This week in paperback picks: two novels (one a Pulitzer Prize winner), three elegant short-story collections and a real-life World War II family saga that might be just the thing for your dad (or for you).
"The Dinner Party" by Joshua Ferris (Back Bay Books, $15.99). Last year I loved this collection of short stories, most of which deal with relationships teetering on a precipice. Ferris, author of three novels (including "To Rise Again at a Decent Hour") is a master of elegant, spare description; consider this phrase, about a Manhattan night: "Yellow taxis lost their color and became lights floating on air."
"The Jersey Brothers: A Missing Naval Officer in the Pacific and His Family's Quest to Bring Him Home" by Sally Mott Freeman (Simon & Schuster, $18). Just in time for Father's Day: an epic true story about three brothers serving in the Navy during World War II, one of whom goes missing. Freeman, the niece of the missing soldier, spent a decade doing research to tell her family's story.
"Less" by Andrew Sean Greer (Little, Brown, $15.99). A novel classified as "romantic comedy" that won the Pulitzer Prize? Indeed. I've long had Greer's book, in which a failed novelist travels the world in an attempt to avoid attending his ex-boyfriend's wedding, on my Read As Soon As Possible list; clearly it's time.
"Men Without Women" by Haruki Murakami (Knopf, $16). The revered Japanese writer, author of two dozen books read around the world, published this short-story collection last year, with a title from Hemingway and inspiration by the Northwest writer Raymond Carver, who Murakami greatly admired. "It's Carver that Murakami is thinking of," wrote Jeff Baker in The Seattle Times, "when he writes that 'Dreams are the kind of things you can – when you need to – borrow and lend out.'"
"The Ministry of Utmost Happiness" by Arundhati Roy (Knopf, $16.95). Two decades after her beloved novel "The God of Small Things" (which won the Man Booker Prize in 1997), Roy returned with this, a decades-sprawling tale set in Delhi and Kashmir. Seattle Times critic Bharti Kirchner noted that the new book demonstrated Roy's "mastery of exquisite prose, visionary intelligence and a bent for epic storytelling."
"The Purple Swamp Hen and Other Stories" by Penelope Lively (Penguin Random House, $15). Paperback Picks is full of short-story collections this week; here's another one, from the Booker Prize-winning author of numerous novels and collections; now in her mid-80s, she's still writing up a storm. The title story refers to a creature ("You know me on the famous garden fresco from Pompeii") who tells stories of an ancient civilization before fleeing the ash of Vesuvius.