An encyclopedic look at literary landscapes featuring an encyclopedia’s breadth and lack of depth.




A stroll through 98 of “the greatest fictional worlds ever created.”

Overseen by editor Miller (The Magician’s Book: A Skeptic’s Adventures in Narnia, 2008, etc.), longtime editor and critic at, a host of writers contribute short essays on books ranging from The Epic of Gilgamesh up through Salman Rushdie’s Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (2015). Sidebars introduce factoids about the selections. The copiously illustrated volume is arranged chronologically and divided, rather arbitrarily, into sections titled “Ancient Myth & Legend,” “Science & Romanticism,” “Golden Age of Fantasy,” “New World Order,” and “The Computer Age.” Aside from a brief opening essay by Miller, readers are left on their own to make sense of these varied fictional landscapes. Most will find some that are deeply familiar and others that are new: for every Nineteen Eighty-Four or Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, there is an Egalia’s Daughters, a feminist satire by Norwegian Gerd Mjoen Brantenberg, or a Lagoon, a work of science fiction by Nnedi Okorafor set in Nigeria. Children’s literature is well-represented, and though the volume skews toward works written in the last half-century or so, the editor makes a noble effort to include earlier books. The entries in general follow a formulaic pattern, with a bit of historical context, an extensive summary of the book in question, a few quotations, a little literary analysis, and a paragraph about other books by the author and writers the book has influenced. The volume, often academic in tone, is best taken in small doses. The best essays, such as Abigail Nussbaum’s quirky tribute to Tove Jansson’s The Moomins and the Great Flood or Lev Grossman’s salute to the “just slightly askew” world of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, transport the book out of the realm of the committee into that of personal passion.

An encyclopedic look at literary landscapes featuring an encyclopedia’s breadth and lack of depth.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-31638-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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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

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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

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