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Great new books to read in May

Newsday Books Editor Tom Beer picks 10 books that should be on your radar this month.

ON THE MOVE, by Oliver Sacks

ON THE MOVE: A Life, by Oliver Sacks
Photo Credit: Knopf

ON THE MOVE: A Life, by Oliver Sacks (Alfred A. Knopf). The world-famous neurologist -- author of the Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Awakenings -- has announced that he has terminal liver cancer. On the Move is a memoir of his youth and early career, touching on his passion for weightlifting and motorcycles (thats a young Sacks on the cover), his homosexuality, his struggles with drug addiction and his outsider status in the profession. Readers can be grateful to have one more book from this most humane of science writers.

ORIENT, by Christopher Bollen

ORIENT, by Christopher Bollen (Harper). The author, an
Photo Credit: Harper

ORIENT, by Christopher Bollen (Harper). The author, an editor-at-large at Interview magazine, sets his murder mystery on Long Islands rural North Fork, where the quiet old way of life is threatened by high-rolling Manhattanites in the art world who descend in search of real estate and then the bodies start to pile up. No one would look twice if you toted Orient to the beach this summer, but this well-written novel, with plenty of social commentary, is anything but brain candy.

RE JANE, by Patricia Park

RE JANE, by Patricia Park (Pamela Dorman/Viking). This
Photo Credit: Viking

RE JANE, by Patricia Park (Pamela Dorman/Viking). This debut novel gives Charlotte Brontes Jane Eyre a pleasingly contemporary spin by making its orphaned heroine (Jane Re) a young Korean-American woman stuck working at her uncles grocery in Flushing, Queens. But a job working as an au pair for a Brooklyn couple and their adopted Chinese daughter, opens new worlds.

REAGAN, by H.W. Brands

REAGAN: The Life, by H.W. Brands (Doubleday). The
Photo Credit: Doubleday

REAGAN: The Life, by H.W. Brands (Doubleday). The Pulitzer Prize-winning author who has written about Ulysses S. Grant and Franklin D. Roosevelt, turns his scholarly eye to our 40th president, perhaps the most influential American leader in the latter half of the 20th century and an icon to American conservatives. Brands follows Reagan from childhood in an FDR-loving family through his years as an actor and radio announcer, his entry into politics, governorship of California and dramatic presidency.

MY PARIS DREAM, by Kate Betts

MY PARIS DREAM: An Education in Style, Slang
Photo Credit: Spiegel & Grau

MY PARIS DREAM: An Education in Style, Slang and Seduction in the Great City on the Seine, by Kate Betts (Spiegel & Grau). A former editor at Vogue and Harpers Bazaar recalls her youthful years in the Paris of the 1980s, where she was determined to absorb French mores and language and break into the elite world of fashion journalism. My Paris Dream is an ode to the City of Light and to the glamour of French fashion.

THE MAKING OF ZOMBIE WARS, by Aleksandar Hemon

THE MAKING OF ZOMBIE WARS, by Aleksandar Hemon
Photo Credit: FSG

THE MAKING OF ZOMBIE WARS, by Aleksandar Hemon (FSG). This comic novel from the Sarajevo-born author of Nowhere Man and The Lazarus Project follows a Chicago teacher of ESL and aspiring screenwriter full of hackish script ideas (with plenty of aliens, mob informers and yes, zombies). He has a girlfriend, but when he begins an affair with one his students -- a Bosnian refugee with a brutish husband -- his life gets crazier than a Hollywood B-movie.

THE QUARTET, by Joseph J. Ellis

THE QUARTET: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789,
Photo Credit: Knopf

THE QUARTET: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789, by Joseph J. Ellis (Alfred A. Knopf). How did 13 colonies that broke away from England -- a many-headed Monster, in the words of George Washington, that were only loosely confederated -- become one nation, the United States? Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Ellis (Founding Brothers) revisits the period leading up to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, and the crucial roles played by Washington, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay.

SEVENEVES, by Neal Stephenson

SEVENEVES, by Neal Stephenson (William Morrow). The acclaimed
Photo Credit: William Morrow

SEVENEVES, by Neal Stephenson (William Morrow). The acclaimed science fiction master, author of Anathem and Cryptonomicon, returns with a new novel about a group of humans who leave the doomed Earth behind to establish space colonies and preserve the species. The title refers to the seven fertile women who will keep the human race going, and midway through this 800-plus-page tome, Stephenson jumps ahead 5,000 years to show us the results.

LEAVING ORBIT, by Margaret Lazarus Dean

LEAVING ORBIT: Notes from the Last Days of
Photo Credit: Graywolf

LEAVING ORBIT: Notes from the Last Days of American Spaceflight, by Margaret Lazarus Dean (Graywolf). In 2011, author Dean went to Cape Canaveral for the last three launches of the space shuttle — the end of a second chapter in American spaceflight. Her book, winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction prize, is a eulogy for that complicated era in NASA history, characterized by diminished budgets and public interest and symbolized perhaps most dramatically by the Challenger disaster of 1986.

A GOD IN RUINS, by Kate Atkinson

A GOD IN RUINS, by Kate Atkinson (Little,
Photo Credit: Little, Brown

A GOD IN RUINS, by Kate Atkinson (Little, Brown). Atkinsons 2013 novel Life After Life -- in which Englishwoman Ursula Todd is born, dies and is reborn, over and over -- was one of those books that it seemed everyone was talking about. Now Atkinson resurrects the Todd family for this novel, focused on Ursulas brother Teddy, an RAF pilot who oughtnt to survive World War II -- but does. Jumping back and forth in time, we also get to know Teddys daughter, Viola, and his grandchildren Sunny and Bertie, in a sweeping narrative of English life across the decades.

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