E.L. Doctorow, author of the novels Ragtime and Billy Bathgate, is a master of long-form narrative. But his latest effort, All the Time in the World, is a collection of short fiction. In "The Writer in the Family," Doctorow gives a sharp account of how a budding artist, residing in the bosom of his family in the New York City borough of the Bronx, discovers his great literary powers. But all these stories also work on another level, revealing the mysteries that lie at the heart of human behavior.
In The Lady Matador's Hotel, a novel just over 200 pages, Cristina Garcia packs together a group of characters who could populate an epic. There's a Japanese-Mexican-American female bullfighter visiting an unnamed Central American capital for a competition. There are also vengeful left-wing guerrillas, military men, businessmen and lawyers, waiters and poets and pregnant mistresses. Garcia creates her effects by force of language, by metaphor and by plumbing the minds and hearts of her characters.
After the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, author Teju Cole finally felt free to write about New York as he'd always wanted to, with the general structure of a character walking around the metropolis and making discoveries. By keeping in mind the erasures of the Native American past and the history of slaveholding in New York, he found it more possible to comprehend the trauma of Sept. 11. The result is Open City, a debut novel that is being called a new landmark in post-Sept. 11 fiction.
When author Claire Dederer first stepped into a yoga studio, she was dubious about the whole experience. "The scene was the very picture of white female self-indulgence," she writes in her memoir, Poser. "There were no Indian people in this room, that was certain." But Dederer stuck with it, as yoga appeared to be the answer to everything in her life as a hip young mother in north Seattle, ultimately teaching her to loosen up and let go of her perfectionism.
Freakonomics used basic economic principles to change the way many people looked at ordinary things, like standardized testing and real estate. Now, another economist from the University of Chicago, Tobias Moskowitz, has taken lessons from economic theory and applied them to sports — another area where cliches and mythology tend to dominate the field of accepted knowledge. Scorecasting will challenge most sports fans' basic assumptions about how to watch and evaluate professional games.
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.