December 2013 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Year-end Bookish Book Roundup

Throughout the year, and especially in the fall, we receive many new books from publishers, some of which seem relevant and interesting to our readership (i.e., you), but few of which we can actually get around to reviewing. So here's a list of the ones we didn't get to read (yet) -- one might strike you as a the perfect holiday gift for someone on your list, or yourself.

On the top of my to-read pile is Warren Lehrer's A Life in Books: The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley (GOFF Books, $34.95). Not just a graphic novel, but an "illuminated" novel, it contains 101 books within it, all written by the protagonist, and showing the dust jacket art, catalogue copy, and excerpts. It sounds ambitious and brilliant, and I can't wait to dive in.  

Small-BookofLegendaryLands_Eco_cover copy.jpgUmberto Eco, no stranger to book lovers, has a new volume out called The Book of Legendary Lands (Rizzoli ex libris, $45), promising readers a tour of the fabled places in literature and folklore. It is a hefty volume with lavish color photography, bound in white cloth and covered with a jacket that reproduces a Thomas Cole painting.

Shakespeare fan? I have two for you. One is the door-stopping Royal Shakespeare Company edition of William Shakespeare & Others: Collaborative Plays (Palgrave Macmillan, $39.95), edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen. It includes plays thought to be authored or co-authored by the Bard, but excluded from the First Folio. The other -- Neil MacGregor's Shakespeare's Restless World: A Portrait of an Era in Twenty Objects (Viking, $36) -- is a romp by comparison. But don't let that fool you. The objects he chooses have cultural weight: a rapier is meant to remind us about the danger of London streets in the sixteenth century, and plague proclamations much the same.

If you value Proust over Shakespeare, perhaps the newly edited and annotated edition of Swann's Way (Yale University Press, $22). The new edition celebrates the 100th anniversary of the book's original publication. It looks like a friendly edition of a book that is otherwise impenetrable.

Yale-Little History.jpgTwo "little histories" might be the right speed. John Sutherland's A Little History of Literature (Yale University Press, $25) offers a genial look at literature from Greek myths to Fifty Shades of Grey, while the re-issued illustrated edition of E.H. Gombrich's A Little History of the World (Yale University Press, $22) has great color photography and easily digestible chapters.  

And for those interested in scholarly longreads, a trio of titles from University of Pennsylvania Press will do: try Blind Impressions: Methods and Mythologies in Book History by Joseph A. Dane ($65), Jeremiah's Scribes: Creating Sermon Literature in Puritan New England by Meredith Marie Neuman ($69.95), and Bound to Read: Compilations, Collections, and the Making of Renaissance Literature by Jeffrey Todd Knight ($59.95).

Happy reading!