Book Review Roundup: Sondheim, Roosevelt And Vonnegut (PHOTOS)

11/29/2010 03:56 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • The Huffington Post

"APOLLO'S ANGELS: A History of Ballet" by Jennifer Homans
The New York Times

Homans's accomplishment is akin to setting the most delicate and beautiful of all the imperial Fabergé eggs into a fissure high on Mount Rushmore and tracking its unlikely survival. And the question of ballet's survival lies at the core of Homans's moving story. "Ballets," Théophile Gau­tier wrote, "are the dreams of poets taken seriously."

"COLONEL ROOSEVELT" by Edmund Morris
The New York Times

Morris is a stylish storyteller with an irresistible subject. The seismic personality that one White House visitor said had to be wrung from one's clothes when leaving Roosevelt's presence infuses every one of his trilogy's nearly 2,500 pages.

"SHOCK OF GRAY: The Aging of the World's Population and How It Pits Young Against Old, Child Against Parent, Worker Against Boss, Company Against Rival, and Nation Against Nation" by Ted C. Fishman
The New York Times

By 2025, there will be 66 million Americans above the age of 65. Over the next four decades, the number of centenarians around the world will increase sevenfold, from 450,000 today to 3.2 million in 2050. Today, 5 percent of the population of Ecuador lives in Spain, in part to care for that country's elderly. In short, demographic shifts are already reshaping the global economy.

"Kind of Blue" by Miles Corwin
The Los Angeles TImes

"Kind of Blue," named for the seminal Miles Davis album that Ash loves, avoids the overheated prose so often found in crime fiction. Corwin is a minimalist, yet his descriptions are precise: Blood spatter at a crime scene looks like "a miniature pointillist portrait," and the Los Angeles River is "a thin stream of brackish water purling down the graffiti-scarred cement banks."

"Finishing the Hat: Collected Lyrics (1954-1981) With Attendant Comments, Principles, Heresies, Grudges, Whines and Anecdotes" by Stephen Sondheim
The Los Angeles Times

The essential qualities of Stephen Sondheim's artistic temperament -- the peppery precision, the refusal to traffic in received wisdom and the commitment to truth over sentimentality -- help turn what could have been a perfunctory curatorial service into the most valuable theater book of the year. "Finishing the Hat," the first of a two-volume set of Sondheim's collected lyrics, springs to life with sharp-eyed annotations, zingy anecdotes and frank appraisals of his most illustrious lyric-writing predecessors.

"Once Before Time" by Martin Bojowald
The Wall Street Journal

Like many before him, Martin Bojowald, an associate physics professor at Pennsylvania State University, has found the search for a workable theory of quantum gravity anything but straightforward. In "Once Before Time" he charts the development of loop quantum gravity, one potential mechanism for a bridge to unite physics. Opposed by a more popular contender in string theory, and with alternative formulations arising all the time, loop quantum gravity faces an uphill struggle if it is to become the dominant theory.

"Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So A Memoir" by Mark Vonnegut, M.D.
San Francisco Chronicle

Yet he was burdened by the nagging doubt that his achievements - early publication of a book, getting into Harvard Medical School as an older applicant - were not entirely his own but due to his famous name. Who knows what determined the outcome of his medical school application - although Mark would find out a lot about the process much later when he served on Harvard's admission committee - but dip into any section of this book and you will know that he is a writer worth reading even if his name were Smith.