We owe businessman Herbert Simon a debt of gratitude for saving Kirkus Reviews – now officially Kirkus Media – from extinction. This invaluable reviewing organ was slated for closure when Mr. Simon purchased it in 2010. Kirkus’s reinvention for the digital era has been most felicitous. I well remember reading the rather dour print version at the library. Still, even then, it was a great source of book reviews.
Now, however, it has gained added value as an online entity. It is eminently searchable. Its starred reviews are a reliable guide to works that will be worth your while (reliable – not foolproof). Kirkus also offers help for aspiring writers; it has even established a prize award of its own. (Do we actually need another book prize? Oh heck – why not?)
I use Kirkus primarily for its starred mystery reviews. But there’s lots more rich content for book lovers available on its site.
Another terrific media review source is Booklist Magazine, a publication of the American Library Association. While certain of Booklist’s content resides behind a pay wall, reviews for the current year are freely available. I use this source for mystery reviews, and also for reviews of new nonfiction. (Scroll down to below “Find Best Books of 2015” to access this content.) Both Kirkus and Booklist have been used in the past as selection tools for libraries and bookstores. I’m not certain if they still are.
A brief aside regarding nonfiction, where there has been so much interesting writing happening lately that I’ve pretty much fallen hopelessly behind. I am currently – or I should say, concurrently – reading these titles:
and finally, I’m about to finish, with great regret: . Murder by Candlelight is not only a true crime narrative – or rather, a narrative of multiple true crimes – it is a work of philosophy, psychology, and history. True, some of it is hard to read – repugnant, even gruesome – but other parts are rich with a profound insight into the human condition. The erudition displayed by Michael Knox Beran is nothing short of amazing. For instance, it is not every day that a book sends me scurrying to the works of Arthur Schopenhauer:
Yes, I know, he doesn’t look as though he’d be very scintillating at a dinner party, but he’s actually a deeply fascinating thinker. I have in mind specifically a work entitled The World as Will and Representation. Sound dry as dust? Not the portions quoted in Murder by Candlelight – they’re anything but.
I had not previously heard of Michael Knox Beran, but he will most definitely be getting a fan letter from Yours Truly.
In searching for more historical true crime following my rueful withdrawal from Beran’s book, I stumbled upon a portion of the MWA‘s Edgar site that I’d not seen before. It is a list of submissions from publishers for consideration for next year’s Edgar Awards. These are suggestions, not selections. Those will be announced on or around January 19, Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday. (And Poe Toaster, we beg you to come back this year!)
As you will see, the list of mysteries is already very long. The list of true crime titles – or in MWA parlance “Fact Crime” – is considerably shorter and thus easier to digest.