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Books for Grownups April 2010

Online Extra...

AARP The Magazine and Publishers Weekly have teamed up to let you know about the latest fiction, nonfiction, and lifestyle/self-help of interest to you. Once you've checked out the selections below, visit Publishers Weekly's fiction and nonfiction pages for reviews, author Q&As, and more.

FICTION

The Man from Saigon
By Marti Leimbach (Doubleday/Talese, $25.95)
This powerful novel, set in Vietnam in 1967, tells the story of Susan Gifford, a women's magazine writer who arrives in-country to write human-interest stories and instead winds up covering combat. Leimbach expertly captures the contradictions of our involvement in Vietnam, producing a solid addition to the literature of an endlessly reconsidered conflict.

So Much for That
By Lionel Shriver (Harper, $25.99)
A man's plan to sell his business and retire to the tropics goes off the rails when his wife falls ill. If it's possible to write a riveting novel about health care, Shriver has done so. In her hands the protagonist becomes a champion of middle-class American plight, railing against the insurance industry. Timely or what?

Print the Legend
By Craig McDonald (Minotaur, $24.99)
Set at a conference of Hemingway scholars in 1965, this provocative mystery will appeal to readers who have never quite reconciled themselves to the notion of Papa's 1961 suicide. Might his fourth wife, Mary, have pulled the trigger as an act or mercy?

Cemetery Road
By Gar Anthony Haywood (Severn House, $28.95)
Reverberations of a crime committed in their youth dog three middle-aged men through their later years. Haywood sets his beautifully crafted novel of unintended consequences in Los Angeles, where events unfold before the reader's eyes with the ineluctability of a Greek tragedy.

Known to Evil
By Walter Mosley (Riverhead, $25.95)
Leonid McGill continues to seek atonement for the lives he has ruined in Mosley's second contemporary noir to feature the 54-year-old New York City P.I. Anyone who has ever grappled with a situation involving a spouse, a grown child, and/or a mistress (!?) will definitely be able to relate.

NONFICTION

The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them
By Elif Batuman (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $15)
In this quirky work of literary nonfiction, Batuman travels from Palo Alto to Yasna Polyana, Bulgaria, pursuing her passion for the greats of Russian literature. Her journeys and mishaps leaven the classic brand of Russian tragedy with humor.

Valley of Death: The Tragedy at Dien Bien Phu that Led America into the Vietnam War
By Ted Morgan (Random House, $35)
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Morgan, the author of Reds, brilliantly reconstructs Vietnam's epic defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu. That debacle ended French colonial power in Indochina—and set the stage for America's own calamitous involvement there.

The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York
By Deborah Blum (Penguin Press, $25.95)
Another Pulitzer recipient, Blum blends true crime, science, and the ambience of The Roaring '20s in her account of two pioneering NYPD scientists who founded the science of forensics. (Imagine 21st-century TV without them!)

Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen—A Biography
By Jimmy McDonough (Viking, $26.95)
Combining pop musicology and tabloid gossip, McDonough (Shakey: Neil Young's Biography) has crafted a fitting tribute to a country-music icon. Wynette and third husband (and frequent collaborator) George Jones, writes McDonough, were a pair of "walking haunted houses." Wynette's personal tragedies included a long slide into drug addiction and a mysterious death that some still dub foul play.

The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You've Been Told about Genetics, Talent, and IQ Is Wrong
By David Shenk (Doubleday, $26.95)
"Our culture regards talent as a scarce genetic resource, a thing that one either does or does not possess," writes Shenk in this debunking of the you-are-what-you-inherit view of human intelligence. He sifts through recent scientific evidence to suggest that humankind is currently experiencing not a scarcity of actual talent but an abundance of latent talent: "Few of us know our true limits."

LIFESTYLE/SELF-HELP

Breakfast with Socrates: An Extraordinary (Philosophical) Journey Through Your Ordinary Day
By Robert Rowland Smith (Free Press, $22)
This jaunt through the course of a day imagines Thomas Hobbes musing on rush-hour traffic, Jacques Lacan on shopping, and Friedrich Nietzsche on work. Smith excels at teasing out the idiosyncrasies of modern experience: washing your face in the morning signals optimism for the day ahead, while fighting with your partner once in a while may in fact be a good idea.

The Art of Choosing
Sheena Iyengar (Twelve, $25.99)
Is choice a luxury? Or is it a mixed blessing? In this fascinating study of decision-making and its discontents, psychologist Iyengar shows how and why a lack of choice damaged the mental and physical health of rats, dogs—and British civil servants. Her Gladwellian writing style (think lucid and catchy, but with an extra dose of rigor) yields a delightful take on the pitfalls of making up one's mind.

Married to Distraction: Restoring Intimacy and Strengthening Your Marriage in an Age of Interruption
By Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., and Sue George Hallowell, with Melissa Orlov (Ballantine, $25)
Stressing reflection and forgiveness, Edward Hallowell (on the faculty of Harvard Medical School) and his wife, Sue Hallowell (a couples therapist), bring to this wise guide the compassion that comes from firsthand knowledge of modern-day marital strains. Useful if you have a spouse; may make you think twice if you don't!

The Gourmet Vegetarian Slow Cooker: Simple and Sophisticated Meals from Around the World
By Lynn Alley (Ten Speed, $19.99)
Simple, tempting recipes fill this concise collection. Organized by type of cuisine (Indian, Mexican and Southwestern, Greek, and so on), the dishes are a cut above traditional slow-cooker fare; try out the Rustic Potato and Poblano Gratin, Risotto with Lentils, or Japanese-Style Braised Tofu. A handful of chic desserts (among them Mexican Chocolate-Pudding Cake and Walnut-and-Apple-Bread Pudding) make a sweet bonus.

Shift Your Habit: Easy Ways to Save Money, Simplify Your Life, and Save the Planet
By Elizabeth Rogers with Colleen Howell (Three Rivers, $14 paper)
Adopting a more environmentally conscious lifestyle will save the planet, sure—but what's in it for you? How about saving money and time—and improving your quality of life? Rogers' comprehensive, easy-to-follow guide is tailored to those on tight budgets and busy schedules.

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