Deborah Eisenberg is the author of several collections of short stories, including her most recent work, All Around Atlantis (Atria Books, $14).
Skylark by Dezso Kosztolanyi (Oxford University Press, $17). The premise is as simple as can be: A homely, young(ish) woman goes to visit relatives, leaving her doting parents to fend for themselves. The emotions are an utter tangle. The prose is lucid and lovely. Its ferociously sad, and very funny, too.
Into That Darkness by Gitta Sereny (Vintage Books, $17). An unblinking inquiry into the mysteries of our moral flexibility and capacity for brutality, built around exhaustive interviews with and discussions about Franz Stangl, commandant of Treblinka. Sereny seeks to understand how it is that this apparently ordinary and rather kindly Austrian policeman rose up through the gruesome hierarchy of the Third Reich to become its most efficient murderer.
The World of Yesterday by Stefan Zweig (University of Nebraska Press, $20). The author was born in Vienna in 1881, and this memoir ends with his flight from Europe in 1941. I couldnt put it down when I read it a few years ago, and I havent stopped thinking about it since. Its compelling throughout, but Zweigs vivid account of the sudden collapse of the seemingly unshakeable Austro-Hungarian Empire has urgent special interest at this moment.
The Collected Stories of Mavis Gallant by Mavis Gallant (out of print). Theres no writer whose reach is broader, whose insight is more profound, and whose skill is more breathtaking. What she can get out of a two-dimensional piece of paper is astounding.
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (Bantam Dell, $6). Another book for right this minute, as well as for eternity. A flawless examination of clichés of thought and coarseness of feeling.