Looking for Anne of Green Gables
by Irene Gammel (St. Martin’s, $28)
Here’s a fitting centennial tribute to one of literature’s most beloved 11-year-old heroines, said Kate Bolick in The New York Times. Though “much has been written” about Anne Shirley’s enduring appeal, the story of how author Lucy Maud Montgomery dreamed up her fiery young character is little known. In this “well-researched if occasionally overreaching” biography, Anne’s creator emerges as an ambitious professional who used fiction to reconcile nostalgia for family with an urge for independence.
Names on the Land
by George R. Stewart (New York Review Books, $20)
Few books “are more American” than this “rollicking” history of American place names, said Bill Kauffman in The Wall Street Journal. Written in the ’40s by a novelist with “an American anarchist soul,” it bemoans conformity and applauds the wit and inventiveness that produced such municipal monikers as Gouge Eye, Chicago (an Algonquin word for “onion-place”), and Cape Fear. New York Review Books’ reissue arrives as “a welcome reminder” that “the polyglot medley on our maps” is a glory of our heritage.
Why You Should Read Kafka Before You Waste Your Life
by James Hawes (St. Martin’s, $24)
Don’t take the title of this book too seriously, said Louis Bayard in Salon.com. James Hawes’ chief mission in this lively reconsideration is to overturn Franz Kafka’s reputation as an isolated, saint-like figure. Of course, learning that the author was in fact celebrated, well-compensated, and highly social probably won’t affect anyone’s enjoyment of Kafka’s writing. The real reward here is Hawes’ “penetrating” interpretations.
Miami and the Siege of Chicago
by Norman Mailer (New York Review Books, $15)
Reading this reprint of Norman Mailer’s dispatches from the 1968 political conventions “gives me the willies,” said Paul Berman in The New York Times. Though Mailer’s anti–Vietnam War stance was rooted in a prescient recognition that communism was destined for collapse, his rhetoric was attuned to the hysterical tenor of the times. What’s scary is that, though political combat today sounds eerily similar, its practitioners lack Mailer’s awareness that such behavior is appalling.