Roberts, Jennifer Tolbert. Herodotus: A Very Short Introduction.

NY: Oxford University Press, 2011.

I’m becoming quite attached to this series of brief overviews (100-120 pages) of important topics in Western culture, from Roman Britain and Mormonism to racism and medical ethics. There are more than three hundred now, many of them the work of recognized experts, and of the dozen or so I’ve read, only one has failed to impress me. Not a bad average at all.

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Pratchett, Terry & Stephen Baxter. The Long Utopia.

NY: Harper, 2015.

This is the fourth volume in what was (I think) originally meant to be a trilogy, and it’s not a bad wind-up to the series. Still, it suffers from the same absence of Sir Terry’s off-the-wall brand of humor as the first three books.

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Finney, Jack. From Time to Time.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 1995.

This author’s first novel, Time and Again, is widely considered, by both science fiction fans and the field’s most experienced authors to be THE BEST time-travel novel ever. Most days, I would probably agree with that opinion. So it’s a bit disheartening to find that this sequel, written twenty-five years later, isn’t up to that standard. Not even close.

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Pratchett, Terry & Stephen Briggs. Turtle Recall: The Discworld Companion . . . So Far.

NY: Harper, 2014.

The late Sir Terry Pratchett had and still has a huge fan base — the largest and broadest of any living writer in English until Harry Potter came along — and that means a considerable aftermarket of associational publications. Cookbooks, calendars, tourist guides, maps, posters, probably action figures, they’re all available for purchase.

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Published in: on 21 December 2015 at 8:49 am  Leave a Comment  
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Mina, Denise. The End of the Wasp Season.

NY: Little, Brown, 2011.

Mina has a knack for taking a novel, supposedly a single story, and reworking it as a cluster of related and converging stories, each with its own principal characters, its own interrelationships, its own plotline. The POV person in one will be a supporting player in one or more of the others.

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Sfar, Joann & Emmanuel Guibert. The Professor’s Daughter.

NY: First Second, 2007.

A fellow graphic-novel fan recommended this one to me but I’m afraid I have to question his judgment. It’s the old problem: Good writing with mediocre art, or vice versa.

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Published in: on 14 December 2015 at 4:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Prown, Jules David & Kenneth Haltman (eds). American Artifacts: Essays in Material Culture.

East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2000.

Basically, “material culture” refers to stuff. Mostly ordinary, everyday stuff. An “artifact” is anything made or modified by humans, which means every work of art is an artifact, but not all artifacts are “art.” Prown is Emeritus Professor of Art History at Yale, so he’s a very big gun indeed.

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Published in: on 12 December 2015 at 6:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Hinds, Gareth. The Merchant of Venice.

Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 2008.

“Based on the play by William Shakespeare,” it says, so I guess I was expecting a “Classics Illustrated” vanilla version of the story, but I was wrong.

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Published in: on 9 December 2015 at 4:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Pratchett, Terry. A Blink of the Screen: Collected Shorter Fiction.

NY: Doubleday, 2012.

The late Sir Terry was best known, of course, for his forty or so Discworld novels (and more than a dozen other books of fiction), but he also produced a fair amount of short work over the years. This volume includes several Discworld “shorter writings” (stories, but also essays and odds and ends produced for conventions, introductions to online games, and so on), as well as twenty non-Discworld pieces —

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Busiek, Kurt. Marvels.

NY: Marvel Publishing, 2008.

I read a lot of graphic novels, but not often of the superhero variety. Comic books, in the traditional sense, just don’t do much for me, especially those from DC and Marvel. Still, I know who the main characters are, and the Justice League and all that — it’s been part of American cultural history since the ’60s, after all — and this one came highly recommended, so I gave it a shot.

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