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10 New Books We Recommend This Week

TO THE FRIEND WHO DID NOT SAVE MY LIFE, by Hervé Guibert. Translated by Linda Coverdale. (semiotext(e), paper, $16.95.) Guibert died in 1991 at the age of 36; this novel, which is probably his best-known work and is newly translated here, lightly fictionalizes the final days of the philosopher Michel Foucault, Guibert’s neighbor and friend, even as it offers a gaudy betrayal by revealing that Foucault did not die of cancer, per the public record, but of AIDS-related complications. “His candor can be so extreme as to feel like provocation, and his love of provocation can tip into outré pornography,” our critic Parul Sehgal writes in her review. “Extremity — on the page and in life — was the credo of this self-professed descendant of Sade and Genet, contemptuous of the writerly temptations for self-regard or bourgeois comfort. I can think of no words more repellent to him than ‘faculty housing.’”

THE DEATH OF JESUS, by J. M. Coetzee. (Viking, $27.) With the pared-down quality of a fable, the final novel in Coetzee’s Jesus trilogy makes a case for the fantastical worldview of Don Quixote. Young David enters an orphanage, finds followers and imparts wisdom before falling terminally ill — a Christ figure, sure, but not one with easy or predictable parallels. The obliqueness of Coetzee’s tale is perfectly suited to its challenge of a utilitarian reality. “You can call him a novelist of ideas, but also a philosopher working in fiction,” Judith Shulevitz says of Coetzee in her review. “The reader must learn to tolerate mystery.”

WHY WE SWIM, by Bonnie Tsui. (Algonquin, $26.95.) This enthusiastic and thoughtful work mixes journalism, history and memoir to ask why water seduces some people and not others. Incorporating stories of daredevils with tales of inspiration, Tsui explores five reasons to swim: survival, well-being, community, competition and flow. “Tsui endears herself to the reader,” Mary Pols writes in her review. “Her universal query is also one of self, and her articulations of what she learns are moving. Long-distance swimmers speak to her about how swimming frees their minds, of their sense of ‘sea-dreaming.’ And Tsui’s argument about the unique state of flow one enters while swimming makes you desperately long to be in the pool or the ocean.”

CULT OF GLORY: The Bold and Brutal History of the Texas Rangers, by Doug J. Swanson. (Viking, $28.) This well-written and troubling history upends the mythology of the Rangers, showing them to have been the harsh enforcers of white supremacy in Texas far more than the iconoclastic heroes portrayed in movies, television shows, museum exhibitions and novels. “‘Cult of Glory’ isn’t a book for the fainthearted,” Douglas Brinkley writes in his review. “Swanson, a prodigious researcher, recounts how in their nearly 200-year ‘attention-grubbing’ history Rangers burned peasant villages, slaughtered innocents, busted unions and committed war crimes. They were as feared on the United States-Mexico border as the Ku Klux Klan was in the Deep South.”

THE WORLD: A Brief Introduction, by Richard Haass. (Penguin Press, $28.) The president of the Council on Foreign Relations takes readers on a tour of the globe, highlighting problems and concerns and offering suggestions for America’s future foreign policy. Two dozen tightly focused chapters cover everything from monetary policy and international law to terrorism and climate change. “He promises a practical guide to help everyday people understand global forces in which their lives are increasingly enmeshed, even if they do not always know it or like it,” Mark Atwood Lawrence writes n his review. “Haass’s restrained approach does not mean that the book lacks big takeaways. Above all, he underscores the growing disarray that has beset the world since the end of the Cold War.”

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