BY NICO VREELAND

[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers.]

My American Unhappiness, by Dean Bakopoulos, reviewed by J. Robert Lennon (New York Times)

This is the best review I read this week. Not the most positive, but the most eloquent and nuanced. Lennon gives a vivid, witty peek into Bakopolous’s latest, but also ranges far enough to discuss the challenges of writing and reading a second novel, and the restrictions of conceptual narratives. That’s how you do it. [Get this book]


The travel writings of Patrick Leigh Fermor,
reviewed by Colin Thubron (New York Review of Books)

This long feature strolls through the life’s work of a talented and largely forgotten travel writer (Fermor’s books, not coincidentally, are being republished by the NYRB itself). Thubron details five of Fermor’s six major books, which seem short but deepened with experience. The result is a languid, enjoyable trip. [Get Fermor’s book on monks]

Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN, by James Miller and Tom Shales, reviewed by Steven V. Roberts (Washington Post)

Something about the way Roberts nerdily complains about sports-reporting cliches—instead of knowingly mocking them—leads me to think he doesn’t watch a lot of football. That makes him an interesting choice to review this book, and the result focuses on the darker subtext of its title (ESPN’s storied history of mistreating women, including a brief mention of a mailroom prostitution ring). Not a bad piece, but not the place to find a thousand words’ worth of funny stories about SportsCenter.  [Get this book]


In the Garden of Beasts, by Eric Larson, reviewed by Dorothy Gallagher (New York Times)

This review doesn’t offer much more than a thumbnail sketch of the events of Larson’s new book. But it does contain my favorite quote of the week. The wife of FDR’s ambassador to Germany, getting swept up in the culture of 1933 Berlin, says, “We sort of don’t like the Jews anyway.” Eesh. [Get this book]


In brief: If you’re an Eric Larson fan, here are his three favorite nonfiction books, ever. … This Globe review of Oil on Water is not very good—I disagree, of course, but more than that, it’s a professional review that sounds like a book report (“Habila takes the reader through some dark, harrowing moments, but he also creates scenes of healing and hope”). Ugh.  … Nice roundup of books about great teachers, and a pretty good piece, too.

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