LIFE WITHOUT CHILDREN: Stories, by Roddy Doyle. (Viking, $25.) Doyle’s latest book is a collection of stories set during the recent lockdowns; the air of desolation has a dark power and the resilient humor of the Irish is everywhere. Many of the stories show how the pandemic made routine problems—empty nest syndrome, relationship problems, the anxiety of a certain age—much more acute. “The guy certainly seems to have a facility to create characters from scratch and make them stick,” writes Daphne Merkin in her review. “Not to mention the sly humor, the ability to break the fine line between pathos and bathos and write unsentimental about sad people and situations, and the gift for quicksilver dialogue that can sound like a poetic form of vernacular.”
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The mysterious Italian writer has received international attention with her intimate depictions of Neapolitan life, femininity and friendship.
WE DON’T KNOW OURSELVES: A Personal History of Modern Ireland† by Fintan O’Toole. (Liveright, $32.) A prolific journalist and critic, O’Toole felt his own sixty years did not deserve an autobiography, so he instead wrote a “personal history” of contemporary Ireland detailing the country’s dizzying 20th-century shifts – economic, religious, moral, social, political and geopolitical — coming alive through vignettes from O’Toole’s own life. “The real achievement of this book is that it achieves a conscious form of history telling, a personal hybrid that feels distinctly honest and humble at the same time,” writes Colum McCann in his review. “O’Toole didn’t invent the shape, but he comes close to perfecting it. He embraces the contradictions and the confusion. He weaves the flag instead of waving it.”
LIFE BETWEEN THE TIDES, by Adam Nicolson. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30.) A historian and wildlife writer explores tide pools — those shifting ecosystems that form where the ocean meets land — evoking their tiny inhabitants in luminous, beautiful detail. “He operates in a tradition developed by Annie Dillard and perpetuated by the likes of David Haskell – closely observing a discrete patch of earth (or sea) and considering it his muse,” writes Ben Goldfarb in his review. “There’s brutality here, but also brilliance—anemones, despite literal brainlessness, skillfully traded their rivals—and astonishing tenderness.”
WAYS AND RESOURCES: Lincoln and His Cabinet and the Financing of the Civil War, by Roger Lowenstein. (Penguin Press, $30.) Lowenstein brings impressive energy and drama to what would otherwise seem like a dry subject: how the North’s financing of the Civil War contributed to the eventual victory. “Wars cost both money and lives, and the Civil War required what Lowenstein calls ‘gigantic’ sums,” writes Eric Foner in his review. “In the hands of a less able author, the litany of bonds, notes, loans, and forms of currency he discusses can become mind-numbing. But Lowenstein is a clear stylist who can explain financial matters to readers who lack specialist knowledge.”
RUN AND HIDE, by Pankaj Mishra. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26.) This novel, by the author of the 2017 non-fiction book ‘Age of Anger’, follows three university classmates who come of age at a time of rapid economic progress in India and embark on different career paths into the 21st century. After realizing their once impossible dream of joining India’s elite, they now have to reckon with the high cost of success. “It is not enough to call ‘Run and Hide’ a ‘novel of ideas,’ because unlike many novelists, Mishra’s ideas about the state of the world are the ideas he thought of,” writes Jonathan Dee in his review. This is ‘a novel of modern India that takes some of the great phenomena from ‘Age of Anger’ and – as good social novels have always done – prompts us to work at the level of feeling by bringing back those abstractions. to human scale.”