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What To Read

A collection of recent books particularly recommended by Chris Hall.

To read Chris' own words on each book, check out the latest edition of our newsletter, The Bookseller.

Age of Anger

- Hardcover

by Pankaj Mishra - $38.00 - Add to Cart

One of our most important public intellectuals reveals the hidden history of our current global crisis How can we explain the origins of the great wave of paranoid hatreds that seem inescapable in our close-knit world - from American shooters and ISIS to Donald Trump, from a rise in vengeful nationalism across the world to racism and misogyny on social media? In Age of Anger, Pankaj Mishra answers our bewilderment by casting his gaze back to the eighteenth century before leading us to the present. He shows that as the world became modern, those who were unable to enjoy its promises - of freedom, stability, and prosperity - were increasingly susceptible to demagogues. The many who came late to this new world - or were left, or pushed, behind - reacted in horrifyingly similar ways: with intense hatred of invented enemies, attempts to re-create an imaginary golden age, and self-empowerment through spectacular violence. It was from among the ranks of the disaffected that the militants of the nineteenth century arose - angry young men who became cultural nationalists in Germany, messianic revolutionaries in Russia, bellicose chauvinists in Italy, and anarchist terrorists internationally. Today, just as then, the wide embrace of mass politics and technology and the pursuit of wealth and individualism have cast many more billions adrift in a demoralized world, uprooted from tradition but still far from modernity - with the same terrible results. Making startling connections and comparisons, Age of Anger is a book of immense urgency and profound argument. It is a history of our present predicament unlike any other.

At the Existentialist Cafe

- Trade paperback

by Sarah Bakewell - $21.00 - Add to Cart

Great philosophy meets powerful biography in this entertaining and immensely readable portrait of mid-20th century Paris and the fascinating characters of Sartre, de Beauvoir, Camus, and their circle, who loved and hated, drank and debated with each other--and forever changed the way we think about thinking.At the Existentialist Café is a thrilling look at the famous 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, Sarah Bakewell (winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for her previous book) takes us inside the passionate debates and equally passionate lives of these brilliant, if flawed, characters. Here is a wonderful, vibrant look at the social, artistic and political currents that shaped the existentialist movement--a mode of thinking and being that, as Bakewell vividly shows, deeply affects us today.      Never has the story of this influential group, and especially that of the legendary relationship between Sartre and de Beauvoir, been told with such verve and sweep, weaving personal life with social upheaval and the universal quest for understanding.From the Hardcover edition.

Children of Paradise

- Trade paperback

by Laura Secor - $24.00 - Add to Cart

Shortlisted for the Lionel Gelber PrizeFinalist for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for NonfictionThe drama that shaped today's Iran, from the Revolution to the present day In 1979, seemingly overnight, 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. But inside Iran, a breathtaking drama has unfolded as religious thinkers, political operatives, poets, journalists, and activists have imagined and reimagined what Iran should be. They have drawn as deeply on the traditions of the West as on the East and have acted upon their beliefs with urgency and passion, frequently staking their lives for them.     With more than a decade of experience reporting on, researching, and writing about Iran, Laura Secor narrates this unprecedented history as a story of individuals caught up in the slipstream of their time, seizing and wielding ideas powerful enough to shift their country's course as they wrestle with Iran's apparatus of violent repression as well as its rich and often tragic history. Essential reading at this moment when the world has never been more entwined, Children of Paradise will stand as a classic of political reporting, an indelible portrait of a nation and its people striving for change.

Civil Wars

- Hardcover

by David Armitage - $34.95 - Add to Cart

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 ever more like civil war by other means. At such a charged time, David Armitage's unique perspective on the origins and dynamics of this phenomenon is indispensable. His highly original history traces this least understood and most intractable form of organized human aggression from ancient Rome through the centuries to the present day.     Ideas of what civil war is, and what it isn't, have a long and contested history. Defining the term is an acutely political act: whether a war is "civil" often depends on whether one is a ruler or a rebel, victor or vanquished, participant or foreigner. Likewise, calling any particular conflict a civil war can shape its outcome by determining whether other nations choose to get involved or stand aside. This is true of many conflicts: from the American Revolution (commonly referred to as a civil war as it was waged) to the U.S. Civil War to the Second Gulf War. In each, pivotal decisions by outside powers turned on precisely such shifts of perspective.      In Civil Wars, eminent historian David Armitage offers invaluable illumination. By touching on significant developments in Western thought--the poetry of Lucan, the political theory of Thomas Hobbes, the so-called Lieber Code produced during the U.S. Civil War, to name a few--he creates a "genealogy" of our sometimes contradictory notions about civil war. The result reveals much about how this intellectual inheritance has shaped the political fortunes of our uneasy world and how we might think about this form of violence in the future.

Everybody's Fool

- Trade paperback

by Richard Russo - $22.95 - Add to Cart

National Bestseller and a New York Times 2016 Notable BookIn these pages, Richard Russo returns to North Bath, the Rust Belt town first brought to unforgettable life in Nobody's Fool. Now, ten years later, Doug Raymer has become the chief of police and is tormented by the improbable death of his wife--not to mention his suspicion that he was a failure of a husband. Meanwhile, the irrepressible Sully has come into a small fortune, but is suddenly faced with a VA cardiologist's estimate that he only has a year or two left to live. As Sully frantically works to keep the bad news from the important people in his life, 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 humor, heart, and hard-luck characters you can't help but love, Everybody's Fool is a crowning achievement from one of the great storytellers of our time.

Lab Girl

- Trade paperback

by Hope Jahren - $22.00 - Add to Cart

An illuminating debut memoir of a woman in science; a moving portrait of a long-time collaboration, in work and in life; and a stunningly fresh look at plants that will forever change how you see and think about the natural world.Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she's studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Her first book might have been a revelatory treatise on plant life. Lab Girl is that, but it is also so much more. Because in it, Jahren also shares with us her inspiring life story, in prose that takes your breath away. Lab Girl is a book about work, about love, and about the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren's remarkable stories: about the things she's discovered in her lab, as well as how she got there; about her childhood--hours of unfettered play in her father's laboratory; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work "with both the heart and the hands"; about a brilliant and wounded man named Bill, who became her loyal colleague and best friend; about their adventurous, sometimes rogue research trips, which take them from the Midwest all across the United States and over the Atlantic, from the ever-light skies of the North Pole to tropical Hawaii; and about her constant striving to do and be the best she could, never allowing personal or professional obstacles to cloud her dedication to her work.      Jahren's insights on nature enliven every page of this book. Lab Girl allows us to see with clear eyes the beautiful, sophisticated mechanisms within every leaf, blade of grass, and flower petal, and also the power within ourselves to face--with bravery and conviction--life's ultimate challenge: discovering who you are.From the Hardcover edition.

Listen, Liberal

- Trade paperback

by Thomas Frank - $24.00 - Add to Cart

A SCATHING LOOK AT THE STANDARD-BEARERS OF LIBERAL POLITICS - A BOOK THAT ASKS: WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH DEMOCRATS? Hailed as the most prescient book" of the year, Listen, Liberal accurately described what ailed the Democratic Party even before the election of 2016 made their weaknesses 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 our new economic order. Now with a new afterword, Thomas Frank's powerful analysis offers the best diagnosis to date of the liberal malady. Drawing on years of research and firsthand reporting, Frank points out that the Democrats have over the last decades increasingly abandoned their traditional goals: expanding opportunity, fighting for social justice, and ensuring that workers get a fair deal. With sardonic wit and lacerating logic, he uncovers the corporate and cultural elitism that have largely eclipsed the party's old working- and middle-class commitment. And he warns that the Democrats' only chance of regaining their health and averting a future of ever-increasing inequality is a return to their historic faith. "

The Memoirs of a Polar Bear

- Trade paperback

by Yoko Tawada - $22.95 - Add to Cart

The Memoirs of a Polar Bear has in spades what Rivka Galchen hailed in the New Yorker as "Yoko Tawada's magnificent strangeness"--Tawada is an author like no other. Three generations (grandmother, mother, son) of polar bears are famous as both circus performers and writers in East Germany: they are polar bears who move in human society, stars of the ring and of the literary world. In chapter one, the grandmother matriarch in the Soviet Union accidentally writes a bestselling autobiography. In chapter two, Tosca, her daughter (born in Canada, where her mother had emigrated) moves to the DDR and takes a job in the circus. Her son--the last of their line--is Knut, born in chapter three in a Leipzig zoo but raised by a human keeper in relatively happy circumstances in the Berlin zoo, until his keeper, Matthias, is taken away... Happy or sad, each bear writes a story, enjoying both celebrity and "the intimacy of being alone with my pen."

Mothering Sunday

- Trade paperback

by Graham Swift - $19.95 - Add to Cart

Jane Fairchild, orphaned at birth, has worked as a maid at an English country estate since she was sixteen. And for almost all of those years, she has been the secret lover of Paul Sheringham, the scion of the estate next door. On an unseasonably warm March afternoon, when all the servants have been let off work for the day in order to pay their annual visits to their families, Jane and Paul will make love for the last time in Paul's own bedroom--though not, as Jane believes, because Paul is about to be married.      The events of the day will alter Jane's life forever. As the narrative moves back and forth from 1924 to the end of the century, what we know and understand about Jane, about the way she loves, thinks, feels, sees and remembers, deepens with every beautifully wrought moment. Her story is one of profound self-discovery and, through her, Graham Swift has created an emotionally soaring and deeply affecting work of fiction.

The Year of the Runaways

- Trade paperback

by Sunjeev Sahota - $24.00 - Add to Cart

Nominated for the Man Booker Prize. One of Granta's Best Young British Novelists in 2013 gives us a sweeping, urgent, contemporary epic about a year in the life of a group of young illegal immigrants living and working together in the north of England.Three young men from very different backgrounds come together in a journey from India to England, where they hope to begin something new. To support their families; where they can, to build their future; to show their worth; to escape the past. They have almost no idea of what awaits them.In a dilapidated shared house in Sheffield, Tarlochan, a former rickshaw driver, will say nothing about his life in Bihar. Avtar has a secret that binds him to the unpredictable Randeep. Randeep, in turn, has a visa-wife in a flat on the other side of town, whose cupboards are full of her husband's clothes in case the immigration men surprise her with a visit. She is Narinder, and her story is the most surprising of all.Utterly absorbing and beautiful, sweeping in scope, The Year of the Runaways is written with compassion touched by grace. As Tochi, Avtar, Randeep and Narinder negotiate their dreams, desires and shocking realities, as their histories continue to pull at them, as the seasons pass, what emerges is a novel of overwhelming humanity: one which asks how far we can decide our own course in life, and what we should do for love, for faith, and for family.From the Hardcover edition.