Over the past 40 years, Don DeLillo has written more than a dozen novels, including White Noise, Falling Man, Libra and Underworld. But 2011's The Angel Esmeralda is a collection of short stories — nine brief flashes, which, like DeLillo's longer works, center on characters who feel out of sync with the worlds around them. Short stories were actually the first form of literature that DeLillo began writing. Arranged chronologically, with the earliest written in 1979 and the latest written in 2011, the collection traces the arc of American life over the past three decades, as well as the arc of the author's career.
Justice John Paul Stevens retired in 2010 after 35 years on the Supreme Court. Appointed by President Gerald Ford, Stevens, 92, is the third-longest-serving justice in the court's history. His memoir, Five Chiefs, is about the five Supreme Court chief justices he knew personally. Stevens clerked during Fred Vinson's appointment, practiced law during Earl Warren's tenure, and served on the court with Warren Burger, William Rehnquist and John Roberts. Stevens speaks fondly of the three chief justices he served with, though he concedes that Burger had some unfortunate flaws and Rehnquist was in some ways too efficient. However, he gives Roberts high marks for efficiency and fairness.
The Occupy and Tea Party movements have similar opinions when it comes to the 2008 bank bailout, the federal deficit, government spending and the influence of corporations and money on Congress. Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig says there's a reason both the left and the right feel there's too much power in too few hands. "We have a government where members spend between 30 and 70 percent of their time raising money to get back to Congress, [and a Congress] that is increasingly dependent on the funders," Lessig tells NPR's Guy Raz. In Republic, Lost,Lessig maps out a potential plan to make people the funders of Congress, instead of corporations or Wall Street. He argues that funding campaigns strictly through small-dollar contributions is the best place to start.
According to NPR book critic Liz Colville, Emmy-winning, ratings-grabbing talk show host Ellen DeGeneres' third book, Seriously ... I'm Kidding, is written in "a loose and whimsical writing style that has readers feeling as if they're hanging out with the comedian as she wanders around her Beverly Hills home, trying to write a book." Colville writes, "With her dogged optimism and goofy dance moves, there is something endlessly likable about DeGeneres, and her personality jumps off every page. ... The celebrity conversation in this country may never cease, but DeGeneres is doing her part to give it some desperately needed dignity — and to make it more fun to listen to."
That is All, the third installment in comedian John Hodgman's trilogy of eccentric almanacs,is mostly fictive, if oddly entertaining. In addition to superstitions surrounding oceangoing vessels that involve women's underwear, That Is All compiles the names of 700 "ancient and unspeakable gods, known for their wrath, their cosmic indifference to humanity, and their tentacles." Hodgman tells NPR's Robert Siegel that he learned of these things through "some visions that I had at night, under the influence of my albuterol asthma inhaler." The Daily Show analyst and former Apple pitchman also chronicles horrors to come — like the Century Toad, which lives at the center of the Earth, and the collapse of the American book-publishing industry — with a series of marginal calendar entries that bring to life the Mayan forecast of the end of time.
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.