Sunday, February 16, 2014

Weekend Picks for Book Lovers

by Jocelyn McClurg)

What should you read this weekend? USA TODAY's picks for book lovers include a look at modern love by The New York Times' Daniel Jones, and a young-adult novel featuring B-movie monsters.

Love Illuminated by Daniel Jones; William Morrow, 224 pp.; non-fiction

As editor of The New York Times' "Modern Love" column, Daniel Jones does a herculean job. He has received some 50,000 submissions in his almost 10 years at the helm.

Out of this barrage of work he has published a goodly number of beautifully written and insightful essays — pieces which, taken together, say much about the times in which we live.

In Love Illuminated: Exploring Life's Most Mystifying Subject (with the Help of 50,000 Strangers), Jones uses his own experiences and what he has learned from his singular education at the Times to take readers on an amicable ramble through love's many phases.

He admits he has no concrete lessons to impart – "love is about curiosity, not certainty," he writes – and he relies on his personable writing style and innate curiosity to trace, per the book jacket, "the arc of human relationships."

USA TODAY says *** out of four. For "fans of 'Modern Love' who enjoy affairs of the heart or just like to know that their own messy love lives are hardly aberrations."

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith; Dutton, 432 pp.; fiction

A young-adult novel in which the end of the world appears on two fronts: a teenage love triangle and man-sized killer praying mantises.

USA TODAY says ***. "An odd and often amusing look at an apocalypse, young adults in the heat of hormone-laden sexual tension, and insects just too big to squash with your foot."

An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris, Knopf, 448 pp.; fiction

Harris's new espionage novel finds its chilling thrills in the unlikeliest of places – the notorious Dreyfus Affair that gripped France from 1894-1906, in which a Jewish officer was wrongly accused of treason.

USA TODAY says **** out of four. "Outstanding… An Officer and a Spy is historical fiction that matters."

Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan; Ballantine, 472 pp.; fiction

The author of Loving Frank now reimagines the real-life courtship and adventures of globe-trotting Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson and his American wife, Fanny Osbourne.

USA TODAY says *** out of four. "Warmhearted…(there's) a lot of fun to be had along the way."

My Life in Middlemarchby Rebecca Mead; Crown, 278 pp.; non- fiction
Journalist Rebecca Mead celebrates George Eliot's most famous novel, which she has loved since reading it as a teenager.

USA TODAY says ****. "Delightful… her passion proves infectious."

Contributing reviewers: Roberta Bernstein, Brian Truitt, Jocelyn McClurg, Kevin Nance, Carmela Ciuraru