New in Paperback: ‘Why We Swim’ and ‘The End of October’

THE EQUIVALENTS: A Story of Art, Female Friendship, and Liberation in the 1960s, by Maggie Doherty. (Vintage, 400 pp., $16.95.) The poets Anne Sexton and Maxine Kumin, the artist Barbara Swan, the sculptor Marianna Pineda and the writer Tillie Olsen “knit themselves together into a friend group” in 1962, when they were all recipients of a Radcliffe Institute fellowship, and called themselves “the Equivalents” (since fellowship applicants were required to have a doctorate or equivalent).

WHY WE SWIM, by Bonnie Tsui. (Algonquin, 288 pp., $16.95.) Mixing history, journalism and memoir, Tsui mulls the appeal of this “most commonplace and relaxing way of putting yourself in total peril,” as our reviewer, Mary Pols, phrased it. Tsui’s evocation of swimming’s state of flow made Pols “long to be in the pool or the ocean.”

THE END OF OCTOBER, by Lawrence Wright. (Vintage, 400 pp., $17.) The Pulitzer Prize-winning nonfiction author applies “the magisterial force of his reporting skills” to this “chilling” novel about an epidemiologist’s “Odysseus-like return home” from a “biological battleground.” While written before the current pandemic, our reviewer, Douglas Preston, observed, it cuts “exceedingly close to the bone.”

ON VANISHING: Mortality, Dementia, and What It Means to Disappear, by Lynn Casteel Harper. (Catapult, 240 pp., $16.95.) What gives this “poetic inquiry” by a chaplain its “energy,” according to the Times critic Parul Sehgal, is its focus on literary models of compassion. Emerson’s friends referred to him as “dreaming” rather than “deteriorating.” And Lear’s Fool possessed ideal caregiver qualities: “loyalty, steadfastness, wit.”

MBS: The Rise to Power of Mohammed Bin Salman, by Ben Hubbard. (Crown, 384 pp., $18.) Our reviewer, Christopher Dickey, called this portrait of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and de facto ruler, which was a 2021 PEN America finalist, “detailed and disturbing.” Hubbard, The Times’s Beirut bureau chief, interviewed individuals inside the kingdom, until the Saudis stopped giving him visas.

THESE WOMEN, by Ivy Pochoda. (Ecco, 352 pp., $16.99.) The most memorable of this “intricate, deeply felt, beautifully written” thriller’s five female narrators, our reviewer, Sarah Lyall, noted, is a “diminutive, damaged, brilliant” detective. Her male colleagues refuse to listen when she says a serial killer is to blame for the deaths of 17 women — sex workers, street people, marginalized citizens of color — in Los Angeles.

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