A literature book recommendation: Cockfosters: Stories by Helen Simpson

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2h5j2nt.
What more does one want in a short story besides memorable characters, comic timing, originality, economy and poignancy? And heart. All there. Done. The reader thanks Simpson’s eye and ear for such generosity.
Book description from Google Books:
A wickedly wry, tender new collection from one of our finest internationally acclaimed short story writers. Nine virtuoso stories that take up the preoccupations and fixations of time’s passing and of middle age and that take us from today’s London and Berlin to the wild west of the USA and the wilder shores of Mother Russia; stories finely balanced between devastation and optimism. In the title story, long-ago school pals take the London Underground to the end of the Piccadilly line–Cockfosters Station–to retrieve a lost pair of newly prescribed bifocals (“The worst thing about needing glasses is the bumbling,” says Julie. “I’ve turned into a bumbler overnight. Me! I run marathons!”); each station stop prompting reflections on their shared past, present, and possible futures . . . In “Erewhon,” a gender-role flip: after having sex with his wife, who has turned over and instantly fallen asleep, a man lies awake fretting about his body shape, his dissatisfaction with sex, his children, his role in the marriage . . . In “Kythera,” lemon drizzle cake is a mother’s ritual preparation for her (now grown) daughter’s birthday as she conjures up memories of all the birthday cakes she has made for her, each one more poignant than the last; this new cake becoming a memento mori, an act of love, and a symbol of transformation … And in “Berlin,” a fiftysomething couple on a “Ring package” to Germany spend four evenings watching Wagner’s epic, recalling their life together, reckoning with the husband’s infidelity, the wife noting the similarity between their marriage and the Ring Cycle itself: “I’m glad I stuck it out but I’d never want to sit through it again.”
The book is rated 3.43/5 at goodreads.com, from 178 ratings. See 43 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iwrVGZ.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2h5j2Uv.

A non-fiction book recommendation: Anatomy of Terror: From the Death of bin Laden to the Rise of the Islamic State by Ali Soufan

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2zJk9Sy.
“Anatomy of Terror” not only tells a gripping story but is filled with insights that put today’s terror attacks by the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in perspective with the history and complicated geopolitics of the region.
Book description from Google Books:
In early 2011, the heart of the Muslim world roiled in protest, consumed with the upheaval of the Arab Spring. The governments of Tunisia and Egypt had already fallen; those of Libya and Yemen would soon follow. Watching the chaos from his hideout in Pakistan, Osama bin Laden saw a historic opportunity: “the next stage,” he declared, “will be the reinstating of the rule of the caliphate.”Within weeks, bin Laden was dead, shot in the dark by a U.S. Navy SEAL. Commentators around the world began to prophesy al-Qaeda’s imminent demise. But six years later, the reality is the reverse. The group’s affiliates have swollen, and the Islamic State–al-Qaeda’s most brutal spinoff to date–proclaims itself the reborn caliphate bin Laden foretold in his final weeks.In Anatomy of Terror, former FBI special agent and New York Times best-selling author Ali Soufan dissects bin Laden’s brand of jihadi terrorism and its major offshoots, revealing how these organizations were formed, how they operate, their strengths, and–crucially–their weaknesses. This riveting account examines the new Islamic radicalism through the eyes of its flag-bearers, including a Jordanian former drug dealer whose cruelties shocked even his fellow militants, an Air Force colonel who once served Saddam Hussein, and a provincial bookworm who declared himself caliph of all Muslims. We meet Ayman al-Zawahiri, titular head of al-Qaeda; Saif al-Adel, an Egyptian ex-soldier who faked his own death to become the group’s security chief; and bin Laden’s own beloved son Hamza, a prime candidate to lead the organization his late father founded.To eliminate the scourge of terrorism, we must first know who the enemy actually is, and what his motivations are. Anatomy of Terror lays bare the psychology and inner workings of al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, and their spawn, and shows how the spread of terror can be stopped.
The book is rated 4.10/5 at goodreads.com, from 181 ratings. See 29 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2zIozZJ.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2iUVUsA.

A humour book recommendation: This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare by Gabourey Sidibe

A critic review (source NY Journal of Books) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2ixpunU.
As a writer her informal, chatty style engenders a kinship with both her struggles and triumphs. She speaks directly to the reader and welcomes them in to her private thoughts and dreams.
Book description from Google Books:
The Oscar-nominated Precious star and Empire actress delivers a much-awaited memoir–wise, complex, smart, funny–a version of the American experience different from anything we’ve read Gabourey Sidibe–“Gabby” to her legion of fans–skyrocketed to international fame in 2009 when she played the leading role in Lee Daniels’s acclaimed movie Precious. In This Is Just My Face, she shares a one-of-a-kind life story in a voice as fresh and challenging as many of the unique characters she’s played onscreen. With full-throttle honesty, Sidibe paints her Bed-Stuy/Harlem family life with a polygamous father and a gifted mother who supports her two children by singing in the subway. Sidibe tells the engrossing, inspiring story of her first job as a phone sex “talker.” And she shares her unconventional (of course!) rise to fame as a movie star, alongside “a superstar cast of rich people who lived in mansions and had their own private islands and amazing careers while I lived in my mom’s apartment.”    Sidibe’s memoir hits hard with self-knowing dispatches on friendship, depression, celebrity, haters, fashion, race, and weight (“If I could just get the world to see me the way I see myself,” she writes, “would my body still be a thing you walked away thinking about?”). Irreverent, hilarious, and untraditional, This Is Just My Face will resonate with anyone who has ever felt different, and with anyone who has ever felt inspired to make a dream come true. 
The book is rated 4.01/5 at goodreads.com, from 2547 ratings. See 451 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2izvnAC.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2h77znH.

A bio-memoir book recommendation: Major/Minor by Alba Arikha

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2iFsoGX.
Arikha intertwines her story with the story she draws from her father. She tells both carefully, pacing out the lines so that at times they look and sound like poetry. It’s not, though, nor is it meant to be.
Book description from Google Books:
Alba Arikha’s father was the artist, Avigdor Arikha; her mother the poet, Anne Atik; her godfather, Samuel Beckett. Their apartment/studio, where Alba and her sister grew up, was a hub of literary and artistic achievement, which still reverberates today. Alba’s tale is played out against the family memories of war and exile and the ever present echoes of the European holocaust. Alba Arikha has previously published a novel, Muse, and a collection of short stories, Walking on Ice, under the name Alba Branca.
The book is rated 3.47/5 at goodreads.com, from 17 ratings. See 1 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iCuTtT.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2iFszC7.