THE WINNER EFFECT: The Neuroscience of Success And Failure. By Ian H. Robertson. St. Martin’s Press. 320 pages. $25.99.
Why are some people winners and others are not?
In “The Winner Effect,” Ian Robertson examines whether winners are born or made, in psychological and biological terms, using a diverse sample population.
The interweaving of real-life examples with the scientific findings make the book an interesting read, not a dull technical journal. The quizzes throughout the book allow the reader to decipher his or her own winning aptitude.
Reviewer Doretha Walker is an adjunct professor of women and gender studies at the College of Charleston.
TWO GRAVES. By Preston & Child. Grand Central. 480 pages. $26.99.
The names Preston & Child on the cover of a book promise a unique reading experience unlike any other, and “Two Graves” delivers the high thrills one expects from the two masters.
The novel is the conclusion of a trilogy that started with “Fever Dream” and last year’s “Cold Vengeance,” though one could easily pick up this book and not feel lost. The protagonist, FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast, has none of the usual qualities that make a hero. He’s addicted to drugs, socially inept and has the appearance of a living ghost. But he has the most brilliant mind imaginable, and his keen insight and ability to think outside the box are desperately needed to solve a bizarre string of murders occurring in New York City hotels.
The gothic atmosphere that oozes from the pages of “Two Graves” will envelop the reader in an unusual experience. Pendergast is a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, quirks and all, who would live more comfortably in the past but must suffer through the inconveniences that living in the 21st century brings.
Fans will love the conclusion to the trilogy, and newcomers will seek out the authors’ earlier titles.
Reviewer Jeff Ayers writes for the Associated Press.
POW! By Mo Yan (translated from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt). Seagull Books. 386 pages. $27.50.
This year’s Nobel laureate in literature is an author who somehow manages to write books with brazenly political themes while living in a dictatorship. Mo Yan’s latest novel, “Pow!” is a thinly veiled assault on the frayed moral fabric of that hyper-capitalist country known as Communist China.
The characters in “Pow!” do awful and disgusting things, most of them involving meat. The residents of Slaughterhouse Village love meat so much they build a temple to it. They also taint the meat they sell with poisonous preservatives and play all sorts of tricks on unwitting consumers.
“We live in an age that scholars characterize as the primitive accumulation of capital,” says the venal government boss of Slaughterhouse Village. “Just what does that mean? Simply that people will make money by any means necessary, and that everyone’s money is tainted by the blood of others.”
“Pow!” illustrates how Communist Party bosses have helped create this new China, a country where “moral behavior” is no longer “in fashion,” as the leader of Slaughterhouse Village puts it. Yet in a strange “Afterword,” Mo says his novel has no political intent.
Mo the public figure is careful with words. Mo the novelist slips past the censors by dressing up his cutting realism in absurd and fantastic clothing.
Reviewer Hector Tobar writes for the Los Angeles Times.
THE OUTPOST: An Untold Story of American Valor. By Jake Tapper. Little, Brown. 652 pages. $29.99.
Two questions dominate the superbly reported and compelling book about the Afghanistan adventure, “The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor,” by ABC News senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper. Why wasn’t there better protection for our fighters? Why wasn’t the response to assaults from the enemy faster?
“Outpost” asks these and other disturbing questions about how and why the U.S. has waged a decadelong war in which U.S. goals are murky, U.S. allies often are corrupt and unreliable and the enemy enjoys a sanctuary in Pakistan.
The book centers on a specific battle in 2009 in the treacherous mountains of eastern Afghanistan. Eight Americans were killed in the fight at Combat Outpost Keating, as detailed by Tapper. The author was not present during the fight, but through interviews, documents and follow-up reporting trips to Afghanistan, he has woven an intricate account about battlefield bravery hamstrung by military bureaucracy and sluggishness.
Reviewer Tony Perry writes for the Los Angeles Times.