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Books for Grownups - February 2012

Authors Thomas Frank and Susan Cain are featured in our monthly review of the best in publishing

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.


Boca Daze
By Steven M. Forman
(Forge, $25.99)

The Boca Knight is back! That would be tough-talking, wisecracking P.I. Eddie Perlmutter, who describes himself as "just a 61-year-old ex-Boston cop trying to adapt to life's changes." The venue: Boca Raton, Fla., a "benign" place where "crime is malignant, so there was plenty of work for me." In this third mystery in the series (after Boca Knights and Boca Mournings), Eddie investigates unregulated "pill mills," the beating of a homeless man and a Madoff clone named B. I. Grover, whose "sure thing" for older investors is far from kosher.

The Orphan Master's Son
By Adam Johnson
(Random, $26)

With this tantalizing glimpse inside North Korea, Johnson tells the picaresque and moving story of Jun Do, a man who lives according to the violent dictates of the state. After serving as a soldier, a surveillance officer and even a kidnapper, Jun Do suddenly — dangerously — finds himself on the other side.

Reefs and Shoals
By Dewey Lambdin
(St. Martin's/Thomas Dunne, $25.99)

It's 1805, and irreverent Royal Navy Captain Alan Lewrie returns in all his swashbuckling debauchery to wage his exciting brand of Napoleonic naval warfare. On the high seas between England and the Caribbean, the outgunned "rakehell" captain battles French and Spanish privateers preying on English merchantmen.

The Odds
By Stewart O'Nan
(Viking, $25.95)

A couple on the brink of divorce and bankruptcy return to the scene of their honeymoon (Niagara Falls) seeking redemption. As the compact novel unfolds over the course of a Valentine's Day weekend, O'Nan shines in illuminating the doggedly persistent nature of betrayal.

How It All Began
By Penelope Lively
(Viking, $26.95)

The first domino falls in this intricately structured novel when Charlotte, a woman in her 70s, is injured in a mugging. That keystone event propels the actions of an entire cast of characters orbiting Charlotte — from her daughter (a teacher) to that daughter's middle-aged ESL students, the daughter's boss and the daughter's boss's niece. Trust us: It's all much easier to follow in the lively way that Lively tells it.


In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age
By Patricia Cohen
(Scribner, $25)

In this comprehensive and entertaining social history, Cohen, a culture reporter for The New York Times, reminds us how relatively recent is the very notion of middle age: It emerged during the febrile decades of American industrialization and urbanization at the end of the 19th century. Cohen's neatly synthesizes history, psychology and the latest research on the "middle-aged brain."

Pity the Billionaire: The Hard Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right
By Thomas Frank
(Metropolitan, $25)

In spotlighting what he sees as the nation's rightward drift, Frank dubs laissez-faire economics "the dogma of the nation's ruling class." He adopts an authorial voice that might best be described as "justifiably perplexed": Why, Frank demands to know, have so many of us damaged by the Great Recession been so happy to continue waving the banner of free-market theory?

Money Well Spent?: The Truth Behind the Trillion-Dollar Stimulus, the Biggest Economic Recovery Plan in History
By Michael Grabell
(PublicAffairs, $28.99)

Grabell focuses the lens of his investigative microscope on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. He analyzes its effect on three cities, each an exemplar of the economic downtown: Elkhart, Ind.; Aiken, S.C.; and Fremont, Calif. His thorough exploration will educate readers about "where the money went" and show why shock waves from the Great Recession continue to crash upon our shores.

The Wandering Gene and the Indian Princess: Race, Religion and DNA
By Jeff Wheelwright
(Norton, $26.95)

A science journalist tells the story of Shonnie Medina, a young woman who died of breast cancer in Colorado in 1999. Medina, of mixed Indian and Spanish descent, carried a genetic mutation with implications both scary (a high risk of cancer) and intriguing: Geneticists deem it a reliable marker of Jewish ancestry. While clearly explaining two controversial sciences — genetic screening and ethnogeography — the author paints a sensitive portrait of how our modern identity is woven from ancient strands.

Power Concedes Nothing: One Woman's Quest for Social Justice in America, from the Kill Zones to the Courtroom
By Connie Rice
(Scribner, $26)

Civil rights lawyer Rice, a cousin of Condoleezza's, insightfully describes a strange and remarkable episode in her life's journey: She went from suing the Los Angeles Police Department and other entities (including the states of Mississippi and California) for civil-rights violations to forging an alliance with "good cops" to fight rampant violence in drug- and gang-riddled neighborhoods.


Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
By Susan Cain
(Crown, $26)

They have good negotiating skills. They are disproportionately creative. But — because they work better alone in a culture dominated by extroverts — they are dismissed and disadvantaged by modern society. "They," of course, are introverts — the one-third to one-half of the population championed (and explained) by business expert Cain in this manifesto celebrating inwardness.

How We Love Now: Sex and the New Intimacy in Second Adulthood
By Suzanne Braun Levine
(Viking, $25.95)

The founding editor of Ms. magazine surveys the love lives of boomer women. The responses are as varied as the "Aging of Aquarius" respondents themselves, ranging from "never been better" to "searching for Mr. Right-Now in cyberspace."

The 7-Minute Solution: Creating a Life with Meaning, 7 Minutes at a Time
By Allyson Lewis
(Free Press, $23)

Motivational speaker and financial advisor Lewis broadens the lessons she taught in The 7-Minute Difference by showing how to focus your attention for seven minutes a day on your big-picture goals, broken down into small actions that will create meaning in your life. The ultimate aim of her regimen: to help you maximize your personal development.

The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things With Money
By Carl Richards
(Penguin/Portfolio, $24.95)

Through personal stories and simple ideas enlivened with a touch of imagery (often literally sketched on the back of a napkin), Richards explains why we so frequently continue to make bad financial choices. The key to success, he says, is to migrate our decision-making center from heart to brain.

Buy High, Sell Higher: Why Buy-and-Hold Is Dead and Other Investing Lessons From CNBC's "The Liquidator"
By Joe Terranova
(Grand Central, $26.99)

Blending case studies with solid advice, Terranova teaches readers the basics of the new investing: Keep an investment calendar; choose professionals for your team; avoid the temptations of day trading; invest in assets you believe are important.