A list of newly released paperbacks.

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“Runaway” by Alice Munro (Vintage, $14.95). Eight stories by the great Canadian short-story writer, many of them viewing deep-seated longings in long perspective. Several tales here rank with her finest.

“The Clerkenwell Tales” by Peter Ackroyd (Anchor, $13.95). A novel by the preeminent chronicler of London’s history, portraying religious and political intrigues in 1399 London. Mary Ann Gwinn noted Ackroyd’s “evocation of a time when the currents of everyday life flowed through channels of religion, astrology, prophecy and drama.”

“The Finishing School” by Muriel Spark (Anchor, $12.95). A school rife with sexual and artistic rivalries provides the setting for the British writer’s latest novel which, Misha Berson wrote, proves Spark still to be “a shrewd chronicler of human self-delusions and hypocrisies.”

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“Oh, Play That Thing” by Roddy Doyle (Penguin, $14). The second installment in the prize-winning Irish author’s “Last Roundup” trilogy follows fleeing assassin Henry Smart from Dublin to 1920s America, where he invents a new identity for himself. Robert Allen Papinchak found this “a commendable but uneven read.”

“Magic Seeds” by V.S. Naipaul (Vintage, $14). The Nobel laureate’s sequel to “Half a Life” continues the story of anti-hero Willie Chandran who, after travels in London and East Africa, returns to his native India where he joins an offshoot of a revolutionary group. Richard Wakefield said Naipaul “makes high art of the convolutions of a life as tangled and unplanned as a wild jungle vine.”

“Casanova in Bolzano by Sándor Márai, translated by George Szirtes (Vintage, $13.95). The second novel to appear in English by the Hungarian writer (“Embers”) portrays famed seducer Giacomo Casanova on the run from prison and immersed, at a roadside inn, in a marathon debate over the nature of love. Richard Wallace admired the way Márai’s “sensual, psychological studies of character … evolve into a kind of theater of the life force.”

“Mantrapped” by Fay Weldon (Grove, $14). The satirist blends memoir with fiction (a tale about a woman trading bodies with a man) in a book Misha Berson found “untidy, often diverting and sometimes genuinely revealing.”

“The Courage Consort” by Michel Faber (Harcourt, $14). Three novellas by the author of “The Crimson Petal and the White,” about fragile souls in unusual situations. Deloris Tarzan Ament said Faber finds “drama in death and in the unraveling of causes and effects.”

“Prep” by Curtis Sittenfeld (Random House, $13.95). This debut novel about prep-school life was a surprise best seller. Melinda Bargreen found the book “engaging.”

“Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders” by John Mortimer (Penguin, $14). The first case that Mortimer’s beloved barrister ever handled is at long last recounted in this full-length Rumpole novel.


“His Excellency: George Washington” by Joseph J. Ellis (Vintage, $15). A biography of the Revolutionary War leader and first American president. Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett felt Ellis was able “to strip away myth from a venerated figure, yet reveal him still as an accomplished leader, a hero despite his human flaws.”

“Rosa Parks: A Life” by Douglas Brinkley (Penguin, $13). The noted historian’s short biography of the civil-rights activist comes out in paperback just in time for readers whose interest in Parks was stirred by the tributes to her following her death last month.

“A Tale of Love and Darkness” by Amos Oz, translated by Nicholas de Lange (Harvest, $16). An autobiography by the celebrated Israeli writer (“My Michael”). Skye K. Moody enthused, “Besides an evocative, intensely gripping tale of self-discovery [Oz] offers a rare account of Jerusalem transforming from post-war British control into a vital city within the independent state of Israel.”

“Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe” by Simon Singh (HarperPerennial, $15.95). An account of how our universe got off to a great thumping start. Jim Downing said Singh’s portraits of individual scientists “yield a rich picture of the practice of science itself.”

“Holding Back the Sea: The Struggle on the Gulf Coast to Save America” by Christopher Hallowell (HarperPerennial, $13.95). Reissue of a 2001 book that warned, “It has become a fact of life that Louisiana is simply disappearing into the Gulf of Mexico.” With a new introduction by Hallowell.

“Wodehouse” by Robert McCrum (Norton, $15.95). A life of British writer P.G. Wodehouse, whose novels still delight readers and whose humorous radio broadcasts while a prisoner in Nazi Germany got him into trouble with his countrymen after the war. Adam Woog called McCrum’s treatment “sympathetic but even-handed.” With a new afterword by the author.

“The Future of Ice: A Journey into the Cold” by Gretel Ehrlich (Vintage, $13.95). Ehrlich follows “This Cold Heaven,” about her travels in Greenland, with a book about her visits to Spitzbergen, the Barents Sea and other cold locales affected by global warming. Barbara Sjoholm wrote, “The book could hardly be more timely or more powerful.”

“Freedom Rising: Washington in the Civil War” by Ernest B. Furgurson (Vintage, $16). A portrait of our capital city while our country was at war with itself. Steve Raymond found this “a fascinating work.”

“The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought” by Marilynne Robinson (Picador, $14). A collection of writings by the Pulitzer Prize-winner (“Gilead”) on family, Puritanism and other topics. Wingate Packard found these essays “vigorous and well-crafted.”

“Tattoo for a Slave” by Hortense Calisher (Harcourt, $14). The veteran novelist, now in her 90s, delivers a memoir about her family, addressing, in part, whether her Southern Jewish grandmother, born in 1827, kept slaves.

Compiled by Michael Upchurch,

Seattle Times book critic,

with contributions cited from staff

or freelance critics for The Seattle Times.