A few late book reviews

I’ve been reading a few books throughout the summer and needed to be more active in reviewing them here. Rather than writing five individual posts in a row (too lazy for that), I will catch up with this single post. Born to Run 2 I’ve been back to running after a long hiatus, and this book helped me get back on track with the right, lightly-hearted approach. The fundamentals are solid (the barefoot-like technique is the way), the 90-day training plan is a good platform, the nutrition hints are remarkable, and I appreciated the injury-treatment segments. »

Book Review: La Mossa del Matto (The Fool's Move)

Alessandro Barbaglia’s La mossa del matto (The fool’s move) tries to be three things in one: the life story of chess champion Bobby Fischer, a reconciliation dialogue between author and father, who died too soon, as well the tracing of a daring parallel between Fischer’s relationship with Russian champion Boris Spasskij and that of Achilles and Ulysses of Homeric memory. In our neck of the woods, we say that too much is crippling, and this work runs the risk. »

Book Review: Disastri (Disasters)

Daniil Charms was considered a children’s author and could not stand children all his life. While his whimsical fairy tales populated illustrated books and magazines, giving him something to live on in the silence of his room, he also feverishly wrote tales for adults, equally imaginative but inhabited by an excruciating melancholy, as in fairy tales went wrong. At the dawn of the USSR, this desperate fantasy of his was tolerable only if it was confined where it was least dangerous, in children’s literature. »

Book Review: Land and Sea

Land and Sea is an essay in short story form written in 1942 by Carl Schmitt. Subtitled “A consideration of world history told to my daughter Anna,” this essay recounts and summarizes the geo-historical-legal evolution of our planet since the discovery of the New World. The originality of the work lies in the author’s identification of the Earth-Sea dichotomy as the driving force of human history. I went into this book knowing very little about the author, Carl Schmitt, and the contents. »

Book Review: Medieval Callings

Medieval Callings comprises eleven essays by internationally renowned medieval historians. Somewhat deceptively, only Jacques Le Goff’s prestigious name appears on the front page, as he authored the introductive essay and handpicked and curated the collection. Each piece presents a nuanced profile of a significant social or professional Middle Ages group. Warrior knights, monks, high churchmen, criminals, lepers, shepherds, artists, and prostitutes, all prominent figures of medieval society, are depicted here with great detail. »

Book Review: Essere Lupo (Being Wolf)

I saw a wolf: that’s the phrase Ulf, a hunter and former forestry inspector now in his seventies, has been brooding, unable to confess to anyone since he spotted a majestic specimen at dawn on the first day of the year. Something clicks inside him, and Ulf, one of the most respected men in the village in deep Sweden where he lives, feels an increasingly solid and intimate connection with the creature. »

Book Review: No Sleep Till Shengal

Zerocalcare is an Italian cartoonist whose strips, especially in the form of illustrated books, have surged to an iconic level in the last decade. His drawing is excellent, but it is with his writing that, I think, he conquered fame. His stories are fun to read and yet profound and vibrant, all at the same time. Also, he often touches on themes nobody else covers, at least not in the comics world. »

Book Review: Red Mars

Regarding space-related topics and scientific research, Casey Handmer’s blog is one of my references. So when Casey started his Mars Trilogy Technical Commentary and I learned about Kim Stanley Robinson’s masterpiece, I was instantly intrigued. In Casey’s opinion, KSR’s Mars Trilogy is “one of the finest works of literature ever composed.” It took a couple of weeks of futile resistance before I gave in and ordered the first book in the series, Red Mars, a 420 pages tome that attempts to depict a scientifically credible human colonization of Mars1. »

Book Review: Sanguina Ancora (Still Bleeding)

Sanguina Ancora (Still Bleeding) is not a biography but a passionate and informative tribute to Dostoevsky. The nonlinear, not literary style works and the continuous back and forth between Dostoevsky’s epic and the author’s own experiences as a scholar and Russian literature enthusiast is probably a good idea as it helps stress the actualness of Dostoevsky’s opus. However, the continuous jumping in and out of the Russian’s life, though sympathetic at first, gets tedious over time. »

Barnes & Noble's surprising turnaround

According to the always-interesting Ted Gioia, the recent turnaround of Barnes & Noble is to be attributed to the company’s new CEO and his love of books. Quite astonishingly James Daunt, who took the helm of B&N in late 2019, refused to take promotional money from publishers: Daunt refused to play this game. He wanted to put the best books in the window. He wanted to display the most exciting books by the front door. »

Book Review: Uomini, boschi e api

I wish everyone could listen to the song of the partridges as the sun rises, see the deer on pastures in spring, the larch trees reddened by autumn on the edges of rocks, the darting of fish among the clear waters of streams, and the bees gathering nectar from the flowering cherry trees. In these stories, I write about village places. These natural environments are still livable, about the beautiful social insects that are bees, but also about ancient jobs that are slowly and inexorably disappearing. »

My favorite books of 2022

I only read 17 books in 2022, confirming the slowdown of the last few years. The total number of pages decreased too, albeit not too much compared to the previous year. In 2021, though, there was a significant drop, as in 2020, I read 28 books or 8073 pages. Stats have been going down since 2015, which is interesting. Like last year, I’m not sure why I’m reading less. More tired? »

Author image Nicola Iarocci on #books,

Book Review: Stoner

I tend to shy away from publishing cases, so Stoner has been resting on my yeah-maybe-one-day list for years. Over time I stumbled on notable mentions that kept the book on the fringe of my attention zone. Then one day, I read a brief and intriguing review in Giovanni Zagni’s excellent newsletter, Incertezze. Like me, Zagni suffers from the stay-away-from-editorial-cases idiosyncrasy, but he finally gave in, read the thing, reread it, and finally tagged it a modern classic. »

Book Review: Candide

This short novel was a genuine surprise. I certainly didn’t expect Voltaire to be this accessible, witty, sarcastic, and also outrageous for the era (1759). Below the surface of a seemingly entertaining and often absurd sequence of improbable events is a constant philosophical struggle. Quoting from the back cover: Candide is the story of a gentle man who, though pummeled and slapped in every direction by fate, clings desperately to the belief that he lives in “the best of all possible worlds. »

Book Review: When We Cease to Understand the World

When We Cease to Understand the World, by Benjamin Labatut, is a strange narrative object. It mixes fact and fiction in imaginative ways, sometimes making it hard for the reader to distinguish between them, which is probably a testimonial to the experiment’s success. As I was reading, Wu Ming’s unidentified narrative objects (UNO) came to mind. If it doesn’t qualify as UNO, it comes close enough. It certainly fits the ‘faction’ (fact+fiction) genre, if such a thing exists. »

Book Review: Mašen'ka

Masen’ka (or Mary) is Nabokov’s debut novel. It was written when he was in his twenties, living as an émigré in Berlin, just like the story’s protagonist. In the introduction of my Italian edition (Adelphi), the author admits that some life events poured into the narration. The depiction of Ganin’s life in a pension filled with fellow Russian ex-pats, and the relationships between them, is undoubtedly reminiscent of Nabokov’s own experience. »

Book Review: The Crow Comes Last

The Crow Comes Last is a collection of thirty short stories written between 1945 and 1948, primarily based on the author’s wartime experiences as a resistance fighter during WWII and then in postwar Italy. Some are brutal, others funny, and some are gritty. They all revolve around the themes he perfectly defined while talking about his book: I prefer to divide the subject into three parts, to highlight three thematic lines of my work from those years. »

Book Review: Ravenna

Nerdy prelude. Local Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) were all the range when I was a teenager. With my group of local hackers, we hacked our way into ITAPAC, the then-leading Italian packet-switching network (we are talking pre-Internet era here.) Via ITAPAC, we’d connect to so-called “out-dial systems” in the USA. From one of those, we’d finally call our target BBSes with a local call at no cost. We felt so invincible! »

The Tripitaka Koreana

The Tripitaka Koreana - carved on 81258 woodblocks in the 13th century - is the most successful large data transfer over time yet achieved by humankind. 52 million characters of information, transmitted over nearly 8 centuries with zero data loss - an unequalled achievement. The full story is available here (via). Subscribe to the newsletter, the RSS feed, or follow @nicolaiarocci on Twitter »

Book Review: The Count of Monte Cristo

In my early morning stroll, I sometimes listen to audiobooks. This was the case with The Count of Monte Cristo. Rai Radio 3, the third channel of the national broadcasting service, has been airing Ad Alta Voce (Aloud) for many years. In the program, top-tier actors read old and new literary classics. The quality of these productions is astounding. Audio editions are often edited, which was the case with The Count, as the unabridged edition surpasses the 1200-page count (a little-known fact is that most printed editions are also edited for brevity). »