You don’t have to be tech savvy to enjoy Steve Jobs, the fascinating biography by Walter Isaacson that is out in paperback this month, two years after the release of the best-selling hardcover. Jobs, who grew up in California, got his start at Atari in the early 1970s and co-founded Apple in 1976. He spent nine years there, resigned, and then helped transform Pixar into a maker of blockbusters before returning to Apple in 1997. Isaacson’s account of Jobs’ remarkable rise is colorful, lively and thorough. He covers all the hot topics—Jobs’ contentious relationship with Bill Gates, his difficult personality, his many achievements with Apple (iTunes, iPad, iPhone, the list goes on). Jobs, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2011, selected Isaacson as his biographer and sat down for more than 40 interviews with the author. Jobs reportedly held nothing back in his talks with Isaacson and urged other interviewees to do the same. The resulting biography provides an in-depth look at a true visionary.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon returns with Telegraph Avenue, a funny, compassionate novel about race, friendship and family. Archy Stallings, a black bassist from Oakland, co-owns a used record store called Brokeland with his white buddy, Nat Jaffe. Old friends and music connoisseurs, they run the shop in the face of rapidly changing times. Their spouses, Gwen and Aviva, also work together—as midwives. The lives of the foursome take an unexpected turn when wealthy former football star Gibson Goode announces his plans to build a mall near Brokeland, which could mean the end of the shop. To make matters worse, Gwen and Aviva become enmeshed in a controversy that threatens their practice—and their relationship. The unexpected arrival of Archy’s illegitimate son, Titus, ensures that things will never be the same around Brokeland. Telegraph Avenue is classic Chabon—probing, humorous, packed with pop culture references and deeply authentic.

Zadie Smith’s intriguing fourth novel, NW, follows a quartet of friends in their 30s who grew up in a housing project in northwest London. Leah has a status-quo life that includes a hairdresser husband and a position at a nonprofit. Her best friend, Keisha, who’s Jamaican, is a highly successful corporate lawyer. Despite a rich husband, two kids and a gorgeous house, she feels a sense of emptiness that ultimately proves destructive. Former drug addict Felix comes from a broken home but has hopes for the future thanks to a new relationship. And then there’s Nathan. When they were young, both Leah and Keisha fancied him, but Nathan is now involved in drugs and other questionable doings. Over the course of a weekend, the stories of the four friends converge, and the result is unforgettable. Moving from one character to the next, and adjusting prose styles accordingly, Smith shapes the separate stories and perspectives of the foursome into a fascinating whole. In this complex tale of restless, searching 30-somethings, she brings modern London to life in her own inimitable way.

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