Book Review Roundup

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Here's your weekly book review roundup, in case you missed the weekend's reviews in the midst of your food coma.

"Family Album", Penelope Lively
The New York Times

Memories lie buried, yet remain forceful enough to shape our lives. In its infinite dimensions, this is the subject Penelope Lively, the British author of more than two dozen children's books and numerous adult novels, has explored throughout her long and impressive career. In her haunting new novel, "Family Album," the act of forgetting is as strange and interesting as the power of remembering.

"Yours Ever: People and Their Letters", Thomas Mallon
The New York Times

"Yours Ever" is nuanced, informed, full-blooded, a vigorous literary salute. Mallon offers up his text as one that "bows down to its bibliography, one that presents itself as a kind of long cover letter to the cornucopia of titles listed back there."

"An Infinity of Things", Frances Larson
The Wall Street Journal

As Frances Larson writes in "An Infinity of Things," her absorbing account of how the American-born, London-based industrialist "collected the world," objects were "close packed up to the ceiling" and choked the hallways in a Wellcome warehouse.

"Mentors, Muses & Monsters: 30 Writers on the People Who Changed Their Lives", Edited by Elizabeth Benedict
The San Francisco Chronicle

This anthology is that rare gem, a collection whose whole is greater, even, than the sum of its parts. Where else could you read musings-about-muses, accompanied by juicy tales from deep inside the writing life, by 30 of the best minds of our generation, all between the covers of one book?

"Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession", Julie Powell
The Los Angeles Times

"Cleaving" is an ambitious undertaking; Powell means to acquaint us with the ins and outs of a worldwide industry, even as she reveals intimate details about the unraveling of two relationships. An entertaining writer, she almost pulls it off, distracting us with descriptions of knives, carcasses and meals, as well as recipes strategically placed.

"Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace With Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan", Greg Mortenson
The Los Angeles Times

...[T]hose who were lured by the conversational tone of "Three Cups of Tea" might have become interested enough to wade deeper into the region's complexities, as presented in "Stones Into Schools." Readers not so initiated may struggle.

"Charles Dickens: A Life Defined By Writing", Michael Slater
The Chicago Tribune

...[N]o one gets Dickens whole and entire -- you might as well try lassoing the ocean -- but Michael Slater's new biography, "Charles Dickens: A Life Defined By Writing" ( Yale University Press), makes the kind of valiant attempt that Dickens himself would have admired. Slater's book is downright Dickensian -- that is, it's a beautiful profusion of facts, insights and observations that, detail by detail, bring a recognizable world into crisp and scintillating focus.

"Dear Granny Smith: A Letter from Your Postman", Roy Mayall
The Guardian

"Dear Granny Smith" by Roy Mayall (Short Books) can't be more than 15,000 words, but it distills that same longing for a better past while at the same time launching a passionate attack on the Scylla and Charybdis of rationalisation and modernisation and those contemporary weasel words "profitability" and "cost-cutting".

"Changing My Mind", Zadie Smith
The Onion AV Club

In the foreword to Zadie Smith's first non-fiction collection, "Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays", the author of "White Teeth" taunts readers with a series of other projects she's considered, including a serious book about writing called "Fail Better". Fans of her three novels may hold her responsible for not following any of these threads, but even readers unfamiliar with her work will discover a voracious reader and a keen wit in these articles previously published in The New York Review Of Books and The Guardian, among other publications.

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