Deliriously Happy (Ecco)
After last year's Go, Mutants! misstep—the B-movie parody might have made an entertaining film, but it didn't work on paper—the author of I Love You, Beth Cooper returns to form with a collection of humor pieces. Many of these works originally appeared in The New Yorker, where Doyle, a former Simpsons writer now living in Baltimore, contributes to the "Shouts & Murmurs" column. He often pokes fun at Hollywood and the media, while satirizing American privilege and entitlement. It's especially effective because he knows the terrain so well. In a hilarious piece lampooning the Hollywood writers' strike, for instance, Doyle claims solidarity with other labor movements, noting, "We slave over our screenplays, alone, staring into laptops, often blinded by pool glare. And we smoke real cigarettes." If Doyle's peers don't have their priorities straight, at least he does, and we can all be deliriously happy for that.
Every Third Thought (Counterpoint)
It's surprising how many readers shun Barth's later work. In fact, people often say they enjoyed his first two books (The Floating Opera and The End of the Road), but opted out after 1960's The Sot-Weed Factor. It's a shame because the former Hopkins professor has written some damn good books since then, and you can count this novel among them. Barth introduced his narrator—"old fart fictionist" George Irving Newett (byline: By George I. Newett)—in the 2008 short story collection The Development. Here, the near-octogenarian Newett experiences the insecurities of old age, while struggling to balance his present good fortune with pangs of looming mortality. Fans of post-modern metafiction will be delighted by the novel's structure and literary sleight-of-hand, but this is basically a love story—at times, a naughty one. Some of it reads like journal dumping, but the seemingly mundane details provide an intimate peek into Newett's sturdy marriage and increasingly fragile state of mind. Come to think of it, that's what makes this book so poignant.
What's Gotten Into Us? (Random House)
Exposés on tainted food supplies and dangerous chemicals often feel like the work of whistle-blowing insiders armed with alarming facts that add up to little more than scientific abstraction. Jenkins, who lives in Baltimore and teaches English and journalism at the University of Delaware, deftly balances scientific inquiry with personal experience as he investigates the dangers of common toxic chemicals. A gifted writer, Jenkins isn't talking about lab exposures, radiation leaks, or bad air days—he's talking about items in your home and yard. After reading his book, you'll be talking about them, too.