Book Review Roundup

05/24/2010 01:04 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

If you missed out on any of the big book reviews recently, never fear! You can check out some book review highlights here.

"The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest," Stieg Larsson
The New York Times

"Hornet's Nest" is the last novel in Larsson's Millennium series that Larsson, the crusading Swedish journalist, completed before his sudden death from a heart attack at the age of 50 in 2004. It's also a thoroughly gripping read that shows off the maturation of the author's storytelling talents.

"The Invisible Bridge," Julie Orringer
The New York Times

In its powers of description, "The Invisible Bridge" is reflective and specific enough to wonder exactly when a tree dies once Andras is assigned to cut wood in a Subcarpathian forest. The true moment of death, this onetime architecture student decides, is when the thing that is meant to be upright can no longer stand. Ms. Orringer's long, crowded book is its own kind of forest, and not every tree needs to be here; her novel's dramatic power might have been greatly enhanced by pruning.

"The Red Thread," Ann Hood
The Los Angeles Times

[Hood] understands Maya's suffering. Empathy, even between an author and her character, is a conduit to grace. Hood and her husband lost their daughter Grace to a strep infection in 2002, when she was 5. Three years after her death, they adopted Annabelle from Changsha in China's Hunan province.

A reader who knows this about Hood might struggle with the impulse to allow her to write a story that is not autobiographical, but Maya's suffering drives the story forward; it is the force that binds all of the characters together, in China and in Providence. And its vividness has a base in reality.

"Warning Shadows," Gary Giddens
The Los Angeles Times

Gary Giddins is well known for his writing about music -- he was a Village Voice jazz columnist for three decades, and his books, among them the biography " Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams," are revered. His writing about movies gets less attention only because he does less of it. "Warning Shadows: Home Alone With Classic Cinema" is his first book devoted exclusively to movies, and it makes me wish that the New York Sun -- the short-lived (2002-08) newspaper where many of the essays making up the book first appeared -- were still around, if only so he'd still be reviewing DVDs regularly. His film pieces -- witty, informed and insightful -- are an absolute pleasure to read.

"Revolutionaries: A New History of the Invention of America," Jack Rakove
The San Francisco Chronicle

Refreshingly accessible and deeply informed, "Revolutionaries" is just what you need when someone on the Internet or cable TV offers to give you the ideas about history now being offered by the Tea Party movement in exchange for those you got from well-trained teachers.

"Nomad," Ayaan Hirsi Ali
The San Francisco Chronicle

The truth is, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is confused. She is a nomad who never stays in one place long enough to understand it fully. This is obvious when she makes statements such as "Only in New York does it seem acceptable to remain single on a long-term basis." But it is precisely this characteristic of naivete and confusion that makes her observations as an outsider a gift to a society that sometimes can't see its forest for the trees.

"Bottled and Sold," Peter Gleick
The Washington Post

One of his book's strengths is showing what a predicament we've placed ourselves in by creating a $100-billion bottled water industry worldwide. For example, "The Sedona Springs Bottled Water Company . . . pumped enough groundwater to dramatically alter surface flows" in Maricopa County, Ariz., a depletion that caused the demise of local flora and fauna.

"The Atlantic and Its Enemies," Norman Stone
The Wall Street Journal

Mr. Stone, a former Oxford history professor who now lives (and teaches) in Ankara, Turkey, has in the past written a general history of Europe and a study of the Eastern Front during World War I, bringing to his accounts an idiosyncratic verve that is much in evidence in "The Atlantic and Its Enemies." He paints on a broad canvas, showing how the Cold War unfolded, but that does not keep him from weaving in personal anecdotes, like one about the time in the 1960s when he was traveling in Eastern Europe and ended up being jailed for several weeks in Slovakia, suspected of being a spy.

"Quantum," Manjit Kumar

That it can be hard to wrap your brain around the principles of the subatomic world is a given. It's a strange kingdom, full of things that don't exist or exist in two opposite conditions at once until somebody looks at them, particles that influence each other instantaneously despite being separated by lightyears and electrons that move from one place to another without traveling through the space in between. Books on the subject rely on good metaphors, clearly explained, and Kumar delivers them, but "Quantum" is not for the complete novice or those timid souls who quail at the sight of an equation.