Weekend picks...

Weekend picks for book lovers: Jennifer Egan’s ‘Manhattan Beach’

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USA TODAY

Published 6:00 a.m. ET Oct. 14, 2017

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When the weather turns brisk and fall is in the air, it’s the perfect time to curl up with a good book. We’ve picked 10 new releases that will captivate your imagination while you sip on some hot cocoa.
USA TODAY

What should you read this weekend? USA TODAY’s picks for book lovers include Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan and a newly discovered fairy tale by Mark Twain.

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan; Scribner, 433 pp.; fiction

From the beginning of her career, Jennifer Egan’s fiction has been experimental and enigmatic, hovering just at the outer edge of realism. The book that made her seriously famous, the Pulitzer Prize-winning 2011 novel A Visit From the Goon Squad, had a chapter made up of PowerPoint slides. It also had a tender heart; her clever manipulations of convention softened into a means of contemplating transience and mortality.

The historical novel Manhattan Beach picks up those themes — but in a traditional, occasionally even sentimental fashion.

The book is set for the most part in New York during World War II, where a young woman named Anna Kerrigan works as part of the war effort at the Brooklyn Naval Yard. She has a difficult life (her father is missing, her sister severely disabled) but she has a vision, too. From her window she can see the Navy’s divers in the river, and her soul leaps toward them — she wants to dive.

The novel’s second major character is Anna’s father’s old employer, a dashing nightclub owner named Dexter Styles. By his marriage and foresight he has managed to go mostly clean. When his path crosses Anna’s, though, that ambition comes into doubt.

USA TODAY says ***½ out of four stars. “Rich, brilliant… Egan has every gift a writer can possess, and like all of her work Manhattan Beach is radiant with intelligence.”

The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Mark Twain and Philip and Erin Stead; Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 152 pp., for ages 8-12; fiction

Children’s authors/illustrators Philip and Erin Stead complete a fairy tale Mark Twain told his young daughters, the adventures of “luckless hero” Johnny, a kind and unhappy boy living in a poverty-stricken land with his bad grandfather.

USA TODAY says **** stars. “Will capture the imaginations of readers of all ages.”

The Taking of K-129: How the CIA Used Howard Hughes to Steal a Russian Sub in the Most Daring Covert Operation in History by Josh Dean; Dutton, 404 pp.; non-fiction

The true story of how the CIA was able to retrieve a sunken Soviet submarine and study it for military secrets, disguising the operation as an undersea mining venture for a company owned by reclusive and eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes.

USA TODAY says ***½ stars. “A worthwhile addition to the shelves of military history buffs, nautical enthusiasts and anyone who enjoys a well-told story.”

The Good People by Hannah Kent; Little, Brown, 400 pp.; fiction

In rural 19th century Ireland, Nóra suspects that her toddler grandson, whose mother has died, is actually a changeling left by the fairies, or Good People, who cause illness and misfortune.

USA TODAY says ***½ stars. “Fascinating…The Good People has great characters, a setting that seeps into your bones and the always compelling tug between the spiritual and the superstitious.”

Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook by Alice Waters; Clarkson Potter, 292 pp.; non-fiction

The famed chef behind Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Calif., recounts her rebellious youth, college activism and exploration of the arts that evolved into her “counterculture” restaurant.

USA TODAY says ***½ stars. “Mouthwatering… the chef is not shy about sharing memories of the mistakes and embarrassments that preceded her fame.” 

Contributing reviewers: Charles Finch, Don Oldenburg, George Petras, Patty Rhule, Ashley Day

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