California by Edan Lepucki. (Bay Back/Little, Brown) A couple expecting their first child confront a feral, apocalyptic reality and future. After Cal and Frida are driven from a dystopic Los Angeles into the wilderness, they attempt to eke out a life of security.
The Tyranny Of Experts: Economists, Dictators, And The Forgotten Rights Of The Poor by William Easterly. (Basic Books) At the core of recent development efforts is the belief that poverty can be solved by such technical means as fertilizers and antibiotics. Easterly, an economics professor at New York University, dismantles this approach, arguing instead that the world’s impoverished have been systematically failed by the technocrats tasked with aiding them.
We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas. (Simon & Schuster) Thomas’ gorgeous debut novel follows Eileen, the ambitious only child in an Irish-American home, from a modest childhood in 1940s Queens to her loving marriage to a neuroscientist. As she closes in on her lifetime goal of a suburban home, her husband develops an aggressive case of Alzheimer’s at a devastatingly young age.
The Bohemians: Mark Twain And The San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature by Ben Tarnoff. (Penguin, $17.) In the 1860s, San Francisco was already a cosmopolitan hub, home to a vibrant immigrant community and Americans escaping the Civil War. This climate allowed a distinctly new American literature to flourish, away from the lingering influence of the European literary tradition. At the helm of this movement were “the Bohemians,” including Charles Warren Stoddard, Ina Coolbrith, Bret Harte and Harte’s chief literary rival, Twain.
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Midnight In Europe by Alan Furst. (Random House) The hero of Furst’s latest spy thriller is Cristián Ferrar, a successful lawyer living in Paris as a bloody civil conflict rages on in his native Spain. After the Spanish Republic approaches him to help supply arms to anti-Franco forces, he agrees to a risky arrangement that takes him from the brothels of Istanbul to the dockyards of Poland.
Bulletproof Vest: The Ballad Of An Outlaw And His Daughter by Maria Venegas. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) For years, Venegas was estranged from her outlaw father, who had returned to his native Mexico, leaving his children behind in Chicago. But the two reconciled on the family homestead in Zacatecas, and here she renders her father’s extraordinary life in elegant prose, weaving stories of violence and heartbreak from his past into a modern-day corrido.
Off Course by Michelle Huneven. (Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16.) A Reagan-era economics student struggles to finish her dissertation at her parents’ home in the California mountains. After tangling with an enigmatic married carpenter, she is consumed by obsession. As reviewer Naomi Fry wrote, the book explores the dangers, and the boons, of leaving the easy stasis of habit behind to veer “off course, into the woods.”
New York Times