Matthew Polly. American Shaolin: Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch; An Odyssey in the New China. illus. Gotham, $26 (9781592402625).
A college student tells his fascinating, funny story about traveling from Kansas to China’s Shaolin Temple, where he attempts to master kung fu and find courage. A 2008 Best Book for Young Adults.
Matt Ruff. Bad Monkeys. HarperCollins, $23.95 (9780061240423). Jane Charlotte earns her living by killing bad people for good reasons in this high-octane, clever thriller of conspiracies, revenge, and secret government agencies.
Conn Iggulden. Genghis: Birth of an Empire. Bantam, $25 (9780385339513). Temujin, the abandoned son of a khan, survives the harsh Asian tundra to become one of the world’s greatest military leaders in this absorbing historical tale.
Aryn Kyle. The God of Animals. Scribner, $25 (9781416533252). After her older sister elopes, 12-year-old Alice is left behind on the family’s rundown Colorado horse farm to cope with her distant parents and the unsolved murder of a classmate.
Ishmael Beah. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. Farrar/Sarah Crichton, $22 (9780374105235). Beah tells, in his own words, his harrowing experiences as a child soldier in the Sierra Leone civil war. A 2008 Best Book for Young Adults.
Lloyd Jones. Mister Pip. Dial, $24 (9780385341066). On a war-torn Pacific island, 13-year-old Matilda describes how an eccentric white teacher fires the imaginations of the village children by reading Great Expectations aloud. A 2008 Best Book for Young Adults.
Patrick Rothfuss. The Name of the Wind. DAW, $24.95 (9780756404079). Homeless thief Kvothe wins a place at the school of magic, where he hopes to learn more about the mysterious Chandrian, who murdered his parents.
Thomas Maltman. The Night Birds. Soho, $24 (9781569474624). Asa, a Minnesota boy growing up in the nineteenth century, learns secrets about his family’s violent, complicated past following the bloody Dakota Conflict of 1862.
Lisa Lutz. The Spellman Files. Simon & Schuster, $25 (9781416532392). Isabel can’t quit her private investigator job; she works for her family, and they’ll kill her if she tries to leave. A quickly paced, quirky mystery.
Jeff Lemire. Tales from the Farm: Essex County, v.1. illus. Top Shelf, paper, $9.95 (9781891830884). In this stark, moving graphic novel, Lester, a recently orphaned 10-year-old, finds escape in a private fantasy world of aliens and superheroes with his friend, a former hockey player.