Noteworthy paperbacks

September 14, 2013 

"Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness" by Susannah Cahalan.

Panorama City by Antoine Wilson. (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Shot through with Christian symbolism, Wilson’s delightfully oddball novel is a picaresque tale of self-determination. From his hospital bed in a small California town, with only one night left to live (according to him), 28-year-old Oppen Porter dictates his life story to his unborn son, a story highlighted by his 40-day journey from “slow absorber” to man of the world.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan. (Simon & Schuster) In 2009, Cahalan, a 24-year-old reporter at The New York Post, was stricken by a rare autoimmune disease, with symptoms of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and seizures. This memoir examines the fascinating medical intricacies of Cahalan’s illness and recounts the remarkable circumstances of her recovery.

The Stockholm Octavo by Karen Engelmann. (Ecco/HarperCollins) Monarchical politics, social mores and cartomancy coalesce in Engelmann’s dizzying historical novel of 18th-century Sweden. Facing pressure to marry, a wily customs agent and inveterate gambler named Emil Larsson turns to a fortuneteller, whose visions link Emil to eight people – a Companion, a Prisoner, a Teacher, a Courier, a Trickster and a Magpie, as well as a Prize and a Key – who can help him fulfill his dreams.

The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America – The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675 by Bernard Bailyn. (Vintage) Twenty-six years ago, Bailyn’s “Voyagers to the West,” a study of the English who came to the Americas just before the Revolution, won a Pulitzer Prize. “The Barbarous Years” circles back to the chaotic decades between the establishment of Jamestown and King Philip’s War to show how a jumble of immigrants “sought to normalize abnormal situations and to recapture lost worlds.”

An Unexpected Guest by Anne Korkeakivi. (Back Bay/Little, Brown) A hastily arranged diplomatic dinner sets the scene for Korkeakivi’s coolly composed first novel. As Clare Moorhouse, the American wife of a British diplomat in Paris, plans the menu and seating arrangements, her day is complicated by her teenage son’s troubles at boarding school and a random encounter with a possible terrorist.

The End of Men: And the Rise of Women by Hanna Rosin. (Riverhead) The revolution feminists have been waiting for is happening now, Rosin argues in this bold and insightful cultural analysis. Women are increasingly dominant in work, education, households, and even love and marriage. “Women are not just catching up anymore,” she writes, “they are becoming the standard by which success is measured.”

Istanbul Passage by Joseph Kanon. (Washington Square Press) It’s 1945, and Istanbul is a nest of rumors and intelligence in Kanon’s espionage thriller. After doing undercover odd jobs in support of the Allied war effort, Leon Bauer is given one last routine assignment. But things go disastrously wrong, leaving the fate of a potential war criminal in Leon’s hands.

New York Times

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