A literature book recommendation: Someone You Love Is Gone: A Novel by Gurjinder Basran

A critic review (source Toronto Star) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2DpSXdl.
Although epic in scope, Someone You Love is Gone is economically and poetically written. Playing with time and place, it serves up a rich narrative with a cultural and generation-crossing protagonist supported by a cast of equally compelling characters.
Book description from Google Books:
“A beautiful, haunting story of one family, spanning generations and continents, as they face life’s inevitable losses, struggle with grief and reach for redemption.”—Shilpi Somaya Gowda, New York Times bestselling author of Secret Daughter and The Golden SonPerfect for readers of Jhumpa Lahiri and Anne Tyler, Someone You Love Is Gone is a beautifully rendered, multi-generational story of secrets and ghosts that haunt a family.I sit at the table and forget myself for a moment and the past steps forward. The house is as it was before Father died, and even before that, before Diwa left and before Jyoti was born. The house had a different light then or perhaps that’s just memory casting a glow on everything, candlelight and sunset, everything only slightly visible. Mother is in the kitchen, washing the dinner dishes. Steam is rising and the window in front of her fogs over her reflection. Even here, she is a ghost. Simran’s mother has died but is not gone. Haunted by her mother’s spirit and memories of the past, she struggles to make sense of her world. Faced with disillusion in her marriage, growing distance from her daughter and sister, and the return of her long-estranged brother, she is troubled by questions to which she has no answers. As the life Simran has carefully constructed unravels, she must confront the truth of why her brother was separated from the family at a young age, and in doing so she uncovers an ancestral inheritance that changes everything. She allows her grief to transform her life, but in ways that ultimately give her the deep sense of self she has been craving, discovering along the way family secrets that cross continents, generations, and even lifetimes. Gurjinder Basran’s mesmerizingly beautiful novel, Someone You Love Is Gone, is a powerful exploration of loss and love, memory and history, family ties and family secrets, and the thin veil between this life and the next. 
The book is rated 3.84/5 at goodreads.com, from 200 ratings. See 42 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2CUiOZJ.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2Dq5VaQ.

A literature book recommendation: Galaxy Love: Poems by Gerald Stern

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2E1jBt8.
For decades, and in every overcaffeinated and rumbustious line, Gerald Stern has been telling us that the best way to live is not so much for poetry but through poetry, and he underlines that idea here again in “Galaxy Love.” I believe him.
Book description from Google Books:
The poems in this new volume by the winner of the National Book Award span countries and centuries, reflecting on memory, aging, history, and mortality. “Hamlet Naked” traverses Manhattan in the 1960s from a Shakespeare play on 47th Street to the cellar of a Ukrainian restaurant in the East Village; “Thieves and Murderers” encompasses musings of the medieval French poet Francois Villon and Dwight Eisenhower; “Orson” recounts a meeting of the poet and Orson Welles, exiled in Paris. Gerald Stern recalls old cars he used to drive–“the 1950 Buick / with the small steering wheel / and the cigar lighter in the back seat”–as well as intimate portraits of his daily life “and the mussel-pooled and the heron-priested shore” of Florida. These are wistful, generous, lively love poems and elegies that capture the passage of time, the joys of a sensual life, and remembrances of the past.
The book is rated 3.44/5 at goodreads.com, from 16 ratings. See 4 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2Dtrk29.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2DZLJgv.

A fiction book recommendation: The Burning Girl: A Novel by Claire Messud

A critic review (source NY Journal of Books) can be read at: http://bit.ly/2DgU2U1.
Claire Messud is undoubtedly a deeply skilled writer and storyteller. The Burning Girl is certainly a competent addition to the girl friendship novels, coming-of-age stories, and reminiscences of lost youth and friendship, but it is not poignant, powerful, or memorable enough for such a genre and such a story.
Book description from Google Books:
Julia and Cassie have been friends since nursery school. They have shared everything, including their desire to escape the stifling limitations of their birthplace, the quiet town of Royston, Massachusetts. But as the two girls enter adolescence, their paths diverge and Cassie sets out on a journey that will put her life in danger and shatter her oldest friendship. The Burning Girl is a complex examination of the stories we tell ourselves about youth and friendship, and straddles, expertly, childhood’s imaginary worlds and painful adult reality–crafting a true, immediate portrait of female adolescence.Claire Messud, one of our finest novelists, is as accomplished at weaving a compelling fictional world as she is at asking the big questions: To what extent can we know ourselves and others? What are the stories we create to comprehend our lives and relationships? Brilliantly mixing fable and coming-of-age tale, The Burning Girl gets to the heart of these matters in an absolutely irresistible way.
The book is rated 3.32/5 at goodreads.com, from 4770 ratings. See 748 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2DKUQ4k.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2DgdYGq.

A non-fiction 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 literature book recommendation: Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult by Bruce Handy

A critic review (source NPR) can be read at: http://n.pr/2CV2doF.
If Handy is not always ambitious or thorough, he puts extraordinary care into replicating and preserving those feelings. “Myself, I wouldn’t eat a Sendak,” he writes, “but I honor the gesture.”
Book description from Google Books:
An irresistible, nostalgic, insightful—and totally original—ramble through classic children’s literature from Vanity Fair contributing editor (and father) Bruce Handy. “Consistently intelligent and funny…The book succeeds wonderfully.” —The New York Times Book Review “A delightful excursion…Engaging and full of genuine feeling.” —The Wall Street Journal “Pure pleasure.” —Vanity Fair “Witty and engaging…Deeply satisfying.” —Christian Science MonitorIn 1690, the dour New England Primer, thought to be the first American children’s book, was published in Boston. Offering children gems of advice such as “Strive to learn” and “Be not a dunce,” it was no fun at all. So how did we get from there to “Let the wild rumpus start”? And now that we’re living in a golden age of children’s literature, what can adults get out of reading Where the Wild Things Are and Goodnight Moon, or Charlotte’s Web and Little House on the Prairie? In Wild Things, Bruce Handy revisits the classics of American childhood, from fairy tales to The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and explores the backstories of their creators, using context and biography to understand how some of the most insightful, creative, and witty authors and illustrators of their times created their often deeply personal masterpieces. Along the way, Handy learns what The Cat in the Hat says about anarchy and absentee parenting, which themes link The Runaway Bunny and Portnoy’s Complaint, and why Ramona Quimby is as true an American icon as Tom Sawyer or Jay Gatsby. It’s a profound, eye-opening experience to reencounter books that you once treasured after decades apart. A clear-eyed love letter to the greatest children’s books and authors, from Louisa May Alcott and L. Frank Baum to Eric Carle, Dr. Seuss, Mildred D. Taylor, and E.B. White, Wild Things will bring back fond memories for readers of all ages, along with a few surprises.
The book is rated 3.77/5 at goodreads.com, from 603 ratings. See 168 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2DjPEnP.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2DmU9y4.
Google Books preview available in full post.

A non-fiction 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 141 ratings. See 37 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 non-fiction 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: 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 history book recommendation: The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World In Flux by Cathy N. Davidson

A critic review (source NY Times) can be read at: http://nyti.ms/2DnocoF.
Davidson’s enthusiasm and her examples should inspire creativity from a lot more college teachers. And in fact there is a lot of good teaching in American higher education. But the puzzle left by Davidson’s book is why the overall model has been so impervious to change.
Book description from Google Books:
“The most important book I have read in many years.”-Tony Wagner, Harvard University i-lab Expert in Residence, author of Creating Innovators A leading educational thinker argues that the American university is stuck in the past–and shows how we can revolutionize it for our era of constant changeOur current system of higher education dates to the period from 1865 to 1925, when the nation’s new universities created grades and departments, majors and minors, in an attempt to prepare young people for a world transformed by the telegraph and the Model T. As Cathy N. Davidson argues in The New Education, this approach to education is wholly unsuited to the era of the gig economy. From the Ivy League to community colleges, she introduces us to innovators who are remaking college for our own time by emphasizing student-centered learning that values creativity in the face of change above all. The New Education ultimately shows how we can teach students not only to survive but to thrive amid the challenges to come.
The book is rated 4.22/5 at goodreads.com, from 58 ratings. See 17 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2DjIfUL.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2Doe5zL.

A non-fiction book recommendation: Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult by Bruce Handy

A critic review (source NPR) can be read at: http://n.pr/2CV2doF.
If Handy is not always ambitious or thorough, he puts extraordinary care into replicating and preserving those feelings. “Myself, I wouldn’t eat a Sendak,” he writes, “but I honor the gesture.”
Book description from Google Books:
An irresistible, nostalgic, insightful—and totally original—ramble through classic children’s literature from Vanity Fair contributing editor (and father) Bruce Handy. “Consistently intelligent and funny…The book succeeds wonderfully.” —The New York Times Book Review “A delightful excursion…Engaging and full of genuine feeling.” —The Wall Street Journal “Pure pleasure.” —Vanity Fair “Witty and engaging…Deeply satisfying.” —Christian Science MonitorIn 1690, the dour New England Primer, thought to be the first American children’s book, was published in Boston. Offering children gems of advice such as “Strive to learn” and “Be not a dunce,” it was no fun at all. So how did we get from there to “Let the wild rumpus start”? And now that we’re living in a golden age of children’s literature, what can adults get out of reading Where the Wild Things Are and Goodnight Moon, or Charlotte’s Web and Little House on the Prairie? In Wild Things, Bruce Handy revisits the classics of American childhood, from fairy tales to The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and explores the backstories of their creators, using context and biography to understand how some of the most insightful, creative, and witty authors and illustrators of their times created their often deeply personal masterpieces. Along the way, Handy learns what The Cat in the Hat says about anarchy and absentee parenting, which themes link The Runaway Bunny and Portnoy’s Complaint, and why Ramona Quimby is as true an American icon as Tom Sawyer or Jay Gatsby. It’s a profound, eye-opening experience to reencounter books that you once treasured after decades apart. A clear-eyed love letter to the greatest children’s books and authors, from Louisa May Alcott and L. Frank Baum to Eric Carle, Dr. Seuss, Mildred D. Taylor, and E.B. White, Wild Things will bring back fond memories for readers of all ages, along with a few surprises.
The book is rated 3.77/5 at goodreads.com, from 599 ratings. See 168 reader reviews at: http://bit.ly/2DjPEnP.
Buy it or see reader reviews on amazon.com at: http://amzn.to/2DmU9y4.
Google Books preview available in full post.