Articles by Steve Donoghue
Some Penguin Classics open up windows on alien worlds, and they do so every bit as effectively as the very best sci-fi and fantasy, but through radically different means: by showing us what was, not what wasn’t. A perfect demonstration of this would be the slim and elegant new Penguin Classic edition of Tenzin Chogyel’s […]
The Ottoman Empire joined the fighting of the First World War deeply misunderstood by both sides; a charismatic new book seeks to clarify the story of that odd meeting of East and West
Ink Chorus Our book today is one of the de facto Bibles of the Ink Chorus: Books of the Century, a 2000 update of the 1998 anthology of book reviews and author interviews from the first century of the New York Times Book Review, a great big book with a hideous cover, edited by Charles […]
Species arrive, thrive, and then go extinct – but after the long and frightful reign of Homo sapiens … what?
Sabina, the wife of the enigmatic Roman emperor Hadrian, is beset by enemies in Rome – and safeguards a secret they’d all kill to know …
Our book today is Lamentation by C. J. Sansom, the latest of his books to feature the sleuthing adventures of his hunchback Tudor-era lawyer Matthew Shardlake, following Heartstone way back in 2010. This series began with the quietly wonderful 2003 novel Dissolution, and all the strengths so abundantly on display in that first book have […]
A businessman is on a trip to new-money Tunisia when the world’s economy goes into meltdown…
Thanks to the technical wizardry of Open Letters Monthly‘s newest editor, Robert Minto, March debuts a spiffy new look for Stevereads, its first top-to-bottom re-design in almost ten years! To mark the occasion, I thought I’d present a Stevereads alphabet to help orient the hordes of new readers Robert has unconditionally guaranteed me will be […]
When Homo sapiens appeared in Europe 45,000 years ago, most of the long-established species there – including the Neanderthals – began to disappear. Did Homo sapiens wipe them out? And if so, did they have help from somebody right there in your living room?
In this New York Times bestseller, a hapless woman spots a mysterious event from the window of her commuter train and is soon caught up in a police investigation.
Our book today goes by a title Stevereads has already anointed as alluring: To Wake the Mangog! (I added the exclamation point that the book’s own packagers shamefully omitted) – it’s a thick volume in Marvel Comics’ ongoing “Epic Collection” series of color reprints from the archives. This is the fourth “Epic Collection” of Thor […]
Under the direction of Oliver Cromwell, dozens of men deliberated to execute the captive King Charles I, and when Charles II came to power a decade later, those men were suddenly in the gravest danger. A fascinating new book tells their stories.
In the second volume of Will Elliott’s fantastic “Pendulum” trilogy, a large and engaging cast of characters fight to survive in a world drastically out of balance
A new book takes an intense look at the presidency of Ronald Reagan
Driven into hiding by the victorious forces of William the Conqueror, the heroic Hereward the Wake and his band of freedom fighters must struggle to survive
A gripping new book takes readers inside the fabled – and troubled – land of Tibet
A harrowing new book looks at the many spaces the Vietnam Was has occupied in the American mental landscape
Some Penguin Classics were custom-made to be very handy for traveling, which makes them extra-poignant in the Boston of February 2015, in which nobody packs bags or quick satchels because travel of any kind is impossible and has been for many, many weeks. All flights into or out of Logan Airport have been cancelled, and […]
A strong-willed Bavarian princess captures the eye of the young Austro-Hungarian emperor in Allison Pataki’s opulent new historical novel. Steve Donoghue reviews.
Nearly 40 years ago, the Voyager spacecraft left Earth bearing cameras to photograph the solar system – and messages of greetings to the wider galaxy. A terrific new book tells the story of a great human adventure
Our books today comprise a small Stevereads landmark: my very first book-haul from Book Outlet! As some of you will know, I’m delighted to spend time watching all the enthusiastic young people (and a few old enough to know better!) over in the nerdy, inordinately friendly corner of YouTube known as “BookTube.” I love the […]
The clashes of the Cold War weren’t just matters of missiles and border guards; they also enlisted honey-voiced broadcasters, drunken novelists, and bookish magazine editors, as a fascinating new book makes clear
Nothing warms up the icy snowbound ventricles quite like a burst of outrage, and I got one of those recently when I encountered a block of pure editorial cowardice in the Penny Press. Specifically, it was in the 5 February 2015 issue of the London Review of Books (although the cover is misprinted […]
In Dewey Lambdin’s latest rousing Alan Lewrie adventure, our dashing hero sees action off the coast of a Spain imperiled by Napoleon
In 1944 a contentious group of delegates gathered in New Hampshire in order to lay out a blueprint for the postwar world economy; a great new history tells the story of Bretton Woods
In V. E. Schwab’s new fantasy novel, a young man can travel between a string of alternate-reality Londons
An engaging new book looks at that perennial fascination for biographers, Niccolo Machiavelli
Our book today is one we turn to with some bitterness: The Poetic Edda, or Elder Edda, that medieval treasure-house of Norse mythology. After a week of fawningly propitiating a certain Deity Who shall remain nameless, and after having it amount to squat as a vicious “snow hurricane” struck poor, shivering Boston just the same, […]
Sometimes, when it comes to propitiating the Deity, circumstances warrant going right to the top – and with poor wretched Boston staring wide-eyed at the latest ferocious oncoming “monster storm,” today seemed like one of those times. So with fear and trembling, I crept to my bookshelves and assembled the proverbial stack of Bibles on […]
Two-time National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft kept a low profile (and a negligible paper trail) throughout a lifetime in Washington power-dealing; a compelling new book profiles the ultimate Oval Office insider
In Matt Sumell’s debut, his main character manages to alienate every other person in the book, often by punching them.
In the vastness of the world’s oceans, some mammals have evolved brains and language … and culture? A fascinating new book looks at the inner lives of whales and dolphins
Our propitiation of Boston’s suddenly-wrathful Deity continues today with yet more Pelican Scripture Commentaries! I recently looked back at the Big Four, the long Gospel commentaries Pelican put out half a century ago, but in the course of nervously plucking them off my snowbound bookshelves, I came across plenty of secondary Pelican commentaries, several of […]
Our books today are the four hefty volumes that constitute the core of the old Pelican Gospel Commentaries, and we turn to them with a kind of cold-sweat urgency: as the endless snow continues to fall, as the very infrastructure of Boston begins to crumble, Stevereads continues its perhaps-futile bid to appease the peevish Deity […]
For twenty-five years, the “Table Talk” feature of The Threepenny Review has offered occasional musings on a wide range of topics by some of the best freelance writers and critics in the business. A new hardcover collects a generous helping of highlights
Some Penguin Classics are the only ones you can turn to when your city has incurred the wrath of the Almighty, as Boston so clearly has in this apocalyptic February of 2015, which has so far seen just a few inches short of 500 feet of snow. At such times, my book-hunting lapsed Catholic fingers […]
The latest book from New Testament scholar N. T. Wright presents a passionate new appraisal of the “good news ” of the Christian Gospels
When a 21st-century woman travels to the hometown of Emily Dickinson, she finds herself caught between a passionate present and a past far more human than she imagined
A small group of Americans visit a super-secret Chinese nature-park with a very unusual star attraction.
Some Penguin Classics – as several of you readers have pointed out to me, hopeless bookworms that you are – revamp earlier Penguin Classics, as is certainly the case with the Penguin Modern Classics I just recently wrote about: the line is a kinda-sorta updating of Penguin’s old “Twentieth-Century Classics” line, a little shorter on […]
Former governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee offers a plea for understanding the ‘flyover states’ where, he claims, real people lead real lives
Two years before he gained fame in the most painful way imaginable at the Battle of Little Bighorn, George Armstrong Custer led a large expedition into the Black Hills sacred to the Sioux – in search of gold
One item in the book news today is something you might have seen in the Wall Street Journal, a story with a dispiritedly wayward lede: Publishers have faced a vexing question in recent years: As newspapers’ book coverage shrinks and fewer people shop in brick-and-mortar bookstores, how might publishers open a conversation with readers online, […]
The author of “Dogwalker” returns with a new collection of interlinked short stories that revel in their own straight-faced absurdity
In this arresting debut, a young woman working in Paris is hiding from her past – and she worries that the old friends she betrayed are hunting her.
Some Penguin Classics just look so nice! This has surely been noticed by the younger generation of printed-book buyers, whose Book Depository-roving eyes have been caught time and again by the recent redesign of the Penguin Modern Classics run. In a canny inversion of the now-venerable black-spined design of the main Penguin Classics line, these […]
One of the most experienced reporters to cover the war in Afghanistan writes up his experiences
Our book today is Cyril Connolly’s 1938 masterpiece of snark and summation, Enemies of Promise, which largely baffled its critics when it first appeared and has survived them all, as Connolly himself sometimes predicted it would in his tipsier moments. The book is split into three long sections, the first, “The Predicament,” being a tour […]
In his new book, historian Adam Zamoyski paints a picture of a Europe convulsed with fear of upheavals like the French Revolution and the tyranny of Bonaparte – and willing to do anything to prevent them
A paradigm-shifting new book looks at the turbulent decade of the 1970s in United States politics and the re-shaping of the world
A new reprint line from the New York Review of Books concentrates on literature from – and on – China’s long literary history, and the first three volumes offer the strange, the familiar, and the beautiful.
With so many versions of War and Peace to choose from, is there anything that translators can do to set themselves apart? Yes, says Steve Donoghue, they can make old mistakes.
I’ve often been asked – indeed, I often ask myself – why on Earth I’d continue to read a magazine as politically zealous, not to say crackpot, as the National Review, and my answer – given a few times even here on Stevereads – is that I try my best to ignore the frong half […]
A slim picaresque novel that was a runaway bestseller in France gets a stylish English-language translation
From the Puritans and their city on a hill to the Mormons to modern-day charlatans, the story of the United States is the story of competing faiths; a lively new book looks at that complicated tapestry
Our book today is a squat, brick-red little triple-decker, the three-volume life of Henry VIII that Everyman editor W. Llweleyn Williams carved out of 12-volume history of England written from 1856 to 1870 by the great J. A. Froude. Williams knew what he was about; Froude’s book – the unabridged edition of which is out […]
An environmentalist writes an energetic and – despite everything – optimistic clarion call to better and smarter thinking about how mankind can ease its disastrous impact on nature
In 1950 a prominent Western nuclear physicist disappeared – and re-surfaced years later in the Soviet Union, helping the Russians to develop their atomic arsenal. A gripping new book tells the story of a traitor who was also a genius
Revolutionary Russian choreographer Leonid Yakobson fought prejudice, rivals, and the omnipresent Soviet censors to pursue his art, as a magnificent new book narrates
Some Penguin Classics are updates or revisions of things that were themselves already classics, and that can be nerve-racking for a long-time fan of the Penguin line such as myself. I love the ongoing march of new editions, don’t get me wrong – I’m always the first person telling my bookish friends that some new […]
A true believer in the tenets of Darwinism in the 19th Century goes on what amounts to a pilgrimage to that great Darwinian destination, the Galapagos Islands, in James Morrow’s glowing new novel
Some days in the Penny Press are more frustrating than others, of course, and sometimes those weeks offer clear signals of their intent to get my knickers in a twist. This happened just yesterday, in fact, when I took my first clear look at Barry Blitt’s imbecilic cover to the 26 January New Yorker, which […]
World after world detected by powerful long-range telescopes are being shown to possess oceans – probably radically different from those of Earth; a new book looks at water worlds, our own and others
I ventured to the comics shop again this week, lured by the prospect of interesting new graphic novel collections (there weren’t any that I could see), and I walked out with two new Marvel comics, Avengers #40, written by Jonathan Hickman and drawn by Stefano Caselli, and Fantastic Four #642, written by James Robinson and […]
Only one man can possibly save a plague- and fire-stricken sub that’s burning and adrift at the top of the world …
When young Promise’s family is killed on their peaceful frontier planet, she signs up with the space-Marines – as one tends to do in such circumstances
One item of book news today is something you’ll all likely have seen: as the second book in his online book club, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg has chosen Steven Pinker’s 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, in which Pinker lays out his biggest, most dip-shitty counter-intuitive flap-doodle ever and waits patiently for […]
When states engage in corruption – and condone it in other states – they fuel exactly the kind of tensions that, short of war, are the only things that can threaten those states; a stunning new book examines the kinetics of wrongdoing
Last week I naturally succumbed to the hoopla and bought the first issue of Marvel Comics’ new “Star Wars” comic book (my comics-related posts here on Stevereads really do need to be closer to Wednesday – which, for all you non-virgins out there, is New Comics Day here in Boston – and I’ll work on […]
Our book today is The Dogs of Rome, Conor Fitzgerald’s 2010 debut mystery novel starring Commissario Alec Blume, who was born and raised in America but who, 17 years ago, lost his parents to the gunfire of a violent bank robbery while visiting Rome. A grief-stricken young Blume joined the police force instead of returning […]
The legendary fantasy author Michael Moorcock returns after a long absence to the genre he helped to create
A nimble and tremendously engaging history of the Middle Ages finally gets translated into English
China’s one-child social policy forms the grim backdrop to Nobel Prize-winning novelist Mo Yan’s latest translated novel
Our book today is one of the improbable gems from the old Reader’s Digest “World’s Best Reading” series, the 1989 volume The Song of Hiawatha and Other Poems, here decked out with lavish illustrations (lovely textured pictures and spot illustrations of “The Song of Hiawatha” itself by Frederic Remington, for instance, and Howard Chandler Christy’s […]
In this newly-translated hit from Brazil, a young man goes in search of what really happened to his grandfather
An accessible new scholarly history looks at the millennium during which Christianity ruled the West
Our book today is The War Against Cliche, the bottomlessly entertaining 2001 collection of many of the for-hire literary essays and book reviews the novelist Martin Amis wrote between 1971 and 2000, and taken as a snapshot of the working life of a semi-faineant freelancer (I’d wager that Amis actually only needed the paycheck – […]
A writing instructor takes a brief trip to Athens in Rachel Cusk’s much-praised new novel
A lively, authoritative new book examines one of the darkest stains on the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt
Naturally, reading Louis Menand’s story in the January 5 New Yorker, “Pulp’s Big Moment,” sent me irresistably to my own bookshelves, specifically to the bookcases of mass-market paperbacks I’ve been ruthlessly pillaging lately (as I’ve aggrievedly mentioned already, nobody needs four different mass market paperback copies of Mansfield Park; the ability to resist the urge […]
Our books today are the utterly delightful Sugawara Akitada mysteries of I. J. Parker, set in the Heian heyday of 11th-Century Japan and starring brainy but frustrated Sugawara Akitada, a low-level clerk in the Ministry of Justice whose father died while he was studying at university and who is therefore compelled to act as […]
A small-town’s mild-mannered real estate agent isn’t done with your house after he’s sold it to you – in Phil Hogan’s new novel, he keeps a spare key, and he snoops around while you’re away
Schubert’s haunting song-cycle “Winterreise,” composed while he was mortally ill, was a mystery to his friends upon its first hearing. He assured them they’d grow to love it, and, in his latest book, Ian Bostridge certainly has
One piece of the day’s book-news comes, unfortunately, in the form of a windy, tweedy, leather elbow-patched throat-clearing in Slate by former Random House poo-bah Daniel Menaker, who’s upset – in his phlegmatic way – about the upshot of the much-publicized contest between Amazon and Hachette and Amazon’s unseemly desire “to have a say in […]
In S. M. Hulse’s debut novel, a former prison guard in small-town Montana is traumatized by the events of a riot the happened years ago
According to modern medical diagnostics, thousands of people suffer (to varying degrees of severity) from OCD, and yet the science of understanding the condition is maddeningly vague – as science writer David Adam reports
Decade after decade, one man has worked at the heart of the Pentagon, advising a long string of presidents and cabinet ministers about the role of American power in the world. A new book brings his story out of the shadows.
Ned Beauman’s new novel takes readers on a wild ride from London drug-raves to international conspiracies, with some extra-intelligent foxes thrown in along the way
Beginning any new year always means batting clean-up on the odds and ends of the old year, and this latest transition was no different: I wrapped up my annals of the Penny Press in mid-December, but the Penny Press didn’t know that – it kept pouring into the sainted Open Letters Monthly Post Office box […]
A new handbook in the Yale series enlists a famous biographer to analyze the appeal of the Romantic movement
Some Penguin Classics don’t really seem to need updating. One such solid-looking piece of work is the translation David McDuff did for Penguin Classics of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s 1860 novel The House of the Dead. That translation appeared in 1985, and it – and all other translations of this particular book – are suddenly threatened […]
A proper young woman in Delhi meets a slightly improper young man – and a tragic, mesmerizing love story is born in this accomplished debut
In 1503, the city of Florence commissioned two artists to paint the walls of their city hall – two men named Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. A new book assesses the after-effects of this greatest of all artistic competitions.
Our books today are … all of them, every book I currently possess here in the quaint, white-painted confines of Hyde Cottage. Over the course of 2014 in particular, I was reminded again and again of a process every bit as mysterious and insidious as the disappearance of odd socks from the dryer: the steady, […]
A easily-accessible new guidebook to our home solar system
The revamped Man of Steel embarks on a new series of adventures in Action Comics
The scout for a fur-trapping party in 1823 is mauled by a bear and left for dead – but he doesn’t die, which is very bad news for the fur-trapping company in Michael Punke’s super-effective novel
Historical novelist Andrew Levkoff stuffs the last installment of his “Bow of Heaven” trilogy with battles, love, loyalty betrayed, crucifixion, cross-purposes, loyalty regained, and deep reflections on what it all means.
David Dickson’s comprehensively researched, readable book details the long and complicated history of Dublin
A new history presents a history of 20th-Century American radical evangelism that will go down very well on the Liberty University campus
An enormous, bad-tempered horse tramples to death the wife of its aristocratic owner – but Joe Sandilands of Scotland Yard comes to suspect foul play in Barbara Cleverly’s new mystery
As I’ve mentioned a couple of times along the course of our epic journey, I read more new books in 2014 than in any previous year of my life, and that preponderance re-shaped the very topography of my reading itself. The rough balanced that had held for many, many years, a more-or-less equality between new […]
He was ugly, ill-dressed, and eccentrically fond of dogs – but he was also the most experienced military man in the American colonies, restlessly chaffing under the command of George Washington. He was General Charles Lee, and a wonderful new book tells his story.
This is a tricky category, of course; it wanders over its nearest borders with a good deal of recklessness. Some of this year’s top Nonfiction picks might just as easily qualify as history, for example some species of sociology, or even biography, but against its oddness I every year lay its unfailing ability to get […]
This year’s list of the worst malefactors in the Republic of Letters in 2014 could really have been boiled down to one entrant (which will become evident, and which all of you should be heartily ashamed of making so popular), and that entrant perfectly typifies exactly the same kind of cold-eyed arrogance that characterized the […]
Long before he would be venerated as the father of English poetry, Geoffrey Chaucer had a really, really bad year. An engaging new book tells the story of how he coped – and the great work that followed.
There are some years when the practitioners of fiction seem almost embarrassed by their profession – not because that profession still hasn’t turned its back on own charlatans, but rather because it sometimes seems like the reading public itself is increasingly turning its back on their profession in favor of pap. I’ve lost count of […]
It’s always a lurking danger when dealing with novels, novelists being by nature the vilest narcissists this side of book reviewers, but this year it runs the table in the “Worst Fiction” department: arrogance. Specifically, the belief on the author’s part that they, and not their stories, are the proper object of their readers’ attention. […]
A new book looks at the writings of Cicero, Sallust, and Horace to understand the mind of their times.
This, as long-time Stevereads readers (and my long-suffering friends) may know, is the nerve center of my reading, my favorite of the genres in which I roam. More than historical fiction, which I’ve actually written (and whose self-published ranks I regularly patrol as the U.S. “Indie” Editor for the redoubtable Historical Novel Review), and more […]
It’s always when I read a lot of history (and I read more new history in 2014 than in any previous year of my life) that I wonder even more intensely than usual why anybody would ever read anything else. Here, after all, are the stories of mankind in all its unpredictable voracity, told by […]
The genre of fiction in 2014 was too anemic to warrant an Honor Roll, but this wasn’t the case at all for other genres, many of which fielded works so strongly they readily overflowed the arbitrary 10-title limit of my ‘Best’ lists. In 2014, Honor Rolls were easily possible for four or five such genres, […]
As I’ve mentioned in previous years, the health of the debut fiction field is often an excellent gauge of the health of the whole book-scene (the vigor and inventiveness of reprints being another). Hardcover books are, after all, obscenely expensive, and a first-time author is a chance, a speculation – not something an increasingly timid […]
The arithmetic that governs centennial celebrations in the Republic of Letters is schoolishly simple: you start with one (1) bromide, you multiply it by ten (10) factoids gleaned from Wikipedia, you increase that total by the number of readers who are likely to know anything at all about your subject (Arabic civilization gave us the […]
The roll call of periodicals I read was grimly undiminished in 2014. The list – currently National Geographic, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, GQ, Esquire, Vanity Fair, New York Magazine, Men’s Journal, Outside, The London Review of Books, Bookforum, Publisher’s Weekly, Harper’s, The Rolling Stone, […]
In 1871, thousands of aggrieved Parisians banded together to create an independent socialist community lodged inside their home city, and it functioned as a living dream – until it was brutally destroyed. A new book tells the story of the Paris Commune.
Laying out the ground rules for a new category like “Best Guilty Pleasures” almost necessitates defining such a thing as “guilty pleasures” just in general, I realize, and that’s always trickier than it seems, especially if you’re trying to avoid a lazy fall-back like Justice Potter Stewart’s offhand definition of pornography, I know it when […]
The book-snobs among you – and you know who you are – will no doubt raise an eyebrow at the fact that “Best Romance” is a separate category from “Guilty Pleasures.” “Surely,” such book-snobs will sniff, “all romance novels are guilty pleasures? Surely a genre with no pretensions to literary quality can’t be anything but […]
The danger of nature-writing in 2014 is glaringly obvious: nature itself is in full retreat on most parts of the planet. Species are going extinct at a rate unseen in millions of years; environments are being destroyed so quickly that the deterioration can be measured year by year and sometimes month by month; animal species […]
In a trend that’s continued for three years now, I read more new books this year than in any previous year of my life, a very drastic change from the many years when I read virtually no new books at all, and a big enough change even from as recent as ten years ago, when […]
December begins here in Boston as all other months now do, with bright sunlight, shirtsleeve weather, and not the smallest hint of wind or moisture – like Tempe, only with a Dunkin’ Donuts every 500 feet. But December of course has one distinctive feature: it signals the end of another year, the swift winding-down of […]
An older Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise-A voyage to the edge of the Federation to help two warring planets make peace – and there they encounter a long-lost figure from their past
Hugely talented biographer Andrew Roberts has written a big biography of Napoleon Bonaparte – but when it comes to such a well-known figure, are readers in danger of fatigue de bataille?
A pretty new anthology dips into the vast Chinese poetic tradition
Some Penguin Classics become immediately indispensable. They so firmly supplant all previous editions of their particular work that those previous editions become curiosities, interesting in only ancillary ways. A notable recent example of this would be the Royall Tyler translation of The Tale of the Heike, and now the Penguin imprint clearly has another: a […]
The Resurrection of the Dead We are buried below with everything we did, with our tears and our laughs. We have made storerooms of history out of it all, galleries of the past, and treasure houses, buildings and walls and endless stairs of iron and marble in the cellars of time. We will […]
A revelatory new book explores the uneasy dealings the Third Reich had with the thousands of Muslims who suddenly found themselves under Nazi rule
A fiery new history seeks to reclaim the lost honor of both Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans
When the chaos of the First World War swept over the Middle East, it disrupted patterns of life that had been steady for centuries – and left conflicts that roil still today
For eleven years I have regretted it, regretted that I did not do what I wanted to do as I sat there those four hours watching her die. I wanted to crawl in among the machinery and hold her in my arms, knowing the elementary, leftover bit of her mind would dimly recognize it was […]
She’s convinced they’re married; he’s adamant they’re not. Let the Regency games begin!
What an unruly, monstrous house cat hath joined together, let no man put asunder!
England’s newest viscount has an assassin’s target pinned to his new title, and the spies who accidentally put it there now have a nobleman to protect
It’s well known that Hitler looked to Mussolini’s success in Italy as a model for his own fascism, but a fascinating new book details the lesser-known fact that Hitler had another model as well – an earlier and more exotic one.
F. Paul Wilson’s supremely capable action-hero, “Repairman” Jack, wasn’t always the kneecap-crushing arm-breaking, bad guy-defenestrating paragon his legions of fans know and love; once upon a time, he was a kneecap-crushing, arm-breaking, bad guy-defenestrating neophyte with a dream. “Fear City” takes us back to 1993.
The war in Afghanistan began promisingly – and then dragged on, fell apart, and limped to a quasi-ending. A lively new book narrates the story
Ink Chorus The dear old Guardian the other day published what the kids call a “listicle” – basically a themed list of items air-pumped into roughly the dimensions of an actual column – on a subject near to my heart: good books about books and reading, and I was right away reminded of a good three […]
Intellectual polymath Roberto Calasso’s latest translated work is an exploration of the ancient hymns and verses of the Vedas
In this thriller, two specialists discover an unbelievable revelation written into the genetic code of all living things
Ink Chorus Our book today is Lawrence Clark Powell’s utterly delightful 1960 book Books in My Baggage, one of his follow-ups to his very popular earlier work of literary musings, A Passion for Books. I thought about this one lately because I’ve been low-grade fuming for a while now about the purblind convservatism of that […]
William Howard Taft was the only man to be both President of the United States and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and a new book tells the story of the overlooked years in between
For half a century, preacher Billy Graham was an unofficial spiritual advisor to presidents and rock stars; a new biography attempts to assess his impact on mainstream American religious thought
No doubt some of you spotted the item in your newsfeeds: a recent article noting that both Amazon and Publisher’s Weekly have already produced their lists of the Best Books of 2014, despite the fact that the year still has two months to go. This is of course both canny and craven; on the one […]
Fifty years ago, the author of “From Here to Eternity” wrote a vivid, impressionistic account of the Second World War, and that fascinating book now enjoys a new edition
Our story today is a corker from 1968: “If Asgard Falls …” from Thor Annual #2, written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby (with customarily perfect inks by Vince Colletta), the kind of fine hammy high fantasy that always best suits this strangest of all the original crop of Marvel superheroes Lee & […]
James Haley’s new history takes up the oft-told story of the Hawaiian Islands
On 8 November we honor the birthday of Bram Stoker, the author of the immortal 1897 novel Dracula, which brought Dracula and humanity-stalking vampires to the popular imagination and lodged them there so firmly that “Dracula” and “vampire” have become easy synonyms. Dracula has of course been packaged and re-packaged a million times, adapted for […]
The British Expeditionary Force in the First World War has accrued a great many legends over the last century; Peter Hart’s new account aims to delete the mythology – and still preserve the heroism
There’s a certain kind of purity-of-the-turf book-article that I expect to encounter on a regular basis in the Penny Press, and yet even though I expect it, the encounters are always a bit depressing. The theme never changes: I’m an old-fashioned reader; I’ll never cozy up to these new-fangled electronic books or electronic reading gizmos, […]
One of the little joys of book-reviewing is finding “echoes” of your own reviews in somebody else’s Table of Contents. My beloved Open Letters Monthly, though well-respected in the industry, is virtually unknown outside it (except perhaps for those curious browsers who find one of our blurbs on some new paperback), so it’s extra-pleasing for […]
Our book today is David McCord’s charming 1948 volume About Boston, a warmly affectionate look at Boston written by a Harvard graduate and long-time professional Harvard booster (and fundraiser! Good Grief, the man could get a donation-check out of a potted geranium) McCord, who was most famous in his own day as a charming poet, […]
An enjoyable new book draws some unexpected parallels between human society and the world of bees
Some Penguin Classics are welcome back in new reprints as often as opportunity allows; indeed, the persistence of their reappearances gives us one of the signature comforts of a canon. These works keep getting reprinted, we’re reassured, because some works deserve to be reprinted regularly. We can certainly think of the new Penguin Classics edition […]
The bestselling author of the “Kingkiller Chronicles” turns in a short novella devoted to one of his fan-favorite characters
Some Penguin Classics are amazing original productions, which is an odd thing to say about the world’s best line of reprints. A perfect example – and a timely one, considering the Halloween/Samhain double-whammy that strikes most of the West today – is the new Penguin Book of Witches, a fantastic original anthology of key original […]
A punchy and intensely readable new biography of America’s greatest playwright
Title Menu: A list of great political books that doesn’t include What It Takes by Richard Ben Cramer
Just in time for the November midterm elections, we do what doubters said couldn’t be done: we present you with a list of ten great political books that doesn’t include Richard Ben Cramer’s What It Takes.
Veteran historian Brookhiser takes a look at the formative influences on Abraham Lincoln – not so much his own father as the Founding Fathers.
Veteran popularizer Peter Ackroyd gives his readers a rattling good yarn of kings, decapitations, interregnums, frivolities, and depositions
The boyish hero of the American Revolution who became a more problematic and complicated figure in the political upheavals of his native France, the celebrated Marquis de Lafayette gets a sparkling new biography
He ruled an empire on which, it was famously said, the sun never set – and he did all the paperwork himself! It’s a new life of King Philip II of Spain
Our book today is Thorton Wilder’s wonderful 1948 epistolary Roman historical novel The Ides of March; I found a neat old green-jacketed cover at the Brattle Bookshop the other day, and I smiled all the more readily at the sight of it, since I’d recently been unutterably wearied by the hosannas showered by the book-chat […]
The mighty Maid who led medieval France’s armies to a string of improbable victories before being burned at the stake for witchcraft has been immortalized in song, on stage, on film – and in countless books. A new biography is the latest to tell the tale.
Our book today is Henry David Thoreau’s beloved posthumous 1865 book Cape Cod, a collection of pieces he wrote for the Penny Press detailing trips he and a companion made to Cape Cod in 1849, 1850, and 1853. They tramped everywhere, in all weathers, and Thoreau’s razor-sharp observational powers caught every nuance of the local […]
Biographer Kirstin Downey frees Queen Isabella from the shadow of her husband Ferdinand and sets her center-stage in her own incredible life
In colonial America, a strange, otherworldly English preacher set off a tidal wave of fundamentalist revivalism that shaped an entire generation.
Twenty-five years ago, the Berlin Wall came down and the structure of European politics changed literally overnight. A fantastic new book dissects a turning point in modern history
Wilbur Smith continues the adventures of his super-eunuch Taita in his latest novel set in ancient Egypt
Everybody knows Procopius as the author of the scandalous “Secret History” – but he wrote a long and fascinating work of straightforward history as well, and that work finally gets a great one-volume English edition.
3000 years ago, a capable, enigmatic woman named Hatshepsut ruled Egypt for over twenty years; a spirited new biography tells her story
Some Penguin Classics, as we’ve noted, become curious little gems in their own right, regardless of the advance of scholarship or textual history, and one of those is the 1957 translation of La Chanson de Roland done by renowned mystery novel author Dorothy Sayers. The Song of Roland, that massively popular medieval verse epic about […]
In postwar Washington, a group of smart, well-placed and high-powered friends helped to set national policy over after-dinner conversation – a sparkling new book tells their story
A new and raucous (and sometimes destructive) dawn of art, architecture, and nightlife broke over New York City in the decades after the Second World War; a gorgeous new book traces the major upheavals
New from the Belknap Press: a lavish new annotated edition of “Wuthering Heights”
Lieutenant Sebag returns in the second installment of Philippe Georget’s top-notch murder-thriller series set in southern France
The author of “The End of History and the Last Man” completes his massive study of the life-cycles of human governmental systems
The age of Michelangelo and Leonardo was also the age of plague and pestilence; a new book finds this fact fascinating
A fascinating new book uncovers new depths and complexities in the much-studied events of Wat Tyler’s Rebellion
The protracted dynastic struggle of York and Lancaster is the dramatic subject of the new book by historian Dan Jones
An attractive new book collects the vibrant dinosaur artwork of Julius Csotonyi
A lean and very readable history of the swindling, extrapolating, gambling, and cheating in Victorian England that gave rise to the financial world we have today.
Some Penguin Classics, however humbly and unassumingly, make some fairly large claims for themselves, or at least dare to dream big dreams. It’s certainly understandable: after all, the Penguin line has an illustrious history, and several of its editions have gone on to a textual life of their own. These editions are very often used […]
Just recently I was asked to recommend “the best books on Jack the Ripper,” and my immediate response, I’m almost ashamed to admit, was unabashedly Clintonian: it really depends on what’s meant by “best.” There’ve been thousands of books about the infamous Victorian serial killer who murdered at least five women in one of the […]
Some Penguin Classics would have been considered by their authors as only fitting, and one clear example of this would have to be Memoires d’outre-tombe by Francois-Rene, Vicomte de Chateaubriand, his “Memoirs from Beyond the Tomb,” which he worked on for the last fifteen years of his life and which were published shortly after his […]
It’s been 75 years since Batman first darkened the nightmares of comic-book villains in Gotham City and around the world; a deluxe new anthology presents three of the Caped Crusader’s most popular graphic novels
John Quincy Adams dreamed of an America very different from the chaotic and largely agrarian new nation he served for the whole of his life, and the details of that dream are laid out in a fine new study
Some Penguin Classics remain almost as startling on some levels now as they were when they were first published, and surely one such is the slim, darkly 1935 memorable novella Untouchable by the great Indian novelist Mulk Raj Anand, which chronicles the life and personal awakening of the handsome young boy Bakha, a member of […]
An exemplary new history tells the story of the First World War from the viewpoints of the aggressors
Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, gets a new biography by the popular Civil War historian James McPherson
by Peyton Marshall
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014
The undergirding premise of Peyton Marshall’s debut novel Goodhouse is stated fairly plainly by young James, an orphan in the late 21st century who’s been transferred to something called …
Suzannah Dunn’s new novel takes readers inside the lives and tensions of the Tudor era’s Seymour clan – including the timid, practical daughter who will become Queen of England
A lively new book traces the fascinating second life of Lucretius’s poem “On the Nature of Things”
After a harrowing near-death experience, a boy begins feverishly drawing monsters – but are his pictures mysteriously bringing them to life, or preventing them from coming to life?
Donald McCaig’s energetic retelling of Margaret Mitchell’s beloved “Gone with the Wind” gets a new paperback reprint
Bram Stoker’s undying classic gets a new makeover to correspond with a popular TV series
Our book today is the delightful Oxford Book of Letters from the halcyon year 1995, a beautifully-produced and jam-packed thing edited by Frank and Anita Kermode and devoted, of course, to what is now axiomatically referred to as “the lost art” of letter-writing. Axiomatically, but not, I think, melodramatically; letters were tangible things, after all, […]
Our book today is a carefree little 1932 gem No Poems, Or, Around the World Backwards & Sideways that celebrated Algonquin Club wit and raconteur Robert Benchley. By the point in his career when Benchley was writing the kinds of friendly observational squibs that comprise this volume, he’d carved out a niche for himself doing […]
The latest of S. M. Stirling’s novels of the post-technology “Change” takes up the adventures of a new generation in a strange new (and yet old) world
A new book looks at the family lives of five Virginian grandees during the American Revolution era
From Lincoln to Roosevelt to Eisenhower to Reagan and beyond – a new book tells the raucous and problematic history of the American Republican Party
In cities and suburbs all over the developed world, dozens of species of birds are making sometimes uneasy adaptations to the yards and neighborhoods and suburbs of human habitations – this is “subirdia,” and a spirited new book takes readers on a tour of it
An engrossing new history takes readers past the modern Disney version of Venice
We think of Aristotle as the premiere ancient philosopher, but Armand Marie Leroi’s witty, masterful new book urges us to remember that the philosopher was first and foremost a naturalist.
A paradox lies at the heart of Christopher Norment’s eloquent new book: the sea life of Death Valley
He painted writers, explorers, kings, princes … and Doctor Johnson, and his portraits made him immortal. A gorgeous new book looks at the work of Joshua Reynolds
A spry new history re-examines all the forces that converged to compel the separation between the British Empire and the American colonies
The long list for the National Book Award has been announced, so for one quick news cycle a few more people will be talking about books than otherwise would. The nonfiction list is a fairly disappointing assemblage of boring books: Nature’s God by Matthew Stewart (the likely winner, in my opinion), No Good Men Among […]
As I foresaw, Sarah Boxer’s ridiculous article in the July/August issue of Atlantic drew ample responses. In her article, Boxer does the full-Millions take on why so many mothers are missing from Disney movies. Naturally, her explanation in “Why Are All the Cartoon Mothers Dead?” involved a vast evil male conspiracy, and in the new […]
The Nurse in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” takes center stage in a new historical novel by Lois Leveen
There’s an entire Internet sub-strata that caters to cyber-attacks and “revenge porn,” and a sharply-reasoned new book urges that this sub-strata be brought under the rule of law, for the good of all.
Before the age of commercial aviation, travelers of all sorts spent time on passenger vessels, some of which were very humble and others famously grand. New from Seaforth Publishing is a beautiful book documenting that lost era
Summer’s last true efforts – it’s last firm grips of heat and humidity – have finally faltered here in Boston; the mid-afternoon skies are bright and warm as always, but the mornings now tell a different story: their shadows are longer, and there’s a touch of actual chill in them. Soon the season’s signature languor […]
A gripping new book uses a tragedy in Utah to examine the growing menace of texting while driving
When I opened the latest issue of my trusty Outside magazine, I thought the worst in bad-parenting outrage I’d have to face would be found in the letters column. Readers wrote in protesting the recklessness that writer Ted Conover had written about in an earlier issue, a monstrous and self-serving article called “This is How […]
On the one hand, I’ve trained myself over the last two years to hold virtually the entire run of DC Comics at arm’s length, since the comics company I’ve loved for so long is still in the throes of “The New 52,” a top-to-bottom revision of their superhero continuity, a revision almost entirely for the […]
What really happened that night in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, when four US citizens lost their lives when a large group of gunmen attacked the US compound? What were the forces that set the tragedy in motion, and could it have been prevented? A new book asks the hard questions
The events of September 11, 2012 at the American compound in Benghazi have proven extremely politically divisive, but Mitchell Zuckoff’s new book strives to stay focused on the men doing the fighting and dying
When a headstrong young woman jumps in a coach in order flee Mr. Wrong, she never guesses she’s got a passenger in the back who might just be Mr. Right.
What does a headstrong gambler do when she makes an all-or-nothing bet with an imperious lord – and loses?
King Henry VII’s victory at Bosworth transferred the crown of England to the new Tudor dynasty – but it also left many Plantagenets hanging around making Henry VII anxious. His son Henry VIII shared that anxiety, and his gradually-increasing persecution of the last remaining Plantagenets is the heart of Philippa Gregory’s new novel.
Historian S. C. Gwynne has written an immense – and immensely readable – biography of one of the most enduringly enigmatic figures of the American Civil War, Stonewall Jackson
We all know the names of Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams, but a terrifically engaging new book reminds us that the American Revolution’s supporting cast was no less fascinating
Spurred by a chance encounter with a wounded bird, Michele Raffin steadily grew her hobby into one of the world’s most successful sanctuaries for rare and threatened birds in need of rehabilitation.
Ken Follett’s enormous “Century Trilogy” comes to its conclusion against the backdrop of the Cold War, the civil rights struggle, and all the other trials of the 20th century
The First World War provided the dark inspiration for an entire generation of great writing, and a big new anthology assembles a stunning variety of that work, from the familiar to the obscure
A compendium of uplifting stories of ordinary people making extraordinary efforts to find ways to help the poor and disadvantaged of the world
A mild-mannered engineer goes out walking in Arizona and suddenly finds himself transported to a strange and violent alien world in M. C. Planck’s fantastic latest novel
A tightly-controlled kaleidoscopic debut novel from the lyricist for the Mountain Goats
“It’s not your fault.” “What’s not my fault?” “Nothing. Everything. I don’t know.”
In the face of a black wall of facts about environmental degradation and mass extinction, a scientist and teacher offers a much-needed note of hope
Some Penguin Classics feel commercially motivated, and of course that speculation applies firmly to something like big, hefty Four Tragedies, collecting the Penguin texts of Shakespeare’s Hamlet,Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth. This edition has been reprinted many times over the last thirty years, for one very commercial reason: schools all over the world use it […]
In the wake of Alexander the Great’s death, many voracious sub-kingdoms sprang up along the routes of his famous conquests. One of these would go on to become the Seleucid Empire, and a new book details its first century of existence
Our mystery today is The Stone Wife by Peter Lovesey, new from the wonderful folks at Soho Crime, the fourteenth of Lovesey’s novels to star stolid CID Superintendent Peter Diamond and his equally-stolid crew of investigators based in the lovely, historic old city of Bath. There’s pretty, intelligent Detective Sergeant Ingeborg Smith, and there’re veteran […]
Our mystery today is The Stone Wife by Peter Lovesey, new from the wonderful folks at Soho Crime, the fourteenth of Lovesey’s novels to star stolid CID Superintendent Peter Diamond and his equally-stolid crew of investigators based in the lovely, historic old city of Bath. There’s pretty, intelligent Detective Sergeant Ingeborg Smith, and there’re veteran […]
We think of the Middle East as a place of hopeless deadlocks – but once upon a time, an Egyptian president, an Israeli prime minister, and a U.S. president worked for two weeks to hammer out a plan for peace. Lawrence Wright takes readers to Camp David at a turning point in history.
A controversial author’s latest and most devastating indictment of Israel’s policies toward its Palestinian citizens and neighbors
Our story today is an oldie from the halcyon days of 1974, when a United States increasingly mired in the Watergate scandal got some much-needed distraction by turning to the pages of Marvel Comics for the comics event of the year (if you don’t count the first appearances of both the Punisher and Wolverine – […]
More and more information bombards us every day in what seems like an unbeatable torrent – and a new book attempts to separate the signal from the noise and help its readers to do a little mental triage
Back in the heyday of pre-reboot “Star Trek,” Captain Kirk and his crew had countless adventures – but what about all the other starships in the fleet? Didn’t any of them have adventures?
For centuries, the Confessions of Saint Augustine has been considered one of the greatest spiritual autobiographies ever written; the text’s first eight chapters gets a new translation in the venerable Loeb Classical Library
Our books today are two unconventional little hand-sized guidebooks to the marvellous city of Venice, 1966′s very popular and often-reprinted classic Venice for Pleasure by J. G. Links and Another Venice from the year 2000 by Jacopo Fasolo. Of course these two books are two little bits on a towering heap of Venice guidebooks – […]
2014 marks the sad centenary of the extinction of the passenger pigeon, whose vast flocks had once darkened the skies of a young America; a new book sounds out the messages of that melancholy anniversary
Lord Byron’s personal physician was a prolific writer in his own right, and he’s the subject of a pleasingly lurid new account
It’s been two blessed years since the New York Review of Books reprinted John Williams’s flatulently boring 1965 novel Stoner and the presumably bored grandees of the book-chat world surprised all rational people by taking it up as some sort of lost classic and singing its praises from every literary pulpit in the English-speaking world. […]
Our book today is a gorgeous 1974 Thames & Hudson volume called The English Country House: an art and a way of life, written by Olive Cook with loads of great photos by A. F. Kersting. The book has one of the most interesting and charming subjects of them all to examine, and it opens […]
A sweeping new history looks back half a century to the only wartime use of atomic weapons
President Nixon secretly tape-recorded his White House conversations for years – it was a habit that would help to destroy his administration, but before it did that, it created a huge archive of recorded conversations, which form the underpinning of a big new book
Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is the most famous painting in the world – but who was the young woman in the painting? A new book narrates the life of the best-known face of them all.
Our book today is another recent Brattle find: Enrico Dandolo & The Rise of Venice, a 2003 study of medieval Venice (and its most remarkable citizen, whose life spanned almost the whole of the twelfth century) by Thomas Madden, who has a wonderful way of scraping away the romantic veneer of post-Renaissance Venice and showing […]
Best-selling historian Hampton Sides takes as the subject of his new book a brave and failed 19th-century Arctic expedition
Our book today is an oversized ‘coffee table’ treat, Vincenzo Labella’s lavishly illustrated 1990 tour of the Italian Renaissance, A Season of Giants, 1492-1508: Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael. Labella claims right from the start that his book centers on three titanic artistic geniuses of the period, and when it comes to those three, our author never […]
A massive new biography chronicles the fascinating life of one of the greatest composers of all time
Our book today is By My Hand, the new Commissario Ricciardi mystery by Maurizio DeGiovanni – a richly textured and enormously enjoyable series starring a morose young police detective in 1930s Naples who, since his childhood, has had a gift – or, from his own viewpoint, suffered under a curse – that helps him in […]
My last experience with the every-other-month Boston Public Library books sale was so pleasing – not just the sight of lots of enthusiastic young people eagerly browsing the books but also a near-complete paperback set of Patrick O’Brian’s magnificent series of Aubrey/Maturin novels – that I hardly hesitated this morning to make the short trip […]
A fascinating debut collection of short stories set in modern China
Our book today is Saladin, the great 2008 biography by Director of Research at Paris’s Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique Anne-Marie Edde, now at last available in a sturdy paperback in an English-language translation by Jane Marie Todd. And although six years is a disgracefully long gap between French intellectual curiosity and American intellectual […]
Robert the Bruce: King of the Scots
by Michael Penman
Yale University Press, 2014
This summer marks the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, the epic confrontation in June 1314 between the English troops of Edward II …
The third voume of Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland trilogy is sure to fly off the shelves, but those flying copies will be light to the tune of a few needed footnotes, omissions our managing editor finds, to say the least, troubling.
The Black Hour
By Lori Rader-Day
Seventh Street Books, 2014
Lori Rader-Day’s thrillingly good debut mystery novel, The Black Hour, turns on a dolefully touchstone issue in the 21st century: school shootings. The school in question is Chicago’s …
A young man from the Victorian provinces comes to London to meet new kinds of people – and hoo boy, does he – in Lauren Owen’s lavish and, yes, seductive debut novel
Poe’s neat pairing of “the glory that was Greece” and “the grandeur that was Rome” belies the complexity of Republican Rome’s rapid expansion into the greater Mediterranean world and Asia Minor, the fascinating subject of Robin Waterfield’s new book
In 1553, an audacious expedition set sail from England headed east in search of a passage to China – a young historians debut work tells the story of that expedition in all its high drama
In 1588 the greatest war-fleet since the Trojan War was launched against the England of Elizabeth I. A gripping new history tells the familiar story for a new generation
A great new book of natural history focuses on the history, ecology, and behavior of the mountain lion, the fourth largest cat on the planet
When WWII army buddies go into the oil business in postwar Texas in James Lee Burke’s new novel, they encounter an enigmatic businessman who might make or break them
… and we’re not talking about cover prices, although they’re expensive enough (it really does make palm-to-forehead sense to subscribe to any magazine you regularly read). No, the real price for reading a lot of the Penny Press is the garbage you confront on your way to reading the good stuff. This is true […]
A long-time movie critic assembles some of his most passionate and fascinating essays on the great directors and actors of cinema’s golden age
A veteran reporter journeys deep into the heart of modern China and brings back predictably exotic stories
A new biography looks at the long life of one of mankind’s greatest artists through six of his greatest works
Anthony Ryan follows up his much-praised debut “Blood Song” with a much more ambitious sequel
An enterprising young writer takes his dog on a road-trip around America in search of all the dog-crazy people the country can provide
Tel Aviv writer D. A. Mishani’s police detective Avraham Avraham returns to his old precinct and is immediately embroiled in black markets, plots, and counter-plots.
The legendary science fiction anthology series by Gardner Dozois reaches its thirty-first incarnation, with 700 pages of standout stories
A debut short story collection spans the world for its settings and marks the appearance of a notable talent
Lady Jane Grey was famously Queen of England for less than a fortnight before being executed by Queen Mary I; Elizabeth Fremantle’s new book takes us into the world of Lady Jane’s two sisters, adrift in a royal court that can’t afford to trust them.
Our book today is a bit of a specialty item, I readily admit: it’s the sturdy volume commissioned and printed in order to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the venerable Boston Atheneum, Boston’s great private library, and right away we’re on squishy ground, since the long and torturous history of the Atheneum could admit […]
The villainous Captain Cook from “Peter Pan” stars in Lisa Jensen’s new novel – but it’s a far more complex and sympathetic version of the character than Neverland fans will remember
The dog days of summer have settled into place (although it’s resolutely refusing to feel that way in the entire eastern half of North America), and all my young friends over on BookTube are happily ensconced in making their July book-videos – very much including the book “hauls” they somehow manage to take in despite […]
Did the cataclysmic First World War actually have a hidden peace-dividend? Did it change the vocabulary of rapprochement forever? A vigorous new study makes a daring case
Our book today is 1981’s Thus Was Adonis Murdered by Sarah Caudwell, the pen name taken by Sarah Cockburn, the witty and delightful sister of famed muckraking journalists Patrick, Alexander, and Andrew Cockburn. She was a London barrister in the eccentric Rumpole mode, and in the down-time from her busy legal profession, she wrote murder […]
One of the foremost historians of the First World War offers a comprehensive and brutal overview of the conflict that gave birth to the modern world
Our book today is the utterly charming A Gathering of Shore Birds, a 1960 compilation of the wonderful bird-life columns Dr. Henry Marion Hall wrote for Audubon Magazine more than half a century ago. The editors at Devon-Adair (as the outfit used to be in palmier days, happy and sane) had the inspired notion to […]
A gripping account of the final days of the inept, tottering Austro-Hungarian empire – and the military apocalypse it helped to usher in
The discovery of Richard III’s skeleton in 2012 has flushed a number of books about the legendary dark monarch back into print – and none more welcome than this snappy volume by veteran biographer Desmond Seward
Naturally, I was eager to read Tom Junod’s piece in the new Esquire, “The State of the American Dog,” which is about the unfair stigmatizing of pit bulls in America and their subsequent skyrocketing execution rates in animals shelters across the country. And on a prose level, the piece itself doesn’t disappoint: Junod is a […]
A discontented English housewife impulsively kills her husband and is then faced with the logistical problem of what to do with his body. In Natalie Young’s chillingly readable new novel, that housewife does what comes naturally
In Sally Beauman’s new novel, a young girl sent to Egypt for her health becomes entangled in dramatic events surrounding Howard Carter’s discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb …
The boozy, gossipy author of “The Life of Johnson” was a working journalist-hack for the whole of his life, but hardly any of that material has been cleaned up and presented to the modern reader – until now, in a groundbreaking new volume from Yale University Press
One of the greatest British Prime Ministers of them all gets an authoritative new biography
Our book today is The Third Reich in Power, the massive 2005 middle block volume in Richard Evans’s enormous Nazi Germany trilogy, the first volume of which covers the Hitlerian rise to power and is necessarily the sketchiest of the three and the third volume of which, The Third Reich at War (which I reviewed […]
Babe Ruth, Mayor Walker, Duke Ellington, Dorothy Parker – New York City in the Jazz Age was a bristling landscape of giants, most of them from out of town. A vast and enthralling new history tells the stories of the people who made the Big Apple.
Our book today is A Face Turned Backward, the 1999 second installment in Lauren Haney’s delightful series of murder mysteries set in ancient Egypt and featuring stalwart (and easy on the eyes) Lieutenant Bak, commander of the Medjay police force in the frontier town of Buhen during the reign of the Pharaoh Hatshepsut. The book’s […]
Diplomat, author, congresswoman, power broker, playwright – Clare Boothe Luce crammed an enormous amount of living into her life, and the concluding volume of Sylvia Jukes Morris’s essential biography gives it all the sparkling narration it deserves
A generous new collection of essays by the legendary Joseph Epstein
John Anderson Winn’s thumpingly good new book studies the life and reign of Queen Anne through the least likely focus of them all – and succeeds wonderfully on all counts
One of the hard-chancing successors of Alexander the Great grabbed most of Asia when Alexander died – and then that successor and his successors worked desperately hard to hold onto it all
It’s always a thing I feel a little bit ashamed to admit, but there it is: I go to comic books mainly for their artwork. I know all about the brilliance of today’s comics writing – I hear about it all the time from comics aficionados, that today’s industry writers are smarter and more literate […]
The super-villain glimpsed at the end of the mega-hit “Avengers” movie casts a long shadow in the comic books where he was born – a new Marvel Comics graphic novel fills in some of the blanks