BY NICO VREELAND
[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers.]
As Texas Goes, by Gail Collins. Reviewed by Erica Grieder in the New York Times.
Gail Collins is one of my favorite NYT columnists, and I grew up in Texas, so I’m interested in how these two mesh. I’m not yet buying that Texas “hijacked the American agenda” as the subtitle claims, and it looks like skepticism of this book is deserved. Grieder points out how Collins’s light research has her misconstruing its history, and largely missing the point. Grieder chalks this up to Collins’s tendency to reach for jokes. Sounds like her jokey columnist style doesn’t translate to a book. Side note: it must sting to get panned in your own paper. Find this book at Goodreads.
Alif the Unseen, by G. Willow Wilson. Reviewed by Veronique de Turenne in the B & N Review.
Wilson’s unique premise involves jinns, computer hacking, and a “a love story set amid the Internet-fueled overthrow of an unnamed Arab regime.” de Turenne seems utterly smitten, calling it “irresistible.” Find this book at Goodreads.
The Woman Reader, by Belinda Jack. Reviewed by Hermione Lee in the Guardian.
Even into the late 1800s, it was considered unseemly for unmarried women to read novels. Edith Wharton and Virginia Woolf had to educate themselves entirely, and they lived in the more permissive eras, historically. Jack surveys the obstacles women faced throughout history, if they simply wanted access to books. She also, perhaps more fascinatingly, surveys the ways in which women hurdled those obstacles. Find this book at Goodreads.
True Believers, by Kurt Andersen. Reviewed by Francine Prose in the New York Times.
Possibly a good companion piece for The Woman Reader, Andersen’s new novel, True Believers, focuses on “the powerful influence literature can exert on life.” The story follows a “goofy,” “chatty” lawyer writing a memoir about her life in the 60s. Prose is skeptical that such a feat can be accomplished, but the result sounds enjoyable, if not flawless. Find this book at Goodreads.
In brief: If you’re still in the mood for politics, here’s a biography of William Rusher, “the publisher who remade the Republican Party.” … A couple of great essays from the Slate Book Review on The Great American Novel, and why “serious, high-minded men” have panned an ambitious novel by a female author. … USA Today recommends Chris Cleave’s new novel (in kind of a bland way).