RaveThe New York Times Book Review... delightful and absorbing ... What’s largely absent here, however, are the unadorned realities of game-making. The despair, for instance, that results from an idea that seems as if it should be fun, but isn’t fun, no matter what you do. There’s very little depiction of how central play-testing and quality assurance are to game design, or of nuking core design conceits because of cost overruns or talent underruns. For the most part, Sam and Sadie’s games tend to work out the way they imagine they will ... No one — trust me on this — wants an entirely accurate novel about game development, which would be a thousand pages of motionless ennui with an exciting 10-page coda, but if there’s a criticism to make of Zevin’s novel, it’s that the professional parts of her game creators’ lives seem far too easy, while the personal parts often seem far too hard ... Some readers will doubtless appreciate Zevin’s unflinching willingness to show how the cancer of American violence can strike down the gentlest and most admirable among us, but this event also turns the cultural problem of American violence into an aesthetic problem within the novel. Aesthetic problems might get your knuckles thwacked in a book review, but fiction can’t meaningfully address a cultural issue as significant as this one without making it absolutely central to the story the writer is trying to tell. It’s not as if the violent event depicted by Zevin isn’t believable. It’s all too believable. The problem is that, however horrifying and shocking, this violent event is just not as interesting as what’s around it ... But not everything in a story as expansive and entertaining as Zevin’s can be the best part, as they say, and we merry dozens of Literary Gamers will cherish the world she’s lovingly conjured. Meanwhile, everyone else will wonder what took them so long to recognize in video games the beauty and drama and pain of human creation.
RaveGQ... a fat, brilliant novel of politics, marriage, and the Internet ... Franzen remains an extremely fine noticer ... Seemingly unconnected narrative warheads begin to gradually, and then thrillingly, converge. Soon you are less turning pages than flipping toward the mushroom cloud ... If the how of this book sometimes strains credulity—a cruel decision Wolf makes late in the novel will be a flashpoint of criticism—it is never uninteresting.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewIt purports to be an autobiographical novel — \'life-writing,\' Amis calls it — featuring a number of real people, many of them famous, along with others who’ve been lightly pseudonymed, yet it’s also, somehow, a vocational primer on how to write fiction, and an excellent one at that ... Near the end of Inside Story, Amis writes that nothing can prepare you for the deaths of your friends, parents, sisters, brothers and loved ones. \'Certainly not literature,\' he writes, \'which is curiously incapable of helping you through the critical events of an average span.\' He said something similar in Experience. I agreed with him, then. Then I read Inside Story. I cannot agree with him now. Now I cannot agree.
MixedThe New Yorker[Morris is] a fine writer of prose, with an instinctive feel for storytelling and a genius for quotation. One senses while reading this book the ghost of the proposal behind it—the promise of a smart, revisionist take on American messianic movements. But that message is often muddled, not least because Morris is too entertaining a writer to keep from dunking on his subjects ... The two most darkly significant messiahs Morris writes about are also most indicative of what’s wrong with this otherwise fascinating book ... Throughout the book, Morris is so intent on pointing out the good done in spite of his messiahs’ beliefs that he rarely lingers on the lasting harm done to those who believed in the messiahs themselves. This winds up making the book appear to argue that these messiahs attracted followers because they were anti-capitalist visionaries and not because they claimed to be living gods ... Has the Jim Jones rehabilitation moment arrived? ... Still, Morris is onto something.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review\"Zucked is thus a candid and highly entertaining explanation of how and why a man who spent decades picking tech winners and cheering his industry on has been carried to the shore of social activism ... The story of Facebook has been told many times before, but McNamee does a superb job of contextualizing its rise within the proper technological history ... The most stirring parts of the book are those in which McNamee makes the angry but measured argument that \'social media has enabled personal views that had previously been kept in check by social pressure\' ... McNamee’s book is not merely the cri de coeur of a forsworn tech optimist zinged by moral conscience. It’s also a robust and helpful itemization of the ways Facebook could be brought to heel.\
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewPollan persuasively argues that our anxieties are misplaced when it comes to psychedelics, most of which are nonaddictive ... properly conducted by trained professionals—what Pollan calls White-Coat Shamanism—can be personally transformative, helping with everything from overcoming addiction to easing the existential terror of the terminally ill. The strange thing is we’ve been here with psychedelics before ... As is to be expected of a nonfiction writer of his caliber, Pollan makes the story of the rise and fall and rise of psychedelic drug research gripping and surprising ... Where Pollan truly shines is in his exploration of the mysticism and spirituality of psychedelic experiences ... Michael Pollan, somehow predictably, does the impossible: He makes losing your mind sound like the sanest thing a person could do.
Bob D. Ehrman
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe great appeal of Ehrman’s approach to Christian history has always been his steadfast humanizing impulse ... Ehrman always thinks hard about history’s winners and losers without valorizing the losers or demonizing the winners. The losers here, of course, were pagan people.Reading about how an entire culture’s precepts and traditions can be overthrown without anyone being able to stop it may not be heartening at this particular historical moment. All the more reason to spend time in the company of such a humane, thoughtful and intelligent historian.
PositiveHarper'sThe Flamethrowers is a political novel, a feminist novel, a philosophical novel, a sexy novel, and a kind of thriller in which most of the intrigue occurs opaquely offstage … The Flamethrowers has a fearless experiential and geographic promiscuity, traveling from the mind of a motorcyclist about to crash on the Utah salt flats to a hideous artists’ dinner in Downtown Manhattan to a Roman riot and to the night of the 1977 New York City blackout … Virtually every page contains a paragraph that merits — and rewards — rereading...you read one of Kushner’s thunderclap sentences and you remember that sometimes, in fiction, hearing the thunder means standing for a little while in the rain.
MixedThe New York TimesCloud Atlas imposes a dizzying series of milieus, characters and conflicts upon us...Each story is written quite differently – so much so that Cloud Atlas feels like a doggedly expert gloss on various writers and modes … The novel is frustrating not because it is too smart but because it is not nearly as smart as its author … To write a novel that resembles no other is a task that few writers ever feel prepared to essay. David Mitchell has written such a novel – or almost has. It its need to render every kind of human experience, Cloud Atlas finds itself staring into the reflective waters of Joyce's Ulysses.