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



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