Frog Music by Emma Donoghue. (Back Bay/Little, Brown) Donoghue’s 2010 novel “Room” followed a mother and child who develop a loving and imaginative existence despite their punishing captivity. Here, the author re-imagines a real-life unsolved murder from 1870s San Francisco. Blanche, a French prostitute, befriends Jenny, a cross-dressing vendor of frogs’ legs. After Jenny is murdered in the room they share, Blanche suspects that she herself was the intended target.
The Teacher Wars: A History Of America’s Most Embattled Profession by Dana Goldstein. (Anchor) In response to recent intense political scrutiny of teachers, Goldstein looked to history to understand how teaching became a profession “attacked and admired in equal proportion.” Spanning nearly two centuries of U.S. education reform, the book identifies approaches that have been championed before (with little success) and suggests solutions to some of our public schools’ most vexing problems.
The Zone Of Interest by Martin Amis. (Vintage International) Amis parodies chilly, bureaucratic Nazi jargon in his return to the subject of the Holocaust. Three characters working in service to Auschwitz (including a prisoner tasked with clearing the dead from the gas chambers) narrate this story, which reviewer Ruth Franklin called a “Holocaust novel consciously of its moment.”
Blue-Eyed Boy: A Memoir by Robert Timberg. (Penguin) With just under two weeks left in his tour as a young Marine in 1967 Vietnam, Timberg was gruesomely disfigured by a land mine explosion. In his excruciating and frank account, the author, who went on to become a distinguished journalist and biographer of other Vietnam veterans, charts his recovery, which entailed countless bouts of facial reconstruction surgery, a tortured return to society and “the chilling prospect of a lifetime of coping with what war has turned him into.”
Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum. (Random House) Unable to connect with her husband, children or therapist, an emotionally adrift and deeply unhappy American woman seeks a reprieve through a string of affairs while living in a suburb of Zurich. (The story’s heroine, Anna, shares more than her name with Tolstoy’s tragic figure.)
Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories Of 33 Men Buried In A Chilean Mine, And The Miracle That Set Them Free by Héctor Tobar. (Picador/Farrar, Straus & Giroux) At the time of the gripping 2010 mine collapse, the international media closely followed the plight of the victims, but Tobar, a Pulitzer-winning journalist, received exclusive access to the miners and their story. His account, based on exhaustive interviews with the men, reconstructs the agonizing 69 days they spent underground.
J by Howard Jacobson. (Hogarth) Jacobson renders recognizable a mysterious, dystopian world; his subtly profound, warmly intelligent novel follows a love story that unfolds in a society where the past has been willfully forgotten.
New York Times