Paperbacks

July 20, 2013 

Shine Shine Shine, by Lydia Netzer. (St. Martin’s Griffin) For the picture-perfect couple in Netzer’s finely textured first novel, “normal” is an illusion. Maxon Mann, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, is on a mission to populate the moon with robots, but his safe return is far from certain. Meanwhile, back home, Maxon’s conflicted (and heavily pregnant) wife, Sunny, has been left to care for their autistic 4-year-old son and her dying mother.

The End of Your Life Book Club, by Will Schwalbe. (Vintage) After Schwalbe’s mother, an educator and humanitarian, learned she had advanced pancreatic cancer in 2007, she and her son began trading books to discuss during chemotherapy sessions. Through a series of engagingly eclectic readings (Thomas Mann, Jhumpa Lahiri, Stieg Larsson), Schwalbe presents a loving celebration of this indefatigable woman.

How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti. (Picador) Part fiction, part self-help manual, part exploration of the artistic impulse, Heti’s original, autobiographical novel follows its narrator (also named Sheila) and her group of Canadian friends – writers, painters, intellectuals – as they grapple with the title’s question.

Ghosts of Empire: Britain’s Legacies in the Modern World, by Kwasi Kwarteng. (PublicAffairs) Concentrating on six far-flung territories – Iraq, Kashmir, Burma, Sudan, Nigeria and Hong Kong – Kwarteng, a Conservative member of Parliament, argues that British colonialists made disastrous choices that continue to reverberate.

Mission to Paris, by Alan Furst. (Random House) Furst’s 12th historical spy novel skillfully evokes the atmosphere of Paris on the eve of World War II, as its protagonist, a resourceful Austrian-born American actor, arrives in autumn 1938 to make a movie and stumbles into the clutches of Nazi conspirators eager to exploit his celebrity for propaganda.

Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas, by Dale Carpenter. (Norton) This is a stirring account of the 2003 Supreme Court decision that overturned the Texas sodomy law. Carpenter, who teaches at the University of Minnesota Law School, tells the story through the eyes of the plaintiffs, arresting officers, attorneys, judges and prosecutors, most of whom were interviewed at length.

The Kings of Cool, by Don Winslow. (Simon & Schuster) In “Savages” (2010), Winslow introduced Ben and Chon, partners in a highly successful marijuana operation in Southern California, and their crazy sidekick, O. This frenzied prequel puts a seditious spin on the romanticized 1960s hippie culture of peace, love and hard drugs as we learn how Ben, Chon and O came to be such hard-core cynics.

How to Build an Android: The True Story of Philip K. Dick’s Robotic Resurrection, by David Dufty. (Picador) Dufty’s fascinating behind-the-scenes story explains how a team of researchers at the University of Memphis collaborated in 2005 with an artist and robotics expert to create what was then the most sophisticated android anywhere, a replica of the science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. (They called him Phil.)

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