Essays & Anthologies Book Reviews

EVERY SONG EVER by Ben Ratliff
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTS
Released: Feb. 9, 2016

"A collection of essays that makes unlikely connections that will encourage music fans to listen beyond categorical distinctions and comfort zones—though reading the book feels a little incomplete without the listening that should accompany the experience."
A veteran New York Times critic, Ratliff here goes beyond the focus on jazz in his previous books (The Jazz Ear: Conversations Over Music, 2008) to explore the consumption of music in its widest variety and availability. Read full book review >
BETTER LIVING THROUGH CRITICISM by A.O. Scott
ENTERTAINMENT & SPORTS
Released: Feb. 9, 2016

"A zealous and well-considered work of advocacy for an art too often unappreciated and misunderstood."
An exploration of criticism, which "is not an enemy from which art must be defended, but rather another name—the proper name—for the defense of art itself." Read full book review >

BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 8, 2016

"Fascinating to dip into casually and essential to students of the Kennedy administration, the Cold War, and late-20th-century world history."
Three months, 1,700 pages. But what months they were: a season in the midterm administration of John F. Kennedy marked by faltering polls, the aftermath of near nuclear war, and one crisis after another. Read full book review >
HELL IS A VERY SMALL PLACE by Jean  Casella
CURRENT AFFAIRS
Released: Feb. 2, 2016

"A potent cry of anguish from men and women buried way down in the hole."
The founders of a watchdog group dedicated to stopping the practice of solitary confinement gather voices from victims of this hellish punishment. Read full book review >
THIS IS ONLY A TEST by B.J. Hollars
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 1, 2016

"The thread that binds these essays on death and mayhem is the author's love for his children and wife, which offers readers a respite from the inherent grief and devastation he poetically describes."
One man's fears are exposed as he faces death in its many disguises. Read full book review >

LIVING ON PAPER by Iris Murdoch
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Feb. 1, 2016

"An impressively edited, sharply revealing life in letters."
An intimate view of the prolific British novelist and philosopher. Read full book review >
HALLOW THIS GROUND by Colin Rafferty
ESSAYS & ANTHOLOGIES
Released: Feb. 1, 2016

"Though fixed on what remains of some of history's darkest moments, Rafferty's essays, both gripping and wonderfully reflective, illuminate."
Moving reflections on the literal remembrance of acts too significant to forget. Read full book review >
SUBLIME PHYSICK by Patrick Madden
ESSAYS & ANTHOLOGIES
Released: Feb. 1, 2016

"Likable but overly earnest, as if convinced of its own importance."
Roaming ruminations on life and art. Read full book review >
25 WOMEN by Dave Hickey
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Jan. 28, 2016

"Some readers will find cause for disagreement, but these fun-to-read essays delight, intrigue, and, most of all, educate."
Idiosyncratic assessments of contemporary women painters, sculptors, and installation and performance artists by an enfant terrible of art criticism.Read full book review >
HOW TO TALK ABOUT PLACES YOU'VE NEVER BEEN by Pierre Bayard
ESSAYS & ANTHOLOGIES
Released: Jan. 26, 2016

"A jumbled collection of random stories and half-baked ideas."
Using historical anecdotes and contrarian rhetoric, psychoanalyst Bayard (French Literature/Univ. of Paris 8; Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong: Reopening the Case of The Hound of the Baskervilles, 2008, etc.) argues that physical travel is unnecessary, and even inadvisable, when trying to understand faraway places.Read full book review >
ESSAYS & ANTHOLOGIES
Released: Jan. 26, 2016

"With lively, colorful writing and inspired practical advice, this guide earns a spot along with Clark's Writing Tools (2006) as essential reading for writers. Recommended for book lovers as well."
Just when you think Poynter Institute senior scholar Clark, who has written some of the best books on the writer's craft, has covered everything related to the subject, he digs deep into literature and excavates a gold mine of artistic strategies for great writing. Read full book review >
ESSAYS & ANTHOLOGIES
Released: Jan. 26, 2016

"Candid revelations for readers; useful advice and encouragement for aspiring writers."
Memoirists reflect on why and how to write "a true-life tale." Read full book review >
Kirkus Interview
Michael Eric Dyson
February 2, 2016

In Michael Eric Dyson’s rich and nuanced book new book, The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America, Dyson writes with passion and understanding about Barack Obama’s “sad and disappointing” performance regarding race and black concerns in his two terms in office. While race has defined his tenure, Obama has been “reluctant to take charge” and speak out candidly about the nation’s racial woes, determined to remain “not a black leader but a leader who is black.” Dyson cogently examines Obama’s speeches and statements on race, from his first presidential campaign through recent events—e.g., the Ferguson riots and the eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney in Charleston—noting that the president is careful not to raise the ire of whites and often chastises blacks for their moral failings. At his best, he spoke with “special urgency for black Americans” during the Ferguson crisis and was “at his blackest,” breaking free of constraints, in his “Amazing Grace” Charleston eulogy. Dyson writes here as a realistic, sometimes-angry supporter of the president. View video >