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What We're Reading, April 20-26

A novel skewers New York's Internet-media nexus; a New York Times health editor examines the ways "Grown-Up" minds are superior to young brains; a reporter visits the small Dominican town that churns out big-league baseball stars.


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American Subversive

A Novel

By David Goodwillie

In New York's downtown, Aidan, a press blogger for a Gawker-like empire, socializes with his frenemies in the city's media demi-world, gleaning gossip for his next day's posts. As the book opens, the journalists he drinks with, sleeps with and then writes about are all working overtime, trying to crack the case of a terrorist bombing that rocked midtown earlier in the week. Meanwhile, in Vermont, an earnest young woman scans the Internet, searching for the next corporate target whose destruction will, she believes, enable her radical-left terrorist cell to shock a complacent nation out of its stupor. When someone sends Aidan an anonymous tip about the bombing, complete with a photo of Paige, the alluring young radical, he sets out to break a real news story for a change. His hunt will bring these two very different people and value systems face to face.

Hardcover, 320 pages; Scribner; list price, $25; publication date, April 20


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The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain

The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind

By Barbara Strauch

Author Barbara Strauch spends her days as the health and medical science editor at The New York Times, which means she's able to recognize good research and new ideas. The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain is full of both. It's a follow-up to The Primal Teen, her book on the not-yet-complete teen-age brain -- a book that was prompted by watching her own teenage children develop. Now she has moved on to adult brains. No depressing documentation of memory loss here. Strauch focuses on what middle-aged brains can do better than younger brains -- most importantly, synthesize and use information and see things more broadly. She tells her story in a very accessible way, through anecdotes of discovery and profiles of brain scientists. At the end of the book, there's advice -- but no guarantees -- on how to keep your brain in good shape. And for any people (including teenagers) who doubt the middle-aged brain is all that great, Strauch includes 20 pages of scientific citations at the end.

Hardcover, 256 pages; Viking; list price, $26.95; publication date, April 15


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The Eastern Stars

How Baseball Changed the Dominican Town of San Pedro de Macoris

By Mark Kurlansky

In The Eastern Stars, journalist Mark Kurlansky tells the story of a small town in the Dominican Republic called San Pedro de Macoris that has produced a huge number of major league baseball players since 1958. The story of how young men make the transition from playing ball on a small island in the Caribbean to moving through the mostly small-town minor league farm system and eventually making the majors would be compelling by itself, but Kurlansky goes even deeper into the history of the Dominican Republic -- its violent past and the rise of sugar as an export commodity. The book also explores the huge impact that major league money can have on players from impoverished backgrounds.

Hardcover, 288 pages; Riverhead; list price, $25.95; publication date, April 15

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