New and remarkable books, from Italian history to Asian politics


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THE DISH-WASHER, by Stéphane Larue. Translated by Pablo Strauss. (Library, paper, $ 16.95.) Set in the kitchen of an upscale Montreal restaurant, this lively and moving first novel traces the fortune of a heavy metal fan addicted to the game who does the dishes.

OUTSIDE ITALY, by Fernand Braudel. Translated by Sian Reynolds. (Europa, paper, $ 17.) Braudel, a renowned French historian, here takes a look at Italy’s 15th century city-states to defend their influence and continued relevance to European culture.

THE PROMISE: Love and loss in modern China, by Xinran. Translated by William Spence. (IB Tauris, $ 27.) Showcasing four generations of one Chinese family and their divergent paths, Xinran shows how the country’s social norms have changed thanks to politics and the rise of modernity.

CHINA AND JAPAN: Faced with History, by Ezra F. Vogel. (Belknap / Harvard University, $ 39.95.) For 1,500 years, China and Japan have taken turns becoming major Asian players, shaping their respective destinies even though they often disagree. Vogel traces the nuances.

THE NEVERSINK HOTEL, by Adam O’Fallon Price. (Tin House, newspaper, $ 15.95.) A luxurious Catskills resort has been haunted for years by a killer in this heartwarming epic about the Jewish immigrant family that owns the hotel.

that of Greil Marcus MYSTERY TRAIN was first published in 1975, when I was 2 years old. His DIY has kept him current through six editions, but his writing and ideas have made it timeless. I have been reading it for years; when i loaned it to a friend i missed it so much that i bought a second copy. “Mystery Train” is more than rock criticism. He explores the meaning of America through rock’n’roll. The chapter on Robert Johnson opens with the end of “The Great Gatsby”. Woodrow Wilson and DH Lawrence show up in the Elvis section. A moment on the band’s debut album inspires this: “You couldn’t ask for a more perfect statement of the belief that America is blessed, or the lingering suspicion that she is cursed.” Marcus’ worldview – the idea that pop culture matters as much as history and literature – is perfectly distilled in the prologue, where he connects the immortal sweep of art to Little Richard.

—Manny Fernandez, Houston office manager

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Lyle L. Maltby

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