In What It Is Like to Go to War (Atlantic Monthly Press, $25) Karl Marlantes, author of the acclaimed novel Matterhorn, provides fresh and important insights into experiencing the ordeal of combat. Drawing on his own past leading a platoon of Marines in Vietnam, he conveys with often unsettling honesty what a combat veteran thinks and feels. His riveting account traces how, after being taught to kill, he learned to deal with the aftermath. He also examines the larger sociological and moral issues of war and what can be done to better prepare soldiers for the psychological and emotional toll it takes. With war such a part of contemporary American life, this book has particular significance for our times.
With great empathy and verve, Mary Gabriel illuminates the private life of Karl Marx, offering an impressively researched study of the human, family side of a historic personality more usually portrayed as a brooding, intolerant, intellectual giant. Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution (Little, Brown, $35) is a richly detailed account of the passionate relationship between the famous revolutionary theorist and his admiring wife, a beautiful aristocrat. Gabriel draws heavily on extensive Marx family correspondence to create a compelling story of love and heartbreak, following the Marx family across Europe through financial hard times, the tragedies of children’s deaths, and the strains of Marx’s infidelities.
Margaret Marcus was a secular Jew in Mamaroneck, N.Y., before she grew fascinated with Islam and moved to Pakistan in 1962, taking the name Maryam Jameelah and becoming one of the pre-eminent Islamic voices, writing blistering critiques of Western materialism and secularism. Deborah Baker, who discovered the archive of Marcus’s papers in the New York Public Library, carefully reconstructs her life after she reached Lahore, using letters Marcus sent to her parents and articles she published in Islamic magazines. In The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism (Graywolf, $23), Baker assembles the pieces of a singularly perplexing life that has proven stranger than fiction. Baker delivers not just a riveting and disturbing biographical account but an illuminating tale about the meeting of West and East and the role of women under orthodox Islam.