Pelecanos, George. The Man Who Came Uptown.

NY: Little, Brown, 2018.

Pelecanos is, generally, a better-than-average writer of crime novels and over the course of twenty books he has also become the best-known chronicler of the darker side of everday modern Washington. Like all his protagonists and the Bad Guys with which they have to deal, the author is a native of the District and has lived there or nearby all his life. He knows the city’s history and geography and he understands the cadences of DC’s people. He can be very funny, too, but at heart his books have serious things to say.


Published in: on 20 January 2019 at 9:58 am  Leave a Comment  
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Colgan, Jenny. The Bookshop on the Corner.

NY: HarperCollins, 2016.

Colgan has turned out a number of thematic romances — the story being set in a cafe, or a bakery, or a chocolate shop, or whatever — but this one caught my eye because the setting was apparently a bookstore and the protagonist a librarian. Actually, the original British title, The Little Shop of Happy-Ever-After, is much more accurate, since there’s no corner to be found, and the “shop” is actually a large ex-bakery van fitted out with bookshelves.


Published in: on 14 November 2017 at 10:46 am  Leave a Comment  
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Cave, Roderick & Sara Ayad. The History of the Book in 100 Books.

Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, 2014.

As a kid, I learned to appreciate books as physical artifacts, as much as for their content. In high school, I learned to love the smell of rare and used bookstores. And in library school, in the late 1960s, I finally took a few courses in the history of books and printing, where I learned about papermaking, the history and practice of typesetting, and the arts of illustration and bookbinding.


Mallison, Jane. Book Smart.

NY: McGraw-Hill, 2008.

Serious readers, of which I am definitely one, are always on the lookout for thoughtful recommendations of other books one should read. This volume is subtitled “Your Essential Reading List for Becoming a Literary Genius in 365 Days,” which is pure marketing hype and not really what the author proposes. Mallison isn’t a Ph.D. in literature or a big-time critic.


Published in: on 9 December 2016 at 3:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Ellington, Elizabeth & Jane Freimiller. A Year of Reading.

Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2002.

All heavy readers, and especially all librarians, tend to pick up any volume that purports to recommend other books that one ought to read, and promises to tell you why they picked these in particular. The subtitle here is “A Month-by-Month Guide to Classics and Crowd-Pleasers for You or Your Book Group,” which tells you the method they have in mind.


Published in: on 13 September 2016 at 4:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Lovett, Charlie. First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love, and Jane Austen.

NY: Penguin, 2014.

Awhile back, I read Lovett’s first novel, The Bookman’s Tale, which also has a bibliographical theme (a lost Shakespeare primary source that time) and quite enjoyed it. This one is even better. The author has been an antiquarian bookseller and he brings that whole slightly strange world very much to life. At the same time, he successfully combines an exciting mystery and detective plot with a believable and non-sappy love story, which isn’t easy.


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.


Published in: on 21 December 2015 at 8:49 am  Leave a Comment  

Foster, Thomas C. How to Read Literature Like a Professor. Rev. ed.

NY: Harper, 2014.

In the decade since this book was published, it has become a favorite of college and even enlightened high school teachers of English and American literature. And that’s fine, . . . if you want to teach young readers to ignore the story and instead only analyze the author’s use of symbolism and codes.


Published in: on 12 July 2015 at 5:51 am  Leave a Comment  
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Katzev, Richard. A Commonplace Book Primer.

Portland, OR: The Author, 2011.

When I was a developing book-nerd in high school more than fifty years ago, I rather self-consciously began writing down brief extracts from the books I read, the thoughts or observations that really got to me. I eventually got too busy with Real Life to keep it up, but when I came into possession of my own computer c.1980, I started keeping notes again.


Published in: on 5 January 2015 at 8:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Houston, Keith. Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols & Other Typographical Marks.

NY: Norton, 2013.

Even most readers and those who make a living at different aspects of writing don’t really pay much attention to punctuation, beyond knowing vaguely where to stick the commas.


Published in: on 19 October 2014 at 6:44 am  Leave a Comment  
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