Winter reads

By BARBARA HOFFERT  |  December 21, 2007

Several novelists take a swing through American history this winter, starting with KARL IAGNEMMA, who follows up an acclaimed short-story collection with TheExpeditions (Dial, January 15), the tale of a father hunting for his son in 1840s Michigan territory. JAMES MCBRIDE’s Song Yet Sung (Riverhead, February 5), set in Maryland directly before the Civil War, is about a runaway slave who has astonishing visions. RUSSELL BANKS takes us to the 1930s with his depiction of a spoiled heiress whose actions lead to tragedy in The Reserve (HarperCollins, January 29).

Ready to get back to life, love, and tangled relationships in contemporary America? Try SUE MILLER’s The Senator’s Wife (Knopf, January 11), or Kyra (Random House, January 15), a debut novel by noted psychologist/feminist CAROL GILLIGAN in which a troubled architect wrestles with loss. For short-story fans, there’s TOBIASWOLFF’s Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories (Knopf, March 28) and the JEFFREY EUGENIDES–edited anthology My Mistress’s Sparrow Is Dead: Great Love Stories, from Chekhov to Munro (HarperCollins, January 8).

For edgy escapism, consider RICHARD PRICE’s Lush Life (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, March 4), a gritty tale of murder on New York’s Lower East Side. Meanwhile, across the water, Dublin pathologist Quirke has a murder of his own to solve in The Silver Swan (Henry Holt, March 4) by BENJAMIN BLACK — Booker Prize winner JOHN BANVILLE in a mystery mood.

As the presidential campaign heats up, MADELEINE ALBRIGHT has some advice for the candidates: Memo to the President Elect: How We Can Restore America’s Reputation and Leadership (HarperCollins, January 8) offers pointers drawn from her own observations as secretary of state. Readers interested in what might happen next in the Middle East can turn to Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East (Penguin Press, March 3) by ROBIN WRIGHT, who covers US foreign policy for the Washington Post. For a better perspective on how we arrived at the current East-West impasse, consider DAVID LEVERING LEWIS’s God’s Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570–1215 (Norton, January 21).

THOMAS NORMAN DEWOLF explores slavery, and particularly his family’s crucial involvement in its promotion, in Inheriting the Trade: A Northern Family Confronts Its Legacy As the Largest Slave-Trading Dynasty in U.S. History (Beacon, January 2). Harvard University president DREW GILPIN FAUST investigates the meaning of death for an entire nation in This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (Knopf, January 10). DAVID HAJDU’s concerns are somewhat milder — The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, March 18) considers the evolution of popular culture after World War II and the grave danger purportedly posed by comics.

Maybe the comics were a problem. Anyone who believes that as a nation we can no longer think straight will find corroboration in SUSAN JACOBY’s The Age of American Unreason (Pantheon, February 12). Or maybe we’re just overmedicated, as CHARLES BARBER argues in Comfortably Numb: How Psychiatry Medicated a Nation (Pantheon, February 5). Or simply sex-crazed, notwithstanding the conservative times, as “Sexploration” columnist BRIAN ALEXANDER considers in America Unzipped: In Search of Sex and Satisfaction (Harmony, January 15).

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