*OLIVE KITTERIDGE by Elizabeth Strout (Random House).
Strout’s third book is a “novel in stories,” 13 linked tales of the grouchy, wise Olive Kitteridge, a math teacher in a Maine town, a woman not afraid to speak her mind at the peril of others. Strout’s beautiful vignettes capture the claustrophobia of a small town and show a fiction writer in fine mid-career stride.
Liao, a former political prisoner and China’s most censored writer, has collected dozens of oral histories from the lowest rungs of society, including public toilet managers, professional mourners, ex-Red Guards, criminals and horribly abused Falun Gong practitioners. Liao shows that the brutally of the government is still alive and well in post-Mao China.—Dylan Foley