Putting faith in Paul Auster, the master of inventive perspectives and refracted truths, is a dangerously exhilarating proposition. His story of innocence lost takes you around the world, across four decades, alongside all the players—and you’re still not sure whose side you’re on when it’s over. The three rules to navigating Auster’s Invisible (Holt, $25) are: 1) don’t trust the narrator or any other characters; 2) don’t hope for a particular ending because that will ensure it won’t happen; 3) don’t believe in one Truth because everybody has his or her own version. Once you start this powerful mix of humanity and sexuality, you’re going where Auster wants to take you, and, as should be expected, it’s a dark, twisted place. Have fun, and don’t forget the rules.
Zadie Smith has always had a penetrating eye and a sharp wit, both of which are as much at work in Changing My Mind (Penguin Press, $26.95) as they were in her novels, White Teeth and On Beauty. In this volume, we are granted entry to Smith’s inner world, learning what she thinks about writers, the craft of writing, travel, and politics. Showcasing her best essays and criticism, the collection proclaims Smith as a cultural and intellectual powerhouse from whom we can continue to expect great things.
Michael Chabon’s second foray into non-fiction has all the grace and wit of his best novels. These pieces are carefully plotted stories that illuminate our own lives and make us look at where we’re headed. Manhood For Amateurs (HarperCollins, $25.99) chronicles not only what it means to recognize yourself as a man, but, perhaps most important, how it feels to look back on the journey to adulthood. Writing in short, easily digestible essays, Chabon brings healthy doses of humor, nostalgia, and frankness to his exploration of growing up. Whether he is discussing the ineffable charms of ’70s super-heroines or remembering a father-figure who took him wholly into his life, Chabon creates a self-portrait of a man every bit as compelling as any of his characters.
Writing in short, easily digestible essays (none is longer than 11 pages), Michael Chabon brings healthy doses of humor, nostalgia, and frankness to his exploration of growing up. He trains his novelist’s eye on the small details that tell him he’s grown up: hearing songs from his youth on the classic rock station, having to disapprove of Captain Underpants so that his kids will still like it, recognizing that his children are growing up with a very different view of the future, realizing that he’s comfortable carrying a diaper bag. Manhood For Amateurs (Harper Perennial, $14.99) is perfect reading for an afternoon in the hammock, a few pages before bed, or a day watching the kids by the pool.