RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewIn Harley Rustad’s fascinating new book, Lost in the Valley of Death—arriving just as we’ve climbed the highest perches of our own cuckoo isolation—the portrait that emerges of Shetler as open and free to the world, blown over it like a fresh wind, is compelling indeed. In prose that moves like a clear river, Rustad presents Shetler as that peculiar breed of American peregrinator pushing to the farthest limit, a fearless doer who mixes raw earnestness with extreme ambition to end up in a mess of bad trouble. This is a genre of outdoor story we’ve become accustomed to, as well: the disappeared searcher. But one of the book’s initial achievements is that Rustad reclaims Shetler from that whoa-brah spirituality ... By patient accumulation of anecdote and detail, Rustad evolves Shetler’s story into something much more human, and humanly tragic, into a layered inquisition and a reportorial force that pushes Shetler beyond his white-lib entitlement into a technicolor mystery ... there’s the slightest misstep when Rustad brings his own memories into the story, then seems to think better of it. This is easy to forgive because he’s such a sure-handed raconteur and we can’t look away from Shetler ... Rustad has done what the best storytellers do: tried to track the story to its last twig and then stepped aside.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review... fascinating ... Part of the book’s deliciousness is Konnikova’s journey from \'novicedom,\' starting out in online poker cafes in Hoboken, N.J., and making it all the way to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas ... What elevates Konnikova’s journey above a Plimpton-esque stunt is the way she constantly peppers “The Biggest Bluff” with compelling studies and quotes ... Konnikova is like your smart friend who instantly contextualizes everything by sharing the latest data and sharpest insight, whom you come to quote too often to other friends and family ... a feminist story without being a feminist tract. It’s an underdog tale in which the rise of the underdog has an air of inevitability and sweet revenge. It’s a nonfiction Bildungsroman minus the navel-gazing. Konnikova keeps the lines so clean and even, so steady and unshowy that she might be the Charlie Watts of prose: While the backbeat never ceases and the narrative propels along, it’s her curiosity that proliferates. In fact, one of the biggest bluffs of The Biggest Bluff may be that Konnikova hasn’t written a book about her success with cards and chips exactly, but bet the house on the power of her mind to synthesize big philosophical ideas and psychological insights at a time when we, too, find ourselves questioning our fortunes, hoping to master our fates and playing much bigger odds than ever before.
Laurie Gwen Shapiro
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewFor this brief moment, Shapiro’s Billy is our Bachelor, our YouTube star. He’s the kid who frees himself from destiny to forge his own, leapfrogging class, symbolizing our wanderlust and the power of imagination over expectation ... Ultimately, the stumbles in The Stowaway — including the skimming quality of the prose — are overshadowed by Shapiro’s hustle in resurrecting Billy ... like an intriguing photo album brought out from the bottom drawer: If the gaps between images sometimes frustrate, the granular detail can fascinate. It shows us who we are, and what we’re trying to escape.