Strangers Drowning: Impossible Idealism, Drastic Choices And The Overpowering Urge To Help by Larissa MacFarquhar. (Penguin) In these portraits of extreme altruists, MacFarquhar, a longtime New Yorker writer, is guided by a central question: “Why don’t more of us give more than we do?” She sifts through the mix of compassion and moral obligations that drive these “do-gooders,” and the role of such ascetic selflessness in contemporary times.
Shylock Is My Name: William Shakespeare’s “The Merchant Of Venice” Retold by Howard Jacobson. (Hogarth Shakespeare) This novel, part of the publisher’s series of modern interpretations of Shakespeare plays, probes questions of Jewish culture and identity. Jacobson’s Shylock is a 21st-century art dealer and philanthropist, Simon Strulovitch, who becomes enraged when his daughter falls for a non-Jewish athlete known for giving Nazi salutes on the soccer pitch.
The Edge Of The World: A Cultural History Of The North Sea And The Transformation Of Europe by Michael Pye. (Pegasus) Many accounts of the Middle Ages skew toward the Mediterranean region, but Pye’s history delves into the North Sea’s role in European history during this time. His consideration of the region’s Viking expeditions, coastal trade and use of coin money prompts a re-examination of the era.
The Prize by Jill Bialosky. (Counterpoint) Edgar Darby, the New York art gallerist at the center of Bialosky’s novel, moves uneasily between rarefied cultural spaces and suburban, domestic spheres as he navigates his career and marriage; as he feels increasingly alienated from his wife, artists beckon him and long-held secrets come to light.
Kissinger’s Shadow: The Long Reach Of America’s Most Controversial Statesman by Greg Grandin. (Picador) This assessment is a stinging indictment of the former secretary of state, with a particular focus on Cambodia between 1969 and 1973. The account “amounts to one of the most innovative attacks on Kissinger’s record and legacy,” reviewer Mark Atwood Lawrence said, as Grandin paints Kissinger’s views “as expressions of a warped worldview that willfully ignored human consequences.”
The Mare by Mary Gaitskill. (Vintage Contemporaries) Velveteen, a Dominican-American girl from Brooklyn, is sent to live with a family in New York’s Hudson Valley and forges life-changing relationships, including one with a battered mare. Gaitskill puts faith “in the primal intimacy of a creatureliness that is common to all who live and breathe, regardless of species, race, gender, or class,” Stacey D’Erasmo said in The Times.
Bobby Wonderful: An Imperfect Son Says Good-Bye by Bob Morris. (Twelve) As his parents approached the end of their lives, the author – part of “a generation so adamant about maintaining our youth” – struggled to help them cope with impending death.
New York Times