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The Unknown

This Week’s Hot Reads

From the mystery of neutrinos to the tragedy of Newtown.

Neutrino Hunters, The Thrilling Chase for a Ghostly Particle to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe By Ray JayawardhanaIn an age of Google and NSA scandals, there seems to be no limits to our intelligence. The pleasure of Neutrino Hunters, by the astronomer Ray Jayawardhana, is that it reminds us how little we actually know, especially on the subatomic level. Since their discovery in the 1930s, neutrinos—elementary particles that carry a neutral charge—have generated increasing interest within the scientific community.

IN THE FAMILY

This Week’s Hot Reads

This week, from the short fiction of an overlooked American master to the family history of three generations of real-life adventurers.

The Stories of Frederick Busch by Elizabeth StroutWhen he died of a heart attack in New York in 2006, obituaries of Frederick Busch called him a “writer’s writer,”—someone who “seemed to impress critics more than the mass audience,” as The New York Times put it. It’s a shame his work didn’t reach a broader audience in his lifetime. A new collection of Busch’s stories reveals a powerful writer whose fiction is as deeply compassionate and accessible as it is well-crafted.

This Week’s Hot Reads

From a legend of Mexican crime fiction and a biography of Modest Musorgsky to a giant of Spanish literature.

The Mongolian Conspiracy by Rafael Bernal, trans. by Katherine Silver. Rafael Bernal was a legend of Mexican crime fiction, but he never achieved international renown. Thanks to translator Katherine Silver, his 1969 masterpiece El Complot Mongol, or The Mongolian Conspiracy, is available for the first time in English. Filiberto Garcia is a hitman who knows exactly what gun to use for killing at short range, but not much beyond that. A chance assignment lands him in the middle of an international conspiracy that gives Bernal’s book its name.

Fighters

This Week’s Hot Reads

From a season spent embedded with the New York Jets to a biography of a self-mythologizing Pinkerton detective.

Collision Low Crossers: A Year Inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football by Nicholas Dawidoff.As we learn more about the long-term effects of concussions on retired players, their Faustian-bargain has become harder and harder to ignore on Sundays. Nicholas Dawidoff’s Collision Low Crossers: A Year Inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football is a timely book. Embedded with the New York Jets during the 2011 NFL season, Dawidoff details just how much the players and coaches sacrifice for the game, both in terms of physical wellbeing and sheer devotion of time and effort.

Subterfuge

This Week’s Hot Reads

This week, a commando raid on occupied Crete, an opium-tinged mystery, and the story of one Russain nobleman’s attempts to expand the empire into California.

Rustication by Charles PalliserCharles Palliser (author of 1989’s million-seller The Quincunx) uses the opening pages of his first novel in over ten years, titled Rustication, to establish an interesting framing device: an author’s note (signed “CP”) explains that the following story is merely Palliser’s transcription of a Victorian journal that he found moldering in a records office somewhere. It’s unclear what point the device serves—couldn’t the story simply stand on its own?—until one realizes just how much Palliser likes to play with voyeuristic perspective, and add layers of confusion onto what might have at first appeared clear.

Read ‘Em

This Week’s Hot Reads

This week: a book about men in all sorts of ways, a writer’s 1940s New York, a rain drenched Irish tale of murder and pursuit, and a novel filled with trash.

The Book of Men Edited by Colum McCann, Tyler Cabot, and Lisa Consiglio In this collection, edited by Colum McCann and the editors of Esquire and Narrative 4, there are all kinds of men. Heroes. Cowards. Creeps. War correspondents and wanna-be lovers. Husbands and dreamers and sons. There are all kinds of women, as well. Mothers and lovers, convicts and authors. Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, and Khaled Hosseini are just a few of the writers who have contributed ideas about what is it means to be a man to The Book of Men; so are Edna O’Brien, Tea Obreht, Amy Bloom, and seventy-four other writers from countries around the world.

Lost

This Week’s Hot Reads

Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters

This week, from stories about the streets of Tehran to the quest to bring a lost World War II pilot home. By Mythili Rao.

The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons by Goli Taraghi.Born in Tehran in 1939, Goli Taraghi was a teenager during Iran’s 1953 coup and a grown woman during the 1979 revolution. Both upheavals feature prominently in her writing, but the stories collected in The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons are hardly polemical. Political tumult instead merely provides the backdrop of the transformations of her characters, young and old. The adolescent girls of “Flowers of Shiraz” can hardly comprehend the change underway in their country: In the run-up to Mossadeq’s ouster, they ride their bikes through the city, meeting for ice cream, flirting with boys, and racing through the hills, despite the protests on the streets.

Music and Wine

This Week’s Hot Reads

From the Steely Dan lead singer’s memoir to the golden age of American French cooking, here are this week’s hot reads.

Eminent Hipsters by Donald Fagen. Steely Dan co-founder and lead singer Donald Fagen’s new book Eminent Hipsters is partly a compilation of his essays and partly a journal he kept while on tour in 2012. Fagen, who majored in journalism as an undergraduate, includes vignettes about his awkward adolescence and growing up Jewish in the predominantly Christian Midwest—alongside critical assessments of his own musical influences, science fiction of the 1950s, and radio legend Jean Shepherd.

Reverberations of War

This Week’s Hot Reads

James Franco’s first novel, a Dickensian ghost story, an ugly incident in American racial history, and England’s second-place effort in the race for the atomic bomb.

Actors Anonymous by James Franco. Though James Franco can now add “novelist” to his already lengthy curriculum vitae, his new book Actors Anonymous is less a novel than a collection of tangentially related short works, both fictional and non-fictional. He may not yet be a good enough writer to sustain a full scale novel, but Franco can write compelling short fiction. Of particular note are “McDonalds I” and “McDonalds II,” a pair of short stories about a struggling actor who works at a drive-thru, as Franco himself did before being discovered.

Twinships

This Week's Hot Reads

Two masters of the crime novel have new works: Jo Nesbo’s ‘Police’ and George Pelecanos’s ‘The Double.’

Police by Jo Nesbo. After starring in nine of Jo Nesbo’s novels, Harry Hole, a talented, troubled detective, needs a break from the violent world his author created for him. Oslo’s chill, humanity’s evil, and a violent, unsolved crime that struck too close to home had made this world seem too much like a nightmare. When he finally surfaces in Police, midway through the story, colleagues notice the laugh lines around his eyes, how happy and rested he seems.

Disorders

This Week’s Hot Reads

From a novel on nostalgia to a novel on paranoia.

Nostalgia by Dennis McFarland. Summerfield Hayes, a Brooklyn-born soldier late of the Union Army, wakes up in a hospital bed unable to speak. He has been rendered mute by what in 1864 was a medical diagnosis: nostalgia. A modern name for it might be post-traumatic stress disorder. In his new novel, entitled Nostalgia, Dennis McFarland explores how war makes some men prisoners of their own minds. Though in a state of near catatonia, Hayes’s synapses are busily firing.

Obsessives

This Week’s Hot Reads

From a Hungarian novelist’s newest to a biography of Richard Wagner.

Seiobo There Below by László Krasznahorkai. The fiction of Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai is often called “obsessive” by critics. For good reason—his sentences are enormous and repetitive, and his subjects are rigorously examined from all angles. He is a master of the breathless paragraph, the hypnotic meditation. James Wood, in a piece about Krasznahorkai’s pull as a postmodernist, noted that the worlds conjured by Thomas Bernhard seem more logical by comparison.

Upheavals

This Week’s Hot Reads

From a National Book Award winner’s raw yet elegant memoir to an architect of the modern Internet who died during the 9/11 attacks.

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward. A string of tragic deaths leads the author to reexamine her roots. Ward won the National Book Award in 2011 for her novel Salvage the Bones, set in her native rural Mississippi in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina. This time around, she turns her eye back on her own life in that region’s depressed economy and untamed landscape, and to the African-American community there struggling to transcend the conditions both historical and contemporary that hold them back.

Great Outdoors

This Week’s Hot Reads: September 9, 2013

A three-year journey across the Eurasian Steppe, a Cheeveresque story collection, and a new novel from a master of the quiet moment.

On The Trail Of Genghis Khan By Tim Cope The truly epic tale of a professional explorer’s three-year journey across the Eurasian Steppe.There are plenty of fine books written by people who go off on adventures and return to set their story to paper, but Tim Cope’s adventure, recalled in On the Trail of Genghis Khan, puts almost all of them to shame. His was a 6,000-mile journey on horseback from Mongolia to Hungary that lasted over three years.

This Week’s Hot Reads

From Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Paul Harding’s next book, to the story of mushroom foragers who supply fungal gold to the world’s best restaurants.

Enon by Paul Harding. Returning to the town of Enon and to the Crosby family of the Pulitzer-winning ‘Tinkers.’ If adapted for the stage, this novel would make an artful, off-Broadway monologue. We return to the town of Enon and to the Crosby family, which were the subjects of Paul Harding’s debut novel Tinkers, winner of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. In the wake of his daughter’s tragic death, Charlie Crosby is crazy with grief. For one full year, we never leave his side.

About Hot Reads

Every week, we present brief but in-depth reviews of five fiction and nonfiction books.

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