Best New Books: Week of 10/18/22

“Don’t be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end, amen.” – George Saunders, The Braindead Megaphone

And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle by  Jon Meacham ★

Nonfiction / History / Politics.

And There Was LightA president who governed a divided country has much to teach us in a twenty-first-century moment of polarization and political crisis. Abraham Lincoln was president when implacable secessionists gave no quarter in a clash of visions inextricably bound up with money, power, race, identity, and faith. He was hated and hailed, excoriated and revered. In Lincoln we can see the possibilities of the presidency as well as its limitations.

At once familiar and elusive, Lincoln tends to be seen in popular minds as the greatest of American presidents—a remote icon—or as a politician driven more by calculation than by conviction. This illuminating new portrait gives us a very human Lincoln—an imperfect man whose moral antislavery commitment was essential to the story of justice in America. Here is the Lincoln who, as a boy, was steeped in the sermons of emancipation by Baptist preachers; who insisted that slavery was a moral evil; and who sought, as he put it, to do right as God gave him light to see the right.

This book tells the story of Lincoln from his birth on the Kentucky frontier in 1809 to his leadership during the Civil War to his tragic assassination at Ford’s Theater on Good Friday 1865: his rise, his self-education through reading, his loves, his bouts of depression, his political failures, his deepening faith, and his persistent conviction that slavery must end. In a nation shaped by the courage of the enslaved of the era and by the brave witness of Black Americans of the nineteenth century, Lincoln’s story illuminates the ways and means of politics, the marshaling of power in a belligerent democracy, the durability of white supremacy in America, and the capacity of conscience to shape the maelstrom of events.

Lincoln was not all he might have been—few human beings ever are—but he was more than many men have ever been. We could have done worse. And we have. And, as Lincoln himself would readily acknowledge, we can always do better. But we will do so only if we see Abraham Lincoln—and ourselves—whole.

“[A] complex portrait of Honest Abe.” – Literary Hub

“Pulitzer winner Meacham more than justifies yet another Lincoln biography in this nuanced and captivating look at the president’s ‘struggle to do right as he defined it within the political universe he and his country inhabited’… Richly detailed and gracefully written, this is an essential reminder that ‘progress can be made by fallible and fallen presidents and peoples.'” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“…Meacham’s expert biography enlarges the view of Lincoln’s life by vividly rendering mood and setting… clear, compelling, and detailed accounts of Lincoln’s childhood and the campaign for the 1864 election illuminate key aspects of his life that are not always covered… In the epilogue, Meacham traces Lincoln’s legacy to the present and concludes this fresh and revealing addition to the vast Lincoln canon with some of the best last words in any book.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“A deeply researched look at Lincoln’s moral evolution on the issue of slavery… While there are countless books on Lincoln, one of the most studied and written-about figures in history, Meacham’s latest will undoubtedly become one of the most widely read and consulted. An essential, eminently readable volume for anyone interested in Lincoln and his era.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

The Cookie Bible by  Rose Levy Beranbaum

nonfiction / cooking.

The Cookie BibleThis is your must-have cookie book, featuring nearly every cookie imaginable, from rustic Cranberry Chocolate Chippers to elegant French macarons, and everything in between—simple drop cookies, rolled-and-cut holiday cookies, brownies and other bars, pretty sandwich cookies, luxurious frosted or chocolate-dipped treats, and much more.

With legendary baker Rose Levy Beranbaum’s foolproof recipes—which feature detail-oriented instructions that eliminate guesswork, notes for planning ahead, ingenious tips, and other golden rules for success—it’s easy to whip up a batch of irresistible, crowd-pleasing cookies anytime, for any occasion. Standout classics and new favorites include:

  • Rose’s Dream Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Lemon Lumpies
  • Black Tahini Crisps
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly Buttons
  • Double Ginger Molasses Cookies
  • Caramel Surprise Snickerdoodles
  • Mom’s Coconut Snowball Kisses
  • Chocolate Sablés
  • Gingerbread Folks (with a special sturdy variation for gingerbread houses)
  • Pecan Freezer Squares
  • Brownie Doughnuts
  • Brandy Snap Rolls
  • Plus “extra special” details including homemade Dulce de Leche, Wicked Good Ganache, Lemon Curd, and more

“Under Beranbaum’s direction, even the old standbys promise to be something special… Precision is Berenbaum’s modus operandi, as she not only instructs readers on how to make perfect cookies, but explains why specific ingredients and techniques result in perfection. Indispensable for holiday (and year-round) cookie baking.” – Booklist

“[A] thoroughly scrumptious collection… For home bakers of all levels, this is a no-brainer.” – Publishers Weekly

“…amazing… should be on every cookbook shelf in every home.” – Bella Online

Demon Copperhead by  Barbara Kingsolver ★

Fiction / Historical Fiction.

Demon Copperhead“Anyone will tell you the born of this world are marked from the get-out, win or lose.”

Set in the mountains of southern Appalachia, this is the story of a boy born to a teenaged single mother in a single-wide trailer, with no assets beyond his dead father’s good looks and copper-colored hair, a caustic wit, and a fierce talent for survival. In a plot that never pauses for breath, relayed in his own unsparing voice, he braves the modern perils of foster care, child labor, derelict schools, athletic success, addiction, disastrous loves, and crushing losses. Through all of it, he reckons with his own invisibility in a popular culture where even the superheroes have abandoned rural people in favor of cities.

Many generations ago, Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield from his experience as a survivor of institutional poverty and its damages to children in his society. Those problems have yet to be solved in ours. Dickens is not a prerequisite for readers of this novel, but he provided its inspiration. In transposing a Victorian epic novel to the contemporary American South, Barbara Kingsolver enlists Dickens’ anger and compassion, and above all, his faith in the transformative powers of a good story. Demon Copperhead speaks for a new generation of lost boys, and all those born into beautiful, cursed places they can’t imagine leaving behind.

“An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Kingsolver takes a literary classic and makes it her own, peering into the dark corners not of Dickensian England, but of present day in the neglected hollers of Virginia’s Appalachian Mountains… Kingsolver’s writing is arresting and illuminating; in baring Demon’s soul on the page she gives voice and visibility to a place and its people where beauty and desperation live side by side.” – Amazon

“…capacious, ingenious, wrenching, and funny… Kingsolver’s tour de force is a serpentine, hard-striking tale of profound dimension and resonance.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] deeply evocative story… Kingsolver’s account of the opioid epidemic and its impact on the social fabric of Appalachia is drawn to heartbreaking effect. This is a powerful story, both brilliant in its many social messages regarding foster care, child hunger, and rural struggles, and breathless in its delivery.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man: A Memoir by  Paul Newman ★

Nonfiction / Memoir / Film.

The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary ManIn 1986, Paul Newman and his closest friend, screenwriter Stewart Stern, began an extraordinary project. Stuart was to compile an oral history, to have Newman’s family and friends and those who worked closely with him, talk about the actor’s life. And then Newman would work with Stewart and give his side of the story. The only stipulation was that anyone who spoke on the record had to be completely honest. That same stipulation applied to Newman himself. The project lasted five years.

The result is an extraordinary memoir, culled from thousands of pages of transcripts. The book is insightful, revealing, surprising. Newman’s voice is powerful, sometimes funny, sometimes painful, always meeting that high standard of searing honesty. The additional voices–from childhood friends and Navy buddies, from family members and film and theater collaborators such as Tom Cruise, George Roy Hill, Martin Ritt, and John Huston–that run throughout add richness and color and context to the story Newman is telling.

Newman’s often traumatic childhood is brilliantly detailed. He talks about his teenage insecurities, his early failures with women, his rise to stardom, his early rivals (Marlon Brando and James Dean), his first marriage, his drinking, his philanthropy, the death of his son Scott, his strong desire for his daughters to know and understand the truth about their father. Perhaps the most moving material in the book centers around his relationship with Joanne Woodward–their love for each other, his dependence on her, the way she shaped him intellectually, emotionally and sexually.

The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man is revelatory and introspective, personal and analytical, loving and tender in some places, always complex and profound.

“Startlingly candid and revealing… This disarmingly revelatory memoir is an intimate introduction to the legend we only thought we knew.” – Amazon

“Fans looking for Hollywood gossip will not find it, while those who really want to know the man behind the image and the legend will be compelled by Newman’s raw, open, and principled self-portrait. Newman’s timeless allure will work its magic on readers.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Raw… Intimate reflections on an extraordinary life steeped in sadness.” – Kirkus Reviews

“…Newman’s story unfolds in a humble, sometimes humorous narrative voice… With equal parts grounded authenticity and inviting charm, this candid memoir captures the life of a legend.” – Publishers Weekly

The Family Game by  Catherine Steadman

Fiction / suspense / mystery.

The Family GameHarry is a novelist on the brink of stardom; Edward, her husband-to-be, is seemingly perfect. In love and freshly engaged, their bliss is interrupted by the reemergence of the Holbecks, Edward’s eminent family and the embodiment of American old money. For years, they’ve dominated headlines and pulled society’s strings, and Edward left them all behind to forge his own path. But there are eyes and ears everywhere. It was only a matter of time before they were pulled back in…

After all, even though he’s long severed ties with his family, Edward is set to inherit it all. Harriet is drawn to the glamour and sophistication of the Holbecks, who seem to welcome her with open arms, but everything changes when she meets Robert, the inescapably magnetic head of the family. At their first meeting, Robert slips Harry a cassette tape, revealing a shocking confession which sets the inevitable game in motion.

What is it about Harry that made him give her that tape? A thing that has the power to destroy everything? As she ramps up her quest for the truth, she must endure the Holbecks’ savage Christmas traditions all the while knowing that losing this game could be deadly.

“…addictive… [with a] bloodcurdling, cinematic climax… This pitch-dark fairy tale will leave most readers spellbound.” – Publishers Weekly

“…masterfully woven… [The] twist hit hard and it was phenomenal!” – The Open Books

“…propulsive… Fast-paced and chilling, I couldn’t put The Family Game down and was blown away by the twists, each more shocking than the last.” – Book of the Month

A Heart Full of Headstones by  Ian Rankin

FIction / Mystery / Suspense.

A Heart Full of HeadstonesJohn Rebus stands accused: on trial for a crime that could put him behind bars for the rest of his life. It’s not the first time the legendary detective has taken the law into his own hands, though it might be the last.

But what drove a good man to cross the line?

Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke may well find out. Clarke is tasked with the city’s most explosive case in years, an infamous cop, at the center of decades of misconduct, has gone missing. Finding him will expose not only her superiors, but her mentor John Rebus. And Rebus himself may not have her own interests at heart, as the repayment of a past debt places him in the crosshairs of both crime lords and his police brethren.

One way or another, a reckoning is coming – and John Rebus may be hearing the call for last orders…

“Outstanding… the well-constructed plot is matched by brooding, atmospheric prose. This is one of Rankin’s best Rebus novels in years.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Two years after his checkered hero’s last outing, Rankin makes you feel the wait was worth every day, whatever comes next.” – Kirkus Reviews

“As the pas de deux between now-retired Edinburgh copper John Rebus and his longtime nemesis, gangster Big Ger Cafferty, inches closer to its final act, the stakes continue to grow… The aging of maverick detectives has become a poignant theme in today’s crime fiction, with Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch joining Rebus in an effort to keep solving one more case as a way of ‘stirring dull roots with spring rain,’ as Eliot puts it in ‘The Waste Land.’ Rankin captures both the heroism and the pathos of that ultimately doomed quest in this cleverly constructed and deeply moving novel.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

It Starts With Us by  Colleen Hoover

fiction / romance.

It Starts With UsLily and her ex-husband, Ryle, have just settled into a civil coparenting rhythm when she suddenly bumps into her first love, Atlas, again. After nearly two years separated, she is elated that for once, time is on their side, and she immediately says yes when Atlas asks her on a date.

But her excitement is quickly hampered by the knowledge that, though they are no longer married, Ryle is still very much a part of her life—and Atlas Corrigan is the one man he will hate being in his ex-wife and daughter’s life.

Switching between the perspectives of Lily and Atlas, It Starts with Us picks up right where the epilogue for the “gripping, pulse-pounding” (Sarah Pekkanen, author of Perfect Neighbors) bestselling phenomenon It Ends with Us left off. Revealing more about Atlas’s past and following Lily as she embraces a second chance at true love while navigating a jealous ex-husband, it proves that “no one delivers an emotional read like Colleen Hoover” (Anna Todd, New York Times bestselling author).

“Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.” – Kirkus Reviews

“…stunning… the Verity author certainly doesn’t disappoint with this one… A heart-warming resolution to a brutal exploration of the life of a domestic abuse survivor.” – Metro

“If you’re after an addictive, page-turning read that is most definitely worth the hype, add It Ends With Us and It Starts With Us to your TBR pile.” – Better Reading

Justice of the Pies: Sweet and Savory Pies, Quiches, and Tarts plus Inspirational Stories from Exceptional People by  Maya-Camille Broussard

Nonfiction / Cooking / inspirational.

Justice of the PiesIn Justice of the Pies, Maya-Camille Broussard shares more than 85 recipes for sweet and savory pies and other mouthwatering creations that put her social mission-based bakery on the map, including her famous Salted Caramel Peach Pie and Brandied Banana Butterscotch Pie, as well as hearty renditions like the Fig + Pig Quiche and Roasted Brussels Sprouts + Cherry Tart. Maya-Camille also tells the stories of heroes outside the kitchen: luminaries who strive for social justice and equity, and shares recipes they’ve inspired. Maya-Camille’s bakery was launched in honor of her father, who was a criminal defense attorney and had a deep love of baking pie. Through her bakery she proves that good work and delicious decadence can go hand in hand.

“[A] beautiful cookbook! It’s the perfect blend of stunning visuals, original and well-written recipes, dynamite prose in the talky bits, plus a strong social-justice mission.” – The Southern Bookseller Review

“The book is designed to challenge your very definition of what a pie can be, encompassing everything from tarts and quiches to whoopie pies and salmon Wellington.” – Taste

The Last Chairlift by  John Irving ★

Fiction / Historical Fiction / mystery.

The Last ChairliftIn Aspen, Colorado, in 1941, Rachel Brewster is a slalom skier at the National Downhill and Slalom Championships. Little Ray, as she is called, finishes nowhere near the podium, but she manages to get pregnant. Back home, in New England, Little Ray becomes a ski instructor.

Her son, Adam, grows up in a family that defies conventions and evades questions concerning the eventful past. Years later, looking for answers, Adam will go to Aspen. In the Hotel Jerome, where he was conceived, Adam will meet some ghosts; in The Last Chairlift, they aren’t the first or the last ghosts he sees.

“…majestic… a multigenerational portrait as colorful and varied as it is complex and quirky… sweepingly cinematic, reminding the reader that Irving has a screenwriting Oscar. Autobiographical snippets and splashes of brilliance buttress the themes of death and aging, memory and identity, in an elegiac testimony to the many facets of familial love. Irving’s stardom will magnetize fans and all readers seeking a big, immersive novel.” – Booklist

The Last Chairlift is eminently readable, stocked with characters and relationships easy to invest in, even when things get a little queasy making. Irving has been cranking out novels for 54 years, establishing a consistent generosity of spirit that continues through his most recent book. If anyone has earned the right to deliver one more gargantuan tome, it’s him. For readers it’s once more down the hill, with a haste that belies the enormity of the task.” – Boston Globe

“It’s difficult to do justice to this book in a short review. Every Irving fan will read it and even readers trying Irving for the first time will find it an accessible introduction to the New England-born novelist whose work has always been stuffed with serious themes like religion, sex and politics, tempered by a fair dose of satire and absurdity, delivered by narrators in an endearing, matter-of-fact prose.” – Associated Press

“‘Unrevised, real life is just mess,’ Adam writes in one of his screenplays, and Irving has served up a substantial helping of that messiness in this empathetic novel. With Irving celebrating his 80th birthday earlier this year, his publisher has announced that The Last Chairlift will be his last big novel. For all the enjoyment more modest works may bring, this one is a fitting valediction to his distinguished literary career.” – BookPage

Lech by  Sara Lippmann


LechA mother recovering from an abortion in a Borscht Belt rental. An eccentric aging landlord, the beleaguered farmer across the lake. A grief-stricken Hasid. A scheming real estate agent looking for her break, her dogged daughter looking for her way out, and her addict boyfriend mired in it. These lives—strangers, neighbors, family, friends—entwine and separate over the course of one fevered upstate summer, in a haunting and hilarious debut novel by acclaimed author Sara Lippmann that confronts the perennial question: how to loosen the ties that bind?

“Smart and poignant, like the cool older sister of her short fiction. I absolutely loved it.” – Vol. 1 Brooklyn

Lech is the ambitious debut novel of an excellent new prose stylist.” – The Millions

“[A] charming debut novel… Lippmann has a knack for punchy dialogue… Lippmann’s amiable writing makes for great company.” – Publishers Weekly

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Liberation Day: Stories by  George Saunders ★


Liberation DayThe “best short story writer in English” (Time) is back with a masterful collection that explores ideas of power, ethics, and justice, and cuts to the very heart of what it means to live in community with our fellow humans. With his trademark prose–wickedly funny, unsentimental, and perfectly tuned–Saunders continues to challenge and surprise: here is a collection of prismatic, deeply resonant stories that encompass joy and despair, oppression and revolution, bizarre fantasy and brutal reality.

“Love Letter” is a tender missive from grandfather to grandson, in the midst of a dystopian political situation in the not-too-distant future, that reminds us of our obligations to our ideals, ourselves, and each other. “Ghoul” is set in a Hell-themed section of an underground amusement park in Colorado, and follows the exploits of a lonely, morally complex character named Brian, who comes to question everything he takes for granted about his “reality.” In “Mother’s Day,” two women who loved the same man come to an existential reckoning in the middle of a hailstorm. And in “Elliott Spencer,” our eighty-nine-year-old protagonist finds himself brainwashed–his memory “scraped”–a victim of a scheme in which poor, vulnerable people are reprogrammed and deployed as political protesters.

Together, these nine subversive, profound, and essential stories coalesce into a case for viewing the world with the same generosity and clear-eyed attention as Saunders does, even in the most absurd of circumstances.

“What can’t George Saunders do? On the basis of his work since Tenth of December (2013), the answer seems to be nothing at all… The nine pieces here are smart and funny, speculative yet at the same time written on a human scale… A tour de force collection that showcases all of Saunders’ many skills.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“One of our most inventive purveyors of the form returns with pitch-perfect, genre-bending stories that stare into the abyss of our national character… An exquisite work from a writer whose reach is galactic.” – Oprah Daily

“In his fifth collection, boldly imagined tales are catalyzed by outright and insidious assaults on our most basic rights, including freedom of mind… Saunders’ vision of diabolically intrusive tyranny undermining democracy possesses the keen absurdity of Kurt Vonnegut, while his more subtle stories align with the gothic edge of Shirley Jackson, acutely attuned in every situation to the complexities of emotions and the tentacles of society. Saunders is also caustically funny, mischievously romantic, and profoundly compassionate, and each of these flawless fables inspires reflection on the fragility of freedom and the valor of the human spirit.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Acutely relevant… Saunders’ imaginative capacity is on full display… Liberation Day carries echoes of Saunders’ previous work, but the ideas in this collection are more complex and nuanced, perhaps reflecting the new complexities of this brave new world of ours. The title story is only one of a handful of the nine stories in this collection that show us our collective and personal dilemmas, but in reading the problems so expressed — with compassion and humanity — our spirits are raised and perhaps healed. Part of the Saunders elixir is that we feel more empathetic after reading his work.” – San Francisco Chronicle

Listening in the Dark: Women Reclaiming the Power of Intuition edited by  Amber Tamblyn

Nonfiction / psychology / inspirational / memoir.

Listening in the DarkThis remarkable anthology includes essays from Jessica Valenti, Lidia Yuknavitch, Jia Tolentino, Samantha Irby, Meredith Talusan, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, Amy Poehler, America Ferrera, Ada Limón, Huma Abedin and many others, who all share how intuition has helped to shape and alter their life choices.

Have you ever had a feeling about something that you just couldn’t explain, but knew was right or wrong? Something that was telling you in your gut what decision to make, which direction to go in, or what to believe? For generations, women have been taught to ignore their intuitive intelligence, whether in their personal lives or professional ones, in favor of making logical, evidence-based decisions. But what if that small voice or deeper knowing was our greatest gift, an untapped power we could use to effect positive change?

Edited by award-winning author, activist, and actress Amber Tamblyn, Listening in the Dark is a compilation of some of today’s most striking women visionaries across industries—in literature, science, art, education, medicine, and politics—who share their experiences engaging with their own inner wisdom in pivotal, crossroad moments.

Filled with deeply personal and revelatory essays, Listening in the Dark will empower readers to reconnect with their own unique intuitive process, to see it as the precious resource it is, and to be unafraid to listen to all that it has to say and all that it has to offer.

“In this anthology, Tamblyn and a brilliant crew of fellow writers meditate on the power of intuition… The contributors are unmatched in talent… Readers will leave with a newfound appreciation for intuition, the electric magic that guides their creativity, relationships, and dreams. A gifted polymath, Tamblyn boldly dissects life’s greatest mysteries to make readers feel less alone in their bodies and minds.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“…thought-provoking… Lessons worth learning: Listening and trusting yourself is always going to lead you on the right path eventually.” – Kirkus Reviews

“…deeply moving… Intimate and thought-provoking, this collection packs a punch.” – Publishers Weekly

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Madly, Deeply: The Diaries of Alan Rickman by  Alan Rickman

Nonfiction / memoir / film.

Madly, DeeplyHarry Potter and Sense and Sensibility actor Alan Rickman builds upon his legacy as a world-class actor, a tireless political activist, an avid traveler, and more through his diaries—a twenty-five-year passion project in which Rickman invites readers backstage and into his life.

Alan Rickman remains one of the most beloved actors of all time across almost every genre in the American and British markets, from his breakout role as Die Hard’s Hans Gruber to his heart-wrenching run as Professor Severus Snape, and beyond. His air of dignity, his sonorous voice, and the knowing wit he brought to each role have captivated viewers across nearly every generation alive today.

But Rickman’s artistry wasn’t confined to just his performances. Fans of movies, theater, and memoirs at large will delight in the intimate experience of Rickman detailing the extraordinary and the ordinary in a way that is “anecdotal, indiscreet, witty, gossipy and utterly candid.” He grants us access to his thoughts and insights on theater performances, the craft of acting, politics, friendships, work projects, and his general musings on life. The Rickman Diaries was written with the intention to be shared, and reading it feels as if Rickman is chatting to a close friend.

“Spanning the last two decades of his life, Rickman’s diaries reveal the frenetic lifestyle and frequent fretting of an actor at the height of his fame.” – The Guardian

“…witty, withering and sardonic… In mostly pithy, always frank entries, Rickman details starry dinners with showfolk and politicians, and chafes at directors and actors and administrators whom he considers fuzzy with the details… There are sharp observations in here; sometimes outright digs. Would he have had this stuff published if he had lived?” – The Times

“There are fascinating insights into his work on stage and in movies such as Sense and Sensibility, Galaxy Quest, Love Actually and the Harry Potter series – which he threatened to leave several times because he felt they were not good enough. His constant complaints about tiredness and builders can get a bit wearying. But the pleasure of reading an unvarnished record of a life unfolding as it was really lived more than compensates.” – Express

The Persuaders: At the Front Lines of the Fight for Hearts, Minds, and Democracy by  Anand Giridharadas

nonfiction / politics.

The PersuadersThe lifeblood of any free society is persuasion: changing other people’s minds to enable real change. But America is suffering a crisis of faith in persuasion that is putting its democracy and the planet itself at risk. Americans increasingly write each other off instead of seeking to win each other over. Debates are framed in moralistic terms, with enemies battling the righteous. Movements for justice build barriers to entry, instead of on-ramps. Political parties focus on mobilizing the faithful rather than wooing the skeptical. And leaders who seek to forge coalition are labeled sellouts.

In Persuasion Anand Giridharadas takes us inside these movements and battles, seeking out the dissenters who continue to champion persuasion in an age of polarization. We meet a co-founder of Black Lives Matter; white parents at a seminar on raising adopted children of color; Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; a team of door knockers with an uncanny formula for changing minds on immigration; an ex-cult member turned QAnon deprogrammer; and, hovering menacingly offstage, Russian operatives clandestinely stoking Americans’ fatalism about each other. As the book’s subjects grapple with how to “call out” threats and injustices while “calling in” those who don’t agree with them but just might one day, they point a way to healing, and changing, a broken country.

“While Giridharadas wrestles with contemporary issues, his inquiry has timeless qualities that transcend the news of the day in the hope of helping strengthen democracy for all time.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“A sharp examination of how activists are working to build resistance to the many antidemocratic forces now at work around the world… most of the activists the author illuminatingly profiles are seriously committed to building bridges to a kinder, gentler, more united politics at a time when many purists, agreeing with others on 90% of issues, confine their focus to the 10% difference… A welcome, revealing study of how political messages can be shaped positively to counter both enmity and disinformation.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“This isn’t a book-length argument for centrism, insisting that political persuasion is all about watering down one’s positions and meeting others halfway… Emotions turn out to be a core part of this book. People don’t like to feel dismissed or condescended to — and nobody likes to feel stupid. You cannot persuade anyone by browbeating that person into submission… While the world seems to counsel despair, The Persuaders is animated by a sense of possibility: ‘Sometimes there were cracks that let a new thought in.'” – New York Times

Poster Girl by  Veronica Roth

Fiction / Science fiction / Mystery / Suspense.


Sonya Kantor knows this slogan–she lived by it for most of her life. For decades, everyone in the Seattle-Portland megalopolis lived under it, as well as constant surveillance in the form of the Insight, an ocular implant that tracked every word and every action, rewarding or punishing by a rigid moral code set forth by the Delegation.

Then there was a revolution. The Delegation fell. Its most valuable members were locked in the Aperture, a prison on the outskirts of the city. And everyone else, now free from the Insight’s monitoring, went on with their lives.

Sonya, former poster girl for the Delegation, has been imprisoned for ten years when an old enemy comes to her with a deal: find a missing girl who was stolen from her parents by the old regime, and earn her freedom. The path Sonya takes to find the child will lead her through an unfamiliar, crooked post-Delegation world where she finds herself digging deeper into the past–and her family’s dark secrets–than she ever wanted to.

With razor sharp prose, Poster Girl is a haunting dystopian mystery that explores the expanding role of surveillance on society–an inescapable reality that we welcome all too easily.

Divergent author Roth smartly envisions the repercussions of a government gone too far and the potential abuse of technology in the wrong hands.” – Washington Post

“The expert of dystopian worlds is back with yet another engrossing tale… Roth has done it again with her uncanny ability to create strong, inspiring characters and an eerie Big Brother theme.” – Shondaland

“Roth isn’t interested in easy victories or happily-ever-afters… The novel manages to be an elegant social commentary without resorting to preachiness… A wonderfully complex and nuanced book.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

README.txt: A Memoir by  Chelsea Manning

nonfiction / memoir / politics.

READMEdottxtWhile working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq for the United States Army in 2010, Chelsea Manning disclosed more than seven hundred thousand classified military and diplomatic records that she had smuggled out of the country on the memory card of her digital camera. In 2011 she was charged with twenty-two counts related to the unauthorized possession and distribution of classified military records, and in 2013 she was sentenced to thirty-five years in military prison.

The day after her conviction, Manning declared her gender identity as a woman and began to transition, seeking hormones through the federal court system. In 2017, President Barack Obama commuted her sentence and she was released from prison.

In README.txt, Manning recounts how her pleas for increased institutional transparency and government accountability took place alongside a fight to defend her rights as a trans woman. Manning details the challenges of her childhood and adolescence as a naive, computer-savvy kid, what drew her to the military, and the fierce pride she has about the work she does. This powerful, observant memoir will stand as one of the definitive testaments of our digital, information-driven age.

“…fascinating…” – In

“This particular ‘README’ has hard lessons to impart; it is less instruction manual than frightening cautionary tale… vivid… Manning describes what she did as ‘an act of rebellion, of resistance, and of civil disobedience,’ and as an important American tradition. It is one that often, and certainly in her case, comes at a high price.” – New York Times

“Manning diligently and passionately describes her decision to transition soon after her conviction as well as the days leading up to and following President Obama’s commutation of her sentence and prison release, which became a swirling media scandal; certain to inspire heated debate and critical discussion among readers and political enthusiasts alike.” – Bay Area Reporter

Seven Empty Houses by  Samanta Schweblin; translated by  Megan McDowell ★

Fiction / Horror.

Seven Empty HousesThe seven houses in these seven stories are empty. Some are devoid of love or life or furniture, of people or the truth or of memories. But in Samanta Schweblin’s tense, visionary tales, something always creeps back in: a ghost, a fight, trespassers, a list of things to do before you die, a child’s first encounter with a dark choice or the fallibility of parents.

This was the collection that established Samanta Schweblin at the forefront of a new generation of Latin American writers. And now in English it will push her cult status to new heights. Seven Empty Houses is an entrypoint into a fiercely original mind, and a slingshot into Schweblin’s destablizing, exhilarating literary world.

In each story, the twists and turns will unnerve and surprise: Schweblin never takes the expected path and instead digs under the skin and reveals uncomfortable truths about our sense of home, of belonging, and of the fragility of our connections with others. This is a masterwork from one of our most brilliant writers.

“There’s more than a bit of Twilight Zone here, as Schweblin deftly plumbs the frontier between fantasy and reality, how we project our vulnerabilities into the spaces around us…” – Oprah Daily

“Strange and surrounded by an aura of potential danger, Schweblin’s stories will appeal to lovers of unsettling, literary short stories.” – Booklist

“The proximity to Halloween is appropriate, given Schweblin’s idiosyncratic mode of tense and unsettling literary horror. As in Fever Dream and Little Eyes, two of my favorite books of the last two years, something is always creeping around these empty houses: a ghost, a fight, trespassers, a list of things to do before you die, a child’s first encounter with a dark choice or the fallibility of parents.” – The Millions

“Life’s—particularly family life’s—many emptinesses and emptyings abound in this ethereal collection… Schweblin evokes the uncanny in the human… Seven compelling explorations of vacancy in another perfectly spare and atmospheric translation.” – Kirkus Reviews

Signal Fires by  Dani Shapiro ★

Fiction / historical fiction / mystery.

Signal FiresOne Night. One Fateful Choice. A Constellation of Lives Changed Forever.

Signal Fires opens on a summer night in 1985. Three teenagers have been drinking. One of them gets behind the wheel of a car, and, in an instant, everything on Division Street changes. Each of their lives, and that of Ben Wilf, a young doctor who arrives on the scene, is shattered. For the Wilf family, the circumstances of that fatal accident will become the deepest kind of secret, one so dangerous it can never be spoken.

On Division Street, time has moved on. When the Shenkmans arrive—a young couple expecting a baby boy—it is as if the accident never happened. But when Waldo, the Shenkmans’ brilliant, lonely son who marvels at the beauty of the world and has a native ability to find connections in everything, befriends Dr. Wilf, now retired and struggling with his wife’s decline, past events come hurtling back in ways no one could ever have foreseen.

In Dani Shapiro’s first work of fiction in fifteen years, she returns to the form that launched her career, with a riveting, deeply felt novel that examines the ties that bind families together—and the secrets that can break them apart. Signal Fires is a work of haunting beauty by a masterly storyteller.

“[A] lyrical and propulsive novel… The secrets and cover-ups that result will haunt the family for generations to come, but it’s the richly drawn characters and moody atmospheric that make the book hard to put down.” – Oprah Daily

“Acclaimed novelist/memoirist Shapiro writes with compassion and a deep understanding of the damage that secrets wreak. Shapiro’s first novel in 15 years was well worth the wait.” – Library Journal

“Stunning in depth and breadth, this luminous examination of loss and acceptance, furtiveness and reliability, abandonment and friendship ultimately blazes with profound revelations… Like creating an intricate origami puzzle, Shapiro folds together the events that define these lives over decades, focusing on specific interludes to divulge old secrets or bury new ones. Returning to fiction after touching readers with her courageous and probing memoirs, including Inheritance, Shapiro delivers keen perceptions about family dynamics via fictional characters that exude a rare combination of substance and delicacy.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] beautiful exploration of the connections between two families and the reverberations from a teenager’s lie… Shapiro imagines in luminous prose how each of the characters’ lives might have gone if things had turned out differently.” – Publishers Weekly

Waxing On: The Karate Kid and Me by  Ralph Macchio

Nonfiction / Memoir / Film / Television.

Waxing OnSince The Karate Kid first crane-kicked its way into the pop culture stratosphere in June 1984, there hasn’t been a week Ralph Macchio hasn’t heard friendly shouts of “Wax on, wax off” or “Sweep the leg!” Now, with Macchio reprising his role as Daniel LaRusso in the #1 ranked Netflix show Cobra Kai, he is finally ready to look back at this classic movie and give the fans something they’ve long craved.

The book will be Ralph Macchio’s celebratory reflection on the legacy of The Karate Kid in film, pop culture, and his own life. It will be a comprehensive look at a film that shaped him as much as it influenced the world. Macchio will share an insider’s perspective of the untold story behind his starring role–the innocence of the early days, the audition process, and the filmmaking experience–as well as take readers through the birth of some of the film’s most iconic moments.

Ultimately, the book centers on the film itself, focusing on the reason that the characters and themes have endured in such a powerful way and how these personal experiences have impacted Macchio’s life. It will bring readers back to the day they met Daniel LaRusso and Mr. Miyagi for the first time, but will also provide a fascinating lens into how our pasts shape all of us and how the past can come back to enrich one’s life in surprising and wonderful ways.

“Macchio’s book will be enjoyed thoroughly by fans of the movie and those nostalgic for the time in which it was produced.” – Library Journal

“[Macchio’s] down-to-earth writing style suits the behind-the-scenes tales and his heartwarming meetings with fans well… Macchio’s sweet, nostalgic memoir is as family-friendly and instructive as its inspiration.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Macchio, star of 1984’s The Karate Kid, produces another feel-good hit with this breezy reflection on his experience making the movie… Macchio writes, ‘The film is a prime example of when Hollywood gets it all right. It teaches and inspires through pure entertainment.’ Fans will find this just as entertaining.” – Publishers Weekly


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