7 Most Favorable Reviews in September 2021

  • October 5, 2021

We came, we read, we gushed. Here’s a recap of the titles that left us especially warm and swoony last month.

7 Most Favorable Reviews in September 2021

Almost Hemingway: The Adventures of Negley Farson, Foreign Correspondent by Rex Bowman and Carlos Santos (University of Virginia Press). Reviewed by Kristin H. Macomber. “Like Hemingway, Farson was fond of fishing, drinking, and womanizing. But whereas Farson reveled in the world as he met it and wrote the truest versions of his experiences, Hemingway invented his stories, both the ones that became his great novels and the ones that became his personal lore — the Hemingway legends people told about him. Clearly, Almost Hemingway was a labor of love for its authors. That Bowman and Santos have softened some edges of Farson’s chronicles of his adventures, particularly about things that don’t sit well in the 21st century — they recount the tale of his bagging an elephant on a safari, for example, but let us know he didn’t feel good about it — was perhaps inevitable. Men being men was an acceptable thing back in the day.”

Matrix: A Novel by Lauren Groff (Riverhead Books). Reviewed by Bob Duffy. “Beyond the linguistic, a rash of other dualities stands out: the exuberant excess of the Norman nobles versus the hardscrabble poverty among the English commoners; the strict vow of chastity versus the human urge for sexual expression among the abbey’s sisters; and the rarely questioned authority of Church and State versus Marie’s independent streak. Most significantly, though, the central opposition in Matrix is a far more consequential one — the gulf between the mindsets and customary roles of women versus those of men. Like ungainly Marie, this interplay towers over the others, spinning the narrative headlong into a resonant feminist transfiguration. What results is a propulsive, enchanting, and emotionally charged read.”

Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World by Katharine Hayhoe (Atria/One Signal Publishers). Reviewed by Julie Dunlap. “Yet Hayhoe, widely esteemed as a climate communicator, is too savvy to believe data will silence most deniers. Host of the award-winning PBS series ‘Global Weirding,’ professor at Texas Tech, and author of more than 100 peer-reviewed papers, her first solo book is Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World. Based on a TED Talk with nearly 4 million views, it turns all her skills toward informing and galvanizing others to join her crusade. Deeply aware of the situation’s urgency, she wastes no time with handy tips on switching light bulbs or ditching plastic straws. Instead, this heartfelt and empathetic book focuses on shared values — grounded in but not limited to her own evangelical Christian faith — to build essential bonds and the courage required for the work ahead.”

The Right to Sex: Feminism in the Twenty-First Century by Amia Srinivasan (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Reviewed by Audrey Clare Farley. “This is just one of the tensions in The Right to Sex, a collection that poses more questions than it answers. Srinivasan, who, at 36, is the youngest person and first of color to hold the Chichele professorship in social and political theory at Oxford University, early on declares that she is ‘unwilling to reduce what is dense and difficult to something easier.’ In this spirit, and with an alluring style that gives readers the sense of rolling around in thoughts with her, the author readily engages second-wave feminists, many of whom are now viewed as too white and juridical in their thinking. And she critiques the intersectional and sex-positive feminists who dominate today’s discourse.”

On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint by Maggie Nelson (Graywolf Press). Reviewed by Zak Salih. “Uncertainty, oftentimes the sign of a mind actively at work, is a sign of weakness. It’s not enough for one to say, ‘Perhaps.’ One has to say, ‘It is.’ Which makes the poet and critic Maggie Nelson’s new work, On Freedom: Four Songs of Care and Constraint, such a refreshing and rigorous work. It is unapologetic in its acknowledgement of what it means to actually think — really, truly think — about culture and all the uncertainty that entails.”

The Book of Form and Emptiness: A Novel by Ruth Ozeki (Viking). Reviewed by Mike Maggio. “And so, that question keeps coming up: What is real? What are we and the characters we encounter supposed to believe? With all confidence, I can say that The Book of Form and Emptiness is very real. It’s a wonderful, heartwarming story of emotional growth filled with characters as real as anyone you would meet on the street. Except we are meeting them through the Book. And the Book, as we learn, knows all.”

Against White Feminism: Notes on Disruption by Rafia Zakaria (W.W. Norton & Company). Reviewed by Sarah J. Trembath. “Zakaria is a lauded writer with a unique ability to mesh the political, historical, and personal with good storytelling. Against White Feminism — eight essays sandwiched between an intro and conclusion that read like manifestos — addresses an array of interrelated topics, each building upon the others in support of the author’s purpose here: Zakaria wants white women to see the world through the eyes of other people, and she wants to normalize race conversations within feminism.”

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