The O'Briens By Peter Behrens, Anansi, 514 pages, $18.95
Peter Behrens continues the saga of the O'Brien family, begun with the emigration to Canada of “bog boy” Fergus O'Brien and his wife, Molly in 2006's The Law of Dreams. The O'Briens begins two generations later, with Joe O'Brien and his mother, brothers and sisters in rural Quebec.
Muhammad and the Believers At the Origins of Islam. By Fred M. Donner, Belknap, 280 pages, $17.95
Fred Donner, a professor of Near Eastern history, offers a clear and innovative account of Islam's evolution. He argues that the roots of Islam are in the reformist “Believers' movement” of the Prophet Mohammed, which stressed monotheism and moral behaviour in accordance with God's law. The sharp distinction between Islam and other religions was made a century later.
The Pale King By David Foster Wallace, Back Bay, 549 pages, $18.50
In writer David Foster Wallace's posthumous novel The Pale King, the character David Wallace ends up as a junior functionary with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Mistaken for another, higher-ranking David Wallace, the author's fictional doppelgänger enters an absurd labyrinth of bureaucratic procedure.
The Closing of the American Mind How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students. By Allan Bloom, Simon & Schuster, 402 pages, $18.99
This is a 25th-anniversary edition of U.S. philosopher Allan Bloom's surprise bestseller about the state of higher education in U.S. universities, in which he argues that the social and political woes of modern America are part of other, more general intellectual crises. Journalist Andrew Ferguson's new essay examines the uproar that greeted the book's publication.