Readers who prize outdoor experiences—and tiny houses and the simple life—will find this book a source of much pleasure,...


Literate journeys to some of the world’s less-traveled places, seen through an unusual lens.

British travel writer Richards (Climbing Days, 2016, etc.) comes by his wanderlust naturally. Before he was born, his father spent time in the remotest reaches of Svalbard, the Arctic island chain, from which he brought home a polar bear’s pelvis. As he writes in an arresting opening, the object fascinated Richards, but more so the thought of living in a shelter such as the one his father called Hotel California, which a bear would probably tear apart in a minute. “An unremarkable garden shed, the only thing that makes it a shed of note is the fact it’s there, stood on Svalbard,” he writes before embarking on a fascinating series of journeys. There are the literarily famous sheds, of course, such as Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond and the one Jack Kerouac scaled a mighty Cascade peak to groove in, guided by Gary Snyder. Richards climbed the same mountain, having eaten a burger the night before with the admonishment that the joint would be dead, “D.E.D. Ded,” in a quarter-hour, “the most American thing ever said.” The author also traveled to Iceland to visit “houses of joy,” which serve as “refuge stations for travellers crossing the hinter/highlands,” joy-giving spots that offer shelter from the storm, “modern bunkhouses on ancient foundations.” Some of the sheds, huts, and shelters Richards chronicles are works of art, literally, such as a Danish construction called Shedboatshed: “I liked it the moment I saw it as a shed at Tate Britain and took an even greater pleasure in it once I’d learnt its backstory.” Others are invested with meaning, such as the Japanese mountain stronghold called Nageire-dō, “the Oz of shrines.” The author was also able to travel to Svalbard to have a look for himself.

Readers who prize outdoor experiences—and tiny houses and the simple life—will find this book a source of much pleasure, bears and all.

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78689-155-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Canongate

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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