Book Review Roundup

05/10/2010 02:48 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Out doing something nice for your mom instead of reading the book reviews this weekend? Catch up on what you missed here!

"Crisis Economics," Nouriel Roubini and Stephen Mihm
The New York Times

Instead of imposing a doctrinaire theory upon the facts, Mr. Roubini employs an eclectic, common-sense approach to history, picking à la carte from the thinking of such disparate economists as John Maynard Keynes and Joseph Schumpeter.

"The Last Hero: The Life of Henry Aaron," Howard Bryant
The New York Times

Aaron is clearly a hard man to get to know, and I'm not sure Mr. Bryant entirely does. His life off the field is detailed haphazardly: his two marriages, his children, his passions. His own words, quoted here, are mostly unmemorable. But "The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron" had the forceful sweep of a well-struck essay as much as that of a first-rate biography.

"Spoken from the Heart," Laura Bush
The Los Angeles Times

The former first lady has written two actual memoirs in this book. The first, more compelling of the two concerns her girlhood in Midland, Texas, and her life up until her husband decided to run for president, a decision she signed onto with some reluctance. (She clearly would have preferred an earlier retreat to the ranch she so loves in Crawford.) The first section is rich in elegantly recounted detail; the second has a somewhat flat and, often, detached tone -- except in a few crucial instances. Even so, the account of her eight tumultuous years in the White House is singularly free of the mean-spiritedness and payback that has become a routine feature of contemporary political memoirs.

"Private Life," Jane Smiley
The Los Angeles Times

Smiley has points to make, and if blunt, they are not without interest. As a novel, though, "Private Life" is a ragged affair.

"The Invisible Bridge," Julie Orringer
The San Francisco Chronicle

Sometimes with a historical novel, one feels burdened by the author's scrupulous research and by the author's need to put all that research into the novel, whether the story demands it or not. Here, the details are lavish - and Orringer's knowledge truly breathtaking - but the details are never superfluous. In a certain way, the details are the story, the point of the novel directed as much to the characters' lives as to the worlds into which they are thrust.

"Finding Chandra," Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz
The San Francisco Chronicle

"Finding Chandra" is a triumph of investigative journalism. Its authors did what the D.C. police and the FBI had not done: They exonerated Condit and identified Guandique as Levy's likely killer. Their reporting was thorough and focused, and they provide readers with detailed notes about where their facts come from.

"Last Call," Daniel Okrent
The Wall Street Journal

As Daniel Okrent shows in "Last Call," his superb history of the Prohibition era, obtaining a drink with a lot more kick than a bottle of pop wasn't at all difficult for the thirsty public. The law's loopholes were numerous, and the judiciary, suddenly overwhelmed by Prohibition-related arrests, was extraordinarily lenient.

"The Men Who Would Be King," Nicole LaPorte
The New Republic

Does this view of boys playing major-league Monopoly interest you? If so, this could be your book, though LaPorte writes with a ragbag of cliches and action language that seems terrified of losing the reader's attention if extended beyond a thousand words. She is a writer from Variety and the Los Angeles Times and part of a group of fierce-seeming young blades who cut up "the business" in southern California, and who put on a specious pose about the vulgarity and the duplicity of the business when they would happily trade away their word processor for a job in the very same despised business. In other words, when La Porte describes her subjects as "hard-charging bullies with paper-thin skins", you want to cheer her acumen--but I suspect she is describing herself too.

"Final Demands," Frederic Raphael
The Guardian

How to say goodbye, then, in suitable style, to Adam Morris, the great hero of Frederic Raphael's Glittering Prizes trilogy? Scholar, screenwriter, novelist and corduroy-jacket-wearing babe-magnet; the writer we all wish and imagine ourselves to be; the grand seigneur, il penseroso, and one of the smartest, funniest, richest, solemnest, most multilingual creatures in all of contemporary fiction.