The Book Of Strange New Things by Michel Faber. (Hogarth) At the request of an alien population several galaxies away, a Christian missionary travels to a distant planet, leaving his wife behind on Earth. Faber, whom reviewer Marcel Theroux called “a master of the weird,” skillfully handles the otherworldly in this speculative novel.
The Short And Tragic Life Of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark For The Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs. (Scribner) In this heartbreaking biography, the author reconstructs the life of his college roommate, Peace, a talented student who navigated a difficult childhood and straddled both academia and the drug trade until his violent murder. Although Hobbs focuses on Peace’s story, he also sustains a narrative of the sociological forces that failed his friend.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. (Vintage) At the outset of this novel, a beloved actor dies suddenly onstage while performing as King Lear, and in short order a deadly flu pandemic kills most of the world’s population. Years later, Kirsten Raymonde is part of a roving troupe of musicians and actors intent on preserving appreciation for the arts, even in calamitous times. After arriving in a settlement ruled by a cruel religious fanatic, the group finds its own survival at risk.
There Goes Gravity: A Life In Rock And Roll by Lisa Robinson. (Riverhead) Robinson, a pioneering female music journalist, has had enviable access to some of the industry’s most popular figures throughout her career. In her memoir, she restages vignettes observed from her impressive perch, including intimate views of the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and other titans of rock.
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How To Build A Girl by Caitlin Moran. (Harper Perennial.) Moran’s previous book, “How to Be a Woman,” was equal parts memoir and feminist manifesto, hilariously recounting how the author learned to combat sexism and urging other women to do the same. She revisits these themes in this loosely autobiographical novel, which follows Johanna Morrigan, a teenager in 1990s working-class Britain, as she invents a vibrant new persona for herself.
Danubia: A Personal History Of Habsburg Europe by Simon Winder. (Picador) Operating on a hereditary mix of “cunning, dimness, luck and brilliance,” the Hapsburg monarchy was once a substantial global power, ruling Central Europe from the Middle Ages until World War?I. Winder captures the quirks of the dynasty, building on years of research and travels to forgotten corners of former Hapsburg lands.
Fives And Twenty-Fives by Michael Pitre. (Bloomsbury) Pitre, a former Marine, explores the emotional complexity of combat and its aftermath in this novel, which follows three members of a platoon in wartime Iraq: Lieutenant Donovan, an unlikely young Marine; Doc Pleasant, a paramedic whose optimism has waned after watching friends die at war; and Dodge, their Iraqi translator who fervently loves U.S. culture.
New York Times