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Like any critic, longtime Washington Post book reviewer Jonathan Yardley has his tics: He’s impatient with anything that smacks of postmodern frippery, and he’ll rarely pass on an opportunity to ding feminist academics. But unlike many critics, he’s willing to reconsider past judgments, something he did in his Second Reading column from 2003 to 2010. The majority of those essays are collected in Second Reading, in which he finds new reasons to celebrate classics like Lucky Jim and takes a few whacks at The Catcher in the Rye (a “maladroit, mawkish novel”). But he’s mostly interested in reviving forgotten works such as Margaret Leech’s Civil War history, Reveille in Washington: 1860–1865, which is “required reading for anyone who wants to know what kind of place the nation’s capital really is.” To that end, Yardley’s book is both a fine depository of recommendations and a reminder that the best books aren’t always the best known.
Jonathan Yardley reads from his book at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free.