Some Luck by Jane Smiley. (Anchor) Smiley returns to the familiar terrain of Iowa in this novel, the first in a trilogy. Its multigenerational story of a Midwestern farming family unfolds against the backdrop of American cultural and economic upheaval, spanning the time from before the Depression through the years after World War II.
America's Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom Deals, And The Fight To Fix Our Broken Healthcare System by Steven Brill. (Random House) Building off his reporting in Time magazine, Brill wades into the “treacherous” politics behind the Affordable Care Act. His sharp account traces the influence and competing interests of key players and lends compassion to the discussion of health care, an issue “more urgent and more emotionally charged than any other.”
The Stager by Susan Coll. (Picador) Eve, an out-of-work journalist, is now a “stager,” tasked with redecorating houses for maximum salability. When she is hired to transform a sprawling Tudor, Eve realizes the mansion she is grooming belongs to her former best friend. Coll’s acerbic novel is a portrait of family dysfunction: Its memorable characters include a former tennis champion, now obese and addicted to pills, and an embittered pet rabbit.
Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt For The World’s Rarest 78 RPM Records by Amanda Petrusich. (Scribner) When the author, a music journalist and critic, set out to find a rejoinder to the dominance of digital music, she encountered an insular cabal of collectors. At turns skeptical, reclusive and territorial, this “oddball fraternity” is fixated on acquiring the most impressive collection of 78 rpm records, the often overlooked predecessors to the more familiar vinyl. The resulting book, peppered with portraits of the quirky collectors, is a meditation on “the rapture of discovery.”
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F by Daniel Kehlmann. Translated by Carol Brown Janeway. (Vintage) At a hypnotist’s mysterious urging, a father abandons his wife and three sons to pursue a writing career. While he goes on to earn considerable literary success, his sons flounder: One becomes a faithless priest; another, a professional art forger; and the last, a fraudulent financier. Kehlmann’s novel gives rise to questions about family and fortune.
My Two Italies by Joseph Luzzi. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) Luzzi reflects on his Italian identity and the country’s dualities in this bittersweet memoir. The son of immigrants from Calabria (a poor region far from the country’s cultural centers) and a scholar of Italian literature, the author reconciles the contradictions of his place at the intersection of a divided Italy.
Last Stories And Other Stories by William T. Vollmann. (Penguin) Ghosts, love and eroticism commingle in these eerie, unsettling tales. Vollmann, reviewer Kate Bernheimer wrote, is a “dreaming and lucid-eyed pilgrim,” whose melancholic stories dwell on the aftermath of grief and trauma.
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