Leah Hager Cohen’s poignant fourth novel, The Grief of Others, follows a married couple as they try to move forward in the wake of tragedy. When their infant son dies, John and Ricky Ryrie struggle to regain their footing. Shifting into denial mode, they return to the business of daily living, which includes caring for their other two children, Biscuit, 10, and Paul, 13. As life resumes, John and Ricky find that the tragedy causes the cracks in their already fragile relationship to deepen. Picking up on the stress at home, Biscuit starts skipping school, while Paul is bullied by classmates. John and Ricky seem oblivious to these difficulties until a special visitor wakes them up to reality—and to fresh possibilities for the future. Cohen’s perceptive portrayal of a frayed family offers a multifaceted look at the grieving process. This sensitively executed novel will resonate with readers long after the final page is turned.

Winner of the 2011 National Book Award for nonfiction, Stephen Greenblatt’s The Swerve: How the World Became Modern recounts the history and influence of one of philosophy’s most important works: Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things. Rediscovered about 600 years ago, the poem proposes that the universe operates without the guidance of an omnipotent being and all matter is composed of tiny particles. Copied and dispersed throughout Europe, it added to the feverish atmosphere of inquiry that characterized the Renaissance. Over the centuries, Lucretius’ poem impacted some of the world’s most esteemed minds, including Shakespeare, Darwin and Einstein. The work also affected Greenblatt when he discovered it in the 1960s, shaking up his ideas about death and the afterlife, as he recounts in the book’s delightful personal sections. A respected scholar, Greenblatt is also a stylish, accessible writer. His latest book is a testament to the power of ideas—a compelling narrative that shines new light on our intellectual roots.

Pulitzer Prize winner Jeffrey Eugenides returns with The Marriage Plot, a tale of romance and academia set in the early 1980s. The novel’s heroine, Madeleine Hanna, is an English major at Brown University and a romantic at heart. During her senior year, she becomes emotionally entangled with two very different guys: Mitchell Grammaticus, a reliable religious-studies major, and volatile Leonard Bankhead, an unpredictable but gifted student. Neither one is Madeleine’s ideal match, but she eventually marries Leonard, while Mitchell embarks on a soul-searching journey to Calcutta. Madeleine’s happily-ever-after is disrupted when Mitchell suddenly reappears in her life, his affection for her still alive. Eugenides’ novel charms even as it poses important questions about identity, maturity and the nature of relationships.

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