The pick of our favorite books coming out this week include new titles by Pico Iyer, Leigh Bardugo, and Armando Lucas Correa.

The Half Known Life: In Search of Paradise

Pico Iyer. Riverhead, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-0-593-42025-6
Essayist Iyer (A Beginner’s Guide to Japan) visits regions of religious import in this immersive and profound survey of earthly paradises. “I’d begun to wonder what kind of paradise can ever be found in a world of unceasing conflict—and whether the very search for it might not simply aggravate our differences,” Iyer writes, detailing his travels to Ethiopia, India, Iran, and Sri Lanka and discussing how people there understand the concept of “paradise.” He begins in Iran, the “world’s largest theocracy,” and visits the Imam Reza shrine, finding in the “competing visions of paradise” that play out there affirmation of Persian poet Rumi’s exhortation to seek a personal heaven within oneself. In Sri Lanka, he visits Adam’s Peak—which Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus claim holds special significance—but remarks that the political violence in the country undercuts its idyllic pretenses and the “idea of paradise seemed... to move people to be not kinder but more reckless.” Meditating on his conversations with his friend the Dalai Lama, Iyer decides to “just let life come to me in all its happy confusion and find the holiness in that.” Iyer remains a cultural critic par excellence, matching penetrating insights with some of the most transportive prose around. This further burnishes Iyer’s reputation as one of the best travel writers out there. (Jan.)

Hell Bent

Leigh Bardugo. Flatiron, $29.99 (496p) ISBN 978-1-250-31310-2
Bestseller Bardugo, best known for her YA Grishaverse novels, returns to the more adult struggles of Alex Stern, low-level L.A. drug dealer turned Yale scholarship student thanks to her ability to see and corral ghosts (“Grays”), in this thrilling sequel to 2019’s Ninth House. Now employed as a Virgil by Lethe House, the Yale body that oversees the magical rituals of the campus’s many secret societies, Alex is pulled in several directions as she tries to fill the role left empty when her upperclassman mentor, Darlington, was sent to Hell by a diabolical dean. Ignoring her patrons’ instructions to move on, she persists in digging into the secrets of Lethe’s past, searching for a way to open a portal and bring Darlington back. Alex’s own past will not stay hidden either; her L.A. supplier, Eitan Harel, having learned of her ability, comes calling with jobs for her, including intimidating a strangely unaging former Yalie. Bardugo surrounds Alex with fascinating supporting players, among them a damaged New Haven cop and a naive roommate excited by the lure of the supernatural, while keeping the story’s drive firmly in Alex’s grip for another scrappy underdog tale. The taut plot, often grisly magic, lavish scene-setting, and wry humor combine to make this just as un-put-downable as the first installment. Readers will be wowed. (Jan.)

The Night Travelers

Armando Lucas Correa. Atria, $27.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5011-8798-8
Correa (The Daughter’s Tale) unfurls a stunning multigenerational story involving WWII Germany and the Cuban Revolution. In 1931 Berlin, poet Ally Keller gives birth to Lilith, her daughter with jazz musician Marcus, a Black German man. After Marcus goes missing, and as Germany marches toward war, Ally fears Lilith may be targeted by the Nazis because of her skin color, so she begs her Jewish neighbors, Beatrice and Albert Herzog, to take seven-year-old Lilith with them to Cuba. As Lilith adapts to life in Cuba with the Herzogs, she befriends Martín Bernal, and they eventually marry. But Martín’s alliance with Batista’s government puts him in danger when Fidel Castro comes to power, forcing him to leave Lilith and their daughter Nadine alone after he is captured, and Lilith arranges for Nadine to leave Cuba for the U.S., where she’s adopted by an American couple. Years later, Nadine attends college in Germany, and while working as a scientist at a research center in Berlin, her interest in her heritage leads her to information about her birth mother’s early years. Correa makes palpable the sacrifices made by Ally and Lilith for their children’s survival, and the taut pacing keeps the pages flying. Readers will be deeply moved. Agent: Johanna Castillo, Writers House.(Jan.)

In the Upper Country

Kai Thomas. Viking, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-0-593-48950-5
Thomas’s mesmerizing debut explores freedom, family, and the interconnections between white, Black, and Indigenous communities in 1859 Canada. Lensinda Martin, a reporter for the Coloured Canadian newspaper, lives in the Black village of Dunmore, a stop on the Underground Railroad. One day, American bounty hunter Pelham Beall arrives in pursuit of six Kentucky fugitives from slavery who are staying with a farmer named Simeon. After one of them, an elderly woman named Cash, fatally shoots Beall, Simeon asks Lensinda to visit Cash in jail to ensure her explanation is recorded and shared. Cash proposes a bargain with Lensinda: she will tell the story of her life if Lensinda does the same. Though Lensinda, a self-professed “woman of little patience,” is initially irked by the agreement, she’s soon swept up in their exchange and the surprising links between their lives. Thomas amplifies the women’s stories with excerpts from a collection of enslaved people’s narratives obtained by Lensinda, while stories of Cash’s Indigenous husband, John; Black Canadians during the War of 1812; and the American enslaved people who settled Dunmore add to the vivid tapestry. At once intimate and majestic, Thomas’s ambitious work heralds a bright new voice. (Jan.)

Finding Time Again

Marcel Proust, trans. from the French by Ian Patterson. Penguin, $27 trade paper (432p) ISBN 978-0-14-313371-1
With this sublime translation of Proust’s final volume of the magisterial In Search of Lost Time, Patterson concludes a project that began with Lydia Davis’s translation of Swann’s Way in 2004. This seventh book was untyped at the end of Proust’s life and subject to hasty revisions and alterations by its original publishers in 1927. Patterson provides readers with a great gift by basing his translation on a 1988 revision, which opens with a different beginning than the comparatively awkward version previously translated by Andreas Mayor in 1970, based on a 1954 version. The unnamed narrator, temporarily sidelined, in Tansonville, from the Paris soirees and salons, sustains himself on memories of lost love Albertine and gossip concerning the mercurial Gilberte and her husband, the narrator’s doomed confidante Robert Saint-Loup. Meanwhile, with Paris riven by WWI, the decadent Baron de Charlus makes a great show of supporting the German side against the French, and the illustrious parties of the Verdurins and the Guermantes, which so captivated the narrator for much of the saga, have begun to grow stale. In his exceptional final installment, Proust recaptures the reveries, ambitions, and moments in time that divide people’s inner worlds from the mysteries of others. Whether for the curious or the devoted, this is the definitive version with which to conclude Proust’s masterpiece. (Jan.)

City Under One Roof

Iris Yamashita. Berkley, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-33667-0
Unusual topography plays a major role in screenwriter Yamashita’s atmospherically charged debut, a locked-city mystery. Once a secret military base, the tiny city of Point Mettier, Alaska, is reached by land through a narrow, one-way tunnel. Full-time residents live in one self-sufficient high-rise. During eight months of winter, the temperature reaches −35 °F and “eyelashes could actually freeze.” When 17-year-old Amy Lin and friends discover a severed hand and foot in Hidden Cove, where they retreat to smoke pot, Det. Cara Kennedy comes from Anchorage to investigate. That Cara has hidden personal motives for wanting to be on the case raises the tension. Then a blizzard and avalanche block the tunnel, and harrowing secrets and lingering lies surface along with more body parts. The disappearance of a mother and her two sons prompts a search that leads to a spellbinding, unforgettable climax and an unpredictable resolution. Well-defined secondary characters include a roving gang of ruffians on snowmobiles with their own violent agenda. This distinctively original perspective on a “community of stragglers, oddballs, and recluses” heralds the arrival of a major new talent. Agent: Lucy Carson, Friedrich Agency. (Jan.)

The Deluge

Stephen Markley. Simon & Schuster, $29.99 (944p) ISBN 978-1-9821-2309-3
In this brilliant dystopian epic from Markley (Ohio), spanning from 2013 to 2040, a range of characters attempt to avert catastrophic climate change, sometimes at great personal risk, and with varying degrees of success. There’s geologist Tony Pietrus; climate justice activist Kate Morris; Shane Acosta, a sophisticated ecoterrorist; and Ashir al-Hasan, chief of staff for the Senate Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. The plot begins in familiar terrain, with scientists sounding the alarm that time is running out. Speculative elements emerge with the meteoric ascent of Morris, whose organization, A Fierce Blue Fire, has made global warming the sole litmus test for its political support. The charismatic Morris also dreams up investment opportunities to benefit neglected and poverty-stricken regions. Interstitial segments, including a newspaper article written by AI about Shane’s truck bombing of an Ohio power station in 2030, add to the sense of frightening plausibility. Meanwhile, the bureaucratic al-Hasan comments in a memo on the “inanity and profiteering that surround the legislative process,” while Pietrus, whose work on methane clathrates is quietly incorporated into government models, remains divisive and marginalized. Markley makes this anything but didactic; his nuanced characterizations of individuals with different approaches to the existential threat make the perils they encounter feel real as they navigate cover-ups and lies. It’s a disturbing tour de force. (Jan.)

The Matter of Everything: How Curiosity, Physics, and Improbable Experiments Change the World

Suzie Sheehy. Knopf, $30 (320p) ISBN 978-0-5256-5875-7
Physicist Sheehy debuts with a terrific history of experiments that have changed the course of science. In a fast-paced and accessible narrative, Sheehy keenly demonstrates how “our view of the smallest constituents in nature has changed rapidly throughout the last 120 years.” Though scientists at the end of the 19th century “agreed that the subject of physics was almost complete,” the discovery of X-rays showed that the universe still had more secrets to uncover. A long line of experiments followed: around 1900, Max Planck did important work with “energy quantisation,” Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden uncovered the structure of atoms a few years later, and the early 1910s saw the discovery of cosmic rays. Sheehy also examines inventions each discovery made possible, including semiconductors, the World Wide Web, archaeological dating methods, and CT scans. Along the way come fascinating profiles of scientists, including several women who have been omitted from history (Bibha Chowdhuri, for example, found evidence of “two new subatomic particles” in the 1930s). With punchy writing and vivid historical details, Sheehy brilliantly captures the curiosity that fuels science, the frustration of “false starts and failures,” and the thrill of finding answers that are bound to raise more questions. This is pop science at its best. Agent: Chris Wellbelove, Aitken Alexander Assoc. (Jan.)