Noteworthy paperbacks

February 8, 2014 

Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life by Adam Phillips. (Picador) One of Britain’s foremost psychoanalysts explores the alternative lives “we could be leading but for some reason are not.” Drawing on his own clinical experience and the works of Shakespeare and Freud, D.W. Winnicott and William James, Phillips encourages us to live, as gratifyingly as possible, the life we have, rather than be haunted by the “myth of our potential.”

Gun Machine by Warren Ellis. (Mulholland/Little, Brown) After a shootout in a Manhattan tenement, Detective John Tallow, the protagonist of Ellis’ twisted cat-and-mouse thriller, stumbles upon a cache of some 200 guns, including an 1836 flintlock pistol and Son of Sam’s Bulldog .44 handgun. Ritualistically tended by a figure known only as “the hunter,” each weapon has been retrofitted and used in a more recent murder.

Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941 by Lynne Olson. (Random House) Olson re-creates the bitter political dispute that gripped America in the years before the attack on Pearl Harbor. At its center are President Franklin Roosevelt, who championed the interventionist cause, and isolationist Charles Lindbergh, who assured Americans that England was doomed and that there was no choice but to cozy up to the Third Reich.

The Enchanted Wanderer and Other Stories by Nikolai Leskov. Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. (Vintage Classics) A contemporary of Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, Nikolai Leskov (1831-95) was hailed by Chekhov, and his influence has been discerned in the work of Isaac Babel and Maxim Gorky. The stories in this vibrantly translated collection are populated by soldiers and monks, serfs and princes; some tales are rooted in the oral tradition, and others are cast as sophisticated anecdotes.

Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff. (Penguin) Detroit’s woes – once one of America’s wealthiest industrial cities, it’s now among the poorest – have been widely chronicled. LeDuff’s “memoir of a reporter returning home” is full of righteous anger and hard-won humor, as he searches for clues to Detroit’s fate and his family’s troubled past.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. (Back Bay/Little, Brown) Atkinson’s novel, one of the Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2013, takes on nothing less than the evils of mid-20th-century history and the nature of death. Moving back and forth in time, she pieces together versions of a life story for Ursula, born in England in 1910, who keeps dying and being resurrected.

Vagina: A New Biography by Naomi Wolf. (Ecco/HarperCollins) A medical crisis led Wolf to investigate the intersections between sexuality and creativity; this provocative work, a synthesis of physiology, history and cultural criticism, posits a “mind-vagina connection” and sees it not merely as vital to sexual fulfillment but as fundamental to female consciousness itself.

New York Times

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