Magnificent Marvel Supersale


New York Review of Books


The Bloody White Baron: The Extraordinary Story of the Russian Nobleman Who Became the Last Khan of Mongolia by James Palmer

A Mad, Bad, and Brutal Baron

A review by Anne Applebaum

Like a contemporary reincarnation of Adela Quest, the heroine of E.M. Forster's A Passage to India, James Palmer was both attracted and repelled by his first encounter with the grotesque, grimacing, wooden gods of Inner Mongolia:

I entered the shrine of a gruesome god, his sharp teeth grinning and his head festooned with skulls. I wasn't certain who he was, since the Tibetan pantheon inherited by the Mongolians is replete with such figures. In a small dark room, with incense burning and other gargoyles looming, it seemed capable of an awful, twitching animation; I felt it might lick its lips at any moment. A rural Mongolian couple were kneeling on the floor before it, chanting and kowtowing; they'd brought oranges to feed the god and cash to bribe him. Even after the pilgrims had left, I didn't want to stand in front of the thing, let alone examine it closely; it was the first time I'd had any concrete sense of the word "idol."

Although he was "raised...

Previously Reviewed by New York Review of Books
Sort: by date | by title | by author

Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth (Massey Lectures) by Margaret Eleanor Atwood

The Reserve: A Novel by Russell Banks

Nothing to Be Frightened of by Julian Barnes

The Tremendous World I Have Inside My Head: Franz Kafka: A Biographical Essay by Louis Begley

When the Press Fails: Political Power and the News Media from Iraq to Katrina (Studies in Communication, Media, and Public Opinion) by W. Lance Bennett

The Father of All Things: A Marine, His Son, and the Legacy of Vietnam by Tom Bissell

American Lightning: Terror, Mystery, the Birth of Hollywood, and the Crime of the Century by Howard Blum

Boxing: A Cultural History by Kasia Boddy

Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice (UK Edition) by Patricia Fortini Brown

The China Lover by Ian Buruma

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron

His Illegal Self by Peter Carey

Thermopylae: The Battle That Changed the World by Paul Cartledge

A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World (Princeton Economic History of the Western World) by Greg Clark

Diary of a Bad Year by J. M. Coetzee

The Adventures of Pinocchio (New York Review Books) by Carlo Collodi

The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family in the American Century by Steve Coll

Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population by Matthew Connelly

Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthelme by Tracy Daugherty

Hiding Man: A Biography of Donald Barthelme by Tracy Daugherty

Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home by David Shipley and Will Schwalbe

Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America 1492-1830 by J. H. Elliott

Custerology: The Enduring Legacy of the Indian Wars and George Armstrong Custer by Michael A. Elliott

Cold War at 30,000 Feet: The Anglo-American Fight for Aviation Supremacy by Jeffrey A. Engel

Invisible Cure (07 - Old Edition) by Epstein

The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World by Niall Ferguson

The Unknown Terrorist: A Novel by Richard Flanagan

Dry Storeroom No. 1: The Secret Life of the Natural History Museum by Richard Fortey

The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved by Judith Freeman

All the Sad Young Literary Men by Keith Gessen

Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa by Peter Godwin

The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus: What's So Good about the Good News? by Peter J Gomes

Sea Change: Poems by Jorie Graham

Big Squeeze: Tough Times for American Work (08 Edition) by Steven Greenhouse

Alice in Jamesland: The Story of Alice Howe Gibbens James by Susan E. Gunter

Can't Remember What I Forgot: The Good News from the Front Lines of Memory Research by Sue Halpern

The Comanche Empire (Lamar Series in Western History) by Pekka Hamalainen

The Believers: A Novel by Zoe Heller

The Complete Ripley Novels: The Talented Mr. Ripley, Ripley Under Ground, Ripley's Game, the Boy Who Followed Ripley, Ripley Under Water by Patricia Highsmith

The Superorganism: The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies by Bert Holldobler

Letters of Ted Hughes by Ted Hughes

Vincent Van Gogh: Painted with Words: The Letters to Emile Bernard by Leo Jansen

Beijing Coma by Ma Jian

The Social Life of Information by John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid

Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century by Tony Judt

Jia: A Novel of North Korea by Hyejin Kim

Benjamin Disraeli (Jewish Encounters) by Adam Kirsch

Living with Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith by Philip Kitcher

The Executor: A Comedy of Letters by Michael Kruger

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Last Chicken in America by Ellen Litman

The New Cold War: Putin's Russia and the Threat to the West by Edward Lucas

Afloat by Guy De Maupassant

Books: A Memoir by Larry McMurtry

Fire and Knowledge: Fiction and Essays by Peter Nadas

Things I've Been Silent About: Memories by Azar Nafisi

A Writer's People: Ways of Looking and Feeling by V. S. Naipaul

Von Braun: Dreamer of Space, Engineer of War by Michael J. Neufeld

Lost Paradise by Cees Nooteboom

Henry James: The Mature Master by Sheldon M Novick

Frank O'Hara: Selected Poems by Frank Ohara

Netherland by Joseph O'Neill

The Bloody White Baron: The Extraordinary Story of the Russian Nobleman Who Became the Last Khan of Mongolia by James Palmer

Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States by Trita Parsi

My Three Fathers: And the Elegant Deceptions of My Mother, Susan Mary Alsop by William Patten

Antoine's Alphabet: Watteau and His World by Jed Perl

The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature by Steven Pinker

Posthumous Keats: A Personal Biography by Stanley Plumly

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan

Learning to Drive: And Other Life Stories by Katha Pollitt

Lush Life: A Novel by Richard Price

About My Life and the Kept Woman: A Memoir by John Rechy

Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

Home: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson

The Letters of Samuel Beckett: Volume 1, 1929-1940 (Letters of Samuel Beckett) by Samuel Beckett and Martha Dow Fehsenfeld and Lois More Overbeck

Let's See (08 Edition) by Peter Schjeldahl

Dreams from the Monster Factory: A Tale of Prison, Redemption and One Woman's Fight to Restore Justice to All by Sunny Schwartz

U.S. vs. Them: How a Half Century of Conservatism Has Undermined America's Security by J Peter Scoblic

At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches by Susan Sontag

The New Paradigm for Financial Markets: The Credit Crisis of 2008 and What It Means by George Soros

Nine (07 Edition) by Andrzej Stasiuk

Mother's Milk by Edward St Aubyn

A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited about Obama and Why He Can't Win by Shelby Steele

Alexander the Great: A Life in Legend by Richard Stoneman

Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1963 by Susan Sontag and David Reiff

Tomorrow by Graham Swift

Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux

Shadow of the Silk Road by Colin Thubron

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned: Stories by Wells Tower

Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egypt by Joyce Tyldesley

Douglas Fairbanks by Jeffrey Vance

Aeneid (08 Edition) by Vergil

The Selected Essays of Gore Vidal by Gore Vidal

Notebooks by Tennessee Williams

The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom by Simon Winchester

Breath: A Novel by Tim Winton

God's Silence (06 Edition) by Wright

Littlefoot: A Poem by Charles Wright

Chagall: A Biography by Jackie Wullschlager

Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang by Ziyang Zhao

Confessions: An Innocent Life in Communist China by Kang Zhengguo

Click here to subscribe
Special offer for the New York Review of Books — Save $50!

For over 45 years, the New York Review of Books has been the place where the world's leading authors, educators, artists, and political leaders turn when they wish to engage in a spirited debate on literature, politics, art, and ideas. We invite you to join them. Subscribe today and get a full year (20 issues) of the New York Review for just $69 — a $50 savings off the cover price!

Click here to subscribe and save $50! spacer

  • back to top


Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at