PositiveThe Washington Post... brisk and engaging biography ... Meticulously researched and delivered in a taut, almost staccato style, Funny Business glides along the surface of Buchwald’s remarkable life, venturing wide but not especially deep ... The first two-thirds of Funny Business reads like a journalistic fairy tale ... Hill skillfully chronicles Buchwald’s ups and downs, relying heavily on a treasure trove of correspondence he unearthed: letters between Buchwald and A-list celebrities on both coasts, including Ted Kennedy and Charlton Heston. Some of these missives are more illuminating, and funnier, than others. At times, the book reads less like a biography and more like a document dump ... contains plenty of laughs but also elicits pangs of sadness. The reader feels sad for Buchwald, who for so long felt compelled to hide his struggle with depression. Sad for the passing of an era when the nation had a common conversation, even if it was one conducted in raised voices. And sad for today’s comedians, inheritors of the Buchwald tradition, who must find ways to be funny when the news satirizes itself.
RaveThe Washington Post... engaging and lively ... Richtel ruthlessly punctures each of these myths, and more, with prose that is crisp, conversational and at times darned funny ... He doesn’t have all the answers, though, and thank goodness. It is his open embrace of doubt — and yes, mystery — that explains a lot of this book’s charm ... Richtel doesn’t fixate on the neuroscience...This is creativity at its broadest and most inclusive, encompassing everything from the coronavirus (the novel coronavirus) to Bono to the guy who invented Velcro ... What distinguishes Inspired is its expansive range and conversational tone, as well as Richtel’s ability to synthesize a lot of complex research, simplifying without oversimplifying. He’s clearly done his homework, weeding through many dry scientific papers and distilling their essence. He also excels at probing assumptions or, as he puts it, asking the \'smart-dumb question\' ... Richtel paints compelling, bite-size portraits of these creatives, teasing lessons from each, but I wish he had better exercised one of the key tenets of creativity: discernment. Some of these creatives are more insightful than others. And they come and go too quickly. We’re just getting to know them, to peer into their creative process, when Richtel ushers them offstage...And I would have liked to have learned more about the one creator’s story he knows best: his own...And while Richtel punctures some myths about creativity, he perpetuates others ... not perfect — no creation is. The otherwise fresh writing is marred by a few syrupy clunkers ... This is a bouillabaisse of a book: a meaty, messy mélange of stories, hunches, studies, digressions, contradictions and, occasionally, blazing insight. It is, in other words, a lot like the creative process itself. Magic included.
PositiveThe Washington PostZada is too good a writer to pen anything as trite as \'the journey is the destination,\' but that is clearly the case here ... Books on supernatural phenomena typically steer one of two courses: tabloid gullibility or mean-spirited debunkery. Zada deftly tightropes between the two ... \'I hope you’re not here to make fun of us,\' one local tells [Zada]. He is not, which makes this big-hearted book more satisfying than it might have otherwise been ... What saves the book from tabloid buffoonery is Zada’s skeptical eye and conversational style. The writing is fresh ... Less compelling are Zada’s countless trips to a lake or a river or a campsite. These fall into a tiresome pattern. Meet characters at local watering hole. Gently inquire about sasquatch sightings. Follow up leads. Reach dead end. Repeat ... at its best when Zada goes off on metaphysical riffs and epistemological explorations: Our eyes and our minds are imperfect instruments that process only a thin slice of reality ... This is not a book for everyone. Subscribers to the Skeptical Inquirer look elsewhere. Ditto die-hard rationalists. Those willing to suspend their disbelief — to just shy of the breaking point — will be rewarded with a quirky and oddly captivating tale.
PositiveThe Washington PostReading \'Origin Story\' makes you feel extremely fortunate to be here at all. Life requires \'goldilocks conditions.\' Not too hot, not too cold. Not too little oxygen, not too much. The unstated conclusion: Life is a miracle ... The storyline occasionally gets lost in a blur of eons and protons, but for the most part Christian’s hand is steady and sure, his grasp of the science impressive. He makes it all accessible, too, as when he likens the universe to \'a vast spring that has been uncoiling for more than thirteen billion years\' or atomic particles to nervous children \'constantly jiggling about with energy.\' ... Origin Story may not be a deep dive, but it is very wide.
PositiveThe Washington Post\"In Jacobs’s hands, this potentially parched subject comes alive. He makes terms like \'mitochondrial DNA\' not only comprehensible but fun ... Jacobs, thankfully, tempers his Kumbaya tendencies with some hard-nosed questions. Does knowing your ancestry expand your circle of compassion or shrink it? The jury is out. An anti-Semite discovers he is part Jewish and reforms his ways. White supremacists hold online contests to see who has the highest percentage of European descendants. Genealogy, too, is fraught ... It’s All Relative is a whirlwind of a book, as Jacobs zip-lines from one branch of the global family tree to another. At times, it feels like a blur of great-great-grandfathers and seventh cousins once removed. So determined is Jacobs to leave no branch unexamined that he sometimes loses sight of the forest. I would have liked less time on the twigs and deeper dives into the roots ... By the end of It’s All Relative, Jacobs feels like, well, family. Mostly endearing, occasionally annoying but always well-intentioned and, in the final analysis, indispensable.\
MixedThe Chicago Tribune\"Nestled within It\'s All Relative is a project, and an ambitious one at that. Jacobs wants to hold the world\'s largest family reunion … Jacobs, thankfully, tempers his Kumbaya tendencies with some hard-nosed questions. Does knowing your ancestry expand your circle of compassion or shrink it? The jury is out … It\'s All Relative is a whirlwind of a book, as Jacobs zip-lines from one branch of the global family tree to another. At times, it feels like a blur of great-great-grandfathers and seventh cousins once removed … By the end of It\'s All Relative, Jacobs feels like, well, family. Mostly endearing, occasionally annoying but always well-intentioned and, in the final analysis, indispensable.\
PositiveThe Washington PostWonderland is no mere diversion. It is a rare gem: a serious (occasionally too serious) take on a seemingly frivolous subject ... This is an ambitious book. Johnson’s goal is nothing short of upending our innovation narrative. For starters, we have the sequencing wrong. Trivial pursuits don’t follow serious endeavors, they precede them and, crucially, inspire them, even if unintentionally. Play is prologue. This is not a self-evident thesis, which is why, I suspect, Johnson goes to such lengths to hammer it home. He revels in the slow reveal. At first, his historical anecdotes feel digressive. Why is Johnson prattling on about some cave bear that met its demise 43,000 years ago in what is today Slovenia? But a reader will follow a good writer anywhere, and so we follow. Usually (not always), Johnson delivers ... Our illogical, enduring fascination with play remains one of life’s great mysteries. That is precisely what makes the subject so fascinating, and Wonderland such a compelling read.