Noteworthy paperbacks

October 26, 2013 

The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, by Robert Macfarlane. (Penguin) Macfarlane’s expansive travelogue takes him from the British Isles to the West Bank and the pilgrims’ paths of Spain and the Himalayas. With a command of natural history, cartography, geology and literature, he tries “to read landscapes back into being” – sailing in the Atlantic and matching strides with footprints made 5,000 years ago.

Lenin’s Kisses, by Yan Lianke. Translated by Carlos Rojas. (Grove Press) “Liven was a village outside the world,” the Chinese novelist Yan Lianke writes in this satire of the Communist dream and run-amok capitalism. Many of Liven’s residents are either blind, deaf or anatomically unusual, and their blissful status quo is disrupted by a government functionary who starts a special-skills performance troupe and schemes to buy Lenin’s enshrined corpse as a local tourist attraction.

On A Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson, by William Souder. (Broadway) Carson (1907-64) was America’s pre-eminent nature writer; her chilling book “Silent Spring” (1962) created worldwide awareness of the dangers of pesticides. Souder’s captivating biography recounts Carson’s personal travails (she grew up in poverty and battled breast cancer while writing “Silent Spring”), and places her intellectual development in the context of the nascent environmental movement.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan. (Picador) Sloan’s slyly arch novel about the interaction between technologies old and new concerns Clay Jannon, an unemployed Web designer who takes a job at a San Francisco bookstore. Among the shop’s curiosities is a set of books written in code, which leads to an adventure involving computer hackers and a black-robed secret society known as the Unbroken Spine.

1775: A Good Year for Revolution, by Kevin Phillips. (Penguin) The determining events of the American Revolution occurred a year earlier than most people realize, Phillips argues in this impressive survey of the political climate, economic structures and military preparations of the crucial year that was the harbinger of the struggle to come.

Schroder, by Amity Gaige. (Twelve) Eric Kennedy, a man with a long-established false identity, goes on the run through the back roads of New England with his 6-year-old daughter in Gaige’s nuanced novel. The narrative is framed as a confession to Eric’s estranged wife.

How Music Works, by David Byrne. (McSweeney’s) Attempting to explain music’s mysteries – How do words relate to music in a song? What effect has technology had on music? – Byrne draws on his own personal and professional experiences, from his years with the Talking Heads to his collaborations with all manner of world musicians and pop-technological innovators.

New York Times

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service