November 24, 2012 

Carry the One by Carol Anshaw. (Simon & Schuster) Beginning with a bohemian wedding in Wisconsin in 1983 and spanning some 25 years, this wry, humane novel follows a group of friends bound together by a fatal accident. With her characters taking refuge in art, drugs, social justice and love, Anshaw, as she did in her 1992 novel, “Aquamarine,” explores how one event or choice can irretrievably alter a life.

Da Vinci’s Ghost: Genius, Obsession, And How Leonardo Created The World In His Own Image by Toby Lester. (Free Press) “Vitruvian Man,” Leonardo’s famous 1490 drawing of a man inscribed in both a circle and a square, is the subject of this rewarding history. Lester traces the conceptual origins of the drawing back to ancient Greece, and to Vitruvius himself, reconstructing Leonardo’s fascination with the idea of man as a microcosm of the universe.

Ghost Lights by Lydia Millet. (Norton) A mission to a Central American jungle becomes a soul-searching expedition for Hal, the IRS bureaucrat and cuckolded protagonist of Millet’s novel. Amid the aftershocks of nearby civil wars, postcolonial politics and environmental degradation, the novel “provides a fascinating glimpse of what can happen when the self’s rhythms and certainties are shaken,” Josh Emmons wrote in the Book Review.

The Journals of Spalding Gray. Edited by Nell Casey. (Vintage) The actor-writer Spalding Gray mined his own life for material in celebrated monologues like “Swimming to Cambodia.” (“The well-told partial truth to deflect the private raw truth,” he noted in his journal.) Casey admirably knits together a selection of Gray’s journal entries, which darken as they approach his suicide in 2004, with interviews and her own thoughtful appraisals.

The Death of King Arthur: Thomas Malory’s “Le Morte d’Arthur.” Retold by Peter Ackroyd. (Penguin) Ackroyd describes his vigorous retelling of Malory’s 15th-century classic as “a loose, rather than punctilious, translation,” one that aims to present the exploits of Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table in “a more contemporary idiom.”

Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin by Timothy Snyder. (Basic Books) Snyder, a professor of history at Yale, concentrates on the vast territory between Germany and Russia (Poland, Ukraine, the Baltics and Belarus) and looks squarely at the full range of destruction committed between 1933 and 1945, first by Stalin’s regime and then by Hitler’s Reich.

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway. (Vintage Contemporaries) Joe Spork, the hero of Harkaway’s wildly inventive thriller, fixes clocks for a living, having turned his back on his father’s legacy as a fearsome London gangster. But in repairing a particularly unusual clockwork mechanism, Joe may have inadvertently triggered a 1950s doomsday machine.

Rights Gone Wrong: How Law Corrupts the Struggle for Equality by Richard Thompson Ford. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) The progressive left and the colorblind right are guilty of the same error, Ford, a Stanford law professor, argues: defining discrimination too abstractly and condemning it too categorically, with similarly perverse results.

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