In Mischling (Lee Boudreaux, $27), Affinity Konar introduces two unforgettable protagonists, twin sisters Stasha and Pearl. Housed in Mengele’s “zoo” in Auschwitz, where experiments are performed on twins, Stasha and Pearl face unspeakable cruelty. Their story is told in their own alternating voices, bringing to life their world in the camp and their existence after liberation. The pair’s hatred for Mengele, their love for one another and their fellow prisoners, and their incredible hope for the future in the face of such barbarism give urgency and energy to the story. Original and very memorable, Stasha and Pearl are remarkable tellers of their own story.
Smart, funny, original, The Nix (Knopf, $27.95) by Nathan Hill tells the unlikely story of college professor Samuel Andresen-Anderson and the mother who deserted him when he was a child. An aspiring writer with a book overdue, Samuel needs to get down to work or return his substantial advance—unfortunately, long-since spent. But he succumbs to the lethargy of his stifling job and his distracting addiction to video games. When his mother appears on the nightly news, newly famous for bizarrely attacking a political candidate, Samuel thinks his problems may be solved. He sets out to write her story (a bankable project, his editor agrees) and in the process learns the complicated truth about his mother’s young adulthood and the events leading up to her desertion of her son.
(This book cannot be returned.)
The Best of the Harvard Lampoon: 140 Years of American Humor (Touchstone, $26) is the first anthology ever produced by the venerable humor magazine, which began in 1876. President Ulysses S. Grant is said to have been warned against reading the Lampoon as it would leave him “in stitches” and unable to lead the government. Since then, contributors to the magazine have gone on to write for The National Lampoon, The New Yorker, Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock and many other publications, movies, and TV shows. Included here are some very funny people, including B.J. Novak, Henry Beard, Andy Borowitz, George Plimpton, Conan O’Brien, John Updike, and Patricia Marx to name just a few.