BY SEAN CLARK
[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers.]
The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. Reviewed by Olivia Laing (Guardian).
This book’s been on my radar for a while (and, in fact, Nico included it in his most recent Book Radar post). But after this review I’m not so gung-ho. I’ll readily admit that I often choose books based solely on their covers. So it’s especially disheartening that Laing addresses people like me, who saw pictures of Night Circus and were intrigued, in the open of her piece. This is a story about a circus, in a world imbued with real magic. Laing found a lot to like in the world and aesthetic, but a lot lacking in the story itself. I’ll still read this, but it just got knocked back a few pegs in my anticipation list.
Get the book.
The Sibling Effect, by Jeffery Kluger. Reviewed by Wray Herbert (Washington Post).
Right off the bat, this book (and review) gets bonus points for mentioning the hoopoe–my favorite bird that I’ve never seen. That has nothing to do with anything though, since Kluger’s book explores the relationship between (human) siblings through a lens of his own past. Although his sounds like a good, if emotionally difficult, story, I’m a little more interested in the science Kluger has to share. Unfortunately, as Herbert describes it, I’ll be left wanting. Oh well. Pop-science fans and people who want to dig deeper into the love/hate of their siblings, give it a go.
Get the book.
You Deserve Nothing, by Alexander Maksik. Reviewed by Adam Langer (New York Times).
Part Glee, part Camus’ The Stranger? I don’t know if I want to gag or read this immediately. This is a story about that cool teacher we all had in high school who was just chummy enough with the teenage girls to be creepy. Maksik’s teacher (at an American school in France) steps over that line, however, and gets into a sexual relationship with a student. I like that this is a review of such a book that doesn’t draw a direct line to Lolita (as now I have just done…), but the Camus stuff sounds a little weird:
Early on Mr. Maksik’s echoes of Camus are faint, but later, when he paraphrases and quotes directly from “The Stranger,” the parallels between Will and Meursault become nearly impossible to ignore. The novelist is not only modernizing “The Stranger” but demonstrating its enduring relevance, which has made it an influential text for everybody from George W. Bush…to the Cure.
I’m on the fence on this one.
Get the book.
Quick Highlights (super-dark, bad joke edition): Some people would rather jump in front of a van than read a biography of Socrates–I’ll read the book. I’d personally pick the van over reading this book of dog essays, though. The guy who got rich making John Travolta baby voiceover movies in Hollywood actually did get creamed by a van, but it wasn’t on purpose.
Bonus Book Trailer: So much flannel and slo-mo jogging… I’ll send a paperback copy of the C4 Anthology to anyone who can make up a description for Ladybird, Ladybird that doesn’t sound like the steaming pile this promises to be.