Also of interest. . .

In outsiders and iconoclasts


by Nathan McCall (Atria, $25)

Journalist Nathan McCall is not “an especially artful” novelist, said Laura Miller in In this neighborhood drama about a white couple who buys a home in Atlanta’s black Fourth Ward, he creates “one magnificent character” and a slew of near caricatures. But its depiction of the dangerous gulf that still divides the races is so honest and “so devoid of phony uplift” that “most readers will forgive it for not being better written.”

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Surrender Is Not an Option

by John Bolton (Threshold, $27)

When John Bolton arrived at the United Nations, he was often “caricatured as a bombastic tub-thumper,” said Brendan Simms in The Wall Street Journal. This unsparing memoir makes clear that his critics were wrong about at least one thing. He’s a small-government conservative, not a messianic neocon, and even President Bush disappoints him. His book should be “the first port of call” for anyone trying to understand recent U.S. policy concerning Iran, North Korea, and nuclear nonproliferation.

A Free Life

by Ha Jin (Pantheon, $26)

Ha Jin’s deliberately paced, new 600-page novel will test many a reader’s “inner Buddhist,” said Walter Kirn in The New York Times. Jin’s first book set in America follows a Chinese couple almost “bank deposit by bank deposit” as they climb the ladder to economic stability. Though the details are no doubt accurate to life, they accumulate so slowly that Jin’s story proves about as heart-pounding as a “ritual breathing exercise.”


by Tim Jeal (Yale, $38)

Tim Jeal’s “riveting” new life of the explorer Henry Morton Stanley was the best British biography published this year, said Christopher Hart in the London Sunday Times. “The story is frequently horrific, dramatizing afresh all the old questions about colonialism, slavery,” and Africa’s so-called Heart of Darkness. The American-born Stanley has often been lazily dismissed as a racist brute, but Jeal has come up with the goods to correct the record.

Power to Save the World

by Gwyneth Cravens (Knopf, $28)

You don’t expect to find an environmentalist and erstwhile anti-nuclear protestor touring a nuclear power plant and marveling at its safety features, said Tom Pelton in the Baltimore Sun. Gwyneth Cravens’ conversion to nuke boosterism makes this “fascinating but flawed” book a must read for anybody interested in practical solutions to our energy problems. Too bad the author’s enthusiasm goes too far: She never mentions that the earth may run out of low-cost, high-grade uranium in just 70 years.

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