Human Conditions (Virgin) The second solo album from the ex-Verve frontman takes his hypnotic vibe to the extreme with major studio production running throughout. Overlapping vocals, intricate string arrangements, keyboards, and horns all play roles in getting his cerebral message across, as does a collaboration with one of the all-time great studio producers, Beach Boy Brian Wilson, on “Nature is the Law.” But as in the past, it’s the lyrical drops and the way Ashcroft invites listeners into his space and time that are the real gems here. Give this a few spins; it’ll grow on you.
— JAMES E. MAYFIELD
OF PARADISE AND POWER: AMERICA AND EUROPE IN THE NEW WORLD ORDER BY Robert Kagan (Knopf, $18)
Kagan, director of the U.S. Leadership Project for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a Washington Post columnist, offers powerful insight into U.S. and European relations. European leaders, increasingly disturbed by U.S. policy and actions abroad, feel they are headed for what the New York Times described as a “moment of truth” (July 21, 2002). After years of mutual resentment and tension, there is a sudden recognition that the interests of America and its allies are diverging sharply. Kagan reaches into this impasse to force both sides to see themselves through the eyes of the other.
OUR READ: PROVOCATIVE AND INFORMATIVE
THE BEST REVENGE BY Stephen White (Delacorte Press, $25)
White’s latest installment featuring clinical psychologist Alan Gregory questions whether vengeance is justified in the face of injustice and tragedy. DNA evidence frees convicted murderer Tom Clone, and Dr. Gregory is called in to ease Clone’s re-entry into society. Soon, the young man’s treatment becomes one of the darkest, most threatening cases of the good doctor’s career.
OUR READ: GRIPPING AND REALISTIC
LIBERTY BY Stephen Coonts (St. Martin’s Press, $26)
By the master of the techno and political thriller comes this latest Admiral Jake Grafton adventure. In a secret meeting with the president, Grafton is ordered to stop terrorists who’ve threatened to use nuclear weapons in highly populated areas.
OUR READ: HIGH-SPEED, TWISTING DRAMA
— RICHELLE THOMSON