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Short stories


War Is Boring

David Axe and Matt Bors

New American Library, $12.95/paperback

"We are the cleverest monsters, and we deserve everything we've got coming," writes David Axe in the afterword to this stark and bleak, yet poignant and eloquent, reflection on conflict. The memoir-via-graphic novel meanders through a series of hellholes in Iraq, Lebanon, East Timor and Somalia, introducing you to a war correspondent who's become addicted to danger to feel alive. Cartoonist Matt Bors masterfully creates a visual framework for Axe's often-suicidal adventures, eliciting uncomfortable laughs (a Lebanese fixer who gets shot three separate times) and even more uncomfortable winces (IED-propelled body parts). The relentless portrait of disillusionment, self-loathing and antipathy strikes deep, digging at every ill of our nature: "Is war an aberration, or the most basic human function, the thing we resort to when all our comforts crumble?" asks Axe. Warm fuzzy seekers: This read's not for you. — Matthew Schniper


My Name Is Memory

Ann Brashares

Riverhead Books, $25.95/hardcover

New York Times bestselling author Ann Brashares, of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants coming-of-age phenomenon, is out with her second novel for adults. In My Name Is Memory, Lucy, a modern-day high school student, meets fellow classmate Daniel and feels an immediate attraction to him. Not to be dismissed as foolish young love, the connection is one that actually has spanned centuries, and Brashares' story weaves Lucy's discovery of past lives with pieces of history. Unlike the Traveling Pants books, wherein readers must truly let go of reality to accept the magic of a pair of life-changing jeans that fit each differently sized girl, My Name Is Memory is steeped in the philosophical traditions of reincarnation. Whether you believe in them or not, the concepts, and how Brashares presents them, do make you ponder how déjà vu, soulmates and instant personal connections may factor into your own life. — Kirsten Akens


Medicine in the Old West

Jeremy Agnew

McFarland, $35/paperback

Some books give you the most wonderful chills; the obvious examples are horror novels and suspense thrillers. Medicine in the Old West: A History, 1850-1900 is neither, yet it scintillates with the often-dreadful truth about this era of healing, wherein lack of technology met superstition, highly dangerous vocations and prolific exposure to poisonous materials. What's worse is that, in those days, most folks out West were far from the help of an often-expensive doctor and had to rely on themselves to overcome injuries and illnesses. Even catastrophic problems had home remedies, as illustrated chillingly in chapters titled "From Sawbones to Surgeon" and "The Hazards of Western Industry." These kinds of tales may sound barbaric, yet author Jeremy Agnew treats his subject matter with the utmost respect. He keeps the obvious judgments to himself, and relays this grisly history in a truly fascinating manner. — Edie Adelstein

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