Muhammad Ali, Julia Child and Leonardo da Vinci are three big names anchoring this week’s list of recommendations. The first full biography since Ali’s death last year tells the story of his epic life; “France Is a Feast” shows off Paul Child’s accomplished photos of Julia Child and postwar Paris; and Walter Isaacson’s latest best seller considers the awe-inspiring work of the Renaissance man. A diverse assortment of other subjects this week includes cleaning up surgery, survival in the jungle, food’s role in the British Empire and the life of an endangered animal.
Daily Books Editor and Staff Writer
THE BUTCHERING ART: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine, by Lindsey Fitzharris (Scientific American/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.) Fitzharris, a medical historian, looks back to when Lister revolutionized medicine through one deceptively simple notion: Cleanliness. The result is a “slim, atmospheric” book, our critic Jennifer Senior writes. “The story it tells is one of abiding fascination, in part because it involves a paradigm shift so basic, so seemingly obvious, that one can scarcely believe the paradigm needed shifting in the first place.”
ELMET, by Fiona Mozley. (Algonquin, $15.95.) Mozley’s debut, a dark, fable-like novel shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize, derives a good deal of its power from the dichotomy between its primary character — a taciturn bare-knuckle brawler named John — and its narrator, John’s sensitive 14-year-old son, Daniel. “Elmet” is a beguiling patchwork of influences held together by Mozley’s distinct voice.
ALI: A Life, by Jonathan Eig. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30.) The first full biography of Muhammad Ali since his death last year, Eig’s richly researched, sympathetic yet unsparing portrait of a controversial figure for whom the personal and the political dramatically fused could not come at a more appropriate time.
FRANCE IS A FEAST: The Photographic Journey of Paul and Julia Child, by Alex Prud’homme and Katie Pratt. (Thames & Hudson, $35.) Paul Child was an accomplished photographer, as this handsome selection of images from the Childs’ life in post-World War II France makes plain.