Snap Judgment: Books

Chicken With Prunes By Marjane Satrapi (in French)

The author of the celebrated comic-book series "Persepolis" is back with another heartfelt adults-only graphic novel, though a far less autobiographical one. Set in pre-revolutionary Iran, it tells the story of Nasser Ali Khan, a famous musician who, having lost the ability to take pleasure in life, sets out to die. Family and friends try to dissuade him, but Khan's mind is made up: why live when even his favorite dish, chicken with prunes, has lost its flavor? The novel is a stirring mix, both funny and sad, poignant and uplifting.

Rising Up and Rising Down By William T. Vollman

When is violence between people justified? Vollman, an amateur historian and philosopher, tries to create a "moral calculus" to help us determine when we have the right to "rise up" and hit back. This 700-page volume--an abridged edition of his 2003 seven-volume set--draws on everything from the author's research on Spartan Greece to his chats with prostitutes in the world's homicide capitals. His voice is strong and persuasive, but long dry passages make this suitable only for serious dead-of-winter reading.

Ghosting By Jennie Erdal

In this irresistible memoir, the author recounts the nearly 15 years she spent ghost-writing for the wealthy British publisher she calls "Tiger" (otherwise known as Naim Atallah). It was an unlikely pairing: a sober Scottish Presbyterian channeling the thoughts of a brash, needy womanizer. But it worked. Erdal turned Tiger into a literary star, penning hundreds of letters, columns, speeches and articles, as well as a dozen books--including two novels. Probing, intelligent and funny, Erdal's memoir should prove she'll never need to ghost-write again.