06/21/2010 11:48 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Book Review Roundup

Snoozed on book reviews this weekend? We've got you covered.

"The Notebook," Jose Saramago
The Los Angeles Times

What makes this exceptional is that Saramago was a formally demanding writer in love with unparagraphed prose. Yet he had the ability to hold us in his grasp nonetheless. His narrators were obsessives who convincingly took us away from everyday reality, inhabiting instead a familiar but very strange world.

"The Search for Smilin' Ed!" Kim Deitch
The Los Angeles Times

Graphic novels should be better. They should be so much better that serious readers bristle at the genre designation, which is too narrow and diminutive. Few artists have exceeded the limitations of either the market or the dual skill sets required by the form.

"A Visit From the Goon Squad," Jennifer Egan
The New York Times

Pity the poor rock stars who find themselves at the mercy of toddlers who have purchasing power. Ms. Egan slyly turns one "Goon Squad" recurring character into one of those stars.

"Spies of the Balkans," Alan Furst
The Washington Post

I read my first Alan Furst novel nine years ago and urged Book World's readers to do themselves a favor and seek out everything this talented writer had in print. Now, having read Furst's 11th and latest novel, "Spies of the Balkans," I find that my advice holds.

"The Lost Cyclist," David Herlihy
The Salt Lake Tribune

A century before Lance Armstrong won his first Tour de France, even before the Tour's first running, a young American named Frank Lenz emerged as a national hero as he set out to ride his bicycle around the world.

"Hitch-22," Christopher Hitchens
The New York Times

The problem is that if you're a public figure, especially a writer as extravagantly colorful and prolific as Hitchens (he's written 11 books, 4 pamphlets and 4 collections of essays, and today appears regularly in Slate, The Atlantic Monthly and Vanity Fair), you may scarcely be aware of how much of your own store of tales has dribbled out over the years, like a sack of flour with a small hole in it.

"Imperial Bedrooms," Bret Easton Ellis
The San Francisco Chronicle

No, "Imperial Bedrooms" is familiar because it's pretty much all of Ellis' books, rolled up into one. It's "Less Than Zero" crossed with name-dropping "Glamorama" and paranoiac "Lunar Park" (plus occasional violent speckles of "American Psycho"), a vast spiral of postmodern self-referentiality that will leave your head spinning.

"Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India," William Dalrymple
The San Francisco Chronicle

With some exceptions, these two narratives - India's "premodern" religiosity, and its growing economy - are often presented as diametric opposites, simply unrelated, or the first and last points on something like a scale of modernity. How they interact, unfortunately, is seldom explored.

"The Bumper Book of Nature,"Stephen Moss
The Wall Street Journal

Not so funny but sadder still is the degree to which our own tech-absorbed society is cut off from nature's beauty and cadences. That sentiment, at least, and with gentle rue rather than Betjeman-like invocations of violence, is what emanates from the pleasant pages of "The Bumper Book of Nature: A User's Guide to the Great Outdoors."