cover image B-Side Books: Essays on Forgotten Favorites

B-Side Books: Essays on Forgotten Favorites

Edited by John Plotz. Columbia Univ, $26 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-231-20057-8

Plotz (Semi-Detached), editor of the Public Books website’s “B-Side” column, showcases 40 contriubtions to the column in this smart and fun collection. Arranged into seven themes—childhood, other worlds, comedy, strife, home fires, mysteries, and journeys of the spirit—the collection is, as Sharon Marcus notes in her foreword, a “book of books” focused on lesser-known titles. Seeta Changati, for instance, reads Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as a lesson in shamelessness and a means of garnering perspective on the Trump administration. Kathryn Lofton writes about her first encounter with Edith Hamilton’s Mythology at age 10 and uses Greek myth as a way of thinking about rape. Ursula K. Le Guin, meanwhile, offers laugh-out-loud praise for the way John Galt’s 19th-century Annals of the Parish defies “the decree of the Iowa Writing School that controls almost all modern fiction” as he “tells without showing.” But more than being just a collection of “what to read next” suggestions, the pieces easily convey a sense of how powerful reading can be. Book lovers are in for a treat. (June)