The Peach State prepares for a political frenzy as a pair of January runoffs determine the balance of the Senate—and the shape of the presidency
Culture Notable Books
CONTENT This eighth novel in the Myron Bolitar series features a talent agent/amateur detective who was a top athlete until injured. Here he fulfills a promise by rescuing a friend's teenage daughter from a potential hazard-and then she disappears.
GIST Starts promisingly but fades fast as the hero and his buddies fall into wisecracking and bone-cracking stereotypes. Concludes with a fantastically complicated set of plot twists and turns-but since the characters are cardboard, who cares?
CONTENT Mr. Roth's everyman-son of a New Jersey jeweler, thrice-married father of three, commercial artist for a New York ad agency-faces old age, bodily decay, and death.
GIST The Pulitzer Prize-winning author probes for the meaning of death in this graceful allegory, but unlike the title character in the 15th-century drama, finds nothing but the longing to have his youth back and "the blessing of an eradication that was absolute."
CAUTION Some obscenities, sexual situations.
Digging to America
CONTENT Two Baltimore-area families-one white-bread American, the other, Iranian-American-meet as they wait at the airport for the baby girls they are adopting from Korea. An unlikely friendship forms.
GIST Ms. Tyler's closely observed tale focuses on the relations within families and the themes of belonging and identity. Cultural misunderstandings and parental competition mark the relationship between the families who annually celebrate "arrival day." It's striking how little religion matters to any of Ms. Tyler's characters-Muslim or nominally Christian.
In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
CONTENT Of secondary importance in this series of mysteries set in Botswana. Once again Precious Ramotswe, owner of The #1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and her co-worker Mma Makutsi solve simple mysteries and deal with matters of the heart using wisdom and common sense.
GIST Mr. Smith's leisurely prose and attention to detail work perfectly to depict life in Botswana, where concern for relationships and community matter more than productivity. Simplicity shouldn't be mistaken for simple-mindedness: There's a lot of human wisdom here.
In the Spotlight
Every year at graduation time Dr. Seuss' Oh, the Places You'll Go! hits the bestseller list. This year Dr. Seuss has been joined by Willie Nelson and Turk Pipkin, whose The Tao of Willie includes pearls of wisdom from the country singer: "There is only one map to the journey of life, and it lives within your heart."
Another graduation book is Wisdom to Grow On, featuring letters from successful people-entertainers, athletes, politicians, and presidents-solicited and collected by Charles Acquisto after the birth of his son in 2001. For those of a literary bent, Haiku U: From Aristotle to Zola in 17 Syllables contains plot summaries of 100 literary classics reduced to haiku form. Thus, Balzac's Old Goriot becomes: "His two spoiled daughters. They don't write, they don't visit. This is gratitude?"
My favorite of this genre is Amy Krouse Rosenthal's Cookies: Bite Sized Life Lessons, which features wonderful illustrations accompanying definitions of important words. "Pessimistic means, 'How awful, how absolutely dreadful-I have only half my cookie left.'" You can guess the definition of optimistic: "This is great-I still have half my cookie left."