The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, by Robert Macfarlane. (Penguin) Macfarlanes 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.
Lenins 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 Livens 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 Lenins 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 Americas pre-eminent nature writer; her chilling book Silent Spring (1962) created worldwide awareness of the dangers of pesticides. Souders captivating biography recounts Carsons 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. Penumbras 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan. (Picador) Sloans 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 shops 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 Gaiges nuanced novel. The narrative is framed as a confession to Erics estranged wife.
How Music Works, by David Byrne. (McSweeneys) Attempting to explain musics 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