Best New Books: Week of 10/15/2019

A Panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots into the air. “Why?” asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes toward the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife annual and tosses it over his shoulder. “I’m a Panda,” he says, at the door. “Look it up.” The waiter turns to the relevant entry, and, sure enough, finds an explanation. Panda. Large black and white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves. – Lynne Truss, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation


Olive, Again by  Elizabeth Strout ★

olive againPrickly, wry, resistant to change yet ruthlessly honest and deeply empathetic, Olive Kitteridge is “a compelling life force” (San Francisco Chronicle). The New Yorker has said that Elizabeth Strout “animates the ordinary with an astonishing force,” and she has never done so more clearly than in these pages, where the iconic Olive struggles to understand not only herself and her own life but the lives of those around her in the town of Crosby, Maine. Whether with a teenager coming to terms with the loss of her father, a young woman about to give birth during a hilariously inopportune moment, a nurse who confesses a secret high school crush, or a lawyer who struggles with an inheritance she does not want to accept, the unforgettable Olive will continue to startle us, to move us, and to inspire moments of transcendent grace.

Description from Goodreads.

“Return to the wonderful world of Strout’s unforgettable Pulizer Prize–winning novel, Olive Kitteridge, with Olive, Again. Strout weaves together the stories of the different characters populating Crosby, Maine, in her inimitable voice, all tied together by Olive… Lose yourself in the world of Olive, Again. You’ll be so glad you did.” – PopSugar

“Maybe you read the wonderful Olive Kitteridge—or saw the HBO series—and thought you’d had enough of Strout’s dour, prickly heroine? Guess again: Her return is a stunner.” – People

“After a No. 1 spot on the bestseller list, the Pulitzer Prize and a TV miniseries starring Frances McDormand, Olive Kitteridge is surely the most beloved unlikable character in recent literary history… This new collection of stories about Olive’s friends and family hits it out of the park.” – Newsday

“Strout aims the spotlight on her wry heroine and the characters of Crosby, Maine, in another book that’s sure to have you flipping pages long into the night.” – Bustle

Available Formats:

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Celestial Bodies by  Jokha Alharthi ★

celestial bodiesWinner of the 2019 Man Booker International Prize.

In the village of al-Awafi in Oman, we encounter three sisters: Mayya, who marries after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla, who chooses to refuse all offers and await a reunion with the man she loves, who has emigrated to Canada.

These three women and their families, their losses and loves, unspool beautifully against a backdrop of a rapidly changing Oman, a country evolving from a traditional, slave-owning society into its complex present. Through the sisters, we glimpse a society in all its degrees, from the very poorest of the local slave families to those making money through the advent of new wealth.

The first novel originally written in Arabic to ever win the Man Booker International Prize, and the first book by a female Omani author to be translated into English, Celestial Bodies marks the arrival in the United States of a major international writer.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] sweeping story of generational and societal change… The great strength of the novel lies in the ways this change is shown not as a steady progression from old to new but as a far more complicated series of small-scale transitions… A richly layered, ambitious work that teems with human struggles and contradictions, providing fascinating insight into Omani history and society.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Rich, dense… The variety of perspectives is effective in offering a window into a country that few Western readers will know intimately… Celestial Bodies is strongest in its exploration of how the changes in Oman affect women: within one generation, they are exposed to ideas from abroad and start moving away from cloistered, rural life. But Alharthi… pushes past stereotypical narratives of Muslim women defying patriarchy, instead illustrating the difficulties of balancing tradition and newfound freedoms. It’s a tale that perhaps could have been written only in a strange new place itself.” – TIME

“[Alharthi] had no small gift to begin with, but in this story she’s honed it to a master’s edge. Celestial Bodies delivers a cornucopia, the drama tasty whether it concerns a long day of overwrought celebration, scented with incense and envy, or a midnight tryst in the desert, mixing torment and ecstasy. Juggling multiple perspectives, eschewing straightforward chronology, the narrative coheres nevertheless… Marilyn Booth’s skill as translator… brings off all sorts of delicate shadings, even finding English equivalents for the rhymes in Bedouin proverbs. Beyond that, feminism so multifaceted again recalls Ferrante, and more importantly asserts why such fiction matters. A novel with the sock of Celestial Bodies puts a reader face to face with the complex humanity everywhere.” – Brooklyn Rail

“Readers will come to this novel as the first written in Arabic to win the Man Booker International Prize and the first by a female Omani author to be translated into English and will leave with a sense of original storytelling, rich characterization, and transparently bright language, expertly translated. Highly recommended.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

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Girl by  Edna O’Brien

girlI was a girl once, but not anymore.

So begins Girl, Edna O’Brien’s harrowing portrayal of the young women abducted by Boko Haram. Set in the deep countryside of northeast Nigeria, this is a brutal story of incarceration, horror, and hunger; a hair-raising escape into the manifold terrors of the forest; and a descent into the labyrinthine bureaucracy and hostility awaiting a victim who returns home with a child blighted by enemy blood. From one of the century’s greatest living authors, Girl is an unforgettable story of one victim’s astonishing survival, and her unflinching faith in the redemption of the human heart.

Description from Goodreads.

“Hypnotic, lyrical and pulsating with dark energy, Girl is a masterful study of human evil by a writer who, at 88, is still getting better. It will blast you with its searing, savage beauty.” – The Times

“The lauded Irish novelist leaps continents in a feat of imagination that transmogrifies headlines into a searing fable of violence and resilience… In spare, exacting prose, O’Brien aims her saga, like a divining rod, at ‘the best of all knowing and feeling and forgiving.'” – O Magazine

Girl is [Edna O’Brien’s] 19th novel and she has intimated that it may be her last. It may yet prove to be her most powerful.” – The Guardian

Available Formats:

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If Only I Could Tell You by  Hannah Beckerman

if only i could tell youAudrey’s family has fallen apart. Her two grown-up daughters, Jess and Lily, are estranged, and her two teenage granddaughters have never been allowed to meet. A secret that echoes back thirty years has splintered the family in two, but is also the one thing keeping them connected.

As tensions reach a breaking point, the irrevocable choice that one of them made all those years ago is about to surface. After years of secrets and silence, how can one broken family find their way back to each other?

Description from Goodreads.

“Beckerman does an excellent job of illustrating the corrosive power of secrets in this achingly real tale of two sisters and the mother who hopes to mend their tattered relationship… The author combines authentically imperfect characters and a well-paced, plausible plot. Jodi Picoult’s fans will find much to love in this often heartbreaking story.” – Publishers Weekly

“Author Beckerman is masterful in her storytelling. The narrative is fractured through time and viewpoint into large, weighty chunks and small, sharp shards, and she joins these together seamlessly into a tense tale that is much stronger for its delivery… A gripping story about love and loss.” – Kirkus Reviews

“…resolutely heartbreaking… This shares much with novels that find themselves stuffed into that faddy, baggy subgenre we’re encouraged to call ‘up-lit’. Fortunately, its commitment to the unhappy family is such that even as Audrey is visited by bittersweet epiphanies, there’s a rich and lingering melancholy. ‘There were as many different beginnings to a life as someone was brave and kind enough to allow themselves,’ she finally learns. It’s 11th-hour wisdom and all the truer for it.” – The Guardian

Available Formats:

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A Book of Bones by  John Connolly

book of bonesHe is our best hope.

He is our last hope.

On a lonely moor in northern England, the body of a young woman is discovered. In the south, a girl lies buried beneath a Saxon mound. To the southeast, the ruins of a priory hide a human skull.

Each is a sacrifice, a summons. And something in the darkness has heard the call.

Charlie Parker has also heard it and from the forests of Maine to the deserts of the Mexican border, from the canals of Amsterdam to the streets of London, he will track those who would cast the world into darkness.

Parker fears no evil—but evil fears him.

With John Connolly’s signature “blend of crime and supernatural horror” (Crime Reads), A Book of Bones is a terrifying and suspenseful thrill ride that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

Description from Goodreads.

“Complex, pulse-pounding… Connolly’s nuanced characterizations and facility at creating spooky atmospherics make it easy to suspend disbelief about the threat of cosmic horror from other dimensions.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“A seamless, expansive, and chilling blend of police procedural and gothic horror tale… perfect for fireside reading on cold, rainy nights.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Connolly pits private eye Charlie Parker against two of the most intriguing villians he’s created… fans will be thrilled.” – Booklist

Available Formats:

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The Man That Got Away by  Lynne Truss

man that got awayIt is summer in Brighton and the Brighton Belles are on hand to answer any holidaymaker’s queries, no matter how big or small. The quickest way to the station, how many pebbles are on the beach and what exactly has happened to that young man lying in the deckchair with blood dripping from him?

Constable Twitten has a hunch that the fiendish murder may be connected to a notorious Brighton nightspot and the family that run it, but Inspector Steine is – as ever – distracted by other issues, not least having his own waxwork model made and an unexpected arrival, while Sergeant Brunswick is just delighted to have spied an opportunity to finally be allowed to go undercover…

Our incomparable team of detectives are back for another outing in the new instalment of Lynne Truss’s joyfully quirky crime series.

Description from Goodreads.

“Delightful… Truss perfectly blends humor and detection.” – Publishers Weekly

“The craft and care with which author Truss weaves her facts into a richly narrated but utterly hilarious tapestry is amazing. The reader may find himself wondering how she manages to keep her facts straight as she throws his own mental processes into such a delightful muddle.” – New York Journal of Books

“…the assortment of characters, the bumbling policemen and the silly yet relatable incidences add to the charm and humour of the book. The author’s conversational narrative is as funny as the last. …a good book to read on a holiday or for those who need a laugh.” – The Times of India

Available Formats:

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The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols: Adapted from the Journals of John H. Watson, M.D. by  Nicholas Meyer

adventure of the peculiar protocolsWith the international bestseller The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, Nicholas Meyer brought to light a previously unpublished case of Sherlock Holmes, as recorded by Dr. John H. Watson. Now Meyer returns with a shocking discovery—an unknown case drawn from a recently unearthed Watson journal.

January 1905: Holmes and Watson are summoned by Holmes’ brother Mycroft to undertake a clandestine investigation. An agent of the British Secret Service has been found floating in the Thames, carrying a manuscript smuggled into England at the cost of her life. The pages purport to be the minutes of a meeting of a secret group intent on nothing less than taking over the world.

Based on real events, the adventure takes the famed duo—in the company of a bewitching woman—aboard the Orient Express from Paris into the heart of Tsarist Russia, where Holmes and Watson attempt to trace the origins of this explosive document. On their heels are desperate men of unknown allegiance, determined to prevent them from achieving their task. And what they uncover is a conspiracy so vast as to challenge Sherlock Holmes as never before.

Description from Goodreads.

“Fabulous… Holmes enthusiasts will relish this well-crafted novel.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Inventive… the parallels drawn to the rise of fascism today will resonate with readers… an absorbing and exciting tale!” – Booklist

“Holmes and Watson reunite to eradicate the greatest lie ever told, in this thrilling and surprising new tale by Nicholas Meyer, the legendary author of The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. Why, oh why, Mr. Meyer, have you ‘discovered’ only four of these treasures in the past 44 years!” – Leslie S. Klinger, editor, New Annotated Sherlock Holmes

Available Formats:

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Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me by  Adrienne Brodeur ★

wild gameOn a hot July night on Cape Cod when Adrienne was fourteen, her mother, Malabar, woke her at midnight with five simple words that would set the course of both of their lives for years to come: Ben Souther just kissed me. 
Adrienne instantly became her mother’s confidante and helpmate, blossoming in the sudden light of her attention, and from then on, Malabar came to rely on her daughter to help orchestrate what would become an epic affair with her husband’s closest friend. The affair would have calamitous consequences for everyone involved, impacting Adrienne’s life in profound ways, driving her into a precarious marriage of her own, and then into a deep depression. Only years later will she find the strength to embrace her life—and her mother—on her own terms.  

Wild Game is a brilliant, timeless memoir about how the people close to us can break our hearts simply because they have access to them, and the lies we tell in order to justify the choices we make. It’s a remarkable story of resilience, a reminder that we need not be the parents our parents were to us.

Description from Goodreads.

“Brodeur is a deft memoirist, portraying Malabar as a woman traumatized by a violent parent and early tragedy. In this stunning tale of treachery—unsettling yet seductive—we are led through some of the darkest and most alluring corridors of the human heart.” – O Magazine

“Shocking, poignant, unputdownable.” – People

“Reading Wild Game is an infectious experience. The moment you finish the book, you’ll want to pass it on, so you too can discuss the memoir’s shocking content and astounding writing. Wild Game is for anyone who’s asked themselves the question, ‘Am I destined to become my parent?’“ – Refinery29

“Adrienne Brodeur’s stunning memoir is the kind of true story that makes you wonder why we’d ever need fiction. It’s a beautifully written, totally engrossing story unlike any we’ve read before—and will surely be one of the most talked-about books of the year.” – Town and Country

Available Formats:

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Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA by  Amaryllis Fox ★

life undercoverAmaryllis Fox was in her last year as an undergraduate at Oxford studying theology and international law when her writing mentor Daniel Pearl was captured and beheaded. Galvanized by this brutality, Fox applied to a master’s program in conflict and terrorism at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, where she created an algorithm that predicted, with uncanny certainty, the likelihood of a terrorist cell arising in any village around the world.

At twenty-one, she was recruited by the CIA. Her first assignment was reading and analyzing hundreds of classified cables a day from foreign governments and synthesizing them into daily briefs for the president. Her next assignment was at the Iraq desk in the Counterterrorism center. At twenty-two, she was fast-tracked into advanced operations training, sent from Langley to “the Farm,” where she lived for six months in a simulated world learning how to use a Glock, how to get out of flexicuffs while locked in the trunk of a car, how to withstand torture, and the best ways to commit suicide in case of captivity. At the end of this training she was deployed as a spy under non-official cover–the most difficult and coveted job in the field as an art dealer specializing in tribal and indigenous art and sent to infiltrate terrorist networks in remote areas of the Middle East and Asia.

Life Undercover is exhilarating, intimate, fiercely intelligent–an impossible to put down record of an extraordinary life, and of Amaryllis Fox’s astonishing courage and passion.

Description from Goodreads.

“Fast and thrilling… Life Undercover reads as if a John le Carré character landed in Eat Pray Love.” – New York Times

“A riveting account of the decade the author spent risking her life in the CIA’s most clandestine unit.” – People

“Gripping… Fox masterfully conveys the exhilaration and loneliness of life undercover, and her memoir reads like a great espionage novel.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Extraordinary… [A] remarkable life… Fox engagingly—and transparently—describes her work as an undercover agent for the CIA.” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

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Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, & Advice for Living Your Best Life by  Ali Wong ★

dear girlsAli Wong’s heartfelt and hilarious letters to her daughters (the two she put to work while they were still in utero), covering everything they need to know in life, like the unpleasant details of dating, how to be a working mom in a male-dominated profession, and how she trapped their dad.

In her hit Netflix comedy special Baby Cobra, an eight-month pregnant Ali Wong resonated so heavily that she became a popular Halloween costume. Wong told the world her remarkably unfiltered thoughts on marriage, sex, Asian culture, working women, and why you never see new mom comics on stage but you sure see plenty of new dads.

The sharp insights and humor are even more personal in this completely original collection. She shares the wisdom she’s learned from a life in comedy and reveals stories from her life off stage, including the brutal singles life in New York (i.e. the inevitable confrontation with erectile dysfunction), reconnecting with her roots (and drinking snake blood) in Vietnam, tales of being a wild child growing up in San Francisco, and parenting war stories. Though addressed to her daughters, Ali Wong’s letters are absurdly funny, surprisingly moving, and enlightening (and disgusting) for all.

Description from Goodreads.

“Fierce, feminist, and packed with funny anecdotes.” – Entertainment Weekly

“…raunchy, real and uproariously funny.” – USA Today

“A down-to-earth collection that is raw but not irreverent.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Wong, a seasoned TV writer who co-penned and starred in the delicious romcom, Always Be My Maybe, doesn’t hold back the humor or tame her feminist fire in this memoir, which is presented as a series of letters to her daughters, but she also doesn’t shy away from being vulnerable or loving, either.” – NBC News

Available Formats:

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Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by  Ronan Farrow ★

catch and killIn 2017, a routine network television investigation led Ronan Farrow to a story only whispered about: one of Hollywood’s most powerful producers was a predator, protected by fear, wealth, and a conspiracy of silence. As Farrow drew closer to the truth, shadowy operatives, from high-priced lawyers to elite war-hardened spies, mounted a secret campaign of intimidation, threatening his career, following his every move, and weaponizing an account of abuse in his own family.

All the while, Farrow and his producer faced a degree of resistance that could not be explained–until now. And a trail of clues revealed corruption and cover-ups from Hollywood, to Washington, and beyond.

This is the untold story of the exotic tactics of surveillance and intimidation deployed by wealthy and connected men to threaten journalists, evade accountability, and silence victims of abuse–and it’s the story of the women who risked everything to expose the truth and spark a global movement.

Both a spy thriller and a meticulous work of investigative journalism, Catch and Kill breaks devastating new stories about the rampant abuse of power–and sheds far-reaching light on investigations that shook the culture.

Description from Goodreads.

“Absorbing… the behavior documented in Catch and Kill is obviously and profoundly distressing… but there are some hopeful threads, too.” – New York Times

“Befitting a Farrow story, Catch and Kill is chocka-block with scoops and revelations.” – Washington Post

“Part memoir, part spy thriller, the book is an engrossing account of the dark arts employed by the powerful to suppress their stockpiled bad behavior as well as the cover-up culture that pervades executive suites-many of them at Farrow’s former employer, NBC News.” – The Hollywood Reporter

“…should be read together [with She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey] in college journalism courses, not only as stunning accounts of what good investigative journalism does but also as how institutions can find strength in legacy, reputation and numbers or use their substantial power to diffuse guilt and protect the powerful.” – NPR

Available Formats:

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Me by  Elton John

meChristened Reginald Dwight, he was a shy boy with Buddy Holly glasses who grew up in the London suburb of Pinner and dreamed of becoming a pop star. By the age of twenty-three, he was on his first tour of America, facing an astonished audience in his tight silver hotpants, bare legs and a T-shirt with ROCK AND ROLL emblazoned across it in sequins. Elton John had arrived and the music world would never be the same again.

His life has been full of drama, from the early rejection of his work with song-writing partner Bernie Taupin to spinning out of control as a chart-topping superstar; from half-heartedly trying to drown himself in his LA swimming pool to disco-dancing with the Queen; from friendships with John Lennon, Freddie Mercury and George Michael to setting up his AIDS Foundation. All the while, Elton was hiding a drug addiction that would grip him for over a decade.

In Me Elton also writes powerfully about getting clean and changing his life, about finding love with David Furnish and becoming a father. In a voice that is warm, humble and open, this is Elton on his music and his relationships, his passions and his mistakes. This is a story that will stay with you, by a living legend.

Description from Goodreads.

“[Me] pushes the envelope… The movie Rocketman gave a reasonably accurate overview of the Elton John story―but it barely scratched the surface of what’s in this memoir. The lurid parts will get all the headlines. But [it is really about] the man’s hard-won self-knowledge… [Me] surely has something for everyone… A gift.” – New York Times

“Thought you got all of Elton John’s story in the rollicking biopic, Rocketman? Well, consider that merely a tasty appetizer ahead of this ultra-rich and heavy dinner.” – NBC News

“…uniquely revealing… essential reading for anyone who wants to know the difficult road that he walked while creating… his brilliant, groundbreaking music.” – Rolling Stone

Available Formats:

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The Body: A Guide for Occupants by  Bill Bryson

bodyIn the bestselling, prize-winning A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson achieved the seemingly impossible by making the science of our world both understandable and entertaining to millions of people around the globe.

Now he turns his attention inwards to explore the human body, how it functions and its remarkable ability to heal itself. Full of extraordinary facts and astonishing stories, The Body: A Guide for Occupants is a brilliant, often very funny attempt to understand the miracle of our physical and neurological make up.

A wonderful successor to A Short History of Nearly Everything, this book will have you marvelling at the form you occupy, and celebrating the genius of your existence, time and time again.

Description from Goodreads.

“A directory of wonders… Extraordinary… A tour of the minuscule; it aims to do for the human body what his A Short History of Nearly Everything did for science… The prose motors gleefully along, a finely tuned engine running on jokes, factoids and biographical interludes… Wry, companionable, avuncular and always lucid… [The Body] could stand as an ultimate prescription for life.” – The Guardian

“Full of humor… Celebratory… The author marvels at the intricacies of the human body and its extraordinary feats of timing and fine-tuning. He digs into history to show the persistence and tribulations of researchers. He describes the amazing feats of medicine and surgery accomplished in the last few decades. This fact-packed story-strewn volume is a fascinating read, a book to own and return to when questions arise — as they always do.” – Washington Times

“Bill Bryson is not so much a discoverer of new lands as a charismatic cartographer of existing ones, smartly mapping points of entry into territory that might otherwise remain impenetrable to curious travelers. With light footed prose, The Body winds its way through the dense terrain of anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry… The result is an absorbing catalog of the human body in all its firmness and fatality… The colossal roster of facts on display is dazzling… Bryson’s distinctive voice will likely delight readers eager to go sightseeing around the world they embody.” – The American Scholar

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The First Cell: And the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last by  Azra Raza

first cellWe have lost the war on cancer. We spend $150 billion each year treating it, yet — a few innovations notwithstanding — a patient with cancer is as likely to die of it as one was fifty years ago. Most new drugs add mere months to one’s life at agonizing physical and financial cost.

In The First Cell, Azra Raza offers a searing account of how both medicine and our society (mis)treats cancer, how we can do better, and why we must. A lyrical journey from hope to despair and back again, The First Cell explores cancer from every angle: medical, scientific, cultural, and personal. Indeed, Raza describes how she bore the terrible burden of being her own husband’s oncologist as he succumbed to leukemia. Like When Breath Becomes AirThe First Cell is no ordinary book of medicine, but a book of wisdom and grace by an author who has devoted her life to making the unbearable easier to bear.

Description from Goodreads.

“Raza, a Columbia University professor of medicine and practicing oncologist, offers a passionate account of how humans grapple with the scourge of cancer… Showing that compassion is just as important for cancer patients as the drugs administered to them, Raza’s deeply personal work brings understanding and empathy to the fore in a way that a purely scientific explication never could.” – Publishers Weekly

“With elegant literary references and a compassion that deeply personalizes her interactions with patients and families, [Raza] engages readers in a commitment to finding a better way. Intelligence, empathy, and optimism inform the argument for new research on cancer that could obviate the suffering prevalent today.” – Kirkus Reviews

“An elegantly conceived, powerfully written, and far-reaching book that will change the conversation around cancer for decades to come.” – Siddhartha Mukherjee, author ofThe Emperor of All Maladies

Available Formats:

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No Stopping Us Now: A History of Older Women in America by  Gail Collins

no stopping us now“You’re not getting older, you’re getting better,” or so promised the famous 1970’s ad–for women’s hair dye. Americans have always had a complicated relationship with aging: embrace it, deny it, defer it–and women have been on the front lines of the battle, willingly or not.

In her lively social history of American women and aging, acclaimed New York Times columnist Gail Collins illustrates the ways in which age is an arbitrary concept that has swung back and forth over the centuries. From Plymouth Rock (when a woman was considered marriageable if “civil and under fifty years of age”), to a few generations later, when they were quietly retired to elderdom once they had passed the optimum age for reproduction, to recent decades when freedom from striving in the workplace and caretaking at home is often celebrated, to the first female nominee for president, American attitudes towards age have been a moving target. Gail Collins gives women reason to expect the best of their golden years.

Description from Goodreads.

“This is a deeply reported book, and Collins turns up some fascinating details… The book is an eye-opening guide to our shifting attitudes about aging.” – New York Times

“A lively and well-researched compendium… This enjoyable and informative historical survey will delight Collins’s fans and bring in some new ones.” – Publishers Weekly

“A lively celebration of women’s potential.” – Kirkus Reviews

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Running with Sherman: The Donkey with the Heart of a Hero by  Christopher McDougall

running with shermanA heartwarming story about training a rescue donkey to run one of the most challenging races in America.

When Chris McDougall agreed to take in a donkey from an animal hoarder, he thought it would be no harder than the rest of the adjustments he and his family had made after moving from Philadelphia to the heart of Pennsylvania Amish country. But when he arrived, Sherman was in such bad shape he could barely move, and his hair was coming out in clumps. Chris decided to undertake a radical rehabilitation program designed not only to heal Sherman’s body but to heal his mind as well. It turns out the best way to soothe a donkey is to give it a job, and so Chris decided to teach Sherman how to run. He’d heard about burro racing–a unique type of race where humans and donkeys run together in a call-back to mining days–and decided he and Sherman would enter the World Championship in Colorado.

Easier said than done. In the course of Sherman’s training, Chris would have to recruit several other runners, both human and equine, and call upon the wisdom of burro racers, goat farmers, Amish running club members, and a group of irrepressible female long-haul truckers. Along the way, he shows us the life-changing power of animals, nature, and community.

Description from Goodreads.

“A fascinating and inspiring hybrid nonfiction salve to the problems of our day, Running with Sherman achieves the running equivalent of a hole-in-one.” – Amazon Book Review

“Runners and animal lovers alike can find inspiration in this story of the ways in which humans and animals connect.” – Publishers Weekly

“A charming tale of a resilient donkey and a community’s love.” – Kirkus Reviews

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The Contender: The Story of Marlon Brando by  William J. Mann

contenderThe most influential movie actor of his era, Marlon Brando changed the way other actors perceived their craft. His approach was natural, honest, and deeply personal, resulting in performances—most notably in A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront—that are without parallel. Brando was heralded as the American Hamlet—the Yank who surpassed British stage royalty Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, and Ralph Richardson as the standard of greatness in the mid-twentieth century.

Brando’s impact on American culture matches his professional significance; he both challenged and codified our ideas of masculinity and sexuality. Brando was also one of the first stars to use his fame as a platform to address social, political, and moral issues, courageously calling out America’s deeply rooted racism.

William Mann’s brilliant biography of the Hollywood legend illuminates this culture icon for a new age. Mann astutely argues that Brando was not only a great actor but also a cultural soothsayer, a Cassandra warning us about the challenges to come. Brando’s admonitions against the monetization of nearly every aspect of the culture were prescient. His public protests against racial segregation and discrimination at the height of the Civil Rights movement—getting himself arrested at least once—were criticized as being needlessly provocative. Yet those actions of fifty years ago have become a model many actors follow today.

Psychologically astute and masterfully researched, based on new and revelatory material, The Contender explores the star and the man in full, including the childhood traumas that reverberated through his professional and personal life. It is a dazzling biography of our nation’s greatest actor that is sure to become an instant classic.

Description from Goodreads.

“An insightful and well-researched portrait of Marlon Brando. Taking a cinematic approach, Mann swoops in on pivotal moments in Brando’s life. Though sympathetic to Brando, Mann doesn’t shy away from his flaws, such as his often callous treatment of women. The result is a thoughtfully considered study of a supremely talented, observant, and imaginative man who became a reluctant cultural icon.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Structuring his biography like a film, Mann jumps from one key moment in Brando’s life to another—the dysfunctional family life, the great movie roles, the tempestuous and often callous relationships with lovers, the tragedies that befell his children—and, while the book brings something new and often revelatory to all of these familiar aspects of the Brando saga, Mann is at his best when he digs into Brando’s tortured relationship with acting itself… A compelling biography, rich in complexity and irony.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“In this meticulously researched book, bolstered by access to the Brando estate, Mann ‘attempts to see Brando’s life, career, choices, and actions in a new light.’ The author describes him as a ‘thinker, an observer, an examiner of himself and the world, with the goal of figuring out both.’ He sympathetically portrays Brando as a survivor of childhood trauma, the only son of alcoholic parents: an abusive father and a distant, neglectful mother Brando loved dearly. Throughout, Mann balances Brando’s reluctance to act with excellent insights into his finest performances. A complex, intimate, and illuminating inquiry into and defense of Brando.” – Kirkus Reviews

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A Pilgrimage to Eternity: From Canterbury to Rome in Search of a Faith by  Timothy Egan

pilgrimage to eternityMoved by his mother’s death and his Irish Catholic family’s complicated history with the church, Timothy Egan decided to follow in the footsteps of centuries of seekers to force a reckoning with his own beliefs. He embarked on a thousand-mile pilgrimage through the theological cradle of Christianity, exploring one of the biggest stories of our time: the collapse of religion in the world that it created. Egan sets out along the Via Francigena, once the major medieval trail leading the devout to Rome, and makes his way overland via the alpine peaks and small mountain towns of France, Switzerland and Italy. The goal: walking to St. Peter’s Square, in hopes of meeting the galvanizing pope who is struggling to hold together the church through the worst crisis in half a millennium.

Making his way through a landscape laced with some of the most important shrines to the faith, Egan finds a modern Canterbury Tale in the chapel where Queen Bertha introduced Christianity to pagan Britain; parses the supernatural in a French town built on miracles; and journeys to the oldest abbey in the Western world, founded in 515 and home to continuous prayer over the 1,500 years that have followed. He is accompanied by a quirky cast of fellow pilgrims and by some of the towering figures of the faith–Joan of Arc, Henry VIII, Martin Luther.

A thrilling journey, a family story, and a revealing history, A Pilgrimage to Eternity looks for our future in its search for God.

Description from Goodreads.

A Pilgrimage to Eternity is one of Egan’s best books, a moving combination of history and memoir, travelogue and soul-searching, buoyed by Egan’s strengths as a writer: color and humor, a sense of wonder and a gift for getting to the point.” – Seattle Times

“From the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner, a pilgrimage to find religion—or truth, or the way—that pleasingly blends memoir, travelogue, and history… Finding people and places warm and welcoming in each village and city, allowing himself to be amazed, lingering to rest blistered feet, and discovering soul-stirring spots–all this kept Egan pushing on, and readers will be thankful for his determination. A joy and a privilege to read.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

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Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years by  Julie Andrews with  Emma Walton Hamilton

home workIn Home, the number one New York Times international bestseller, Julie Andrews recounted her difficult childhood and her emergence as an acclaimed singer and performer on the stage.

With this second memoir, Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years, Andrews picks up the story with her arrival in Hollywood and her phenomenal rise to fame in her earliest films–Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. Andrews describes her years in the film industry — from the incredible highs to the challenging lows. Not only does she discuss her work in now-classic films and her collaborations with giants of cinema and television, she also unveils her personal story of adjusting to a new and often daunting world, dealing with the demands of unimaginable success, being a new mother, the end of her first marriage, embracing two stepchildren, adopting two more children, and falling in love with the brilliant and mercurial Blake Edwards. The pair worked together in numerous films, including Victor/Victoria, the gender-bending comedy that garnered multiple Oscar nominations.

Cowritten with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, and told with Andrews’s trademark charm and candor, Home Work takes us on a rare and intimate journey into an extraordinary life that is funny, heartrending, and inspiring.

Description from Goodreads.

“This deeply pleasurable and forthright chronicle illuminates [a] treasury of delectable Hollywood revelations.” – Booklist

“[Home Work gives] readers long-awaited details about [Julie Andrew’s] earliest films like Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music… Andrews continues to approach life — and writing — with strength and grace.” – People

“‘I never anticipated any of it,’ Andrews says of her film career. ‘I just took the opportunities that were in front of me and waded in.’ That degree of candor — and Andrews’ refreshing unpretentiousness and gentle sense of bemusement at her life’s adventures — make Home Work a book that will appeal to fans of her films, as well as anyone who wants to be reassured that being a celebrity doesn’t have to involve scandal.” – Los Angeles Times

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South: Essential Recipes and New Explorations by  Sean Brock

southSouthern food is one of the most beloved and delicious cuisines in America. And who better to give us the key elements of Southern cuisine than Sean Brock, the award-winning chef and Southern-food crusader. In South, Brock shares his recipes for key components of the cuisine, from grits and fried chicken to collard greens and corn bread. Recipes can be mixed and matched to make a meal or eaten on their own. Taken together, they make up the essential elements of Southern cuisine, from fried green tomatoes to smoked baby back ribs and from tomato okra stew to biscuits. Regional differences are highlighted in recipes for shrimp and grits, corn bread, fried chicken, and more. Includes key Southern knowledge too: how to fry, how to care for cast iron, how to cook over a hearth, and more. This is the book fans of Sean Brock have been waiting for, and it’s the book Southern-food lovers the world over will use as their bible.

Description from Goodreads.

“I will keep this book forever in my collection because no one cooking today is doing more to help the Southern culinary flame burn brighter.” – New York Times

“Masterful… Mouthwatering, virtuosic.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“If you love to cook, check out Sean Brock’s South, a follow-up to his award-winning Heritage. Born and raised in the Appalachian mountains, Brock is known for his endless creativity, helming incredible restaurants… and celebrating Southern ingredients. Now he’ll also be known for two of the decade’s most beautiful and authoritative Southern cookbooks.” – Southern Living

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Hoopla eBook

Mixtape Potluck: A Cookbook by  Questlove

mixtape potluckQuestlove is best known for his achievements in the music world, but his interest in food runs a close second. He has hosted a series of renowned Food Salons and conversations with some of America’s most prominent chefs. Now he is turning his hand to creating a cookbook.

In Mixtape Potluck, Questlove imagines the ultimate potluck dinner party, inviting more than fifty chefs, entertainers, and musicians—such as Eric Ripert, Natalie Portman, and Q-Tip—and asking them to bring along their favorite recipes. He also pairs each cook with a song that he feels best captures their unique creative energy. The result is not only an accessible, entertaining cookbook, but also a collection of Questlove’s diverting musical commentaries as well as an illustration of the fascinating creative relationship between music and food. With Questlove’s unique style of hosting dinner parties and his love of music, food, and entertaining, this book will give readers unexpected insights into the relationship between culture and food.

Description from Goodreads.

“Even with its many flashy co-authors, Mixtape Potluck never wavers from its earnest stated intent: to help readers plan the best possible dinner party. With friends like his, Quest is one to trust.” – Eater

“…eclectic, unique, and so entertaining to peruse.” – The Buzz Magazines

“…a guide to the most awesome party the artist born Ahmir Khalib Thompson could ever throw. Who wouldn’t want to nosh alongside the likes of Fred Armisen, Padma Lakshmi, Lilly Singh, Zooey Deschanel, Natalie Portman, Jimmy Fallon, Stanley Tucci, Q-Tip, and many others among the coolest of the cool?” – Georgia Straight

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook

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