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February 18, 2009

Book: What We're Reading

1) Rabbit Run by John Updike (novel) — Everyone wonders when the economy will hit bottom. Here’s when: when you read “Rabbit Run,” the delicious 1960 novel of utter despair by the late, great John Updike. And when you cry so much your nose gets sore from blowing it into violent, jagged squares of toilet paper (because Kleenex would be too soothing), cheer yourself up by reading Updike’s short story “A&P.” —Jim Welp

2) The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston (seriocomic thriller) — Wading the ironic (and literal) gore of crime-scene cleanup has been done before — Graham Masterton’s “Trauma” was wickedly sharp pulp-horror, and Hollywood is finally about to release “Sunshine Cleaning.” But the scenario is custom-made for crime novelist Huston, whose characters stumble balletically through minefields between modern-day decency and narcissistic absurdity. —T.E. Lyons

3) The Invention of Air: A Story of Science, Faith, Revolution and the Birth of America by Steven Johnson (non-fiction) — Look again at that subtitle. Here is a book purporting to be a biography of the British polymath Joseph Priestly, great friend, in turns, to Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. But in fact, Johnson, in a sleight of hand that his subject himself would have been proud of, gives the Enlightenment story the old Tipping Point treatment. This is a book that both Malcolm Gladwell and Sarah Vowell must have snarfed up in one sitting. —Mary Welp

4) The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro (non-fiction) — With government spending on infrastructure in the news, it’s a great time to revisit, or to read for the first time, Caro’s 1974 classic. This biography of the master builder of the American century, Robert Moses is a virtuoso performance of research and writing with lessons for anyone interested in politics, urban planning or history. —Alan G. Brake

5) The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (fiction) — Ever wonder what it would be like to meet your future husband, to whom the standard space-time continuum does not apply, when you were a child and he an adult, already married to you in a future about which he tells you precious little? Whether it’s better to love once upon a time or for all time is the reader’s prerogative. Stephen George