From the Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia, by Pankaj Mishra. (Picador) This is a superb history of Asian intellectual responses to Western colonialism in the 19th and 20th centuries, from Ottoman Turkey to Meiji Japan. Mishra tells this story through the biographies of two independent thinkers: the itinerant Persian-born agitator Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and the Chinese reformer Liang Qichao.
The Forgetting Tree, by Tatjana Soli. (St. Martin’s Griffin) In her 2010 novel, “The Lotus Eaters,” Soli explored the experiences of a female war photographer who spent nearly a dozen years in Vietnam. In “The Forgetting Tree,” an enigmatic Caribbean woman cares for the ailing matriarch of a California ranch.
The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy, by David Nasaw. (Penguin) Joseph Patrick Kennedy (1888-1969) was involved in virtually all the history of his time: as Wall Street speculator, moviemaker, ambassador and dynastic founder. Nasaw’s biography captures the sweep of Kennedy’s life and persuasively makes the case that he was the most fascinating member of his large, famous and formidable family.
In Sunlight and in Shadow, by Mark Helprin. (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Set in New York just after World War II, Helprin’s sprawling, lyrical novel follows the love affair between Harry Copeland, an American paratrooper returned from Europe, and Catherine Thomas Hale, a singer and heiress. Their romance plays out against a backdrop of Broadway theaters, Long Island mansions, the offices of financiers and the haunts of gangsters.
Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, by Elizabeth L. Cline. (Portfolio/Penguin) As consumers focus “on quantity over quality and trends over innovative design,” Cline writes, Americans have come to see clothing as a disposable good. Cline’s eye-opening account of the trillion-dollar global clothing industry traces the impact of “cheap fashion” on the economy, the environment and even our souls.
The Devil in Silver, by Victor LaValle. (Spiegel & Grau) A creature with the body of an old man and the head of a bison is terrorizing a shabby mental hospital in LaValle’s sophisticated and fantastical third novel. It falls to a new patient named Pepper – a big, lonely loser with impulse-control problems – to rally his makeshift family of inmates to stand up to the demon (and to a nonfunctioning mental health care system).
Hello Goodbye Hello: A Circle of 101 Remarkable Meetings, by Craig Brown. (Simon & Schuster) Brown, a veteran journalist and all-around English wit, weaves together a daisy chain of real-life encounters – Marilyn Monroe and Nikita Khrushchev, Groucho Marx and T.S. Eliot – connecting politics to show business, royalty to the art world.
New York Times