Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New Book Roundup: September/October 2008

I'm somewhat surprised that this roundup is so skimpy on works of fiction, but what can I say? Not much grabbed me. Still, there were a few notable exceptions, plus several strong nonfiction books to carry us through the busy holiday season, including more than one for Sherlock Holmes fans. Happy reading.


Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong: Reopening the Case of the Hound of the Baskervilles by Pierre Bayard
That clever Bayard joins the explosion in Holmesiana with this audacious proposal that the master detective got it wrong in one of his most famous cases.

The Lost Art of Walking: The History, Science, Philosophy, and Literature of Pedestrianism by Geoff Nicholson
Excellent reviews keep pouring in, and I have to say I'm eager to see this book. Should make an interesting companion to one of the year's quirky standouts, Tom Vanderbilt's Traffic.

Wondermark: Beards of Our Forefathers by David Malki
A collection of my latest favorite comic strip, which has made The Onion that much more irresistible.


The Private Patient by P. D. James
I don't usually go for mysteries, but James seems unusually talented and intelligent.

A Mercy by Toni Morrison
I have to admit I'm not the world's greatest fan of Morrison's later work, but this short novel sounds promising.

Courage by Alan Littell
Slim novel of maritime adventure, quietly garnering praise.

Disquiet by Julia Leigh
Sounds serious and dark, but what a rave from Kirkus: "It's difficult to imagine a reader who will not be electrified by this haunting, masterfully told story. Indeed, it's difficult to imagine a reader who will not be changed by it. Brilliant, possibly perfect."

The End by Salvatore Scibona
This Graywolf title was recently nominated for the National Book Award. I found it too taxing to finish, but I also admired a lot about it and think the author could emerge as a major writer.

Log of the S. S. the Mrs Unguentine by Stanley Crawford
Dalkey reprints a novella that sounds like quite an oddball. I can find little in the way of reviews so far, but the strange title alone grabbed my attention.

Gaslight Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes ed. by Jeff Campbell and Charles Prepolec
Mixed reviews, but the standouts at least may worth reading.

Murder Short & Sweet ed. by Paul D. Staudohar
Collection of classic murder mystery stories by masters like Christie, Doyle, Westlake, Poe and Dunsany. Oh, and Updike, strangely.

Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock
Dark story collection that's said to be distantly related to Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, OH, this sounds a bit like Thom Jones territory to me. It's been out for a while, but I unaccountably skipped over it. A friend recommended it, and it's also starting to show up on best of the year lists.

Pandemonium by Daryl Gregory
When it comes to SF, it sometimes seems like you have to consult a completely different set of review sources, but this book seems to be emerging with buzz across the board. The story takes place in a world where demon possession is a common phenomenon.

Night Work by Thomas Glavinic
An "extraordinary apocalyptic novel," a debut from a young Australian novelist.

Mr. Gaunt and Other Uneasy Encounters by John Langan
PW calls this an "exceptional debut horror collection" that evokes Henry James and M.R. James.

Muse of Fire by Dan Simmons
Shakespeare figures in this far-future speculative novella.

The Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia A. McKillip
PW: "An unseen bell haunts a seaside town and a magical mansion in this delicate fable from World Fantasy Award winner McKillip...."

More Noteworthy Fiction:
Alembical ed. by Lawrence M. Schoen
Camera by Jean-Philippe Toussaint
The Paris Enigma by Pablo De Santis
Wall of America by Thomas M. Disch
The Proteus Sails Again by Thomas M. Disch
New Lives by Ingo Schulze
A Lion Among Men (Wicked Years Series #3) by Gregory Maguire
Paris Noir ed. by Aurlien Masson
Paris Noir: Capital Crime Fiction ed. by Maxim Jakubowski
Pets by Bragi Olafsson
Tierra del Fuego by Francisco Coloane
And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks by Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs
Noir: A Novel by Olivier Pauvert
The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher
The Turnaround by George P. Pelecanos
Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner


Ziegfeld: The Man Who Invented Show Business by Ethan Mordden
Florenz Ziegfeld was one of the most interesting entertainers in American history, and Mordden seems - at least in theory - a great choice to write about him. Reviewers have overwhelmingly agreed so far.

Hallelujah Junction: Composing an American Life by John Adams
Memoir and reflections from America's leading living composer.

A Devil to Play: One Man's Year-Long Quest to Master the Orchestra's Most Difficult Instrument by Jasper Rees
Hotter Than That: The Trumpet, Jazz and American Culture by Krin Gabbard
The French Horn does indeed have a reputation for difficulty, but this book sounds charmingly accessible. Meanwhile, jazz trumpet, not classical, is the focus of Gabbard's cultural study.

The B List: The National Society of Film Critics on the Low-Budget Beauties, Genre-Bending Mavericks, and Cult Classics We Love ed. by David Sterritt and John Anderson
I'm sorry, but Point Blank, Peeping Tom and Videodrome don't sound like "B" movies to me. Hopefully this book will offer something a little more unexpected.

Best Music Writing 2008 ed. by Nelson George
I absolutely never miss this annual, which can always be counted on as an engrossing read.

Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed America by Jay Parini
Noted critic Parini looks at books that had a major cultural impact on American society (think Uncle Tom's Cabin). A refreshing change from the usual emphasis on strictly literary achievement.

Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford
I know I, for one, can hardly celebrate Christmas without Dickens.

Don't Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle by Daniel L. Everett
Linguist Everett recounts what he learned from a small South American tribe.

The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle: A Biography by Russell Miller
Another bio of the creator of Sherlock Holmes.

A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall, and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books by Alex Beam
Worldly Wisdom: Great Books and the Meanings of Life by James Sloan Allen
A pair of new books on the subject of great books - the former on the program of that name, and the second a more typical presentation of canonical texts.


1001 Days That Shaped the World by Peter Furtado
Spied this in a bookstore and found it to be a compulsive browser's delight.

The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found by Mary Beard
A study of what's known about ancient Pompeii, that fascinating site of catastrophe.

The Vertigo Years: Europe 1900-1914 by Philipp Blom
Just a century ago, Europe was such a different place. Sounds like it would make for lively reading.

The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals by Jane Mayer
Somehow I missed this before, but it's obviously emerged as one of the most important books covering the Bush administration.

Great Equations by Robert P. Crease
I doubt I'd actually read this, but I like to imagine I could. (I wonder how many copies of Roberto Bolano's books are sold for the same motivation?)

Is God a Mathematician? by Mario Livio
Science survey from the astrophysicist and author of The Golden Ratio.

Curious Men by Frank Buckland
The latest from the McSweeney's imprint edited by Paul Collins, scavenger extraordinaire of historical eccentrics. This is apparently a collection of stories from a Victorian collector of oddities. Sounds fun.

Wired for Survival: The Rational (and Irrational) Choices We Make, from the Gas Pump to Terrorism by Margaret Polski
Another book that mines that interesting Dubner/Gladwell/Sacks area of our inner lives.

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
Personally, I'm pretty much done with Gladwell's books, but I have to admit he's onto something.

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know: The Autobiography by Ranulph Fiennes
Wait, what? Ralph and Joseph have an older brother who's a rugged he-man explorer? Weird! I had no idea their family was so prominent.

Utopia's Debris: Selected Essays by Gary Indiana
Cultural critic Indiana's latest collection promises to take up a variety of interesting subjects from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Louis-Ferdinand Celine to Susan Sontag.

Behind the Bedroom Door: Getting It, Giving It, Loving It, Missing It ed. by Paula Derrow
A variety of essays about the female sexual experience, inclusive of a range of orientations.

More Noteworthy Nonfiction:
The Best American Magazine Writing 2008 ed. by ASME
On Architecture: Collected Reflections on a Century of Change by Ada Louise Huxtable
Spellbound by Beauty: Alfred Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies by Donald Spoto
Selected Poems by James Merrill
Lewis Carroll in Numberland by Robin Wilson
Now the Drum of War: Walt Whitman and His Brothers in the Civil War by Robert Roper
Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia by Laura Miller
Graham Greene: A Life in Letters ed. by Richard Greene
Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth by Margaret Atwood
Hysterical Men: The Hidden History of Male Nervous Illness by Mark S. Micale
The Best of All Possible Worlds: A Story of Philosophers, God, and Evil by Steven Nadler
The Complete History of Piracy by Angus Konstam
The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life. His Own. by David Carr
New York Stories: The Best Writing from Four Decades of New York Magazine
Ballad of Dorothy Wordsworth: A Life by Frances Wilson
The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2008 ed. by Jerome Groopman
From Eve to Dawn series by Marilyn French
The Unfinished Game: Pascal, Fermat, and the Seventeenth-Century Letter that Made the World Modern by Keith Devlin
Racing Odysseus: A College President Becomes a Freshman Again by Roger H. Martin
The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston
Shakespeare Wrote for Money by Nick Hornby

Of Gay Interest:

The Torturer's Wife by Thomas Glave
I've long meant to look up some of Glave's stories - sounds like there are some choice selections in his latest collection.

Also Noteworthy:
Skin Lane by Neil Bartlett
Sweet Poison by Ellen Hart
Girl Boy Girl: How I Became JT Leroy by Savannah Knoop

Of Chicago Interest:

If You Eat, You Never Die: Chicago Tales by Tony Romano
A collection of linked short stories exploring the Italian immigrant experience in Chicago.

Alinea by Grant Achatz
Speaking of Chicago and food...

Also Noteworthy:
Music Quickens Time by Daniel Barenboim
The Thin Black Line by Hugh Holton

Graphic Work:

Tamara Drewe by Posy Simmonds
This acclaimed graphic novel is very loosely inspired by Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd - so loosely that many reviews haven't even mentioned it.

Bat-Manga!: The Secret History of Batman in Japan ed. by Chip Kidd et al.
Good lord, this sounds amusing. My fingers are itching to leaf through it.

Skim by Mariko Tamaki, Jillian Tamaki
The NY Times included this in a list of the best Children's and Young Adult lit of the year, and it sounds it sounds well worth reading, though some readers have found it too bleak.

Also Noteworthy:
Portable Frank by Jim Woodring
Aya of Yop City by Marguerite Abouet, Clement Oubrerie
Dungeon: Monstres, Volume 1: The Crying Giant by Johann Sfar et al.
Welcome to the Jungle (Dresden Files Series) by Jim Butcher, Ardian Syaf
The Nancy Book by Joe Brainard



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