Grisham, John. The Runaway Jury.

NY: Doubleday, 1996.

I’ve been reading Grisham off and on for some time, but I haven’t been systematic about it and I don’t sit and wait for his latest. I just read the jacket copy and pick up whatever looks like an entertaining read at the moment. This one, which kept me focused all the way through, is perhaps the best of his I’ve come across.


Published in: on 30 January 2016 at 2:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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Knisley, Lucy. Relish: My Life in the Kitchen.

NY: First Second, 2013.

I’m a big fan of Knisley’s graphic novels, even though they usually contain no fiction whatsoever. She writes from her own experiences, often in a confessional style, and does it very well indeed.


Stephenson, Neal. Seveneves.

NY: Morrow, 2015.

I read a great deal, well more than a hundred books a year, and by a large number of authors. Neal Stephenson, though, is one of a very short list of “automatic” authors for me, and has been since the appearance of Snow Crash in 1992. When I discover he has a new book coming out, I order it. I don’t even bother with reviews. Anything Neal writes, I want to read. And I’ve never been disappointed. It sometimes takes me awhile to figure out where he’s going with a narrative, what exactly it is that he thinks needs saying, but I always get there. And you sometimes have to be patient. The “Baroque Cycle” took me a couple years to work through, in thoughtful bites and chewing slowly. But it’s always worth the effort and the journey. His latest epic, Seveneves, definitely confirms that judgment.


Lovesey, Peter. Cop to Corpse.

NY: Soho Press, 2012.

“Hero to zero. Cop to corpse.” That’s how it starts. One minute PC Tasker of the Bath police is on night patrol, the next minute he’s lying on the pavement with a sniper’s bullet through his head. Cop-killing is always a bad thing and other cops won’t let up until they’ve caught the shooter. In this case, Tasker is the third dead uniformed constable in a couple of months, all in different towns in the area.


Published in: on 20 January 2016 at 5:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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Hunt, Geoff. The Sea Painter’s World: The New Marine Art of Geoff Hunt.

London: Anova Books, 2011.

I’ve been fascinated by the Age of Sail, and especially by the warships of the Napoleonic wars, all my life, or at least since discovering my father’s shelf of Hornblower novels when I was in junior high. Even though I come from a family of strict landlubbers, I learned what I could about ship types and about the intricacies of sailing a tall ship, and I went in search of detailed drawings and paintings to help increase my understanding of what I was reading.


Published in: on 17 January 2016 at 6:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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Millar, Mark. Civil War.

NY: Marvel Publishing, 2007.

Like nearly every other American kid in the ’50s, I read a lot of comic books, but even then I wasn’t really into the superhero thing. (My mother tried to steer me towards the Disney mags, but I much preferred Weird Tales and Tales of the Crypt.)


Lovett, Charlie. The Bookman’s Tale.

NY: Viking, 2013.

Subtitled “A Novel of Obsession,” so I had my doubts about this one at first. It started out rather like a “women’s novel” (sorry), with a recently widowed young book dealer and conservator relocating from North Carolina to a village in Oxfordshire to escape his ghosts. But it soon turns into a full-bore romp involving the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays, the arcane world of bibliomania, and the history of collectors with money to spend.


Cleeves, Ann. Raven Black.

NY: St. Martin, 2006.

I happened to see the first episode of BBC Scotland’s “Shetland” on TV recently and was taken with the setting — the Shetland Islands, in the subarctic Atlantic northeast of Scotland. The story and the characters got my attention, in addition to the Islands themselves, so I picked up this first volume in the series of books on which the drama was based.


Roffe, David. Decoding Domesday.

Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 2007.

As both an historian and an archivist, I’ve long been fascinated by Domesday Book, the oldest surviving government-produced document in the English-speaking world, ordered by the Conqueror and completed about 1087 — a surprisingly short time. It was part-census, part-inquest, compiled to establish a base for taxation and to record the pre- and post-Conquest control of the land in detail.


Published in: on 6 January 2016 at 4:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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Turtledove, Harry. Departures.

NY: Del Rey, 1993.

I began reading Harry’s short fiction in the pulps in the ‘80s, when he first appeared on the science fiction scene. He had a PhD in Byzantine history, so his alternate history yarns with a similar setting were pretty good. Accurate, anyway.