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Books for Grownups — June 2011

AARP The Magazine and the editors of Publishers Weekly have teamed up to let you know about the latest fiction, nonfiction and how-to books of interest to you. Once you've checked out the selections below, visit Publishers Weekly for reviews, author Q-and-A's and more.


Book List

The Sentimentalists, by Joanna Skibsrud

The Sentimentalists

By Johanna Skibsrud (Norton, $23.95)
Canadian poet Skibsrud tracks the intergenerational fallout of wartime atrocity in this moody and accomplished novel. It won her country’s prestigious Giller prize, and you can see why: The book is beautifully written and intricately structured (and packs a wallop at the end).

I'll Never Get out of this World Alive, by Steve Earle

I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive

By Steve Earle (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26)
The hardcore troubadour’s debut novel follows Doc Ebersole as he ministers to the junkies and prostitutes of San Antonio in 1963. Throughout these rough rounds, Ebersole is haunted by the ghost of his former patient and drinking buddy, Hank Williams.

Say Her Name, by Francisco Goldman

Say Her Name

By Francisco Goldman (Grove, $24)
Intimate and devastating, Goldman’s fourth “novel” chronicles the drowning death of his much-younger wife, Aura, in a body-surfing accident on Mexico’s Pacific coast. Goldman takes us inside their May-December romance (Goldman was 50, Aura just 27), then reveals the crushing grief — and intra-family recriminations — that followed the calamity.

The Mighty Walzer, by Howard Jacobson

The Mighty Walzer

By Howard Jacobson (Bloomsbury, $16)
Orange Prize–winner Jacobson revels in his awkward adolescence in this ripsnorter, a coming-of-age novel set in 1950s Manchester, England. There a suspiciously Jacobsonian lad struggles to find his way with the ladies as he develops some serious table tennis chops.

Drawing Conclusions, by Donna Leon

Drawing Conclusions

By Donna Leon (Atlantic Monthly, $24)
Issues of elder care (and the realization that we all ultimately become the elderly) take center stage in Leon’s 20th Commisario Brunetti mystery, in which the Venetian inspector ferrets out murder clues in an old-age home. As ever, Leon provides a vivid view of Venice in decline.

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin, by Erik Larson

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin

By Erik Larson (Crown, $26)
Larson (Isaac’s Storm, Devil in the White City) is back — and as compelling as ever — in this chilling view of Nazi Germany’s early days as seen through the oft-too-credulous eyes of an American ambassador and his twentysomething daughter. Starting in 1933, the family’s shared naïveté about the fascist regime gradually unravels, then dissolves.

Alpha Better Juice, or the Joy of Text, by Roy Blount, Jr.

Alphabetter Juice: Or, The Joy of Text

By Roy Blount Jr. (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26)
One of our leading humorists (and a regular panelist on NPR’s Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!) pours a tall glass of wordplay, witticisms and uncut curmudgeonry in this beguiling follow-up to Alphabet Juice.

In the Long Run: A Father, a son, and unintentional lessons in happiness, by Jim Axelrod

In the Long Run: A Father, a Son, and Unintentional Lessons in Happiness

By Jim Axelrod (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26)
Axelrod was a 45-year-old national correspondent for CBS News (and 30 pounds overweight) when he stumbled across the New York Marathon times of his deceased father, Bob (who ran it in 3:29 at age 46). The discovery inspired Jim to train for the 2009 marathon, with the goal of beating his father’s time (and vanquishing some shared demons).

A Queer History of the United States, by Michael Bronski

A Queer History of the United States

Michael Bronski (Beacon, $26.95)
This enthralling book spans 500 years of evolving perspectives on sexuality in America, from the European settlers’ violent responses to the fluid gender roles of Native Americans to how the birth-control pill transformed society. Bronksi argues that “a queer history of the U.S.” cannot be separated from migrations, war, economics, or our evolving philosophies on life.

The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of the Nature-Deficit Disorder, by Richard Louv

The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder

By Richard Louv (Algonquin, $24.95)
Is life sweeter with daily contact with nature? Yes — and here comes Louv to explain why: Regular connection with the environment, he tells us, can boost the brain’s production of serotonin, a neurochemical process that makes us happier. It’s therefore vital to develop a spiritual, psychological and physical attachment to a region and its natural history.

Saveur: The New Comfort Food, by James Oseland

Saveur: The New Comfort Food: Home Cooking from Around the World

Edited by James Oseland (Chronicle, $35)
The editor-in-chief of Saveur magazine — a devoted traveler who understandably always has food on his mind — compiles more than 100 recipes for classic craved foods from around the globe in this gorgeous book that reflects the magazine’s dedication to home cooking.

Tender: A Cook and his Vegetable Patch, by Nigel Slater

Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch

Nigel Slater (Ten Speed, $40)
Fall in love with broccoli along with Slater, an acclaimed British food writer and avid gardener who celebrates the joy of vegetables from seed through consumption. You’ll learn how to incorporate — tastefully — more vegetables into a healthy diet. An added attraction is Slater’s accounts of his nighttime rambles through his summer garden: “To burst a pod of peas and eat them in the dark is a sweet joy.”

Emotional Currency, by Kate Levinson, PhD

Emotional Currency: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Healthy Relationship with Money

By Kate Levinson (Celestial Arts, $14.99)
Using exploratory questions and a “money memoir,” Levinson encourages women to become more conscious of money — and to plumb the ways in which their emotions may be dictating their financial behaviors. Her exercises guide women to overcome any “learned helplessness,” and to recognize the function, both symbolic and actual, of money in their lives.

The Compass of Pleasure, by David J. Linden

The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good

By David J. Linden  (Viking, $26.95)
We all know what feels good, but Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Linden entertains us with cutting-edge science and anecdotes about why certain behaviors simultaneously beget ecstasy and compulsion. Linden’s wit — and insights — make the book a joy to read. You’re certain to find  an explanation here for at least a few of the dynamics you’ve always wondered about.

The Dutiful Worrier, by Eliot D. Cohen, Ph.D

The Dutiful Worrier: How to Stop Compulsive Worry Without Feeling Guilty

By Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D.  (New Harbinger, $16.95)
People who worry excessively will find help and reassurance in the situations and exercises presented here. Cohen examines the wellsprings of compulsive worrying — fear of losing control is a common one — and advises how to handle anxiety-producing situations.

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