Barbara’s Picks, Jan. 2013, Pt. 1: Chevalier Goes American and Shubin Sees the Universe Within

Chevalier, Tracy. The Last Runaway. Dutton. Jan. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780525952992. $26.95. HISTORICAL FICTION
A new Chevalier novel is always headline-making, but what’s especially intriguing here is the setting; for the first time ever, the American-born, London-based Chevalier is using America as a backdrop. Leaving home after suffering a disappointment, English Quaker Honor Bright endures illness during a nasty transatlantic voyage and ends in 1850 Ohio, where she finds life cold and hard and the people‚ even the Quakers‚ pragmatically unprincipled. Then she becomes involved in the Underground Railroad. Just how far will she go for the sake of her ideals?

Shubin, Neil. The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People. Pantheon. Jan. 2013. 240p. ISBN 9780307378439. $25.95; eISBN 9780307907868. Downloadable: Random Audio. SCIENCE
A University of Chicago paleontologist and evolutionary biologist, Shubin is famed for discovering the fossilized Tiktaalik roseae, a mosaic of primitive fish and derived amphibian, as he describes it. He’s also famed for his best-selling Your Inner Fish, which parallels human anatomy with the structures of the fish that first wriggled landward 375 million years ago. In his new book, he goes one step further, explaining how the universe’s 14-billion-year history is reflected in our bodies, right down to our molecules. This book is getting an enormous push, with a 100,000-copy first printing and a ten-city tour. Be prepared.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.