Prisoners Of Geography: Ten Maps That Explain Everything About The World by Tim Marshall. (Scribner) “The land on which we live has always shaped us,” but its influence is too often played down, Marshall, a longtime overseas reporter, observes early in this sprawling account. What interests him is the world’s topography – mountains, seas, deserts – and its role in international diplomacy, economic development and nationalism.
Eyes: Novellas And Stories by William H. Gass. (Vintage) In these six works of fiction, Gass explores the relationship among language, plot and structure; one story is narrated from the perspective of a chair, while one novella is a single paragraph about 70 pages long. “Language, rather than narrative sequence, is the engine driving” Gass’ writing, Stephen Burn wrote in The Times. “This makes much of his work a sonic exhibition, with alliterative chains demonstrating his virtuosity as he slides through a sentence.”
Paradise Of The Pacific: Approaching Hawai’i by Susanna Moore. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) Moore, a novelist and Hawaii resident, chronicles the archipelago’s history, religions and societies, opening with the eruption of the islands’ famous volcanoes and spanning their contact with missionaries, exchanges with the West and broader cultural shifts.
The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie. (Penguin) An unlikely couple stumble toward their wedding, but encounters with a foreboding squirrel call the relationship – and the bride-to-be’s grounding in reality – into question. “A literary novel with a squirrel subplot may sound improbable,” Times reviewer Patricia Park wrote, “yet McKenzie adroitly skirts the line between the plausible and the absurd.”
Pedigree: A Memoir by Patrick Modiano. Translated by Mark Polizzotti. (Yale University) The French author, who won the Nobel Prize in literature for 2014, reflects on his neglected, unhappy childhood in the post-World War II milieu that shaped his literary preoccupations; across many of his novels, national tragedies are a backdrop for individual traumas, and political and personal crises often overlap.
The Lost Child By Caryl Phillips (Picador) Abandoned women going mad are at the heart of the story lines in this novel: Drawing from “Wuthering Heights,” Phillips imagines Heathcliff’s miserable childhood, with digressions to Emily Bronte’s final years. The story also follows an original modern character, Monica, whose husband departs for his home country and leaves her with their children.
The Evolution Of Everything: How New Ideas Emerge by Matt Ridley. (Harper Perennial, $16.99.) Gradual, unplanned and spontaneous changes, not intentional design, have spurred our greatest innovations, Ridley argues here. He mines a wide array of developments – including technological, cultural and linguistic – for evidence.
New York Times