Six new paperbacks to check out this week.
WINTER, by Ali Smith. (Anchor, $15.95.) In the second of Smith’s group of seasonal novels, four people — two long-estranged sisters, one of their sons and his girlfriend — converge at a sprawling house at Christmastime. Wordplay, grim humor and the uncanny (including a disembodied head that never speaks) are all thrown into the mix, and Smith has an enormously expansive vision, processing news items and our broader cultural moment.
TEN RESTAURANTS THAT CHANGED AMERICA, by Paul Freedman. (Liveright, $23.95.) The restaurants Freedman features aren’t necessarily the finest, but they represent a range of pivots in the nation’s history. Howard Johnson’s, for example, appealed to families and pioneered franchising as a shrewd business plan. Chez Panisse’s focus on local ingredients continues to shape American taste.
FRESH COMPLAINT: STORIES, by Jeffrey Eugenides. (Picador, $17.) The stories in Eugenides’s debut collection come in all shades of realism, with particular attention to one of his hallmark themes: failure, whether creative, marital or financial. Our reviewer, Lauren Groff, praised the book, writing, “Nearly every one of the stories in this collection is teachable, a model of its own kind of Swiss-clock craftsmanship.”
ALI: A LIFE, by Jonathan Eig. (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99.) The first full biography of the boxer since his death in 2016, Eig’s book offers an unsparing look at Ali’s politics, retirement and final years, including a Parkinson’s diagnosis. The themes of Ali’s life are timely and resonate today, and Eig’s fluent narrative reads like a novel; he doesn’t shy away from the darker sides of boxing that many other accounts ignore. Our reviewer, Joyce Carol Oates, called the book “an epic of a biography.”