"Daughters of the Revolution" by Carolyn Cooke
This is a dramatic social novel, a successful entwining of people that comes to signify the Big Moment of history. Cooke, who not once lets a sentence flag, who can reinvent the known with imagery so fine and excruciating it feels like a dare, evokes the dawn of women's liberation, the righteous struggles for sexual voice and the perpetual daughter-mother-wife-self identity tensions. Cooke is never didactic, and her profound, honest compassion for all her characters, men and women, makes them so engrossing, you almost forget what they're up against.
"Dreams of Joy" by Lisa See
As with her other recent novels, See keeps her eyes focused on the women — their standing, their predicaments, their resourcefulness. This is what makes her books so popular. In "Dreams of Joy," the question is not whether Joy or Pearl can survive her ordeal but, rather, which is the book's true heroine.
"The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture" by David Mamet
What's most disturbing about "The Secret Knowledge" is that Mamet is a smart guy, author of one of the great plays of the last 40 years ("American Buffalo") and winner of a 1984 Pulitzer Prize for another, "Glengarry Glen Ross." Here, however, he continues in the shrill, strident vein that marked his 2006 book "The Wicked Son." That work traced his return to (or perhaps more accurately, his adoption of) a form of socially conservative Judaism; "The Secret Knowledge" takes this shift into a purely political realm.
"To Be Sung Underwater" by Tom McNeal
McNeal has created characters so dimensional, so memorable, that we are caught up in that urgency. Our rationality is compromised; the rules of the world fade away.
"Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music" by Rob Young
till, Young — the former editor of the British music magazine The Wire — is a fluid, if overwrought, writer, and you are inclined, after the first hundred pages, to accept the relentless accretion of ancient references and cosmic overtones he finds in the output even of minor artists. Later, Young’s research gives depth to his readings of stronger music, like Richard Thompson’s first solo albums or Kate Bush’s early work.
"State of Wonder" by Ann Patchett
Set in the Amazon rain forest, Patchett's new book is a dramatic, transportive adventure story that takes on issues of medical ethics, cultural respect, friendship, love and loyalty.