A Gentleman?s Guide to Graceful Living

Michael Dahlie?s first novel, an elegant, restrained dark comedy, could be called a kinder, gentler Handful of Dust. It is 1998, a dreadful year for 57-year-old Manhattanite, Arthur Camden, a mild-mannered deviation from a line of business titans. He has run the family firm into the ground, and his wife of 32 years has left him, preferring someone who?s fun and on the ball. The point of Arthur?s life, never finely honed to begin with, now completely escapes him. His only friends, aside from his sons, are -- or seem to be -- his fellow members of the Hanover Street Fly Casters. But, unsurprisingly, disaster strikes there, too, and Arthur packs his bags -- an activity he has always enjoyed -- and sets off on a doomed, though terribly funny, journey. The better we get to know Arthur and his feelings of invincible of inadequacy, his natural talent for entering every situation on the wrong foot, and his own wonder at his knack of exasperating others, the more we are drawn to his self-deprecating decency. When he does sally forth we find ourselves rooting for him as if he were coming of age. ("After the concert?Arthur suggested they get dinner, and before long they were seated at a corner table at a restaurant called Epi Dupin, leaning into each other and, although Arthur felt he was not qualified to identify it as such, flirting.") Dahlie?s writing is limpid and deadpan, maintaining the spirit of Arthur?s orderly, if baffled, soul. What is more, out of this unlikely material comes extraordinary suspense. Will Arthur pull it together? Will his tormentors get theirs? What is going to happen? This is a book I could neither put down nor bear the thought of finishing.

April 21: " 'Pull' includes 'invitations to tea' at which one hears smiling reminders that a better life is available to people who stop talking about massacres..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.