Displaying articles for: May 2012

Chasing Venus

The 18th-century quest to calculate the size of the solar system by observing the transit of Venus was the first truly international scientific undertaking. Andrea Wulf captures the personalities who took on the astronomical challenge in this surprising true story of stargazing, exploration, and politics.

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The Chemistry of Tears

After the sudden death of her lover, Catherine Gehrig finds solace in her work as a curator of intricate antique devices in a London museum. But her connection to an ingenious 19th-century automaton will change her in ways she can scarcely imagine. Man Booker Prize-winner Peter Carey once again astonishes.

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A Small Fortune

When he receives a significant sum of money as part of his divorce settlement with an English woman, Harris, the patriarch of a large Pakistani family, must decide which of his relatives to give it to. Rosie Dastgir's debut novel reveals her gift for capturing characters and cultures complicated by a burden of riches.

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Opium

From the Stone Age onward, Papaver somniferum has been the source of medicinal and recreational drugs alike, and its trade powered the British empire's worldwide expansion. Clinical pathologist Dr. Thomas Dormandy traces its influence on inspired artists, desperate addicts, criminal gangs, and dedicated healers in this potent work of narrative history.

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Threats

After his wife's mysterious death, a man finds sinister messages hidden around his house -- one buried in a bag of sugar, another carved into the side of his TV. What do they mean? The answer proves essential to solving the riddle at the heart of Amelia Gray's unsettling debut.

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Paris, I Love You but You're Bringing Me Down

When a job at a French ad agency landed in his lap, novelist Rosecrans Baldwin had the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream of living la vie Parisienne. And though cold réalité intruded -- in the form of financial struggles and the limits of his rudimentary Français -- the result was a more mature take on the city of his fantasies, flaws included.

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Why Cats Land on Their Feet

The feline acrobatics and other mysteries of everyday physics that Mark Levi explores in this charming book are just the beginning. A fun and enlightening workout for your gray matter.

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Dead Men

Scott's doomed Antartic expedition and the haunting mysteries surrounding its failure lead to obsession in Richard Pierce's debut novel. As painter Birdie Bowers pursues her fascination with the explorer and his death, she risks both her body and her heart for answers.

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The Legend of Pradeep Mathew

When a hard-drinking Sri Lankan sportswriter faces liver failure, he decides it's finally time to track down once-great  cricket star Pradeep Mathew. Shehan Karunatilaka's big-hearted, madcap novel reverberates with echoes of A Fan's Notes and Netherland. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

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I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts

His subjects range from the suicide note as literary genre to the theme-parking of the Holocaust. But though Mark Dery's "drive-by essays" are sure to court controversy, the writer's commitment to entering intellectual no-fly zones make this collection a daring, bravura work of cultural criticism.

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Old Ideas

With dates announced for his upcoming Old Ideas concert tour, we celebrate the inimitable Leonard Cohen: bard, survivor, legend. His most recent album is a return to form for the balladeer, exploring signature themes of lust and longing, spirituality and struggle, all overlaid with a droll sense of humor as familiar as Cohen's prophetic voice.

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Wish You Were Here

When Jack Luxton hears that his estranged brother has been killed in combat, long-buried memories begin to well up like groundwater, and difficult choices Jack thought he reconciled himself to years ago turn out to be close at hand. Man Booker Prize-winner Graham Swift's novel plumbs timeless themes of regret, renewal, and the bonds of love.

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The Sovereignties of Invention

The opening story in Matthew Battles's electric collection, "The Dogs in the Trees", documents the inexplicable appearance of arboreal canines. Further gorgeous fantastika follows, producing a volume sure to draw comparisons to Borges and George Saunders.

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Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death

The spirit of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown mysteries lives on in the adventures of an English vicar playing detective in 1953, the coronation year of Queen Elizabeth II. James Runcie weaves a tale of suspense and wry humor.

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The Unintended Reformation

The Protestant Reformation's lasting impact is the subject of Brad S. Gregory's edifying work of history. As the framework of Christianity that had united much of Europe began to fragment in the 16th century, a secularized society emerged that proved the progenitor of our own.

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Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

On a chilly Thanksgiving day, 19-year-old Billy Lynn and the other surviving members of Bravo Squad wait to be hailed during a Dallas Cowboys halftime tribute. But Billy is only thinking of family and fallen comrades. The most affecting fictional treatment of the Iraq War to date.

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Nijinsky

Back in print for the first time in 40 years, Richard Buckle's soaring biography of dancer, innovator, and artistic rebel Vaslav Nijinsky spotlights the genius of Russian ballet in both his revolutionary performances and stormy offstage life.

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Store of the Worlds

The uncategorizable tales of Robert Sheckley ranged from hilarious social satires to haunting science-fiction fables. Jonathan Lethem and Alex Abramovich have collected the most potent of his myriad visions in this new volume.

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The Little Red Guard

Wenguang Huang's revealing memoir of family life in 1970s China turns on the moment when his grandmother makes a request that pits tradition against the realities of life under Communism during the Cultural Revolution.

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God's Hotel

Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco is the last American survivor of an institution that goes back to the Middle Ages -- an almshouse whose sole function is to care for the sick and the destitute. Victoria Sweet's journey there -- as a doctor, as a student of the hospital's astonishing history, and as a human being -- constitutes one of the most moving, and eye-opening memoirs of the year.

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Central Park

Consider the paradox: For more than a century, one of the iconic elements of the concrete-encased island of Manhattan has been the 800-plus acres of verdant green at its heart. This literary celebration of the park's unique charms, which- which collects work from authors including Paul Auster, Jonathan Safran Foer, Bill Buford, and Susan Cheever, is as varied and inviting as its namesake. Take it to the nearest spot of green, spread a blanket, and enjoy.

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We Heard the Heavens Then

Aria Minu-Sepehr's elegant memoir captures a family and nation undergoing radical change in the wake of the 1979 revolution. The son of a prominent Iranian general, the author offers a  rare, illuminating  perspective on a society's transformation, all the more valuable given the tense Iranian-American relations in decades since.

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April 18: "[W]ould it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament…?"

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…

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