By Nick Hornby
You don't buy a Van Morrison CD hoping to hear him do something radically different, and you shouldn't crack the latest Nick Hornby novel, Juliet, Naked, expecting anything more, or less, than another smart, soft-centered tale of hapless manchildren, precocious actual children and sensible women. The new novel, like Hornby's first novel, High Fidelity, explores the complex world of music fanaticism. Duncan, a young British man stuck in a post-collegiate mindset, is obsessed with obscure rock musician Tucker Crowe, who disappeared from the public eye decades ago. When Duncan's girlfriend, Annie, tires of Duncan's antics, she posts a message on his Tucker Crowe website that attracts the attention of the musician himself, opening the door to an unexpected triangle.
416 pages, $15, Riverhead Trade
Homer & Langley
By E.L. Doctorow
E.L. Doctorow altered the literary landscape 35 years ago when he insinuated "real" characters like J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford and Harry Houdini into the fictional setting of Ragtime. He's back in the groove with Homer & Langley, his slyly inventive, uproarious 12th novel, which uses the real-life Collyer brothers as a jumping-off point for a kaleidoscopic trip through 20th-century America. The strange hermit brothers made headlines in 1947 when their bodies were discovered in a Fifth Avenue mansion that was chockablock with more than 100 tons of junk and old newspapers related to a decades-long project to develop an "eternally current dateless newspaper."
224 pages, $15, Random House
Half Broke Horses
A True-Life Novel
By Jeannette Walls
Jeanette Walls' childhood was difficult enough to warrant a bestselling memoir, The Glass Castle, which begins with her homeless mother rummaging through the garbage. What could possibly come next? Half Broke Horses is a novelistic re-creation of the life of Walls' eccentric grandmother, Lily Casey Smith. Smith was a mustang breaker, schoolteacher, bootlegger, rancher and bush pilot in Texas and Arizona who lost everything she had in the Great Depression. The New York Times compared the book favorably to the memoirs of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
288 pages, $15, Scribner
By David Small
Award-winning children's book author and illustrator David Small has written a chilling, unsentimental, beautifully illustrated memoir of his childhood that's strictly for grownups. From the safe remove of adulthood, Stitches reads like a how-not-to guidebook on child-rearing. Consider: Small's father, a radiologist in the 1950s, repeatedly gave the young boy high-dose X-ray treatments for his sinus problems. When Small was 14, he awoke from what he'd been told was a routine operation to find that he could no longer speak: a cancerous vocal cord had been removed, leaving him with a scar stretching from behind his right ear to the top of his chest. This book was a finalist for the National Book Award last year — only the second graphic novel to receive that distinction.
329 pages, $15.95, W. W. Norton & Co.
By Joshua Ferris
Tim Farnsworth, the main character in Joshua Ferris' new novel, The Unnamed, is a partner in a high-powered law firm in Manhattan. He is married with a young daughter. And he cannot stop walking. Tim's condition "is more of a disease than a compulsion," Ferris tells NPR's Melissa Block. "It's not really a feeling he has to walk, but really his body overtaking him and forcing him to walk." However, our reviewer found this exploration of the disconnect between mind and body, and the distrustful truce that exists between the individual and society, a "slimmer and considerably slighter effort" than the "substantive, complex and tonally variegated accomplishment" of Ferris' first novel, And Then We Came to the End.
320 pages, $13.99, Reagan Arthur/Back Bay Books
Charlotte Abbott is the editor of "New In Paperback."