sensation “The Dogist” is now a book.

Wanderer On My Native Shore!

October 1, 2015
Wanderer On My Native Shore!

Our book today is George Reiger’s 1983 book Wanderer On My Native Shore, a wonderfully personal work of natural history sub-titled “A Personal Guide & Tribute to the Ecology of the Atlantic Coast” which we’ve met before here at Stevereads, but I read it again recently in a kind of commemoration of that pleasant melancholy […]

Keeping Up With the Romans – Hits and Myths

October 1, 2015
Keeping Up With the Romans – Hits and Myths

Two thousand years ago, the Roman historian Suetonius wrote about the lives and loves of the founding rulers of the Roman Empire. Historian Tom Holland takes up the familiar story in his new book Dynasty.

From the Archives: The Phenomenon of Her

October 1, 2015
From the Archives: The Phenomenon of Her

She’s one of the most famous names in history, and the only figure in antiquity to rival Julius Caesar’s renown–but what do we really know about Cleopatra? Stacy Schiff’s biography takes us behind the legend.

Book Review: Quicksand

September 29, 2015
quicksand

A failed writer seizes on a most unlikely inspiration for his great book: the catastrophically unlucky life of his best friend

Book Review: Islam and the Future of Tolerance

September 29, 2015
islam harris

A polite conversation by two intellectuals about an explosive subject: the rise of militant Islamic groups throughout the world, and the world’s response

Book Review: I Ching

September 27, 2015
i ching hinton

The ancient Chinese classic of divination gets a brisk new English-language translation

Book Review: Washington

September 27, 2015
washington

The venerable sub-genre of the Washington, DC history gets a substantial new update

Six for Sexy Kit Marlowe!

September 25, 2015
Six for Sexy Kit Marlowe!

He had the hair, the Mona Lisa smile, the subtle hands, the loudly fashionable clothing, the bad-boy attitude – it’s little wonder that Christopher Marlowe has been an extremely popular subject for fiction-writers over the years (especially blossoming after 1952, when the portrait we all so badly want to be a 21-year-old Marlowe was discovered). […]

Book Review: Apollo in the Grass

September 25, 2015
apollo in the grass

A revelatory new volume brings to English-language readers a selection of the verses of St. Petersburg poet Aleksandr Kushner

Romance Roundup: Location, location, location!

September 24, 2015
Romance Roundup: Location, location, location!

Any batch of new romance novels will certainly feature a few whose narratives are grounded not on people but on places. Their covers feature landscapes and promise to be “A [Location X] Novel,” and a newcomer to the phenomenon might wonder at the appeal. When we look at three of them chosen at random, that […]

Book Review: Gallipoli

September 23, 2015
gallipoli

The new entry in Oxford University Press’ “Great Battles” series focuses on the long and potent afterlife of the Gallipoli campaign of the First World War

Esquire #1000 in the Penny Press!

September 23, 2015
Esquire #1000 in the Penny Press!

How could I not make mention of the fact that Esquire, one of my most steadfast glossy lad-mags, hits its 1000th issue this month? To put it mildly, it’s not every magazine that reaches one thousand issues – hell, there aren’t many writing endeavors of any kind that reach such a milestone (blushing modesty prevents […]

Book Review: Those We Left Behind

September 22, 2015
those we left behind

In the latest crime novel from Stuart Neville, two young killers are getting paroled – much too soon for the son of their victim

The Vineyard at Summer’s End!

September 22, 2015
The Vineyard at Summer’s End!

Our book today is On the Vineyard, a 1980 collection of short essays and reflections about Martha’s Vineyard, accompanied by stunning black-and-white photos by Peter Simon, and the impulse that drove me to take it down from my shelf is akin to the impulse that always makes me think of Cape Cod at summer’s end. […]

Book Review: Mary McGrory: The First Queen of Journalism

September 21, 2015
mary running

From the McCarthy era to the Watergate era and beyond, Mary McGrory ruled the Washington press corps, as a wonderful new book details

Book Review: Gamelife

September 21, 2015
gamelife

Growing up in suburban Illinois, author Michael Clune discovered the world of gaming – and nothing was ever the same again

Book Review: Killing the Messenger

September 20, 2015
killing the messenger

In his new book, David Brock, foremost champion of the Clintons, comes to the defense of Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton

The Hound of the Baskervilles!

September 18, 2015
The Hound of the Baskervilles!

Our book today is Arthur Conan Doyle’s immortal The Hound of the Baskervilles,which brought back, in 1901, the beloved character of Sherlock Holmes who’d been killed off nearly a decade earlier by an author who was both bored by his formulaic stories and jealous of his international fame. The events of The Hound of the […]

Book Review: A Strange Business

September 18, 2015
a strange business

James Hamilton’s fascinating new book looks behind the glorious paintings of the Victorian era at the men who designed the frames, discovered the paint pigments, and heated the galleries

Book Review: The Murdstone Trilogy

September 17, 2015
the murdstone trilogy

The author of several well-regarded but unprofitable novels about sensitive misfit boys turns to the industry’s top money-maker: epic fantasy. Disaster promptly ensues.

Book Review: Everland

September 17, 2015
Book Review: Everland

In 2012, a trio of Antarctic explorers re-traces the path of a doomed expedition from 1913

Book Review: Voyage of the Sable Venus

September 16, 2015
voyage of the sable venus

A stunning debut volume from poet and teacher Robin Coste Lewis

Book Review: Six Poets

September 16, 2015
Bennett jacket 215052.indd

British literary icon Alan Bennett looks at six poets whose work has meant a great deal to him over the years

Book Review: Man of Destiny

September 15, 2015
man of destiny

If a gushing new biography is any warrant, that’s the wrong Roosevelt up on Mount Rushmore.

Book Review: India at War

September 15, 2015
india at war

When the Second World War erupted, the British Empire expected all its client states to do their duty for the Crown; but in India, as a sharp new book details, that duty was deeply complicated

Akhenaten: King of Egypt!

September 15, 2015
Akhenaten: King of Egypt!

Our book today is a big fat thing called Akhenaten: King of Egypt by Cyril Aldred (when reading pretty much any history on pretty much any subject, you should, if possible, hold out for a historian named Cyril Aldred), and in addition to being a fantastic soup-to-nuts historical and archaeological account of ancient Egypt’s infamous […]

Book Review: The Conquering Tide

September 14, 2015
the conquering tide

The fierce, epic height of WWII’s Pacific War is the subject of Ian Toll’s gripping new volume

Book Review: A Little History of the United States

September 13, 2015
little history of us

The latest volume in Yale University Press’s series of short histories is a quick yet authoritative overview of United States history

Book Review: Bosworth 1485

September 13, 2015
bosworth dan jones

A taut new history of Richard III and the battle in which he lost everything – and the new Tudor dynasty gained everything

Book Review: Among the Bone Eaters

September 13, 2015
marcus and willi

In the Ethiopian city of Harar, spotted hyenas roam the streets at night, cleaning up the day’s garbage better than any human crew could do. A fascinating new book tells the story.

Book Review: The Spirit of ’74

September 12, 2015
spirit of 74

Long before the famous date of the Declaration, Boston was breaking the King’s Peace and warning other towns and colonies to do likewise – a lively new book tells the story

Book Review: The Double Life of Liliane

September 12, 2015
the double life of liliane

National Book Award-winner Lily Tuck’s latest book attempts an experiment at dramatizing her memories of her early years

Book Review: Afghan Modern

September 12, 2015
afghan modern cover

A Stanford history professor attempts to make a positive case for one of the most benighted countries on the planet

The Burgess Shakespeare!

September 12, 2015
The Burgess Shakespeare!

Our book today is Shakespeare, which Anthony Burgess wrote one morning in 1970 after a 40-pint evening. The morning was raw and scratchy, one imagines, and our author, not at his best, needed some task to distract him before his four-course breakfast and pick-me-up whiskey was ready. The afternoon was already planned: a TV show […]

Book Review: Building Art

September 9, 2015
building art cover

The world’s most famous architect gets his first full-length biography

Book Review: The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare

September 9, 2015
ministry cover

They slit throats; the bombed churches; they were none too mentally stable – and these were the GOOD guys

The Aventine Leaves of Grass!

September 9, 2015
The Aventine Leaves of Grass!

Our book today is Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass – and only Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, here presented in a hefty green-jacketed 1931 hardcover from the old Aventine Press, whose editors decided to present the author’s 1892 edition of his great work entirely without critical apparatus of any kind. I found this Aventine volume […]

The Aventine Leaves of Grass!

September 9, 2015
The Aventine Leaves of Grass!

Our book today is Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass – and only Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, here presented in a hefty green-jacketed 1931 hardcover from the old Aventine Press, whose editors decided to present the author’s 1892 edition of his great work entirely without critical apparatus of any kind. I found this Aventine volume […]

In Paperback: Walden’s Shore

September 7, 2015
walden’s short

Now in paperback: a thorough – and thoroughly interesting – study of the actual physical dimensions of the little pond whose name Henry David Thoreau made immortal

Book Review: Ralph Waldo Emerson – The Major Poetry

September 7, 2015
emerson poetry

A thorough new study of the poetry of the great transcendentalist writer Ralph Waldo Emerson

Book Review: Renishaw Hall

September 7, 2015
ren

The great home of generations of the Sitwell family, Renishaw Hall, is the subject of Desmond Seward’s latest book

Book Review: The Storms of War

September 7, 2015
storms of waruk

In historian Kate Williams’ new novel, a wealthy family in England confronts the realities of the First World War

Book Review: Monsters

September 7, 2015
monsters

The bad science behind the Hindenburg was made tragically obvious by its explosion in 1937; a new book warns that other miracles of science may be equally dangerous

Book Review: Word by Word

September 7, 2015
word by word

A new book assembles and studies the scattered writings of American slaves

Book Review: The Invention of Nature

September 6, 2015
the invention of nature

The great German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt was fascinated by all of the natural world, and his work in studying it and writing about it has shaped our understanding ever since

Book Review: Black Earth

September 6, 2015
black earth

A harrowing and contentious new assessment of the Nazi war on the Jews of Europe.

Twelve Days of Terror!

September 4, 2015
Twelve Days of Terror!

Our book today is Twelve Days of Terror, Richard Fernicola’s 2001 history of the famous series of shark attacks that happened at the Jersey Shore in 1916, when four people were killed in July by a shark – probably a single shark, probably a bull shark, since it was able to travel up-river quite a […]

Book Review: I Can Give You Anything But Love

September 4, 2015
i can give you anything but love

A witty, unsparing memoir from author and critic Gary Indiana

Book Review: A Clue to the Exit

September 4, 2015
a clue to the exit

A sarcastic screenwriter learns he has only six months to live in this reprinted novel from Edward St. Aubyn from 2000

Book Review: The Desert and the Blade

September 3, 2015
the desert and the blade

In the latest chapter of S. M. Stirling’s “Emberverse” series, two courageous women embark on a quest for a supernatural sword

Book Review: Sorcerer to the Crown

September 3, 2015
sorcerer to the crown

In Zen Cho’s exuberant debut, the magic of Napoleonic-era England is slowly dwindling, and it’s up to the Sorcerer Royal to figure out why

Book Review: Snowden

September 2, 2015
snowden2

The life of infamous NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, in comic book form

Book Review: Self and Soul

September 2, 2015
self and soul

A spirited defense of humanist intangibles in a culture obsessed with material gain

The Cape at Summer’s End!

September 1, 2015
The Cape at Summer’s End!

Our book today is This Quiet Place, a 1971 book whose author, seasoned journalist and biographer (and Martha’s Vineyard native) Everett Allen subtitled “A Cape Cod Chronicle” – so naturally, on the first of September, my eyes found it on my shelves, since it’s always at this time of year that I find myself thinking […]

Book Review: A River Runs Again

September 1, 2015
a river runs again

The huge environmental problems facing India form the backdrop for Meera Subramanian’s fantastic first book

Book Review: The Gates of Evangeline

September 1, 2015
the gates of evangeline

A mother grieving the loss of her own son investigates the 30-year-old disappearance of a powerful Southern family’s little boy in this haunting debut

“I am eager to play chess – I have mastered nine skills”

September 1, 2015
“I am eager to play chess – I have mastered nine skills”

At the beginning of the 19th century, a small trove of elaboratedly carved chess pieces was uncovered on a remote beach – a lively new book traces the history and strange charisma of the Lewis chessmen.

Book Review: Mycroft Holmes

August 31, 2015
mycroft holmes

A debut adventure starring the smarter older brother of Sherlock Holmes

Book Review: Chasing the Phoenix

August 30, 2015
chasing the phoenix

Michael Swanwick’s terrific new novel features a con artist and a genetically modified dog-man seeking riches and power in a post-post-apocalyptic China

Book Review: Agents of Empire

August 30, 2015
agents of empire

In the continents-spanning 16th-century clash between Venice and the Ottoman Empire, a crucial role was played by Albania – and by two families at the heart of events

Book Review: The Automobile Club of Egypt

August 30, 2015
the automobile club of egypt

The celebrated author of “The Yacoubian Building” returns with another panoramic look at life in modern Egypt during a pivotal era

Book Review: The Daughters

August 29, 2015
the daughters

In Adrienne Celt’s remarkably rich debut novel, an opera singer is worried that the birth of her daughter has robbed her of her singing voice

Book Review: The Trials

August 29, 2015
the trials

In the wake of professional betrayal and global catastrophe, the heroes of Linda Nagata’s “Red” Trilogy are confronted by a new threat as the series barrels on

Book Review: Death in Florence

August 29, 2015
death in florence

At the end of the 14th century, Lorenzo de’ Medici and the friar Savonarola began a series of clashes in palace and pulpit that would end up altering the course of the city’s history. A lively new book tells the story.

Comics: Clinging to Art!

August 27, 2015
Comics: Clinging to Art!

Both the big superhero comic book companies, Marvel and DC, are currently in continuity turmoil that would be shocking if it weren’t so crucially boring. And it makes the weekly trip to my beloved Comicopia here in Boston a bit of a trial. Gone beyond reclamation – almost beyond recall – are the days when […]

Hope and Pope in the Penny Press!

August 26, 2015
Hope and Pope in the Penny Press!

  The latest issue of Harper’s very much wanted me to pay most of my attention to William Deresiewicz’s cover essay on how colleges and universities these days have been co-opted by a “neo-liberal” agenda that infests institutions of higher learning – and how the students themselves have also been co-opted by this agenda, now […]

Book Review: Browsings

August 26, 2015
Book Review: Browsings

Book critic Michael Dirda’s latest collection offers more personal musings on the subject he loves most

Classics Reissued: Salvaged Pages

August 25, 2015
salvaged pages

A new edition of this collection of Holocaust diaries by young people captures the voices and the worries of the Nazis’ most innocent victims

The Cape at Summer’s End!

August 25, 2015
The Cape at Summer’s End!

Our book today is My Own Cape Cod, which Gladys Taber wrote in 1971 about her many idyllic seasons at Still Cove, her house on Mill Pond at Orleans on Cape Cod. We’ve met Taber already here at Stevereads as the once-popular author of the Stillmeadow books (hence the name of her cove), and in […]

Mystery Monday: The White Ghost!

August 24, 2015
Mystery Monday: The White Ghost!

Our book today is The White Ghost, the latest historical mystery by James R. Benn starring Bostonian ex-detective and now WWII Lieutenant Billy Boyle. In this tenth Billy Boyle adventure (each one of which easily stands alone for new readers), Boyle and his friend Lieutenant Piotr Augustus Kazimierz, an expatriate Polish count who functions as […]

Book Review: Bismarck

August 24, 2015
bismarck ullrich

A newly-reprinted biography of the “Iron Chancellor” Otto von Bismarck is noticeably short – what kind of a job does it do?

Book Review: Beirut, Beirut

August 23, 2015
beirut, beirut

Bloomsbury publishes a lovely new English-language translation of Sonallah Ibrahim’s great novel about the Lebanese Civil War

Book Review: The Casualties

August 23, 2015
the casualties

You wouldn’t bet on a little street in Edinburgh – or its eccentric inhabitants – surviving a series of world-battering catastrophes, but that’s both the starting and the ending point of Nick Holdstock’s fascinating first novel

Book Review: After Nature

August 22, 2015
after nature

In his brilliant new book, Jedediah Purdy argues that humanity must face the collapse of nature using the three tools it knows best: politics, policy, and cold, hard cash

The English Dog at Home!

August 21, 2015
The English Dog at Home!

Our book today, Felicity Wigan’s oversized 1987 treat The English Dog at Home (with beautiful photographs by Geoffrey Shakerley) might more accurately have been titled The English Dog at the Stately Home, since the dogs in question aren’t exactly the spavined little mutts owned by every Darby and Joan in the tenements of Leeds. No, […]

Book Review: Under Tiberius

August 20, 2015
under tiberius

In a dusty Vatican archive, an ancient manuscript is found that could change the world. Or whatever.

Book Review: No. 4 Imperial Lane

August 20, 2015
no. 4 imperial lane

The woes of empire and the decline of the aristocracy form the backdrop for Jonathan Weisman’s smart and moving debut novel, set in Thatcher’s England.

90 Years of New Yorker Cartoons in the Penny Press!

August 20, 2015
90 Years of New Yorker Cartoons in the Penny Press!

On newsstands now, as the saying goes, is one of my very favorite semi-regular Penny Press confections: a New Yorker cartoon collection. This one is meant to commemorate the magazine’s 90th anniversary (as unbelievable as that figure must seem to some of us), and (equally unbelievable, in its own way) this seems to be the […]

90 Years of New Yorker Cartoons in the Penny Press!

August 20, 2015
90 Years of New Yorker Cartoons in the Penny Press!

On newsstands now, as the saying goes, is one of my very favorite semi-regular Penny Press confections: a New Yorker cartoon collection. This one is meant to commemorate the magazine’s 90th anniversary (as unbelievable as that figure must seem to some of us), and (equally unbelievable, in its own way) this seems to be the […]

Book Review: The End of Tsarist Russia

August 19, 2015
the end of tsarist russia

A powerful new book by one of our best historians examines from new sources the torturous path Russia took to the First World War

The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World!

August 19, 2015
The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World!

Our book today is Sir Edward Creasy’s durable 1851 classic work of popular military history, The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World, a worthy work that no 21st-century reader can approach without feeling just about the saddest irony in the world. Creasy, surveying the sunny morning of his Victorian era, with Napoleon Bonaparte long since […]

The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World!

August 19, 2015
The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World!

Our book today is Sir Edward Creasy’s durable 1851 classic work of popular military history, The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World, a worthy work that no 21st-century reader can approach without feeling just about the saddest irony in the world. Creasy, surveying the sunny morning of his Victorian era, with Napoleon Bonaparte long since […]

The Height of Fashion in the Penny Press!

August 18, 2015
The Height of Fashion in the Penny Press!

After a solid week of Penguin Classics, what better palate-cleanser could there be than a sojourn through the Fall Fashion issues of the glossy magazines? It’s a way to run a quick finger down the ‘content’-xylophone from the deeper notes of Longfellow and Dostoevsky to, well, to the very, very strange world of fashion. Almost […]

Book Review: Still Life Las Vegas

August 18, 2015
still life las vegas

In this funny and touching debut, a young man’s search for his missing mother leads to unexpected discoveries amid the lights of Las Vegas

Penguins on Parade: Crime and Punishment – Deluxe!

August 17, 2015
Penguins on Parade: Crime and Punishment – Deluxe!

Some Penguin Classics, as we noted last time, come along as almost indisputable improvements on what’s come before (‘almost’ because there’ll always be a few token refusniks in any crowd, don’t you know), and in the case of the last item in our Week of Penguins,  the new Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of Dostoevsky’s Crime […]

Book Review: The Madagaskar Plan

August 17, 2015
the madagaskar plan

In an alternate history in which an undefeated Nazi Germany controls vast portions of Africa, a cast of old friends and enemies come together amid rumors of a devastating new kind of bomb …

Penguins on Parade: A Woman in Arabia!

August 16, 2015
Penguins on Parade: A Woman in Arabia!

Some Penguin Classics are clear, almost necessary improvements on their own Penguin predecessors, and we’ll be closing out our week of Penguins with two of those – starting with a new collection of the writings of Gertrude Bell called, somewhat redundantly, A Woman in Arabia: The Writings of the Queen of the Desert. The volume […]

Book Review: The Red

August 15, 2015
the red

The hero of Linda Nagata’s nifty new series is hard-wired to his battle-armor … but is something else hiding in the connection?

Penguins on Parade: The Life and Passion of William of Norwich

August 15, 2015
Penguins on Parade: The Life and Passion of William of Norwich

Some Penguin Classics have horrible tidings to convey. In the broader game of literature, there’s no real way around that. On paper, all books are like the spirits in the underworld encountered by Ulysses: they need human blood in order to give them the power to speak. Printed words never stole a man’s property or […]

Book Review: Under Another Sky

August 14, 2015
under another sky

Part history, part travel guide, part novel – a wonderful new book takes readers on a tour of Roman Britain

Book Review: Pedigree

August 14, 2015
pedigree cover

Yale University Press publishes a 2005 memoir by the 2014 winner of the Nobel Prize for literature

Penguins on Parade: The All-Pervading Melodious Drumbeat!

August 13, 2015
Penguins on Parade: The All-Pervading Melodious Drumbeat!

Some Penguin Classics, as we’ve seen over the years, abruptly thrust their readers into bewilderingly alien territory. For every well-known novel by a Bronte sister, in these thrillingly multi-cultural days, Penguin’s editors will cast their eyes to Africa or China, and the result is a growing library of diverse texts to keep readers very profitably […]

Book Review: Ashoka in Ancient India

August 13, 2015
ashoka in ancient india

The great ancient Indian emperor Ashoka gets a splendid new biography that attempts to divine the man at the heart of the legend

Book Review: Barbarian Days

August 12, 2015
barbarian days cover

Veteran New Yorker writer William Finnegan has written a captivating memoir of surfing and growing up

Penguins on Parade: The Selected Poems of Longfellow!

August 12, 2015
Penguins on Parade: The Selected Poems of Longfellow!

Some Penguin Classics, as we mentioned last time, are lost causes right out of the starting gate, and if such a thing applies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh, how much more does it apply to this wonderful 1988 Penguin volume edited by Lawrence Buell, who wrote last 2014’s fantastic book The Dream of the […]

Penguins on Parade: The Selected Poems of Longfellow!

August 12, 2015
Penguins on Parade: The Selected Poems of Longfellow!

Some Penguin Classics, as we mentioned last time, are lost causes right out of the starting gate, and if such a thing applies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh, how much more does it apply to this wonderful 1988 Penguin volume edited by Lawrence Buell, who wrote last 2014’s fantastic book The Dream of the […]

Penguins on Parade: Aurora Leigh!

August 11, 2015
Penguins on Parade: Aurora Leigh!

Some Penguin Classics preach a doomed gospel to the masses, and one of them that does this most self-consciously is Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s 1856 novel-in-verse Aurora Leigh, here presented in the lovely 1995 black-spine Classic edited by John Robert Glorney Bolton and his daughter Julia Bolton Holloway with a picture on the cover of a […]

Penguins on Parade: The Complete Poetry of George Herbert!

August 10, 2015
Penguins on Parade: The Complete Poetry of George Herbert!

Some Penguin Classics frankly puzzle, and a perfect example of this not-always-frustrating sub-category would have to be the plump new Complete Poetry volume of George Herbert, edited by Victoria Moul and John Drury, which comes only a skimpy ten years after the last edition of the previous Penguin Complete Herbert, edited by John Tobin, then […]

Book Review: The Dinosaur Lords

August 10, 2015
dinosaur lords cover

On the world of Paradise, the wars of dynasties are fought on battlefields by knights mounted on dinosaurs

Penguins on Parade: The Road Not Taken!

August 10, 2015
Penguins on Parade: The Road Not Taken!

Some Penguin Classics seem particularly to invite the Deluxe treatment, and for a host of reasons good and bad, the poetry of Robert Frost is certainly one of those. This lovely little Deluxe Classic is set to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the publication of Frost’s iconic and poster-friendly poem “The Road Not Taken,” and […]

Book Review: Voices in the Ocean

August 8, 2015
voices in the ocean

A lively new book explores the minds and behaviors of many of Earth’s cetaceans

The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini!

August 7, 2015
The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini!

Our book today is an old favorite: The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini, here in the durable John Addington Symonds translation from 1887. Cellini started dictating the book in 1558 when he was 58 and clearly warmed to the novel task as he got going, and that feeling of making-it-up-as-he-goes-along momentum sends a current of electricity […]

Book Review: The President and the Apprentice

August 7, 2015
9780300181050

The settled opinion of historians has always been that President Eisenhower personally hated his vice president, Richard Nixon; a vigorous, unmissable new book tries to set that record straight

Comics: Civil War Returns!

August 6, 2015
Comics: Civil War Returns!

Among yesterday’s comics was a “Secret Wars” spin-off set in the world Marvel Comics readers first saw in 2006-07’s “Civil War” mini-series, with artwork by Leinil Francis Yu and very solid writing by Charles Soule, the first two issues made for some snappy comics – just like most of the original “Civil War” stories did, […]

Book Review: Hirohito’s War

August 6, 2015
hirohito’s war

A massive new history details the war in the Pacific Theater during WWII

Book Review: Where Are My Books?

August 5, 2015
where 3

One by one, young Spencer’s books are disappearing at night – can he figure out where they’re going before they’re all gone?

Book Review: The Meaning of the Library

August 5, 2015
the meaning of the library

A new book celebrating the library’s thousands of years of history and constantly-changing cultural role is filled with sharp essays

When the Going Was Good!

August 5, 2015
When the Going Was Good!

Our book today a neat little 1946 banquet of travel-writing, When the Going Was Good, by Evelyn Waugh, that pomaded prince of the Seasoned Pro class of travel-writers. The book is a crushed compilation of four earlier works: Labels, Remote People, Ninety-Two Days, and – Waugh stressed the title wasn’t of his choosing – Waugh […]

When the Going Was Good!

August 5, 2015
When the Going Was Good!

Our book today a neat little 1946 banquet of travel-writing, When the Going Was Good, by Evelyn Waugh, that pomaded prince of the Seasoned Pro class of travel-writers. The book is a crushed compilation of four earlier works: Labels, Remote People, Ninety-Two Days, and – Waugh stressed the title wasn’t of his choosing – Waugh […]

Book Review: Voltaire’s Revolution

August 4, 2015
voltaire’s revolution

For the better part of a century, Voltaire waged a sometimes solitary battle against the iniquities of organized religion. A great new book brings together fresh translations of some of the philosopher’s most biting works.