An elegantly written, absorbing portrait of a visionary man and his age.

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THE CATALOGUE OF SHIPWRECKED BOOKS

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS, HIS SON, AND THE QUEST TO BUILD THE WORLD'S GREATEST LIBRARY

The story of Christopher Columbus’ illegitimate son who became a humanist and scholar in the age of Renaissance and Reformation.

In 1502, 13-year-old Hernando Colón (1488-1539) accompanied his father on his last trans-Atlantic voyage, a disastrous expedition marked by mutiny, betrayal, storms, and starvation. Columbus returned to Spain a broken man, though no less a hero in his son’s eyes. Wilson-Lee (English/Sidney Sussex Coll., Cambridge; Shakespeare in Swahililand: Adventures with the Ever-Living Poet, 2016), drawing on rich historical and archival sources—including Hernando’s writings—creates a thrilling narrative of the perils of 16th-century exploration, where the atmosphere onboard ship was rife with panic, paranoia, and rebellion; giant lizards crawled the shore; sharks circled menacingly in the waters; and sweltering, mosquito-infested islands were inhabited by hostile tribes. The author’s focus, though, is not on Columbus but rather on Hernando, who became obsessed with two missions: to burnish his father’s reputation and to amass a vast, comprehensive library of printed matter: books, images, pamphlets, and all manner of ephemera. For Hernando, his father’s quest of circumnavigating the Earth was akin to “enclosing its knowledge in one library” and thereby gaining power and control over the unknown. Traveling extensively, he acquired thousands of books: 1,674 from Venice; 4,200 from a trip to northern Europe, and, eventually, 3,204 printed images, the largest collection in the world. His library swelled to over 15,000 volumes, making it the largest private collection in Europe. But even more astonishing than the sheer number of items was Hernando’s intricate system of ordering. From an early 20-page handwritten index, an alphabetical key to the people, things, and concepts in Suetonius’ Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Hernando developed several encyclopedias and inventories as well as a card catalog that enabled readers “to digest many volumes at a sitting, sorting relevant material from irrelevant.” As Wilson-Lee aptly notes, with “profound intuition” about the potential of burgeoning printed information, Hernando created, in effect, the first “search engine.”

An elegantly written, absorbing portrait of a visionary man and his age.

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-982111-39-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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