Michael D. Langan - The Buffalo News

Share this article

print logo

Michael D. Langan


NONFICTION Man Of The Hour: James B. Conant, Warrior Scientist” By Jennet Conant Simon & Schuster 608 pages $30 “Man Of The Hour,” written by James Bryant Conant’s granddaughter, Jennet, seems an apt enough title. It makes reference to the U.S. government calling upon an unelected person, James B. Conant (1893 – 1978), to perform valuable s…

Books

FICTION Smile By Roddy Doyle Viking 214 pages, $30 “Smile” is Roddy Doyle’s 11th novel. It’s been a long time since he had hits like “The Commitments” (which became a film by Alan Parker) and “Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha”, which won the Booker Prize. “Smile” isn’t a return to good form; it’s more a grimace at memories half-repressed of scho…

Books

NONFICTION God: A Human History                           By Reza Aslan Random House 280 pages, $28 A human history of God? What other kind could there be, unless God decided to write his own biography?  (In fact, God did write about Himself in the Bible. Many hold that the Bible is inspired writing about God with human author…

Gusto

FICTION "A Legacy of Spies" By John Le Carré Viking 264 pages, $28 Spying is an old game the Good Book tells us. “God said to Moses, Choose twelve men, one from each of the tribes of Israel, and send them to spy on the land of Canaan.” John Le Carré’s latest spy novel, “A Legacy Of Spies,” is a book whose title is chosen carefully. John Banvi…

MEMOIR An Odyssey: A Father, A Son, And An Epic” By Daniel Mendelsohn Knopf 306 pages, $26.95 “An Odyssey” is, all at once, a beautiful personal narrative and literary interpretation by Daniel Mendelsohn, a classicist at Bard College. It has a retrospective father-son theme, using the literary device of Homer’s  "Odyssey" as its mirror image. Mendel…

HISTORY “How To Plan A Crusade: Religious War In The High Middle Ages” By Christopher Tyerman Pegasus Books 432 pages    $28.95 Christopher Tyerman, professor of history of the Crusades at Oxford, explores the role of reason in medieval wars in this must-read book for history buffs. Today some think of the word “medieval” as a sign of barbarism…

Weather

Sweat equity thanks to Hurricane Irma is an equal opportunity occupier in Naples and Collier County, Florida. But it could have been much worse if it weren’t for the excellent leadership of Gov. Rick Scott and that of local authorities. My wife Joanne and I watched in awe as Irma spent a harrowing eight hours - with gusts of more than 100 mph - going through Southw…

Gusto

NONFICTION The Last Castle By Denise Kiernan Touchstone 400 pages, $28 “A House Is Not a Home”, the 1964 song by Bert Bacharach and Hal David sums up any review of “The Last Castle,” by Denise Kiernan. It's an engagingly descriptive book about The Biltmore House in Asheville, N.C., a behemoth which seems to be hollowed out in the middle. Why? B…

MEMOIR The Shadow in the Garden: A Biographer’s Tale By James Atlas Pantheon 388 pages   $28.95 “Never say you know the first word about any human heart.” – Henry James “The Shadow in the Garden” spills a biographer’s secrets. James Atlas does that with élan and perhaps a bit more material than one may need to know. Think about it: Wh…

Gusto

NONFICTION Victoria & Abdul: The True Story Of The Queen’s Closest Confidant By Shrabani Basu Vintage 336 pages, $16 paper Stephen Frears' film of this book starring Dame Judi Dench  is scheduled for release  late September. First, some background on Queen Victoria (1819 – 1901). The reason for beginning this way, rather than telling the Victori…

NONFICTION “Among The Ruins: The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Catholic Church” By Paul L. Williams Prometheus Books 338 pages, $24 Paul L. Williams, the author of “Among The Ruins,” stands amid what he considers the rubble of the Roman Catholic Church, precipitated by changes instituted by Vatican II. He claims on an earlier talk show, for example, …

Gusto

FICTION Golden Hill: A Novel of Old New York By Francis Spufford Scribner 336 pages, $26 Cambridge writer Francis Spufford’s (1964 - ) new novel, “Golden Hill,” is the best I’ve read since Colson Whitehead’s 2016 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, “The Underground Railroad.” It is Spufford’s first piece of fiction after his Orwell Prize-nominated …

Gusto

FICTION The Rise And Fall of D.O.D.O. By Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland William Morrow 752 pages, $35 What doesn’t exist anymore? Magic – at least in this new novel, “The Rise And Fall of D.O.D.O” (Department of Diachronic Operations), by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland. The book is a category-bender, a near-future thriller combining history…

Books

NONFICTION “Churchill & Orwell: The Fight For Freedom” By Thomas E. Ricks Penguin Press 326 pages, $28 Never having met wasn’t necessary for these two. It was their joint dedication to individual freedom – the weld-spot of conscience – that held the West together in the face of Hitler and Mussolini’s totalitarianism. Pulitzer Prize Historian …

BIOGRAPHY Ernest Hemingway: A Biography By Mary V. Dearborn Knopf 738 pages, $35 “In life one must (first of all) endure,” said Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961). Regrettably, the same must be said of Mary V. Dearborn’s exhausting biography of Hemingway, the first, her publisher said, in 15 years. There’s a reason for that: Hemingway’s inbox of s…