This Week’s Biggest Books

As the holiday and end-of-year insanity takes over, remember to make some time to feed your soul and mind. The best way to do that, of course, is by reading a good book or two. Lucky for you, we just happen to maintain this list of the week’s biggest book–which this week includes a fun and educational book about science from America’s jolliest brain, Neil deGrasse Tyson, a thrilling new fantasy from Nora Roberts, the return of Harry Bosch from Michael Connelly, and the ideal stocking stuffer from the good folks at Guinness World Records. Happy shopping!

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Tyson is not just one of the smartest men in the world, he’s one of the most personable and charismatic. His book is, therefore, fun. He doesn’t use a lot of scientific terms, but instead explores space, time, and the known universe in simpler ways that even folks who have never had any scientific training will find incredibly easy to understand. It’s like having a conversation with your really smart, really funny uncle.

Year One, by Nora Roberts

Roberts kicks off a high-octane post-apocalyptic fantasy with this one, set in a world where a magical plague known as The Doom sweeps the world, killing many and awakening—or strengthening—the magical powers in people who come to be known as The Uncanny. As the world order crumbles, Uncannys test their newfound power and those who are immune to the Doom flock together for safety in numbers even as things fall apart. Lana Bingham, an Uncanny in love with a witch, finds herself fleeing dangers both magical and mundane and the world organizes into two sides of an epic war between good and evil—along the way discovering that she holds the fate of the world in her hands—if she can survive a world she barely recognizes.

Two Kinds of Truth, by Michael Connelly

Connelly returns to the world of Harry Bosch with a pair of mysteries. Three decades ago, Bosch was convinced a man named Preston Borders was guilty of raping and murdering three young women, but the district attorney only pursued one case, convicting Borders of the murder of Danielle Skyler. Borders has been on death row ever since, but suddenly new DNA evidence seems to exonerate him, so he files a habeas corpus petition and seems determined to sue everyone involved. Bosch has nine days before the hearing to figure out what went sideways, but his efforts are complicated by the current murder he’s investigating, that of a pharmacist and his son, which has set off a chain reaction of revelations involving faked prescriptions. As Bosch prepares to go undercover as an addict for the first time in his life, even he might not be able to keep all of the clues straight.

Guinness World Records 2018: Meet Our Real-Life Superheroes

The classic authority on all things world-record is back, packed full of incredible facts and achievements. This year they’ve got a theme of superheroes—both the fictional kind you find in movies and the real-life kind, real people around the world who have extraordinary abilities and who hold extraordinary records for strength, speed, and skill. In-between are thousands of records that span the globe as well as every possible category, from sports to science. The ultimate argument-settling resource, the Guinness World Records 2018 book is a perfect holiday gift for anyone who likes to know it all.

Killing England, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

O’Reilly and Dugard stretch their “Killing” concept a bit, taking a brutally realistic look at the American Revolution. Telling the story from the point of view of both the Americans who went from protesters to revolutionaries and the king who somehow managed to let the colonies slip through his fingers despite being one of the most powerful monarchs in the world, the co-authors matter-of-factly relate momentous events. Soldiers served under terrible conditions, and the fighting was nothing like the polite engagements often depicted in pictures and film, often involving desperate, close-quarters fights. The personalities involved prove fascinating, and the book is peppered with bits of trivia that even dedicated history buffs will be glad to know.

Tom Clancy: Power and Empire, by Marc Cameron

President Jack Ryan, his intelligence agent son Jack Jr., and junior’s boss at The Campus John Clark take center stage in the latest Tom Clancy thriller as seemingly separate scenarios converge into a horrifying whole. The President is dealing with an aggressive China, staking claims in the South China Sea. His son is working with the FBI to take down a child sex ring. John Clark is on the trail of a missing girl after a traffic stop in Texas uncovers a Chinese agent. As the three men begin to realize there’s much more going on than meets the eye, world events ratchet up the tension between nations in the days leading to the G20 Summit—meaning all three men are working against the clock to understand how it all comes together.

Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and Purpose, by Joe Biden

Joe Biden, former Vice President and possible future presidential candidate, lost his son Beau to brain cancer after a momentous struggle. When Beau was in the midst of his fight against the disease, he made his father promise that he would be all right. Over the next year, Joe Biden served his country as Vice President while his son slowly lost his battle. In this remarkable memoir, Biden opens up about that period of his life, discussing with disarming intimacy the personal and political struggles he endured while working to make the world a safer place and trying to decide if he would run for president in 2016. Biden’s wisdom and advice for anyone who has lost someone close to them is powerful, and his insights into life’s problems come from someone who has dealt with some of the most difficult challenges in modern times on the world stage.

Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World, by Timothy Ferriss

Everyone needs a good mentor in their life—but why have just one? This remarkable book not only explores the tremendous power of the mentor relationship, it collects wisdom from a “tribe” of mentors, more than 100 experts that author Timothy Ferriss spent time with. The advice and wisdom offered ranges from book recommendations to meditation tips, stories about turning loss into motivation, physical and mental exercises that can keep body and mind strong, and ‛cheat sheets’ designed to help you overcome challenges. When the advice is coming from people like Chris Anderson, Terry Crews, Neil Gaiman, Bear Grylls, and a hundred more, you have nothing to lose by reading this book and everything to gain.

The People Vs. Alex Cross, by James Patterson

Alex Cross stands accused of murdering followers of Gary Soneji. Suspended from the police force, the evidence looks very bad, and Cross has gone from hero to villain as he’s held up as a prime example of a police force gone turned rogue. Even his own friends and family begin to doubt his version of events as the evidence mounts against him. Despite his troubles, when his old partner John Sampson calls him for help investigating a gruesome video connected to the disappearance of several young girls, Cross can’t refuse, and they begin an illegal investigation that leads them into the darkest shadows of the Internet. As his trial seems to get worse and worse, Cross can’t abandon this case until he’s caught the monster at the other end of it—even if it costs him his career, and possibly his life.

Artemis, by Andy Weir

Weir’s first novel in the wake of The Martian‘s became a bestselling phenomenon and a major box office hit is a completely different kind of story, even as it shares its predecessor’s commitment to smart, plausible science. In Artemis, city on the Moon. Jazz Bashara works as a porter, scraping by and supplementing her income with a little light smuggling on the side. Her moonlighting brings her into contact with wealthy and powerful figures like Trond Landvik, a businessman with designs on a lunar aluminum monopoly. Landvik asks Jazz to come up with a way to sabotage his competition, and Jazz seizes the opportunity to grab a big score with a bold plan spiced. The resulting caper moves at a mile a minute, delivered with the same witty dialogue and ribald humor that made us fall in love with Mark Watney. If you ask us, Weir has another winner on his hands—and likely another blockbuster film adaptation in his future.

End Game, by David Baldacci

Baldacci’s fifth Will Robie novel flips the script a bit on his competent, deadly characters. When Will Robie and Jessica Reel’s legendary handler, Blue Man, goes missing after taking a rare vacation to go fly-fishing in a rural area of Colorado, the two deadly assassins are dispatched to investigate. They find themselves in the town of Grand, a festering place of economic decline, crime, drug wars—and a growing population of militia-style groups. They also find an inadequate police force unable to cope. They quickly realize there’s more going on in Grand than meets the eye, and by the time they realize that even they, two of the most dangerous people in the world, are out-gunned and surrounded it might be too late.

Hardcore Twenty-Four, by Janet Evanovich

Evanovich jumps back into the world of Stephanie Plum with an almost-audible whoop of delight, setting in motion a plot that combines a professional grave robber who insists that Stephanie take care of his boa constrictor before letting her take him in, a rash of headless corpses that lead to a rash of headless murder victims, and a growing romantic parallelogram involving Stephanie, Joe Morelli, Ranger, and Diesel, the returning mountain of a man who lives, annoying, without limits. When Stephanie begins to wonder if Diesel’s return is connected somehow to the serial grave robbings and murders, things go from complicated to thrillingly deadly.

Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit, by Chris Matthews

For younger generations, the Kennedy name may no longer be magic, but Chris Mathews does great work to remind everyone just how special the Kennedy family was at one time. Although JFK gets most of the attention, Hardball anchor Chris Matthews knows that Bobby Kennedy was almost as important, and came very close to being president himself—and may well have been if he hadn’t been cut down in the prime of life just like his brother. Matthews doesn’t sugarcoat the ruthlessness that made plenty of enemies for Bobby Kennedy, but he also captures the younger Kennedy’s keen intellect and growing empathy for people who were not as fortunate as him, traits that would have made him a great president, had he lived.

The Midnight Line, by Lee Child

Jack Reacher is once again stepping off a bus in a small town in the middle of nowhere, this time in Wisconsin. Stretching his legs, Reacher sees a West Point ring in a pawn shop window and is moved to find out what would make someone sell something so difficult to earn. His quest for the ring owner’s identity leads Reacher to cross several state lines as he assembles a story of service in Afghanistan, opioid addiction, and a huge criminal organization that Reacher, once he’s aware of it, has no choice but to take on. He manages to acquire an ally, however, in the form of the cadet’s brother, a former FBI agent-turned private detective, who’s one of those rare people Reacher feels he can count on, if only for a while. Along the way Reacher traces corporate complicity in the opioid crisis and the desperation that drives people to make bad decisions—all while dishing out violence the way only Jack Reacher can manage.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It!: Simple, Scrumptious Recipes for Crazy Busy Lives, by Ree Drummond

Drummond knows her audience: people who love to cook and take pleasure in feeding their families hearty, healthy, and delicious meals, but who might not have the free time necessary to tackle seriously complex recipes. This collection of meals balances variety, healthy ingredients, and wow factor while offering Drummond’s “go to,” make-it-happen meals covering breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and desserts. Having this book on hand means that whoever does the cooking in your home will be ready to whip up something amazing in a short amount of time, whether it’s for surprise guests or dinner at the end of a time-crunched day.

Andrew Jackson and the Miracle of New Orleans: The Battle That Shaped America’s Destiny, by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger

Andrew Jackson remains a divisive figure nearly 200 years after his presidency, making him an ideal candidate for a book like this—a history investigating the man as much as the events that shaped his life. The focal point is the battle that made Jackson a national figure. The British targeted the port of New Orleans in the War of 1812 for obvious reasons: it was the main supply point for the nascent United States of America, and the fledgling country’s defenses were weak and disorganized. Jackson managed to pull together a coalition of defenders and organize a brilliant defense of the city, saving his country and catapulting him to fame. Kilmeade and Yaeger bring slick energy to their subject, making this a fun, informative read.

The Rooster Bar, by John Grisham

Grisham proves he’s still got his finger on the pulse in his newest, telling the story of idealistic but broke law students Mark, Todd, and Zola, who mortgage their future in the form of student loans to attend a third-tier law school. In their third year, the trio realizes they’ve been victims of the Great Law School Scam: the graduates of their school rarely pass the bar and almost never get jobs—and the school’s owner also owns the bank that wrote the paper on their loans. Naturally, smart nearly-lawyers go for the only option they have available: revenge. It’s going to take planning and risks (like dropping out before earning your degree) but it’s the only option if you want a little justice—and the result is an Ocean’s 11 for the LSAT crowd.

Leonardo da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson

Isaacson begins with the presumption that Leonardo da Vinci was perhaps the most creative genius in human history and proceeds from there, digesting more than 7,000 pages of notes da Vinci left behind and producing this biography. Unlike anything else you’ve ever read about the most famous artist of the 15th and 16th centuries, Isaacson paints a portrait of a restless mind that exhibited unusual curiosity and made magical connections between disciplines that had never been made before. At the same time, he shows da Vinci as a man whose always-churning mind could leave many projects unfinished as he dashed from idea to idea. When one of our best modern writers tackles one of the most famous minds in history, it’s time to pay attention.

Grant, by Ron Chernow

Pulitzer-winning author Chernow tackles one of our most disappointing—and perplexing—presidents with another sharply-written, deeply-researched book. Chernow sets out to prove that Grant, the brilliant general, was a far better president than he’s usually given credit for. Chernow has his work cut out for him, but he paints a detailed picture of Grant as a man of action who withered in inactivity, a man whose alcoholism followed a unique cycle of binging followed by lengthy periods of sobriety, a man often mistaken for homeless prior to the Civil War who brought a willingness to engage the Confederate armies head on to his tactics that proved to be the key to winning the war. As he did with Alexander Hamilton, Chernow takes a familiar but opaque figure of American history and fleshes him out, revealing the human being under the engravings—for better or worse.

Origin, by Dan Brown

Brown returns to his most successful character with an all-new Robert Langdon adventure, this time centered in Spain and focusing on more modern art. Langdon starts off the book as the guest of former student-turned-billionaire Edmond Kirsch, who is staging a provocative presentation at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and hinting at the answers to two of the fundamental questions of human existence. Naturally, things go very, very wrong, and Langdon soon finds himself fleeing to Barcelona with museum director Ambra Vidal and working desperately to discover a password Kirsch left behind that will unlock all of the billionaire’s secrets. Their opponent, however, seems to be all-knowing, and firmly rooted in the Spanish royal palace—but there’s no one on Earth more equipped to deal with codes and symbols than Robert Langdon.

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