A literature book recommendation: Iraq + 100: Stories from Another Iraq by Hassan Blasim

A critic review (source NPR) can be read at: http://n.pr/2mee3mf.
I did not enjoy this collection. Enjoyment is beside the point. One does not enjoy being shown the child in Omelas’ basement. But it’s crucial to see, crucial to negotiate one’s position to that child with clear eyes. I admire the achievement of this collection greatly…
Book description from Google Books:
 Iraq + 100 poses a question to ten Iraqi writers: what might your country look like in the year 2103 – a century after the disastrous American- and British-led invasion, and 87 years down the line from its current, nightmarish battle for survival? How might the effects of that one intervention reach across a century of repercussions, and shape the lives of ordinary Iraqi citizens, or influence its economy, culture, or politics? Might Iraq have finally escaped the cycle of invasion and violence triggered by 2003 and, if so, what would a new, free Iraq look like?Covering a range of approaches – from science fiction, to allegory, to magic realism – these stories use the blank canvas of the future to explore the nation’s hopes and fears in equal measure. Along the way a new aesthetic for the ‘Iraqi fantastical’ begins to emerge: thus we meet time-travelling angels, technophobic dictators, talking statues, macabre museum-worlds, even hovering tiger-droids, and all the time buoyed by a dark, inventive humour that, in itself, offers hope.
The book is rated 3.65/5 at goodreads.com, from 79 ratings. See 22 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2mzR47H.
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A literature book recommendation: Blood of the Dawn by Claudia Salazar Jiménez

A critic review (source NPR) can be read at: http://n.pr/2mZJctT.
Blood of the Dawn is a short novel, and maybe that’s why it’s so effective. Salazar Jiménez and translator Elizabeth Bryer make every word count, and the result is a work of concentrated intensity with no room for the reader to escape the horrors that fill just about every page.
Book description from Google Books:
This novel follows three women whose lives intertwine and are ripped apart during what’s known as “the time of fear” in Peruvian history when the Shining Path militant insurgency was at its peak. The novel rewrites the armed conflict in the voice of women, activating memory through a mixture of politics, desire, and pain in a lucid and brutal prose.
The book is rated 3.73/5 at goodreads.com, from 90 ratings. See 15 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2mzbDRO.
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A literature book recommendation: Idaho: A Novel by Emily Ruskovich

A critic review (source AV Club) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2mZbbtx.
Idaho is sad, but not despairingly so. Ruskovich’s prose is lyrical but keen, a poem that never gets lost in its own rhythm.
Book description from Google Books:
A stunning debut novel about love and forgiveness, about the violence of memory and the equal violence of its loss–from O. Henry Prize-winning author Emily Ruskovich Ann and Wade have carved out a life for themselves from a rugged landscape in northern Idaho, where they are bound together by more than love. With her husband’s memory fading, Ann attempts to piece together the truth of what happened to Wade’s first wife, Jenny, and to their daughters. In a story written in exquisite prose and told from multiple perspectives–including Ann, Wade, and Jenny, now in prison–we gradually learn of the mysterious and shocking act that fractured Wade and Jenny’s lives, of the love and compassion that brought Ann and Wade together, and of the memories that reverberate through the lives of every character in Idaho. In a wild emotional and physical landscape, Wade’s past becomes the center of Ann’s imagination, as Ann becomes determined to understand the family she never knew–and to take responsibility for them, reassembling their lives, and her own. Praise for Idaho “You know you’re in masterly hands here. [Emily] Ruskovich’s language is itself a consolation, as she subtly posits the troubling thought that only decency can save us. . . . Ruskovich’s novel will remind many readers of the great Idaho novel, Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping. . . .  [A] wrenching and beautiful book.”–The New York Times Book Review “Sensuous, exquisitely crafted.”–The Wall Street Journal “The first thing you should know about Idaho, the shatteringly original debut by O. Henry Prize winner Emily Ruskovich, is that it upturns everything you think you know about story. . . . You could read Idaho just for the sheer beauty of the prose, the expert way Ruskovich makes everything strange and yet absolutely familiar.”–San Francisco Chronicle “Mesmerizing . . . [an] eerie story about what the heart is capable of fathoming and what the hand is capable of executing.”–Marie Claire “Idaho is a wonderful debut. Ruskovich knows how to build a page-turner from the opening paragraph.”–Ft. Worth Star-Telegram “Ruskovich’s debut is haunting, a portrait of an unusual family and a state that becomes a foreboding figure in her vivid depiction.”–The Huffington Post “Idaho is both a place and an emotional dimension. Haunted, haunting, Ruskovich’s novel winds through time, braiding events and their consequences in the most unexpected and moving ways.”–Andrea Barrett “Ruskovich digs deeply into everyday moments, and shows that it is there, in our quietest thoughts and experiences, where we find and create our true selves.”–Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief “[Idaho] caught and held me absolutely.”–Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams “Ruskovich has written a poem in prose, a beautiful and intricate homage to place, and a celebration of the defeats and triumphs of love. Beautifully crafted, emotionally evocative, and psychologically astute, Idaho is one of the best books I have read in a long time.”–Chinelo Okparanta, author of Under the Udala Trees “Ruskovich has intricately entwined a terrifying human story with an austere and impervious setting. The result–something bigger than either–is beautiful, brutal, and incandescent.”–Deirdre McNamer, author of Red Rover
The book is rated 3.54/5 at goodreads.com, from 4631 ratings. See 949 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2mZ9psg.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2mgzTFP.

A literature book recommendation: Stranded: A Novel by Bracken MacLeod

A critic review (source Financial Times) can be read at: http://on.ft.com/2mKiIiR.
Stranded superbly evokes the existential dread of its characters’ plight and makes the empty white Arctic seem chillingly claustrophobic.
Book description from Google Books:
In the spirit of John Carpenter’s The Thing and Jacob’s Ladder comes Stranded — a terrifying, icebound thriller where nothing is quite what it seems by Bracken MacLeod.Badly battered by an apocalyptic storm, the crew of the Arctic Promise find themselves in increasingly dire circumstances as they sail blindly into unfamiliar waters and an ominously thickening fog. Without functioning navigation or communication equipment, they are lost and completely alone. One by one, the men fall prey to a mysterious illness. Deckhand Noah Cabot is the only person unaffected by the strange force plaguing the ship and her crew, which does little to ease their growing distrust of him. Dismissing Noah’s warnings of worsening conditions, the captain of the ship presses on until the sea freezes into ice and they can go no farther. When the men are ordered overboard in an attempt to break the ship free by hand, the fog clears, revealing a faint shape in the distance that may or may not be their destination. Noah leads the last of the able-bodied crew on a journey across the ice and into an uncertain future where they must fight for their lives against the elements, the ghosts of the past and, ultimately, themselves.
The book is rated 3.61/5 at goodreads.com, from 496 ratings. See 131 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2mVBi4G.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2s0If6G.

A literature book recommendation: The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For by David McCullough

A critic review (source NPR) can be read at: http://n.pr/2sfHMgP.
His faith in the country is touching, and this book is a gift (and not just a last-minute one for your nephew, either).
Book description from Google Books:
A New York Times Bestseller A timely collection of speeches by David McCullough, the most honored historian in the United States—winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Book Awards, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among many others—that reminds us of fundamental American principles.Over the course of his distinguished career, David McCullough has spoken before Congress, the White House, colleges and universities, historical societies, and other esteemed institutions. Now, at a time of self-reflection in America following a bitter election campaign that has left the country divided, McCullough has collected some of his most important speeches in a brief volume designed to identify important principles and characteristics that are particularly American. The American Spirit reminds us of core American values to which we all subscribe, regardless of which region we live in, which political party we identify with, or our ethnic background. This is a book about America for all Americans that reminds us who we are and helps to guide us as we find our way forward.
The book is rated 4.37/5 at goodreads.com, from 880 ratings. See 199 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2tz0unL.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2tyZkZn.
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A literature book recommendation: Swing Time by Zadie Smith

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2lm3Fut.
The book relies not on plot or character development but on a series of skillfully rendered passages to propel the story as it swings back and forth through time, though not necessarily with perfect rhythm.
Book description from Google Books:
A New York Times bestseller Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction An ambitious, exuberant new novel moving from North West London to West Africa, from the multi-award-winning author of White Teeth and On Beauty Two brown girls dream of being dancers–but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It’s a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either. Tracey makes it to the chorus line but struggles with adult life, while her friend leaves the old neighborhood behind, traveling the world as an assistant to a famous singer, Aimee, observing close up how the one percent live. But when Aimee develops grand philanthropic ambitions, the story moves from London to West Africa, where diaspora tourists travel back in time to find their roots, young men risk their lives to escape into a different future, the women dance just like Tracey–the same twists, the same shakes–and the origins of a profound inequality are not a matter of distant history, but a present dance to the music of time.
The book is rated 3.60/5 at goodreads.com, from 18242 ratings. See 2296 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2kAys2F.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2tFUY2G.

A literature book recommendation: Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2stZBsC.
“Memoirs of a Polar Bear” hums with beautiful strangeness. Look at the animals we are. Look at us searching for love, for meaning, for our own true forms.
Book description from Google Books:
The Memoirs of a Polar Bear stars three generations of talented writers and performers—who happen to be polar bears The Memoirs of a Polar Bear has in spades what Rivka Galchen hailed in the New Yorker as “Yoko Tawada’s magnificent strangeness”—Tawada is an author like no other. Three generations (grandmother, mother, son) of polar bears are famous as both circus performers and writers in East Germany: they are polar bears who move in human society, stars of the ring and of the literary world. In chapter one, the grandmother matriarch in the Soviet Union accidentally writes a bestselling autobiography. In chapter two, Tosca, her daughter (born in Canada, where her mother had emigrated) moves to the DDR and takes a job in the circus. Her son—the last of their line—is Knut, born in chapter three in a Leipzig zoo but raised by a human keeper in relatively happy circumstances in the Berlin zoo, until his keeper, Matthias, is taken away… Happy or sad, each bear writes a story, enjoying both celebrity and “the intimacy of being alone with my pen.”
The book is rated 3.46/5 at goodreads.com, from 380 ratings. See 75 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2tMzMbd.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2tMORtr.
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A literature book recommendation: The Lost Order: A Novel (Cotton Malone) by Steve Berry

A critic review (source Washington Times) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2s0Nbvr.
Berry’s fans will love his latest endeavor as he brings more detail into Malone’s past and how he came to be known as Cotton. The villains are a bit over the top, and their ultimate goal is somewhat confusing, but it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.
Book description from Google Books:
The Knights of the Golden Circle was the largest and most dangerous clandestine organization in American history. It amassed billions in stolen gold and silver, all buried in hidden caches across the United States. Since 1865 treasure hunters have searched, but little of that immense wealth has ever been found.Now, one hundred and sixty years later, two factions of what remains of the Knights of the Golden Circle want that lost treasure—one to spend it for their own ends, the other to preserve it. Thrust into this battle is former Justice Department agent Cotton Malone, whose connection to the knights is far deeper than he ever imagined. At the center is the Smithsonian Institution—linked to the knights, its treasure, and Malone himself through an ancestor, a Confederate spy named Angus “Cotton” Adams, whose story holds the key to everything. Complicating matters are the political ambitions of a reckless Speaker of the House and the bitter widow of a United States Senator, who together are planning radical changes to the country. And while Malone and Cassiopeia Vitt face the past, ex-president Danny Daniels and Stephanie Nelle confront a new and unexpected challenge, a threat that may cost one of them their life. From the backrooms of the Smithsonian to the deepest woods in rural Arkansas, and finally up into the rugged mountains of northern New Mexico, The Lost Order by Steve Berry is a perilous adventure into our country’s dark past, and a potentially even darker future.
The book is rated 4.15/5 at goodreads.com, from 2476 ratings. See 308 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2s0PHSv.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2s0RW86.
Google Books preview available in full post.

A literature book recommendation: Anything Is Possible: A Novel by Elizabeth Strout

A critic review (source NY Journal of Books) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2svnoZr.
Anything Is Possible is a deeply moving, often disturbing and heartbreaking, beautifully written and composed collection of intertwining portraits of people from small town America. It does Lucy Barton proud.
Book description from Google Books:
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * An unforgettable cast of small-town characters copes with love and loss in this new work of fiction by #1 bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout. Recalling Olive Kitteridge in its richness, structure, and complexity, Anything Is Possible explores the whole range of human emotion through the intimate dramas of people struggling to understand themselves and others. Here are two sisters: One trades self-respect for a wealthy husband while the other finds in the pages of a book a kindred spirit who changes her life. The janitor at the local school has his faith tested in an encounter with an isolated man he has come to help; a grown daughter longs for mother love even as she comes to accept her mother’s happiness in a foreign country; and the adult Lucy Barton (the heroine of My Name Is Lucy Barton, the author’s celebrated New York Times bestseller) returns to visit her siblings after seventeen years of absence. Reverberating with the deep bonds of family, and the hope that comes with reconciliation, Anything Is Possible again underscores Elizabeth Strout’s place as one of America’s most respected and cherished authors. Praise for Anything Is Possible “When Elizabeth Strout is on her game, is there anybody better? . . . This is a generous, wry book about everyday lives, and Strout crawls so far inside her characters you feel you inhabit them. . . . This is a book that earns its title. Try reading it without tears, or wonder.”–USA Today (four stars) “Readers who loved My Name Is Lucy Barton . . . are in for a real treat. . . . Strout is a master of the story cycle form. . . .  She paints cumulative portraits of the heartache and soul of small-town America by giving each of her characters a turn under her sympathetic spotlight.”–NPR “These stories return Strout to the core of what she does more magnanimously than anyone else, which is to render quiet portraits of the indignities and disappointments of normal life, and the moments of grace and kindness we are gifted in response. . . . Strout hits the target yet again.”–The Washington Post “In this wise and accomplished book, pain and healing exist in perpetual dependence, like feuding siblings.”–The Wall Street Journal “Anything Is Possible confirms Strout as one of our most grace-filled, and graceful, writers.”–The Boston Globe “In Elizabeth Strout’s Anything Is Possible, her stunning follow-up to My Name Is Lucy Barton, a famous author returns to the Midwestern hometown of her childhood, touching off a daisy-chain of stories narrated by those who knew her–memories of trauma and goodwill, resentments small and large, and the ever-widening gulf between haves and have-nots. Strout, always good, just keeps getting better.”–Vogue “If you miss the charmingly eccentric and completely relatable characters from Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout’s best-selling My Name Is Lucy Barton, you’ll be happily reunited with them in Strout’s smart and soulful Anything Is Possible.”–Elle “Strout pierces the inner worlds of these characters’ most private behaviors, illuminating the emotional conflicts and pure joy of being human, of finding oneself in the search for the American dream.”–NYLON
The book is rated 3.90/5 at goodreads.com, from 8082 ratings. See 1478 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2tOtZSx.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2tPiPgm.

A literature book recommendation: Since We Fell: A Novel by Dennis Lehane

A critic review (source NY Journal of Books) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2swj77Y.
Other than the predictable complications caused by her agoraphobia, her responses to the terrible things suddenly destroying her life seem almost completely reactionary, drawing little on the subtleties of character Lehane spent so much time developing in the first half of the novel…Nonetheless, Since We Fell is a ride you won’t want to miss.
Book description from Google Books:
The new novel from New York Times bestseller Dennis Lehane, author of Mystic River and Shutter Island“Lehane is the master of complex human characters thrust into suspenseful, page-turning situations.” —Gillian FlynnSince We Fell follows Rachel Childs, a former journalist who, after an on-air mental breakdown, now lives as a virtual shut-in. In all other respects, however, she enjoys an ideal life with an ideal husband. Until a chance encounter on a rainy afternoon causes that ideal life to fray. As does Rachel’s marriage. As does Rachel herself. Sucked into a conspiracy thick with deception, violence, and possibly madness, Rachel must find the strength within herself to conquer unimaginable fears and mind-altering truths. By turns heart- breaking, suspenseful, romantic, and sophisticated, Since We Fell is a novel of profound psychological insight and tension. It is Dennis Lehane at his very best.
The book is rated 3.71/5 at goodreads.com, from 6736 ratings. See 1075 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2tOERzD.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2svPgwx.