Fiction is well represented in our recommendations this week, with books ranging from debut story collections (“Bad Thoughts,” by Nada Alic, “If I Survive You,” by Jonathan Escoffery) to thrillers (“Broken Summer,” by J.M. Lee) to novels by established literary heavyweights (Ian McEwan’s “Lessons,” Édouard Louis’s “A Woman’s Battles and Transformations”). There’s also a quirky novel about a tech employee in Queens, a novel set in a Filipino and Mexican community in Texas, and a talky, timely, tough and funny novel by Angie Cruz, “How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water,” about an unemployed mother seeking a new beginning.
In nonfiction, we recommend memoirs by the Rolling Stone impresario Jann Wenner and the celebrated TV writer David Milch, along with an admiring biography of John Donne and a look at the complicated geopolitics of Asia in the years following World War II. Happy reading.
This memoir by the co-founder and longtime editor of Rolling Stone is the literary equivalent of a diss track: a retort to Joe Hagan’s biography, “Sticky Fingers,” which was published five years ago, after Wenner’s initial cooperation curdled into public repudiation. The book traces the evolution of Wenner’s scrappy San Francisco music rag into a slick, bicoastal boomer bible, with all the expected celebrity cameos (and some unexpected ones too: We learn that as a baby, Wenner was treated by Dr. Benjamin Spock).
Milch, the creator of acclaimed TV shows including “N.Y.P.D. Blue” and “Deadwood,” writes about his life, his multiple addictions and his creative process. What warms this book, and gives it a long view of life, is that it was completed while its author was suffering from the early effects of Alzheimer’s.
McEwan goes long and triumphs in this novel of uncharacteristic but satisfying breadth, about a failed poet named Roland Baines remembering the piano teacher who seduced him and the wife who abandoned him. Baines isn’t the absolute dullest knife in the drawer, but nor would he be your first choice for chopping vegetables. A tale of an ordinary man plodding through extraordinary times.
Knopf | $30
Set in New York City, this taut and poignant novel centers on a 56-year-old Dominican woman grappling with motherhood, acceptance and loss in the midst of the Great Recession, as she unburdens her life story to a career counselor.
Flatiron | $27.99
In this emotionally wrenching thriller, translated from the Korean by An Seon Jae, an artist wakes up one morning to find out that his wife has left him. Ominously, she’s left behind part of her soon-to-be-published autobiographical novel, which is titled “Your Lies About Me.”
Throughout this debut collection, following a privileged millennial milieu in Los Angeles, sunny facades belie strange, dark interiors. Alic’s work revels in seedy detail and the characters’ fraught need to be seen; the most touching story here juxtaposes the contradictions of female desire with ideas about family and masculinity.
Vintage | Paperback, $16
In the years after Japan’s surrender in World War II, East and Southeast Asia became the globe’s most violent region. This marvelous and gripping chronicle shows how the legacy of that era still shadows the region today.
Both “a biography of Donne and an act of evangelism,” as Rundell puts it, this superb book rises to the challenge of introducing the poet and his world to a new generation, encouraging us to read him for how, as much as for what, he wrote.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux | $30
This debut story collection follows a Jamaican family in Miami, where the narrator struggles to forge an identity for himself and his parents run up against storms, financial trouble and racism. With charm and sympathy, Escoffery devises an intimate exploration of intergenerational conflict.
MCD/Farrar, Straus & Giroux | $27
In Louis’s fourth novel, translated by Tash Aw, the author profiles the character of his own mother — heroine, victim, role model and responsibility — and the burdens and privileges of being a son.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux | $20
Kumarasamy’s debut shifts perspectives between a 26-year-old A.I. employee in Queens, and passages from a late-1990s manuscript she is translating from Tamil into English. Both narratives are edged with passion, with a desire for things just beyond reach.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux | $27
In this vivid account from Fish Village, a predominantly Filipino and Mexican community in Texas, a young biracial woman longs for her absent mother and comes into a new understanding of her heritage.