[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers. Follow it here.]
The Sounds of Capitalism, by Timothy D. Taylor. Reviewed by James Hughes in the Slate Book Review.
With novels and story collections, I find a review that’s mostly plot summary is also mostly worthless. But I love reviews that blatantly summarize certain nonfiction books, specifically books that I will never read in their entirety. This is just such a review, a long summary of Taylor’s history of advertising jingles, catchy tunes, and how the boundaries between “real” music and jingles (they’re much more porous than you might think). Hughes will give you a synopsis of the entire book in a thousand words, and then you can go about your day. This New Yorker piece, about the “top-line singer” who writes all of Rihanna’s catchy songs, makes for nice companion reading. Find this book at Goodreads.
Inside and Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter. Reviewed by Michael Dirda in the Barnes & Noble Review.
As the title suggests, Hofstadter examines America’s culture of anti-intellectualism. Surprisingly (to me), that culture is nothing new—this book was published in 1963. Dirda’s piece is more tribute than review, but definitely worth a read. Find this book at Goodreads.
The Fractal Prince, by Hannu Rajaniemi. Reviewed by Adam Roberts in the Guardian.
This intense sci-fi novel is the sequel to Rajaniemi’s The Quantum Thief, and it sounds pretty good if you’re willing to put forth some serious effort, although you might need to read Quantum first. Rajaniemi’s premise is complex and not easily described, but also ambitious and backed by Rajaniemi’s higher mathematics degrees. Bonus points if you can tell me what “fin-de-siècle intensity” is. Find this book at Goodreads.
In brief: Michael Chabon’s strange reading habits. … China Miéville overcharges for a pamphlet about London. … The final novel in Lois Lowry’s “Giver” quartet garners some praise. … Salman Rushdie’s favorite memoirs. … Lena Dunham—creator of the buzzed-about but not actually good show Girls—is getting a million dollars for a book of essays about awkward sex. Oh, wait, strike that: she’s asking for a million dollars. Your move, financially irresponsible publishing industry.