Modeled after spiritual devotionals, The Intellectual Devotional: Modern Culture (Rodale, $24) provides brief readings on modern culture (principally that of the American and English-speaking world), from Archie Bunker to Zionism. The 365 entries, drawn from categories such as Personalities, Literature, Music, Film, Ideas and Trends, invite reading one piece each day for a year, and each entry consists of a brief overview of the subject followed by “Additional Facts.” Authors David S. Kidder and Noah D. Oppenheim have made the entries light and uncontroversial—they’re a fun and informative way to brush up on what one really should know already.
An orphan, a missing hand, a con man: With these ingredients Hannah Tinti cooks up a delicious treat of a novel. When Benjamin Nab spies Ren at St. Anthony's Orphanage, he sees a one-handed meal ticket with instant sympathetic appeal. When Ren walks out the gate with Benjamin, he sees a loving connection to a family he's never known. What follows shakes both of their assumptions. Ren quickly transcends sympathy and shows that he is eponymous "thief" in their little outfit. Meanwhile, Benjamin's true intentions become more and more mysterious as his schemes become more and more ambitious. Memorable characters, authoritative narration and seemingly inexhaustible intrigue make this a book you'll want to read all at once.
From Per Petterson, author of Out Stealing Horses, comes another quietly beautiful Scandinavian novel, one that begs comparison with The Sound and the Fury. Written in 1996 and only now available in English, To Siberia (Graywolf, $22) is a story of sibling love in wartime Denmark. In a meandering account of her childhood, the aged narrator, known only by the name her brother Jesper gave her, “Sistermine,” recalls how she and Jesper worked in the family dairy, mocked Nazi soldiers, followed their drunken grandfather to bars, and longed for lives elsewhere. Jesper planned to join the proletariat and fight in Morocco, while his sister yearned to go to Siberia. This is a calm and melancholic masterpiece of family life and affection, just right for winter reading.