01/03/2011 01:05 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Book Review Roundup: Poser And The (Former) Planet Pluto

"HOW I KILLED PLUTO: And Why It Had It Coming" By Mike Brown
The New York Times

"How I Killed Pluto" is a strange artifact, an unlikely hybrid of Dennis Overbye's "Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos" and Anne Lamott's "Operating Instructions." It's not a book about the former ninth planet -- or even planetary astronomy -- lightly salted with Brown's family life. A good bit of it chronicles infant development, even including some of Brown's blog posts about his daughter's eating and sleeping habits during the first 240 days after her birth.

'Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses' by Claire Dederer
The Los Angeles Times

But goodness as it turns out is elusive and not terribly interesting for the same reason most books about yoga are unreadable: No one wants to hear about how good you are. We want to hear about how you tried to be good and fell short. And by doing just that, "Poser" achieves something rare: It's a contemporary book about yoga that doesn't leave you squirming, suspect or bored.

"The Charming Quirks of Others: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel" by Alexander McCall Smith
The Los Angeles Times

When writing or reading mysteries, my touchstone has always been a quote by early 20th century novelist Charles Chesnutt: "The greatest mystery is the human heart." And while some would argue that there must be a vicious crime (the more heinous the better) to enliven a mystery, Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series and other contemporary cozies have proved that crimes need not be punishable by death to provide a satisfying read.

'Witch & Wizard: The Gift' by James Patterson and Ned Rust
The Los Angeles Times

Books and movies have been banned. Music, art -- they too have been outlawed by an evil regime known as the New Order and its hateful leader, The One Who Is The One. Gone are the days of individualism and integrity, and with it the easy availability of cheeseburgers and rock 'n' roll.

"Moonlight Mile" by Dennis Lehane

Seattle PI

Dennis Lehane scores another knockout with his Moonlight Mile. Lehane brings us a sequel to Gone Baby Gone. Amanda McCready, now 16, disappeared, again. Like last time, Aunt Beatrice requests the help of private detectives Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. Only this time Angela and Patrick are married and have a young daughter, Gabriella. Angela has retired from the detecting business, and gone back to school.

"Destiny and Desire" by Carlos Fuentes and translated by Edith Grossman
San Francisco Chronicle

Like the elephant in D.H. Lawrence's poem that is "slow to mate," serious novelists are often years, if not decades and decades, behind in their calculi about what matters most dearly in their native lands. In some cases, this occurs because of an accident of birth and time - Tolstoy, for example, was born decades after the military events in "War and Peace." Samuel Clemens began a version of his "Huck Finn" before the Civil War, abandoned it and picked it up again 20 years later.

"The Last Utopia" by Samuel Moyn

The Last Utopia.Iran-Contra convict Elliot Abrams and Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth have little in common besides interesting eyebrows, but they do share one other thing: an aversion to Obama's human rights policies. The president doesn't even have a human rights policy, according to Abrams. The administration confuses rhetoric with reality, says Roth. Indeed, the one criticism of the administration that the left and right share is that the Obama-ites have been insufficiently faithful to human rights doctrine.