Really Cool Women\'s Book Club

Time to vote for new books February 25, 2017

Filed under: Nominated Books — Susan @ 12:04 am

Please go to this link and vote before next weeks book club. Thanks!

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WLV9T3X

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Does the world need yet another novel about WWII? It does when the novel is as inventive and beautiful as this one by Anthony Doerr. In fact, All the Light We Cannot See–while set mostly in Germany and France before and during the war–is not really a “war novel”. Yes, there is fear and fighting and disappearance and death, but the author’s focus is on the interior lives of his two characters. Marie Laure is a blind 14-year-old French girl who flees to the countryside when her father disappears from Nazi-occupied Paris. Werner is a gadget-obsessed German orphan whose skills admit him to a brutal branch of Hitler Youth. Never mind that their paths don’t cross until very late in the novel, this is not a book you read for plot (although there is a wonderful, mysterious subplot about a stolen gem). This is a book you read for the beauty of Doerr’s writing– “Abyss in her gut, desert in her throat, Marie-Laure takes one of the cans of food…”–and for the way he understands and cherishes the magical obsessions of childhood. Marie Laure and Werner are never quaint or twee. Instead they are powerful examples of the way average people in trying times must decide daily between morality and survival.

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly

The phenomenal true story of the black female mathematicians at NASA whose calculations helped fuel some of America’s greatest achievements in space. Soon to be a major motion picture starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kirsten Dunst, and Kevin Costner.

Before John Glenn orbited the earth, or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.

Among these problem-solvers were a group of exceptionally talented African American women, some of the brightest minds of their generation. Originally relegated to teaching math in the South’s segregated public schools, they were called into service during the labor shortages of World War II, when America’s aeronautics industry was in dire need of anyone who had the right stuff. Suddenly, these overlooked math whizzes had a shot at jobs worthy of their skills, and they answered Uncle Sam’s call, moving to Hampton, Virginia and the fascinating, high-energy world of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory.

Even as Virginia’s Jim Crow laws required them to be segregated from their white counterparts, the women of Langley’s all-black “West Computing” group helped America achieve one of the things it desired most: a decisive victory over the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and complete domination of the heavens.

Starting in World War II and moving through to the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race, Hidden Figures follows the interwoven accounts of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, four African American women who participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes. It chronicles their careers over nearly three decades they faced challenges, forged alliances and used their intellect to change their own lives, and their country’s future.

Inferno: A Doctor’s Ebola Story by Steven Hatch

Dr. Steven Hatch first came to Liberia in November 2013, to work at a hospital in Monrovia. Six months later, several of the physicians Dr. Hatch had mentored and served with were dead or barely clinging to life, and Ebola had become a world health emergency. Hundreds of victims perished each week; whole families were destroyed in a matter of days; so many died so quickly that the culturally taboo practice of cremation had to be instituted to dispose of the bodies. With little help from the international community and a population ravaged by disease and fear, the war-torn African nation was simply unprepared to deal with the catastrophe.

A physician’s memoir about the ravages of a terrible disease and the small hospital that fought to contain it, Inferno is also an explanation of the science and biology of Ebola: how it is transmitted and spreads with such ferocity. And as Dr. Hatch notes, while Ebola is temporarily under control, it will inevitably re-emerge―as will other plagues, notably the Zika virus, which the World Health Organization has declared a public health emergency. Inferno is a glimpse into the white-hot center of a crisis that will come again.

 It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

It Can’t Happen Here is the only one of Sinclair Lewis’s later novels to match the power of Main Street, Babbitt, and Arrowsmith. A cautionary tale about the fragility of democracy, it is an alarming, eerily timeless look at how fascism could take hold in America.

Written during the Great Depression, when the country was largely oblivious to Hitler’s aggression, it juxtaposes sharp political satire with the chillingly realistic rise of a president who becomes a dictator to save the nation from welfare cheats, sex, crime, and a liberal press.

Called “a message to thinking Americans” by the Springfield Republican when it was published in 1935, It Can’t Happen Here is a shockingly prescient novel that remains as fresh and contemporary as today’s news.

I Will Find You:  A Reporter Investigates the Life of the Man Who Raped Her by Joanna Connors

When Joanna Connors was thirty years old on assignment for the Cleveland Plain Dealer to review a play at a college theater, she was held at knife point and raped by a stranger who had grown up five miles away from her. Once her assailant was caught and sentenced, Joanna never spoke of the trauma again, until 21 years later when her daughter was about to go to college. She resolved then to tell her children about her own rape so they could learn and protect themselves, and she began to realize that the man who assaulted her was one of the formative people in her life.

Setting out to uncover the story of her attacker, Connors embarked on a journey to find out who he was, where he came from, who his friends were and what his life was like. What she discovers stretches beyond one violent man’s story and back into her own, interweaving a narrative about strength and survival with one about rape culture and violence in America.

I Will Find You is a brave, timely consideration of race, class, education and the families that shape who we become, by a reporter and a survivor.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson

When Jenny Lawson was little, all she ever wanted was to fit in. That dream was cut short by her fantastically unbalanced father and a morbidly eccentric childhood. It did, however, open up an opportunity for Lawson to find the humor in the strange shame-spiral that is her life, and we are all the better for it.

In the irreverent Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson’s long-suffering husband and sweet daughter help her uncover the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments—the ones we want to pretend never happened—are the very same moments that make us the people we are today. For every intellectual misfit who thought they were the only ones to think the things that Lawson dares to say out loud, this is a poignant and hysterical look at the dark, disturbing, yet wonderful moments of our lives.

Mary McGrory:  The First Queen of Journalism

“There’s no shortage of trenchant and witty takes on Donald Trump stuffing his golden feet in his mouth as Hillary Clinton trudges toward her likely victory. But if Mary McGrory were still here, I bet she would reign above the din. Born shortly before women gained the right to vote, she became one of the nation’s most widely syndicated columnists….best remembered for peerlessly capturing the essence of political animals over half a century of opinion writing… she did write about [Trump’s] family in 1990. ‘The defense budget is the closest we come to the sums being talked of in the divorce settlement between Ivana and Donald,’ McGrory said of the Republican nominee’s first divorce. ‘Watching the Trumps, Washington thinks of itself as wholesome.’”

Mrs. Sherlock Holmes: The True Story of New York City’s Greatest Female Detective and the 1917 Missing Girl Case That Captivated a Nation by Brad Ricca

Mrs. Sherlock Holmes tells the true story of Mrs. Grace Humiston, the detective and lawyer who turned her back on New York society life to become one of the nation’s greatest crime fighters during an era when women weren’t even allowed to vote. After graduating from N.Y.U. law school, Grace opened a legal clinic in the city for low-income immigrant clients, and quickly established a reputation as a fierce, but fair lawyer who was always on the side of the disenfranchised.
Grace’s motto “Justice for those of limited means” led her to strange cases all over the city, and eventually the world. From defending an innocent giant on death row to investigating an island in Arkansas with a terrible secret about slavery; from the warring halls of Congress to a crumbling medieval tower in Italy, Grace solved crimes in-between shopping at Bergdorf Goodman and being marked for death by the sinister Black Hand. She defended a young wife who shot her would-be rapist and fought the framing of a Baltimore black man at the mercy of a corrupt police department. Known for dressing only in black, Grace was appointed the first woman U.S. district attorney in history. And when a pretty 18-year-old girl named Ruth Cruger went missing on Valentine’s Day in New York, Grace took the case after  the police gave up. Grace and her partner, the hard-boiled Hungarian detective Julius J. Kron, navigated a dangerous mystery of secret boyfriends, two-faced cops,underground tunnels, rumors of white slavery, and a mysterious pale man– in a desperate race against time to save Ruth. When she solved the crime, she was made the first female consulting detective to the NYPD.
But despite her many successes in social and criminal justice, Grace began to see chilling connections in the cases she had solved, leading to a final showdown with her most fearsome adversary of all and one of the most powerful men of the twentieth century.
This is the first-ever literary biography of the singular woman the press nicknamed after fiction’s greatest detective. In the narrative tradition of In Cold Blood and The Devil in the White City, her poignant story unmasks unmistakable connections between missing girls,the role of the media, and the real truth of crime stories. The great mystery of Mrs. Sherlock Holmes — and its haunting twist ending — is how could one woman with so much power disappear so completely?

Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice by Bill Browder

A New York Times bestseller: “[Red Notice] does for investing in Russia and the former Soviet Union what Liar’s Poker did for our understanding of Salomon Brothers, Wall Street, and the mortgage-backed securities business in the 1980s. Browder’s business saga meshes well with the story of corruption and murder in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, making Red Notice an early candidate for any list of the year’s best books” (Fortune).

This is a story about an accidental activist. Bill Browder started out his adult life as the Wall Street maverick whose instincts led him to Russia just after the breakup of the Soviet Union, where he made his fortune.

Along the way he exposed corruption, and when he did, he barely escaped with his life. His Russian lawyer wasn’t so lucky: he ended up in jail, where he was tortured to death. That changed Browder forever. He saw the murderous heart of the Putin regime and has spent the last half decade on a campaign to expose it. Because of that, he became Putin’s number one enemy, especially after Browder succeeded in having a law passed in the United States that punishes a list of Russians implicated in the lawyer’s murder. Putin famously retaliated with a law that bans Americans from adopting Russian orphans.

A financial caper, a crime thriller, and a political crusade, Red Notice is the story of one man taking on overpowering odds to change the world, and also the story of how, without intending to, he found meaning in his life.

The all of it by Jeannette Haien

Soaked by a miserable rain, Father Declan de Lowry swats midges and unsuccessfully casts for salmon while mulling the deathbed confession of a parishioner from the tiny Irish village of Roonatellin. The good priest is frantic to know why Kevin Dennehy refused to the end to marry Enda, who lived as his wife for decades with none suspecting their sin. When pressed, Kevin would only say, “there’s some explanations that get you nowhere.” That leaves it to Enda, an Irish Scheherazade, to breathlessly tell Father “the all of it,” a wild, eyebrow-raising tale that meanders like sheep on the narrow roads. Her enthusiasm and Jeannette Haien’s musical, evocative phrasing sweep this winning, humorous novel along. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

What if? : Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Monroe

Millions of people visit xkcd.com each week to read Randall Munroe’s iconic webcomic. His stick-figure drawings about science, technology, language, and love have a large and passionate following.

Fans of xkcd ask Munroe a lot of strange questions. What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light? How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last?

In pursuit of answers, Munroe runs computer simulations, pores over stacks of declassified military research memos, solves differential equations, and consults with nuclear reactor operators. His responses are masterpieces of clarity and hilarity, complemented by signature xkcd comics. They often predict the complete annihilation of humankind, or at least a really big explosion.

The book features new and never-before-answered questions, along with updated and expanded versions of the most popular answers from the xkcd website. What If? will be required reading for xkcd fans and anyone who loves to ponder the hypothetical.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

When Breath Becomes Air is a powerful look at a stage IV lung cancer diagnosis through the eyes of a neurosurgeon. When Paul Kalanithi is given his diagnosis he is forced to see this disease, and the process of being sick, as a patient rather than a doctor–the result of his experience is not just a look at what living is and how it works from a scientific perspective, but the ins and outs of what makes life matter. This heart-wrenching book will capture you from page one and still have you thinking long after the final sentence.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle–and people in general–has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence–creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

Why not Me? by Mindy Kaling

In Why Not Me? Mindy Kaling has solidified her position as “most valuable friend.” Just like Mindy, these essays are exuberantly funny, deeply introspective and refreshingly thoughtful. From her relationship with BJ Novak and the guy who worked for the president, to creating her TV show and announcing the Emmy nominations, Mindy’s just-between-us-friends approach makes you love her just a little bit more after each story, and you’ll even question if Mindy is your soup snake. By all conventional measures Mindy Kaling should not be where she is, and that is the beauty of the stories she shares—“Work hard, know your shit, show your shit, and then feel entitled.” Accessible and empowering, Why Not Me? makes you want to stand up and shout, “Why not me, too?”

Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation by Alan Burdick

“Burdick is like a charming and witty river guide, exploring the tributaries and side-streams along the river of consciousness—the science, the history, the literature, the deep and beautiful paradoxes that make us what we are. Why Time Flies will enhance your experience of what may be, in the end, the most intimate relationship of your liþ—your connection with the passage of time.”

 

Time to Vote for new books October 21, 2016

Filed under: Nominated Books — Susan @ 10:44 pm

Please vote by Wednesday September 26th and I can let you all know the next book at book club on the 27th.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/D3M5H5F

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald

The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing

The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett

Dispatches by Michael Herr

The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend by Bob Drury

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by JD Vance
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Man called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Oreo by Fran Ross

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Subject 375 by Nikki Owen

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates 

Readers of his work in The Atlantic and elsewhere know Ta-Nehisi Coates for his thoughtful and influential writing on race in America. Written as a series of letters to his teenaged son, his new memoir, Between the World and Me, walks us through the course of his life, from the tough neighborhoods of Baltimore in his youth, to Howard University—which Coates dubs “The Mecca” for its revelatory community of black students and teachers—to the broader Meccas of New York and Paris. Coates describes his observations and the evolution of his thinking on race, from Malcolm X to his conclusion that race itself is a fabrication, elemental to the concept of American (white) exceptionalism. Ferguson, Trayvon Martin, and South Carolina are not bumps on the road of progress and harmony, but the results of a systemized, ubiquitous threat to “black bodies” in the form of slavery, police brutality, and mass incarceration. Coates is direct and, as usual, uncommonly insightful and original. There are no wasted words. This is a powerful and exceptional book.–Jon Foro

The Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald

Booker Prize-winner Fitzgerald ( Offshore ; Innocence ) reveals here the depth of a distinct and imaginative talent to amuse. Set in Moscow in the spring of 1913, the story concerns an English household that has fallen apart with the unexpected flight of Nellie Reid, a good and proper wife and heretofore devoted mother of three young children. (Fitzgerald is especially good at very droll children.) Nellie’s husband, Frank, must carry on with his family and printing business while holding out hope for her return. A mysterious young woman from the countryside–she may be a dryad–is engaged to care for the children, and the plot, such as it is, takes many unexpected turns. But one doesn’t read Fitzgerald for plot structure so much as for her sheer powers of invention: her novel raises more questions than it means to answer. Rich in subtle characterizations, wit and wonderfully textured prose, Fitzgerald’s seventh novel succeeds in evoking the very essence of life one long-ago spring at 22 Lipka Street.

The Big Clock by Kenneth Fearing

George Stroud is a hard-drinking, tough-talking, none-too-scrupulous writer for a New York media conglomerate that bears a striking resemblance to Time, Inc. in the heyday of Henry Luce. One day, before heading home to his wife in the suburbs, Stroud has a drink with Pauline, the beautiful girlfriend of his boss, Earl Janoth. Things happen. The next day Stroud escorts Pauline home, leaving her off at the corner just as Janoth returns from a trip. The day after that, Pauline is found murdered in her apartment.

Janoth knows there was one witness to his entry into Pauline’s apartment on the night of the murder; he knows that man must have been the man Pauline was with before he got back; but he doesn’t know who he was. Janoth badly wants to get his hands on that man, and he picks one of his most trusted employees to track him down: George Stroud, who else?

How does a man escape from himself? No book has ever dramatized that question to more perfect effect than The Big Clock, a masterpiece of American noir.

The Bookman’s Tale by Charlie Lovett

Guaranteed to capture the hearts of everyone who truly loves books, The Bookman’s Tale is a former bookseller’s sparkling novel and a delightful exploration of one of literature’s most tantalizing mysteries with echoes of Shadow of the Wind and A.S. Byatt’s Possession.

Nine months after the death of his beloved wife Amanda left him shattered, Peter Byerly, a young antiquarian bookseller, relocates from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to outrun his grief and rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, he discovers a Victorian watercolor of a woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Amanda.

Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins and braves a host of dangers to follow a trail of clues back across the centuries—all the way to Shakespeare’s time and a priceless literary artifact that could prove, once and for all, the truth about the Bard’s real identity.

Dispatches by Michael Herr

Written on the front lines in Vietnam, Dispatches became an immediate classic of war reportage when it was published in 1977.

From its terrifying opening pages to its final eloquent words, Dispatches makes us see, in unforgettable and unflinching detail, the chaos and fervor of the war and the surreal insanity of life in that singular combat zone. Michael Herr’s unsparing, unorthodox retellings of the day-to-day events in Vietnam take on the force of poetry, rendering clarity from one of the most incomprehensible and nightmarish events of our time.

Dispatches is among the most blistering and compassionate accounts of war in our literature.

The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend

by Bob Drury

For all of our culture’s fascination with the American Indian, it’s almost impossible to believe that one of the most well-known Indians of his time, the Oglala Sioux warrior chief Red Cloud, could be largely forgotten until now. Yet that’s exactly what we discover in this illuminating account by Drury and Clavin (Halsey’s Typhoon). As the de facto leader of the Western Sioux nation—an unprecedented feat in itself given the Sioux’s rigorous individualism and a culture consisted of fluid, haphazard tribal groups—Red Cloud and his army stand alone in history as the only Indians to ever defeat the United States in a war, which took all of two years (1866–1868). A history inconveniently at odds with the accepted American narrative, the manuscript for Red Cloud’s 1893 autobiography lay in a drawer at the Nebraska State Historical Society into the 1990s. Thanks to that work and the authors&’ extensive, additional scholarship, readers now have access to a much more thorough, comprehensive understanding of the Plains Indians&’ brutal and tragically futile efforts to protect their land and way of living from the progress of civilization.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by JD Vance

From a former marine and Yale Law School graduate, a probing look at the struggles of America’s white working class through the author’s own story of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town.

Hillbilly Elegy is a passionate and personal analysis of a culture in crisis—that of poor, white Americans. The disintegration of this group, a process that has been slowly occurring now for over forty years, has been reported with growing frequency and alarm, but has never before been written about as searingly from the inside. In HillbillyElegy, J.D. Vance tells the true story of what a social, regional, and class decline feels like when you were born with it hanging around your neck.

The Vance family story began with hope in postwar America. J.D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually one of their grandchildren would graduate from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of success in achieving generational upward mobility. But as the family saga of Hillbilly Elegy plays out, we learn that J.D.’s grandparents, aunt, uncle, sister, and, most of all, his mother struggled profoundly with the demands of their new middle-class life, never fully escaping the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America. With piercing honesty, Vance shows how he himself still carries around the demons of his chaotic family history.

A deeply moving memoir, with its share of humor and vividly colorful figures, Hillbilly Elegy is the story of how upward mobility really feels. And it is an urgent and troubling meditation on the loss of the American dream for a large segment of this country.
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

To you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history….Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. The letters are all addressed to “My dear and unfortunate successor,” and they plunge her into a world she never dreamed of-a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history.The letters provide links to one of the darkest powers that humanity has ever known-and to a centuries-long quest to find the source of that darkness and wipe it out. It is a quest for the truth about Vlad the Impaler, the medieval ruler whose barbarous reign formed the basis of the legend of Dracula. Generations of historians have risked their reputations, their sanity, and even their lives to learn the truth about Vlad the Impaler and Dracula. Now one young woman must decide whether to take up this quest herself-to follow her father in a hunt that nearly brought him to ruin years ago, when he was a vibrant young scholar and her mother was still alive. What does the legend of Vlad the Impaler have to do with the modern world? Is it possible that the Dracula of myth truly existed-and that he has lived on, century after century, pursuing his own unknowable ends? The answers to these questions cross time and borders, as first the father and then the daughter search for clues, from dusty Ivy League libraries to Istanbul, Budapest, and the depths of Eastern Europe. In city after city, in monasteries and archives, in letters and in secret conversations, the horrible truth emerges about Vlad the Impaler’s dark reign-and about a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive down through the ages.Parsing obscure signs and hidden texts, reading codes worked into the fabric of medieval monastic traditions-and evading the unknown adversaries who will go to any lengths to conceal and protect Vlad’s ancient powers-one woman comes ever closer to the secret of her own past and a confrontation with the very definition of evil. Elizabeth Kostova’s debut novel is an adventure of monumental proportions, a relentless tale that blends fact and fantasy, history and the present, with an assurance that is almost unbearably suspenseful-and utterly unforgettable.

Man called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

A feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, Fredrik Backman’s novel about the angry old man next door is a thoughtful exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others. “If there was an award for ‘Most Charming Book of the Year,’ this first novel by a Swedish blogger-turned-overnight-sensation would win hands down”

Oreo by Fran Ross

Oreo is raised by her maternal grandparents in Philadelphia. Her black mother tours with a theatrical troupe, and her Jewish deadbeat dad disappeared when she was an infant, leaving behind a mysterious note that triggers her quest to find him. What ensues is a playful, modernized parody of the classical odyssey of Theseus with a feminist twist, immersed in seventies pop culture, and mixing standard English, black vernacular, and Yiddish with wisecracking aplomb. Oreo, our young hero, navigates the labyrinth of sound studios and brothels and subway tunnels in Manhattan, seeking to claim her birthright while unwittingly experiencing and triggering a mythic journey of self-discovery like no other.

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa—a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants—life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances’s life—or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.

Subject 375 by Nikki Owen

What to believe. Who to betray. When to run.

Plastic surgeon Dr. Maria Martinez has Asperger’s. Convicted of killing a priest, she is alone in prison and has no memory of the murder. DNA evidence places Maria at the scene of the crime, yet she claims she’s innocent. Then she starts to remember …
A strange room. Strange people. Being watched.
As Maria gets closer to the truth, she is drawn into a web of international intrigue and must fight not only to clear her name but to remain alive.

With a protagonist as original as The Bridge‘s Saga Norén, part one in the Project trilogy is as addictive as the Bourne novels.

 

Time to vote for new books July 3, 2016

Filed under: Nominated Books — Susan @ 8:13 pm

Sorry I am a little behind with this but here are the picks for summer and fall. If you can all go to the survey monkey link in the next week I will get the picks out to you quickly.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Q29N67M

Blessed: a history of the American prosperity gospel by Kate Bowler
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage
Gene by siddhartha mukhergee
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief” by Lawrence Wright
A History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage
A House in the Sky by Amanda Linkhout and Sara Corbett
Kindred by Octavia Butler
The Monopolists by Mary Pilon
On Looking: A walker’s guide to the art of observation by Alexandra Horowitz
Operation Mincemeat by Ben MacIntyre
Paper: Paging through History by Mark Kurlansky
Ship Fever by Andrea Barrett
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And other lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty
Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
A thousand naked strangers by Kevin hazard
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Blessed: a history of the American prosperity gospel by Kate Bowler

The most controversial aspect of the so-called prosperity gospel is “its radical claim to transform invisible faith into financial rewards.” Poverty and illness are signs of spiritual malaise, for God wants us to be wealthy, healthy, and live to our full potential in victory here on earth. Preached by Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, and others, the prosperity gospel teaches that Jesus’ death and resurrection overcame not only sin and death but also poverty and disease. Believers, therefore, may claim wealth and health as part of their divine inheritance. Bowler argues the allure is actually optimism, not financial success. The message of the prosperity gospel channels America’s can-do spirit and its belief that the future can be changed for the better through hard work. Her book is an important account of an audacious contemporary religious phenomenon, albeit one that scandalizes many. It also serves as an invitation to reflect upon the relationship of religion and money.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra

“ A National Book Award’s Loneliest selections and NYT bestseller, this story set in war-torn Chechnya deals with the transcendent power of love. Eight-year-old Havaa hides in the woods after watching men take her father and burn down her house. Ahmed, a neighbor, takes her to an abandoned hospital where he feels she will be safe with the last remaining doctor, a gifted surgeon named Sonja. Over the next five days, the lives of the three characters connect in astounding ways in this amazing tour de force.”

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

Computer expert Randy Waterhouse spearheads a movement to create a safe haven for data in a world where information equals power and big business and government seek to control the flow of knowledge. His ambitions collide with a top-secret conspiracy with links to the encryption wars of World War II and his grandfather’s work in preventing the Nazis from discovering that the Allies had cracked their supposedly unbreakable Enigma code. The author of Snow Crash (LJ 4/1/92) focuses his eclectic vision on a story of epic proportions, encompassing both the beginnings of information technology in the 1940s and the blossoming of the present cybertech revolution. Stephenson’s freewheeling prose and ironic voice lend a sense of familiarity to a story that transcends the genre and demands a wide readership among fans of technothrillers as well as a general audience. Highly recommended.
An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage

More than simply sustenance, food historically has been a kind of technology, changing the course of human progress by helping to build empires, promote industrialization, and decide the outcomes of wars. Tom Standage draws on archaeology, anthropology, and economics to reveal how food has helped shape and transform societies around the world, from the emergence of farming in China by 7500 b.c. to the use of sugar cane and corn to make ethanol today. An Edible History of Humanity is a fully satisfying account of human history.
Gene by siddhartha mukhergee

In 2010, Siddhartha Mukherjee was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his book The Emperor of All Maladies, a “biography” of cancer. Here, he follows up with a biography of the gene—and The Gene is just as informative, wise, and well-written as that first book. Mukherjee opens with a survey of how the gene first came to be conceptualized and understood, taking us through the thoughts of Aristotle, Darwin, Mendel, Thomas Morgan, and others; he finishes the section with a look at the case of Carrie Buck (to whom the book is dedicated), who eventually was sterilized in 1927 in a famous American eugenics case. Carrie Buck’s sterilization comes as a warning that informs the rest of the book. This is what can happen when we start tinkering with this most personal science and misunderstand the ethical implications of those tinkerings. Through the rest of The Gene, Mukherjee clearly and skillfully illustrates how the science has grown so much more advanced and complicated since the 1920s—we are developing the capacity to directly manipulate the human genome—and how the ethical questions have also grown much more complicated. We could ask for no wiser, more fascinating and talented writer to guide us into the future of our human heredity than Siddhartha Mukherjee.

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief” by Lawrence Wright

“National Book award Finalist Lawrence Wright offers a balanced and thorough account of an extremely secretive religion. Through massive research that included over 200 interviews with current and former Scientologists, the author reveals the secret workings of the organization. He provides a portrait of L. Ron Hubbard, its founder, and his successor David Miscavige, as well as an explanation of the religion’s special language and rituals. This compelling book covers everything, from Scientology’s incredible riches to celebrity followers such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta.”
A History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage

Starred Review. Standage starts with a bold hypothesis—that each epoch, from the Stone Age to the present, has had its signature beverage—and takes readers on an extraordinary trip through world history. The Economist’s technology editor has the ability to connect the smallest detail to the big picture and a knack for summarizing vast concepts in a few sentences. He explains how, when humans shifted from hunting and gathering to farming, they saved surplus grain, which sometimes fermented into beer. The Greeks took grapes and made wine, later borrowed by the Romans and the Christians. Arabic scientists experimented with distillation and produced spirits, the ideal drink for long voyages of exploration. Coffee also spread quickly from Arabia to Europe, becoming the “intellectual counterpoint to the geographical expansion of the Age of Exploration.” European coffee-houses, which functioned as “the Internet of the Age of Reason,” facilitated scientific, financial and industrial cross-fertilization. In the British industrial revolution that followed, tea “was the lubricant that kept the factories running smoothly.” Finally, the rise of American capitalism is mirrored in the history of Coca-Cola, which started as a more or less handmade medicinal drink but morphed into a mass-produced global commodity over the course of the 20th century. In and around these grand ideas, Standage tucks some wonderful tidbits—on the antibacterial qualities of tea, Mecca’s coffee trials in 1511,

A House in the Sky by Amanda Linkhout and Sara Corbett

“Growing up in a violent home, the author dreamed of traveling far away. As a waitress in Canada, she saved her money in order to backpack around the world. After traveling through Latin America and India, she continued on to Syria and Afghanistan, where she began working as a television reporter. Then in August 2008, she was to Somalia with a former lover, and they were kidnapped by a group of men. Held captive for over a year, they converted to Islam in order to survive, and face countless challenges before ultimately escaping. Her story is elegantly written, wrenching yet redemptive.”
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

“This incredibly original novel features a woman named Ursula Todd who, throughout the course of her life, dies and is reborn over and over again, from 1910 through World War II. The daughter of a British banker and his wife, Ursula suffers a variety of demises, from crib death to drowning to being beaten to death by a brutal husband; but every time she is reincarnated, she returns as herself. The book explores the many turns that any individual life could take, given a slightly altered circumstance or two. It’s a thought-provoking story that makes a wonderful book club choice.”

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

The Monopolists by Mary Pilon

The Monopolists reveals the unknown story of how Monopoly came into existence, the reinvention of its history by Parker Brothers and multiple media outlets, the lost female originator of the game, and one man’s lifelong obsession to tell the true story about the game’s questionable origins.

Most think it was invented by an unemployed Pennsylvanian who sold his game to Parker Brothers during the Great Depression in 1935 and lived happily–and richly–ever after. That story, however, is not exactly true. Ralph Anspach, a professor fighting to sell his Anti-Monopoly board game decades later, unearthed the real story, which traces back to Abraham Lincoln, the Quakers, and a forgotten feminist named Lizzie Magie who invented her nearly identical Landlord’s Game more than thirty years before Parker Brothers sold their version of Monopoly. Her game–underpinned by morals that were the exact opposite of what Monopoly represents today–was embraced by a constellation of left-wingers from the Progressive Era through the Great Depression, including members of Franklin Roosevelt’s famed Brain Trust.

A gripping social history of corporate greed that illuminates the cutthroat nature of American business over the last century, The Monopolists reads like the best detective fiction, told through Monopoly’s real-life winners and losers.

On Looking: A walker’s guide to the art of observation by Alexandra Horowitz

It is charming to take a walk with Horowitz. Engaging, amusing, and relatable, the psychology professor guides readers through 11 urban walks in the company of various experts. Beyond simply looking, this is about what makes up the world around us and the foundations of human perception. Horowitz brings the same attention to the human brain as she brought to our canine companions in Inside of a Dog (2010). She makes cognitive functioning eminently understandable by unraveling the role expectation plays in limiting what we see. The experts she walks with, from scientists to a toddler and a dog, reveal the underpinnings of a wide range of urban phenomena, such as the uncanny ability of rats to avoid traps. The descriptions of the walks are detailed but not overlong, with just enough information to give a taste of a geologist’s or typographer’s expertise. Even when relying only on your own inexpert eyes, you will look at the world with more attention after reading these fascinating essays, though it’s likely you still won’t be able to find millennia-old worm tracks or recognize the fishlike behavior of pedestrians.

Operation Mincemeat by Ben MacIntyre

London Times writer-at-large Macintyre (Agent Zigzag) offers a solid and entertaining updating of WWII’s best-known human intelligence operation. In 1943, British intelligence conceived a spectacular con trick to draw German attention away from the Allies’ obvious next objective, Sicily. The bait was a briefcase full of carefully forged documents attached to the wrist of Major William Martin, Royal Marines—a fictitious identity given to a body floated ashore in neutral Spain. Making the deception plausible was the task given to two highly unconventional officers: Lt. Comdr. Ewen Montagu and Squadron Leader Charles Cholmondeley. Macintyre recounts their adventures and misadventures with panache. The body was that of a derelict. Its costuming included the underwear of a deceased Oxford don. An attractive secretary provided the photo of an imaginary fiancée. The carefully constructed documents setting up the bogus operation against Greece and Sardinia convinced even Hitler himself. The Sicily landings were achieved as almost a complete surprise. And the man who never was entered the history and folklore of WWII.

Paper: Paging through History by Mark Kurlansky

Paper is one of the simplest and most essential pieces of human technology. For the past two millennia, the ability to produce it in ever more efficient ways has supported the proliferation of literacy, media, religion, education, commerce, and art; it has formed the foundation of civilizations, promoting revolutions and restoring stability. One has only to look at history’s greatest press run, which produced 6.5 billion copies of Máo zhuxí yulu, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung (Zedong)―which doesn’t include editions in 37 foreign languages and in braille―to appreciate the range and influence of a single publication, in paper. Or take the fact that one of history’s most revered artists, Leonardo da Vinci, left behind only 15 paintings but 4,000 works on paper. And though the colonies were at the time calling for a boycott of all British goods, the one exception they made speaks to the essentiality of the material; they penned the Declaration of Independence on British paper.

Now, amid discussion of “going paperless”―and as speculation about the effects of a digitally dependent society grows rampant―we’ve come to a world-historic juncture. Thousands of years ago, Socrates and Plato warned that written language would be the end of “true knowledge,” replacing the need to exercise memory and think through complex questions. Similar arguments were made about the switch from handwritten to printed books, and today about the role of computer technology. By tracing paper’s evolution from antiquity to the present, with an emphasis on the contributions made in Asia and the Middle East, Mark Kurlansky challenges common assumptions about technology’s influence, affirming that paper is here to stay. Paper will be the commodity history that guides us forward in the twenty-first century and illuminates our times.

Ship Fever by Andrea Barrett

The elegant short fictions gathered hereabout the love of science and the science of love are often set against the backdrop of the nineteenth century. Interweaving historical and fictional characters, they encompass both past and present as they negotiate the complex territory of ambition, failure, achievement, and shattered dreams. In “Ship Fever,” the title novella, a young Canadian doctor finds himself at the center of one of history’s most tragic epidemics. In “The English Pupil,” Linnaeus, in old age, watches as the world he organized within his head slowly drifts beyond his reach. And in “The Littoral Zone,” two marine biologists wonder whether their life-altering affair finally was worth it. In the tradition of Alice Munro and William Trevor, these exquisitely rendered fictions encompass whole lives in a brief space. As they move between interior and exterior journeys, “science is transformed from hard and known fact into malleable, strange and thrilling fictional material”

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And other lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

Most people want to avoid thinking about death, but Caitlin Doughty―a twenty-something with a degree in medieval history and a flair for the macabre―took a job at a crematory, turning morbid curiosity into her life’s work. Thrown into a profession of gallows humor and vivid characters (both living and very dead), Caitlin learned to navigate the secretive culture of those who care for the deceased.
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes tells an unusual coming-of-age story full of bizarre encounters and unforgettable scenes. Caring for dead bodies of every color, shape, and affliction, Caitlin soon becomes an intrepid explorer in the world of the dead. She describes how she swept ashes from the machines (and sometimes onto her clothes) and reveals the strange history of
cremation and undertaking, marveling at bizarre and wonderful funeral practices from different cultures.

Her eye-opening, candid, and often hilarious story is like going on a journey with your bravest friend to the cemetery at midnight. She demystifies death, leading us behind the black curtain of her unique profession. And she answers questions you didn’t know you had: Can you catch a disease from a corpse? How many dead bodies can you fit in a Dodge van? What exactly does a flaming skull look like?

Honest and heartfelt, self-deprecating and ironic, Caitlin’s engaging style makes this otherwise taboo topic both approachable and engrossing. Now a licensed mortician with an alternative funeral practice, Caitlin argues that our fear of dying warps our culture and society, and she calls for better ways of dealing with death (and our dead).

Surfacing by Margaret Atwood

Part detective novel, part psychological thriller, Surfacing is the story of a talented woman artist who goes in search of her missing father on a remote island in northern Quebec. Setting out with her lover and another young couple, she soon finds herself captivated by the isolated setting, where a marriage begins to fall apart, violence and death lurk just beneath the surface, and sex becomes a catalyst for conflict and dangerous choices. Surfacing is a work permeated with an aura of suspense, complex with layered meanings, and written in brilliant, diamond-sharp prose. Here is a rich mine of ideas from an extraordinary writer about contemporary life and nature, families and marriage, and about women fragmented…and becoming whole.
A thousand naked strangers by Kevin hazard

former paramedic’s visceral, poignant, and mordantly funny account of a decade spent on Atlanta’s mean streets saving lives and connecting with the drama and occasional beauty that lies inside catastrophe.

In the aftermath of 9/11 Kevin Hazzard felt that something was missing from his life—his days were too safe, too routine. A failed salesman turned local reporter, he wanted to test himself, see how he might respond to pressure and danger. He signed up for emergency medical training and became, at age twenty-six, a newly minted EMT running calls in the worst sections of Atlanta. His life entered a different realm—one of blood, violence, and amazing grace.

Thoroughly intimidated at first and frequently terrified, he experienced on a nightly basis the adrenaline rush of walking into chaos. But in his downtime, Kevin reflected on how people’s facades drop away when catastrophe strikes. As his hours on the job piled up, he realized he was beginning to see into the truth of things. There is no pretense five beats into a chest compression, or in an alley next to a crack den, or on a dimly lit highway where cars have collided. Eventually, what had at first seemed impossible happened: Kevin acquired mastery. And in the process he was able to discern the professional differences between his freewheeling peers, what marked each—as he termed them—as “a tourist,” “true believer,” or “killer.”

Combining indelible scenes that remind us of life’s fragile beauty with laugh-out-loud moments that keep us smiling through the worst, A Thousand Naked Strangers is an absorbing read about one man’s journey of self-discovery—a trip that also teaches us about ourselves.

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Mayes’s favorite guide to Northern Italy allots seven pages to the town of Cortona, where she owns a house. But here she finds considerably more to say about it than that, all of it so enchanting that an armchair traveler will find it hard to resist jumping out of the chair and following in her footsteps. The recently divorced author is euphoric about the old house in the Tuscan hills that she and her new lover renovated and now live in during summer vacations and on holidays. A poet, food-and-travel writer, Italophile and chair of the creative writing department at San Francisco State University, Mayes is a fine wordsmith and an exemplary companion whose delight in a brick floor she has just waxed is as contagious as her pleasure in the landscape, architecture and life of the village. Not the least of the charms of her book are the recipes for delicious meals she has made. Above all, her observations about being at home in two very different cultures are sharp and wise.

 

Time to Vote February 3, 2016

Filed under: Nominated Books — Susan @ 3:57 pm

I have been asked several times to pull past books for us to revote on so here are the “almost” winners from 2oo9-2010. Please go to the survey monkey link below and vote for 3 by February 13th. Thanks!

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/789FVW3

 

Crazy Heart:  A Novel by Thomas Cobb

Shelter Me by Juliette Fay

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

The Forever War – Dexter Filkins

Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman

Stop Me if You’ve Heard This Before by Jim Holt

World According to Garp by John Irving

Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner

The Given Day by Dennis Lehane

Let the World Spins by Colin McCann

The Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs

Lamb in His Bosom by Caroline Miller

The Man in My Basement by Walter Mosley

The Theory of Light and Matter by Andrew Porter

A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve

Jamestown by Mathew Sharpe

 

 

Crazy Heart:  A Novel by Thomas Cobb

Singer and guitarist Bad Blake was once a first-rate country-and-western star, but now he’s 57, an alcoholic, a failure at four marriages, and playing in third-rate clubs. The biggest gig he can get is opening for Tommy Sweet, the kid Bad got started and whose career has now eclipsed Bad’s. Bad meets Jean Craddock when she comes to interview him and they fall in love. Her little boy, Buddy, inspires Bad to search for his own long-lost son, but there’s no happy ending there. And when Bad, hungry for a drink, loses Jean’s son, things take a downturn, despite Bad’s fling with AA. This first novel has the authentic patter and ambience of those seedy one-night-stands, but the plot is thin and the ending is very downbeat. There will be heavy promotion and advertising, so requests may warrant purchase.  

Shelter Me by Juliette Day

Four months after her husband’s death, Janie LaMarche remains undone by grief and anger. Her mourning is disrupted, however, by the unexpected arrival of a builder with a contract to add a porch onto her house. Stunned, Janie realizes the porch was meant to be a surprise from her husband—now his last gift to her.As she reluctantly allows construction to begin, Janie clings to the familiar outposts of her sorrow—mothering her two small children with fierce protectiveness, avoiding friends and family, and stewing in a rage she can’t release. Yet Janie’s self-imposed isolation is breached by a cast of unlikely interventionists: her chattering, ipecac-toting aunt; her bossy, over-manicured neighbor; her muffin-bearing cousin; and even Tug, the contractor with a private grief all his own.

As the porch takes shape, Janie discovers that the unknowable terrain of the future is best navigated with the help of others—even those we least expect to call on, much less learn to love.

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

Ella Minnow Pea is a girl living happily on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina. Nollop was named after Nevin Nollop, author of the immortal pangram,* “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” Now Ella finds herself acting to save her friends, family, and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island’s Council, which has banned the use of certain letters of the alphabet as they fall from a memorial statue of Nevin Nollop. As the letters progressively drop from the statue they also disappear from the novel. The result is both a hilarious and moving story of one girl’s fight for freedom of expression, as well as a linguistic tour de force sure to delight word lovers everywhere.

 The Forever War – Dexter Filkins

In instant classic of war reporting, The Forever War is the definitive account of America’s conflict with Islamic fundamentalism and a searing exploration of its human costs. Through the eyes of Filkins, a foreign correspondent for the New York Times, we witness the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s, the aftermath of the attack on New York on September 11th, and the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Filkins is the only American journalist to have reported on all these events, and his experiences are conveyed in a riveting narrative filled with unforgettable characters and astonishing scenes. 

Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas Friedman 

In this brilliant, essential book, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas L. Friedman speaks to America’s urgent need for national renewal and explains how a green revolution can bring about both a sustainable environment and a sustainable America.

Friedman explains how global warming, rapidly growing populations, and the expansion of the world’s middle class through globalization have produced a dangerously unstable planet–one that is “hot, flat, and crowded.” In this Release 2.0 edition, he also shows how the very habits that led us to ravage the natural world led to the meltdown of the financial markets and the Great Recession. The challenge of a sustainable way of life presents the United States with an opportunity not only to rebuild its economy, but to lead the world in radically innovating toward cleaner energy. And it could inspire Americans to something we haven’t seen in a long time–nation-building in America–by summoning the intelligence, creativity, and concern for the common good that are our greatest national resources.

Hot, Flat, and Crowded is classic Thomas L. Friedman: fearless, incisive, forward-looking, and rich in surprising common sense about the challenge–and the promise–of the future.

Stop Me if You’ve Heard This Before by Jim Holt

From the best-selling author of Why Does the World Exist? comes this outrageous, uproarious compendium of absurdity, filth, racy paradox, and gratuitous  offensiveness―just the kind of mature philosophical reflection readers have come to expect from the ever-entertaining Jim Holt. Indeed, Stop Me If You’ve
Heard This
 is the first book to trace the evolution of the joke all the way from the standup comics of ancient Athens to the comedy-club Seinfelds of today. After exploring humor’s history in Part One, Holt delves into philosophy in Part Two: Wall Street jokes; jokes about rednecks and atheists, bulimics and politicians; jokes you missed if you didn’t go to a Catholic girls’ school; jokes about logic and existence itself . . . all became fodder for the grand theories of Aristotle, Kant, Freud, and Wittgenstein in this heady mix of the high and low, of the ribald and profound, from America’s most beloved philosophical pundit. 15 illustrations

World According to Garp by John Irving

This is the life and times of T. S. Garp, the bastard son of Jenny
Fields–a feminist leader ahead of her times.  This is the life and death
of a famous mother and her almost-famous son; theirs is a world of sexual
extremes–even of sexual assassinations.  It is a novel rich with “lunacy
and sorrow”; yet the dark, violent events of the story do not undermine a
comedy both ribald and robust.  In more than thirty languages, in more than
forty countries–with more than ten million copies in print–this novel
provides almost cheerful, even hilarious evidence of its famous last line:
“In the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases.”

Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner

From the National Book Award Finalist and New York Times bestselling author of The Flamethrowers, an astonishingly wise, ambitious, and riveting novel set in the American community in Cuba during the years leading up to Castro’s revolution—a place that was a paradise for a time and for a few. The first novel to tell the story of the Americans who were driven out in 1958, this is a masterful debut with a unique and necessary lens into US-Cuba relations.

Young Everly Lederer and K.C. Stites come of age in Oriente Province, where the Americans tend their own fiefdom—three hundred thousand acres of United Fruit Company sugarcane that surround their gated enclave. If the rural tropics are a child’s dreamworld, Everly and K.C. nevertheless have keen eyes for the indulgences and betrayals of the grown-ups around them—the mordant drinking and illicit loves, the race hierarchies and violence.

In Havana, a thousand kilometers and a world away from the American colony, a cabaret dancer meets a French agitator named Christian de La Mazière, whose seductive demeanor can’t mask his shameful past. Together they become enmeshed in the brewing political underground. When Fidel and Raúl Castro lead a revolt from the mountains above the cane plantation, torching the sugar and kidnapping a boat full of “yanqui” revelers, K.C. and Everly begin to discover the brutality that keeps the colony humming. Though their parents remain blissfully untouched by the forces of history, the children hear the whispers of what is to come.

Kushner’s first novel is a tour de force, haunting and compelling, with the urgency of a telex from a forgotten time and place. 

The Given Day by Dennis Lehane

From Dennis Lehane, New York Times bestselling author of Mystic River and Shutter Island, comes the paperback edition of The Given Day, an unflinching family epic that captures the political unrest of a nation caught between a well-patterned past and an unpredictable future. This beautifully written novel of American history tells the story of two families—one black, one white—swept up in a maelstrom of revolutionaries and anarchists, immigrants and ward bosses, Brahmins and ordinary citizens, all engaged in a battle for survival and power at the end of World War I. 

Let the World Spins by Colin McCann

In the dawning light of a late-summer morning, the people of lower Manhattan stand hushed, staring up in disbelief at the Twin Towers. It is August 1974, and a mysterious tightrope walker is running, dancing, leaping between the towers, suspended a quarter mile above the ground. In the streets below, a slew of ordinary lives become extraordinary in bestselling novelist Colum McCann’s stunningly intricate portrait of a city and its people.

Let the Great World Spin is the critically acclaimed author’s most ambitious novel yet: a dazzlingly rich vision of the pain, loveliness, mystery, and promise of New York City in the 1970s.

The Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs

From the bestselling author of The Know-It-All comes a fascinating and timely exploration of religion and the Bible. A.J. Jacobs chronicles his hilarious and thoughtful year spent obeying―as literally as possible―the tenets of the Bible.

Raised in a secular family but increasingly interested in the relevance of faith in our modern world, A.J. Jacobs decides to dive in headfirst and attempt to obey the Bible as literally as possible for one full year. He vows to follow the Ten Commandments. To be fruitful and multiply. To love his neighbor. But also to obey the hundreds of less publicized rules: to avoid wearing clothes made of mixed fibers; to play a ten-string harp; to stone adulterers.

The resulting spiritual journey is at once funny and profound, reverent and irreverent, personal and universal and will make you see history’s most influential book with new eyes.

Jacobs’s quest transforms his life even more radically than the year spent reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica for The Know-It-All. His beard grows so unruly that he is regularly mistaken for a member of ZZ Top. He immerses himself in prayer, tends sheep in the Israeli desert, battles idolatry, and tells the absolute truth in all situations—much to his wife’s chagrin.

Throughout the book, Jacobs also embeds himself in a cross-section of communities that take the Bible literally. He tours a Kentucky-based creationist museum and sings hymns with Pennsylvania Amish. He dances with Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn and does Scripture study with Jehovah’s Witnesses. He discovers ancient biblical wisdom of startling relevance. And he wrestles with seemingly archaic rules that baffle the twenty-first-century brain.

Jacobs’s extraordinary undertaking yields unexpected epiphanies and challenges. A book that will charm readers both secular and religious, The Year of Living Biblically is part Cliff Notes to the Bible, part memoir, and part look into worlds unimaginable. Thou shalt not be able to put it down. 

Lamb in His Bosom by Caroline Miller

In 1934, Caroline Miller’s novel Lamb in His Bosom won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. It was the first novel by a Georgia author to win a Pulitzer, soon followed by Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind in 1937. In fact, Lamb was largely responsible for the discovery of Gone With the Wind; after reading Miller’s novel, Macmillan editor Harold S. Latham sought other southern novels and authors, and found Margaret Mitchell.

Caroline Miller was fascinated by the other Old South not the romantic inhabitants of Gone With the Wind, but rather the poor people of the south Georgia backwoods, who never owned a slave or planned to fight a war. The story of Cean and Lonzo, a young couple who begin their married lives two decades before the Civil War, Lamb in His Bosom is a fascinating account of social customs and material realities among settlers of the Georgia frontier. At the same time, Lamb in His Bosom transcends regional history as Miller’s quietly lyrical prose style pays poignant tribute to a woman’s life lived close to nature the nature outside her and the nature within.

The Man in My Basement by Walter Mosley

 Hailed as a masterpiece-the finest work yet by an American novelist of the first rank-The Man in My Basement tells the story of Charles Blakey, a young black man who can’t find a job, drinks too much, and, worst of all, stands to lose the beautiful home that has belonged to his family for generations. But Charles’s fortunes take an odd turn when a stranger offers nearly $50,000 to rent out Charles’s basement-and soon, as the boarder transforms the basement into a prison cell, Charles finds himself drawn into circumstances almost unimaginably bizarre and profoundly unsettling.

The Theory of Light and Matter by Andrew Porter 

The narrators of Porter’s Flannery O’Connor Award–winning collection tend to be young and clear-eyed beyond their years as they give voice to the secrets—family, their own—that haunt them. In the opening story, Hole, the narrator ruminates on the loss of a childhood friend and the slippery nature of guilt, memory and truth. In Storms, a young man considers his relationship with a troubled sister, who abandoned her fiancé in Spain without a passport or money. The narrator of River Dog wonders if he should or could hate his brother for the things he did to other people, and for what they did to his brother. In the title story, a young woman ponders the nature of a May/December romance. If the events and secrets of these characters’ pasts have not overtaken their lives, then their reverberations still threaten to corrupt the years yet to come. Throughout, Porter shows how love and pain often come hand in hand.

A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve

At an inn in the Berkshire Mountains, seven former schoolmates gather to celebrate a wedding–a reunion that becomes the occasion of astonishing revelations as the friends collectively recall a long-ago night that indelibly marked each of their lives. Written with the fluent narrative artistry that distinguishes all of Anita Shreve’s bestselling novels, A Wedding in December acutely probes the mysteries of the human heart and the endless allure of paths not taken. 

Jamestown by Mathew Sharpe

 A group of “settlers” (more like survivors) arrive in Virginia from the ravished island of Manhattan, intending to establish an outpost, find oil, and exploit the Indians controlling the area. But nothing goes quite as planned (one settler, for instance, keeps losing body parts). At the heart of the story is Pocahontas, who speaks Valley Girl, Ebonics, Old English, and Algonquin—sometimes all in the same sentence. And she pursues a heated romance with settler Johnny Rolfe via text messaging, instant messaging, and, ultimately, telepathy.
Deadly serious and seriously funny, Matthew Sharpe’s fictional retelling of one of America’s original myths is a history of violence, a cross-cultural love story, and a tragicomic commentary on America’s past and present.

 

 

The Winners, dates and places October 7, 2015

Filed under: Nominated Books — Susan @ 11:57 pm

And we pulled it together at the last minute!!

The Job by Steve Osborne on November 19th, 2015 at Danda’s house

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf on January 7th (I went 7 weeks here to avoid a bookclub on New Year’s Eve) Heidi’s house

Headscarves & Hymens: why the Middle East needs a sexual revolution by Mona Eltahawy on February 18th at Lori’s house

 

Time to Vote! October 6, 2015

Filed under: Nominated Books — Susan @ 11:52 pm

Here are the books to vote on for the next three books for the winter reading season. You know the drill. Here is the survey monkey link and the review of the books are below. If you can vote by Thursday I’ll let you all know the winners.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/SXYDMGD

A Woman in Arabia: The Writings of the Queen of the Desert by Gertrude Bell
Barefoot Sisters Southbound, The (Adventures on the Appalachian Trail) by Lucie and Susan Letcher
Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Good Mourning by Elizabeth Meyer , Caitlin Moscatello
Headscarves & Hymens: why the Middle East needs a sexual revolution by Mona
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Latest Readings by Clive James
Mountains beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
M Train by Patti Smith
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle
The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel 
The double Life of Liliane by Lily Tuck
The Job by Steve Osborne
The Periodic Table by Primo Levi
The Sparrow  by Mary Doria Russell
Two Across by Jeff BartschThe Job by Steve Osborne

 

A Woman in Arabia: The Writings of the Queen of the Desert by Gertrude Bell

Gertrude Bell was leaning in 100 years before Sheryl Sandberg. One of the great woman adventurers of the twentieth century, she turned her back on Victorian society to study at Oxford and travel the world, and became the chief architect of British policy in the Middle East after World War I. Mountaineer, archaeologist, Arabist, writer, poet, linguist, and spy, she dedicated her life to championing the Arab cause and was instrumental in drawing the borders that define today’s Middle East.

As she wrote in one of her letters, “It’s a bore being a woman when you are in Arabia.” Forthright and spirited, opinionated and playful, and deeply instructive about the Arab world, this volume brings together Bell’s letters, military dispatches, diary entries, and travel writings to offer an intimate look at a woman who shaped nations.

For more than sixty-five years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,500 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Barefoot Sisters Southbound, The (Adventures on the Appalachian Trail) by Lucie and Susan Letcher

At the ages of twenty-five and twenty-one, Lucy and Susan Letcher set out to accomplish what thousands of people attempt each year: thru-hike the entire 2,175 miles of the Appalachian Trail. The difference between them and the others? They decided to hike the trail barefoot. Quickly earning themselves the moniker of the Barefoot Sisters, the two begin their journey at Mount Katahdin and spend eight months making their way to Springer Mountain in Georgia. As they hike, they write about their adventures through the 100-mile Wilderness, the rocky terrain of Pennsylvania, and snowfall in the Great Smoky Mountains–a story filled with humor and determination. It’s as close as one can get to hiking the Appalachian Trail without strapping on a pack.

Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell

First in the Kurt Wallander series.

It was a senselessly violent crime: on a cold night in a remote Swedish farmhouse an elderly farmer is bludgeoned to death, and his wife is left to die with a noose around her neck. And as if this didn’t present enough problems for the Ystad police Inspector Kurt Wallander, the dying woman’s last word is foreign, leaving the police the one tangible clue they have–and in the process, the match that could inflame Sweden’s already smoldering anti-immigrant sentiments.

Unlike the situation with his ex-wife, his estranged daughter, or the beautiful but married young prosecuter who has peaked his interest, in this case, Wallander finds a problem he can handle. He quickly becomes obsessed with solving the crime before the already tense situation explodes, but soon comes to realize that it will require all his reserves of energy and dedication to solve.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

From Harper Lee comes a landmark new novel set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize–winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch—”Scout”—returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town, and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a MockingbirdGo Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past—a journey that can only be guided by one’s own conscience.

Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor, and effortless precision—a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context, and new meaning to an American classic.

Good Mourning by Elizabeth Meyer and Caitlin Moscatello

In this funny, insightful memoir, a young socialite risks social suicide when she takes a job at a legendary funeral chapel on New York Citys Upper East Side.Good Mourning offers a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most famous funeral homes in the country where not even big money can protect you from the universal experience of grieving. It’s *Gossip Girl* meets *Six Feet Under*, told from the unique perspective of a fashionista turned funeral planner.

Headscarves & Hymens: why the Middle East needs a sexual revolution by Mona Eltahawy

Turn to any page of Headscarves and Hymens and you’ll find a statistic or anecdote to make your blood boil . . . [Eltahawy] has now expanded that [Foreign Policy] article into a book, Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, which blends her own story-an ideological journey toward feminism while growing up in Egypt, England and Saudi Arabia-with a sweeping portrait of what life is like for women in the Middle East. The same righteous anger that propelled her essay fuels her book. It’s easy to see why she’s so incensed. (Bari Weiss The Wall Street Journal)

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
What is the one commonality of people on death row? If the victim is white, the perpetrator is 11 times more likely to be condemned to die than if the victim is black. When Stevenson was a 23-year-old Harvard law student, he started an internship in Georgia where his first assignment was to deliver a message to a man living on death row. This assignment became his calling: representing the innocent, the inadequately defended, the children, the domestic abuse survivors, the mentally ill—the imprisoned. This fast-paced book reads like a John Grisham novel. One of those profiled, Walter, was at a barbecue with over 100 people at the time of the murder he was accused of, and spent more than six years on death row. The stories include those of children, teens, and adults who have been in the system since they were teens. This is a title for the many young adults who have a parent or loved one in the prison system and the many others who are interested in social justice, the law, and the death penalty. A standout choice.—

Latest Readings by Clive James

In 2010, Clive James was diagnosed with terminal leukemia. Deciding that “if you don’t know the exact moment when the lights will go out, you might as well read until they do,” James moved his library to his house in Cambridge, where he would “live, read, and perhaps even write.” James is the award-winning author of dozens of works of literary criticism, poetry, and history, and this volume contains his reflections on what may well be his last reading list. A look at some of James’s old favorites as well as some of his recent discoveries, this book also offers a revealing look at the author himself, sharing his evocative musings on literature and family, and on living and dying.

As thoughtful and erudite as the works of Alberto Manguel, and as moving and inspiring as Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture and Will Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Book Club, this valediction to James’s lifelong engagement with the written word is a captivating valentine from one of the great literary minds of our time.

Mountains beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

Paul Farmer is a 44-year-old specialist in infectious diseases and an attending physician at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. His biographer, Tracy Kidder, read his book on the connections between poverty and disease — Infections and Inequalities — and wrote to him, “I’m reading your oeuvre.” “Ah, but that’s not my oeuvre,” Farmer replied. “To see my oeuvre you have to come to Haiti.” Indeed, Farmer founded a hospital and health center, Zanmi Lasante, in Cange, Haiti, hours from the capital and at the end of a gutted road in a region destitute even by Haiti’s standards, as part of an extensive community-based health network linked to a hospital, Clinique Bon Sauveur (see Figure). For more than 20 years, Farmer has spent many months every year there, often taking care of patients himself and continually improving the treatments offered by the clinic. These now include antiretroviral drugs. Lasante is supported by a foundation based in Boston called Partners in Health, which is headed by Ophelia Dahl and largely financed by Tom White, the philanthropic owner of a large Boston construction firm. There is more. Through his patients in Cange, Farmer became interested in multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. From Haiti, he exported treatment of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis to Peru and then to Siberia, achieving cure rates comparable to those in the United States. Through the Institute for Health and Social Justice (the research and education division of Partners in Health) and his associate Jim Yong Kim, he started a movement to lower prices for the second-line drugs necessary to treat resistant tuberculosis and successfully lobbied the World Health Organization for changes in treatment recommendations for tuberculosis. Readers may have heard some of this story before (Farmer has received a MacArthur award and the American Medical Association’s Dr. Nathan Davis Award) and may have wondered, as I did, where he came from and how one man could accomplish so much. Kidder traces Farmer’s trajectory, starting with his unconventional childhood, which included living in a bus and on a leaky boat. He was given a scholarship to Duke, where he majored in anthropology and worked alongside poor Haitian farm workers in North Carolina’s tobacco fields. After graduation he spent a year in Haiti, where he met Ophelia Dahl, and then went to Harvard Medical School. While in medical school and during his residencies and fellowships, he spent more time in Cange than in Boston. How does Farmer do it? Kidder provides some explanations: he works nonstop, hardly sleeps, sees his wife and child for a day or so every few months, inspires an uncommon degree of devotion and enthusiasm among collaborators and potential donors, and tolerates planes and airports for days on end. In addition, the Boston medical establishment has bent rules and regulations to accommodate his needs. Convincing? Maybe. There remains something miraculous about Paul Farmer. Should one go out and buy Mountains beyond Mountains? By all means. Not only it is it an enjoyable book, but it is also very likely that a part of the $25.95 spent in purchasing it will find its way back to Haiti. That is more than can be said about many books. In addition, readers looking for a worthwhile charity to support may be inspired to send some money to Partners in Health

M Train by Patti Smith

From the National Book Award–winning author of Just Kids: an unforgettable odyssey of a legendary artist, told through the prism of the cafés and haunts she has worked in around the world. It is a book Patti Smith has described as “a roadmap to my life.”

M Train begins in the tiny Greenwich Village café where Smith goes every morning for black coffee, ruminates on the world as it is and the world as it was, and writes in her notebook. Through prose that shifts fluidly between dreams and reality, past and present, and across a landscape of creative aspirations and inspirations, we travel to Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul in Mexico; to a meeting of an Arctic explorer’s society in Berlin; to a ramshackle seaside bungalow in New York’s Far Rockaway that Smith acquires just before Hurricane Sandy hits; and to the graves of Genet, Plath, Rimbaud, and Mishima.

Woven throughout are reflections on the writer’s craft and on artistic creation. Here, too, are singular memories of Smith’s life in Michigan and the irremediable loss of her husband, Fred Sonic Smith.

Braiding despair with hope and consolation, illustrated with her signature Polaroids, M Train is a meditation on travel, detective shows, literature, and coffee. It is a powerful, deeply moving book by one of the most remarkable multiplatform artists at work today.

Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

Elderly widow Addie Moore pays a visit to her aging widower neighbor, Louis Waters. They were never close, just knew each other peripherally, which makes the reason for this social call all the more intriguing. Addie would like to know if Louis is interested in sleeping with her. Now, now, this scenario was conceived by the late, great Kent Haruf—Our Souls at Night is no 50 Shades of Geriatric Grey. Set in the same fictional Colorado town as his National Book Award-nominated Plainsong, a town with its fair share of gossips, Addie and Louis embark on an unlikely friendship, an antidote to the loneliness they most exquisitely felt at night. As this friendship deepens, it is tested by said busybodies and meddling family members, plot points that almost distract from what makes this novel such a fitting and sweet swan song. Our Souls at Night was inspired, in part, by Haruf’s own marriage and the intimate, late-night conversations he and his wife relished, just like Addie and Louis. And just like Addie and Louis, Haruf proved that you’re never too old to reinvent yourself, take risks, find love, and write a great novel.

Reclaiming Conversation by Sherry Turkle


We live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.

Preeminent author and researcher Sherry Turkle has been studying digital culture for over thirty years. Long an enthusiast for its possibilities, here she investigates a troubling consequence: at work, at home, in politics, and in love, we find ways around conversation, tempted by the possibilities of a text or an email in which we don’t have to look, listen, or reveal ourselves.

We develop a taste for what mere connection offers. The dinner table falls silent as children compete with phones for their parents’ attention. Friends learn strategies to keep conversations going when only a few people are looking up from their phones. At work, we retreat to our screens although it is conversation at the water cooler that increases not only productivity but commitment to work. Online, we only want to share opinions that our followers will agree with – a politics that shies away from the real conflicts and solutions of the public square.

The case for conversation begins with the necessary conversations of solitude and self-reflection. They are endangered: these days, always connected, we see loneliness as a problem that technology should solve. Afraid of being alone, we rely on other people to give us a sense of ourselves, and our capacity for empathy and relationship suffers. We see the costs of the flight from conversation everywhere: conversation is the cornerstone for democracy and in business it is good for the bottom line. In the private sphere, it builds empathy, friendship, love, learning, and productivity.

But there is good news: we are resilient. Conversation cures.

Based on five years of research and interviews in homes, schools, and the workplace, Turkle argues that we have come to a better understanding of where our technology can and cannot take us and that the time is right to reclaim conversation. The most human—and humanizing—thing that we do.

The virtues of person-to-person conversation are timeless, and our most basic technology, talk, responds to our modern challenges. We have everything we need to start, we have each other.

The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel 

Koppel offers a revealing glimpse into the lives of “the women behind the spacemen”—from Project Mercury, of the Kennedy years, to the two-man Gemini missions and finally the Apollo program. Beginning with the announcement in 1959 of the seven Mercury astronauts, Koppel paints chatty, personal portraits of each woman as she adjusts to dramatic changes: one day she’s living the life of an ordinary military wife; the next she’s married to a major celebrity. The wives were closely monitored by NASA and expected to be perfect, right down to what they wore and what food they served their husbands. They needed a support group, so the Astronaut Wives Club came into being in 1966. Over the years, they worked together in myriad ways, from helping the wives whose husbands died in crashes or Apollo I’s disastrous launch-pad fire to sleeping in the Lovell’s living room while Jim Lovell was orbiting the moon on Christmas Eve 1968. The U.S. moon program ended in 1972—but many of these unique women still remain connected, friends now for more than 50 years.

The double Life of Liliane by Lily Tuck  

Lily Tuck has had a wonderful and accomplished career as a National Book Award winning novelist, story writer, essayist and biographer. She is one of our most distinguished contributors to American literature. With The Double Life of Liliane, Tuck writes what may well be her crowning achievement to date, and, significantly too, her most autobiographical work. ??

As the child of a German movie producer father who lives in Italy and a beautiful, artistically talented mother who resides in New York, Liliane’s life is divided between those two very different worlds. A shy and observant only child with a vivid imagination, Liliane uncovers the stories of family members as diverse as Moses Mendelssohn, Mary Queen of Scots and an early Mexican adventurer, and pieces together their vivid histories, through both World Wars and across continents. ?

What unfolds is an astonishing and riveting metanarrative: an exploration of self, humanity, and family in the manner of W.G. Sebald and Karl Ove Knausgaard. Told with Tuck’s inimitable elegance and peppered with documents, photos, and a rich and varied array of characters, The Double Life of Liliane is an intimate and poignant coming of age portrait of the writer as a young woman.

The Job by Steve Osborne

How ya doin?”

With these four syllables, delivered in an unmistakably authentic New York accent, Steve Osborne has riveted thousands of people through the legendary storytelling outfit The Moth (and over a million times on their website) with his hilarious, profane, and touching tales from his twenty years served as an NYPD street cop. Steve Osborne is the real deal, people, the tough streetwise New York cop of your dreams, one with a big big heart. Kojak? NYPD Blue? Law & Order? Fuggedaboutem! The Job blows them out of the water with this unputdownable book. Steve Osborne has seen a thing or two in his twenty years in the NYPD—some harmless things, some definitely not. In “Stakeout,” Steve and his partner mistake a Manhattan dentist for an armed robbery suspect and reduce the man down to a puddle of snot and tears when questioning him. In “Mug Shot,” the mother of a suspected criminal makes a strange request and provides a sobering reminder of the humanity at stake in his profession. And in “Home,” the image of his family provides the adrenaline he needs to fight for his life when assaulted by two armed and violent crackheads. From his days as a rookie cop to the time spent patrolling in the Anti-Crime Unit—and his visceral, harrowing recollections of working during 9/11—Steve Osborne’s stories capture both the absurdity of police work and the bravery of those who do it. His stories will speak to those nostalgic for the New York City of the 1980s and ’90s, a bygone era of when the city was a crazier, more dangerous (and possibly more interesting) place.

The Periodic Table by Primo Levi 

Writer Primo Levi (1919-1987), an Italian Jew, did not come to the wide attention of the English-reading audience until the last years of his life. A survivor of the Holocaust and imprisonment in Auschwitz, Levi is considered to be one of the century’s most compelling voices, and The Periodic Table is his most famous book. Springboarding from his training as a chemist, Levi uses the elements as metaphors to create a cycle of linked, somewhat autobiographical tales, including stories of the Piedmontese Jewish community he came from, and of his response to the Holocaust. –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

“I immersed myself in The Periodic Table gladly and gratefully. There is nothing superfluous here, everything this book contains is essential. It is wonderful pure, and beautifully translated…I was deeply impressed.” –Saul Bellow

Two Across by Jeff Bartsch

Highly awkward teenager Stanley Owens meets his match in beautiful, brainy Vera Baxter when they tie for first place in the annual National Spelling Bee-and the two form a bond that will change both of their lives.

Though their mothers have big plans for them-Stanley will become a senator, Vera a mathematics professor-neither wants to follow these pre-determined paths. So Stanley hatches a scheme to marry Vera in a sham wedding for the cash gifts, hoping they will enable him to pursue his one true love: crossword puzzle construction. In enlisting Vera to marry him, though, he neglects one variable: she’s secretly in love with him, which makes their counterfeit ceremony an exercise in misery for her.

Realizing the truth only after she’s moved away and cut him out of her life, Stanley tries to atone for his mistakes and win her back. But he’s unable to find her, until one day he comes across a puzzle whose clues make him think it could only have been created by Vera. Intrigued, he plays along, communicating back to her via his own gridded clues. But will they connect again before it’s all too late?

The Sparrow  by Mary Doria Russell

An enigma wrapped inside a mystery sets up expectations that prove difficult to fulfill in Russell’s first novel, which is about first contact with an extraterrestrial civilization. The enigma is Father Emilio Sandoz, a Jesuit linguist whose messianic virtues hide his occasional doubt about his calling. The mystery is the climactic turn of events that has left him the sole survivor of a secret Jesuit expedition to the planet Rakhat and, upon his return, made him a disgrace to his faith. Suspense escalates as the narrative ping-pongs between the years 2016, when Sandoz begins assembling the team that first detects signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life, and 2060, when a Vatican inquest is convened to coax an explanation from the physically mutilated and emotionally devastated priest. A vibrant cast of characters who come to life through their intense scientific and philosophical debates help distract attention from the space-opera elements necessary to get them off the Earth. Russell brings her training as a paleoanthropologist to bear on descriptions of the Runa and Jana’ata, the two races on Rakhat whose differences are misunderstood by the Earthlings, but the aliens never come across as more than variations of primitive earthly cultures. The final revelation of the tragic human mistake that ends in Sandoz’s degradation isn’t the event for which readers have been set up. Much like the worlds it juxtaposes, this novel seems composed of two stories that fail to come together.

 

 

 

Summer book picks May 29, 2015

Filed under: Nominated Books — Susan @ 1:06 pm

All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel by Anthony Doerr

Benediction, Kent Haruf 

Capital Dames by Cokie Roberts

Days of Rage by Bryan Burroughs

Dissolution: A Matthew Shardlake Tudor Mystery

Funny Girl – Nick Hornsby  Her Brilliant Career:10 extraordinary women of the fifties by Rachel Cooke Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America by Edward Humes

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel by Robin Sloan

The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

The Pope and Mussolini: the secret history of Prius XI and the rise of fascism in Europe by David Kertzer

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

The Upright Thinkers: The Human Journey from Living in Trees to Understanding the Cosmos 

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigulup

Yes, please by Amy Poehler 

All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel by Anthony Doerr

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel. In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge. Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, he illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, a National Book Award finalist, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times).

Benediction, Kent Haruf 

From the beloved and best-selling author of Plainsong and Eventide comes a story of life and death, and the ties that bind, once again set out on the High Plains in Holt, Colorado. When Dad Lewis is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he and his wife, Mary, must work together to make his final days as comfortable as possible. Their daughter, Lorraine, hastens back from Denver to help look after him; her devotion softens the bitter absence of their estranged son, Frank, but this cannot be willed away and remains a palpable presence for all three of them. Next door, a young girl named Alice moves in with her grandmother and contends with the painful memories that Dad’s condition stirs up of her own mother’s death. Meanwhile, the town’s newly arrived preacher attempts to mend his strained relationships with his wife and teenaged son, a task that proves all the more challenging when he faces the disdain of his congregation after offering more than they are accustomed to getting on a Sunday morning. And throughout, an elderly widow and her middle-aged daughter do everything they can to ease the pain of their friends and neighbors. Despite the travails that each of these families faces, together they form bonds strong enough to carry them through the most difficult of times.  Bracing, sad and deeply illuminating, Benediction captures the fullness of life by representing every stage of it, including its extinction, as well as the hopes and dreams that sustain us along the way. Here Kent Haruf gives us his most indelible portrait yet of this small town and reveals, with grace and insight, the compassion, the suffering and, above all, the humanity of its inhabitants.

Capital Dames by Cokie Roberts

In this engrossing and informative companion to her New York Times bestsellers Founding Mothersand Ladies of Liberty, Cokie Roberts marks the sesquicentennial of the Civil War by offering a riveting look at Washington, D.C. and the experiences, influence, and contributions of its women during this momentous period of American history. With the outbreak of the Civil War, the small, social Southern town of Washington, D.C. found itself caught between warring sides in a four-year battle that would determine the future of the United States. After the declaration of secession, many fascinating Southern women left the city, leaving their friends—such as Adele Cutts Douglas and Elizabeth Blair Lee—to grapple with questions of safety and sanitation as the capital was transformed into an immense Union army camp and later a hospital. With their husbands, brothers, and fathers marching off to war, either on the battlefield or in the halls of Congress, the women of Washington joined the cause as well. And more women went to the Capital City to enlist as nurses, supply organizers, relief workers, and journalists. Many risked their lives making munitions in a highly flammable arsenal, toiled at the Treasury Department printing greenbacks to finance the war, and plied their needlework skills at The Navy Yard—once the sole province of men—to sew canvas gunpowder bags for the troops. Cokie Roberts chronicles these women’s increasing independence, their political empowerment, their indispensable role in keeping the Union unified through the war, and in helping heal it once the fighting was done. She concludes that the war not only changed Washington, it also forever changed the place of women. Sifting through newspaper articles, government records, and private letters and diaries—many never before published—Roberts brings the war-torn capital into focus through the lives of its formidable women.

Days of Rage by Bryan Burroughs

The Weathermen. The Symbionese Liberation Army. The FALN. The Black Liberation Army. The names seem quaint now, when not forgotten altogether. But there was a stretch of time in America, during the 1970s, when bombings by domestic underground groups were a daily occurrence. The FBI combated these groups and others as nodes in a single revolutionary underground, dedicated to the violent overthrow of the American government. The FBI’s response to the leftist revolutionary counterculture has not been treated kindly by history, and in hindsight many of its efforts seem almost comically ineffectual, if not criminal in themselves. But part of the extraordinary accomplishment of Bryan Burrough’s Days of Rage is to temper those easy judgments with an understanding of just how deranged these times were, how charged with menace. Burrough re-creates an atmosphere that seems almost unbelievable just forty years later, conjuring a time of native-born radicals, most of them “nice middle-class kids,” smuggling bombs into skyscrapers and detonating them inside the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol, at a Boston courthouse and a Wall Street restaurant packed with lunchtime diners—radicals robbing dozens of banks and assassinating policemen in New York, San Francisco, Atlanta. The FBI, encouraged to do everything possible to undermine the radical underground, itself broke many laws in its attempts to bring the revolutionaries to justice—often with disastrous consequences. Benefiting from the extraordinary number of people from the underground and the FBI who speak about their experiences for the first time, Days of Rage is filled with revelations and fresh details about the major revolutionaries and their connections and about the FBI and its desperate efforts to make the bombings stop. The result is a mesmerizing book that takes us into the hearts and minds of homegrown terrorists and federal agents alike and weaves their stories into a spellbinding secret history of the 1970s.

Dissolution: A Matthew Shardlake Tudor Mystery

Murders on the grounds of a monastery, 16th-century intrigue, an unconventional sleuth-readers might wonder if this is a knock-off Name of the Rose set two centuries later, but Sansom’s debut is a compelling historical mystery in its own right, with fewer pyrotechnics and plenty of period detail. It is 1537; the English Reformation is in full swing; and Lord Thomas Cromwell, King Henry VIII’s vicar-general, is busy shutting down papist institutions. When one of his commissioners is beheaded at a remote Benedictine monastery, Cromwell dispatches a second emissary, hunchbacked lawyer Matthew Shardlake, to investigate the murder. What Shardlake and his companion, eager young Mark Poer, discover is a quietly bubbling cesspool of corruption, lust and avarice. The scope of the investigation quickly expands when a novice is poisoned and Shardlake finds the remains of a girl who served the monks in the monastery pond. Shardlake presses on by testing the alibis of the various corrupt monks, but Poer’s objectivity is compromised when he becomes involved with the girl’s successor, a bright, attractive woman named Alice Fewterer. As the investigation unfolds, Shardlake survives a murder attempt, and finally returns to London to tie his findings to higher-level intrigue. Sansom paints a vivid picture of the corruption that plagued England during the reign of Henry VIII, and the wry, rueful Shardlake is a memorable protagonist, a compassionate man committed to Cromwell’s reforms, but increasingly doubtful of the motives of his fellow reformers. With this cunningly plotted and darkly atmospheric effort, Sansom proves himself to be a promising newcomer. 

Funny Girl – Nick Hornsby 

Set in 1960’s London, Funny Girl is a lively account of the adventures of the intrepid young Sophie Straw as she navigates her transformation from provincial ingénue to television starlet amid a constellation of delightful characters. Insightful and humorous, Nick Hornby’s latest does what he does best: endears us to a cast of characters who are funny if flawed, and forces us to examine ourselves in the process.

Her Brilliant Career:10 extraordinary women of the fifties by Rachel Cooke

An exuberant group biography—”a splendidly various collection of ‘brief lives’ written with both gusto and sensitivity” (The Guardian)—that follows ten women in 1950s Britain whose pioneering lives paved the way for feminism and laid the foundation of modern women’s success. In Her Brilliant Career, Rachel Cooke goes back in time to offer an entertaining and iconoclastic look at ten women in the 1950s—pioneers whose professional careers and complicated private lives helped to create the opportunities available to today’s women. These plucky and ambitious individuals—among them a film director, a cook, an architect, an editor, an archaeologist, a race car driver—left the house, discovered the bliss of work, and ushered in the era of the working woman. Daring and independent, these remarkable unsung heroines—whose obscurity makes their accomplishments all the more astonishing and relevant —loved passionately, challenged men’s control, made their own mistakes, and took life on their own terms, breaking new ground and offering inspiration. Their individual portraits gradually form a landscape of 1950s culture, and women’s unique—and rapidly evolving—role. Before there could be a Danica Patrick, there had to be a Sheila van Damm; before there was Barbara Walters, there was Nancy Spain; before there was Kathryn Bigelow, came Muriel Box. The pioneers ofHer Brilliant Career forever changed the fabric of culture, society, and the work force. This is the Fifties, retold: vivid, surprising and, most of all, modern. Her Brilliant Career is illustrated with more than 80 black-and-white photographs.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

In a radical departure from her Jackson Brodie mystery series, Atkinson delivers a wildly inventive novel about Ursula Todd, born in 1910 and doomed to die and be reborn over and over again. She drowns, falls off a roof, and is beaten to death by an abusive husband but is always reborn back into the same loving family, sometimes with the knowledge that allows her to escape past poor decisions, sometimes not. As Atkinson subtly delineates all the pathways a life or a country might take, she also delivers a harrowing set piece on the Blitz as Ursula, working as a warden on a rescue team, encounters horrifying tableaux encompassing mangled bodies and whole families covered in ash, preserved just like the victims of Pompeii. Alternately mournful and celebratory, deeply empathic and scathingly funny, Atkinson shows what it is like to face the horrors of war and yet still find the determination to go on, with her wholly British characters often reducing the Third Reich to “a fuss.” From her deeply human characters to her comical dialogue to her meticulous plotting, Atkinson is working at the very top of her game. An audacious, thought-provoking novel from one of our most talented writers.

Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America by Edward Humes

Some see the 2005 case of Kitzmiller v.Dover, concerning a small-town school board’s adding an “intelligent design” (i.e., anti-Darwinian) text to the ninth-grade science curriculum, as the second Scopes trial. But whereas evolution lost in 1925, it won in 2005. Also, Kitzmiller was a federal andScopes a state case. Yet as Humes sees it, Kitzmiller won’t end the battle over evolution any more than Scopes did. That fracas, he opines, doesn’t die; it evolves. Hence, religion was central in the earlier, science in the later, trial. While thoroughly presenting the personalities and events ofKitzmiller, Humes fills in so much of the story of evolutionary theory and literalist biblical reaction to it–especially the intelligent design, originally “creationist,” then “creation science,” movement–that the book is an engrossing community drama and a character-centered, topical history-of-science primer. Humes’ clear reportorial style and sympathy for all the principals in Kitzmiller (except, perhaps, for the school board’s hired-gun lead attorney) ensure the high interest of both aspects of the book.

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens

On June 8, 2010, while on a book tour for his bestselling memoir, Hitch-22, Christopher Hitchens was stricken in his New York hotel room with excruciating pain in his chest and thorax. As he would later write in the first of a series of award-winning columns for Vanity Fair, he suddenly found himself being deported “from the country of the well across the stark frontier that marks off the land of malady.” Over the next eighteen months, until his death in Houston on December 15, 2011, he wrote constantly and brilliantly on politics and culture, astonishing readers with his capacity for superior work even in extremis. Throughout the course of his ordeal battling esophageal cancer, Hitchens adamantly and bravely refused the solace of religion, preferring to confront death with both eyes open. In this riveting account of his affliction, Hitchens poignantly describes the torments of illness, discusses its taboos, and explores how disease transforms experience and changes our relationship to the world around us. By turns personal and philosophical, Hitchens embraces the full panoply of human emotions as cancer invades his body and compels him to grapple with the enigma of death.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is an old school mystery set firmly in tech-loving, modern day San Francisco. Clay Jannon (former web designer) lands a job at a bookstore with very few patrons and even fewer purchases. His curiosity leads him to the discovery of a larger conspiracy at play, one exciting enough to rope in his best friend (CEO at a startup) and love interest (works at Google). As Clay and company unravel the puzzles of Mr. Penumbra’s book shop, the story turns into a sort of nerdy heist, with real-life gadgets, secret societies, and a lot of things to say about the past, present, and future of reading. Sloan originally self-publishedMr. Penumbra as a short story through Kindle Direct Publishing, before expanding it to its current form with a traditional print publisher–a fitting trajectory for a fast, fun story that has so wholly and enthusiastically embraced the tension between the digital and analog books.

The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives. Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good? Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.

The Pope and Mussolini: the secret history of Prius XI and the rise of fascism in Europe by David Kertzer

Two leaders came to power in 1922 in Rome, Achille Ratti was elevated to the papacy as Pius XI, and Benito Mussolini was appointed Italian prime minister. How relations between them developed until the pope’s 1939 demise occupies this original history, which rests on Kertzer’s thorough research of available Vatican archives and other sources. His main line of inquiry, the degree of support Pius XI accorded to Mussolini, guides Kertzer’s narrative, which begins with Mussolini’s opportunistic about-face from anticlerical socialist to Catholic-tolerating nationalist. Papal approval during the 1920s, when Mussolini’s regime survived political crises, received its reward in 1929 with the Lateran Accords that reestablished the Vatican as an independent state. Although he finds points of conflict between Pius XI and Mussolini, Kertzer underscores affinities between the Catholic Church and the fascist state, which may arouse controversy. Was the church as acquiescent to Mussolini’s persecutions of Jews as Kertzer portrays? In any event, he adduces evidence that Pius XI seems to have regretted his tacit alliance with Mussolini. An important work of history, Kertzer’s adroit profiles of Pius and Mussolini will broaden its audience.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

An enigma wrapped inside a mystery sets up expectations that prove difficult to fulfill in Russell’s first novel, which is about first contact with an extraterrestrial civilization. The enigma is Father Emilio Sandoz, a Jesuit linguist whose messianic virtues hide his occasional doubt about his calling. The mystery is the climactic turn of events that has left him the sole survivor of a secret Jesuit expedition to the planet Rakhat and, upon his return, made him a disgrace to his faith. Suspense escalates as the narrative ping-pongs between the years 2016, when Sandoz begins assembling the team that first detects signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life, and 2060, when a Vatican inquest is convened to coax an explanation from the physically mutilated and emotionally devastated priest. A vibrant cast of characters who come to life through their intense scientific and philosophical debates help distract attention from the space-opera elements necessary to get them off the Earth. Russell brings her training as a paleoanthropologist to bear on descriptions of the Runa and Jana’ata, the two races on Rakhat whose differences are misunderstood by the Earthlings, but the aliens never come across as more than variations of primitive earthly cultures. The final revelation of the tragic human mistake that ends in Sandoz’s degradation isn’t the event for which readers have been set up. Much like the worlds it juxtaposes, this novel seems composed of two stories that fail to come together.

The Upright Thinkers: The Human Journey from Living in Trees to Understanding the Cosmos

From the best-selling author of The Drunkard’s Walk and Subliminal, and coauthor of The Grand Design (with Stephen Hawking): an account of scientific discovery from the invention of stone tools to theories of quantum physics — a history at once inspiring and entertaining. In this fascinating and illuminating work, Leonard Mlodinow guides us through the critical eras and events in the development of science, all of which, he demonstrates, were propelled forward by humankind’s collective struggle to know. From the birth of reasoning and culture to the formation of the studies of physics, chemistry, biology, and modern-day quantum physics, we come to see that much of our progress can be attributed to simple questions — why? how? — bravely asked. Mlodinow profiles some of the great philosophers, scientists, and thinkers who explored these questions — Aristotle, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Einstein and Lavoisier among them — and makes clear that just as science has played a key role in shaping the patterns of human thought, human subjectivity has played a key role in the evolution of science. At once authoritative and accessible, and infused with the author’s trademark wit, this deeply insightful book is a stunning tribute to humanity’s intellectual curiosity.

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigulup

Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen’s Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok’s street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history’s lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko. Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe. What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism’s genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? In The Windup Girl, award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi returns to the world of “The Calorie Man” (Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award-winner, Hugo Award nominee, 2006) and “Yellow Card Man” (Hugo Award nominee, 2007) in order to address these poignant questions.

Yes, please by Amy Poehler

The funniest, smartest and frankest memoir I’ve ever read — Doug Johnstone, Books of the Year 2014 Herald Required reading for all young women — Best Books of 2014 Huffington Post A joy … [Poehler] has particularly smart advice on how to ignore the internal whispers that give rise to self-loathing; it should be piped into the girls’ changing rooms at every secondary school — Books of the Year 2014 Evening Standard [A] bristlingly intelligent, guffaw-out-loud memoir … Yes Please isn’t a scan of the comedic brain so much as it is something far better-the full exposure of Poehler’s funny and very magnanimous heart Elle Hilarious … wickedly funny and razor sharp Observer Yes Please is what happens if you take the wit of Saturday Night Live, sprinkle it with the warmth of Nora Ephron and marinade it in the spirit of the best, most empowering women’s magazine … Poehler is that rare thing: wise without being bossy, smart without making you feel a bit stupid, funny without making you wince. And her book is like sitting in your kitchen with your best friend, drinking too much wine, laughing, crying and maybe doing embarrassing mum dancing Harper’s Bazaar Half memoir, half advice column, and 100 percent wisecracking, sharp-as-hell, belly-laugh-making Poehler GQ Funny, wise, earnest, honest, spiritually ambitious … a smart and funny woman who isn’t either of those things all the time and doesn’t mind admitting it because she thinks that’s important LA Times [Amy Poehler] is simply one of the best things about the 21st century so far… one of this year’s essential reads Stylist Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to the only book I care about these days: Yes Please by Amy Poehler. Amy Poehler is an American actor, comedian and writer. She is also a mighty force for good… I know you’re sick of celebrity memoirs, you’re sick of female celebrities talking about feminism, blah blah blah. Well, that’s just fine because Poehler’s book is so much more than that. Poehler is the only person in the world other than Nora Ephron who can be funny about divorce (and she is so funny about divorce), and she is definitely the only person in the world from whom I will accept sex tips (and her sex tips are great). But most of all, she’s super smart — Hadley Freeman Guardian As brilliant and hilarious and adorable as the woman herself Marie Claire Life advice, personal anecdotes and a touch of sex all beautifully handled by the warmest US comedy goddess… Actually adorable Grazia Our favourite agony aunt… Witty, real-life advice Vogue A part-memoir, part-manual mashup of inspirational career counsel and laugh-out-loud sex advice Good Housekeeping Anyone who loves Amy Poehler’s biting comedic style will love the SNL star’s autobiography… hilarious Stylist Poehler’s first book of personal stories and advice, in the vein of Tina Fey’s Bossypants and Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?… One of America’s most beloved comics and actresses The Millions