Somewhere Towards the End
by Diana Athill (Norton, $25)
It takes a special writer to generate “more than modest pleasure” from a book-length reflection on living through old age, said Michael Dirda in The Washington Post. But because 91-year-old Diana Athill stopped caring what other people thought of her somewhere around 75, her latest memoir is “unusually appealing.” Employing “easygoing prose and startling honesty,” the former book editor keeps the cruel truths of senility always in sight as she measures her limited present against her eventful past.
Things I’ve Been Silent About
by Azar Nafisi (Random House, $27)
Think of Azar Nafisi’s new book as an expansion on the main theme of her Reading Lolita in Tehran, said Geoff Pevere in The Toronto Star. Though the details in this follow-up concern Nafisi’s upbringing in pre-revolutionary Iran by “a coldly judgmental mother and a devoted but pliant father,” none of the delicate family history that Nafisi shares is as compelling as watching how the fictions people tell about themselves “shape personal, cultural, and political destinies.”
The Mercy Papers
by Robin Romm (Scribner, $22)
Fiction writer Robin Romm was 28 when she was summoned home to see her mother for the last time, said Leah Hager Cohen in The New York Times. Unlike most memoirs about grief, her chronicle of the painful three weeks that followed is a “righteous, concentrated stream of anger.” By allowing her “inner 2-year-old” to stamp and wail over the death’s unfairness, Romm has achieved something rare: a “furious” blaze of a book about loss that ultimately offers solace in spite of itself.
A Journal for Jordan
by Dana Canedy (Crown, $26)
When the man who’d won her heart died in Iraq in 2006, said Leah Greenblatt in Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times’ Dana Canedy “channeled her grief” into this memoir for their 7-month-old son. Though Canedy’s “often workmanlike prose somewhat mutes the book’s power,” it’s impossible not to be affected by the story of a steady, self-assured soldier who left behind 279 pages of his own life advice to the infant son he had met only once.