One Of Us: The Story Of A Massacre In Norway – And Its Aftermath by Asne Seierstad. Translated by Sarah Death. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $17.) Anders Behring Breivik’s killing of 77 people, most of them teenagers, on July 22, 2011, is the subject of this masterly reportorial account, one of the Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2015. Seierstad delves into the forces that contributed to the tragedy: Breivik’s lonely, neglected and thwarted adolescence; simmering xenophobia and political unrest in Norway; and the failures of the Norwegian state.
Map: Collected And Last Poems by Wislawa Szymborska. Translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak. Edited by Clare Cavanagh. (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) The Nobel laureate (1923-2012) witnessed four versions of Poland: from its independence in 1918 to Nazi occupation, Soviet control and post-Cold War freedom. Throughout the country’s transformations, she was most stirred by the quotidian details that enliven daily life.
Galileo's Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists, And One Scholar’s Search For Justice by Alice Dreger. (Penguin, $17.) As both a noted advocate for patients’ rights and a historian whose research focuses on a contentious field, intersex people, Dreger is uncommonly suited to explain the antagonistic relationship between activists and the scientists who sometimes discover uncomfortable truths.
Book Of Numbers by Joshua Cohen. (Random House) In this ambitious novel, the author’s fictional double, who is also a writer named Joshua Cohen, is hired to ghostwrite the memoirs of Principal, an eccentric tech billionaire. Cohen’s “unruly style” animates the book; reviewer Mark Sarvas compared Cohen’s sentences to “a wild music, an aural manifestation of Internet traffic.”
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Went The Day Well? Witnessing Waterloo by David Crane. (Vintage) Two centuries after the landmark battle, Crane’s study toggles between scenes from the front lines in Belgium and daily life in England, charting the 24 hours of June 18, 1815. Praising the book’s originality, Mike Rapport noted in The Times that “Crane holds up the battle as a lens through which we see a warts-and-all portrait of Britain 200 years ago.”
The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. (Grove) Nguyen’s novel, the winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize for fiction, takes place during the Vietnam War and brings to life a deeply ambivalent voice rarely heard in stories about the conflict. The novel’s unnamed narrator is deeply divided: He is half French and half Vietnamese, and works as a sleeper agent in America – a country that he alternately despises and supports.
Frank: A Life In Politics From The Great Society To Same-Sex Marriage by Barney Frank. (Picador/Farrar, Straus & Giroux) The longtime legislator reflects on the two attractions central to his life: to government and to men. When he was a young politician, he writes, gay men were widely despised and members of Congress admired; but by his retirement in 2013, the tables had turned.
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