March 30, 2013 

Our Lady of Alice Bhatti, by Mohammed Hanif. (Vintage) Alice Bhatti, a Karachi nurse with mysterious healing powers, is at the center of Hanif’s blistering comedy, which delivers a broadside on the socially sanctioned butchery of women and girls in Pakistan.

Working miracles at Sacred Heart Hospital for All Ailments, a cesspit of incompetence, Alice is beloved, but not even her supernatural skill set can stem the tide of dead women.

Enemies: A History of the FBI, by Tim Weiner. (Random House) This is an intensely researched history of the FBI’s intelligence-gathering operations and the conflicting imperatives of national security and civil liberties. Weiner, the author of “Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA,” charts the ebbs and flows of J. Edgar Hoover’s power, chronicling his relationships with presidents over 40 years.

Enchantments, by Kathryn Harrison. (Random House) Harrison tackles Grigori Rasputin’s many identities in this splendid novel: faith healer, mad monk, resilient assassination victim.

Circling through time and around stories real and imagined, the book lends a tender perspective to historical events as endured by two central characters: Rasputin’s daughter Maria, known as Masha, and Alyosha, the hemophiliac Romanov heir.

American Triumvirate: Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, and the Modern Age of Golf, by James Dodson. (Vintage) Based on interviews, contemporary accounts and oral histories, this is a fascinating biography of three gifted, unusual men who grew up in the Depression, excelled at a game that was beginning to grab the popular imagination, and found wealth and fame in the different America that came in the wake of the war.

Girlchild, by Tupelo Hassman. (Picador) This harrowing first novel, about a poor-white girlhood in Nevada, unfolds in innovative form – word problems, social workers’ reports, news clippings, letters – revealing the toll of abuse even as Hassman’s irrepressible heroine searches for a way out.

When I Was a Child I Read Books, by Marilynne Robinson. (Picador) Robinson’s personal and critical essays expand the themes that preoccupied her celebrated novels – “Housekeeping,” (euro) “Gilead” and “Home” – addressing social fragmentation, the role of generosity in Christian faith and the nature of individualism and the myth of the American West.

Times reviewer Andrew Delbanco called this book “illuminating.”

Wild Thing, by Josh Bazell. (Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown) In Bazell’s raucous sequel to “Beat the Reaper,” Peter Brown (aka Pietro Brnwa, the physician and former hit man hiding from the mob) joins an expedition to hunt a prehistoric monster in a Minnesota lake.

Democratic Enlightenment: Philosophy, Revolution, and Human Rights 1750-1790, by Jonathan Israel. (Oxford University) Israel’s final installment in his revisionist trilogy on the Age of Enlightenment presents it as both an intellectual movement and a revolutionary process.

He traces the lineage of this Radical Enlightenment to the 17th-century philosopher Baruch Spinoza, and follows the fortunes of radical ideas across Europe and as far afield as Latin America and Asia.

New York Times

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