Crime fiction grandmaster Elmore Leonard, who turned 86 this month, returns in good form with the story of a documentary filmmaker who goes to the Horn of Africa to catch some Somali pirates in action. Accompanied by a 72-year-old sailor and a spy camera, she finds not only pirates, but lands in the midst of an al-Qaida plot to blow up a tanker with liquefied natural gas.
As a justification for his actions, George W. Bush's memoir succeeds admirably. The former president revisits nearly all the controversial decisions of his tenure and defends them with vigor. The war in Afghanistan was necessary to root out al-Qaida and the Taliban, and to help create a "free society" in Central Asia, he says. The war in Iraq turned out to be based on faulty intelligence, but the consequence of the American occupation was a chance for democracy to take root on the Persian Gulf. Avoiding the larger issues raised by his time in office, Bush acknowledges some tactical errors, but admits to no major blunders.
In his third and final volume about Theodore Roosevelt, Pulitzer Prize-winner Edmund Morris offers a detailed portrait of Roosevelt's post-presidential years. The book encompasses the ex-president's yearlong hunting and specimen-gathering trip to Africa within three weeks of leaving the White House in 1909; his criticism of his chosen successor, William Taft; his unsuccessful run for a third presidential term in 1912; and his decline in health. It's a witty, vivid portrait of the man and his times.
Writer and explorer Dan Buettner has traveled the world in search of the globe's "blue zones," the countries and societies with the greatest happiness, life expectancy and other strengths. Thrive focuses on how everyone can attain a better quality of life by following the happiest countries' examples. Buettner argues that relationships are really the key to lifelong happiness, noting that "the happiest people in America socialize about seven hours a day," and "you're three times more likely to be happy if you are married ... and each new friend will boost your happiness about 10 percent."
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.