Noteworthy paperbacks

The Bill Of The Century: The Epic Battle For The Civil Rights Act by Clay Risen. (Bloomsbury) The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is often credited to the political leadership of Lyndon Johnson or the moral force of Martin Luther King Jr. But in this finely delineated telling, the focus shifts to the unsung heroes and grassroots activism that ensured the bill’s survival and triumph. In An Idea Whose Time Has Come: Two Presidents, Two Parties, And The Battle For The Civil Rights Act Of 1964 (Picador), Todd S. Purdum re-creates the legislative maneuvering around the bill, “the words and actions of white men,” he writes, who “possessed the sole official agency to enact – or block – any such law.”

The Year She Left Us by Kathryn Ma. (Harper Perennial) A disastrous trip to her “home” orphanage in China plunges Ari – a Bay Area 18-year-old and the heroine of Ma’s provocative first novel – into a self-destructive spiral.

Updike by Adam Begley. (Harper Perennial) Begley’s portrait seeks to place everything John Updike (1932-2009) wrote – including his most lasting achievements, the “Rabbit” tetralogy – firmly within the context of his life: from his beloved Berks County, Pa., and Harvard to the family years in suburban Massachusetts and his extensive travel abroad.

The Children Act by Ian McEwan. (Anchor) In McEwan’s suspenseful novel, Fiona Maye, a British High Court judge contending with her own domestic strife, is called on to try an urgent case: Should a 17-year-old Jehovah’s Witness with leukemia be forced to undergo a blood transfusion that is necessary to save his life but which his religion prohibits?

No Place To Hide: Edward Snowden, The Nsa, And The U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald. (Picador) In May 2013, Greenwald, then a columnist for The Guardian, set out for Hong Kong to meet Edward Snowden, a National Security Agency contractor who claimed to have evidence of pervasive government spying. In this impassioned book Greenwald explains the NSA’s methodology with documents from the Snowden archive and examines the implications of the surveillance detailed in his reporting.

Trieste by Dasa Drndic. Translated by Ellen Elias-Bursac. (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) This absorbing novel, by a Croatian playwright and critic, mixes fact and fiction as it explores the massacre of Italian Jews in Trieste’s concentration camps. It’s 2006, and 83-year-old Haya Tedeschi sits alone in Gorizia, in northeastern Italy, waiting to be reunited after 62 years with her son, fathered by an SS officer and kidnapped by German authorities.

Extreme Medicine: How Exploration Transformed Medicine In The Twentieth Century by Kevin Fong. (Penguin) Drawing on his experience as an anesthesiologist and an intensive care doctor, as well as his work with NASA, Fong illustrates how cutting-edge medicine has pushed the envelope of human survival for explorers, mountaineers, soldiers and others facing extreme conditions.

New York Times