An entertaining journey with a fun, knowledgeable guide.



A roundup of the best short reads.

Davis, who has written numerous books about literature and history, believes that books of less than 200 pages can be a good antidote to our troubled times and the stream of doom-laden news. For each of the 58 books on his list, which make up a year’s worth of quality literature, he provides a plot summary, a brief biography of the author, the first paragraph of the book, “Why You Should Read It,” and “What To Read Next.” “A short novel is like a great first date,” writes Davis. “It can be extremely pleasant, even exciting, and memorable. Ideally, you leave wanting more….But there is no long-term commitment.” For readers who find Tolstoy or Melville exhausting, short novels prove that brevity can be the soul of not only wit, but also drama, mystery, and poignancy. Many of the books are well known—e.g., The Old Man and the Sea, The Great Gatsby, Charlotte’s Web, Lord of the Flies—and acknowledged as classics. Others—including Yu Miri’s Tokyo Ueno Station and Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy—deserve wider recognition. James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice retains its wham-bam quality despite appearing in 1934, Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is as tasty as the day it was published in 1985. James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk might even mean more now than when it was first published in 1974. Davis also highlights some excellent novels from recent years—among them, Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson, The Perfect Nanny by Leïla Slimani, and Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill. Davis admits that there are many good novels that he did not include (he provides a supplementary list of titles in an appendix), but his love of books and reading shines through. From 1759 (Candide) to 2019 (The Nickel Boys), he’s got you covered.

An entertaining journey with a fun, knowledgeable guide.

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982180-03-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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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. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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