11 New Books We Recommend This Week

I WAS BETTER LAST NIGHT: A Memoir, by Harvey Fierstein. (Knopf, $30.) In his memoir, the actor, writer and consummate New Yawker Fierstein looks back on growing up in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn, his earliest experiences with dress-up and make-believe (he now recognizes that he was a “7-year-old gender warrior”) and his smash successes in “Torch Song Trilogy” and “La Cage Aux Folles.” It’s a “warm and enveloping” memoir, our critic Alexandra Jacobs writes, with two sides to it: “One is a raw, cobwebby tale of anger, hurt, indignation and pain; flip it over and you get billowing ribbons of humor, gossip and fabulous, hot-pink success.”

GIRL IN ICE, by Erica Ferencik. (Scout Press, $27.) Ferencik, who sets her thrillers in extreme landscapes, has placed this one at a climate research station in the Arctic Circle. There a little girl has been found frozen in the ice, very much alive, speaking an unknown language. As a linguist attempts to communicate with her, it becomes clear that nothing less than the fate of the earth may be at stake. “Like Peter Höeg’s ‘Smilla’s Sense of Snow’ and Ted Chiang’s ‘Story of Your Life,’ ‘Girl in Ice’ uses the subtleties of translation to draw us into different worlds and ways of thinking,” Sarah Lyall writes in her latest thrillers column . “It turns out that the word for ‘climate change’ in Inuktun, a language of northern Greenland, translates to ‘a friend acting strangely,’ which is sad and apt.”

SECRET IDENTITY, by Alex Segura. (Flatiron, $27.99.) In this clever homage to classic noir — partly a love letter to New York City in the seamy 1970s, as well as an immersive tutorial in comic-book publishing of that era — a young woman investigates the murder of a colleague. “Witty and wholly original, the book is also surprisingly moving,” Sarah Lyall writes in her thrillers column. “It’s a delight to see Carmen push back against the casual sexism of the era.”

THE INVISIBLE KINGDOM: Reimagining Chronic Illness, by Meghan O’Rourke. (Riverhead, $28.) For most of her 30s O’Rourke was terribly sick, with strange neurological spasms and abrupt agonizing sensations that sometimes confined her to bed for days on end; her memoir of the experience of her, in probing the links between illness and the self, becomes almost existential. O’Rourke deftly avoids both cynicism and romanticism, Andrew Solomon writes in his review of her, “achieving an authentically original voice and, perhaps more startlingly, an authentically original perspective. A poet by choice and an interpreter of medical doctrine by necessity, she brings an elegant discipline to her description of a horrific decade lost.”

THE BEAUTY OF DUSK: On Vision Lost and Found, by Frank Bruni. (Avid Reader, $28.) In 2017, Bruni, a longtime editor, critic and columnist at this newspaper, had a stroke while sleeping and woke up to find he could not see well out of one eye. Determined not to let blindness leach the purpose or joy from his life, he began seeking the counsel of others who had faced similar physical declines. “What makes ‘The Beauty of Dusk’ far more remarkable than one man’s triumph over life’s cruelties is how Bruni persevered,” Min Jin Lee writes in her review. “This is not the sad story of a man who lost his sight of him; it is the generous narrative of a student who sought wisdom when trials appeared in his life from him.”

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