Panic in a Suitcase, by Yelena Akhtiorskaya. (Riverhead) The boundaries between the Old and New Worlds blur in this debut novel, which follows a Ukrainian family adjusting to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. Spanning 15 years of their lives, the resulting story is, as Karolina Waclawiak wrote in The Times, a “rewarding biography of displacement, where those left behind are often as disconnected as those who flee for an elusive better life elsewhere.”
The Homing Instinct: Meaning and Mystery in Animal Migration, by Bernd Heinrich. (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) How do we know where our home is, and how do we know when we’ve found it? These questions guide Heinrich’s account, which examines the intricate navigation strategies of species ranging from locusts to loons. Along the way, the author, a seasoned scientist, incorporates stories of his own homecomings and extends insights gleaned from his animal subjects to human behavior.
The Betrayers, by David Bezmozgis. (Back Bay/Little, Brown) After Baruch Kotler, a Soviet dissident turned Israeli politician, falls from public favor, he escapes with his mistress to Crimea, where, through twisty fate, he encounters the friend who betrayed him to the gulag decades earlier. Over the course of a single day, Bezmozgis’ hero confronts morally ambiguous episodes from his past, questioning the proximity of seemingly ancient history.
Indonesia Etc.: Exploring the Improbable Nation, by Elizabeth Pisani. (Norton) Pisani searches for cohesion in the world’s fourth-most-populous country, which encompasses hundreds of languages and more than 13,000 islands. Over the course of a year, the author traveled through the country’s outer islands (skirting dominant Java) and returned with vivid dispatches from quiet corners of the archipelago.
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The Bees, by Laline Paull. (Ecco/HarperCollins) Paull’s inventive novel follows Flora 717, a low-caste worker bee, as she navigates the strict hierarchy of her hive. Originally assigned to be a sanitation worker, Flora gets a rare chance for mobility within the community because of her unusual talents. Imaginative prose protects the story from gimmick.
Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America, by Bob Herbert. (Anchor) During his 18-year tenure as a New York Times columnist, Herbert often wrote about the challenges facing the middle class. After leaving his Times post, he traveled across the country to interview some of the Americans hit hardest by the recession and found both a dimmed belief in the American dream and a fundamental shift in the country’s character.
Chop Chop, by Simon Wroe. (Penguin) The author, a recovering chef, captures the raunchy, subterranean restaurant world in his first novel. As reviewer Michelle Wildgen wrote, Wroe “adroitly contrasts the refinement of food with the coarseness of the cook.”
New York Times