In his fourth novel, Gods Without Men, British author Hari Kunzru turns an outsider eye on a stretch of California desert and moves between centuries and narrators to weave a parable about the human powers of mythmaking.
Colum McCann's ingenious novel Let the Great World Spin recalls an exquisite moment when aerialist Philippe Petit walked a wire between the Twin Towers in 1974 and how it touched the lives of several mostly unconnected people who remember the day for the tragedy, redemption, love or loss it brought them.
I picked up Geremie Barmé's The Forbidden City after traveling to China because I wanted to learn more about how and why the city was built. From the Altar of Heaven to the Hall of Bountiful Harvests, the city witnessed palace intrigues and power struggles through several dynasties that put the Tudors to shame.
I'm looking forward to reading Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, a novel about Thomas Cromwell, an adviser to King Henry VIII. A few political operatives have told me the book brilliantly captures life inside a leader's inner circle the rivalries, loyalties and perils and the lure of borrowed power.
It's been six years since George R.R. Martin's last novel, but with A Dance with Dragons, he has silenced the doubters: he is producing the great fantasy epic of our era. It's an epic for a more profane, more ambivalent age than the one Tolkien lived in, but it's every bit as delicious an escape as The Lord of the Rings.