[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers. Follow it here.]
The Auschwitz Volunteer, by Witold Pilecki. Reviewed by Timothy Snyder in the New York Times.
When Witold Pilecki got himself sent to Auschwitz in 1940, he did so partly to find friends who’d been sent there, partly to help the anti-Nazi underground, and partly to “discover … what the camp meant for Poland and the world.” In 1940, Poles (as opposed to Polish Jews) made up most of the prisoners in Auschwitz, and they would wind up the third-most-killed demographic at the camp. Pilecki later escaped and wrote this extensive report in 1945—it was suppressed in Poland until only recently. This is an unreal story. Find this book at Goodreads.
The Red House, by Mark Haddon. Reviewed by Ron Charles in the Washington Post.
Haddon’s famous novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, was loved by everyone in the world, it seemed, except me. (Not unlike Wes Anderson movies.) So if you are not me, you might be interested in Haddon’s new novel, about an estranged brother and sister who decide to spend a week’s vacation with each other, families in tow. Ron Charles can’t say enough good things about it. Find this book at Goodreads.
A Hologram for the King, by Dave Eggers. Reviewed by Carloyn Kellogg in the L.A. Times.
This is just Dave Eggers’s second actual novel—all of his other book-length narratives have been either based on true events or entirely nonfiction. In Hologram, a salesman on the brink of bankruptcy embarks on a last-ditch deal-making trip, to meet with the King of Saudi Arabia. Sounds like it moves a bit slowly, but Kellogg says it’s every bit as good as his nonfiction. Find this book at Goodreads.
The Orphanmaster, by Jean Zimmerman. Reviewed by Charles Finch in USA Today.
I’ve had my eye on Zimmerman’s debut historical thriller for a while now, but I haven’t been convinced to take the plunge. Finch’s deftly written review might just be the final straw that gets me to actually read it. He calls Zimmerman’s thorough research “exhilarating,” and says that, despite the few hiccups that should be expected from a first-time author, The Orphanmaster succeeds at both the thriller side of things, and the historical fiction side. Find this book at Goodreads.
In brief: Richard Ford says the last book that made him cry was his own. … Does the android of Philip K. Dick dream of electric sheep? … Carolyn Kellogg, one of the reviewers above, has a Crying of Lot 49 tattoo on her wrist. She goes in search of the oddballs putting that symbol on stickers all over the country. … A Game of Thrones cookbook might contain spoilers. I haven’t read the books, so I’m only guessing, but—dragon soup? … A BN Review writer says the newly republished book Ride a Cockhorse is one of the funniest novels she’s ever read.