history

Thumbs up for Anglican Women Novelists: From Charlotte Brontë to P.D. James edited by Judith Maltby and Alison Shell. Literary criticism.

At the risk of sounding facetious: it is a book of short biographies and literary analyses of Anglican Women Novelists; and it is excellent. Does the topic interest you? Then read it. You will discover interesting things, your literary conversations will expand, and you will discover even more authors you want to read.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for What Matters in Jane Austen?: Twenty Crucial Puzzles Solved by John Mullan. Literary criticism.

I will laugh gently over the world “crucial” in the title. Crucial, no. Some of the topics touched upon in these essays are rather silly. But most are illuminating in some way, and when they are good they are very interesting indeed. I particularly enjoyed the discussion of “What Games do Characters Play?” (which refers to cards, not psychological games).… >> Read more

Thumbs up for The Lost Art of Dress: The Women Who Once Made America Stylish by Linda Przybyszewski. Fashion history/Women’s history.

I read this in one sitting. The jacket blurb emphasizes the group of women called the Dress Doctors, who gave wardrobe advice to American women in the early- to mid-20th century; but it ranges much broader than a few personalities.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson. Literary history.

The publisher Quirk Books’s jawdropping and funny reference to vintage horror novels, Paperbacks from Hell, was one of my favorite books of 2017. When I saw they were publishing a history of women horror writers I got very excited.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for The Regency Years: During Which Jane Austen Writes, Napoleon Fights, Byron Makes Love, and Britain Becomes Modern by Robert Morrison. History.

I was puzzled, at first, by this book: why in heaven’s name does it start with crime, punishment, and riots? The violent political backdrop of the Regency is certainly important, but starting there—in a somewhat academic style no less—immediately excluded this book from being what I thought it perhaps was: a narrative primer of the period.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Taking the Medicine: A Short History of Medicine’s Beautiful Idea, and Our Difficulty Swallowing It by Druin Burch. History.

If the history of medicine, in the specific sense of “things we take to feel better”–from opium to thalidomide, penicillin to aspirin–sounds at all interesting to you, read this book. That won’t apply to most of you, of course.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for S.P.Q.R.: A History of Ancient Rome by Mary Beard. History.

No, I am not one of those people who reads histories of Rome so I can point at current political events and say “See, this is just like that!” Comparing, say, ~240 years of American power to ~2,000 years of Roman power shows a problematic understanding of scale.… >> Read more