America's Nazi Secret: An Insider's History
Trine Day, 2010
336 pp., $24.95
Zift: A Noir Novel
Paul Dry Books, 2010
200 pp., $14.95
Books of 2010, A-Z
The Natural Desire to See God According to St. Thomas Aquinas and His Interpreters. Lawrence Feingold. Sapientia Press of Ave Maria University. Here's what I wrote about this book for Christianity Today: "What we tend to think of as distinctively Protestant concerns regularly show up in other streams of the faith. Matters such as total depravity and prevenient grace are central to this patient exposition, which will reward every minute of your attention. If I add that the cover of the book—framing a detail from a sculpture of a woman—is among the most enticing I have seen this year, you may wonder why you should care. To understand its relevance to the book's argument, you'll have to read the note on the copyright page identifying the sculpture and the brief bio of the author on the back cover."
Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory. Ben Macintyre. Crown. And Deathly Deception: The Real Story of Operation Mincemeat. Denis Smyth. Oxford University Press. If you are a fan of real-life tales of espionage as well as the fictional variety (though the line between them isn't always clear), you'll want to read one or both of these accounts of a wonderfully devious World War II exploit.
The Pre-Raphaelites from Rossetti to Ruskin. Edited by Dinah Roe. Penguin Classics. And Ford Madox Brown: A Catalogue Raisonne. Mary Bennett. Yale University Press. Dinah Roe has compiled a fine anthology of Pre-Raphaelite poetry, representing one important aspect of the work of this "loose and baggy collective." Another aspect of their work is paid tribute in Mary Bennett's superb two-volume catalogue of Ford Madox Brown, one of the year's treasures.
Quiet! A while back I mentioned the growing number of books on silence, noise, and natural sound. That trend continued in 2010, with In Pursuit of Silence: Listening for Meaning in a World of Noise, by George Prochnick, published in April by Doubleday. For another, richer book in this vein, see the entry for "U" below.
The Reversal. Michael Connelly. Little, Brown. Mickey Haller and Harry Bosch are working together again in this fast-paced story. Which reminds me that the film based on an earlier Connelly novel, The Lincoln Lawyer, in which Mickey Haller first played a lead role, is coming in 2011.
The Search for Philip K. Dick. Anne R. Dick. Tachyon. This book by Philip K. Dick's third wife has been published in a couple of earlier editions. Somehow this time it managed to get a bit more circulation, and I expect that many PKD readers will be thankful (as I was) to have it, despite its rough edges.
Thinking in Tongues: Pentecostal Contributions to Christian Philosophy. James K. A. Smith. Eerdmans. This is one of three volumes just published by Eerdmans inaugurating a new series, Pentecostal Manifestos. Look for reviews of all three in Books & Culture. (Jamie Smith's book has one of the best titles of any book I've seen this year in any genre. I expect the book itself will be pretty good too.)
The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want: A Book About Noise. Garret Keizer. PublicAffairs. The best of the recent crop of books on the soundscape. I've been working on a piece about this cluster of books for months now. And meanwhile the pile of books keeps growing.
Visions of Tomorrow: Science Fiction Predictions That Came True. Edited by Thomas A. Easton and Judith K. Dahl. Skyhorse. The subtitle is a come-on: only a few of the pieces included here actually live up to that description. But it's an entertaining collection nonetheless. (Never mind the chorus of voices insisting that "prediction" really has nothing to do with science fiction. Sometimes it does; sometimes it doesn't. The argument is silly. And see the entry under "Y" below.)
What Makes a Civilization? The Ancient Near East and the Future of the West. David Wengrow. Oxford University Press. Self-consciously contrarian, informed by deep learning but written accessibly, wrong-headed (so I think), this is a book to learn from and argue with.
X. The unknown book.
The Year 3000: A Dream. Paolo Mantegazza. University of Nebraska Press.Mantegazza's utopian novel was published in Italian in 1897. This is, we're told, the first English edition, translated by David Jacobsen and edited by Niccoletta Pireddu, who provides a very interesting and substantial introductory essay. Part of the fun is comparing what Mantegazza foresaw with what has come to pass. And then there is the cast of his utopian vision. (There's a description, late in the book, of the evolution of Christianity: "Christ's religion has been freed of metaphysical dogmas and has become almost thoroughly just a very lofty form of charity.")
Zift: Socialist Noir. Vladislav Todorov. Paul Dry Books. When was the last time you read a novel translated from the Bulgarian? Thanks to Paul Dry, and to translator Joseph Benatov, you now have the opportunity to do so. As the subtitle suggests, Todorov's novel is strongly flavored with parody. Never mind poetry: translating parody is REALLY tough. I was often unsure of the intended tone as I read: a kind of pulp surrealism prevails. (The title is defined in an epigraph at the outset. I'll leave that for you.)
John Wilson is the editor of Books & Culture.
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