A list of newly released paperbacks.
“I Am Charlotte Simmons” by Tom Wolfe (Picador, $15). The author of “The Bonfire of the Vanities” takes a jaundiced look at college-campus life — the sex! the booze! — in a hefty novel that Melinda Bargreen called “a wild ride, one that will entertain, appall and illuminate readers along the way.”
“Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” by Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury, $15.95). The British writer’s sprawling debut novel depicts a 19th-century England where two magicians are trying to change the course of history. Nisi Shawl found the book an “entertaining and sophisticated fantasy.”
“True North” by Jim Harrison (Grove, $14). A novel about a wealthy but unhappy family on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Mary Ann Gwinn felt the book lacked “the propulsive power” of Harrison’s best novellas, although some strands of it delivered “full-meal Harrison, weaving together philosophy, religion, sex, sensuality … and an elegiac appreciation for the natural world.”
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“The Falls” by Joyce Carol Oates (HarperPerennial, $14.95). Political corruption, environmental degradation, a suicide and a very famous landmark (Niagara Falls) supply the crucial components of Oates’ 48th novel. Ellen Emry Heltzel called this “a story written with Shakespearean proportions, pitting the power of blood ties against the needs of the individual and the larger community.”
“Folly and Glory” by Larry McMurtry (Simon & Schuster, $14). The last volume in McMurtry’s “Berrybender Narratives” concludes the adventures of a British noble family in the Old West. Adam Woog called the Berrybender books “a quartet of short, sharp, intensely satisfying novels.”
“The Cat’s Pajamas” by Ray Bradbury (HarperPerennial, $12.95). A collection of stories by the veteran science-fiction writer (“Fahrenheit 451”).
“Inheritance” by Lan Samantha Chang (Norton, $13.95). Widely praised debut novel about two sisters enduring China’s turbulent, strife-torn decades of the 1930s and 1940s. By the author of “Hunger: A Novella and Stories.”
“Before You Know Kindness” by Chris Bohjalian (Vintage, $13.95). A novel by the author of “Midwives” about a shooting that leads to a showdown between animal-rights activists and a gun manufacturer. Skye K. Moody found this a “thought-provoking personal and political drama.”
“Had a Good Time” by Robert Olen Butler (Grove, $13). A suite of stories inspired by vintage postcards the author came across. Erik Lundegaard noted, “These people — these lives — really existed, and the fictional component Butler adds resonates emotionally if not always intellectually.”
“Something Rotten” by Jasper Fforde (Penguin, $14). In Fforde’s latest Thursday Next novel, the book-addled detective tries to keep “The Merry Wives of Windsor” from becoming entangled with “Hamlet.” Adam Woog called Fforde a “wildly imaginative author.”
“Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib” by Seymour M. Hersh (HarperPerennial, $14.95). Hersh suggests how the Bush administration’s sidestepping of the Geneva Conventions led to prisoner abuses at Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. John Hartl noted last October that the book, drawn from articles published in The New Yorker, was “remarkably up-to-date.” A new afterword by Hersh takes the story up to April 2005.
“Hard News: Twenty-One Brutal Months at The New York Times and How They Changed the American Media” by Seth Mnookin (Random House, $14.95). The scoop on Jayson Blair, Howell Raines and the unhappy staff at The New York Times during one of the most trying moments in the newspaper’s history.
“No Turning Back: The Life and Death of Animal Species” by Richard Ellis (HarperPerennial, $15.95). A science writer’s survey of animals lost to extinction or barely surviving as a species. Lynda V. Mapes found the book “deeply informed and crafted with artistry.”
“Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852-1912” by Donald Keene (Columbia University Press, $24.95). The renowned scholar of Japanese history and literature writes a life of Emperor Meiji that David Takami called “well researched and eminently readable.”
“Jerome Robbins: His Life, His Theater, His Dance” by Deborah Jowitt (Simon & Schuster, $19.95). A biography of the Broadway choreographer (“West Side Story”). Lynn Jacobson noted Jowitt’s “impeccable dance-historical credentials,” and was glad that the focus was “less on gossip … and more on the work.”
“Becoming Something: The Story of Canada Lee” by Mona Z. Smith (Faber & Faber, $15). A biography of the African-American actor, activist and athlete who rose to fame in the 1930s. Misha Berson found this a “thoughtful, thorough biography” worthy of its subject.
“Hey Rube: Blood Sport, the Bush Doctrine, and the Downward Spiral of Dumbness” by Hunter S. Thompson (Simon & Schuster, $13). A collection of columns about sports, politics and sex written for ESPN.com. By the author of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.”
“Borges: A Life” by Edwin Williamson (Penguin, $18). A life of the great experimental Argentine writer Jorges Luis Borges. Clarence Brown called this a “splendid biography.”
“Spice: The History of a Temptation” by Jack Turner (Vintage, $14.95). An account of the European search for spices that triggered the Age of Exploration. Adam Woog found this book “maddeningly disorganized but intriguingly varied and rarely dull.”
Compiled by Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times book critic, with contributions cited from staff or freelance critics for The Seattle Times.