By Yoko Ogawa
192 pages; Picador
The Professor is a fallen genius with a truncated memory—the result of a crippling accident—and a transcendent passion for numbers. The woman who keeps house for him is a single mother, with a baseball-loving son the Professor nicknames "Root" (the boy's flat haircut and cap visor suggest a square-root sign). Alive with mysteries both mathematical and personal, The Housekeeper and the Professor, by the young Japanese novelist Yoko Ogawa, has the pared-down elegance of an equation. "A problem has a rhythm of its own, just like a piece of music," the Professor explains. "Once you get the rhythm…you can see where the traps might be waiting." A viable lesson for life.