Tuesday, October 11, 2022

25 Book Reviews

These are intended to be, not the best books I have reviewed here, but my most interesting reviews.

Pascal Mercier, The Night Train to Lisbon. A wonderfully thoughtful and lovely 2008 novel by a philosopher.

Francis Spufford, I May Be Some Time: Ice and the English Imagination. Fascinating book that uses the English obsession with polar exploration as a window into the 19th-century soul.

Marlon James, Black Leopard, Red Wolf. Nothing against Marlon James, who wrote two books I love, but reading this angry, jumbled mess of a book is like being beaten with clubs.

Roberto Calasso, The Ruin of Kasch. One of my favorite works of both philosophy and history.

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Children of Húrin. Pondering Tolkien's Elder Days, which are so much less interesting than the world of Lord of the Rings.

Jack Kerouac, On the Road. This famous American novel is enormously popular among male archaeologists, which inspired this review.

Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita. What is love? And why this book?

Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian. One of my favorite historical novels.

Susanna Clarke, Piranesi. The most wondrous fantasy novel in years.

Jane Smiley, The Greenlanders. Bridging the gap between the Icelandic Sagas and a modern novel.

Tim Robinson, Stones of Aran: Pilgrimage. A look at Robinson's exhaustingly detailed microhistory of a small island off Ireland.

The Strangeness of N.K. Jemisin. Exploring why I don't love the work of the most prominent sci-fi/fantasy writer of my generation.

A Year of Haruki Murakami.

John Crowley, Ka: Dark Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr. Reading a recent John Crowley novel and comparing it to his masterpiece, Little, Big. How much magic does a writer need to show for the book to qualify as fantasy?

Roberto Bolaño, The Savage Detectives. Fascinating novel that focuses on young Mexicans passtionate about politics and poetry.

Gore Vidal, Burr.

Ada Palmer, Too Like the Lightning. Not loving 2016's hottest sci-fi novel.

Karl Ove Knausgård, My Struggle. What I made of the modern world's most famous six-volume novel.

David Graeber, Debt: the First 5,000 Years. Interesting history, interesting analysis of our problems, no clue about solutions. 

Marlon James, The Book of the Night Women. My favorite novel about slavery.

William Vollman, Europe Central. A remarkable novel about eastern Europe during (and before and after) World War II.

Weston La Barre, The Ghost Dance: the Origins of Religion. This 1970 book is one of my favorites, exploring the relationship between culture and psychology.

George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons. With my thoughts on Martin's great saga.

Saul Bellow, Mr. Sammler's Planet. Pondering why and how to read an amazing but thoroughly misogynist writer.

Hilary Mantel. To me, the three volumes of the Cromwell saga are the greatest novels of the 21st century: Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies, The Mirror and the Light.

John Reader, Africa: A Biography of the Continent. The best book I know on African history

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