PositiveThe Los Angeles TimesNo One Left is designed as a caper, a kind of \'lost on the Lower East Side\' picaresque ... More than anything, it’s a tender valentine to an era when the idea of ditching the Man for a life on the margins could keep you insulated from adulthood for as long as you could possibly hold out ... A fitting tribute.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Hsu’s luminous and tender-hearted story of this brief yet intense bond with his lost companion, a tale of joy and grief in the time of Nirvana and AOL chat rooms ... a nuanced and beautiful evocation of young adulthood in all its sloppy, exuberant glory. Mr. Hsu is particularly adept at locating those tiny rituals that take on outsize importance ... as it turns out, Ken’s promise is Mr. Hsu’s potential. The lost friend has provided a spur to action for the survivor, whose final, cathartic act of self-forgiveness closes out this wrenching and richly detailed tribute to a friend and to the enduring legacy of a foreshortened life.
PanThe Wall Street Journal... feels half-cocked. Which is a shame, as the subject matter is rich and fascinating. It’s also timely, given that huge swaths of the country are presently grasping for water that isn’t there, and reservoirs in the West and elsewhere have approached dead-pool level ... Ms. Sante sets the stage for a similar exploration of the wrenching transformations that helped form a great city, but the result is less a gripping narrative than a historical survey that lacks the rich characterization and poetic flair of Ms. Sante’s best work ... Ms. Sante will occasionally drop in an aside that feels more like conjecture ... As a physical object, the book is a stunner, loaded with maps, archival stills of the construction process, vintage postcards and ads warning New Yorkers to check their plumbing and “stop that leak!” Accompanying Ms. Sante’s epilogue are Tim Davis’s photographs of the reservoir towns today, as picturesque as ever. Despite the visual evidence and some fascinating historical data, Nineteen Reservoirs feels like a larger story trapped inside a small one.
Kim Stanley Robinson
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalIt’s hard to think of another writer who can touch upon climatology, geology, Gary Snyder, LSD, Aristotle, botany, zoology and Spinal Tap in a book about a mountain range ... We know from his novels that Mr. Robinson is one of literature’s great explainers. Part of the joy of reading him is that he is bound to digress into some fascinating wormhole that will make us a little smarter than we were before. He is enamored of data and facts, and his works of science fiction are loaded with digressions that enhance stories without smothering them. That tendency is less enticing in The High Sierra, which feels like five books jockeying for position in one somewhat jumbly volume. The result is so overstuffed with information that following along can feel like hiking a trail with too many switchbacks ... Mr. Robinson, with great care and affection, has written a mash note for the Sierra, but it suffers from a discursive structure that jumps back and forth from hard science into personal memoir and back again ... All of it is worth reading, but the pile-on of technical terms and place names blurs the brain. Many readers will find themselves skimming some sections in favor of returning to the first-person accounts of his travels through the range, by far the most absorbing sections in the book ... It’s when Mr. Robinson stops cataloging all that is worth studying in the Sierra and turns to his personal experiences in this \'granite world\' that his book lives up to its Love Story subtitle and becomes the stirring anecdotal memoir of an intrepid seeker ... Even if one might have hoped for a guide less enamored of every byway, his perambulations are still an invitation to an astonishing journey.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalVeteran journalist Steve Paul has made a valiant effort to resuscitate Connell’s status with Literary Alchemist: The Writing Life of Evan S. Connell, the first full-length biography of the writer. For the most part, he has succeeded: Mr. Paul’s biography had me rifling second-hand stores in search of Connell rarities ... Mr. Paul dilates on this period of Connell’s life, when it might have been handled in a few pages. He also draws too much attention to his own research; these sections intrude on Connell’s story and feel superfluous. Still, Literary Alchemist has pinned down a hard-to-pin-down character. If it draws more readers to Connell’s astonishing body of work, then Mr. Paul has done his job.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMs. Marks, a former senior executive at Dow Jones, got to work, tracking down 30 interview subjects who knew Maier while unearthing scraps of evidence from archives spread across two continents. She has done an excellent job of excavating the photographer’s chaotic backstory, twining the work more tightly with the life ... Ms. Marks’s biography is strongest when she is disentangling her subject’s complex lineage ... Vivian Maier Developed is a gorgeous artifact printed on heavy stock, which allows Ms. Marks to sprinkle her narrative with crisp reproductions of Maier’s photos, as well as key pieces of evidence Marks found during her research (an appendix lays out Ms. Marks’s process, fascinating in its own right). Unfortunately, much of her descriptive text reads like an extended set of captions for the pictures. Still, this book is far and away the most complete picture we have of the photographer to date. While it’s always tricky to align an artist’s output with her inner life, Marks has given us a way of seeing Maier that deepens our understanding of the mystery, and then methodically unravels it.
Jennifer Otter Bickerdike
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMs. Bickerdike...digs deeper than any prior biographer. She unearths a unique artistic temperament stunted by the complications of an underground life ... You Are Beautiful brings focus to what had been blurry episodes in Nico’s history, including a traumatic childhood in Cologne under Nazi rule ... Ms. Bickerdike doesn’t make false claims about Nico’s achievements. Rather, she has rounded out what had been an incomplete portrait, obscured by myths, of a woman who fought hard to become an artist worthy of a book like this.
RaveThe Wall Street Journal... deeply empathetic and insightful ... how does the author wrap his arms around this complex city-state? By delivering poignant miniatures of individuals who make it their business to subvert L.A.’s stasis and apathy—the prevalent view that the individual is helpless in the absence of the state ... gives us dark glimpses of an impending apocalypse, then introduces us to a handful of resilient Angelenos doing their best to buck the tide of indifference that seems to have crept into the political and social life of the place like a toxic marine layer ... Like the city, the stories in Rosecrans Baldwin’s Everything Now have no rigid order. But the book is stronger for these digressions. An elegant and unflinching observer, Mr. Baldwin digs up an invisible city under layers of pop-culture mythologizing and media cliches.
RaveThe Washington Post... a revelation, a trove of snappy pieces that give the reader tantalizing glimpses of the mature film satirist who would win six Oscars for his work ... has a bit of everything: punchy film reviews, profiles, set pieces on the rituals of the new nightlife ... Sharp observations like these show us glimpses of the acidulous social satirist of Hollywood’s Golden Age ... shows us exactly where he was coming from, and it’s great fun to find out.
PositiveWall Street JournalAn outsider-to-kingmaker narrative that should be read by every gun-shy entrepreneur too spooked by Silicon Valley’s giants to go head-to-head with them ... The authors have had to lean on secondary sources to pull together their narrative; Mr. Ek and many of his closest associates didn’t sit down for interviews. Fortunately, Messrs. Carlsson and Leijonhufvud have tracked Mr. Ek’s career since the early days, and their expertise shows. The Spotify Play is not a cheap clip job but a revealing character study of an inventor who proved that the willingness to fight for an idea can indeed pay off—and that you don’t have to be a pirate to have fun doing it.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalThis is Peter Frampton’s story, and he tells it with refreshing candor in his wildly entertaining memoir ... Mr. Frampton doesn’t want your pity; he only wants you to understand how swiftly the world can turn upside down when your adolescent fantasies come true, when more tears are shed for answered prayers than unanswered ones ... is in many ways an archetypal music-industry cautionary tale, but what the reader takes from it is Mr. Frampton’s resilience, his self-belief. For an artist who could have turned into a footnote, Peter Frampton has aged gracefully with his dignity intact.
PositiveThe Globe and Mail...a flinty and moving memoir ... Levy finds strength in rejecting the patriarchal clichés ... Better for her to wade through the \'black and bluish darkness\' than reach for the cold comfort of victimhood ... middle age for Levy isn’t a third act; it’s a prologue to an entirely new adventure.
Nell Irvin Painter
RaveThe Globe and Mail...vibrant ... Painter writes with typically elegant candor ... Old In Art School, which is as beautifully rendered as Painter’s art, is inspiration for those who think they have left the best of themselves far behind.
PositiveThe Globe and Mail...witty and tender-hearted ... What resonates in My Ex-Life is the pull of affable companionship between two people with memories to share, and the deeper satisfaction of mutuality over physical intimacy.