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Book Review Roundup

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"The White House Diary" by Jimmy Carter

From Publishers Weekly

The snarl behind the toothy grin emerges in these acerbic entries culled from the 39th president's personal diary. Carter vents against everyone, from Congress ("disorganized juvenile delinquents"), to the press ("completely irresponsible and unnecessarily abusive") and the incoming Reaganauts ("group of jerks.")

"Yellow Dirt" by Judy Pasternak

From the Los Angeles Times

Studded with vivid character sketches and evocative descriptions of the American landscape, journalist Judy Pasternak's scarifying account of uranium mining's disastrous consequences often reads like a novel -- though you will wish that the bad guys got punished as effectively as they do in commercial fiction.

"Room" by Emma Donoghue

From The New York Times

Emma Donoghue's remarkable new novel, "Room," is built on two intense constraints: the limited point of view of the narrator, a 5-year-old boy named Jack; and the confines of Jack's physical world, an 11-by-11-foot room where he lives with his mother. We enter the book strongly planted within these restrictions.

From Dallas News

We've all heard the recent stories about women and children held captive for years. For anyone who's thought, "How do you survive that?" Donoghue provides mesmerizing insight, in a voice at once winsome and blistering.

"The Ape House" by Sara Gruen

From The Onion

Sara Gruen has a talent for writing animals. In her bestseller Water For Elephants and her newest work, Ape House, she conveys the titular creatures' keen intelligence and distinct personalities in a way that asks readers to reexamine their views of other species. It's unfortunate that her talent doesn't extend to writing humans. In Water For Elephants, her poorly developed characters were more forgivable, as the rich setting of an ailing Depression-era circus overshadowed them. Conversely, Ape House's jumbled plot makes Gruen's weaknesses more pronounced.

"Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception" by Charles Seife

From The New York Times

Charles Seife is steaming mad about all the ways that numbers are being twisted to erode our democracy. We're used to being lied to with words ("I am not a crook"; "I did not have sexual relations with that woman"). But numbers? They're supposed to be cold, hard and objective. Numbers don't lie, and they brook no argument. They're the best kind of facts we have.

"To the End of the Land" by David Grossman

From The Guardian

To the End of the Land emerges at a time when, by Grossman's own account, it has become harder and harder to resist the dominant narrative of his country, a narrative he has done more than most Israeli writers to expose....It has become part of the legend of this novel that, while he was writing it, Grossman's son Uri was killed on the last day of the 2006 Israeli offensive in Lebanon. It will never be read now without that knowledge, without that unspeakable pain, which is in danger of conferring on the book a mythical status.

"The Wave" by Susan Casey

From The New York Times

Casey makes a convincing, entertaining case (nifty cliffhangers and all) that there is a heretofore little-known monster in our midst....They do exist; now the question is, how? Strangely, in many ways we have a better understanding of subatomic specks than we do of these behemoths. In the most general sense, waves are the "original primordial force," Casey says.

"The Warmth of Other Suns" by Isabel Wilkerson

From the Los Angeles Times

Told in a voice that echoes the magic cadences of Toni Morrison or the folk wisdom of Zora Neale Hurston's collected oral histories, Wilkerson's book pulls not just the expanse of the migration into focus but its overall impact on politics, literature, music, sports -- in the nation and the world.

Anchored by three dynamic narratives of Southerners who fled the "bottomland" to make their way North or West in pursuit of the American dream, Wilkerson is able to chart the differences of the treks depending on decade, city of origin and ultimate destination.

This is deep water: 15 years of research, with 1,200 interviews pared down to three representative stories. Wilkerson, a Pulitzer-prize-winning, former national correspondent for the New York Times and a professor of journalism at Boston University, has rendered the Great Migration through a trio of voices --symbolic portraits as intricately etched as heirloom cameos.

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