The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square by Steven A. Cook. (Oxford University) Cook, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, traces Egypt’s transformation from pride of the Arab world to decaying autocracy. Drawing from archives and firsthand reporting, he weaves a narrative that encompasses the decline of British rule, the rise of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the assassination of Anwar Sadat, and the demonstrations that overthrew Hosni Mubarak.
The Black Box by Michael Connelly. (Grand Central) Connelly’s engrossing thriller gives Harry Bosch, the battle-scarred veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Open-Unsolved Unit, a chance to settle past and present scores with a case that spans 20 years: the execution-style killing of a Danish photojournalist during the 1992 riots.
The Great Animal Orchestra: Finding the Origins of Music in the World’s Wild Places by Bernie Krause. (Back Bay/Little, Brown) Krause, a musician and naturalist, has spent decades recording wild soundscapes: purring jaguars, droning insects, crackling glaciers. In this amalgam of science and autobiography, he argues that in the wild, animals vocalize with a musicianly ear to the full score of the ecosystem – a “biophony” that is being drowned out by human noise.
This Will Be Difficult to Explain: And Other Stories by Johanna Skibsrud. (Norton) The known becomes foreign and the everyday exposes a sinister architecture in Skibsrud’s tales, as young women stumble through summer jobs abroad, wives toy with leaving their husbands, and fathers labor to communicate with sullen teenage daughters.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. (Vintage) In 1995, after her mother had died of cancer and her marriage had fallen apart, Strayed set out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail – from the Mojave Desert to the Cascades – in a desperate attempt to regain her footing. This inspiring memoir is at once an adventure tale and a meditation on the nature of grief and survival.
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. (Back Bay/Little, Brown) Powers joined the Army when he was 17 and served as a machine-gunner in the Iraq war. That conflict is at the center of his impressionistic first novel, one of the Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2012, about the connected but diverging fates of two young soldiers and the trouble one of them has readjusting to life at home.
The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death by Jill Lepore. (Vintage) Progressing through life’s stages – investigating the surprising origins of board games, breast pumps and cryonics along the way – Lepore’s intellectual history shows how America has wrestled with birth, childhood, work, marriage, old age and death.
When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man by Nick Dybek. (Riverhead) Cal, the narrator of Dybek’s first novel, lives in a fishing village in coastal Washington and dreams of Alaska, a Treasure Island-like mystery where his fisherman father spends much of the year. But the village’s livelihood is threatened when the fishing fleet’s owner dies and his son looks to sell the family business.
New York Times