Noteworthy paperbacks

April 19, 2014 

Who Owns The Future? by Jaron Lanier. (Simon & Schuster) Lanier follows up the boldly predictive “You Are Not a Gadget” (2010) with a jeremiad against the concentration of money and power in our digital networks. Chief among his targets are “Siren Servers” – social media, financial institutions, intelligence agencies – that depend on accumulating and evaluating consumer data without acknowledging a monetary debt to the people mined for all this “free” information.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, by Mohsin Hamid. (Riverhead) Written in the second person, set in an unnamed country that resembles Pakistan, and disguised as a self-help book, Hamid’s shrewdly original novel works on a number of levels. It’s a bildungsroman that traces the journey of its hero (referred to as “you”) from poor boy to corporate tycoon. It’s also a love story and a study of seismic social change.

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, by Mary Roach. (Norton) Over the years, Roach has explored the process of human decomposition (“Stiff”), sex (“Bonk”) and the possibility of an afterlife (“Spook”). This time, it’s the digestive system, an insatiably curious account that follows food from the smelling, the tasting and the swallowing, inexorably downward, “where it is converted into the most powerful taboo in human history.”

The Missing Italian Girl, by Barbara Corrado Pope. (Pegasus Crime) In the final book of a trilogy of historical mysteries – after “Cézanne’s Quarry” and “The Blood of Lorraine” – Clarie, the wife of French magistrate Bernard Martin, is drawn into a world of abuse, exploitation and radicalism in a working-class district of 19th-century Paris.

Lady at the O.K. Corral: The True Story of Josephine Marcus Earp, by Ann Kirschner. (Harper Perennial) The New York-born daughter of Polish-Jewish immigrants, Josephine Marcus was, for nearly 50 years, Wyatt Earp’s common-law wife and a valiant frontierswoman in her own right. Interpreting the fabled 1881 shootout at the O.K. Corral as, at least in part, the consequence of a love triangle, Kirschner ably brings Marcus’ story out of the shadows of history.

Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. (Anchor) One of the New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2013, Adichie’s trenchant third novel takes on the comedy and tragedy of American race relations from the perspective of Ifemelu, a smart, strong-willed Nigerian immigrant. From the office politics of a hair-braiding salon to the burden of memory, this novel “holds the discomfiting realities of our times fearlessly before us,” Mike Peed wrote in the Book Review.

Tibet Wild: A Naturalist’s Journeys on the Roof of the World, by George B. Schaller. (Island Press) Schaller, a field biologist, is best known for his highly readable books about lions, gorillas and pandas. The animals he finds in the Chang Tang highlands of the Tibetan plateau are far less familiar: kiangs, wild yaks and chiru, antelopelike creatures slaughtered for their extraordinarily fine wool.

New York Times

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