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The Early Word: New Books for the Week of December 8, 2008

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It's beginning to look a lot like your shopping days are numbered and there's not a lot of new releases left to hit the bookstore shelves. Here's a few stragglers, however:

NON-FICTION:

History of Beauty and On Ugliness Boxed Set
By Umberto Eco

It’s a beguiling idea: Take eternal and irreconcilable theories of art and aesthetics — buttressed with numerous examples of art, and quotations from the most celebrated writers and philosophers of each age — embody them in separate volumes boxed in one set, and see if beauty, in a sense, really does kill the beast. Better yet, have renowned cultural critic and novelist Umberto Eco bring his scholarly touch to bear first on the ever-shifting History of Beauty from ancient Greece to today. Closely examining the development of the visual arts and drawing on literature from each era, the range of Eco’s inquiry includes such concepts as natural inspiration versus numeric formulas, plus the idea of love and the unattainable woman.

Then, digging further into the concepts of evil and darkness in art and literature — after all, beauty’s only skin deep but ugly’s to the bone, it’s been said on many a playground — On Ugliness delves into the monstrous and the repulsive in visual culture and arts. Eco’s comprehensiveness and compelling storytelling comes into play in this enticing study of the ugly, revealing that we often safeguard ourselves from what we’re most subliminally drawn to.

The Secret Daily Teachings
By Rhonda Byrne

John Tyler: The American Presidents Series: The 10th President, 1841-1845
By Gary May, Arthur M. Schlesinger (Editor), Sean Wilentz (Editor)

The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle: A Biography
By Russell Miller

No Limits: The Will to Succeed
By Michael Phelps, With Alan Abrahamson

Reborn: Journals and Notebooks, 1947-1964

By Susan Sontag, David Rieff (Editor)

FICTION:

The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia
By Stephen J. Sansweet, Pablo Hidalgo

Everything old is repackaged again. Meticulously researched and written by its leading authorities, this landmark work is the must-have centerpiece of every Star Wars library. Thirty years of information on all things Star Wars — ranging from science and technology to history and geography, culture and biography to ecology and cosmology — has been supplemented with an entire decade's worth of all-new material. Plentifully illustrated with full-color artwork and photos, and now in a new three-volume edition to accommodate its wealth of detailed entries, the Star Wars Encyclopedia encompasses the full measure of George Lucas' creation.

Here's a sampling of what's inside:

  • Character portraits of both the renowned (Luke Skywalker, Queen Amidala, Darth Vader) and the obscure (Tnun Bdu, Tycho Celchu, Bib Fortuna)
  • The natives and customs of planets as diverse as Tatooine and Hoth, Dagobah and Kashyyyk
  • The rituals, secrets, and traditions of Jedi Knights and Sith Lords 
  • A timeline of major events in Star Wars history, from the Clone Wars and the inception of the Empire to the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker and the invasion of the monstrous Yuuzhan Vong

Nostalgia is what it used to be, just in multi-volume form, and doubling as a doorstop should you choose.   

Treasure
By Iris Johansen

Blindspot: By a Gentleman in Exile and a Lady in Disguise
By Jane Kamensky, Jill Lepore

Busted Flush
By George R. R. Martin

Hey There (You with the Gun in Your Hand) (Rat Pack Series #3)
By Robert J. Randisi

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