The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South, by Michael W. Twitty. (Amistad/HarperCollins, $16.99.) A culinary historian, Twitty investigates the charged questions surrounding race and the roots of soul food. His own family and religious experience figure in his account, and his research takes him from Civil War battlefields in Virginia to synagogues in Alabama to black-owned farms in Georgia.
The Music Shop, by Rachel Joyce. (Random House, $17.) It’s 1988, and Frank — “a great bear of a man” and the owner of a neighborhood record shop — is stubbornly resisting the future of music. He’s got a knack for knowing what his customers want to listen to, but he’s kept himself emotionally closed off. When a woman appears at his store asking to learn about music, he gets a long-awaited chance to fall in love.
The Only Girl in the World: A Memoir, by Maude Julien with Ursula Gauthier. Translated by Adriana Hunter. (Back Bay/Little, Brown, $16.99.) Julien, now a psychotherapist specializing in psychological control, describes a childhood of horrors carried out by her despotic father with the goal of “sculpting me into the superior being I’m destined to become.” The narrative rarely expands beyond the claustrophobic, but in parts it has the pacing of a thriller.
Eastman Was Here, by Alex Gilvarry. (Penguin, $17.) In 1970s New York, Alan Eastman is mourning his marriage and his career. The novel opens with his wife leaving him, and Eastman, once a celebrated writer, fears that his prospects are dwindling and his best work is behind him. A phone call from an old acquaintance spurs a plan to write a definitive account of the Vietnam War that will reinvigorate his writing and lure his wife back. But when he heads overseas, he finds himself outmatched by female writers.
You Say to Brick: The Life of Louis Kahn, by Wendy Lesser. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $17.) An illuminating biography reassesses the architect, whose designs influenced the discipline for decades to come — and whose accomplishments were nearly outshined when he died in 1974 by interest in his complicated private life. Lesser intersperses her account with chapters that act as guides to Kahn’s designs and evoke the feeling of walking through the buildings.
The Mountain: Stories, by Paul Yoon. (Simon & Schuster, $16.) In tales that leap across the globe, from upstate New York to Russia, characters grapple with the legacy of violence in their lives. In the title story, a woman is persuaded to return to Shanghai from Korea by a mysterious stranger. As she adjusts to her new life working in a factory, she recalls memories of her dead father.