Books Firehouse, by David Halberstam (Hyperion). Strong, respectful reviews for this "homage to firemen's values and firemen's culture, and to what one can only describe as the martyrdom that the New York Fire Department underwent in the catastrophe of the World Trade Center" (James Traub, the New York Times). Critics say Firehouse "provides a rare view into the private rivalries and rhythms of firefighting life"and that "Halbsterstam writes with the compassionate and urgent precision that John Hersey brought to Hiroshima" (Evan Osnos, the Chicago Tribune). The only minor flaw: "Halberstam plainly does not want to canonize these men, but he can't quite help it" (Traub). (Click here to read an excerpt. Buy.)— A.B.
The Last American Man, by Elizabeth Gilbert (Viking). Excellent notices for this "wickedly well-written and finally pain-filled" biography of Eustace Conway (James Gorman, the New York Times), a "preternaturally gifted hunter, horseman, carpenter, ecologist and athlete" (the San Francisco Chronicle), who serves as a symbol of American frontiersmen. Critics call the portrait "engrossing and entertaining, filled with thoughtful meditations and humorous observations" while noting Gilbert's "funny, quick, and smart" prose "leaves no stone unturned in her exploration of the cultural landscape of masculinity." In short, Conway "could not have asked for a better writer to chronicle his story" (Heather Hewett, the Christian Science Monitor). (Read the first chapter.)— A.B.