nonfiction

Thumbs up for An Introduction to Shinto by David Chart. Philosophy.

This was recommended to me as the best introduction to Shinto for the completely ignorant; I agree and will second the recommendation. The author is a Brit by birth, now a Japanese citizen, who has been a devout practitioner of Shinto for many years, and works as a consultant for Jinja Honcho (the largest Shinto organization).… >> Read more

Two thumbs up for A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life by George Saunders. Writing.

With the exception of two or three SFF authors, I don’t enjoy reading short stories, which means I don’t write them with any confidence, either. I am always suspicious that they are merely vignettes rather than stories.… >> Read more

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 Dakota: A Spiritual Geography by Kathleen Norris.

A portrait of a place – the Dakotas – interwoven with the changing religious life of the author. I am tempted to say that I can’t write a review of this book because too long has passed between my reading and my writing. Which is true. However, the time passed because I didn’t know how to review it right after I read the last page, either.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials that Shape Our Man-Made World by Mark Miodownik. Science.

Once I picked this book up, I couldn’t put it down. There’s no guarantee that a scientist passionately obsessed with their subject will be able to convey the beauty of the topic to a lay audience. Miodownik succeeds with ease. In chapters focused around everything from concrete to aerogel, chocolate to porcelain, he touches upon every level of the material, from the Why (does it act like it does) to the How (do we make it) to the What (do we use it for).… >> Read more

Thumbs up for A Book of One’s Own: People and their Diaries by Thomas Mallon. Literary history.

It is a crying shame this book is out of print. After contemplating at length what to say about it, I will have to bow to the supremacy of Phyllis Rose’s review on the back: “This is more than a book about diaries; it’s a celebration of life and the many ways people have of savoring it.” Yes, that.… >> 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