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Joan of Arc, In Real Life, Ebola 

Short Stories

click to enlarge Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc

Kathryn Harrison

Doubleday, $28.95, hardcover

If Lisbeth Salander or Katniss Everdeen is your idea of the perfect female fighting hero, then you'll love this new biography of the Maid of Orléans from Kathryn Harrison, who recently spoke at Colorado College. In Joan of Arc: A Life Transfigured, Harrison offers a new version of a familiar narrative: At 12, Joan begins hearing voices; at 17, she ends the English siege of Orléans; at 19, she's burned at the stake for heresy. Harrison reviews previous biographies and famous retellings, but also offers up her own interpretation of the story of Joan by focusing on her sexuality — not surprising, really, if one is familiar with Harrison's oeuvre, but very well done given the way spirituality gets incorporated into the discussion. This is not so much a biography as an interpretation of a life, and with an interesting life in the hands of a gifted author, it's well worth the time. — Kel Munger

click to enlarge In Real Life

In Real Life

Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

First Second, $17.99, paperback

Cory Doctorow, New York Times-bestselling author of young-adult science-fiction and a principal at the incredible boingboing.net, has teamed up with artist Jen Wang for In Real Life, a story featuring a girl gamer who discovers, deep in the virtual world she loves, economic exploitation — and friendship. Anda finds a new life in Coarsegold Online, a multiplayer role-playing game where she joins a guild of female gamers and makes friends. But there's also very real money to be made in this virtual world, via an underground economy that "goldmines" for items that other players will pay actual cash to have. The story is fantastic and the art is well-done, a blend of traditional American comic and manga styles; what's really at stake, though, is raising awareness of how much of our "stuff" has a hidden economic cost for people we will never meet in real life. — Kel Munger

click to enlarge Ebola

Ebola

David Quammen

W.W. Norton & Co., $13.95, paperback

David Quammen, author of the masterful 2013 book Spillover, has excerpted the section on the Ebola virus and expanded it with new reporting from West Africa. The facts in Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus are terrifying. Quammen provides necessary historical context by covering the evolution and expansion of Ebola since the first outbreak in 1976. While he's not pulling any punches — an exceptionally heavy virus load in body fluids, even after the victim's death, and a 90 percent mortality rate do tend to get one's attention — he's also far more restrained than Richard Preston in his lurid book on Ebola. Quammen's interviews and on-the-ground observations make this far and away the best journalism on the disease, and remind us that as we continue to encroach on animal habitats, zoonotic diseases like Ebola will appear more often. — Kel Munger

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