Cultural Capital 28 August 2013 Books in Brief: Svetlana Alpers, Paul Danahar and Meg Wolitzer Three new books you may have missed. Print HTML Roof Life Svetlana Alpers “Confession is not to my taste,” writes the art historian Svetlana Alpers in the opening pages of Roof Life. After retiring from her job in California, she peers out of the windows of her new loft apartment in Lower Manhattan, recording what she sees. Alpers writes against the memoir form, creating a meditative self-portrait that pulls in family, literature, geography and a lifetime of looking at art. She aims for a kind of omniscience – to fix our attention and focus our responses, as we do when taking in landscapes from a great height. “The immediacy of distance” is her goal.Yale University Press, 256pp, £18.99 The New Middle East: the World After the Arab SpringPaul Danahar Paul Danahar ran the BBC’s coverage of the Arab spring between 2010 and 2013 and is one of a small number of journalists who have worked across the “axis of evil”. He takes his epigraph from Tacitus – “The best day after a bad emperor is the first one” – reminding us that anything written on the Arab spring is necessarily a work in progress. The unifying theme of the book is the movement from stable (yet ruthless) dictatorships across the Arab world – many of them sanctioned by the west – to the birth of democratic nations that must reckon with complex histories, re-examine their identities and answer difficult questions of statehood, secularism and religion.Bloomsbury, 468pp, £25 The Interestings Meg Wolitzer At a summer camp in upstate New York, six teenagers smoke weed and drink vodka and Tang from paper cups. They call themselves “the Interestings” because, well, they “clearly are the most interesting people who ever fucking lived”. Decades pass and the dreams that sustained them give way to dreary day jobs. Disappointment and envy become the norm. Wolitzer places her drama in a historical context, contrasting the private and the public and questioning the influence of big events on small lives.Chatto & Windus, 480pp, £16.99 › Essay: the new untouchables Readers getting stuck in at the National Library in Beijing, China. Photograph: Getty Images. Philip Maughan is Assistant Editor at the New Statesman. From only £1 per week Subscribe This article first appeared in the 26 August 2013 issue of the New Statesman, How the dream died More Related articles How “cli-fi” novels humanise the science of climate change Video games will shape how we understand the world What is "narrow banking" - and could it put finance right?