The Sense Of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide To Writing In The 21st Century by Steven Pinker. (Penguin) Pinker, more permissive than the authors of the classic style manual, William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, modernizes mainstream writing advice. Drawing on his expertise as a psychologist and linguist at Harvard, the author brings an understanding of how “language works at its best” to his discussions of usage and style in this cheerfully didactic book.
The Hilltop by Assaf Gavron. Translated by Steven Cohen. (Scribner) Set atop an Israeli outpost in the West Bank, Gavron’s novel details life in Ma'aleh Hermesh C. One resident, Gabi, has exchanged his European name for its Hebrew equivalent and relishes the solitude and piety that settlement life affords him. When his brother, who has returned to Israel after disastrous business luck in America, arrives unexpectedly, their interactions raise questions about Israel’s identity, politics and future.
Beijing Bastard: Into The Wilds Of A Changing China by Val Wang. (Avery) As the daughter of immigrants who fled China decades earlier (and the recipient of “a nearly lethal dose of ‘Chinese’ culture” during childhood), Wang, chasing Chinese counterculture, surprised her relatives with plans to relocate to Beijing. She recounts her growth as an artist against the backdrop of a rapidly changing global city.
Mermaids In Paradise by Lydia Millet. (Norton) After mermaids are spotted during their Caribbean honeymoon, a newlywed couple are drawn into a scandal pitting socially conscious guests against a corporation eager to capitalize on the discovery. Millet’s “disarmingly funny” satire is also “an ambitious exploration of belief,” reviewer René Steinke said.
The Invisible Front: Love And Loss In An Era Of Endless War by Yochi Dreazen. (Broadway) After both their sons died in less than a year, the Graham family noticed a striking difference in the treatment of each man’s death: One, who was killed in the line of duty, was hailed as a hero, while the other, who died by suicide, was branded a weakling. Dreazen uses their stories to examine the enduring stigma of mental illness in military culture, which remains firmly entrenched despite rising suicide rates.
Lila by Marilynne Robinson. (Picador/Farrar, Straus & Giroux) Robinson’s earlier and Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “Gilead,” assumed the form of a letter written by an aging minister in 1950s Iowa to his young son. Here, Robinson tells the story of Lila, the preacher’s wife, tracing her Depression-era childhood characterized by poverty and a series of abandonments, and considers its lingering impact.
How We Got To Now: Six Innovations That Made The Modern World by Steven Johnson. (Riverhead) Examining transformations across six themes (glass, sound, cold, cleanliness, time and light), Johnson links technological innovations to the social and cultural changes they have caused.
New York Times