“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.