The New Tsar: The Rise And Reign Of Vladimir Putin by Steven Lee Myers. (Vintage) Myers, a New York Times correspondent, traces the Russian leader’s ascent from his poor childhood to his KGB career and consolidation of power as president. In his telling, Myers offers up a compelling theory: Hardened by witnessing what he saw as Moscow’s enforced silence and reduced global might, Putin has fashioned himself as “the living embodiment of Russia’s stability.”
My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. (Random House) Lucy, a writer in Manhattan who has become estranged from her family and childhood roots, finds joy in trying to reconcile with her mother during a visit. Strout, the author of “Olive Kitteridge,” articulates in this novel “the Gordian knot of family, binding together fear and misery, solace and love,” according to Times reviewer Claire Messud.
The Other Paris by Luc Sante. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) Prevailing images of the city – opulent, resplendent, gilded – have nearly eclipsed other visions of Paris, but it’s the underbelly that fascinates Sante, who focuses on the city’s bohemian and alternative fringes. Glimpses of “the demimonde that line the margins, exuding whiffs of opium and absinthe, give Sante’s book the intimate feeling of a personal scrapbook,” Molly Haskell wrote in The Times.
Imperium: A Fiction Of The South Seas by Christian Kracht. Translated by Daniel Bowles. (Picador) A German nudist, August Engelhardt, heads to South Asia in the early 1900s to found a colony of coconut worshippers. The fruit, which August considers “the vegetal likeness of God,” turns out to be a disappointing deity; Kracht’s novel, rife with bizarre details and based on real-life exploits, follows the failed project while raising questions about the nature of obsession.
Blood Brothers: The Fatal Friendship Between Muhammad Ali And Malcolm X by Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith. (Basic Books) As violence roiled both the boxing ring and political arenas, Malcolm’s magnetism lured Ali, then Cassius Clay, to the Nation of Islam, and his rhetoric figured prominently in the formation of the fighter’s persona; Ali was a rapt follower of Malcolm’s until Malcolm was exiled from the group.
Innocents And Others by Dana Spiotta. (Scribner) Two childhood friends choose to study film but adopt divergent paths: Carrie makes mainstream women’s comedies, while Meadow works on documentaries that garner little public notice. Spiotta expertly draws out the tensions between high and low culture, art and entertainment, and artist and subject in this examination of friendship.
It's What I Do: A Photographer’s Life Of Love And War by Lynsey Addario. (Penguin) An acclaimed photojournalist, who has worked for such publications as The New York Times and Time, reflects on covering conflicts across the world in the years after Sept. 11, 2001, and on her kidnapping in Libya.
New York Times