BOOKS TO READ FOR FUN: Life-long guilt, Nazis, opera and Martin Luther King

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Two novels and three nonfiction books this week — good for the bookworm on your holiday gift list? (We'll have more suggestions in our Dec. 16 issue, the Multimedia Gift Guide.)

Half a Life, by Darin Strauss (McSweeney's, 200 pages, Sept. 15)
A memoir about how his life changed when he was a teenager, driving his dad's car, and a classmate swerved her bike in front of him, and he killed her. Even 18 years later, Strauss says, "“Name an experience. It’s a good bet I’ve thought of Celine while experiencing it.” Recommended among memoirs recently on NPR by Nancy Pearl (Book Lust).

And the Show Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris, by Alan Riding (Knopf, 400 pages, Oct. 19)
Suppose enemy forces overran your country. Would you resist, collaborate, flee or compromise? What about when your enemies started stealing all your artworks and started shipping them back to their nation? What about when acquaintances started turning up dead — would you just assume that somebody else would do the dirty work of Resistance? Riding provides a nuanced look at what performers and artists did while violence and repression held sway all around them. 

Matched, by Ally Condie (Dutton Juvenile, 370 pages, Nov. 30)
YA fiction to match The Hunger Games? It's also about a future dystopia in which Society rules. In the case of Condie's main character, Cassia, Society dictates your schedule, your job, your spouse, everything — that is, until a computer error opens up the unthinkable: What if Cassia decides to defy Society?

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The Metropolis Case, by Matthew Gallaway (Crown, 380 pages, Dec. 28)
A debut novel about opera that stretches from Paris in the 1860s to New York in the 2000s. (Before taking the plunge, study up on Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.) Just for fun, at matthewgallaway.com, you can find out more than you ever wanted to know about his interior decorating tastes and pre-publication jitters. 

Burial for a King: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Funeral and the Week That Transformed Atlanta and Rocked the Nation, by Rebecca Burns (Scribner, 250 pages, Jan. 4)
Back in April 1968, there were riots across the nation, but Atlanta remained calm. Burns offers a blow-by-blow account of the funeral planning; significantly, LBJ signed an equal-housing law the day after the funeral.

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