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The Glamour of Strangeness: Artists and the Last Age of the Exotic

Jamie James (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

James examines six artists whose travels allowed them to find inspiration and belonging far from their homelands in locations across the globe. In addition to analyzing their art, he details their rich lives, revealing serendipitous connections among the artists. Many of James's subjects refused to conform to the social norms of their birthplaces, namely monogamy and heterosexuality, and the description of these struggles is illuminating.

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The Dragon Behind the Glass: A True Story of Power, Obsession, and the World's Most Coveted Fish

Emily Voigt (Scribner)

Voigt explores the strange vortex where science, conservation, and commercialism meet when she follows the trail of the Asian arowana. Her journey takes her to Southeast Asia where she meets an array of colorful characters whose lives also orbit this rare, ancient, and extremely expensive fish. Voigt's passionate narrative perfectly conveys the obsessive world in which this creature swims.

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Everybody Behaves Badly: The True Story Behind Hemingway's Masterpiece ‘The Sun Also Rises'

Lesley M.M. Blume (HMH/Dolan)

Blume has carved a mountain of original research into a riveting tale of the young Hemingway's literary, romantic, and publishing travails. In retelling the creation of his legendary debut and roman à clef, The Sun Also Rises, she shows how the book originated in an epic trip he undertook with a group of friends to Pamplona, Spain, in the summer of 1925.

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Finding Fontainebleau: An American Boy in France

Thad Carhart (Viking)

American casualness and exuberance meet French formality and grandeur in this lively, perceptive memoir, a prequel to the author's The Piano Shop on the Left Bank. Carhart's meandering, warmly evocative anecdotes register both the quirkiness of France's traditions and the civilizing, humanizing influence they exert.

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Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman

Lindy West (Hachette Books)

West, a culture writer at GQ and former staff writer for Jezebel, balances humor with a rare honesty and introspection in her debut. Always entertaining and relatable, she writes openly about embarrassing moments and self-esteem issues, and has a remarkable ability to move among lightheartedness, heavy-hitting topics, and what it means to be a good person.

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Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War

Mary Roach (Norton)

The inimitable Roach returns with another squirm-inducing story of scientific endeavor. This time she digs into the work of the military scientists who are seeking ways to make combat more endurable for the soldiers engaged in it. This tale isn't one of advanced tactics or weapons, but of gruesome reconstructive surgery and Navy SEALs with diarrhea. If anyone can make the gross and traumatic entertaining, it's Mary Roach.

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But What If We're Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past

Chuck Klosterman (Penguin/Blue Rider)

Klosterman (I Wear the Black Hat) composes a series of delightful, intriguing thought experiments. For instance, if the ancient Egyptians had had television, which of their TV shows would interest us most—the Egyptian Breaking Bad, perhaps? He also asks, why do some writers achieve literary immortality while others are totally forgotten? This book will remind readers (any who need reminding) that Klosterman is one of our most insightful critics of pop culture.

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Double Cup Love: On the Trail of Family, Food, and Broken Hearts in China

Eddie Huang (Random/Spiegel & Grau)

Via an endless stream of hilarious basketball metaphors and pop culture one-liners Huang (Fresh Off the Boat) conveys his passion for food and determination to get things right on every page of this memoir, which finds the young chef, who made his name in New York City, cooking his heart out in China.

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