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Testimony to how books can help you live your life—even when it’s coming to a close, Will Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Book Clubis his account of the discussions he had with his mother during her final two years, when she was struggling with cancer. By focusing on books, the two could more easily face many difficult issues, coming to terms with past events as well as the one looming in the near future. But they read also for the sheer joy of it, and this also comes across in these chapters. If you’re wondering what to read next, the Schwalbes have some great suggestions. Available in hardcover, $7.98.

Astute, funny, energetic, and often disturbing in productive ways, the stories in Nathan Englander’s most recent collection, What We Talk about When We Talk about Anne Frank, range from historical to autobiographical fiction and modern tall tales. Englander focuses on Jewish characters, but “it’s a delicate thing being Jewish”; what exactly is a Jew? How secular can one be and still be Jewish? How many dietary laws can one fudge and still claim to be observant? And, as the title suggests, how large should the Holocaust loom in 21st-century Jewish life? Englander concentrates a number of these matters into “what if” scenarios that use humor and gravitas to dramatize ideas of obligation and sacrifice. Above all, this writer is after the truth, and he takes notions of transparency to ends both logical and absurd to make his characters—and his readers—bare their souls and see what’s there. Available in hardcover, $7.98.

The Canadian poet Anne Michaels has published just two novels, but they’ve earned her a place among the finest literary fiction writers. Her first novel, Fugitive Pieces, is the story of a survivor. Jakob was seven when, in 1940, Nazis invaded his Polish village, killing all the Jews—except one. Jakob buried himself in the mud, and emerged into a new existence. Thus resurrected, Jakob finds a protector in a Greek scientist. Later, he makes his adult life in Toronto, but he’s forever haunted by the war and becomes a haunting figure himself. Michaels has written a powerful story, and her language has a lyricism that sharpens both the poignancy of the narrative and the strength of her protagonist. Available in paperback, $6.98.

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- Laurie Greer