The week in books

October 30, 2008

Gabriel Garcia Marquez: A Life by Gerald Martin, senior research professor in the Caribbean Studies Centre, London Metropolitan University. Bloomsbury, £25.00, ISBN 9780747594765

"Gabriel Garcia Marquez once remarked that 'every self-respecting writer should have an English biographer'. He could have asked for none more accomplished than Martin, whose mammoth volume is the result of 18 years of research."

Angel Gurria-Quintana, Financial Times

Soul of the Age: The Life, Mind and World of William Shakespeare by Jonathan Bate, professor of English and comparative literary studies, University of Warwick. Viking Books, £25.00, ISBN 9780670914821

"Bate takes a scatter of Shakespearian topics about which he has new or ingenious or challenging things to say, and arranges them along a roughly biographical time-line. The rest, he largely ignores. So we are spared the usual futile speculations about whether Shakespeare was a crypto-Catholic or why he bequeathed Anne Hathaway his second-best bed."

John Carey, The Sunday Times

Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf, professor of child development, Tufts University. Icon Books, £8.99, ISBN 9781848310308

"We take our reading skills for granted, but we shouldn't; and this book tells us what's going on in our brains when we read. (When I say it is a very brainy book, I am being literal as well as figurative: the book is crammed with drawings of brains, with areas given such imposing names as supramarginal gyrus or occipital-temporal area. Do not let these put you off.)"

Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

The City's End: Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fears, and Premonitions of New York's Destruction by Max Page, professor of architecture and history, University of Masschusetts at Amherst. Yale University Press, £25.00, ISBN 9780300110265

"It's a novel way of looking at September 11 2001 ... we've had 9/11 firemen, 9/11 fakery, 9/11 heroics, among others, and now ... the activity of the crime within the collective American psyche before it actually happened ... (The author) Page references graphic novels, song lyrics, poetry, hip-hop cover art, video game packaging. Unallied with any attempts at persuasion, such a torrent of information only fascinates."

Niall Griffiths, The Daily Telegraph

Israel and the Family of Nations: The Jewish Nation-State and Human Rights by Alexander Yakobson, senior lecturer in history, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and Amnon Rubinstein, dean, Interdisciplinary Centre, Herzliya. Routledge, £70.00, ISBN 9780415464413

"This ... is not an enjoyable read, and not a light one. Its arguments are dense, dry and legalistic. But ... (its) ideas deserve to be widely heard. The authors have constructed a methodical defence not only of the Zionist idea but also of the two-state solution in Palestine, an idea which - six decades after the UN's partition resolution of 1947 - is losing the support of some intellectuals but is still the most plausible way to reconcile the Jews and Arabs of Palestine."

The Economist.

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