Jennifer Close's novel of women facing adulthood after college reminded NPR critic Rachel Syme of J. Courtney Sullivan's Commencement or Mary McCarthy's The Group. "The three leading ladies of Close's highly praised debut novel feel like everyone they know is tying the knot, and they are stuck in a constant loop of attending bridal showers and throwing rice," Syme explains. "Close has a style all her own that is both charming and relatable. With any luck, this will be a small breakout hit."
Set before and after World War II, Amanda Hodgkinson's novel focuses on a young Polish family that reunites, after six years of separation, in a sweet little cottage in England. Everything promises to be good. The husband who went off to war now has a job and a house, and his family is returning to him. But there are secrets that keep life from being so simple. As Rona Brinlee of The BookMark bookstore in Atlantic Beach, Fla., sums up, Hodgkinson "knows how to let secrets simmer and boil over in surprising ways."
Renowned actor Christopher Plummer has made more than 125 films since he began his professional career as a Shakespearian stage performer in the late 1940s. Plummer's memoir, In Spite of Myself, tells how this great-grandson of a Canadian prime minister, a self-described "young bilingual wastrel, incurably romantic, spoiled rotten," gave up the ski slopes to break into theater, "not from the streets up but from an Edwardian living room down."
For years, Mohamed ElBaradei was the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. That work, which earned him the Nobel Peace Prize, is the subject of his memoir, The Age of Deception. He writes that he believes the nuclear nonproliferation system, designed to prevent more nations from getting nuclear weapons, is broken. As he tells NPR's Steve Inskeep, "We need to fix the system in two important ways." First, "the weapon states [those that have nuclear weapons] need to send the message loud and clear ... that they are moving toward a world free from nuclear weapons." The other necessary step, he says, is to bring control of the nuclear enrichment process "out of national control and under multinational control" so that the key component of weapons is more difficult to obtain.
Few will argue about America's colleges and universities being critical to our economic and intellectual future. And by many measures, that future looks promising: Competition for places in the country's top schools is fiercer than ever, more families are willing to pay higher tuition, and employers are putting a greater premium on a college degree. But Don Tapscott, co-author of Macrowikinomics, argues that universities are woefully behind the times. Tapscott tells NPR's Neal Conan that the traditional lecture model in American universities is no longer appropriate for a generation that has grown up making, changing and learning from digital communities. "We need to move toward a collaborative model of learning that's student focused, [that's] highly customized and that is a model appropriate for a new generation that learns differently," he says.
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. EDT on Twitter. Follow her at @charabbott or check out the #followreader hashtag.