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What We're Reading: Nov. 10 - 16, 2009

At NPR, we cover a lot of books every week. Among those, there are always a handful of standouts — the great reads as well as the books whose buzz level makes them impossible to ignore. "What We're Reading" brings you our book team's shortlist of new fiction and nonfiction releases, along with candid reactions from our reporters, critics and staff.


My Paper Chase

True Stories Of Vanished Times

By Harold Evans

In his new memoir, Harold Evans recounts his journey from working-class British youth to editor of both the The Times of London and The Sunday Times. Whether it's describing his first job as a cub reporter at a weekly newspaper where his assignment was to type the letters to the editor, or recounting his epic battle with the British legal system so that he could tell the stories of children affected by the drug thalidomide, Evans champions the traditional newspaper journalism he believes to be most important and most imperiled.


Hardcover, 592 pages, Little, Brown and Co., list price: $27.99, pub. date: Nov. 5

American Original


The Life And Constitution Of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia

By Joan Biskupic

Whether you find Antonin Scalia infuriating or inspiring, his influence as a leader of the Supreme Court's conservative wing is undeniable. In American Original, Joan Biskupic, legal-affairs correspondent for USA Today, interviews Scalia and those who knew him. Combining anecdote with analysis, Biskupic traces the influences of Scalia's Italian upbringing and early years in the Ford and Nixon administrations, takes the measure of his judicial philosophy and examines his contributions to prominent cases, such as Bush v. Gore.


Hardcover, 448 pages, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, list price: $28, pub. date: Nov. 10


A Memoir

By Mary Karr

Mary Karr's third memoir (her first, The Liar's Club, was a best-seller in 1995) delves into her years of heavy drinking as she struggled to raise her young son. Eventually, she sobered up and found herself on a genuinely unexpected path — to Catholicism. Lit starts with an open letter to Karr's son that begins with the words, "Any way I tell this story is a lie," and it ends with a chapter called "My Sinfulness In All Its Ugliness." So no one should be surprised to find a certain combination of gut-spilling emotional volatility along with the survivor's keen ability to detach far enough to tell a rollicking story. But the book is more than a recovery memoir. Karr writes unflinchingly about marriage, class, guilt and the struggle to make peace with her raw, melodramatic, yet wildly interesting past.

Hardcover, 400 pages, HarperCollins, list price: $25.99, pub. date: Nov. 3

The Lineup

The World's Greatest Crime Writers Tell The Inside Story Of Their Greatest Detectives

By Otto Penzler

Otto Penzler is not just a crime-fiction aficionado: He owns the Mysterious Bookshop in New York, a store specializing in mysteries that's been around since 1979. In a fiery introduction, Penzler explains that he began collecting "profiles" of crime-fiction characters from the authors who created them, hoping to sell them in his shop as collector's editions — a way to compete with the encroaching chain stores he says are "malevolently" endeavoring to put him and other small bookstores out of business. The Lineup is a collection of those character sketches, written especially for his series by authors including Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Laura Lippman and Jonathan Kellerman. The authors take different approaches, but all offer an opportunity to see a familiar character in a different way.

Hardcover, 416 pages, Little, Brown and Co., list price: $25.99, pub. date: Nov. 10

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