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Book Review: The World of Poldark

August 25th, 2016
Book Review: The World of Poldark

The companion book to the 2015 production of “Poldark” turns out to be more than just a pretty face

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.

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.

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.

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.

Looking Back: Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin, and Robert Frank in New York City

August 1st, 2016
Looking Back:  Diane Arbus, Nan Goldin, and Robert Frank in New York City

Diane Arbus’s photographs are weird. Their subjects are weird. She herself was weird. A new exhibit takes us back to the origins of that strangeness –and asks what it says to us now.

Patricide Deferred

August 1st, 2016
Patricide Deferred

Stuart Jeffries has written the first truly accessible account of the Frankfurt School. Robert Minto reviews.

“Just Call Her ‘Tailleferre’”

August 1st, 2016
“Just Call Her ‘Tailleferre’”

Even today, women composers still struggle for recognition. Michael Johnson explores the life and work of the unjustly forgotten Germaine Tailleferre.

Keeping the Faith, Keeping the Feast

August 1st, 2016
Keeping the Faith, Keeping the Feast

The masterful essays in Gregory Wolfe’s The Operation of Grace range from Mel Gibson to Thomas More, from Annie Dillard to Christopher Hitchens. Martyn Wendell Jones reviews.

From the Archives: One More, Please

August 1st, 2016
From the Archives: One More, Please

It’s been years—too long!—since Martha Argerich has preformed solo. Greg Waldmann eagerly pours thorugh her new DVD and the history of her brilliant career for clues to her reclusiveness and for glimmers of hope.

From the Archives: I Am Almost a Camera

August 1st, 2016
From the Archives: I Am Almost a Camera

As the Smithsonian’s new exhibit confirms, Richard Estes is the preeminent photo-realist painter of our time or–most likely–of any time. But to what extent is photo-realism an art worth practicing? And what does it do?

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

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

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

Summer Reading 2016 – Literary Journeys

July 1st, 2016
Summer Reading 2016 – Literary Journeys

This year in our annual Summer Reading feature, our writers recommend favorite books that take us on journeys – through time, around the world, or just out of ourselves.

Summer Reading 2016 Continues

July 1st, 2016
Summer Reading 2016 Continues

Part II of our Summer Reading feature brings more books about exploration and travel.

Fresh Fellow Travelers

July 1st, 2016
Fresh Fellow Travelers

Coyotes have successfully infiltrated almost every niche of the American landscape and folklore. Justin Hickey tours Coyote America by Dan Flores.

From the Archives: Summer Reading 2012

July 1st, 2016
From the Archives: Summer Reading 2012

As the haze and heat of summer kick into full swing, the folk of Open Letters break out their annual Summer Reading recommendations!

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.

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: 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

Book Review: MacArthur at War

June 13th, 2016
macarthur at war

The mercurial, often infuriating Pacific Theater commander Douglas MacArthur is the subject of Walter Borneman’s terrific new book

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.

Book Review: The Gene

June 3rd, 2016
the gene

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

The Cute One Redux

June 1st, 2016
The Cute One Redux

A sprawling new biography looks at both the quotidian day to day life and the pivotal music of the “cute” Beatle, Paul McCartney.

Kindling the Mob

June 1st, 2016
Kindling the Mob

A new biography tells the fascinating story of anarchist poet Lola Ridge, long overlooked by a critical culture that considered politics antithetical to literature. Laura Tanenbaum reviews.

Closing the Buffet

June 1st, 2016
Closing the Buffet

A fascinating new book reveals the wonders that are visible once humans stop thinking of fish as merely food with fins.

Rabbit Trails into History: An interview with translator Christiana Hills

June 1st, 2016
Rabbit Trails into History: An interview with translator Christiana Hills

Steve Danziger talks with Christina Hills, a “cruciverbalist” translator from the controversial Oulipo school.

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.

Socrates of Amazonia

June 1st, 2016
Socrates of Amazonia

What exactly is a philosopher? As it turns out, that question may have more than one answer. Robert Minto shares the exciting results of Justin Smith’s new history.

Why Don’t You Both Shut Up?

June 1st, 2016
Why Don’t You Both Shut Up?

In the United States in the last few decades, issues of free speech have drifted closer and closer to the heart of American life. A new book analyzes a right too many Americans take for granted.

The Devil in the Hills

June 1st, 2016
The Devil in the Hills

A new book about Primo Levi’s morally questionable acts as a Partisan can’t cut him down to size: his own self-critique makes that superfluous.

From the Archives: Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeeezin’

June 1st, 2016
From the Archives: Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeeezin’

It has three hearts, eight tentacles, and a brain of startling and utterly alien complexity – it’s the octopus, and a heartfelt book takes readers inside the cephalopod world.

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 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.

An Interview with Whit Stillman

May 21st, 2016
l_f

Locke Peterseim talks with Whit Stillman, director of the critically acclaimed new Jane Austen movie “Love & Friendship”

Absent Friends: Darwyn Cooke

May 17th, 2016
newfront2

Editor Zach Rabiroff revisits the great masterpiece of the late Darwyn Cooke

Darwyn Cooke

May 14th, 2016
cookesuperman

Darwyn Cooke

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: 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.

A Period of Most Powerful Transition

May 1st, 2016
A Period of Most Powerful Transition

In his world-ranging new popular history Heyday, Ben Wilson looks at the Great Exhibition of 1851 as a focal point of the 19th-century grand dream of commerce and culture. Zach Rabiroff reviews.

‘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.

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

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.

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

Book Review: The Whole Harmonium

April 6th, 2016
Book Review: The Whole Harmonium

A sympathetic new biography of the poet Wallace Stevens

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

On Edwin O’Connor’s The Last Hurrah

April 1st, 2016
On Edwin O’Connor’s <em>The Last Hurrah</em>

In his essay on a new reprint of Edwin O’Connor’s great and indispensable novel of old-style American ward politics, Jack Beatty introduces readers to the serious comedy of The Last Hurrah.

Requiem with Yellow Butterflies: The World Mourns García Márquez

April 1st, 2016
Requiem with Yellow Butterflies: The World Mourns García Márquez

How do we memorialize a literary titan who shaped his own mythology? The story of legendary writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez gained its protean final chapter in the wave of obituaries after his death in 2014.

Answer in Paradox

April 1st, 2016
Answer in Paradox

An intimate new biography gives us a Charlotte Brontë for our times – and raises questions about the entanglement of life and art.

A Question of Character

April 1st, 2016
A Question of Character

In an entertaining new study of Sartre, Camus, de Beauvoir and company, the existentialist movement becomes a personality-driven piece of public performance.

Orestes in Spandex

April 1st, 2016
Orestes in Spandex

Fifty years ago, a daring writer and a quirky artist created an offbeat character who became one of the most famous superheroes in the world. A look at the early days of Spider-Man.

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.

Incriminating Bits

April 1st, 2016
Incriminating Bits

Maggie Nelson’s gripping revisionist memoir of a murder could be considered anti-narrative non-fiction: it at once participates in storytelling and critiques it.

From the Archives: No Strange Quirk of Fate

April 1st, 2016
Avengers

Avengers films have grossed nearly $3 billion dollars, and that’s not counting the spinoffs. Lost in all the hype is the rich history of the comic itself; Justin Hickey explores the convergence of pulp and pixels.

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.

Book Review: Baby Birds

March 25th, 2016
Book Review: Baby Birds

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

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

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: 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 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

Mirror Writing

March 1st, 2016
Abani

There are two kinds of essayists: explainers and explorers. Which populate the new series from Restless Books about the human face? John Cotter investigates.

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.

I Am Jack’s Contested Legacy

March 1st, 2016
I Am Jack’s Contested Legacy

The book Fight Club – and even more so the movie adaptation – have cult fixtures in American culture. But after twenty years, is there anything left for a sequel to subvert? Justin Hickey reads Fight Club 2.

Another Way To See

March 1st, 2016
Another Way To See

John Berger’s writing on art often feels more dramatic than analytic, a passionate study of the unspoken transaction between artist and viewer. Robert Minto looks at Portraits.

Here to Write

March 1st, 2016
Here to Write

Kay Boyle, friend to William Carlos Williams, Katherine Anne Porter, and Samuel Beckett, was famous for her short stories but also wrote a lifetime’s worth of fascinating letters, now sampled in a new anthology.

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

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.

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: 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

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.

A History of Violence

February 1st, 2016
A History of Violence

When watching a Quentin Tarantino film, critic Max Ross contends, you can never forget you’re watching a Quentin Tarantino flim. But is that a strength or a weakness of his latest, The Hateful Eight?

In the Service: Koussevitzky of Boston

February 1st, 2016
In the Service: Koussevitzky of Boston

Determining the legacy of Boston’s legendary conductor Serge Koussevitsky is a challenging task. Michael Johnson examines the man, the myth, and the music.

Book Review: Cosmosapiens

January 26th, 2016
cosmosapiens

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

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

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

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

Slaves in the Empire of Intellect

January 1st, 2016
Slaves in the Empire of Intellect

Before he was a famous and controversial philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche was a young professor with a bone to pick. Robert Minto discusses his critique of higher education.

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.”

My Disappearance

January 1st, 2016
Teach

A professor of Creative Writing discovers he is the main character in one of his student’s stories, and the picture he’s presented with is eerily spot on. A memoir of a dangerous profession.

Watching the Waves Roll In

January 1st, 2016
Watching the Waves Roll In

Robert Lax was always moving, both poetically and geographically. A new biography tells the story of his uncommon life.

Romantics without Rebellion

January 1st, 2016
Romantics without Rebellion

In the 1930s, a handful of clubbable Christian scribblers got together for tea and conversation and produced both The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. What on earth went on there?

Gallantry Once a Week: Boswell’s Grand Tour

January 1st, 2016
Gallantry Once a Week: Boswell’s Grand Tour

Before he was a master biographer, James Boswell was a best-selling author of travel writing. Luciano Mangiafico explores his scandalous life in Italy.

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

Me Am Your Smallest Fan

December 1st, 2015
Me Am Your Smallest Fan

Long, long before Superman appeared in Action Comics #1 in 1938, human folklore was rife with super-beings. A new book takes a look at the more-than-human.

In Defense of Makeup

December 1st, 2015
In Defense of Makeup

Lisa Eldridge, in her new book Face Paint, traces the long and surprisingly volatile history of makeup. Jane Shmidt reviews.

‘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.

The Cultural Regressives

December 1st, 2015
The Cultural Regressives

In the summer of 2014, the so-called “Gamergate” controversy convulsed the world of online video gaming, raising issues of sexism and political correctness that still rage today. Phillip Lobo tries to look at the big picture.

If Only Historians Could Write Like Him Now!” The Art and Legacy of Edward Gibbon

December 1st, 2015
If Only Historians Could Write Like Him Now!” The Art and Legacy of Edward Gibbon

“Always scribble, scribble, scribble!” the King joked to the historian, and we remember it still; Luciano Mangiafico looks at the remarkable life of Edward Gibbon.

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”

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: Great Soul of Siberia

November 8th, 2015
great soul of siberia

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

Friends on the Patio

November 1st, 2015
Friends on the Patio

Essayist, critic, novelist, and public gadfly: Gore Vidal’s long career took many forms and sprang from a life as dramatic as his work. Has that life finally found a biography to do it justice?

Pilgrimages to Paris

November 1st, 2015
Pilgrimages to Paris

What is the allure of famous cemeteries like Paris’s Père Lachaise? Perhaps the crowds – of graves, and of visitors – reassure us that even in death we won’t really be alone.

Never Have Hands Been So Vital to a Creature

November 1st, 2015
Never Have Hands Been So Vital to a Creature

In Zachary Thomas Dodson’s visionary and inventive debut novel, a violent past and a dystopian future are woven together into a tale of families, legacies … and bats. Justin Hickey reviews Bats of the Republic.

Banksy’s World

November 1st, 2015
Banksy’s World

An insurgent graffiti artist becomes an art house favorite and recognized brand; Jared Pollen explores the many-layered ironies of Banksy’s world.

Insurrections of the Bland

November 1st, 2015
Insurrections of the Bland

The New Republic once embodied a vibrant, eclectic liberalism. A new anthology inadvertently tells a depressing story about the decline of that vision.

The Broken Clock

November 1st, 2015
The Broken Clock

Controversial former Vice President Dick Cheney and his journalist daughter Liz have written a book claiming that the exceptional nature of American power is being sullied and squandered by the current occupant of the White House. Greg Waldmann reviews Exceptional.

Conspicuous Obscurity

November 1st, 2015
Conspicuous Obscurity

Joshua Harmon’s new collection, The Annotated Mixtape, bills itself as a set of learned and personal liner notes. It is that, but, alas says our reviewer, that isn’t all that it is.

Book Review: Keeping An Eye On Art

October 22nd, 2015
keeping an eye on art

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

Book Review: Evolution – The Whole Story

October 19th, 2015
meg

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

Book Review: Xerxes

October 12th, 2015
xerxes

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

Book Review: Winston Churchill Reporting

October 12th, 2015
winston churchill reporting

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

Book Review: King John

October 11th, 2015
king john – morris

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

Book Review: Napoleon – Soldier of Destiny

October 8th, 2015
napoleon broers

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

Ecology of the Imagination

October 1st, 2015
Ecology of the Imagination

For over sixty years, the story of humanity’s weird fascination with UFOs has been unfolding across nations and societies. A new book goes beyond easy mockery to ask some, er, probing questions.

Border Reports

October 1st, 2015
Border Reports

How do we become ourselves? For Vivian Gornick, wandering the city streets is one way to both ask and answer that question; for us, her book becomes a bracing guide to doing the same.

Soaring Aloft

October 1st, 2015
Soaring Aloft

Years after his death, Olivier Messiaen remains a divisive figure. Michael Johnson explores the controversial composer’s imprint on modern music.

Turning Points: Jane Avril in Paris

October 1st, 2015
Turning Points: Jane Avril in Paris

For the woman who became dancer Jane Avril, life was transformed when she realized that what had been called mental illness she could claim for herself as art.

Book Review: Islam and the Future of Tolerance

September 29th, 2015
islam harris

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

Book Review: Mary McGrory: The First Queen of Journalism

September 21st, 2015
mary running

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

Book Review: Gamelife

September 21st, 2015
gamelife

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

Book Review: Man of Destiny

September 15th, 2015
man of destiny

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

Book Review: Among the Bone Eaters

September 13th, 2015
marcus and willi

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

Book Review: The Double Life of Liliane

September 12th, 2015
the double life of liliane

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

Book Review: Building Art

September 9th, 2015
building art cover

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

In Paperback: Walden’s Shore

September 7th, 2015
walden’s short

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

Book Review: Monsters

September 7th, 2015
monsters

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

Book Review: The Invention of Nature

September 6th, 2015
the invention of nature

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

Book Review: I Can Give You Anything But Love

September 4th, 2015
i can give you anything but love

A witty, unsparing memoir from author and critic Gary Indiana

Book Review: Snowden

September 2nd, 2015
snowden2

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

Book Review: Self and Soul

September 2nd, 2015
self and soul

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

Book Review: A River Runs Again

September 1st, 2015
a river runs again

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

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

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

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

Fosse’s Dark Vision

September 1st, 2015
Fosse’s Dark Vision

Director Bob Fosse dreamed that his 1983 movie Star 80 would put him in the front ranks of Hollywood, but what resulted was both stranger and – our reviewer urges – more powerful than it first seemed.

Know Your Name

September 1st, 2015
Know Your Name

Game of Thrones is remarkably faithful to George R. R. Martin’s original epic series, except for one vital element: it transforms his subversive morality into conventional fantasy.

Knowledge of the Life

September 1st, 2015
Knowledge of the Life

What are literary biographies good for, anyway? Do they provide insight into the work or just tittle-tattle about the life? Scott Donaldson’s The Impossible Craft offers a brief on this endlessly alluring genre.

An Impressionistic Outlier

September 1st, 2015
An Impressionistic Outlier

Lesser-known – and perhaps just plain lesser? – French Impressionist painter Gustave Caillebotte gets his first major American retrospective.

Book Review: Bismarck

August 24th, 2015
bismarck ullrich

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

Book Review: After Nature

August 22nd, 2015
after nature

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

Book Review: Pedigree

August 14th, 2015
pedigree cover

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

Book Review: Ashoka in Ancient India

August 13th, 2015
ashoka in ancient india

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

Book Review: Barbarian Days

August 12th, 2015
barbarian days cover

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

Book Review: Voices in the Ocean

August 8th, 2015
voices in the ocean

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

Book Review: Voltaire’s Revolution

August 4th, 2015
voltaire’s revolution

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

“The Strangest Teens of All”

August 1st, 2015
“The Strangest Teens of All”

The venerable concept of the superhero team dates back to 1940, but in 1975 Marvel Comics introduced a new team of X-Men – and an empire was born.

Eileen Chang’s Changes: from Love in Redland to Naked Earth

August 1st, 2015
Eileen Chang’s Changes: from <em>Love in Redland</em> to <em>Naked Earth</em>

Eileen Chang would never have written her hot-button anticommunist masterpiece Naked Earth without US Government encouragement and support. What should contemporary readers make of this?

Painful to Nice Feelings

August 1st, 2015
Painful to Nice Feelings

He sailed around Cape Horn and wrote a classic about it, and he fought for the downtrodden in Boston courts for thirty years – he was Richard Henry Dana, Jr., and he’s the subject of a thought-provoking new biography.

Interview: Debut author Geoffrey Storm

July 20th, 2015
Interview: Debut author Geoffrey Storm

Debut author Geoffrey Storm started down the usual path – writing conferences, agents – but then decided to take the route so many new authors are taking and self-publish his first novel. He talks with Open Letters about that process.

Book Review: Beyond Words

July 18th, 2015
beyond words

In his beautifully-written new book, ecologist Carl Safina takes a broader look at the emotional and mental lives of nonhuman animals

Book Review: In a Dark Wood

July 16th, 2015
in a dark wood cover

A professor of Italian clings to Dante’s Divine Comedy when confronted with an unthinkable tragedy in his own life

Book Review: Joan of Arc

July 16th, 2015
joan of arc

The half-legendary Maid of Orleans gets a refreshingly wide-angled new history from Helen Castor

Book Review: The Quiet Man

July 15th, 2015
the quiet man cover

A memoir of the first President Bush, written by his former Chief of Staff

Book Review: Wolves on the Hunt

July 14th, 2015
wolves on the hunt!

Far from the popular image of ravenous killing machines, wolves are actually surprisingly cautious predators who carefully weigh the risks they take, as a stunning new study illustrates

Book Review: The Runes of Evolution

July 9th, 2015
the runes of evolution

Time and again in the history of life, environmental pressures and biological systems combine to produce the same adaptations in wildly different species and epochs. It’s called convergent evolution, and Simon Conway Morris has written its grand opera.

Peer Review: Front Row Seats

July 1st, 2015
Peer Review: Front Row Seats

Biographer Zachary Leader takes his readers on a long, detailed tour of the first half of Saul Bellow’s life, and while those readers may be loving it, the critics have been complaining!

American Exceptional

July 1st, 2015
American Exceptional

Adam Begley’s long and exhaustive biography of iconic 20th century author John Updike reads like one long string of new books and new love affairs – but does it capture the man?

Steep, Bloody Engagements

July 1st, 2015
Steep, Bloody Engagements

The success of the documentary Blackfish has thrown a spotlight on orcas not as the “killer” whales of the ocean but as victims; a dazzling new natural history broadens the picture to show us truly magnificent alien beings.

A Moon, A Girl … Romance!

July 1st, 2015
A Moon, A Girl … Romance!

Sure, we all know Superman, Wonder Woman, and Spider-Man – but what about the also-rans? Who played the Captain and Tennille to the Avengers’ Sonny and Cher? Zach Rabiroff looks at the heroes who didn’t quite make the prime-time cut.

Caved-in and Chopfallen

July 1st, 2015
Caved-in and Chopfallen

The brutal realities of the urban landscape are both indicted and illuminated in the paintings of Jerome Witkin. Brett Busang examines the life and work of this inner city Canaletto.

Poor People are Like Oysters: The Life of Giovanni Verga

July 1st, 2015
Poor People are Like Oysters: The Life of Giovanni Verga

Most people today know him only from the libretto of one short opera, but in his own day, he was a famous poet, playwright, and scholar – and a compulsive litigant. Luciano Mangiafico looks at the life of Giovanni Verga.

Book Review: Domesticated

June 24th, 2015
domesticated cover

Tens of thousands of years ago, humans domesticated canines and thereby changed the dynamics of life on earth – a change humanity then continued by domesticating other species. A fascinating new book details the process

Book Review: The Upright Thinkers

June 24th, 2015
the upright thinkers cover

Millions of years ago, hominids began walking upright – thus expanding their field of view and freeing their hands for mischief and took-making. A new book celebrates the result.

In Paperback: Human Universe

June 24th, 2015
human universe cover

Now in paperback in the US: the companion book to the popular BBC science program hosted by physicist Brian Cox

Book Review: The World Beyond Your Head

June 18th, 2015
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The “ecologies of attention and action” form the dynamic heart of philosopher Matthew Crawford’s new book. Robert Minto reviews.

Book Review: Charles I & The People of England

June 16th, 2015
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How did the dynamics of kingship apply to a distant and socially maladroit little creature like King Charles I? A terrific new book looks at personality and power in the Stuart era

Book Review: Bright Eyed

June 11th, 2015
bright eyed

A new memoir about sleeplessness – and the wired culture that seems to encourage it

In Paperback: Wildlife in the Anthropocene

June 11th, 2015
wildlife in the anthropocene

Now in paperback: a new rumination on the nature of the post-wildlife world mankind has built

Book Review: The Rise of Thomas Cromwell

June 10th, 2015
rise of cromwell cover

Hilary Mantel’s two famous novels have fueled the centuries-old curiosity about King Henry VIII’s notorious minister Thomas Cromwell: was he a saint, Satan, or a civil servant? A magnificent new study attempts to sift fact from fiction

Book Review: Shakespeare and the Countess

June 4th, 2015
shakespeare and the countess cover

The 1596 battle over Blackfriars Theatre was waged by a strong-willed Puritan woman who had a habit of picking fights, including with the Queen; a terrific new book tells the story at length for the first time

Book Review: Wellington, Waterloo and the Fortunes of Peace

June 3rd, 2015
half-centurie wellingtons

In time for the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo comes the concluding volume in Rory Muir’s magisterial biography of the battle’s victor, the Duke of Wellington

Book Review: Behind the Mask

June 1st, 2015
behind the mask

The enigmatic and compelling aristocratic author Vita Sackville-West is the subject of an approachable new biography

Father Knows Best

June 1st, 2015
Father Knows Best

He shaped the morals and manners of a vast country and put an indelible stamp on the world’s thinking, but he himself couldn’t get the job he wanted. Robert Minto reviews a new history of Confucianism.

No Doubters in the Shipyards

June 1st, 2015
No Doubters in the Shipyards

Celebrated biographer H. W. Brands has written the first full-dress of Ronald Reagan since the former president’s death in 2004 – but does Reagan elude him, as he has so many biographers? Steve Donoghue reviews.

The Pangs

June 1st, 2015
The Pangs

The ecstasy and anguish of falling in love have been the stuff of poetry for thousands of years – but do they boil down to the workings of serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline? Jane Schmidt reviews a new look at romantic love.

Scala or Piolo? The Painstaking Brilliance of Alessandro Manzoni

June 1st, 2015
<em>Scala or Piolo?</em> The Painstaking Brilliance of Alessandro Manzoni

Poet, dramatist, and author of the great Italian novel I promessi sposi, Alessandro Manzoni led a life as fascinating as his fiction. Luciano Mangiafico tells the story of the Father of Italian Prose.

Book Review: Fastest Things on Wings

May 30th, 2015
fastest things on wings

A group of rescuers in Southern California treat the most delicate patients imaginable: injured hummingbirds

Book Review: Noise Matters

May 29th, 2015
noise matters cover

A genuinely thought-provoking new work of science-writing probes the nature – and even the value – of noise

Book Review: Goethe

May 26th, 2015
goethe cover

A short new biography seeks to do the impossible: encompass the Protean life of Goethe in only a handful of pages. Robert Minto reviews.

Book Review: The Obelisk and the Englishman

May 21st, 2015
the obelisk and the englishman cover

The pioneering English Egyptologist William Bankes gets a smart and vivacious new biography

Classics Reissued: Onward and Upward in the Garden

May 13th, 2015
nyrb onward and upward cover

The quintessential modern classic of gardening-literature gets a very nice reprint

Book Review: A Buzz in the Meadow

May 13th, 2015
buzz new.indd

A nature enthusiast looks at the countless little lives taking place on his small rural French meadow-farm

Book Review: Theatre of the Unimpressed

May 12th, 2015
theatre of the unimpressed cover

A wunderkind of the Canadian theater world writes an impassioned manifesto about everything that’s wrong with the theater world – with better results than you’d expect

Classics Reissued: Cyriac of Ancona

May 12th, 2015
cyriac of ancona

During the Italian Renaissance, one enterprising autodidact took it upon himself to track down and transcribe as many inscriptions from the ancient world as he could find

Book Review: John Knox

May 9th, 2015
john knox cover

The firebrand preacher and founder of the Presbyterian denomination is the subject of a masterful new biography

Book Review: JFK and LBJ – The Last Two Great Presidents

May 8th, 2015
jfk and lbj cover

A former British White House correspondent looks back half a century at the two titans who ruled a now-vanished Washington

Book Review: Faith vs. Fact

May 7th, 2015
faith vs fact cover

Religion and science – the so-called “non-overlapping magisteria” – are actually deeply adversarial, writes “Why Evolution is True” author Jerry Coyne

‘I’m the Top Goddess – How Could I Fail to Make Trouble?’

May 1st, 2015
‘I’m the Top Goddess – How Could I Fail to Make Trouble?’

Renowned classicist and historian Peter Green has at last produced a translation of the Iliad – and it comes with its own Greek Chorus. Steve Donoghue investigates.

The Schizophrenic Prophet

May 1st, 2015
The Schizophrenic Prophet

A sumptuous new Library of America volume contains a rich sampling of the work of Reinhold Niebuhr – whom reviewer Robert Minto refers to as “the premiere establishment theologian of the 20th century.”

The Atrium Effect: Museums Under Glass

May 1st, 2015
The Atrium Effect: Museums Under Glass

Big slabs of glass may look impressive, but they have a serious effect on our interaction with art. Museums are changing, and it isn’t always a good thing.

A Cycle of Horrifying Songs

May 1st, 2015
schubert’s winter journey – Copy

Schubert’s bleak, tumultuous song cycle, Winterreise, is the subject of tenor Ian Bostridge’s passionate new book. Greg Waldmann examines Schubert’s Winter Journey, and the trouble with hard-to-love classical music.

Reading Poetry

May 1st, 2015
Reading Poetry

From Wallace Stevens to Seamus Heaney to Jorie Graham, the latest collection of critical pieces by Helen Vendler celebrates the worth of a wide array of writers. Jack Hanson reviews The Ocean, the Bird, and the Scholar.

In the Flesh

May 1st, 2015
In the Flesh

Into an unremarkable marriage comes a major disruption: the wife stops eating meat. Suddenly, everything in their usually orderly world goes out of control.

Hectic Hyperborea

May 1st, 2015
Hectic Hyperborea

Michael Pye’s new book provides a rich history of the North Sea in human culture – and pokes holes in some crass nationalist myth-making along the way. Matt Ray reviews The Edge of the World.

Book Reivew: Planck: Driven by Vision, Broken by War

April 30th, 2015
planck cover

Max Planck, the great physicist and father of quantum theory, gets a marvelous and empathetic new biography

Book Review: Stalin: New Biography of a Dictator

April 29th, 2015
Khlevniuk jkt ks.indd

A new biography takes advantage of recently-opened Soviet archives

In Paperback: Saved by the Sea

April 25th, 2015
saved by the sea

In his moving account, now in paperback from New World Library, David Helvarg recounts the wonders and wealth of the world’s oceans

Book Review: Cuckoo: Cheating by Nature

April 24th, 2015
cuckoo cover

Cuckoos use other species of birds to raise the young they abandon, and they’ve been doing it for thousands of years without getting arrested. An absorbing new book isn’t precisely rooting for them, but still …

Book Review: The Intimate Bond

April 23rd, 2015
the intimate bond cover

An extremely winning new book explores the enormous ways eight particular animal kinds have altered the course of human life on Earth

Book Review: Fortune’s Fool

April 20th, 2015
fortune’s fool cover

The latest full-dress biography of John Wilkes Booth seeks to get at the flesh-and-blood man beneath the monster

Book Review: Lincoln’s Autocrat

April 13th, 2015
lincols autocrat

President Lincoln’s mercurial Secretary of War Edwin Stanton gets a full-dress biography that would have gladdened the heart of anybody who ever wanted to hit him with a shovel

Book Review: James Merrill – Life and Art

April 12th, 2015
james merrill cover

The poet James Merrill at long last gets the lavish soup-to-nuts biography he’s always deserved

Book Review: Visions and Revisions

April 10th, 2015
visions and revisions cover

From the novelist, critic, and columnist Dale Peck comes a series of autobiographical essays and reflections about life during the height of the AIDS epidemic

Protean Things

April 8th, 2015
Protean Things

Hilary Mantel’s best-selling Tudor novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, have made their way to the stage on the expert handling of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Zach Rabiroff had front row center.

Book Review: Bonaparte, 1769-1802

April 6th, 2015
bonaparte cover

A gigantic new biography chronicles the rise-to-power of Napoleon Bonaparte

Book Review: Secret Warriors

April 3rd, 2015
Scan 46

Beyond the battles and trenches of the First World War, a dozen less glamorous but no less vital fights were being waged – in laboratories and darkrooms and publishing offices. A vibrant new book tells the story of the other World War I

Book Review: King John and the Road to Magna Carta

April 2nd, 2015
king john uk cover

800 years ago, King John “Lackland” sealed Magna Carta and unwittingly laid the foundation for some of Western law; a new book takes a fresh look at this much-maligned figure

“Il n’y a pas d’Israël pour moi”

April 1st, 2015
“Il n’y a pas d’Israël pour moi”

In Michel Houellebecq’s uncannily timely new novel, the triumph of an Islamist government relieves the dreary banality that defines the secular France of the 21st century.

Mary Anne and the Adventurer

April 1st, 2015
Mary Anne and the Adventurer

Traditional cynicism has always maintained that Benjamin Disraeli married Mary Anne Wyndham Lewis primarily for her money, but a new book argues that the real picture was a good deal more complex – and interesting – than that.

Fabergé Monsters

April 1st, 2015
Fabergé Monsters

These fairies of the air are among the most beautiful sights of summer. They’re also 300 million years old and honed killing machines. A new book of photography shows us dragonflies as we’ve never seen them.

Press Enter

April 1st, 2015
Press Enter

Author Jacob Silverman contends in his new book that the intrusions of social media into our private lives has reached sometimes intolerable extents. But what does he mean by “intolerable”? And who is he counting as “our”?

One Encounter: John Koch’s Figure on a Bed

April 1st, 2015
One Encounter: John Koch’s Figure on a Bed

In his painting “Figure on a Bed,” John Koch immortalizes the kind of private moment that’s usually lost in an instant – Brett Busang muses on one arresting piece of art.

Ruins, Mourning, and Cigarettes

April 1st, 2015
Ruins, Mourning, and Cigarettes

Set in the precarious territory between fiction and history, Nicolas Rothwell’s beautiful, haunting Belomor explores the ways storytelling serves as an impetus for self-discovery.

Unmaking L’empereur

April 1st, 2015
Unmaking <em>L’empereur</em>

The 2nd Light Battalion King’s Division played a pivotal role at the Battle of Waterloo, as a slim new history by Brendan Simms demonstrates. Matt Ray reviews the book in his Open Letters debut.

Realism and Russia’s Fate

April 1st, 2015
Realism and Russia’s Fate

The star translating team of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (aided this time by Richard Nelson) translate Turgenev’s A Month in the Country, with predictably disruptive results. Jack Hanson reviews.

Book Review: American Burke: The Uncommon Liberalism of Daniel Patrick Moynihan

March 31st, 2015
uncommon liberalism cover

American senator, author, and statesman Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s complex and constantly-evolving political philosophy is the subject of a pointed new book

Book Review: Galileo’s Telescope

March 29th, 2015
galileo’s telescope cover

One little spyglass – only four fingers long – changed the world; a sparkling new book tells the story of Galileo’s “recounting of the stars”

Book Review: Notes from a Dead House

March 22nd, 2015
notes from a dead house cover

Dostoevsky’s great semi-fictionalized prison memoir gets a sterling new translation from the superstar team of Pevear and Volokhonsky

Book Review: Young Eliot

March 21st, 2015
young eliot cover

A lavishly-detailed new biography shows us Thomas Stearns Eliot in his slightly fussy, slightly feckless pre-fame years

Book Review: The Fortunes of Francis Barber

March 20th, 2015
thefortunes of francis barber cover

One of the only two people at the deathbed of Samuel Johnson was a young ex-slave to whom Johnson was, in his testy way, devoted. A new book finally gives Francis Barber the biography he’s always deserved

Book Review: Plato’s Wayward Path

March 19th, 2015
9780674417212-lg

Plato might be Western philosophy’s first great writer, but a new book argues we’ve mostly been reading him wrong.

Book Review: What Stands in a Storm

March 19th, 2015
what stands in a storm cover

A new book details the terrible destruction caused by a record-breaking series of tornadoes that struck the American South in 2011

Book Review: Akhenaten & The Origins of Monotheism

March 16th, 2015
akhenaten & the origins of monotheism

The rebel pharaoh who instituted a radical new monotheism gets a highly-detailed and revisionist investigation

Book Review: Hissing Cousins

March 14th, 2015
hissing cousins cover

The daughter of the first President Roosevelt and the wife of the second President Roosevelt had a long and sometimes cross-purposed relationship. A new book dishes the old dirt.

Book Review: Those Who Write For Immortality

March 13th, 2015
those who write cover

“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work,” Woody Allen famously quipped; “I want to achieve immortality through not dying.” Robert Minto reviews a new book on what it takes to make it big in the literary afterlife

Book Review: I Hate Myselfie

March 12th, 2015
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Wildly popular YouTube phenomenon Shane Dawson now has a BOOK!

Book Review: Goldeneye

March 11th, 2015
they call me squire

Ian Fleming bought a run-down villa in Jamaica and used it as the workshop – and backdrop – for his world-famous James Bond novels. A new book takes us inside the world of Goldeneye

Book Review: The Violent Century

March 7th, 2015
Tidhar-ViolentCenturyUS-Blog

In a world very much like our own, super-powered clandestine operatives vie with each other on missions to save or destroy humanity

Book Review: Rust

March 6th, 2015
rust cover

Every day, all around us, everything solid is inexorably corroding into powder. A game new book takes readers inside the surprisingly fascinating world of rust

Book Review: A Great and Terrible King

March 5th, 2015
great and terrible king ukcover

He established Parliament, hammered the Scots, expelled the Jews, and inspired centuries of biographers – England’s King Edward I gets a lively new biography

Book Review: The Next Species

March 3rd, 2015
the next species cover

Species arrive, thrive, and then go extinct – but after the long and frightful reign of Homo sapiens … what?

There’s the Door, Spaceman

March 1st, 2015
There’s the Door, Spaceman

DC Comics gives writer/artist Darwyn Cooke’s masterpiece The New Frontier, a shrewd and powerful re-imagining of DC’s iconic superheroes, the glorious hardcover edition it deserves. Justin Hickey re-reads.

The Art of Socialist America

March 1st, 2015
The Art of Socialist America

The Works Progress Administration did more than set thousand of Americans to building bridges and roads in the 1930s; it also fostered art, as an exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Art Gallery lavishly illustrates.

Blame the Dog

March 1st, 2015
Blame the Dog

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?

Flowers of Prison

March 1st, 2015
Flowers of Prison

Controversial Chinese artist and activist Ai WeiWei set an art installation inside the walls of America’s most notorious prisons – with surreal and sometimes beautiful results.

Leviathan in the Offing

March 1st, 2015
Leviathan in the Offing

Ron Howard’s adaptation of Nathaniel Philbrick’s bestselling In the Heart of the Sea will soon appear, but even the trailers raise rich questions: Why does this story still have the power to fascinate? A Moby-Dick fan ponders.

The Familiar is Strange

March 1st, 2015
The Familiar is Strange

Stalking the pages of Thomas Pierce’s debut story collection, where the surreal shares quarters with the ordinary, are dwarf mammoths, genetically modified guard dogs, baby Pippin monkeys, and a parakeet named Magnificent.

Book Review: The Interstellar Age

February 20th, 2015
interstellar age cover

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

Book Review: The Just City

February 18th, 2015
the just city cover

In Jo Walton’s latest novel, the “just city” of Plato’s Republic is brought to life via Greek gods, robots, and a little discreet time travel

Book Review: Machiavelli

February 15th, 2015
Book Review: Machiavelli

An engaging new book looks at that perennial fascination for biographers, Niccolo Machiavelli

Book Review: The Strategist

February 14th, 2015
the strategist cover

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

Book Review: The Cultural Lives of Whales and Dolphins

February 12th, 2015
cultural lives of whales and dolphins cover

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

Book Review: Sartre: A Philosophical Biography

February 11th, 2015
sartre cover

Sartre the man takes a distant back seat to Sartre the thinker in Thomas Flynn’s new intellectual biography

Outrunning the Constables

February 1st, 2015
Outrunning the Constables

To shut down his internal censors, Karl Ove Knausgaard wrote My Struggle at the astounding rate of over a thousand pages a year. The result is fiction that is vibrantly alive.

These Pictures are Themselves Little Souls

February 1st, 2015
These Pictures are Themselves Little Souls

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.

“Why, It’s I!”

February 1st, 2015
“Why, It’s I!”

Any new translation of a classic like Anna Kareninainevitably raises an awkward question: what was wrong with all the old translations? Debut writer Zach Rabiroff takes it line-by-line

Après moi, le déluge

February 1st, 2015
Après moi, le déluge

Charles Marville’s extraordinary photographs of 19th-century Paris are like a cautionary tale, urging us to preserve the best of what is left in our own cities.

Kitchen Witchery

February 1st, 2015
Kitchen Witchery

For centuries, women have handed down much more than recipes from their kitchens: they have shared the special alchemy that transforms the mundane into the magical.

Book Review: The Age of Consequences

January 29th, 2015
age of consequences cover

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

Book Review: Half-Life

January 28th, 2015
half-life cover

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

Book Review: Ocean Worlds

January 24th, 2015
ocean worlds

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

Plying the Darkness

January 1st, 2015
Plying the Darkness

Brian Turner’s complex, lyrical meditations on his tour of duty in Iraq make us ache with the privilege that is a war memoir.

J

January 1st, 2015
J

James Laughlin started a publishing imprint, New Directions, by selling what would become a syllabus of Modern writing from the trunk of his car.

Those Rascally Parthians! An Interview with author Andrew Levkoff

January 1st, 2015
Those Rascally Parthians! An Interview with author Andrew Levkoff

Open Letters Monthly interviews the author of Blood of Eagles, book three of the Bow of Heaven series.

Enlisted Again

January 1st, 2015
Enlisted Again

Once he’d led the Continental Army to victory, General George Washington retired to his Mount Vernon home – but the newborn country wasn’t done with him yet. A new book looks at First Citizen Washington.

Pointez, Pointez!

December 1st, 2014
Pointez, Pointez!

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?

An Interview with Katy Bohinc

December 1st, 2014
An Interview with Katy Bohinc

Maureen Thorson interviews Katy Bohinc, poet and author of Dear Alain.

#NotAllNazis

December 1st, 2014
#NotAllNazis

What would you do if your artistic survival suddenly depended on the whims of a brutal dictatorship? How far would you compromise? How much would you risk? A new book studies artists in the Third Reich.

The Fighter

December 1st, 2014
The Fighter

Norman Mailer was as fiery and mercurial a letter-writer as he was a novelist and journalist – and ten times as prolific. A big new volume collects the highlights of a lifetime in the post.

Not What Isaiah Had in Mind

December 1st, 2014
Not What Isaiah Had in Mind

Can a book about the Jewish Diaspora add anything useful on the topic if it’s uninterested in Jewish history and slightly dodgy about the Diaspora? Jordan MaGill gives Alan Wolfe’s At Home in Exile a close reading.

Thinking in Common

November 1st, 2014
Thinking in Common

The great critic and essayist Irving Howe laid claim to a great many decayed traditions – and then elevated them all to high art. A new collection of his prose presents some of his gems.

Stop Their World Spinning

November 1st, 2014
Stop Their World Spinning

Against a pervasive American sports culture, author Steve Allmond pits a devastating critique of the savage violence – and staggering toll in injuries and deaths – of football.

Title Menu: A list of great political books that doesn’t include What It Takes by Richard Ben Cramer

November 1st, 2014
Title Menu: A list of great political books that doesn’t include <em>What It Takes</em> 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.

More Faith, Better Grounded

November 1st, 2014
More Faith, Better Grounded

A reissue of James Agee’s letters to Father Flye give a picture of the writer’s naked ambition, excoriating self-hatred, and unrefined genius. But it also raises the question: Do we remember Agee more for what he wrote or what his addictions prevented him from writing?

An Unfolding Elegy

November 1st, 2014
An Unfolding Elegy

When sudden death claimed poet Jake Adam York at the age of 40, it cut short his life’s work of commemorating all the martyrs of the American Civil Rights movement; Teow Lim Goh re-reads the man and his work.

The Book of Abraham

November 1st, 2014
The Book of Abraham

Veteran historian Brookhiser takes a look at the formative influences on Abraham Lincoln – not so much his own father as the Founding Fathers.

Grosz Anatomy

October 1st, 2014
Grosz Anatomy

In his latest collection of essays, Theater of Cruelty, Ian Buruma launches a series of expert investigations into the springs of cruelty and the perils of victomhood.

Woven and Severed

October 1st, 2014
Woven and Severed

For millennia, the mighty tales in the epics of Homer have challenged and enthralled the world; a thought-provoking new book seeks to understand why.

Broken

October 1st, 2014
Broken

The wide-ranging themes of this wrenching novel are unified by imagery that links its heroine to an unexpected community of the traumatized living dead.

The Other John Cage

October 1st, 2014
The Other John Cage

John Cage’s controversial music is his best-known legacy, but his voluminous writings and artwork, equally inventive, have been unfairly neglected. It’s time to right this wrong.

WAKE UUUUP!

October 1st, 2014
WAKE UUUUP!

What does the summer of 1989, when Do the Right Thing hit theaters, have to say to the summer of Ferguson, and police militarization, and race relations today?

Title Menu: 10 Minutes from Prometheus

September 1st, 2014
Title Menu: 10 Minutes from <em>Prometheus</em>

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, ill-served by critics when it appeared last year, is the finest sequel to the Alien movies yet made. Our contributing editor chooses ten exemplary minutes to make his case.

The Grey Zone

August 1st, 2014
The Grey Zone

Gertrude van Tijn helped more than 20,000 Jews escape occupied Holland. What does it mean that, in saving their lives, she had to collaborate with Nazis?

An Ignorant Highbrow

August 1st, 2014
An Ignorant Highbrow

If you think distinctions between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art are stuffy Victorian relics, our beleagured Stephen Akey says, you’re just not paying enough attention. So are you a highbrow? And should you be? And should everybody be?

Title Menu: 10 Great “Minor” Works by Major Writers

August 1st, 2014
Title Menu: 10 Great “Minor” Works by Major Writers

The great writers of the ages were hardly (often) one-hit wonders. In praise of diversity, the staff at OLM celebrate the lesser-known b-sides of some pretty well known pens.

Grand Affiliations

August 1st, 2014
Grand Affiliations

Metaphor: a tool for poets and rhetoricians, but also, perhaps, the way that people connect to the world at large. Lianne Habinek reviews a gamesome new study by the great literary critic Denis Donoghue.

Socrates Offside

August 1st, 2014
Socrates Offside

What place do deep questions about the meaning of life have in our technological age? Is philosophy more important than ever?

A Picture Book

August 1st, 2014
A Picture Book

Cover art from Omni, the new-age science mag of yore, is now a coffee table book: Giger, Frazetta, and Grant Wood are all here, but something crucial has been left out.

Sleeping In

August 1st, 2014
Sleeping In

Sam Harris, one of the “Four Horsemen” of the New Atheist movement, has written a book about how to live a spiritual life without religion. But does this anti-preacher book come off a bit preachy? Maybe even, awkwardly enough, dogmatic?

Giddy Discomfort

August 1st, 2014
Giddy Discomfort

How ought we to read the reactions of viewers to a piece of provocative art? What if that piece, like Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby” is entirely to do with race?

Losing Music

July 1st, 2014
Losing Music

“We can pour anything into it – any fear or catastrophe or yearning, any warning” – music both fills our lives and helps to shape them. But what happens if music starts, slowly, haltingly, to go away? A harrowing personal essay.

Beethoven in the Soul

July 1st, 2014
Beethoven in the Soul

Over time, the books of our youth make way for titles better suited to the grown-up readers we have become. But not all of them: YA or not, some books — such as K. M. Peyton’s Pennington trilogy — deserve a lasting place on our shelves.

Title Menu: 12 Hot Summer Reads

July 1st, 2014
Title Menu: 12 Hot Summer Reads

It’s summer at last, and you won’t find any relief from the heat in our editors’ round-up of the hottest books they know.

It Wasn’t Palimpsestuous

July 1st, 2014
It Wasn’t Palimpsestuous

The collectors of rare 78 rpm records are nearly as singular and remarkable as the vinyl they seek out. A new book travels to flea markets and music fairs to discover the secrets of these American obsessives.

Only Him

July 1st, 2014
Only Him

In the discipline of philosophy, “Aristotelian” evokes not just a school of thought but an entire world. “Ethics After Aristotle” traces the history and impact of the most influential thought-tradition of them all.

Hanging On: Modernity and the Crisis of Suicide

June 1st, 2014
Hanging On: Modernity and the Crisis of Suicide

With suicides on the rise throughout the Western world, a recent study by Jennifer Hecht attempts to both diagnose the frightening trend and evangelize against it. Ivan Kenneally discusses how effective her arguments are likely to be.

Dervishes and Gypsies

June 1st, 2014
Dervishes and Gypsies

Legendary Indian author Saadat Hasan Manto’s choicest short stories – depicting a teeming Bombay that’s both long-vanished and eternal – receive an attractive new paperback edition from Vintage International

Skilled in the Ways of the Desert

May 1st, 2014
Skilled in the Ways of the Desert

A fascinating new book tells the remarkable stories of five ‘improbable’ women who defied convention to explore the much mythologised landscape of the Middle East.

Left Wanting

May 1st, 2014
Left Wanting

Elia Kazan’s unwavering confidence in his own brilliance was the spur to his successes as a director and the source of his infamy as a Cold War canary. A new collection of his letters makes his outsized personality seem even larger.

Paper Mausoleums

May 1st, 2014
Paper Mausoleums

Rock music is all about inflaming the senses. Rock biographies, on the other hand, are built from facts and reasoned explanations. Matthew Stevens looks at a study of the life of Big Star frontman Alex Chilton, and wonders what fans can get out of it.

Strange Troubador

May 1st, 2014
Strange Troubador

Joseph Roth spent his life fighting the kind of lazy dangers that arise from the rot of empire, even as his life and his letters embodied so many of them.

Echo Chamber Blues

May 1st, 2014
Echo Chamber Blues

Marvel Comics is mopping up at the box office, but what of its rival DC? Our resident expert fisks the also-rans and reminds us about an epic story still waiting to be adapted.

Ariel: Shelley in Italy

May 1st, 2014
Ariel: Shelley in Italy

Like so many before him, the celebrated Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley had a tangled and complicated history with Italy, equal parts inspiration and frustration. Luciano Mangiafico tells the story

The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit

April 1st, 2014
The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit

William S. Burroughs’s notorious Cut-up Trilogy was his fiercest broadside against what he felt was the tyranny of linear thought. Steve Danziger delves into their Word Hoard.

Love in a Cold Climate

April 1st, 2014
Love in a Cold Climate

Isabel Greenberg’s graphic novel is set in the frozen land of Nord, but its lush storytelling influences come from such legendary places as Mount Olympus and Mount Sinai

The Art of the Con

March 1st, 2014
The Art of the Con

Years ago, while on the hunt for writing material, Walter Kirn befriended an eccentric, dog-loving raconteur named Clark Rockefeller. Then Rockefeller was charged with murder, kidnapping and identity fraud, and Kirn had his book. G. Robert Ogilvy reviews Blood Will Out.

Come, O, Come to Raintree County

March 1st, 2014
Come, O, Come to Raintree County

Raintree County may be the greatest American novel nobody has ever read. When Michael Johnson pulled it off his shelf, he was instantly hooked: maybe it’s time for a revival.

Pistols and Pearls

March 1st, 2014
Pistols and Pearls

It’s Melbourne in the late 1920s and violence keeps intruding into the elegant world of jazz clubs, cocktails, and fabulous fashion. No matter: Phryne Fisher is on the case.

Title Menu: 7 Books on Art Crime

March 1st, 2014
Title Menu: 7 Books on Art Crime

Art crimes aren’t really sexy: they are an offense against humanity. Leah Triplett offers up a catalog of recent studies that explain the criminal attraction to art.

Pedestaled in Triumph: Robert Browning in Italy

March 1st, 2014
Pedestaled in Triumph: Robert Browning in Italy

The great and problematic poet Robert Browning drew some of his most powerful poetic inspirations from the lore and lure of Italy; Luciano Mangiafico traces the complicated relationship of the man to his “adopted homeland.”

Lost in Eliot

February 1st, 2014
Lost in Eliot

The books we reread say a lot about who we are or who we hope to be. They also shape us, as Rebecca Mead discovers in exploring her own long relationship with George Eliot’s Middlemarch.

War, in Panorama

February 1st, 2014
War, in Panorama

How could they do it, those young men who, with every reason to live, walked deliberately into machine-gun fire? Joe Sacco gives us a panoramic view of the horror, the labor, and the losses of WWI.