1 | BY NIGHTFALL, by Michael Cunningham [Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25] The Hours author returns with another chronicle of cultured melancholy, this time embodied by a middle-aged SoHo art dealer whose life is upended during a visit from his wife's wayward young brother.
2 | NEMESIS, by Philip Roth [Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26] As with Woody Allen, you can count on Roth to regularly deliver something new (if familiar). This time he depicts a polio outbreak in 1944 Newark, New Jersey, as seen through the eyes of a young playground director.
3 | LISTEN TO THIS, by Alex Ross [Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27] In his first book, The Rest Is Noise, Ross transformed a highbrow subject (classical music) into page-turner material. Now he goes beyond composers like Ligeti and Messiaen to rockers like Dylan and Radiohead. Erudition is rarely so lightly worn.
4 | WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? AND PREPARATIONS FOR THE ASCENT, by Gilbert Rogin [Verse Chorus Press, $18] Although his 1970s New Yorker stories garnered Rogin comparisons to Updike and Bellow, his books soon went out of print. Now a small press resurrects two novels about a Larry David-ish writer's rocky marriage.
5 | AT HOME, by Bill Bryson [Doubleday, $29] Our greatest literary explainer (A Walk in the Woods, A Short History of Nearly Everything) wanders through the rooms of his Victorian house, examining the provenance of private life for a treatise packed with trivia—from table salt's relationship to scurvy to the origin of lawn mowing—that's tailor-made for cocktail-party banter.