"The Art of Cruelty" by Maggie Nelson
Whatever distaste we may feel when they thrust brutality in our faces, Nelson is right to urge that we overcome our scruples and preconceptions and listen to what they are trying to tell us. Her struggles to follow her own advice are a useful reminder of just how hard that can be.
"Havana Real: One Woman Fights to Tell the Truth About Cuba Today" by Yoani Sánchez
Sánchez's writing is earthy and vivid. It has won international awards, but she has not been allowed to accept them.
"There Are Things I Want You to Know about Stieg Larsson and Me" By Eva Gabrielsson with Marie-Françoise Colombani
Gabrielsson's book, " 'There Are Things I Want You to Know' About Stieg Larsson and Me," is an attempt to regain custody of Larsson's legacy, not only from his family but also from a world hungry to commercialize his every aspect, with films both Swedish and American, companion books and journalistic examinations of the "Girl" phenomenon and the man who created it.
"Big Roads: The Untold Story of the Engineers, Visionaries, and Trailblazers Who Created the American Superhighways" by Earl Swift
In fact, from start to finish "Big Roads" offers a reasonably optimistic portrait of democracy in action, with government officials striving to give the public what it wanted and to answer people's complaints when what they got wasn't quite what they expected.
"Once Upon a River" by Bonnie Jo Campbell
Campbell is a brilliant story writer, but although there is much to admire in it, "Once Upon a River" lacks the intensity of her shorter work.
"The Astral" by Kate Christensen
Like his late-lamented, tightly constructed sonnets, Harry's tale begins and ends in the same place, with him staring into the toxic waters of Newtown Creek. Although Harry makes some emotional headway over the course of the novel, The Astral, like this sadly polluted estuary, feels dismayingly stagnant.