Little Failure: A Memoir by Gary Shteyngart. (Random House) Shteyngart’s first novel, “The Russian Debutante’s Handbook” (2002), followed the bumbling efforts of a Russian émigré grasping for a share of the American dream. Now Shteyngart recounts his own family’s move from Leningrad to Queens in 1979, and his emergence as a writer, in a memoir that our reviewer, Andy Borowitz, called “hilarious and moving.”
Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen. (Random House) In her 30s, Rebecca Winter, the complicated heroine of Quindlen’s romantic comedy of manners, made her name with a series of photographs that became landmarks of feminist art. Now, desperate to reignite her creativity at 60, she trades her Manhattan apartment for a dilapidated cottage in the countryside.
Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet by John G. Turner. (Belknap/Harvard University) When he first encountered the Book of Mormon, Brigham Young (1801-77) was a 29-year-old transient in upstate New York. Half a lifetime later, Joseph Smith’s successor had established Mormon outposts in present-day California, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho and Wyoming, becoming, as Turner writes in this definitive biography, “the greatest colonizer in American history.”
No Man’s Nightingale by Ruth Rendell. (Scribner) Chief Inspector Reginald Wexford is retired from the Kingsmarkham constabulary, but in the 24th installment of Rendell’s smart mystery series, he’s moved to act after the Rev. Sarah Hussain – a biracial single mother determined to modernize the liturgy – is found strangled in her vicarage.
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Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country by Andrew J. Bacevich. (Picador) Our modern militarism is unsustainable and unwise, Bacevich, a retired colonel, warns in this powerful critique. As the gap widens between America’s volunteer force and the society in whose name they fight, armed conflict becomes an abstraction, he argues, allowing leaders to wage war with little fear of accountability.
Leaving the Sea: Stories by Ben Marcus. (Vintage Contemporaries) In novels like “Notable American Women” and “The Flame Alphabet,” Marcus placed the reader in worlds that were strange yet familiar. The alienated, socially inappropriate protagonists of this experimental story collection occupy landscapes so bleak the book is a wonder and a cautionary tale all in one.
Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture by Dana Goodyear. (Riverhead) Surveying a food scene full of insects and assorted body parts, this is at once a behind-the-scenes adventure and a serious attempt to understand the implications of the way we eat. In Mastering the Art of French Eating: From Paris Bistros to Farmhouse Kitchens, Lessons in Food and Love (Penguin), Ann Mah uses her “butter spattered” copy of Julia Child’s classic 1961 cookbook to investigate 10 of France’s most essential regional dishes.
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