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. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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