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Blog – Posted on Friday, Mar 29
17 book review examples to help you write the perfect review.
It’s an exciting time to be a book reviewer. Once confined to print newspapers and journals, reviews now dot many corridors of the Internet — forever helping others discover their next great read. That said, every book reviewer will face a familiar panic: how can you do justice to a great book in just a thousand words?
As you know, the best way to learn how to do something is by immersing yourself in it. Luckily, the Internet (i.e. Goodreads and other review sites , in particular) has made book reviews more accessible than ever — which means that there are a lot of book reviews examples out there for you to view!
In this post, we compiled 17 prototypical book review examples in multiple genres to help you figure out how to write the perfect review . If you want to jump straight to the examples, you can skip the next section. Otherwise, let’s first check out what makes up a good review.
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What must a book review contain?
Like all works of art, no two book reviews will be identical. But fear not: there are a few guidelines for any aspiring book reviewer to follow. Most book reviews, for instance, are less than 1,500 words long, with the sweet spot hitting somewhere around the 1,000-word mark. (However, this may vary depending on the platform on which you’re writing, as we’ll see later.)
In addition, all reviews share some universal elements, as shown in our book review templates . These include:
- A review will offer a concise plot summary of the book.
- A book review will offer an evaluation of the work.
- A book review will offer a recommendation for the audience.
If these are the basic ingredients that make up a book review, it’s the tone and style with which the book reviewer writes that brings the extra panache. This will differ from platform to platform, of course. A book review on Goodreads, for instance, will be much more informal and personal than a book review on Kirkus Reviews, as it is catering to a different audience. However, at the end of the day, the goal of all book reviews is to give the audience the tools to determine whether or not they’d like to read the book themselves.
Keeping that in mind, let’s proceed to some book review examples to put all of this in action.
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Book review examples for fiction books
Since story is king in the world of fiction, it probably won’t come as any surprise to learn that a book review for a novel will concentrate on how well the story was told .
That said, book reviews in all genres follow the same basic formula that we discussed earlier. In these examples, you’ll be able to see how book reviewers on different platforms expertly intertwine the plot summary and their personal opinions of the book to produce a clear, informative, and concise review.
Note: Some of the book review examples run very long. If a book review is truncated in this post, we’ve indicated by including a […] at the end, but you can always read the entire review if you click on the link provided.
Examples of literary fiction book reviews
Kirkus Reviews reviews Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man :
An extremely powerful story of a young Southern Negro, from his late high school days through three years of college to his life in Harlem.
His early training prepared him for a life of humility before white men, but through injustices- large and small, he came to realize that he was an "invisible man". People saw in him only a reflection of their preconceived ideas of what he was, denied his individuality, and ultimately did not see him at all. This theme, which has implications far beyond the obvious racial parallel, is skillfully handled. The incidents of the story are wholly absorbing. The boy's dismissal from college because of an innocent mistake, his shocked reaction to the anonymity of the North and to Harlem, his nightmare experiences on a one-day job in a paint factory and in the hospital, his lightning success as the Harlem leader of a communistic organization known as the Brotherhood, his involvement in black versus white and black versus black clashes and his disillusion and understanding of his invisibility- all climax naturally in scenes of violence and riot, followed by a retreat which is both literal and figurative. Parts of this experience may have been told before, but never with such freshness, intensity and power.
This is Ellison's first novel, but he has complete control of his story and his style. Watch it.
Lyndsey reviews George Orwell’s 1984 on Goodreads:
YOU. ARE. THE. DEAD. Oh my God. I got the chills so many times toward the end of this book. It completely blew my mind. It managed to surpass my high expectations AND be nothing at all like I expected. Or in Newspeak "Double Plus Good." Let me preface this with an apology. If I sound stunningly inarticulate at times in this review, I can't help it. My mind is completely fried.
This book is like the dystopian Lord of the Rings, with its richly developed culture and economics, not to mention a fully developed language called Newspeak, or rather more of the anti-language, whose purpose is to limit speech and understanding instead of to enhance and expand it. The world-building is so fully fleshed out and spine-tinglingly terrifying that it's almost as if George travelled to such a place, escaped from it, and then just wrote it all down.
I read Fahrenheit 451 over ten years ago in my early teens. At the time, I remember really wanting to read 1984, although I never managed to get my hands on it. I'm almost glad I didn't. Though I would not have admitted it at the time, it would have gone over my head. Or at the very least, I wouldn't have been able to appreciate it fully. […]
The New York Times reviews Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry :
Three-quarters of the way through Lisa Halliday’s debut novel, “Asymmetry,” a British foreign correspondent named Alistair is spending Christmas on a compound outside of Baghdad. His fellow revelers include cameramen, defense contractors, United Nations employees and aid workers. Someone’s mother has FedExed a HoneyBaked ham from Maine; people are smoking by the swimming pool. It is 2003, just days after Saddam Hussein’s capture, and though the mood is optimistic, Alistair is worrying aloud about the ethics of his chosen profession, wondering if reporting on violence doesn’t indirectly abet violence and questioning why he’d rather be in a combat zone than reading a picture book to his son. But every time he returns to London, he begins to “spin out.” He can’t go home. “You observe what people do with their freedom — what they don’t do — and it’s impossible not to judge them for it,” he says.
The line, embedded unceremoniously in the middle of a page-long paragraph, doubles, like so many others in “Asymmetry,” as literary criticism. Halliday’s novel is so strange and startlingly smart that its mere existence seems like commentary on the state of fiction. One finishes “Asymmetry” for the first or second (or like this reader, third) time and is left wondering what other writers are not doing with their freedom — and, like Alistair, judging them for it.
Despite its title, “Asymmetry” comprises two seemingly unrelated sections of equal length, appended by a slim and quietly shocking coda. Halliday’s prose is clean and lean, almost reportorial in the style of W. G. Sebald, and like the murmurings of a shy person at a cocktail party, often comic only in single clauses. It’s a first novel that reads like the work of an author who has published many books over many years. […]
Emily W. Thompson reviews Michael Doane's The Crossing on Reedsy Discovery :
In Doane’s debut novel, a young man embarks on a journey of self-discovery with surprising results.
An unnamed protagonist (The Narrator) is dealing with heartbreak. His love, determined to see the world, sets out for Portland, Oregon. But he’s a small-town boy who hasn’t traveled much. So, the Narrator mourns her loss and hides from life, throwing himself into rehabbing an old motorcycle. Until one day, he takes a leap; he packs his bike and a few belongings and heads out to find the Girl.
Following in the footsteps of Jack Kerouac and William Least Heat-Moon, Doane offers a coming of age story about a man finding himself on the backroads of America. Doane’s a gifted writer with fluid prose and insightful observations, using The Narrator’s personal interactions to illuminate the diversity of the United States.
The Narrator initially sticks to the highways, trying to make it to the West Coast as quickly as possible. But a hitchhiker named Duke convinces him to get off the beaten path and enjoy the ride. “There’s not a place that’s like any other,”  Dukes contends, and The Narrator realizes he’s right. Suddenly, the trip is about the journey, not just the destination. The Narrator ditches his truck and traverses the deserts and mountains on his bike. He destroys his phone, cutting off ties with his past and living only in the moment.
As he crosses the country, The Narrator connects with several unique personalities whose experiences and views deeply impact his own. Duke, the complicated cowboy and drifter, who opens The Narrator’s eyes to a larger world. Zooey, the waitress in Colorado who opens his heart and reminds him that love can be found in this big world. And Rosie, The Narrator’s sweet landlady in Portland, who helps piece him back together both physically and emotionally.
This supporting cast of characters is excellent. Duke, in particular, is wonderfully nuanced and complicated. He’s a throwback to another time, a man without a cell phone who reads Sartre and sleeps under the stars. Yet he’s also a grifter with a “love ‘em and leave ‘em” attitude that harms those around him. It’s fascinating to watch The Narrator wrestle with Duke’s behavior, trying to determine which to model and which to discard.
Doane creates a relatable protagonist in The Narrator, whose personal growth doesn’t erase his faults. His willingness to hit the road with few resources is admirable, and he’s prescient enough to recognize the jealousy of those who cannot or will not take the leap. His encounters with new foods, places, and people broaden his horizons. Yet his immaturity and selfishness persist. He tells Rosie she’s been a good mother to him but chooses to ignore the continuing concern from his own parents as he effectively disappears from his old life.
Despite his flaws, it’s a pleasure to accompany The Narrator on his physical and emotional journey. The unexpected ending is a fitting denouement to an epic and memorable road trip.
The Book Smugglers review Anissa Gray’s The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls :
I am still dipping my toes into the literally fiction pool, finding what works for me and what doesn’t. Books like The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray are definitely my cup of tea.
Althea and Proctor Cochran had been pillars of their economically disadvantaged community for years – with their local restaurant/small market and their charity drives. Until they are found guilty of fraud for stealing and keeping most of the money they raised and sent to jail. Now disgraced, their entire family is suffering the consequences, specially their twin teenage daughters Baby Vi and Kim. To complicate matters even more: Kim was actually the one to call the police on her parents after yet another fight with her mother. […]
Examples of children’s and YA fiction book reviews
The Book Hookup reviews Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give :
♥ Quick Thoughts and Rating: 5 stars! I can’t imagine how challenging it would be to tackle the voice of a movement like Black Lives Matter, but I do know that Thomas did it with a finesse only a talented author like herself possibly could. With an unapologetically realistic delivery packed with emotion, The Hate U Give is a crucially important portrayal of the difficulties minorities face in our country every single day. I have no doubt that this book will be met with resistance by some (possibly many) and slapped with a “controversial” label, but if you’ve ever wondered what it was like to walk in a POC’s shoes, then I feel like this is an unflinchingly honest place to start.
In Angie Thomas’s debut novel, Starr Carter bursts on to the YA scene with both heart-wrecking and heartwarming sincerity. This author is definitely one to watch.
♥ Review: The hype around this book has been unquestionable and, admittedly, that made me both eager to get my hands on it and terrified to read it. I mean, what if I was to be the one person that didn’t love it as much as others? (That seems silly now because of how truly mesmerizing THUG was in the most heartbreakingly realistic way.) However, with the relevancy of its summary in regards to the unjust predicaments POC currently face in the US, I knew this one was a must-read, so I was ready to set my fears aside and dive in. That said, I had an altogether more personal, ulterior motive for wanting to read this book. […]
The New York Times reviews Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood :
Alice Crewe (a last name she’s chosen for herself) is a fairy tale legacy: the granddaughter of Althea Proserpine, author of a collection of dark-as-night fairy tales called “Tales From the Hinterland.” The book has a cult following, and though Alice has never met her grandmother, she’s learned a little about her through internet research. She hasn’t read the stories, because her mother, Ella Proserpine, forbids it.
Alice and Ella have moved from place to place in an attempt to avoid the “bad luck” that seems to follow them. Weird things have happened. As a child, Alice was kidnapped by a man who took her on a road trip to find her grandmother; he was stopped by the police before they did so. When at 17 she sees that man again, unchanged despite the years, Alice panics. Then Ella goes missing, and Alice turns to Ellery Finch, a schoolmate who’s an Althea Proserpine superfan, for help in tracking down her mother. Not only has Finch read every fairy tale in the collection, but handily, he remembers them, sharing them with Alice as they journey to the mysterious Hazel Wood, the estate of her now-dead grandmother, where they hope to find Ella.
“The Hazel Wood” starts out strange and gets stranger, in the best way possible. (The fairy stories Finch relays, which Albert includes as their own chapters, are as creepy and evocative as you’d hope.) Albert seamlessly combines contemporary realism with fantasy, blurring the edges in a way that highlights that place where stories and real life convene, where magic contains truth and the world as it appears is false, where just about anything can happen, particularly in the pages of a very good book. It’s a captivating debut. […]
James reviews Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight, Moon on Goodreads:
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown is one of the books that followers of my blog voted as a must-read for our Children's Book August 2018 Readathon. Come check it out and join the next few weeks!
This picture book was such a delight. I hadn't remembered reading it when I was a child, but it might have been read to me... either way, it was like a whole new experience! It's always so difficult to convince a child to fall asleep at night. I don't have kids, but I do have a 5-month-old puppy who whines for 5 minutes every night when he goes in his cage/crate (hopefully he'll be fully housebroken soon so he can roam around when he wants). I can only imagine! I babysat a lot as a teenager and I have tons of younger cousins, nieces, and nephews, so I've been through it before, too. This was a believable experience, and it really helps show kids how to relax and just let go when it's time to sleep.
The bunny's are adorable. The rhymes are exquisite. I found it pretty fun, but possibly a little dated given many of those things aren't normal routines anymore. But the lessons to take from it are still powerful. Loved it! I want to sample some more books by this fine author and her illustrators.
Publishers Weekly reviews Elizabeth Lilly’s Geraldine :
This funny, thoroughly accomplished debut opens with two words: “I’m moving.” They’re spoken by the title character while she swoons across her family’s ottoman, and because Geraldine is a giraffe, her full-on melancholy mode is quite a spectacle. But while Geraldine may be a drama queen (even her mother says so), it won’t take readers long to warm up to her. The move takes Geraldine from Giraffe City, where everyone is like her, to a new school, where everyone else is human. Suddenly, the former extrovert becomes “That Giraffe Girl,” and all she wants to do is hide, which is pretty much impossible. “Even my voice tries to hide,” she says, in the book’s most poignant moment. “It’s gotten quiet and whispery.” Then she meets Cassie, who, though human, is also an outlier (“I’m that girl who wears glasses and likes MATH and always organizes her food”), and things begin to look up.
Lilly’s watercolor-and-ink drawings are as vividly comic and emotionally astute as her writing; just when readers think there are no more ways for Geraldine to contort her long neck, this highly promising talent comes up with something new.
Examples of genre fiction book reviews
Karlyn P reviews Nora Roberts’ Dark Witch , a paranormal romance novel , on Goodreads:
4 stars. Great world-building, weak romance, but still worth the read.
I hesitate to describe this book as a 'romance' novel simply because the book spent little time actually exploring the romance between Iona and Boyle. Sure, there IS a romance in this novel. Sprinkled throughout the book are a few scenes where Iona and Boyle meet, chat, wink at each, flirt some more, sleep together, have a misunderstanding, make up, and then profess their undying love. Very formulaic stuff, and all woven around the more important parts of this book.
The meat of this book is far more focused on the story of the Dark witch and her magically-gifted descendants living in Ireland. Despite being weak on the romance, I really enjoyed it. I think the book is probably better for it, because the romance itself was pretty lackluster stuff.
I absolutely plan to stick with this series as I enjoyed the world building, loved the Ireland setting, and was intrigued by all of the secondary characters. However, If you read Nora Roberts strictly for the romance scenes, this one might disappoint. But if you enjoy a solid background story with some dark magic and prophesies, you might enjoy it as much as I did.
I listened to this one on audio, and felt the narration was excellent.
Emily May reviews R.F. Kuang’s The Poppy Wars , an epic fantasy novel , on Goodreads:
“But I warn you, little warrior. The price of power is pain.”
Holy hell, what did I just read??
➽ A fantasy military school
➽ A rich world based on modern Chinese history
➽ Shamans and gods
➽ Detailed characterization leading to unforgettable characters
➽ Adorable, opium-smoking mentors
That's a basic list, but this book is all of that and SO MUCH MORE. I know 100% that The Poppy War will be one of my best reads of 2018.
Isn't it just so great when you find one of those books that completely drags you in, makes you fall in love with the characters, and demands that you sit on the edge of your seat for every horrific, nail-biting moment of it? This is one of those books for me. And I must issue a serious content warning: this book explores some very dark themes. Proceed with caution (or not at all) if you are particularly sensitive to scenes of war, drug use and addiction, genocide, racism, sexism, ableism, self-harm, torture, and rape (off-page but extremely horrific).
Because, despite the fairly innocuous first 200 pages, the title speaks the truth: this is a book about war. All of its horrors and atrocities. It is not sugar-coated, and it is often graphic. The "poppy" aspect refers to opium, which is a big part of this book. It is a fantasy, but the book draws inspiration from the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Rape of Nanking.
Crime Fiction Lover reviews Jessica Barry’s Freefall , a crime novel:
In some crime novels, the wrongdoing hits you between the eyes from page one. With others it’s a more subtle process, and that’s OK too. So where does Freefall fit into the sliding scale?
In truth, it’s not clear. This is a novel with a thrilling concept at its core. A woman survives plane crash, then runs for her life. However, it is the subtleties at play that will draw you in like a spider beckoning to an unwitting fly.
Like the heroine in Sharon Bolton’s Dead Woman Walking, Allison is lucky to be alive. She was the only passenger in a private plane, belonging to her fiancé, Ben, who was piloting the expensive aircraft, when it came down in woodlands in the Colorado Rockies. Ally is also the only survivor, but rather than sitting back and waiting for rescue, she is soon pulling together items that may help her survive a little longer – first aid kit, energy bars, warm clothes, trainers – before fleeing the scene. If you’re hearing the faint sound of alarm bells ringing, get used to it. There’s much, much more to learn about Ally before this tale is over.
Kirkus Reviews reviews Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One , a science-fiction novel :
Video-game players embrace the quest of a lifetime in a virtual world; screenwriter Cline’s first novel is old wine in new bottles.
The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS has captivating bells and whistles, and it’s free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate. Old-fashioned riddles lead to three keys and three gates. Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, is the first gunter (egg-hunter) to win the Copper Key, first of three.
Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980s, primarily the arcade games, so the novel is as much retro as futurist. Parzival’s great strength is that he has absorbed all Halliday’s obsessions; he knows by heart three essential movies, crossing the line from geek to freak. His most formidable competitors are the Sixers, contract gunters working for the evil conglomerate IOI, whose goal is to acquire the OASIS. Cline’s narrative is straightforward but loaded with exposition. It takes a while to reach a scene that crackles with excitement: the meeting between Parzival (now world famous as the lead contender) and Sorrento, the head of IOI. The latter tries to recruit Parzival; when he fails, he issues and executes a death threat. Wade’s trailer is demolished, his relatives killed; luckily Wade was not at home. Too bad this is the dramatic high point. Parzival threads his way between more ’80s games and movies to gain the other keys; it’s clever but not exciting. Even a romance with another avatar and the ultimate “epic throwdown” fail to stir the blood.
Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.
Book review examples for non-fiction books
Nonfiction books are generally written to inform readers about a certain topic. As such, the focus of a nonfiction book review will be on the clarity and effectiveness of this communication . In carrying this out, a book review may analyze the author’s source materials and assess the thesis in order to determine whether or not the book meets expectations.
Again, we’ve included abbreviated versions of long reviews here, so feel free to click on the link to read the entire piece!
The Washington Post reviews David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon :
The arc of David Grann’s career reminds one of a software whiz-kid or a latest-thing talk-show host — certainly not an investigative reporter, even if he is one of the best in the business. The newly released movie of his first book, “The Lost City of Z,” is generating all kinds of Oscar talk, and now comes the release of his second book, “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI,” the film rights to which have already been sold for $5 million in what one industry journal called the “biggest and wildest book rights auction in memory.”
Grann deserves the attention. He’s canny about the stories he chases, he’s willing to go anywhere to chase them, and he’s a maestro in his ability to parcel out information at just the right clip: a hint here, a shading of meaning there, a smartly paced buildup of multiple possibilities followed by an inevitable reversal of readerly expectations or, in some cases, by a thrilling and dislocating pull of the entire narrative rug.
All of these strengths are on display in “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Around the turn of the 20th century, oil was discovered underneath Osage lands in the Oklahoma Territory, lands that were soon to become part of the state of Oklahoma. Through foresight and legal maneuvering, the Osage found a way to permanently attach that oil to themselves and shield it from the prying hands of white interlopers; this mechanism was known as “headrights,” which forbade the outright sale of oil rights and granted each full member of the tribe — and, supposedly, no one else — a share in the proceeds from any lease arrangement. For a while, the fail-safes did their job, and the Osage got rich — diamond-ring and chauffeured-car and imported-French-fashion rich — following which quite a large group of white men started to work like devils to separate the Osage from their money. And soon enough, and predictably enough, this work involved murder. Here in Jazz Age America’s most isolated of locales, dozens or even hundreds of Osage in possession of great fortunes — and of the potential for even greater fortunes in the future — were dispatched by poison, by gunshot and by dynamite. […]
Stacked Books reviews Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers :
I’ve heard a lot of great things about Malcolm Gladwell’s writing. Friends and co-workers tell me that his subjects are interesting and his writing style is easy to follow without talking down to the reader. I wasn’t disappointed with Outliers. In it, Gladwell tackles the subject of success – how people obtain it and what contributes to extraordinary success as opposed to everyday success.
The thesis – that our success depends much more on circumstances out of our control than any effort we put forth – isn’t exactly revolutionary. Most of us know it to be true. However, I don’t think I’m lying when I say that most of us also believe that we if we just try that much harder and develop our talent that much further, it will be enough to become wildly successful, despite bad or just mediocre beginnings. Not so, says Gladwell.
Most of the evidence Gladwell gives us is anecdotal, which is my favorite kind to read. I can’t really speak to how scientifically valid it is, but it sure makes for engrossing listening. For example, did you know that successful hockey players are almost all born in January, February, or March? Kids born during these months are older than the others kids when they start playing in the youth leagues, which means they’re already better at the game (because they’re bigger). Thus, they get more play time, which means their skill increases at a faster rate, and it compounds as time goes by. Within a few years, they’re much, much better than the kids born just a few months later in the year. Basically, these kids’ birthdates are a huge factor in their success as adults – and it’s nothing they can do anything about. If anyone could make hockey interesting to a Texan who only grudgingly admits the sport even exists, it’s Gladwell. […]
Quill and Quire reviews Rick Prashaw’s Soar, Adam, Soar :
Ten years ago, I read a book called Almost Perfect. The young-adult novel by Brian Katcher won some awards and was held up as a powerful, nuanced portrayal of a young trans person. But the reality did not live up to the book’s billing. Instead, it turned out to be a one-dimensional and highly fetishized portrait of a trans person’s life, one that was nevertheless repeatedly dubbed “realistic” and “affecting” by non-transgender readers possessing only a vague, mass-market understanding of trans experiences.
In the intervening decade, trans narratives have emerged further into the literary spotlight, but those authored by trans people ourselves – and by trans men in particular – have seemed to fall under the shadow of cisgender sensationalized imaginings. Two current Canadian releases – Soar, Adam, Soar and This One Looks Like a Boy – provide a pointed object lesson into why trans-authored work about transgender experiences remains critical.
To be fair, Soar, Adam, Soar isn’t just a story about a trans man. It’s also a story about epilepsy, the medical establishment, and coming of age as seen through a grieving father’s eyes. Adam, Prashaw’s trans son, died unexpectedly at age 22. Woven through the elder Prashaw’s narrative are excerpts from Adam’s social media posts, giving us glimpses into the young man’s interior life as he traverses his late teens and early 20s. […]
Book Geeks reviews Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love :
WRITING STYLE: 3.5/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 3.5/5
“Eat Pray Love” is so popular that it is almost impossible to not read it. Having felt ashamed many times on my not having read this book, I quietly ordered the book (before I saw the movie) from amazon.in and sat down to read it. I don’t remember what I expected it to be – maybe more like a chick lit thing but it turned out quite different. The book is a real story and is a short journal from the time when its writer went travelling to three different countries in pursuit of three different things – Italy (Pleasure), India (Spirituality), Bali (Balance) and this is what corresponds to the book’s name – EAT (in Italy), PRAY (in India) and LOVE (in Bali, Indonesia). These are also the three Is – ITALY, INDIA, INDONESIA.
Though she had everything a middle-aged American woman can aspire for – MONEY, CAREER, FRIENDS, HUSBAND; Elizabeth was not happy in her life, she wasn’t happy in her marriage. Having suffered a terrible divorce and terrible breakup soon after, Elizabeth was shattered. She didn’t know where to go and what to do – all she knew was that she wanted to run away. So she set out on a weird adventure – she will go to three countries in a year and see if she can find out what she was looking for in life. This book is about that life changing journey that she takes for one whole year. […]
Emily May reviews Michelle Obama’s Becoming on Goodreads:
Look, I'm not a happy crier. I might cry at songs about leaving and missing someone; I might cry at books where things don't work out; I might cry at movies where someone dies. I've just never really understood why people get all choked up over happy, inspirational things. But Michelle Obama's kindness and empathy changed that. This book had me in tears for all the right reasons.
This is not really a book about politics, though political experiences obviously do come into it. It's a shame that some will dismiss this book because of a difference in political opinion, when it is really about a woman's life. About growing up poor and black on the South Side of Chicago; about getting married and struggling to maintain that marriage; about motherhood; about being thrown into an amazing and terrifying position.
I hate words like "inspirational" because they've become so overdone and cheesy, but I just have to say it-- Michelle Obama is an inspiration. I had the privilege of seeing her speak at The Forum in Inglewood, and she is one of the warmest, funniest, smartest, down-to-earth people I have ever seen in this world.
And yes, I know we present what we want the world to see, but I truly do think it's genuine. I think she is someone who really cares about people - especially kids - and wants to give them better lives and opportunities.
She's obviously intelligent, but she also doesn't gussy up her words. She talks straight, with an openness and honesty rarely seen. She's been one of the most powerful women in the world, she's been a graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, she's had her own successful career, and yet she has remained throughout that same girl - Michelle Robinson - from a working class family in Chicago.
I don't think there's anyone who wouldn't benefit from reading this book.
Hopefully, this post has given you a better idea of how to write a book review. You might be wondering how to put all of this knowledge into action now! Many book reviewers start out by setting up a book blog. If you don’t have time to research the intricacies of HTML, check out Reedsy Discovery — where you can read indie books for free and review them without going through the hassle of creating a blog. To register as a book reviewer , go here .
And if you’d like to see even more book review examples, simply go to this directory of book review blogs and click on any one of them to see a wealth of good book reviews. Beyond that, it's up to you to pick up a book and pen — and start reviewing!
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9 New Books We Recommend This Week
Suggested reading from critics and editors at The New York Times.
Would You Like Some Murder and Mayhem With Your Eggnog?
Our columnist recommends six new thrillers.
By Sarah Lyall
Francis Ford Coppola Talks a Big Game, and for Good Reason
Sam Wasson’s supremely entertaining new book, “The Path to Paradise,” tracks the ups and downs, ins and outs, of a remarkable career.
By David Kamp
A Masterpiece That Inspired Gabriel García Márquez to Write His Own
For decades, Juan Rulfo’s novel, “Pedro Páramo,” has cast an uncanny spell on writers. A new translation may bring it broader appeal.
By Valeria Luiselli
The Essential Larry McMurtry
A wildly prolific son of Texas, McMurtry was a tangle of contradictions. Here’s where to start.
By Andy Greenwald
How American Evangelicalism Became ‘Mister Rogers With a Blowtorch’
In his new book, “The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory,” the journalist Tim Alberta subjects his faith’s embrace of right-wing extremism to critical scrutiny.
By Jennifer Szalai
The Best Thrillers of 2023
They include an espionage caper, the tale of a murderous librarian and a high-stakes adventure that takes place inside the various stomachs of a whale.
5 Books to Read About Sandra Day O’Connor
Justice O’Connor, the first woman on the Supreme Court, was a swing vote on polarizing issues before a closely divided court. These books offer insight into her life, career and legacy.
By Wilson Wong
Two Books to Keep You Company While You Wait
Molly recommends a 19th-century “Dumb and Dumber” and a collection of essays about the weirder corners of the business world.
Books of The Times
For Women ‘Art Monsters,’ Both Beauty and Excess Are Key
The new book by Lauren Elkin examines artists who’ve defied conventions and expectations, including Carolee Schneemann, Eva Hesse and Kara Walker.
The Good Old Days of Book Publishing, Martinis and All
“Among Friends” is a history of an industry transformed by consolidation and shifting tastes.
By Dwight Garner
Eat the Rich? How About Dine With Them Instead.
In “Flight of the WASP,” the inveterate dirt-digger Michael Gross gives America’s elite families the white-glove treatment.
By Alexandra Jacobs
A Wine Guide for a Changing World (for Better and for Worse)
Ray Isle’s “The World in a Wineglass” is a broad survey of vintners with a focus on sustainability and organic methods.
John Nichols, Author of ‘The Milagro Beanfield War,’ Dies at 83
After decamping from New York to New Mexico, he wrote what was, for a time, among the most widely read novels about Latinos.
By Sam Roberts
Tim Dorsey, Who Turned Florida’s Quirks Into Comic Gold, Dies at 62
Long before Florida Man became a meme, he mined the Sunshine State’s weirdness for enough material to fill 26 darkly funny crime novels.
By Clay Risen
Christopher Paolini Wanted a Job Involving Dragons, So He Created One
Paolini, a best-selling author of young adult fantasy novels, has a new book out, “Murtagh.” In it, he returns to the world of “Eragon” and the adventures he began creating as a teenager.
By Stefano Montali
By Sarah Lyall
All Things in Moderation, Especially When They’re Toxic
In “Most Delicious Poison,” Noah Whiteman explores nature’s fine line between killing and curing.
By Robert Sullivan
A Complicated Return for a Prodigal Daughter
In “Welcome Home, Stranger,” Kate Christensen takes readers inside the best kind of fictional family: a dysfunctional one.
By S. Kirk Walsh
By Wilson Wong
6 Paperbacks to Read This Week
Selected paperbacks from the Book Review, including titles by Evette Dionne, Erica Jong, Chetna Maroo and more.
By Shreya Chattopadhyay
Holiday Gift Books for Children
From a 200th-anniversary edition of Clement C. Moore’s Christmas Eve tale to lightheartedly loopy poems for every day of the year.
By Catherine Hong
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- Hidden Form Source
December 21, 2023
In Porn: An Oral History , Polly Barton argues that after decades of exhaustive debate there is still something lacking in the discourse on pornography.
December 21, 2023 issue
The Weight of One Story
The speakers in Bushra al-Maqtari’s oral history of Yemen’s civil war each narrate only a single incident: the violent death of a family member or friend.
A New Language of Modern Art
An ambitious exhibition of the work of Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas demonstrates their affinities and their shared ambition to revolutionize painting.
An Unhealthy Definition of Rights
For the new majority on the Supreme Court, religious liberty takes precedence over the government’s power to protect public health.
A Bitter Season in the West Bank
The war in Gaza has provided Israeli settlers fresh opportunity and impunity. I see entire villages fleeing in panic.
“No Stegosaurus ever choked on a shopping bag. No ichthyosaur expired in the sludge of an oil spill. A documentary liberated from these regrets and worries frees the audience to appreciate nature’s abundance with unalloyed joy.”
Shooting Werner Herzog
The director’s memoir, packed with unlikely incident, suggests that Herzog has always been his own greatest creation.
Jane Austen Gets Dressed
Sifting through the trove of well-preserved garments that belonged to Jane Austen, a new study offers a surprising new glimpse of the novelist’s life.
The Ghost in the Labyrinth
Inspired by the disgrace and silencing of an African novelist half a century ago, Mohamed Mbougar Sarr’s The Most Memory of Men both satirizes and embraces an overwrought belief in literature.
How America Ends and Begins Again
Because so much of what we have come to expect of our country is unraveling, we have an opportunity to build it anew.
Back to the State of Nature
John Gray argues in The New Leviathans that only Thomas Hobbes can explain how a liberal civilization based on tolerance came to an end, and what we have lost in abandoning it.
The Dream of a Universal Library
Digitization promised to democratize learning, and despite countervailing forces the trend is toward more open access. But is an ‘Alexandria in the cloud’ really an open sesame?
‘What Happens at the Edges?’
The artist William Kentridge is interested in who decides which people constitute the center and which the periphery, in finding meaning in the fragmentary and provisional.
A Leaf or Two from Whitman
The promises and failures of the American twentieth century suffuse Ben Lerner’s new book of poems and Tom Piazza’s new novel.
The Emptied Cosmos
Bringing readers on a walking tour of Rome’s churches, Gabriel Pihas argues in a new book that for over a millennium, nature was God’s chief display board.
Timothy Garton Ash’s Homelands traces the development of his passionate identification with Europe and the continent’s unsteady experiments with unity
In the Streets of Barcelona
In Antagony , the Spanish writer Luis Goytisolo attempts to imagine a new sort of novel in which the streets have the force of character and urban topography has its own destiny.
Ever-New Sound Worlds
Henry Threadgill’s memoir is a spirited account of his lifelong search for imaginative musical improvisation and new systems of composition.
Out of Time
Bill Watterson’s first book since Calvin and Hobbes envisions a medieval world on the brink of extinction.
Writing Under Fire
In Politics and Literature at the Dawn of World War II , James Heffernan argues that for a full understanding of any historical period, we must read the literature written while its events were still unfolding.
Patterns of Uprooting
On opposite sides of the world—Poland and Uruguay—the poets Ida Vitale and Tomasz Różycki share a close attention to their own languages.
Thoughtfully chosen gifts for readers and writers
Combatants for Peace
We are a group of former Israeli soldiers and formerly imprisoned Palestinians. Our work is a model for the nonviolent way forward.
November 23, 2023
Bad Facts, Bad Law
In a recent Supreme Court oral argument about disarming domestic abusers, originalism itself was put to the test.
November 25, 2023
A dispatch from the Art Editor
November 29, 2023
Waiting for a New Poland
Five weeks after the opposition won Poland’s legislative elections, its supporters are looking ahead to the country’s future.
November 24, 2023
The Forest/Wanting a Child
To Our Indolent Cancer
Biden’s Selective Outrage
The rhetorical choice to pair Israel and Ukraine has not created a common moral cause. It has exposed a double standard.
November 14, 2023
‘Let Us Not Hurry to Our Doom’
The first Lebanon War helped lay the groundwork for Israel’s escalations of violence in Gaza. Who will heed its warnings?
November 9, 2023
An Open Letter on the Misuse of Holocaust Memory
Appealing to the memory of the Holocaust obscures our understanding of the antisemitism Jews face today and dangerously misrepresents the causes of violence in Israel-Palestine.
November 20, 2023
Israel: The Left in Peril
Since October 7, Israel’s left has encountered unprecedented repression. Could its ideas nonetheless point the way forward?
November 12, 2023
Free from the Archives
“In some cases, Degas rises above the sordidness of these situations to imagine scenes of slapstick comedy. In La Fête de la Patronne , the girls, naked, save for stockings and slippers, laugh as they give enormous bouquets to the madam—who in her cheap black dress looks like nothing so much as an old cook—and shower her with kisses.”
The Man Who Was France
“Even the French who found themselves in England did not rush to accept de Gaulle: to the contrary, this remote and chilly figure lunching alone at the Savoy appealed to few of them, and most of the troops who had been evacuated from France that summer eventually made their way back across the Channel and regarded Pétain as the legitimate head of the French government.”
January 16, 2020 issue
The Truth About the Resistance
Who were the resisters, what were they resisting, and what difference did they really make?
February 25, 2016 issue
France Without Glory
“The political authorities born of the Resistance thought it prudent to speak and act as though the Vichy government of 1940–1944 had been a brief, unhappy interlude, a sort of illegitimate interruption of republican continuity…. This unity of purpose, however, was bought at the price of an incomplete confrontation with the memory and experience of the occupation years.”
May 23, 1996 issue
French Collaborators: The New Debate
“A striking fact about the Frenchmen indicted for crimes against humanity is that…each of them had an entirely successful career in France after the war.”
June 25, 1992 issue
What the Little Woman Was Up To
An exhibition of books, ephemera, and realia made by women over the past five hundred years makes tangible the kind of contributions that typically go ignored.
March 26, 2020 issue
Old Wives’ Tales
“The oral contraceptives and abortifacients known to the Greeks and Romans were both effective and also safer than one might have expected.”
November 18, 1993 issue
Darn that Darning
“Despite our view of them as repressed and exploited, we know that nineteenth-century women had contraceptive practices, orgasms, used nursing bottles and abortifacients; in Michigan at one period, one-third of pregnancies were terminated by abortion.”
April 12, 1984 issue
An Abortion War Solution: The Celibacy Amendment
In the interest of equity, the anti-abortion zealots would honor their obsession by proposing a sort of balancing of the human budget: a Celibacy Before Marriage Amendment to the US Constitution. Let us see how that goes down.
June 17, 2019
He Ridiculed the Nazis
The carefree world of Father and Son gives little hint of the fate that would be suffered by its creator, E. O. Plauen, who had become world-famous for his comic strips and was driven to take his own life.
September 14, 2017
The Genius in Exile
“You lose one home after another, I say to myself. Here I am, sitting with my wanderer’s staff. My feet are sore, my heart is tired, my eyes are dry.”
November 6, 2014 issue
The Man with Many Qualities
“From the moment the Reichstag burned in 1933, Robert Musil foresaw how badly Germany was about to betray itself.”
March 18, 1999 issue
Art of a Nasty Time
Nazi art showed how certain already prevalent German traditions and characteristics could be harnessed to the Nazi cause. What is more, they recalled corresponding features in the art of other countries—the kind of tame classicism, flashy Italianate portraiture, sub-Barbizon rusticity, and lumpy earthiness that could be found also in London, Rome, Paris, and New York.
June 26, 1980 issue
A Dance to the Music of Death
Thomas Adès turns fleetingly recognizable musical elements into unstable, volatile substances tending toward evanescence and escape.
May 13, 2021 issue
The Witch Hunters’ Crusade
Why did sixteenth-century investigators of witchcraft place such an inordinate emphasis on demonic sex, and why did they concentrate their inquiries on women?
September 26, 2002 issue
The Hide That Binds
A medical librarian’s history of books covered in human skin.
November 5, 2020 issue
Arthur Kern's Creatures
Arthur Kern’s unsettling, grotesque sculptures bring to mind twins fighting for space within the womb, disembodied heads frozen in cryogenic pods, an astronaut doomed to float forever through outer space.
June 1, 2016
A Day in the Life of Abed Salama
One man’s quest to find his son lays bare the reality of Palestinian life under Israeli rule.
March 19, 2021
The Endless Occupation, a New Understanding
“Today’s reality in Israel-Palestine is at odds with everything the United States claims to stand for.”
March 20, 2021
Israel Without Illusions
“No one who regularly visits the Palestinian territories controlled by Israel has to speculate about whether or not Israel is engaged in the routine abuse of human rights.”
December 17, 2009 issue
“A certain moral imbecility marks all ethnocentric movements. The Others are always either less than human, and thus their interests may be ignored, or more than human and therefore so dangerous that it is right to destroy them.”
August 3, 1967 issue
Basic Principles of Humanity
“Willfully impeding the delivery of relief supplies, in particular life-saving fuel, is a war crime.”
November 18, 2023
When the Brain Becomes Data
“Ever since we became ‘the product,’ we’ve been trading vast amounts of personal data for the privilege of engaging online.”
November 4, 2023
Where the Mistery Lurkes
“Change remains the lifeblood of literary tradition.”
October 28, 2023
The latest releases from New York Review Books
Loved and Missed
Pier Paolo Pasolini
An Ordinary Youth
Poor Helpless Comics!
The Lost World
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Cross Over, Pass Through, Overcome: On Nnedi Okorafor’s “Like Thunder”
Jonathan Lewis explores the importance of transformation to confront trauma and conflict in Nnedi Okorafor’s compelling new speculative novel, “Like Thunder.”...
Jonathan P. Lewis Dec 2
Rosalind nashashibi's electrical gaza.
Stills from Electrical Gaza (2015), cinematography by Emma Dalesman, production by Kate Parker. Digital video still transferred from 16mm film, animation, color, sound. 17:53 minutes. Courtesy of the artist and GRIMM Amsterdam, London, New York. The artist’s reflections on the film and a viewing link to the film are included in the link below.
More from Rosalind Nashashibi's Electrical Gaza View all artists
Andrew Chan’s “Why Mariah Carey Matters”
Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher are joined by writer and critic Andrew Chan to discuss his latest book, “Why Mariah Carey Matters.”...
LARB Radio Hour Dec 1
Endless Culture Wars: On Kliph Nesteroff’s “Outrageous”
Chris Yogerst reviews Kliph Nesteroff’s book, “Outrageous: A History of Showbiz and the Culture Wars.”...
Chris Yogerst Dec 1
Abena Ampofoa Asare writes about teaching Black history....
Abena Ampofoa Asare Nov 30
Minor Archives: A Conversation with Elisabeth Subrin
Lisa Darms speaks with filmmaker Elisabeth Subrin about her award-winning new documentary “Maria Schneider, 1983.”...
Lisa Darms Nov 30
2023 Year-End Matching Grant Drive
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The LARB Quarterly
Larb quarterly, no. 39: air.
Order LARB Quarterly, no. 39: “Air” featuring Tosten Burks’s survey on recently-published books about basketball, Matthew Mullins’s exploration of...
LARB Radio Hour
Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher are joined by writer and critic Andrew Chan to discuss his latest book, “Why Mariah Carey Matters.”
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Georg Lukács’s Two Natures: The Centenary of “History and Class Consciousness”
Mitchell Cohen Nov 17
No Fap: A Cultural History of Anti-Masturbation
Aya Labanieh Nov 1
When Philosophy No Longer Smells of the Earth
George Yancy Nov 26
Nightmares of Reason: On Benjamín Labatut’s “The MANIAC”
Ed Simon Nov 25
Philosophy in Times Like These
Vanessa Wills Nov 27
Rumaan Alam’s “Leave the World Behind” Examines What Happens When You Can’t
Elena Sheppard Nov 17, 2020
Fear and Writing in Xinjiang: On Tahir Hamut Izgil’s “Waiting to Be Arrested at Night” and Perhat Tursun’s “The Backstreets”
Benno Weiner Nov 28
The “New Antisemitism” and the Logic of Whiteness
Megan Wachspress Nov 29
Megan Wachspress argues that the relationship of leftist activists to their own whiteness is shaping the current wave of anti-Israeli campus protests....
Politics and Economics
Again, Again, Again: On Carmen Machado and J. Robert Lennon’s “Critical Hits” and Frank Lantz’s “The Beauty of Games”
Neuroscientist Patrick House reviews two new books on the art of repetition in video games—“Critical Hits: Writers Playing Video Games,” edited by Carmen Machado and J. Robert Lennon, and “The Beauty of Games” by Frank Lantz....
Patrick House Nov 29
Science & Technology
What Darkness Makes of Light: On Nina MacLaughlin’s “Winter Solstice”
Heather Treseler reviews “Winter Solstice: An Essay” by Nina MacLaughlin....
Heather Treseler Nov 29
Fear and Writing in Xinjiang: On Tahir Hamut Izgil’s “Waiting to Be Arrested at Night: A Uyghur Poet’s Memoir of China’s Genocide” and Perhat Tursun’s “The Backstreets: A Novel from Xinjiang.”...
Is Laughter All We’ve Got? On David Baddiel’s “The God Desire”
David E. Cooper reviews David Baddiel’s “The God Desire: On Being a Reluctant Atheist.”...
David E. Cooper Nov 28
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I Used to Be Disgusted, and Now I Try to Be Amused
Jack Skelley went to the Poetic Research Bureau and found two writers finding themselves in mass-cultural epiphanies.
Tuning In to TV Girl
Brittany Menjivar braves hoards of TikTokers and first-time concertgoers to report on “America’s favorite indie band.”
David Diaz time-travels to a special moment in New York history, finding it as vibrant now as it was then.
Phantom of the Frida
Emily Ann Zisko spent a night at the opera, darling, and found herself among skeletons and ghosts, feminists and revolutionaries.
View All Short Takes
Sasha Frere-Jones’s “Earlier”
Writer, musician, and critic Sasha Frere-Jones joins Kate Wolf to discuss his first book, “Earlier.”
Nicole Newnham’s “The Disappearance of Shere Hite”
Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher are joined by award-winning director Nicole Newnham to discuss her latest film, “The Disappearance of Shere Hite.”
Dan Sinykin’s “Big Fiction”
Eric Newman and Medaya Ocher are joined by writer and professor, Dan Sinykin, to talk about his new book “Big Fiction: How Conglomeration Changed the...
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Werner Herzog’s Visions
T he only reason Werner Herzog hasn’t yet made a film about the Ancient Mariner may be that, having already inadvertently incorporated so many elements of the poem into his own work, he has become him. Herzog certainly shares Coleridge’s interest in the physical and spiritual toll taken by epic voyages into uncharted waters. There are several rafts as well as a phantom schooner...
Documentary has customarily been regarded as a genre duty-bound to deal in facts. But the only duty Herzog has ever felt as a filmmaker is, as he puts it, to ‘follow a grand vision’.
When I Met the Pope
T he invitation said ‘black dress for Ladies’. ‘You’re not allowed to be whiter than him,’ my husband, Jason, instructs. ‘He has to be the whitest. And you cannot wear a hat because that is his thing.’
We are discussing the pope, who has woken one morning, at the age of 86, with a sudden craving to meet artists. An event has been proposed: a...
The invitation said ‘black dress for Ladies’. ‘You’re not allowed to be whiter than him,’ my husband, Jason, instructs. ‘He has to be the whitest. And you cannot wear a hat because that is his thing.’
Rescuing Lord Byron
B yron knew just how good Don Juan was. Part way through the poem’s ninth canto, drafted in Pisa in the summer of 1822, he takes a break from a digression on Pyrrhonian scepticism to assess how things are going:
’Tis time we should proceed with our good poem, For I maintain that it is really good,Not only in the body, but the...
Byron took from Milton the idea that the mind, being ‘its own place and time’, could be its own hell. Torment in the tales and other ‘dark’ poems may be both a physical space – a dungeon, a set of chains – and a mental environment, built out of the dominant images within which Byron’s figures live.
I nternational law takes a special interest in war. Where there is an armed conflict or an occupation it is not enough to hope vaguely that human rights will be respected and for the UN or a special rapporteur to issue a cross report if they are not. War warrants a much fiercer international response, and in recognition of this, the International Criminal Court (ICC) was established in 2002,...
All agree that Israel has a right to defend itself, though there are many differences of opinion among lawyers as to the basis for this. What no one contests, however, is that serious violations of humanitarian law by your opponent do not give you licence to do the same to them.
‘You made me do it’
I n response to the destruction of Gaza, it seems to be becoming almost impossible to lament more than one people at a time. When I signed Artists for Palestine’s statement last month, I looked for mention of the atrocities committed by Hamas against Israeli Jews on 7 October, and then decided to settle for the unambiguous condemnation of ‘every act of violence against...
If we loosen our grip on suffering, discard any claim to own it, then perhaps we can ask a different question: how much pain can anyone hold in their mind at once? Must my pain always be greater than yours for it to count?
W hen Gabriele D’Annunzio’s personal secretary likened his employer to Heliogabalus, that short-lived emperor was still a byword for florid decadence. He died at eighteen, but the Syrian boy’s appetites were monstrous from the start. He favoured every kind of sex that Romans deplored, cunnilingus most of all. He had himself shaved all over, like a eunuch, and chose his...
Nowadays, if this prodigy of wickedness is remembered at all, it is for an Alma-Tadema painting showing the emperor smothering his guests in a shower of roses. Polite society no longer tolerates the Orientalist racism of the older accounts but, more prosaically, everyone now knows that these stories are nonsense.
In the latest issue
30 november 2023.
- Clare Bucknell: Rescuing Lord Byron
- Jacqueline Rose: ‘You made me do it’
- Zain Samir: Hizbullah’s War
- Conor Gearty: Short Cuts
- Michael Kulikowski: Heliogabalus’ Appetites
- Helen Pfeifer: Rarities and Marvels
- Jonah Goodman: A National Evil
- Jorie Graham: ‘Before’
- Niamh Gallagher: Appropriating James Connolly
- David Trotter: Werner Herzog’s Visions
- Francis Gooding: On N.K. Jemisin
- Julian Bell: At the National Gallery
- Alex Harvey: ‘Sojourn’
- Georgie Newson: On the March
- Francis Wade: Resistance in Myanmar
- Dinah Birch: Spurious Ghosts
- Patricia Lockwood: Diary
This Christmas, give them a gift that lasts all year
Rarities and Marvels
O n one page , a bee, meticulously painted, down to the individual hairs; on another page, a diagram of planetary motion, glittering with gold leaf; on another, the soft-legged men of Zanzibar, who live in trees and propel themselves forwards by dropping onto the shoulders of passing travellers. These disparate images confront readers of one of the most successful natural histories of...
For the 13th-century Muslim scholar Zakariyya al-Qazwini and his contemporaries, to contemplate the wonders of nature was to contemplate the majesty of God, so much so that cosmography was a mainstay of Islamic theology. But wonder was also an intellectual method. It acted as the initial stimulus for acquiring knowledge.
O n a warm afternoon in October, the streets of the southern Lebanese town of Aalma El Chaeb were deserted. The petrol station, the grocer, the bakeries and the church had all been shut down. In the middle of town, three grey herons sifted through weeks-old bags of rubbish, oblivious to the monotonous whine of an Israeli drone flying somewhere overhead. On a ridge opposite, outside the...
After nearly two decades of relative calm along the Lebanese-Israeli border, the Israeli defence minister is threatening to do to Beirut what he is doing to Gaza. Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbullah’s leader, has warned Israel that if it ever attacks Beirut again Hizbullah will start bombing Tel Aviv and beyond.
Resistance in Myanmar
K Za Win seemed to know how his life would end. ‘Before the Revolution opened out,’ he wrote in ‘Skulls’, his final poem, ‘a bullet blew someone’s brains out.’ Eight days later, on 3 March 2021, security forces opened fire on a group of protesters in the city of Monywa, in central Myanmar. K Za Win was among them. A bullet hit him behind the ear....
Any civilian government that wants to unify Myanmar society will face a conundrum: how to deal with the crimes committed by its own side without turning the groups that have joined together to fight the junta against one another.
A mit Chaudhuri visited Europe for the first time at the age of eleven. In 1973 the world felt steady; it had ‘a kind of wholeness to it’. The co-existence of capitalism and communism seemed permanent. Forty years later, visiting Berlin, he felt the need ‘to grasp fleetingly, what one had lost’. He had grown up in non-aligned India, which balanced democratic...
Amit Chaudhuri’s Sojourn is interested in our relationship to the history we are living through, conscious that no one is fully aware of living in an historical epoch, perhaps as fictional figures can’t know they are in a story.
On N.K. Jemisin
M C S han really shouldn’t have done it. By common consent, hip-hop didn’t start in Queens, it started in the Bronx. So when Shan, on his 1986 track ‘The Bridge’, put Queensbridge Houses at the centre of his potted history of rap without so much as mentioning the Bronx, there was going to be pushback. It duly arrived with ‘The Bridge Is Over’, from Boogie...
H.P.Lovecraft’s name rarely appears today without the requisite condemnation. Yet nobody is really suggesting that we stop reading him, cancel Cthulhu and de-platform the Great Old Ones.
A National Evil
A s far as the archivist knew, the 48 box files locked in an attic above the Institute for the History of Medicine at the University of Bern had never been opened. They contained a mass of handwritten letters, glass-plate negatives, annotated offprints, minutes of meetings, and piles of press clippings almost too fragile to touch. Gothic newsprint hailed victory over a ‘national...
At the turn of the 20th century, the Swiss were plagued by strange, interlinked medical conditions, which existed elsewhere to a degree, but in Switzerland were endemic in more than 80 per cent of the country. It was a curse that had a mark: the goitre.
On the March
O n 11 November, Armistice Day, some 800,000 people, a crowd larger than the population of Manchester, congregated in Central London to march in solidarity with Palestine. Measuring the exact size of demonstrations on this scale is difficult. In 2019, the Met said that it didn’t ‘have the expertise’ to make accurate calculations and would no longer release estimates. That...
Since the 7 October attacks, it has become common for politicians and commentators, whatever their political orientation, to behave as if mourning is a limited commodity. The logic according to which a march for peace can’t exist alongside a remembrance ceremony is also a logic that rejects our capacity to mourn the deaths of Israeli and Palestinian civilians alike.
‘A ren’t you tired of them? One hears nothing else nowadays.’ The peevish Mrs Snowdon, a character in Mary Louisa Molesworth’s ‘The Story of the Rippling Train’ (1887), is grumbling about the popularity of ghost stories. Nevertheless, she is gripped by the one that follows. Accounts of the supernatural proliferated in the 19th century, as the certainties...
Spiritual guidance is rare in Vernon Lee’s stories. Her ghosts are usually the undoing of those who encounter them; they represent compulsive desires rather than fears, and the glamour of history more than the anxieties of modern life. Lee’s tales speak for those who are in love with the past.
How to make a Greek god smile
‘Wonder,’ Descartes wrote, ‘is a sudden surprise of the soul,’ reserved for what is rare and extraordinary. In his classification, it is the first of the passions, the only one unaccompanied by fluttering pulse or pounding heart. Disinterested but not indifferent, wonder is a cool passion that fixes on objects for what they are, instead of what they are for us. The wonder of wonder consists in the paradox of a cognitive passion: it has all the force of other passions like love or hate, but it helps rather than hinders reason. It is the passion aroused by anomalies, and the anomaly among the passions.‘
The wonder of wonder consists in the paradox of a cognitive passion: it has all the force of other passions like love or hate, but it helps rather than hinders reason. It is the passion aroused by anomalies, and the anomaly among the passions.
From the blog
On human shields, neve gordon.
In the early 1990s I worked at Physicians for Human Rights – Israel. Not long after the Oslo Accords were signed we moved from offices on Gordon . . .
Look Out for Cosmic Rays
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On Bombing Hospitals
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Old Man Texas and Dealey Plaza
Old Man Texas was a character invented by the Dallas Morning News cartoonist John Knott in 1906. He looked like a cowboy, a figure out of the . . .
Since AI programs, however intelligent they may be, are still only programs, we ought to be able to rely on them to do as they are told. The . . .
One Tick, Two Ticks
My first action on waking is to look at my phone. Press the green WhatsApp icon and hope for two blue ticks. One grey tick is a precursor of . . .
On Non-Violent Resistance
Manal a. jamal.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict (for lack of a better term) did not start on 7 October 2023, and the willingness of Palestinian armed groups . . .
Analysis gone wrong.
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From June 2022 to June 2023, the LRB has been collaborating with the World Weather Network, a constellation of weather stations set up by 28 arts organisations in oceans, deserts, mountains, farmland,...
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LRB Winter Lectures 2010-2020
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Patricia Lockwood on Meeting the Pope
Patricia lockwood and thomas jones.
In June, the pope invited dozens of artists to Rome for the 50th anniversary of the Vatican Museum’s contemporary art collection. Patricia Lockwood, the author of Priestdaddy and a contributing editor at the LRB , was one of them. She tells Tom more about the surreal experience and why irony, in the words of Pope Francis, is ‘a marvellous virtue’.
You can read...
In June, the pope invited dozens of artists to Rome for the 50th anniversary of the Vatican Museum’s contemporary art collection. Patricia Lockwood, the author of Priestdaddy and a...
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Colin burrow and thomas jones.
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If you want to join Colin Burrow and Clare Bucknell for their series on satire next year, and...
George Orwell wasn’t afraid to speak against totalitarianism – but what was he for? Colin Burrow joins Tom to unpick the cultural conservatism and crackling violence underpinning...
The Infected Blood Scandal
Florence sutcliffe-braithwaite , tom crewe and malin hay.
In the 1970s and ’80s, thousands of haemophiliacs in the UK were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through blood products known to be contaminated. In a recent piece, Florence Sutcliffe-Braithewaite outlines the magnitude of the scandal, exacerbated by carelessness, corporate greed and, in one instance, deliberate human experimentation. She joins Malin to discuss the findings and what...
In the 1970s and ’80s, thousands of haemophiliacs in the UK were infected with HIV and hepatitis C through blood products known to be contaminated. In a recent piece, Florence...
The Giant Crypto Fraud
John lanchester and thomas jones.
When Sam Bankman-Fried was found guilty of fraud last week, the only surprise was how quickly the jury reached their verdict. John Lanchester joins Tom to discuss how the former crypto billionaire ended up facing a life sentence, from his early career in finance and embrace of Effective Altruism to the simple but audacious nature of his crime, and why he found himself in a US court, even...
When Sam Bankman-Fried was found guilty of fraud last week, the only surprise was how quickly the jury reached their verdict. John Lanchester joins Tom to discuss how the former crypto billionaire...
Modern-ish Poets (Live): The Waste Land
Mark ford and seamus perry.
Mark Ford and Seamus Perry return for the final episode in their Close Readings series, Modern-ish Poets , looking at 19th and 20th century poetry. On the centenary of the publication of Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ in book form, Mark and Seamus consider how revolutionary the poem was, the numerous meanings that have been drawn out of it, and its lasting influence.This is the...
Mark Ford and Seamus Perry return for the final episode in their Close Readings series, Modern-ish Poets , looking at 19th and 20th century poetry. On the centenary of the publication of...
The Lost Art of Paste-Up
Arranging and rearranging a magazine’s layout before it goes to press is all done on computers now. But in the years before desktop publishing software, the work of cutting and pasting required a sharp scalpel, a parallel-motion board and plenty of glue.
As the London Review of Books celebrates its 40th anniversary, we look back at what paste-up used to involve in the...
Arranging and rearranging a magazine’s layout before it goes to press is all done on computers now. But in the years before desktop publishing software, the work of cutting and pasting...
Eric Hobsbawm: The Consolations of History
In this feature-length documentary, Anthony Wilks traces the connections between the events of Hobsbawm’s life and the history he told, from his teenage years in Germany as Hitler came to power and his communist membership, to the jazz clubs of 1950s Soho and the makings of New Labour, taking in Italian bandits, Peruvian peasant movements and the development of nationalism in...
In this feature-length documentary, Anthony Wilks traces the connections between the events of Hobsbawm’s life and the history he told, from his teenage years in Germany as Hitler came...
New Courses for 2024
Close Readings Plus, the LRB’s pioneering podcast subscription, is back in 2024, with new series on satire, revolutionary thought in the 20th century and truth and lies in the Ancient World. Subscribe now and spend a year in the company of leading LRB contributors and vital literary works.
‘A Series of Headaches’ limited edition print
To mark the quatercentenary of Shakespeare’s First Folio, we have produced a limited edition LRB print, replicating as closely as possible the processes used in 1623, with varying degrees of success.
Christmas Cake Decorating
Christmas late shopping.
In the next issue: Julian Barnes on Monet.
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The 10 Best Book Reviews of 2020
Adam morgan picks parul sehgal on raven leilani, merve emre on lewis carroll, and more.
The pandemic and the birth of my second daughter prevented me from reading most of the books I wanted to in 2020. But I was able to read vicariously through book critics, whose writing was a true source of comfort and escape for me this year. I’ve long told my students that criticism is literature—a genre of nonfiction that can and should be as insightful, experimental, and compelling as the art it grapples with—and the following critics have beautifully proven my point. The word “best” is always a misnomer, but these are my personal favorite book reviews of 2020.
Nate Marshall on Barack Obama’s A Promised Land ( Chicago Tribune )
A book review rarely leads to a segment on The 11th Hour with Brian Williams , but that’s what happened to Nate Marshall last month. I love how he combines a traditional review with a personal essay—a hybrid form that has become my favorite subgenre of criticism.
“The presidential memoir so often falls flat because it works against the strengths of the memoir form. Rather than take a slice of one’s life to lay bare and come to a revelation about the self or the world, the presidential memoir seeks to take the sum of a life to defend one’s actions. These sorts of memoirs are an attempt maybe not to rewrite history, but to situate history in the most rosy frame. It is by nature defensive and in this book, we see Obama’s primary defensive tool, his prodigious mind and proclivity toward over-considering every detail.”
Merve Emre on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland ( The Point )
I’m a huge fan of writing about books that weren’t just published in the last 10 seconds. And speaking of that hybrid form above, Merve Emre is one of its finest practitioners. This piece made me laugh out loud and changed the way I think about Lewis Carroll.
“I lie awake at night and concentrate on Alice, on why my children have fixated on this book at this particular moment. Part of it must be that I have told them it ‘takes place’ in Oxford, and now Oxford—or more specifically, the college whose grounds grow into our garden—marks the physical limits of their world. Now that we can no longer move about freely, no longer go to new places to see new things, we are trying to find ways to estrange the places and objects that are already familiar to us.”
Parul Sehgal on Raven Leilani’s Luster ( The New York Times Book Review )
Once again, Sehgal remains the best lede writer in the business. I challenge you to read the opening of any Sehgal review and stop there.
“You may know of the hemline theory—the idea that skirt lengths fluctuate with the stock market, rising in boom times and growing longer in recessions. Perhaps publishing has a parallel; call it the blurb theory. The more strained our circumstances, the more manic the publicity machine, the more breathless and orotund the advance praise. Blurbers (and critics) speak with a reverent quiver of this moment, anointing every other book its guide, every second writer its essential voice.”
Constance Grady on Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall ( Vox )
Restoring the legacies of ill-forgotten books is one of our duties as critics. Grady’s take on “the least famous sister in a family of celebrated geniuses” makes a good case for Wildfell Hall’ s place alongside Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre in the Romantic canon.
“[T]he heart of this book is a portrait of a woman surviving and flourishing after abuse, and in that, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall feels unnervingly modern. It is fresh, shocking, and wholly new today, 200 years after the birth of its author.”
Ismail Muhammad on Anna Wiener’s Uncanny Valley ( The Atlantic )
Muhammad is a philosophical critic, so it’s always fun to see him tackle a book with big ideas. Here, he makes an enlightened connection between Wiener’s Silicon Valley memoir and Michael Lewis’s 1989 Wall Street exposé, Liar’s Poker.
“Like Lewis, Wiener found ‘a way out of unhappiness’ by writing her own gimlet-eyed generational portrait that doubles as a cautionary tale of systemic dysfunction. But if her chronicle acquires anything like the must-read status that Lewis’s antic tale of a Princeton art-history major’s stint at Salomon Brothers did, it will be for a different reason. For all her caustic insight and droll portraiture, Wiener is on an earnest quest likely to resonate with a public that has been sleepwalking through tech’s gradual reshaping of society.”
Hermione Hoby on Mieko Kawakami’s Breasts and Eggs ( 4 Columns )
Hoby’s thousand-word review is a great example of a critic reading beyond the book to place it in context.
“When Mieko Kawakami’s Breasts and Eggs was first published in 2008, the then-governor of Tokyo, the ultraconservative Shintaro Ishihara, deemed the novel ‘unpleasant and intolerable.’ I wonder what he objected to? Perhaps he wasn’t into a scene in which the narrator, a struggling writer called Natsuko, pushes a few fingers into her vagina in a spirit of dejected exploration: ‘I . . . tried being rough and being gentle. Nothing worked.’”
Taylor Moore on C Pam Zhang’s How Much Of These Hills Is Gold ( The A.V. Club )
Describing Zhang’s wildly imaginative debut novel is hard, but Moore manages to convey the book’s shape and texture in less than 800 words, along with some critical analysis.
“Despite some characteristics endemic to Wild West narratives (buzzards circling prey, saloons filled with seedy strangers), the world of How Much Of These Hills Is Gold feels wholly original, and Zhang imbues its wide expanse with magical realism. According to local lore, tigers lurk in the shadows, despite having died out ‘decades ago’ with the buffalo. There also exists a profound sense of loss for an exploited land, ‘stripped of its gold, its rivers, its buffalo, its Indians, its tigers, its jackals, its birds and its green and its living.’”
Grace Ebert on Paul Christman’s Midwest Futures ( Chicago Review of Books )
I love how Ebert brings her lived experience as a Midwesterner into this review of Christman’s essay collection. (Disclosure: I founded the Chicago Review of Books five years ago, but handed over the keys in July 2019.)
“I have a deep and genuine love for Wisconsin, for rural supper clubs that always offer a choice between chicken soup or an iceberg lettuce salad, and for driving back, country roads that seemingly are endless. This love, though, is conflicting. How can I sing along to Waylon Jennings, Tanya Tucker, and Merle Haggard knowing that my current political views are in complete opposition to the lyrics I croon with a twang in my voice?”
Michael Schaub on Bryan Washington’s Memorial ( NPR )
How do you review a book you fall in love with? It’s one of the most challenging assignments a critic can tackle. But Schaub is a pro; he falls in love with a few books every year.
“Washington is an enormously gifted author, and his writing—spare, unadorned, but beautiful—reads like the work of a writer who’s been working for decades, not one who has yet to turn 30. Just like Lot, Memorial is a quietly stunning book, a masterpiece that asks us to reflect on what we owe to the people who enter our lives.”
Mesha Maren on Fernanda Melchor’s Hurricane Season ( Southern Review of Books )
Maren opens with an irresistible comparison between Melchor’s irreverent novel and medieval surrealist art. (Another Disclosure: I founded the Southern Review of Books in early 2020.)
“Have you ever wondered what internal monologue might accompany the characters in a Hieronymus Bosch painting? What are the couple copulating upside down in the middle of that pond thinking? Or the man with flowers sprouting from his ass? Or the poor fellow being killed by a fire-breathing creature which is itself impaled upon a knife? I would venture to guess that their voices would sound something like the writing of Mexican novelist Fernanda Melchor.”
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