This Week’s Biggest Books

Believe it or not, May is almost over, which means it will soon officially be the Summer Reading Season. Thank goodness some of the best writers in the business chose to release books this week! On tap for you we have the newest from the Master, Scott Turow, a collection of Jack Reacher short stories from the other Master, Lee Child, an exploration of family secrets and Catholic guilt from J. Courtney Sullivan, a celebration of friendship and the gorgeous South Carolina Lowcountry from Dorothea Benton Frank, and plenty of other books guaranteed to entertain, inform, and move you.

No Middle Name, by Lee Child
Containing a brand-new Jack Reacher novella as well as previously published Reacher short stories, this volume is the perfect way to ease into summer reading. The novella Too Much Time, which also serves as a prologue to the next full-length entry in the series, has a classic Reacher setup: in a rusting town in Maine, Reacher witnesses a simple bag snatching—but catches details no one else notices, leading him into an adventure in which he seems in over his head, right up until he isn’t. The other stories collected here jump around Reacher’s timeline—one story follows a teenage Jack around Manhattan during the 1977 blackout—providing the thrills we expect from Lee Child in bite-size form.

Testimony, by Scott Turow
A master of the genre delivers a story rooted in recent history. Bill Ten Boom is a former U.S. Attorney who leaves his cushy private practice to work at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, taking on a 2004 War Crimes case involving the sole survivor of a massacre of Roma refugees in Bosnia. Ten Boom agrees to investigate and substantiate Ferko Rincic’s story, which brings him into conflict with an increasingly dire array of forces, starting with the European Roma Alliance and their aggressive attorney, Esma Czarni, and leading straight to Washington, D.C. and a disgraced general who commanded NATO troops in Bosnia. Ten Boom’s investigation puts him on the trail of the former leader of Bosnian Serbs in hiding—which in turn puts his life in extreme danger as he seeks the truth.

Same Beach, Next Year, by Dorothea Benton Frank
Adam Stanley and Eve Landers were high school sweethearts who met and married other people. One summer the two couples meet by chance while vacationing in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. As Adam and Eve catch up, their spouses Eliza and Carl are at first jealous and disturbed. The couples become the best of friends, however, and every year they look forward to meeting up again in the same spot, through disaster and ruin, pain and happiness, slowly building the sort of lifelong friendships that sustain and comfort. In a story that celebrates a form of love that is often forgotten—simple friendship—Benton Frank offers up a page-turner of a different sort.

Saints for All Occasions, by J. Courtney Sullivan
Old-school shame molds lives through the years in Sullivan’s quietly powerful family saga. Moving from Ireland to Boston in the 1950s, Theresa lets her emotions get the better of her and becomes pregnant by a married man. Her sister Nora, more serious and more weighed down by her morality and sense of responsibility, agrees to raise the child as her own. Theresa moves away and joins the church, eventually becoming Mother Cecilla at the convent. The child, Patrick, grows up handsome and charming and alcoholic, and Sullivan traces the impact of decisions made in secret decades earlier on the entire extended family, and explores the damage done by all-too-typical Catholic repression of emotions and suppression of shameful secrets, leading to a powerful ending that will make you consider your own secrets.

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.

Papi: My Story, by David Ortiz
There are few more colorful or beloved figures in the sport of baseball than David Ortiz, who rose from a troubled and impoverished childhood in the Dominican Republic to become the hero of Boston. In an unfiltered, no-holds barred memoir, Ortiz—affectionately known as Papi to his fans—recounts his journey, offering both insight into the strategy and gamesmanship of the sport as well as a clear-eyed look at America today. Ortiz offers up plenty of inside baseball as well, telling stories about his managers and teammates over the years and getting into his own psychology and how he dealt with the expectation that he would always hit a home run, always win the game, and always deliver a championship to his adopted city.

Golden Prey, by John Sandford
Sandford complicates things nicely in the 27th Lucas Davenport novel. Now a U.S. Marshal with the authority to investigate any case he sees fit, Davenport chooses to look into a drug robbery that went sideways. A man named Garvin Poole hit a counting house in Mississippi and wound up shooting four drug dealers—and a six-year-old girl, granddaughter to one of the criminals. Davenport discovers he’s working against a parallel “investigation” funded by the drug dealers, and led by extreme bad man Luis Soto and his torture specialist Charlene Kort, who leave a bloody trail behind them as they seek to enact their own version of justice. As Davenport and Soto close in on Poole, the action ramps up, and complex questions of justice are explored in bloody detail.

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.

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.

Democracy: Stories From the Long Road to Freedom, by Condoleeza Rice
One of the smartest people to ever serve in a presidential administration, anything Condoleeza Rice wants to say about politics or history is well worth listening to. In this smart book, former Secretary of State Rice traces the push for true democracy around the world, observing what she perceives as failures (Russia) and successes, as well as the turbulent effort to keep our own democracy on the straight and narrow. She’s not afraid to critique others in government, including the man who replaced her boss, Barack Obama, but no one could accuse the erudite and experienced Rice of being partisan, as she laces all of her analyses with facts and reason. Any student of politics should read this book.

Black Privilege, by Charlamagne Tha God
Charlamagne Tha God, cohost of Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club is one of the most influential people in the music and radio world, often called the black Howard Stern. His sharp comic timing, perceptive observational eye, and willingness to pursue brutal honesty even when it’s controversial has made him incredibly influential, but he’s also been honest about himself and the mistakes he’s made in his life. In this book he goes back to his roots and traces his journey, offering up advice to those who would follow in his footsteps and entertainment to those who simply want to spend more time with his hilarious and insightful point of view.

16th Seduction, by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Paetro and Patterson are a thriller dream team, returning to the shattered world of Detective Lindsay Boxer, still recovering from the revelations about her husband, Joe, unearthed in the previous Women’s Murder Club book. The bomber arrested in that story is going to trial, but the defense is raising disturbing questions about Joe and Lindsay’s investigation, undermining her confidence further. Meanwhile, a series of deaths from heart attacks that don’t appear to be natural sweeps the city. The victims seem unrelated, and this chaotic mystery pulls Lindsay in at a moment when she doesn’t know who she can trust and lacks her usual support system. The pace is breathless as the threads twist together in surprising and satisfying ways.

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign, by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes
For some this book might still be a case of “too soon,” but this detailed forensic analysis of the doomed Clinton presidential campaign is an eye-opening look at the state of politics today. Allen and Parnes sift through the wreckage of the campaign that managed to win the popular vote while losing everyth8ing else and come away with an unsurprising conclusion: it wasn’t just one thing that doomed Hillary in 2016, it was a combination of several factors—including the candidate’s own “unforced errors” that work to her opponents’ advantage, usually at the worst possible times. Whether you’re saddened or relieved that Hillary Clinton is not currently president, this book will help you better understand just how politics work in this country.

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 Fix, by David Baldacci
Amos Decker returns for a third go-round, his latest case beginning when he witnesses a murder/suicide right outside FBI headquarters. The murder is a true mystery in every way: the killer had no discernible connection to the victim, and apparently no motive. He also left no indication as to why he committed the crime. Even more frustrating, Decker is quickly ordered off the case by the Defense Intelligence Agency, which informs him the killing is connected to a case so top secret, he can’t have anything to do with it. When it becomes clear solving the bizarre case is vital to national security, Decker and DIA agent Harper Brown form an uneasy partnership combining Decker’s flawless memory with her high-level access. They soon realize they are in a race against time to prevent a national disaster.

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.

The Women in the Castle, by Jessica Shattuck
Shattuck finds a remarkably fertile new angle for a story set during World War II and its immediate aftermath as three women whose husbands lost their lives resisting Hitler and the Nazis band together in a dilapidated castle to rebuild their lives. Marianne von Lingenfels lost her husband to the failed attempt on Hitler’s life, and pledged to look after Benita, another resistor’s wife, and their children. Joined by Ania and her two sons, the three fractured families forge new bonds and try to help each other find the path forward—much the same way the entire country of Germany struggled to find the way forward after the horror of the war. Packed with surprises and twists, Shattuck’s story is a new way to view one of the most written-about chapters in history.

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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