Noteworthy paperbacks

The New York TimesJune 22, 2013 

The Art Forger, by B.A. Shapiro. (Algonquin) In 1990, 13 works of art were looted from a Boston museum, including a Rembrandt, a Vermeer and several sketches by Degas. Shapiro’s nimble mystery revisits this brazen theft: more than two decades on, a stolen Degas painting seems to resurface and Claire Roth, a talented yet struggling artist, is lured into reproducing the long-missing masterpiece.

America’s Great Debate: Henry Clay, Stephen A. Douglas, and the Compromise That Preserved the Union, by Fergus M. Bordewich. (Simon & Schuster) This is a richly informed study of the tangled issues involving expansion and slavery that confronted the United States in 1850, and of the two senators who engineered the congressional compromises that allowed the country to stumble along in one piece for 11 more years.

Love Bomb, by Lisa Zeidner. (Picador, $16.) An unknown woman, armed and wearing a gown, disrupts a wedding in suburban New Jersey in Zeidner’s satire, which begins: “The bride did not wear white. But the terrorist did.”

A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful, by Gideon Lewis-Kraus. (Riverhead) Determined to avoid the constraint that kept his father, a gay rabbi, closeted until midlife, Lewis-Kraus set out on a series of pilgrimages in a search for clarity and meaning in life: Camino de Santiago, in Spain; the Buddhist temples of Shikoku Island, Japan; and the tomb of a Hasidic mystic in Ukraine.

The Right-Hand Shore, by Christopher Tilghman. (Picador) Tilghman’s magisterial third novel returns to Mason’s Retreat, a vast plantation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It’s 1920, and Edward Mason, a Boston industrialist, has come to claim his ancestral estate. On a daylong visit with the fearsome spinster who runs the place, Edward learns the stories of slavery, miscegenation and murder that will forever bind him to the Retreat.

Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution, by Linda Hirshman. (Harper Perennial) Drawing on archival records, court documents and firsthand interviews, this is an expansive history of gay rights – from the early 20th century to the activism of the pre-Stonewall era to the present.

The Chaperone, by Laura Moriarty. (Riverhead) As a willful 15-year-old from Kansas, the silent-film star Louise Brooks traveled with a chaperone to New York in 1922 to attend dance school. In Moriarty’s charming historical novel, Brooks’ staid Midwestern matron has her own reasons for going to New York, and finds herself questioning the confines of her life.

Over Time: My Life as a Sportswriter, by Frank Deford. (Grove Press) In brief, insightful chapters, Deford traces the arc of his mostly charmed life: his childhood in Baltimore; his years at Princeton; and his landing of a job, in 1962, at a relatively new magazine called Sports Illustrated, where he would spend much of his venerated career.

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