A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. (Vintage) Kristof, a New York Times columnist, and WuDunn, his wife and a former business editor at the paper, outline ways to improve the lives of the less fortunate, with concentration on those that bring demonstrable results. Though humans may be biologically hard-wired for empathy, the authors direct convincing appeals even to the calculating egotists among us.
Wolf In White Van by John Darnielle. (Picador/Farrar, Straus & Giroux) After a gruesome accident leaves him disfigured as a teenager, Sean Phillips largely withdraws from society and develops an intricate choose-your-own-adventure game played through the mail. The contours of Sean’s inner life structure this novel, which reviewer Ethan Gilsdorf called “a stunning meditation on the power of escape.”
Dataclysm: Love, Sex, Race, And Identity – What Our Online Lives Tell Us About Our Offline Selves by Christian Rudder. (Broadway) The author, a co-founder of the dating website OkCupid, saw an “irresistible sociological opportunity” in the troves of data the site has collected. He uses it to identify trends in our behavior and preferences, including how we connect and what drives us apart.
The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai. (Penguin) At the outset of this novel, Zee, a Marxist scholar, and her husband, Doug, have moved into the carriage house of her family’s historic estate, which once housed an artists’ colony. Doug’s academic career has stalled, but after realizing the obscure poet he is studying once visited the colony, he delves into the estate’s past, turning up a century of overlapping histories, family secrets and ghosts.
The Invisible Bridge: The Fall Of Nixon And The Rise Of Reagan by Rick Perlstein. (Simon & Schuster) Dealt blows by the defeat in Vietnam and Watergate’s corruption revelations, the nation’s self-image reached a low point between 1973 and 1976. As America seemed poised for self-reflection and humility, Ronald Reagan (and his signature buoyancy) entered the political scene. Perlstein’s engaging account considers Reagan’s influence on the modern conservative movement and its “cult of official optimism.”
Honeydew: Stories by Edith Pearlman. (Back Bay/Little, Brown) A perceptive witness to intimacy and solitude, Pearlman captures rhythms of daily life in her collection, which has been nominated for a National Book Award. Reviewer Laura van den Berg praised the author’s “quiet, humble precision,” noting that these tales “excel at capturing the complex and surprising turns in seemingly ordinary lives.”
Mademoiselle: Coco Chanel And The Pulse Of History by Rhonda K. Garelick. (Random House) Chanel is often credited with creating a timeless aesthetic, but Garelick shows how the designer’s enduring relevance is intimately tied to European politics and history.
New York Times