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Articles by Steve Donoghue

Book Review: The Intellectual Life of Edmund Burke

April 16, 2014
the intellectual life of edmund burke cover

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

Journey to the Land of the Flies!

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

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

Book Review: The Annotated Northanger Abbey

April 15, 2014
annotated northanger abbey cover

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

An April Book-Haul!

April 15, 2014
An April Book-Haul!

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

Book Review: The Medici Boy

April 14, 2014
Book Review: The Medici Boy

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

Mystery Monday: Death of the Duchess!

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

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

The Three Edwards!

April 11, 2014
The Three Edwards!

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

The Three Edwards!

April 11, 2014
The Three Edwards!

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

Book Review: The Galapagos

April 11, 2014
the galapagos cover

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

Book Review: Jack the Ripper – The Forgotten Victims

April 10, 2014
jack the ripper cover

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

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

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

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

Book Review: The Double-Crested Cormorant

April 9, 2014
the double-breasted cormorant cover

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

Book Review: Lord Dismiss Us

April 9, 2014
lord dismiss us cover

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

Leonardo Da Vinci!

April 8, 2014
Leonardo Da Vinci!

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

Mystery Monday: Dead People!

April 7, 2014
Mystery Monday: Dead People!

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

The Demon-Haunted World!

April 6, 2014
The Demon-Haunted World!

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

The Return of the Soldier!

April 5, 2014
The Return of the Soldier!

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

Book Review: Louisa Catherine – The Other Mrs. Adams

April 5, 2014
louisa catherine cover

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

Book Review: Wilfred Owen

April 5, 2014
wilfred owen cover

Robert Graves lived to be 90.

Book Review: Roosevelt’s Beast

April 4, 2014
roosevelt’s beast cover

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

Book Review: The Red Lily Crown

April 2, 2014
the red lily crown

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

Penguins on Parade: The Tale of the Heike!

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

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

Book Review: Queen Elizabeth’s Daughter

April 1, 2014
queen elizabeth’s daughter

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

The Word Made Flesh

April 1, 2014
The Word Made Flesh

Controversial and outspoken author and lecturer Bart Ehrman tackles the essential question of Christian history: how did an eccentric Galilean preacher come to be worshipped as God Himself?

From the Archives: H.H. Kirst and the Problem of Evil

April 1, 2014
kirst

What do we do with great novels by a writer who was also a Nazi? Steve Donoghue investigates the terrible conundrum of H.H. Kirst.

Book Review: The Cemetery of Swallows

March 31, 2014
the cemetery of swallows cover

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

Mystery Monday: Strangers on a Train!

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

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

Book Review: The Time Traveler’s Almanac

March 28, 2014
time traveler’s almanac

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

Book Review: Queen Caroline

March 26, 2014
queen caroline cover

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

Memoirs of an Editor!

March 25, 2014
Memoirs of an Editor!

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

Book Review: The Sixth Extinction

March 25, 2014
the sixth extinction

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

Mystery Monday: Pictures of Perfection!

March 24, 2014
Mystery Monday: Pictures of Perfection!

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

Book Review: The Lady of Sorrows

March 24, 2014
the lady of sorrows cover

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

Book Review: Hyde

March 23, 2014
hyde cover

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

Book Review: The Pilgrims

March 22, 2014
the pilgrims cover

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

The Embattled Canon in the Penny Press!

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

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

Book Review: Lockstep

March 20, 2014
lockstep cover

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

Book Review: The Barrow

March 19, 2014
the barrow cover

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

The Kings of Vain Intent!

March 18, 2014
The Kings of Vain Intent!

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

Book Review: A King’s Ransom

March 18, 2014
king’s ransom cover

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

Mystery Monday: Red Dragon!

March 17, 2014
Mystery Monday: Red Dragon!

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

Book Review: The Day of the Dead

March 17, 2014
day of the dead cover

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

Celebrity Ashtrays in the Penny Press!

March 17, 2014
Celebrity Ashtrays in the Penny Press!

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

Book Review: The Land of Steady Habits

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

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

Book Review: The Headmaster’s Wife

March 16, 2014
the headmaster’s wife cover

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

Book Review: Cambridge

March 16, 2014
cambridge cover

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

Penguins on Parade: The Crusades!

March 11, 2014
Penguins on Parade: The Crusades!

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

Book Review: Words of Radiance

March 11, 2014
words of radiance cover

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

Book Review: Murder at Cape Three Points

March 10, 2014
murder at cape three points

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

Mystery Monday: Judge Dee – Poets and Murder!

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

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

Penguins on Parade: Clark Ashton Smith!

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

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

Book Review: From the Tree to the Labyrinth

March 7, 2014
from the tree to the labyrinth

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

Crackpot Letters to the Editor in the Penny Press!

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

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

Book Review: A Darkling Sea

March 6, 2014
a darkling sea cover

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

Book Review: An Explorer’s Notebook

March 5, 2014
an explorer’s notebook

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

The Royal Road to Romance!

March 5, 2014
The Royal Road to Romance!

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

Book Review: A Burnable Book

March 4, 2014
a burnable book cover

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

Penguins on Parade: The One-Volume Gibbon!

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

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

Mystery Monday: The Face of a Stranger!

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

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

Book Review: Why Kings Confess

March 3, 2014
why kings confess cover

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

Book Review: The Medicean Succession

March 2, 2014
the medicean succession cover

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

The Medici!

March 2, 2014
The Medici!

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

The Danelaw

March 1, 2014
The Danelaw

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

Book Review: The Queen’s Dwarf

February 27, 2014
The Queen’s Dwarf

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

Book Review: Girl on the Golden Coin

February 26, 2014
girl on the golden coin

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

Back to the Pulps in the Penny Press!

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

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

Book Review: The Waking Engine

February 25, 2014
the waking engine cover

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

Book Review: The Counterfeit Agent

February 24, 2014
alex berenson

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

Mystery Monday: The Crimson Patch!

February 24, 2014
Mystery Monday: The Crimson Patch!

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

Book Review: Faisal I of Iraq

February 23, 2014
faisal i of iraq

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

Book Review: The Dream of the Great American Novel

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

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

A Hilltop on the Marne!

February 22, 2014
A Hilltop on the Marne!

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

Book Review: The Depths

February 21, 2014
the depths cover

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

Book Review: Dancing Fish and Ammonites

February 19, 2014
dancing fish and ammonites cover

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

Sexy Stendhal!

February 19, 2014
Sexy Stendhal!

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

Book Review: Raiders of the Nile

February 17, 2014
raiders of the nile cover

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

Death in the Ashes!

February 17, 2014
Death in the Ashes!

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

Book Review: The Martian

February 16, 2014
earth_from_mars

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

Book Review: Hundred Days

February 15, 2014
the hundred days cover

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

In Paperback: On Reading “The Grapes of Wrath”

February 15, 2014
on reading grapes cover

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

Book Review: Must Love Dukes

February 14, 2014
must love dukes cover

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

Book Review: Much Ado About Jack

February 14, 2014
papp Paul!

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

Book Review: Romancing the Duke

February 14, 2014
romancing the duke inset

The daughter of a famous novelist has her own life take on a decidedly fairy-tale twist in Tessa Dare’s new novel

Classics Reissued: The Homesman

February 12, 2014
homesman cover

A strong woman and a weak man must make a perilous journey from the Western frontier to the East Coast in Glendon Swarthout’s newly-reissued classic novel

Book Review: Like a Mighty Army

February 11, 2014
like a mighty army cover

Armies clash and the technological stakes are raised in the latest installment in David Weber’s rip-roaring “Safehold” series

Kooks, Spooks, and Gadzooks in the Penny Press!

February 11, 2014
Kooks, Spooks, and Gadzooks in the Penny Press!

Last week’s London Review of Books started out with a dollop of crazy and just kept barreling along! The nutty topping came first, from a letter-writer out of County Tipperary who felt the need to do a little proud confessing: I once sold a pigsty, which is now a disguised dwelling, and built a cabin [...]

Mystery Monday: The 12.30 from Croydon!

February 10, 2014
Mystery Monday: The 12.30 from Croydon!

Our book today is The 12.30 from Croydon, a 1934 thriller (its boring American title was Wilful and Premeditated) by Freeman Wills Crofts, who was both a member in good standing of the so-called Golden Age of Detective Fiction and also that much rarer bird, an Irishman with absolutely no ear for telling a good [...]

Book Review: The Deliverance of Evil

February 10, 2014
the deliverance of evil cover

A young woman is murdered on the eve of Italy’s tumultuous win in the 1982 World Cup – and then 24 years later, on the eve of another World Cup victory, more bodies start turning up, and it’s up to one haunted, damaged cop to piece the mystery together (hint: it’s not hooligans)

Book Review: My Name is Resolute

February 8, 2014
my name is resolute

The life of one remarkable woman – told against the backdrop of American colonies boiling toward revolution – forms the narrative of Nancy Turner’s sumptuously old-fashioned new historical novel

Warm Winter Mornings in the Penny Press!

February 8, 2014
Warm Winter Mornings in the Penny Press!

  It’s not often, especially nowadays, that the cover of The New Yorker is better than any of the contents of the issue, but that certainly happened last week. The issue had an infuriating piece by Tad Friend about a family of irresponsible Nantucket knuckleheads whose ordeal at sea only momentarily distracts the reader from [...]

Book Review: James & Dolley Madison

February 8, 2014
JamesandDolley cover

A new dual-biography of James Madison and his wife Dolley sees them through some of fledgling America’s most trying times

1812!

February 4, 2014
1812!

Our book today is 1812, a meaty, fantastic 1996 historical novel by David Nevin, who wrote a string of first-rate books in the fifteen years before his death in 2011. 1812 is the dramatic story of fledgling America’s second fight with the British Empire, and it centers on President James Madison and his strong-willed wife [...]

Book Review: Lincoln’s Boys

February 4, 2014
lincoln’s boys cover

The image of Abraham Lincoln – the saintly, martyred Great Emancipator – is a permanent fixture of human culture … but a fascinating new book takes a detailed look at the men who carefully crafted that image

Mystery Monday: The Laughing Policeman!

February 3, 2014
Mystery Monday: The Laughing Policeman!

Our book today is The Laughing Policeman, a 1968 police procedural mystery from the phenomenally popular Swedish husband and wife team of Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo that got translated into English in 1970 and quickly racked up more critical and popular success than all the authors’ previous novels combined and is still considered something [...]

Book Review: Who Thinks Evil

February 3, 2014
who thinks evil cover

Sherlock Holmes’s legendary nemesis Professor Moriarty returns – as super-sleuth hero of a new thriller involving a threat to Queen Victoria’s throne and the nation itself

Penguins on Parade: Landscape with Figures!

February 1, 2014
Penguins on Parade: Landscape with Figures!

Some Penguin Classics claim only the flimsiest of excuses for their existence, and one such recent example would have to be the new reprint of Landscape with Figures, the selected prose writings of the great Victorian author and nature-writer Richard Jefferies, who was born in 1848 and died in 1887 and yet managed to cram [...]

Book Review: An Unnecessary Woman

February 1, 2014
an unnecessary woman cover

In chaos-plagued Beirut, a voracious reader lives an oddly fulfilling secret life

February 2014 Issue

February 1, 2014
February 2014 Issue

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From the Archives: Miss Hamilton Disposes

February 1, 2014
From the Archives: Miss Hamilton Disposes

No one had ever written about love – in its infinite and profane variety – the way the Roman poet Catullus did; its explication by a scholarly schoolmistress might seem paradoxical – but Edith Hamilton knew something about love herself.

In Paperback: The Metamorphosis

January 31, 2014
bernofsky metamorphosis

Kafka’s immortal story about a man who wakes up one day and finds he’s an insect gets a sterling new translation

Book Review: The Emperor’s Blades

January 31, 2014
the emperor’s blades cover

The engrossing first volume of a very promising new fantasy series

Book Review: Orfeo

January 30, 2014
orfeo cover

A retired small-town music professor becomes an unlikely fugitive from the law in Richard Powers’ latest novel

Book Review: The Crane Wife

January 30, 2014
the crane wife cover

When an ordinary man pulls an arrow from the wing of a crane, extraordinary things begin to happen in the new novel by Patrick Ness

Book Review: Alena

January 30, 2014
alena cover

Don’t be fooled by the “Rebecca” echoes – there’s a lot more to Rachel Pastan’s “Alena” than mere Manderley-redux

Mistress to an Age!

January 30, 2014
Mistress to an Age!

Our book today is just about as fine an example of an intelligent, readable popular biography as can be produced in our imperfect world: Christopher Herold’s 1958 National Book Award-winning life of Madame de Stael, Mistress to An Age, which both sold like hotcakes when it first appeared but also satisfied most of the critics; [...]

Book Review: What Makes This Book So Great

January 28, 2014
what makes this book so great

One of the brightest stars in the sci-fi/fantasy night sky writes about the interesting stuff she’s been re-reading

Arguably!

January 28, 2014
Arguably!

Our book today is that fat tome from 2011, Arguably, a big bright collection of the deadline pieces and miscellaneous hackwork of the late Christopher Hitchens, who actually passed the most feared of authorial meridians and became late in the hanging interval between the book’s appearances in hardcover and its re-issue in paperback (it’s maybe [...]

Sejanus!

January 27, 2014
Sejanus!

Our book today is Sejanus, a 1998 corker by a writer we’ll be meeting again in this Mystery Monday cavalcade: English mystery author David Wishart, whose whodunits are set in ancient Rome and star leisured, inquisitive, and smart-mouthed Marcus Corvinus and his equally-inquisitive wife Perilla. The books sport titles like Ovid, Nero, and Germanicus, so [...]

In Paperback: The Heretics

January 27, 2014
81UH6oWtSdL._AA1500_

Now in paperback, the latest adventure of William Shakespeare’s crime-sleuthing, spy-hunting brother John!

Now in Paperback: Abelard in Four Dimensions

January 22, 2014
abelard in four dimensions cover

If you’re expecting Heloise to make an appearance in this captivating work of scholarship, you’ll be disappointed – but not for long, since scholar John Marendbon manages quite well without her

Book Review: How to Master Your Marquis

January 22, 2014
how to master your marquis cover

A fiery German princess in disguise is hiding in London from the threat of an assassin – but her subterfuge throws her right into the arms of the most handsome man she’s ever seen (who has dark secrets of his own, naturally, this being a romance novel and all!)

A Sad First in the Penny Press

January 22, 2014
A Sad First in the Penny Press

Ordinarily, the confluence of deadline pressure, space limitations, and professional responsibility tend to level the discourse in the mainstream Penny Press – at least, the regions of it where I forage. It’s true that the front half of explicitly political magazines like The New Statesman or The Weekly Standard will be full of articles claiming [...]

Book Review: Leaving the Sea

January 21, 2014
leaving the sea cover

A new collection of old short stories from the writer of “The Flame Alphabet”

The Court of St. James’s!

January 21, 2014
The Court of St. James’s!

Our book today is The Court of St. James’s, a marvelous 1959 confection by that indefatigable hack E. S. Turner, who found rather early on in his life that few pleasures in this world are so reliable and so joyous as the pleasure of making words on the page do exactly what you want them [...]

The Stately Home Murder!

January 20, 2014
The Stately Home Murder!

Our book today is a delectable 1969 whodunit called The Stately Home Murder (a distinct improvement on its original title The True Steel) by our old friend Kinn Hamilton McIntosh, better known to mystery aficionados as Catherine Aird. The book has all the beloved trappings of her other fictional outings: it takes place in the [...]

Book Review: Saints of the Shadow Bible

January 20, 2014
saints of the shadow bible cover

Three of Ian Rankin’s most popular recurring characters come together in his irresistible latest novel

Book Review: Danubia

January 17, 2014
danubia cover

The sprawling, disjointed history of the Habsburg Empire forms the backdrop for Simon Winder’s latest combination of history lesson and personal essay.

Rebecca West: A Celebration!

January 17, 2014
Rebecca West: A Celebration!

Our book today is a huge and marvellous 1977 Penguin concoction called Rebecca West: A Celebration, the cover of which shows a drawing of the author herself, hair in a Doris Lessing-style bun, sensible fake pearls in a string at her neck. “Selected from her writings by her publishers,” we’re told, “with her help.” I’ve [...]

Book Review: Poetry of Witness

January 17, 2014
poetry of witness cover

A hefty new anthology collects hundreds of years worth of poetry about the wars, pestilences, triumphs, and plagues poets endured and tried to capture in verse

Book Review: He Drank, and Saw the Spider

January 15, 2014
he drank and saw the spider cover

Sixteen years ago, young mercenary Eddie LaCrosse saved a baby girl from an angry bear and found her a good home far from trouble – or so he thought. Sixteen years later, that baby girl is all grown up and at the heart of all the trouble in the world in Alex Bledsoe’s latest nifty sword-and-sorcery novel

Thorburn’s Birds!

January 15, 2014
Thorburn’s Birds!

Our book today is a pretty thing to look at: Thorburn’s Birds, a 1982 Mermaid Books reprint of the massive 1915 opus by Archibald Thorburn, British Birds. This Mermaid edition is just a selection from that vast work, although a very good one (I’m guessing a copy of the original full-size four-volume set won’t be [...]

Book Review: Under the Wide and Starry Sky

January 14, 2014
under the wide and starry sky cover

From the best-selling author of “Loving Frank” comes the story of Fanny Osbourne, the wife of Robert Louis Stevenson

Book Review: The Devil’s Breath

January 13, 2014
sins of a wicked duke – jim griffin

As if our intrepid American-born doctor Thomas Silkstone didn’t have enough problems on his hand, a great monstrous FOG is engulfing the English countryside!

Mystery Monday: The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club!

January 13, 2014
Mystery Monday: The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club!

Our book today is Dorothy Sayers’ steel-riveted 1928 Lord Peter Wimsey mystery The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, which opens with a one-page summary of education, clubs, and coat-of-arms of its gentleman sleuth – which certainly sets the tone. Sayers’ aristocratic amateur finds himself in London’s Bellona Club on Armistice Day when the place is [...]

Book Review: David Hume, Historical Thinker, Historical Writer

January 12, 2014
david hume, historical writer

The philosopher who wrote “A Treatise on Human Nature” was famous in his own lifetime for an immense work of quite a different nature; a new book looks again at “The History of England”

Comics: A Tale of Two Supermen!

January 12, 2014
Comics: A Tale of Two Supermen!

Or is it three Supermen? DC Comics currently publishes three different versions of their flagship character – not three different Superman titles (I think that number is up to eight, yes? If we use the yardstick of ‘title which wouldn’t exist without Superman’ and thus exclude Justice League but include both the idiotically-titled Batman/Superman and [...]

Book Review: The Monkey’s Voyage

January 10, 2014
the monkey’s voyage

What explains the similarities of animal forms scattered across the wide expanses of the world? A terrific new book makes the case that life persistently wanders.

Book Review: The Ascendant

January 10, 2014
liam hemsworth

A cocky young Wall Street analyst makes a discovery that could point to a new and deadly kind of war

Speaking of Animals!

January 9, 2014
Speaking of Animals!

Our book today is a sweetly contemplative 1947 nature classic, Speaking of Animals by Alan Devoe, who for many years in the mid-20th century wrote his charming “Down to Earth” column for the old American Mercury and eventually bought a cute little estate in upstate New York called Phudd Hill, where he soon came to [...]

Penguins on Parade: The Time Regulation Institute!

January 8, 2014
Penguins on Parade: The Time Regulation Institute!

The Time Regulation Institute by Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar (translated from the Turkish by Maureen Freely and Alexander Dawe) Penguin Classics, 2013   Some Penguin Classics break new ground – actually, quite a few of them do, but none announces it more boldly than this translation, by Maureen Freely and Alexander Dawe, of Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar’s [...]

Book Review: The Long Voyage

January 7, 2014
the long voyage cover

An extremely generous collection of letters by the great 20th century tastemaker in books, Malcolm Cowley

Last-Minute Entries in the Penny Press!

January 7, 2014
Last-Minute Entries in the Penny Press!

Regular magazines must appear, come rain or shine, on their stated schedules – and so it will always fall to some poor sap to have his hard-worked prose appearing before haggard and staggeringly distracted reading public on December 30th or 31st, or some such ungodly date. And surely only deepening the depression of such writers [...]

Book Review: The Harlot’s Tale

January 6, 2014
the harlot’s tale cover

The indomitable 17th century midwife Bridget Hodgson returns in another thrilling murder mystery

The Best Mysteries of Mary Roberts Rinehart!

January 6, 2014
The Best Mysteries of Mary Roberts Rinehart!

Our book today is The Best Mysteries of Mary Roberts Rinehart, one of those neat, attractive hardcovers Reader’s Digest used to produce in such great quantities. This one’s from 2002 and contains four of Mary Robert Rinehart’s most popular novels, The Circular Staircase, The Man in Lower Ten, The Window at the White Cat, and [...]

Book Review: Superman – A Celebration of 75 Years

January 5, 2014
superman john byrne

DC Comics rolls out a lovely anthology of some high points in the long career of the Man of Steel

Age of Yeats!

January 5, 2014
Age of Yeats!

Our book today is a neat little pocket-sized 1963 paperback called Age of Yeats, part of an old Dell series called “Laurel Masterpieces of World Literature.” That series was actually full of nifty volumes, anthologies so well-assembled that you’ll find yourself returning to them time and again – if you can, that is: the whole [...]

Strange Reckoning

January 1, 2014
Strange Reckoning

She was the daughter, the sister, and the wife of kings in one of England’s most turbulent periods, but Alison Weir’s new biography is the first to make us feel we really know Elizabeth of York.

Happy New Year, 2013!

December 29, 2013
Happy New Year, 2013!

Well, obviously our mighty Year’s Best – and Worst – Books cataclysm wraps up my book-blogging for 2013, but I couldn’t fade into the sunset for the next few days without extending my heartfelt thanks to all of you out there reading Stevereads, whether you’ve been checking in for a few months or a few years [...]

Book Review: Beautiful Old Dogs

December 29, 2013
GarryGross05

Touching photos and essays testify to the wonder of old dogs

Book Review: Two Serpents Rise

December 25, 2013
Two Serpents Rise cover

In a fantasy version of LA where sorcerous captains of industry wage war against the gods, a conflicted young ‘risk manager’ works to prevent a dark plot from poisoning millions of people

Book Review: Bitter Spirits

December 25, 2013
bitter spirts cover

A sultry medium in 1920s San Francisco meets an alluring scapegrace laboring under a malicious hex

Book Review: The Trouble with Princesses

December 25, 2013
the trouble with princesses cover

A princess without a country makes the audacious decision to take a lover, despite anything society might think.

Book Review: Unbreakable

December 25, 2013
unbreakable cover

An elite secret black ops team must mobilize to find one of their own in Stephanie Tyler’s latest “Section 8″ novel

Book Review: The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours

December 23, 2013
the ancient greek hero cover

From Hercules to Theseus to Odysseus to Socrates, the heroes of ancient Greek mythology bring an entire lost world to vivid life. A new book goes to great – even heroic – lengths to decode those heroes

Book Review: The Gap

December 23, 2013
the gap cover

That age-old happy nostrum – the inherent superiority of human beings over all other life in the universe – gets its scientific Sunday best polished and pressed

Book Review: Paper Dreams

December 21, 2013
paper dreams cover

Feel like starting up a literary magazine? Why the hell not!

Book Review: Latin – Story of a World Language

December 21, 2013
latin

One of the biggest success stories among the world’s language gets a genial history

Book Review: Japan 1941

December 20, 2013
japan 1941 cover

A vivid look at the culture and politics that led to Japan’s ill-fated attack on Pearl Harbor

Book Review: The Devil That Never Dies

December 20, 2013
the devil that never dies cover

The controversial historian returns with a new alarm-call about the rise of international antisemitism

Book Review: The Lost Prince

December 20, 2013
the lost prince cover

A group of extra-dimensional retainers must protect their exiled prince – but he doesn’t know who he is, and they don’t either.

Book Review: The World of the Curl

December 19, 2013
Orange County5/20

Two professors – with oceanside views – take readers on a hundred-year history of the world’s coolest sport

Book Review: Verdun

December 19, 2013
Verdun

A prickly-smart new analysis contends that we too easily simplify the great World War I battle of Verdun

Book Review: Holding On Upside Down

December 19, 2013
holding on upside down

One of the 20th Century’s greatest poets finally gets her definitive biography

Best Books of 2013: Nonfiction!

December 19, 2013
Best Books of 2013: Nonfiction!

The whole category of “nonfiction” is necessarily an evil enough hodge-podge (in bookstores, a special sneer is reserved for those customers clueless enough to come in asking for “the nonfiction section”), and I’m perfectly aware that some of the books on this list could migrate to other lists without too much cognitive dissonance. Nevertheless, the [...]

Book Review: Johnny Alucard

December 18, 2013
johnny alucard cover

After fifteen years, the fantastic “Anno Dracula” series continues

Classics Reissued: Cosmos

December 18, 2013
cosmos reprint

A quarter-century after its first appearance, a beloved popular-science classic gets a new reprint

Book Review: The Libertine

December 18, 2013
Fragonard1

A new volume from the mighty Abbeville Press will warm your cold, withered heart if anything still can!

Best Books of 2013: Fiction!

December 18, 2013
Best Books of 2013: Fiction!

Fiction was remarkable in 2013 for the way it almost constantly awarded craft. This isn’t always the case; it frequently happens that raw, relatively untested talent – or drastically but well-controlled stylistic gambles – will propel a book into a firmament more typically occupied by older stars. But this year not only are many of [...]

Book Review: 21st Century Science Fiction

December 17, 2013
21st century science fiction

A legendary editor assembles the leading lights of science fiction for the new century – he hopes.

Worst Books of 2013: Nonfiction!

December 16, 2013
Worst Books of 2013: Nonfiction!

One of the most contemptible traits running through the Worst Nonfiction list this year, out of a very large number of such contemptible traits, was the reek of undisguised cash-grabbing cynicism that characterizes almost all of it. Cynicism itself is nothing new to these kinds of books, designed as they are for mass distribution to [...]

Worst Books of 2013: Fiction!

December 16, 2013
Worst Books of 2013: Fiction!

A book-critic friend of mine, contemplating the horrifying object in question, drawled, “You don’t really read a new Amy Tan.” He was right, of course, in all his unspoken implications (including the least-spoken of all, namely that you don’t really write such a line in your review either, especially if Tan’s publishers are paying $15, [...]

Honor Roll 2013: Nonfiction!

December 15, 2013
Honor Roll 2013: Nonfiction!

Never was an Honor Roll more badly needed than in the sprawling catch-all that is Best Nonfiction! That catch-all is where I did an enormous chunk of my reading in 2013, which made the task of fitting all my favorites into one skimpy 10-item list a nightmare. So it’s a bit of a relief to [...]

Honor Roll 2013: Fiction!

December 14, 2013
Honor Roll 2013: Fiction!

Honor Rolls have been a godsend for me, mainly because that sidereal drift of estimation I mentioned last time applies to all kinds of books, and more to fiction than anything else. At some point in the course of 2013, virtually all of these Honor Roll books spent some time on my Best list, only [...]

Best Books of 2013: Biography!

December 13, 2013
Best Books of 2013: Biography!

As long-time Stevereads readers may recall, I like biography just a bit more than I like any other kind of writing. Something about the way it combines the sweep of history and the narrative of fiction tends to work on me even when the specific volume in question is less than stellar. And 2013 provided [...]

Book Review: The Venetians

December 12, 2013
the venetians

A quick-paced new history of not just of the city of Venice but of the remarkable men and women who strutted across its stage during the long centuries of its life

Best Books of 2013: History!

December 12, 2013
Best Books of 2013: History!

History, too, was thriving in 2013, although I saw the usual reasons for concern – mainly two: the continued rise of imbecilic cardboard garbage calling itself history and increasingly mistaken as such even in respected venues, and the (connected, obviously?) decreasing historical competence among the average citizens of the Republic of Letters. In a word: [...]

Best Books of 2013: Collected Letters!

December 11, 2013
Best Books of 2013: Collected Letters!

“One of the grim pleasures of reading collected letters,” Wilfrid Sheed, a connoisseur of grim pleasures, once wrote, “comes in watching a style being built year by year until it resembles a model prison, with the writer on the inside. ” 2013 saw an exceptionally strong showing of such prisons, so for the first time [...]

Book Review: Barry Powell’s Iliad

December 10, 2013
barry powell iliad

A life-long love of the Classics is distilled into a new translation of Homer’s Iliad

The Best of 2013 in the Penny Press!

December 10, 2013
The Best of 2013 in the Penny Press!

Another sub-genre that’s pleased me greatly for a great deal of my reading life has likewise been unjustly neglected here in my year-end summings-up, despite how much I invariably write about it during the year itself: my dear Penny Press, the pieces poor paid hacks (of various pedigrees) create for the ravening maw of newspapers, [...]

Best Books of 2013: Romance!

December 9, 2013
Best Books of 2013: Romance!

For 2013′s list I thought it would be simple justice finally to include a genre I’m unashamed to admit has always brought me great reading pleasure (or has, at least, since the redoubtable Rebekah Bradford convinced me to abandon my provincial snobbery on the subject): romance novels! Not “romance novels ironically” or “romance novels as [...]

December 2013 Issue

December 8, 2013
December 2013 Issue

———————————————————————————————————————–

Best books of 2013: Fiction Debuts!

December 8, 2013
Best books of 2013: Fiction Debuts!

Theres a certain pleasing fluidity to these annual lists, reflecting the fluidity of the publishing landscape. One year there’s an abundance of excellent nature books or books about Venice, and the next year the abundance has shifted to other subjects. A year-end list that held mechanically to all its previous iterations would be a morbid [...]

Book Review: My Mistake

December 8, 2013
my mistake

A life-long writer and editor looks back on his life

Best Books of 2013: Reprints!

December 7, 2013
Best Books of 2013: Reprints!

There are hundreds of thousands of new books published in the United States every year – probably a little over 300,000 in 2013, for instance, although exact figures are impossible to determine – and that places a great immovable weight on the head of any serious reader. That weight is always there, pressing down, and [...]

The Impending Event!

December 6, 2013
The Impending Event!

It’s that time again, book-readers young and old: this week we begin that annual Gotterdammerung, the Stevereads Best – and Worst – Books of the Year! Starting tomorrow, the books of 2013 get a Final Judgement like they’ll get nowhere else, so gird yourselves!

From the Holy Mountain!

December 4, 2013
From the Holy Mountain!

Our book today is From the Holy Mountain, a 1997 mixture of history and travelogue by Scottish writer William Dalrymple, recently – and very deservedly – praised for his truly important 2012 book Return of a King, about the tangled history of Afghanistan. In this earlier work, he embarks on a journey of five months [...]

Comics: Thor – War of the Pantheons

December 4, 2013
Comics: Thor – War of the Pantheons

One of the first volumes of a new color reprint series from Marvel Comics features some high-flying adventures by the summer’s superhero star, the mighty Thor!

Book Review: Heir to the Empire City

December 1, 2013
heir to the empire city

Fresh from chasing horse-thieves in wild Dakota territories, a rail-tough Theodore Roosevelt returned to New York City to face bandits of quite another sort – the Tammany Hall sort. A lean new history tells the great story.

It Was Fun, the Struggle

December 1, 2013
It Was Fun, the Struggle

The age of Roosevelt and Taft was also the age of Progressive reform – spearheaded by an amazing team of ‘muckraking’ writers the like of which the United States had never seen.

Listless Lists in the Penny Press!

November 30, 2013
Listless Lists in the Penny Press!

It’s beginning to be that time of year in the Penny Press, the infamous season of year-end book-lists. And since I’m the proud proprietor of the most authoritative of those lists (if I do say so myself)(and I do), I’m always irresistibly drawn to them wherever I find them – even if it’s in the [...]

Book Review: Musorgsky & His Circle

November 29, 2013
Musorgsky-and-his-Circle

Five remarkable men came together in 19th century St. Petersburg to challenge each other, compete with each other, inspire each other, and encourage each other – and some quite remarkable music resulted

The Norton Anthology of English Literature!

November 27, 2013
The Norton Anthology of English Literature!

Our book today is a masterpiece so ubiquitous it’s often completely overlooked: The Norton Anthology of English Literature–although as soon as I say that, I have to qualify it. Not qualify the ‘masterpiece’ part, of course (if I could be wrong about that part, I’d shutter Stevereads and start a beauty-tutorial channel on YouTube), but [...]

Book Review: Slow Reading in a Hurried Age

November 23, 2013
slow reading in a hurried age

The near- infinite abundance of the Internet may seem incredibly alluring, but in his new book David Mikics argues that it’s eating away at our ability to appreciate fully what we read. He offers rules and admonitions, as you might expect

Penguins on Parade: The Selected Browning!

November 23, 2013
Penguins on Parade: The Selected Browning!

Some Penguin Classics are, I bitterly concede, necessary compromises. Surely one such is the 1989 Selected Poems volume of Robert Browning, edited by Daniel Karlin, who rather optimistically writes in his Introduction that he “tried to strike a balance between the poems for which Browning is best known (but which are not always his best) [...]

Author Interview: Jack Merridew

November 21, 2013
teenage idol

The open frontier of self-publishing attracts a wide variety of pioneers – fiercely individual storytellers who for one reason or another have chosen a different path to realizing their writing dreams. One such pioneer is Jack Merridew, who at age 20 is already the author of two self-published works of fiction – and a successful YouTube creator as well. Open Letters talks with him about the brave new world of promoting your own dreams.

Penguins on Parade: The Count of Monte Cristo!

November 21, 2013
Penguins on Parade: The Count of Monte Cristo!

Some Penguin Classics look at first glance like a dream come true. Take the immense 1996 translation of Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo by Robin Buss: if you set it down next to, for example, the most popular paperback reprint of the book from twenty years ago, they hardly even look related: the [...]

Penguins on Parade: Legends of the Ancient North!

November 19, 2013
Penguins on Parade: Legends of the Ancient North!

Some Penguin Classics try, with adorable flat-footedness, to jump on the zeitgeist bandwagon in order to reach those ever-elusive unconverted readers. It’s an inherently silly thing for Penguin Classics to do, since theirs are the books that created the zeitgeist in the first place; in a perfect world, our reading culture would be attentively watching [...]

Book Review: Stay

November 18, 2013
stay

It’s an act of aggression in which the victim is the perpetrator, and it’s a crime for which the criminal cannot be punished: it’s suicide, and statistics show we’re in the middle of an epidemic of it. A thoughtful new book lays out the case for sticking around.

Comics: Batman Year Zero!

November 16, 2013
Comics: Batman Year Zero!

DC Comics’ “New 52” company-wide reboot hit some of their flagship characters harder than others. The venerable WWII-era Justice Society was retconned right out of existence; warm-hearted primary-color Superman became a brooding, disaffected Dr. Manhattan-in-a-cape; Captain Marvel lost his mind – when teenager Billy Batson says his magic word nowadays, all he gets is a [...]

Book Review: American Statecraft

November 16, 2013
american statecraft cover

American diplomats and Foreign Service workers travel for America, negotiate for America, cheerlead for America, and sometimes die for America – a magnificent new book gives them the sweeping historical account they’ve always deserved.

Book Review: The Everything Store

November 15, 2013
the everything store

A new book by Brad Stone on Amazon.com: does it make nice with the online Goliath, or brandish a slingshot?

Cultural Amnesia!

November 14, 2013
Cultural Amnesia!

Our book today is Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts, a bristling, muscular, mazy haphazard cathedral of opinion erected by Clive James, that grinning ombudsman of the Republic of Letters. Cultural Amnesia takes its readers through an alphabet of ideas, and a look at the Table of Contents gives a great picture [...]

The Best of Gluyas Williams!

November 12, 2013
The Best of Gluyas Williams!

Our book today is one of those gems that turn up regularly on the outdoor bargain-carts at my beloved Brattle Bookshop: it’s an old Dover paperback from 1971 called The Best of Gluyas Williams, with only a totally perfunctory Foreward by Charles Dana Gibson and a totally perfunctory Preface by Robert Benchley separating the reader [...]

Book Review: Citizen Emperor

November 12, 2013
Book Review: Citizen Emperor

A big new volume studies Napoleon Bonaparte from the peak of his power to the last days of his final exile

Book Review: George Washington – Gentleman Warrior

November 10, 2013
StephenBrumwellauthor

A born warrior striving to become a refined gentleman, or a refined gentleman striving to learn a warrior’s ways? A new book looks at Washington the military commander

Notes and Cribbage in the Penny Press!

November 9, 2013
Notes and Cribbage in the Penny Press!

A satisfyingly literary core of The New Yorker this week, which is always pleasing and this time helped to compensate for certain lacks of satisfaction found elsewhere in the 11 November issue. It was great fun, for instance, to read Dan Chiasson’s nice long look at the poet Marianne Moore and to read his generally [...]

Book Review: Divine Fury

November 9, 2013
dvine fury cover

They’ve always been among us, those rare individuals we call geniuses – but the distinction’s meaning has subtly altered over the centuries. It’s a big, interesting subject, boiled down by Darrin McMahon into a short, interesting book

Superman: Man of Steel: Believe!

November 8, 2013
Superman: Man of Steel: Believe!

Our book today is a little pamphlet-sized thing newly published by DC Comics and triple-titled Superman Man of Steel Believe, collecting ten quick backup stories taken from various Superman comics titles over the last fifteen years. The cover features a little logo reminding readers that the character of Superman is celebrating the 75th anniversary of [...]

Burying the Leaders in the Penny Press!

November 6, 2013
Burying the Leaders in the Penny Press!

One of the signature ironies of modern-day print book reviewing is on full display in the November 21st New York Review of Books, and since this particular irony irritates me, I was on edge all during my krocan peceny na slanine lunch. The irony in question here will be familiar to every owner of a [...]

Book Review – Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven

November 5, 2013
bach music in the castle of heaven

A great conductor writes a great biography about a great composer!

Dinosaur in a Haystack!

November 5, 2013
Dinosaur in a Haystack!

Our book today is the late Stephen Jay Gould’s 1995 essay collection Dinosaur in a Haystack, but no matter which of Gould’s dozen essay collections I revisit, the little pang of that “late” is always the same: even after more than a decade, there is no settlement with this man’s death – the present-day intellectual [...]

Book Review: Churchill and the King

November 4, 2013
churchill and the king

King George VI and Winston Churchill forged a remarkable working relationship during the trying years of World War II – a new book looks at how it happened, and why

The Mandelbaum Aeneid!

November 4, 2013
The Mandelbaum Aeneid!

Our book today is Allen Mandelbaum’s 1971 translation of Virgil’s Aeneid, with thirteen drawings by Barry Moser, a fine, collection-worthy volume that I have as a sturdy deep-green paperback from the University of California Press and that I’ve read probably two dozen times – a reflection, probably, of the oddly questing nature of my relationship [...]

Book Review: The Governor’s Lady

November 3, 2013
the-governors-lady-Inman

Strong-willed Southern governor Cooper Lanier’s husband is running for president, and she’s learning things about him she’d rather not know in Robert Inman’s warm and involving new novel

Reliable – and Otherwise – Old Hands in the Penny Press!

November 3, 2013
Reliable – and Otherwise – Old Hands in the Penny Press!

When you read as many magazines as I do, you quickly learn to tell the players without a scorecard. There are always newcomers on the scene, but there’s also a fairly small cadre of old-hand regulars who turn up wherever the money (and the readership) is good. These old hands can be relied upon to [...]

In the Modern Library: The Mill on the Floss!

November 2, 2013
In the Modern Library: The Mill on the Floss!

To hear Bennett Cerf tell the story (or to read his well-shaped and non-actionable ‘reminiscence’ of it in his 1977 book At Random), the Modern Library in its current incarnation was born of equal parts financial desperation and marital infidelity – both being experienced in acute amounts in 1925 by publishing schmoozer and would-be Broadway [...]

Meg!

November 1, 2013
Meg!

Our book today is Steve Alten’s 1997 classic Meg, and it’s a salient reminder that some modern-day classics sneak up on us, unfolding their brilliance only gradually, like a delicate lotus blossom. Those of us who’ve been fans of giant-killer-shark novels from the beginning (that beginning being, of course, Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the [...]

Book Review: ‘Mr. President’

November 1, 2013
cover_mr_president

First in war, first in peace, first in line for the powers of a god

Bonfire of the Inanities

November 1, 2013
Bonfire of the Inanities

A murder, a trip to the dump, and oh yah – September 11. That wacky Thomas Pynchon is at it again!

From the Archives: He Died

November 1, 2013
From the Archives: He Died

Bulldog attorney Vincent Bugliosi investigated the JFK assassination and wrote the world’s longest book about it. We re-read it for the sad anniversary of that day in Dallas.

From the Archives: JFK in the Senate

November 1, 2013
jfk in the senate

Before he became one of America’s most famous presidents, John Kennedy was a hot-shot senator and a photogenic winner of the Pulitzer Prize. But did the Senate years help to form the Oval Office years?

Book Review: Nefertiti in the Flak Tower

October 31, 2013
nefertiti in the flak tower

The great critic and memoirist Clive James has a volume of new poems doing some very old things

Book Review: Octopus!

October 30, 2013
octopus-jacket_final-1

The strangest, most alien creatures on the Earth have three hearts and big, unfathomable brains – and, famously, eight arms. It’s the sprawling family of octopus species, and they get a soup-to-nuts examination in Katherine Harmon Courage’s new book

Book Review: The Spanish Queen

October 29, 2013
The Spanish Queen

King Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, takes center stage in a new novel by Tudor historian Carolly Erickson

Book Review: The Urban Bestiary

October 27, 2013
02book”The Urban Bestiary” by Lyanda Lynn Haupt.

Coyotes prowl our golf courses, cougars haunt our bike-trails, and owls skinny-dip in our bird-baths – a new book looks at the wild animals that fill in the spaces of human cities

Book Review: Naturalists at Sea

October 26, 2013
naturalists at sea

When the South Pacific opened up for Western exploration, ‘experimental gentlemen’ swarmed there to make discoveries – and to make history

The New Yorker War Album!

October 26, 2013
The New Yorker War Album!

Our book today is one of those little treasures that crop up so regularly at my beloved Brattle Bookshop: a slightly battered copy of The New Yorker War Album from 1942, this one inscribed as a present in 1942 in Washington, D.C. by a man named Butch to his “skipper”: “Here’s a few smiles and [...]

Nature’s Year!

October 24, 2013
Nature’s Year!

Our book today is a re-read, one of the many, many such re-reads I tend to do during any given month: John Hay’s 1961 classic Nature’s Year, with beautiful illustrations by David Grose. The book is sub-titled “The Seasons of Cape Cod,” and that’s probably why I re-read it, since the waning days of summer [...]

Book Review: Jonathan Swift

October 24, 2013
jonathan swift leo damrosch

It’s not every writer who can write a book that stays in print continuously for 300 years, but the author of “Gulliver’s Travels” is one of those writers. A lively new biography looks at the great Jonathan Swift

Book Review: Henry VIII – The Life and Rule of England’s Nero

October 22, 2013
Henry_VIII_John_matusiak

England’s ‘bluff king Hal’ is put under the microscope in a scathing new biography

Arthur Rex!

October 21, 2013
Arthur Rex!

Our book today is Thomas Berger’s 1978 foray into Camelot fiction, Arthur Rex, and as I’ve had occasion to mention before, it represents just that same kind of oddity that seems to come from many popular authors when they’re seized – almost invariably at middle age – with an apparently irresistible urge to compose Arthurian [...]

Book Review: Tudors

October 21, 2013
tudors ackroyd

Our reigning master of vigorous popular history takes on the most vigorous, popular English dynasty of them all

Armageddon!

October 19, 2013
Armageddon!

Our book today is Max Hasting’s smashingly good 2004 Armageddon: The Battle for Germany – 1944-1945, a fat, heavily-detailed account of the final months of World War II in Western Europe, the fitful and protracted mopping-up about which Winston Churchill said in February of 1945, “Tonight the sun goes down on more suffering than ever [...]

Comics: Essential Thor volume 7!

October 18, 2013
Comics: Essential Thor volume 7!

Our book today is Marvel Comics’ Essential Thor Volume 7, collecting Thor issues 248 to 271 and Annuals 5 and 6 – all stories dating from the halcyon late 1970s. Almost all of these stories are written by Len Wein and drawn by either well-established comics legend John Buscema at the bored tail-end of his [...]

Book Review: Queen Anne

October 18, 2013
queen anne cover

The much-vexed life of the last Stuart monarch gets a gripping, electrifyingly good new examination

The Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs!

October 15, 2013
The Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs!

Our book today is an enormous treat now out from Baen Books: The Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs, edited by Mike Resnick and Robert Garcia, sporting a very good front cover (featuring John Carter of Mars and a sultry Martian warrior-woman holding a strategically-placed saber) and a quietly superb back cover (featuring Tarzan standing on [...]

Book Review: Jack London, An American Life

October 15, 2013
Book Review: Jack London, An American Life

A new life of Jack London – by the world’s foremost authority on the man’s life and work.

Book Review: My Crazy Century

October 13, 2013
my crazy century hc

Now at last in an English translation: the heart-breaking, history-making memoir of the world’s greatest Czech writer

Book Review: Catastrophe 1914

October 12, 2013
catastrophe 1914 cover

A master military historian joins the crowd writing about the outbreak of the First World War

Book Review: My 1980s & Other Essays

October 12, 2013
my 1980s cover

A new collection of personal essays – some funny, some touching, all piercingly intelligent – from one of America’s greatest cultural critics

The Walt Simonson Thor!

October 10, 2013
The Walt Simonson Thor!

Our book today is the latest Marvel Comics paperback reprint from what’s become known in reverential whispers as “The Simonson Run.” Walt Simonson’s run as writer and artist on Thor only lasted a comparatively short time – from the golden year of 1983 to the golden year of 1986 – but media experts and comics [...]

Book Review: Longbourn

October 10, 2013
longbourn in color

“‘Pride and Prejudice’ meets ‘Downton Abbey’” is an easy way to pigeon-hole Jo Baker’s new novel – but it’s the cheapest way too, giving almost no hint of just how good a book this is.

The Nobel for Literature is Awarded

October 10, 2013
The Nobel for Literature is Awarded

The Quest of the Historical Jesus!

October 8, 2013
The Quest of the Historical Jesus!

Our book today is Albert Schweitzer’s Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung, translated into English as The Quest of the Historical Jesus by W. Montgomery over a century ago. Schweitzer published the book first in 1906 and then thoroughly rewrote it for a 1913 edition, and as editor John Bowden writes with little repressed horror, the Montgomery translation [...]

In Paperback: The Great Sea

October 6, 2013
the great sea cover

David Abulafia’s big book – now in paperback – tackles a subject pivotal to huge swaths of human history: the Mediterraean, that watery intersection of Europe, Asia, and Africa

Book Review: The Kraus Project

October 6, 2013
Book Review: The Kraus Project

The famous novelist presents some essays by a pre-war Viennese intellectual and helps us all to understand those works.

Book Review: Jefferson and Hamilton

October 4, 2013
jefferson and hamilton

A master historian analyzes the tempestuous relationship between two titans of the newborn United States

A Silver-Plated Spoon!

October 3, 2013
A Silver-Plated Spoon!

Our book today is A Silver-Plated Spoon, the sparkling 1959 memoir by John Ian Russell, who in 1953 became, somewhat late in life, the 13th Duke of Bedford and the master of spectacular Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire. It was an amazing ascension – the family has occupied the place for four centuries – but Russell [...]

Frustrated Urges in the Penny Press!

October 2, 2013
Frustrated Urges in the Penny Press!

There’s a certain frustration that can’t be avoided when you read as much book-coverage in the Penny Press as I do. You become familiar with all the regular players in the game (indeed, you sometimes perforce become a minor such player yourself), you learn their quirks and strengths and weaknesses, and you also become familiar [...]

Attending Oxford: Rome’s Italian Wars!

October 1, 2013
Attending Oxford: Rome’s Italian Wars!

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: Dirty Words in Deadwood

October 1, 2013
dirty words in deadwood cover

The cult favorite HBO western inspires an anthology of essays devoted to the show’s most outrageous feature: its language (foul and otherwise)

A Chip off the Old Bwana

October 1, 2013
A Chip off the Old Bwana

How do you follow up on creating Tarzan of the Apes? You give the Ape-Man a son, stranding him in the jungle, and sending him out on hair-raising adventures of his own. And if you’re lucky, a legendary comic book artist will come along and draw it all.

From the Archives: In the Pocket of Satan

October 1, 2013
Six Women of Salem

A girl, a widow, a matriarch, a mother, a businesswoman, and a minister’s slave: a new history traces the Salem Witch Trials through the lives of six women who paid dearly for their proximity to one of the most mysterious incidents in American history

The Illustrated Bede!

September 30, 2013
The Illustrated Bede!

Our book today is a lovely volume called The Illustrated Bede, produced by John Marsden, translated by John Gregory, and featuring dozens and dozens of gorgeous full-color photographs by Geoff Green. The thing was put out by Floris Books in 1989, and it features chunks of translations from Bede’s various eighth-century Latin bestsellers, interspersed with [...]

Book Review: Countdown

September 28, 2013
countdown cover

The author of the hit “The World Without Us” returns with a new book in which he ponders whether or not a world WITH us is even possible – and what it would cost.

Book Review: Forbidden Music

September 27, 2013
forbidden music

A riveting new book looks at the catastrophe that befell Germany’s Jewish performers and composers when the Nazis came to power.

Those Awful Oscillations in the Penny Press!

September 26, 2013
Those Awful Oscillations in the Penny Press!

Of course the dance of disagreement is the primary three-step when readers encounter reviewers in the Penny Press – we all know that going in. But some weeks are more trying – and more exhilarating – than others. Take my most recent batch, for example: on virtually every other page, there was something I either [...]

Machiavelli!

September 24, 2013
Machiavelli!

Our book today is Joseph Markulin‘s big fat new historical novel Machiavelli: A Renaissance Life, which seeks to do for the author of The Prince what Irving Stone did with such resounding sense for Michelangelo in The Agony and the Ecstasy half a century ago: dramatize the life of a famous figure in history from [...]

Book Review: William Kent

September 22, 2013
william-kent

A symposium of distinguished scholars dissects the wildly ambitious and varied artistic life of the great William Kent

Book Review: Graphic the Valley

September 20, 2013
graphic the valley

A young man born and raised in the wild of Yosemite Valley is forced into a series of confrontations with an encroaching outside world.

Penguins on Parade: Jorge Amado!

September 18, 2013
Penguins on Parade: Jorge Amado!

  Some Penguin Classics, as we’ve had occasion to note a few times in this ongoing series, are long overdue. This is especially true – and especially understandable – when it comes to the literature of the 20th century; not only are title so fresh in time often still net-tangled in questions of copyright and [...]

Attending Oxford: Valperga!

September 17, 2013
Attending Oxford: Valperga!

  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 [...]

Book Review: Ecstatic Nation

September 15, 2013
ecstatic nation cover

A big, riveting new history looks at the unforgettable men and women who filled the history of the most tumultuous three-decade span in American history

A Big Anniversary in the Penny Press!

September 13, 2013
A Big Anniversary in the Penny Press!

As impossible as it is to believe, Vanity Fair is 100 years old. And yet I must believe it, for there’s Graydon Carter telling me so in his “Editor’s Letter” opening this extra-big anniversary issue, pompously holding court as he’s done so inimitably for what feels like most of those 100 years. Carter headed the [...]

Book Review: Star Trek – The Art of Juan Ortiz

September 12, 2013
Star Trek Juan Ortiz

What if each one of the original 79 ‘Star Trek’ TV episodes had instead been a full-length movie? A stellar new collection of the posters for those movies boldly goes where no theater-goer has gone before

Book Review: Confronting the Classics

September 9, 2013
confronting the classics

The popular teacher and blogger collects her most memorable book reviews from the last dozen years

Book Review: A History of Ancient Egypt

September 9, 2013
hisory of ancient egypt

A magnificent new volume tours Egyptian history – starting a mind-bogglingly long time ago

Book Review: Shakespeare’s Prince

September 8, 2013
shakespeare’s prince

An exhaustive – and immensely enjoyable – line-by-line examination of Shakespeare’s final play

Book Review: Fatal Rivalry

September 8, 2013
Fatal Rivalry Flodden

While Henry VIII was away fighting the French, his kingdom was invaded from the north by James of Scotland. It was defended by thousands of brave soldiers, a handful of ambitious courtiers – and one remarkable woman.

Book Review: Royal Inheritance

September 8, 2013
royal inheritance tp

Pretty young Audrey has grown up in the Tudor court thinking she’s the daughter of King Henry VIII’s tailor – but what if her real father is the king himself?

Ben-Hur!

September 6, 2013
Ben-Hur!

Our book today is another Victorian masterpiece of melodrama, Lew Wallace’s 1880 novel Ben-Hur. Sub-titled A Tale of the Christ, it was an immediate hit upon publication, sold in record-setting numbers on four continents, and was very quickly translated into virtually every language on Earth (several different classes of college undergraduates vied for the dubious [...]

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes!

September 6, 2013
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes!

Our book today is Arthur Conan Doyle’s unsinkable 1892 story collection, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which collects the twelve Holmes & Watson stories published from summer of 1891 to summer of 1892 in the Strand magazine. These stories followed in the wake of the novellas A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of the Four – they were written at Doyle’s [...]

Comics: Forever Evil!

September 5, 2013
Comics: Forever Evil!

  DC Comics’ just-concluded big crossover event, “Trinity War,” ended with a plot twist designed to launch its new big crossover event, “Forever Evil.” The plot twist was the opening of a portal to an alternate dimension, through which came the Crime Syndicate, an evil version of the Justice League (Ultraman instead of Superman, Owlman [...]

Book Review: In the Olden Time

September 4, 2013
franz winterhalter – the first of may, 1851

Victorian historical painting and Victorian historical fiction met in a glorious collaboration of national mythology. Andrew Sanders, in a magnificent new study from Yale University Press, gives that collaboration a delightfully thorough questioning.

The Library!

September 2, 2013
The Library!

Our book today is Sarah Stewart’s merry, winsome 1995 Caldecott-winning children’s book The Library, about a little girl named Elizabeth Brown who starts reading as soon as she can and then continues doing it ‘at an incredible rate’ for the rest of her life. She reads under the covers at night. She reads on the [...]

Book Review: Two Boys Kissing

September 1, 2013
two boys kissing

In bestselling author David Levithan’s new novel, two boys try to set a world’s record for the longest kiss – and their adventure is cheered on by the most unlikely chorus

The Cape at summer’s end!

September 1, 2013
The Cape at summer’s end!

Our book today is Cape Cod by William Berchen and Monica Dickens, a slim, brimmingly illustrated vacation volume from 1972. As I’ve noted before, the end of summer always makes me think of all the time I’ve spent at the Cape over the years, and although Boston is still panting under the fat hand of [...]

The Empire Strikes Back

September 1, 2013
The Empire Strikes Back

King and Woolman’s new book Assassination of the Archduke, boasts new sources, very close to Franz Ferdinand and his wife — too close?

Ink Chorus: No Passion Spent!

August 31, 2013
Ink Chorus: No Passion Spent!

Our book today is George Steiner’s meaty 1996 collection of critical essays, No Passion Spent, which features 21 pieces drawn from two decades of Steiner’s long career as a literary journalist. During the course of that career, he sold pieces on a wide array of topics to an almost equally wide array of paying venues, [...]

Book Review: Ninety Percent of Everything

August 31, 2013
rose george

International shipping provides virtually everything around you as you read this (including the computer you’re reading it on), and yet most people no nothing about this reclusive industry. Rose George’s new book sheds some light.

Pigs in Clover!

August 30, 2013
Pigs in Clover!

Our book today is Frances Noyes Hart’s 1931 charmer Pigs in Clover, which purports to record a roundabout journey by car through France that she took one holiday season with her husband Edward Hart, the son of the man who was present at the creation, so to speak, of the Associated Press. Long before that [...]

Book Review: Armor and Blood

August 30, 2013
armor and blood

The Battle of Kursk was one of the most epic confrontations in the history of warfare – a vivid new history calls it the turning point of the entire Second World War

Book Review: I’d Know You Anywhere, My Love

August 29, 2013
Book Review: I’d Know You Anywhere, My Love

No matter how an imaginative child might shape-shift, a mother’s love follows right along in Nancy Tillman’s enchanting new picture book

Comics: A Series of Unfortunate Events!

August 28, 2013
Comics: A Series of Unfortunate Events!

Huge multi-part special-run series make good business for four-color comics companies, I get that. The basic model is now infinitely replicated: the central spine of a six or eight-issue mini-series feeding into an extended nervous system of tie-in issues designed to part nervous fanboy completists from their apparently-inexhaustible spending money. Nowadays, the leverage placed on [...]

Book Review: Planet Without Apes

August 23, 2013
planet without apes.jpg

More than at any point in their collective history, mankind’s great ape cousins face the threat of total extinction. A passionate new book outlines all the threats – and clings to some hope

Comics: The End of the Legion

August 22, 2013
Comics: The End of the Legion

  DC Comics is currently in the middle of a big readership-grabbing multi-issue crossover event called “Trinity War,” and that big event is going to blend into the next, something called “Forever Evil” that will feature another mini-series and some collectible, gimmicky covers. The company’s successful reboot of its entire line of comics, its “New [...]

Book Review: Trash Animals

August 21, 2013
trash animals

Rats, snakes, gulls, cockroaches, and half a dozen other notorious varmints – a delightful new anthology takes readers deep inside the world of the animals they love to hate

In Paperback: Life in a Shell

August 20, 2013
life in a shell

A new paperback explores the mysteries of turtles

Book Review: Year’s Best Science Fiction

August 19, 2013
dozois thirty

The powerhouse annual science fiction anthology series turns thirty with a new collection drawn from all the sci-fi periodicals of the English-speaking world

Book Review: The Selected Letters of Anthony Hecht

August 18, 2013
hecht in iowa city

The great 20th century poet Anthony Hecht was also a charming and indefatigable letter-writer. A new volume does its best to capture the range and wit that captivated two generations of correspondents.

Fashion-hunting in the Penny Press!

August 16, 2013
Fashion-hunting in the Penny Press!

It’s fashion month in the Penny Press these days, which means the square-bound glossies are suddenly a bit thicker and much more tightly crammed with full-color full-page spreads of varied and frenzied incomprehensibility. As many of you will have no trouble believing, fashion is a mystery to me; not only do I completely lack the [...]

Book Review: The Twelve Caesars

August 15, 2013
the twelve caesars dennison

The ancient Roman historian Suetonius wrote such a rollicking, gossipy book about the first twelve emperors that historians have been re-writing his book ever since

Book Review: The Letters of T. S. Eliot

August 11, 2013
eliot letters

The exhaustive Yale edition of the complete correspondence of T. S. Eliot reaches a very busy period in the life of Eliot the editor and businessman, working away at the center of a vast and fascinating literary world

Anne Boleyn!

August 8, 2013
Anne Boleyn!

Our book today is Anne Boleyn by Norah Lofts, written in 1974 when our author was the ripe old age of 75. But before all you Norah Lofts fans go shuffling to the bookshelf, rest assured that I’m not mixing up the title of Lofts’ great 1963 Anne Boleyn novel The Concubine; I’m referring instead [...]

Book Review: Benjamin Britten – A Life For Music

August 7, 2013
britten

The great – and problematic – 20th century composer gets a broad-minded and intensely sensitive new biography

Classics Reissued: Thoreau’s Essays

August 6, 2013
thoreau essays

“In the winter, I stop short in the path to admire how the trees grow up without forethought, regardless of time and circumstances. They do not wait as man does …” A beautiful new edition of Henry David Thoreau’s essays.

The Swarm!

August 5, 2013
The Swarm!

Our book today is Frank Schatzing’s 2004 doorstop eco-thriller Der Schwarm, which was translated into English (by Sally-Ann Spencer) in 2006 as The Swarm, and it just naturally calls up a line from Cooper’s Creek by that literary household name, Alan Moorehead: “Nothing in this strange country seemed to bear the slightest resemblance to the [...]

Book Review: Extra Sensory

August 4, 2013
extra-sensory

The long-rumored psychic powers of the human brain get a high-spirited new examination.

The Life and Times of Viscount Falkland!

August 4, 2013
The Life and Times of Viscount Falkland!

Our book today is The Life and Times of Lucius Cary, Viscount Falkland, a sturdy hardcover by J. A. R. Marriott put out by G. P. Putnam’s Sons in 1907, when King Edward was on the throne of England and John Marriott was a professor of history at Oxford and Lucius Cary, the second Viscount [...]

The Safety of the Longlist in the Penny Press!

August 3, 2013
The Safety of the Longlist in the Penny Press!

That annual literary freakshow, the Man Booker Prize, has resumed in earnest with the publication of the ‘long list’ of potential winners for the big prize announced in October. London bookies will now trumpet the odds of each candidate, and tepid discussions will spring up in the leafier groves of the Internet. In general, the [...]

Book Review: Long, Obstinate, and Bloody

August 3, 2013
long, obstinate

A crucial turning-point battle in the American Revolution is given an extensively detailed and tradition-challenging new history

Book Review: The Warbler Guide

August 1, 2013
undertails

Roger Tory Peterson called them “the butterflies of the bird world” – they’re wood warblers, and when it comes to identifying and understanding them, Princeton University Press has published the Bible

Behold the Man

August 1, 2013
Behold the Man

The meek and peaceful Jesus has become the standard Christian image of the Messiah. Religious scholar Reza Aslan’s controversial new book shatters that image and replaces it with something very different: a violent revolutionary who came not to bring peace but a sword.

The Cecils of Hatfield House!

August 1, 2013
The Cecils of Hatfield House!

Our book today is Lord David Cecil’s 1973 compendious charmer, The Cecils of Hatfield House, a zesty character-driven history of the many generations of the storied Cecil family which rose to prominence when canny William Cecil decided to risk his life, his fortune, and his sacred honor (a relative term with the Cecils, but still) [...]

Book Review: The White Princess

August 1, 2013
the white princess

“The Cousins’ War” – Philippa Gregory’s ongoing novelization of the Wars of the Roses – reaches an epic turning point in her latest book, about the precarious founding of the Tudor dynasty

Book Review: The Men Who Lost America

July 31, 2013
Book Review: The Men Who Lost America

Clinton, Gage, Burgoyne, the Howe brothers – and of course Lord Cornwallis: their names are synonymous in the United States with bumbling defeat, but a rousing new book takes a fresh look at all these formerly infamous figures

Book Review: The Anglo-Saxon World

July 30, 2013
Book Review: The Anglo-Saxon World

A wonderfully-illutrated new volume brings together the latest research about the glittering era that brought us the Sutton Hoo treasure, the epic of Beowulf, and the deep sediment of law

Summer Readings in the Penny Press!

July 29, 2013
Summer Readings in the Penny Press!

Just as the last embers are flickering out on the latest Open Letters Monthly Summer Reading feature, The Weekly Standard has trundled out one of its own, and in addition to items one suspects were selected for non-literary reasons (right-wing screed-histories and the like), there were some gems: Christoph Irmscher, who is himself the author [...]

Book Review: Signatures of Life

July 29, 2013
signatures of life

A popular science writer looks at the evidence for life on other planets

Shazam Family Archives!

July 29, 2013
Shazam Family Archives!

Our book today is the 2006 DC Archive Edition featuring “The Shazam Family” but overwhelmingly devoted to the exploits of “The World’s Mightiest Boy,” Captain Marvel Junior. The character is – as you might guess – a spin-off of Fawcett Comics’ best-selling flagship super-hero, Captain Marvel, and this Archive Edition reprints his first ten appearances [...]