War and its aftermath figure prominently in our recommended titles this week, from Andrew Bacevich’s critique of American foreign policy (“After the Apocalypse”) to two books about the 20-year fight in Afghanistan (Carter Malkasian’s “The American War in Afghanistan” and Craig Whitlock’s “The Afghanistan Papers”) to Robert S. Levine’s study of Andrew Johnson’s role in the immediate wake of the Civil War (“The Failed Promise”). Meanwhile, Algeria’s war for independence from France provides the backdrop to Leila Slimani’s new novel, “In the Country of Others” — it’s subtitled “War, War, War” — which is based on her grandmother’s experiences during that conflict.
THE MAGICIAN, by Colm Toibin. (Scribner, $28.) This is Toibin’s second novel to dramatize the life of a major novelist (“The Master,” from 2004, was about Henry James in the last years of the 19th century). “The Magician” is about Thomas Mann, the Nobel Prize-winning German author of “The Magic Mountain” and “Death in Venice,” among other works. Mann’s long and permanent exile from Germany began in 1933, after Hitler came to power, when Mann fled to Switzerland along with Katia, his Jewish wife. When World War II erupted six years later, the Manns escaped to the United States, first to Princeton and then to Los Angeles. Toibin’s novel is “symphonic and moving,” our reviewer Dwight Garner writes. “Toibin seeks to grasp the entirety of Mann’s life and times, the way a biographer might, and he does so quite neatly. Maximalist in scope but intimate in feeling, ‘The Magician’ never feels dutiful. Like its subject, it’s somber, yet it’s also prickly and strange, sometimes all at once.”