Home » Archive by Author

Articles by Steve Donoghue

Birds Worth Knowing!

August 20th, 2016
Birds Worth Knowing!

Our book today is a pretty little gem unearthed from the bargain carts of my beloved Brattle Bookshop: the 1917 classic Birds Worth Knowing by the American author who wrote under the pen name Neltje Blanchan. This particular edition was issued in 1923 as part of the Little Nature Library put out by Doubleday, and […]

Book Review: America’s Snake

August 19th, 2016
cuddly

Snake expert Ted Levin argues in his captivating new book that the American rattlesnake is as misunderstood as it is miraculous.

Ink Chorus: Bestseller!

August 18th, 2016
Ink Chorus: Bestseller!

Our book today is surely one of the all-time classics of the Ink Chorus: Claud Cockburn’s 1972, er, bestseller Bestseller, in which our author subjects a dozen bygone bestselling novels to a forensic examination that’s both erudite and often hilarious, biting but also oddly sympathetic. He takes a tour through some of the bestselling novels […]

Book Review: The Accidental Life

August 15th, 2016
accidental life

Veteran editor Terry McDonell writes a ribald memoir that’s half storytelling and half tips of the trade

Book Review: The Fifty-Year Mission

August 11th, 2016
star trek lives

On the occasion of its 50th anniversary, Star Trek gets a definitive oral history.

Genteel Bloodletting in the Penny Press!

August 10th, 2016
Genteel Bloodletting in the Penny Press!

I clearly wasn’t the only reader of the mighty TLS who was disappointed by Julian Baggini’s cover article about the ethics of eating animals! I went into the piece with high hopes, which in retrospect I see now was a bit foolish, and Ingrid Newkirk of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals felt the […]

Book Review: Marked for Death

August 10th, 2016
marked for death

A gritty and gripping new history tells the story of the dawn of aerial warfare.

Book Review: The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko

August 9th, 2016
vasily stepanov

A crippled young man in a forgotten hospital has armored himself against the rotten hand he’s drawn in life – until he falls in love with a new patient.

The Life of the Robin!

August 6th, 2016
The Life of the Robin!

Our book today is a wonderful little classic of popular natural history: David Lack’s The Life of the Robin from 1943, in which Lack takes everything known about robins from literature, poetry, and science and pulls it all together to craft a portrait-in-the-round of one of England’s most common birds. “Into the world of the […]

Book Review: Ghost Talkers

August 4th, 2016
ghosttalkers

The heroine of Mary Robinette Kowal’s enchanting new novel is doing her part for the WWI war effort – by debriefing the spirits of soldiers killed on the battlefield

Book Review: The Nix

August 4th, 2016
the nix

The life of the main character in Nathan Hill’s stunning debut novel is turned upside-down when the madwoman on the nightly news turns out to be his mother.

Book Review: Dawn of the Dog

August 4th, 2016
dawn of the dog

A new book takes a revisionist look at the evolutionary history of the dog.

Book Review: The Story of Egypt

August 3rd, 2016
Book Review: The Story of Egypt

A new book tells the history of ancient Egypt, from the mists of pre-history to the familiar tale of Cleopatra

Book Review: The Year’s Best Science Fiction

August 1st, 2016
year’s best sf 16

The latest entry in the epic “Year’s Best Science Fiction” series by editor Gardner Dozois features everything from Venusian monsters to telepathic food – with stops along the way for planetary warfare, quantum piracy, and the end of the world as we know it.

Ink Chorus: Homage to Daniel Shays!

August 1st, 2016
Ink Chorus: Homage to Daniel Shays!

Our book today is a clear, clean classic showing hardly any sign of floorboard decay, a good example of stages in a literary hack’s via dolorosa from griping underdog to griping Grand Dame: it’s Homage to Daniel Shays, Gore Vidal’s smashingly good 1972 volume collecting essays and book reviews from a neat 20-year span, from […]

Suffer the Little Children

August 1st, 2016
Suffer the Little Children

According to a new book, not only did God design life, but deep down inside, we all know it. Steve Donoghue remains unconverted.

Book Review: The Castle of Kings

July 28th, 2016
the castle of kings

A strong-willed young woman and a visionary young man navigate a 16th-century Germany in chaos in order to find their destiny

Book Review: Pound for Pound

July 27th, 2016
sticker

An emotionally and physically damaged young woman finds healing by helping some of the most unlucky dogs on Earth in Shannon Kopp’s touching new book

Ink Chorus: A Writer’s Notebook!

July 21st, 2016
Ink Chorus: A Writer’s Notebook!

Our book today is a stiff-legged, sniffy, fascinating little thing, From a Writer’s Notebook, a quasi-commonplace book brought out by Van Wyck Brooks in 1958. You can feel the prickliness of the endeavor even from the title, can’t you? “From a Writer’s Notebook,” so carefully distinguishing the author from his proletariat readers – the writer’s […]

Book Review: Frederick Barbarossa

July 20th, 2016
frederick barbarossa

The legendary life of the great Frederick Barbarossa is grounded in facts and records in a deeply impressive new biography

Book Review: Franz Liszt

July 18th, 2016
l

A new single-volume biography captures the oversized life of legendary composer and pianist Franz Liszt

The Urban Whale!

July 16th, 2016
The Urban Whale!

Our book today lands squarely in the category I’ve come to call “Near Misses”: it’s The Urban Whale: North Atlantic Right Whales at the Crossroads, edited by Scott Kraus and Rosalind Rolland, and it’s a “Near Miss” because it was brought out by Harvard University Press in February of 2007 – mere weeks before my […]

Book Review: Legible Religion

July 16th, 2016
l religion

How do you manage to have religion without scripture? As a fascinating new book demonstrates, inn this as in so many other seemingly impossible paradoxes, the ancient Romans found a way.

The “New” Boston Public Library!

July 14th, 2016
The “New” Boston Public Library!

An old friend and I made plans to meet outside the Boston Public Library this morning on Boylston Street. It was steaming hot and humid, but we both wanted to experience the library for the first time together. Not the first time visiting the Johnson Building, of course. I’d been going there since the place […]

Book Review: Hitler’s Compromises

July 11th, 2016
hitler’s compromises

A brilliant new book explores the alternatives to brute force the Nazi regime often employed to get its way

Notes for a Star Trek Bibliography: Captain to Captain!

July 11th, 2016
Notes for a Star Trek Bibliography: Captain to Captain!

Our book today is the latest Star Trek novel, Greg Cox’s Star Trek Legacies: Captain to Captain, the first volume in a new trilogy from Pocket Books commemorating 2016’s 50th anniversary of the original appearance of the “classic” version of the show. The idea is clearly to celebrate the show’s rich history; the plot Cox […]

Ink Chorus: But Do Blondes Prefer Gentlemen?

July 9th, 2016
Ink Chorus: But Do Blondes Prefer Gentlemen?

Our book today is that horrendously-titled 1986 masterpiece But Do Blondes Prefer Gentlemen? – alternately known as Homage to QWERT YUIOP and Other Writings, a total loss either way and a prime example of why authors should never be allowed to pick the title of their books – especially authors as freakishly widely-read and as […]

Book Review: Hitler’s Soldiers

July 6th, 2016
hitler’s soldiers

A big new history of the German Army during World War II takes a complex and multifaceted look at the men who fought for the Reich

Book Review: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

July 5th, 2016
perry1

A new dual biography of poet and translator accompanies a new illustrated edition of the famous Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Penguins on Parade: The Federalist Papers!

July 4th, 2016
Penguins on Parade: The Federalist Papers!

Some Penguin Classics, as we’ve seen, are classics in their own editions in addition to their reprinted contents. Whether it’s the Tain or Magna Carta or the Shahnameh, these monumental volumes feel like much more than simply the purveying of accessible translations – they’re self-contained seminars in their own right. The happy phenomenon applies equally […]

The Story of Nell Gwyn!

July 2nd, 2016
The Story of Nell Gwyn!

Our book today is not exactly the Final Word: it’s The Story of Nell Gwyn (and the Sayings of Charles the Second), as “related and collected” by the now-forgotten Victorian editor and biographer Peter Cunningham in 1883. It’s a slightly oversized gold-gilded production of recounted Restoration trifles, just the kind of things for which Cunningham […]

Ink Chorus: Terrorists & Novelists!

July 1st, 2016
Ink Chorus: Terrorists & Novelists!

Our book today is Terrorists & Novelists, a 1982 collection of great New York Review of Books pieces, New Statesman pieces, and New York Times Book Review pieces by the novelist and essayist Diane Johnson, who’d go on to score very nice sales with her 2000 novel Le Mariage and its 2003 follow-up L’Affaire. Re-reading […]

Book Review: Russia’s Path Toward Enlightenment

July 1st, 2016
russia’s path

Long before Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, Russian thinkers and writers were haltingly, passionately fashioning their own peculiar brand of Enlightment

At Play with Clay

July 1st, 2016
At Play with Clay

Ever since Mary Shelley wrote her weird masterpiece two centuries ago, it’s been impossible to keep a good monster down. In the Shadow of Frankenstein gives readers two dozen pastiches that keep the Creature alive.

Book Review: Melville in Love

June 27th, 2016
melville in love

Did an unconventional Berkshires beauty provide the inspiration for Herman Melville to write his great masterpiece? A new book thinks it would be lovely to think so.

The American Poets Longfellow!

June 23rd, 2016
The American Poets Longfellow!

Our book today is a lovely old slip-cased thing from 1945: the volume of Louis Untermeyer’s “American Poets” series dedicated to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. This series was done up very prettily: solid binding, high-quality paper, and original artwork for each volume – in this case, wood engravings by Boyd Hanna that are as wonderful on […]

Book Review: Louis XVI

June 23rd, 2016
louisxvi

The glittering Bourbon king who lost his head to the Revolution gets a sumptuous newly-expanded biography

Book Review: Toward Democracy

June 22nd, 2016
toward dem

The long and constantly-unfinished process of democracy is given a sprawling examination in James Kloppenberg’s new book.

Book Review: The Cavendon Luck

June 19th, 2016
thecavendon luck

The Second World War closes in on the two families bravely struggling to keep Cavendon Hall alive.

Book Review: Commander in Chief

June 18th, 2016
commander in chief

In 1943, American President Franklin Roosevelt faced the strong-willed rivalry of his own nominal ally, Winston Churchill

Penguins on Parade: Sketches from a Hunter’s Album!

June 17th, 2016
Penguins on Parade: Sketches from a Hunter’s Album!

Some Penguin Classics, as we’ve seen in the past here at Stevereads, are just clear-cut improvements over earlier versions. One obvious example comes from 1990, the Richard Freeborn updated edition of Sketches from a Hunter’s Album, the book that first made the literary reputation of Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev, whose first collection of these little sketches […]

Penguins on Parade: The Praetorians!

June 14th, 2016
Penguins on Parade: The Praetorians!

Some Penguin Classics serve as reminders of the perils of sequels. In fact, since the very first Penguin Classic, and also the first Penguin Classic best-seller, was E. V. Rieu’s translation of Homer’s Odyssey, it would be fair to say the Penguin Classics line was founded on a sequel – with all the pros and […]

Penguins on Parade: Storm of Steel

June 13th, 2016
Penguins on Parade: Storm of Steel

Some Penguin Classics never quite stop being controversial, and that’s certainly the case with Ernst Junger’s bestselling First World War memoir In Stahlgewittern, which was first privately printed in 1920 when its author in his twenties, fresh from his experiences during the war. He’d compulsively recorded those experiences in a collection of wartime diaries, and […]

Book Review: The Bitter Taste of Victory

June 10th, 2016
the bitter taste of victory

Lara Feigel’s new book delves into the landscape of the apocalypse: Germany in the immediate wake of Allied victory.

Book Review: In Gratitude

June 7th, 2016
in gratitude

Novelist and essayist Jenny Diski faithfully chronicled her own dying from cancer. A new book collects her last and greatest literary work.

From My Library Walls!

June 7th, 2016
From My Library Walls!

Our book today is a courtly thing from 1945: William Dana Orcutt’s memoir From My Library Walls. The book is subtitled “A Kaleidoscope of Memories,” which might make it sound deadly dull and ponderous, but this particular author couldn’t write a ponderous book to say his life. He delighted readers with a dozen or so […]

Romance Roundup: Lords & Ladies in Love!

June 5th, 2016
Romance Roundup: Lords & Ladies in Love!

Our books today comprise a quick and torrid little tour through Burke’s Peerage, highlighting – as if it needed highlighting – that the 21st century Regency Romance is every bit as obsessed with rank and privilege as the Regency era itself was. In ascending order of oomph, those ranks are: the barons, the viscounts, the […]

Book Review: Anatomy of Malice

June 5th, 2016
anatomy of malice

A gripping new book looks at a quartet of the worst Nazi war criminals to stand trial.

Book Review: The Gene

June 3rd, 2016
the gene

A generous new book describes the history – and the momentous potential – of genetic research

Penguins on Parade: Tales from the Decameron!

June 1st, 2016
Penguins on Parade: Tales from the Decameron!

Some Penguin Classics hew close to an academic model and try in their good conscience to be gateways to richer wonders. Once such gateway that’s always been attractive to teachers is an abridgement of Giovanni Boccaccio’s gigantic masterpiece, The Decameron. In its unedited form, the book is a cinder block in size, one hundred stories […]

Book Review: The Summer Dragon

June 1st, 2016
the summer dragon

In fantasy illustrator Todd Lockwood’s debut novel, a young woman from a family of dragon-breeders faces an ancient evil

Let’s All Meet at the Mahalalel Mall

June 1st, 2016
Let’s All Meet at the Mahalalel Mall

A thorough and even-handed new book gives readers a tour of the “Creation Museum” in Kentucky – and warns not to dismiss its dangers too readily.

Notes for a Star Trek Bibliography: The Original Episodes!

May 30th, 2016
Notes for a Star Trek Bibliography: The Original Episodes!

Our book today is a doozy, a true and unexpected delight: Barnes & Noble’s latest addition to their sterling, mouth-watering series of leatherbound classics is a Star Trek volume! Just in time for the 50th anniversary of the original TV show’s appearance (an anniversary Paramount Pictures has decided to honor by, astonishingly, shamefully, mostly ignoring […]

Comics! DC’s Rebirth!

May 27th, 2016
Comics! DC’s Rebirth!

Comics this week contained several bombshells and big events, but the one that drew my attention the most was the first issue of DC Comics’ new “Rebirth” summer event series, and it drew my attention not just because of the fan reactions popping up all over the nerdy end of the blogosphere but also because […]

Book Review: Bach’s Major Vocal Works

May 27th, 2016
bach’s major vocal works

Some of Johann Sebastian Bach’s most glorious music is also some of the most intimidating to modern audiences; a new book introduces readers to the masses and oratorios of the master.

Book Review: The Risen

May 26th, 2016
the risen

The familiar story of the Spartacus rebellion gets a lavish new telling

Book Review: The Next Pandemic

May 25th, 2016
the next pandemic

A lively account of life on the front lines in the fight against the world’s worst diseases.

In Paperback: Manhattan Night

May 24th, 2016
manhattan nocturne

A terrific ten-year-old noir novel is given a new paperback edition on the occasion of its translation to the Hollywood screen.

Book Review: Otto Binder

May 23rd, 2016
otto binder

He helped to create some of the staple characters of the comic book world, and yet he’s unknown outside the industry. A spirited biography tells the story of Otto Binder.

Book Review: The Loney

May 22nd, 2016
loney

A violent, desolate stretch of the English coastline forms the setting for Andrew Michael Hurley’s much-heralded debut novel

Gimme That Old Time Religion in the Penny Press!

May 20th, 2016
Gimme That Old Time Religion in the Penny Press!

I’ve come to expect jaw-dropping moments in paleo-conservative magazines like The Weekly Standard, magazines that mistake blind cultural atavism for actual conservatism and end up actively praising a wide array of things any 1960 conservative would have considered appalling. But every so often, I stumble across a true whopper neatly folded into something as seemingly […]

Comics! Civil War II!

May 19th, 2016
Comics! Civil War II!

It would surely have dumbfounded the Steve from 10 years ago, but nevertheless: I’ve largely succeeded in weening myself from buying weekly comics. It’s not quite the impressive act of will that it might sound, mainly because my two age-old superhero comic book companies, Marvel and DC, have done their part recently by putting out […]

Book Review: The Summer Guest

May 18th, 2016
the summer guest

A young woman’s diary of her friendship with Anton Chekhov raises the tantalizing possibility of a long-lost work by the master.

Jungle Days!

May 17th, 2016
Jungle Days!

Our book today is from an old friend of ours here at Stevereads, the great, garrulous naturalist William Beebe, the friendly world wanderer and author of, among many other books, Galapagos: World’s End. This book is a wonderful thing from 1925 called Jungle Days, a breezy, episodic account of various journeys the author took in […]

Book Review: Ice Station Nautilus

May 17th, 2016
ice station nautilus

Rick Campbell’s new novel features a fight to the death deep under the Arctic ice

Book Review: The Fireman

May 15th, 2016
the fireman

In Joe Hill’s new novel, a plague of spontaneous combustion is sweeping the world …

Ink Chorus: Nothing If Not Critical!

May 14th, 2016
Ink Chorus: Nothing If Not Critical!

Our book today is a pure beauty of critical prose: Nothing If Not Critical by the late, great Robert Hughes, which I recently found at the Brattle Bookshop in a 1990 UK trade paperback and burrowed into before I’d even made it all the way back home. The book reprints critical essays and reviews Hughes […]

Book Review: Saladin

May 13th, 2016
saladin

A lean and fast-paced new biography tells the story of the legendary sultan who took Jerusalem from the Crusaders

Book Review: The Genius of Birds

May 12th, 2016
the genius of birds

A stirring, eloquent new book makes a wide-ranging case for the brainpower of birds

Book Review: The Faith of Christopher Hitchens

May 11th, 2016
RNS-HITCHENS-QANDA a

A provocative new book sets out to study the faith of one of the country’s most famous atheists

One Wild Bird at a Time!

May 9th, 2016
One Wild Bird at a Time!

Our book today is the latest from a long-time favorite here on Stevereads: it’s One Wild Bird at a Time by the great bird specialist and nature-writer Bernd Heinrich, a slim volume (filled, as always, with the author’s own illustrations) in which he meditates on one kind of bird per chapter in a warm and […]

Book Review: The End of Karma

May 8th, 2016
the end of karma

A clear-eyed look at the disaffected youth of India

The Father!

May 7th, 2016
The Father!

Our book today is what the good folks over at BookTube refer to as a “chunker”: it’s a 600-page brick of a thing called The Father, by the team of Anders Roslund and Stefan Thunberg writing under the name Anton Svensson. This is an English-language translation by Elizabeth Clark Wessel (it’s an eye-catching hardcover from […]

Book Review: Karl Doenitz and the Last Days of the Third Reich

May 6th, 2016
karl d

A new book looks at the little-known figure of Hitler’s chosen successor

Penguins on Parade: The Shahnameh!

May 4th, 2016
Penguins on Parade: The Shahnameh!

Some Penguin Classics, as I’ve noted before here at Stevereads, feel like they’re a long time in the making, and the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi more than most and in two different ways. Not only has this sprawling tenth century Persian epic waited a long time for an attractive, affordable paperback edition in English, but this […]

Book Review: Prisoners of Hope

May 4th, 2016
prisoners of hope

A generation ago, President Johnson enacted a stunning array of social legislation, the full audacity of which has often been overshadowed by the other aspects of LBJ’s presidency. A new book shines a light on the Great Society.

The House on Ipswich Marsh!

May 3rd, 2016
The House on Ipswich Marsh!

Our book today is The House on Ipswich Marsh, a lovely 2005 meditation by William Sargent on the “Pink House” at Ipswich on Boston’s North Shore (the title an obvious nod to Wyman Richardson’s great 1947 book The House on Nauset Marsh). Sargent received a grant to study ground-nesting birds that lived near the house, […]

Book Review: The First Nazi

May 3rd, 2016
first nazi cover

How much of the evil of Adolf Hitler can be traced to an infamous general of the First World War?

Inside Benchley!

May 2nd, 2016
Inside Benchley!

Our book today is Inside Benchley, a 1921 anthology of Robert Benchley’s humorous essays illustrated by the great Gluyas Williams. I recently found a paperback copy of the book at the Brattle, brought it back to Hyde Cottage, opened it in order to revisit Benchley’s essays (something I hadn’t done in decades), and reeled back […]

Comics! An Epic Run!

May 1st, 2016
Comics! An Epic Run!

Last week, in addition to being pleasantly surprised by the “Last Days of Superman” storyline unfolding in the DC’s various Superman comics, I was equally pleased – though not surprised – by issue #51 of Batman, a story titled “Gotham Is,” written by Scott Snyder and drawn by Greg Capullo. The reason I wasn’t surprised […]

Book Review: Valiant Ambition

May 1st, 2016
valiant ambition

The infamous treachery of Benedict Arnold gets a vigorous and richly detailed new retelling by the bestselling author of In the Heart of the Sea.

‘Yes, Yes, Yes!’

May 1st, 2016
‘Yes, Yes, Yes!’

To be immortalized by Shakespeare is often also to be caricatured by him; a sumptuous new biography of King Henry IV admirably brings its royal subject out of the Bard’s shadow.

From the Archives: Lizard on a Rock

May 1st, 2016
From the Archives: Lizard on a Rock

He survived years of dangerous exile, won his crown on the battlefield, and founded one of the most famous dynasties in human history – and yet we still haven’t embraced Henry VII. A spirited biography seeks to change that.

Bro-Reading in the Penny Press!

April 28th, 2016
Bro-Reading in the Penny Press!

As I’ve noted in the past here at Stevereads, I take a peculiar interest in the slight but often fascinating book-coverage you can find in the “lad mags” like Esquire or Men’s Journal or GQ. It’s always strange to me, the efforts the editors of these magazines (arrogant SOBs almost to a man) to find […]

Book Review: Running with Rhinos

April 28th, 2016
running with rhinos

The heroic efforts to save the lives of the black rhinos of Zimbabwe are at the heart of a thrilling new book

Comics! The Final Days of Superman!

April 27th, 2016
Comics! The Final Days of Superman!

I ventured into the comics shop recently, which is something I don’t do all that often anymore, for two main reasons: first, as I’ve lamented several times here at Stevereads, the bloom of most comics went off the rose for me a few years ago when DC Comics – the mainstay of my comics world […]

The DC Comics 75th Anniversary Poster Book!

April 25th, 2016
The DC Comics 75th Anniversary Poster Book!

Our book today is a doozy from 2010: it’s the 75th Anniversary Poster Book of DC Comics, a lavishly oversized thing put out by the good folks at Quirk Books in honor, as its title hints, of the 75th anniversary of DC Comics and its venerable roster of comic book characters (the three most recognizably […]

Book Review: The Habsburg Empire: A New History

April 25th, 2016
the habsburg empire

A new history takes a thought-provokingly centralist look at the oft-chronicled Habsburg Empire

Cape Coddities!

April 24th, 2016
Cape Coddities!

Our book today is a little treasure from 1920, Cape Coddities by Dennis and Marion Chatham, dotted all throughout with charming little spot illustrations by Harold Cue. I’ve been pulling this little volume down off the shelf every year when Spring first begins to unfold in Boston; the song-birds come back to the lawns and […]

Book Review: Dear Princess Grace, Dear Betty

April 24th, 2016
dear princess grace

A noted feminist social critic looks back on her long friendship with the great Betty Friedan.

Penguins on Parade: The Penguin Book of Renaissance Verse!

April 21st, 2016
Penguins on Parade: The Penguin Book of Renaissance Verse!

Some Penguin Classics, as we’ve noted before here at Stevereads, are genuinely impressive works of scholarship in their own right, and I recently came across one of those during a foray at the Brattle Bookshop: The Penguin Book of Renaissance Verse, edited by David Norbook – in this case, the 2005 update to the 1992 […]

Book Review: The President’s Book of Secrets

April 21st, 2016
president’s book of secrets

A fascinating new book presents readers with a bounty of stories surrounding the daily intelligence-services briefing given to US Presidents

Book Review: History and Presence

April 20th, 2016
history and presence

An invigorating new study of the real presence of the divine in the mundane workings of organized religion

Book Review: Waiting for the Past

April 19th, 2016
waiting for the past

The latest volume from deceptively erudite Australian poet Les Murray

Book Review: Selected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay

April 17th, 2016
selected millay

America’s Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Edna St. Vincent Millay gets an elegant new Selected Poems volume

The Lady with the Borzoi!

April 17th, 2016
The Lady with the Borzoi!

Our book today is The Lady with the Borzoi, a biographical tribute to Blanche Knopf that somehow feels both surprising and long overdue. The book, written with grace and a cheery volubility by Laura Claridge, is the story of Blanche Knopf, the so-called “soul” of the publishing house she created a century ago with her […]

Book Review: The Empire That Would Not Die

April 15th, 2016
empire that woudln’t die

Abandoned by the West and battered by the Islamic caliphate, the eastern Roman Empire shrank and withdrew but did not fall – a new history asks why

Classical Literature!

April 15th, 2016
Classical Literature!

Our book today is Classical Literature: An Epic Journey from Homer to Virgil and Beyond by emeritus Oxford don Richard Jenkyns. The book is an alarmingly thin perambulation through the whole of the classics from the Homeric era through the Augustan Age and a little bit beyond, a hurried tour that’s saved from being a […]

Book Review: The Fever of 1721

April 13th, 2016
the fever

When smallpox struck the city of Boston in 1721, battle lines were drawn over how to deal with it – and strange alliances formed

The Medici!

April 11th, 2016
The Medici!

Our book today is the latest from the prolific Paul Strathern: The Medici, subtitled somewhat predictably “Power, Money, and Ambition in the Italian Renaissance.” And the subtitle is hardly the only thing in the book that’s predictable; after all, G. F. Young did this kind of tour d’horizon over a century ago, laying out the […]

Book Review: Tales from the Long Twelfth Century

April 11th, 2016
tales from the long 12th

At the center of a lively, personality-driven new book about the twelfth century is the contentious family of King Henry II

The Edge of Empire!

April 9th, 2016
The Edge of Empire!

Our book today is The Edge of Empire: A Journey to Britannia: From the Heart of Rome to Hadrian’s Wall, an utterly winning and somewhat old-fashioned work by Bronwen Riley in which she imagines a sprawling travel itinerary of Antonine Rome through a narrative device that was once familiar in popular histories of ancient Rome, […]

Book Review: Thoreau’s Wildflowers

April 8th, 2016
moser2

A lovely new volume offers a selection of Henry David Thoreau’s heartfelt writings about flowers

Jesus Before the Gospels!

April 8th, 2016
Jesus Before the Gospels!

Our book today is the latest from Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman, bestselling author of such books as Misquoting Jesus and How Jesus Became God. His new book is called Jesus Before the Gospels and has the opus-length subtitle, How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior. As the book’s title […]

Book Review: The Whole Harmonium

April 6th, 2016
Book Review: The Whole Harmonium

A sympathetic new biography of the poet Wallace Stevens

On Being Human!

April 6th, 2016
On Being Human!

Our book today is the new one from Jerome Kagan, the emeritus professor of psychology at Harvard University. The book is On Being Human: Why Mind Matters (a pleasingly sturdy hardcover from Yale University Press), consisting of a series of connected meditations on topics ranging from the power of societal norms to the suggestive effects […]

Book Review: Dante – The Story of His Life

April 3rd, 2016
dante

A thorough new biography explores the life of the great Florentine poet in detail

Between a Rock and Bleeding Mouth-Cancer in the Penny Press!

April 3rd, 2016
Between a Rock and Bleeding Mouth-Cancer in the Penny Press!

As I’ve mentioned before here at Stevereads, it’s always a pleasure for me to see a glossy square-bound lad-mag divert from quick-ab workouts and $35,000 wristwatches to talk about some of the less venal elements of what goes into making a well-rounded person. The most vulnerable of those elements is of course the gentle art […]

The Mark of the Horse Lord!

April 1st, 2016
The Mark of the Horse Lord!

Our book today is a rattling good yarn from an author we’ve met before here at Stevereads: Rosemary Sutcliff, this time her 1965 novel The Mark of the Horse Lord, which follows the hard life and harrowing adventures of young Phaedrus, a slave in northern Britain in the first century who’s a gladiator when the […]

Man’s Pest Friend

April 1st, 2016
Man’s Pest Friend

Only one dog out of every five on Earth is somebody’s pet; the rest are roamers in streets and city dumps. A fascinating new book looks at the lives of the canine majority.

Dancing Fish and Amonites!

March 30th, 2016
Dancing Fish and Amonites!

Our book today is one of my many re-reads: Penelope Lively’s 2013 memoir Dancing Fish and Amonites, her elegant and intelligent meditation – partly about her life and upbringing but mainly about the story of her life as she observes it in her own memories: “The memory that we live with – the form of […]

Book Review: Eruption

March 30th, 2016
eruption

Nearly 40 years ago, Washington State’s Mount St. Helens volcano erupted, killing 57 people and spewing hundreds of tons of molten ash into the atmosphere. A gripping new book tells the story.

Book Review: Pollination Power

March 27th, 2016
pollination power

Birds, bees, mice, bats – a wide array of animals are crucial to the pollination of the plants of the world. A stunning new book shows us their world.

The Books of Venice! Inside Venice!

March 27th, 2016
The Books of Venice! Inside Venice!

Our book today is a genuine stunner: Inside Venice by Toto Bergamo Rossi, with gorgeous photographs by Jean-Francois Jaussaud. The book is subtitled A Private View of the City’s Most Beautiful Interiors, and the folks at Rizzoli have pulled out all the stops in making it the Venice-themed coffee table book of the year. It’s […]

The Books of Venice! Inside Venice!

March 27th, 2016
The Books of Venice! Inside Venice!

Our book today is a genuine stunner: Inside Venice by Toto Bergamo Rossi, with gorgeous photographs by Jean-Francois Jaussaud. The book is subtitled A Private View of the City’s Most Beautiful Interiors, and the folks at Rizzoli have pulled out all the stops in making it the Venice-themed coffee table book of the year. It’s […]

Book Review: Baby Birds

March 25th, 2016
Book Review: Baby Birds

An enterprising bird-artist takes readers inside the nests of a dozen species

Greece and Rome: Builders of Our World!

March 23rd, 2016
Greece and Rome: Builders of Our World!

Our book today is one I’ve mentioned briefly before: The National Geographic Society’s Greece and Rome: Builders of Our World from 1968, one of the series of great volumes they put out forty years ago and that are now staples of flea markets and yard sales all over the United States. At one time or […]

Book Review: Louisa

March 22nd, 2016
louisa

A smart and lively new biography of the wife of President John Quincy Adams

Book Review: John Quincy Adams – Militant Spirit

March 20th, 2016
jqa militant spirit

A smart and appealingly complex new biography of America’s contentious sixth president

Galapagos: World’s End!

March 20th, 2016
Galapagos: World’s End!

Our book today is a genuine corker: Galapagos: World’s End by William Beebe, his 1924 account of the trip he took in 1923 with the Harrison Williams Galapagos Expedition to travel in the footsteps of of Charles Darwin’s expedition there with the Beagle in 1835. Beebe was already a prominent scientist and natural history expert […]

A Fair Wind for Troy!

March 19th, 2016
A Fair Wind for Troy!

Our book today is one we’ve mentioned before here at Stevereads: A Fair Wind for Troy, a 1976 YA novel about the lead-up to the Trojan War, one that centers, as classically-minded readers might be able to tell from the title, on the bloodthirsty House of Atreus and the willingness of its head, Agamemnon, to […]

Falling Slowly

March 18th, 2016
Falling Slowly

Our book today is Falling Slowly, a 1998 novel by the late Anita Brookner. Her death caught me by surprise, and a dispirited search of my shelves turned up only this one book, which I took down and duly re-read. It’s the story of Miriam and Beatrice Sharpe, a pair of middle-aged sisters in London […]

Book Review: The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe

March 18th, 2016
jwh

A new biography of Julia Ward Howe shows how much more there was to her story than the writing of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”

Book Review: Everyday Renaissances

March 15th, 2016
everyday renaissances

An eye-opening new history sheds light on the book-lovers and book-collectors of Renaissance Venice

stevereads 2016-03-15 13:51:04

March 15th, 2016
stevereads 2016-03-15 13:51:04

Our book today is an energetically delightful translated work put out by the good folks at Europa Editions: Bound in Venice: The Serene Republic and the Dawn of the Book by Alessandro Marzo Magno. The book was originally published in Italy (as L’alba dei libri. Quando Venezia ha fatto leggere il mondo) in 2013 and […]

stevereads 2016-03-15 13:51:04

March 15th, 2016
stevereads 2016-03-15 13:51:04

Our book today is an energetically delightful translated work put out by the good folks at Europa Editions: Bound in Venice: The Serene Republic and the Dawn of the Book by Alessandro Marzo Magno. The book was originally published in Italy (as L’alba dei libri. Quando Venezia ha fatto leggere il mondo) in 2013 and […]

Six for Dr. Franklin!

March 14th, 2016
Six for Dr. Franklin!

Our books today all star that most inimitable of American Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin! During one of my bookshelf-reorganizations back in 2015, I had one of those awkward realizations so common to book-people: I noticed for the first time that I had something like seven different biographies of Franklin. This was embarrassing, of course (there’s […]

Book Review: Benjamin Franklin in London

March 14th, 2016
benfranklininlondon

A gripping new book chronicles the years and years iconic Founding Father Ben Franklin spent in the heart of the British Empire

Book Review: The Brazen Age

March 13th, 2016
the brazen age

A boisterous new history of New York City and America in the wake of the Second World War

Notes for a Star Trek Bibliography: The Latter Fire!

March 13th, 2016
Notes for a Star Trek Bibliography: The Latter Fire!

Our book today is a new Star Trek novel set in the world of the Original Series, The Latter Fire by James Swallow, a sci-fi genre-novel hack of the first water, with a wide shelf of Star Trek, Warhammer, Doctor Who, and Stargate books to his credit. I made the mistake of reading his Author’s […]

Notes for a Star Trek Bibliography: The Latter Fire!

March 13th, 2016
Notes for a Star Trek Bibliography: The Latter Fire!

Our book today is a new Star Trek novel set in the world of the Original Series, The Latter Fire by James Swallow, a sci-fi genre-novel hack of the first water, with a wide shelf of Star Trek, Warhammer, Doctor Who, and Stargate books to his credit. I made the mistake of reading his Author’s […]

Our Hearts Were Young and Gay!

March 12th, 2016
Our Hearts Were Young and Gay!

Our book today is an essential classic: Our Hearts Were Young and Gay by Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough (we’ve met Emily before here at Stevereads), their 1942 bestseller about the madcap European tour they took as fresh-faced Bryn Mawr graduates back in the comparatively innocent days of the 1920s. They strike a mischievously […]

Book Review: High Dive

March 9th, 2016
high dive

A 1984 assassination attempt on Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher forms the unlikely backdrop for Jonathan Lee’s US debut novel

The Great House of Birds!

March 8th, 2016
The Great House of Birds!

Our book today is a slim, intensely satisfying anthology assemble by legendary Cape Cod nature writer John Hay in 1996 called The Great House of Birds, drawing together some of the author’s favorite writings about birds. They were a lifelong source of fascination for Hay (“birds fly away from us,” he writes, “with an unspoken […]

Book Review: The Swimmer

March 8th, 2016
.

A preoccupation with endings characterizes the tenth collection from poet John Koethe

Book Review: The Rise of a Prairie Statesman

March 7th, 2016
rise of a prairie statesman

The first of a projected two-volume biography of Senator and Democratic Party standard-bearer George McGovern

Comics: If Asgard Should Perish!

March 7th, 2016
Comics: If Asgard Should Perish!

Our book today is a gem from 2010: a Marvel Premiere Edition called If Asgard Should Perish, with writing by Len Wein, artwork by John Buscema, and glorious coloring by Glynis Wein. This volume – which I somehow hadn’t known existed, and which I found just the other day in the used-book basement of the […]

A Trip to the Harvard Book Store!

March 6th, 2016
A Trip to the Harvard Book Store!

When I have bookish guests coming to Boston, one natural destination is the Harvard Book Store over in Cambridge, a great shop lavishly stocked with both new and used books. Since I haven’t worked in Cambridge in decades, I tend not to make my way out there in the normal course of my week – […]

Book Review: The Year of the Runaways

March 5th, 2016
yera of the runaways

A complex and moving novel about a trio of young men who leave their native India in search of work

The Books … of Venice! Gondola Days!

March 3rd, 2016
The Books … of Venice! Gondola Days!

Our book today is that incredibly durable classic of Venice books, Gondola Days by the redoubtable artist, novelist, and all-around overachiever F. Hopkinson Smith, who wrote it, illustrated it, and basked in its success in 1897. He’d written quite a few books prior to this one, and he’d go one to write quite a few […]

Penguins on Parade: The Book of Magic!

March 2nd, 2016
Penguins on Parade: The Book of Magic!

Some Penguin Classics don’t look like Penguin Classics, which is a trifle odd when you consider how instantly recognizable the Penguin brand is to book-buyers, but you certainly won’t hear me complaining when the results are as nifty as The Book of Magic, a big new anthology of supernatural literature “from Antiquity to the Enlightenment,” […]

Book Review: The King’s Bed

March 2nd, 2016
the king’s bed

A lively new book gives readers a mistress-by-mistress recounting of the reign of Charles II

Book Review: Battle of the Atlantic

March 1st, 2016
battle atlantic

Atlantic shipping was the lifeline of Great Britain during the Second World War, and the Nazis knew it just as well as the Allies did. A thrilling new book recounts the sprawling, war-long Battle of the Atlantic

Romance Roundup: Regency Rakes!

March 1st, 2016
Romance Roundup: Regency Rakes!

In the world of Regency romances, few things are more tempting to authors than a good old-fashioned rakehell, a well-born dandy whose main pleasure in life is seducing, deflowering, and abandoning all the ladies of the fashionable ton, from wide-eyed society debutantes to thrill-seeking duchesses. The fact that these rakes are inevitably also habitues of […]

The Skin Crowd

March 1st, 2016
The Skin Crowd

A sumptuous new book lays a vast roll call of frogs before the reader and opens a window onto the strange world of the world’s most popular amphibian.

Book Review: Into the Heart of Our World

February 28th, 2016
into the heart of our world

A new book offers a fascinating look at a complex and turbulent alien world – the one beneath our feet

A Sensible Career Path in the Penny Press!

February 28th, 2016
A Sensible Career Path in the Penny Press!

Impossible for me to pass over Michael Dirda’s “Freelance” column from last week’s TLS, and likewise impossible for me not to respond. Dirda uses the little space this time to reflect on his long stint as an editor at the legendary Washington Post Book World, and in his typical fashion, he manages to build enormous […]

Book Review: The Vatican Princess

February 27th, 2016
vatican princess

A new historical novel joins the ranks of those trying to rehabilitate the reputation of poor Lucrezia Borgia

Library: An Unquiet History!

February 27th, 2016
Library: An Unquiet History!

Our book today is Library: An Unquiet History, a hymn of praise from 2003 to public libraries. It’s written by Matthew Battles, who worked at the Houghton Library (and lived in scenic Jamaica Plain!) at the time, and its touchstone throughout is Harvard’s mighty Widener Library, whose wonders he very effectively evokes: The library … […]

Writers by Nature in the Penny Press!

February 24th, 2016
Writers by Nature in the Penny Press!

One of my newer magazine subscriptions is The Nature Conservancy, published by the deep-pocketed conservation group of the same name. The magazine is slightly oddly-sized, and it’s full of great nature photography, and the small handful of issues I’ve read regularly so far have impressed me with the breadth and sensitivity of their prose. The […]

Book Review: The Boiling River

February 24th, 2016
the boiling river

A young explorer enters the Amazon in search of a legendary river that boils as it flows.

Mystery Monday: Jane and the Waterloo Map!

February 22nd, 2016
Mystery Monday: Jane and the Waterloo Map!

Our book today is Jane and the Waterloo Map by Stephanie Barron, the latest in her long-running series of murder mysteries in which Jane Austen takes time out from being a novelist to try her hand at being a crime-solving sleuth. The series started back in 1996 with Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor […]

Comics: The “Rebirth” of the Legion?

February 21st, 2016
Comics: The “Rebirth” of the Legion?

Our book today is a brightly-colored celebration from 2008: Legion of Super-Heroes: 1050 Years of the Future, sub-titled: “Celebrating 50 Years of Everyone’s Favorite Super-Team of Tomorrow!” It reprints some of the best issues from the long run of the various incarnations of the Legion of Super-Heroes, DC Comics’ sprawling super-team of teenagers fighting interstellar […]

Alive in the Wild!

February 20th, 2016
Alive in the Wild!

Our book today is Alive in the Wild, a 1970 compilation of short pieces of nature-writing by two dozen different hands, all of it introduced by Victor Calahane, a popular and busy mid-century mammalogist and science writer who was also the author of an absolutely wonderful book called Mammals of North America, which we’ll certainly […]

Book Review: Skeptic

February 20th, 2016
skeptic

Popular debater and science writer Michael Shermer’s latest book collects some of the columns he’s written for Scientific American

Book Review: The Lightkeepers

February 18th, 2016
lightkeepers

Many kinds of violence haunt a remote California island chain when a nature photographer takes a one-year assignment there

Islands and Lagoons … of Venice!

February 18th, 2016
Islands and Lagoons … of Venice!

Our book today is a gorgeous “coffee table book” from 1980 with the Vendome Press: Islands and Lagoons of Venice, with text by Peter Lauritzen and stunning photography by Fulvio Roiter. The book lavishly, lovingly celebrates the vast, strange world of the other Venice, the 200 square miles of lagoon, inlets, and islands sprawling around […]

Book Review: Strange Gods

February 17th, 2016
strange gods

Throughout human history, people have found reasons to change their religions – Susan Jacoby’s brilliant new book examines the phenomenon of adopting strange gods

Ink Chorus: Never in Doubt!

February 16th, 2016
Ink Chorus: Never in Doubt!

Our book today is Never in Doubt, a collection of book book reviews from stalwart bull terrier Peter Prescott, who reviewed books for Newsweek for two decades and adored our ragged fish-wrap art form with a sharp wit, a punchy prose style, and, underneath some thick plates of armor, a true believer’s heart. He was […]

A Polar Vortex Romance Round-Up!

February 15th, 2016
A Polar Vortex Romance Round-Up!

Sometimes, the only fitting answer to a Polar Vortex plunge into sub-zero temperatures is a readerly plunge into the steamy world of romance novels. Curled up in bed, listening to the freezing sleet hit the window, I decided to indulge myself in a trio of sumptuous historical romances: Heir to the Duke by Jane Ashford […]

Book Review: The Deep Sea Diver’s Syndrome

February 15th, 2016
deep sea diver’s syndrome

Popular French science-fantasy writer Serge Brussolo gets makes his debut appearance in English with a story of men and women who treasure-hunt in the dreams of other people

Book Review: The Perfect Bet

February 14th, 2016
adam kucharski

An illuminating new book takes readers inside the calculus of gambling

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek!

February 13th, 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 12th, 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 11th, 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 11th, 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 11th, 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 11th, 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 10th, 2016
callan wink

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

Fanny Burney!

February 9th, 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 8th, 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 8th, 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 7th, 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 6th, 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 5th, 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 4th, 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 4th, 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 3rd, 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 3rd, 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 2nd, 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 1st, 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 1st, 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 1st, 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 31st, 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 31st, 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 30th, 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 30th, 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 29th, 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 27th, 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 27th, 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 26th, 2016
cosmosapiens

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

Geographica: Denali!

January 26th, 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 25th, 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 24th, 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 23rd, 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 23rd, 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 23rd, 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 23rd, 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 23rd, 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 22nd, 2016
bull and other stories

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

Cheap Thrills!

January 22nd, 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 22nd, 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 21st, 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 20th, 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 20th, 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 19th, 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 18th, 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 17th, 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 16th, 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 16th, 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 15th, 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 15th, 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 14th, 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 14th, 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 13th, 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 13th, 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 12th, 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 12th, 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 11th, 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 11th, 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 10th, 2016
norton lazarillo

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

Ink Chorus: Malcolm Cowley!

January 10th, 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 9th, 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 9th, 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 8th, 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 8th, 2016
beyond greek

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

Comics! Obi-Wan & Anakin!

January 7th, 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 7th, 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 7th, 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 6th, 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 6th, 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 6th, 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 5th, 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 5th, 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 4th, 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 4th, 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 3rd, 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 3rd, 2016
true love

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

Immanitas

January 1st, 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 30th, 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 29th, 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 28th, 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 27th, 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 26th, 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 26th, 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 25th, 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 24th, 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 23rd, 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 23rd, 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 22nd, 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 21st, 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 20th, 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 20th, 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 19th, 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 18th, 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 17th, 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 17th, 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 17th, 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 17th, 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 16th, 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 15th, 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 14th, 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 13th, 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 12th, 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 11th, 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 11th, 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 10th, 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 9th, 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 8th, 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 7th, 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 6th, 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 6th, 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 5th, 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 5th, 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 4th, 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 3rd, 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 2nd, 2015
the iran-iraq war

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

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1991!

December 2nd, 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 1st, 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 1st, 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 30th, 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 26th, 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 26th, 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 26th, 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 24th, 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 22nd, 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 22nd, 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 21st, 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 19th, 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 19th, 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 17th, 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 16th, 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 16th, 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 14th, 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 13th, 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 11th, 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 11th, 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 10th, 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 9th, 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 8th, 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 […]