Welcome To Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson. (Morrow/HarperCollins) This biting satire, which reviewer Rich Benjamin called “the funniest sendup of identity politics, the academy and white racial anxiety to hit the scene in years,” follows a callow white teenager who leaves small-town Georgia for college at Berkeley. Newly steeped in academic political correctness, he and his new friends travel back to his hometown to stage a “performative intervention” – a mock lynching – with calamitous results.
God’s Bankers: A History Of Money And Power At The Vatican by Gerald Posner. (Simon & Schuster) Posner scrutinizes decades of the modern Vatican’s murky financial entanglements, which have encompassed offshore holding companies, Mafioso money laundering and the collapse of one of Italy’s largest banks. (As one Vatican Bank head – who also doubled as a State Department spy – put it: “You can’t run the church on Hail Marys.”)
The Ploughmen by Kim Zupan. (Picador) The unforgiving landscape of northern Montana is the backdrop for this impressive debut novel. After Valentine Millimaki, a young and kindhearted sheriff’s deputy, is assigned to work the night shift in a county jail, he forges an uneasy friendship with an exploitative, manipulative and unrepentant killer awaiting trial.
The Marquis: Lafayette Reconsidered by Laura Auricchio. (Vintage) Hailed as the “Hero of Two Worlds,” the American Revolutionary War hero (1757-1834) is revered in the United States but viewed skeptically in his native France. This exhaustive biography compares Lafayette’s dual legacies, spanning his American victories and his troubled entry into French politics. Among his greatest achievements, Auricchio argues, was unwavering optimism even amid his failures.
The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon. (Anchor) The English language is under siege in Graedon’s geeky thriller, which imagines the fallout of a “word flu” pandemic infecting New York City. After the highly contagious virus leaps from computers to humans and a pre-eminent lexicographer goes missing, Anana, the story’s heroine (and daughter of the vanished word expert), races to halt the virus’ spread.
Timeless: Love, Morgenthau, And Me by Lucinda Franks. (Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus & Giroux) Franks, a former New York Times reporter, recounts the unlikely love story she has shared with Robert M. Morgenthau, who served a long, distinguished term as Manhattan district attorney. Despite their considerable age difference (she was 26 and he was 53 when they met) and divergent politics, their relationship developed into a warm, enduring marriage.
Wittgenstein Jr by Lars Iyer. (Melville House) The anxieties of university life provide the subject for Iyer’s comic novel, which follows a tormented philosophy professor and his Cambridge students as they search for logic and meaning.
New York Times