James Bradley, Atul Gawande, Paolo Giordano, & More | Barbara’s Picks, Oct. 2014, Pt. 4

Anderson, Gillian & Jeff Rovin. Vision of Fire. 451: S. & S. Oct. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781476776521. $25. SF/ADVENTURE
Noted actor Anderson (e.g., Lady Dedlock in the BBC’s Bleak House, Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier in NBC’s new series Hannibal) must be drawing on her important role as Special Agent Dana andersongillScully in the celebrated sf horror TV series The X-Files for the new sf adventure she’s written with New York Times best-selling author Rovin. Child psychologist Caitlin O’Hara is understandably perturbed when a patient, daughter of India’s almost-assassinated ambassador to the United Nations, starts speaking in tongues. Soon teenagers worldwide are acting out—one even drowns on dry land—which leaves Caitlin pinballing around the world trying to save victims while figuring out what ominous threat is descending on the world.

Barthelme, Frederick. There Must Be Some Mistake. Little, Brown. Oct. 2014. 224p. ISBN 9780316231244. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780316231381. lib. ebk. ISBN 9780316365369. LITERARY FICTION
Divorced, fiftyish, and already forced into retirement, Wallace Webster lives alone in a Texas condo development pointedly named Forgetful Bay, where residents are passing away at a mysteriously high rate. Mulling over the various accidents that have befallen his neighbors, Wallace also reflects on his own life, both uneven past and diminished future, while considering a question that plagues us all: does settling for less mean cravenly giving in or wisely adjusting to what life dishes out? From a real writer’s writer who often ends up on the New York Times Notable Book list; kind of captures the zeitgeist, doesn’t it?

Bradley, James. The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia. Little, Brown. Oct. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780316196673. $35. HISTORY
The perennially best-selling author of Flags of Our Fathers offers an eye-opening history of chinamirageAmerica’s role in China from the 19th century through World War II and the rise of Mao. He’s here to remind us that it wasn’t always pretty—for instance, American businessmen, like FDR’s grandfather, Warren Delano, made a fortune trading in opium, which addicted millions. Important for understanding our current relations with the giant that is China; with a 300,000-copy first printing.

Carroll, Jonathan. Bathing the Lion. St. Martin’s. Oct. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781250048264. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466848917. LITERARY FICTION
Five people in a New England town awake after the same vivid dream remembering that they were once “mechanics,” charged with cleaning up the cosmic crises that materialize everywhere when Chaos swirls through the universe. Retired from that enervating job with their memories wiped clean, the five are being called back because Chaos is coming again—with a whole new bag of tricks. This high-end dystopian novel (note that it’s billed as literary, not fantasy, fiction) comes from a cultic author beloved by folks like Neil Gaiman (“ Brain-smooshing work. As if John Updike were to write a Philip K. Dick novel.”).

Gawande, Atul. Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. Metropolitan: Holt. Oct. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780805095159. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781627790550. CD: Macmillan Audio. SOCIAL SCIENCE
A general surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, professor at Harvard Medical School, director of the World Health Organization’s campaign to reduce deaths from surgery, MacArthur Fellow, and best-selling author (sales of his last book, The Checklist Manifesto, were double those of his previous titles), Gawande is also a staff writer at The New Yorker, which published the National Magazine Award–winning 2010 article that serves as the basis for this book. Here Gawande explores how contemporary medicine can do a better, more humane job of managing giordanodeath and dying.

Giordano, Paolo. The Human Body. Pamela Dorman: Viking. Oct. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780670015641. $27.95. CD: Penguin Audio. LITERARY/MILITARY
Giordano shot up like a firecracker a few years back with his debut novel, The Solitude of Prime Numbers, an international best seller about two misfit teenagers that won Italy’s Premio Strega. In the New York Times, Richard Eder called the book “an exquisite rendering of what one might call feelings at the subatomic level”—certainly appropriate, since Giordano has a PhD in particle physics. This new novel broadens Giordano’s scope by featuring a platoon of Italian soldiers—including one woman—who have been posted to a Forward Operating Base in a particularly sun-scorched, godforsaken corner of Afghanistan. The tension of sitting around waiting for danger provokes infighting even before a controversial mission goes off the rails. With a five-city tour.

Skibsrud, Johanna. Quartet for the End of Time. Norton. Oct. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780393073737. $26.95. LITERARY
Music lovers will immediately recognize Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Skibsrud’s title as that of a work French composer Olivier Messiaen composed and first performed in a German prison camp. The novel ends up at the camp by way of four lives connected by a moment of betrayal, starting with World War I veteran Arthur Sinclair’s disappearance after false accusations of conspiracy, then moving from a Siberian expedition during the war to postwar Soviet espionage to World War II and London during the Blitz. Undeniably big and ambitious.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @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.