"Barbara Stanwyck: The Miracle Woman" by Dan Callahan
Sidestepping any semblance of objectivity, Scott Eyman of The Wall Street Journal is bursting with biased praise for Barbara Stanwyck. "The approved method for a review of a book or an essay about an artist is a pose of decorous, impartial judgment. But there will be no such artificial grandstanding for this piece. That's because I love Barbara Stanwyck." To be fair, he also has kind words for her chronicler: "If Mr. Callahan's book is not the last word on this great actress, it will certainly stand as an invaluable critical guide." Acting in kind, Mark Asch at L Magazine writes, "Dan Callahan assesses her life and especially her performances, in the kind of prose—swift, and matter-of-fact about emotional complications—familiar to admirers of his writing for this publication and others." And calling it an "impassioned biography," Dennis Drabelle of The Washington Post nods with approval: "Callahan's enthusiasm informs every page."
"Reading for My Life" by John Leonard
The consensus is in: Read this compilation not just to commemorate the late life of John Leonard, but to honor the very artform of literature itself. This literary collection spanning Leonard's lengthy career as a book reviewer is a bottomless inkwell of inspiration. David Ulin of the Los Angeles Times implores you to "read this book...read it for its passion, its sense that criticism can take us to the heart of everything: aesthetic, emotional, spiritual, political." "His thoughts dart from one precisely placed allusion to another," writes Jimmy So of The Daily Beast, and the collection is "great fun to read." Philip Lopate of The New York Times deplores the loss of "the last and best of a nearly extinct breed, the lifelong book reviewer," but has found solace in rereading Leonard's work: "Let's be grateful for this eloquent sample of his writings, rescued from the dust of past periodicals."
"You're Not Doing It Right" by Michael Ian Black
Kurt Vonnegut, the raucously quotable author, once quipped: "Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward." But there's a whole lotta truth in jest, and Michael Ian Black has hit upon a trove of it in his most recent "revelatory" comedic memoir. According to Kyle Ryan at AVClub, "Black transcends hackery with uncomfortable honesty" and "Black's deeply personal memoir succeeds by going beyond the jokes and into uncomfortable places." To Sarah Tyre at The Huffington Post, no stranger to comedy, Black's book "makes you nauseated from both sadness and laughter. It's an honest book, the kind that feels like a gift."