Fed up with the bland descriptions of books provided by newspaper and online best-seller lists, which often give you little more than a plot summary? You can always find brief, intelligent, and opinionated one-sentence reviews in the “Books in a Sentence” category on One-Minute Book Reviews, an independent literary blog created by critic Janice Harayda www.janiceharayda.com.
Here are a dozen one-sentence summaries of books recently reviewed on the site. You can find a full review of any of these titles by using the Search box on One-Minute Book Reviews to search for the author or title.
Books for Adults
Love Smart: Find the One You Want — Fix the One You Got. By Dr. Phil McGraw. Patronizing mush from the talk-show host, who urges women to settle for “Mr. 80 Percent” and hold sex “in reserve” to protect themselves from all the men who still think, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”
Mr. Wrong: Real-Life Stories About the Men We Used to Love. Edited by Harriet Brown. An “Anti”-Valentine’s Day essay collection in which female authors and a token gay man write about their former dates, lovers, or husbands, with the best essays coming from Jane Smiley, Caroline Leavitt, Joyce Maynard, and Roxana Robinson.
The Birthday Party: A Memoir of Survival. By Stanley N. Alpert. A former federal prosectuor provides manna for true crime fans in this story of his abduction by thugs who showed a gang-that-couldn’t-shoot-straight ineptitude. One-Minute Book Reviews also provides a reading group guide to this book on its Totally Unauthorized Reading Group Guides page.
Hannibal Rising: A Novel. By Thomas Harris. A prequel to The Silence of the Lambs and other Hannibal Lecter novels that cannibalizes the English language and more.
Queens: Portraits of Black Women and Their Fabulous Hair. By Michael Cunningham and George Alexander. Fifty-three African-American women talk about what their hair means to them in an elegant collection of black-and-white photographs that could make a great Valentine’s Day gift.
Thirteen Moons: A Novel. By Charles Frazier. A historical novel, inspired partly by a colorful 19th-century lawyer and Indian rights advocate, that Jonathan Yardley of the Washington Post rightly called “even longer and even duller than Cold Mountain.”
Late Wife: Poems. By Claudia Emerson. A haunting collection of poems (nearly a third of them sonnets) about divorce and remarriage that won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for poetry.
Firstlight: The Early Inspirational Writings of Sue Monk Kidd. By Sue Monk Kidd. Chicken soup for the soul of fans of The Secret Life of Bees.
Managing Employees From Hell: Handling Idiots, Whiners, Slackers and Other Workplace Demons. By Gini Graham Scott. An American Management Association book that provides a more useful guide to managing saboteurs at work than the insipid The Power of Nice.
Little Girls in Pretty Boxes: The Making and Breaking of Elite Gymnasts and Figure Skaters. By Joan Ryan. A reporter and columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle exposes the abuses suffered by many of the country’s best female gymnasts and figure skaters, including some well-known names, in one of the best sports books of the past decade.
Books for Children
Flotsam. By David Wiesner. Ages 2 and up. Wiesner won the 2007 Caldecott Medal for this eloquent, wordless picture book about a boy whose discovery of an underwater camera at the beach takes him on a magical visual journey.
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. By Kate DiCamillo. Ages 7 and up. A china rabbit becomes an allegory of Christian faith and resurrection in a novel by a writer who won a Newbery Medal for The Tale of Despereaux.
(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.