Book Review Roundup: Battle Hymns And A Presidential Satire

'Chinaberry Sidewalks' by Rodney Crowell
Los Angeles Times

The revelation of Crowell's new memoir is that this seemingly stable adult emerged from a childhood awash in abuse and violence. In his debut as an author, he labors hard to explain that transformation, scouring the rocky landscape of his early years in search of keys and clues.

iPod: The Missing Manual by J. D. Biersdorfer

Seattle PI

Untangling the mysteries, she specifies which formats will work with the iPod, and how to convert other file types. The author carefully avoids overly technical language; for example, she refers to clicking on the "flippy triangle" to view the iPod's contents through iTunes.

"American Idol: The Untold Story" by Richard Rushfield

The book is not Fox-authorized, which may explain why the show's other well-known personalities play only supporting roles. Paula Abdul is a wacky sparring partner, and Ryan Seacrest is Robin to Cowell's Batman. Nevermind Randy Jackson; he gets less space than Season 1 co-host Brian Dunkleman, who receives a sympathetic retelling of the personal and career collapse that followed his did-he-jump-or-was-he-pushed exit. Kara DioGuardi and Ellen DeGeneres get mere cameos.

"O: A Presidential Novel"
The New York Times

Well, now we know why the author of this much gossiped about, heavily marketed new book wanted to remain anonymous: "O: A Presidential Novel" is a thoroughly lackadaisical performance -- trite, implausible and decidedly unfunny.

"Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" by Amy Chua
The New York Times

"There are all these new books out there portraying Asian mothers as scheming, callous, overdriven people indifferent to their kids' true interests," Amy Chua writes. She ought to know, because hers is the big one: "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," a diabolically well-packaged, highly readable screed ostensibly about the art of obsessive parenting. In truth, Ms. Chua's memoir is about one little narcissist's book-length search for happiness. And for all its quotable outbursts from Mama Grisly (the nickname was inevitable), it will gratify the same people who made a hit out of the granola-hearted "Eat, Pray, Love."

"Heavenly Questions" by Gjertrud Schnackenberg

Gjertrud Schnackenberg's new book, Heavenly Questions, a set of six linked long poems inspired (the word must be carefully considered, in this context) by the illness and death of her husband, the philosopher Robert Nozick, achieves this conflicted balance. It is perhaps the most powerful elegy written in English by any poet in recent memory, and it is a triumphant consummation of Schnackenberg's own work. In it, a poet of wide learning and traditional poetic form has been hurt into outraged and incandescent song.

"Alexander the Great and His Empire: A Short Introduction" by Pierre Briant
Wall Street Journal

Formidable historian though Mr. Lane Fox is, there has always been something of the romantic in him as well, and it is this sensibility that gives his portrait of Alexander a hauntingly close affinity with those of the ancient biographers. To the Greeks, the world of Homer was the inexhaustible point of reference-- especially so when describing the career of a hero who had claimed descent from a god, penetrated to the very limits of the world and died young. Alexander lived a life more soaringly worthy of his own propaganda than any other conqueror in history and did not even have to die before becoming a figure of myth.