Jane Brox’s Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light (Mariner, $15.95) is fascinating and compulsively readable. Brilliant is saturated with research and amazing facts about the subject, but, even more, it explains the reciprocal relationship between science and society. From the stone lamps that facilitated our first cave paintings to an overabundance of modern light that impedes our observation of the stars, Brox takes us step by step through our own history, and how our mastery of light has shaped who we are.
In 1940, Greece is on edge as countries around it fall to the Axis powers. Special Officer Costa Zannis, stationed in the port city of Salonika, becomes tangled in the affairs of diplomats, spies, soldiers, and dissidents as he realizes what will happen if the Nazis achieve their plans. In Spies Of The Balkans (Random House, $15) Alan Furst creates moving characters caught in a moment where inaction is surrender and moral decisions have deadly outcomes.