Noteworthy paperbacks

January 18, 2014 

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. (Random House) Duhigg, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times, looks at the science behind how we form, and break, habits. In engrossing narratives that take us from corporate boardrooms to NFL sidelines and the civil rights movement, he distills research from the fields of social psychology, clinical psychology and neuroscience.

Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra. Translated by Megan McDowell. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) Zambra’s third novel, a two-part narrative set in Chile during and after the Pinochet dictatorship, explores themes of loss, oppression and the nature of writing. In one story, a boy in a Santiago suburb spies on a neighbor for an older girl he adores; in the other, a novelist, faced with his crumbling marriage, struggles to write the boy’s story.

Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter From Haiti by Amy Wilentz. (Simon & Schuster) Wilentz, the author of “The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier” (1989), returned to the country shortly after the devastating earthquake of 2010. In “Farewell,” an empathetic yet sharply analytical guide to the land and its resilient people, Wilentz tries “to put Haiti back together again for myself.”

Little Green by Walter Mosley. (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) It’s been six years since Mosley’s private eye Ezekiel (Easy) Rawlins drove off a cliff in “Blonde Faith.” But it’s still 1967 in the 12th mystery in this enduring series; back from the brink of death, Easy is joined by his murderous sidekick, Raymond “Mouse” Alexander, in the search for a young black man who ventured to the Sunset Strip – “to see what all the hippies looked like” – and disappeared during an acid trip.

Farther and Wilder: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson by Blake Bailey. (Vintage, $17.95.) Jackson’s first novel, “The Lost Weekend” (1944) – the autobiographical tale of five disastrous days in the life of an alcoholic – was an improbable success and inspired an Academy Award-winning film. This compassionate biography covers Jackson’s tumultuous small-town childhood, his Hollywood idyll and the attempts at domesticity that were thwarted by his alcoholism, drug addiction and suppressed homosexuality.

I Want To Show You More: Stories by Jamie Quatro. (Grove Press) Quatro’s first collection is set largely in the South and draws from a small pool of resonant themes – Christianity, marital infidelity, cancer, running – examining and recombining them with agility and inventiveness. Times reviewer J. Robert Lennon called this debut “a strange, thrilling and disarmingly honest piece of work.”

Deng Xiaopoing and the Transformation of China by Ezra F. Vogel. (Belknap/Harvard University) This history of China’s reform era disentangles the contradictions embodied in the life and legacy of Deng Xiaoping (1904-97), the “paramount leader” and bold strategist who pushed to open up and modernize the country during the 1980s and ’90s.

New York Times

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