This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
Jonathan Tropper writes compulsively readable, laugh-out-loud funny novels, and his fifth book, This Is Where I Leave You is his best yet. Judd Foxman is oscillating between a sea of self-pity and a "snake pit of fury and resentment" in the aftermath of the explosion of his marriage, which ended "the way these things do: with paramedics and cheesecake." Foxman is jobless (after finding his wife in bed with his boss) and renting out the basement of a "crappy house" when he is called home to sit shiva for his father--who, incidentally, was an atheist. This of course means seven days in his parent's house with his exquisitely dysfunctional family, including his mom, a sexy, "I've-still-got-it" shrink fond of making horrifying TMI statements; his older sister, Wendy, and her distracted hubby and three kids; his snarky older brother, Paul, and his wife; and his youngest brother, Phillip, the "Paul McCartney of our family: better-looking than the rest of us, always facing a different direction in pictures, and occasionally rumored to be dead." Tropper is wickedly funny, a master of the cutting one-liner that makes you both cringe and crack up. But what elevates his novels and makes him a truly splendid writer is his ability to create fantastically flawed, real characters who stay with you long after the book is over. Simultaneously hilarious and hopeful, This Is Where I Leave You is as much about a family's reckoning as it is about one man's attempt to get it together. The affectionate, warts-and-all portrayal of the Foxmans will have fans wishing for a sequel (and clamoring for all things Tropper).
The Magicians by Lev Grossman
Narnia and Oz to Harry PotterEarthsea) with the sex, excess, angst, and anticlimax of life in college and beyond, Lev Grossman's The Magicians reimagines modern-day fantasy for grownups. Quentin Coldwater lives in a state of perpetual melancholy, privately obsessed with his childhood books about the enchanted land of Fillory. When he's admitted to the surreptitious Brakebills Academy for an education in magic, Quentin finds mastering spells is tedious (and love is even more fraught). He also discovers his power has thrilling potential--though it's unclear what he should do with it once he's moved with his new magician cohorts to New York City. Then they discover the magical land of Fillory is real and launch an expedition to use their powers to set things right in the kingdom--which, naturally, turns out to be a much murkier proposition than expected.The Magicians breathes life into a cast of characters you want to know--if the people you want to know are charismatic, brilliant, complex, flawed magicians--and does what Quentin claims books never really manage to do: "get you out, really out, of where you were and into somewhere better." Or if not better, at least a heck of a lot more interesting.--Mari Malcolm
Mixing the magic of the most beloved children's fantasy classics (from
The Wilderness Warrior by Douglas Brinkley
"The movement for the conversation of wild life and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method." So wrote Theodore Roosevelt, known as the "naturalist President" for his efforts in protecting wildlife and wilderness, merging preservation and patriotism into a quintessential American ideal. The Wilderness Warrior, Douglas Brinkley's massive(ly readable) new biography, intrepidly explores the wilderness of influences (Audubon and Darwin), personal relationships (Muir and Pinchot), and frontier adventures (too many to mention) that shaped Roosevelt's proto-green views. Topping 800 pages (ironically, one wonders how many trees fell for the first printing), The Wilderness Warrior makes an excellent companion to Timothy Egan's The Big Burn and Ken Burns's The National Parks: America's Best Idea. --Jon Foro