Homeland by Barbara Kingsolver (Faber, pounds 5.99) These shards of American home-life have attracted the soaring epithet "Chekovian" from the New York Times but that is overstating the case. Many of Kingsolver's stories are akin to diary entries of a peculiarly traumatic nature - a car-crash, a near-drowning, an arrest on a picket-line - but they are strangely lacking in focus, despite her fine, laconic dialogue and eye for shabby detail. She writes with great tenderness about society's outsiders, but, laudable though it is, this kind of material does not make for addictive page-turning.
Trust by Francis Fukuyama (Penguin, pounds 12.50) Despite its daunting bulk and title, this is a stimulating read. Fukuyama's enlightened thesis is that "a healthy and dynamic civil society" - in other words "trust" between individuals and institutions - is vital for stable prosperity. Overly centralised states have trouble achieving this; so do those where any institution larger than the family is distrusted. The author cites the example of Wang Computers whose fortunes plummeted as a result of "blatant nepotism". This wide-ranging, lucid work is a welcome rebuff to extremists of both right and left.
The Austrians by Gordon Brook-Shepherd (HarperCollins, pounds 8.99) Britain's greatest expert on Mitteleuropa has condensed a lifetime's research into this history. Austria's imperial past is delineated at a cracking rate - from Charlemagne to Metternich in 60 pages. The pace slows for the momentous events of our own century in which this pocket-sized state played such an explosively catalytic role. Fortunately for all concerned, the last half-century has been remarkable for its lack of drama, though the author notes how the Waldheim scandal shattered Austria's complacent view of itself.
Howard Hughes: the untold story by Peter H Brown and Pat H Broeske (Warner, pounds 7.99) Rich beyond belief, Hughes was once a formidable operator. But by 1951, his aides were issued with a "nine-point programme for opening a tin of peaches." His harem of starlets had similar rules: no leg-shaving and no pork ("Howard hated to be in bed with women who had gas"). His celebrity lovers ranged from Ava Gardner to Kate Hepburn. Doubtless the "millions of dollarsworth of jewels he threw at their feet" helped them overlook any character defects. Despite the authors' assiduous research, the man remains a mystery - perhaps there is little to know.
film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Woman falls to her death as she celebrates marriage proposal at the edge of Ibiza cliff
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 Dad attempts revenge on teenage daughter, plan backfires spectacularly
- 4 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
Game of Thrones, season 5: Grey Worm actor Jacob Anderson is all for more male nudity – as long as he can keep his clothes on
Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
Game of Thrones really doesn't want Danny Dyer - EastEnders star rejected three times
Martin Scorsese 'in shock' after death on set of new film Silence
Game of Thrones season 5 trailer: The first full-length look is here
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures