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

Book Review Roundup

From the political to the philosophical, here are some of the reviews you may have missed this weekend:

"Game Change" John Heilemann and Mark Halperin
The New York Times

Though this book focuses on personal matters, not policy concerns, and though some of what will be its most talked about passages fall into the realm of gossip and reflect the views of chatty and, in some cases, bitter, regretful or spin-conscious aides, the volume does leave the reader with a vivid, visceral sense of the campaign and a keen understanding of the paradoxes and contingencies of history.

"The Girl with Glass Feet," Ali Shaw
The New York Times

The hybrid form of the book -- fairy tale, myth, psychological realism and fantasy -- impresses. But Shaw's most delightful offerings are the vivid details he provides to make the magical real.

"Fun with Problems," Robert Stone
The Los Angeles Times

Stone's new book, "Fun With Problems," may not represent a complete return to form, but it's far more satisfying than "Bay of Souls" or "Prime Green." Gathering seven pieces of short fiction, it is brilliant in places and slack in others, a primer (if you will) of Stone's obsessions that is, by turns, revelatory and raw.

"Nothing to Envy," Barbara Demick
The Los Angeles Times

Demick has woven together life stories of half a dozen defectors that credibly suggest a human rights tragedy of enormous proportion is taking place relatively out of Western public view, while the news headlines (for good reason) focus on North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

"Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America," Peter Biskind
The San Francisco Chronicle

Despite Biskind's admiration for Beatty's stubbornly determined personality, this entertaining, intermittently insightful book trails off into dispirited final chapters that surprisingly portray him as mostly a failure, like the philandering hairdresser in "Shampoo" who alienates everyone in his life by the end.

"Day Out of Days," Sam Shepard
The San Francisco Chronicle

Shepard knows how to entertain, yet his main project is deeper. In drama, characters often follow traditional narrative arcs. But Shepard has never been traditional. Everyday life is ephemeral, he understands, consisting of moments built upon moments.

"From Eternity to Here," Sean Carroll
The Wall Street Journal

Sean Carroll is a formidable theoretical physicist from the California Institute of Technology, and "From Eternity to Here" is his first work of popular science. He outlines, in the simplest possible terms, all that is known about the arrow of time. That is to say, all that we think we know about the arrow of time, for Mr. Carroll's greatest virtue, aside from the clarity of his prose--an absolute "must" when dealing with matters as complex and counterintuitive as quantum gravity, black holes, tachyons and dark energy--is his honesty in delineating precisely what is known, what is unknown, what is subjective, what is hypothetical and what is purely theoretical.

"Truth," Peter Temple
The Guardian

"Truth" might seem, at first, a more promising title for a treatise on epistemology than a hardboiled detective story, so grand is the project that it appears to map out. Yet by the end of Peter Temple's new novel the title feels almost elegiac. The book's major theme is corruption, personal and political. Temple puts old-fashioned abstract values into conflict with a bleak vision of modern reality, and the result is consistently arresting.

"FDR's Shadow: Louis Howe, the Force that Shaped Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt," Julie M. Fenster
The Washington Times

All great men and women seem to need to have cup bearers. And oftentimes, like the court jesters who could speak hard truths to kings, these devoted aides can sometimes paper over the flaws in the facade their masters present to the public. Indeed every member of both houses of the Congress has at least one "dragon-at-the-gate" who rations access to the boss, who edits the speeches, and keeps a check on promises that cannot be kept. But the Howe-Roosevelt symbiotic relationship is a darker story and Ms. Fenster brings a new depth to it by having had access to Howe's private papers that had until recently been sequestered at the FDR Library in Hyde Park.