Looking for a gift for an English major? Brushing up to be a Jeopardy! contestant? DK's Writers: Their Lives and Works should help one ace the "Notable Writers Throughout History" category. The reference guide is divided into six chapters, covering authors in chronological order. The first chapter is "Pre-19th Century"--Dante Alighieri, William Shakespeare, Voltaire, et al.--and the final one is "Writing Today," featuring Toni Morrison, John Updike and Cormac McCarthy, among others.
Each author is showcased with a portrait or picture, a bio summarizing his or her early life and career, and the inspirations that sparked the author's most famous works. There's interesting trivia along the way, like Haruki Murakami claiming his improvisational writing is shaped by jazz--he never knows what the next page will bring. Writers could use more profiles of female writers of color, but it offers a crash course in some of the most important figures in literary history. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd