Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Books for your cocktail-party quiver

Posted on Tue, Sep 28, 2010 at 3:15 PM

You don't actually need to read any of these books. You just need to know about them — so the next time somebody name-drops an author, you can conversationally fire right back.

Recent and upcoming releases ... nothin' but the gist, ma'am:

Zero History, by William Gibson (Putnam Adult, Sept. 7)
Gibson coined the term "cyberspace" 26 years ago. This one's about spying, surveillance and hacking in the fashion world.

The Widower's Tale, by Julia Glass (Pantheon, Sept.7)  
In the Boston suburbs, a crusty old retired librarian allows his aimless daughter to establish a preschool on his property in her long-dead mother's dance studio. Meanwhile, Percy's favored grandson has fallen in with ecoterrorists. And his other daughter may be a famous oncologist, but she's also a workaholic. Multiple plots lingers and interweave.

Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception, by Charles Seife (Viking Adult, Sept. 23) 
When attendance at a political rally (to take one example) is exaggerated to emphasize the vitality of a particular point of view, statistics become even worse than damn lies — they become premeditated, democracy-undermining lies.

Obama's Wars, by Bob Woodward (Simon & Schuster, Sept. 27)  
Kathleen Parker (of Parker & Spitzer) had a recent column wondering how Woodward became journalist-in-chief, and how his snooping around the West Wing may well influence history as it happens (in this case, the deliberations over how to get out of Afghanistan).

By Nightfall, by Michael Cunningham (FSG, Sept. 28) 
An artsy Manhattan couple's lives are disrupted by the arrival of the wife's drug-addict younger brother, who kinda-sorta would like to dabble in the arts, just as soon as he stops being happy and carefree.

Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow (Penguin Press, Oct. 5) 
Another biography of our first president?! And it's 928 pages long, even if it is by the same man who has written acclaimed biographies of J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller and Alexander Hamilton. But Chernow has surprises: young Washington as a ballroom dancer and would-be lover of a married woman; Washington as manager of many a Founding Father's ego; Washington as slave master.

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