by Ihsan Taylor)
HERE AND NOW: Letters 2008-2011, by Paul Auster and J. M. Coetzee. (Penguin, $16.) After meeting at a literary festival in 2008, the novelists Paul Auster and J. M. Coetzee began exchanging letters as a way to “strike sparks off each other.” Their collected correspondence, between Auster’s home in Brooklyn and Coetzee’s across the world in Australia, touches on family, travel, various books and films. But they also pose topics for discussion, from sports to philosophy to international politics.
LITTLE KNOWN FACTS, by Christine Sneed. (Bloomsbury, $16.) The theme of Sneed’s savvy novel of family and celebrity isn’t so much the treachery of Hollywood as the treachery of the human heart. At its center is Renn Ivins, a charismatic 50-something movie star and the defining presence in the lives of his pampered children, his bitter ex-wives and his fawning coterie.
THE SLEEPWALKERS: How Europe Went to War in 1914, by Christopher Clark. (Harper Perennial, $18.99.) One of the Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2013, this is a meticulous account of the events leading up to World War I. Clark, a professor of modern European history at Cambridge, describes the war’s protagonists as “sleepwalkers . . . blind to the reality of the horror they were about to bring into the world.” Our reviewer, Harold Evans, called this book “a masterpiece.”
WHITE IS FOR WITCHING, by Helen Oyeyemi. (Riverhead, $16.) Oyeyemi’s eerie third novel concerns Miranda and Eliot Silver, twins in an insular English town. When their mother, a photojournalist, is killed while on assignment in Haiti, Miranda begins suffering strange ailments, and the Silvers’ ancestral home, haunted by generations of displaced family members, becomes fiercely possessive of her.
THE ANATOMY OF VIOLENCE: The Biological Roots of Crime, by Adrian Raine. (Vintage, $17.95.) Is there such a thing as a natural born killer? Raine, a psychologist, reviews an ingenious (and occasionally controversial) body of research showing how genetics and environmental influences can conspire to create a “criminal brain.” He also addresses the thorny ethical issues this science raises about prevention and punishment.
THE FUN PARTS: Stories, by Sam Lipsyte. (Picador, $15.) Lipsyte, whose novels include the deviously comic “Home Land” (2004) and “The Ask” (2010), expertly works the line between hilarity and pathos in these stories: A boy eats his way to self-discovery; a fantasy role-playing group endures the whims of its tyrannical Dungeon Master; a heroin addict conceives of a get-rich-quick scheme to write a children’s book about the boxer Marvin Hagler.
HELL-BENT: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga, by Benjamin Lorr. (St. Martin’s Griffin, $15.99.) For Lorr, what started as a whim — he took up Bikram yoga (or “hot yoga”) after ballooning into a chubby young professional — became a nation-spanning investigation of a subculture populated by athletic prodigies, wide-eyed celebrities, medical miracles and predatory hustlers.