Don’t let the length deter you. You can sum up the theme of the novel in five words: Free will is an illusion.

Reading War and Peace is like walking into a large cocktail party at which you don’t know anybody until, hours later, Napoleon turns up fresh from his victory in the Battle of Austerlitz. …



Lessons by America’s top blues harpist, Jason Ricci, helped a writer after chemo

Suppose you had a serious injury or illness that ruled out all of your favorite musical activities. You couldn’t go to concerts, jam with a band, or sing along with the SiriusXM tunes in the car — because you couldn’t get out of bed.

How could you keep your mind…


James Stevenson’s picture book is a treat for all seasons

James Stevenson was best known as a New Yorker cartoonist who elegantly sent up starchy doctors, lawyers, and other upper middle class Americans.

But Stevenson also wrote children’s books that won raves from critics, librarians, and young readers. Two of…


An unlucky hitter has inspired books, a Disney animated short, and a reading by James Earl Jones. What has made him an American icon?

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out.

— From Ernest L. …


You don’t need an excuse to enjoy an elegant Japanese art form — but if you do, the World Series gives you one

Every baseball fan knows there’s poetry in the sport. You see it in a balletic leap for a pop fly or the grace of a perfect throw or slide into second base.

But poetry about baseball is much rarer. The best known poem about the sport appeared more than a…



The series has added books on Star Wars and Dolly Parton, and it’s still a terrific value


They’re straight out of James Bond, and I’ve owned one.

When I was a writer for Glamour in NYC, I got invited to movie screenings, where I saw film critics using a pen with a light-up tip in darkened theaters. I bought one, and by the time it ran out of ink, I was reviewing more books than movies, so I didn’t replace it.

Last year, when Hurricane Sally wiped out my electricity, I could have used it. So I’m thinking of buying another pen like this one.

I’m also checking out an even cooler pen that some New York Times reporters use and James Bond might envy: a smartpen that records conversations. It could be a handy backup for phone or tape recorder glitches during interviews — and it’s a lot snazzier than the Paper Mate Flair pens I buy in 36-packs.

Janice Harayda

Critic, novelist, award-winning journalist. Former book columnist for Glamour and book editor of The Plain Dealer.

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