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'Your Face in Mine' a bold take on race, identity by Jess Row

Late in his novel "Your Face in Mine," Jess Row cites a parable attributed to Zhuangzi, a Chinese philosopher from the fourth century BC. "Zhuangzi awoke from dreaming that he was a butterfly," he writes, "… And didn't know whether he was a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi." It's the kind...

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  • 'Kingdom of Ice' uncovers a polar adventure frozen in time
    'Kingdom of Ice' uncovers a polar adventure frozen in time

    The great achievement of Hampton Sides' unforgettable new book about a group of American Arctic explorers only becomes apparent halfway into its 400-plus pages.

  • 'Panic in a Suitcase' a vivid immigrant tale of two cities
    'Panic in a Suitcase' a vivid immigrant tale of two cities

    Jewish immigrants have provided a rich source of comedy — some of it dark — in American literature. Think Bernard Malamud, Philip Roth, Gary Shteyngart and, more recently, Anya Ulinich. Make way for a fresh female voice. Yelena Akhtiorskaya, born in Odessa, Ukraine, in 1985, immigrated with...

  • Rick Perlstein's 'The Invisible Bridge' spans Nixon-Reagan transition
    Rick Perlstein's 'The Invisible Bridge' spans Nixon-Reagan transition

    I watched Watergate unfold as if it were a spectator sport. Not just the Irvin committee hearings, at which John W. Dean intoned that "there was a cancer growing on the presidency," but also the House Judiciary Committee hearings, the press conferences, all of it.

  • In Amy Bloom's 'Lucky Us,' sisters remain plucky in face of tragedy
    In Amy Bloom's 'Lucky Us,' sisters remain plucky in face of tragedy

    "There is no such thing as a good writer and a bad liar," Amy Bloom wrote in her 1999 short story "The Story," which remains my favorite of all her work. It's a vivid bit of double vision, Bloom commenting on the process of storytelling even as she engages in it, and it...

  • 'Close Your Eyes' looks at normal moments amid nuclear horrors
    'Close Your Eyes' looks at normal moments amid nuclear horrors

    Chris Bohjalian is a master of depicting the small moments — the inevitable routines — that follow in the wake of a trauma. In "The Light in the Ruins," an 18-year-old girl crafts clothes for two dolls as she watches Axis warplanes fly over Tuscany. In "The Double Bind,"...

  • 'Unruly Places' is a guide to weird, ruined and wonderful spots
    'Unruly Places' is a guide to weird, ruined and wonderful spots

    I've been to only three of the "unruly places" featured in Alastair Bonnett's terrific new book (the City of the Dead in Cairo, the "Time Landscape" in Manhattan, and International Airspace). If that seems a low number, bear in mind that other locations include...

  • Jim Ruland's 'Forest of Fortune' brilliantly taps casinos' irony
    Jim Ruland's 'Forest of Fortune' brilliantly taps casinos' irony

    Things are rotten in the state of Thunderclap. Or at least they are rotten for the people who wash up at the remote, desert Indian casino somewhere in the mountains inland of San Diego in Jim Ruland's masterpiece of desperation, delusion and misdeeds, "Forest of Fortune."

  • 'Tigerman' finds Nick Harkaway in retro superhero mode
    'Tigerman' finds Nick Harkaway in retro superhero mode

    Nick Harkaway's fiction grapples with the curious power of genre fiction's cheap, potent end, from the post-apocalyptic kung fu of "The Gone-Away World" to the clockwork bees and London gangsters of "Angelmaker." His third novel, "Tigerman," sets the...

  • 'Lena Finkle's Magic Barrel' conjures a new literary form
    'Lena Finkle's Magic Barrel' conjures a new literary form

    It's tempting to frame Anya Ulinich's "Lena Finkle's Magic Barrel" in terms of its antecedents: Bernard Malamud and Anton Chekhov, on the one hand, both of whom are referenced in the narrative, and on the other, graphic novelists such as Marjane Satrapi and Harvey...

  • 'The Girls From Corona del Mar' explores friendship's evolution
    'The Girls From Corona del Mar' explores friendship's evolution

    In the opening chapter of Rufi Thorpe's debut novel, "The Girls From Corona del Mar," 15-year-old best friends Mia and Lorrie Ann get drunk on jug wine with the intention of breaking one of Mia's toes. Mia, the narrator, has just gotten an abortion, and she needs to get...

  • In 'The New Arabs,' millennials are key to remade Middle East
    In 'The New Arabs,' millennials are key to remade Middle East

    It's winter 2011, and I am living in Istanbul. I wander old streets in Turkey's cultural capital, past thousand-year-old mosques that were once churches, trying to understand the place that has become my home. Streets day and night are thronged by young Turks, flush from a thriving...

  • 'The Book of Life' a bewitching end to All Souls Trilogy
    'The Book of Life' a bewitching end to All Souls Trilogy

    Diana Bishop, a witch and Yale historian, and Matthew Clairmont, a vampire and Oxford biochemist, have been searching for Ashmole 782 (a.k.a. the Book of Life) through the first two books of Deborah Harkness' All Souls Trilogy. Harkness has immersed and spellbound readers with her...

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