David Walton (Tor Books)

So you've come to the place where the mere sight of yet another well-meaning "science-and-religion" book makes you sick. What to do? Easy. Pick up a copy of David Walton's new novel. Warning: This is sci-fi, hence not respectable in the eyes of many of your peers. (Look at the cover! Maybe get the eBook.) But this brazenly witty exercise in alternate history—a tale of alchemy, sea monsters, religious conflict, and high adventure—reimagines the age of exploration not only to entertain (as it does, magnificently) but also to provoke reflection about how we know what we think we know.

Countee Cullen: Collected Poems
Edited by Major Jackson (Library of America)

Countee Cullen (1903-1946) was adopted early in his teens by the pastor of one of the largest churches in Harlem, and his early success made him, for a time, a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance. But he fell out of fashion—not black enough, some said; old-fashioned in his diction and versification, others sniffed—and died in his early 40s. Now that we're well into another century, why not investigate for yourself? This collection is a good place to start, along with the excellent biography of Cullen by Charles Molesworth, And Bid Him Sing, published last fall by the University of Chicago Press.

The Enchanted Wanderer: And Other Stories
Nikolai Leskov (Alfred A. Knopf)
Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

The husband-and-wife team of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky has given us new translations of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, Gogol and Chekhov, Bulgakov and Pasternak. Now they have turned to Nikolai Leskov (1831-1895), studied assiduously by scholars of Russian literature but not as familiar as he should be to general readers. This handsome volume (with a dust jacket by the ever-inventive Peter Mendelsund) includes 17 tales, among them (in addition to the title piece) "The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk" and "Lefty," Leskov's best-known stories, as well as some that will be fresh even to those acquainted with his work.

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