by James Franco
The star of such films as 127 Hours, Spider-Man and Milk is also an accomplished painter and writer — and a graduate student who has studied at both Yale University and the Rhode Island School of Design. And now comes his debut collection of 11 stories, Palo Alto, about California teenagers responding to the wonder of growing up with violence and confusion. Some critics praised the book for its realistic portrayal of complex experiences, while others criticized the bland writing and lack of insight in some of the stories. The frenetic pace of following his many passions suits Franco, who tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that he has an "addictive personality." "If there's something I like," he explains, "it's hard for me to not engage with it fully."
224 pages, $14, Scribner Books
The Murder Room: The Heirs Of Sherlock Holmes Gather To Solve The World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases
by Michael Capuzzo
Though the Vidocq Society is real, this crime-fighting club sounds like something straight out of a Sherlock Holmes novel. Once a month, its members — mostly detectives and forensic experts — meet at an old Victorian dining room in the middle of Philadelphia to eat lunch and solve crimes that have perplexed investigators for decades. "I think of it as CSI to the 10th power but real," says journalist Michael Capuzzo. In his new book, The Murder Room, he details some of the 20-year-old club's more famous investigations, such as the brutal 1984 murder of a night manager named Terri Brooks in Falls Township, Pa., who was stabbed inside the Roy Rogers restaurant where she had been working.
464 pages, $17, Gotham Books
Last Call: The Rise And Fall Of Prohibition
by Daniel Okrent
Between 1920 and 1933, it was constitutionally forbidden to sell, transport or manufacture "intoxicating" beverages for consumption in the United States. But Prohibition didn't stop drinking; by 1925, there were thousands of speakeasy clubs in New York City, while bootlegging operations sprang up around the country. In Last Call, Daniel Okrent explores how both the suffrage and anti-immigration movements helped in the shaping and passage of the 18th Amendment and how Prohibition served as a stand-in for several other political issues. "Prohibition became the same sort of political football that people on either side would use trying to struggle to get it towards their goal, which was control of the country," Okrent tells Terry Gross.
480 pages, $17, Scribner Books
More Money Than God: Hedge Funds And The Making Of The New Elite
by Sebastian Mallaby
More Money Than God is a primer on America's most obscenely lucrative investment tool. Hedge funds, as Mallaby explains, are like the Ferraris of finance. They're elite, turbocharged, smaller and less regulated than other investment vehicles. Unlike banks and brokerages, hedge managers invest some of their own money — which, Mallaby says, makes them less reckless. When they crash, they don't take the whole economy with them. But when they're winning? The book describes a few moguls who devalued the currency of Thailand — plunging millions into poverty — to walk away with over $1 billion in profits; how top earners took home at least $240 million apiece in 2006; and who even managed to benefit wildly from the subprime-mortgage crisis.
512 pages, $17, Penguin Books
The Obama Diaries
by Laura Ingraham
On her way home from a pedicure in May 2010, conservative political commentator Laura Ingraham says, she discovered a manila envelope on the hood of her car. When she picked it up, a deep baritone voice called out from a nearby stairwell: "Just read it. You'll know what to do." The shadowy figure then disappeared into the darkness without another word. The envelope contained copies of what appeared to be diary entries written by President Obama, his family and high-ranking administration officials. Informative and entertaining, The Obama Diaries will inspire both laughter and critical thinking about the future of the nation and the man currently at the helm.
416 pages, $16, Threshold Editions
Charlotte Abbott edits "New in Paperback." A contributing editor for Publishers Weekly, she also leads a weekly chat on books and reading in the digital age every Friday from 4-5 p.m. ET on Twitter. Follow her at @charabbott or check out the #followreader hashtag.