The following article first appeared in The National Book Review:
Here are five books people are talking about this week -- or should be:
1. Old Age: A Beginners Guide by Michael Kinsley (Crown/Duggan)
Kinsley has long been one of the leading journalists of his generation -- founding editor of Slate, editor of The New Republic and Harper's, and a frequent presence on TV shows like "Crossfire." Throughout his career, he has specialized in sharp takes on government policy, but in his new book Kinsley, who was was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease two decades ago, focuses on a new subject -- old age. His struggles with Parkinson's through his 50s gave him advanced insight into the next place his Baby Boom generation is headed, he says -- and he is an impressively insightful and entertaining guide.
2. Barbra Streisand: Redefining Beauty, Femininity, and Power by Neil Gabler (Jewish Lives Series/Yale University Press)
In this homage to Streisand, Gabler (author of biographies of Walter Winchell and Walt Disney, as well as An Empire of their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood) tells the unlikely story of how the Brooklyn-accented actress with the big nose made herself a star. Gabler generated some extra publicity for this slender and enthusiastic biography with a recent essay in Atlantic, entitled "The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans," in which he disclosed his own dire economic situation as a writer, saying: "Nearly half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 to pay for an emergency. I'm one of them." As Streisand might put it: Oy.
3. The Gunning of America: Business and the Making of American Gun Culture by Pamela Haag (Basic)
In her previous book, Marriage Confidential: Love in the Post-Romantic Age, Haag took aim at "semi-happy" marriages and explored how to recast them. In this one, she focuses on combat of a different kind. Haag delves into the history of the gun industry (Winchester, Colt) and explains how over the past 150 years it has shrewdly created a demand for its products. Rather than framing the debate about guns as a Second Amendment question, Haag argues that it is a business -- and one in need of strong economic regulation.
4. Now and Again by Charlotte Rogan (Little, Brown)
Rogan's debut novel, The Lifeboat, was a suspenseful, psychological survival story, and her new novel is just as harrowing, and even more complex. Rogan ingeniously structures this story of Red Bud, Oklahoma as a series of moral and ethical dilemmas that open up into profound questions about an America warped by the military-industrial complex.
5. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (Random House)
This novel may be billed as a modern retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, but Sittenfeld doesn't simply retrofit the Bennet family into her setting of contemporary Cincinnati. Sittenfeld, whose debut novel Prep, won her a legion of devoted fans, is too sly to disappear down a rabbit hole of truths universally acknowledged. Instead, in this bright and engaging novel, she has fun with the mores of our times - reality TV, CrossFit, sperm banks, and other subjects that would leave Lizzie and Darcy doing the Georgian Era version of a face palm.