Sunday, April 3, 2011

Book Review Round-Up

Here's what we found this week in the book reviews:

Writing for the New York Times Book Review, Henry Kissinger reviews Bismarck: A Life, by Jonathan Steinberg (Oxford, 2011). Subscribers to the London Review of Books can get another perspective, from reviewer Christopher Clark, here.

Also reviewed in the New York Times, Ben Shephard, The Long Road Home: The Aftermath of the Second World War (Knopf, 2011), a "highly readable and moving book of postwar relief efforts"; and Jennett Conant, A Covert Affair: Julia Child and Paul Child in the OSS (Simon & Schuster, 2011) (excerpt available here).

"Academic scholarship these days is more like staying in a hotel than a home: full of rooms offering the prospect of a well-furnished stay but with never a suggestion that you should talk to the guests next door." So begins Conor Gearty's review of Justice for Hedgehogs (Harvard, 2011), by Ronald Dworkin. You can read the rest at New Humanist. For more on academia and academic scholarship, check out Democracy's review of Ellen Schrecker, The Lost Soul of Higher Education: Corporatization, the Assault on Academic Freedom, and the End of the American University (The New Press, 2010), and the London Review of Books' essay on the "indomitable" Eric Hobsbawm and his series of essays How to Change the World: Marx and Marxism 1840-2011 (Little, Brown, 2011).

Several biographies are currently in the spotlight:

"It is hard to imagine that the world needs another [Richard] Feynman biography, but here it is," writes reviewer George Johnson in the New York Times. Those who have read the physicist's often hilarious autobiography may disagree. In any case, coverage of Lawrence Krauss's Quantum Man: Richard Feynman’s Life in Science (Atlas & Company/W. W. Norton & Company, 2011) is available here.

Also in biographies -- The American Prospect takes up Nicholas Phillipson's recent biography of Adam Smith (Adam Smith: An Enlightened Life (Yale, 2010)) (reviewed last week in The New Republic); Jewish Review of Books covers Tom Segev's biography of famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal (Simon Wiesenthal: The Life and Legends (Doubleday, 2010)).

"The combination of technology and the insatiable archival hunger allows us more history than we could ever have hoped to retain, and much of this attention is directed at the two World Wars," observes Sean O'Brien in the Times Literary Supplement. "In the realm of fiction, . . . the pull of these now-distant events is as strong as ever." For those who enjoy historical fiction, read his round-up of recent work here.

Last, both the New York Times and the Washington Post offer reviews of Sarah Vowell, Unfamiliar Fishes (Riverhead, 2011), a history of Hawaii that attracts such descriptors as "breezy," "quirky," and "fun."