The Upstairs Delicatessen, by Dwight Garner (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Garner, whose book reviews are a highlight of the Times culture pages, serves up a commonplace book composed of literary quotations, advice for living, recipes, and a heaping side order of memoir. The assortment makes it clear that, in his reading and at the table, Garner, like A. J. Liebling before him, is a man of immense appetites. He likes his dishes unpretentious––his yearning for chili dogs is at least as powerful as his love of oysters––and his tastes as a reader range from thrillers centered on hardboiled boozers to “Ulysses,” in which grilled mutton kidneys thrill Leopold Bloom, with their “tang of faintly scented urine.” Garner’s mind––his “upstairs delicatessen”––is generous, excellent company.
Revolutionary Spring, by Christopher Clark (Crown). This Cambridge historian’s scrupulous survey takes up the interconnected uprisings that engulfed almost all of Europe in 1848. Arguing that they represent “the only truly European revolution that there has ever been,” Clark follows these revolts’ trajectories, from heady beginnings, when parliaments were convened and new constitutions proliferated, to counter-revolutionary backlashes. Resisting the “stigma of failure” that has tended to lurk over this period, he insists that it was consequential, calling it “the particle collision chamber at the centre of the European nineteenth century. People, groups and ideas flew into it, crashed together, fused or fragmented, and emerged in showers of new entities whose trails can be traced through the decades that followed.”
Read our reviews of the year’s notable new fiction and nonfiction.