Parting the Waters

(by Taylor Branch) This is the first of a trilogy re American civil rights politics under the stewardship of Martin Luther King Jnr, covering the years 1954 to 1963, ending with the march on Washington and the death of JFK. This giant work is bigger than a mere bio of King and its scholarship and sheer mass of detail is leavened with clear and eloquent prose and mature reflection. No panegyric, this: King is treated as a human, remarkable though he was, and as the politician he surely was. A wonderful work that demands to be read and read again….

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Pale Fire

(by Vladimir Nabokov) Great post-modernism. With fake scholarship, confected verse and unreliable commentary (a triple Ephialtes). “I was the shadow of the waxwing slain by the false azure in the windowpane…”

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The Origins of the Inquisition

(by B Netanyahu) Definitive, immense and profound work on the causes and motives of the Spanish Inquisition. Inquisitiana [Note that TVC recommends the following: Torquemada himself would be impressed with Wakefield & Evans, Heresies of the High Middle Ages (1991) and Lu Ann Homza’s The Spanish Inquisition 1478-1614; An Anthology of Sources (2006), which is a very valuable resource of primary documents. The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision (1998) by Henry Kamen, is a good general volume (TVC has a pretty Folio edition). The Spanish Inquisition (1937) by Cecil Roth is a superior general academic treatment. The Inquisition of the Middle…

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Nostromo

(by Joseph Conrad) Conrad’s robust, sinewy and subtle story of silver madness is the best thing he ever did.

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Nikolaus Pevsner – The Life

(by Susie Harries) The rather ponderous biographical figure can make for a fascinating biography, when it is written and researched judiciously and with love.  Pevsner’s love for his adopted England is shown in the Teutonic thoroughness with which he trundled about every shire in the country, travelling and lodging uncomfortably with a hard cheese sandwich wedged in his coat pocket, to document every church, every manor, every public building, bridge and stile of consequence.  He accumulated a wall of architectural volumes for the intelligent layperson that still inspire the question: “Is it in Pevsner?”  

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