The books in this week's roundup are united less by theme than by the fact that they're all new and noteworthy. But before we get to that, since Monday is Holocaust Remembrance Day, I'm going to throw in a sixth book — “Vera Gran: The Accused” by Agata Tuszynska (Knopf, 303 pages, $28.95). Vera Gran, a torch singer in the Warsaw Ghetto who survived the war, was implicated as a Nazi collaborator. Tuszynska's book deftly explores the allegations and the nuances of complicity and guilt. It is a story about wartime morality that raises more questions than it answers — which is precisely what Holocaust Remembrance Day is about.
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We'll start the rest of this week's roundup with another book that aims to seek more than answer: Christian Wiman, who lives here in Chicago and recently announced he will soon leave his post as editor of Poetry magazine, published “My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer” Tuesday.
My Bright Abyss by Christian Wiman, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 182 pages, $24
"My Bright Abyss" evolved from an essay Wiman wrote about his faith after being diagnosed with an incurable blood cancer. Wiman examines God in the context of life — life at its most challenging and most banal moments. He writes: "Faith steals upon you like dew: some days you wake and it is there. And like dew, it gets burned off in the rising sun of anxieties, ambitions and distractions."
Ginkgo by Peter Crane, Yale, 384 pages, $40
More wonders: Peter Crane, dean of the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and former director of The Royal Botanic Gardens, has written a biography of the ginkgo tree — a beautiful and fascinating tree that has survived more or less unchanged for 200 million years. It's a personable story, as Crane examines the fossil record seeking to trace the plant's evolution and the tree's cultural impact.
Always Apprentices, edited by Vendela Vida, Ross Simonini and Sheila Heti, Believer Books, 371 pages, $16
A different sort of cultural impact: As The Believer celebrates its 10th anniversary, "Always Apprentices," a collection of 22 conversations between writers, reminds us how much the magazine has contributed to the literary conversation. The book features quite a cast, including Don DeLillo, Joan Didion and Aleksandar Hemon.
Odds Against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 306 pages, $26
Speaking of literary stars: Nathaniel Rich's highly anticipated "Odds Against Tomorrow" came out last week, and it feels very much of this moment. It sweeps you along on a current of high anxiety about the ever-shifting economy and the ominous threat of superstorms like Sandy, which flooded Manhattan last fall.
WOOL by Hugh Howey, Simon & Schuster, 509 pages, $26
Post-apocalypse: Hugh Howey has a knack for creating new worlds. The post-apocalyptic one he created in "WOOL" swallows the reader up — just as good science fiction should. The one he has created for himself in the publishing industry — refusing several traditional deals before forging one in which he keeps digital rights (bit.ly/14NXix8) — is quite a feat, too.
Jennifer Day is editor of Printers Row Journal.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times