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  • The race is on

    Race, Nell Irvin Painter writes, “is an idea, not a fact.’’ Painter, a professor of history at Princeton, has written several books chronicling African-American history, but the story she tells here mostly sidesteps the dichotomy of black and white. This terrific new book spins a less familiar narrative: the “notion of American whiteness,’’ an idea as dangerous as it is ...(Boston Globe, 3/20/10)
  • The many origins of intelligence

    Francis Galton, the Englishman who coined the phrase “nature versus nurture,’’ believed smart people were born smart and dumb people were born dumb. Of course, Galton was also a pioneer of eugenics, the idea that we should selectively breed humans to eliminate our less “desirable” genetic qualities.(Globe Correspondent, 3/20/10)
  • Bookings

    TODAY: Lawrence Rosenwald discusses “Emerson’s Journals,” at 3 p.m., Concord Bookshop . . . Vera Pavlova reads from “If There is Something to Desire: Poems,’’ at 3 p.m., Pierre Menard Art Gallery, Cambridge . . . Sarah Lamstein reads from “Big Night for Salamanders,” at 2 p.m., Wellesley Booksmith.(Boston Globe, 3/20/10)
  • On Twain

    On Twain Samuel Clemens, the riverboat pilot who reinvented himself as Mark Twain, is still being studied and celebrated a century after his death on April 21, 1910.(Globe Correspondent, 3/20/10)
  • A nation’s journey from slavery to prisons

    Robert Perkinson grew up in Wyoming but his family’s roots are in the South. As a Yale graduate student Perkinson focused on the entwined history of racism and criminal justice in the South, a course of study that inevitably led him to Texas. Perkinson’s new book, “Texas Tough: The Rise of America’s Prison Empire,’’ is a penetrating and impassioned history ...(Globe Correspondent, 3/20/10)
  • Short Takes

    Like many young people in the 1970s, Stephen Batchelor turned to the East in search of some deeper truth than what was available to him in suburban London. Unlike many of his contemporaries’ journeys, however, his was literal, and when he reached the East, he stayed. After studying in India under the exiled Dalai Lama, Batchelor was ordained a Buddhist ...(Globe Correspondent, 3/20/10)
  • Pursuit of happiness

    In Aldous Huxley’s novel, “Brave New World,’’ the masses are fed feel-good pills, amusements, and the promise of perpetual youth and an end to all sources of discomfort. Into this “utopia’’ comes a young man, nicknamed “The Savage,’’ who rejects its values. “I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness, I want ...(Globe Correspondent, 3/20/10)
  • In examining father’s life, a son finds his own artistry

    Regardless of the loaded subjects Hanif Kureishi has addressed in his work — from the interracial, homosexual love story in “My Beautiful Laundrette’’ to the emotional brutality of a man’s extramarital affair in “Intimacy’’ — his tone always remains cool and measured. His memoir of his relationship with his father has a similarly premeditated sheen, but that doesn’t diminish the ...(Globe Correspondent, 3/20/10)
  • Two houses, with many dimensions

    My particular friend is restoring a Federal-style farm house in a hill town a couple of miles from the Quabbin Reservoir. At the time it was built, probably when James Madison was president and Jane Austen was alive, its two stories rose to better neighboring dwellings, all now vanished. Neat fields and well-knit stone fences surrounded it; Emily Dickenson is ...(Globe Correspondent, 3/20/10)
  • All creatures small and smaller

    Hugh Raffles, who teaches anthropology at the New School, finds a world of wonder in the smallest creatures. He is as fascinated by high-stakes cricket fighting in China as he is by the complex interrelationship between locusts, feast, and famine in Africa. “Insectopedia’’ (Pantheon) is his eclectic exploration of insects in science, literature, popular culture, economics, history, and anthropology. Each ...(Boston Globe, 3/20/10)
  • Gonzo exploits

    What would you say if I told you that a detachment of Colombian Army commandos sent to retrieve three American hostages stumbled across $20 million that the guerrillas they were pursuing had stashed in the jungle? What if I added that one of the commandos used his share of the twice-stolen loot to procure a sex change operation, open a ...(Globe Correspondent, 3/20/10)
  • Flight of the wingless sprite

    For years I’ve been searching for a new Harry Potter contender, and every year I’ve come up short. But an answer has come in an unlikely form — not that Harry Potter was ever likely — in a short, glowing fantasy novel called “The Night Fairy’’ by 2008 Newbery medalist, Laura Amy Schlitz.(Globe Correspondent, 3/20/10)
  • Bookings

    TODAY: Henri Cole celebrates the launch of his new book “Pierce the Skin: Selected Poems,’’ 3 p.m., Pierre Menard Art Gallery, Harvard Square, Cambridge . . . Tracy Kidder discusses “Home Town,’’ 2 p.m., Cary Hall, Lexington . . . Poet Dan Chiasson reads, 3 p.m., Concord Bookshop.(Globe Correspondent, 3/13/10)
  • The Find

    “The Book of Firsts: 150 World-Changing People and Events from Caesar Augustus to the Internet’’ by Peter D’Epiro (Anchor) carves up 2,000 years of history into easily digestible portions. A reader can get up to speed on the first opera, major Muslim leader, civil service exam, tell-all memoir, and overseas raid by the Vikings. The 150 essays, arranged chronologically beginning ...(Boston Globe, 3/13/10)
  • All in the family

    Helen Simonson’s marvelous first novel is a quiet but far from uneventful social comedy. Frank Delaney has written a big, entertaining, and very Irish coming-of-age story. Carol Goodman’s latest Gothic tale is set in upstate New York, a locale her fans know from her haunting early novels.(Boston Globe, 3/13/10)
  • Revolutionary road

    The title of Michael O’Brien’s new history refers to the grueling and virtually solitary winter journey that Louisa Catherine Adams made across war-torn Europe from Russia in 1815 to join her husband, John Quincy Adams, in Paris. And O’Brien’s subtle and sinuously original book provides a detailed reconstruction of the journey and what it meant to make it.(Boston Globe, 3/13/10)
  • Imitation of life

    When the Parisian taxidermy shop Deyrolle went up in flames two years ago 90 percent of the inventory was lost to the fire and smoke — thousands of specimens, from fossils to beetles, rabbits to polar bears, some reaching back to the store’s 1831 origins.(Boston Globe, 3/13/10)
  • Date with destiny

    Sixty years ago this month, Dean Acheson, Harry Truman’s secretary of state, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Indochina and was asked by Theodore Green, a Rhode Island Democrat, about the wisdom of “defending what is left of French policy there and supporting an unpopular king and a corrupt government.’’(Boston Globe, 3/13/10)
  • Characters with happiness just beyond reach

    Bad luck. Disappointment. Infidelity. Ennui. They’re the stuff of which Richard Bausch’s stories are made: quiet domestic miseries, mishaps, and miscalculations that clang louder and louder in his characters’ ears; ordinary men and women suddenly steered along a path very different from the one they intended to take. “Oh how did people do it?” a weeping young woman ponders in ...(Boston Globe, 3/13/10)
  • Debuting a hero, renewing a master

    Noah Boyd’s debut novel, “The Bricklayer,” adds panache to that familiar tale of an outsider who outsmarts the powers that be. Its hero is Steve Vail, a disgruntled former FBI agent who makes his living as bricklayer, reporting to no one and performing his work with exquisite economical precision.(Boston Globe, 3/13/10)
  • Another award for Snyder

    Lawrence Ferlinghetti once described fellow poet Gary Snyder as the “Thoreau of the Beat Generation.” Snyder, an early environmentalist who was friends with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, has long been drawn to Eastern philosophies. He participated in the 1955 poetry reading at which Ginsberg debuted “Howl,’’ and he was the inspiration for a major character in Kerouac’s novel “The ...(Boston Globe, 3/13/10)
  • Three broken lives and the ties that bind in the aftermath of Korea

    In the middle of the “The Surrendered,’’ but early on in its chronology, a Japanese officer brutalizes his prisoner, a young Kuomintang agent. It’s Manchuria, 1934. Like all torturers, the officer believes that pain begets truth. He tells his victim, “You are a worthless human being! Do you hear me? Less than that! Not even a rat! A piece of ...(Globe Correspondent, 3/6/10)
  • Land of the free, home of some knaves

    Henry Cejudo cheerfully admits that he was “a Mexican gang mascot.” Wrestling began to lift him from that life when he was about 12, at which time the drunks in his Phoenix neighborhood began pitting him against other children in street fights. The winner would get ice cream, Cejudo writes in his memoir, “American Victory.’’(Boston Globe, 3/6/10)
  • Even in these early stories, ample helpings of Vonnegut’s wit

    It’s easy to see why some of these stories of Kurt Vonnegut from the 1950s might have been considered unsuitable by the popular magazines he wrote for back then, like Collier’s, The Saturday Evening Post, and Cosmopolitan. These short fictions were too far ahead of their time, too subversively radical or darkly ironic to suit the smooth veneer of the ...(Globe Correspondent, 3/6/10)
  • Winner’s circle

    Two books of fiction - one set in Poland, the other in Saudi Arabia - spanning the 50 years after World War II will be honored later this month.(Globe Correspondent, 3/6/10)
  • Viewing Lewis Carroll as a likely pedophile may say more about us

    “Nobody can now be blamed,” writes Jenny Woolf, “for failing to understand the ways in which other times were different from our own.” Actually, I think we can and should be blamed for making this quite elementary error, but the fact is we do, quite frequently, confuse others with ourselves. Indeed, perhaps the single biggest obstacle to understanding history is ...(Globe Correspondent, 3/6/10)
  • Using loss as a starting point

    Brad Watson was born in Meridian, Miss., and worked at various jobs, from journalist to garbage collector, before writing fiction. In his new story collection, “Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives,” he wonderfully depicts characters - and often nature - on the brink. A divorced father and his child spend a visitation weekend in a seedy motel; teenagers start ...(Globe Correspondent, 3/6/10)
  • Humor in the human condition

    The expression “great comic novel” attached to a title usually causes me to drop everything and rush off to the library to secure what I consider to be one of the prime reasons for living. The greatest of these works are, to my mind, ones that are not simply funny, but also possess a melancholy, even hopeless dimension. Examples are ...(Globe Correspondent, 3/6/10)
  • Bookings

    TODAY: William Bulger discusses “James Michael Curley,” 3-4:30 p.m., Book Ends, 559 Main St., Winchester.(Globe Correspondent, 3/6/10)
  • Cartoony cats, marvelous myths

    Mo Willems has created not one but three brilliantly comic, Caldecott Honor picture books: “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus”; “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale”; and “Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity.’’ He’s also the author-illustrator of the marvelous Elephant and Piggie children series, winner of two Geisel awards.(Globe Correspondent, 3/6/10)
  • Short Takes

    A female fighter pilot survives a bizarre crash near the Potomac; an Iranian nuclear scientist stages his own death and goes underground; a shadowy operative for a Blackwater-like firm has his fingerprints all over these and other intrigues.(Globe Correspondent, 3/6/10)
  • Call for new kind of storytelling that’s not so new

    “I’m not a big believer in major epiphanies,” David Shields writes in “Reality Hunger: A Manifesto,” “. . . but I had one nearly twenty years ago, and it occurred in the shower: I had the sudden intuition that I could take various fragments of things - aborted stories, outtakes from novels, journal entries, lit crit - and build a ...(Globe Correspondent, 3/6/10)
  • Oh God! That’s one heck of a story.

    The phrase “God told me to’’ is an excuse people offer for all sorts of behavior from harmless pranks to horrendous crimes. It also is the punch line for the funny tales in “God Made Me Do It: True Stories of the Worst Advice the Lord Has Ever Given His Followers’’ (Sourcebooks). Author Marc Hartzman is an advertising writer who ...(Boston Globe, 3/6/10)
  • Amid mold and frost, a satire of post-Soviet Russia

    When a novel is set in Perm - “the fifth-coldest city in all of Russia . . . A city of fly ash and coal, salt and tanks, bicycle parts and sighting mechanisms . . . A city of bad luck” - it’s a setup for tragedy. Yet Russia has also served as the setting for some of the modern ...(Boston Globe, 2/27/10)
  • Is all fair in war and love?

    It seems proper in the infancy of this year to take up substantial rather than escapist reading - whole-grain literature, if you like, but of the most flavorful kind. In his gem of a novel “Ransom,” Australian writer David Malouf reimagines one of the most moving episodes of Homer’s “Iliad”: the retrieval by Priam, the Trojan king, of his slain ...(Boston Globe, 2/27/10)
  • Little dead schoolhouse

    Ever since Sputnik it’s been common knowledge that the American educational system is on the verge of disaster. Yet after half a century of government reports, polemical bestsellers, data-driven miracle cures, and alphabet-soup programs, why aren’t our perpetually failing public schools fixed? According to education historian Diane Ravitch, we’re letting the interests of politicians, businessmen, and other adults get in ...(Boston Globe, 2/27/10)
  • Short Takes

    When Amy, Roger Rosenblatt’s 38-year-old daughter, died suddenly of an undiagnosed and rare heart anomaly, Rosenblatt rushed to be with her stunned husband and three bewildered children, ages 6, 4, and 1. Along with his wife, Ginny, the mother of his daughter, he immediately and unhesitatingly relocated from Quogue, Long Island, to Bethesda, Md.(Boston Globe, 2/27/10)
  • Uneasy in the islands

    “But the biggest part of the magic,” a man called Cooper tells us, “was the trick of convincing your audience that you have indeed yielded everything - look, my hands are empty, nothing behind my ear, my sleeves are loose.” Cooper’s magic hasn’t been working so well recently - he’s talking to us from his prison cell - but that ...(Boston Globe, 2/27/10)
  • Bookings

    MONDAY: John Heilemann and Mark Halperin discuss “Game Change,” 7 p.m., First Parish Church, 3 Church St., Cambridge; tickets ($5) available at harvard.com; Harvard Book Store, 1256 Mass. Ave.; or by calling 617-661-1515. TUESDAY: Dan Hurley discusses “Diabetes Rising,” 7 p.m., Wellesley Booksmith, 82 Central St.; for reservations (required), call 781-431-1160. FRIDAY: Paul Tremblay reads from “No Sleep Till Wonderland,” ...(Boston Globe, 2/27/10)
  • The Find

    The Oscars aren’t everything, film critic Leonard Maltin reminds us in his new book, “151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen’’ (HarperStudio). His recommendations are mainly offbeat independent or foreign films from the last 20 years. Among the gems highlighted in capsule reviews are the clever modern-day film noir “Brick’’; “King of California,’’ which Maltin calls Michael Douglas’s all-time best performance; ...(Boston Globe, 2/27/10)
  • What the journalist saw

    A lifelong newspaperman, Elliott Maraniss loved stories with characters and drama. Even if they weren’t elegiac or especially elegant. He lived by the motto that in the real world, things could be worse. But in baseball - and Elliott always turned to the sports section before the front page - he seemed to sense that no matter how good things ...(Boston Globe, 2/27/10)
  • Shelf Life

    Following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the White House was flooded with 1.5 million letters of sympathy from every corner of the nation, from critics of the president as well as supporters, from rich and poor, young and old. In 1965 the letters were donated to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum where they received little ...(Boston Globe, 2/27/10)
  • A passion for playwriting

    Howard Zinn’s playwriting, if it was mentioned at all, was little more than a footnote in tributes that have appeared since his death last month. Yet he was passionate about the role of theater in his political awakening, and the three plays he wrote about Emma Goldman, Karl Marx, and the arms race have been widely translated and produced.(Globe Correspondent, 2/20/10)
  • Short Takes

    SAVAGE LANDS By Clare Clark Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 416 pp., $25 p> In “Savage Lands” the historical novelist Clare Clark turns her gaze to the rank, mosquito-infested French colony of Louisiana in the early 1700s.(Globe Correspondent, 2/20/10)
  • Reconsidering the history of blacks in America as a series of migrations

    After the death of John Hope Franklin last year, tributes to the distinguished historian cascaded down. A major newspaper in North Carolina declared that Franklin, who retired from Duke University, “gave definition to the African-American experience.” That was a slight exaggeration, overlooking as it did predecessors such as Carter G. Woodson, creator of what has become Black History Month, but ...(Globe Correspondent, 2/20/10)
  • Lovers and other strangers

    Amy Bloom, author of the bestselling novel “Away,” does something very clever with the structure of her newest collection of short stories, “Where the God of Love Hangs Out.” Two novellas make up the bulk of the book, each consisting of a quartet of interconnected short stories. This works especially well on audio because the listener is given the perfect ...(Globe Correspondent, 2/20/10)
  • Seeing a changed land in the back of a mirror

    Last May, I returned to Ireland where I had lived on and off for years in the distant past. Needless to say, the country was changed and, in places, destroyed, but, as I walked miles and miles over remembered routes, one detail began to preoccupy me. It was the disappearance of the raw wooden backs of mirrors (or looking glasses, ...(Globe Correspondent, 2/20/10)
  • As easy as ‘ABCing’

    Colleen Ellis’s “ABCing: Seeing the Alphabet Differently’’ (Mark Batty) is a thoroughly inventive board book for adults. That said, the online version at www.abseeing .com is even better because it adds music and movement. Ellis plays with negative space (not the letter itself but the space around the letter) to illustrate concepts important in the art and design world. The ...(Boston Globe, 2/20/10)
  • Life of the troubled ‘high priestess of soul’

    A Nina Simone song is recognizable from its opening notes. First comes the piano, keys striking at the ineffable point where classical music meets jazz, blues, and pop. Then the voice, deep and searching, taking ownership of the words, whether they are Leonard Cohen or George Gershwin, traditional spiritual or original composition. Otherwise known as the “high priestess of soul,’’ ...(Globe Correspondent, 2/20/10)
  • Dollars and change

    Looking for some advice you can really take to the bank? To understand money matters, you might want to invest in “The Cartoon Introduction to Economics: Volume One: Microeconomics’’ by cartoonist Grady Klein and economist Yoram Bauman, which not only helps clarify a difficult subject for students and lay people, but is also uproariously funny, practical, and relevant.(Globe Correspondent, 2/20/10)
  • Rural lives under shadow of Mao

    “The day set for his daughter to die was as arbitrary as her crime. . .’’ Yiyun Li’s novel “The Vagrants,’’ opens with the imminent execution of a young counterrevolutionary in rural China in the late 1970s. While we never meet her, we come to know intimately her parents and neighbors, her enemies and allies, as Li, with exquisite subtlety ...(Globe Correspondent, 2/20/10)
  • Bookings

    TODAY: Kate Flora and others discuss “Quarry,” at 3 p.m., at Concord Bookshop . . . Poets Susan Eisenberg, Carolyn Gregory, Audrey Henderson, and Sandra Storey read at 2 p.m., at Forsyth Chapel, Jamaica Plain ($5). . . . Joe Hill reads from “Horns,” at 3 p.m., at Cornerstone Books, Salem.(Boston Globe, 2/20/10)
  • A study of Forster, more flat than round

    At 90, Frank Kermode is the doyen of literary critics. Criticism may have seen better days, but Kermode, a fixture on the pages of the London Review of Books, still produces steadily. Kermode’s criticism is distinguished for its range, gentleness, and humility; he never forces a point, though sometimes smothers his arguments in modesty. But there are far worse literary ...(Globe Correspondent, 2/20/10)
  • Fundamentalist teenage wasteland

    If you think you had a rough time in high school, consider the plight of Gabe Dagsland, hero of Tony DuShane’s debut novel, “Confessions of a Teenage Jesus Jerk.’’ As a Jehovah’s Witness, he’s not allowed to celebrate holidays. He can’t participate in extracurricular activities. The mildest dabbling in sex, drugs, or rock and roll - the bread and butter ...(Globe Correspondent, 2/13/10)
  • Lynch’s tales of lonely souls often feel too removed

    Thomas Lynch’s earlier books, such as “The Undertaking’’ and “Bodies in Motion and at Rest,’’ grew out of his work as an undertaker and funeral home director. They were rich in human detail and, despite their austere subject, moved with considerable animation. The qualities that elevated and steered his nonfiction - clarity, a love of small, personal details, humor - ...(Globe Correspondent, 2/13/10)
  • New critique intends to rebut Darwin’s ideas

    “What Darwin Got Wrong’’ is an intensely irritating book. Jerry Fodor, a well-known philosopher, with coauthor Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini, a cognitive scientist, has written a whole book trashing Darwinian evolutionary theory - the theory that makes natural selection the main force of change in organisms through the ages.(Globe Correspondent, 2/13/10)
  • Portrait captures the greatness of Willie Mays as a player

    Willie Mays, the baseball hall-of-famer, is 78 now. Because he arrived in the major leagues at 19 and quickly became a blazing star for the New York Giants, because his style of play was so exuberant and charged with youthful energy, because his hitting and fielding and running gifts seemed superhuman, it is difficult to imagine Mays aging, slowed by ...(Boston Globe, 2/13/10)
  • The outsiders

    Johanna Moran’s fine first novel is a fascinating story about a man and his two wives persecuted for what might be called accidental bigamy. Leslie Larson gives an 82-year-old assisted living resident an unforgettable voice: caustic, profane, searingly honest. Heather Terrell imagines the life of St. Brigid of Kildare.(Globe Correspondent, 2/13/10)
  • Snowflakes up close and personal

    The next time it snows, I am heading outside with magnifying glass in hand, inspired by “The Secret Life of a Snowflake’’ by Kenneth Libbrecht (Voyageur). The target readers are 9- and 10-year-olds, but the book deserves a broader audience. A snowflake researcher at Caltech, Libbrecht is as enthusiastic about science as he is about the beautiful photographs he takes ...(Boston Globe, 2/13/10)
  • Bookings

    TODAY: Kevin and Hannah Salwen discuss “The Power of Half,” 2 p.m., Wellesley Free Library . . . Anne D. LeClaire leads a workshop based on “Listening Below the Noise,” 1-3:30 p.m., Conference Center, Cape Cod and Islands Association of Realtors, West Yarmouth; suggested donation, $30. (No one will be denied participation.)(Boston Globe, 2/13/10)
  • Voice of experience

    Michael Palmer of Swampscott has been an emergency room physician and a drug addict. As part of his recovery decades ago, he wrote a novel at his kitchen table. His writing career took off (he’s up to 14 bestselling medical thrillers) but he still works in medicine, helping doctors who have drug, alcohol, and other problems.(Globe Correspondent, 2/13/10)
  • Short Takes

    THE LOST BOOKS OF THE ODYSSEY By Zachary Mason Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 240 pp., $24(Globe Correspondent, 2/13/10)
  • Dark thriller in an Orwellian police state

    Henry Porter, political columnist for The Observer and UK editor of Vanity Fair, is the author of five novels including “Brandenburg Gate,” which was set during the fall of the Berlin Wall. Porter’s new novel, “The Bell Ringers” is a dark counterpoint to that previously optimistic vision. This superb political thriller depicts England in the near future as a place ...(Globe Correspondent, 2/6/10)
  • Looking at ‘The Iliad’ and seeing ourselves

    I first read “The Iliad” as a young person aboard the M.V. Britannic crossing the North Atlantic. It was a tossup, so to speak, as to which made me feel worse, the hideous seas or the epic itself. With expectations formed from reading 19th-century swashbuckling novels, I thought that “The Iliad” would present unambiguous heroes and villains and the spectacle ...(Globe Correspondent, 2/6/10)
  • Bookings

    MONDAY: Editors John Callahan and Adam Bradley discuss Ralph Ellison’s “Three Days Before the Shooting,” at 7 p.m., Harvard Book Store, 1256 Mass. Ave., Cambridge . . . Kevin O’Hara reads from “A Lucky Irish Lad,” at 7 p.m., Harvard Square Coop, Cambridge.(Globe Correspondent, 2/6/10)
  • Fire in the mountain

    Reading John D’Agata’s new booklong essay “About a Mountain” is like finding your GPS on the fritz, getting lost, and then, suddenly, realizing you’re on the right road after all, and headed for an epiphany or two.(Globe Staff, 2/6/10)
  • A taste for gunmen on the grassy knoll

    In late 2006 I was thrust headlong into one of the most infamous episodes in American history: the conspiracy to commit and cover up the assassination of John F. Kennedy. For several decades Arthur Schlesinger Jr. taught at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. After retirement Schlesinger retained his office, just down the hall from mine. ...(Globe Correspondent , 2/6/10)
  • Collateral damage

    One of the terrible things about living in the post-bailout age is that we have to contend with the post-bailout novel, which is itself a kissing cousin to the post-9/11 novel.(Boston Globe, 2/6/10)
  • The lady and the tiger

    Which is more revealing: the mundane action we repeat every day, or our response to an extraordinary event that will never come again? Anyone familiar with the work of T.C. Boyle already knows his answer: crisis all the way. In “Wild Child,’’ his exhilarating new collection of short stories, Boyle captures characters facing a range of critical turning points. Some ...(Boston Globe, 2/6/10)
  • You can keep your Holden Caulfield

    It’s not polite to speak ill of the dead. Would it be a problem, though, if I spoke ill of some of the dead’s followers?(Globe Staff, 2/6/10)
  • Short takes

    “Everyone’s a little damaged, honey.” No truer words are spoken in the small world of “The Melting Season,” a quirky soap opera that proves surprisingly endearing.(Globe Correspondent, 2/6/10)
  • Author readings and book signings in Greater Boston Feb. 6-13

    Like foreign films, books translated into English from other languages frequently face difficulties in finding an audience. It is estimated that such works account for no more than 3 percent of the American book market.(Globe Correspondent, 2/6/10)
  • Perhaps the greatest generation

    Was it something in the water? Classifying artists by generation is an inexact science at best, but by just about any calculation it’s safe to say that the Prohibition years produced a bumper crop of major American poets the likes of which make practically any other epoch look like a dry spell. If it’s all but impossible to cram them ...(Globe Correspondent, 2/6/10)
  • Serving up a feast for the eyes

    Imagine being asked to select 450 images from the National Geographic Society’s archive of 10 million spanning 120 years. That was the challenge facing the editors who put together the organization’s new book, “Image Collection.’’ The photographs are divided in four sections: exploration, wildlife, people and culture, and science and climate change. From the Arctic to the Milky Way, from ...(Boston Globe, 2/6/10)
  • Saga of cancer patient whose cells advanced medical discoveries

    Rebecca Skloot’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’’ is a book about obsession. It begins with Skloot’s fascination with Lacks, a mother of five in Virginia in the 1950s who develops cancer, and the line of cells taken from her that unlocks the door to a number of important medical discoveries.(Globe Correspondent, 1/30/10)
  • A tale of a troubled couple marks a departure for Erdrich

    The news about Louise Erdrich’s latest novel, “Shadow Tag,’’ is that it’s a departure from her previous work, and an exciting one. Erdrich is the author of 13 novels, three poetry books, a collection of short stories, five children’s books, and two works of nonfiction, for which she has received significant critical acclaim (National Book Critics Circle Award for her ...(Globe Correspondent, 1/30/10)
  • Author readings and book signings in Greater Boston, Feb. 1-6

    MONDAY: Thomas Ricks discusses “The Gamble,” 7 p.m., Harvard Book Store, 1256 Mass. Ave., Cambridge . . . New England Poetry Club members read love poems, 7 p.m., Yenching Library, Harvard University . . . Novelist Debra Spark reads from “Good for the Jews,’’ and poet Jericho Brown reads from “Please,’’ 8 p.m., Blacksmith House, 56 Brattle St., Cambridge ($3)(Globe Correspondent, 1/30/10)
  • A filmmaker tries to woo a Pentagon intellectual for a project in Don DeLillo’s novel

    An academic, hired by the Defense Department to “conceptualize” the Iraq War. A struggling postmodern filmmaker who visits the academic in his desert retreat to enlist him as the subject of a documentary. Hitchcock’s “Psycho” slowed down to run at two frames a second, or some 24 hours in all, in an installation at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.(Globe Correspondent, 1/30/10)
  • Hide in plain sight

    The British journalist Peter Forbes has produced a colorful look at camouflage in nature and battle, with a focus on the two world wars . “Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage’’ (Yale University) straddles the worlds of evolutionary biology, art, and military strategy with a world-class cast of characters, among them Charles Darwin, Pablo Picasso, Vladimir Nabokov, Theodore Roosevelt, and ...(Boston Globe, 1/30/10)
  • Tender look at Mailer

    Around Provincetown, Norman Mailer was known as a regular guy. He chatted with locals as he ran errands.(Globe Correspondent, 2/6/10)
  • Short takes

    FOR THE SOUL OF FRANCE: Culture Wars in the Age of Dreyfus By Frederick Brown Knopf, 336 pp., $28.95(Globe Correspondent, 1/30/10)
  • Short Takes

    SMALL WARS By Sadie Jones Harper, 384 pp., $24.99 In the heroic afterglow of World War II, Hal Traherne proudly takes up his commission in the British Army. With his new bride, Clara, by his side, he anticipates serving king and country with honor and valor.(Globe Correspondent, 1/23/10)
  • Saga of three students in a Catholic girls school

    Gail Godwin’s 13th novel, “Unfinished Desires,’’ is a large, roomy story of love, loss, fidelity, secrets, rivalry, and faith in the lives of a charming, flawed troupe of characters. Godwin masterfully evokes a Catholic girlhood in the 20th century through the lens of Mount St. Gabriel’s, a girls school in the North Carolina mountains. You smell the incense, taste the ...(Globe Correspondent, 1/23/10)
  • First a blinding flash

    When the test bomb, code-named Trinity, was detonated in the New Mexico desert, physicist Richard Feynman did a victory dance with his bongo drums. And when Dorothy McKibben, the office manager who served as a kind of gatekeeper at Los Alamos, heard that a nuclear device had been exploded at Hiroshima, she turned to her son and exclaimed, “That’s our ...(Globe Correspondent, 1/23/10)
  • Relationships with a comic sense of humor

    A dark sense of humor ripples through Bruce Eric Kaplan’s cartoons about the foibles and phobias of men and women dealing with the absurdities of modern life and relationships. Kaplan (“BEK’’ is how he signs his cartoons) has written for “Seinfeld’’ and “Six Feet Under,’’ and his cartoons have been published in The New Yorker for decades. The thrust of ...(Boston Globe, 1/23/10)
  • Resurrected Heart

    Thomas Cobb’s first novel, “Crazy Heart,’’ has roared back to life as a film, 22 years after it went out of print. It’s been quite a trip. The 62-year-old college professor flew from Rhode Island to Los Angeles for the film’s premiere and met Jeff Bridges and Maggie Gyllenhaal.(Globe Correspondent, 1/23/10)
  • Stories of couples draw us in but still fall short

    Trained as a social worker, Amy Bloom was a practicing psychotherapist before publishing her first book, a short story collection called “Come to Me,’’ in 1993. With such a background, you’d expect her fiction to focus on characters, and it does. Her subsequent books - a second collection, two novels, and a nonfiction book on transsexuals - explore the workings ...(Globe Correspondent, 1/23/10)
  • Bookings

    TODAY: Christina Asquith discusses “Sisters in War: Love, Survival, and Family in the New Iraq,” 3 p.m., Concord Bookshop . . . Anne Ipsen reads from “Running Before the Prairie Wind,” 2:30 p.m., Wellesley Booksmith . . . Risa Miller reads from “My Before and After Life,” 2 p.m., Newtonville Books.(Boston Globe, 1/23/10)
  • Tinker, tailor, writer, spy

    For a brief, heady time, World War II transformed a generation of British scribblers into spies, code breakers, intelligence analysts, agents provocateurs, and propagandists. Ian Fleming, John le Carré, Graham Green, and Evelyn Waugh are among the best known - and Noel Coward, too, who remarked of British propaganda that “if the policy of His Majesty’s government is to bore ...(Globe Correspondent, 1/23/10)
  • Fresh starts for a new year

    How lovely to begin a new year with a fresh batch of children’s books, including a baby’s concept book, a brand new love story, and four classics newly gathered together under one snowy roof.(Globe Correspondent, 1/23/10)
  • Making the rest of the world crazy

    Americans are a generous people. We donate riches to needy countries. We send our troops abroad. We have exported some of history’s most influential cultural, scientific, and social inventions: democracy, fast food, and Britney Spears.(Globe Correspondent, 1/23/10)
  • Worlds of brutality and comic undead

    “Dying Gasp,’’ Leighton Gage’s third series novel featuring Brazilian Chief Inspector Mario Silva is a dark, violent book with characters that seethe on the page. It opens with a train bombing in Amsterdam. The collateral damage of a nearby postal truck scatters mail across the scene of the blast. Among the debris is an unmarked packet containing an undamaged DVD. ...(Globe Correspondent, 1/23/10)
  • A girlhood in war-torn Ethiopia

    Maaza Mengiste was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and left that country when she was four years old, after the communist revolution of 1974 forced Emperor Haile Selassie from power. Her deeply affecting first novel, “Beneath the Lion’s Gaze,’’ is set during that terror-filled era and from the opening page it immerses us in the lives of a doctor and ...(Globe Correspondent, 1/23/10)
  • Stone’s tales, with small-bore themes, frustrate

    A rapacious and brutal millionaire falls ignominious prey to a panther - his ravening counterpart - that invades his mountain retreat. A power mad US defense secretary goes violently insane and ends up in hospital writing an incoherent scrawl around the words “Mission Accomplished.’’ A would-be adulterer is punished by the woman who leads him on. An aspiring Hollywood star ...(Globe Correspondent, 1/15/10)
  • Rage against the machine

    Jaron Lanier’s entry in Wikipedia, our one-stop info-shopping site, lists the many areas of accomplishment that have earned him renown - visionary computer scientist, pioneer of virtual reality and reputed coiner of the term, and composer.(Globe Correspondent, 1/15/10)
  • Drawing on the past

    For all the years that Randy Susan Meyers counseled male batterers, there was one question that stuck with her. “What about the children?’’ she wondered. “They were sleeping’’ during the violence was the batterers’ frequent refrain. Yet Meyers knew that violence in the home reverberates beyond the dark of night.(Globe Correspondent, 1/15/10)
  • Fresh thinking on the brain

    For nearly a century we’ve thought about the human brain almost solely in terms of its hundred billion neurons. Electrical signals pulse between millions of those long, slender cells, as though through the microprocessors in a computer, and bingo - we see; we think; we fall in love.(Globe Correspondent, 1/15/10)
  • Bookings

    TODAY : Rebecca Newberger Goldstein discusses “36 Arguments for the Existence of God,’’ 2 p.m., Newtonville Books, 296 Walnut St., Newtonville.(Boston Globe, 1/15/10)
  • A ‘Rose’ by any other name

    Citing a budget crisis, Brandeis University provoked an outcry last January with a plan to close its Rose Art Museum and sell off the art. The decision was reversed, but the director was let go and the staffing cut, discomfiting the art world. Subsequently, highlights of the museum’s collection (including works by Picasso, Walker Evans, and Louise Nevelson) were gathered ...(Boston Globe, 1/15/10)
  • Lone hike is focus of Joshua Ferris’s masterful novel

    Joshua Ferris’s debut novel, “Then We Came to the End,’’ managed that rare trick in the world of belles lettres: It wowed both readers and critics, landing on the bestseller list and earning a National Book Award nomination. His follow-up arrives as one of the most anticipated books of the year.(Globe Correspondent, 1/15/10)
  • Short Takes

    A FAIR MAIDEN By Joyce Carol Oates Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 176 pp., $22 As the title suggests, this is a kind of fairy tale. Oates has worked in this mode before and knows well how to manipulate her familiar characters and stock situations.(Globe Correspondent, 1/15/10)
  • Patti Smith recalls life with Mapplethorpe and atop New York art scene

    Imagine a world in which it’s possible to live in Manhattan on only a book clerk’s salary and the occasional freelance rock review. Imagine you could take the bus to a restaurant where you knew that, without fail, the stars of the art scene held court at night and that someday, given the right clothes and glances, you would be ...(Globe Correspondent, 1/15/10)
  • A Dickensian fairy-tale

    Have you heard of glass delusion? It’s a mistaken belief that all or part of one’s body has turned to glass. King Charles VI of France suffered from it. Cervantes and Descartes wrote about it. For unknown reasons, the malady faded away around the end of the 17th century. In a newborn millennium with more than enough fresh forms of ...(Globe Correspondent, 1/9/10)
  • From foreign lands into the English lexicon

    Who knew that the words seersucker, khaki, and taffeta originated in Persia? Or how about the lowly origins of poodle? That word was derived from the German pudelhund or “puddle dog.” The poodle was bred as a hunting dog to retrieve waterfowl shot by its master. Examining the twists and turns that words take over time can be entertaining as ...(Boston Globe, 1/9/10)
  • Savoring dark ironies as decade dawns

    I have started off this new decade by reading two fine novels whose main characters are the butts of life’s dirty tricks. The first, Don Carpenter’s “Hard Rain Falling,” originally published in 1966, has recently been reissued to growing acclaim (New York Review Books, paperback, $16.95). In his introduction to the new edition, George Pelecanos writes that it “might be ...(Globe Correspondent, 1/9/10)
  • A fragmented meditation on lifelong obsessions and conflicts

    In his latest book, the puer aeternus Sam Shepard suddenly becomes old. From the opening pages of “Day Out of Days,” the tone is elegiac. Samuel Beckett, donor of the valedictory epigraph (“That’s the mistake I made . . . to have wanted a story for myself, whereas life alone is enough”), also appears in the first piece of the ...(Globe Correspondent, 1/9/10)
  • Bold quest to resolve mysteries of the artist Titian falls short

    A book about the life of the greatest painter who ever lived - a man who lived in 16th century Venice and was a favorite of popes and kings, a friend of writers and poets - ought to be a rollicking read. So much the better if this book dispenses with the obfuscations of traditional art history, all those endless ...(Globe Staff, 1/9/10)
  • Short Takes

    NAKED CITY: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places By Sharon Zukin Oxford University, 312 pp. $27.95(Globe Correspondent, 1/9/10)
  • Bookings

    TODAY: Dr. Sherwin Nuland (“The Soul of Medicine”) speaks, 2 p.m., Cary Hall, 1605 Mass. Ave., Lexington.(Globe Correspondent, 1/9/10)
  • Elizabeth Gilbert follows her bestseller with a consideration of marriage

    The only event more hazardous to a writer’s career than a book’s catastrophic failure is its meteoric success. Hatching the successor to a book that sold 7 million copies in more than 30 countries is particularly challenging when the blockbuster owed its appeal to the author’s self-deprecating, aw-shucks charm in the face of difficult circumstances. Readers loved Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, ...(Globe Correspondent, 1/9/10)
  • Notable ‘Voices’

    Throw a stone in Cambridge, and chances are you will hit a writer of some note. This kind of star power shines through in “Cambridge Voices: A Literary Celebration of Libraries and the Joy of Reading,” an anthology put together by the Friends of the Cambridge Public Library to celebrate the central library’s expansive addition.(Globe Correspondent, 1/9/10)
  • When favorite writers disappoint

    One’s high hopes are not always met when sampling new efforts by favorite authors. Three audiobooks published toward the end of 2009 provide sadly uneven results.(Globe Correspondent, 1/9/10)
  • Bewitched by the magic of Bach

    As the sole pop music critic at The Montreal Gazette, Eric Siblin covered “everything from Celine Dion to Slayer” and first heard Bach’s Cello Suites by chance when he idly attended a recital. That experience drew Siblin into the story of Bach’s life and the life of Pablo Casals, the Spanish cellist who stumbled onto the pieces in 1890 when ...(Globe Correspondent, 1/9/10)
  • Not all sweetness - or light

    Katharine Weber’s marvelous novel about candy is a reminder, if we need one, that people and things we take for granted may have extraordinarily complicated, amazing histories. Randy Susan Meyers’s sensitive story about the legacy of domestic violence is painful to read at times, but unforgettable. And Barbara Delinsky proves once again a perceptive observer of family relations, delivering a ...(Globe Correspondent, 1/9/10)
  • The collision between body and soul, artfully told

    Make no mistake, Jim Harrison is that rarest of literary breeds: a true-blooded man’s man of a writer, author of four decades worth of testosterone-fueled tales of fishing and fighting and fornicating, of bad-luck men who again and again hit the road in pursuit of a fate somehow better than the sorry lot they’ve thus far been granted. If Norman ...(Globe Correspondent, 1/2/10)
  • Looking at America by the ‘Numbers’

    Every picture in Chris Jordan’s provocative “Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait’’ (Prestel) tells a story of excess. Jordan photographs objects such as SUVs or plastic bottles, then digitally reproduces them by the thousands to represent a statistic. “Skull with Cigarette’’ depicts 200,000 cigarette packages, the number of Americans who die from smoking every six months. Jordan mimics a pointillist ...(Boston Globe, 1/2/10)
  • Ann Tyler takes a twisting approach to an arresting premise

    In several of her previous novels, perhaps most memorably in “The Accidental Tourist,’’ Anne Tyler has written about thoughtful, reticent, sexually reserved men who lack what are often deemed traditional male ambitions with respect to either love or work. Now, in “Noah’s Compass,’’ her 18th novel, she returns to this territory with the character of Liam Pennywell, who, after losing ...(Globe Correspondent, 1/2/10)
  • Reading ranks

    Boston hung on at number eight as Pittsburgh and Portland, Ore. surged ahead in the 2009 ranking of America’s Most Literate Cities, an annual survey conducted by Central Connecticut State University.(Globe Correspondent, 1/2/10)
  • Bookings

    TUESDAY: Jonathan Edlow reads from “The Deadly Dinner Party,” at 7 p.m., Brookline Booksmith, Coolidge Corner, Brookline.(Boston Globe, 1/2/10)
  • Basketball and boxing, with a touch of Jesus

    If you buy your books by the pound and you figure more is better, you will buy “The Book of Basketball.’’ It’s heavy. And Bill Simmons achieves bulk the hard way; there is a lot of small print, because he has a thing for footnotes.(Globe Correspondent, 1/2/10)
  • Humanity, glorious and vile

    The origins of life, humans bent on logic, political strife, the little disturbances that make us itch, and family dysfunction preoccupy the best recent graphic novels. Despite great differences in style and attitude, all delight in presenting fresh ways of seeing the world.(Globe Correspondent, 1/2/10)
  • Patricia Highsmith biography paints a disjointed picture

    Patricia Highsmith was a horrible person and Joan Schenkar’s new biography of her is an awful book, though at least one of these things could have been averted. As Highsmith’s former college classmate noted, the author “was ambitious and hardworking (and) when she was successful, I wasn’t surprised. But I wouldn’t have wanted her life.’’(Globe Correspondent, 1/2/10)
  • Short Takes

    THE THEORY OF LIGHT AND MATTER By Andrew Porter Vintage Contemporaries, 192 pp., paperback, $14(Globe Correspondent, 1/2/10)
  • A trip down another dark boulevard

    Ken Bruen weaves a dark homage to Billy Wilder’s classic movie “Sunset Boulevard” in “London Boulevard.” Instead of a two-bit screenwriter, the protagonist is jaded ex-con Mitchell who views the world through a scrim of movies, novels, poems, and song lyrics. The crumbling mansion he’s hired to repair is in the affluent Holland Park district of London. And Norma Desmond’s ...(Boston Globe, 12/26/09)
  • Belmont shop closing

    As of Jan. 16, Belmont will share an unfortunate distinction with Lexington. Neither will have a general-interest bookstore in its town center.(Boston Globe, 12/26/09)
  • A blissful war refugee ignites a media circus

    When Russell Stone, in the course of teaching a creative nonfiction class, encounters a 23-year-old Berber Algerian refugee who has seen much hardship, he is struck by her disturbingly luminous and blissful presence. Thassadit Amzwar’s open-hearted exuberance, indeed her radiance, both entrances and puzzles the melancholy Russell, a run-of-the-mill writer and a nerd of sorts but also something of a ...(Boston Globe, 12/26/09)
  • Tips from grannies, other great thinkers

    Self-help always becomes even more fascinating when it’s backed by a little scholarship. In “How Philosophy Can Save Your Life: 10 Ideas That Matter Most,’’ Marietta McCarty, assistant professor of philosophy at Piedmont Virginia Community College and best-selling author of “Little Big Minds: Sharing Philosophy With Kids,’’ reveals how studying the greatest thinkers of our time can change your life ...(Boston Globe, 12/26/09)
  • Short Takes

    TALKING ABOUT DETECTIVE FICTION By P. D. James Approaching 90, P. D. James is the undisputed grande dame of the modern murder mystery. As it turns out, she is a scholar of the murder mystery as well. Fans of her poet-protagonist Inspector Adam Dalgliesh should feel no disappointment that her latest book is not a detective novel but a literary-critical ...(Boston Globe, 12/26/09)
  • Portraits of churches made with reverence

    “White on White: Churches of Rural New England’’ (Monacelli) is a love letter composed by photographer Steve Rosenthal over the course of 45 years. “These are the buildings that give New England towns and villages a unique sense of place and define, in many minds, the New England character,’’ Rosenthal writes. Tritone photographs highlight simple yet elegant architectural details. Long ...(Boston Globe, 12/26/09)
  • Chuck Klosterman looks at reality through the prism of technology

    In his new essay collection “Eating the Dinosaur,” Chuck Klosterman observes that “As a species, we have never been less human than we are right now,” thanks to our dependence on technology. Here he skewers the phenomena of our “simulated world” - from Garth Brooks to Abba, from Kurt Cobain to Ted Kaczynski and beyond - with kinetic humor and ...(Boston Globe, 12/26/09)
  • Michelangelo, redefined

    William Wallace, a professor of art history at Washington University in St. Louis, is widely considered America’s preeminent authority on Michelangelo. In an array of scholarly books and articles written over the past 20 years, he has argued for a fundamental reassessment of the great Renaissance master’s personal and professional character. Through Wallace’s meticulously documented research and analysis, Michelangelo has ...(Boston Globe, 12/26/09)
  • Unleashing spirits, mystifying and murky

    Three novels I’ve read this year have been haunted by ghosts. I don’t know if it’s a trend or whether I’ve just been lucky, or unlucky as the case might be. The first two ghosts were not, in my view, roaring successes, being more irksome than uncanny. One appeared this summer in Sophie Kinsella’s “Twenties Girl” as the youthful shade ...(Boston Globe, 12/26/09)
  • Civil penguins and elusive Nobbles

    Ravi, 3, and Emily, 5, are both coming from far away for the holidays. And because Grandpa writes reviews of children’s books, it’s assumed he’ll lay out real winners from 2009 to read aloud. Here are a handful the two visitors will surely hear.(Boston Globe, 12/26/09)
  • Sparklers to bring comfort and joy

    Very few truly delightful Christmas books appear in a season, despite the landslide of brave attempts, so when one sparkles along, it’s a reason for holiday celebration.(Globe Correspondent, 12/19/09)
  • Portrait shines new light on Raymond Carver

    Partly in reaction to his working-class background (his father was a sawyer in Yakima, Washington), Raymond Carver decided relatively early in life that he wanted to become a great writer on the models of his literary heroes Ernest Hemingway, William Carlos Williams, and later Anton Chekov. But equally early came domestic life in the form of a teenage marriage to ...(Globe Correspondent, 12/19/09)
  • Short takes

    Collected here are stories from the start of Frame's brilliant writing career in 1952 through her most productive years, which ended in the 1980s(Globe Correspondent, 12/19/09)
  • A loving memorial to letters

    Sir Thomas Gresham’s famous law warned that cheap money drives out expensive (“bad’’ and “good’’ was how he put it). Nowadays you could apply it to e-mail, whose ubiquitous ease threatens to do away with letter writing.(Globe Correspondent, 12/19/09)
  • Between sisters

    The stories, poems, and memoirs in the new anthology “Sisters’’ call forth sweetness and light, fury and a fierce devotion. The contributors, ranging in age from 20-something to past 100, gravitate to extremes.(Globe Correspondent, 12/19/09)
  • Above the fruited ‘Plains’

    Americans may know more about the threats facing the Amazon rainforest than those facing the Great Plains, among the most endangered ecosystems in the world. The vast expanse between the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains is a land of bison and bighorn sheep, extinction and environmental degradation. Photographer Michael Forsberg crisscrossed the region gathering evidence to rebut the notion ...(Boston Globe, 12/19/09)
  • ‘Psycho’ loosed mayhem and chaos in American cinema

    Even acceptable patterns of behavior among moviegoers were nudged toward change for “Psycho.’’ “Now there were life-size cardboard-cutout figures of [director Alfred] Hitchcock himself in theater lobbies,’’ David Thomson writes in “The Moment of Psycho,’’ “wagging a finger and insisting that no one, positively no one, would be let in once the film had started.’’(Globe Correspondent, 12/19/09)
  • Setting the table for a feast of spirituality

    As our nation’s black-hole holiday - so gravitationally potent that it sucks all in - Christmas naturally offends some non-Christians and nonreligious. It even bugs some believers, worried about the chasm between the holiday’s beginnings in a lowly manger and today’s shopping binges at Nieman Marcus.(Globe Correspondent, 12/19/09)
  • Embracing Poe

    Edgar Allan Poe famously derided Boston, where he was born in 1809, as a provincial “Frogpondium.’’ The city, in turn, ignored the native son, until recently. This year a local band of Poe fans launched a mission of détente, marking the bicentennial of the writer’s birth. Their efforts will culminate on Thursday with The Great Poe Debate and the opening ...(Boston Globe, 12/12/09)
  • A satire about kin, and the financial crisis we’re in

    In all likelihood, the definitive book about the global financial meltdown is yet to come and will be written by, say, a Larry Summers or a Robert Samuelson, but the funniest is already available at your bookstore.(Globe Correspondent, 12/12/09)
  • Short Takes

    SURVIVING PARADISE: One Year on a Disappearing Island By Peter Rudiak-Gould Union Square, 256 pp., $21.95(Globe Correspondent, 12/12/09)
  • Bookings

    MONDAY: Short-story writers Laura Van Den Berg and Paul Yoon read, 8 p.m., Blacksmith House, 56 Brattle St., Cambridge; tickets ($3) . . . Garrison Keillor reads from “A Christmas Blizzard,” 7 p.m., First Parish Church, 3 Church St., Cambridge; to reserve tickets ($10); call 617-495-2727.(Globe Correspondent, 12/12/09)
  • Demoting Pluto and other astronomical feats

    In 2006, the International Astronomical Union labeled Pluto a “dwarf planet,’’ ending (it hoped) a controversy that began in 2000 when the newly-designed Hayden Planetarium’s exhibit had effectively downgraded the ninth planet. As planetarium director, Neil deGrasse Tyson was for years bombarded with protests from Pluto lovers and in “The Pluto Files,’’ the astrophysicist irreverently chronicles that episode even as ...(Globe Correspondent, 12/13/09)
  • Recounting a great rivalry and the NBA renaissance it fostered

    To be a basketball fan in Boston or Los Angeles in the 1980s was pretty much hoops heaven. Out of the moribund, drug-induced haze that the National Basketball Association had become by the late 1970s came a dazzling, team-oriented game personified by the Celtics and the Lakers and their respective superstars, Larry Bird and Earvin “Magic’’ Johnson. The 13 years ...(Globe Correspondent, 12/12/09)
  • Peel back the pages of the Onion

    The Onion has aged very well, as is evident in “Our Front Pages: 21 Years of Greatness, Virtue, and Moral Rectitude from America’s Finest News Source’’ (Scribner). Founded in 1988, the weekly satirical newspaper has raised the level of its commentary on life’s absurdities to an art form with headlines such as “Report: U.S. Students Lead World in TV Jingle ...(Boston Globe, 12/12/09)
  • New Louis Armstrong biography mines recordings, conversations

    One of the hardest-working and seriously gifted critics of American literary and musical culture, Terry Teachout writes about drama for the Wall Street Journal and music for Commentary. He has produced biographies of H.L. Mencken and George Balanchine and is also a trained musician with a special love and expertise in jazz; thus his decision to write a biography about ...(Globe Correspondent, 12/12/09)
  • The talented Mr. Dickens

    Henry James called Charles Dickens “the greatest of superficial novelists’’ and went on to write words so shocking that, when I came across them, I gasped: “It were, in our opinion,’’ he declared in high subjunctive, “an offence against humanity to place Mr. Dickens among the greatest novelists.’’ This is the sort of unhinged statement you might expect from a ...(Globe Correspondent, 12/13/09)
  • A generous helping of holiday fare

    Your favorite audiophiles’ Christmas stockings could burst at the seams this year, as there is a bumper crop of stories, poems, essays, and novels to help them celebrate the holiday season.(Globe Correspondent, 12/12/09)
  • Classic tales made new

    Writers are practiced recyclers because some stories deserve to be told again and again. We have here, among other things, an updated version of Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol’’ set in Ireland and another novel that puts a chick-lit spin on the old Pygmalion story.(Globe Correspondent, 12/12/09)
  • Simply the best nonfiction

    The death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy this summer represented a great loss to the nation as well as to the Commonwealth. The period surrounding his passing saw the publication of two books, a biography and the senator’s memoir, that stand as more than memorials, holding a prominent place in the historical record of one of America’s greatest political families.(Boston Globe, 12/5/09)
  • The way we live now

    What’s your favorite Margaret Atwood book? Ask seven of your reader friends, and chances are you’ll get seven different answers. Not surprising, when you consider that Atwood’s oeuvre to date comprises 21 books of fiction, 13 of poetry, 13 of nonfiction, and six children’s books. In a career that spans nearly five decades, Atwood has garnered such awards as the ...(Boston Globe, 12/5/09)
  • Simply the best fiction

    Throughout the year, with growing fervor, disciples of Kindle and other wizardries proclaimed paper dead and the screen triumphant. “A book is just a delivery system’’ I heard one argue on the radio as “Wolf Hall’’ by Hilary Mantel lay open in my lap, its reassuring bulk making his assertion seem lightweight. Here Mantel performs her own wizardry, a kind ...(Boston Globe, 12/5/09)
  • Short Takes

    “Nothing annoyed Dickens more than the idea that any kind of worthwhile writing could be done easily,’’ Michael Slater tells us in his thoroughly researched and persuasively presented biography. Yet, much of Dickens’s writing seems to flow smoothly and effortlessly, as if it poured from him in a steady, even stream.(Boston Globe, 12/5/09)
  • A thing as lovely as a tree

    Perhaps the tree huggers and the money men can find common ground after all. Smack dab in the middle of “The Life & Love of Trees’’ (Chronicle), an oversized book of lush photographs from all over the world, is a quote from Warren Buffett: “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.’’ ...(Boston Globe, 12/5/09)
  • Bookings

    TODAY: Ha Jin (“A Good Fall’’) and Richard Hoffman (“Interference and Other Stories’’) read, 2 p.m., Newtonville Books . . . Lisa Zwirn signs “Christmas Cookies,’’ 2-4 p.m., Wellesley Booksmith . . . Michael J. Maddigan signs “Middleborough,’’ 2 p.m., Robbins Museum, Middleborough.(Boston Globe, 12/5/09)
  • Shaker worship

    Jeannine Lauber was a TV news anchor and reporter in Portland, Maine, when she attended her first Shaker worship service 15 years ago. Having recently moved north from Ohio, she was looking for a church to join. Though Lauber, raised Catholic, did not become a full-fledged member - there was no vow of celibacy or move to the communal quarters ...(Boston Globe, 12/5/09)
  • A celebrated case of ‘word rage’

    I do not like the word “pants.’’ As for its diminutive form, a word that I have never uttered or written, I simply cannot bear it. Is this loony? I’d say not; it’s just that words, far from being simple signs for some preexistent reality, embody all sorts of associations and traditions that tint or warp or infect the things ...(Globe Correspondent, 11/28/09)

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