05/03/2011 12:53 pm ET | Updated Jul 03, 2011

Book Review Roundup: Obama's Mom's Bio And A Book About Heaven And Hell

"The Summer Without Men" by Siri Hustvedt

New York Times

Hustvedt’s novels tend to be as somber as they are intellectually invigorating. Her gripping, hypnotic tale of love and death in the New York art world, “What I Loved,” devastates with its dark emotion, conveying a haunting sense of life’s pull toward mystery. In “The Sorrows of an American,” a psychoanalyst’s quest to understand his dead father’s Scandinavian melancholy becomes a stark meditation on how the past shapes the present. In this novel, Hustvedt tries for something different, with mixed results.

"Fire Season: Field Notes From a Wilderness Lookout" by Philip Connors

Los Angeles Times

Connors' language sometimes overreaches. But he has written a quietly moving love letter to a singular place. By the last page, I wanted to hike up to the tower, sip some whiskey with him and just look.

"Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate Of Every Person Who Ever Lived" by Rob Bell

Seattle PI

I enjoyed reading this book from cover to cover, for many reasons and on many levels. I wanted to read how a young popular preacher from Grand Rapids, Michigan created so much buzz with his bestselling books. He did it. With his words, Bell nails trust to the cross and asks his reader to see it there but not to execute it. In other words don't kill trust; don't kill love; and, most of all, don't kill heaven with hell.

"The Origins of Political Order" by Francis Fukuyama


It is an intellectual triumph—bold in scope, sound in judgment, and rich in provocations; in short, a classic. And perhaps the most delightful thing of all is that the author of "The End of History" is now stepping forward as the champion of history's importance.

"The Great Night" by Chris Adrian


The Great Night recalls Vikram Seth's wonderful 1986 novel in verse, The Golden Gate, which transposed another classic to contemporary San Francisco — Alexander Pushkin's Eugene Onegin — and also explored the universal, often thwarted, pursuit of love. But Adrian, who holds a master's degree in Divinity from Harvard and an M.F.A. in writing from Iowa in addition to his medical degree, uses Shakespeare's comedy not for a virtuosic display of stylistic mimicry but as a vessel to help him access and contain the amazingly bountiful, sparkling "jewels from the deep" (as the Bard called them) of his rich imagination.

"A Singular Woman: The Untold Story of Barack Obama's Mother" by Janny Scott

Los Angeles Times

Only when we see Dunham with her family does the narrative open, and such moments are few and far between. That, I suppose, is to be expected, given that one of Scott's primary sources now lives in the White House, but it leaves "A Singular Woman" incomplete.

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