Paperbacks new and noteworthy

“The Yellow Birds,” by Kevin Powers. (Back Bay/Little, Brown, $14.99.) Powers joined the Army when he was 17 and served as a machine-gunner in the Iraq war. That conflict is at the center of his impressionistic first novel, one of the Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2012, about the connected but diverging fates of two young soldiers and the trouble one of them has readjusting to life at home.

“This Will Be Difficult to Explain: And Other Stories,” by Johanna Skibsrud. (Norton, $14.95.) The known becomes foreign and the everyday exposes a sinister architecture in Skibsrud’s tales, as young women stumble through summer jobs abroad, wives toy with leaving their husbands, and fathers labor to communicate with sullen teenage daughters.

“The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death,” by Jill Lepore. (Vintage, $16.) Progressing through life’s stages — investigating the surprising origins of board games, breast pumps and cryonics along the way — Lepore’s intellectual history shows how America has wrestled with birth, childhood, work, marriage, old age and death.

“When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man,” by Nick Dybek. (Riverhead, $16.) Cal, the narrator of Dybek’s first novel, lives in a fishing village in coastal Washington and dreams of Alaska, a Treasure Island-like mystery where his fisherman father spends much of the year. But the village’s livelihood is threatened when the fishing fleet’s owner dies and his son looks to sell the family business.