A new novel from one of America’s best young writers, a history of the hunt for a cure for AIDS, and the story of a sensational murder trial in turn-of-the-century Paris.
All Our Names: A Novel By Dinaw MengestuTowards the beginning of All Our Names, by MacArthur fellow and New Yorker 20 Under 40 Award winner Dinaw Mengestu, one character, a student in an unnamed African university, asks a fellow student named Isaac what he is studying. “This is Africa. There’s only one thing to study,” he replies. “Politics. That’s all we have here.” In his third novel, Mengestu displays his talent for the distinctly political fiction of post-colonialism, but also the deftly tragic touch of a dramatist.
Three nonfiction books: a look at missionary work in the Caribbean and Holland, an account of being a stringer in the Congo, and German espionage in the U.S. during World War I.
More Than Conquerors: A Memoir of Lost Arguments By Megan HustadIn 1978, Megan Hustad’s father quit his job to become a missionary. On assignment with Trans World Radio—an evangelical broadcasting company with the motto “Speaking Hope to the World”—StanHustad decamped, his family in tow, from Minnesota to a small island in the Netherland Antilles called Bonaire. Missionary work would send the Hustad’s from Bonaire to Holland; after nine years abroad, they would return to the United States.
This week, from a preacher-turned-novelist’s meditations on death to the power struggles and engineering breakthroughs that lead to America’s first subway.
Praying Drunkby Kyle MinorRepetition—of words, phrases, and entire thoughts—is what gives prayer its force, so it’s only fitting that in Praying Drunk, preacher-turned-novelist Kyle Minor uses repetition to deepen the power of his sad, soulful stories. “The Sweet Life” focuses on one specific scene, a funeral with a tone-deaf sermon; “There is Nothing But Sadness in Nashville” identifies the boy, his mother, and his father. They’re variations on the fractured family of “The Truth and All Its Ugly” (only that story is set in 2024, a time when technology gives a grieving father new ways to try to mask his pain by re-living his son’s childhood through a bot).
Three novels that make for clever and fun reading: from a ‘Lost’-like fantasy to a satire of the Irish boom.
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer This novel features main characters we know only as the Biologist, the Psychologist, the Anthropologist, and the Surveyor, although this is not General Science 101 at your local community college. Nor is this some Theater of the Absurd knockoff. Instead, they comprise the 12th expedition to visit a place called “Area X.” The first expedition thought the place was a natural paradise, but the second expedition committed mass suicide.
From a look at the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the life of the American poet E.E. Cummings.
Karate Chop by Dorthe NorsWhen describing many works of Danish art, adjectives like unnerving and disturbing often come to mind, but these are far from criticisms. It is precisely because of how unsettling Dorthe Nors’s stories in Karate Chop are that leave her words festering in the mind long after reading their four or five pages. Aside from “The Heron” (recently published in The New Yorker and included here), Nors’s work has gone largely unnoticed in America.
From the controversial second book by tiger mom Amy Chua, as she tackles race and cultural advantages, to a reading of George Eliot’s ‘Middlemarch.’
The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America by Amy Chua and Jed RubenfeldThat Amy Chua’s new book, The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America, has, even in advance of its publication, inspired controversy, should come as no surprise. Chua’s previous book, the part-parenting memoir part-parenting manifesto The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, was an unapologetic account (and endorsement) of the strict, decidedly un-American parenting style typical in Chinese culture.
This week, a memoir of liberation, a biography of Ariel Sharon, and a comprehensive compendium from a master poet.
Cut Me Loose: Sin and Salvation After My Ultra-Orthodox Girlhood By Leah Vincent Whatever the ideology, few display the zeal of the convert. For writer and activist Leah Vincent, born the daughter of a Rabbi in an ultra-orthodox community in Pittsburgh, the ideology in which she found herself an eager neophyte was one that most of us in this country take for granted: secular self-determination. In Cut Me Loose, she describes her creeping disillusionment with the paternalistic and self-segregating world of the Yeshivish, in which a girl was expected to “move from her father’s home to her husband’s” at a young age, and where she was exposed to such sentiment as “blacks aren’t like other non-Jews.
This week: a grandson’s compelling dive into his grandfather’s life as a WWII combat psychiatrist an his most famous patient, and a journalist’s journey into a college classroom where death is the subject.
A Curious Madness: An American Combat Psychiatrist, A Japanese War Crimes Suspects, And an Unsolved Mystery from World War II Eric JaffeA Curious Madness is not your typical mystery. There is no body, there is no weapon, and unlike a drop of blood, the clues are as nebulous as the thoughts and intentions of men. “The main problem with writing about my grandfather was I didn’t know anything about him,” author Eric Jaffe writes of Daniel Jaffe, who was a combat psychiatrist in World War II.
From a biography of Beethoven focusing on his relationships, to the best of McSweeney’s.
Beethoven: The Man Revealed By John Suchet Scholar John Suchet has written six books about the classical music’s most revered composer, Ludwig van Beethoven; his latest, out now, is Beethoven: The Man Revealed. Suchet himself admits that he has not uncovered any new information about the oft-written about composer; however, his focus on Beethoveen the man is departure enough to justify his book’s existence. The most interesting facet of The Man Revealed is Suchet’s investigation into the interlay between Beethoveen’s life and his art, the relationships that were so strained by his volatile genius inspired some of his greatest work.
A Teddy Roosevelt bio centered on New York City, the tragic failure of American foreign policy in the Middle East, and a newly translated story collection from a wrongly forgotten Soviet author.
America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East by Hugh WilfordAfter Miles Copeland retired from his long career in the CIA, during which he helped organize the coup that overthrew the Prime Minister of Iran Mohammad Mossadegh, he developed a Risk-like board game in his new spare time. It was called The Game of Nations, and the description on the side of the box read: “Skill and nerve are the principle requirements in this amoral and cynical game.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Every week, we present brief but in-depth reviews of five fiction and nonfiction books.
@GSElevator Loses Book Deal
After identity of parodist revealed.More
Hermione Should've Been with Harry
Says J.K. Rowling.More
Fourth Installment of “Millennium’ Trilogy on the Way
Stieg Larsson’s series to continue with new author. More
Report: Cohen to Write Ephron Bio
They were longtime friends.More
CHILL YOUR BONES
CBS Buys ‘Scary Stories’ Film
1980s children’s horror books.More
Oldest U.S. Book Sells for $14.1M
Printed in 1640.More