Winners and sinners

By BARBARA HOFFERT  |  September 11, 2008

At the New England prep school featured in ANITA SHREVE’s Testimony (Little, Brown; October 21), lives are demolished by a sex scandal — too bad about that videotape. Dark secrets also surface when scary-smart Sol travels to Germany with his family in NANCY HUSTON’s Prix Femina winner, Fault Lines (Black Cat; October 1). This French bestseller is available in 18 languages.

Hey, don’t blink. In Outliers: Why Some People Succeed and Some Don’t (Little, Brown; November 18), MALCOLM GLADWELL argues that it’s not an 80-hour work week but family and cultural particulars that put folks on top. Fall books from folks who got there: ANNE RICE limns her return to Catholicism in Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession (Knopf; October 7), and ART SPIEGELMAN offers Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist As a Young %@&*! (Pantheon; October 7).

Success? If you think it means big bucks, try NIALL FERGUSON’s The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World (Penguin Press; November 13). If not, you might appreciate RUSSELL SHORTO’s Descartes’ Bones: A Skeletal History of the Conflict Between Faith and Reason (Doubleday; October 14), or JAY PARINI’s Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed America (Doubleday; November 4).

Among this fall’s surge of Lincoln celebrations, try JAMES M. MCPHERSON’s Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln As Commander-in-Chief (Penguin Press; October 7) and Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World (Norton; October 22), with offerings from contemporary historians edited by ERIC FONER. ANNETTE GORDON-REED reports on Jefferson’s slave relations in The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (Norton; September 29); H.W. BRANDS revisits FDR in Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Doubleday; November 4).

Don’t read SARAH VOWELL’s The Wordy Shipmates (Riverhead; October 7) if you think the Puritans were quaint. Likewise, KATHLEEN BURK’s Old World, New World: Great Britain and America from the Beginning (Atlantic Monthly; October 14) upends smug views of the special US-British relationship.

Want something current? BERNARD-HENRI LÉVY challenges totalitarianisms present and future in Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism (Random House; September 16), and ANTONIA JUHASZ challenges fuel inefficiency in The Tyranny of Oil: The World’s Most Powerful Industry — And What We Must Do To Stop It (Morrow; October 7). In The Ayatollah Begs To Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran (Doubleday; September 23), HOOMAN MAJD explains the deep-seated insecurities of his native land.

Savage Detective lovers: ROBERTO BOLAÑO saw himself as a poet first, so grab his poetry collection, The Romantic Dogs (New Directions; November 28), when you pick up 2666. SHARON OLDS’s One Secret Thing (Knopf; September 25) offers a typically raw account of the mother-daughter relationship over time. GLYN MAXWELL’s Hide Now (Houghton Mifflin; September 25) plumbs contemporary life in fresh, colloquial language. And try to read NICK LAIRD’s latest collection On Purpose (Norton; October 6): it’s a knockout study of human relations.

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