Biography, analysis and crime drama

July 13, 2013 

On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines – and Future by Karen Elliott House. (Vintage) House, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has been reporting on Saudi Arabia for more than 30 years, unveils this inscrutable oil-rich country – where “Saudis endlessly maneuver through winding paths between high walls of religious rules, government restrictions and cultural traditions” – and compares its calcified regime to the Soviet Union in its final days.

Skios by Michael Frayn. (Picador) As his uproarious play “Noises Off” showed, Frayn is a master farceur. In the academic satire “Skios,” a charming sociopath assumes the identity of a ponderous, world-renowned authority on “the management of science,” who has been invited to give the keynote address at a conference on a Greek island.

Cronkite by Douglas Brinkley. (Harper Perennial) Drawing on Walter Cronkite’s private papers as well as interviews with his family and friends, Brinkley brings “the most trusted man in America” intimately to light: first as a print reporter on the front lines of World War II, and later as the anchor of “The CBS Evening News.”

Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub. (Riverhead) Straub’s carefully observed novel about fame, family drama and personal identity ranges over five decades in an actress’ life. In 1938, Elsa Emerson flees Middle America for Hollywood and becomes Laura Lamont, an Oscar-winning star of the late ‘30s and ‘40s. But behind the scenes, her celebrity comes at an emotional price.

The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin. (Anchor) This lucid follow-up to “The Nine” (2007) examines the court’s internal dynamics under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and its fraught relationship with President Barack Obama. Toobin recounts bitterly contested decisions (campaign finance, gun rights, health care), exploring their historical contexts and their possible social and political consequences.

City of Bohane by Kevin Barry. (Graywolf) In Barry’s first novel, set in Ireland around 2053, the once-great city of Bohane is infested by vice and split along tribal lines. Logan Hartnett runs the Fancy, the city’s most fearsome gang, but his old nemesis has resurfaced and has designs on the woman Hartnett stole from him years earlier.

We Are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency by Parmy Olson. (Back Bay/Little, Brown) How did a nebulous hacker collective known as Anonymous, and its offshoot LulzSec, penetrate corporate security systems? Were they anarchists or activists? Olson exposes the Internet’s underbelly to chronicle the groups’ complicated, winding history.

Derby Day by D.J. Taylor. (Pegasus) Inspired in part by a William Frith painting, Taylor’s 19th-century crime caper centers on a champion racehorse at the Epsom Derby in England, where the ambitions of a motley bunch of stakeholders collide.

New York Times

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