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NEW AND NOTABLE BOOKS
A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara (Anchor Books, $17.00) Now in paperback, this story of four male friends from college was a NYT Best Book of 2015. Yanagihara's writes about characters that stay with the reader long after the 700 pages are finished, as she with such an effortless, beautiful style that it makes the often painful things that happen to the primary character of Jude both fascinating and compelling. Such compassion and deep understanding of her character's lives as they move from youth to middle age makes this story a favorite of anyone who has read it. - Maurine
The Road to Little Dribbling - Adventures of an American in Britain, by Bill Bryson (Doubleday, $28.95) Following on twenty years later from his greatly amusing, best-selling British travelogue, Notes From a Small Island, Bill Bryson travels around his adopted land again to see what has changed - and what hasn't. Mostly ignoring a route he dubs the Bryson Line, from Bognor Regis in the south to Cape Wrath in the north, he re-explores the wondrously beautiful, magnificently eccentric, endearingly singular country that he both celebrates and despairs of. Nothing is more entertaining than Bill Bryson on the road - and on a tear. This book reaffirms his stature as a master of the travel narrative - and a really, really funny writer.
SPQR - A History of Ancient Rome, by Mary Beard (Liveright, $35.00) "Ancient Rome is important," British classics professor Mary Beard declares in the first line of this hefty but entertaining book. She then spends the next 600 pages explaining why. From mythical beginnings (most of which Beard debunks), the unimposing village on the Tiber developed over seven centuries into a sprawling metropolis of more than a million inhabitants and became the seat of power for an empire that encompassed territory from Britain to Syria. The Romans' experiments in government, democracy and autocracy, as they sought ways to manage this unwieldy growth, remain relevant and instructive today. The book includes a cast of well-known characters, stripped here of their Shakespearean and Masterpiece Theater personas and placed in proper historical context. Beard is also interested in Rome's ordinary citizens - the plebians - who left fewer archaeological traces but seem recognizable to modern readers: they wore trousers (not just togas), they practiced dentistry, they grew beards when these became inexplicably fashionable. The book's title is an abbreviation of a famous Roman catchphrase, Senatus Populus Que Romanus, "The Senate and People of Rome." - Arlene
After the Crash, by Michael Bussi (Hachette, $26.00) When an airliner crashes into a Swiss mountainside, the only survivor is a three-month-old girl, thrown from the cabin before fire consumes it. But two infants were on board, and the families of both girls claim the Miracle Child is theirs. The Vitrals are low-income itinerants; the de Carvilles are wealthy, powerful - and dangerous... Eighteen years later, a private detective hired to solve the mystery of the girl known as "Lylie" is about to give up, when he discovers a secret hidden in plain view. Meanwhile, Lylie, a beautiful university student, entrusts a notebook to her lover, Marc - and then vanishes. After Marc reads the notebook he sets out on a desperate quest to find Lylie, but it soon becomes clear he's not the only one on her trail. A best-seller in Europe, this is a first rate psychological suspense - an absorbing story of one child, two families, and the dark secrets that define us all.