General book blog.

Barraclough, Eleanor Rosamund . Beyond the Northlands: Viking Voyages and the Old Norse Sagas. New York. 2016. Oxford University Press. 9780198701248. 52 color illustrations. 320 pages. hardcover. 


9780198701248FROM THE PUBLISHER -


In the dying days of the eighth century, the Vikings erupted onto the international stage with brutal raids and slaughter. The medieval Norsemen may be best remembered as monk murderers and village pillagers, but this is far from the whole story. Throughout the Middle Ages, long-ships transported hairy northern voyagers far and wide, where they not only raided but also traded, explored and settled new lands, encountered unfamiliar races, and embarked on pilgrimages and crusades. The Norsemen travelled to all corners of the medieval world and beyond; north to the wastelands of arctic Scandinavia, south to the politically turbulent heartlands of medieval Christendom, west across the wild seas to Greenland and the fringes of the North American continent, and east down the Russian waterways trading silver, skins, and slaves. Beyond the Northlands explores this world through the stories that the Vikings told about themselves in their sagas. But the depiction of the Viking world in the Old Norse-Icelandic sagas goes far beyond historical facts. What emerges from these tales is a mixture of realism and fantasy, quasi-historical adventures and exotic wonder-tales that rocket far beyond the horizon of reality. On the crackling brown pages of saga manuscripts, trolls, dragons and outlandish tribes jostle for position with explorers, traders, and kings. To explore the sagas and the world that produced them, Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough now takes her own trip through the dramatic landscapes that they describe. Along the way, she illuminates the rich but often confusing saga accounts with a range of other evidence: archaeological finds, rune-stones, medieval world maps, encyclopaedic manuscripts, and texts from as far away as Byzantium and Baghdad. As her journey across the Old Norse world shows, by situating the sagas against the revealing background of this other evidence, we can begin at least to understand just how the world was experienced, remembered, and imagined by this unique culture from the outermost edge of Europe so many centuries ago.



Barraclough Eleanor RosamundEleanor Rosamund Barraclough is a Lecturer in Medieval Literature at Durham University. In 2013 she was chosen as one of ten BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinkers, in a competition to find young academics with the potential to turn their research into programmes for broadcast. Eleanor's research often takes her to the chilly Nordic climes of Scandinavia, Iceland, and Greenland. Whilst researching this book, Eleanor had many far-flung adventures of her own: bumping along on the back of an Icelandic horse whilst exploring Norse ruins in Greenland, sailing ice fjords under the midnight sun with a caribou hunter, and searching for Norse rune-stones in Sweden. Her proudest moment came when travelling across Arctic Norway, where she was knighted with a walrus penis bone in Hammerfest and became a member of the Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society.





Graeber, David. Debt: The First 5,000 Years. Brooklyn/London. 2014. Melville House. 9781612194196. 542 pages. paperback. Cover design by Carol Hayes.

9781612194196FROM THE PUBLISHER -


The groundbreaking international best-seller that turns everything you think about money, debt, and society on its head—from the “brilliant, deeply original political thinker” David Graeber (Rebecca Solnit, author of Men Explain Things to Me). Before there was money, there was debt. For more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods—that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors—which lives on in full force to this day. So says anthropologist David Graeber in a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom. He shows that arguments about debt and debt forgiveness have been at the center of political debates from Renaissance Italy to Imperial China, as well as sparking innumerable insurrections. He also brilliantly demonstrates that the language of the ancient works of law and religion (words like “guilt,” “sin,” and “redemption”) derive in large part from ancient debates about debt, and shape even our most basic ideas of right and wrong. We are still fighting these battles today.



Graeber DavidDavid Rolfe Graeber (February 12, 1961 – September 2, 2020) was an American anthropologist, anarchist activist, and author known for his books Debt: The First 5000 Years (2011), The Utopia of Rules (2015) and Bullshit Jobs: A Theory (2018). He was a professor of anthropology at the London School of Economics. As an assistant and later associate professor of anthropology at Yale University from 1998 to 2007, Graeber specialized in theories of value and social theory. Yale's decision not to rehire him when he would otherwise have become eligible for tenure sparked an academic controversy. He went on to become, from 2007 to 2013, reader in social anthropology at Goldsmiths, University of London. His activism included protests against the 3rd Summit of the Americas in Quebec City in 2001, and at the 2002 World Economic Forum in New York City. Graeber was a leading figure in the Occupy Wall Street movement, and is sometimes credited with having coined the slogan "We are the 99%". He accepted credit for the description "the 99%" but said that others had expanded it into the slogan.





Sciascia, Leonardo. The Knight and Death & One Way or Another. London. 1991. Granta Books. 1862075794. Translated from the Italian by Avril Bardoni. 155 pages. paperback. Design: random. Photograph: Getty/Stone. 




The Knight and Death two men — Sandoz, a prominent lawyer, and Aurispa, president of a large exchange mysterious handwritten corporation notes at a dinner party (a joke, or something more sinister?). Hours later Sandoz is murdered and the shadow of suspicion moves from Aurispa to a telephone call from the self-styled 'Children of Eighty-nine'. But are they really a terrorist threat, or a political red-herring created for the Italian media? One Way or Another is a chillingly prophetic work that ranks among the best of Sciascia. Among the oak and chestnut trees of an undefined and beautiful place, the narrator, a painter, chances upon an asphalt square with a cement palace built around it. A hotel? A hermitage? Or both? He recognizes the men entering the building as the industrial, religious, political and military chiefs of Italy. The rendezvous turns out to be an occasion for secret deals and fixes, as well as spiritual recreation. Everything appears to go according to plan until suddenly one guest is murdered, then another. ‘Leonardo Sciascia is in the very first rank of Italian writers ... his books are both lucid and mysterious; they address complex public subjects with clarity and elegance; they move with the pace of thrillers and have the resonance of poetry' Philip Hensher, Spectator.


Sciascia LeonardoLeonardo Sciascia (January 8, 1921 – November 20, 1989) was an Italian writer, novelist, essayist, playwright and politician. Some of his works have been made into films, including Open Doors (1990) and Il giorno della civetta (1968). Sciascia was born in Racalmuto, Sicily. In 1935 his family moved to Caltanissetta; here Sciascia studied under Vitaliano Brancati, who would become his model in writing and introduce him to French novelists. From Giuseppe Granata, future Communist member of the Italian Senate, he learned about the French Enlightenment and American literature. In 1944 he married Maria Andronico, an elementary school teacher in Racalmuto. In 1948 his brother committed suicide, an event which had a profound impact on Sciascia. Sciascia's first work, Favole della dittatura (“Fables of the Dictatorship”), a satire on fascism, was published in 1950 and included 27 short poems. This was followed in 1952 by La Sicilia, il suo cuore, also a poetry collection, illustrated by Emilio Greco. The following year Sciascia won the Premio Pirandello, awarded by the Sicily region, for his essay 'Pirandello e il pirandellismo.' In 1954 he began collaborating with literature and ethnology magazines published by Salvatore Sciascia in Caltanissetta. In 1956 he published Le parrocchie di Regalpetra, an autobiographic novel inspired by his experience as an elementary school teacher in his home town. In the same year he moved to teach in Caltanissetta, only to move again to Rome in 1957. In the autumn of that year he published Gli zii di Sicilia, including sharp views about themes such as the influence of the US and of communism in the world, and the 19th century unification of Italy. After one year in Rome, Sciascia moved back to Caltanissetta, in Sicily. In 1961 he published the mystery Il giorno della civetta (The Day of the Owl), one of his most famous novels, and in 1963, the historical novel Il consiglio d'Egitto (The Council of Egypt), set in 18th-century Palermo. After a series of essays, in 1965 he wrote the play L'onorevole (The Honorable), a denunciation of the complicities between government and mafia. Another political mystery novel is 1966's A ciascuno il suo (To Each His Own). The following year Sciascia moved to Palermo. In 1969 he began a collaboration with Il Corriere della Sera. That same year he published the play Recitazione della controversia liparitana dedicata ad A.D., dedicated to Alexander Dubcek. In 1971 Sciascia returned again to mystery with Il contesto (The Challenge), which inspired Francesco Rosi's movie Cadaveri eccellenti (1976). The novel created polemics due to its merciless portrait of Italian politics. Same was the fate of Todo modo, in this case due to its description of Italian Catholic clergy. At the 1975 communal elections in Palermo, Sciascia ran as an independent within the Italian Communist Party (PCI) slate, and was elected to the city council. In the same year he published La scomparsa di Majorana, dealing with the mysterious disappearance of scientist Ettore Majorana. In 1977 he resigned from PCI, due to his opposition to any dealing with the Christian Democratic party. Later he would be elected to the Italian and European Parliament with the Radical Party. Sciascia last works include the essay collection Cronachette (1985), the novels Porte aperte (1987) and Il cavaliere e la morte (1988). He died in June 1989 at Palermo. A number of his books, such as The Day of the Owl (Il giorno della civetta) and Equal Danger (Il contesto), demonstrate how the Mafia manages to sustain itself in the face of the anomie inherent in Sicilian life. He presented a forensic analysis of the kidnapping and assassination of Aldo Moro, a prominent Christian Democrat, in his book The Moro Affair. Sciascia's work is intricate and displays a longing for justice while attempting to show how corrupt Italian society had become and remains. His linking of politicians, intrigue, and the Mafia gave him a high profile, which was very much at odds with his private self. This high profile resulted in his becoming widely disliked for his criticism of Giulio Andreotti, then Prime Minister, for his lack of action towards freeing Moro and answering the demands of the Brigate Rosse (Red Brigades). Sciascia was part of a House of Deputies investigation into Moro's kidnapping, which concluded that there was a certain amount of negligence on the part of the Christian Democrat Party in their stance that the state was bigger than a person and that they would not swap Moro for 13 political prisoners, even though Moro himself had stated that the swapping of innocent people for political prisoners was a valid option in negotiations with terrorists. However, senior members of the party conveniently forgot this stance and even went as far as to say that Moro had been drugged and tortured to utter these words. Sciascia's books are rarely characterized by a happy end and by justice for the ordinary man. Prime examples of this are Equal Danger, in which the police's best detective is drafted to Sicily to investigate a spate of murders of judges. Focusing on the inability of authorities to handle such investigation into the corruptions, Sciascia's hero is finally thwarted. Sciascia wrote of his unique Sicilian experience, linking families with political parties, the treachery of alliances and allegiances and the calling of favors that result in outcomes that are not for the benefit of society, but of those individuals who are in favor. His 1984 opus Occhio di Capra is a collection of Sicilian sayings and proverbs gathered from the area around his native village, to which he was intensely attached throughout his life.





Trethewey, Natasha. Thrall: Poems. Boston/New York. 2012. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 9780547571607. 84 pages. hardcover. Jacket art: ‘Spaniard and Indian produce a Mestizo’, c.1715, oil on canvas by Juan Rodriguez Jaurez (1675-1728). Jacket design by Martha Kennedy. 


9780547571607FROM THE PUBLISHER -


The stunning follow-up volume to her 2007 Pulitzer Prize–winning NATIVE GUARD, by America’s new Poet Laureate. Natasha Trethewey’s poems are at once deeply personal and historical—exploring her own interracial and complicated roots—and utterly American, connecting them to ours. The daughter of a black mother and white father, a student of history and of the Deep South, she is inspired by everything from colonial paintings of mulattos and mestizos to the stories of people forgotten by history. Meditations on captivity, knowledge, and inheritance permeate THRALL, as she reflects on a series of small estrangements from her poet father and comes to an understanding of how, as father and daughter, they are part of the ongoing history of race in America. THRALL confirms not only that Natasha Trethewey is one of our most gifted and necessary poets but that she is also one of our most brilliant and fearless.



Trethewey NatashaNatasha Trethewey (born April 26, 1966) is an American poet who was appointed United States Poet Laureate in June 2012; she began her official duties in September. She won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for her 2006 collection Native Guard, and she is the Poet Laureate of Mississippi. She is the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University, where she also directs the Creative Writing Program. Trethewey was born in Gulfport, Mississippi on 26 April 1966, Confederate Memorial Day, to Eric Trethewey and Gwendolyn Ann Turnbough, who were married illegally at the time of her birth, a year before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down anti-miscegenation laws with Loving v. Virginia. Her birth certificate noted the race of her mother as ‘colored’, and the race of her father as ‘Canadian’. Trethewey's mother was part of the inspiration for Native Guard, which is dedicated to her memory. Trethewey's parents divorced when she was young and Turnbough was murdered in 1985 by her second husband, whom she had recently divorced, when Trethewey was 19 years old. Recalling her reaction to her mother's death, she said, ‘that was the moment when I both felt that I would become a poet and then immediately afterward felt that I would not. I turned to poetry to make sense of what had happened’. Natasha Trethewey's father is also a poet; he is a professor of English at Hollins University. Trethewey earned her B.A. in English from the University of Georgia, an M.A. in English and Creative Writing from Hollins University, and an M.F.A. in poetry from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1995. In May 2010 Trethewey delivered the commencement speech at Hollins University and was awarded an honorary doctorate. She had previously received an honorary degree from Delta State University in her native Mississippi. Structurally, her work combines free verse with more structured, traditional forms like the sonnet and the villanelle. Thematically, her work examines ‘memory and the racial legacy of America’. Bellocq's Ophelia (2002), for example, is a poem in the form of an epistolary novella; it tells the fictional story a mixed-race prostitute who was photographed by E. J. Bellocq in early 20th-century New Orleans. The American Civil War makes frequent appearances in her work. Born on Confederate Memorial Day - exactly 100 years afterwards - Trethewey explains that she could not have ‘escaped learning about the Civil War and what it represented’, and that it had fascinated her since childhood. For example, Native Guard tells the story of the Louisiana Native Guards, an all-black regiment in the Union Army, composed mainly of former slaves who enlisted, that guarded the Confederate prisoners of war. On 7 June 2012 James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, named her the 19th US Poet Laureate. Billington said, after hearing her poetry at the National Book Festival, that he was ‘‘immediately struck by a kind of classic quality with a richness and variety of structures with which she presents her poetry … she intermixes her story with the historical story in a way that takes you deep into the human tragedy of it.’





Holthe, Tess Uriza. When the Elephants Dance. New York. 2002. Crown. 0609609521. 369 pages. hardcover. Jacket design by Jennifer O'Connor. 




In the waning days of World War II, the Filipino people were caught between a brutal Japanese occupation and battling U.S. forces. In this compelling, incandescent novel, thirteen-year-old Alejandro Karangalan, his spirited older sister Isabelle, and Domingo, a passionate guerilla commander, narrate the story of the Karangalans-a family who huddle with their neighbors in the cellar of a house near Manila to wait out the war. In their crowded refuge, the group shares magical stories of Filipino myth and legend. Spellbinding, with a dazzling array of ghosts, witches, supernatural creatures, and courageous Filipinos from history, these tales transport the listeners and give them new resolve to survive.



Holthe Tess UrizaTess Uriza Holthe is a Filipino-American writer, who was born and raised in Bernal Heights, San Francisco and is best known for her National Bestselling novel When the Elephants Dance. Growing up, she took advantage of her mother’s connection with the nearby library to borrow as many books as she could read. She also looked to her father’s stories about the Philippines (a technician in a nearby sweat shop) for the inspiration she would later use in her novel When the Elephants Dance. Tess holds a degree in accounting from Golden Gate University. Although she was raised to obtain a practical career, (which was either being a lawyer, doctor or an accountant) in her last year of college she enrolled in a writing class, only to find out she had a talent for writing. The Five-Forty-Five To Cannes was published in 2007 and cited as an American Library Association Notable Book, as well as named a 2007 notable book by the San Francisco Chronicle. When the Elephants Dance was published in 2002 and won the National Best-seller award, crowned the #1 Bestseller by the San Francisco Chronicle, Book Sense Top Ten, Ingram Premier Pick, Barnes & Noble Discover, and Borders' Original Voices Selection. The novel explores the retelling of supernatural tales based on indigenous Filipino mythology and Spanish-influenced novels, told from the perspective of a family hiding in a cellar during the last weeks of the Japanese occupation in the Philippines.





Fisher, Rudolph. The Conjure Man Dies. New York. 1932. Covici-Friede. 316 pages. hardcover. 


conjure man dies covici friede 1932FROM THE PUBLISHER -


Originally published in 1932, this book is the first known mystery novel written by an African-American. Rudolph Fisher, one of the principal writers of the Harlem Renaissance, becomes a ‘conjure-man’, a fortune teller, a mysterious figure who remains shrouded in darkness while his clients sit directly across from him, singly bathed in light. It is in this configuration that one of these seekers of the revelation of fate discovers he is speaking to a dead man.



Fisher Rudolph Rudolph Fisher (May 9, 1897 - December 26, 1934) was an African-American writer. His first published work, ‘City of Refuge’, appeared in the Atlantic Monthly Press of February 1925. He went on in 1932 to write The Conjure-Man Dies, the first black detective novel. Fisher was also a physician (with a specialty in radiology), dramatist, musician and orator. Fisher was an active participant in the Harlem Renaissance, primarily as a novelist, but also as a musician. Born in Washington, DC in the late nineteenth century, Fisher grew up in Providence, Rhode Island graduating from Classical High School and attending Brown University. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Brown in 1919 and received a Master of Arts a year later. He went on to attend Howard University Medical School and graduated in 1924. Fisher married Jane Ryder in 1925, and they had one son, Hugh, who was born in 1926. Fisher died in 1934 at the age of 37.






Hayslip, Le Ly (with Jay Wurts). When Heaven and Earth Changed Places. New York. 1989. Doubleday. 0385247583. 368 pages. hardcover. 



When Heaven and Earth Changed Places is a 1989 memoir by Le Ly Hayslip about her childhood during the Vietnam War, her escape to the United States, and her return to visit Vietnam 16 years later. The Oliver Stone film Heaven & Earth was based on the memoir. The book was written with Jay Wurts, an Bay Area-based writer and editor. Hayslip's memoir was hailed as a previously neglected look at the war from the perspective of the Vietnamese peasants whose lives were upended. A review in The Washington Post wrote that, "to Americans, almost always, the peasants of Vietnam were part of the scenery of the war, no more." The book was also praised for its message about the horrors of war. A review by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer David K. Shipler for The New York Times wrote "If Hollywood has the courage to turn this book into a movie, then we Americans might finally have a chance to come to terms with the tragedy in Vietnam." The Washington Post reviewer wrote: "It should not be missed by anyone -- especially anyone who still thinks there is anything noble or glorious about war."



Hayslip Le LyLe Ly Hayslip (born December 19, 1949) is a Vietnamese-American memoirist and humanitarian. Through her foundations, she has worked to rebuild cultural bridges between Vietnam and America following the Vietnam War.










Chamoiseau, Patrick. French Guiana: Memory Traces of the Penal Colony. Middletown. 2020. Wesleyan University Press. 9780819579300. Translated from the French by Matt Reeck. Photographs by Rodolphe Hammadi. 120 pages. paperback. 

9780819579300FROM THE PUBLISHER -


Hailed by Milan Kundera as "an heir of Joyce and Kafka," Prix Goncourt winner Patrick Chamoiseau is among the leading Francophone writers today. With most of his novels having appeared in English, this book opens a new window on his oeuvre. A moving poetic essay that bears witness to the forgotten history of the French penal colony in French Guiana, French Guiana—Memory Traces of the Penal Colony accompanied by more than sixty evocative color photographs by Rodolphe Hammadi and translated, here for the first time, deftly by Matt Reeck.



Chamoiseau PatrickPatrick Chamoiseau is an award-winning Francophone author from Martinique distinguished as a towering figure in the créolité movement. He is author of twelve novels, as well as several films and essays. His literary honors include the Prix Carbet and the Prix Goncourt. His novel Texaco was chosen as a New York Times notable book of the year. He lives in Martinique.






Guido, Beatriz. End of a Day. New York. 1966. Scribners. Translated from the Spanish by A. D. Towers. 278 pages. hardcover. Cover: Georgette De Lattre. 


end of a day scribners 1966FROM THE PUBLISHER -


Written with passion, intelligence and irony, this compelling novel tells of the downfall of a wealthy and aristocratic Argentinian family under the Peron dictatorship. Proud of their European Culture and their immense landholdings, the Praderes find the meaning of their lives lost in the violent and contradictory times of their country. Their world is crumbling, unwilling to recognize its own ruin. To avoid the expropriation of their lands, they sacrifice their reputation to the government; the father, Alejandro, accepts a diplomatic post, thereby implicating them in a social-political order they abhor. Caught hard in the dilemma are the two younger Praderes, the daughter Inés and her brother Jose Luis, who attempt to find through the revolutionary student Pablo Alcobendas a valid meaning to life. As it moves to its fatal conclusion, END OF A DAY assumes the substance of classic tragedy. It also reveals the social and political schisms of modern Latin America in a story of universal poignancy and power. Beatriz Guido is a native of Buenos Aires, her family belonging to the Argentinian upperclass represented by the Praderes in END OF A DAY. She is the author of many novels and short stories, several of which have won literary awards, and three of her works - END OF INNOCENCE, SUMMERSKIN, and THE TERRACE - have been made into motion pictures by her husband, film director Leopoldo Torre Nilsson. END OF A DAY (Spanish title: El Incendio y Las Visperas) has been one of the most successful novels published in Argentina in recent years.


Guido BeatrizBeatriz Guido (13 December 1924 – 4 March 1988) was an Argentine novelist and screenwriter. Guido was born in Rosario, Santa Fe Province, the daughter of architect Ángel Guido (renowned as the creator of the National Flag Memorial) and of Uruguayan actress Berta Eirin. She studied at the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters of the University of Buenos Aires. She wrote her first novel, La casa del ángel, in 1954. She also wrote a short story named Usurpacion. Because of her outspoken anti-Peronism, she was branded a 'right-wing writer' and a 'false aristocrat' by the government of Juan Perón. In 1959 she married film director and screenwriter Leopoldo Torre Nilsson. She started working with her husband, who took several of her works to the screen. In 1984 she won the Konex Merit Diploma on Letters. That year she was appointed cultural attaché of the Argentine Embassy in Spain. She died of a heart attack in Madrid four years later, at the age of 63.





Hale, Janet Campbell. Bloodlines: Odyssey of a Native Daughter. New York. 1993. Random House. 0679415270. 187 pages. hardcover.




These autobiographical essays by a member of the Coeur d'Alene tribe interweave personal experiences with striking portraits of relatives, both living and dead, to form a rich tapestry of history, storytelling, and remembrance. Hale's is a story of intense and resonant beauty. Breathtaking in its range and authority, Bloodlines is an important addition to the literature of women of color. 'In this set of eight brooding but brave essays, she confronts the painful facts not only of her life but of the tragically difficult lives of several generations of her female relatives. . . . As Hale delves into her past, she perceives the deep roots of her struggle for survival and achievement, and recognizes the unseverable bond that connects her to her culture.' -Booklist.



Hale Janet CampbellJanet Campbell Hale (born January 11, 1946, Riverside, California) is a Native American writer. Her father was a full-blood Coeur d'Alene, and her mother was of Kootenay, Cree and Irish descent. In a sparse style that has been compared to Hemingway, Hale's work often explores issues of Native American identity and discusses poverty, abuse, and the condition of women in society. She wrote Bloodlines: Odyssey of a Native Daughter (1993), which includes a discussion of the Native American experience as well as stories from her own life. She also wrote The Owl's Song (1974), The Jailing of Cecelia Capture (which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1985), Women on the Run (1999), and Custer Lives in Humboldt County & Other Poems (1978). Janet Campbell Hale has taught at Northwest Indian College, Iowa State University, College of Illinois, and University of California at Santa Cruz, and has served as resident writer at University of Oregon and University of Washington. Hale currently lives on the Coeur d'Alene Reservation in De Smet, Idaho.






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