Zia Haider Rahman’sIn the Light of What We Know(pub date: Apr. 22)…we starred this globe-trotting debut novel by a writer who was born in rural Bangladesh but was educated at Oxford, Cambridge, Munich and Yale. It’s nothing if not ambitious (the epigraphs of the opening chapter cite Edward W. Said, Joseph Conrad and Melville). The protagonist is an investment banker whose marriage is in shambles; an unkempt man shows up on his doorstep, a friend from college who disappeared mysteriously and now has a major confession. “Beautifully written evidence that some of the most interesting writing in English is coming from the edges of old empires,” our critic wrote….We called David van Reybrouck’s Congo: The Epic History of a People(Apr. 1)“overlong,” but the Dutch writer makes a good case for the importance of Congo not only to Africa, but to the world. His writing is about as far from the dry textbook style you’d expect from a book with a title like that….For those of us who feel a little fuzzy on America’s relationship with Afghanistan (make that all of us), two thoughtful books are out this month: New York Times’ writer Carlotta Gall’s The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014(Apr. 8) and Anand Gopal’s No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes (Apr. 29)….It’s been heady days for lovers of literary biography: the doorstopper Mailer bio last fall, the slim e.e. cummings bio by Susan Cheever in February and now Adam Begley’s Updike (Apr. 8). Begley, who used to be the book editor at the New York Observer, “throughout displays a patent admiration, even affection, for his subject,” our reviewer wrote….Fans of Julia Glass’ National Book Award–winning Three Junes will be happy to know that her latest, And the Dark Sacred Night(Apr. 1), continues the stories of her characters’ lives from that best-selling novel….Journalist Damian Barr’s Maggie & Me is subtitled Coming Out and Coming of Age in 1980s Scotland but it feels like his stepfather Logan deserves mention in the subtitle somewhere, given that he tried to poison Barr when Barr was a child and his mother wasn’t around. Our critic says the book reveals “the remarkable resilience of a child not only surviving, but succeeding in such a grand way.” (Apr. 8)...Walter Potter was a rural taxidermist in Victorian England who fashioned cigar-smoking squirrels and rats who play cricket. It’s possible to spend hours ogling the weird, whimsical tableaux in Pat Morris ’ Walter Potter’s Curious World of Taxidermy (Apr. 17)….It’s been 20 years since Elizabeth McCracken last published a story collection; we’ve starred her new one, Thunderstruck & Other Stories (Apr. 22), saying that McCracken’s “skewed perspectives make this a powerfully if quietly disturbing volume.”…One of the best rock writers around, Lisa Robinson, has collected her memories of interactions with Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Michael Jackson, John Lennon, Eminem (the list goes on) in There Goes Gravity: A Life in Rock and Roll. We loved it: “the scope of Robinson’s memoir lends it an extraordinary spirit,” we said….The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants writer Ann Brashares is back with a teen novel, The Here and Now (Apr. 8); look for our interview with Brashares this month….The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap (Apr. 8) is Matt Taibbi ’s latest scathing indictment. “Rising from the text is a miasma of corporate and political malfeasance and immorality that mocks the platitudes of democracy,” we said in a starred review….Ahkil Sharma also returns this month with Family Life (Apr. 7), an unsentimental, moving and unexpectedly comic story about two young brothers who come to America from India and marvel at the relative wealth of their lives until one of the brothers hits his head in the pool and has severe brain damage. Sharma’s An Obedient Father was a big hit in 2000; he’s been working on Family Life since then, but this new novel’s 192 pages are severely reduced from the many, many more pages he initially wrote. He’s left the best parts in.
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