First Bite: How We Learn To Eat by Bee Wilson. Illustrated by Annabel Lee. (Basic Books) So much of what forms our “chaotic” relationships with food – our likes and dislikes, our willingness to experiment and even our nostalgic attachments – we develop as infants. But rather than view food habits as fixed and immutable, Wilson lays out strategies to gradually “unlearn” troubling behaviors and tastes.
Dragonfish by Vu Tran. (Norton) A troubled Vietnamese refugee in Oakland, California, suddenly leaves her husband and reappears in Nevada; as he searches for his wife, he is dragged through both Las Vegas’ ugly underbelly and the horrors of her past. Writing in The Times, Chris Abani called Tran’s novel “a renegotiation of terms in which the past is not a place of nostalgia but one that carries all the trauma of war, and the present is not enough to mitigate that.”
Battling The Gods: Atheism In The Ancient World by Tim Whitmarsh. (Vintage) In the roughly 1,000-year period Whitmarsh studies, godlessness was one of a number of acceptable religious views. Religion, for the Greeks, was part and parcel of civil engagement; it was not until they were absorbed by the Roman Empire that society became largely Christianized and godlessness scorned.
The Mark And The Void by Paul Murray. (Picador) In the midst of the Irish banking crisis, Paul, a thwarted novelist, asks to shadow Claude, a French analyst in Dublin, at work, as inspiration for a new project. But what Paul really has in mind is a setup for a heist: He’s looking to reverse his fortunes by robbing a bank, not literary success. The deeply amoral financial sector is a prime target for Murray’s rollicking caper.
My History: A Memoir Of Growing Up by Antonia Fraser. (Anchor) The author, a British historian known for her biography of Mary Queen of Scots, reflects on her aristocratic childhood and literary passions. The Times’ reviewer, Liesl Schillinger, called Fraser’s account “the history of a writer’s love affair with her vocation, and her nostalgia for the childhood ‘wonderland’ that engendered it.”
Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins. (Riverhead) In Watkins’ dystopian California, virtually all the region has been evacuated after a blistering drought, but Ray and Luz are among the few holdouts, choosing instead to scavenge and take shelter in an abandoned mansion. But after they find a toddler (although not the marauders to which she seems to belong), they are motivated to seek a better life for themselves and the child.
Destiny And Power: The American Odyssey Of George Herbert Walker Bush by Jon Meacham. (Random House) Meacham, an executive editor at Random House and former editor of Newsweek, is sympathetic to his subject, tracing the 41st president’s political ascent and stumbles. The account is particularly clear-eyed about the elder Bush’s influence on his son’s presidential tenure and reveals some of his opinions about George W.’s decisions.
New York Times