BY SEAN CLARK

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

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Flashback, by Dan Simmons. Reviewed by Patrick Anderson (Washington Post).

I’ve still yet to read anything by Simmons. But I’m thinking I should probably start. It might be a little right wing for me, but his over-the-top stuff definitely tickles my curiosity. Paul Kirsch reviewed this very book for C4 a few weeks back, and was clearly enamored–though one of our commenters clearly was not. And then Anderson comes and delivers grabbers like this:

With any luck, Simmons could be the Tolstoy of the tea party; at the very least, he’s more fun than Ayn Rand.

Ha. I’m not even sure how to take that, but now I want to see for myself. I’ll wait until I’m next traveling, then I’ll take a copy to entertain me through the flight.

Get this book.

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Bed, by David Whitehouse. Reviewed by Janet Maslin (New York Times).

Here’s an interesting review. Maslin seems thoroughly unimpressed with this book about a man that’s so fat he’s stuck at home. But most of the criticism is couched in back-handed praise. She refers to some of the book’s aspects as “ingenious” but bemoans that despite Whitehouse’s ability to write great sentences, he seems incapable of writing a complete and interesting story. “Mr. Whitehouse’s great talent for outlandishly clever description is not matched by a gift for storytelling,” she writes. The whole review reminds me of that part in the beginning of the third Indiana Jones movie when the guy that beats young Indy to the Cross of Coronado gives him his iconic hat as both a consolation prize and a challenge. It’s yet to be seen if Whitehouse can live up to anyone’s expectations though.

Get this book.

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Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy, by John Julius Norwich. Reviewed by Eric Banks (Barnes and Noble Review).

I’ve got a semi-secret fondness for history books and documentaries. For whatever reason, I especially find myself drawn to late Western Roman history. Christianity was still just emerging at that point–then Constantine came on the scene and the Church evolved into a major global player for thousands of years to come. Since the papacy began “almost two millennia [ago], the institution constitutes the longest uninterrupted monarchy in the world.” When put like that, it’s pretty wild to think about. This is a history of that monarchy told through the various Pope leaders. Love ’em or hate ’em, the Catholic church has had a profound impact on the development of our civilization. It’d be interesting to look at its history through a new angle such as Norwich’s.

Get this book.

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The Kid, by Sapphire. Reviewed by Elizabeth Taylor (Chicago Tribune).

Did you like Push, by Sapphire, inspiration for the movie Precious? This is the sequel. I didn’t read Precious, but I didn’t much care for the film. Nonetheless, this is a good way to summarize a sequel if you want people to pay attention:

The first pages of “The Kid,” Sapphire’s new book, open with an inevitable tragedy: Precious dies. At her funeral, she is celebrated for earning her GED and heading to college. She broke the cycle of abuse and became a good mother, one who insisted on homework and took her son to see the stars outside the city. But she has left her 9-year-old son, Abdul, alone to descend into hell.

While not a literal hell, Sapphire writes the kid a pretty shitty life, just as she did his mother. Looks to be an interesting, heavily character-driven narrative. And Taylor later likens Sapphire to Emile Zola, which is a solid compliment.

Get this book.

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Bonus Review: Daisy Buchanan’s Daughter, by Tom Carson. Reviewed by Tadzio Koelb (New York Times).

Bonus Book trailer: When you turn 18 you will become a target. Possibly to an unthreatening jogging Asian man.

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