Like Tatiana de Rosnay's best-selling Sarah's Key, this novel is set in Paris, but it explores a personal tragedy, in contrast to the national tragedy of her earlier novel. As Melanie returns with her architect brother, Antoine Rey, from a vacation on an island they visited as children with their mother, Melanie is gripped so forcefully by a repressed memory about their mother that she gets in a car wreck. Antoine starts questioning the version of their mother's death they have always accepted, and discovers some disturbing possibilities. As he faces off with his difficult son, and helps his daughter through a tough loss of her own, his affair with a sexy hospital mortician teaches him to embrace life more fully.
Mostly content in her job as the sole African-American oceanographic researcher in Woods Hole, Mass., and her marriage to a white fellow scientist, Josie finds she can't escape her working-class Cleveland family and the addictions that have frayed their connections. As her brother, Tick, struggles to find his footing after losing his job and marriage to drugs, Josie walls herself off from her feelings for her parents — whose divorce stemmed from her father's alcoholism — and her husband, who loves Josie more than she allows herself to love him. Instead, she falls into an affair with newly arrived researcher Ben, the only other African-American at the lab. Told in Josie's voice, the story hauntingly explores how the mistakes people make affect everyone around them.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair presents a firsthand account of his years in office, from the aftermath of Princess Diana's death to the war on terrorism to his relationships with both British and international leaders. In addition to his extensive thoughts on the West and the Muslim world, he delves into what he considers essential political skills: "One of the things people don't understand probably about politics is, it depends enormously on being able to get into a situation of comfort and good faith with somebody," he told NPR's Steve Inskeep. "I always say to any younger person who wants to take up a political career: Yes, it's about ideas; it's about programs; it's about manifestos. But above all else, it's about people. It's about what makes them tick, what makes them as they are. And if you don't understand that or don't enjoy actually trying to understand it, then don't go into politics."
In Chasing the Sun, Richard Cohen offers a deep meditation on how the sun affects our culture, our history and our myths. He also explains that the sun goes through quiet and not-so-quiet cycles — and is about to enter a stormy phase in which extra-violent explosions will release more than a billion tons of matter into space at millions of miles per hour. These storms have long been associated with the appearance of sunspots, those little dark blemishes that show up on the sun's surface. "There is now no doubt that sunspots can violently disrupt events on Earth," Cohen writes. Electricity gets knocked out. Power fails. But the more sensitive question, at least these days, is how sunspots affect global warming. Cohen seems very wary about the connection between the two.
Most linguists think that language is hard-wired into us and has little effect on how we see the world, but former Cambridge fellow Guy Deutscher argues that both nature and nurture shape language and, consequently, culture. He focuses on how language reflects three major concepts: color (in the world's languages, black and white appear first, then red, then either green or yellow, only followed by blue after the first five are in place), location (some languages are egocentric, others geocentric, others both) and gender (some languages use gender heavily, others little or not at all). In each area, he shows how theory and research have evolved into current thinking. Named one of the best books of 2010 by The New York Times, The Economist and The Financial Times, Through the Language Glass is a passionate, witty and erudite exploration of culture's ability to shape the mind.
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.