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May 30 2012 5:12 PM

The Best New Books

Top picks from the Slate Book Review.


My Friend Dahmer, by Derf Backderf
Backderf’s his new graphic novel, My Friend Dahmer, is the true story of the author’s high school interactions with a young Jeffrey Dahmer in the mid-1970s. Backderf illustrated the inaugural issue of the Slate Book Review.


At Last, by Edward St. Aubyn
The latest of Aubyn’s masterful novels of privilege and the ways it warps its victims.

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Blue Nights, by Joan Didion
Using grief over her daughter’s death as point of entry to her anxieties late in life, Didion confronts not just her own frailty but the long and swerving arc of her creative career. The results are haunting.


Helvetica and the New York City Subway System, by Paul Shaw
This beautiful book tells the story of the signs that line New York’s subway stations, and it’s a masterful piece of reporting—one that reveals as much about the perils and pleasures of urban bureaucracy as that favorite fiction of Slate readers, the television series The Wire.


The History of History, by Ida Hattemer-Higgins
A portrait of madness that is wildly inventive, and often just plain wild.


Lucking Out: My Life Getting Down and Semi-Dirty in Seventies New York, by James Wolcott
The subject matter was enough to get us hooked: The Village Voice in the 1970s, Patti Smith and the punk scene, porno theaters in Times Square, Pauline Kael and her acolytes. But Wolcott’s sometimes crazy style is what kept us reading.


The Pale King, by David Foster Wallace
Of all of David Foster Wallace’s much-discussed and much-avoided fiction—his three novels and his three collections of short stories—we submit that The Pale King is, contrary to what you might guess, the best place to start.


The Psychopath Test, by Jon Ronson
If you’ve ever wondered if you’re a psychopath, take heart: the fact that you’re wondering means you’re not.


By Blood, by Ellen Ullman
What is most distinctive about Ullman’s voice is the way it sounds fully formed, mature both intellectually and emotionally.


Gods Without Men by Hari Kunzru
A sprawling, messy dreamscape of a novel tjay explores the myths and mysteries of the Mojave.

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The Escape Artists: How Obama’s Team Fumbled the Recovery by Noam Scheiber
How Obama’s economic team failed—and still produced the best possible result.


Sex and the Office: A History of Gender, Power, and Desire by Julie Berebitsky
“Makes thorough and thoughtful work of the material at hand, showing how sex is never just about sex; it’s often about money, too.”


Engine Empire, by Cathy Park Hong
A remarkable book of poetry about the speed at which we’re rushing toward the future.


Capital by John Lanchester
A novel on life in London, told through the wrong side of the telescope.


  The Lost Bank by Kirsten Grind
Inside the terrible variety show that was Washington Mutual.


  You Came Back, by Christopher Coakes
A bereaved father wonders if his son’s ghost has returned in an ambitious, wrenching debut novel.

  2312, by Kim Stanley Robinson
A sci-fi novel so brilliant, it reads like an account of the past.


  Twilight of the Elites, by Christopher Hayes
An examination of America’s distrust of elites and the fall of the meritocracy.


  Birdseye Birstoe by Dan Zettwoch
A charming new graphic novel about a slow-moving small-town summer.

  Slate Plus
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