Book reviews: Room | Star | The Genius In All of Us

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ROOM BY EMMA DONOGHUE (Picador, £7.99) ****

Jack is a little boy who lives in a garden shed. You see everything through his eyes. There's a bed, a skylight, a table. There's his mother, Ma. They never leave the shed. Ma's teeth are rotting but she can't go to the dentist because she can't leave the shed. A man called Old Nick supplies Jack and Ma with food. At night, Old Nick gets into the bed with Ma, and Jack counts the creaks. They are Fritzl-style captives. It's creepy, and sometimes thrillerish. You know that, at some point, Jack and Ma will have to escape. And then what?

STAR

By Peter Biskind

(Simon and Schuster, 9.99) ***

A BIG fat book about the mystery that is Warren Beatty. Biskind wrote Easy Riders, Raging Bulls – he knows the territory well. Beatty acted like a star before he was one. He is insatiably ambitious. Making a film, he is expert at politics and brinkmanship. He pushes people, then he charms them. And the women! Britt Ekland said: "Warren could handle women as smoothly as operating an elevator. He knew exactly where to locate the top button." He is pushy but smooth. Of himself, Beatty said: "You get slapped a lot. But you get f***ed a lot, too." Very readable.

THE GENIUS IN ALL OF US

BY DAVIS SHENK

(Icon Books, 8.99) ****

"Talent is not a thing," says David Shenk, "it's a PROCESS." Talent doesn't just come from genes, says Shenk. It comes from the way genes interact with the environment. This means that, with enough effort, people can learn how to be excellent at things. Take Ted Williams, the best baseball hitter ever. He practised hitting baseballs all the time. He hit balls until they broke. Like Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, and Matthew Syed's Bounce, it's inspiring.

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