One of our favorite high-end publishers, Taschen is putting out a new line of small coffee table books. Almost like end table books. Or back of the toilet books. The Bibliotheca Universalis line is a little smaller than your typical trade paperback, but about three times as thick. And they’re all high on content and low on filler. You’re getting five hundred plus pages (usually) of glossy pictures for about $20. They’re ridiculously inexpensive for what they are, and there really is no reason why you don’t have decent picture book material in your boudoirs. 

Seriously, people. It’s better than National Geographic, which always has some downer of an article to go along with the sexy pictures, and it’s much more relaxing than trying to do Sudoku without dropping the pen in the toilet bowl. 

And speaking of complicated plots, Greg Iles is back with Mississippi Blood, the epic finale to the Natchez Burning trilogy, a book the Washington Post calls “adrenaline-fueled excitement . . . a very American epic.” Naturally, the ellipses suggests the Washington Post said other things too, but we’re a little curious as to why “adrenaline-fueled” is being considered as “very American.” We do things sedately around here, don’t we? And what does that say about the state of French thrillers? Are they more likely to be a “doggedly drunken stagger,” or a “boozy and unexpected spill into the river while looking for one’s keys”? 

Oh, look, the hero of Mississippi Blood is urinating on someone’s grave on page three. And then daring us to read further to find out why. Now there’s a lede. 

And speaking of American epics, one of our favorite reoccurring characters is back this week. C. J. Box’s Joe Pickett returns in Vicious Circle, the latest in the on-going cat and mouse game between Pickett, his friend Nate Romanowski, and the Cates, a family full of bad and worse news. (If none of this makes sense, you can pick up Off the Grid, the previous Pickett novel, which just came out in paperback this week.) Seventeen novels in, Pickett’s been running longer than Longmire, but not quite as long as Spenser, and is just as good. If you’re looking to get started on a new crime series, well, we can set you up, of course. 

And speaking of picking up a new series, we’ve got all of Mick Herron’s Slough House books. Slough House is where spooks who've done dumb things end up, and in Slow Horses, the first in the series, River Cartwright is looking for an opportunity for redemption. The trick is whether he’s got an actual case or if he’s being played by darker forces. The Irish Times says of Herron’s series that it’s like John le Carré, but funnier. 

And speaking of funny, let’s go grab Becky Chambers’ debut, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. It’s space opera. It has wormholes. It has aliens woefully self-aware of their unpronounceable names. It has awkward social moments that include porridge. We’ve had enough grimdark for several lifetimes, thank you very much, and so we’re delighted that someone is bringing some levity to space. Space could use it. It’s awfully big and dark.

And speaking of big and dark, over here is Paul La Farge’s The Night Ocean, a novel supposedly about one man’s obsession with the minutia of H. P. Lovecraft’s life (a life that has been recorded in some fine detail already), but as the man’s widow discovers, maybe he was searching for something else. The Night Ocean is pulp fiction strained through a century of psychiatric deconstruction of our liminal oneiric landscapes. Which is to say, this one is spooky and good and oooh, where does that rabbit hole go anyway? 

And speaking of rabbit holes and what-if, Kim Stanley Robinson and John Scalzi both have new novels out. Each is nominally a science fiction writer, but both have transcended mere genre labels. Scalzi writes space opera with a certain verve and humility, and Robinson does near future SF that is well grounded enough that it can almost pass for a blueprint of the next handful of decades. In Robison’s case, he’s working with the Big Apple in New York 2140 when the oceans have risen enough to make the city much like Venice, and Scalzi tackles the question of what happens when your faster than light wormholes start drifting in The Collapsing Empire. Both explore humanity on the cusp of change, and well, change is afoot after all . . . 

Overheard At The Store »»

BOB: Hi. I haven’t seen the marmot these last few days. Is he around? 

FERDIE: Oh, Colby? No. It’s the first day of spring this week. He takes a personal leave day. Visits family, I think. 

BOB: Oh, that’s nice. I didn’t know he had family in the area. 

FERDIE: Well, he is native to this region. 

BOB: True. True. I guess that makes sense. 

FERDIE: Can I . . . can I help you find a book? 

BOB: No, no. It can wait. I’ll just look around. 

FERDIE: Okay. 

[Few minutes of silence, punctuated occasionally with the sounds of books being moved around]

BOB: Look. I suppose I should apologize or something. 

FERDIE: For what? 

BOB: For the other day. When I yelled at you. 

FERDIE: Oh. You don’t need to. That’s not necessary. 

BOB: I’d like to apologize. 

FERDIE: Okay. 

BOB: Okay. 

FERDIE: . . . So . . . ? 

BOB: What? 

FERDIE: You were going to . . .

BOB: I just did. 

FERDIE: No, I . . . I don’t think so. You said you were going to, you know, but then . . . 

BOB: Look. Maybe I shouldn’t even bother. Clearly, you’re just going to make a big deal about it. 

FERDIE: No, no. That’s not my intention at all. 

BOB: Whatever. Just . . . never mind. When did the marmot say he was going to be back? 

FERDIE: Next week. 

BOB: Fine. 

FERDIE: Fine. 

BOB: I’ll just check back then. I’ll have him order my book. 

FERDIE: You do that. 

BOB: I will. 

FERDIE: Okay, then. 

BOB: Have a nice day. 

FERDIE: You too. [softly] Jerk. 

BOB: Excuse me? 

FERDIE: I . . . I called you a ‘jerk’ because, well, because you are. 

BOB: What?

FERDIE: Oh, oh, oh! You are a pompous blowhard. Oh! An insensitive knuckle-dragger. And a jerk! 

BOB: That’s ridiculous, lady. You are out of your mind. You shouldn’t—

[Bell rings at the front door]

BOB: Oh, hey, Alice. 

ALICE: Hi, Bob. Hello, Ferdie. 

FERDIE: Hello, dear. 

BOB: Oh, would you ladies not . . . oh, this is awkward. 

ALICE: Was I interrupting something? 

BOB: No, no. 

ALICE: You’re shaking, dear. Is Bob being a jerk? 

BOB: No, I was just . . . 

FERDIE: Yes. Yes, he was. 

ALICE: Bob. [sigh] Shouldn’t you be opening up your cabin or something? 

BOB: I’m, uh, I’m going up this weekend. 

ALICE: Well, have fun. 

BOB: Yeah. Yeah, okay, I guess I will. I’ll go have fun . . . elsewhere. 

ALICE: Um hmm. 

BOB: Yeah, okay. I’ll be back next week to check on that book. Okay? 

ALICE: Sounds delightful, Bob. Bu-bye. 

BOB: Yeah, bye, Alice. Uh, have a nice day, Ferdie. 

[Bell rings at the front door]

FERDIE: Whatever did you see in that man? 

ALICE: He cooks pretty well. And he’s warm at night. 


ALICE: Oh, don’t pout. I came by today to whisk you away. It’s sunny. Let’s have a picnic. 

FERDIE: Oh, I can’t. Colby isn’t here and I need to watch the store. 

ALICE: Colby isn’t here? Where is he? 

FERDIE: Visiting family. 

ALICE: I didn’t know he had family nearby. 

FERDIE: He is native to this area. 

ALICE: Well, let’s pack a picnic and go find him!


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