- Sunday Book Review cover: Sebastian Junger on Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes (our Best of the Month Spotlight pick for March): "[H]e seems like a man whose life was radically altered by war, and who now wants to pass along the favor. And with a desperate fury, he does. Chapter after chapter, battle after battle, Marlantes pushes you through what may be one of the most profound and devastating novels ever to come out of Vietnam — or any war. It’s not a book so much as a deployment, and you will not return unaltered."
- Kakutani on The Bridge by David Remnick: "But if the outlines of the story told in 'The Bridge' are highly familiar, Mr. Remnick ... has filled in those broad outlines with insight and nuance.... Writing with emotional precision and a sure knowledge of politics, Mr. Remnick situates Mr. Obama’s career firmly within a historical context. He puts Mr. Obama’s life and political philosophy in perspective with the civil rights movement that shaped his imagination, as well as the power politics of Chicago, and the politics of race as it has been played out, often nastily, on the state and national stages."
- Susann Cokal on Something Red by Jennifer Gilmore: "'Something Red' is a delectable time capsule, with plenty of references to events and products, especially odoriferous ones, that plant us squarely in the moment.... It’s worth bringing to the story of the Goldsteins’ lost ideals and lingering illusions our own layered memories and regrets. Amid the confusion of past experiences that create and sometimes paralyze the present, Gilmore has pulled off a remarkable feat: not of fusing the personal and the political but of showing why they’re so difficult to reconcile."
- Jon Meacham on Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch: "It is difficult to imagine a more comprehensive and surprisingly accessible volume on the subject than MacCulloch’s. This is not a book to be taken lightly; it is more than 1,100 pages, and its bulk makes it hard to take anyplace at all.... To me the appeal of the book lies in its illuminating explications of things so apparently obvious that they would seem to require no explanation."
- Tracy Lee Simmons on Cleopatra: A Biography by Duane W. Roller: "[A]s a historian, classical scholar and archaeologist, Roller brings the full apparatus of what we do know to bear — a tricky task given how Cleopatra’s reputation was officially propagandized into oblivion after her defeat and death. The result is an authoritative, amply footnoted yet brisk account not only of her life but also of its rich backdrop, featuring a cast extending backward through almost three centuries of the Ptolemaic dynasty."
- Gwen Ifill on Remnick's The Bridge: "I've spent the past 14 months listening to audiences anxiously overinterpret Obama's presidential victory in 2008 as a sign that we are past racial friction. So it was refreshing to see Remnick discover new ways to neatly skewer the notion of a post-racial America without ever having to climb on a soapbox. In the hands of other writers, Obama has proved to be a murky character study: a self-made man in the grand American political tradition, but one who has largely been allowed to romanticize his own story. Remnick efficiently strips some of the gloss off the version Obama offered in his best-selling 1995 memoir."
- Charles on Solar by Ian McEwan: "McEwan writes sentences of such witty elegance that the loss of John Updike seems a little easier to bear. But as a whole, this comedy about a venal scientist never generates the tension one expects from the Booker Prize-winning author of 'Amsterdam' and 'Atonement.' ... McEwan's detractors -- they're a weirdly aggressive group -- won't be surprised by this tepid novel. But if, like me, you think he's one of England's very best writers, just let 'Solar' pass and wait for his next book to eclipse it."
Los Angeles Times:
- Taylor Antrim on McEwan's Solar: "The happier surprise and the reason why 'Solar' succeeds in spite of its creaky finish is McEwan's sense of humor.... [H]e recently told an audience that he hates the comic novel, saying 'it's like being wrestled to the ground and being tickled.' And yet 'Solar' offers both high-minded amusement in its skewering of environmentalist, postmodern and objectivist pieties, and, in the North Pole scenes in which Beard braves subzero cold and a hungry polar bear, something awfully close to slapstick."
- Samantha Dunn on Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamott: "It won't surprise fans of Lamott's work to hear that in this book, as in so many of her others, her fine-tuned ear for dialogue and her flawless eye for the perfect, telling detail are in high gear.... She's practically the Margaret Mead of the NPR-listening, sweat-lodge-going, mint-tea-drinking, art-house-movie-watching, Alcoholics Anonymous-attending, Schubert- and Bach-listening, vegan-dinner-eating, Indian-smock-wearing world.... Yet there lies both the success of 'Imperfect Birds' and its biggest failure: In reflecting back to readers the conventions of their world, the context itself isn't examined but rather taken as a norm."