Tag Archives: Book Review

The New York Times Book Review – March 26, 2023


The New York Times Book Review – March 26, 2023:

Margaret Atwood Is Still Sending Us Notes From the Future

A photograph of Margaret Atwood, who is wearing a green scarf and green button-down shirt.
Margaret Atwood’s new book is “Old Babes in the Wood.”Credit…Arden Wray for The New York Times

Her new story collection, “Old Babes in the Wood,” offers elegiac scenes from a marriage plus a grab bag of curious fables.

There are authors we turn to because they can uncannily predict our future; there are authors we need for their skillful diagnosis of our present; and there are authors we love because they can explain our past. And then there are the outliers: those who gift us with timelines other than the one we’re stuck in, realities far from home. If anyone has proved, over the course of a long and wildly diverse career, that she can be all four, it’s Margaret Atwood.

50 Years On, ‘Wisconsin Death Trip’ Still Haunts and Inspires

Michael Lesy’s book of historical photographs and found text offers a singular portrait of American life.

Michael Lesy’s 1973 book “Wisconsin Death Trip” is an American oddity, a cult classic for a reason. In a way that few documentary texts do, it makes us leave the baggage of modernity at the trailhead. It forces us back into the inconceivably long nights in rural and small-town America before the widespread use of electricity, before radio, before antibiotics for dying children and antidepressants for anxiety bordering on mania, when events could make a family feel that some nocturnal beast had chalked its door.

The Prophetic

This illustration depicts a barren landscape, with yellow ground and, in the distance, a low brown mountain range beneath an aqua sky scattered clouds and a couple yellow stars. In the middle of the landscape stands a small figure of a woman in a long green tunic. Above her head, and connected to her body via several pink and red rays, is an enormous human eyeball. At the center of the eye, where the pupil and iris should be, there is a stormy sky: a white moon, half hidden by dark clouds, and streaks of lightning.
Credit…Nada Hayek

The first installment of an essay series on American literature and faith.

I am a child of the church. In an early memory, I am 6 years old, half-asleep in the back of my grandparents’ station wagon on the way home from a revival…

The New York Times Book Review – March 19, 2023


The New York Times Book Review – March 19, 2023:

In Matthew Desmond’s ‘Poverty, by America,’ the Culprit Is Us

This illustration, in shades of red, white, blue and black, shows the silhouetted figures of a family around a table. The parents hover over a large tureen containing black liquid, while, on either side of them, smaller figures — their offspring — lean over smaller bowls filled with the same substance. In the background, red and white vertical stripes are visible, suggesting an American flag.
Credit…Ola Jasionowska

The new book by the sociologist and author of “Evicted” examines the persistence of want in the wealthy United States, finding that keeping some citizens poor serves the interests of many.

Read Your Way Through São Paulo

A woman is reading a book on a bench in a park with the cityscape of São Paulo in the background. A cat is sleeping next to her.
Credit…Raphaelle Macaron

Brazil’s ultra urban megacity overwhelms the landscape and the imagination. Paulo Scott recommends books that peel back its layers.

With Karl Lagerfeld, the Clothes Were Only Part of the Story

A photograph of Karl Lagerfeld surrounded by models, several of them in black sequined dresses. Lagerfeld is wearing sunglasses and has his hair pulled back in a white ponytail. He is in a black suit and tie, a white shirt with a high stiff collar, and is carrying an open fan in his right hand.

The fashion world’s hunger for larger-than-life figures glorified the designer. But a cozy new biography shows him to be more business whiz than artist.

Book Reviews: Politics & Free Markets (March 2023)

The Currency of Politics: The Political Theory of Money from Aristotle to Keynes by STEFAN EICH

NOBODY HAS EVER seen the economy. We can see specific markets, but my local farmers’ market looks very different from the Diamond District in Manhattan and even the street stalls I frequented in East London.

Markets are institutions with more or less physical infrastructures, but “the market” (like “the economy”) is an abstraction, no more fixed or certain than “the Left” or “nature.” If “the economy” and “the market” are often described as though they were things out there in the world to be measured and monitored while other abstractions (such as “beauty” and “joy”) are not, that tells us as much about ways of thinking as it does about the workings of the world.

Powered by this insight, the history of economic thought (and related “new histories of capitalism”) has grown over the past 20 years to become one of the most lively and popular historical subfields.

Free Market: The History of an Idea by JACOB SOLL

The recent controversy over Jacob Soll’s new book Free Market: The History of an Idea (2022) reveals just how attached some people are to their economic ideologies (no surprise there) and to their ideas about who gets to have “economic thoughts.”

In a sweeping text that ranges across 2,500 years in barely 250 pages, Soll argues that, for centuries, “free” markets were understood as existing only where strong, moral governments liberated trade from domination by selfish, moneyed merchants. Markets had to be set free—they were not born that way—and the danger has always lurked of commerce being recaptured to enrich the few rather than benefit the many.

This is a loosely “antitrust” way of describing market freedom, and it might have barely registered at all had Soll attributed it chiefly to Louis Brandeis, Frances Perkins (secretary of labor under FDR), or even Machiavelli. But by invoking the name “Adam Smith,” Soll seems to have violated the holy of holies. 

The New York Times Book Review – March 12, 2023


The New York Times Book Review – March 12, 2023:

Big Money, Big Houses and Big Problems in Brooklyn Heights

This is an illustration — done in white, yellow and shades of blue — of a gaggle of fancily dressed people in a well appointed living room. Their faces aren't visible but their jewelry and hair accessories are.

In Jenny Jackson’s debut novel, “Pineapple Street,” readers get a tour of a world they might learn not to envy by the end of the book.

22 Works of Fiction to Read This Spring

Watch for reality-bending explorations of time and space, a Western horror novel from Victor LaValle and new fiction from Han Kang. Plus: Tom Hanks (yes, that Tom Hanks) releases his debut novel.

The Marquis de Sade’s Filthy, Pricey 40-Foot Scroll of Depravity

A new book by Joel Warner traces the fate of the parchment on which the infamous author wrote “120 Days of Sodom,” a trail involving scholars, aristocrats and thieves — and lots of money.

The New York Times Book Review – March 5, 2023


The New York Times Book Review – March 5, 2023:

Walter Mosley’s New York: Classes Divided, Races at War

His new novel, “Every Man a King,” is a hard-boiled tale of billionaires, white nationalists and a detective with a complicated past.

The Cousins Who Ruled 19th-Century Europe, Miserably


“Empty Theatre,” a novel by Jac Jemc, reimagines the lives of two eccentric royals, King Ludwig II of Bavaria and Empress Elisabeth of Austria.

For Thomas Mann, the World’s Chaos Is Inside the House

A newly translated story by the German master explores a father’s feelings for his children in a time of fierce social change.

A Louche Life Set to a Show-Tunes Score

In his name-dropping novel “Up With the Sun,” Thomas Mallon fictionalizes the minor career and tabloid murder of the Broadway actor Dick Kallman.

Reviews: Best Crime And Thriller Books Of 2022

The Guardian (December 3, 2022)-

The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman 9780241512425

Given the relentlessly grim nature of the news this year, it’s hardly surprising that escapism in the form of cosy crime continues to challenge traditional crime/thriller bestsellers, with Richard Osman’s third Thursday Murder Club mystery, The Bullet That Missed (Viking), riding high in the charts. The last 12 months have seen a bumper crop of excellent books at the cosy end of the spectrum, from Ajay Chowdhury’s second crime novel, The Cook (Harvill Secker), set against the backdrop of an east London curry house, to veteran Canadian author Louise Penny’s 18th Armand Gamache novel, A World of Curiosities (Hodder & Stoughton).

A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny

Inventiveness appears to be on the rise, too. Janice Hallett’s second novel, The Twyford Code (Viper), told in transcribed audio files retrieved from an iPhone, succeeds in being fiendishly clever and very moving. Authors such as Gillian McAllister, whose Wrong Place Wrong Time (Michael Joseph) is an ingeniously plotted murder mystery in which time travels backwards, and Gabino Iglesias, whose high-octane southern noir thriller The Devil Takes You Home (Wildfire) has supernatural elements, are also giving the genre a welcome shot in the arm. Others have approached familiar tropes from new angles: the main character in CS Robertson’s The Undiscovered Deaths of Grace McGill (Hodder & Stoughton) is not a cop but a “death cleaner”.

A Heart Full of Headstones 9781398709355

Recent revelations have meant that the British public’s growing distrust of the police is very much a part of the UK’s permacrisis. Ian Rankin, creator of maverick cop John Rebus, commented recently that there are “big questions” for authors who write police procedurals. “In the current state of the world, how can you write about a police officer and make them the goody, when we look around us and see that so often the police are not the goodies?” In his latest Rebus novel, the splendid A Heart Full of Headstones (Orion), an officer who has been charged with domestic violence tries to make a deal by stitching up dodgy colleagues.

The year has been punctuated by the collective groans of crime fiction critics as the results of yet another male celebrity’s lockdown diversion landed on their doormats (presumably the female celebrities were too busy home schooling). The most impressive of these is Frankie Boyle’s Meantime (John Murray): set in Glasgow during the aftermath of the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, it’s both funny and moving.

More Than You'll Ever Know 9780241529980 Hardback

There have been plenty of excellent non-celebrity debuts. Standouts include Patrick Worrall’s complex spy thriller The Partisan (Transworld); Conner Habib’s Hawk Mountain (Transworld), a paranoid and unsettling tale of masculinity in crisis; and Wake (Hodder & Stoughton), Australian newcomer Shelley Burr’s sensitive exploration of the aftermath of trauma in a parched outback town. Katie Gutierrez’s More Than You’ll Ever Know (Michael Joseph) is an intelligent and nuanced examination of the complicated relationship between a true-crime writer and her subject, a female bigamist. And The Maid by Nita Prose (HarperCollins) will have you rooting for its titular heroine, neurodivergent Molly, as she finds herself caught up in a web of deception at the fancy Regency Grand Hotel.

Maror by Lavie Tidhar

There have been strong additions to other long-running and well-loved police series, such as Give Unto Others (Hutchinson Heinemann), the 31st novel to feature Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti, and The Murder Book (Little, Brown), 18th outing for Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne. More recent additions to the police procedural canon include Elly Griffith’s DI Harbinder Kaur, who had her third outing in Bleeding Heart Yard (Quercus), and Alan Parks’s shambolic, mid-70s Glaswegian detective Harry McCoy, who had his fifth in May God Forgive (Canongate). Maror by Lavie Tidhar (Apollo), an epic, multi-generational thriller set in Israel, with an enigmatic cop at its centre, is also well worth the read.

Highlights in historical crime include Blue Water (Viper) by Leonora Nattrass, a shipboard thriller set in 1794, and The Lost Man of Bombay (Hodder & Stoughton), the third in Vaseem Khan’s excellent series set in post-partition India. Alternative history has been well served by the thoroughly chilling Queen High (Quercus), CJ Carey’s sequel to last year’s superb Widowland, which imagines a postwar Britain under Nazi rule.

Breaking Point by Olivier Norek (MacLehose)

Although translated crime fiction seems thinner on the ground at the moment, the quality is high: standouts include Olivier Norek’s impressive policier Breaking Point (MacLehose, translated from French by Nick Caister) and Antti Tuomainen’s delightfully funny The Moose Paradox (Orenda, translated from Finnish by David Hackston). All in all, the genre seems in good shape: a broader church, less formulaic and more exciting.

1960’s New Zealand Homes: ‘I never met a straight line I didn’t like’ (Book review)

During the 1960s, Christchurch, New Zealand exploded with a creative force which developed into a distinct style of architecture that was widely admired and imitated and remains influential today.

This is a book about a modern architectural movement that bubbled up in a small, conservative city at the bottom of the world.

For a decade Christchurch architects worked with a potent energy and urgency, creating hundreds of homes (and many of New Zealand’s best public and commercial buildings) in a regional style that is arguably the closest thing the country has to a modern indigenous style of architecture. 

The 12 homes illustrated in the book are just a small representation of the style and architects of the period. They remain as intact examples of the ideas, materials and optimism of the time.

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