• BEYOND CATEGORY

The Signal and the Noise

Nate Silver shot to fame during the 2008 election, when out of the welter of political polling he correctly predicted the outcome of the presidential race in 49 out of 50 states. Since then his blog FiveThirtyEight -- the name comes from the number of votes in the Electoral College -- has been subsumed into The New York Times, where he nailed almost all the 2010 congressional and gubernatorial races. His role is somewhere between a commentator and a bookie. Political types might worship him, but for Silver politics is a purely quantitative undertaking, not so far from his original beat of fantasy baseball.

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July 24: On this day in 1725 John Newton, the slave trader-preacher who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace," was born.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).