Munro, Alice. Dear Life.

NY: Knopf, 2012.

Munro is one of the three or four most talented and most reliably enjoyable writers of short fiction in English since World War II, and she has a whole shelf of awards and prizes to prove it. And this twelfth volume of stories demonstrates that the previous eleven weren’t just flukes. Nearly all of her work is set in the small Canadian towns around the Great Lakes, an area with which she is intimately familiar, and they mostly feature ordinary people from all across the social spectrum just trying to get through life. This is chamber music, not symphonies or marching brass bands. And the reader can learn quite a lot just by watching and listening.

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Published in: on 29 August 2013 at 5:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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Scalzi, John. The Human Division.

NY: Tor Books, 2013.

This is an odd sort of book, and it’s not entirely successful. This being Scalzi, of course, there’s some very good writing here, but you’ll have to wade through a certain amount of dreck, as well as some rather appallingly silly stuff, to get to it. The thing is, this book was originally published electronically as a series of thirteen separate but related semi-narratives, but they’re not really “short stories,” either.

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Wood, Michael. In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great.

Berkeley: University of California Press 1997.

Wood is a post-graduate Oxford-trained journalist and film-maker who did a number of specials for PBS in which he tracked historical events in the present-day world. They’re popular history of high quality, and since I’ve been working my way through Mary Renault’s “Alexander” trilogy, this seemed a good way to brush up on what I knew from my own long-ago classical history studies.

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Doolittle, Sean. Burn.

Los Angeles: Uglytown, 2003.

Andrew Kindler is a professional arsonist who has found it expedient to leave his home and his dodgy employers back in Baltimore and go visiting his cousin, Caroline, in Los Angeles. He has decided to try to make a new life, if only people would let him, . . . but he probably shouldn’t have taken that money with him when he left.

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Published in: on 23 August 2013 at 9:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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Renault, Mary. The Persian Boy.

London: Longmans, 1972.

This is the second volume in Renault’s trilogy about Alexander the Great, and it’s very different from the first one, Fire from Heaven. Mostly this is because the first volume, about Alexander’s childhood and youth, ends with him coming to power on the death of his father, King Philip. In that book, we see the world entirely through Macedonian eyes. (Not Greek eyes; there’s a difference, as any Greek or Macedonian would be quick to tell you.)

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Cherryh, C. J. Protector.

NY: DAW, 2013.

This is the fourteenth novel in the author’s “Foreigner” series, which means I have now read about 5,000 pages of the adventures of Bren Cameron, the human paidhi-aiji (or translator, or gatekeeper, sort of) to the ruler of the atevi world, the alien and human inhabitants of which I have come to know and understand more deeply than I would ever have expected.

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Published in: on 19 August 2013 at 8:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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Gleeson-White, Jane. Classics: 62 Great Books from the Iliad to Midnight’s Children.

NY: Knopf, 2005.

Since I read a lot (and because I’ve been a librarian for so many years), I tend to pick up any book that discusses other books and recommends what books to read. Of course, if it deals with the “classics,” a lot depends on the definition.

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Published in: on 17 August 2013 at 9:37 am  Leave a Comment  
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Heinlein, Robert A. Starship Troopers.

NY: Putnam, 1959.

Robert Heinlein produced a number of seminal works in his career, and not only among science fiction fans. (Stranger in a Strange Land had considerable influence among college students in the 1960s, as much probably as Lord of the Rings.) But Starship Troopers spawned a reactionary series of subsequent novels by other authors

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Leonard, Elmore. 52-Pickup.

NY: Delacorte, 1974.

Leonard started out in the writing trade in the 1960s doing Western yarns and, since he’s lived all his life in Detroit, it presumably didn’t come very naturally to him. Then the pulp Western market dried up and he switched over to crime novels, of which this was his first.

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Published in: on 13 August 2013 at 6:05 am  Leave a Comment  
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James, P. D. The Lighthouse.

NY: Knopf, 2005.

The police-procedural mystery series starring Detective Superintendent Adam Dalgliesh of the Met has been around since the early 1960s, and Adam has been a senior copper for most of that time — which means that in this book, forty years later, he must be at least eighty years old. Whatever.

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