Noteworthy paperbacks

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer. (Mulholland/Little, Brown) Vivid, witty prose animates this thriller, which explores the uneasy links between government surveillance and personal privacy. Shafer’s characters confront a shadowy cabal of powerful media magnates seeking control of the world’s data.

Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story Of An Unlikely Hero And The Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives In World War Ii by Vicki Constantine Croke. (Random House) In 1920, Billy Williams arrived in colonial Burma to work for a British teak company and quickly discovered a preternatural kinship with elephants. When World War II reached Asia, Williams harnessed the animals’ power and joined the effort, transporting refugees and supplies across dangerous boundaries. Croke’s tale is a bright spot of compassion amid the brutality of war.

The Orchard Of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) This novel details the Somali dictatorship of the late 1980s, a government, Mohamed writes, that “needs women to make it seem human.” She adds nuance to Somalia’s bleak political realities through the interwoven lives of three female characters: Kawsar, a wealthy widow; Deqo, a girl born in a refugee camp and abandoned by her mother; and Filsan, a soldier deeply loyal to the regime.

Proof: The Science Of Booze by Adam Rogers. (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Rogers, an editor at Wired, makes sense of the chemistry of alcohol, from fermentation and aging processes to the science of hangovers. His enthusiastic account, which sprang from his own “perfect bar moments,” takes readers into distilleries and gene-sequencing labs and untangles the psychology of drinking.

Paper Lantern: Love Stories by Stuart Dybek. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) Dybek writes nimbly about all aspects of love in this collection. In the title story, after a fire destroys a lab’s prototype for a time machine, the narrative jogs back to revisit a relationship that came to an explosive end.

Scalia: A Court Of One by Bruce Allen Murphy. (Simon & Schuster) Few Supreme Court judges have shared the public profile of Justice Antonin Scalia, a veteran of the court’s right. This biography by Murphy is a thorough consideration of Scalia’s development, gathering insight from interviews, dissents and speeches. Despite his tremendous intellectual and persuasive capacities, Murphy argues, Scalia’s greatest handicap is his history of alienating would-be allies.

Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce. (Anchor) This debut novel follows Marie, a young waitress at an upscale restaurant with potent self-destructive impulses. A single mother but alienated from her child, she pursues degrading sexual relationships and other outlets for her self-loathing. Through Marie’s story, Tierce probes “the great mystery of our species’ immense propensity for cruelty and suffering,” reviewer Paula Bomer wrote.

New York Times