If great literature is all about redemption, isn't it kind of fitting that books get a second chance? Here are a few that are just out in paperback. And remember: great books don't only get better with age. They get less expensive.
THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA PHILIP ROTH When Charles Lindbergh was elected President in 1940, it spelled trouble for the Roth family of Newark, N.J. The fictional President Lindbergh is an anti-Semite who appeases Hitler and casts the country into a dark, angry nightmare of riots and forced relocations, and the pressure divides Roth's family as well as the nation. This bizarro counterhistory isn't an allegory, and it makes no easy political points. It's cold, clear and frighteningly plausible.
ONE HUNDRED DEMONS LYNDA BARRY Everybody has demons. To Barry a demon is anything that haunts your life and won't let you go: pets, emotions, ex-boyfriends, whatever. (Of dogs: "We have three. When the doorbell rings, they all go berzerk [sic]. They do this even if someone rings a doorbell on TV.") Barry bares her demons--"Dancing," "Girlness" and "Hate" also make appearances--in a book of gorgeous, hilarious, weirdly poignant comic strips/short stories. You might find a few of yours here too.
PREP CURTIS SITTENFELD A surprise best seller, Prep is the story of a quiet, watchful, chronically insecure (even by adolescent standards) girl who transfers from her Indiana public high school to an exclusive Massachusetts boarding school. More than a peek inside the dorm rooms of the élite, it's an astonishing portrait of what it's like to be that silent girl whom nobody notices.
HIS EXCELLENCY: GEORGE WASHINGTON JOSEPH J. ELLIS He didn't actually have wooden teeth, and in his first military command--at age 22--he presided over a bloody disaster that helped kick off the French and Indian War. Handsome, burly, charismatic and enigmatic, Washington turns out to be nothing like the frozen, overfamiliar face on the dollar bill, and his life, which was in many ways a charmed one, makes for an engrossing and revelatory read.
RUNAWAY ALICE MUNRO A young woman on a train is approached by a nervous stranger. She blows him off. Not long after, his body is found on the tracks. Life is made up of such miniature tragedies, and so are Munro's powerful and perfect short stories, which focus on restless women who know more about what they're running from than where they're going.
EUROPE CENTRAL WILLIAM T. VOLLMANN
The quiet giant of American literature, the maniacally prolific Vollmann won this year's National Book Award for his wildly ambitious, deeply serious panorama of life in Germany and the U.S.S.R. during World War II. With an empathy and insight that border on the psychic, Vollmann inhabits the lives of spies and generals, traitors and switchboard operators and artists (including the Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich), all caught in the steel machines of war and fascism.
CHRONICLES, VOL.1 BOB DYLAN