The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson. (Graywolf) In 2011, the contours of Nelson’s family and identity began to shift as the author became pregnant and her partner started receiving testosterone injections. Combining poetry and cultural criticism, her memoir, a wide-ranging examination of maternity and love, considers how convention and queerness shape and limit families.
The American Lover: And Other Stories by Rose Tremain. (Norton) Across the tales in Tremain’s elegant and acerbic collection, there is “a refusal to reduce the important human experiences to simple categories,” reviewer Mary Gordon observed. In the book’s opening story, a woman recovering from a car crash reflects on an obsessive and ruinous love affair that was fodder for scandal, literary success and a lifetime of heartbreak.
Once Upon A Revolution: An Egyptian Story by Thanassis Cambanis. (Simon & Schuster) When Cairo’s Tahrir Square erupted in protest five years ago, Cambanis, a Middle East-based journalist, saw a genuine possibility for political change. His book offers a critical appraisal of the thwarted revolution (where it faltered, what contributed to its demise and how its momentum might be regained), focusing on the stories of two Egyptians who embodied the movement.
Funny Girl by Nick Hornby. (Riverhead) In 1960s London, Sophie Straw, an aspiring Lucille Ball-style actress and the protagonist of this novel, grows from a young ingénue to a comic and campy BBC sitcom star. The decade’s changing mores provide the backdrop for a larger cultural debate, as the show’s lead writers disagree about the roles of levity, serious art and subversion in mainstream entertainment.
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The Brain’s Way Of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries And Recoveries From The Frontiers Of Neuroplasticity by Norman Doidge. (James H. Silberman/Penguin) Doidge has long been a fervent advocate for the concept of neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change itself in response to activity and other stimuli throughout an individual’s life. Here, he relays a series of success stories about how this characteristic has helped alleviate the suffering of patients afflicted by formidable conditions (including Parkinson’s disease, ADHD and multiple sclerosis).
Delicious Foods by James Hannaham. (Back Bay/Little, Brown) A widowed addict is lured away to work for a diabolical food company, the novel’s namesake, that leverages her vulnerability to exploit her labor. “Touches of beauty and intuitive metaphor make the novel’s difficult subject matter much easier to bear,” Ted Genoways wrote in The Times.
Why Homer Matters by Adam Nicolson. (Picador/John Macrae/Holt) Nicolson makes a case for why the ancient poet – whom he sees as an amalgam of the “preserved words of an entire culture” – is an enduring bridge between civilizations.
New York Times