This compendium of musical biographies offers useful insights and accessible descriptions of various styles, composers, and...




A comprehensive introduction to the world of classical music makes a case for the 100 greatest composers. 

Intended as an entry point for those interested in the subject but who lack knowledge, this debut book offers an overview of the history of classical music and Smook’s list of the greatest composers, beginning in the Baroque period and ending with 20th-century giants. The volume’s ranking relies on a six-tier rating system for composers based on “the aesthetic importance of their major musical works; the overall substance of their musical legacy; their innovations in musical form and style; their influence on other composers.” In the first and highest tier, the author lists Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. Unsurprisingly, German and Austrian composers are the most represented in Smook’s conservative list. Each composer entry delivers a brief biography and includes a section on the artist’s musical legacy. The author offers this description of Chopin’s legacy (the Polish composer is in Tier 3 of Smook’s rating): “Chopin created or developed a number of new forms of solo piano music to exploit his poetic use of the instrument.” The legacy sections include samplings of the composers’ popular works. There are also miniprofiles of artists who almost made the top 100 list (among them, Anton Webern—musical cousin to Schoenberg—and the Estonian minimalist composer Arvo Pärt). The author’s descriptions are a bit dry though the book is intended for neophyte listeners. The brief overview of classical music history effectively avoids jargon and includes clear definitions of musical terms (for example, “cantata” and “recitative music”). In the introduction, the author admits to no formal musical training and confesses that he doesn’t play an instrument. The work adds nothing new to interpretations of classical music (“I am not presenting new information,” Smook asserts). The volume also suffers from a bizarre insistence on categorization—“Remember that music falls into four basic categories,” he tells readers, which he identifies as Orchestral, Chamber, Keyboard, and Vocal. Still, the book should serve as a helpful and handy guide to those new to the genre.

This compendium of musical biographies offers useful insights and accessible descriptions of various styles, composers, and periods.

Pub Date: June 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5255-3785-1

Page Count: 379

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.


New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

Did you like this book?


With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    


Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet