Book Reviews

Top Ten of 2008 from the New York Times

NYTimes ten best books of 2008, including reviews, excerpts and some first chapters. Included are Toni Morrison's 'A Mercy', Jhumpa Lahiri's 'Unaccustomed Earth' and the new biography of
V. S. Naipaul, 'The World is What It Is'.

V. S. Naipaul, a Man Who Has Earned a Knighthood, a Nobel and Enemies Galore

New book about novelist V. S. Naipaul : THE WORLD IS WHAT IT IS,
The Authorized Biography of V. S. Naipaul, By Patrick French,
Illustrated. 554 pages. Alfred A. Knopf. $30.

According to the review in the New York Times, it’s a handsome volume, jacketed in silver and black, with a disarming cover photograph of Mr. Naipaul stooping, with a gap-toothed grin, to tie a loose shoelace. Reviewer Dwight Garner says author French is "a relative rarity among biographers, a real writer, and at his best he sounds like a combination of that wily bohemian Geoff Dyer and that wittily matter-of-factual cyborg Michael Kinsley. Even the cameos in Mr. French’s biography are crazily vivid. Here is his hole-in-one description of the editor Francis Wyndham: “Popular, gentle, solitary and eccentric, Wyndham lived with his mother, wore heavy glasses and high-waisted trousers, gave off random murmurs and squeaks and moved with an amphibian gate.”

History of the Dot

A review of the History of the Dot. See: "Dot Everything" By Jennifer Schuessler, the New York Times, October 27. Earlier this month, Oxford University Press published “On the Dot: The Speck that Changed the World” — a short and very enthusiastic history of the mark you make when you dip a toothpick into a puddle of stuff.


French Writer Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio Wins Nobel Prize

The Swedish Academy on Thursday awarded the 2008 Nobel Prize for literature to Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, a cosmopolitan and prolific French novelist, children’s author and essayist regarded by many French readers and critics as one of the country’s greatest living writers.

Treasure found on E-bay - Resistance: Memoirs of Occupied France

The BBC reports that an import yet forgotten book appeared on E-bay. As Translator Barbara Mellor notes, "Notre Guerre, Souvenirs de Résistance, Agnès Humbert, 1946. The listing on French eBay didn't give much clue as to the treasure that lay in store...Humbert's journal sent shivers down my spine. The powerful immediacy of the narrative, the raw intensity of the subject matter, the compelling presence of Humbert herself - all were overwhelming, electrifying."

Books Maketh the Man

Attempting to tell an author's life through the books he read is a risky enterprise. In this remarkable new biography of Oscar Wilde, Thomas Wright makes a convincing start with his claim that books were the greatest single influence on his subject's life. Wilde's first reading of some of his favourites was, says Wright, 'as significant as his first meetings with friends and lovers'. Indeed, he later used gifts of books to seduce young men.

His passion (apart from young men) was Balzac. Literary Review of Thomas Wright's new title "Oscar's Books".

10 Books Not To Read Before You Die

The producer of at least three television shows that you may quite like shares with us his definitive list of books that just aren't worth the bother.

1: Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

From what I can gather it’s Mills and Boon from the olden days, and really boring Mills and Boon at that. I did try reading a Jane Austen novel once, but it hadn’t got going by fifty pages so I guiltily gave up; the characters spoke in a very oblique way and it seemed to be all about hypocrisy and manners and convention; worse than that, it was really difficult to find the doing word in a sentence.

Librarian probes unsolved case, finds danger

"Death Books a Return" (Pemberley, $17.95), the second novel in Marion Moore Hills' mystery series, features Juanita Wills, the "Scrappy Librarian." The reviewer says "This is a book you'll like."

If she's killed, can she leave enough evidence that Cleary can figure out who did it? Or, will he get there before she is killed? After all, someone must have heard the shots in the library. Whoever heard of shots in the library?

Reinventing Knowledge: From Alexandria to the Internet

Book review at of the book "Reinventing Knowledge: From Alexandria to the Internet"

How do we know what we know? A new book takes a long view of knowledge, from ancient oral traditions to the rise of universities and the Internet.

We live in the information age, when networked computers give millions of users unprecedented access to communications and data. But so what? That is, in effect, what Ian McNeely and Lisa Wolverton have to say at the conclusion of "Reinventing Knowledge: From Alexandria to the Internet." The authors are indeed hard to impress. Their small book takes a long view -- an exceedingly long view, beginning with the birth of Western civilization in the philosophical academies of ancient Greece and wending its way, century by century, to the present. McNeely and Wolverton remain unpersuaded that the Internet is as revolutionary as it's cracked up to be.

Full review here.

LitMob: Book Reviews with Passion

App Scout: The world of book reviews can be stuffy and uninteresting, with lengthy and long-winded reviews written by authors and critics who may understand their source material but may not relate terribly well with the reading public, or people who would love to get into books but find reviews more difficult to digest than the books themselves.

Enter LitMob (, a new kind of book review blog. Rather than focus on lengthy descriptions of the author's background, influences, and similarities to other works, LitMob cuts to the core of the text, giving you a synopsis of the plot, enough tantalizing information to get you interested in the book, and enough background information to make you want to pick it up, all without reading like Ben Stein sounds.



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