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Shah by Abbas Milani
Nearly every chapter in The Shah, Abbas Milani's skillful biography of Iran's last king, begins with a phrase from Shakespeare's King Richard II, about a tragic figure who believes he is ordained by God to lead his people. He likens himself to the sun and to the lion, is usually festooned in finery ...
The Box: Tales from the Darkroom by Gunter Grass
Gunter Grass, 83, is now in his sixth decade of entrancing, irritating and bewildering readers around the world. He is still most celebrated for his first three novels, the largely allegorical portrayals of midcentury Germany now known as his Danzig trilogy: The Tin Drum (1959), Cat and Mouse (1961)...
If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This: Stories by Robin Black
It's hard to be happy, starting a book of short stories. There's certain heartbreak in it. Best-case scenario, you fall in love with the first story in the collection, only to find its ending already staring you down, shoving you, ready or not, into the next. And if the first piece in the book...
Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy's New Killing Fields by Charles Bowden
It's hard to wrap your brain around the numbers, to make sense of what they portend. Mexico, home to the world's richest man, has had more than 10,000 people killed -- often horrifically -- since January 2007, just a month after President Felipe Calderon declared a literal war on drugs in his...
The Mark Twain Anthology: Great Writers on His Life and Works by Shelley Fisher Fishkin
It is hard to believe -- because he looms so large in our national letters -- that Mark Twain, born Samuel Clemens in 1835, died 100 years ago, on April 21. The anniversary of his death provides an occasion to reappraise his work and rethink his life. Fortunately, critics and biographers have been...
Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoit Chantre (Studies in Violence, Mimesis, and Culture) by Rene Girard
In Laurel and Hardy's Big Business, two door-to-door Christmas tree salesmen fight a bad-tempered homeowner. The manic tit-for-tat escalates from head banging to a demolished house and an exploded car. The three become more and more alike as their wiggy violence spirals without aim or purpose. It...
Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression by Morris Dickstein
The specter of communism haunted America in the 1930s, and would not fade away. By the 1940s, Communists and anti-Communists alike would be haunted by their deeds and misdeeds in the decade that began in 1929, when the Stock Market crashed, and ended in 1941, when the country went to war in Europe...
Field Days: A Year of Farming, Eating, and Drinking Wine in California by Jonah Raskin
At the end of the fall semester of 2006, Sonoma State University communications Professor and author Jonah Raskin, about to turn 65, decided he needed to get in touch with the earth and explore his rural surroundings. "Before it was too late," he writes in Field Days, the account of his yearlong...
The Song Is You by Arthur Phillips
Is that the author you hear chortling with pleasure in the background of The Song Is You Arthur Phillips' delight in his latest compulsively playful novel is almost audible -- and certainly contagious. He has managed, in four very different books in vastly divergent settings, to harness his flights ...
Selected Poems by Thom Gunn
All good poets find strains and paradoxes within the language they learn to wield, but Thom Gunn (1929-2004) found more than most. He became a poet of chaste self-control who could celebrate lust; a painstaking inheritor of English verse traditions who moved to America and embraced the freedoms of...
Out of Exile: The Abducted and Displaced People of Sudan (Voice of Witness) by Craig Walzer
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
Dear Darkness by Kevin Young
Morality Tale by Sylvia Brownrigg and Monica Scott
Mirror of the Arab World: Lebanon in Conflict by Sandra Mackey
The Konkans by Tony D'Souza
Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems by John Ashbery