Banville, Mamet, Zadie Smith, & More | Barbara’s Picks, Feb. 2018

Banville, John. Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir. Knopf. Feb. 2018. 224p. ISBN 9781524732837. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781524732844. Downloadable: Random Audio. MEMOIR/TRAVEL
Not just a memoir, this new work by Man Booker Prize winner Banville recounts his relationship with Dublin, a significant force in his life if not in his fiction until the Quirke mystery series he writes under the name of Benjamin Black. Banville grew up near Dublin, which was both lure and treat when he was younger and sometimes a source of contention once he moved there as an adult. He walks us through the city, too, recounting its social and political history and its distinctive beauties. Photographer Paul Joyce provides 48 four-color photos. With a 30,000-copy first printing.

Carey, Peter. A Long Way from Home. Knopf. Feb. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9780525520177. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780525520184. LITERARY FICTION
Held multiple times in Australia in the second half of 20th century, the Redex Trial was a rough-and-tough 10,000-mile car race that did in a lot of vehicles. Two-time Booker Award winner Carey takes us on the 1954 race with freewheeling Irene Bobs, who loves to drive fast; her brilliant car salesman husband, Titch; and navigator Willie Bachhuber, a quiz show champion who was never much good at teaching school. This being Carey, it’s more than a bunch of cars flashing by. Expect a larger sense of race and class in an Australia that’s sorting out its future. With a 50,000-copy first printing.

Cassara, Joseph. The House of Impossible Beauties. Ecco. Feb. 2018. 416p. ISBN 9780062676979. 26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062677006. LITERARY FICTION
Featured at United for Libraries’ “Out and Proud: LGBTQ Literature” at ALA annual in Chicago, Cassara’s exceptional debut is one of the best books I’ve been fortunate to introduce at conference. It opens in 1980 New York with 16-year-old Angel feeling trapped in her boy body and then weaves together the stories of various trans outsiders that Angel collects into a family, even as AIDS looms on the horizon. The book’s social truth is unsettling, its dialog deft, its characterization affecting, and its language both gritty and luscious. With a 50,000-copy first printing.

Damasio, Antonio. The Strange Order of Things: Life, Feeling, and the Making of Cultures. Pantheon. Feb. 2018. 288p. ISBN 9780307908759. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780307908766. Downloadable: Random Audio. SCIENCE
University Professor, David Dornsife Professor of Neuroscience, Psychology and Philosophy, and director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at UCLA, Damasio here clarifies the origins of life, mind, and culture by explaining homeostasis, which references any process that living things use to maintain the sort of stable conditions needed for survival. He does so by tracing human beings back biologically, psychologically, and socially to unicellular life. Pretty amazing but to be expected from the author of Descartes’ Error, a Los Angeles Times Book Award finalist, and The Feeling of What Happens, best-booked by multiple venues, including LJ. Doubtless one of the big science books of the year.

Harper, Jane. Force of Nature. Flatiron: Macmillan. Feb. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9781250105639. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250105646. CD: Macmillan Audio. MYSTERY
Harper, who had a huge international hit with the New York Times best-selling The Dry, returns with the story of a woman gone missing on a supposedly team-affirming corporate hike through rugged mountains in Australia. Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk (of The Dry) is particularly worried because missing hiker Alice Russell is a whistleblower about to reveal all about the corporation in a case Falk is coordinating. Big promotion, and readers are lining up.

Jones, Tayari. An American Marriage. Algonquin. Feb. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9781616201340. $26.95. LITERARY FICTION
A rocking hit at Book Expo and featured at LJ’s Day of Dialog, this new novel from Jones, whose Silver Sparrow was named a Best Book by LJ, as well as Slate, Salon, and O, the Oprah Magazine, concerns a marriage compromised by false imprisonment. Newlyweds Celestial, an aspiring artist, and hot young executive Roy couldn’t be happier until Roy is arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. His conviction is overturned after five years, but it’s difficult for the couple to resume any kind of intimacy. A portrait of wrecked hearts and the consequences of a skewed justice system that frequently criminalizes young black men; with a 15-city tour to New York, Atlanta,  Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Kansas City, St. Louis, Raleigh/Durham, Nashville, and Miami.

Lippman, Laura. Sunburn. Morrow. Feb. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9780062389923. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062389992. lrg. prnt. CD: HarperAudio. THRILLER
Taking her inspiration from noir master James M. Cain, top-drawer thriller writer Lippman departs not simply from her beloved Tess Monaghan series but from the style and setting of her previous work. At a small tavern in Belleville, DE, Adam pauses in his travels when he meets flame-haired Polly, who’s dreaming of heading west. They stay put, igniting a tempestuous affair even as each guards deep secrets. And when a death occurs that may or may not be accidental, they’re so wrapped up with each other that it’s hard to figure out how they might be implicated. With a 125,000-copy first printing.

Mamet, David. Chicago: A Novel of Prohibition. Custom House: Morrow. Feb. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9780062797193. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062797216. lrg. prnt. THRILLER
Mamet is a Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright and an Oscar-nominated screenwriter who’s also written three works of fiction, but this is his first novel in more than 20 years, which makes it a big deal indeed. In 1920s Chicago, where mob rule prevails, World War I veteran Mike Hodge works at the Chicago Tribune and falls hard for Annie Walsh. Then she’s murdered, and he’s out to get those responsible. Al Capone shows up for real, and the language is classic Mamet. With a 150,000-copy first printing; author appearances in Chicago (no surprise), Los Angeles, and New York.

Smith, Zadie. Feel Free: Essays. Penguin Pr. Feb. 2018. 448p. ISBN 9781594206252. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780698178885. lrg. prnt. CD/downloadable: Penguin Audio. ESSAYS/LITERARY
Swinging stupendously from White Teeth to Swing Time, Smith has given us significant fiction, but she’s also known for fresh, perceptive essays frequently appearing in The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books. This book collects essays already available and often in the canon (e.g., “Joy,” “Find Your Beach”), along with previously unpublished works. Smith ranges widely from Phillip Roth and Joni Mitchell to social media (“500 million sentient people entrapped in the recent careless thoughts of a Harvard sophomore”) and the wrath of future generations about global warming (“the thing you have to appreciate is that we’d just been through a century of relativism and deconstruction, …and this had taken the fight out of us somewhat”).

Watts, Stephanie Powell. We Are Taking Only What We Need: Stories. Ecco. Feb. 2018. 224p. ISBN 9780062749901. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062749864. SHORT STORIES
Billed as an African American Great Gatsby, Watts’s debut novel, No One Is Coming To Save Us, is the inaugural Sarah Jessica Parker Pick for ALA’s Book Club Central. This collection, originally published by BkMk Press in 2011 and getting a relaunch, focuses on working-class African Americans in the South. A Jehovah’s Witness wondering whether she’ll stay with the church, a family tentatively celebrating when a son is released on bail, a girl who’s crushed when she loses her babysitter owing to her father’s improprieties: these are among the characters in Watts’s ten stories. Winner of the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence and a finalist for PEN/Hemingway and Chautauqua honors; with a 20,000-copy first printing.

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.

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