10 New Books We Recommend This Week


UTOPIA AVENUE, by David Mitchell. (Random House, $30.) Mitchell, the British master of formally intricate, elaborately interconnected and often fantastical novels, has long demonstrated a passion for music. That love, deployed with his usual narrative high jinks, is on full display in this story of a London rock band’s rise to fame in the Swinging Sixties. “An expert historical novel,” in the assessment of our reviewer, Daniel Mendelsohn, “it takes the form of an earnest Bildungsroman about a ragtag quartet of young Brits who briefly come together to make music and, in the process, find themselves. The choice of subject matter will come as no surprise to Mitchell’s longtime readers,” who throughout his career have had cause to “wonder when Mitchell was going to write a novel that put music front and center.”

BUTCH CASSIDY: The True Story of an American Outlaw, by Charles Leerhsen. (Simon & Schuster, $28.) Made famous by Paul Newman and Hollywood, Butch Cassidy, as Leerhsen shows, was in real life a smallish cowboy of dubious morals, driven to crime by the harsh financial realities on the open range. “Leerhsen, who is the author of biographies of Ty Cobb and the harness horse Dan Patch, amply demonstrates that cowboys are in his corral,” Christopher Knowlton writes in his review. “He has taken the trouble to read the literature and track down the living descendants of the Wild Bunch in order to get the slippery details as straight as he can. Then he starts his own one-man posse in pursuit of the charismatic outlaw, visiting homesteads and following the historical trail all the way to Bolivia and Argentina.”

BIG FRIENDSHIP: How We Keep Each Other Close, by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman. (Simon & Schuster, $26.) Sow and Friedman, the hosts of the popular “Call Your Girlfriend” podcast, describe intense friendships as one of life’s foundations, neglected at our peril and, likely, our regret. Their book calls on us to stop seeing these relationships as something that we put on hold while we focus on careers, marriages or children. “With this book, Sow and Friedman remind us that laziness in tending to friendships is dangerous,” Trish Hall writes in her review, “and that regardless of the circumstance, whether geography or pandemic, friendships must be nourished, or they will wither.”

EMPTY: A Memoir, by Susan Burton. (Random House, $27.) Burton’s memoir of anorexia and binge eating is fueled by anger and honesty. This fearsomely intimate story brings perfectionism into tight focus and provides an unforgettable portrait of a different kind of addiction. “There’s quiet fury at its center — a nuclear sun that radiates not out at the world, but back at the author herself,” Claire Dederer writes in her review. “The author’s anger gives the book its considerable power, its substantial grace and even, in the end, its meaning.”

THE BIGGEST BLUFF: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win, by Maria Konnikova. (Penguin Press, $28.) Konnikova, a writer for The New Yorker with a Ph.D. in psychology, decided to study poker for its interplay between luck and determination. This is an account of her journey, which took her much further into the world of high-stakes gambling than she ever imagined. “Part of the book’s deliciousness is Konnikova’s journey from ‘novicedom,’ starting out in online poker cafes in Hoboken, N.J., and making it all the way to the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas,” our reviewer, Michael Paterniti, writes. “Konnikova is like your smart friend who instantly contextualizes everything by sharing the latest data and sharpest insight, whom you come to quote too often to other friends and family.”

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