THE HUMAN AGE: The World Shaped by Us, by Diane Ackerman (W.W. Norton, $27.95). We hear a lot today about our role in climate change, but Ackerman ("A Natural History of the Senses," "The Zookeeper's Wife") takes an even broader view: "During our brief sojourn on Earth, thanks to exhilarating technologies, fossil fuel use, agriculture, and ballooning populations, the human race has become the single dominant force of change on the planet," she writes.
SO WE READ ON: How "The Great Gatsby" Came to Be and Why It Endures, by Maureen Corrigan (Little, Brown, $26). "Forget great," writes Corrigan, book critic for NPR's "Fresh Air," in this spirited defense of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 classic. "'The Great Gatsby' is the greatest -- even if you didn't think so when you had to read it in high school." In her quest to understand this slender novel and its oversized cultural footprint, Corrigan even came out to Long Island Sound for a "Gatsby" boat tour.
THE MOOR'S ACCOUNT, by Laila Lalami (Pantheon, $26.95). Lalami's second novel, which comes with blurbs from Salman Rushdie and Henry Louis Gates Jr., imagines the life of a Moroccan slave who accompanied real-life conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez on his ill-fated 1527 expedition to America. Estebanico is one of four survivors, and his first-person "account" of their trials -- from hostile natives to illness -- offers a counternarrative of American conquest.