Sara Paretsky, Brush Back, book review

The latest in Sara Paretsky’s excellent V I Warshawski series which follows the work of a private detective in Chicago. (This is No 17 and by now Warshawksi has a more lovingly detailed backstory than a Marvel superhero.)

Peter Walker, Some here Among Us, book review

Peter Walker’s third novel opens in New Zealand, where a group of middle-aged friends convene to visit the grave of Morgan Tawhai, an erudite, enigmatic Maori who enlivened the group’s time together at university in Auckland, where they read, partied, and demonstrated against the Vietnam War.

Patrick Flanery, I Am No One: Coming to take him away

Patrick Flanery’s topical, multi-layered novel probes the ubiquitous culture of surveillance today and its potential ramifications for a democratic society. Jeremy O’ Keefe, an American professor of modern history and politics, knows all about the dangers of monitoring others’ lives, having specialised in East Germany and the Stasi. However, he does not expect to become a government target himself .

Jean Stein, West of Eden: An American Place, book review

Hollywood was a forcing-ground for the emotions; it would always find your flaws and magnify your weaknesses. Jean Stein’s oral histories of five Los Angeles lives make for uncomfortable reading. There’s a sense of lurking dread in these sunlit pages, so that even recollections of happy occasions feel off-kilter. 

Dean Burnett, The Idiot Brain: 'Lifting the lid on our grey matter'

Dean Burnett, a neuroscientist and Guardian blogger, renders the workings of the brain accessible to lay people without being patronising. In The Idiot Brain, he undertakes a journey through the workings of this most complex organ, covering many aspects of the brain’s function. Burnett has a sideline as a stand-up comedian, and this is obvious from the quips with which he lightens his writing. The result is a factual book that is far removed from other dry scientific tomes. The chapters are subdivided into shorter sections, which also eases digestibility.

Hannah Crawford & Elizabeth Scott Baumann, On Shakespeare’s Sonnets

Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616. Except that he didn’t. He’s been alive and well for four centuries. He’s ever-present in our vocabulary, idioms, images and culture. “My verse shall stand” he asserts in Sonnet 60, and, in Sonnet 55, that “Not marble nor the gilded monuments/ Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme”. His confidence in the strength of his own verbal immortality, expressed in so many of the sonnets, has proved more than justified.