The Moor’s Account by Laila Lalami. (Vintage) Estebanico, a Moroccan slave brought by his Spanish captors on an expedition to the Americas, narrates this historical novel, which follows him across social classes, continents and identities. Reviewer Jeffery Renard Allen praised this imagined memoir for recounting the “previously untold history of the black man as explorer, and an explorer cut from a different cloth.”
World Order by Henry Kissinger. (Penguin) Alarmed by the competing interests and realities among the world’s major players, the former secretary of state identifies many troubling sources of chaos, including turmoil in the Middle East, nuclear proliferation and an unregulated Internet. After a brisk overview of the principal global regions, Kissinger considers the United States’ role in cultivating a sustainable condition of order.
Marshlands by Matthew Olshan. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) An aging man is released from prison and cast into an unfamiliar city after years of working in an overseas province. That region, reminiscent of the marshes of southern Iraq, is the site of intense conflict and has been under cultural and environmental siege for generations. Told in reverse chronological order, the novel, which reviewer Floyd Skloot called “a work of insistent witness,” details the consequences of chronic violence.
A Deadly Wandering: A Mystery, A Landmark Investigation, And The Astonishing Science Of Attention In The Digital Age by Matt Richtel. (Morrow/HarperCollins) Richtel, a New York Times journalist whose reporting on distracted driving won a Pulitzer Prize, tells the story of Reggie Shaw, who was texting behind the wheel when his car crossed the highway line and killed two scientists. Shaw’s story, interspersed with damning research about the science of distraction, examines the powerful hold that cellphones exert over us.
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Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. (Anchor) A creative writing professor’s dissatisfying life is revealed through a series of his exasperated memos and letters of recommendation. Jason Fitger, who teaches at a small, unremarkable Midwestern college, copes with his imploding romantic life and withering career in this mordantly funny novel.
On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss. (Graywolf) Drawing on mythology, science and her experience as a new mother, Biss commands a compelling argument in defense of vaccination in her book, one of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best of 2014. Biss lends a humane tone to an often fervent debate, considering the symbolism and anxieties around inoculation, interdependency and purity.
Abroad by Katie Crouch. (Picador) A naive and demure Irish student is seduced by the promise of self-reinvention while studying in Italy. Crouch captures the complexities of female friendship and desire in this disturbing novel, which borrows from ancient lore.
New York Times