08/02/2010 05:00 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Book Review Roundup

Did you miss this weekend's big book reviews? Catch up with some highlights below!

"Long For This World: The Strange Science of Immortality," Jonathan Weiner
The New York Times

Even if writers become immortal, books must end, and it is by reaching the end that the reader can sit back and find meaning in the journey. "Long for This World" is a great trip.

"The Subtle Body," Stefanie Syman
The New York Times

So how did yoga arrive at this point? How did a centuries-old spiritual discipline, associated with meditative practices in Buddhism and Hinduism, become a fitness routine subscribed to by professional athletes, C.E.O.'s, Hollywood stars and suburban soccer moms?

"A Thousand Peaceful Cities," Jerzy Pilch
Los Angeles Times

There's a serious question at the center of Jerzy Pilch's comic novel "A Thousand Peaceful Cities": Is political violence ever justified?

"My Hollywood," Mona Simpson
Los Angeles Times

It takes a very subtle, sophisticated and confident writer to make our most common problems come off as unique on the page as they feel at 3 in the morning. If anyone can do it, Mona Simpson, author of "Anywhere but Here," "The Lost Father," "A Regular Guy" and "Off Keck Road," can. And does.

"Aristocrats," Lawrence James
The Wall Street Journal

Mr. James's great, sweeping survey of the ups and downs of the British aristocracy begins by taking seriously the myth of chivalry that underpins it.

"Higher Education," Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus
Wall Street Journal

In "Higher Education?" Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus describe such conditions in vivid detail. They offer statistics, anecdotes and first-person accounts-- concerning tuition, tenure and teaching loads, among much else--to draw up a powerful, if rambling, indictment of academic careerism. The authors are not shy about making biting judgments along the way.

"What To Look For In Winter," Candia McWilliam

Misfortune has not dulled her sharp way with words, nor suppressed her flashes of grandeur: the doctors who ask her advice about their own writing, the hypnotist who demanded her endorsement for a self-help book, the lover for whom she left her second husband, the relation who gave her a 40th birthday present of 40 addled eggs, may writhe to find themselves anatomised here. But she treats them very much less harshly than she treats herself. What a precise, poetic dissection of a life this is; how brave she was, and how wise, to undertake it.

"Dreyfus," Ruth Harris
San Francisco Chronicle

In "Dreyfus," Ruth Harris substitutes detailed historical descriptions for simple stereotypes, exploding the traditional accounts of the clashes around the sad and stoical captain. She shows that there were serious intellectual forces on the right that embraced nationalism, and there were plenty of strange bedfellows on the left to challenge any easy identification between the supporters of Dreyfus and practitioners of mainstream science.

"Everything," Kevin Canty
San Francisco Chronicle

The novel is told in deft minimalist sketches, so understated in the telling that scenes often sneak up and, ultimately, dazzle. Once the scenes begin to accrue, you realize that you're in the hands of a master craftsman.

"How I Escaped My Certain Fate: The Life and Deaths of a Stand-Up Comedian," Stewart Lee
The Guardian

So although it's a pleasure to read the transcripts for Lee's shows, the experience is frustrating, because they cry out to be performed. It's something he knows, too.

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