Wednesday, December 29, 2010


May as well make the obvious official - this blog is on hiatus. I may or may not follow through on taking this thing to twitter. I may or may not return to book blogging in some form. Thanks to those few who followed this blog regularly and those several who found the occasional post via Google or what have you. Happy reading and happy filmgoing!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

New Book Roundup: November/December 2009

The following books were first reviewed in November and December of 2009, and some were as published as late as Spring 2010. I'm running an abbreviated version of my usual book roundup since I've got a lot of catching up to do. I haven't annotated every book, but they're as promising a batch as ever.


Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey

The Ask by Sam Lipsyte



36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein
Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Marvel by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett
The Farmer's Daughter by Jim Harrison
The Unbearable Lightness of Scones by Alexander McCall Smith
Ransom by David Malouf
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep and Never Had To by DC Pierson
The Devil's Star by Jo Nesbo
The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk
Skylark by Dezso Kosztolanyi


Best European Fiction 2010 ed. by Aleksandar Hemon
Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom


The Secret History of Science Fiction ed. by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel
Unplugged: The Web's Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy: 2008 Download

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin

The Dragon Book: Magical Tales from the Masters of Modern Fantasy ed. by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois
Button, Button: Uncanny Stories by Richard Matheson
Older title I just learned about because of recent films based on the stories, including The Box. The stories sound better than the movies. Stephen King apparently worships this guy.

More Noteworthy Fiction:

The Infinities by John Banville
Point Omega by Don DeLillo
Heresy by S. J. Parris
Lake Overturn by Vestal Mcintyre
The Parisian Prodigal by Alan Gordon
Requiem in Vienna: A Viennese Mystery by J. Sydney Jones
Paganini's Ghost: A Mystery by Paul Adam
Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford
Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons
The Wings of the Sphinx by Andrea Camilleri
Monsieur Pain by Roberto Bolano
Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
Devil's Dream by Madison Smartt Bell
The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris
Snapped by Pamela Klaffke
Something Is Out There: Stories by Richard Bausch
The God Engines by John Scalzi
Original of Laura by Vladimir Nabokov
Under the Dome by Stephen King



Jerry Lee Lewis: Lost and Found by Joe BonomoWhat with the hot Broadway show Million Dollar Quartet, it's a perfect time for a Lewis bio.
The Cello Suites: J. S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece by Eric Siblin
All Hopped Up and Ready to Go: Music from the Streets of New York 1927-77 by Tony Fletcher


The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman
Birthright: The True Story that Inspired Kidnapped by A. Roger Ekirch
Planisphere: New Poems by John Ashbery
Eunoia by Christian Bok
Spotted this book on display in a great bookstore and immediately wanted to buy it. There's a chapter of poems for each vowel, restricted to that vowel. Perec fans, pay heed.
Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems about Birds ed. by Billy Collins
The Poetry of Rilke tr. by Edward Snow
Easy by Marie Ponsot
The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith by Joan Schenkar
Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey of a Twentieth-Century Skeptic by Michael Scammell
The Publisher: Henry Luce and His American Century by Alan Brinkley
The Case for Books: Past, Present, and Future by Robert Darnton
Literary Hoaxes: An Eye-Opening History of Famous Frauds by Melissa Katsoulis
Read Me: A Century of Classic American Book Advertisements by Dwight Garner


Americans in Paris: Life and Death Under Nazi Occupation by Charles Glass
Ancient Greece: A History in Eleven Cities by Paul Cartledge
America, Empire of Liberty: A New History of the United States by David Reynolds
A Terrible Splendor: Three Extraordinary Men, a World Poised for War, and the Greatest Tennis Match Ever Played by Marshall Jon Fisher


Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message that Feminism's Work Is Done by Susan J. Douglas


Galapagos: Preserving Darwin's Legacy ed. by Tui De Roy
Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity by James Hansen


To Hellholes and Back: Bribes, Lies, and the Art of Extreme Tourism by Chuck Thompson
The Sartorialist by Scott SchumanIt's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Zombies: A Book of Zombie Christmas Carols by Michael P. Spradlin
Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory by Peter Hessler
The Bedside Book of Beasts: A Wildlife Miscellany by Graeme Gibson
Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe by Greg M. Epstein
Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman

Of Gay Interest:

Mapping the Territory: Selected Nonfiction by Christopher Bram50 Gay and Lesbian Books Everybody Must Read by Richard Canning
The Hour Between: A Novel by Sebastian Stuart

Also Noteworthy:
The Vampire Maker (Vampire Vow Series #4) by Michael Schiefelbein
The Changing World Of Gay Men by Peter Robinson
Before Wilde: Sex between Men in Britain's Age of Reform by Charles Upchurch
Big Trips: More Good Gay Travel Writing by Raphael Kadushin
Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies by James W. Neill
Party Animals: A Hollywood Tale of Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll Starring the Fabulous Allan Carr by Robert Hofler
Something to Declare: Good Lesbian Travel Writing ed. by Gillian Kendall

Graphic Work:

Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco
West Coast Blues by Jean-Patrick Manchette and Jacques Tardi

Also Noteworthy:
Popeye, Volume 4: "Plunder Island" by E. C. Segar
Is Diss a System?: A Milt Gross Comic Reader ed. by Ari Kelman
Tales Designed to Thrizzle, Vol. 1 by Michael Kupperman
The Complete Peanuts: 1973-1974 by Charles M. Schulz

More Noteworthy Nonfiction:

The History of Paris in Painting
The Moment of Psycho: How Alfred Hitchcock Taught America to Love
Lonelyhearts: The Screwball World of Nathanael West and Eileen McKenney by Marion MeadeMurder by David Thomson
Blues & Chaos: The Music Writing of Robert Palmer
The Great Empires of the Ancient World by Thomas Harrison
Charles Dickens: A Life Defined by Writing by Michael Slater
To Hellholes and Back: Bribes, Lies, and the Art of Extreme Tourism by Chuck Thompson
The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives by Shankar Vedantam
Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economy by Lisa Dodson
First As Tragedy, Then As Farce by Slavoj Zizek
The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again by Robert W. McChesney, Nichols John
The Birth (and Death) of the Cool by Ted Gioia
The Long Sixties: From 1960 to Barack Obama by Tom Hayden
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
Flight from Monticello: Thomas Jefferson at War by Michael Kranish
The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire by Jack Weatherford
Manga Kamishibai: The Art of Japanese Paper Theater by Eric Peter Nash
Type, Volume 1: A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles by Cees De Jong et al.
The Gift of Thanks: The Roots and Rituals of Gratitude by Margaret Visser
The Narcissism of Minor Differences: How America and Europe are Alike by Peter Baldwin
Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife by Francine Prose
Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age by Kurt W. Beyer
Chasing Molecules: Poisonous Products, Human Health, and the Promise of Green Chemistry by Elizabeth Grossman


Thursday, January 28, 2010

New Book Roundup: September/October 2009

I'm running this quite late, but I've found some fun, intriguing titles that escaped the notice of the hype machine, which operates pretty haphazardly - the spotlight flashes on a book or two per week and then moves on, leaving plenty of excellent books behind. So have a skim, see if anything strikes your fancy. These books were generally reviewed in September and October, many published in November and December.


Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
The Booker winner, a revisionist historical fiction about Thomas Cromwell, has quickly developed a reputation for being a difficult, demanding, but absorbing and excellent read.

You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier
A cautionary look at where technology is taking us, and for once the tech critic can't be dismissed as a Luddite. The critical knives are out online for this author, of course.

In the Valley of the Kings by Terrence Holt
Publishers Weekly says the collection "demands intelligence and rewards the reader with Borgesian riches"; Library Journal compares the writer to Conrad, Hawthorne, and Melville and points out that this is the life's work of a writer who's work has mostly been spotted only in the literary journals.


The Interrogative Mood by Padgett Powell
Can it be true? Has Powell truly written a novel composed only of questions? Is it any wonder it become a minor sensation among the lit bloggers?

Hummingbirds by Joshua Gaylord
Another prep school novel? I know, I know. But this sounds excellent, and the reviews have been excellent.

How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall
The story of four intertwined characters, all touched by art, in the Booker finalist's latest.

Family Album by Penelope Lively
Another set of strong reviews for Lively - no surprise there.

Running: A Novel by Jean Echenoz
New novel from the author of the excellent (and recommended) minimalist novel Ravel.

Summertime by J. M. Coetzee
Spectacular reviews for this postmodern autobiographical novel, yet I have the impression you'll get more from it if you're familiar with the Nobel-winner's earlier work.

La's Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith
I've never read Smith, but reading about this one made me think I'd enjoy this series. (I'm sure the Ladies No. 1 Detective series is also charming.)

Dexter by Design by Jeff Lindsay
I'm become completely addicted to the darkly brilliant Showtime series based on and inspired by Lindsay's first Dexter novel, and I'm interested to see where he took the character versus where the tv show takes him.

The Humbling by Philip Roth
Sounds interesting, but I'm hoping Roth sets aside these novella-length projects and tries something longer and more daring next.

Running Away by Jean-Philippe Toussaint
Tsk, tsk. Very few reviews outside of some high-lit blogs for this novel by an important French writer.

The Chill by Romano Bilenchi
Translation of a dark, stylish coming of age story from the rarely translated Italian writer Romano Bilenchi.

Your Face Tomorrow: Poison, Shadow, and Farewell, Vol. 3 by Javier Marias
Latest from the popular Spanish author, one of the true stars of the international literary scene.

The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason
A postmodern re-imagining of The Odyssey by a clever young writer. Sounds fun.

Selected Prose of Heinrich von Kleist
Don't know anything about this translation, but if you haven't read Kleist, you really must.

There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
Apparently Russian author Petrushevskaya is a celebrated modern-day Grimm, and reviewers caution that these are very dark tales.

Apparition & Late Fictions: A Novella and Stories by Thomas Lynch
Reviews are mixed-to-positive so far for Lynch's (The Undertaking), though Library Journal's critic called the title story a masterpiece.

Fun with Problems by Robert Stone
I'm not really familiar with Stone, but Kirkus calls him a 'great American novelist' and reviews have been strong for this 'grim' collection.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
One of the most acclaimed SF novels of the year, Bacigalupi's novel has logically been compared to Ian McDonald's work because its dystopian vision is set in territory fresher than the overworked America and Europe - in this case, Thailand.

Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts
I read this incredible testimonial back in September and have so far been unable to get my hands on the book.

Real Unreal: Best American Fantasy 3 ed. by Kevin Brockmeier and Matthew Cheney
Coverage of this collection has been sparse but enthusiastic. Includes work by Stephen King, Peter S. Beagle and other, including, John Kessel's "'Pride and Prometheus,' a mash-up uniting Pride and Prejudice's plain sister, Mary Bennet, and Victor Frankenstein."

American Fantastic Tales ed. by Peter Straub
The new two-volume anthology from the Library of America seems like an instant classic, covering Poe to the Pulps, and the 1940s to the present. It seems to be heavy on the literary side of American genre fiction, but the choices are intriguing.

In Great Waters by Kit Whitfield
One of the best things about J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, something she doesn't get enough credit for, is the way the series renewed popular interest in so many mythologies. Whitfield's story of an alternate Earth in which merpeople rule the world jointly with 'landsmen,' and royal power struggles are affected, seems less likely to have been created or published without Rowling.

The Dream of Perpetual Motion by Dexter Palmer
A 'dazzling' alternate history / steam-punk novel with a sense of humor. Characters named Miranda and Prospero figure into the plot, incidentally.

Mercury Station: A Transit by Mark von Schlegell
Avant-garde sci-fi, strange plot twists, word-play - this sounds really weird. Cool!

More Noteworthy Fiction:
The Early Work of Philip K. Dick, Volume 1: The Variable Man and Other Stories
Hespira: A Tale of Henghis Hapthorn by Matthew Hughes
Total Oblivion, More or Less by Alan DeNiro
Liver: A Fictional Organ with a Surface Anatomy of Four Lobes by Will Self
The Book of Fathers by Miklos Vamos
The Golden Calf by Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov
Noah's Compass by Anne Tyler


Heroes and Villains: Essays on Music, Movies, Comics, and Culture by David Hajdu
Hajdu (The Ten-Cent Plague) takes on musicians as varied as Harry Partch, the White Stripes and Billy Eckstein, as well as artists like Marjane Satrapi and Will Eisner. Sounds interesting.

Talking about Detective Fiction by
A writing guide by a master of the mystery genre, a truly exciting publishing event.

Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays by Zadie Smith
Smith's essays on literature that I've come across in magazines have been unusually fine, and reviews indicate she expounds on diverse subjects just as well, including some thoughtful film commentary. I'm looking forward to this one.

Concerning E. M. Forster by Frank Kermode
Kermode takes on Forster's Aspects of the Novel for starters in this series of essays. Read Edmund White's review at the NYTBR.

Young Nelsons: Boy sailors during the Napoleonic Wars by Douglas Ronald
Seems like a pretty strange little topic for a book, and yet it does sound interesting, bringing to mind old black and white pirate movies and the sneaking suspicion in the audience that the reality was probably a lot uglier.

The Left at War by Michael Berube
The author's writings about the "Manichean" left (Chomsky, etc.) sound particularly interesting.

When You Were a Tadpole and I Was a Fish: And Other Speculations about This and That by Martin Gardner
Gardner sounds extremely cool. Apparently he's known for his "Mathematical Games" column in Scientific American, and this book (he's written many many books) is a hodgepodge of pieces. PW: "Gardner at his best."

The Whatchamacallit: Those Everyday Objects You Just Can't Name by Danny Danziger, Mark Mccrum
Promises to teach us the names for the odds and ends that surround is in humble obscurity.

Dear Undercover Economist: Priceless Advice on Money, Work, Sex, Kids, and Life's Other Challenges by Tim Harford
New book from the popular economist who writes for the educated layman.

Shake the Devil Off: A True Story of the Murder That Rocked New Orleans by Ethan Brown
Perhaps a good companion to Dave Eggers's Zeitoun?

How Philosophy Can Save Your Life: 10 Ideas That Matter Most by Marietta McCarty
A kind of applied, even self-help approach to philosophy that might appeal to fans of Alain de Botton.

More Noteworthy Nonfiction:
A Short History of Cahiers du Cinema by Emilie Bickerton
The Education of a British-Protected Child by Chinua Achebe
Louisa May Alcott : The Woman Behind Little Women by Harriet Reisen
Samuel Johnson: A Life by David Nokes
Living Oprah: My One-Year Experiment to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk by Robyn Okrant
1688: The First Modern Revolution by Steve Pincus
How They See Us: Meditations on America ed. by James Atlas
Neverland: J. M. Barrie, the Du Mauriers, and the Dark Side of Peter Pan by Piers Dudgeon
Legacy of Susan Sontag by Barbara Ching
China : A History by John Keay
Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right by Jennifer Burns

Of Gay Interest:

The Sower by Kemble Scott
In what sounds like a clever variation on the AIDS novel, Scott's hero Bill Soileau discovers he's contracted "a manmade supervirus that appears to be a cure for all diseases...., and the only way to pass the miracle cure onto others is through sex."

Impossible Princess by Kevin Killian
The publisher blurb identifies Killian as "[a] member of the 'new narrative' circle including Dennis Cooper and Kathy Acker," which means little to me except that he's in interesting company. The stories in the collection sound interesting.

The Brutal Telling: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by Penny Louise
Some gay supporting characters in this well-reviewed mainstream mystery novel.
Also Noteworthy:
Edwin and John : A Southern Gay Couple's Half Century Journey Together by James T. Sears
Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity by Jose Munoz
The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You by S. Bear Bergman
Trash by Jon Davies
Law of Desire by Jose Quiroga
Gods & Monsters by Noah Tsika

Of Chicago Interest:

Cowboys Full: The Story of Poker by James McManus
Poker is as hot as ever, apparently, and Evanston author McManus is back to deepen everyone's love of the game.

A Cadger's Curse: A D. D. McGil Literati Mystery by Diane Gilbert Madsen
The start of a new cozy mystery series set in Chicago

Graphic Work:

The TOON Treasury of Classic Children's Comics by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly
A treasure-trove of goodies for the kiddies from comics of the 30s through the 60s. This sounds fantastic.

Prison Pit by Johnny Ryan
Ryan's work is twisted, juvenile and obscene - and I always enjoy it. Check it out.

The Recently Deflowered Girl: The Right Thing to Say on Every Dubious Occasion by Hyacinthe Phypps, with illustrations by Edward Gorey
Not sure where I heard about this silly, demented little novelty.

Also Noteworthy:
Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth by Apostolos Doxiadis, Christos H. Papadimitriou, Alecos Papadatos, and Annie Di Donna
All and Sundry : Uncollected Work 2004-2009 by Paul Hornschemeier
The Best of Punch Cartoons: 2,000 Humour Classics by Helen Walasek


Monday, November 02, 2009

New Book Roundup: July/August 2009

The latest and greatest, highlights from the July and August reviews, and most of these books are on the new arrivals shelves, both physical and virtual.


Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
His latest has been tagged as 'Pynchon-lite' by several reviews, but perhaps partly for that very reason it's proven to be a hit. Interestingly, it's yet another example of an esteemed literary writer (like Chabon and Denis Johnson) to take up Chandleresque noir.

Love and Summer by William Trevor
Trevor is an unusually consistent writer, with a reputation as strong as Alice Munro's, and his latest novel has some of the best reviews of any book this year.

Stitches: A Memoir by David Small
A stunning graphic memoir, easily read in an hour or two and pretty much deserving of all of the hype it's getting.


The Coral Thief by Rebecca Stott
A page-turning historical set in post-Revolutionary France that weaves in some philosophy and science - Stott's already exhausted me with her brilliance and I haven't even picked up the book yet.

The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt
If you've seen this giant book in stores, you don't exactly need a critic to tell you it was probably overwritten. Still, Byatt's family saga set during the transition from Victorian to modern times (WWI) shouldn't be dismissed. She's an amazing writer.

Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow
Doctorow take up the story of the Collyer Brothers in his slim latest. In a way, this sounds like a natural companion to the several recent attempts to reimagine the lives of the women of Grey Gardens.

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
She's not my cup of tea, but Moore is one of the most popular and respected literary authors in the U.S., and it's been quite a while since she's published.

The Cry of the Sloth by Sam Savage
Savage is building a great reputation rather low on the radar.

As God Commands by Niccolo Ammaniti
Ammaniti is that rarest of the writing species - a European writer with an American following. He penned I'm Not Scared, which was turned into a gripping movie. The latest sounds excellent.

Invisible by Paul Auster
Auster's getting some of the best reviews he's received in a long time for his latest.

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
Set in the same universe as Oryx and Crake (I've got some catching up to do) but not exactly a sequel. So feel free to dive right in. My impression, however, is that the consensus so far is that the previous book is a bit better.

No Tomorrow by Vivant Denon
Sometimes I just want to turn all of my reading decisions over to the people at NYRB. They could probably get me a better batting average of good reads than I could achieve myself.

Oscar Wilde and the Dead Man's Smile by Gyles Brandreth
All these classic writers doubled as detectives, it seems, but Wilde was no doubt the most stylish. (This is his third adventure in the series.)

The Skating Rink by Roberto Bolano
Strangely, the latest Bolano translation to be published has gotten very little media attention, but the few critics writing about it are giving it an unequivocal thumbs-up.

Devil's Trill by Gerald Elias
This mystery with a classical music backdrop has gotten nothing but good reviews so far - sounds like a diverting light read.

Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro
I've yet to be disappointed by Munro, whose work miraculously always lives up to the praise it receives.

Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro
I was frustrated yet impressed by Never Let Me Go, and I'm curious to see what he can do with the short form.

Call Me Ahab by Anne Finger
I'd like to see some more reviews for this story collection. Any takers?

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Steampunk? Zombies? An alternative 1880s America? It's really not right to get me this excited - I could have coronary or something.

Under the Dome by Stephen King
Has King been reading Borges or something?

More Noteworthy Fiction:
Dracula: The Un-Dead by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt
Western by Christine Montalbetti
Brecht at Night by Mati Unt
Hell by Robert Olen Butler
For Grace Received by Valeria Parrella
Where I Must Go by Angela Jackson
Poisonville by Massimo Carlotto


Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression by Morris Dickstein
The excellent Dickstein's new book could not be more timely - it seems all I've read about this year was the Great Depression. But even if our economy wasn't tattered, I'd still be interested in this for the discussion of 30s film and literature.

Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong by Terry Teachout
Teachout is one of the most insightful, generous critics working today, so I'd be interested in anything he chose to write a book about. But Louis Armstrong? Doubly interested.

Jazz by Scott DeVeaux and Gary Giddins
This new history of jazz is said to be informative enough to serve as a textbook but also interesting enough to fascinate serious fans.

Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records, the Indie Label That Got Big and Stayed Small by John Cook with Laura Ballance & Mac McCaughan
Merge! Home of so much good music! I read somewhere that those are Laura's boots on the cover.

Nina Simone: The Biography by David Brun-Lambert
Seems like Simone's story would be an interesting one; she's certainly a fascinating musician.

A New Literary History of America ed. by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors
This sounds a little weird but interesting.

The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir of Moods, Masochism, and Murder by Stephen Elliott
Elliott sure can write, but his work is probably way too dark for the mainstream. Kirkus takes a brave stab at summarizing this memoir/meditation: "His themes-seemingly crime, murder, drugs and sadomasochistic sex-actually encapsulate the nature of truth, self, love and memory, and the limits of art to get at them all."

Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for the 21st Century Writer by Jeff VanderMeer
Sounds like a fresh and original resource for writers, one that addresses a wide array of needs.

Lucifer at the Starlite: Poems by Kim Addonizio
Usually when reviews single out highlights from books of poetry I think, oh boy, that's supposed to make me want to read this? But Library Journal's quotes actually made me want to check this book out. "I have been one acquainted with the spatula," for example.

Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation by Mitch Horowitz
I read an absolutely fascinating interview with this author, and it made me feel as if I finally understood so many things I never understood before - like what the big deal was about The Secret (promoted by Oprah) or the Dan Brown books. Not that I'm planning to read those books.

Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 by Gordon S. Wood
You don't hear much in popular culture about the early years of our nation, but what an important and interesting time it must have been. There is such an abundant wealth of historical writing every year, and I read so little of it. I should hang my head in shame, verily.

The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins
There's been a bumper crop of books on evolution this year due to the Darwin Bicentennial and the continuing arguments about God and Creationism, but this book would seem to claim a place near the top of the heap.

A Year on the Wing: Four Seasons in a Life with Birds by Tim Dee
Publishers Weekly: "Distilled from one year of introspective observation, 40 years of attentive bird watching and a pantheon of literary references, this fiercely poetic memoir expresses a magical love of nature's migratory feathered marvels."

Nature's Ghosts: Confronting Extinction from the Age of Jefferson to the Age of Ecology by Mark V. Barrow, Jr.
I guess I was surprised to hear that there's been concern about extinctions for much longer than I had realized. Sounds like the book's real draw are the stories of the individual naturalists and conservationists who fought to raise our awareness of the issue.

The Invisible Kingdom: From the Tips of Our Fingers to the Tops of Our Trash, Inside the Curious World of Microbes by Idan Ben-Barak
A "wonderfully informative and entertaining" look at microbes, those asexual freaks of nature that help us all digest our food and clean up our waste. Still, I'm glad they are invisible. Blech.


The Tyranny of E-mail: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inbox by John Freeman
You've heard of the slow food movement, right? Freeman would like to inspire a slow communication movement. Good. Idea.

Heidegger and a Hippo Walk Through Those Pearly Gates: Using Philosophy (And Jokes!) to Explore Life, Death, the Afterlife, and Everything in Between by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein
I keep meaning to read a book by these guys. They sound fun.

The Good Soldiers by David Finkel
Said to be the best account from the ground of the war in Iraq.

Cranioklepty by Colin Dickey
Skull collecting? Wow, and I thought Gawker was disresepctful towards the famous.

Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich
Ehrenreich's most controversial book in a while, as probably could have been predicted. It's one thing to argue that the working poor get the shaft; but Americans will put up much more resistance to the idea that positive thinking isn't the solution to every problem. Good luck, Barbara. You are one brave soul!

More Noteworthy Nonfiction:
Paul McCartney: A Life by Peter A. Carlin
All Hopped Up and Ready to Go : Music from the Streets of New York 1927-77 by Tony Fletcher
Free for All: Joe Papp, The Public, and the Greatest Theater Story Ever Told by Kenneth Turan, Joseph Papp
Empire of Illusion : The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle by Chris Hedges
Book Shopper: A Life in Review by Murray Browne
The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment by A. J. Jacobs
American Rebel: The Life of Clint Eastwood by Marc Eliot
Thelonious Monk : The Life and Times of an American Original by Robin D. G. Kelley
Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization by Lars Brownworth
How to Live Like an Italian: A User's Guide to La Dolce Vita by Annalisa Coppolaro
The Death of Conservatism by Sam Tanenhaus
Obamanos!: The Rise of a New Political Era by Hendrik Hertzberg
Listen Up, Mr. President : Everything You Always Wanted Your President to Know and Do by Helen Thomas, Craig Crawford
My River Chronicles: Rediscovering America on the Hudson by Jessica DuLong
The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2009 ed. by Elizabeth Kolbert, Tim Folger
In Praise of Doubt: How to Have Convictions Without Becoming a Fanatic by Peter Berger and Anton Zijderveld
Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails) by Matt Young and Paul K. Strode
Parallel Play: Life as an Outsider by Tim Page

Of Gay Interest:

The Gigolo Murder (Turkish Delight Series) by Mehmet Murat Somer
I don't remember hearing about the 1st in this mystery series, but the second sounds worth reading for the novelty of the Istanbul setting alone, let alone the story: "A Turkish drag queen turns sleuth to win the heart of a dreamy lawyer."

Sugarless by James Magruder
In the 70s, in a Chicago suburb, a high school sophomore struggling with his sexuality discovers possible salvation in his rival forensics team's coach.

Also Noteworthy:
City Boy: My Life in New York During the 1960s and '70s by Edmund White
I Shudder: And Other Reactions to Life, Death, and New Jersey by Paul Rudnick

Of Chicago Interest:

Chicago: A Biography by Dominic A. Pacyga
One of the more exciting books about Chicago to come along in a while. It feels in the hand a bit too much like a textbook, but it looks fascinating nonetheless.

Graphic Work:

Masterpiece Comics by R. Sikoryak
Sikoryak uses classic comics characters like Blondie & Dagwood, Batman and Little Lulu to rework classic stories from the Bible to Hawthorne. Does that not make you want to abandon your computer and rush to the nearest comics shop now?

Also Noteworthy:
Moomin Book Four: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip by Tove Jansson
Prince Valiant: 1937-1938, Vol. 1 by Hal Foster


Saturday, October 10, 2009

New Book Roundup: May/June 2009


The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker
The "story" is about a middle aged anthologist (closely resembling Baker) struggling to finish his poetry anthology and win back the woman who's fed up with his inability to finish. But the real juice of the book, believe it or not, is the fun writing about poetry.

The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes
This look at the leading lights of the Romantic Era and the surprising connections between its scientists and artists seems to be one of the bigger breakthrough works of nonfiction this year. Sounds like a great read.


Persona Non Grata by Ruth Downie
Third installment in the Gaius Petreius Ruso series, a detective series set in ancient Roman times.

Ghosts by Cesar Aira
Translated by Chris Andrews, who has translated much of Bolano's work, this short novel by the prolific (but still relatively unknown in the U.S.) author sounds like a strange work of art. I've been trying to read more international (not to mention noncommercial) fiction, so I may give this a try.

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Follow-up from the acclaimed author or The Shadow of the Wind. The Catalan's latest has been compared to Poe and Borges but also Perez-Reverte and King

Blame by Michelle Huneven
Some interesting reviews for this page-turner about the effects of an accident on several lives. I can attest that the first chapter was snappy and enjoyable.

This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
Reviewed as a smart but mass-friendly novel somewhat in the vein of Tom Perrotta. A trusted friend enjoyed this.

Something Missing by Matthew Dicks
An OCD criminal starts by stealing things no one would ever miss - then hits on the idea of improving the lives of his victims. This sounds absolutely charming.

Rider on the White Horse by Theodor Storm
Michael Dirda and The New Yorker both describe this novella, being republished with short fiction by the New York Review of Books, as a great classic. Sounds excellent!

John the Revelator by Peter Murphy
This coming of age novel is the ecstatically reviewed debut of an Irish writer who's worked for Rolling Stone among other magazines.

Devil's Trill by Gerald Elias
What could be called a murder mystery, with a classical music backdrop. It all starts with the theft of a priceless Stradivarius. Sounds fun.

After the Fire, a Still Small Voice by Evie Wyld
Intriguing reviews of this Australian novel of twin narratives that concern a Korean War-era father and his son. Australian-set fiction gets little attention here (aside from big names like Peter Carey), so if you want to find out more, don't look to the critics.

Wanting by Richard Flanagan
Several novels this year were about Charles Dickens, but it seems on closer inspection of reviews that this is hardly a fictionalized biography of Boz. Dickens, in fact, is not the primary focus of this book, which tells the story of a prominent Australian Victorian couple and their adoption of an Aboriginal girl.

It's Beginning to Hurt by James Lasdun
One of the best reviewed literary collections of the year.

Dead Men's Boots by Mike Carey
Latest thriller in a supernatural series compared to Jim Butcher's work - excellent reviews.

Federations ed. by John Joseph Adams
Anthology of SF work set in universes that have Federations of worlds (in the vein of Star Trek, Dune, and Star Wars). Sounds fun.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Big-time attention for this fantasy for adults, written by a Time magazine writer. Sounds good, though as someone who was never a Narnia fan, I'm a little concerned this was really written for other readers.

More Noteworthy Fiction:
Ice Land by Betsy Tobin
Juan the Landless by Juan Goytisolo
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe
Do Not Deny Me by Jean Thompson
Monster's Notes by Laurie Sheck
Osama Van Halen by Michael Muhammad Knight
Memories of the Future by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky
Tongue by Kyung-Ran Jo
Leaving Tangier by Tahar Ben Jelloun
All the Living by C. E. Morgan
Mathilda Savitch by Victor Lodato
Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barbery
Osama Van Halen by Michael Muhammad Knight


The Lost Cellos of Lev Aronson by Frances Brent
Story of a reknowned cellist who survived the Holocaust and went on to be a member of the Dallas Symphony.

Heavy Rotation: Twenty Writers on the Albums That Changed Their Lives ed. by Peter Terzian
They've rounded up a surprisingly literary bunch to write about their favorite albums. I'm quite curious about this gang's choices.

Mrs. Ziegfeld: The Public and Private Lives of Billie Burke by Grant Hayter-Menzies
This book doesn't seem to be getting the attention and interest it deserves. From what I've seen of her work and heard of her life, there should be an audience out there for this book.

Singin' in the Rain: The Making of an American Masterpiece by Earl J. Hess
My favorite musical gets a book devoted to it.

Book of William: How Shakespeare's First Folio Conquered the World by Paul Collins
The inimitable Mr. Collins takes on the history of the world's most coveted collectible book.

A Brave Vessel: The True Tale of the Castaways Who Rescued Jamestown and Inspired Shakespeare's The Tempest by Hobson Woodward
Who doesn't love a good shipwreck tale? Apparently Shakespeare did.

The Lost Origins of the Essay ed. by John D'Agata
D'Agata aims to challenge the conventional understanding of what an 'essay' is with this collection that spans many centuries of prose.

The Years of Talking Dangerously by Geoff Nunberg
From this distance I can't quite make out his politics, but Nunberg's essays on language have been compared to Safire. Scanning the TOC online, he also seems to beg comparison to Orwell in his concerns.

The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture from Consumerism to Control by Ted Striphas
Seems to be an essential read for those who care about books and reading.

Our Savage Art: Poetry and the Civil Tongue by William Logan
Apparently Logan has a reputation for being a great contemporary poetry critic, one who pulls no punches. This sounds like an interesting companion to Nicholson Baker's new novel.

The Art of Time in Fiction: As Long as It Takes by Joan Silber
One of the latest in this noteworthy recent series of studies on specific topics related to the craft of writing. (The Art of Syntax: Rhythm of Thought, Rhythm of Song by Ellen Bryant Voigt is another.)

Dancing to the Precipice: The Life of Lucie de la Tour du Pin, Eyewitness to an Era by Caroline Moorehead
Rave reviews for this book about a woman who saw the storming of Versailles and the battle of Waterloo - and kept a diary through it all.

Newton and the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World's Greatest Scientist by Thomas Levenson
Apparently, Newton spent part of his illustrious career hunting counterfeiters for the Mint. Ooh, a detective story!

World War One: A Short History by Norman Stone
Still not even a full century behind us, yet this important conflict is overshadowed in our culture by the second World War. Here's a chance to understand the previous war better.

The Artist, the Philosopher, and the Warrior: The Intersecting Lives of Da Vinci, Machiavelli, and Borgia and the World They Shaped by Paul Strathern
A look at the mutual impact that these three figures had on one another, and those are three pretty big, still recognizable names to have interacted so long ago.

1959: The Year Everything Changed by Fred Kaplan
Watch enough movies from this time (or read enough books) and you should be well-primed for Kaplan's thesis that the changes we associate with the 60s actually began a bit earlier.

Hadrian and the Triumph of Rome by Anthony Everitt
Those Roman emperors are timeless subjects, and Everitt has a good track record of writing about them.

Inheritance of Rome: Illuminating the Dark Ages, 400-1000 by Chris Wickham
A tourguide shining a light in those historical caverns, The Dark Ages.

Dawn Light: Dancing with Cranes and Other Ways to Start the Day by Diane Ackerman
Ackerman takes her siganture approach, combining science and the arts, to consider the Dawn. Nature lovers rejoice.

Darwin's Armada: Four Voyages and the Battle for the Theory of Evolution by Iain McCalman
Story of Darwin and some of the explorers who put his theories to the test. Another strong popular science history this year.

Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press by Eric Boehlert
Few topics seem more important these days than the fate of journalism in the internet age, at least as concerns us as a society. This book sounds like an important part of that conversation.

Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It's Becoming, and Why It Matters by Scott Rosenberg
A history and defense of, well, what I'm doing write now - blogging.

Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell
The evidence increasingly seems to show that our obsession with paying less is - guess what? - destructive.

An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church's Strangest Relic in Italy's Oddest Town by David Farley
A history of the (alleged) foreskin of Jesus. One of the notable examples of religion's eccentricities.

On Kindness by Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor
On Bullshit, a similarly sized work of contemporary philosophy, was a recent success. This new (unrelated, I think) book similarly takes on a focused subject, though with a less eyegrabbing title.

The Natural History of Unicorns by Chris Lavers
Haven't actually seen this book yet (how ironic), but it seems to be a fun look at the history of the unicorn in our culture.

More Noteworthy Nonfiction:
Knickerbocker: The Myth behind New York by Elizabeth L. Bradley
Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York's Master Builder and Transformed the American City by Anthony Flint
Science: A Four Thousand Year History by Patricia Fara
Meeting Jimmie Rodgers : How America's Original Roots Music Hero Changed the Pop Sounds of a Century by Barry Mazor
Alphabet by Ronald Silliman
The Full Body Project: Photographs by Leonard Nimoy
The Perils of Obamamania by Adolph Reed
Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son by Michael Chabon
Sufficiency of the Actual by Kevin Stein
A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome: Daily Life, Mysteries, and Curiosities by Alberto Angela

Of Chicago Interest:

How to Hold a Woman: A Novel in Stories by Billy Lombardo
Lombardo has a local reputation for being an excellent writer as well as a great guy.

Slumming: Sexual and Racial Encounters in American Nightlife, 1885-1940 by Chad Heap
Apparently focuses primarily on New York and Chicago. The New Yorker's review made it sound very interesting.

Also Noteworthy:
Ugly Laws: Disability in Public by Susan Schweik
Chicago is actually only one of the cities studied in this book, but apparently Chicago's old code is most-often quoted when the topic arises.

Of Gay Interest:

Vanilla Ride by Joe R. Lansdale
Aimed at a mainstream (not a gay) audience, this series apparently includes a gay character. Sounds like ass-kickin' fun.

The Meaning of Matthew: My Son's Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed by Judy Shepard
Matthew's mother has become a respected leader and activist for change. Reviewers have said her inspirational mission shines through in this book.

Also Noteworthy:
Mean Little Deaf Queer: A Memoir by Terry Galloway
Pill Head: The Secret Life of a Painkiller Addict by Joshua Lyon
Mental: Funny in the Head by Eddie Sarfaty
My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them ed. by Michael Montlack
God Says No by James Hannaham

Graphic Work:

Wondermark: Clever Tricks to Stave Off Death by David Malki
Another compilation of one of the very funniest, wittiest comics being written today.

Low Moon by Jason
A large new collection from the hotshot alternative comics artist from Norway.

Also Noteworthy:
Beasts!: Book One and Beasts!: Book Two ed. by Jacob Covey
Bollywood Posters by Jeremy Pinto, Sheena Sippy
Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics by Denis Kitchen, Paul Buhle