A subtle pleasure for lovers of the printed word, even if they order books from the leviathan.



A set of lively literary essays by Barcelona-based novelist and journalist Carrión.

Even though one of the essays is called “Against Bibliophilia,” this is just the sort of book that bibliophiles—to say nothing of bibliomaniacs—will enjoy. By bibliophilia, the author, who picks up where he left off in Bookshops: A Reader’s History, means the sort of worshipful accumulation of the exotic and expensive—and not just the accumulation of books that forge a person’s soul, but also “a democratic library, ruled by a love of reading, a wish to escape or a desire for knowledge, beyond the masquerade of wrappings that may be a sign of artisanal craft, art, and cultural tradition, but are also a distraction from what really matters: content.” The title essay is suggestive of a different problem: the reduction of books to mere commodities, sold alongside laundry soap and TVs by “the world’s biggest hypermarket behind a huge smokescreen shaped like a library.” This would be OK if we were robots and books had no meaning. They do, of course. Carrión’s essays are broad-ranging and don’t always quite cohere, though if some seem to be padding, most contribute to an appreciation of books and literary culture as things quite unlike any other. Highlights include the author’s meditation, of a sort practiced by bibliophilic writers ever since Walter Benjamin, on how to organize a library (he proposes a trifold division into “friends, acquaintances, future contacts”); a somewhat gloomy visit with Argentine Canadian collector and librarian Alberto Manguel, whose 40,000 volumes were comfortably housed in a French farmhouse until he fell afoul of the Sarkozy government; and a scholarly detective story that hinges on the writer and book collector Curzio Malaparte’s villa on the island of Capri, familiar to fans of Godard and Neruda and beloved of “writers, translators, and architects.”

A subtle pleasure for lovers of the printed word, even if they order books from the leviathan.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77196-303-9

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Biblioasis

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.


A former NFL player casts his gimlet eye on American race relations.

In his first book, Acho, an analyst for Fox Sports who grew up in Dallas as the son of Nigerian immigrants, addresses White readers who have sent him questions about Black history and culture. “My childhood,” he writes, “was one big study abroad in white culture—followed by studying abroad in black culture during college and then during my years in the NFL, which I spent on teams with 80-90 percent black players, each of whom had his own experience of being a person of color in America. Now, I’m fluent in both cultures: black and white.” While the author avoids condescending to readers who already acknowledge their White privilege or understand why it’s unacceptable to use the N-word, he’s also attuned to the sensitive nature of the topic. As such, he has created “a place where questions you may have been afraid to ask get answered.” Acho has a deft touch and a historian’s knack for marshaling facts. He packs a lot into his concise narrative, from an incisive historical breakdown of American racial unrest and violence to the ways of cultural appropriation: Your friend respecting and appreciating Black arts and culture? OK. Kim Kardashian showing off her braids and attributing her sense of style to Bo Derek? Not so much. Within larger chapters, the text, which originated with the author’s online video series with the same title, is neatly organized under helpful headings: “Let’s rewind,” “Let’s get uncomfortable,” “Talk it, walk it.” Acho can be funny, but that’s not his goal—nor is he pedaling gotcha zingers or pleas for headlines. The author delivers exactly what he promises in the title, tackling difficult topics with the depth of an engaged cultural thinker and the style of an experienced wordsmith. Throughout, Acho is a friendly guide, seeking to sow understanding even if it means risking just a little discord.

This guide to Black culture for White people is accessible but rarely easy.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-80046-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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