Five books people are talking about this week -- or should be:
1. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, (Random House)
Foreword by Abraham Verghese
In his years of neurosurgery training, Kalanithi looked at hundreds of CT scans to determine whether surgery was a treatment option for his patients. But in his sixth year of training he was stopped cold by one particular scan. His own. It showed that at age 36. he had developed stage IV lung cancer. He wrote about this experience in a New York Times essay, “How Long Have I Got Left?”, that found a wide audience. This eloquent book, written during Kalanithi's last 22 months of life, is filled with the deep passions of its author – for patients, family, and literature – that make his early death all the more poignant .
2. The Confidence Game: Why We Fall For It . . . Every Time by Maria Konnikova (Viking)
Too smart for a con job? Think again. The smartest fall fastest, Konnikova explains in The Confidence Game, which follows her previous book, Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes. Konnikova draws on new neuroscience and psychology to argue that we are hardwired to accept offers that really are too good to be true. She gets into the minds of everyday liars as well as big cheats and swindlers like Ponzi and Madoff, and explains that at the root of it all is the profound need for a great story.
3. City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp by Ben Rawlence (Picador)
What’s now the world’s largest refugee camp was opened in 1991 in the Kenyan desert as a temporary way station for Somali refuges. It now shelters nearly a half-million people who have fled their native lands and have no place to go. Rawlence spent several years researching conditions at the camp with Human Rights Watch, and then lived there for extensive periods of time. He focuses on individual refugees and their everyday lives and compassionately tells their stories of making a life when they have no country to call home.
4. American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis (Doubleday)
The Upper East Side is an easy – but elusive -- target, as Wednesday Martin found out when her memoir Primates of Park Avenue was ridiculed for its over-the-top tales of annual "wife bonuses." In a style that’s closer to The Bonfire of the Vanities (but a small fraction of its length), Helen Ellis, raised in Alabama and a competitive poker player, placed her bet on fiction as the best window into the off-kilter world of pearls-and-lipstick domesticity. One story in this frequently hilarious collection: “The Wainscoting War,” is an epistolary tale for the digital age, featuring a devastatingly mean-spirited email correspondence between two enraged owners dueling over their shared hallway.
5. The Name of God Is Mercy by Pope Francis
Translated from the Italian by Oonagh Stransky (Random House)
The first Jesuit and first South American to be elected Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis just launched his Holy Year of Mercy -- and this book, which will be published in more than 80 countries around the world. This urgent little volume is a conversation between Pope Francis and Vatican journalist Andrea Tornielli, and it delivers a clarion call for mercy, which the Pope describes as the “first attribute of God.” He recalls his coming of age and experiences as a young pastor, noting how his work with criminals and outcasts in Argentina enriched his own faith and his belief in the power of forgiveness.