10 New Books We Recommend This Week

by Msnbctv news staff


MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS, by Joshua Henkin. (Pantheon, $26.95.) Alzheimer’s disease tests a brilliant mind and a marriage in Henkin’s new novel, which follows a Shakespeare professor and his wife from fledgling romance to unexpected loss. Full of vivid details of evolving neighborhoods, the book radiates a tenderness for a New York. Jean Hanff Korelitz reviews it for us: “The specific letting-go that all New Yorkers must master if we don’t wish to be crippled by nostalgia — especially now, if we do hope to see our city’s resurgence — is particularly nuanced when a city neighborhood is also a college town,” she writes, “but Henkin more than meets this challenge.”

HOW THE WORD IS PASSED: A Reckoning With the History of Slavery Across America, by Clint Smith. (Little, Brown, $29.) Smith, a poet and journalist, spoke with scholars, guides, heritage fanatics and tourists as he visited sites key to America’s slavery past. The result is timely and profound, an eloquent view of a history we have yet fully to confront. “Gregarious, learned and engagingly open-minded, the book meets America where it is on the subject — which is to say, all over the place,” Julian Lucas writes in his review. Smith “skillfully braids interviews with scholarship and personal observation, asking, ‘How different might our country look if all of us fully understood what had happened here?’”

THE HOLLY: Five Bullets, One Gun, and the Struggle to Save an American Neighborhood, by Julian Rubinstein. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $28.) After a former gang leader turned peace activist shot a local gang member in Denver, Rubinstein, a journalist, returned to his hometown to investigate. He uncovered a story of discrimination and neglect all too common in American cities. “By exposing the state surveillance, the crooked policing, the structural racism, the broken promises and the poverty that had plagued the Holly for decades,” Marcia Chatelain writes in her review, Rubinstein “helps us realize that the problem of violence is far greater than two men and one gun.”

THE DIVORCE, by César Aira. Translated by Chris Andrews. (New Directions, paper, $11.95.) Aira unfurls a chain of surreal, often hilariously absurd vignettes in this slim and dreamlike novel, beginning with a chance encounter at a restaurant in Buenos Aires. Reading Aira can feel like being inside a picture, jumping from one plane of color to another. The book “slides vertiginously between the mundane and the fantastical,” our reviewer, Sheila Glaser, writes. “Aira captures the texture of the world by flying away from it. Rather than a rejection of reality, his dreamlike sequences are an acknowledgment of it.”

THE EXTENDED MIND: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain, by Annie Murphy Paul. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28.) Paul exhorts readers to “think outside the brain.” We are not solo actors, she insists, forced to rely only on what’s in our heads to solve problems; rather, we’re networked organisms with the power to transform our thinking. “Paul’s view is that we are less like data processing machines and more like soft-bodied mollusks, picking up cues from within and without and transforming ourselves accordingly,” Susan Pinker writes in her review. “Paul writes with precision and flair.”



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