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Books to Die For [Hardcover]

John Connolly , Declan Burke
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: 25.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

30 Aug 2012

With so many mystery novels to choose from and so many new titles appearing each year, where should the reader start? What are the classics of the genre? Which are the hidden gems?

In the most ambitious anthology of its kind yet attempted, the world's leading mystery writers have come together to champion the greatest mystery novels ever written. In a series of personal essays that often reveal as much about themselves and their work work as they do about the books that they love, more than 120 authors from twenty countries have created a guide that will be indispensable for generations of readers and writers. From Christie to Child and Poe to PD James, from Sherlock Holmes to Hannibal Lecter and Philip Marlowe to Peter Wimsey, BOOKS TO DIE FOR brings together the cream of the mystery world for a feast of reading pleasure, a treasure trove for those new to the genre and those who believe that there is nothing new left to discover. This is the one essential book for every reader who has ever finished a mystery novel and thought . . . I want more! www.bookstodiefor.net


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (30 Aug 2012)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1444756508
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444756500
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.8 x 5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 459,456 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

This volume challenges a few myths and is worth reading for that pleasure alone. (Sunday Times)

Burke and Connolly's hefty compendium is no mere kill list but something subtler; a way of discovering great crime novels from the past through essays by more than 120 modern masters who have picked their favourites. While their selection is more quirky than definitive, they act as excellent guides . . . a strong and surprising selection (FT)

Indispensable (Sunday Telegraph)

A richly rewarding read from beginning to end (Irish Catholic)

This collection of essays on the kings and queens of crime, past and present, is the perfect stocking filler for all crime-lit junkies - wisdom, wit and candour from the likes of Christie, Conan Doyle and Highsmith. (Saga)

Book Description

The world's greatest mystery writers on the world's greatest mystery novels

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book for readers 30 Aug 2012
By Amazon Customer VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition
As a long term fan of John Connolly, I have read several authors who he has said has clearly influenced his works: James L Burke, Chandler etc., are prevalent in his Charlie Parker series.

In this book, Connolly and Burke ask several esteemed authors to reveal the writers who have influenced them. Writers like Ellroy who as Connolly noted, will not be around forever, explain their choces of the books that made them want to write.

A great series of essays, with male and female authors coming up with several suprise choices as well as an insight into what makes a good book.

As for the 1 star review moaning about price...This is worth every single penny.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
After watching Mr Connolly's interview on BBC Breakfast, I had high expectations of this book. I am a fan of the classic crime fiction (Christie, Conan Doyle, Highsmith, Tey, etc,etc) and thought this book was the perfect read. I was not disappointed.

The book is full of fantastic essays. I must be honest and say I am not a fan of every single essay present in the book. I should say that there are 120 essays in this book and if your reaslistic, you expect a few that fall below the par. To be honest, the reason I am less fond of a few of these essays is because they make the assumption that the reader has already read the book being discussed (which isn't always the case). I had hoped the essays discussing the books I haven't already read would be there to entice me into reading them (and many of them do achieve this!) But those that make this assumption often given away plot details that I would rather not know prior to reading a novel. However, I think if you read with caution and can spot those types of essays quickly, you'll be fine. I am on my guard with these essays and tend to skip to another if the book is on my to read list.

The vast majority (if not all) of the essays in the book are witty, enticing, intelligent and heartfelt. Most authors are very honest and if you are a fan of any of the contributors it is worth reading.

The only issue I have with this great book is that I may be purchasing a lot more books of this fantastic genre.

If you love crime fiction of any sort, please buy this book. You won't regret it.
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By Jl Adcock TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
"Books To Die For" is a comprehensive but accessible collection of essays from some well-known and not so well-known writers on crime and mystery novels that they admire. It's certainly a broad church, and as with any book like this, there will be inclusions and omissions that raise eyebrows. What is particularly good about this collection though is that the essays are short, easy to read and devoid of pretentious critical twaddle. Most of the essays I've read so far portray the writer's love and admiration for the book they are reviewing and recommending - so in turn this makes you want to read them if you've yet to discover them.

Amongst classic practitioners of the genre, it is excellent to see titles by Ed McBain, Georges Simenon, Ian Rankin and Sjowall & Wahloo amongst the recommendations, and, indeed - Stephen King.

The Kindle version is easy to navigate through. Although lacking the heft and and feel of the paper version, the e-book is reasonably priced and actually devoid of any major typo errors. A reference work that you will certainly use and enjoy.

Since my original review, I have been so impressed by this book that I actually bought the paper version as well. Here's one of those examples where the physical item works better than the e-version. It's a chunky, substantial book, but the ability to flick through the reviews much more easily than viewing on a Kindle serves as a useful reminder that reference material works best in printed form.

As for the essays and general level of enthusiasm and knowledge the writers bring to their chosen crime/mystery favourites, I doubt that this collection will be bettered. Really impressive to dip in and out of - and for mystery fans there really is no excuse not to find something new and rewarding to read after browsing the ideas here. Connolly and Burke have done a splendid job.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  28 reviews
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Searching for a great read? Look in here. 3 Oct 2012
By Richard L. Pangburn - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
BOOKS To DIE FOR is a sumptuous feast. It is not an overlooked book but rather a means of discovering overlooked books. A large new handsome volume in easy-to-read print, an anthology of writers on writers, each discussing a work of crime fiction which they found particularly inspiring or thrilling or brilliantly crafted--or by some other alchemy worthy of shouting about.

The book was put together by two Irish mystery/thriller author/editors, Dr. John Connolly and Declan Burke, both of them award winning thriller/mystery authors themselves. In BOOKS TO DIE FOR, more than 120 authors from twenty countries contribute to name the best in crime fiction. A must-have for readers searching for that peak reading experience, for another voice in the mode of their own favorites. The many authors reveal their own tastes and writing styles as they tell about what books they find especially appealing and why.

Relatively new readers to the genre will be enticed; the longtime crime fiction affectionados will find new insights into books they have heard of but have for some reason passed by. The book is balanced. The history of the genre is well represented--many of the classic crime novels are here--but there are also many surprises including some very literary crime novels, and some truly little known gems.

A book to go back to again and again.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Insights into All Kinds of Mysteries 2 Oct 2012
By Marilyn Meredith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is the kind of book to savor over time. It is filled with intriguing insights into mysteries from most of the classical mystery writers beginning with Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and on through Ed McBain and Margaret Maron, Tony Hillerman, James Lee Burke and Dennis Lehane.

No, I haven't read each one, but I have read enough to know that not only are my favorite authors' books written about but many of my favorite authors are the ones who wrote about them.

This book ought to be in every mystery lover's library. It is timeless, informative, and a good way to choose the next mystery to read. You might pick one of the spotlighted novels--or one of the many outstanding mystery authors who contributed to this outstanding collection.
45 of 56 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Self-aggrandising work with little-to-no merit as a reference volume (though some individual contributions are brilliant) 12 Feb 2013
By Patrick - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I admire the mission behind "Books to Die For", edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke. Some mastermind has brought together some of the world's finest crime writers from all four corners of the globe. These writers were asked to write a piece on a "book to die for". It's defined as follows: "If you found our contributors in a bar some evening, and the talk turned (as it almost inevitably would) to favorite novels, it would be the single book that each writer would press upon you, the book that, if there was time and the stores were still open, they would leave the bar in order to purchase for you, so they could be confident they had done all in their power to make you read it."

It's an admirable idea, and after all, what could go wrong? Sure, a volume of this sort is bound to contain some omissions, but at least its inclusions should be excellent, and the different viewpoints should cancel each other out. For every author who is convinced that nothing is better than noir you can have one author who is convinced that plotting in the Christie mould is the best policy. For every author who prefers characterization and setting you can have one who prefers plotting and action. And thus, this collection should contain a book for everyone, and at the very least give you a balanced portrait of the genre.

Ha! In a perfect world, maybe. But we live on this world, and in our world we got a highly biased and highly problematic book. Some of the individual contributions are brilliant, but just as many (if not more) are very bad indeed and in only gets worse the further you read.

Let's start with the good stuff, though. Although the Kindle book is pricey, I think it's not a bad deal. Not only is the Kindle edition excellently formatted and proofread, there's plenty of material in this book to at least make the *amount* of material seem like a fair trade. There's also one major bonus in the collection's favour: many of the authors' essays are personal ones that give you an insight into their own writing techniques. This in turn can help influence your reading decisions.

Many of the individual contributions are absolutely brilliant. Some of my favourites included Sara Paretsky on "Bleak House", Kelli Stanley on "Murder on the Orient Express", Bill Pronzini on "Black Wings Has My Angel", Max Allan Collins on "I, The Jury", Linda Barnes on "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes", Megan Abbott on "In a Lonely Place"... I'll cut things off here to keep this piece shorter than it might otherwise be. Because, unfortunately, there are plenty of flaws in this collection.

It's very clear that "Books to Die For" is only interested in one type of novel: the hardboiled or the noir. All others need not apply. To give the collection some appearance of diversity, they include not one but two Agatha Christies (my, my, how generous!) and guess who else makes an appearance from the school of plotting? If you guessed Dorothy L. Sayers, Josephine Tey, or Margery Allingham, you win absolutely nothing. Edmund Crispin's The Moving Toyshop and Rex Stout's Too Many Cooks make token appearances. And that's it from the school of plotting! Bye-bye!

Another thing that makes this book absolutely infuriating is its *major* gaps. It just doesn't give you a good overview of the genre's rich history. It overlooks major milestones in the genre--Trent's Last Case, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, etc. In fact, only two novels are chosen to represent the 1920s, and neither of them can be considered crime novels unless you really stretch the definitions. John Dickson Carr, Ellery Queen, Erle Stanley Gardner, S. S. Van Dine... all of them are completely overlooked, as though they never existed! We're talking about major contributors to the genre here, and not obscure authors that never had much of an impact!

But do you know what *really* ticked me off about this book? Guess how many books are chosen to represent the 1990s. Go on, I dare you. One? Two? Five? Ten? Nope. The answer is a staggering twenty-eight. In other words, the 1990s get more coverage than the entire genre up to the year 1947!!! WHY??? Most of these books are less than 20 years old, and thus have had almost no time to influence anything in the genre. It may look popular now, but it still hasn't passed the test of time. Many works go unacclaimed in their time and only years later is their importance re-evalued: "It's a Wonderful Life" is a perfect example. Equally, many books are popular in their own time and are entirely forgotten years later. So why does this collection have such a pronounced bias towards modernity, and covers the past largely through books that are close to the style that is popular today?

And then, the closer you get to modern day, the more grovelling is going on. It seems that, starting in the late 70s and continuing into modern day, everyone has changed the genre. Everyone has transcended the genre. Everyone has been a major influence on the genre. Coincidentally, everyone who transcended the genre also writes hardboiled novels or noir! The genre has been transcended so many times that I'm surprised that there is still a genre to transcend!

What I'm trying to say is this: a book can be perfectly good without transcending the genre, whatever that's supposed to mean. (It's an overused phrase without any real meaning, when you stop to think about it.) But too many of these essays are desperate to grovel at the feet of these authors and they throw all reason to the wind: their praise is desperate. Late in the book, an essay with some simple honesty is refreshing. The bad essays by their own wouldn't be too bad, but they're *not* on their own, and *that's* the problem. They're part of a string of essays that all sound the same. This is particularly true when we get to the explosion of women writing mystery stories with women as the detective. Essay after essay tells us that so-and-so broke new ground and did something nobody ever did before, and it sounds like the same essay is being recycled over and over again. Mercifully we're spared the Nordic noir craze of recent years, with only one or two books being covered.

All this frankly gets tiring after a while. You can do this kind of thing a few ways, but no matter how you do it you will end up providing some sort of picture of the genre. "Books to Die For" keeps aiming for those novels that barely qualify as mysteries but which critics and academia can take seriously. The collection, through its inclusions and exclusions, forms a very specific picture of the genre which I'm frankly sick of seeing. It's a symptom of the crime genre in general: it is *desperate* to be taken seriously and panders to the tastes of academia. To paint this picture we must resort to many stupid statements. Many authors feel the need to put down and/or apologise for Agatha Christie when writing their essay, because apparently that makes their work that much more literary. For instance, we find out that Agatha Christie never pushed the detective novel's boundaries, not even in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd--a book that many readers, even today, have not forgiven her for writing!!!

I'm done. "Books to Die For" is an interesting premise, but the overall picture it forms is a failure. It becomes excruciating to read after a while. The book is hugely flawed despite the protestations of the introduction that at least the inclusions should be flawless. It's the inclusions that are responsible for these flaws. I highly recommend some individual pieces, but save your money and borrow it from your local library. This book was nominated for an Edgar, but it frankly doesn't deserve one.

For a book that uses a similar idea and actually gives you an excellent overview of the genre, I recommend Bill Pronzini and Marcia Muller's 1001 MIDNIGHTS. It's a bit old, having come out in the 1980s, and so it reflects the genre as it was perceived back then. But the insight into the genre is far more comprehensive than this book, and the various points of view actually do balance each other out nicely.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Mystery is the Literary Challenge of Great Writers 10 Oct 2012
By Omnivorous Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The world's leading mystery writers have, in their inimitable way, dissected some of the greatest mystery novels ever written. In a series of short essays that often reveal as much about themselves, their own work, often how they were influenced by a particular book they are still passionate about. Fascinating that these people felt so strongly about a book they read, to some it was a life changing experience. Find a writer or a book you admire and travel a little journey with them or discover how another writer found that book or person. Books to Die For is the most ambitious anthology of its kind.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Volume is Indispensable for Anyone Who Has Ever Cracked the Binding on a Book for Pleasure 26 Oct 2012
By Bookreporter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
One could legitimately ask, upon encountering BOOKS TO DIE FOR, if yet another extended checklist with commentary of iconic mystery novels is really needed. My response is "YES," particularly when it is as well-conceived and crafted as this one. Editors John Connolly and Declan Burke's introduction is worth the price of admission all by itself. It is a summation of the heart of the mystery genre itself, as well as an answer to the question of why people who do not read mysteries should, and why those who do read mysteries do. What follows is a list of iconic mystery novels with each entry accompanied by an essay written by a contemporary master of the genre.

BOOKS TO DIE FOR begins with THE DUPIN TALES by Edgar Allan Poe from 1841, with an essay by J. Wallis Martin, and concludes with an entry by Anne Perry for 2008's THE PERK by Mark Gimenez. Between those two markers, surprises of the greatest sort abound.

I can think of very few people who conceivably could have read every book mentioned here. While there are bestsellers listed, there are also books so obscure that it would be difficult if not impossible to find a physical copy of them. The essays that accompany the books represent a labor of love, which is to say that such flaws as might exist in any of the 90-plus novels presented here are noted; the affection displayed in the commentaries are because of the flaws, not in spite of them. An excellent example of this is contained in F. Paul Wilson's comments concerning THE HUNTER by Richard Stark. An iconic work published under Donald Westlake's alter ego, it contains some edgy flaws, each of which are noted by Wilson and leaves the reader all the more inclined to obtain the book and read or re-read it immediately.

Other entries comment on books that, for the contributor, provided the beginning of their love of mystery fiction. One of the absolute best of these is Liza Marklund's commentary for THE GHOST OF BLACKWOOD HALL by Carolyn Keene. I don't normally do this, but I am going to quote Marklund's opening sentence: "I might have read a few thousand books in my lifetime, but none as important as this one." Ask a female mystery author, and somewhere in their distant past, a Nancy Drew mystery novel jumpstarted not only their love of reading but also their desire to write. Marklund's contribution gets even better as it progresses; by the end, you will want the entire original set of Nancy Drew books for your collection, if you don't have them already.

What else is included in BOOKS TO DIE FOR? I sit here mentally gibbering, wondering what to mention in limited space. I love that A SIMPLE PLAN by Scott Smith and THE ICE HARVEST by Scott Phillips (with essays by Michael Koryta and Eoin Colfer, respectively) are included, as well as THE LIGHT OF DAY by Eric "The Man" Ambler (with a short but respectful and spot-on commentary by M.C. Beaton). Perhaps my favorite entry is the clever matchup of co-editor John Connolly commenting on THE BLACK ECHO by Michael Connelly. How many of us have asked for a book by one of those authors for a birthday, received one written by the other, and been delighted nonetheless? The same careful matching can be seen in all of these entries. There is even an index by author at the very end.

Did I mention that this volume is indispensable for anyone who has ever cracked the binding on a book for pleasure? I think I just did. It is an absolute must for everyone's personal library.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub
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