Adroit essays from the two-time Man Booker Prize–winning novelist.

From the late 1980s, Mantel has contributed reviews, essays, and memoirs to the London Review of Books on topics that range from Madonna to Robespierre, from playwright John Osborne’s “ferociously sulky” memoir to the cult of the Virgin Mary, and including a hefty dose of the Tudors. Interspersed with the essays are ephemera: brief letters to the journal’s doting editors, especially Mary-Kay Wilmers, to whom Mantel once confessed having “critic’s block”; postcards, emails (her own email address is redacted); and covers of the LRB that announce her contributions. The collection, then, serves as much as a display of Mantel’s shrewd eye and stylish prose as a testimony to her long, fruitful association with the LRB. Her reviews are capacious, erudite, well informed, and exacting. “To accept an untruth, to assent to a lazy version of history, is not just negligent but immoral,” she writes in praise of Charles Nicoll’s book on the death of Christopher Marlowe. Likewise, she sees in historian John Demos’ work about a woman taken captive by Mohawks “an exercise in scrupulous scholarship and imaginative sympathy.” Admitting a “penchant for regicides,” malice, and a bit of gore, Mantel has been drawn to books on the doomed and the damned: Marie Antoinette, Jane Boleyn, Georges-Jacques Danton, and Helen Duncan, a woman condemned for witchcraft in Britain in 1944. Besides being a revelatory examination of class, desire, and the phenomenon of spiritualism, Malcolm Gaskill’s book on Duncan, Mantel writes, “is also in a wider sense an inquiry into ‘how we know the things we know’ and how what we can know or choose to know is circumscribed by our culture.” That inquiry, of course, underlays her own forays into the past, including her memories: first meeting her stepfather, living in Saudi Arabia for several years, and suffering hallucinations after protracted recovery from surgery.

A captivating collection.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-00-842997-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Fourth Estate

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 16

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.



The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet