▪ “Old Age: A Beginner’s Guide” by Michael Kinsley (Tim Duggan Books, $18). penguinrandomhouse.com
Michael Kinsley owns what might be the most envied journalistic voice of his generation — skeptical, friendly, possessed of an almost Martian intelligence — and in this superb book he turns his sights to aging.
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▪ “Seinfeldia: How a Show About Nothing Changed Everything” by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong (Simon & Schuster, $26). simonandschuster.com
The television show “Seinfeld,” which ran from 1989 to 1998, was genuinely funny, dry as good vermouth, eminently quotable and — yada, yada, yada — here is a good book about it.
▪ “The Gene: An Intimate History” by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner, $32). simonandschuster.com
After Siddhartha Mukherjee wrote “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer,” no one was quite sure, including the author himself, whether he had another book in him — at least not a work with such an impressive wingspan. It turns out he did, though, in the story of the gene, which starts with Gregor Mendel’s experiments with peas and concludes with the sci-fi prospect of customizing our own children. The book can be chewy, dense (it’s better paired with a syrah than a Chablis) but satisfies for this same reason.
▪ “The Vanishing Velázquez: A 19th-Century Bookseller’s Obsession With a Lost Masterpiece” by Laura Cumming (Scribner, $28). simonandschuster.com
“We say that works of art can change our lives,” Laura Cumming writes in “The Vanishing Velázquez.” In the case of John Snare, this cliche became true in the most literal, consequential sense: A painting he purchased in 1845 made him famous, then broke, then itinerant, then utterly alone — all because he was convinced it was painted by Velázquez, rather than van Dyck. Part history, part mystery, part critical appreciation, this demented love story consumes the reader just as the painting did Snare. Dickens himself couldn’t have given him a better name.
“White Sands: Experiences From the Outside World” by Geoff Dyer (Pantheon, $25). penguinrandomhouse.com
Travel, like marriage, is something we expect more of than we can ever realistically hope to get in return; yet still we persist, fools that we are, and no one knows this better than Geoff Dyer, the neurotic Siddhartha who’s spent a lifetime in pursuit of the numinous in faraway places, usually with mixed and amusing results. “White Sands,” his latest collection of essays, contains his trademark blend of wit, sharpness and melancholy.
▪ “The Adventurist” by J. Bradford Hipps (St. Martin’s Press, $25.99). us.macmillan.com
This bright and big-souled book, set in a large Southern city, may put some readers in mind of Walker Percy’s classic novel “The Moviegoer.” It’s that relative rarity, a business novel that’s interested in what people get out of their work lives.
▪ “Scary Old Sex” by Arlene Heyman (Bloomsbury USA, $26). bloomsbury.com
Rueful and funny and observant short stories about late-flowering lust. The author is a psychiatrist in New York City, and she nails her characters and their longings. Viagra, stretch marks, over-the-counter lubricants, strange moles: oh, my.
“The Portable Veblen” by Elizabeth McKenzie (Penguin Press, $26) penguinrandomhouse.com
Some novelists can’t help it: Their eyes take in the world at a 30-degree angle; their ears pick up frequencies their fellow humans cannot hear. Elizabeth McKenzie, luckily for us, is one such writer, and her third novel makes a screwball comedy of truly unlikely stuff (including, but not limited to: consumerism, pragmatism, parental narcissism, premarital jitters, mental illness, Big Pharma). The result is a work of festive, life-affirming originality. It also happens to star a squirrel. Yeah, yeah, I know. But it works.
“Grace” by Natashia Deón (Counterpoint, $25). counterpointpress.com
If ever a novel cried out to be a film, this debut by Natashia Deón is it. Naomi, a runaway slave shot dead just after giving birth, tells her story from beyond the grave, and it loops and swirls as gorgeously as a kite’s tail. We travel with her back and forth in time, across and back through the plantations of the South; an intense maternal love powers her forward, and an intense sense of identification keeps us with her every step of the way.
▪ “The Complete Peanuts: 1999 to 2000 and Comics and Stories” by Charles M. Schulz (Fantagraphics, $49.99). fantagraphics.com
This two-volume gift box caps Fantagraphics’s epic project of reprinting all of Charles M. Schulz’s “Peanuts” strips. The “1999 to 2000” volume collects Schulz’s last work, and even here, 50 years after “Peanuts” was born, his line is sure and lyrical, his voice insightful and gentle. Snoopy still lusts after Linus’ blanket, Peppermint Patty is school-clueless, Charlie Brown sighs and frowns. “Comics and Stories” is a miscellany of rare “Peanuts” art, including storybooks and advertising. Schulz completed a staggering 17,897 daily and Sunday strips. My wish? That there were 17,897 more … sigh.
“The Lost Work of Will Eisner” edited by Andrew Carl, Josh O’Neill and Chris Stevens (Locust Moon Press, $24.99). locustmoon.storenvy.com
Will Eisner, with Jack Kirby, established the visual vocabulary of action comic books. But what the reader gets here is Eisner, best known for the Spirit, honing his design ABCs. These mid-1930s Eisner strips, “Uncle Otto” and “Harry Karry,” were unearthed from a trove of vintage printing plates and represent his earliest known cartooning. “Uncle Otto” is a pantomime strip in the tradition of “The Little King” by Otto Soglow, while “Harry Karry” is an adventure comic. Together, they’re a fascinating glimpse at the beginning of a pro’s career.