Paperback Picks

A new book might just help with the post-holiday blues, no? Here are six freshly released paperbacks, all highly recommended.

Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom” by David W. Blight (Simon & Schuster, $22). Winner of numerous awards, including the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in history, this thick volume explores the remarkable life of Douglass, from his early days as a fugitive slave to his fame as an orator, abolitionist and political theorist. The book is “cinematic and deeply engaging,” wrote a New York Times reviewer, calling it “a tour de force of storytelling and analysis.”

The New Iberia Blues” by James Lee Burke (Simon & Schuster, $16.99). The 22nd book in Burke’s popular mystery series featuring Louisiana sheriff’s deputy Dave Robicheaux involves an escaped murderer, a visiting Hollywood director and a washed-up corpse nailed to a cross. In a starred Kirkus Review, the reviewer noted: “Many of the character types, plot devices, and oracular sentiments are familiar from Burke’s earlier books. But the sentences are brand-new, and the powerful emotional charge they carry feels piercingly new as well.”

Working” by Robert Caro (Vintage, $16). Speaking of Pulitzer Prize-winning biographies, Caro is a two-time winner of the award, for his work documenting the lives of Lyndon B. Johnson and Robert Moses. This slender book, a bestseller, is a collection of essays by Caro, now in his 80s, about interviewing, researching and writing. An NPR reviewer of “Working” called the book “an inspiring — and reading it as a journalist, honestly sometimes shame-inducing — window into the seemingly superhuman reporting, researching, writing, patience, and above all, willpower that have powered his reinvention of the political biography and history genre.”

The Night Tiger” by Yangsze Choo (Flatiron, $17.99). A bestseller (thanks to Reese Witherspoon’s book club, which chose it as a selection last spring), Choo’s second novel takes place in 1930s Malaya (now Malaysia), where a child is given a mysterious mission by a dying man. A starred Kirkus Review called it a “sumptuous garden maze of a novel that immerses readers in a complex, vanished world.”

The Last Romantics” by Tara Conklin (HarperCollins, $17.99, available Jan. 14). Reading Seattle author Conklin’s second novel last year, I thought of Ann Patchett’s “Commonwealth,” Angela Flournoy’s “The Turner House” and Chloe Benjamin’s “The Immortalists” — all books that irresistibly pull the reader into a family. “The Last Romantics” is an elegant page-turner focusing on a group of siblings making their separate ways through decades but bound by an invisible, twisting cord. It’s a haunting story about leavings, or about how things and people shift to fill an empty space — or don’t.

The Lost Man,” by Jane Harper (Flatiron, $16.99). Unlike Australian author Harper’s two previous novels featuring police investigator Aaron Falk (“The Dry” and “Force of Nature,” both terrific), this one’s a stand-alone set not in the city of Melbourne, but in the remote outback, where “next-door neighbors” live three hours apart. It’s an eerie, mesmerizing setting for a story about a mysterious death in an isolated family; I remember the pages flying by.