What To Read: Spring 2017by Tyler Vitt - Saturday, Mar 04, 2017 at 11:50am
A collection of recent books particularly recommended by Chris Hall. Look for our in-store What To Read display tables.
Originally published before the 2016 American election, Listen, Liberal describes what ailed the Democratic Party even before their weaknesses became obvious. It is the story of how the "Party of the People" detached itself from its historic constituency among average Americans and chose instead to line up with the winners of the new economic order. Now with a new afterword, Frank's analysis offers a powerful diagnosis of the liberal malady and is essential reading for anyone who still values liberal ideals. (Picador. March)
Three generations of polar bears are famous as both circus performers and writers in East Germany: they are bears who move as humans, doing human things and thinking human thoughts. The grandmother, in the Soviet Union, accidentally writes a bestselling autobiography; Tosca, her daughter (born in Canada, where her mother had emigrated) takes a job in the circus. Her son, Knut, is born in a Leipzig zoo but raised by a human keeper. Happy or sad, each bear writes a story in this delightfully strange novel. (New Directions. November)
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In 1979 Iran became the first revolutionary theocracy in modern times. Since then, the country has been largely a black box to the West, a sinister presence on the world stage, a collage of stereotypes and overgeneralizations. But inside Iran, a drama has unfolded as religious and political thinkers, poets, journalists, and activists have re-imagined what Iran should be. They have drawn as deeply on Western traditions as Eastern and have acted upon their beliefs, frequently staking their lives on them. Journalist Laura Secor reframes this history as a story of individuals caught up in their time and striving for change. (Penguin. February)
Nominated for the Booker Prize in 2015, this superb novel is finally being released in paperback. It’s the story of three young men from different backgrounds in India, who come together when circumstances force them to become illegal labourers in England. Caught in the clashes of culture and economic privilege, each attempts to decide his own course in life and finds out to what extent the world allows that. (Vintage. February)
At the Existentialist Café is a very readable look at the group of post-war thinkers who became known as the Existentialists: Sartre, de Beauvoir, Camus, Heidegger, and their circle. Starting with Paris after the devastation of the Second World War, Bakewell takes us inside the passionate debates and equally passionate lives of these brilliant, if flawed, characters. This is a lively look at the social, artistic and political currents that shaped the existentialist movement, a mode of thinking and being that deeply affects us today. (Vintage. March)
From the Balkans to Rwanda, Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan, and most recently Syria, civil conflict has exploded across the globe. In the West, politics itself looks like civil war by other means. But defining when a war is “civil” depends on whether one is ruler or rebel, victor or vanquished, participant or foreigner. Armitage touches on developments in Western thought to create a "genealogy" of our contradictory notions about civil war. The result reveals much about how this intellectual inheritance has shaped the political fortunes of our uneasy world. (Allen Lane. February)
Mishra, a public intellectual with a global perspective, seeks to reveal the hidden history of our current global crisis. By casting his gaze back to the 18th century before leading us to the present, he shows that as the world became modern, those who were unable to enjoy its promises were increasingly susceptible to demagogues. The many who came late to this new world reacted with similar hatred of invented enemies, dreams of an imaginary golden age, and self-empowerment through violence. Today, the pursuit of wealth and individualism have cast many more billions adrift in a demoralized world, with the same terrible results. (FSG. February)
Scientist Hope Jahren has studied trees, flowers and seeds. Her book is partly a treatise on plant life but it is also her story about work and love, and the things you can do when those two come together. It is told through Jahren's personal stories: about her love of her lab and about her childhood play in her father's lab; and about how she learned to perform lab work "with both the heart and the hands". (Vintage. March)
Jane, orphaned at birth, has worked as a maid at an English estate since she was sixteen. And for almost all of those years, she has been the secret lover of Paul, the scion of the estate next door. On a March afternoon in 1924, when all the servants have been let off work for “Mothering Sunday,” Jane and Paul will make love for the last time. The narrative moves back and forth from this very personal moment and this single room to the end of the century and the wider world. (Vintage. January)
Russo returns to North Bath, the Rust Belt town he first brought to life in Nobody's Fool. Now, ten years later, Doug Raymer has become the chief of police and is tormented by the death of his wife. The irrepressible Sully has come into a small fortune, but learns he only has a year or two left to live. We are reunited with his son and grandson, with Ruth, the married woman with whom he carried on for years, and with the hapless Rub Squeers, who worries that he and Sully aren't still best friends. Filled with humour heart, and hard-luck characters who will charm you. (Vintage. January)
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