A politics book recommendation: The Epic City: The World on the Streets of Calcutta by Kushanava Choudhury

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2DrMXkt.
…The Epic City is a wonderful, beautifully written and even more beautifully observed love letter to Calcutta’s greatness: to its high culture, its music and film, its festivals, its people, its cuisine, its urban rhythms and, above all, to its rooted Bengaliness.
Book description from amazon.com:
Shortlisted for the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the YearA masterful and entirely fresh portrait of great hopes and dashed dreams in a mythical city from a major new literary voice.Everything that could possibly be wrong with a city was wrong with Calcutta.When Kushanava Choudhury arrived in New Jersey at the age of twelve, he had already migrated halfway around the world four times. After graduating from Princeton, he moved back to the world which his immigrant parents had abandoned, to a city built between a river and a swamp, where the moisture-drenched air swarms with mosquitos after sundown. Once the capital of the British Raj, and then India’s industrial and cultural hub, by 2001 Calcutta was clearly past its prime. Why, his relatives beseeched him, had he returned? Surely, he could have moved to Delhi, Bombay or Bangalore, where a new Golden Age of consumption was being born. Yet fifteen million people still lived in Calcutta. Working for the Statesman, its leading English newspaper, Kushanava Choudhury found the streets of his childhood unchanged by time. Shouting hawkers still overran the footpaths, fish-sellers squatted on bazaar floors; politics still meant barricades and bus burnings, while Communist ministers travelled in motorcades. Sifting through the chaos for the stories that never make the papers, Kushanava Choudhury paints a soulful, compelling portrait of the everyday lives that make Calcutta. Written with humanity, wit and insight, The Epic City is an unforgettable depiction of an era, and a city which is a world unto itself.
The book is rated 3.99/5 at goodreads.com, from 71 ratings. See 17 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2CUs2W0.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2CUstzC.

A politics book recommendation: Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A. by Danielle S. Allen

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2DpwFIG.
Among the most valuable contributions Allen makes is forcing us to ask: To what end are we locking up our children? Are we not foreclosing their options before their lives have even begun?
Book description from Google Books:
In a shattering work that shifts between a woman’s private anguish over the loss of her beloved baby cousin and a scholar’s fierce critique of the American prison system, Danielle Allen seeks answers to what, for many years, felt unanswerable. Why? Why did her cousin, a precocious young man who dreamed of being a firefighter and a writer, end up dead? Why did he languish in prison? And why, at the age of fifteen, was he in an alley in South Central Los Angeles, holding a gun while trying to steal someone’s car?Cuz means both “cousin” and “because.” In this searing memoir, Allen unfurls a “new American story” about a world tragically transformed by the sudden availability of narcotics and the rise of street gangs–a collision, followed by a reactionary War on Drugs, that would devastate not only South Central L.A. but virtually every urban center in the nation. At thirteen, sensitive, talkative Michael Allen was suddenly tossed into this cauldron, a violent world where he would be tried at fifteen as an adult for an attempted carjacking, and where he would be sent, along with an entire generation, cascading into the spiral of the Los Angeles prison system.Throughout her cousin Michael’s eleven years in prison, Danielle Allen–who became a dean at the University of Chicago at the age of thirty-two–remained psychically bonded to her self-appointed charge, visiting Michael in prison and corresponding with him regularly. When she finally welcomed her baby cousin home, she adopted the role of “cousin on duty,” devotedly supporting Michael’s fresh start while juggling the demands of her own academic career.As Cuz heartbreakingly reveals, even Allen’s devotion, as unwavering as it was, could not save Michael from the brutal realities encountered by newly released young men navigating the streets of South Central. The corrosive entanglements of gang warfare, combined with a star-crossed love for a gorgeous woman driving a gold Mercedes, would ultimately be Michael’s undoing.In this Ellisonian story of a young African American man’s coming-of-age in late twentieth-century America, and of the family who will always love Michael, we learn how we lost an entire generation.
The book is rated 3.48/5 at goodreads.com, from 297 ratings. See 64 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2CW2rvZ.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2CUPmmA.

A politics book recommendation: So They Call You Pisher?: A Memoir by Michael Rosen

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2DqtEHW.
From memories of his Shakespeare-quoting father, to forging his own path towards becoming a professional writer, this memoir is also a powerful love letter to literature.
Book description from Google Books:
The brilliant family memoir of the much-beloved poet and political campaigner In this hilarious, moving memoir, much-loved children’s poet and political campaigner Michael Rosen recalls the first twenty-three years of his life. He was born in the North London suburbs, and his parents, Harold and Connie, both teachers, first met as teenage Communists in the Jewish East End of the 1930s. The family home was filled with stories of relatives in London, the United States and France and of those who had disappeared in Europe. Different from other children, Rosen and his brother, Brian, grew up dreaming of a socialist revolution. Party meetings were held in the front room. Summers were for communist camping holidays. But it all changed after a trip to East Germany when, in 1957, his parents decided to leave ‘the Party’. From that point, Michael followed his own journey of radical self-discovery: running away to Aldermaston to march against the bomb; writing and performing in experimental political theatre at Oxford; getting arrested during the 1968 movements. The book ends with a letter to his father, and the revelation of a heartbreaking family secret.
The book is rated 3.40/5 at goodreads.com, from 5 ratings. See 1 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2D096VR.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2DqtUXq.

A politics book recommendation: A Disappearance in Damascus: Friendship and Survival in the Shadow of War by Deborah Campbell

A critic review (source Star Tribune) can be read at: http://strib.mn/2CXqcUe.
This important book opens our eyes to the lives of the people who are trying to find peace in a world of chaos.
Book description from Google Books:
Winner of the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for NonfictionWinner of the Freedom to Read AwardWinner of the Hubert Evans PrizeIn the midst of an unfolding international crisis, renowned journalist Deborah Campbell finds herself swept up in the mysterious disappearance of Ahlam, her guide and friend. Campbell’s frank, personal account of a journey through fear and the triumph of friendship and courage is as riveting as it is illuminating.The story begins in 2007, when Deborah Campbell travels undercover to Damascus to report on the exodus of Iraqis into Syria, following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. There she meets and hires Ahlam, a refugee working as a “fixer”—providing Western media with trustworthy information and contacts to help get the news out. Ahlam has fled her home in Iraq after being kidnapped while running a humanitarian center. She supports her husband and two children while working to set up a makeshift school for displaced girls. Strong and charismatic, she has become an unofficial leader of the refugee community.Campbell is inspired by Ahlam’s determination to create something good amid so much suffering, and the two women become close friends. But one morning, Ahlam is seized from her home in front of Campbell’s eyes. Haunted by the prospect that their work together has led to her friend’s arrest, Campbell spends the months that follow desperately trying to find Ahlam—all the while fearing she could be next.The compelling story of two women caught up in the shadowy politics behind today’s most searing conflict, A Disappearance in Damascus reminds us of the courage of those who risk their lives to bring us the world’s news.
The book is rated 4.25/5 at goodreads.com, from 221 ratings. See 40 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2DrOaIo.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2CYKhte.

A politics book recommendation: Riot Days by Maria Alyokhina

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2CZlJAl.
Riot Days could so easily have been a straightforward, from-the-horse’s-mouth confessional account of one of the most publicised political protests of recent years. Alyokhina takes on a far greater challenge: creating a text that is not just a reflection on a piece of art, but becomes one itself…
Book description from Google Books:
A Pussy Rioter’s riveting, hallucinatory account of her years in Russia’s criminal system and of finding power in the most powerless of situationsIn February 2012, after smuggling an electric guitar into Moscow’s iconic central cathedral, Maria Alyokhina and other members of the radical collective Pussy Riot performed a provocative “Punk Prayer,” taking on the Orthodox church and its support for Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime.For this, they were charged with “organized hooliganism” and were tried while confined in a cage and guarded by Rottweilers. That trial and Alyokhina’s subsequent imprisonment became an international cause. For Alyokhina, her two-year sentence launched a bitter struggle against the Russian prison system and an iron-willed refusal to be deprived of her humanity. Teeming with protests and police, witnesses and cellmates, informers and interrogators, Riot Days gives voice to Alyokhina’s insistence on the right to say no, whether to a prison guard or to the president. Ultimately, this insistence delivers unprecedented victories for prisoners’ rights.Evocative, wry, laser-sharp, and laconically funny, Alyokhina’s account is studded with song lyrics, legal transcripts, and excerpts from her jail diary—dispatches from a young woman who has faced tyranny and returned with the proof that against all odds even one person can force its retreat.
The book is rated 4.03/5 at goodreads.com, from 203 ratings. See 68 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2D0HHmt.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2DvDWqj.

A politics book recommendation: New People by Danzy Senna

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2Cs3nrw.
There is no easy consolation in “New People.” But in its insistence on being read on its own terms, its commitment to complexity, it does something better than describe freedom. It enacts it.
Book description from Google Books:
Named a BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, VOGUE, TIME MAGAZINE, NPR and THE ROOTNamed A 2017 BEST SUMMER READ BYVogue • Elle • Harper’s Bazaar • Glamour • Buzzfeed • In Style • Men’s Journal • Bustle • Ms. Magazine • Pop Sugar • Newsday • The Millions • Time Out • Bitch • CNN’s The Lead • The Fader”[A] cutting take on race and class…part dark comedy, part surreal morality tale. Disturbing and delicious.” -People”You’ll gulp Senna’s novel in a single sitting—but then mull over it for days.” –Entertainment Weekly”Everyone should read it.” –VogueFrom the bestselling author of Caucasia, a subversive and engrossing novel of race, class and manners in contemporary America. As the twentieth century draws to a close, Maria is at the start of a life she never thought possible. She and Khalil, her college sweetheart, are planning their wedding. They are the perfect couple, “King and Queen of the Racially Nebulous Prom.” Their skin is the same shade of beige. They live together in a black bohemian enclave in Brooklyn, where Khalil is riding the wave of the first dot-com boom and Maria is plugging away at her dissertation, on the Jonestown massacre. They’ve even landed a starring role in a documentary about “new people” like them, who are blurring the old boundaries as a brave new era dawns. Everything Maria knows she should want lies before her–yet she can’t stop daydreaming about another man, a poet she barely knows. As fantasy escalates to fixation, it dredges up secrets from the past and threatens to unravel not only Maria’s perfect new life but her very persona. Heartbreaking and darkly comic, New People is a bold and unfettered page-turner that challenges our every assumption about how we define one another, and ourselves.
The book is rated 3.28/5 at goodreads.com, from 1469 ratings. See 241 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2CVQ97A.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2CuSiWz.
Google Books preview available in full post.

A politics book recommendation: The Red-Haired Woman: A novel by Orhan Pamuk

A critic review (source NY Journal of Books) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2CZlMMH.
Happily, The Red-Haired Woman is more approachable than some of Pamuk’s oeuvre…But some things never get obsolete, including good writing by masters like Pamuk.
Book description from Google Books:
From the Nobel Prize winner and best-selling author of Snow and My Name Is Red, a fable of fathers and sons and the desires that come between them. On the outskirts of a town thirty miles from Istanbul, a master well digger and his young apprentice are hired to find water on a barren plain. As they struggle in the summer heat, excavating without luck meter by meter, the two will develop a filial bond neither has known before–not the poor middle-aged bachelor nor the middle-class boy whose father disappeared after being arrested for politically subversive activities. The pair will come to depend on each other and exchange stories reflecting disparate views of the world. But in the nearby town, where they buy provisions and take their evening break, the boy will find an irresistible diversion. The Red-Haired Woman, an alluring member of a travelling theatre company, catches his eye and seems as fascinated by him as he is by her. The young man’s wildest dream will be realized, but, when in his distraction a horrible accident befalls the well digger, the boy will flee, returning to Istanbul. Only years later will he discover whether he was in fact responsible for his master’s death and who the redheaded enchantress was. A beguiling mystery tale of family and romance, of east and west, tradition and modernity, by one of the great storytellers of our time. Translated from the Turkish by Ekin Oklap.
The book is rated 3.65/5 at goodreads.com, from 4384 ratings. See 493 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2CWShex.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2DssI5O.

A politics book recommendation: Gorbachev: His Life and Times by William Taubman

A critic review (source The Economist) can be read at: http://econ.st/2DpGkis.
Yet, revealing as the book is about Mr Gorbachev’s ability to overcome ideological dogmas that required squaring up to the West, it is equally revealing about how Western leaders were unable or unwilling to believe him.
Book description from Google Books:
The definitive biography of the transformational world leader by the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Khrushchev. When Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union in 1985, the USSR was one of the world’s two superpowers. By 1989, his liberal policies of perestroika and glasnost had permanently transformed Soviet Communism, and had made enemies of radicals on the right and left. By 1990 he, more than anyone else, had ended the Cold War, and in 1991, after barely escaping from a coup attempt, he unintentionally presided over the collapse of the Soviet Union he had tried to save. In the first comprehensive biography of the final Soviet leader, William Taubman shows how a peasant boy became the Soviet system’s gravedigger, how he clambered to the top of a system designed to keep people like him down, how he found common ground with America’s arch-conservative president Ronald Reagan, and how he permitted the USSR and its East European empire to break apart without using force to preserve them. Throughout, Taubman portrays the many sides of Gorbachev’s unique character that, by Gorbachev’s own admission, make him “difficult to understand.” Was he in fact a truly great leader, or was he brought low in the end by his own shortcomings, as well as by the unyielding forces he faced? Drawing on interviews with Gorbachev himself, transcripts and documents from the Russian archives, and interviews with Kremlin aides and adversaries, as well as foreign leaders, Taubman’s intensely personal portrait extends to Gorbachev’s remarkable marriage to a woman he deeply loved, and to the family that they raised together. Nuanced and poignant, yet unsparing and honest, this sweeping account has all the amplitude of a great Russian novel.
The book is rated 4.23/5 at goodreads.com, from 132 ratings. See 34 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2DmwQnX.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2CVx9p0.
Google Books preview available in full post.

A politics book recommendation: The Golden House: A Novel by Salman Rushdie

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2Dqe3IG.
Rushdie has always been an impish myth-manipulator, refusing to accept, as in this novel, that the lives of the emperors can’t be blended with film noir, popular culture and crime caper. On the evidence of The Golden House, he is quite right.
Book description from Google Books:
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * A modern American epic set against the panorama of contemporary politics and culture–a hurtling, page-turning mystery that is equal parts The Great Gatsby and The Bonfire of the Vanities On the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration, an enigmatic billionaire from foreign shores takes up residence in the architectural jewel of “the Gardens,” a cloistered community in New York’s Greenwich Village. The neighborhood is a bubble within a bubble, and the residents are immediately intrigued by the eccentric newcomer and his family. Along with his improbable name, untraceable accent, and unmistakable whiff of danger, Nero Golden has brought along his three adult sons: agoraphobic, alcoholic Petya, a brilliant recluse with a tortured mind; Apu, the flamboyant artist, sexually and spiritually omnivorous, famous on twenty blocks; and D, at twenty-two the baby of the family, harboring an explosive secret even from himself. There is no mother, no wife; at least not until Vasilisa, a sleek Russian expat, snags the septuagenarian Nero, becoming the queen to his king–a queen in want of an heir. Our guide to the Goldens’ world is their neighbor Ren�, an ambitious young filmmaker. Researching a movie about the Goldens, he ingratiates himself into their household. Seduced by their mystique, he is inevitably implicated in their quarrels, their infidelities, and, indeed, their crimes. Meanwhile, like a bad joke, a certain comic-book villain embarks upon a crass presidential run that turns New York upside-down. Set against the strange and exuberant backdrop of current American culture and politics, The Golden House also marks Salman Rushdie’s triumphant and exciting return to realism. The result is a modern epic of love and terrorism, loss and reinvention–a powerful, timely story told with the daring and panache that make Salman Rushdie a force of light in our dark new age. Praise for The Golden House “If you read a lot of fiction, you know that every once in a while you stumble upon a book that transports you, telling a story full of wonder and leaving you marveling at how it ever came out of the author’s head. The Golden House is one of those books. . . . [It] tackles more than a handful of universal truths while feeling wholly original.”–The Associated Press “The Golden House . . . ranks among Rushdie’s most ambitious and provocative books [and] displays the quicksilver wit and playful storytelling of Rushdie’s best work.”–USA Today “[The Golden House] is a recognizably Rushdie novel in its playfulness, its verbal jousting, its audacious bravado, its unapologetic erudition, and its sheer, dazzling brilliance.”–The Boston Globe
The book is rated 3.68/5 at goodreads.com, from 2392 ratings. See 592 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2DrZp3H.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2CUVk6M.

A politics book recommendation: The Locals: A Novel by Jonathan Dee

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2CsrJ4g.
Dee’s novel seems to run entirely in second gear. Reading it I kept thinking of the critic Leslie Fiedler, who wrote: “I have, I admit, a low tolerance for detached chronicling and cool analysis. It is, I suppose, partly my own unregenerate nature. I long for the raised voice, the howl of rage or love.”
Book description from Google Books:
“Summons up a small American town at precisely the right moment in our history . . . a bold, vital, and view-expanding novel.”—George SaundersA rural working-class New England town elects as its mayor a New York hedge fund millionaire in this inspired novel for our times—fiction in the tradition of Jonathan Franzen and Jennifer Egan.A WASHINGTON POST NOTABLE BOOK Mark Firth is a contractor and home restorer in Howland, Massachusetts, who feels opportunity passing his family by. After being swindled by a financial advisor, what future can Mark promise his wife, Karen, and their young daughter, Haley? He finds himself envying the wealthy weekenders in his community whose houses sit empty all winter. Philip Hadi used to be one of these people. But in the nervous days after 9/11 he flees New York and hires Mark to turn his Howland home into a year-round “secure location” from which he can manage billions of dollars of other people’s money. The collision of these two men’s very different worlds—rural vs. urban, middle class vs. wealthy—is the engine of Jonathan Dee’s powerful new novel. Inspired by Hadi, Mark looks around for a surefire investment: the mid-decade housing boom. Over Karen’s objections, and teaming up with his troubled brother, Gerry, Mark starts buying up local property with cheap debt. Then the town’s first selectman dies suddenly, and Hadi volunteers for office. He soon begins subtly transforming Howland in his image—with unexpected results for Mark and his extended family. Here are the dramas of twenty-first-century America—rising inequality, working class decline, a new authoritarianism—played out in the classic setting of some of our greatest novels: the small town. The Locals is that rare work of fiction capable of capturing a fraught American moment in real time. Praise for The Locals“After 9/11, New York hedge fund billionaire Philip Hadi retreats to his summer home in the Berkshires. In thrall to his new town, he runs for office to keep it sleepy, sweet and free from tax hikes. Is he benevolent, arrogant or both? No one gets off the moral hook in this propulsive, brilliantly observed study.”—People (Book of the Week)   “Thoughtful . . . [Jonathan Dee’s] prescient sensitivity has never been more unnerving. . . . Amid the heat of today’s vicious political climate, The Locals is a smoke alarm. Listen up.”—Ron Charles, The Washington Post
The book is rated 3.44/5 at goodreads.com, from 1081 ratings. See 205 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2CQnssu.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2CRBQ3U.
Google Books preview available in full post.