China 1945: Mao’s Revolution And America’s Fateful Choice by Richard Bernstein. (Vintage) In the span of a year, America’s friendly rapport with Chinese leaders devolved into fraught antagonism. Here, Bernstein, a former New York Times correspondent, argues that the long-standing diplomatic strain between the two countries can be traced to China’s political disintegration at the end of World War II.
Vanessa And Her Sister by Priya Parmar. (Ballantine) This richly imaginative novel takes the form of the fictionalized diary and letters of Vanessa Bell, the real-life older sister of Virginia Woolf, and imagines the impact of their relationship on Bell’s marriage. The sisters were at the center of rarefied cultural and intellectual circles that also included E.M. Forster and John Maynard Keynes.
The Innovators: How A Group Of Hackers, Geniuses, And Geeks Created The Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson. (Simon & Schuster) Reaching back to the 1800s, Isaacson tells the stories of individuals who have shaped the digital age, with a particular emphasis on their collaborative creativity. Isaacson’s account includes Ada Lovelace, Alan Turing and the subject of his 2011 biography, Steve Jobs.
Skylight by José Saramago. Translated by Margaret Jull Costa. (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Focusing on the tenants in a modest apartment building, Saramago finds beauty in the abiding banality of daily life in 1940s Lisbon. The novel, which the author wrote and abandoned early in his career, was first published after Saramago’s death in 2010.
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My Grandfather’s Gallery: A Family Memoir Of Art And War by Anne Sinclair. Translated by Shaun Whiteside. (Picador/Farrar, Straus & Giroux) Sinclair recounts the story of her grandfather, a pre-eminent art dealer in Paris known for displaying works by Léger, Braque, Picasso and Matisse in the 1920s and ‘30s before fleeing to New York. The Nazis seized dozens of his most cherished works (many of which are still missing), but by writing this book, Sinclair seeks to reclaim some of the history that was lost.
Shark by Will Self. (Grove) Zack Busner, a British psychiatrist (and a recurring character in Self’s writing), heads an alternative mental health commune. After the patients are dosed with LSD, they are able to discuss the horrors they witnessed in World War II. Told in a fragmented, stream-of-consciousness style, Self’s novel is “determined to stoke our collective memories of humanity at its worst,” Mark Athitakis wrote in The Times.
The Invisible History Of The Human Race: How Dna And History Shape Our Identities And Our Futures by Christine Kenneally. (Penguin) Genetic material can yield more insight than ever, but Kenneally shows that DNA alone does not reveal the full story. She pairs genetic information with cultural and environmental factors to explain humanity’s history.
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