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Queen: The Ultimate Illustrated History of the Crown Kings of Rock by Phil Sutcliffe

The Brit band's excess is perhaps what the people behind this book had in mind when they covered its pages in cheap-looking, multicolored clip art -- paisley borders, floating polka dots, bloated flowers.

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Voyageur Press

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The Protest Singer: An Intimate Portrait of Pete Seeger by Alec Wilkinson

Alec Wilkinson paints a simple picture of a combatant for social justice, an anti-materialist, a woodsman, a patriot, an environmentalist, a near 90-year-old with a fierce regard for even-handedness.

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Wandering Stars by Sholem Aleichem

This new 2009 translation from the Yiddish, has restored to the novel all of its misery. For this is a dark and hopeless book, its bleakness undercut only by Aleichem’s particular brand of quick wit.

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Viking Adult

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The Gift of Rain by Tan Twan Eng

The scope of Eng's work is cinematic: we see the men and women of Malaya searching for sea creatures in the mud, lighting firecrackers at village weddings, digging their own graves.

Hillary Brenhouse
Music

Yann Perreau [Montreal, Quebec]

Something in Yann Perreau has cracked open, and while the irritated, despairing musician of his past work was attractive, Perreau's sudden confidence seems like a better fit with his raucous stage persona.

Hillary Brenhouse
Books

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

Disarming and fiercely persuasive, the author's portrait of India may not be sacred or exotic, but he continues to clothe the country in binaries -- if not stale ones, then divisions of his own.

Hillary Brenhouse
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