13 New Books We Recommend This Week – The New York Times

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Reading picks from our staff critics and Book Review editors.

Intellectual pursuits, criminal pursuits, fleshly pursuits: The thrill of the chase runs through this week’s recommended titles, from John Walsh’s “Circus of Dreams, ” about literary London in the 1980s, to Frank Close’s “Elusive, ” about the physicist Peter Higgs and his search for a subatomic particle, to Lina Wolff’s novel “Carnality, ” in which the intellectual and the criminal and the fleshly get together for a raucous free-for-all.

Other pursuits: The longtime New Yorker writer Alec Wilkinson tries to learn math late in life, Niven Govinden’s new novel follows a film director’s quest for his next project and Nicole Pasulka’s “How You Get Famous” explores the search for stardom and creative freedom in Brooklyn’s thriving drag scene.

We also recommend a couple of books about sex crimes and their consequences — Ken Auletta’s account of Harvey Weinstein’s downfall, and John Wood Sweet’s history of a rape trial in 1793 New York — along with a story collection set on the Penobscot Indian Nation reservation, a history of textiles plus their uses, and Eleanor Brown’s novel about an unconventional extended family. Finally, two books about geopolitics and international relations: Louisa Lim’s “Indelible City” looks at Hong Kong’s efforts to defy colonialism, and Meenakshi Ahamed’s “A Matter associated with Trust” traces the long, complicated dynamic between India and the United States. Happy reading.

Gregory Cowles
Senior Editor, Books
Twitter: @GregoryCowles

In this mix of memoir and literary history, Walsh, the former literary editor of The Sunday Times of London, writes about the bookish life in that city when Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Jeanette Winterson and their generation were in the increasingly bright limelight. In Walsh’s memory, book-launch parties, which got an upgrade in the ’80s, were especially resplendent; he recalls them as “golden and Gatsby-like extravaganzas. ”

“One of the best things about ‘Circus of Dreams’ is Walsh’s memories not of the big beasts of literature, but of the smaller players — the editors and agents and clubmen plus hacks and P. R. people, the various legends in their own lunchtimes. ”

From Dwight Garner’s review

Constable | $36. 99


Bennedith, a 45-year-old Swedish writer, travels to Madrid on an artist’s grant. There she meets a stranger named Mercuro who begs her to hide him “for a few days. ” Bennedith invites him to stay at her apartment. Each of them is yearning for a transformative event to get life’s juices flowing again.

“Bennedith and Mercuro become entwined because deeply as two people can: sexually, spiritually, criminally…. They attenuate their safety plus intensify their exhilaration inside roughly equal measure. ”

From Molly Young’s review

Other Press | Paper, $17. 99


Auletta’s latest book is a cradle-to-jail biography of Harvey Weinstein, the movie mogul convicted of third-degree rape and another sex felony in New York and awaiting trial on further charges in California. Auletta frames the story in the lengthy shadow of “Citizen Kane. ” The author is, of course , Jerry Thompson, the reporter looking for his antihero’s Rosebud: the mysterious missing object or influence that will explain his personality.

“Going along for the ride of Weinstein’s slow rise and fall, even with the particular able Auletta at one’s side, can feel… dispiriting, like getting on one of those creaky roller coasters at a faded municipal playland. ”

From Alexandra Jacobs’s review

Penguin Press | $30


Wilkinson begins this memoir by admitting that he passed high school math only because he cheated. “A Divine Language” recounts the year he spent, not long ago, when he was well into his 60s, trying to learn the algebra, geometry and calculus that had confounded him decades before. As he was getting older, he wanted to see if their teenage confusion reflected a lack of mathematical skill or a dearth of discipline.

“Wilkinson has accomplished something… moving and original, braiding his stumbling attempts to get better at math with his deepening awareness that there’s an entire universe of understanding that will, in some fundamental sense, forever lie outside his reach. ”

From Jennifer Szalai’s review

Farrar, Straus & Giroux | $29


This background tells the fascinating, plus unusual, story of a rape trial in 1793 New York, when the young victim bravely faced her much wealthier attacker in court with repercussions that can still be felt today.

“The Sewing Girl’s Tale” provides “an opportunity, set apart from the heated politics of abortion regulation, in order to reflect on the power we give today to legal authorities whose views about basic matters — like what it means for a man to sexually assault women — are so different from what we think, or want to think we think, now. ”

Through Tali Farhadian Weinstein’s review

Holt | $29. 99


Govinden’s elegant novel about the creative process follows a film auteur who is in Italy for the premiere of his latest work but is already looking ahead to what’s next. A chance encounter with a writer — and later, her out-of-print novel — leads to some ideas, though the gap between vision and real life may prove too difficult to bridge.

“To simply outline its trajectory is to give short shrift to the alchemy by which Govinden, the author of five previous novels, so utterly occupies his narrator’s mind…. One of its many pleasures is its arresting and authoritative rendering of Maestro’s cinematic eye. ”

From David Leavitt’s review

Deep Vellum | $25. 95


In this brash, irreverent story collection, Talty illuminates life plus death on the Penobscot Indian Nation reservation by following David, a Penobscot boy, via adventures and troubles that will evoke loss, intergenerational trauma and more.

“Talty has an incredible ability to take the seemingly disparate events of David’s life and reveal how interconnected they are, how each tiny decision becomes something bigger…. A rich and vast picture associated with what it is to be alive, along with stunning clarity, empathy and unwavering honesty. ”

From Amil Niazi’s review

Tin House | Paper, $16. 95


This book about the Scottish physicist and the boson named after him, sometimes called the “God particle, ” is a clear and vivid account of a major scientific breakthrough, taking the reader through much of the history of particle physics while introducing key players plus insights along the way.

“This is a very human telling of the ways that we’ve figured out at least some of the mysteries of our universe since the mid-20th century…. He ends his book on a note of additional mystery, reminding us that there are great achievements in physics to come and that tantalizing questions still shine in front of us. ”

From Deborah Blum’s review

Basic | $30


A former journalist dismantles the received wisdom about Hong Kong’s history and replaces it with an engaging, exhaustively researched account of its long struggle for sovereignty from China and — at least since important — from Britain.

“Throughout this particular colonial history Lim sprinkles vivid details that underscore the racism and ‘willful disregard’ with which Britain governed its last major colony…. Lim places the recent protests in the territory’s centuries-long history of rebellion. ”

From Amy Qin’s review

Riverhead | $28


Ahamed’s exquisitely written, thoroughly researched and insightful account traces the difficult, complicated relationship of two huge democracies that need each other as allies but cannot quite be friends.

“Those wishing to understand the complex relationship between these two countries will find Ahamed’s perceptive, evenhanded book the best available on the topic, both a pleasure to read and deeply informative. ”

From Rajan Menon’s review

HarperCollins | Papers, $18. 99


In this diverting and thought-provoking novel, three families who are connected by means of adoption embark on an ambitious vacation that goes awry after an announcement from their kids’ birth mother. Brown raises serious questions about how families are formed, and how they endure.

“We all have different expectations of our relatives. What happens when we’re inextricably linked not by blood but by paperwork? Brown’s story shows the best- plus worst-case scenarios. ”

From Elisabeth Egan’s Group Text column

Putnam | $27


In her wide-ranging and personal history-memoir-travelogue, Finlay explores the often complex and always fascinating histories of textiles like linen, cotton, wool, silk and synthetics.

“Teases out the stories behind the materials — exalting them as builders of civilizations, instruments of advancement and keepers of sacred tradition. ”

Through Raissa Bretaña’s review

Pegasus | $32


This history of Brooklyn’s drag scene follows a handful of influential queens who shaped the field, drawing on some 100 interviews and many years of reporting to explore larger issues.

“Funny, poignant, dishy and even enlightening, all at the same time. ”

From Alexander Chee’s review

Simon & Schuster | $27. 99


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