A list of newly released paperbacks.
“War Trash” by Ha Jin (Vintage, $14.95). The latest novel by the National Book Award winner (“Waiting”) portrays the plight of a Chinese soldier held as a POW during the Korean War. Richard Wallace found the book “remarkable for its focus on the day-to-day activities of its inmates.” PEN/Faulkner Award winner.
“The Master” by Colm Tóibín (Scribner, $14). Tóibín’s Man Booker Prize-nominated novel gets inside the head of writer Henry James as few biographers have, evoking a James who is hyper-observant and seemingly kind, yet just a little creepy in the way he manipulates his circumstances in order to ensure that nothing really touches him.
“The Jane Austen Book Club” by Karen Joy Fowler (Plume, $14). The stories of five women and one man come to light as they work their way through Austen’s oeuvre. Melinda Bargreen remarked, “Fowler proves a witty ironist, not unlike Austen herself.”
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“Pushkin and the Queen of Spades” by Alice Randall (Mariner, $13) A black professor of Russian literature can’t handle it when her only son 1) becomes a football star and 2) takes up with a Russian stripper, in a book that Barbara Lloyd McMichael called “intentionally provocative stuff, designed to open your eyes and make your heart burn.”
“Holy Fools” by Joanne Harris (Perennial, $13.95). The author of “Chocolat” pens a novel about an actress-rope dancer in 17th-century Brittany who seeks sanctuary in a convent, only to have her past catch up with her. Melinda Bargreen said Harris’ “careful research … gives her flamboyant prose a ring of authenticity.”
“Ideas of Heaven” by Joan Silber (Norton, $13.95). This “ring of stories” connects the lives of a cruise-ship entertainer, a gay choreographer, a 16th-century composer and others in a most unexpected way. Nominated for a National Book Award.
“Nothing Lost” by John Gregory Dunne (Vintage, $14.95). Dunne’s final novel focuses on a racial murder in a Great Plains city. Adam Woog deemed this “a wide-ranging, shrewd and bittersweet story that will stand with the best of Dunne’s work.”
“An Unfinished Season” by Ward Just (Mariner, $13). An unexpected death, conflicting class interests and the aftershocks of war trigger the action in this tightly wrought coming-of-age tale set in 1950s Chicago. The novel, one of Just’s best, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist.
“The Body of Jonah Boyd” by David Leavitt (Bloomsbury, $13.95). The gay writer delivers a satire set on a West Coast campus in 1969. Mary Brennan found the book “quietly funny and eminently readable [with] a neat little plot somersault at the end.”
“Skinny Dip” by Carl Hiaasen (Warner, $12.95). In the Florida writer’s latest whodunit, a clueless marine biologist throws his expert-swimmer wife off a cruise ship, hoping to drown her, only to “wet” her appetite for revenge.
“Sweet Land Stories” by E.L. Doctorow (Random House, $12.95). Five stories portraying the American spiritual landscape from different angles, ranging in place from Kansas to California.
“Deception” by Denise Mina (Back Bay, $13.95). A husband tries to clear his psychiatrist-wife’s name after she is convicted of murdering a paroled serial killer she was treating. Adam Woog called this “a deft psychological thriller about, among other things, the blindness of love.”
“My Life” by Bill Clinton (Vintage, $17.95). In stores Tuesday: Clinton’s 1,000-page plus autobiography, described by Melinda Bargreen as “charming, chaotic, well-reasoned, self-indulgent and exceedingly long-winded.” The paperback includes a new preface and afterword. For those who can’t handle it all at once, Vintage is also offering “My Life” in two volumes. “My Life, Volume 1: The Early Years” ($7.99) covers his boyhood and early political career. “My Life, Volume 2: The Presidential Years” will be published June 28.
“Hitchhiker: A Biography of Douglas Adams” by M.J. Simpson (Justin, Charles & Co., $14.99). A life of the author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” with an afterword on the film adaptation of the book. Nisi Shawl said Simpson offers “a step-by-ambitious-step account of Adams’ professional career,” while training a candid eye on Adams’ “tendency to exaggerate and invent.”
“A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration” by Steven Hahn (Belknap Harvard, $18.95). A University of Pennsylvania history professor explains how African Americans “transformed themselves into a political people” in the six decades after the Civil War. Winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the Bancroft Prize.
“The Whale and the Supercomputer: On the Northern Front of Climate Change” by Charles Wohlforth (North Point, $14). A focus split between Alaskan Eskimo whalers and Arctic research scientists animates this study of the effects of global warming. Linda V. Mapes commented, “Wohlforth’s back-and-forth narrative illuminates the tension between traditional and scientific knowledge.”
“The Outlaw Sea: A World of Freedom, Chaos, and Crime” by William Langewiesche (North Point, $13). The intrepid reporter writes about piracy, pollution and possible terrorism-in-the-making on our oceans, and is especially sharp on decaying oil tankers, both at sea and in Gujarat, India, where they go to be scrapped.
“Status Anxiety” by Alain de Botton (Vintage, $13.95). The British writer outdoes himself with this history of how humans have traditionally accrued status over the centuries. He also offers tips on how, with the help of philosophy, art, religion, politics and “Bohemia,” we can transcend the materialist status quo imposed on us today.
“The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty” by Kitty Kelley (Anchor, $15.95). The popular biographer takes on the whole extended First Family. With a new chapter and afterword.
“Copies in Seconds: Chester Carlson and the Birth of the Xerox Machine” by David Owen (Simon & Schuster, $13). Anyone who remembers carbon copies and cyclostyle handouts will appreciate just how far mechanical copying has come in 45 years. Here’s the scoop on how the plain paper copier was invented in 1960.
“The Habit: A History of the Clothing of Catholic Nuns” by Elizabeth Kuhns (Image/Doubleday, $14.95). Even if you didn’t grow up Catholic, you’ve got to love those hats! Here’s a look at how the good sisters have dressed over the last 1,600 years.
Compiled by Michael Upchurch, Seattle Times book critic, with contributions cited from staff or freelance critics for The Seattle Times