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What to Read Now: Vol LXXXVIII

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The Mad Emperor:
Heliogabalus and the Decadence of Rome
by Harry Sidebottom

A side of Roman history that one doesn’t hear too much about – this is the story of the incredible four years when a teenager was Emperor of Rome.  Sidebottom doesn’t hold back, as the teen Heliogabalus marries a Vestal Virgin (among three other marriages during his reign), assigns senatorships based on penis size, and attempts to replace Jupiter with a Syrian god represented by a black stone.  This makes Caligula look positively tame!

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Winter in the Air & Other Stories
by Sylvia Townsend Warner

From the author of Lolly Willowes, this exquisite collection of short stories has been hard to come by for a while, so this is a very welcome reissue.  Like an English Shirley Jackson, Townshend Warner excels at finding something unsettling in the everyday, and something bitter in the sweet.  Her keen observations make every story a keeper.

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A Killing in November
by Simon Mason

Now in paperback, this is the first in a new series of detective novels set in Oxford.  There’s a touch of Colin Dexter in the two detectives – one from a poor background, the other a Balliol graduate – but the story is very much Twenty first Century.  This is a corker of a mystery, and we’re looking forward to the next one in February.

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A Book of Days
by Patti Smith

Inspired by her Instagram page, A Book of Days is a collection of photos by Patti Smith. Spanning a year, each image is an insight into the daily life of the legendary musician and poet.  With a short text to shed light on why she has selected the image – whether it’s her husband’s guitar, the grave of William Blake, or a mundane cup of coffee on the road – this is a must for fans like us.

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by Giles Sparrow

A stunning book reproducing and deconstructing Johann Doppelmayr’s Atlas Coelestis from 1742, which showcases the beauty of these incredible maps of the cosmos, and also makes the accessible to modern readers.  This makes the book an excellent introduction both to astronomy and to its history.

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The Dream Train
by Sean Taylor, Ill. Anuska Allepuz

30 original poems for bedtime with beautiful illustrations, this is a perfect choice for families with small children who need something to help them wind down. These poems will calm down busy minds, and inspire their dreams. 

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The Lies We Tell
by Katie Zhao

A great teen thriller with an excellent twisty plot.  Anna Xu is just your average college student, working hard, trying to make friends and trying to solve the six-year-old murder of her babysitter.  Perfect for 13+ readers who’ve enjoyed A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder.

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