Noteworthy paperbacks

June 14, 2014 

Believing Is Seeing: Observations On The Mysteries Of Photography by Errol Morris. (Penguin.) Morris brings his great talent as a filmmaker to this investigation of the contested reality behind an eclectic range of documentary photographs – from the Crimean War, the Depression, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. Intercutting his essays with maps, letters, timelines and interview excerpts, Morris “refines our most basic way of understanding the world,” Kathryn Schulz wrote in The Times Book Review.

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld. (Random House) Identical twin sisters deal with their psychic abilities in very different ways in this psychologically vivid novel. While Kate does everything she can to fit in as a suburban housewife, the more flamboyant Violet becomes a professional medium. Sittenfeld moves effortlessly between the girls’ childhood in 1980s St. Louis and the present, where Violet’s prediction of a natural disaster has caused a media maelstrom.

The Guns At Last Light: The War In Western Europe, 1944-1945 by Rick Atkinson. (Picador) The first book of Atkinson’s monumental trilogy about the Allied triumph in Europe, “An Army at Dawn” (2002), followed the war in North Africa. “The Day of Battle” (2007) described the conflict in Sicily and Italy. This final volume starts with D-Day, ends with the formal German surrender 11 months later, and shows that the road to Berlin was far from smooth.

On Sal Mal Lane by Ru Freeman. (Graywolf) A looming civil war threatens to engulf the multi-ethnic Sri Lankan street of Freeman’s novel, which opens in 1979: a mix of Sinhalese, Tamils and Burghers, the comfortably middle class and the dirt poor.

The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit. (Penguin) Creating links between seemingly disparate ideas, as she did in “A Field Guide to Getting Lost” (2005), is Solnit’s gift. The essays here – about, among other things, apricots, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and Che Guevara – contemplate the way we tell stories to make meaning and bring together episodes from a trying year in Solnit’s life, including her mother’s descent into Alzheimer’s.

Want Not by Jonathan Miles. (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Miles’ second novel explores varieties of waste and decay in a consumer world, weaving together the stories of a “freegan“ couple living off the grid in New York, a worn-down linguist whose wife has left him and a debt-collecting magnate.

Brothers: On His Brothers And Brothers In History by George Howe Colt. (Scribner) Colt parallels his quest to understand how his three brothers shaped his life with an examination of the complex relationships between famous brothers in history, including Edwin and John Wilkes Booth, Theo and Vincent van Gogh, and the Marx brothers.

New York Times

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