Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari with Eric Klinenberg. (Penguin) Baffling romantic encounters, enmeshed in a tangle of technology and shifting cultural expectations for partners, seem to plague virtually every dater, including the comedian Ansari. To investigate how Americans date now, he teamed up with a sociologist and interviewed hundreds of people about their fears and habits in this humorous exploration.
The Ambassador's Wife, by Jennifer Steil. (Anchor) Miranda, this novel’s libertine, bisexual heroine, lives in Mazrooq, the fictional country where her husband is Britain’s ambassador. Caught between her opulent diplomatic accommodations and the austere Mazrooqi culture, she is often hindered from pursuing what she wants – to teach the Muslim women who surround her to paint – but ultimately attains greater self-awareness from her time in an unfamiliar land.
Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton. (Blue Rider) In a series of autobiographical sketches, the author, an illustrator and a former art director at The New York Times, reflects on the sport and her shifting relationship to it throughout her life. Once a competitive athlete with Olympic-size ambitions, when she swims now, she steps “into the water as though absent-mindedly touching a scar.”
The Making Of Zombie Wars by Aleksandar Hemon. (Picador/Farrar, Straus & Giroux) Joshua teaches English as a Second Language in Chicago but truly wants to be a screenwriter. He is full of improbable, ludicrous ideas, and one of them, a horror story called “Zombie Wars,” shows promise. As the book stalks its way forward with a campy plot, Hemon is “trying to have some fun despite this land so crowded with the lost and the lamented,” reviewer David Gilbert wrote.
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The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. (Simon & Schuster) Neither Orville nor Wilbur, the brothers who invented the airplane, attended college or had been trained in physics or engineering, but in McCullough’s telling, theirs is a story of patience and steadfast perseverance. Amid the obstacles, their genius and focus are the undercurrents of their story; it took nearly five years for their invention to catch the notice of the skeptical American press.
Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford. (St. Martin’s Griffin) Evelyn, the protagonist of Clifford’s debut novel, lives in New York on the precipice of the 2008 financial crash. Pressured by her mother to join more affluent ranks, Evelyn scrambles to conceal her modest origins from her peers, in a role that nods to Lily Bart, the heroine of Edith Wharton’s “House of Mirth.”
The Quartet: Orchestrating The Second American Revolution, 1783-1789 by Joseph J. Ellis. (Vintage) The Constitution, not the Declaration of Independence, was the document that truly formed the United States as a nation, Ellis argues, and he sketches portraits of the four men most responsible: George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay.
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