A literature book recommendation: Extraordinary Adventures: A Novel by Daniel Wallace

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2iAqlE7.
Daniel Wallace is one of those rare, wonderful writers who make it look easy. You find yourself chortling and sometimes laughing aloud as you breeze through his novels, which makes it possible to overlook the artistry and expertise that render his characters so vivid and his plots so engaging.
Book description from Google Books:
**One of PopSugar’s Best 2017 Spring Books for Women**A large-hearted and optimistic novel, Extraordinary Adventures is the latest from the New York Times bestselling Daniel Wallace.Edsel Bronfman works as a junior executive shipping clerk for an importer of Korean flatware. He lives in a seedy neighborhood and spends his free time with his spirited mother. Things happen to other people, and Bronfman knows it. Until, that is, he gets a call from operator 61217 telling him that he’s won a free weekend at a beachfront condo in Destin, Florida. But there’s a catch: the offer is intended for a couple, and Bronfman has only seventy-nine days to find someone to take with him.The phone call jolts Bronfman into motion, initiating a series of truly extraordinary adventures as he sets out to find a companion for his weekend getaway. Open at last to the possibilities of life, Bronfman now believes that anything can happen. And it does.
The book is rated 3.59/5 at goodreads.com, from 497 ratings. See 145 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iznQBR.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2iy3MQA.

A politics book recommendation: A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America by Bruce Cannon Gibney

A critic review (source Globe and Mail) can be read at: https://tgam.ca/2zSITaW.
A Generation of Sociopaths is, no doubt, a damning, searingly relevant indictment. But it’s tripped up by a number of glaring flaws in Gibney’s analysis.
Book description from Google Books:
In his “remarkable” (Men’s Journal) and “controversial” (Fortune) book — written in a “wry, amusing style” (The Guardian) — Bruce Cannon Gibney shows how America was hijacked by the Boomers, a generation whose reckless self-indulgence degraded the foundations of American prosperity. In A Generation of Sociopaths, Gibney examines the disastrous policies of the most powerful generation in modern history, showing how the Boomers ruthlessly enriched themselves at the expense of future generations.Acting without empathy, prudence, or respect for facts–acting, in other words, as sociopaths–the Boomers turned American dynamism into stagnation, inequality, and bipartisan fiasco. The Boomers have set a time bomb for the 2030s, when damage to Social Security, public finances, and the environment will become catastrophic and possibly irreversible–and when, not coincidentally, Boomers will be dying off. Gibney argues that younger generations have a fleeting window to hold the Boomers accountable and begin restoring America.
The book is rated 3.71/5 at goodreads.com, from 303 ratings. See 73 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2zTl7LZ.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2j2I2fG.

A war book recommendation: Spoils by Brian Van Reet

A critic review (source Guardian) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2zIJOL0.
Yet Spoils is undeniably engrossing all the same – and smart, too, embedding in its structure a sharp appraisal of the conflict…
Book description from Google Books:
Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence “An electrifying debut” (The Economist) that maps the blurred lines between good and evil, soldier and civilian, victor and vanquished. It is April 2003. American forces have taken Baghdad and are now charged with winning hearts and minds. But this vital tipping point is barely recognized for what it is, as a series of miscalculations and blunders fuels an already-simmering insurgency intent on making Iraq the next graveyard of empires.In dazzling and propulsive prose, Brian Van Reet explores the lives on both sides of the battle lines: Cassandra, a nineteen-year-old gunner on an American Humvee who is captured during a deadly firefight and awakens in a prison cell; Abu Al-Hool, a lifelong mujahedeen beset by a simmering crisis of conscience as he struggles against enemies from without and within, including the new wave of far more radicalized jihadists; and Specialist Sleed, a tank crewman who goes along with a “victimless” crime, the consequences of which are more awful than any he could have imagined.Depicting a war spinning rapidly out of control, destined to become a modern classic, Spoils is an unsparing and morally complex novel that chronicles the achingly human cost of combat.
The book is rated 3.93/5 at goodreads.com, from 341 ratings. See 91 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2iSABrw.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2iT484h.

A politics book recommendation: A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America by Bruce Cannon Gibney

A critic review (source Globe and Mail) can be read at: https://tgam.ca/2zSITaW.
A Generation of Sociopaths is, no doubt, a damning, searingly relevant indictment. But it’s tripped up by a number of glaring flaws in Gibney’s analysis.
Book description from Google Books:
In his “remarkable” (Men’s Journal) and “controversial” (Fortune) book — written in a “wry, amusing style” (The Guardian) — Bruce Cannon Gibney shows how America was hijacked by the Boomers, a generation whose reckless self-indulgence degraded the foundations of American prosperity. In A Generation of Sociopaths, Gibney examines the disastrous policies of the most powerful generation in modern history, showing how the Boomers ruthlessly enriched themselves at the expense of future generations.Acting without empathy, prudence, or respect for facts–acting, in other words, as sociopaths–the Boomers turned American dynamism into stagnation, inequality, and bipartisan fiasco. The Boomers have set a time bomb for the 2030s, when damage to Social Security, public finances, and the environment will become catastrophic and possibly irreversible–and when, not coincidentally, Boomers will be dying off. Gibney argues that younger generations have a fleeting window to hold the Boomers accountable and begin restoring America.
The book is rated 3.71/5 at goodreads.com, from 303 ratings. See 73 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2zTl7LZ.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2j2I2fG.

A fiction book recommendation: Music of the Ghosts: A Novel by Vaddey Ratner

A critic review (source NY Journal of Books) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2h6uoHX.
Once again a writer, a female one, finds no other way to end a woman’s story without giving her a prince charming and a child to help her find her way to renewed hope, identify and resilience. Given Ratner’s personal experience of escape from the Cambodian genocide, such a critique may seem unkind.
Book description from Google Books:
An astonishing and powerful new novel from PEN/Hemingway finalist Vaddey Ratner.Leaving the safety of America, Teera returns to Cambodia for the first time since her harrowing escape as a child refugee. She carries a letter from a man who mysteriously signs himself as “the Old Musician” and claims to have known her father in the Khmer Rouge prison where he disappeared twenty-five years ago. In Phnom Penh, Teera finds a society still in turmoil, where perpetrators and survivors of unfathomable violence live side by side, striving to mend their still beloved country. She meets a young doctor who begins to open her heart, immerses herself in long-buried memories and prepares to learn her father’s fate. Meanwhile, the Old Musician, who earns his modest keep playing ceremonial music at a temple, awaits Teera’s visit with great trepidation. He will have to confess the bonds he shared with her parents, the passion with which they all embraced the Khmer Rouge’s illusory promise of a democratic society, and the truth about her father’s end. A love story for things lost and things restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness, Music of the Ghosts is an unforgettable journey through the embattled geography of the heart and its hidden chambers where love can be reborn.
The book is rated 3.84/5 at goodreads.com, from 425 ratings. See 131 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2h6uz65.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2iA0AnF.
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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.

A war book recommendation: He Calls Me By Lightning: The Life of Caliph Washington and the forgotten Saga of Jim Crow, Southern Justice, and the Death Penalty by S Jonathan Bass

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2h64vIk.
Bass unearths the heretofore undocumented story of Caliph Washington and his trek through the depths of Jim Crow justice. The complex lives that populate his jailhouse journey from segregation through civil rights braid the movement’s gains and limitations into a red thread tracing the current crisis of race and criminal justice.
Book description from Google Books:
Caliph Washington didn’t pull the trigger but, as Officer James “Cowboy” Clark lay dying, he had no choice but to turn on his heel and run. The year was 1957; Cowboy Clark was white, Caliph Washington was black, and this was the Jim Crow South.As He Calls Me by Lightning painstakingly chronicles, Washington, then a seventeen-year-old simply returning home after a double date, was swiftly arrested, put on trial, and sentenced to death by an all-white jury. The young man endured the horrors of a hellish prison system for thirteen years, a term that included various stints on death row fearing the “lightning” of the electric chair. Twentieth-century legal history is tragically littered with thousands of stories of such judicial cruelty, but S. Jonathan Bass’s account is remarkable in that he has been able to meticulously re-create Washington’s saga, animating a life that was not supposed to matter.Given the familiar paradigm of an African American man being falsely accused of killing a white policeman, it would be all too easy to apply a reductionist view to the story. What makes He Calls Me by Lightning so unusual are a spate of unknown variables–most prominently the fact that Governor George Wallace, nationally infamous for his active advocacy of segregation, did, in fact, save this death row inmate’s life. As we discover, Wallace stayed Washington’s execution not once but more than a dozen times, reflecting a philosophy about the death penalty that has not been perpetuated by his successors.Other details make Washington’s story significant to legal history, not the least of which is that the defendant endured three separate trials and then was held in a county jail for five more years before being convicted of second-degree murder in 1970; this decision was overturned as well, although the charges were never dismissed. Bass’s account is also particularly noteworthy for his evocation of Washington’s native Bessemer, a gritty, industrial city lying only thirteen miles to the east of Birmingham, Alabama, whose singularly fascinating story is frequently overlooked by historians.By rescuing Washington’s unknown life trajectory–along with the stories of his intrepid lawyers, David Hood Jr. and Orzell Billingsley, and Christine Luna, an Italian-American teacher and activist who would become Washington’s bride upon his release–Bass brings to multidimensional life many different strands of the civil rights movement. Devastating and essential, He Calls Me by Lightning demands that we take into account the thousands of lives cast away by systemic racism, and powerfully demonstrates just how much we still do not know.
The book is rated 3.87/5 at goodreads.com, from 52 ratings. See 21 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2h9dWqh.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2ixeF53.