last year

5 top novels about private detectives

In writing this blog, I’ve read and reviewed 250 detective novels to date. Most of those involve police investigators. A much smaller number feature private detectives, and of that number I’ve awarded @@@@ or @@@@@ (4 or 5 out of 5) to fewer than 50. Below, following a list of my five favorites, I’m listing […]

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last year

10 best alternate history novels reviewed here

Historians don’t have a lot of fun. Usually, the field requires countless hours of slogging through dusty old archives in search of that magical key to historical truth: a primary source. It’s taken for granted that original, contemporaneous materials are superior to anything that might have been said or written later. But I’m not so […]

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last year

Gaining a global perspective on the world around us

I’m sure you’ve found this, too: It’s damnably hard to get a handle on things. Every day, we’re inundated by thousands of bits and pieces of information—online, by mail, on our phones and laptops, and everywhere we walk on the streets of a city or the aisles of a grocery store. How does all this […]

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last year

Mysteries and thrillers set in Scotland

Listed below are more than a dozen mysteries and thrillers set in Scotland. They include two historical courtroom dramas, one of them by Denise Mina and set in Glasgow; Peter May’s atmospheric Lewis Trilogy set in the Outer Hebrides Islands; and seven of the volumes in Ian Rankin’s outstanding series of bestselling detective novels featuring […]

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last year

The pleasures of reading the complete Vorkosigan Saga

Miles Vorkosigan is the central figure in most of the sixteen novels (to date) that comprise the complete Vorkosigan Saga, several books of which have won Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards for Lois McMaster Bujold. Bujold won the Hugo Award four times, matching the record achieved by Robert A. Heinlein—and it’s easy to see why. […]

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last year

The ultimate guide to the all-time best science fiction novels

OK, I’d better qualify that headline. In this survey, I’m not including science fiction written before World War II. Or, for that matter, short stories or anthologies, comic books, or manga. And definitely not fantasy: zombies, vampires, witches, dragons, superheroes, and magical powers all leave me cold. What you’ll see below is a compendium of […]

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last year

The evocative Night Soldiers series from Alan Furst

Alan Furst has written 15 novels to date in his Night Soldiers series, which he began writing late in the 1980s when he was nearly 50 years of age. While attending general studies courses at Columbia University, he became acquainted with Margaret Mead, for whom he later worked. Before becoming a full-time novelist, Furst worked […]

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last year

The spellbinding thrillers of Robert Harris

Robert Harris has been selling millions of books ever since the publication of his first novel, Fatherland, in 1992. Earlier in life, he had worked as a print journalist and a BBC television reporter, and in the 1980s, he published five works of nonfiction. Fatherland sold so well that Harris was able thereafter to devote himself […]

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last year

20 top books about Africa, including both fiction and nonfiction

In the 19th century, as the nations of Europe rushed to grab ever-larger expanses of territory there, Africa was known as the Dark Continent. In some ways, that label is still apt. Everywhere else—Europe, Asia, the Americas—understanding of Africa and Africans is limited, and far too often wildly distorted. It’s time to cast a little […]

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