St. Martin's Press: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

University Book Store Issue for Tuesday, February 21, 2017

From the Shelf

The Binge-watcher's Guide to Binge-reading in 2017

"Binge-watching is a night out, even when you spend the whole day in. It's a way of being. (As Sartre unaccountably failed to note in his book Being and Nothingness, 'binge' and 'being' are anagrams of each other.)"

Australian Clive James is one of my favorite writers. I've been watching his brilliant mind at work on the printed page for a long time. He seems, to me at least, the ideal frame for highlighting some of this year's book-to-TV adaptations.

In Play All: A Binge-watcher's Notebook, James explores the seasons... as they are organized in DVD box sets. His viewing adventures take him from The Sopranos to Band of Brothers to The West Wing and beyond, including a savvy pilgrimage through the Seven Kingdoms: "So finally Game of Thrones stands revealed as a crowd pleaser. To despise that, you have to imagine you aren't part of the crowd. But you are: the lesson that the twentieth century should have taught all intellectuals. Now it is a different century, and they must go on being taught."

What will you be watching/reading in 2017? The menu offers a binge-watcher's feast, with projects based on Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events books (Netflix), Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale (Hulu), Neil Gaiman's American Gods (Starz), Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects (HBO), Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling's Cormoran Strike series (BBC/HBO), Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why (Netflix), L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables (Netflix), Charlaine Harris's Midnight, Texas series (NBC), Dan Simmons's The Terror (AMC) and many others. (See our Rediscover about Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies on HBO below.)

Play all? Why not?

James reminds us, however, that even though "moving pictures" are one of the primary ways the world is transmitted to us, the best they "can do is to not tell us outright lies about that reality. For the subtleties, we still need books." --Robert Gray, contributing editor

Touchstone Books: The Good at Heart by Ursula Werner

Mira Books: The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff

Titan Books: The Killing Bay (Faroes #2) by Chris Ould

In this Issue...

Reviews

Dreamland Burning

by Jennifer Latham

In present-day Tulsa, a biracial girl investigates a skeleton found on her property; in a parallel narrative a century earlier, a white/Osage boy faces hard truths about segregation.

Read this review >>

Grief, love and the beauty of the world infuse Bill Hayes's memoir about Manhattan and his life with the writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks.

Read this review >>

Ghachar Ghochar

by Vivek Shanbhag

Vivek Shanbhag's first novel to be translated into English is a brittle portrait of the effect that sudden wealth has on a Bangalore family.

Read this review >>

Review by Subjects:

Fiction Mystery & Thriller Food & Wine Biography & Memoir Business & Economics Political Science Children's & Young Adult

Flatiron Books: All That's Left to Tell by Daniel Lowe

Book Candy

Fake Novelists on TV

"Who is the best fake novelist on TV?" asked Electric Lit.

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Bustle nominated "11 things the Game of Thrones books can teach us about politics."

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Atlas Obscura explored "library hand, the fastidiously neat penmanship style made for card catalogs."

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From the Bureau of Labor Statistics: "Mapping The Hunger Games--Using location quotients to find the districts of Panem."

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A Canadian university professor "claims to have found the only existing moving picture of French writer Marcel Proust," the Guardian reported.

Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: The Burning World by Isaac Marion

Great Reads

Rediscover: Big Little Lies

The first episode of Big Little Lies, a limited television series based on the novel by Liane Moriarty, premiered Sunday on HBO. This dark comedy/drama stars Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, Alexander Skarsgård, Laura Dern, Adam Scott and Zoë Kravitz in a murder mystery with an unusual unknown: the identity of the victim. Episode one introduces Madeline Martha Mackenzie (Witherspoon), Celeste Wright (Kidman) and Jane Chapman (Woodley), mothers with marital and child troubles being interrogated by police after trivia night at a public school ends in homicide. Who the victim is, how the personal lives of these women and their families intersect, and who killed the dead mystery man, will be revealed over the next six episodes.

Big Little Lies (2014) is the fifth novel by Australian writer Liane Moriarty. She is also the author of The Husband's Secret (2013) and, most recently, Truly Madly Guilty (2016). Big Little Lies combines light "chick-lit" humor with powerful, disturbing insights on abusive relationships and domestic violence. The novel was a #1 New York Times bestseller and has sold more than 1.7 million copies. A tie-in version was published by Berkley on February 7 ($9.99, 9780399587207). --Tobias Mutter

The Writer's Life

Bill Hayes: New York Will Always Answer You

photo: Walter Kurtz

Bill Hayes is the author of The AnatomistFive Quarts and Sleep Demons. He is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in nonfiction and was a visiting scholar at the American Academy in Rome. He is a frequent contributor to the New York Times, and his writing has appeared in the New York Review of Books and Salon, among other publications. His photographs have been featured in Vanity Fair, the New York Times and the New Yorker. Insomniac City (Bloomsbury USA, February 14, 2017) is his memoir of life in New York City with Oliver Sacks. (See our review below.)

Insomniac City takes an evocative, mixed media form: essays, journal fragments, photographs. I love the line you mention scrawling on an envelope, "New York will always answer you." Did you imagine that the city would become its own character?

I always knew that New York would be the main character of this book, because it saved my life in a certain way after losing my partner Steve. It welcomed me with open arms, with its beauty and craziness and chaos. My goal was to capture my experience of New York: a combination of life on the street or subway, where I encountered New Yorkers--but also my parallel life with Oliver in our apartment in the West Village. When the photographs appear in the book, I wanted them to appear almost as passing strangers. They don't come with stories explaining them. It's like passing an interesting face on the street--there are three lovely women at the bodega and when you turn the page, you're on to another story.

What does the camera offer you as an expressive outlet that you hadn't realized before?

I first bought a camera after Steve died. I made a spontaneous trip to London. This was right before people commonly used cell phones as cameras, so I bought this digital Canon, one that I could slip into a pocket. That trip was a significant one; it was my first time abroad alone, newly single again, and the camera kept me company. It gave me a reason to leave the apartment and discover new parts of London and interact with people. I was drawn to taking pictures of people, but it wasn't until I moved to New York a year later that I really began to use the camera. I slipped it into my pocket and hopped on the subway to Washington Heights or Harlem or the East Village. It became a way for me to get to know the city and get to know New Yorkers. Once the limitations of that camera became clear, I bought a slightly better camera, and then a slightly better one. Then, when Oliver and I were together, it became part of our relationship; I would be out on the street, taking pictures, meeting people, and then come back at the end of the day with stories to share and pictures to show him. So it's evolved over time to the point where I take photography as seriously as my writing.

You demonstrate such openness to the world around you. Had you always felt that way, or was that something that developed with the camera?

In a certain way, yes, that openness is part of my DNA. Which I suppose has its flip side: gullibility. But I've also seen that openness can bring out the same in strangers. I always ask permission from the person I'm photographing, so that immediately involves an encounter with a stranger. At least half the time people say no, but if they say yes, it's usually a very quick encounter. I only take two or three pictures. And I think there's something very beautiful about that, an anonymous encounter that can be very intense in a certain way, and the trust placed in me, and the openness they give me when I take their photograph.

Oliver Sacks (photo: Bill Hayes)

Your relationship with Oliver came late in your life and much later in his--for you after Steve's death and for Oliver after considerable solitude. How was it to open up to each other at that time in your lives?

As you noted, I had just come out of a long relationship that had ended tragically; I wasn't looking for a new relationship. I had also been out as a gay man and written a lot about being gay. Oliver had led an almost monk-like solitary existence, devoted to his patients, his practice and his writing. So to put us together, there were definitely challenges in making the relationship work. But at the same time there was something charmed about it. He was so ready to open his heart up completely and fall in love.

One of the most challenging things in the very beginning was the fact that he was still very private about being gay. Even people within our own apartment building didn't understand the full nature of our relationship. It definitely had something to do with the vast difference in our ages--almost 30 years. Often people assumed that I worked for him. Or people assumed that we were related, and so they would ask me about my "father" and him about his "son," which we both found charming and funny because he had a pretty strong British accent, and I don't--I'm from Washington State.

A Small Parade (photo: Bill Hayes)

Even though Insomniac City begins and ends with death, you manage to infuse the stories of both with such joy. Did you find that writing about it was more cathartic or more painful?

I don't know if catharsis is the first word I would use to describe the process, but it felt good to create something beautiful out of those two very painful losses in my life. And I end the book on what feels like a love letter to New York City itself. I write about taking a short walk after Oliver died to visit Ali in the smoke shop down the street, sharing the news with him, and how he made me laugh and how good that felt. Ali is a recurring character in the book, which was not something I planned from the outset, but he's part of my life. We live in the same neighborhood, and more than ever I do believe in the importance of neighbors and neighborliness, especially since the 2016 election, so I'm happy the book ends with that scene with Ali.

West Village (photo: Bill Hayes)

There's a lot of fear today of strangers and the other, and I think, without being particularly political, you challenge readers to talk to our neighbors and the strangers on the street.

I learned that after Steve's death, because it was so shattering. The neighbors in my apartment building helped me so much--in big and small ways. It's different with Oliver's death--the neighborhood is global. People from all over who loved him have reached out. One little passage that I almost cut out because of length, but I'm so glad I left in, was the short chapter about the homeless man named Raheem, whom I first spotted on the street with his several shopping carts full of plastic bottles and cans that he collects and trades in for money. I had seen him on the streets before, and asked to take a photograph, and then we had such a good conversation. I've seen him many times since, and we always say hello. I have so much respect for him because he has given his life a sense of purpose by going through the garbage we all leave behind--and there's garbage all over New York City--and picking out the plastic bottles and cans, organizing them and trading them in for money. I admire Raheem because he does not have an easy life by any means, whether he's sleeping outside or being chased away by cops or being insulted by neighbors in high-rise buildings who don't like his shopping carts in front of their building. But he's got real dignity. He's a survivor. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Book Reviews

Fiction

Ghachar Ghochar

by Vivek Shanbhag , trans. by Srinath Perur

Halfway through Vivek Shanbhag's novella Ghachar Ghochar, translated from Kannada by Srinath Perur, the unnamed narrator drops by the wood-paneled Bangalore coffee shop he visits "for respite from domestic skirmishes," and asks a waiter named Vincent what's new. Referring to a type of South Indian pancake, Vincent replies, "Holes in dosas in everyone's house, sir"--which is another way of saying, "Each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." That's an apt description for this darkly entertaining work, a Tolstoyan portrait of family conflict and shifting priorities in modern-day India.

At the heart of this work is the effect that sudden wealth has upon the narrator's family. The breadwinner used to be his father, a salesman for a company that sold tea leaves until the firm forced staff to accept early retirement. Now it's his chikkappa (uncle), whose wildly successful spice business has allowed the family to move from its small, four-room house to a much larger dwelling. But that doesn't solve the family's problems. Among the more vexing are the lavish wedding and troubled marriage of daughter Malati, "quick to anger and inconsiderate of others"; the narrator's own arranged marriage; and the appearance at the family home of a woman whom the narrator's chikkappa wants to avoid. Malati's mother-in-law disapprovingly states, "They say the newly rich carry umbrellas to keep moonlight at bay." Maybe so, but as this captivating work makes clear, it would have to be an awfully big umbrella to guarantee complete protection. --Michael Magras, freelance book reviewer

Discover: Vivek Shanbhag's first novel to be translated into English is a brittle portrait of the effect that sudden wealth has on a Bangalore family.

Penguin, $16, paperback, 128p., 9780143111689

A Separation

by Katie Kitamura

Katie Kitamura paints a nuanced picture of the dissolution of a marriage in her third novel, after New York Public Library Young Lions finalists The Longshot and Gone to the Forest. Married five years, the sensible narrator accepts that her philandering writer husband, Christopher, will not change and divorce is inevitable. She recognizes that "it was no small thing, dismantling the edifice of a marriage... some continuous and ongoing thing, rather than a decisive and singular act." Besides, she's also taken a lover. A full stop is imminent.

But Christopher has disappeared from London. His willful mother locates him at an off-season resort hotel in a southern seaside Greek village and bluntly instructs her daughter-in-law to bring him home. Off she goes, intent on confronting Christopher with divorce and getting on with her life. Upon arrival in Gerolimenas, however, she discovers a bleak scene: the hotel is nearly empty, the countryside is charred by fires set by feuding farmers, the sea is too cold for swimming, feral dogs prowl at the hotel gate, the Greek economic collapse has shuttered much of the village, and Christopher has disappeared again. He's left a young, lovelorn hotel receptionist and a suite full of scattered clothes and pages for an unfinished book. Through the narrator's sensibilities and observations, Kitamura adeptly fills in this portrait of a woman gradually understanding that her marriage and her husband aren't what they seemed--and neither is she. A Separation is a tightly wound novel of self-discovery and forbearance. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Taut and insightful, Kitamura's third novel is a subtly shaded portrait of a woman discovering the ambiguities of her marriage, her husband and herself.

Riverhead Books, $25, hardcover, 240p., 9780399576102

Desperation Road

by Michael Farris Smith

A butterfly squirms in a web. Even if it escapes, remnants of the entanglement will hang on to cripple all efforts to survive. This early scene in Michael Farris Smith's Desperation Road is mere paragraphs, but the author skillfully casts an unrelenting web over his characters through nearly 300 bleak yet dazzling pages of life struggle.

Returning to McComb, Miss., after 11 years in prison, Russell Gaines is trying to assimilate, with the support of his father. Still, the web pulls on him in the guises of his former fiancée and a vengeful family whose lives he changed irrevocably. Russell isn't looking for redemption when his troubled path introduces him to Maben, a woman on the run. She seems to have been born in a web, and though she tries desperately to break free from constant abuse and create a life for her young daughter, brutality continues to threaten her.

Russell finds meaning in the idea that "the things he could put his hands on needed someone to put out those hands." But rough lives only get rougher, and the slightest breeze could push them further into disaster.

Smith (Rivers) is incredibly gifted; emotion and poetry soak his straightforward prose, its easy flow masking the precision behind every word. He imbues the everyday slog of difficult lives with reverence and grace, painting the faintest glimmer of hope in opportunities lost and prices paid for flying too close to the web. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review

Discover: An ex-con returning to his small-town home faces a vengeful family from his past as he tries to help a woman and her daughter outrun their own.

Lee Boudreaux/Little, Brown, $26, hardcover, 304p., 9780316353038

Always

by Sarah Jio

Just when Kailey "KC" Crane is about to start a new chapter of her life, the successful journalist--in her 30s, working for a Seattle newspaper--is brought face to face with an old flame. The chance encounter happens one night after KC and her handsome, attentive fiancé, Ryan, a high-end property development manager, dine in an upscale French restaurant. As Ryan fetches the car after dinner, good-natured KC offers a painfully thin, homeless man her leftovers and discovers the man is Cade McAllister, a once-successful music business mogul and the long-lost love of KC's life.

What ensues is a richly drawn, emotional story rife with conflict. Cade has suffered a traumatic brain injury of unknown origin, which has compromised his memory. KC eagerly volunteers to help Cade, while trying to piece together what happened to him and why he disappeared from her life 10 years before. In her quest, KC's heart is pulled in two directions, and she is forced to reconcile the choices that have shaped her own life: Will KC have a fulfilling future with Ryan? Might she still be in love with Cade, even in his altered state?

Sarah Jio (Goodnight June) braids a thought-provoking narrative that examines the forces that brought KC and Cade together and pulled them apart--the tenuous bond of their love--versus the cushy, comfortable life she shares with Ryan. Contrasting past and present perspectives, and KC's choice between old love and new, makes for a suspenseful and highly charged romantic conclusion. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Discover: An engaged woman reunites with an old flame, forcing her to reconcile her feelings for two men.

Ballantine Books, $27, hardcover, 288p., 9781101885024

Mystery & Thriller

Cruel Mercy

by David Mark

David Mark (Taking Pity) ventures into the dark corners of human evil in his twisted crime thriller Cruel Mercy. The fifth novel in the Detective Sergeant McAvoy series, it finds the resilient Scottish detective embroiled in a mob plot gone haywire in New York City. McAvoy is called in to assist NYPD Detective Ronny Alto investigate the murder of boxing protégé Shay Helden, and the near-fatal maiming of the man's coach, Brishen Ayres. Both victims have connections to McAvoy's family back in England, including his missing brother-in-law, Valentine Teague. McAvoy quickly learns the brutal crime involves not only the deepest levels of New York organized crime, but also the local Catholic parish and a series of bizarre ritualistic killings.

For this installment of the McAvoy series, Mark couldn't have conjured a more complicated plot, yet he pulls it off, successfully head-hopping from one character to the next in order to weave a sinister tapestry of motives and murder. Point-of-view passages from victims are harrowing and display Mark's talent for internal monologue and characterization. His external scenes are just as convincing, peppered with quick-witted dialogue and blunt yet brilliant metaphors. Falling snow in the city is likened to "a plague of butterflies," and prayers are described as "urgent, skittish things, specters born behind locked teeth." Mark is able to turn his language on a dime and evoke a pervasive sense of evil. As much as Cruel Mercy is an elaborate crime saga, it's also a story of occult horror loaded with lurid religious themes. It's a brutal, bloody read, brimming with gothic splendor. --Scott Neuffer, freelance journalist and fiction author.

Discover: This darkly poetic crime thriller takes Scottish Detective McAvoy to New York City.

Blue Rider Press, $28, hardcover, 368p., 9780399185113

Food & Wine

A Meatloaf in Every Oven: Two Chatty Cooks, One Iconic Dish and Dozens of Recipes--From Mom's to Mario Batali's

by Jennifer Steinhauer , Frank Bruni

Peek at the acknowledgements for this homage to one of America's favorite comfort foods, note that the authors credit the "sage counsel" of their publisher, and you have an idea of the wit in A Meatloaf in Every Oven. Former New York Times chief restaurant critic and current columnist Frank Bruni (Born Round) and Times reporter Jennifer Steinhauer (Treat Yourself) share their admiration for "a dish desperate for illumination," in this product of a decade's worth of conversations prone to shift "from Obamacare to oregano." The 50 recipes span the globe; contributors range from chefs (April Bloomfield's Lamb Loaf with Yogurt and Mint; Bobby Flay's Korean-Style Meatloaf with Spicy Glaze) to members of Congress (Oh, Deer, Speaker Paul Ryan's venison loaf; Nancy Pelosi's Italian-Style Bison Loaf).

Leslie Bruni's Sweet Nostalgic Loaf is here, too, with the traditional Worcestershire, tomato sauce (Hunt's, to be true to the Bruni kitchen) and brown sugar. Steinhauer's Jewish Christmas Loaf honors "the urban tradition of Jewish families trekking to Chinese restaurants on Christmas" and uses garlic, soy sauce and five-spice powder. Bruni embraces lamb, Steinhauer agrees it is a "protean protein" and they're off: Greek Loaf with Lamb and Feta, Jerusalem Loaf with Suman and Couscous, and more.

Nudging ground beef (not lean; meatloaf "is not a diet food") and lamb aside are ground turkey, pork, veal and--vegetarians, you're included!--zucchini (from chef Daniel Patterson) and kasha (by chef Michael Schwartz).

The friendly banter between the authors is reason enough to add this cookbook to a collection. The recipes will guarantee it moves from the bookshelf to the kitchen. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

Discover: Two New York Times writers offer 50 meatloaf recipes interjected with jovial loaf-inspired commentary.

Grand Central Life & Style, $24, hardcover, 272p., 9781455563050

Biography & Memoir

Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me

by Bill Hayes

Writer and photographer Bill Hayes first met the great writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks in 2008, when Sacks contacted him to say how much he enjoyed Hayes's The Anatomist. They corresponded, found shared interests and met once for lunch.

Hayes was grieving his partner of more than 16 years, who one night suddenly went into cardiac arrest and died. In 2009, Hayes moved from San Francisco to Manhattan for a change of scene. Although he had not moved for Sacks, he was now his neighbor, and they began spending time together. "He was without a doubt the most unusual person I had ever known, and before long I found myself not just falling in love with O.... I adored him." Sacks told him to keep a journal, and Hayes's brief impressionistic entries are woven throughout Insomniac City, which seems written in heightened states of feeling that infuse every detail with meaning and transient beauty.

Hayes is one of those people whose appreciation of daily life and capacity for love only expand with age and the awareness of death. His compassionate curiosity extends to everyone and everything around him. He meets all kinds of New Yorkers in the streets and on the subway, talks with them, photographs them (his photos bookend numerous prose segments throughout), builds acquaintanceships and friendships. His relationship with Sacks is filled with domestic detail and tenderness, through to Sacks's death in 2015. Thankfully, Hayes has no pat answers for anything in life, but many reasons why it continues to be worth living. --Sara Catterall

Discover: Grief, love and the beauty of the world infuse Bill Hayes's memoir about Manhattan and his life with the writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks.

Bloomsbury USA, $27, hardcover, 304p., 9781620404935

Darling, I'm Going to Charlie: A Memoir

by Maryse Wolinski

On January 7, 2015, a day that started like many others, Maryse Wolinski woke to find her husband, Georges, a satirical cartoonist, already up and getting ready for work, headed to an editorial meeting at the Charlie Hebdo offices. This turned out to be no ordinary day: this was the one on which the Kouachi brothers barged into the meeting with Kalashnikovs and murdered Georges and 11 others in cold blood.

With tenderness and affection, Wolinski weaves memories of her 47 years with Georges together with almost minute-by-minute accounting of that fateful Wednesday, when her life, and that of so many others, was irreparably shattered. She shares the sweetness of Georges's affection for her, his adoring gaze--"a look that inspires longing, confidence, a desire to live, a desire to love. A look that makes you addicted to it"--along with the numerous sticky notes he left throughout the decades expressing his love for her.

She questions why the police were so slow to respond to urgent calls from a number of people that day, and why there was such a long wait to see Georges's body. She wonders what more could have been done to prevent such a tragedy. Expressive and heartrending, yet not melodramatic, Wolinski's narrative places readers inside the soul of a smart woman deeply in love with her partner despite his flaws, a man whose loss is profoundly felt throughout her testimony. Having a tissue handy while reading is a good idea. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Discover: The wife of a murdered Charlie Hebdo cartoonist shares memories of her husband and details about the attack on January 7, 2015.

37Ink/Atria, $22, hardcover, 144p., 9781501154898

Business & Economics

Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street

by Sheelah Kolhatkar

To make it in the largely unregulated hedge fund world, one has to have an edge on the competition, and the savvy founder of SAC Capital Advisors, multi-billionaire and dilettante art collector Steven "Stevie" Cohen had just that. His is what the industry calls the "black edge," where advantage is acquired in the shady underworld of loose-lipped corporate gossip and flat-out illegal insider trading. When Cohen's SAC racked up consistently remarkable 30%-50% returns in the '90s and he began to flaunt his wealth publicly in the art market, a half dozen federal agencies began to dig into his business with the intent to put him away.

In her first book, Black Edge, former financial analyst and staff writer for the New Yorker Sheelah Kolhatkar tells the dramatic story of Cohen's rise and the investigative and legal maneuverings arrayed against him. It is a tale about the allure of money--lusting for it, manipulating it, spending it and ultimately having so much that it no longer means much. It is also a chronicle of the diligent pursuit of justice by overworked bureaucrats, forensic accountants and lawyers (lots of lawyers). In the end, the feds almost got their man, but "left him with only a bruise." The long legal wrangling set Cohen back only a couple billion dollars in penalties, leaving him free to savor the art collection in his massive Greenwich estate. He can go back to wheeling and dealing on Wall Street in two years and do it all over again. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Discover: Kolhatkar's chronicle of shady hedge fund financier Steve Cohen and the government's attempt to bring him down reads like a wingding financial thriller.

Random House, $28, hardcover, 368p., 9780812995800

Political Science

Insane Clown President: Dispatches from the 2016 Circus

by Matt Taibbi

Journalist Matt Taibbi collects 25 of his Rolling Stone articles from the 2015-2016 United States presidential race to create this emotionally charged overview of the "end of an era... the one that began back on August 28, 1963, with Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech."

Insane Clown President opens with a look at Taibbi's 2009 The Great Derangement, in which he outlined the electorate's growing mistrust of government and media. He saw people moving away from facts toward conspiratorial politics, valuing spectacle over ideology--in essence, fleeing the political establishment. Meanwhile, the factions of the establishment remained isolated and ignorant of their constituents' dissatisfaction. Even though Taibbi didn't foresee Trump, the Rolling Stone articles that follow illustrate just how much his earlier observations prophesied an unprecedented U.S. election.

Taibbi's collection includes astute analysis of the left and the right, as well as the media's role in the political climate. His knowledge and grasp of the U.S. government's inner workings, as well as his understanding of the citizens' explosive discontent, allows Taibbi to dissect the circus-like events. His words are often acerbic, which may rankle some readers--especially if they identify with the target of his criticism--while amusing others. But the insights are powerful and thought provoking, with the potential to kindle vital dialogue. Insane Clown President is not reassuring or comforting, but it is a passionate, intelligent record of this monumental time, one Taibbi believes is "the end of the dream." --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: The political writer for Rolling Stone traces what made the 2016 presidential election so unusual.

Spiegel & Grau, $26, hardcover, 352p., 9780399592461

Children's & Young Adult

Dreamland Burning

by Jennifer Latham

"The dead always have stories to tell. They just need the living to listen." The dead find a voice in Rowan Chase, the 17-year-old biracial girl at the center of Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham (Scarlett Undercover). On the first day of summer, Rowan is shocked when renovators discover an old skeleton under the floorboards of her family's 100-year-old property in Tulsa, Okla. With only an old wallet and a faded receipt found among the remains, Rowan launches an investigation into the skeleton's identity.

In a parallel story set in 1921, 17-year-old half-white, half-Osage Will Tillman's world is changing in baffling ways. Though the Ku Klux Klan's power is rapidly growing in Tulsa, Will's white father makes a surprising and unorthodox business deal with a young black delivery boy named Joseph. Racial tensions are rising and Jim Crow laws make such deals highly illegal. As Tulsa spirals toward a violent eruption, Will sees how "complicated the world really was, what with some folks being good and some being bad and most sitting in the middle with room to slide either way."

Based on Tulsa's 1921 race riot, one of the deadliest in U.S. history, Dreamland Burning raises questions about historical truth, segregation and more. Rowan and Will tell their respective stories in alternating chapters, each with a strong narrative voice, revealing unexpected commonalities in their experiences. Latham's skillful handling of race, choice, and opportunity is impressive. No character is beyond redemption, and in the end all must answer for their actions. --Kyla Paterno, former children's & YA book buyer

Discover: In present-day Tulsa, a biracial girl investigates a skeleton found on her property; in a parallel narrative a century earlier, a white/Osage boy faces hard truths about segregation.

Little, Brown, $18.99, hardcover, 384p., ages 12-up, 9780316384933

Bob, Not Bob!

by Elizabeth Garton Scanlon , Audrey Vernick , illust. by Matthew Cordell

Little Louie doesn't need his mom "every minute of the day." But when he catches a cold--his nose is clogged, his ears crackle and his brain feels full ("He didn't know of what")--he doesn't want to color or watch TV or even shoot baskets with wadded-up tissues. All he really wants is his mom. He tries to call for her, but his nasally voice can only wail "Bob!" Then, because his big black-spotted dog happens to be named Bob, it's the pooch that comes bounding "[a]nd slobbering," ready to play. Frustrated and sapped of energy, Little Louie flops and moans in a manner familiar to anyone who has ever spent time with a sniffling, sneezing family member. Luckily, his mom knows just what her miserable boy needs: her undivided attention and an afternoon of snuggling.

In Bob, Not Bob! authors Liz Garton Scanlon (The Good-Pie Party) and Audrey Vernick (Brothers at Bat) and illustrator Matthew Cordell (Wolf in the Snow) form a perfect team to capture the woeful state of a kid with a rotten cold. The agony Little Louie feels as he tries to pronounce words through his "weird, all-wrong, stuffed-up nose" is palpable. "NO! I wan by BOB, not BOB!" (Keen-eyed readers will notice that a heart forms the center O in "Bob" the mom, textually differentiating the word from Bob the dog.) Cordell's slap-happy watercolor-over-pen illustrations are wonderfully reminiscent of Quentin Blake's art. Bob, Not Bob! will have kids and their chicken-soup-bearing caregivers laughing aloud. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: In this droll picture book, a little boy is so congested with a cold he can't pronounce his Ms, so his dog Bob comes running every time he calls for his mom.

Disney-Hyperion, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 3-5, 9781484723029

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