This Week’s Biggest Books

A 19th century lady is cheated of her inheritance, so she launches a brothel; a man and a woman fill in as actors to save a performance, and fall in love; a serial killer leaves clues taunting the police; a dirty cop must use all his wits to save himself from the abyss. Each week whole universes are spun by masters, and these are the best of the most recent crop of books. Grab them while they’re hot!

The Identicals, by Elin Hilderbrand
Twin sisters, earthy Harper on Martha’s Vineyard and pin-perfect Tabitha on Nantucket, live just eleven miles apart—but a long, bitter sibling rivalry makes them feel much more distant. Though they are wildly different in outlook, attitude, and lifestyle, they each have a host of problems ranging from disastrous relationships to failing businesses, and slowly re-discover the power of the sisterly bond over the course of a slow-burn summer. Literally seeing how the other half lives proves to be a tonic that reminds the sisters how much they need each other—and how alike they are despite the obvious, superficial differences.

I Can’t Make This Up, by Kevin Hart
It’s not often we get a glimpse into the thought process and work ethic of one of the funniest people in the world. Kevin Hart, who has made a name for himself as one of the hardest-working (and funniest) men in comedy, offers up a book that is part memoir, part life-coaching. Holding nothing back, Hart details his childhood and how his brother’s troubles and his mother’s discipline shaped him, then recounts his rise through standup comedy with plenty of insider stories as well as his dark personal journey as his first marriage crumbled under the pressure of success. Coupled with every story is a lesson learned as Hart urges his readers to learn from his success—and his mistakes.

Camino Island, by John Grisham
Grisham is as reliable a writer as they come; his novels are always twisty, exciting, and intelligent. Camino Island kicks off with an unusual heist: the theft of irreplaceable books from Princeton University’s vault, housed below the Firestone Library. On Camino Island in Florida, Bruce Cable owns a small rare bookstore, and secretly dabbles in black market tomes of the priceless variety. A struggling writer named Mercer Mann is offered a dubious job: infiltrate Cable’s inner circle, get close to his sources, learn his methods, and find out if he’s behind the theft. But as Mercer gets in deeper, she realizes she’s in over her head.

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
Despite the fact that grief and loss are experiences we all share, there is remarkably little structure around our processes for dealing with tragedy. Even for a highly successful person such as Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, the sudden, unexpected death of her husband left her wondering how people deal with such events, leading directly to her collaboration with Adam Grant, professor at Wharton and author in his own right. Option B explores the theory and practical application of techniques to help you not only weather grief and survive life’s swerves, but to move on from it and continue to have a meaningful and fulfilling life despite the void left by those we’ve lost. The combination of Sandberg’s raw, personal experience and Grant’s more academic contributions make this a book many will find incredibly fresh and incredibly helpful.

Use of Force, by Brad Thor
The 16th Scot Horvath novel begins with the body of a legendary terrorist washing up on an Italian shore after he issued a blood-curdling distress call during a terrible storm in the Mediterranean Sea. Once he’s identified, the CIA is thrown into chaos, as it is believed he might be connected to rumors of a “spectacular” attack against the United States. With no time to spare, but needing plausible deniability, the agency hires Horvath to pursue their scant clues; being unofficial, Horvath can do things even the CIA can’t. But this time, even Horvath may not be able to beat the clock.

Murder Games, by James Patterson and Howard Roughan
Patterson and Roughan team up for the taut story of a serial killer known as “The Dealer,” thanks to the playing cards he leaves next to the bodies of his victims. But something else is out of place at the scene of one of his brutal crimes: a copy of a book on criminal psychology by Dr. Dylan Reinhart. This piece of evidence prompts desperate NYPD detective Elizabeth Needham to bring Reinhart into the investigation. As New York City panics, Reinhart begins to suspect the playing cards are more than the signature flourish of a sick mind, but clues in a complex puzzle.

The Duchess, by Danielle Steel
Steel sets her newest novel in 19th century England, where the beautiful, intelligent, and sophisticated Angélique Latham, daughter of the Duke of Westerfield, is cheated out of her inheritance by her half-brothers. With only a sum of cash and her wits, she makes her way to Paris, where an encounter with an abused prostitute gives her an idea: open up her own brothel, but one where the women are treated well, and where only the richest and most cultured clients are welcome. Using her cash, she establishes Le Budoir. But no matter how smart Angélique is, or how rich she becomes or how indebted to her men of power become, she remains a woman in a world dominated by men. Steel explores this tension with her usual skill and imagination, offering up an unexpectedly fierce portrait of a lady doing what she must in order to survive.

Kiss Carlo, by Adriana Trigliani
Inspired by and suffused with all the charm, humor, and gracefully awkward plotting of Shakespeare’s plays, this delightful romantic comedy set in 1949 Philadelphia introduces a big cast of great characters. Calla Borelli and her father Sam run the Borelli theater, putting on the Bard’s plays for a less-than enthusiastic audience. Nicky drives a cab and is engaged to Peachy DePino (and thus to her scary father), but he helps out at the theater, volunteering for whatever needs to be done. One night the lead actors take ill, and Nicky and Calla take the stage as emergency stand-ins—and the sparks fly. Slowly realizing they have inconveniently fallen in love, the two have to overcome obstacles thrown in their way by everyone around them as well as those they put in their own way. Every madcap adventure is populated by interesting, fun supporting players, each of whom could star in their own novel.

The Force, by Don Winslow
Winslow continues his winning streak with this tightly-plotted, timely story of police corruption. Detective Sergeant Dennis Malone heads up the NYPD’s elite Manhattan North Special Task Force, a unit designed to deal with gangs, drugs, and guns. Such work always requires a certain moral flexibility, but Malone and his crew have turned it into a humming criminal enterprise, regularly stealing drugs and skimming cash. When Malone’s is caught, he’s forced to betray his accomplices if he wants to stay out of jail—but Malone never realized just how far up the chain the corruption reaches. Never mind walking away a free man; now, he doesn’t know how he’s going to make it out alive.

Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur
Rupi Kaur, sometimes referred to as an “Instapoet,” never wanted to be a poet or a writer; she wanted to be an artist, and considered her poetry a hobby. Born in India, and now just 24 years old, her book Milk and Honey, originally self-published, has been on The New York Times bestsellers list for almost a year. Her work is rooted in her cultural and religious background as a Sikh woman, and confront, with brutal honesty, issues from feminism, to violence, to everyday frustrations and depression. She built a huge following online, posting her poems as she completed them.

Giant of the Senate, by Al Franken
Franken, the current Junior Senator from Minnesota in his second term, was of course once a professional comedy writer and comedian—and remains one of the funniest people in the world. In this hilarious and insightful memoir, Franken discusses what drew him from Hollywood back home and into public service, his bruising first campaign (which he won by a slim margin of just 312 votes), his experiences in the Senate, and his contempt for fellow Senator Ted Cruz. It is his breaking of the usual traditions of senatorial cordiality with Cruz that will grab a lot of eyeballs, but Franken’s smart, intelligent story is inspirational fodder for anyone who thinks they might want to enter public service.

Understanding Trump, by Newt Gingrich
Gingrich is in a particularly good position to analyze the new President. With decades of public service under his belt, Gingrich has worked with several presidents and administrations. He also spent several years as a close advisor to Donald Trump, and has remained part of Trumps circle of advisors and public advocates. In this book, Gingrich attempts to clarify and explain Trump’s policy goals while also explaining Trump the man and the personality, going back to his early life and his evolution from brash businessman to current President.

Tom Clancy: Point of Contact, by Mike Maden
Hendley Associates, run by Gerry Hendley, employs the best financial analysts in the world—and provides cover for the Campus, the secret anti-terrorist organization where Jack Ryan, Jr. works. When Hendley is hired by former U.S. Senator Weston Rhodes to analyze the books of a Singaporean company called Dalfan Technologies, Ryan is paired with soft-spoken, awkward accountant Paul Brown to handle the work. Ryan is worried he’s missing out on something bigger, as Brown—unaware of Ryan’s secret position—frets about the Trojan Horse program he’s been tasked with sneaking onto Dalfan’s secure servers. When Brown discovers the job is much more complicated than he thought, he and Ryan have to team up and trust one another in order to survive—and prevent a global disaster.

Theft by Finding, by David Sedaris
Few writers are so talented you could literally reprint their diaries—especially diaries written long before they’d honed their skills and broken through professionally. But Sedaris is no ordinary writer or humorist, and this first volume of his diary entries is revelatory. Going back to the late 1970s, Sedaris has faithfully journaled, recording the dull, fascinating, touching, and bizarre moments of his life. Here, in edited form, Sedaris presents these entries more or less as they are, and they slowly build into a narrative—the natural history of David Sedaris himself, equal parts confused, angry, depressed, addicted, and hilarious.

Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life … And Maybe the World, by William H. McRaven
Admiral McRaven’s 2014 commencement speech to the graduates of the University of Texas at Austin has gone down in history as one of the most inspirational and motivational speeches of its kind. The speech drew on McRaven’s training in the Navy, boiled those keys to success down to ten simple rules, and discussed how those rules could be applied to any situation. This expanded version goes into greater detail, but the core is the same: simple actions have powerful cumulative effects, and the secret of success isn’t aggression or greed, but humility, compassion, and the understanding that everything requires that you do the work—and the work starts with the simplest stuff, like, yes, making your bed. A fantastic graduation gift for anyone about to set out to make their mark on the world, and a great read for anyone seeking to get their life in order.

Into the Water, by Paula Hawkins
The town of Beckford is best-known for its “Drowning Pool,” a local river that’s seen more than its share of apparent suicides by women—though whether they were all suicides is open for debate. When Jules Abbot’s estranged sister Nel is the latest woman to go into the water, Jules reluctantly returns to the home she fled years before, finding her sister’s unfinished manuscript about the Drowning Pool, which has been claiming women for centuries. Everyone has a secret, and as Jules follows the threads in her sister’s book, the town grows ever more sinister, and Nel’s words come to haunt her: “Beckford is a place to get rid of troublesome women.” Hawkins offers a complex look at a town with more than one dark secret, giving voice to the victims and slowly revealing connections that stretch back decades, to Jules’ own traumatic past in Beckford.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil deGrasse Tyson
An ideal book for anyone who wishes they understood their universe a little better, but are afraid that the concepts will be too complex, or too close to math. Tyson is not just one of the smartest men in the world, he’s one of the most personable and charismatic as well. His book is, therefore, fun; he doesn’t use a lot of scientific terms, but instead explores space and time and the known universe in simpler ways, ways that even folks who have never had any scientific training will find incredibly easy to understand. It’s like having a series of conversations with your really smart, really funny uncle.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann
Considering how important they were in shaping the modern age, the Osage Indian murders of the 1920s are remarkably little-known today. When the Nation became incredibly wealthy after oil was discovered on their land, more than 20 of its members of were murdered between 1921 and 1926. As public outrage grew, the federal government was pressured into putting the obscure Bureau of Investigation, led by a young Herbert Hoover, in charge of the case. Hoover used the notoriety of these awful crimes to establish what would soon be known as the FBI as the nation’s preeminent investigative body, and himself as its all-powerful chief. Grann, of The Lost City of Z fame, does a marvelous job catching you up on vital history that’s been nearly forgotten.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson
From its in-your-face title you now this is not your parents’ self-help book—in fact, it’s not really a self-help book at all. Manson, known for his hilarious and popular blog, offers up a guide to maturity more than anything else. He takes down more traditional self-help books that offer praise and imply that everyone is special; Manson points out that not everyone can be special, or the word becomes meaningless. Instead, he suggests that the best way to find some measure of happiness and inner peace is to hone your ability to deal with the inevitable disappointments and setbacks that come in life. The title refers not to being “indifferent” he says, but rather to an attitude where you accept yourself and your flaws instead of blindly seeking affirmation that you are someone you’re not. Anyone looking for a funny, intelligent guide to being better should look no further.

Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance
It’s the rare memoir that aspires to do more than tell the author’s story, but Vance does just that in this remarkable book. Simultaneously the life story of this self-described “hillbilly” and an examination of the societal forces in operation throughout his existence that helped him rise up and graduate Yale Law School, Vance takes a refreshingly honest and objective view of his family, seeing their many strengths as well as their various flaws, and offers a complex and moving worldview that sees the power of a close-knit community and a tightly bonded family as the most important factors in his own success. If you’ve never known anyone who referred to themselves in all seriousness as a hillbilly, this book will be both a revelation and an education.

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