Our 5 Most Popular Posts: January 2024
- February 2, 2024
We love every piece we run. There are no winners or losers. But all kidding aside, here are January’s winners.
- Sunil Dasgupta’s review of Boy Swallows Universe: A Novel by Trent Dalton (Harper). “In Boy Swallows Universe, Australian author Trent Dalton delivers a grit-lit story set in working-class Brisbane. An overly articulate 12-year-old who’s growing up with a non-verbal brother, a psychotic drunk of a father, a drug-dealing stepfather, an abused mother, and a real-life Yoda sets the terms for this violent and sometimes magical coming-of-age tale.”
- Jay Hancock’s Review of By the Numbers: Numeracy, Religion, and the Quantitative Transformation of Early Modern England by Jessica Marie Otis (Oxford University Press). “Arabic numerals were so embedded in the commercial system by 1700 that it ‘would go near to ruine the Trade of the Nation’ if merchants had to revert to Roman numerals, tally sticks, and other older systems, Otis quotes a Scottish physician and mathematician as saying. Like all good historians, though, she cautions readers against modernity bias, in this case assuming that Arabic notation seemed any more familiar to most early-modern Europeans than, say, Norse runes look to people today.”
- Kitty Kelley’s review of The Counterfeit Countess: The Jewish Woman Who Rescued Thousands of Poles During the Holocaust by Elizabeth B. White and Joanna Sliwa (Simon & Schuster). “The voice of the countess is so powerful that one wishes the academic co-authors, accomplished as they may be in assembling statistics and geographical details, had allowed her to tell the story in her own words, and then, perhaps, buttressed her account with their prodigious research from Holocaust museums and libraries in the U.S., Canada, Argentina, Uruguay, Germany, and Poland. Although the countess’ memoir concentrates only on what she saw and learned about human nature within the terrible crucible of occupied Poland, her words, her thoughts, and her recollections are enough to lead her story.”
- Larry Matthews’ review of November 1942: An Intimate History of the Turning Point of World War II by Peter Englund; translated by Peter Graves (Knopf). “While reading, I found myself drawing parallels to what’s happening in the world today. It’s not on the same scale, of course, but even now cities are being bombed and the joy is being squeezed out of life for countless men, women, and children. November 1942 is a reminder of what can happen when the evil in the human spirit overwhelms our better angels. It’s not just a good book, it’s a great one, and it belongs on everyone’s shelves. Find a comfortable chair and settle in with Englund’s work for a long winter’s read. It’s well worth it.”
- Chris Rutledge’s review of Above the Fire: A Novel by Michael O’Donnell (Blackstone Publishing). “The strength of Above the Fire lies in O’Donnell’s decision to leave the big-picture, extraneous questions alone. It would’ve been easy for the narrative to devolve into a typical dystopian gore-fest, complete with fiery battles and overt clashes between good and evil. Instead, the author keeps his focus internal, addressing the struggles Doug faces in his own heart — the struggles any of us would face. It makes for a captivating read, and one that’s hard not to race through. Do yourself a favor, though. Take your time and savor every moment. This is a wonderful book.”