Books matter more than ever these days, don’t they? Here are six new paperbacks to help pass the hours; if going out isn’t an option and you want to support small businesses, call or email your neighborhood bookstore and ask if they can send or deliver one of these — or any book — to your door.
“K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches” by Tyler Kepner (Knopf, $16.95). If you’re missing spring-training baseball right about now, try this book: Kepner, a New York Times baseball writer, here examines the history, psychology and physics of 10 classic pitches (fastball, curveball, splitter, changeup, etc.). Calling the book “delightfully nerdy,” a NYT reviewer writes that Kepner “offers vivid descriptions, telling anecdotes and shrewd historical context for all the pitches he discusses … (bringing) both a child’s giddy enthusiasm and a beat reporter’s diligence.”
“Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells” by Pico Iyer (Knopf, $16). We may not be able to travel much these days, but we can still take journeys through books. Here, renowned travel writer Iyer writes about living in Japan, where he has moved with his wife after the death of her Japanese father. “What follows is a vivid meditation on the year after his father-in-law’s death: a conscious transition from grief glimpsed through the prism of his pedestrian daily routines and tested by the changing Japanese seasons,” wrote a Los Angeles Times reviewer, describing Iyer’s work as an “exquisite personal blend of philosophy and engagement, inner quiet and worldly life.”
“The Other Americans” by Laila Lalami (Knopf, $16). I read this novel, from the author of “The Moor’s Account,” and loved it last year; it’s about the mysterious death of a Moroccan immigrant who’s been a longtime resident of a small Mojave Desert town. From my review: “At once mystery novel, character study and poignant reflection on the immigrant experience, ‘The Other Americans’ is the kind of book you read breathlessly, savoring each character’s turn in the spotlight even as you miss the others. Together their voices create a vivid portrait of a time and place in America; a town of simmering resentments, wary tension, unexpected connections and uncanny beauty.”
“After Me Comes the Flood” by Sarah Perry (Custom House/William Morrow, $16.99). Newly reissued, this is the debut novel from the bestselling author of “The Essex Serpent” and “Melmoth.” In it, a London bookshop owner leaves town only to become stranded on an isolated road, and to find a strange, enigmatic clan who seem to have been waiting for him. “Like Shirley Jackson, Carmen Maria Machado, and other evocative masters of the gothic,” wrote a reviewer for Kirkus Reviews, “Perry circles closer to answers without ever dispelling the magic that holds her narrative in breathless suspense.”
“A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II” by Sonia Purnell (Penguin, $18). Purnell, author of the excellent biography “Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill,” here shines a light on Virginia Hall, an American woman who became known as “the Madonna of the mountains” for her heroic actions during the war — she was, at one point, the Nazis’ most-wanted Allied agent in France. “If Virginia Hall herself remains something of an enigma — a testament, perhaps, to the skills that allowed her to live in the shadows for so long — the extraordinary facts of her life are brought onto the page here with a well-judged balance of empathy and fine detail,” wrote a New York Times reviewer, adding, “This book is as riveting as any thriller, and as hard to put down.”
“Lot: Stories” by Bryan Washington (Penguin, $15.99). A National Book Award 5 Under 35 honoree, journalist Washington makes his fiction debut with this acclaimed short-story collection, set in his native Houston. “In this enthralling collection of interconnected short stories, Washington vividly portrays the interior lives of his marginalized fellow citizens, often overlooked in literature save as characters sketched to elicit pity and despair,” wrote a reviewer in The Guardian. “These are tough yet tender tales of uncertain existences, stalked by the certainty of future violence and the shadow of homelessness.”
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