Shotgun Lovesongs, by Nickolas Butler. (Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s Griffin) Lifelong bonds are tested in Butler’s big-hearted first novel when four boyhood friends – and the woman who has meant something special in each of their lives – are reunited in middle age in their small Wisconsin hometown. “Butler has written an unmistakably American novel – and a good one,” Jonathan Evison said in the New York Times Book Review.
America’s Unwritten Constitution: The Precedents and Principles We Live By, by Akhil Reed Amar. (Basic Books) Challenging opinions on both sides of the political spectrum, Amar, a constitutional scholar at Yale, contends that the written Constitution points to an unwritten one and that the solution to puzzles like “freedom of speech” and the Second Amendment lies not only within the written document but in the values, precedents and practices that complement the text.
Redeployment, by Phil Klay. (Penguin) A National Book Award winner and one of the New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2014, this debut story collection – by a former Marine who served in Iraq – captures on an intimate scale what happens when young American soldiers collide with a fractured and deeply foreign country few of them understand.
Flappers: Six Women of a Dangerous Generation, by Judith Mackrell. (Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus & Giroux) This is a nimble group portrait of six women whose edgy ambition led them crashing through the public psyche in the 1920s: English heiress Nancy Cunard; outrageous actress Tallulah Bankhead; brazen aristocrat Diana Cooper; electrifying jazz dancer Josephine Baker; Polish-Russian painter Tamara de Lempicka; and America’s uber-flapper, Zelda Fitzgerald.
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Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of “The Great Gatsby,” by Sarah Churchwell (Penguin), interweaves stories of Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s hard-partying exploits in New York City and in Great Neck in 1922 with details of a sensationalized homicide investigation that helped inspire Fitzgerald’s masterwork.
Cambridge, by Susanna Kaysen. (Vintage Contemporaries) Kaysen’s 1993 memoir, “Girl, Interrupted,” recounted her two years of psychiatric treatment at McLean Hospital in the 1960s. “Cambridge,” a “novel-from-life,” covers the childhood years of the ’50s and a precocious girl’s struggles with outsiderness as her family moves from Massachusetts to Europe and back again.
My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind, by Scott Stossel. (Vintage) Drawing on his own long-standing battle with anxiety, Stossel, the editor of The Atlantic, presents a history of efforts by scientists, philosophers and writers to understand a condition that affects 40 million Americans.
In Paradise, by Peter Matthiessen. (Riverhead) In Matthiessen’s final novel – the roving author and naturalist died last year at age 86 – a middle-aged literature professor becomes involved in a weeklong Zen retreat taking place at Auschwitz in 1996.
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