BEYOND: Our Future In Space by Chris Impey. (Norton) Though advances in space exploration may have stalled in recent decades (the most recent manned lunar expedition was more than 40 years ago), an innate desire to explore seems to be coded into human DNA. Impey, an astronomer, outlines the array of innovative developments that may render forays into space routine.
S O S: Poems 1961-2013 by Amiri Baraka. Selected by Paul Vangelisti. (Grove) For Baraka (who also published poems under the name LeRoi Jones), politics and poetry were inseparably entwined, particularly during the social upheaval at the end of the 1960s. “He stood firm in his beliefs and demonstrated again and again in his poems the informed ability to hold complexity but not ambiguity,” Claudia Rankine wrote here. “To know his fury was to understand both his limits and his genius.”
Mourning Lincoln by Martha Hodes. (Yale University) Responses to the nation’s first presidential assassination were as diverse as the fractured country itself. Drawing on letters, diaries and other personal sources, Hodes surveys the scope of reaction to Abraham Lincoln’s death, which ranged from sorrow to glee. As she notes, not everyone was included in the now familiar “vision of a monolithic grieving nation, nor did everyone wish to be.”
Paris, He Said by Christine Sneed. (Bloomsbury) When Jayne’s wealthy lover, a gallery owner several years her senior, invites her to move with him to France, she readily agrees. Their arrangement grants her the time and money to pursue her own art (though not monogamy). Sneed’s novel centers on Jayne’s struggle to balance her professional and creative ambition with romance.
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Why We Lost: A General’s Inside Account Of The Iraq And Afghanistan Wars by Daniel Bolger. (Eamon Dolan/Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Bolger retired as a three-star general in 2013 after a 35-year career that included tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He praises the courage and resolve of American soldiers, but in his view, poor generalship and inadequate preparation for a sustained campaign in the region doomed the military’s efforts.
Outline by Rachel Cusk. (Picador) In this masterly book, one of the Book Review’s 10 Best of 2015, the narrator, an explorer of the benefits of passivity who sketches her own life only faintly, travels to Greece and draws out stories from the people she encounters there. As Heidi Julavits said here, in this “lethally intelligent” novel, “the silent are as voluble as those who speak.”
Gods And Kings: The Rise And Fall Of Alexander McQueen And John Galliano by Dana Thomas. (Penguin) A range of mounting pressures influenced the lives and work of the two designers, whose creations upended previous ideas of haute couture’s possibilities. Thomas documents how each was able to turn out landmark collections “with little money, volunteer helpers and sheer will.”
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