BOOKS
07/03/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Book Review Roundup

Were you so busy enjoying the sunshine this weekend that you missed the big book reviews? Catch up with the highlights below!

"Innocent," Scott Turow
The New York Times

Rusty's second trial -- which takes up the better half of this novel -- proves to be just as suspenseful and gripping as his first. Suffice it to say that the fans of "Presumed Innocent" who can suspend their disbelief for the first couple of chapters of this follow-up will not be disappointed.

"The Flight of the Intellectuals," Paul Berman
The New York Times

Paul Berman's new book, "The Flight of the Intellectuals," plural, might as easily have been titled "The Flight of the Intellectual," singular. It is essentially a booklong polemic against one magazine article: a profile of the Islamic philosopher Tariq Ramadan, written by Ian Buruma, the Dutch academic and journalist, and published in The New York Times Magazine in 2007.

"Anthill," E.O. Wilson
The Los Angeles Times

It's strange to feel more compassion for an ant grub than a person, but that's all part of the book's topsy-turvy sympathies. Wilson may not think humans have free will, but he clearly wishes, even hopes, that the ants have something better. This yearning provides fertile soil for biological determinism -- even if it's inhospitable to novel-writing.

"The Red Pyramid," Rick Riordan
The Los Angeles Times

The similarities between "Percy Jackson & the Olympians" and "The Red Pyramid" are numerous, but if "The Red Pyramid" comes off as derivative, at least Riordan is deriving from himself.

Regardless, his new story, like his old one, is inventive and well told and has the added benefit of making history interesting again.

"Private Life," Jane Smiley
The San Francisco Chronicle

The breadth of Jane Smiley's subject matter has always been astonishing - she's written novels about farming, horse training, Hollywood and university life, and nonfiction books and essays about child rearing, impulse buying and dressing. In her 13th novel, "Private Life," the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "A Thousand Acres" takes that breadth and applies it temporally, chronicling a woman's life from the 1880s to World War II. The result is a novel rich in setting and scope.

"Kissing the Mask," William T. Vollman
The San Francisco Chronicle

"Kissing the Mask" is long, although not by Vollmann's standards. It is repetitive. It can be mannered, and annoyingly and coyly self-referential.

Yet "Kissing the Mask" does reward the reader who stays with it for the long trip, the way a travel chronicle does.

"The Pop Revolution," Alice Goldfarb Marquis
The Wall Street Journal

Ms. Marquis presents a vivid--and often comical--picture of the hustling art market that Pop helped bring into existence. At one point we see Willem de Kooning, an Abstract Expressionist miffed at his eclipse, claiming that "you could give [Leo Castelli] two beer cars and he could sell them"; a puckish Jasper Johns, charmed by the idea, decided to cast two Ballantine beer cans in bronze and Castelli indeed sold them.

But Ms. Marquis is not terribly concerned with the art itself. The specific aesthetic nature of Pop Art cannot be separated from the mass culture that sustained it.

"Happy Now?", Katherine Shonk
The Boston Globe

In her quiet debut novel, "Happy Now?'' Katherine Shonk deals with a hard-won if imperfect marriage, a sudden, devastating loss, grief, anger, and the question of how to rebuild a life in ruins amid a quirky family dynamic.

"Jesus, Jobs, and Justice: African American Women and Religion," Bettye Collier-Thomas
The New Republic

"Jesus, Jobs, and Justice" traces a long, complex, and sometimes bitter line of negotiations between black men and women in the churches. At the beginning, Collier-Thomas reiterates the oft-made point that African American women's commitment to men is the fundamental dynamic: "black women overwhelmingly maintain solidarity with black men in the war against the perpetuation of oppression and institutionalized racism." The point is indisputable, and also unremarkable: it has become a mantra of black feminism, conceived to counter the tendency of white feminists to see sexual antagonism under every rock. But you can't help but wonder if at this late date any readers, white or black, need to be reminded.