This week: how to stay sane, faking a deadly peanut allergy, and the forgotten writings of Bram Stoker.
On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Works by Simon Garfield (Gotham) - Innumerable modes of seeing the world unfold in this exuberant history of maps. Garfield (Just My Type) loosely follows the development of cartography, taking in the precociously scientific geography of the ancient Greeks; medieval England’s Hereford Mappa Mundi, drenched in Christian allegory and teeming with mythical beasts; the Age of Exploration’s heroic maps of newly discovered, sketchily drawn, and wrongly designated landmasses (America got its name from a cartographer’s erroneous belief that Amerigo Vespucci discovered it); the 19th-century map that established cholera as a water-borne disease; modern GPS systems, and video game fantasy maps. Garfield’s droll humor and infectious curiosity will keep readers engrossed as he uncovers surprising ways in which maps chart our imaginations as much as they do the ground underfoot.
Peanut by Ayun Halliday (Random/Schwartz & Wade) - Inventing a deadly peanut allergy isn’t the first thing the average teenager would think of to make herself more interesting, but Halliday (Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo) takes the idea and runs with it. The moment that sophomore Sadie Wildhack puts her scheme into action, tension starts to build. Chatter from new classmates (“I’m like ‘Oh my God, stop acting like you’ve got cancer!’ ”) makes it clear Sadie will find little sympathy. Commentary from homeroom teacher Mr. Larch provides just the right ironic counterpoint: “Ladies, please! This is algebra, not some tatty Guy de Maupassant story.” The story’s arc is a long, slow fall into public embarrassment; only the attention of Chris “Zoo” Suzuki, a Luddite who hand-delivers his love notes because he doesn’t have a cellphone, saves Sadie from complete social failure. It’s not easy being both hip and life- affirming, but this team has the secret formula.
How to Stay Sane by Philippa Perry (Picador) - Lumping the insane into two broad groups—those who “lurch from crisis to crisis” and those who “have got themselves into a rut and operate from a limited set of outdated, rigid responses—” Perry (Couch Fiction) explains how to “stay on the path between those two extremes.” Right off the bat, it’s clear her intention is not to transform the clinically crazy into functioning members of society; rather, this brief book is aimed at everyday folks struggling to “remain stable and yet flexible, coherent and yet able to embrace complexity.” Perry, a psychotherapist, explains that people who maintain sanity have changed in four areas. Click here to find out what they are.
The Forgotten Writings of Bram Stoker by Bram Stoker, edited by John Edgar Browning (Palgrave Macmillan) - In this treasure trove for Stoker devotees, editor Browning offers up previously lost or unknown works by the famed Dracula author, providing a fascinating look into Stoker’s psyche. The collection is divided into seven parts: one each for unknown poetry, fiction, and journalistic writings; a compilation of unknown interviews; rare and uncollected works; period writings about Stoker; and a catalogue of his personal library, including autographed letters and “illuminated and other manuscripts,” which went up for auction after his death in 1912. This well-edited book will interest Stoker fans and literary historians alike. Check out an excerpt from Stoker’s lost story, “When the Sky Rains Gold.”
The Intercept by Dick Wolf (Morrow) - A lone al-Qaeda terrorist armed with a hard-to-detect obsidian knife tries to hijack a cross-Atlantic airliner and crash it into midtown Manhattan, but five passengers and a flight attendant wrestle him to the floor and subdue him. The Six, as they quickly become known, are celebrated as new American heroes. Lionized by the media, they are promptly folded into New York City’s Fourth of July celebration and the upcoming dedication of the new World Trade Center tower. Enter Jeremy Fisk of the NYPD’s Intelligence division. The veteran detective worries that the terrorist plot was foiled too easily—that the attempted hijacking could have been a diversion to conceal something much, much bigger.