Unthinkable: Iran, the Bomb, and American Strategy, by Kenneth M. Pollack. (Simon & Schuster) Pollack, a Mideast expert and former CIA analyst, scrupulously assesses America’s options in its intractable clash with Iran – from negotiations and sanctions to military strikes and nuclear containment – and comes to a sobering conclusion: “Going to war with Iran to try to prevent it from obtaining a nuclear arsenal would be a worse course of action than containing Iran, even a nuclear Iran.”
An Officer and a Spy, by Robert Harris. (Vintage) This is a brilliant novelization of the Dreyfus Affair, the treason case that was fueled by anti-Semitism and splintered French society of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Harris’ protagonist is Georges Picquart, an ambitious military officer who discovers evidence exonerating the accused, Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, and bravely defends him.
Furious Cool: Richard Pryor and the World That Made Him, by David Henry and Joe Henry. (Algonquin) The Henry brothers’ paean to Pryor, who died in 2005 at age 65, trips selectively through the milestones and mishaps, triumphs and tragedies that marked the legendary comedian’s career. New York Times reviewer Mel Watkins called this biography “a testament to his stature not only as an African-American entertainment idol but also as an American icon.”
Memories of a Marriage, by Louis Begley. (Ballantine) Shifting from Paris to Manhattan, Long Island to Newport, Begley’s novel takes a penetrating look at class and privilege. Mourning his wife and on the edge of old age, a novelist named Philip re-encounters Lucy De Bourgh, a beguiling heiress from his past. As Lucy captivates Philip with the details of her failed marriage (“I couldn’t have gone on living with that monster”), he discovers a story that will challenge his assumptions about those he has known and admired.
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Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain From the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times, by Lucy Lethbridge. (Norton) In lavish estates and cramped middle-class homes, domestics were an essential yet unobtrusive part of the British hierarchy for much of the past century. This richly textured book traces the complex relationship between servers and the served, providing a window into almost every corner of British social history.
Bark: Stories, by Lorrie Moore. (Vintage Contemporaries) The title of Moore’s first collection in 16 years refers to more than one thing – a dog’s yelp, a protective shell – but each story finds the mordant humor in life’s public and private absurdities. “Probably no writer since Nabokov has been as language-obsessed as Moore,” David Gates wrote in the New York Times. This book “lets us contemplate and savor just what makes her work unique.”
Double Down: Game Change 2012, by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. (Penguin) In this follow-up to “Game Change,” their compulsively readable account of the 2008 presidential campaign, the veteran political reporters chronicle the back-stabbing and backstage maneuvers of the 2012 election.
New York Times