07/20/2010 06:41 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Book Review Roundup

"One Day," David Nicholls
The New York Times

It's about a winsome but schematic love story that depends entirely upon its characters' maddening limitations. "One Day" must simultaneously insist that Dexter and Emma are made for each other (why else would their approach-avoidance drama last 20 years?) and that they don't quite recognize the obvious. What that means, in practical terms, is that Mr. Nicholls has the agility to send the two of them into a skinny-dipping clinch on a sun-kissed Aegean island vacation and still keep them from connecting.

"Every Man in This Village is a Liar," Megan K. Stack
The San Francisco Chronicle

While Stack's book proves refreshingly candid and undeniably affecting, it is also an intellectual brand of gonzo journalism; the author's psychologically assertive manner differs radically from the unobtrusive and self-effacing modus operandi one expects of news correspondents.

"Freedom Summer," Bruce Watson
The New York Times

Mississippi pretended its race problems didn't exist. But as Bruce Watson makes plain in his taut and involving new book, "Freedom Summer," the rest of America in 1964 was beginning to have trouble looking away from Mississippi.

"Diary of a Very Bad Year: Confessions of an Anonymous Hedge Fund Manager,"
The New York Times

The global banking crisis that began in 2007 has brought some good books into being, volumes historians will consult when reflecting on these hard times. It has also given us some wild cards, unexpected treats that belong on the shelf once labeled belles-lettres but now more commonly known (thanks to Dave Eggers's annual paperback anthologies) as nonrequired reading.

"What Is Left the Daughter," Howard Norman
Los Angeles Times

"What Is Left the Daughter," Howard Norman's 10th book, is an epistolary novel about death, survival and legacy. As with most of his fiction and nonfiction, this quirky World War II narrative unfolds in Canada's Maritime provinces. Reminiscent of a classic Robert Frank black-and-white photograph, this candid, everyday portrait discloses intricate webs of wistfulness and resignation. Norman raises absorbing moral quandaries, particularly about the possibilities of forgiveness.

"The Thieves of Manhattan," Adam Langer
Los Angeles Times

When an author quotes with equal gusto from Jorge Luis Borges, Pippi Longstocking and Milli Vanilli, one nervously anticipates yet another exercise in promiscuously relativist hipsterism. Yet "The Thieves of Manhattan" is as soulful and morally committed as it is funny and clever. Where his narrator, Ian Minot, is helpless in the face of events real and imaginary, Langer is fully in control of his fictional world.

"In the Company of Angels," Thomas E. Kennedy
Los Angeles Times

According to recent surveys, the Danes, with their socialist monarchy, carpe diem atheism and boisterous birth rates, are the happiest people on the planet. Just don't try telling this to Thomas E. Kennedy. His ensnaring, original novel, "In the Company of Angels," looks into the hearts of four ordinary yet emotionally tortured Copenhageners -- and confronts them with Nardo, a refugee from Chile whose courage in the face of physical torture points up the lies in their lives.

"Voyager," Stephen J. Pyne
The Wall Street Journal

The book offers 200 terrific pages on the two unmanned Voyager space probes launched in 1977, their accomplishments--which, astonishingly, continue--and the immense difficulties they overcame. Alas, those pages are buried inside the more than 400-page book that Mr. Pyne has actually published.

"The Obama Victory," Kate Kenski, Bruce W. Hardy, Kathleen Hall Jamieson
The New Republic

This book could transform the way we understand presidential campaigns. Kate Kenski, Bruce W. Hardy, and Kathleen Hall Jamieson give us a fascinating window into accelerating technological advances driving--and driven by--consultants and operatives over the past decade. Every assertion is backed up with an extraordinary array of statistics, facts, and figures.

"The Nobodies Album," Carolyn Parkhurst
San Fransisco Chronicle

Octavia Frost, the Massachusetts fiction writer who narrates Carolyn Parkhurst's intriguing third book, "The Nobodies Album," is engrossed, personally and professionally, by endings: the satisfying sort her fiction demands, and the ambiguous ones life so often delivers.

"The Men Who Would be King," Nicole Laporte

In her "almost epic tale", Nicole Laporte, formerly a Variety staffer, clinically unpacks the failed promise of DreamWorks. None of the three men would be interviewed for the book; she pieced together the narrative from well-placed sources, many of them unnamed. Laporte's detailed reporting proves DreamWorks was always less than the sum of its parts.


"The Fall of the House of Walworth," Geoffry O'Brien

When someone says that a work of narrative history reads like a novel, they almost always mean that the facts are lined up and marched in tight, chronological formation after the fashion of an airport thriller. Geoffrey O'Brien's "The Fall of the House of Walworth: A Tale of Madness and Murder in Gilded Age America" does indeed read like a novel, but not that kind. Instead, this true crime story is part Victorian family saga, part creepy gothic, full of haunted people drifting through rooms filled with dark, oversize furniture as immobile and dominating as the past they can neither revive nor escape.