Book Review Roundup

May 22, 2010 | Updated May 25, 2011

Too busy basking in the first days of Spring to check the book reviews this weekend? Check out some of the highlights below.

"Lonelyhearts: The Screwball World of Nathanael West and Eileen McKenney," Marion Meade
The New York Times

The bad news about "Lonelyhearts" is that Ms. Meade's own unsubtle voice will make you wince on almost every page. To hear her tell this story is like listening to someone play Aaron Copland on a kazoo.

"The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them," Elif Batuman
The New York Times

Hilarious, wide-ranging, erudite and memorable, "The Possessed" is a sui generis feast for the mind and the fancy, ants and all. And, unlikely though this may sound, by the time you've reached the end, you just may wish that you, like the author, had fallen down the rabbit hole of comp lit grad school.

"So Much for That," Lionel Shriver
The Los Angeles Times

[I]f anyone's going to perk up the often-limp niceness of the women's novel it's Shriver, who has no use for earth mothers or noble victims.

"Known to Evil," Walter Mosley
The Los Angeles Times

Like the Easy Rawlins novels, Mosley's new detective canvas informs us about what it means to be a man of endless struggle, even knowing that "once you've seen the battlefield, you can't pretend that it doesn't exist."

"Something Is Out There," Richard Bausch
The San Francisco Chronicle

"Something Is Out There" shows a writer at the very top of his form: so emotionally insightful, so masterful in his subtle manipulation of plot and theme that the sheer beauty of the stories' construction will move you almost as much as what happens in them.

"The Shaking Woman," Siri Hustvedt
The San Francisco Chronicle

In "The Shaking Woman," [Siri Hustavedt] dives into work done by neuroscientists, psychologists, psychoanalysts, philosophers, sociologists, poets and writers, and into her own experiences as a writing teacher of mentally disturbed patients, and as a patient herself in a psychiatric ward and in offices of doctors and therapists. A Ph.D. in literature, a researcher, a novelist, an essayist, a mother, a daughter, a wife: All the parts of herself play a role in her search. So does her pain, her uncertainty, her fear, her openness to ideas old and new and the remarkable capacity to take in and question what she finds in both research and experience. Biofeedback to Buddhism, she does it all. And in roughly 200 pages.

"Germania," Simon Winder
The Wall Street Journal

This very personal account, the fruit of dozens of trips to Germany over the years, is an engaging, often funny catalog of one man's eccentric enthusiasm for a country that he has come to love--somewhat to his own surprise.

"The Three Weissmanns of Westport," Cathleen Schine
The New Republic

Reading The Three Weissmanns of Westport, the new novel by Cathleen Schine, is a curious experience. Even as you turn the pages, following the genteel misadventures of the titular clan--the aging mother, Betty Weissmann, and her two middle-aged, lovelorn daughters, Annie and Miranda--the book seems literally insubstantial, as though it is about to melt or turn to smoke in your hands.

"Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?", James Shapiro
The Guardian

Shapiro does not waste words on the preposterous, but he does uncover the mechanism of fantasy and projection that go to make up much of the case against Shakespeare. His book lays bare, too, assumptions about the writing life that come to us from the 18th-century romantics. Those who made Shakespeare a demigod have much to answer for.