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What To Read: January & February 2020

Tuesday, Jan 07, 2020 at 10:20am

A collection of recent books particularly recommended by Chris Hall. Look for our in-store What To Read display tables.

Unquiet by Linn Ullmann. Softcover. $21.95. RRC Price $19.76. He is a Swedish filmmaker and she is his daughter. Now that she's grown up and he's in his late eighties, he envisions a book about old age. Growing old is hard work, he says. They will write it together. She will ask the questions. He will answer them. Unquiet follows the narrator as she unearths these taped conversations seven years later. Swept into memory, she reimagines the story of a father, a mother, and a girl — a child who can't wait to grow up and parents who would rather be children. (January)

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss. Softcover. $22.00. RRC Price $19.80. In England Silvie and her family are living as ancient Britons, surviving by the knowledge of the Iron Age. For her father’s two-week vacation, they join an anthropology course reenacting life in simpler times. They are surrounded by forests, making stew from roots and hunted rabbit. Silvie's father has raised her on stories of early man, recounting their rituals and beliefs — particularly their sacrifices to the bog. But Silvie begins to imagine another kind of life. Ghost Wall urges us to wonder how far we have come from the "primitive minds" of our ancestors. (January)

See more What To Read picks after the jump...


How to Disappear by Akiko Busch. Softcover. $23.00. RRC Price $20.70. Today, we are relentlessly encouraged, even conditioned, to reveal, share, and promote ourselves. How to Disappear overturns the dangerous modern assumption that somehow fame and visibility equate to success and happiness. Instead, Busch presents a field guide to invisibility, reacquainting us with the merits of remaining inconspicuous, and finding genuine alternatives to a life of perpetual exposure. Accessing timeless truths in order to speak to our most urgent contemporary problems, she inspires us to develop a deeper appreciation for personal privacy in a vast and intrusive world. (February)

The New Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan. Softcover. $22.95. RRC Price $20.66. In the age of Brexit and Trump, the West is buffeted by the tides of isolationism and fragmentation. Yet to the East, this is a moment of optimism as a new network of relationships takes shape along the ancient trade routes. In The New Silk Roads, Frankopan takes us on an eye-opening journey through the region, from China's infrastructure investments to the flood of trade deals among Central Asian republics to the growing friendship between Turkey and Russia. This book asks us to put aside our preconceptions and see the world from a new perspective. (January)

Little by Edward Carey. Softcover. $23.00. RRC Price $20.70. In 1761, a tiny girl named Marie is born in a village in Switzerland. After the death of her parents, she is apprenticed to a wax sculptor and whisked off to Paris, where they meet a widow and her quiet, pale son. Together, they create an exhibition hall for wax heads, and the spectacle becomes a sensation. As word of her talent spreads, Marie is called to Versailles, where she tutors a princess and saves Marie Antoinette in childbirth. But outside the palace walls, Paris is roiling: The revolutionary mob is demanding heads, and... at the wax museum, heads are what they do. (October)

Fryderyk Chopin by Alan Walker. Softcover. $30.00. RRC Price $27.00. This is the most comprehensive biography of the great Polish composer to appear in English in more than a century. Walker's work is a corrective biography, intended to dispel the many myths and legends that continue to surround Chopin. Of particular focus are Chopin's childhood and youth in Poland, which are brought into line with the latest scholarly findings, and Chopin's romantic life with George Sand, with whom he lived for nine years. This is a book suited as much for the professional pianist as it is for the casual music lover. (December)

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi. Softcover. $22.95. RRC Price $20.66. In the village of al-Awafi, in Oman, two families are joined by marriage: Mayya, the eldest daughter marries Abdallah, son of a wealthy merchant. The couple is orbited by a constellation of individuals, connected by blood, by proximity, by deeply rooted social edifices. Those include Mayya's sisters, Asma and Khawla. The three women, their families, their loves, and their losses unspool delicately against a backdrop of a rapidly changing Oman, a country evolving from a traditional, slave-owning society into its complex present. (October)

Falter by Bill McKibben. Softcover. $23.00. RRC Price $20.70. McKibben wrote the first book to alert us to global warming. But the danger is broader than that: even as climate change shrinks the space where our civilization can exist, new technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics threaten to bleach away the variety of human experience. Falter tells the story of these converging trends and then it offers some ways out of the trap. We're at a bleak moment in human history — and we'll either confront that bleakness or watch our civilization slip away. Falter is a sobering call to arms, to save not only our planet but also our humanity. (January)

This Life by Martin Hägglund. $24.00. RRC Price $21.60. This Life offers an inspiring basis for transforming our lives, demonstrating that our commitment to freedom and democracy should lead us beyond both religion and capitalism. Philosopher Hägglund argues that we need to cultivate not a religious faith in eternity but a secular faith devoted to our finite life together. He shows that all spiritual questions of freedom are inseparable from economic and material conditions: what matters is how we treat one another in this life and what we do with our time. He aspires to no less than pointing the way to an emancipated life. (February)

The Parisian by Isabella Hammad. Softcover. $26.95. RRC Price $24.26. The Parisian illuminates a pivotal period of Palestinian history through the journey of one young man, from his studies in France during WWI to his return to Palestine at the dawn of its battle for independence. Midhat Kamal leaves to study medicine in France in 1914 and falls in love. When he returns to Nablus to find it under British rule, he must find a way to cope with his conflicting loyalties and the expectations of his community. The story of his life develops alongside the idea of a nation, as he confronts what it means to strive for independence in a world that is close to falling apart. (December)

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