Have You Seen … ?
by David Thomson
David Thomson’s compendium of short essays on 1,000 notable films is “a big, glorious, infuriating, and illuminating mess,” said Charles Matthews in The Washington Post. That’s the point: If you’re a real movie fan, you come to a book like this “to bristle” at the judgments you disagree with, and to gasp at its omissions. But the 67-year-old author of the quirky A Biographical Dictionary of Film is “an incisive observer” and “a tremendously clever writer.” Arguing with him is fun.
The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac
This would-be bible for overeducated basketball junkies says more than it intends to about the state of American culture, said Sam Anderson in New York. In subjecting a handful of NBA stars to “a sustained flurry” of statistical and pseudo-spiritual analysis, the writers from the hoops website FreeDarko.com swerve from brilliantly insightful on one page to merely jokey on the next. As fun as the reading is at first, it “inevitably starts to feel like mental channel-surfing,” an elevated exercise in time-squandering.
edited by Robert Gottlieb
Bulky as this volume is, “dance lovers won’t be able to put it down,” said Rick Nelson in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Storied book editor Robert Gottlieb finds material that feels fresh and insightful even when the subject is George Balanchine or Fred Astaire, and his “savvy” collection “really shines when it turns its attention to the less conspicuous and the downright arcane.” When writing is “this riveting,” you don’t mind the absence of photos.
Two Planks and a Passion
by Roland Huntford
This appealingly titled 400-page brick turns out to be the “sort of facts-and-dates history” that keeps most people “from reading, well, history,” said Bruce Barcott in The New York Times. Author Roland Huntford clearly has a passion about skiing’s past, particularly Norway’s central role in the sport’s development. But he’s a cross-country snob living in a downhill world, and he buries his choicest tidbits under a mountain of useless information. At best, Two Planks is destined for “a long life as an après-ski bet settler.”