In fiction, Pete Dexter repays his real-life debt to his stepfather and Tracy Chevalier explores the life of an uneducated woman who became a pioneering 19th century fossil hunter. In nonfiction, there's dish on Google and the 2008 campaign, and Zadie Smith's essays show faith in inconsistency.
The act of passing on a passion is one of the greatest gifts you can give. Book critic Maureen Corrigan promises that the books on this list — mostly slim, unforgettable volumes about places or things that the writers themselves deeply love — are merrily infectious.
This week's staff picks: Biographies from bad-boy Andre Agassi and 'Rogue' politician Sarah Palin. Stephen King returns to form in a new novel, Zadie Smith fascinates in collected essays, and science writer Nicholas Wade argues that God is just an evolutionary adaptation.
In the new collection Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, author Zadie Smith explores her writing process and the people who have influenced her. Smith tells NPR she doesn't write every day, though she wishes she did — and that she used writing as a way to mourn her father.
The payoff in Zadie Smith's book of essays, Changing My Mind, comes not from her discussion of her literary influences but in three essays about her "gentle, sentimental" father, Harvey Smith, a salesman who died at 81 in 2006.