Our 7 Most Favorable Reviews in February 2024

  • March 5, 2024

We came, we read, we gushed. Here’s a recap of the titles that left us especially warm and swoony last month.

Our 7 Most Favorable Reviews in February 2024

A Noble Ruin: Mark Antony, Civil War, and the Collapse of the Roman Republic by W. Jeffrey Tatum (Oxford University Press). Reviewed by Bob Duffy. “W. Jeffrey Tatum’s A Noble Ruin sets out to strip away all the antique propaganda, both defamatory and boosterish, and aims at the same time to integrate the work of 20th- and 21st-century commentators into an accurate whole. The book succeeds on both scores, giving us a gripping portrait of a figure who, as much as any, embodies the Roman world as it teetered in mid-slide from republic to empire. It’s a dazzling achievement — authoritative, engaging, and marvelously readable.”

The Qur’an: A Verse Translation by M.A.R. Habib and Bruce B. Lawrence (Liveright). Reviewed by Mike Maggio. “These aspects of language don’t always translate cleanly. Certain texts, such as scientific and news articles, translate more easily than others. Poetry adds a rich layer of complexity. And then there are religious texts like the Bible and the Qur’an, esoteric by their very nature and perhaps the most difficult to translate of all. Witness, then, The Qur’an: A Verse Translation, by M.A.R. Habib and Bruce B. Lawrence…[who]…spent 10 years collaborating on the most difficult of tasks: translating into English not only what is the basis of one of the world’s great religions but what is also considered the quintessential written example of the Arabic language.”

The Night of the Storm: A Novel by Nishita Parekh (Dutton). Reviewed by Eliza Nellums. “If you’re going to set a book amid a hurricane, readers will expect certain things: the loss of power, howling winds, water rushing in under the door. Parekh delivers on her premise — from showing us Seema’s living room full of expensive furniture destroyed by flooding, all the way up to the inevitable moments where our heroes head to the roof with the literal ax. The climax of the mystery and the climax of the storm are necessarily paired together, but in this story, at least, human nature proves far more destructive than Mother Nature.”

The Holocaust: An Unfinished History by Dan Stone (Mariner Books). Reviewed by Andrew M. Mayer. “Dan Stone is to be commended for bearing witness to these truths in The Holocaust. His shining a light on the origins of the Shoah, its reinterpretation by contemporary historians, and the malign persistence of antisemitism — evident in right-wing politics around the globe; in tiki-torch-wielding white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia; and in the incendiary rhetoric proclaiming Jews as synonymous with Israel and thus complicit in that country’s current fight against Hamas — is painful but necessary for today’s ongoing debate about humanity’s past and its future.”

The Invocations by Krystal Sutherland (Nancy Paulsen Books). Reviewed by Nick Havey. “Sutherland reminds us early on that ‘translation is an art.’ Speaking about the importance of carefully crafted language when yoking a demon to one’s soul, she tells us ‘it is about conveying a deeper meaning, about painting an image in the demon’s photo-mind, something deep and visceral that it can understand.’ Emer’s gift is her control over language. She does the best curse-writing possible, and the demons under her command respect that. Language is important because it translates into power, both within the context of the novel and in the larger society bound by patriarchy. Gender is a construct, and men have weaponized it. Curse-writing is a response to that.”

The Killing Ground: A Biography of Thermopylae by Myke Cole and Michael Livingston (Osprey Publishing). Reviewed by Peggy Kurkowski. “Setting their investigational goal posts wide, the authors explore 27 independent battles and holding actions at Thermopylae over the course of 2,500 years. Moving from the renowned encounters between Greeks and Persians, Cole and Livingston catalog a series of clashes along this rugged strip of Greece’s Malian Gulf coast that includes Romans, Gauls, Goths, Byzantines, Huns, Ottomans, and even World War II battles between Germans and Allied forces.”

The Washington Book: How to Read Politics and Politicians by Carlos Lozada (Simon & Schuster). Reviewed by Kitty Kelley. “The motherlode of the book is the 26 pages he devotes to the chapter entitled ‘9/11 Was a Test, and We Failed.’ Here, the author soars above political musings to address the ultimate subject of civilization’s existence…This chapter displays scholarship at its finest, bolstered by inspired writing and thorough research worthy of a dissertation. It should be required reading for White House staff, members of Congress, and all government agencies handling national security, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Council, and the Departments of State, Defense, and Treasury. For this chapter alone, Lozada deserves a second Pulitzer — for public service.”

Subscribe to our newsletter here, and follow us on Instagram, X, Facebook, Pinterest, and Bluesky. Advertise with us here.

Believe in what we do? Support the nonprofit Independent!
comments powered by Disqus