Even if you’ve been reading Janet Malcolm for years, the critical appreciations collected in Forty-one False Starts may surprise you. The title essay is (or pretends to be) a series of scrapped beginnings to her profile of the painter David Salle, a giant of the art world in vulnerable mid-career. If you want to write magazine prose, this alone should make you buy the book. Ranging from Bloomsbury to Edward Weston to J.D. Salinger, the entire book is full of stylistic daring, fine distinctions, and bold judgments set down at the speed of thought. —Lorin Stein
The Emperor’s Tomb was the last novel Joseph Roth wrote. Michael Hofmann, whose versions of Roth are all unsettlingly good—more like inhabitations than translations—calls it a “valedictory repertoire of Rothian tropes and characters”: Viennese cafés, feckless and frivolous young men, the call-up to war, the end of Empire, the never-ending nostalgia for Empire. If you’ve read Roth before, you’ll enjoy the new variations on old themes; if you haven’t read Roth, start with The Radetsky March. You won’t want it to end and when it does, reading The Emperor’s Tomb will bring it all back. —Robyn Creswell
I haven’t been sleeping well lately—allergy season—which always leads me to explore the depths of my bookcases. The other night, I picked out Robert Macfarlane’s The Wild Places (purchased while waiting for a bus in Montpelier, Vermont). MacFarlane celebrates places that shouldn’t exist: wild islands of the Atlantic littoral to which thousands of peregrini traveled in the fifth and sixth century to build places of worship; the summit of Ben Hope, where one could spend a clear night and never lose sight of the sun. Macfarlane entwines history and landscape just as well as Sebald and Chejfec and evokes, to borrow from George Bernard Shaw’s description of the Skelligs, a part of our dream world. —Justin Alvarez
If you have ever been part of a protest, you know that much of the excitement arises from the feeling that you are part of the vanguard: while theory and history may inform your stand, in the moment this protest is the protest, and no one has done this before. Olivier Assayas’s Something in the Air captures beautifully that feeling—the idealism, romance, chauvinism, sex, alienation, myopia. Set in the years after the May 1968 uprisings, it tracks a group of high school students who commit themselves to la révolution. But the film is less about revolution than it is about what young people do when they believe in something that is always beyond their reach. After the Arab Spring and the Occupy Movement, it’s good to be reminded that protest isn’t just a political tool; it’s a social game, a rite of passage. —Olivia Walton
On Wednesday, I had the luck to hear Lewis Hyde, Sarah Manguso, and Leigh Stein speak at the powerHouse Arena about a new translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. I was moved to purchase my own copy—and until night’s quietest hour, lay awake, reading this latest illumination of Rilke’s advice on sex, love, writing, and suffering. —Brenna Scheving
My friend titled this image “Recreational Activities Featuring Moose and Van.” The Internet is strange territory, wherein moose can lounge in paddling pools while cars explode. If anyone can explain how this is possible, please do. —O. W.