January 19, 2013 

Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty by John M. Barry. (Penguin) Williams, the 17th-century Protestant theologian and founder of Rhode Island, is regarded as the original American proponent of liberty of conscience and the separation of church and state. Barry explores the development of these fundamental ideas through the story of Williams, whose course was set in England under the influence of Francis Bacon, Edward Coke, Oliver Cromwell and John Milton.

The Third Reich by Roberto Bolano. Translated by Natasha Wimmer. (Picador) A German vacationing in Spain plays a World War II strategy game with a shadowy local, a burn victim known as “El Quemado,” in this mesmerizing novel, which was written in 1989 and found among Bolano’s papers after his death.

Elizabeth The Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith. (Random House) This all-embracing biography, by the author of “Diana in Search of Herself” (1999), presents the public and private lives of Queen Elizabeth II, who in her 60-year reign has evolved, Smith writes, “from a beautiful ingenue to a businesslike working mother to a wise grandmother.”

Alys, Always by Harriet Lane. (Scribner, $16.) In Lane’s first novel Frances Thorpe, a social-climbing editor in the beleaguered books section of a failing London newspaper, ingratiates herself with a dead woman’s privileged family.

Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe by George Dyson. (Vintage) This is an expansive portrait of the mathematicians and engineers – led by the Hungarian-American John von Neumann – who gathered at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., in the 1940s and ‘50s to build one of the first computers to realize Alan Turing’s vision of a high-speed “stored program” Universal Machine.

Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru. (Vintage Contemporaries) A New York couple, Jaz and Lisa Matharu – he is the son of Sikh immigrants; she is Jewish – are plunged into a public nightmare after their autistic son is lost during a California vacation in Kunzru’s relentlessly innovative novel. Theirs is one of several related stories here, spanning centuries and continents, and all tethered to a rock formation in the Mojave Desert.

Verdi’s Shakespeare: Men of the Theater by Garry Wills. (Penguin) Wills, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, examines the writing and staging of the three operas that Verdi, who could not read English, adapted from Shakespeare: “Macbeth,” “Otello” and “Falstaff.” In Rome and Rhetoric: Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (Yale University), Wills delves into Roman history as interpreted and reinterpreted by Shakespeare, largely through the four principal characters in “Julius Caesar”: Caesar, Brutus, Antony and Cassius.

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