BOOKS
05/09/2011 12:54 pm ET | Updated Jul 09, 2011

Book Review Roundup: A Forgotten Founding Father And Something Juicy

"The Forgotten Founding Father" by Joshua Kendall

Los Angeles Times

In one critical respect, Webster is a biographer's dream, with an abundance of primary documents, including diaries, manuscripts, correspondence and public records available in numerous institutions, which Kendall has thoroughly mined. To his great credit, he does not let the wealth of material overwhelm his narrative, and he never loses sight of the fact that he is shaping the essence of an extraordinarily complex life, one that was uniquely American and well worth celebrating.

"Juice!" by Ishmael Reed

Los Angeles Times

Often it feels like Reed's own obsessions distract him. The prose is sometimes collapsed into too much shorthand analysis, and the dots he wants to connect don't quite do so. At other points he grandstands with monologues that seem randomly assigned to this character or that. But overall I was taken with the book's terseness and lack of frills, its day-by-day journaling of the O.J. phenomenon that is suspenseful even though we all know exactly how the story is going to turn out.

"Instant Poetry (Just Add Words!)" by Larry Berger

Seattle PI

Instant Poetry (Just Add Words!) is a collection of forty-eight poems. I was surprised at the author's creativity, good humor, and, at times, depth about the human condition. Some of these poems were performed on stage along the West Coast and New York and were created in interactive poetry readings. It is a unique and ingenious concept. I don't read poetry often, but I found Instant Poetry engaging and interesting. If you enjoy poetry and would like to try something different, I recommend you grab a copy of this book.

"Robert Redford: The Biography" by Michael Feeney Callan

San Francisco Chronicle

As a man, Redford remains aloof even from this authorized portrait: His public and private personae clash in a blurry way; his far-flung ventures messily combine acting, directing, an arts institute and environmental political advocacy. As a generational figure in Hollywood, Redford could be compared to a constellation of stars such as Clint Eastwood and Warren Beatty who exerted an increasing level of control over their films until they wound up as directors or producers.

"The Boy in the Moon: A Father’s Journey to Understand His Extraordinary Son" by Ian Brown

New York Times

Brown’s research appears to give both father and son a raison d’être. As a journalist — a feature writer for The Globe and Mail — Brown knows the satisfaction of learning a foreign subject and writing about it with newfound authority. The difference here is that most of the time journalists treat learning as a buffet at which they taste and move along. The story Brown is working on is the justification of his and Walker’s life.

"Potsdam Station" by David Downing

Washington Post

Given the limited cast of characters, Downing must draw on almost Dickensian reserves of coincidences and close calls to sustain the suspense of his basic hide-and-seek story line. That he does ingeniously. It helps to read Downing’s novels in order, but if “Potsdam Station” is your first foray into Russell’s escapades, be forewarned that you may soon feel compelled to undertake a literary reconnaissance mission to retrieve and read the earlier books.