PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... historians who seek a wide readership, while giving their readers the drama they crave, must honor the historical record in all its complexity...The Borgias: Power and Fortune present[s] just such [a] nuanced account ... doesn’t gloss over the brazen ambition of the Medici, yet his book is a generally admiring portrait of the dynasty. He calls Lorenzo \'the Magnificent,\' a sobriquet often omitted by modern historians, and presents him as an action hero who might have been played by Errol Flynn ... Mr. Strathern has an admirable talent for the biographical sketch, particularly of artists and writers. His portrait of Machiavelli is especially fine.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal\"Known as a nature writer and conservationist, Mr. Lopez writes with equal enthusiasm about human origins, the search for the edge of the expanding universe, classical music, arctic archaeology, Impressionist painting and Aboriginal rock art. There is no discernible limit to his curiosity: If a kitchen sink caught his eye, he might throw that into the mix, too. His new book, intended as a career-capping summa, is a capacious blend of popular science, travel writing and autobiography, which never (well, hardly ever) feels miscellaneous ... Mr. Lopez treats these locations as base camps and frequently wanders off the trail, making graceful leaps in time and geography to follow his intellectual fancies ... Mr. Lopez is at his best writing about natural history, where his scrupulous research and talent for lucid exposition make the sometimes tedious business of scientific fieldwork come alive ... At a first reading, the reader may scoff at the author’s excessive sensitivity, getting into a panic about offending ghosts... But as his beautifully composed book progresses, and its steady intellectual rigor makes itself felt, one looks back on the passage with respect and even affection ... Like many learned writers, [Lopez] doesn’t exult in his erudition but rather laments what he doesn’t know. How much more we have to gain from an intellect that does not want to instruct us but rather invites us to join in the adventure of learning.\
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalParker offers a sensitive, well-researched study of the poet and his time. He takes as his subject Housman’s readers as much as the writer—an extraordinarily broad mission, given the popularity of A Shropshire Lad. Mr. Parker is an unabashed enthusiast who makes a spirited case for the artistic merit of the work, all the more persuasive because he frankly concedes its limits ... Mr. Parker’s book is not a biography, though his comprehensive sketch of Housman’s life and publishing career, running to 135 pages, is a model of brief biography, detailed enough for most readers ... as Mr. Parker demonstrates in his skillful, judicious analysis of the work, Housman’s virtues as a poet are all too easily overlooked. There is, after all, a lot to be said for a perfect expression ... However, the pages devoted to Housman’s cultural influence sink under the weight of their comprehensive intention ... Mr. Parker’s labor of love is enriched by a remarkable breadth of research and is guided by keen intelligence, and only a foolhardy writer would have the hubris to undertake another book of its kind.
RaveThe Wall Street Journal...[an] entertaining, intellectually brilliant biography ... Ms. Wilson’s biography, although chronological in presentation, isn’t a conventional cradle-to-graver. One of her most attractive qualities as a writer is a sensible disavowal of oracular omniscience ... [the] account of De Quincey’s relationship with Wordsworth enriches established facts with a sympathetic reconstruction of the poet’s effect on the young writer.