Barbara’s Picks, Mar. 2013: Pt. 3: Peter Higgins, Michael Moss, Ruth Ozeki, and M.G. Vassanji

Higgins, Peter. Wolfhound Century. Orbit: Hachette. Mar. 2013. 380p. ISBN 9780316219679. $25.99. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. FANTASY
Inspector Vissarion Lom has been ordered to Mirgorod, his country’s corrupt capital, to ensnare a terrorist. He’s chosen not simply because he’s an outsider amid the city’s secret police, cabaret girls, and rabid party loyalists—not to mention golems and giants—but because he has a bit of angel stone in his head. Lots of excitement about this debut, crossover potential envisioned, and how cool (and how challenging) is setting a work in an alternate Stalinist Russia?

Moss, Michael. Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us. Random. Mar. 2013. 448p. ISBN 9781400069804. $28; eISBN 9780679604778. Downloadable: Random. HEALTH/FITNESS
A Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter at the New York Times, Moss delivers an indictment of the processed-food industry. In fact, he’s been doing it pretty regularly in the pages of the Times, with challenges to USDA Food Safety Practices and stories of tainted meat that make your stomach clutch. Here, he takes the Big Three—salt, sugar, and fat—and shows how the food industry has used these basic, inexpensive ingredients to get us addicted to food that’s slowly killing us.

Ozeki, Ruth. A Tale for the Time Being. Viking. Mar. 2013. 432p. ISBN 9780670026630. $27.95. LITERARY FICTION
In Tokyo, shy, bullied 16-year-old Nao determines to end it all—but not before chronicling the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun. After the 2011 tsunami, a novelist named Ruth opens a Hello Kitty lunchbox that’s fetched up on an island off North America’s West Coast and is immediately drawn into the story of Nao and her ancestor. Ozeki lives part-time in British Columbia and was recently ordained a Buddhist nun, so in some ways she’s writing close to home. But here’s betting that this award-winning novelist (My Year of Meats), also honored for her work in film (Body of Correspondence), will take her narrative to the next level while remaining engagingly accessible; the best-selling Meats was translated into 11 languages and sold in 14 countries. Sales rep enthusiasm, too.

Vassanji, M.G. The Magic of Saida. Knopf. Mar. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780307961501. $25.95; eISBN 9780307961518. LITERARY FICTION
Born in Tanzania to an African mother and an Indian father, married to an Indian woman, and a longtime resident of Canada, Kamal Punja would appear to be a true cosmopolitan. But after decades in Canada, he suddenly determines to return home both to resolve his conflicted racial identity and to find a young woman named Saida, fulfilling a promise that he would return to her. Two-time Giller Prize winner Vassanji examines core issues of self and belonging with a magic of his own.

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.