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Moving Announcement!

December 22nd, 2017
Moving Announcement!

And there you have it, folks! The best – and worst – books of 2017, neatly laid out and pontificated about as we’ve been doing for over a decade here at Stevereads! I read more books in 2017 than in any previous year of my life, and as always, it’s been tremendous fun to codify […]

The Best Books of 2017: Nonfiction!

December 22nd, 2017
The Best Books of 2017: Nonfiction!

Best Books of 2017 – Nonfiction! I’ve come to expect a certain amount of variety in the books that manage the near-impossible feat of making their way from galley-and-first-reading to finished-copy-and-second-reading to critical appraisal/mauling to cold reconsideration and then ultimately to this year-end list. But even so, the best works of what I think of […]

The Best Books of 2017: Fiction!

December 22nd, 2017
The Best Books of 2017: Fiction!

Best Books of 2017 – Fiction! 2017 was another outstanding year for fiction. Even the mediocre novels were sounder and smarter than in most years, and the terrific novels were correspondingly even more terrific – so much so, in fact, that many of the year’s best novels achieved that status despite committing venial and mortal […]

The Worst Books of 2017: Nonfiction!

December 20th, 2017
The Worst Books of 2017: Nonfiction!

Worst Books of 2017 – Nonfiction! It’s always tricky, in any given year, to guess the trends of deplorable nonfiction. Back in January, for instance, I assumed that American publishers would kick into overdrive and flood the market with insta-Trump books, but there was only a trickle: that particular tsunami is obviously coming next year […]

The Worst Books of 2017: Fiction!

December 19th, 2017
The Worst Books of 2017: Fiction!

Worst Books of 2017 – Fiction! 2017 was in fact an excellent year for so-called literary fiction – so excellent, in fact, that its rising tide floated all (well, most) boats: I noticed that even the year’s second- and third-rate stuff almost always had a certain level of technical soundness that you don’t always find […]

The Best Books of 2017: Biography!

December 16th, 2017
The Best Books of 2017: Biography!

Best Books of 2017 – Biography! I noticed three rough minor trends in American biographies in 2017, and all three were predictable in their own ways, and all three are represented on this year-end list. The first two trends were entirely understandable, since 2017 was the anniversary of both the Russian Revolutions and the kick-off […]

The Best Books of 2017: History!

December 15th, 2017
The Best Books of 2017: History!

Best Books of 2017 – History! The year 2017 was of course the anniversary of two enormous historical events: Martin Luther’s sparking of what would become the Protestant Revolution and the Russian revolutions of 1917 – and a bumper-crop of books dutifully appeared on both subjects, and quite a few of those books were excellent […]

The Best Books of 2017: Science and Nature!

December 14th, 2017
The Best Books of 2017: Science and Nature!

Best Books of 2017 – Nature & Science! The sub-heading of science- and nature-writing positively filled my reading in 2017. I read a large amount of it across the whole of its spectrum, from data-heavy scientific monographs to emoji-heavy breathless popular guides, and now I encounter the same encouraging frustration I’ve encountered in making many […]

The Best Books of 2017: Historical Fiction!

December 13th, 2017
The Best Books of 2017: Historical Fiction!

Best Books of 2017 – Historical Fiction! Before my list departs from genre fiction for a few days, I had to call out the gems in my beloved world of historical fiction, where I found so much fantastic reading in 2017. My one disappointment in this regard just this year is the absence of self-published […]

The Best Books of 2017: Romance!

December 12th, 2017
The Best Books of 2017: Romance!

Best Books of 2017 – Romance! I freely admit it: I lean on the Romance genre more than I do other types of books. I use them as reading mood-changers and table-clearers; I retreat into them when I want to spend an hour with an author who’s a consummate professional intent only on telling me […]

The Best Books of 2017: Science Fiction & Fantasy!

December 12th, 2017
The Best Books of 2017: Science Fiction & Fantasy!

Best Books of 2017 – SFF I read a lot of science fiction/fantasy in 2017 – as I do in every year, even though, as a devoted fan of square-bound SFF magazines, I increasingly find SFF novels to be basically bloated short stories, long on page-count but comparatively short on actual imaginative content. 2017’s SFF […]

The Best Books of 2017: Mystery!

December 10th, 2017
The Best Books of 2017: Mystery!

Best Books of 2017 – Mystery! As Arthur Conan Doyle discovered a century ago, the sticky part about creating a great detective or sleuthing team is that your readers are going to want their adventures to continue indefinitely, and in all but a tiny handful of instances, your readers pay the bills. So murder mystery […]

Best Books of the Year: Kids & YA!

December 9th, 2017
Best Books of the Year: Kids & YA!

Best Books of 2017 – Children’s & YA! I read more kid’s books and more YA in 2017 than in any previous year, and as usual, I ended up feeling greatly rewarded by that decision: I soaked up the urgency that’s the hallmark of so much YA, and I soaked up the pure delight that […]

The Best Books of 2017: Translations!

December 9th, 2017
The Best Books of 2017: Translations!

Best Books of 2017 – Translations! The comparative percentages of literature in translation available on the American book market are predictably embarrassing, but even so, there were enough first-rate translations to keep me busy all year, and since two of the books that eventually made it onto this list were originally composed in languages I […]

Best Books of 2017: Fiction Debuts!

December 8th, 2017
Best Books of 2017: Fiction Debuts!

Best Books of 2017 – Fiction Debuts! 2017 was an encouragingly prosperous year for fiction debuts. First novels in the 21st century are usually the very frailest of hot-house flowers, seeded exclusively in their authors’ family histories, given form by their authors’ personal details, and hand-raised with delicate care in the moist air and steady […]

Best Books of 2017: Guilty Pleasures!

December 7th, 2017
Best Books of 2017: Guilty Pleasures!

Best Books of 2017 – Guilty Pleasures! In any year, it’s always tricky to define what I mean by guilty pleasure. After all, in one sense there aren’t any guilty pleasures in reading and there couldn’t be: reading is the riot of the soul, and it admits no guilt. But in another sense, there’s always […]

The Best Books of 2017: Reprints!

December 6th, 2017
The Best Books of 2017: Reprints!

Best Books of 2017 – Reprints! Prior to looking at all the year’s new offerings, I like to look at all the year’s reprints, to navigate again the weird and often intensely personal vagaries that bring so many reprint volumes to market. It’s true that sometimes a publisher can simply be fulfilling a contract or […]

Penguins on Parade: Ice!

November 24th, 2017
Penguins on Parade: Ice!

Some Penguin Classics don’t seem quite right until you actually see them in the familiar restrained format, staring out at you with that quintessential Penguin Classic quiet assurance (in this case considerably abetted by a stark cover illustration by Hsiao-Ron Cheng). Then you start to think, “Well yes, this is probably right. I’ve certainly never […]

Penguins on Parade: Heart of Darkness!

November 20th, 2017
Penguins on Parade: Heart of Darkness!

Some Penguin Classics are beautiful productions in and of themselves, quite separate from the beauty (or, in the case of some authors reprinted with inexplicable regularity, the lack thereof) of the prose involved. Conspicuous along these lines is the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition line, which puts wonderful extra effort into making paperback classics worth treasuring […]

Georgie!

November 14th, 2017
Georgie!

Our book today is an awkward, adorable little children’s classic from the bygone era of 1944: Georgie by Robert Bright, an old-school hack of the first water (and Boston Transcript alum, if those two things aren’t already redundant) who wrote a kids book about a lonely ghost and watched in bemused wonder as that book […]

Passing the Torch in the Penny Press

October 11th, 2017
Passing the Torch in the Penny Press

This moment was bound to happen. It’s been approaching steadily for years, of course, and its tread has been especially audible in the last few months. But lots of other reading gets in the way, and the torrent of books never lessens, and it was easy to get distracted. But then the moment comes: the […]

Penguins on Parade: Picnic at Hanging Rock!

October 7th, 2017
Penguins on Parade: Picnic at Hanging Rock!

Some Penguin Classics serve as enjoyable reminders that more things in Heaven and Earth fall under the heading of “classic” than the usual lineup of Dickens and Austen. Penguin has always been good about this, and in the last twenty years or so they’ve improved even on their own track record, sometimes with questionable results […]

Alex Rider: Never Say Die!

October 2nd, 2017
Alex Rider: Never Say Die!

Our book today is a sweet bit of sweaty, skate-boarding adolescent relief: Alex Rider: Never Say Die, which represents the long-awaited return of writer Anthony Horowitz to writing the adventures of his signature creation, “the world’s greatest teen spy,” Alex Rider – who, we’re told, is 14, 5 foot nine inches in height, brown-eyed, and […]

Mythology’s 75th Anniversary!

October 1st, 2017
Mythology’s 75th Anniversary!

Our book today is the kind of lavish surprise that occasionally rewards the faithful: a big, heavy, ornate new 75th-anniversary edition from Black Dog & Leventhal of Edith Hamilton’s rock-solid, endurably reprinted classic Mythology. Subtitled “Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes,” the book retails all the most famous stories from Greek and Roman mythology (with […]

Treat!

September 25th, 2017
Treat!

Our book today is exactly as advertised: Treat!, a collection of incredible photos by Christian Vieler of dozens of dogs, each caught in the act moment of lunging for a thrown treat. It’s an inspired idea along the lines of Seth Casteel’s best-selling Underwater Dogs, and its inspiration rests on the same elements: not only […]

Penguins on Parade: Great Expectations!

September 19th, 2017
Penguins on Parade: Great Expectations!

Our book today is certainly a visual treat: it’s the new Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens with deckle edges, French flaps, and an eye-catching wrap-around cover by Tom Haugomat, who faithfully signposts the novel’s most famous imagery: a boy in a graveyard, figures in a boat, sooty London, etc. This […]

The Final Score!

September 9th, 2017
The Final Score!

Our book today is a romance novel revolving around the US football season and so by rights ought to feel like an autumn book. But Jaci Burton’s The Final Score, one of Burton’s “Play-by-Play” sports romances, features a Claudio Marinesco cover and enough hot-and-heavy bedroom action to make it a last-day-of-summer reading experience. The basic […]

Penguins on Parade: The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers

September 2nd, 2017
Penguins on Parade: The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers

Some Penguin Classics, as we’ve noticed on rare occasions in the past, are quietly awe-inspiring, and this certainly applies to a new addition to the line, The Portable Nineteenth-Century African American Women Writers, edited by Hollis Robbins and Henry Louis Gates, who also write the volume’s introductory essay. The Penguin Portables are always highlights of […]

Dinosaur Empire!

September 1st, 2017
Dinosaur Empire!

Our book today has a front cover positively festooned with possible titles, and no referee standing close at hand to declare one the winner. There’s a banner at the top that says “Earth Before Us.” Then right in the center in big green letters there’s Dinosaur Empire! And down at the bottom there’s a label-looking […]

The Don and the Duchess!

August 9th, 2017
The Don and the Duchess!

Our book today is Ancient History by M. I. Finley, and in addition to its own merits, it also had for me in this re-reading the charm of serendipity. I spend my life these days reading books and book reviews, so the book-driven serendipity to which I’d like to think I’ve always been observant now […]

In the Penny Press: Geographica!

July 25th, 2017
In the Penny Press: Geographica!

I turned to the latest National Geographic, I freely admit, for some relief. My Facebook page and Twitter feed are full of misery and impending doom; the news feed on my iPad features daily – sometimes hourly – updates on the ways the President of the United States is disgracing the country; and the actual […]

Jane at 200 in the Penny Press!

July 22nd, 2017
Jane at 200 in the Penny Press!

As I’ve mentioned – and as would surely come as no surprise in any case to any long-time Stevereads habitué – one of the periodicals to survive the Great Penny Press Purge of 2016 was the Times Literary Supplement, the mighty TLS. This would have been true in any case, the TLS being the world’s […]

Helping the Cause in the Penny Press!

July 21st, 2017
Helping the Cause in the Penny Press!

In the immediate aftermath of the 2016 Presidential election, I let the subscriptions lapse on most of the periodicals I’d been reading up to that point. This wasn’t an easy decision, since I’d been subscribing to and attentively reading those dozen-or-so magazines and newspapers for decades – no longer reading them left what felt like […]

Summer Reading in the Penny Press!

July 12th, 2017
Summer Reading in the Penny Press!

As I’ve noted before, it’s a curious anachronism, this whole idea of “summer reading.” At the back of it is a picture of a world in which hard-working people breathe a collective sigh of relief around Memorial Day, say a jovial good-bye to their office mates, pack the kids in the station wagon, and head […]

Full Wolf Moon!

June 20th, 2017
Full Wolf Moon!

Our book today is the latest edge-of-your-seat pot-boiler by Lincoln Child: Full Wolf Moon, whose tag-line is “On the trail of a killer who cannot possibly exist …” – in case you had any lingering doubts about whether or not it is, in fact, summer. Full Wolf Moon – not to be confused with any […]

Extinct!

June 17th, 2017
Extinct!

Our book today is Charles Wilson’s 1997 classic Extinct, in which an intrepid marine biologist finds himself enlisted in the most unlikely contest of all: with the megalodon, a gigantic species of prehistoric shark that could grow to 50 or 60 or even 80 feet but has been considered extinct for millions of years. In […]

Penguins on Parade: Thoreau!

June 16th, 2017
Penguins on Parade: Thoreau!

Some Penguin Classics are examples of that peculiar sub-species of literary work that somehow always feels pointedly relevant, no matter the age or era: in this case, the great writings of celebrated New England crackpot, Henry David Thoreau – Walden and Civil Disobedience. This is a new edition, with a simple, arresting cover illustration by […]

Shark Dog!

June 12th, 2017
Shark Dog!

Our book today combines the best of both worlds in the animal kingdom: it’s Shark Dog! By Ged Adamson, his fourth and most winning children’s picture book yet, newly released by Harper. The plucky little girl who narrates Shark Dog wastes no time in telling us that her bug-eyed red-bearded father is a world-famous explorer. […]

The Penning Press in the Penny Press!

June 6th, 2017
The Penning Press in the Penny Press!

I opened the latest issue of Esquire with very pleasantly modest expectations. I was looking forward to a helping of the smart-but-mostly-vapid entertainments Esquire tends to serve up so well – glossy spreads of $15,000 wrist watches, listicles on the Top 5 Things Your Sternum-Length Beard Says About You (in reality, it’s only one thing: […]

The Wayfarer’s Handbook!

May 14th, 2017
The Wayfarer’s Handbook!

Our book today is a handy pocket-sized thing from semi-pro ex-pat Evan Rice, The Wayfarer’s Handbook: A Field Guide for the Independent Traveler, new in a pretty blue-lettered hardcover from Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers. Rice is a handsome young Baltimorean who early on in life discovered a deep passion for travel, and according to […]

Ink Chorus: My Life with Bob

May 8th, 2017
Ink Chorus: My Life with Bob

Our book today is a treat for readers (you can tell by the cascade of poorly-drawn books on the front cover, I guess): My Life with Bob, subtitled “Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues,” and it’s written by the most powerful person in the world of books, Pamela Paul, the editor of the […]

Rodzilla!

May 6th, 2017
Rodzilla!

Our book today is a bone-chilling monster story of the most intimate kind, a story about a monster who’s not only gargantuan and wantonly destructive but … kind of cute. The book is Rodzilla (new from Margaret McElderry Books, a division of Simon & Schuster), with words by Rob Sanders and pictures by Dan Santat, […]

The Red Line!

May 1st, 2017
The Red Line!

Our book today is a new paperback original from Penguin, The Red Line, Walt Gragg’s debut novel, which tell the story – in pointillist, gripping detail – of a Russian surprise attack on Germany at the Czech border, an attack that starts with massive tank-companies abandoning their war games and advancing straight at the border […]

Go Sleep in Your Own Bed!

April 29th, 2017
Go Sleep in Your Own Bed!

Our book today is a children’s title depicting an epidemic of bed-poaching. When night falls on the farm in Go Sleep in Your Own Bed by Candace Fleming and Lori Nichols (new from Penguin Random House), it finds a scene of unfolding chaos that begins when a sleepy pig crosses the barnyard headed for a […]

Anniversaries Big and Small in the Penny Press!

April 19th, 2017
Anniversaries Big and Small in the Penny Press!

As I’ve mentioned here on Stevereads before, 2017 marks the ten-year anniversary of Open Letters Monthly, the online literary journal where I have the honor to be Managing Editor. It’s naturally been an occasion to look back at those ten years – the hundreds of pieces we’ve published, the thousands of books, the writers, the […]

Ring of Steel!

April 12th, 2017
Ring of Steel!

Our book today is Alexander Watson’s 2014 masterpiece, Ring of Steel, now out in a brick-sized and brick-red paperback from Basic Books. In these thousand pages, Watson departs from the standard outline of most First World War histories, including most of the glut of them that came out in 2014; instead of presenting readers with […]

The Outdoor Sculpture of Washington, D.C.!

April 4th, 2017
The Outdoor Sculpture of Washington, D.C.!

Our book today is The Outdoor Sculpture of Washington, D. C., a tall, jam-packed 1974 compendium, a “comprehensive historical guide” to all the public works of sculpture on display in the nation’s capital, by James Goode, who was at the time the curator of the Smithsonian Institute’s famous “Castle.” Every time I take the book […]

Romance Roundup: A Trio of April-Blizzard Regencies!

April 3rd, 2017
Romance Roundup: A Trio of April-Blizzard Regencies!

  Our books today form just the kind of sprightly, colorful, optimistic trio of reading experiences you very much want when your April commences with a blinding blizzard of sodden slop and howling winds: we have three new Regency romances of exactly the type to put a smile on my face regardless of what the […]

Life on Mars!

April 1st, 2017
Life on Mars!

Our book today is the latest whimsical masterpiece from the great childrens book writer and illustrator Jon Agee: Life on Mars. The story begins with an intrepid young space explorer arriving on the planet Mars. He leaves his spaceship on a very definite mission, and it’s not just to find life on Mars. It’s also […]

A Bittersweet New Era in the Penny Press!

March 27th, 2017
A Bittersweet New Era in the Penny Press!

The latest issue of The New York Review of Books arrived on my doorstep last week, and it quickly became the saddest issue of the NYRB I’ve ever read – because this was the first issue I read after the death of the journal’s legendary editor, Bob Silvers. He’d been there from the beginning, and […]

Comics! Big Red Guys in Capes!

March 22nd, 2017
Comics! Big Red Guys in Capes!

Both DC and Marvel Comics have always had their flagship Big Guy in a Red Cape – with DC it’s of course been Superman, the strongest and most powerful of all the DC superheroes, and with Marvel it’s been the thunder god Thor, the Asgardian warrior-god sojourning on Earth and adventuring with Earth’s superheroes. And […]

Penguins on Parade: The Book of Magic

March 20th, 2017
Penguins on Parade: The Book of Magic

Some Penguin Classics have to walk a very fine line in order to exist at all. Not all of them manage it, of course: there’s been no Penguin Classic of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, nor will there ever be, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see a Penguin Classic reprint of My Life and Loves, or a nice […]

A Trio of Springlike Romances!

March 13th, 2017
A Trio of Springlike Romances!

Our books today are a trio of delights from the good folks at Avon Books, and they come at just the right moment: despite the calendar showing a mid-March date, and despite Springlike temperatures only a few days ago, a monstrous blizzard is grinding its way toward Boston at this moment, threatening to bury budding […]

The Everglades: River of Grass!

March 7th, 2017
The Everglades: River of Grass!

Our book today is a towering classic of ecological literature: The Everglades: River of Grass by Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the book she wrote in 1947 in protest to a whole slate of proposed (and encroaching) drainage and construction projects designed to “improve” the vast waterlands of the Everglades. Douglas was a pint-sized force of nature, […]

Bedtime for Yeti!

March 2nd, 2017
Bedtime for Yeti!

Our book today is Brazilian illustrator Vin Vogel’s follow-up to his 2015 classic The Thing About Yetis – joyful news to those of us who loved that book and its roly-poly head-tufted version of the famed Himalayan snow-man. The new book from Penguin’s Dial Books imprint is called BedTime for Yeti, and it opens by […]

A Spiffy Anniversary in the Penny Press!

March 1st, 2017
A Spiffy Anniversary in the Penny Press!

A ten-year anniversary is a milestone for any kind of monthly publication. The meshing of personalities, the jostling of priorities, and the unpredictable vagaries of the work-flow might be expected to hang together for a little while, a year maybe, and it might be hoped they could work for a little longer than that, perhaps […]

Prague Fatale!

February 27th, 2017
Prague Fatale!

Our book today is a gutsy historical thriller from 2011 called Prague Fatale by Philip Kerr, the eighth novel featuring his scuffed and downtrodden detective – and reluctant SS member – Bernie Gunther, solving crimes and trying to keep his morals clean in WWII-era Germany. In this particular installment, he’s been summoned to Prague by […]

Now in Paperback: Neither Snow Nor Rain!

February 21st, 2017
Now in Paperback: Neither Snow Nor Rain!

Our book today is the paperback release of a history that’s near and dear to my daily routine: Devin Leonard’s utterly delightful Neither Snow Nor Rain: A History of the United States Postal Service, brought out Grove Press last year to nerdishly enthusiastic reviews (including one from USA Today that included the simple, true line, […]

Penguins on Parade: Treatise on Toleration!

February 15th, 2017
Penguins on Parade: Treatise on Toleration!

Some Penguin Classics breathe with the towering wisdom of the world’s great literary figures. And then there’s Voltaire. The voluminous writings of Francois-Marie Arouet have been a mother-quarry of pseudo-profundity for over two centuries, of course, so in that respect this slim new volume from Penguin – a new translation by Desmond Clarke of the […]

Now in Paperback: Not All Bastards Are From Vienna!

February 13th, 2017
Now in Paperback: Not All Bastards Are From Vienna!

Our book today is the English-language translation of Andrea Molesini’s utterly remarkable debut novel Not All Bastards Are From Vienna. The book originally appeared in 2010 and is here translated from the Italian by Antony Shugaar and Patrick Creagh, and although I chuckled about it when the Englished version appeared last year (how could I […]

The Duke!

February 13th, 2017
The Duke!

Our book today is a delectable trifle, the perfect thing to brighten up a day-long snowstorm: The Duke, the first of author Kerrigan Byrne’s romance novels to break the lock-step of glottal fricatives that characterized The Highwayman, The Hunter, and The Highlander and strike out into new consonantal territory (will it be followed by The […]

Keeping a Sharp Lookout!

February 3rd, 2017
Keeping a Sharp Lookout!

Our book today is a bright little thing of wonder housed, this time around, in a brittle package: it’s a selection of the writings of John Burroughs called The Birds of John Burroughs: Keeping a Sharp Lookout, a volume published in 1976 by Hawthorn Books, edited by Jack Kligerman with nice stately black-and-white illustrations by […]

Comics Yesterday – Some Winning Moments!

February 2nd, 2017
Comics Yesterday – Some Winning Moments!

Yet another terrific week for DC Comics … which still feels distinctly odd to say. For the last five years or so, while DC’s lineup of iconic superheroes was in the throes of the company’s “New 52” continuity remake, I mostly dreaded seeing the titles on offer every week at Boston’s one-and-only Comicopia. From the […]

The February 2017 issue of Open Letters!

February 1st, 2017
The February 2017 issue of Open Letters!

The first day of February dawns crisp and bright and cold here in Boston, with new-fallen snow still white and undefiled on the ground and lining every tree-branch. It’s the very picture of a new, clean page – what better setting for a new issue of my beloved Open Letters Monthly? We have a lovely […]

The Travels of Mark Twain!

January 16th, 2017
The Travels of Mark Twain!

Our book today at first almost seems like a blasphemy: it’s The Travels of Mark Twain from 1961, and its seeming blasphemy comes from the fact that Charles Neider is its editor rather than its author. Rather than a work of history and analysis about Mark Twain’s extensive travels, as its title might indicate, it’s […]

Artful Dodgers and Fartful Codgers in the Penny Press!

January 12th, 2017
Artful Dodgers and Fartful Codgers in the Penny Press!

I couldn’t help but be charmed by the long essay by Joseph Epstein in last week’s Weekly Standard, despite its barrage of annoying ticks and quirks. The piece is called “Hitting Eighty,” and it’s the latest (and – sad thought – the last?) in what turns out to be a little series of pieces Epstein […]

Comics: The Lure of the Artwork!

January 11th, 2017
Comics: The Lure of the Artwork!

The week’s comics reflected a very, very old pattern of mine: buying for artists rather than writers. It would be wrong to say that for most of my comics-buying life I cared much more about a title’s artwork than about its writing; far closer to the truth to say I didn’t care about the writing […]

The Inevitable Guest!

January 9th, 2017
The Inevitable Guest!

Our book today is The Inevitable Guest: A Survival Guide to Being Company & Having Company on Cape Cod, a spirited but ultimately hopeless 2000 book by Marcia Monbleau, writing from the hallowed precincts of Harwich Port. I took it down from its shelf in a perversely contrarian moment, since the book is about the […]

Penguins on Parade: Percy Bysshe Shelley!

January 5th, 2017
Penguins on Parade: Percy Bysshe Shelley!

Some Penguin Classics almost play tricks on your memory, you’re so certain you’ve seen them before in earlier editions. Surely, for instance, any sizable US Penguin Classics library going back a few decades will already have a big fat volume of Percy Bysshe Shelley? And yet no! When I first clapped eyes on the big, […]

Comics This Week: Three DC Classics!

January 4th, 2017
Comics This Week: Three DC Classics!

A crackerjack week at the comics shop here in Boston, and while I was reading and really enjoying the three new issues I bought at the Android’s Dungeon, I couldn’t help but notice that these are characters I’ve been reading about for a long, long time! I got the latest issues of three iconic superheroes, […]

The Best Books of 2016 – Nonfiction!

December 27th, 2016
The Best Books of 2016 – Nonfiction!

Best Books of 2016 – Nonfiction! We come to the end of our bookish 2016 chimes-ringing with the admittedly vague category of general nonfiction, which can extend to all kinds of reportage and memoir and often, I’ve found, connotes a particular kind of narrative fire, a particular urgency. These works tend to be telling new […]

The Worst Books of 2016 – Nonfiction!

December 26th, 2016
The Worst Books of 2016 – Nonfiction!

Worst Books of 2016 – Nonfiction! There was a very annoying strain of worried hand-wringing running through a great deal of the year’s general nonfiction, with a great many authors who ought to know better (and a number who do and were only lying for a paycheck) mounting their platforms to call X, Y, or […]

The Best Books of 2016 – Fiction!

December 25th, 2016
The Best Books of 2016 – Fiction!

Best Books of 2016 – Fiction! The very factors that are usually the banes of my existence as a reader of fiction – stylistic eccentricities and rhetorical showing off – turn up quite often on this particular list actually helping the books featuring them, which just underscores the ideological fluidity of fiction that I, like […]

The Worst Books of 2016 – Fiction!

December 24th, 2016
The Worst Books of 2016 – Fiction!

Worst Books of 2016 – Fiction! When surveying the damages in summing up fiction in 2016, the old saying “you can’t have your cake and eat it too” comes to mind, a saying tartly corrected by Wilson Follett in his epically mandarin book Modern American Usage, since as he points out, nothing could be easier […]

Best Books of 2016 – Biography!

December 23rd, 2016
Best Books of 2016 – Biography!

Best Books of 2016 – Biography! Much to my delight, 2016 was another furiously busy year for biographies – and mostly a very good one, with strong entries appearing several times in every month. Biography is my own favorite type of book to read, and there were some months when I read so many good […]

Best Books of 2016 – History!

December 22nd, 2016
Best Books of 2016 – History!

Best Books of 2016 – History! The field of history-writing displayed its usual dazzling variety in 2016, with commercial titles ranging from 120-page large-type bestsellers containing not one single actual fact to 120-page monographs containing not one readable sentence – and the whole spectrum in between. But as great as that variety was, there were […]

Best Books of 2016 – Guilty Pleasures!

December 21st, 2016
Best Books of 2016 – Guilty Pleasures!

Best Books of 2016 – Guilty Pleasures! The “pleasures” part of Guilty Pleasures is self-evidently easy to define, but the “guilty” part is much trickier, since books find so many different ways to be worthwhile. Even so, there are some reading experiences that are clearly more self-indulgent than others, some books that are more likely […]

Best Books of 2016 – Nature!

December 20th, 2016
Best Books of 2016 – Nature!

Best Books of 2016 – Nature! Nature made headlines in 2016 for predictably awful reasons. A gorilla was shot dead because careless human parents let their child wander into his jail cell; the year was once again the hottest on record; an American political administration came to power openly intent on raping the planet; even […]

The Best Books of 2016 – Historical Fiction!

December 19th, 2016
The Best Books of 2016 – Historical Fiction!

Best Books of 2016 – Historical Fiction! The sub-genre of historical fiction was jumpingly energetic in 2016, full of authors taking chances with standard narrative frameworks and voices, profitably complicating standard reader sympathies, and importing varying doses of fantasy to blur and quicken the factual underpinnings (this was the year that saw, for instance, the […]

Best Books of 2016 – SFF!

December 18th, 2016
Best Books of 2016 – SFF!

Best Books of 2016 – SFF! It’s depressing but true: 2016 had something of a phoned-in feel when it came to genre fiction – enough to make a die-hard genre reader to look wistfully at some earlier years. With SFF – the combined genre guaranteed to cheese off purists of either sci-fi or fantasy (but […]

Best Books of 2016 – Mysteries!

December 17th, 2016
Best Books of 2016 – Mysteries!

Best Books of 2016 – Mysteries! Despite their separate category here in the Stevereads year-end roundup, murder mysteries are always guilty pleasures at heart. After all, YOU aren’t the one getting murdered, nor are you (except for a few particularly unlucky souls, one imagines) the one tasked with solving a murder; as an old friend […]

Best Books of 2016 – Romance!

December 16th, 2016
Best Books of 2016 – Romance!

Best Books of 2016 – Romance! Even in the darkest of times — and, although the fact may not be immediately apparent, 2016 was the darkest year in United States history – the Romance genre can be relied upon to divert, to catch me up in all its fictional squabbles with their ironclad-foretold outcomes, to […]

The Best Books of 2016 – Debuts!

December 15th, 2016
The Best Books of 2016 – Debuts!

Best Book of 2016 – Debuts! As usual, the survey of a year’s fiction debuts is nerve-wracking. Here are the luckiest of the lucky, the few out of the hopeful many who dreamed of achieving the damn-near impossible and getting their debut fiction through the gauntlet of agents, editors, publishers, and bookstore buyers and into […]

Best Books of 2016 – YA!

December 14th, 2016
Best Books of 2016 – YA!

The Best Books of 2016 – YA! 2016 was a watershed year for me when it comes to Young Adult fiction. Prior to this year, I’d thought of the YA genre as a sludgy cesspool of second-rate prose, a place where talentless authors pander to the insecurities, inexperience, and near-cosmic megalomania of the average teenager […]

Best Books of 2016: Translations!

December 13th, 2016
Best Books of 2016: Translations!

Best Books of 2016: Translations! An old literary crony of mine recently got back in touch in order to complain about book reviewers who make evaluative comments about the quality of translations that are made from languages they don’t know (your average book-critic being resolutely monoglot). I’d often made the same complaint: there I’d be, […]

The Best Books of 2016: Reprints!

December 12th, 2016
The Best Books of 2016: Reprints!

Best Books of 2016 – Reprints! Once again we kick off the high opera that is the Stevereads Best – and Worst – Books of the Year by checking the state of the book-world’s memory, looking at the strength and variety of its reprints. And as in most recent years, 2016 shows some remarkably healthy […]

Approaching Hoofbeats!

December 11th, 2016
Approaching Hoofbeats!

It’s that time of year again here at Stevereads! It’s time for my annual year-end round-up of the Year’s Best – and Worst – Books, and I have a wider field to cover in 2016 than I’ve had in any previous year: I’ve already read more books in 2016 than in any previous year of […]

Penguins on Parade: The Dance of Death!

December 9th, 2016
Penguins on Parade: The Dance of Death!

Some Penguin Classics, especially in the last few years, are guaranteed to surprise even the most veteran Penguin- watcher. Sometimes this can be disappointingly puzzling – Wellington’s battlefield dispatches, anyone? – and at other times this broad-minded new sense of inclusiveness can be utterly delightful. An amazing example of this latter instance is a new […]

Comics! Nightwing Returns to Blüdhaven!

December 7th, 2016
Comics! Nightwing Returns to Blüdhaven!

A standout for DC Comics this week, part of the company’s ongoing “Rebirth” line of titles slightly revamping the continuity that was itself revamped six years ago in the company’s “New 52” revamp, is issue #10 of Nightwing, in which the fan-favorite character moves to the seedy city of Blüdhaven with which he was so […]

A Winter-Time Regency Trio!

December 6th, 2016
A Winter-Time Regency Trio!

Our books today are three quick bursts of color and gaiety to brighten up a December day as winter, delayed and tentative, at last begins to close its grip on the city of Boston. Temperatures in the 20s (F) are in the immediate forecast for the first time in ten months, the other morning featured […]

The Literary Life … and the Hell with It!

December 5th, 2016
The Literary Life … and the Hell with It!

Our book today is a garrulous little delight from 1939, The Literary Life and the Hell with It, by Whit Burnett, the founder (along with his wonderful wife Martha Foley, the brains of the outfit) and long-time editor of Story magazine. Martha Foley had a fantastic ear for prose in English and a nearly-infallible instinct […]

Comics: “Power and Glory” in the JLA!

December 2nd, 2016
Comics: “Power and Glory” in the JLA!

Back in 1989, inexplicably popular comic book artist Bryan Hitch was given control of DC Comics bestselling iconic “New 52” series Justice League of America and began a multi-part storyline called “Power and Glory,” in which Rao, the god of Superman’s lost homeworld Krypton, turns up alive and well on Earth one day and starts […]

Advice to a Young Reviewer!

December 1st, 2016
Advice to a Young Reviewer!

Our book today is a slim little thing from 1927: Advice to a Young Reviewer, a quick mini-pamphlet dashed off at white heat by Edward Copleston, who was born in Devon in 1776, attended Oxford, and became Bishop of Llandaff and Dean of St. Paul’s in 1828. Copleston was apparently a feisty old codger of […]

Wilt-tripping in the Penny Press!

November 29th, 2016
Wilt-tripping in the Penny Press!

Self-preservation these days requires not only skipping wholesale the front sections of all the political magazines to which I subscribe but also physically tearing them off their staples and discarding them, so that not even a stray glance falls on their appalling content. I’ve been doing this for a couple of weeks now and face […]

Penguins on Parade: 120 Days of Sodom!

November 23rd, 2016
Penguins on Parade: 120 Days of Sodom!

Some Penguin Classics just never feel quite legitimate, no matter how hard they try, no matter how fervent their supporters are over the decades or centuries. This is how it will feel twenty years from now, when Kurt Vonnegut’s flyblown oeuvre is inducted into the line, and this is how it will feel thirty years […]

Two Books of Travel!

November 21st, 2016
Two Books of Travel!

Our books today – one old favorite and one I believe a new mention here at Stevereads – provide a warm-reminder reading experience that only gets warmer as the weather turns colder and the years go by: they’re both anthologies of travel-writing. The first, A Taste for Travel, was edited by John Julius Norwich in […]

A Pearl of Earls!

November 16th, 2016
A Pearl of Earls!

Our books today are posies picked from the local Barnes & Noble, a colorful trio of Regency novels all occupying roughly the middle orbit in the solar system of the British peerage: all books about earls, that strangely accessible rank of nobility considerably above a viscount and just a bit below a marquess. Any time […]

The Lottery – The Graphic Novel!

November 7th, 2016
The Lottery – The Graphic Novel!

Our book today is a “graphic adaptation,” what once would have been known as an “illustrated classic,” of Shirley Jackson’s best-known little piece of work, “The Lottery.” It’s Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery: A Graphic Adaptation, done with marvelous restrained mastery by Miles Hyman, Shirley Jackson’s grandson, who opens the production with a few remarks about […]

Table Manners!

October 31st, 2016
Table Manners!

Our book today is a slim little garlic tart: Table Manners: How to Behave in the Modern World and Why Bother, a 130-page guide to proper behavior written by Jeremiah Tower, whose author-note refers to him, non-ironically and without so much as a glance in the direction of the Maidu or Mojave, as “the forefather […]

Unconditional!

October 28th, 2016
Unconditional!

Our book today is Unconditional: Older Dogs, Deeper Love, a glorious result of photographer Jane Sobel Klonsky’s journeys around the United States, talking to people about their old dogs. This is a book that will bring a painful smile to the face of any dog owner, because its subject is the contradiction at the heart […]

Dude-Bro Reading in the Penny Press!

October 19th, 2016
Dude-Bro Reading in the Penny Press!

As I’ve readily admitted in the past, the lad-mags for which I have something of a pronounced sweet-tooth aren’t really the places you go if you’re looking for literary coverage. It’s true that some of them pay their freelancers well, so in the rear pages of many an issue, you can often find writing that […]

Through a Naturalist’s Eyes!

October 18th, 2016
Through a Naturalist’s Eyes!

Our book today is a kind of thing I’ve praised here at Stevereads many times in the past: regional natural history, in this case a pretty new volume from University Press of New England called Through a Naturalist’s Eyes: Exploring the Nature of New England, written by Michael Caduto and illustrated throughout by Adelaide Murphy […]

Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores!

October 12th, 2016
Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores!

Our book today is a lovely squat little thing from Clarkson Potter publishers: Footnotes from the World’s Greatest Bookstores, subtitled “True Tales and Lost Moments from Book Buyers, Booksellers, and Book Lovers.” In it, writer and illustrator Bob Eckstein visits dozens of bookshops around the world – and hears about a few that no longer […]

Sorry, Lady – This Beach is Private!

October 1st, 2016
Sorry, Lady – This Beach is Private!

Our book today is Sorry, Lady – This Beach is Private!, a 1963 collection of the cartoons and illustrations of James Stevenson, he of New Yorker fame. This volume collects dozens of Stevenson’s now-iconic little gems from his long heyday with the magazine throughout the 1950s and ’60s. They’re every bit as much of a […]

Hypocritical Blather in the Penny Press!

September 23rd, 2016
Hypocritical Blather in the Penny Press!

Like plenty of other people (perhaps particularly other beagle-fanciers), I loved Andrew Sullivan’s blog The Dish in most of its various incarnations over the years, and I read it eagerly even when, as was very often the case, I disagreed with the author. I was disappointed when he rather ostentatiously announced his retirement from blogging […]

Wagging Tails!

September 17th, 2016
Wagging Tails!

Our book today is a little treasure from deep, deep in the shadowy recesses of my personal library: a much-loved 1955 volume called Wagging Tails: An Album of Dogs, written by Marguerite Henry and drawn by Wesley Dennis. It’s an exuberantly friendly, colorful book full of friendly dogs, a book put out by Rand McNally […]

Dürer’s Record of Journeys to Venice and the Low Countries!

September 11th, 2016
Dürer’s Record of Journeys to Venice and the Low Countries!

Our book today is a little-known absolute gem that owes what very limited popular readership it’s ever had in America in the last eighty years to the stalwart old Dover reprint line as it once was – not its reprints of canonical classics, which have always been and continue to be glaringly ugly and editorially […]

Comrade Loves of the Samurai!

September 8th, 2016
Comrade Loves of the Samurai!

Our book today is Comrade Loves of the Samurai, a pokey little translation by E. Powys Mathers from way back in 1928, when it appeared in a privately-published set of high-class smut called Eastern Love. The set featured two books: selections from the Nanshoku Okagami of the great 17th century Japanese author Saikaku Ihara, here […]

The Cape at Summer’s End: Cape Cod Yesterdays!

September 2nd, 2016
The Cape at Summer’s End: Cape Cod Yesterdays!

Our book today is Cape Cod Yesterdays, which bestselling novelist Joseph C. Lincoln dashed off in 1935 and which went through his customary flurry of reprints, since the man was a storyteller with a golden touch, an immensely popular bestselling author of a century ago who built a large chunk of his career on his […]

The Penguin Book of English Verse!

August 29th, 2016
The Penguin Book of English Verse!

Our book today is that saddest of all kinds of books, the superseded classic. In this case, we’re talking about The Penguin Book of English Verse – not the massive 2004 version edited in all its splendor by Paul Keegan but rather the 1956 version edited by John Hayward, who had the old-fashioned chutzpah to […]

Birds Worth Knowing!

August 20th, 2016
Birds Worth Knowing!

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

Ink Chorus: Bestseller!

August 18th, 2016
Ink Chorus: Bestseller!

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

Genteel Bloodletting in the Penny Press!

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

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

The Life of the Robin!

August 6th, 2016
The Life of the Robin!

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

Ink Chorus: Homage to Daniel Shays!

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

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

Ink Chorus: A Writer’s Notebook!

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

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

The Urban Whale!

July 16th, 2016
The Urban Whale!

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

The “New” Boston Public Library!

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

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

Notes for a Star Trek Bibliography: Captain to Captain!

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

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

Ink Chorus: But Do Blondes Prefer Gentlemen?

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

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

Penguins on Parade: The Federalist Papers!

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

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

The Story of Nell Gwyn!

July 2nd, 2016
The Story of Nell Gwyn!

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

Ink Chorus: Terrorists & Novelists!

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

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

The American Poets Longfellow!

June 23rd, 2016
The American Poets Longfellow!

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

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

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

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

Penguins on Parade: The Praetorians!

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

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

Penguins on Parade: Storm of Steel

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

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

From My Library Walls!

June 7th, 2016
From My Library Walls!

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

Romance Roundup: Lords & Ladies in Love!

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

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

Penguins on Parade: Tales from the Decameron!

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

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

Notes for a Star Trek Bibliography: The Original Episodes!

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

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

Comics! DC’s Rebirth!

May 27th, 2016
Comics! DC’s Rebirth!

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

Gimme That Old Time Religion in the Penny Press!

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

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

Comics! Civil War II!

May 19th, 2016
Comics! Civil War II!

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

Jungle Days!

May 17th, 2016
Jungle Days!

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

Ink Chorus: Nothing If Not Critical!

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

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

One Wild Bird at a Time!

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

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

The Father!

May 7th, 2016
The Father!

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

Penguins on Parade: The Shahnameh!

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

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

The House on Ipswich Marsh!

May 3rd, 2016
The House on Ipswich Marsh!

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

Inside Benchley!

May 2nd, 2016
Inside Benchley!

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

Comics! An Epic Run!

May 1st, 2016
Comics! An Epic Run!

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

Bro-Reading in the Penny Press!

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

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

Comics! The Final Days of Superman!

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

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

The DC Comics 75th Anniversary Poster Book!

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

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

Cape Coddities!

April 24th, 2016
Cape Coddities!

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

Penguins on Parade: The Penguin Book of Renaissance Verse!

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

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

The Lady with the Borzoi!

April 17th, 2016
The Lady with the Borzoi!

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

Classical Literature!

April 15th, 2016
Classical Literature!

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

The Medici!

April 11th, 2016
The Medici!

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

The Edge of Empire!

April 9th, 2016
The Edge of Empire!

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

Jesus Before the Gospels!

April 8th, 2016
Jesus Before the Gospels!

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

On Being Human!

April 6th, 2016
On Being Human!

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

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

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

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

The Mark of the Horse Lord!

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

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

Dancing Fish and Amonites!

March 30th, 2016
Dancing Fish and Amonites!

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

The Books of Venice! Inside Venice!

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

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

The Books of Venice! Inside Venice!

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

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

Greece and Rome: Builders of Our World!

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

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

Galapagos: World’s End!

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

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

A Fair Wind for Troy!

March 19th, 2016
A Fair Wind for Troy!

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

Falling Slowly

March 18th, 2016
Falling Slowly

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

stevereads 2016-03-15 13:51:04

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

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

stevereads 2016-03-15 13:51:04

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

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

Six for Dr. Franklin!

March 14th, 2016
Six for Dr. Franklin!

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

Notes for a Star Trek Bibliography: The Latter Fire!

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

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

Notes for a Star Trek Bibliography: The Latter Fire!

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

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

Our Hearts Were Young and Gay!

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

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

The Great House of Birds!

March 8th, 2016
The Great House of Birds!

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

Comics: If Asgard Should Perish!

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

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

A Trip to the Harvard Book Store!

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

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

The Books … of Venice! Gondola Days!

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

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

Penguins on Parade: The Book of Magic!

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

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

Romance Roundup: Regency Rakes!

March 1st, 2016
Romance Roundup: Regency Rakes!

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

A Sensible Career Path in the Penny Press!

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

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

Library: An Unquiet History!

February 27th, 2016
Library: An Unquiet History!

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

Writers by Nature in the Penny Press!

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

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

Mystery Monday: Jane and the Waterloo Map!

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

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

Comics: The “Rebirth” of the Legion?

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

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

Alive in the Wild!

February 20th, 2016
Alive in the Wild!

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

Islands and Lagoons … of Venice!

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

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

Ink Chorus: Never in Doubt!

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

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

A Polar Vortex Romance Round-Up!

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

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

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek!

February 13th, 2016
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek!

Our book today is one of those modern classics every reader should read: Annie Dillard’s great Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize back in 1975. In these pages – part memoir, part natural history, part crackpot seat-of-the-pants philosophy – she muses on the natural world of her surroundings in Virginia’s […]

A Time in Rome!

February 12th, 2016
A Time in Rome!

Our book today is Elizabeth Bowen’s winsome 1960 glory of place-writing, A Time in Rome, in which she blends history and travelogue and memoir in an entirely successful attempt to capture in words what the Rome and its environs had meant to her for half a century. As with everything else she wrote, whether it […]

On the Runways of Alpha Centauri This Season in the Penny Press!

February 11th, 2016
On the Runways of Alpha Centauri This Season in the Penny Press!

Fortunately, no matter how frustrating or confusing the Penny Press is on any given week, we’ll always still have the beacon of clarity that is high fashion.  

Send in the D-List in the Penny Press!

February 11th, 2016
Send in the D-List in the Penny Press!

The latest issue of Vanity Fair had an amusing little one-page squib that managed to provoke in me an old and often-provoked reaction. The piece, called “Unsung Superheroes,” is written by Scott Jacobson, Mike Sacks, and Ted Travelstead (don’t ask me why – the thing is 300 not particularly taxing words long; I have no […]

Lawrence Osborne in the Penny Press!

February 11th, 2016
Lawrence Osborne in the Penny Press!

I’m always pleased when one of my beloved lad-mags pauses from its barrage of plugs for $50,000 wristwatches and full-page ads for cigarettes in order to talk about books; it’s slightly encouraging to me, that the editors of these magazines sometimes think that in addition to grotesquely expensive status-symbol gimcracks and incipient lung cancer, young […]

Yet More Echo-Reviews in the Penny Press!

February 11th, 2016
Yet More Echo-Reviews in the Penny Press!

The latest New York Review of Books, in addition to its usual spread of great reviews of books I haven’t read – the standout this time probably being Jacob Weisberg’s “We Are Hopelessly Hooked,” a review of a spate of new books on digital media that was full of great quotes (my two favorite: “We […]

Fanny Burney!

February 9th, 2016
Fanny Burney!

Just the other day, I happened to come across a disparaging comment about Fanny Burney (these are the kinds of circles I frequent, alas), and it’s stuck with me. The writer of the comment had no use for poor Fanny, remarking that the world would have been better all around if she’d never put pen […]

Mystery Monday: Death at La Fenice!

February 8th, 2016
Mystery Monday: Death at La Fenice!

Our book today is Death at La Fenice from way back in 1992, the very first of Donna Leon’s wildly popular murder mysteries set in Venice and featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti, her steadfast and nondescript working-stiff sleuth. Now, in 2015, Leon has been writing Venice-based novels for a quarter of a century; they’ve sold millions […]

The February ’16 Boston Public Library Book Sale!

February 7th, 2016
The February ’16 Boston Public Library Book Sale!

Once again I combed my few remaining hairs, donned pants, kissed my frail old dogs good-bye, and ventured out to the bi-monthly book sale hosted by the stalwart City-Wide Friends of the Boston Public Library, even though I need a sack of new books about as much as I need an attack of malaria. But […]

Penguins on Parade: The Tale of Tales!

February 6th, 2016
Penguins on Parade: The Tale of Tales!

Some Penguin Classics, as we’ve seen before, take an earlier superb work of scholarship or translation and basically save it from obscurity by adding it to the Classics lineup. In our case today, the name of that obscurity would be Wayne State University Press, which in 2007 originally published Nancy Canepa’s translation of Giambattista Basile’s […]

A Brief History of Rome!

February 5th, 2016
A Brief History of Rome!

Our book today is from 1885: the Brief History of Rome put out in New York as part of the old Barnes’ One-Term Series that was designed to put short, affordable one-volume introductions to then-staple subjects like history, science, and language into classrooms in the state of New York (and beyond – many’s the tiny […]

Roman Life in Pliny’s Time!

February 4th, 2016
Roman Life in Pliny’s Time!

Our book today takes us back once again to Ancient Rome, this time to the 1st century world of Pliny the Younger. It’s Maurice Pellison’s Roman Life in Pliny’s Time, in an 1897 English-language translation by Maud Wilkinson, with an Introduction by University of Chicago professor Frank Justus Miller, who’s pulling out all the rhetorical […]

A Day in Old Rome!

February 3rd, 2016
A Day in Old Rome!

Our book today hails all the way from 1925: A Day in Old Rome by William Stearns Davis, a wonderfully amiable educator and writer who brought out this book as a follow-up to his 1914 A Day in Old Athens, which surprised both its author and its publisher by actually selling briskly in bookshops. A […]

A February TBR!

February 2nd, 2016
A February TBR!

As many of you will know, I adore the “Booktube” neighborhood of YouTube, the chatty, clubbish neighborhood where book-nerds of all types post videos of themselves sitting in their bedrooms, talking to their cameras about the latest children’s books they’ve read. Not all children’s books, I grudgingly admit, although the preponderance is so great it […]

Mystery Monday: A Prisoner in Malta!

February 1st, 2016
Mystery Monday: A Prisoner in Malta!

Our book today is A Prisoner in Malta by Phillip DePoy, out new from Minotaur books, the first in what I hope is a long series of adventures starring a young Christopher Marlowe. Unlike so many actual historical characters who get pressed into service in whodunit novels – figures like Samuel Johnson, Benjamin Franklin, or, […]

The Books … of Venice! Birth of a City!

January 31st, 2016
The Books … of Venice! Birth of a City!

Our book today is Venice: Birth of a City, a marvelous illustrated 1987 gem by the great Piero Ventura, whose picture books just brim with life and idiosyncratic charm. He opens his account of the earliest history of Venice with the customary hymn of praise and some basic geographic outlining: Venice is the strangest, most […]

The Books … of Venice! Birth of a City!

January 31st, 2016
The Books … of Venice! Birth of a City!

Our book today is Venice: Birth of a City, a marvelous illustrated 1987 gem by the great Piero Ventura, whose picture books just brim with life and idiosyncratic charm. He opens his account of the earliest history of Venice with the customary hymn of praise and some basic geographic outlining: Venice is the strangest, most […]

Asimov gems in the Penny Press!

January 30th, 2016
Asimov gems in the Penny Press!

It’s such a satisfying feeling, to buy the new issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction, slide it into the front pocket of my battered leather satchel, and know with complete certainty that I have absolutely subway-proof reading ahead of me. Each issue of Asimov’s costs $5 – and yet for that price you get, every single […]

World Pictures!

January 29th, 2016
World Pictures!

Our book today is a heavy, sumptuous thing from the first year of the previous century, before world wars and world plagues and looming world destruction, before anybody had ever heard the words ‘nuclear warhead’ or ‘genocide’ or ‘global warming.’ It’s a seemingly innocent tour of the world by the celebrated artist Mortimer Menpes, World […]

Attending Oxford: Doctor Thorne!

January 27th, 2016
Attending Oxford: Doctor Thorne!

The Oxford University Press, centuries old and the biggest academic press in the world, founded its World’s Classics series in 1906 (having bought the imprimatur lock, stock, and barrel from the brilliant publisher Grant Richards in 1901). For over a hundred years, the line has produced reasonably-priced and expertly-edited canonical texts, proving that great and […]

Geographica: Denali!

January 26th, 2016
Geographica: Denali!

The latest issue of National Geographic is as packed with glorious goodies as all other issues of the magazine tend to be, and one of them brought back a lot of great memories: an article about the sprawling natural park region all around “the Tall One,” the moody and incredible mountain I knew as Mount […]

Mystery Monday: Real Tigers!

January 25th, 2016
Mystery Monday: Real Tigers!

Our book today is Real Tigers, Mick Herron’s return to Slough House, the forbidding location on the wrong side of the Thames from Regent’s Park, the sleek headquarters of M15. Slough House is where M15 sends its disgraced agents, the ones so tarnished as to be considered beyond rehabilitation. Thus sidelined into oblivion, these “slow […]

The Books of Venice: Marco Polo – Venetian Adventurer!

January 24th, 2016
The Books of Venice: Marco Polo – Venetian Adventurer!

It occurred to me that since the city of Venice is so dear to my heart (Venice, Italy, that is – sorry, all you handsome young weightlifters! Venice, California isn’t our setting today), I should formalize an ongoing feature about the endless stream of books generated by La Serenissima, and how better to start than […]

Cat-Scratch Fever in the Penny Press!

January 23rd, 2016
Cat-Scratch Fever in the Penny Press!

I love a 16,000-word TLS rumination on the lesser novels of George Eliot as much as the next bookworm (the keening sound you just heard coming from Up North was a certain Open Letters Monthly colleague saying “WHAT lesser novels?”), but sometimes, when rummaging through the week’s Penny Press, I get my biggest smiles from […]

Cat-Scratch Fever in the Penny Press!

January 23rd, 2016
Cat-Scratch Fever in the Penny Press!

I love a 16,000-word TLS rumination on the lesser novels of George Eliot as much as the next bookworm (the keening sound you just heard coming from Up North was a certain Open Letters Monthly colleague saying “WHAT lesser novels?”), but sometimes, when rummaging through the week’s Penny Press, I get my biggest smiles from […]

Cat-Scratch Fever in the Penny Press!

January 23rd, 2016
Cat-Scratch Fever in the Penny Press!

I love a 16,000-word TLS rumination on the lesser novels of George Eliot as much as the next bookworm (the keening sound you just heard coming from Up North was a certain Open Letters Monthly colleague saying “WHAT lesser novels?”), but sometimes, when rummaging through the week’s Penny Press, I get my biggest smiles from […]

Cat-Scratch Fever in the Penny Press!

January 23rd, 2016
Cat-Scratch Fever in the Penny Press!

I love a 16,000-word TLS rumination on the lesser novels of George Eliot as much as the next bookworm (the keening sound you just heard coming from Up North was a certain Open Letters Monthly colleague saying “WHAT lesser novels?”), but sometimes, when rummaging through the week’s Penny Press, I get my biggest smiles from […]

Cheap Thrills!

January 22nd, 2016
Cheap Thrills!

Our book today is a lurid little treat: Cheap Thrills, a short, pithy, and heavily illustrated history of the pulps by the irrepressible Ron Goulart and subtitled The Amazing! Thrilling! Astonishing! History of Pulp Fiction. It was originally written back in 1972, as Goulart tartly observes: “At the time I was researching Cheap Thrills there […]

Cheap Thrills!

January 22nd, 2016
Cheap Thrills!

Our book today is a lurid little treat: Cheap Thrills, a short, pithy, and heavily illustrated history of the pulps by the irrepressible Ron Goulart and subtitled The Amazing! Thrilling! Astonishing! History of Pulp Fiction. It was originally written back in 1972, as Goulart tartly observes: “At the time I was researching Cheap Thrills there […]

Boston: Cradle of Liberty!

January 21st, 2016
Boston: Cradle of Liberty!

Our book on this glorious day is Boston: Cradle of Liberty, a slim hardcover gem from 1965 written by Edward Weeks and illustrated by Fritz Busse. It’s the kind of keepsake tchotchke historic cities like Boston generate on a monthly basis (this March, it’ll be A History of Boston in 50 Artifacts, for instance), but […]

The Spoken Word in the Penny Press!

January 20th, 2016
The Spoken Word in the Penny Press!

It was a bit of a thready swallow, working my way past the smug cover photo of Fox News shill Megyn Kelly in the latest issue of Vanity Fair, but I was certainly glad I did, since the issue itself was chock-full of murder, celebrities, and murdered celebrities, plus great photos, grotesque real estate ads, […]

The Art of the Mass Market: Hornblower!

January 19th, 2016
The Art of the Mass Market: Hornblower!

Yet another digression before we even get to our technical main topic! This time it’s the “Hornblower Saga” mass market paperback 1970s reprint run of all the classic Horatio Hornblower adventures by C. S. Forester, each with a gorgeous new cover by an uncredited artist. The Hornblower books have of course been reprinted many, many […]

Universe 10!

January 18th, 2016
Universe 10!

Our book today is Universe 10, the tenth installment in the great old science fiction anthology series by one of the best and sharpest-eyed editors the genre ever produced, Terry Carr. This slim volume is from 1980 – the copy I have is a hardcover, although I expect most of the loyal readers Terry amassed […]

Penguins on Parade: Early Fiction in England!

January 17th, 2016
Penguins on Parade: Early Fiction in England!

Some Penguin Classics need to work harder than others to define their terms. Take, for example, the nifty recent volume edited by Laura Ashe, Early Fiction in England from Geoffrey of Monmouth to Chaucer – even the title of the book might prompt a quizzical expression from the average reader, who might just naturally associate […]

Comics! Secret Wars Concludes!

January 16th, 2016
Comics! Secret Wars Concludes!

It’s been a long time, and a lot of water has gone under the proverbial bridge since Marvel’s latest mega-event “Secret Wars” mini-series began its nine-issue run back in 2007. Writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Esad Ribic launched the event – in which some kind of universe-killing singularity wipes out the entire continuity of the […]

The Illustrated Tennyson!

January 15th, 2016
The Illustrated Tennyson!

Our book today is a grand Victorian thing, an illustrated 1884 edition of the poems of Tennyson published by dear old James Osgood & Co. on Tremont Street in Boston. This is an appreciation, a tribute to the 19th century’s greatest poet; it has no critical apparatus of any kind and certainly cannot be consulted […]

Romance Roundup: January 2016!

January 14th, 2016
Romance Roundup: January 2016!

As we’ve mentioned here at Stevereads before, the tactic some Romance authors take of anchoring their stories geographically seems extremely popular with the core readership. I find this more confusing than not, since, after all, the traditional modern view of romance is that it’s something most likely to take root and flourish in foreign soil […]

An Island Summer!

January 13th, 2016
An Island Summer!

Our book today is Walter Magnes Teller’s An Island Summer from 1951, his sentiment-infused reminiscence of a “happy family holiday” on Martha’s Vineyard with his wife and four children. The book, illustrated by Donald McKay, follows the adventures of the Teller family as they take the ferry and make their way to the Paint Box, […]

The Perils of Parody in the Penny Press!

January 12th, 2016
The Perils of Parody in the Penny Press!

It’s hard to miss the cover of the latest Esquire on the newsstands. It’s a stark, ugly black-and-white close up of Donald Trump’s face, under the banner “Hater in Chief.” And the issue’s contents are politically weighted, in ways virtually guaranteed to irk me – especially the magazine’s specious, irritating accompanying “news survey” about rage […]

Moorehead’s Gallipoli!

January 11th, 2016
Moorehead’s Gallipoli!

Our book today was a very thoughtful gift! The little old lady who reviews the same novel every week for the Silver Spring Scold recently tapped out her pin money onto the kitchen table, put on her finest bonnet, tottered around the corner to her favorite second-hand bookstore, Puss-in-Books, and procured for me a plastic-wrapped […]

Ink Chorus: Malcolm Cowley!

January 10th, 2016
Ink Chorus: Malcolm Cowley!

Our book today is The Portable Malcolm Cowley, a compendious volume from 1990 edited by Donald Faulkner that’s one of the best entries in the wonderful Viking Portable Library series not only because it brings together a treasure-pile of great stuff but also because, in Cowley’s case, that assemble stuff is the very essence of […]

Penguins on Parade: Mont Saint Michel and Chartres

January 9th, 2016
Penguins on Parade: Mont Saint Michel and Chartres

Some Penguin Classics remain obstinately unclassifiable, no matter how many times you read them. Look, for instance, at Penguin’s 1986 paperback of Mont Saint Michel and Chartres, the deeply, deceptively strange 1904 work by Henry Adams. On the surface, it looks like a passionately impressionistic travelogue of the type that was enormously popular at the […]

Attending Oxford: The Expedition of Cyrus!

January 8th, 2016
Attending Oxford: The Expedition of Cyrus!

The Oxford University Press, centuries old and the biggest academic press in the world, founded its World’s Classics series in 1906 (having bought the imprimatur lock, stock, and barrel from the brilliant publisher Grant Richards in 1901). For over a hundred years, the line has produced reasonably-priced and expertly-edited canonical texts, proving that great and […]

Comics! Obi-Wan & Anakin!

January 7th, 2016
Comics! Obi-Wan & Anakin!

The onslaught of new Marvel Comics titles set in the world of Star Wars will now flow unabated, thanks to the grotesque, obscene box office success of the new Star Wars move, The Force Awakens (as of this writing, the movie has grossed over one trillion dollars and been officially inducted into the official liturgy […]

Comics! Obi-Wan & Anakin!

January 7th, 2016
Comics! Obi-Wan & Anakin!

The onslaught of new Marvel Comics titles set in the world of Star Wars will now flow unabated, thanks to the grotesque, obscene box office success of the new Star Wars move, The Force Awakens (as of this writing, the movie has grossed over one trillion dollars and been officially inducted into the official liturgy […]

Three Weeks in Europe!

January 6th, 2016
Three Weeks in Europe!

Our book today is Three Weeks in Europe by John U. Higinbotham, a gem from 1904 sub-titled “The Vacation of a Busy Man” and aimed squarely at the hectic modern world with its breakneck pace: Most books of travel state that you should give three months to Florence, for example, but map out a three […]

Three Weeks in Europe!

January 6th, 2016
Three Weeks in Europe!

Our book today is Three Weeks in Europe by John U. Higinbotham, a gem from 1904 sub-titled “The Vacation of a Busy Man” and aimed squarely at the hectic modern world with its breakneck pace: Most books of travel state that you should give three months to Florence, for example, but map out a three […]

Price-hikes and Lookalikes in the Penny Press!

January 5th, 2016
Price-hikes and Lookalikes in the Penny Press!

The New Year in the Penny Press started out for me with a nasty little shock. Despite bungling my subscription paperwork to such an extent that I get two copies of every issue of the New Yorker in the mail ever week, I had occasion shortly after the year began to buy a copy of […]

Mystery Monday: The Lady Agnes Mystery!

January 4th, 2016
Mystery Monday: The Lady Agnes Mystery!

The further back in history they go, the more inventive mystery writers have to be if they want their sleuths to be women. After all, the crime-solving detectives must not only go down mean streets in search of evidence but also be able to deal with the sordid types they find there – and they’ve […]

January 2016 TBR!

January 3rd, 2016
January 2016 TBR!

Our books today have (mostly) not yet appeared in bookstores – they’re a selection of titles coming up in January of 2016 that, for one reason or another, I’m eagerly anticipating. As some of you will guess, I’m a big fan of the sub-culture of YouTube known to its inhabitants as BookTube. It’s mostly filled […]

The Best Books of 2015: Nonfiction!

December 30th, 2015
The Best Books of 2015: Nonfiction!

We come at last to the final installment of the Stevereads Best – and Worst – Books of the Year for 2015 (which followed hard on the heels of the Donoghue Interregnum, to make for a very list-y December indeed!), a year in which I read more books than I’d ever done before in a […]

The Best Books of 2015: Fiction!

December 29th, 2015
The Best Books of 2015: Fiction!

As wiser heads than mine figured out and pointed out in the public forum, 2015 was characterized by a great deal of audacity in its fiction. Most of this audacity misfired – publishing emails as a novel, straight-facedly telling your publisher that you intend to write 117 800-page novels over the next 251 years, twee […]

The Worst Books of 2015: Nonfiction!

December 28th, 2015
The Worst Books of 2015: Nonfiction!

2015 was a very bad year for adulthood. In its twelve months, the aging Baby Boomer generation and the despised Millennials faced challenges to common sense and decency on all sides – and failed every single one of those challenges. Privileged college undergraduates screamed at their college administrators in public and were not disciplined; pampered […]

The Worst Books of 2015: Fiction!

December 27th, 2015
The Worst Books of 2015: Fiction!

2015 wasn’t a very good year for fiction. It had highlights, as, thankfully, any year will have, but if you think about it, highlights are all that genuine readers ever get: all years are, in aggregate, bad for fiction (as somebody who reads more self-published books than you’d readily believe, you can trust me on […]

The Best Books of 2015: Biography!

December 26th, 2015
The Best Books of 2015: Biography!

Biography, as many of you will know, is my favorite genre – it’s as improbable as the wildest-eyed fiction, as grounded in events as the most sober history, and often as unpredictable as any fantasy novel, and best of all, it very often brings out the best in its practitioners, many of whom are faced […]

The Best Books of 2015: History!

December 25th, 2015
The Best Books of 2015: History!

I read more books in 2015 than in any other year of my life (I exceeded my previous personal best – which was 2014 – in mid-December of this year and just kept going), and a great many of those books were squarely in my preferred genres of history and biography – in fact, as […]

The Best Books of 2015: Fiction Debuts!

December 24th, 2015
The Best Books of 2015: Fiction Debuts!

The greatest pleasure associated with debut fiction, especially debut novels, is naturally the feeling of new avenues of possibility opening up; there’s something extra exciting about watching a new author try to work out a style and find a voice – perhaps only to disregard them both in their next outing, or perhaps to refine […]

The Best Books of 2015: Nature!

December 23rd, 2015
The Best Books of 2015: Nature!

2015 was a very strong year for the combined Science and Nature category I love so much, a very strong year for books describing and celebrating the mind-blowing wonders of nature. This category is a bit of a sweet tooth of mine, and I’m fairly certain I read every major mainstream example of it published […]

The Best Books of 2015: Nature!

December 23rd, 2015
The Best Books of 2015: Nature!

2015 was a very strong year for the combined Science and Nature category I love so much, a very strong year for books describing and celebrating the mind-blowing wonders of nature. This category is a bit of a sweet tooth of mine, and I’m fairly certain I read every major mainstream example of it published […]

The Best Books of 2015: Romance!

December 22nd, 2015
The Best Books of 2015: Romance!

By far the cheeriest of our sub-genres is this one, romance novels (I used to find murder mysteries more cheering – because you’re guaranteed to read about at least one dead human – but I’ve mellowed a bit), and yet the successful crafting a cheery escapism is no small feat of writing, which makes the […]

Best Books of 2015: Science Fiction & Fantasy!

December 21st, 2015
Best Books of 2015: Science Fiction & Fantasy!

Our next sub-genre is science fiction and fantasy (“sff” for the initiated), a field of fiction that’s every bit as prone to being formulaic and derivative as its sister sub-genres, although its practitioners sometimes seem oddly, almost defiantly unaware of this fact. Possibly they don’t read as much of it as I do, but in […]

Best Books of 2015: Mysteries!

December 20th, 2015
Best Books of 2015: Mysteries!

Time now to look at the three specific sub-genres of fiction that mean so much to me: murder mysteries, sci-fi and fantasy, and romance novels! The never-ending abundance of books in these sub-genres always makes me scratch my head a little when book-business friends of mine collectively lament periodic ‘dry spells’ in the publishing calendar. […]

The Best Books of 2015: Translations!

December 19th, 2015
The Best Books of 2015: Translations!

The timidity of the English-language book-buying public has been a byword for the last fifty years, and I’m always gratified by how much it’s belied by the breadth and variety of books-in-translation every year. Still only a fraction of the whole, I grant you, but even so: all of these, the best ten translated works […]

Best Books of 2015: Guilty Pleasures!

December 18th, 2015
Best Books of 2015: Guilty Pleasures!

Once again we turn to the Guilty Pleasures of the book world, the books that either shouldn’t exist or shouldn’t take up as much of your time as they end up doing, or even books you kind of hate yourself for liking – or all three at the same time. I gave a fair amount […]

Best Books of 2015: Reprints!

December 17th, 2015
Best Books of 2015: Reprints!

We begin our 2015 Stevereads year-end festivities with a glance back at a healthy barometer of the book-world around us. That book-world is only as strong as its memory, so a very good gauge of the health of the Republic of Letters at any given time is the state of its reprints, the extent to […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: Breda!

December 17th, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: Breda!

And so, the Donoghue Interregnum comes to an end! In the following year, I created Stevereads and lost no time in pontificating on books new and old, with scarcely a backward glance at the unseemly gap I’d left in the published history of such pontifications. That gap is now filled, and today, with barely a […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: Breda!

December 17th, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: Breda!

And so, the Donoghue Interregnum comes to an end! In the following year, I created Stevereads and lost no time in pontificating on books new and old, with scarcely a backward glance at the unseemly gap I’d left in the published history of such pontifications. That gap is now filled, and today, with barely a […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 2005!

December 16th, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 2005!

We come at last to the final year of the Donoghue Interregnum, the final year in which the reading public was fumbling blindly for guidance, taking book-recommendations from random strangers or desperate, malodorous librarians. The year is 2005, when Saddam Hussein went on trial, Islamic terrorism continued to rise all over the world, “Deep Throat” […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 2004!

December 15th, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 2004!

Our penultimate year is AD 2004, when a tsunami killed a quarter of a million people in Asia, terrorism struck in Spain, Chechnya, Saudi Arabia, and half a dozen other places, same-sex marriage became legal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (and neither the institution of marriage nor the world subsequently ended), and the great Renata […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 2003!

December 14th, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 2003!

The year is now 2003, when President George W. Bush invaded Iraq in a fit of pique, Broadway went dark, the Old Man of the Mountain finally crumbled, President George W. Bush declared the Iraq War a victory, and the great Katharine Hepburn died. And the book-world carried on regardless, hitting these high notes: Best […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 2002!

December 13th, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 2002!

The year is now 2002, when Queen Elizabeth II marked her 50th year on the throne, Washington, DC spent a month being terrorized by a sniper, tornadoes rampaged across America, and Stephen Jay Gould, Elizabeth Longford, Kenneth Koch, and Caroline Knapp all died. Yet somehow, I still felt like reading, and books kept appearing. These […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 2001

December 12th, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 2001

We’ve reached 2001, the year of the 9-11 attacks. Books – and everything else – in America were necessarily overshadowed, but there were of course nonetheless works of great worth: Best Fiction: 10 The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction Colm Toibin ed (1999) – It’s this enormous, unendingly rewarding volume that gave me my first […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 2000!

December 11th, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 2000!

Our year is now AD 2000, when Slobodan Mlosevic was removed from power in a coup, George W. Bush was placed in power by a coup, Alexandria is discovered again after 2000 years of slumber, and the great Jean-Pierre Rampal died. The top efforts of the book-world looked like this: Best Fiction: 10 The Amazing […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1999!

December 10th, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 1999!

We’ve now reached 1999, when the number of humans living on Earth passed six billion, America was shocked to its core by the Columbine shootings, Vladimir Putin came to power, and the indispensable Alan Clark died. But the world of books was alive and well, and here’s how it rated: Best Fiction: 10 The Intuitionist […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1998!

December 9th, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 1998!

Through toil and patience, we’ve reached 1998, when the IRA once again laid down its arms, Islamic terrorism rises all over the world, President Bill Clinton is impeached for the 431st Clinton scandal, and the great Martha Gellhorn died. Here’s the book-world outlook: Fiction 10 – A Man in Full by Tom Wolfe – What […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1997!

December 8th, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 1997!

We’re now up to 1997, the year when Woolworth’s, Mother Teresa, Princess Diana, and the great Jacques Cousteau all died. But books were very much alive and well, as our list clearly shows: Best Fiction: 10 – The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald – It took me a while to warm up to the quirky minimalism […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1996!

December 7th, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 1996!

We’ve now reached 1996, the year Carl Sagan died. The books looked like this: Best Fiction: 10 – The Beauty of Men by Andrew Holleran – This novel about an aging man’s look back on the loves and fucks of his life in the gay demimonde reads every bit as beautifully as Holleran’s consciousness-defining hit […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1995!

December 6th, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 1995!

We’re now at 1995, the year that the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed, the year that terrorists released nerve gas in a Tokyo subway, the year Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, and the year the great Jeremy Brett died. These were the year’s best books: Best Fiction: 10 – Rule of the Bone by […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1995!

December 6th, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 1995!

We’re now at 1995, the year that the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was bombed, the year that terrorists released nerve gas in a Tokyo subway, the year Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, and the year the great Jeremy Brett died. These were the year’s best books: Best Fiction: 10 – Rule of the Bone by […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1994!

December 5th, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 1994!

We’ve reached 1994, when genocide stalked Rwanda, the 145th Clinton scandal broke, Richard Nixon was recalled to Hell, and the great Cab Calloway died. The book-world’s top efforts looked like this: Best Fiction: 10 – The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge – The doomed 1912 Scott expedition to the South Pole is the unlikely subject […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1994!

December 5th, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 1994!

We’ve reached 1994, when genocide stalked Rwanda, the 145th Clinton scandal broke, Richard Nixon was recalled to Hell, and the great Cab Calloway died. The book-world’s top efforts looked like this: Best Fiction: 10 – The Birthday Boys by Beryl Bainbridge – The doomed 1912 Scott expedition to the South Pole is the unlikely subject […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1993!

December 4th, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 1993!

We’re now at 1993, when the Boston winter was gawd-awful, Jurassic Park stomped into movie theaters, and the great Thurgood Marshall died. Here’s how the book-world looked: Best Fiction: 10 – A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth – This sprawling novel set in 1950s India and featuring four families populated by vivid characters is so […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1992!

December 3rd, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 1992!

We move on to 1992, when Johnny Carson retired, the Clinton era began, something called a “web browser” was first introduced, and the great Wallace Stegner died. Best Fiction: 10 – Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates – I’d never been a big fan of Joyce Carol Oates’s writing, and when I read the advance […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1991!

December 2nd, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 1991!

We continue with the year 1991, when Operation Desert Storm expelled Iraq from Kuwait, Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated, the Soviet Union dissolved at long last, and the great Gene Roddenberry died. This is how the books stacked up: Best Fiction: 10 – Rumpole a la Carte by John Mortimer – Six classic […]

The Donoghue Interregnum: 1990!

December 1st, 2015
The Donoghue Interregnum: 1990!

We begin in that halcyon year of 1990, the year of my return to Boston! Thatcher resigned, the Berlin Wall fell, priceless works of art were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the great Jim Henson died. And in the world of books, this is how things broke down: Best Fiction: 10 – […]

What is … The Donoghue Interregnum?

November 30th, 2015
What is … The Donoghue Interregnum?

The whole while that Stevereads has been rolling out its annual assessments of the best – and worst – books of every passing year – that annual Gotterdamerung so secretly feared and yet so eagerly anticipated by publishers, authors, publicists, and readers alike – there’s been a gap, an omission that’s been bothering me just […]

The Thanksgiving Tag!

November 26th, 2015
The Thanksgiving Tag!

Our books today are five for which I give thanks, and in selecting just five I was inspired by the wonderful young people over in the world of BookTube, where a “tag” along these lines is making the rounds. For those of you not hep to the lingo, in the world of BookTube, a “tag” […]

Notes for a Star Trek Bibliography: Child of Two Worlds!

November 26th, 2015
Notes for a Star Trek Bibliography: Child of Two Worlds!

The earliest fans of Star Trek encountered for the first time in 1966 something they’d before then only inferred: the past of their beloved starship Enterprise. They’d always known the Enterprise must have a past. They knew that Captain James T. Kirk had been the youngest person ever to command a starship, but there’d never […]

The Literary Essays of James Russell Lowell!

November 22nd, 2015
The Literary Essays of James Russell Lowell!

Our books today are the literary essays of that great 19th-century American belletrist James Russell Lowell, here in a lovely uniform green edition of four volumes put out in 1890 by Houghton, Mifflin in conjunction with The Riverside Press of Lowell’s home of Cambridge, Massachusetts. I found these volumes, predictably enough, at my beloved Brattle […]

The Literary Essays of James Russell Lowell!

November 22nd, 2015
The Literary Essays of James Russell Lowell!

Our books today are the literary essays of that great 19th-century American belletrist James Russell Lowell, here in a lovely uniform green edition of four volumes put out in 1890 by Houghton, Mifflin in conjunction with The Riverside Press of Lowell’s home of Cambridge, Massachusetts. I found these volumes, predictably enough, at my beloved Brattle […]

Comics: Yet More First Issues!

November 21st, 2015
Comics: Yet More First Issues!

For a solid fourth week of visits to my beloved Comicopia here in Boston, I’ve had first issues in my bag when I left. As I’ve mentioned here at Stevereads before, I remember when the appearance of a first issue was a big deal, fairly rare – finding one on the spinner rack of Trow’s […]

Penguins on Parade: The I Ching!

November 19th, 2015
Penguins on Parade: The I Ching!

Some Penguin Classics remain every bit as impenetrable no matter how often you come back to them – especially if they were more or less designed to be impenetrable. I know of no better example of this than the ancient Chinese classic called the I Ching or Book of Change; I’ve now grappled three times […]

Idol-Bashing in the Penny Press!

November 17th, 2015
Idol-Bashing in the Penny Press!

This late in the year, for good or ill, the year’s publishing success stories are fairly well known – both “success” in terms of sales and “success” in terms of critical worth (and the rare, happy instances where the two coincide). So a negative review of one of these success stories jumps off the page, […]

Good Old William Dean Howells!

November 16th, 2015
Good Old William Dean Howells!

Our book today is a sturdy, inviting thing from 1910, the “Library Edition” that combines two books by William Dean Howells, My Literary Passions and Criticism and Fiction. The books were published years apart, and this lovely compendium was a thoughtful gift to me recently from the old lady who reviews the same novel every […]

The Art of the Mass Market: Regency Romances!

November 13th, 2015
The Art of the Mass Market: Regency Romances!

Once again, I’m trying your patience by taking the long way around the barn to get to the actual feature I intend to call “The Art of the Mass Market”! That feature will celebrate just what it says on the tin: the art of mass market paperback reprints of books originally released in hardcover. And […]

Comics! American Alien #1!

November 11th, 2015
Comics! American Alien #1!

Today’s selection of new comics – reached at my beloved Comicopia through a miserable pining chilly mist – was typically broad and had plenty of interesting-looking new titles, including quite a few ever-optimistic first issues. In one of those, The All-New, All-Different Avengers (as with so much in the new, trendy, app-y Marvel Comics line, […]

The Fantastic Art of Boris Vallejo!

November 11th, 2015
The Fantastic Art of Boris Vallejo!

Our book today is a great gaudy thing from a great gaudy decade, The Fantastic Art of Boris Vallejo from 1978, with an Introduction by the late great science fiction editor Lester Del Rey, a third-rate hack of an author but an absolute impresario when it came to finding, editing, and packaging sci-fi and fantasy […]

Six Big Fat Summer Biographies!

November 8th, 2015
Six Big Fat Summer Biographies!

Ah, yes: windows open, ceiling fan going, bare feet propped up on the nearest basset hound – all the typical hallmarks of November in New England! And how better to pass a hot, languid November weekend than with a nice fat biography, to take your mind off the sultry weather? Certainly I myself don’t know […]

Comics: Hercules #1!

November 5th, 2015
Comics: Hercules #1!

Yesterday’s comics featured – as they now tend to do on an almost alarmingly frequent basis – the first issue of a new series, in this case Hercules #1, written by Dan Abnett and drawn by Luke Ross (the credits also include the rather hilarious line “Hercules created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby”). I […]

Romance Roundup – Sparkly Cowboys!

November 3rd, 2015
Romance Roundup – Sparkly Cowboys!

Romance novels have a long history of, well, romanticizing types of men who are entirely best avoided in real life. Arguably, this began with my beloved Regency romances, since as a matter of historical fact, the typical Regency “buck” or “Corinthian” was a thoroughly deplorable creature, chubby, alcoholic, and positively dripping with venereal disease. Likewise […]

The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories!

November 2nd, 2015
The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories!

Our book today is a nifty gem from the old “Oxford Book” line: 1986’s The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories, edited by Michael Cox and R. A. Gilbert, with its great cover art showing John Atkinson Grimshaw’s endlessly evocative An Old Lane by Moonlight (honestly, what anthology wouldn’t be improved by such a cover? […]

The Art of the Mass Market Paperback!

November 1st, 2015
The Art of the Mass Market Paperback!

Lately I’ve been going through all the mass market paperbacks I own (an ungodly number, which is part of the reason I’ve been going through them, but more of that in a later post), and as I’ve been looking again at all their covers, I realized something more clearly than I’d ever realized it before: […]

The Folio Society Rumpole!

October 30th, 2015
The Folio Society Rumpole!

Our book today is a gorgeous 1994 “Rumpole” volume from the Folio Society, featuring ten classic stories chosen by their author, John Mortimer, who introduces the collection by sketching out the very simple guideline he used to select which bits of his large “Rumpole” canon he wanted to include: In this book I have chosen […]

The Viking Portable Library!

October 27th, 2015
The Viking Portable Library!

Our books today are samples from the delightful old line of Viking Portables that flourished in the postwar years and whose compact, jam-packed format has by now entirely disappeared and, given the givens of our post-literate society, will likely never appear again. They’re instantly recognizable on the shelves of used bookstores, these Viking Portables: they’re […]

Another “Bucket List” in the Penny Press!

October 26th, 2015
Another “Bucket List” in the Penny Press!

The lad mags I love so much have a love of their own: so-called “bucket lists”! For some unaccountable reason, the core readership of magazines like Esquire, GQ, Outside, Details, and Men’s Journal – over-monied young white male douchebags – just love “bucket list” features designed to help them tick off the last few things […]

Penguins on Parade: The Deluxe Emma!

October 25th, 2015
Penguins on Parade: The Deluxe Emma!

Some Penguin Classics prompt a sigh of relief, especially after the loosey-goosey anything-goes Week O’ Penguins we’ve had this time around (Ray Russell, I ask you!). After watching a coked-up gag-writer like Charles Beaumont pull down his own Penguin Classic (if that happened in a typical three-page Charles Beaumont story, he’d be super-honored until he […]

Penguins on Parade: Ford and Webster!

October 24th, 2015
Penguins on Parade: Ford and Webster!

Some Penguin Classics seem like classroom-ready compromises, as in the case of Jane Kingsley-Smith’s new paperback combining the two most prominent plays by John Ford with the two most prominent plays by John Webster. Why, you can almost hear being asked in some Penguin editorial meeting, should we force students to buy “complete plays” editions […]

Penguins on Parade: The Penguin Arthur Miller!

October 23rd, 2015
Penguins on Parade: The Penguin Arthur Miller!

Some Penguin Classics are so physically beautiful they stifle dissent, at least temporarily. This is certainly true for most of the “Deluxe” titles (again, we shall not turn our thoughts toward a Deluxe edition of The Liars’ Club, lest those thoughts become impure …), and wow, even in that company, one of the newest Penguin […]

Penguins on Parade: The Penguin Arthur Miller!

October 23rd, 2015
Penguins on Parade: The Penguin Arthur Miller!

Some Penguin Classics are so physically beautiful they stifle dissent, at least temporarily. This is certainly true for most of the “Deluxe” titles (again, we shall not turn our thoughts toward a Deluxe edition of The Liars’ Club, lest those thoughts become impure …), and wow, even in that company, one of the newest Penguin […]

Penguins on Parade: Thomas Ligotti!

October 22nd, 2015
Penguins on Parade: Thomas Ligotti!

Some Penguin Classics quite inadvertently prompt somber thoughts. That’s been a bit of a theme in this particular Week O’ Penguins, and it continues with another of their latest volumes, Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe, by cult horror-writer and bolt-eyed loon Thomas Ligotti. This is true not only because Ligotti is cut from […]

Penguins on Parade: Perchance to Dream!

October 21st, 2015
Penguins on Parade: Perchance to Dream!

Some Penguin Classics, as we seem to be mentioning quite a bit lately, are a bit odd. They call to mind fifty years of mottos the line has used to promote itself to the reading world, things like “The Best Books Ever Written.” They call these mottos to mind in aggressively evaluating terms, because when […]

Penguins on Parade: The Case Against Satan!

October 20th, 2015
Penguins on Parade: The Case Against Satan!

Some Penguin Classics, as we’ve noticed, are intensely mystifying. Not in their subject matter, but rather in their very existence – and one of the latest examples is the lovely new Penguin edition of Ray Russell’s 1962 debut novel The Case Against Satan, with a new Introduction by horror novelist Laird Barron. After serving in […]

Penguins on Parade: The Autobiography of Ben Franklin!

October 19th, 2015
Penguins on Parade: The Autobiography of Ben Franklin!

Some Penguin Classics provide the best possible invitation right there with their covers, and I know almost no better example of this than the old 2003 edition of Benjamin Franklin’s The Autobiography and Other Writings, edited and introduced by the great American historian and biographer Kenneth Silverman (whose Pulitzer Prize-winning 1985 biography of Cotton Mather […]

The Return of the TLS in the Penny Press!

October 18th, 2015
The Return of the TLS in the Penny Press!

Ah, the joy of returning to the mighty TLS – or rather, in this instance, of it returning to me! There was a dark interval there where, as many of you will no doubt have noticed, the TLS vanished from local newsstands here in Boston – an annoying interruption in my enjoyment of the single […]

The Morgan Dennis Dog Book!

October 17th, 2015
The Morgan Dennis Dog Book!

Our book today is a little gem from 1946, something long-awaited by his many fans at the time: The Morgan Dennis Dog Book, a collection of the dog-illustrations of Boston’s own Morgan Dennis, a dapper and hilarious man who grew up on the narrow streets of Dorchester and became a very successful popular illustrator in […]

Comics: Good Old Lois & Clark!

October 16th, 2015
Comics: Good Old Lois & Clark!

Last week’s comics haul from my beloved Comicopia here in Boston yielded quite a bit of good stuff (including the third issue of Captain America: White and the first issue of Sam Wilson: Captain America) and one item that was as confusing as it was heart-tugging for me: the first issue of what looks to […]

A Tale of Two (?) Douchebags in the Penny Press!

October 14th, 2015
A Tale of Two (?) Douchebags in the Penny Press!

As Hamlet would say, look here upon this picture and on this: two young men, both in their thirties, both white, both good-looking in generic kinds of ways, both intelligent, both multi-millionaires, both objects of interviews in a recent issue of New York magazine – and both, on the surface of those interviews, raging douchebags […]