Articles in OL Weekly
That age-old happy nostrum – the inherent superiority of human beings over all other life in the universe – gets its scientific Sunday best polished and pressed
Feel like starting up a literary magazine? Why the hell not!
One of the biggest success stories among the world’s language gets a genial history
A vivid look at the culture and politics that led to Japan’s ill-fated attack on Pearl Harbor
The controversial historian returns with a new alarm-call about the rise of international antisemitism
A group of extra-dimensional retainers must protect their exiled prince – but he doesn’t know who he is, and they don’t either.
Two professors – with oceanside views – take readers on a hundred-year history of the world’s coolest sport
A prickly-smart new analysis contends that we too easily simplify the great World War I battle of Verdun
One of the 20th Century’s greatest poets finally gets her definitive biography
After fifteen years, the fantastic “Anno Dracula” series continues
A quarter-century after its first appearance, a beloved popular-science classic gets a new reprint
A new volume from the mighty Abbeville Press will warm your cold, withered heart if anything still can!
A legendary editor assembles the leading lights of science fiction for the new century – he hopes.
The album of the week is the unmatched choral music of James MacMillan and Capella Nova
Open Letters mourns the death of enchanting rogue Peter O’Toole.
There’s more than mere misery in the expertly-managed passage of events in Paul Rome’s debut novel
A quick-paced new history of not just of the city of Venice but of the remarkable men and women who strutted across its stage during the long centuries of its life
A life-long love of the Classics is distilled into a new translation of Homer’s Iliad
A life-long writer and editor looks back on his life
A massive new biography serves to remind us that war and politics were always intricately connected in the life of the Duke of Wellington
There’s a certain unforgettable sound that can only come from Hungarian composers; a new recording of György Kurtág’s Splinters suite captures it with bracing clarity
One of the first volumes of a new color reprint series from Marvel Comics features some high-flying adventures by the summer’s superhero star, the mighty Thor!
Fresh from chasing horse-thieves in wild Dakota territories, a rail-tough Theodore Roosevelt returned to New York City to face bandits of quite another sort – the Tammany Hall sort. A lean new history tells the great story.
Five remarkable men came together in 19th century St. Petersburg to challenge each other, compete with each other, inspire each other, and encourage each other – and some quite remarkable music resulted
The Zehetmair Quartet delivers a rich new recording of music by Beethoven, Bruckner, Hartmann and Holliger
The near- infinite abundance of the Internet may seem incredibly alluring, but in his new book David Mikics argues that it’s eating away at our ability to appreciate fully what we read. He offers rules and admonitions, as you might expect
The open frontier of self-publishing attracts a wide variety of pioneers – fiercely individual storytellers who for one reason or another have chosen a different path to realizing their writing dreams. One such pioneer is Jack Merridew, who at age 20 is already the author of two self-published works of fiction – and a successful YouTube creator as well. Open Letters talks with him about the brave new world of promoting your own dreams.
The great Natalie Dessay is back … this time singing movie soundtracks? Norman Lebrecht listens.
It’s an act of aggression in which the victim is the perpetrator, and it’s a crime for which the criminal cannot be punished: it’s suicide, and statistics show we’re in the middle of an epidemic of it. A thoughtful new book lays out the case for sticking around.
American diplomats and Foreign Service workers travel for America, negotiate for America, cheerlead for America, and sometimes die for America – a magnificent new book gives them the sweeping historical account they’ve always deserved.
A new book by Brad Stone on Amazon.com: does it make nice with the online Goliath, or brandish a slingshot?
Lang Lang unites with Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Symphony Orchestra unite to perform two of the world’s most show-stopping piano concertos
A big new volume studies Napoleon Bonaparte from the peak of his power to the last days of his final exile
A born warrior striving to become a refined gentleman, or a refined gentleman striving to learn a warrior’s ways? A new book looks at Washington the military commander
They’ve always been among us, those rare individuals we call geniuses – but the distinction’s meaning has subtly altered over the centuries. It’s a big, interesting subject, boiled down by Darrin McMahon into a short, interesting book
Every reader of history has heard of Pickett’s Charge, the so-called high-tide mark of the Confederate cause, but the author of a new book contends that the true pivotal point was another charge altogether, led by a different man – on a different day.
A quirky teenage girl comes home one day to find her father missing, and she quickly learns he’s being held hostage. When she sets herself to save him, Arin Greenwood’s YA novel “Save the Enemy” is off and running – and sometimes tripping over itself
A great conductor writes a great biography about a great composer!
King George VI and Winston Churchill forged a remarkable working relationship during the trying years of World War II – a new book looks at how it happened, and why
Strong-willed Southern governor Cooper Lanier’s husband is running for president, and she’s learning things about him she’d rather not know in Robert Inman’s warm and involving new novel
First in war, first in peace, first in line for the powers of a god
The great critic and memoirist Clive James has a volume of new poems doing some very old things
Michael Palmer, 1942-2013
The strangest, most alien creatures on the Earth have three hearts and big, unfathomable brains – and, famously, eight arms. It’s the sprawling family of octopus species, and they get a soup-to-nuts examination in Katherine Harmon Courage’s new book
King Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, takes center stage in a new novel by Tudor historian Carolly Erickson
Coyotes prowl our golf courses, cougars haunt our bike-trails, and owls skinny-dip in our bird-baths – a new book looks at the wild animals that fill in the spaces of human cities
When the South Pacific opened up for Western exploration, ‘experimental gentlemen’ swarmed there to make discoveries – and to make history
It’s not every writer who can write a book that stays in print continuously for 300 years, but the author of “Gulliver’s Travels” is one of those writers. A lively new biography looks at the great Jonathan Swift
England’s ‘bluff king Hal’ is put under the microscope in a scathing new biography
Our reigning master of vigorous popular history takes on the most vigorous, popular English dynasty of them all
The much-vexed life of the last Stuart monarch gets a gripping, electrifyingly good new examination
A certain pristine elegance marks Paul Yoon’s latest book
Deutsche Grammophon brings forth a stunning recital at Wigmore Hall by Portuguese musicians Antonio Meneses & Maria Joao Pires. Norman Lebrecht reviews.
The ironic Grindhouse killing machine is back in Robert Rodriguez’s new movie
A new life of Jack London – by the world’s foremost authority on the man’s life and work.
Daniel Woodrell’s new novel may be slim, but it burns with the fiercest struggle of them all: the madness for survival
Now at last in an English translation: the heart-breaking, history-making memoir of the world’s greatest Czech writer
A master military historian joins the crowd writing about the outbreak of the First World War
A new collection of personal essays – some funny, some touching, all piercingly intelligent – from one of America’s greatest cultural critics
Congratulations to Alice Munro, winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature and, in the words of the prize committee, “master of the contemporary short story.” Small in its explicit scope but rich in meaning, …
“‘Pride and Prejudice’ meets ‘Downton Abbey'” is an easy way to pigeon-hole Jo Baker’s new novel – but it’s the cheapest way too, giving almost no hint of just how good a book this is.
Pianist Boris Giltburg’s somber, beautiful new album shows a heartening independent spirit. Norman Lebrecht reviews.
David Abulafia’s big book – now in paperback – tackles a subject pivotal to huge swaths of human history: the Mediterraean, that watery intersection of Europe, Asia, and Africa
The famous novelist presents some essays by a pre-war Viennese intellectual and helps us all to understand those works.
Before he became one of America’s most famous presidents, John Kennedy was a hot-shot senator and a photogenic winner of the Pulitzer Prize. But did the Senate years help to form the Oval Office years?
A master historian analyzes the tempestuous relationship between two titans of the newborn United States
The songs to My Fair Lady, sung in German? Just one of the idiosyncrasies of Diana Damrau’s irresistible new vocal album.
The cult favorite HBO western inspires an anthology of essays devoted to the show’s most outrageous feature: its language (foul and otherwise)
The first great era of Marvel Comics’ immortal superhero (and present-day cinematic star), the Might Thor, is given a deluxe hardcover reprint volume
The author of the hit “The World Without Us” returns with a new book in which he ponders whether or not a world WITH us is even possible – and what it would cost.
A riveting new book looks at the catastrophe that befell Germany’s Jewish performers and composers when the Nazis came to power.
In 1832, nineteen-year-old Richard Wagner composed two piano sonatas in an effort to fill the vacuum left by Beethoven’s death. Norman Lebrecht discusses the results.
A symposium of distinguished scholars dissects the wildly ambitious and varied artistic life of the great William Kent
A young man born and raised in the wild of Yosemite Valley is forced into a series of confrontations with an encroaching outside world.
Behold: a near perfect album. German baritone Matthias Goerne soars in a new recording of the music of Hanns Eisler.
A big, riveting new history looks at the unforgettable men and women who filled the history of the most tumultuous three-decade span in American history
What if each one of the original 79 ‘Star Trek’ TV episodes had instead been a full-length movie? A stellar new collection of the posters for those movies boldly goes where no theater-goer has gone before
The hero of David Levithan’s “Every Day” – now out in paperback – lives his life as a spirit inhabiting the lives of others, until something happens that makes him want his own reality
Bald and ruthless interplanetary badass Riddick is back, played by the man who made him a cult sci-fi favorite
The popular teacher and blogger collects her most memorable book reviews from the last dozen years
A magnificent new volume tours Egyptian history – starting a mind-bogglingly long time ago
An exhaustive – and immensely enjoyable – line-by-line examination of Shakespeare’s final play
While Henry VIII was away fighting the French, his kingdom was invaded from the north by James of Scotland. It was defended by thousands of brave soldiers, a handful of ambitious courtiers – and one remarkable woman.
Pretty young Audrey has grown up in the Tudor court thinking she’s the daughter of King Henry VIII’s tailor – but what if her real father is the king himself?
In Michael Shea’s new novel, an insane movie producer seeks vengeance on the wily extras who eluded his grasp – it’s a delightful riff on late-night sci-fi movies … and a reminder of what sharp fun good science fiction can be.
A. C. Crispin
The gap between reality and the words with which people try to capture it lies at the heart of Dan Beachy-Quick’s intelligent, lyrical novel
Karl Goldmark’s lively second symphony is a lyric celebration of life’s great moments in lush orchestration. Norman Lebrecht reviews a fizzy new recording.
Victorian historical painting and Victorian historical fiction met in a glorious collaboration of national mythology. Andrew Sanders, in a magnificent new study from Yale University Press, gives that collaboration a delightfully thorough questioning.
Mick Herron, author of the celebrated spy novel Dead Lions, opens up about the influence of the godfather of his genre, John le Carré
In bestselling author David Levithan’s new novel, two boys try to set a world’s record for the longest kiss – and their adventure is cheered on by the most unlikely chorus
International shipping provides virtually everything around you as you read this (including the computer you’re reading it on), and yet most people no nothing about this reclusive industry. Rose George’s new book sheds some light.
The Battle of Kursk was one of the most epic confrontations in the history of warfare – a vivid new history calls it the turning point of the entire Second World War
Kuniko Kato, percussion virtuoso, uses marimbas, crotales, bells and vibraphones to adapt the work of classical composers
No matter how an imaginative child might shape-shift, a mother’s love follows right along in Nancy Tillman’s enchanting new picture book
More than at any point in their collective history, mankind’s great ape cousins face the threat of total extinction. A passionate new book outlines all the threats – and clings to some hope
In 1982, Vladimir came to London and gave his first recital in Europe in 31 years. The release of that performance is something no piano lover can do without.
Rats, snakes, gulls, cockroaches, and half a dozen other notorious varmints – a delightful new anthology takes readers deep inside the world of the animals they love to hate
A new paperback explores the mysteries of turtles
The powerhouse annual science fiction anthology series turns thirty with a new collection drawn from all the sci-fi periodicals of the English-speaking world
The great 20th century poet Anthony Hecht was also a charming and indefatigable letter-writer. A new volume does its best to capture the range and wit that captivated two generations of correspondents.
Cassandra Clare’s phenomenally popular novel about a young woman who learns she’s a born demon-hunter comes at last to the big screen
The ancient Roman historian Suetonius wrote such a rollicking, gossipy book about the first twelve emperors that historians have been re-writing his book ever since
The exhaustive Yale edition of the complete correspondence of T. S. Eliot reaches a very busy period in the life of Eliot the editor and businessman, working away at the center of a vast and fascinating literary world
In June, Britten’s “Peter Grimes” was staged on the beach at the Aldeburgh Festival of Music. The results, Norman Lebrecht writes, were remarkable.
The great – and problematic – 20th century composer gets a broad-minded and intensely sensitive new biography
“In the winter, I stop short in the path to admire how the trees grow up without forethought, regardless of time and circumstances. They do not wait as man does …” A beautiful new edition of Henry David Thoreau’s essays.
The long-rumored psychic powers of the human brain get a high-spirited new examination.
A crucial turning-point battle in the American Revolution is given an extensively detailed and tradition-challenging new history
The great Austrian pianist Artur Schnabel was in his mind a composer first and foremost. Norman Lebrecht reviews a recording of his piano works.
Roger Tory Peterson called them “the butterflies of the bird world” – they’re wood warblers, and when it comes to identifying and understanding them, Princeton University Press has published the Bible
“The Cousins’ War” – Philippa Gregory’s ongoing novelization of the Wars of the Roses – reaches an epic turning point in her latest book, about the precarious founding of the Tudor dynasty
Clinton, Gage, Burgoyne, the Howe brothers – and of course Lord Cornwallis: their names are synonymous in the United States with bumbling defeat, but a rousing new book takes a fresh look at all these formerly infamous figures
Hugh Jackman reprises his beloved role as the X-Men’s hairy clawed Canadian killer, Wolverine
A wonderfully-illutrated new volume brings together the latest research about the glittering era that brought us the Sutton Hoo treasure, the epic of Beowulf, and the deep sediment of law
A popular science writer looks at the evidence for life on other planets
The latest events in the life of immortal, imperturbable Count Saint-Germain find him in Crusades-era Egypt
Rousing naval action and atmospheric period drama share the stage in S. Thomas Russell’s latest novel, by any other name
The old cast from “RED” reunites, along with some new faces – but is this sequel already showing cracks and wrinkles?
It’s only July, but Norman Lebrecht may have found his choral album of the year. A review of the magnificent folk songs in Naxos’s “Down by the Sea.”
Two teenage misfits – neither vampires nor aliens – form an unlikely alliance that blossoms, naturally, into something more
A bored cop in a beautiful French Mediterranean town is suddenly confronted with a genuine murder mystery in the middle of a typical tourist summer
The latest volume in the author’s magnificent multi-volume biography covers the last years of Kafka’s life – years marked by passionate affairs, political upheavals, and the shadow of his final illness
Now in an attractive reprint from Princeton: the first volume in Reiner Stach’s towering multi-volume biography of the 20th century’s troubled literary godfather
A short Kafka biography by a renowned historian makes some unconventional interpretations of the 20th century’s most enigmatic writer
There’s gunplay, there’s skullduggery, there’s the Federal Reserve, and there’s the good old Freedom Trail – what more does a reader need on the arc from La Guardia to LAX?
In her newest release, Romanian pianist Raluca Stirbat turns out some exceptionally supple recitals of Bartok and Debussy
Endless back-flips alone, Mr. Anderson wryly observes, cannot save a film.
A self-absorbed young Brooklyn writer (what else?) goes from relationship to relationship in search of … what, exactly?
In an entertaining new collection of good old stories, the boundary-line between Sam Spade and Mandrake the Magician is considerably blurred …
After an unearthly quiet of nearly three thousand years, he’s been the idol of the world for nearly a century – he’s the boy-pharaoh Tutankhamun, and Jo Marchant makes his old story new again
A spirited new account of the divisive American presidential election race that was held amidst the growing clamor of European war
An inquisitive young woman falls in love with an ungainly, weirdly sophisticated alien creature
A journalist looks at the movement among middle class American women of the ‘millennial’ generation toward embracing the domestic tasks their mothers and grandmothers cast off
In his new album “Home Stretch,” Timo Andres adapts–or is the word mauls?–some classic Mozart compositions
The reformed super-villain and his minions return in Illumination Entertainment’s sequel to their surprise hit in “Despicable Me 2”
A monumental deck-clearing two-volume biography of Admiral Horatio Nelson reaches its thundering conclusion
In a magnificent new history, the cataclysmic turning-point battle of the American Civil War is studied in meticulous detail
Richard Beeman’s new book covers some familiar – sacred? – ground
A collection of uncommonly whimsical music highlights a retrospective album of the late composer Elliott Carter. Norman Lebrecht listens, and smiles.
It’s a fairly by-the-numbers summer buddy-cop movie – with one important difference!
A young man slips in and out of seductive dream realities in Alex Jeffers’ fantastic latest novel
The bloodiest day in United States history is the subject of Richard Slotkin’s riveting book, now out in paperback
In Kim Stanley Robinson’s epic space opera – now out in paperback – the mankind of two centuries hence has conquered space and colonized the solar system, but as usual, it carries its own dark side wherever it goes
A new hardcover reprint presents a pivotal comic book run to new fans and old fans alike. Open Letters talks with its go-to comics expert Justin Hickey about the definitive story arc of “The Authority”
A new album of the chamber music of one of Israel’s foremost composer’s, Paul Ben-Haim. Norman Lebrecht listens.
Pixar’s latest is a prequel: the story of how Mike and Sully from “Monsters, Inc.” first met
Tradition has it that Victorian Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli wrote his novels to make a name (and a fortune) for himself with the British public, but a thrilling new book wonders if he didn’t also do it to re-shape reality itself – in his favor.
Two of the most famous names of the Italian Renaissance – Machiavelli and Leonardo Da Vinci – team up to untangle a series of horrific murders!
Mere words have the power to kill, literally, in Max Barry’s new thriller. Who welds them? And how worthy are Barry’s own words?
Chopin and Dutilleux: two composers, separated by a century and more, are joined by a city and its culture. Norman Lebrecht reviews a new album of their preludes.
Author Rosecrans Baldwin talks about writing, and Paris – and writing about Paris
A columnist for the Financial Times looks at what the Roman poet Horace has meant to him over the years
There’s much more to the narwhal than its legendary corkscrew horn; a new book delves into their fascinating natural history – and the looming threat they face from global warming.
It’s a movie about an internship at Google: 2.3 billion Google users are commanded to like it.
One of EMI Classics’ final albums, by 19-year-old Conrad Tao, is an instant collectible. But how is the music?
Fans of Lindsey Davis’ long-running mystery series starring ancient Roman P. I. Falco now get the first volume in a new series featuring his intrepid daughter following in his footsteps
The popular philosopher returns to the ideas that made him famous: that man is an animal, that optimism is misguided, and that the very idea of progress is just a re-heated left-over from the zeals of Christianity.
The signature work by one of the prickly fathers of the Italian Renaissance humanism gets its inaugural print edition in the latest offering from Harvard’s magnificent I Tatti Renaissance Library
In a stirring new account of the burning of the White House and the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812, the individual men and women of the conflict step into the spotlight in all their very human contradictions
A band of stage magicians skilled at all kinds of illusions are suspected of pulling off an all-too-real bank heist in Louis Leterrier’s new movie
A batch of bedtime stories, wickedly recited by top actors, interspersed with music derived from the selfsame fairy tales. Why had no one thought of this before?
The second volume in Suzanne Collins’ phenomenally popular series is at long last available in paperback
The translator of Oxford’s superb new edition of Arrian’s book on Alexander the Great maintains that it should be appreciated at least as much for its literary merit as for its historical value – which would have pleased Arrian immensely, and which may in fact be true.
The violent, heroic Wild West of the Bible is given a magnificent new translation and commentary
In advance of the movie, Max Brooks’ epic zombie novel (now with the customary ugly movie cover) is given a big reprint run in search of even more fans …
The sixth installment (God help us all) of the brainless car-porn series roars into theaters
One of our most enjoyable science-writers turns in a reasonably hopeful prognosis for mankind’s future
A historian’s great trilogy about U.S. forces at war on WWII’s Western front at last comes to its finish
As if the tensions between Athens and Sparta at the 80th Olympiad weren’t bad enough, now there’s a dead Spartan – and the chief suspect is Athenian. Young everyman investigator Nico is on the case.
Benedict Cumberbatch stars as the villain in the latest installment of J.J. Abrams’ re-invention of “Star Trek”
The so-called ‘father of conservatism’ gets an aphoristic new biography from a very interested party.
The great diplomat and statesman John Hay is the subject of a riveting new biography
A scrupulously intelligent and lavishly illustrated new book examines the enormous impact one ancient text had on the whole of the Italian Renaissance
Is Rick Yancey’s latest teen-targeted sci-fi thriller mere filler for fans waiting on the next “Hunger Games” volume, or is there some meat on its bones?
Using castles and cunning, swords and statesmanship, guile and guts, they ruled England (and big chunks of France) for over two centuries – they were the Plantagenets, and they’re the subject of a boisterous new history
The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic brings forth a dazzling recording of Shostakovich’s “Leningrad Symphony”
The 17th century found itself caught between widespread social upheaval and natural catastrophes unprecedented in human history – an absorbing new history looks at the entire world four centuries ago … and of course glances at our own
That long-standing hotbed of world history, Europe, gets a big new dissection by one of our most engaging historians
A brilliant French study of Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” at last has an English translation
He was a young immigrant from Scotland who was inspired by one great man and inspired another, but in between, Alexander Wilson did the pioneering work of creating the American discipline of bird-study. A wonderful new book re-examines his legacy
Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov’s enigmatic and disturbing ‘Naive Music’ gets a new recording from pianist Elisaveta Blumina
It has become conventional wisdom to say that the first Gulf War was one of necessity, while the second was one of choice–but a collection of reflections challenges that maxim
The Hollywood actor and star of “Howl” produces a heavily-illustrated book of snippets and short stories, for reasons that are either unclear or all too clear, depending on whose Twitter you follow
At the heigh of the Second World War, they traveled to a custom-made town in the middle of nowhere and worked jobs they didn’t understand and were forbidden to question – and a year later, the U.S. had a working atom bomb. They were the girls of Atomic City, and their story finally gets told.
The southeastern coast of the United States is dotted all over with salt marshes, those magical places forever hovering between land and sea. A captivating new book – now in paperback – sings their praises and recounts their perils.
Norman Lebrecht reviews a remarkable recording of little-known piano music by Olivier Messiaen and Kaija Saariaho
A killer stalks a dark-fantasy alternate version of the Soviet Union in Peter Higgins’ fantastic debut novel
Rest in Peace
A gripping new book examines just what happened in the crucial interval between the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and the outbreak of general hostilities – and reaches some unusual conclusions.
Hour of the Red God: A Detective Mollel Novel
By Richard Compton
Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013
Journalist Richard Crompton’s dazzlingly good debut mystery novel Hour of the Red God is set in 2007 against the …
In collaboration with Brazilian soloist Nelson Freire, Wunderkind Lionel Bringuier conducts the 2010 BBC Proms concert in a stirring new DVD release
One of the Man of Steel’s legendary illustrators from the 1970s and ’80s gets his work reprinted in a handsome hardcover volume
Ron Currie Jr. is not only the author of the new novel Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles, he is also its protagonist.
One of our greatest living historians argues that far more unites humanity than divides it – but is anybody listening?
‘Darwin’ and ‘evolution’ are permanently linked in our minds, but like all other scientific thinkers, the great man stood on the shoulders of the giants who went before him, as a fascinating new history reminds us.
Open Letters Monthly mourns the death of Jonathan Winters, legendary comedian master of carefully-controlled chaos, and lifelong six-year-old.
An ordinary boy in our real world has a funny name – Clark Kent. Funny, that is, until he starts to develop the exact same superpowers as you-know-who
A family of Neanderthals navigate the dangers of the pre-historic world in DreamWorks’ latest animated feature
Norman Lebrecht reviews a new recording of Kossuth, a rare and distinctive turn by Béla Bartók into mainstream romanticism.
They’re history’s most villainous family, adept at blackmail, poison, murder, and sacrilege – they even have their own TV series! But is it possible there’s more bad press than bad people to the Borgia family? A fascinating new book takes the case back to the basics
The authoritative new biography – now in an enormous paperback – of the architect of Nazi Germany’s “Final Solution”
A splendid reissue of the definitive Marcel Proust biography attempts to show readers the jester, the critic, and the energetic editor in addition to the garrulous fop
The “George Washington of South America” was far more complex and interesting than his familiar tag-line suggests – as a big, fantastic new biography makes abundantly clear
Science fiction grand master Ben Bova sets his latest novel on the far side of the moon
In her latest bestseller, J. R. Ward’s two most loved (and lusted-after) bad-boy vampires finally get their turn in the spotlight
Open Letters Monthly mourns the death of indefatigable everyman movie critic Roger Ebert, who saw everything, mainstreamed a profession, and championed more than a few losing battles – including, ultimately, his own. Rest in peace.
A new book by a legendary scholar charts the journey of early Christianity from a charismatic cult to the official religion of an empire
Open Letters Monthly mourns the death of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, whose exquisite literary adaptations helped give new kinds of immortality to E.M. Forster and Henry James, and whose own fiction, delicate and sometimes dauntingly enigmatic, will …
A young Swedish girl travels to England and becomes a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth I herself
She’s an icon, a cautionary tale, a baleful notoriety – she’s Anne Boleyn, who bewitched a king and drove him to remake a world, all for the sake of a dream she could never give him. A fascinating new book looks at the way all the ways history has made and re-made Henry VIII’s most infamous queen
An intelligent, sensitive Dominican novice finds herself at the heart of passionate conspiracies in the England of Henry VIII
The richest denizens of the Edwardian Era swan around in their finest stuff, immortalized by the likes of Sargent and Boldini, and a sumptuous new book from Yale University Press records it all
Jack Wolf’s risk-taking debut explores the boundaries of insanity and rationality
A neurosurgeon’s reflections on his time in a coma convince him that it held the secret to the universe.
In a novel that’s not as easy as it looks, a soldier comes home to his small Vermont town from Afghanistan – and to the young woman he left behind there.
In a welcome reprint, a brave but untried young 12th century knight must learn how to fight – and take a bride
The greatest sci-fi novel of all time is inaugurated into the Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Classics library
David Halberstam’s 1968 profile of candidate Robert Kennedy gets a new reprint for a new generation
The barbaric custom of ‘honor killing’ is the hinge on which best-selling author Elif Shafak’s complex new novel turns
With the arrival of a new baby, a young Brooklyn couple say good-bye to sleep … and start making some very strange decisions.
A big new book looks at the long history of guerrilla warfare and centers its lessons on our own time.
In this historical novel, the Armenian community of Paris negotiates the arrival of the Nazis – and a young girl navigates her first romance
The most cherished nature classic since “Walden” gets the sparkling Library of America canonization
A young woman finds herself on a ship at sea with both her fiance and a mysterious man from her past, and it’s all like something you’d find in a book …
The greatest enemy of freedom is … democracy? Come get to know Scottish Enlightenment thinker Adam Ferguson, ladies and gentlemen!
A patrician family copes with all kinds of disappointment in Louisa Hall’s not-at-all-disappointing debut novel
Before the mad demi-titan Thanos arrives to menace movie theaters in 2015, he menaced the good guys in decades of comics – a new anthology collects some of the best of the bad guy
When Roman troops left Britain forever, the locals were forced to fend for themselves – and in Morgan Llywelyn’s latest historical novel, two cousins take two very different approaches to a world after Rome.
Youtube sensation Valentina Lisitsa has put out the finest recording of Rachmaninov’s piano concertos in decades. Norman Lebrecht reviews.
Director Sam Raimi takes on one of the greatest cinematic classics of ’em all – with decidedly mixed results
Long, long before Canute and the Confessor, England was a fascinating place – the great archaeologist Barry Cunliffe tells the tale!
He revolutionized modern science, and then modern science left him behind. Now a glowing new biography introduces him to a new generation.
The old folk tale gets an sfx-laden kid-friendly modern retelling by one of Hollywood’s most successful directors
When examining the death of Cleopatra, it’s inevitable: sooner or later, you’re going to have to deal with asp-holes
He escaped from slavery, fought Rome, and became an immortal name – but what can we really know about Spartacus?
They guarded emperors, they served emperors, and occasionally they killed emperors – they were the Praetorian Guard
In his latest adventure, Mark Chadbourn’s swashbuckling Elizabethan adventurer Will Swyfte continues his battle against the supernatural forces of the Unseelie Court
A enormous storm is bearing down on Washington D.C., and the President and his staff are confronted with a group of people who say they can stop the hurricane – for a price
His repertoire was small, he was no barnstormer, and he gave up full-time concertizing in 1978. But Van Cliburn, who died yesterday at age 78, is to this day the most famous pianist America has …
In a hypnotizing new recording from Mirare, pianist Anne Quéffélec performs the soothing chillout music of Frenchman Erik Satie–don’t listen while driving.
Sarah Gristwood (author of the utterly delightful “Arbella: England’s Lost Queen”) charts the triumphs and tragedies of the seven key women in the Wars of the Roses
The horny, feckless narrator of Kultgen’s “The Average American Male” returns: married, with kids – and, of course, lusting after a co-worker
Six works by five living British composers for soprano saxophone – you’re shaking your head, but “The Coral Sea” is one of the musical delights of the year
John McClane rides again in the latest chapter of the “Die Hard” franchise
A new collection featuring the adventures of a decidedly off-beat version of Marvel’s resident Thunder God
The Angel – the Silver Scorpion – the Destroyer – the Black Marvel – the Blazing Skull: not exactly household names today, but in the dark days of World War II, they fought the forces of evil for the entertainment of a new kind of reader: comic book fans
“Houses, Churches, mix’d together – Streets, unpleasant in all Weather” – so wrote the poet about resolute, dissolute London, whose 18th century excesses are the subject of a grand new book
David Shields, author of the ‘manifesto’ “Reality Hunger,” is still unhappy with boring old books. In fact, he’s still writing books about how unhappy he is.
Unsure of what to do with her life, a woman turns an old stone house into an inn on the coast of Ireland, and strangers begin to gather …
In 1931 Naples, Commissario Ricciardi pursues the most desperate of criminals, driven by an absolute commitment to justice – and helped by a gift he alone possesses.
A new novel tells the story of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, famous author and wife of an even more famous jerk.
A profusely illustrated you-are-there look at the excavations into European prehistory
The Italian Renaissance of Michelangelo and Raphael was built by – and traumatized by – the constant tramping of hired armies. A provocative new study looks at the birth-price of the modern era
“Warm Bodies” is a zombie rom-com: but does boy meet girl, or EAT girl?
Domenico Scarlatti has always been overshadowed by his contemporaries Bach and Handel. A new recording of his solo sonatas brings his gorgeous music front and center.
There are delights of both language and story in Christine Schutt’s novel of connubial misery, Prosperous Friends. Greg Gerke reviews.
The great travel-adventure classic gets a pretty new reprint
The newest novel from the newest Chilean literary wunderkind
A new history of the Second World War focuses on the mid-level thinkers and technicians whose innovations made the grand strategies work
In Michael Dahlie’s new novel, an idle young millionaire ghost-writes a book for an arrogant Hollywood star
The works of Polish emigre Andrzej Panufnik course with passion and political subtext. Norman Lebrecht reviews a new recording of Symphonies 7 and 8.
She’s a master thief who wants to rob the world’s richest man; he’s a master assassin who wants to kill the world’s richest man – what happens when they run headlong into each other in a glass-and-steel death-trap?
The adorable little candy-seeking moppets from the folk tale are all grown up and exceedingly well-armed in “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters”
A new history of World War I looks at twelve fragile moments, twelve turning points when small factors determined very large outcomes
Earth’s frozen, forbidding continent is the subject of Gabrielle Walker’s latest book
The death of a talented teenage artist spins his family and friends into turmoil in Manu Joseph’s incredibly accomplished second novel.
In the latest Ismail Kadare novel to be translated into English, an Albanian doctor invites the invading Nazis to an elaborate dinner at his house – but what exactly happens that night, to the strains of Schubert?
Until comparatively recently, historically speaking, mankind existed in small hunter-gatherer societies without states or agriculture. Best-selling author Jared Diamond’s latest book examines the possible up-side of those primitive edens.
Romanian pianist Dinu Lipatti died of cancer at age 33, but left behind a treasure trove of adventurous, intellectually satisfying piano music. Norman Lebrecht reviews a new double-CD of Lipatti’s work.
DC Comics collects the 1980s adventures of the Man of Steel, as drawn by the legendary Gil Kane!
A generous anthology collects the work of one of the greatest travel-writers of our day
Marvel’s X-Men reprint series reaches some epoch-defining issues
In Lara Santoro’s new novella, an older woman falls head-over-heels into a physical passion for a younger man – with consequences that threaten to tear her life apart
Jacqueline du Pré’s performance of Elgar’s cello concerto is so legendary that few artists have dared to challenge it. Now Alisa Weilerstein does so, in an astonishing new recording. Norman Lebrecht reviews
The controversial new movie about the hunt for bin Laden – and the role torture might have played in that hunt
The rhetoric of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar might inflame you, it might make you mad – but does Garry Wills o’ershoot himself in his analysis of it all?
A new – and forgiving? – look at the ancient Jewish historian whose very name has been hated for two thousand years.
The legendary fantasy series at long last comes to its conclusion
A formidable York midwife must use all her skill and human insight to save the life of a friend accused of murder
The military crucible of the 20th Century gets a new hardcover history that can be read in one hour and fifteen minutes.
The first volume in a new fantasy series opens on a world where the everyday background magic on which everybody depends is beginning to flicker out …
One of the best – and certainly the most contentious – biographies of Alexander the Great gets an attractive new reprint.
A talented novelist writes the story of his husband’s family’s experiences in war-torn Bangladesh – but is it life, or art?
In the future setting of this promising sci-fi debut, world-hopping humanity finds the last thing it expected: aliens!
The revered (and reviled) Superman director Richard Donner co-writes an epic story from the Man of Steel’s past
2013 gets off to a smashing start with Alexandre Tharaud’s wild new recording of the works of postmodernist composer Mauricio Kagel. Norman Lebrecht reviews.
In the night sky over Occupied France, two young men met in combat – this remarkable book tells their stories.
“I paint, I work, I am free of thought” said Cezanne, and his thoughtless paintings changed art forever. A cinematic new biography explores the man’s life and art.
On a lonely icebound fjord, the young daughter of a Viking king must solve a series of crimes – and find her destiny
It’s Tom Cruise starring as Lee Child’s super-tall, super-gritty action hero!
As this year winds to a close we take another glance at the still-worthy books that moved us in days of old.
The first part of director Peter Jackson’s long-awaited movie adaptation of “The Hobbit” is finally here
He put Christianity on the road to world domination – and he did a lot of other horrid things as well. He’s Constantine the Great, and he’s got a new biographer