■ “Autobiography,” by Morrissey — Fans of the former The Smiths frontman will enjoy this memoir for sure, but even those neutral toward the eccentric singer will find plenty to like. You won’t find any great revelations (his sexuality and the reason why The Smiths broke up have launched massive speculation and gossip), but here’s a first-person glimpse into the incredible British music scene of the 1970s and 1980s.
Any creative will identify with his passion for his craft. True to form, Morrissey writes with a poet’s grace and wit. Morrissey gets blasted in the press for being an egotistical drama queen, but the book lets me see the lonely, awkward Manchester teenager truly bewildered by what he’s become.
■ “The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking,” by Brendan Koerner — I’ve long thought the 1970s was one of the wackiest decades in U.S. history, and “The Skies Belong To Us” only bolsters my theory. The book describes an era of air travel that many of us still remember —nearly unfettered access to planes, crew, and terminals and lack of screening. As a result, between 1968 and 1973, there was an average of one hijacking in the U.S. per week.
Koerner details several of these hijackings, focusing on one couple who remained on the run for several years after they successfully commandeered a plane. I found myself muttering “unbelievable” page after page.
Elizabeth R. Baer, English and African Studies professor, Gustavus Adolphus College
■ “Submergence,” by J. M. Ledgard — This brief (200 pages) novel is getting rave reviews as the best book of 2013 and as "easily one of the best books I have ever read (NH Public Radio)." Focusing on just two characters, James More, a British spy imprisoned in Somalia by jihadists, and Danielle Flinders, a sexy biomathematician who does undersea exploration, the novel also includes reflections and speculations on the ocean, the desert, climate change, intimacy, enclosure, religion and many other topics.