New Books Network

Charles J. Shields, “And So It Goes. Kurt Vonnegut, A Life” (Henry Holt, 2011)
The public image of Kurt Vonnegut is that of a crusty, irascible old man. Someone with whom one would want to drink, but never ever fall in love. The Vonnegut we meet in Charles J. Shields’s insightful new biography, And So It Goes. Kurt Vonnegut: A Life (Henry Holt, 2011),... Read More
Rosamund Bartlett, “Tolstoy: A Russia Life” (Houghton Mifflin, 2011)
I vividly recall a time in my life–especially my late teens and early twenties–when I thought I could be anyone but had no idea which anyone to be. For this I blame (or credit) my liberal arts education, which convinced me that there was really nothing I couldn’t master but... Read More
Alan Nadel, “August Wilson: Completing the Twentieth-Century Cycle” (University of Iowa Press, 2010)
Many scholars consider August Wilson to be the premier American playwright of the 20th Century. Alan Nadel is surely one of their number. In the early 1990s, he focused our attention on Wilson’s plays in the outstanding collection of essays May All Your Fences Have Gates: Essays on the Drama... Read More
Jonathan Steinberg, “Bismarck: A Life” (Oxford UP, 2011)
What is the role of personality in shaping history? Shortly before the beginning of the First World War, the German sociologist Max Weber puzzled over this question. He was sure that there was a kind of authority that drew strength from character itself. He called this authority “charismatic,” a type... Read More
Megan Marshall, “The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism” (Houghton Mifflin, 2005)
This interview is re-posted with permission from Jenny Attiyeh’s ThoughtCast.] Author Megan Marshall has recently written a well-received biography of Elizabeth, Mary, and Sophia Peabody: The Peabody Sisters: Three Women Who Ignited American Romanticism (Houghton Mifflin, 2005). The Peabodys were key players in the founding of the Transcendentalist movement in... Read More
Carol Bundy, “The Nature of Sacrifice: A Biography of Charles Russell Lowell, Jr., 1835-64” (FSG, 2005)
[This interview is re-posted with permission from Jenny Attiyeh’s ThoughtCast] At a time when the country’s attention is focused on the ever-expanding list of American war dead, Carol Bundy‘s biography of a Union officer who sacrifices his life in the Civil War is eerily apt. The Nature of Sacrifice. A... Read More
Benjamin Binstock, “Vermeer’s Family Secrets: Genius, Discovery, and the Unknown Apprentice” (Routledge, 2009)
Ben Binstock‘s Vermeer’s Family Secrets: Genius, Discovery, and the Unknown Apprentice (Routledge, 2009) is one of the most fascinating books I have ever read. It does what all good history books should do–tell you something you thought you knew but in fact don’t–but it does it ON EVERY PAGE. I... Read More