Showdown: Thurgood Marshall and the Supreme Court Nomination That Changed AmericaWil Haygood
MixedThe Barnes & Noble ReviewA powerful storyteller, Haygood alternates chapters on each day of the hearings with others that describe Marshall’s early career and provide profiles of the major players in his confirmation. This structure is at times awkward and makes the book feel overstuffed: some of the subjects, while interesting, are less relevant to the proceedings than others.
Born a CrimeTrevor Noah
RaveThe Barnes & Noble Review...the rollicking yet tender Born a Crime, provides further indication that Noah’s is a necessary voice for these times. In addition to that, it’s a great read ... Throughout the memoir, Noah slyly illuminates the absurdities of a society built on racial hierarchy.
My Father, the PornographerChris Offutt
PositiveThe San Francisco ChronicleThe author reserves ample sympathy for himself. He is, as in his previous work, a captivating storyteller, but self-pity and bitterness, two pitfalls of the genre, occasionally creep into his memoir ... My Father, the Pornographer is at its best when Offutt pulls back from the everyday battles to express larger truths. He captures, in beautiful language, that parental loss is profound, regardless of how fraught the relationship with the parent.
The Book That Changed America: How Darwin's Theory of Evolution Ignited a NationRandall Fuller
RaveThe Barnes & Noble Review...[a] delightful, elegant intellectual history ... Can a book still change the world? Right now a tweet would seem to have a better shot. But questions that are still asked today, and more urgently by some in recent months — whether history is a narrative of progress, whether the arc of the universe bends toward justice — have their beginnings in the heady times evoked in Fuller’s exhilarating book. He has made them immensely instructive and enjoyable to ponder.
The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It . . . Every TimeMaria Konnikova
PositiveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewThe fun is in the stories, and Konnikova tells them well, in an engaging, genial tone; they feature ruinous Ponzi schemes, charismatic psychics, phony Nigerian princes, and more.
Children of Paradise: The Struggle for the Soul of IranLaura Secor
PositiveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewChildren of Paradise comes most alive when Secor chronicles the harrowing experiences of the Iranian reformists she interviewed extensively for the book ... Secor’s material, riveting to begin with, is elevated by her insightful and elegant writing.
Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Productivity in Life and BusinessCharles Duhigg
MixedBarnes and Noble ReviewIt’s unlikely that all of Duhigg’s eight concepts will resonate with any one reader; moreover, some of them have a familiar feel. Still, Duhigg has turned them into engaging reading by dramatizing each one, Malcolm Gladwell style, with stories that illustrate his larger point.
Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us HookedAdam Alter
PositiveThe Barnes & Noble Review...[an] unsettling but riveting book ... He convincingly argues that technology is increasingly engineered to be addictive, making all of us, but especially children, vulnerable to its dangers ... Unfortunately, after Alter sells us so convincingly on the idea that our immersive relationship to tech is hindering our human relationships and our overall quality of life, the solutions he offers hardly feel up to the task.
Hamlet Globe to GlobeDominic Dromgoole
RaveThe Christian Science Monitor...[a] irresistible new book ... He covers the triumphs and the low points, shares some gossip, airs grievances against those who criticized the project (the company’s unsuccessful effort to perform in North Korea generated controversy), and every now and then has an epiphany about the meaning of it all ... [Dromgoole] delves into the play’s history, grapples with its themes, and offers a passionate case for its enduring relevance ... The logistics of the world tour are themselves fascinating, from the difficulty of procuring visas to the caprices of air travel to the pressure of creating a portable production that could be mounted and taken down within a couple of hours.
Fear City: New York's Fiscal Crisis and the Rise of Austerity PoliticsKim Phillips-Fein
RaveThe Barnes & Noble ReviewKim Phillips-Fein’s excellent new book vividly depicts a period when New York was seen — not always positively — as an archetypal example of urban liberalism. Much of the emergency that defined New York’s mid-1970s character revolved around debt, accounting practices, and municipal bonds, but in Phillips-Fein’s hands it is not only exciting but extremely relevant, too ... Phillips-Fein, putting archival sources like meeting minutes to dramatic use, reveals all the last-minute machinations to forestall disaster.
In the DarkroomSusan Faludi
PositiveThe Barnes & Noble Review...a remarkable new memoir ... as she attempts and often fails to understand her inscrutable father, the book becomes a rumination on larger questions of identity. 'is who you are what you make of yourself, the self you fashion into being,' Faludi wonders, 'or is it determined by your inheritance and all its fateful forces, genetic, familial, ethnic, religious, cultural, historical? In other words: is identity what you choose, or what you can’t escape?' ... By the end of In the Darkroom, it is genuinely moving that Faludi has achieved a hard-won closeness with her difficult parent. Still, so many of her questions, large and small, remain unanswered. Stefánie, who died last year, was dodging and masking to the end.
Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal IconLarry Tye
PositiveThe Barnes & Noble Review[A] clear-eyed and absorbing new biography ... Tye cuts through the gauzy nostalgia to create a perceptive account of a life rife with contradictions, unearthed via boxes of previously unseen family papers along with interviews with RFK’s widow, Ethel, his former aides, and many others who knew him ... [Tye] occasionally falls victim to the sentimental depiction of Kennedy that he has set out to dispel...these lapses are minor, though, in a book that demonstrates forcefully and convincingly that Kennedy underwent a genuine change to emerge on the right side of history.
Notes on a Foreign CountrySuzy Hansen
RaveThe Christian Science Monitor...a searching and searing book ... Hansen writes with both authority and humility and, occasionally, with sharp beauty ... Some of the book’s strongest passages involve her rigorous interrogation of the notion of American exceptionalism, of America as the pinnacle of a historical narrative of progress, which she realizes she has internalized ... Also fascinating is the author’s evolving understanding that despite her faith in her journalistic objectivity, the myths she has absorbed affect the way she tells stories from around the globe ... a testament to one journalist’s courage in digging deep within herself to understand the real story and to make sure she gets it right.
The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and MotherhoodBelle Boggs
PositiveThe San Francisco ChronicleBoggs is uninterested in creating suspense because her beautifully written, contemplative book — which blends memoir, journalism and cultural history — is about much more than her own costly and high-tech path to parenthood ... [Boggs] also reflects on the process of waiting itself, and she is at her most affecting when she ponders its agonies.
Strangers in Their Own LandArlie Russell Hochschild
RaveThe Barnes & Noble Review...[an] important and compelling new book ... one reason Strangers in Their Own Land is so timely is that it explains the emotional release that Trump—who has disparaged Mexicans, Muslims, women, and the disabled and who had won the support of most of Hochschild’s subjects during the primaries—provides ... Despite the fact that her own political leanings are, well, what you’d expect a Berkeley sociologist’s to be, Hochschild treats her subjects with boundless compassion and affection.
Eyes on the Street: The Life of Jane JacobsRobert Kanigel
MixedThe Barnes & Noble ReviewThe author is explicit in his desire to convey the hurdles Jacobs faced as a woman and a mother, so one wishes he’d focused less on her appearance or at least consulted a thesaurus before describing her as 'fat and dumpy' ... Kanigel’s account of how Jacobs came to write Death and Life is so compelling that the biography suffers a loss of momentum afterward ... Eyes on the Street works because as cities evolve and face fresh crises – gentrification, soaring rents, and renewed segregation — those ideas continue to challenge as much as they fascinate.
Last Girl Before Freeway: The Life, Loves, Losses, and Liberation of Joan RiversLeslie Bennetts
MixedThe San Francisco ChronicleSome of the details are ghoulish: For instance, their 19-year-old daughter, Melissa, was forced to deal with the immediate fallout of Edgar’s suicide because Rivers was undergoing liposuction when his body was discovered. Because of Bennetts’ kitchen-sink approach, some parts of the book are more successful than others. The author conducted interviews with many of Rivers’ friends, colleagues and associates, and they do much of the talking, to mixed results ... Much more thoughtful are recollections by female comedians she inspired.
A Disappearance in DamascusDeborah Campbell
RaveThe Barnes and Noble ReviewBaghdad, home to hundreds of thousands of refugees from neighboring Iraq, and figure out what the story is and how to gain access to it? The first answer, as Campbell explains in her gripping new book, A Disappearance in Damascus, is in locating a good fixer ... The book is Campbell’s account of her relationship with Ahlam and her efforts to find her during her months-long disappearance ...provides a fascinating look at how journalists work, an inside perspective that feels particularly useful at a time when the profession is under fire ... The depth of the friendship between two women from such different circumstances is both poignant and hopeful, even as the contrast between them is stark ... She devotes too many pages to the dissolution of that relationship when the one with Ahlam will be the most interesting to readers.