The following article first appeared in The National Book Review
Five books that people are talking about this week -- or should be:
1. The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff (Penguin Books, reprint edition)
Writer/editor Ebershoff's debut novel reimagines the life and world of Lili Elbe, a married Danish painter known as Einar Wegener, who in 1930 was among the first men to be surgically transformed into a woman. This tenderly rendered story hits the movie houses this weekend with Eddie Redmayne as Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe, and Alicia Vikander as his wife Gerda Wegener.
2. The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs by Elaine Sciolino (W.W. Norton & Co.)
Espressos and baguettes, transvestite cabaret, and a 100-year-old bookstore are all part of this lushly endearing portrait of a Parisian street, joyfully rendered by Sciolino, a contributing writer and former Paris bureau chief of the New York Times. Her tour of this vibrant urban swath - which has been depicted by Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Émile Zola in Nana, and François Truffaut in "The 400 Blows" - has added poignance after the recent terrorist attacks, which reminded the world anew that there is only one Paris.
3. The Death of Cancer: After Fifty Years on the Front Lines of Medicine, a Pioneering Oncologist Reveals Why the War on Cancer Is Winnable - and How We Can Get There by Vincent T. DeVita and Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn (Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Admirers of Siddhartha Mukherjee's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Emperor of All Maladies will appreciate DeVita's memoir (lucidly written with his daughter), told from his perspective as a pioneering National Cancer Institute director, President of the American Cancer Society, and director of the Yale Cancer Center. DeVita, the developer of the first successful chemotherapy treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma, reflects on a half century of work and lays out a manifesto for eradicating cancer entirely.
4. Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America by T. J. Stiles (Alfred A. Knopf)
Custer may be famous for his last stand, but Stiles (whose biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt, The First Tycoon, won both a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award in 2008), investigates the whole story of the General's robust life -- from childhood, West Point, and the Civil War, to his vanity, seedy gambling, and determination to force Native Americans from their lands. It is a portrait of a fascinating, complicated, and undeniably flawed icon of American history.
5. The Grownup, by Gillian Flynn (Crown)
This short story by the author of the mega-bestseller Gone Girl, which was originally published in an anthology entitled Rogues, features a woman who lives a life of petty fraud and "aura reading," until she finds her way to an eerie Victorian home - and actual creepiness ensues. Flynn's story offers up her trademark psychological cat and mouse games, and a nibble to hold readers' interest until the next Gone Girl arrives.