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My year of rest and relaxation
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  New York Times Review

AMERICAN PRISON: A Reporter's Undercover Journey Into the Business of Punishment, by Shane Bauer. (Penguin, $18.) Bauer, a Mother Jones journalist, worked undercover as a guard at a private prison in rural Louisiana for months before he was discovered. This book, one of the Book Review's 10 best of 2018, is an expansion of an article detailing the abuses he witnessed, damning an industry in which inmates are commodities. CHERRY, by Nico Walker. (Vintage, $16.95.) An Iraq war medic begins robbing banks to finance his drug habit. This debut novel offers a sobering portrait of the opioid crisis in the United States and the absence of adequate support for veterans, which Walker renders in lyric, vivid prose: His descriptions of dope-sickness, heartbreak and grisly attacks are arresting, and his dialogue inventive. UNBOUND: Transgender Men and the Remaking of Identity, by Arlene Stein. (Vintage, $16.95.) For a year Stein, a sociologist, followed four patients at a Florida clinic known for its gender affirmation procedures. Stein goes to great lengths to explore the psychological, emotional and social aspects of transitioning, and is frank about her own preconceptions. The resulting book is earnest and optimistic. THE TRAITOR'S NICHE, by Ismail Kadare. Translated by John Hodgson. (Counterpoint, $16.95.) First published in 1978, this allegorical novel recalls Ottoman-era Albania. In Istanbul, the imperial capital, the severed head of a former pasha sits in a dish of honey, guarded by an impotent man; the head soon becomes the anchor of the story. Meanwhile, the province of Albania is clamoring for independence. Our reviewer, Jason Goodwin, praised "this riveting novel," which unfolds "in brilliant, laconic, grimly comic fashion." THE DEATH OF DEMOCRACY: Hitler's Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic, by Benjamin Carter Hett. (St. Martin's Griffin, $17.99.) A timely book explains the moral collapse that allowed Hitler to ascend to power, with implications for present times. "We take for granted that the Germans of the 1930s were quite different from ourselves," our reviewer, Timothy Snyder, wrote. "The opposite is the case." MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION, by Ottessa Moshfegh. (Penguin, $16.) The beautiful central character of this novel hopes that a long period of self-induced sleep will bring about a transformation. Moshfegh's writing is darkly comic, tracing how the heroine uses a stupefying combination of medications to overcome her grief and alienation from the world around her.
The New York Times bestseller.<br> <br> From one of our boldest, most celebrated new literary voices, a novel about a young woman's efforts to duck the ills of the world by embarking on an extended hibernation with the help of one of the worst psychiatrists in the annals of literature and the battery of medicines she prescribes.<br> <br> Our narrator should be happy, shouldn't she? She's young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, works an easy job at a hip art gallery, lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like the rest of her needs, by her inheritance. But there is a dark and vacuous hole in her heart, and it isn't just the loss of her parents, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her best friend, Reva. It's the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong?<br> <br> My Year of Rest and Relaxation is a powerful answer to that question. Through the story of a year spent under the influence of a truly mad combination of drugs designed to heal our heroine from her alienation from this world, Moshfegh shows us how reasonable, even necessary, alienation can be. Both tender and blackly funny, merciless and compassionate, it is a showcase for the gifts of one of our major writers working at the height of her powers.
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