The following article first appeared in The National Book Review
Five books people are talking about this week -- or should be:
1. The Man Without a Shadow by Joyce Carol Oates (Ecco)
In Oates's latest novel, a rising-star female neuroscientist's life becomes entangled with a famous patient, an affluent, well-educated, athletic, and charming young man who suffered brain damage - and becomes the world's most famous amnesiac. Oates dexterously charts this relationship as power dynamics shift in subversive ways.
2. The Hundred-Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey by Dawn Anahid MacKeen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
After Stepan Miskjian is separated from his family during the Armenian Genocide, he breaks free and escapes with just one gold coin and a bit of water. A century later, his journalist granddaughter found his first hand accounts of his harrowing journey, and in an attempt to learn more about him, set out on her own journey to follow his route through Turkey and Syria. The result is a compelling new take on an important, too-little-understood chapter of history.
3. A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic's Wild Ride to the Edge and Back by Kevin Hazzard (Scribner)
Hazzard kicked around as a salesman and local reporter, but after 9/11, feeling a need for greater purpose, he enrolled in emergency medical training and became an EMT. He worked for more than a decade in one of Atlanta's roughest neighborhoods, and in this travelogue of medical crises he combines pulse-racing action with moments of introspection and self-revelation.
4. Their Promised Land: My Grandparents in Love and War by Ian Buruma (Penguin Press)
Buruma's grandparents, British-born, upper-middle-class, music-loving assimilated German Jews in England, wrote letters to one another while they were separated for long stretches during the two world wars. This tender correspondence provides the foundation for a moving family chronicle. A wise and stylish historian and social critic, Buruma shows how this cosmopolitan couple survived through immensely challenging times, in large part on the basis of their close and happy union.
5. The Dogs of Littlefield by Suzanne Berne (Simon & Schuster)
Winner of the Orange Prize for A Crime in the Neighborhood, Suzanne Berne has distinguished herself for her smart, funny depiction of suburban discontent. In her new novel, Littlefield, Mass. has been named one of the Ten Best Places to Live in America, and life there becomes ferociously unhappy when a sociologist arrives to study this charmed locale, while someone seems to be poisoning all of town's dogs.