Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle. (Penguin) Dialogue is a gateway to developing introspection and compassion, Turkle argues, but as technology mediates more of our conversations, our interpersonal and emotional skills have deteriorated precipitously. Turkle cautions against the unquestioning embrace of technology, calling instead for a return to face-to-face talks and more personal interaction.
The Visiting Privilege: New and Collected Stories by Joy Williams. (Vintage) Gathered in part from her previous collections but including 13 stories new in book form, these tales exhibit Williams’ trademark blend of grim humor and despair; in the title story, a woman finds unexpected solace in visits to her friend being treated for depression. The book amounts to what Times reviewer Ben Marcus called “one of the most fearless, abyss-embracing literary projects our literature has seen.”
Trans: A Memoir by Juliet Jacques. (Verso) The author, who chronicled her sex-reassignment surgery and transition in columns for The Guardian, writes lucidly about her coming-of-age and experiences of feeling out of place. As she puts it, “I felt trapped not by my body but a society that didn’t want me to modify it.”
As Close to Us as Breathing by Elizabeth Poliner. (Lee Boudreaux/Back Bay/Little, Brown) Three Jewish sisters converge on a familiar summer destination, a stretch of Connecticut’s coast known as Bagel Beach, and find comfort in domestic rituals, religion and one another. Poliner’s wide-ranging novel, narrated by one of the sisters’ children, flits back and forth in time over a nearly 100-year period, with a family tragedy at the story’s center.
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Big Science: Ernest Lawrence and the Invention That Launched the Military-Industrial Complex by Michael Hiltzik. (Simon & Schuster) Lawrence, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, played a role in the Manhattan Project, and his inventions helped set a trend of enormous projects. But chief among his contributions was developing, as one admirer put it, “the modern way of doing science.” By forging closer ties between science and politics, he helped make science far more interdisciplinary.
The Green Road by Anne Enright. (Norton) The members of an Irish family, after years in far-flung locales, return for what might be a final Christmas holiday together. In this masterly novel, Enright, the 2007 Man Booker winner, writes as expertly about the AIDS crisis in New York and humanitarian work in Mali as she does about Ireland.
The Nixon Tapes: 1973 edited by Douglas Brinkley and Luke A. Nichter. (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) In these illuminating transcripts, the president’s words from a turbulent period speak for themselves. At the outset of this volume of the tapes, Nixon has won re-election but soon turns to obsessing over the gathering Watergate scandal and plotting his response.
New York Times