For over fifty years, Paul Theroux has set the gold standard for travel writing. Now in his seventies, he remains as curious and fearless as ever, as evidenced in his new book, On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican Journey. The book is an extraordinary chronicle of a hugely ambitious trip Theroux undertook, where he drove the entire length of the US-Mexican border, and then deeper into Oaxaca and Chiapas. Along the way, Theroux spends time with Zapotec mill workers, attends a Zapatista party meeting, and teaches a creative writing class in Mexico City. Through it all, Theroux lends his formidable powers of observation to these areas of Mexico rarely visited by its northern neighbors.
Books & More
When wildlife expert Julie Zickefoose received a photo of a dehydrated blue jay, she had no idea the profound effect the bird, who Zickefoose named Jemima, would quickly have on her life. What followed was a herculean effort on the part of Zickefoose and her family, where they nursed Jemima back to health, released it back into the wild, and then strategized how to give Jemima medical attention when the bird came down with a dangerous disease. Zickefoose’s memoir about this human-avian relationship, Saving Jemima: Life and Love with a Hard-Luck Jay, serves as both love letter to this resilient blue jay as well as a fascinating long term analysis of a species that rarely permits itself to be studied. Zickefoose, who might be familiar to readers from her frequent appearances on National Public Radio, is the author of numerous books, including Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into the Nest and The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds. Of her latest book, Booklist stated, “Zickefoose has produced another hard-to-put-down winner” while Library Journal hailed it as “a heartwarming account for all interested in natural history, especially birds, animal behavior, and wildlife rehabilitation.”
In Return to the Reich, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Eric Lichtblau tells the incredible story of Freddy Mayer, a Jewish refugee who escaped Nazi Germany as a teenager only to venture into Nazi-occupied Austria years later as an OSS agent. Mayer’s mission was to go undercover as a Nazi officer in Innsbrook, Austria, where he was able to gather intelligence that proved invaluable to the Allies in the waning days of World War II. Mayer’s exploits read like scenes from an Ian Fleming novel—from secretly skiing down an ice-covered mountain in the middle of the night to brazenly posing as a Nazi officer in an officer’s club—made all the more thrilling because it actually happened.
When Adrienne Brodeur was fourteen, her mother, Malabar, woke her up from a sound sleep to confide that she had just kissed Ben, the best friend of Adrienne’s stepfather. That small moment would ultimately send shockwaves through the lives of both families, as Malabar and Ben embarked on a secret relationship and enlisted Adrienne’s assistance in hiding it from their spouses. In Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me, Brodeur reflects on her complicated relationship with her mother with unflinching pose and bracing wit. What results is a compassionate examination of knotty family ties and an incisive portrayal of how one woman was able to end her family’s cycle of deception.
In Mamta Chaudhry’s stunning Haunting Paris, Sylvie, a musician mourning the recent death of her beloved Julien, listlessly prepares for Paris’ bicentennial as she opens her home to vacationing American academics. Yet Sylvie is hurled out of her routine when she chances upon a mysterious letter in Julien’s desk. This discovery sparks a thrilling investigation, as Sylvie plunges into Julien’s family’s heretofore unknown experiences during World War II. While Sylvie races through the streets of Paris, the ghost of Julien watches on, providing a panoramic view of the city’s tumultuous history and revealing the painful moments from his past he could not share during their life together.
In Jami Attenberg’s dynamic family saga All This Could Be Yours, amoral businessman Victor Tuchman lies dying in a hospital bed in New Orleans, leaving his family to reckon with how his monstrous behavior has shaped their lives. While his wife Barbra restlessly paces the halls of the hospital, alert to her Fitbit’s mounting stepcount, […]
Paul Tough on College Admissions, Social Mobility, and the Common Sense Solutions to Current Inequities in Higher Education
Paul Tough’s The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us builds on the extraordinary journalism of his earlier work, How Children Succeed, and dissects the current state of higher education. Tough dives into the the various components of the college world, introducing the reader to high-priced SAT tutors, admissions directors striving to achieve the perfect balance with incoming freshman classes, and College Board officials facing uncomfortable truths about who the SAT actually benefits. Yet the heart of the book belongs to the students Tough profiles, intelligent and resilient teenagers who courageously navigate the ever-changing college landscape. By combining rigorous research with compelling personal narratives, Tough crafts a work that is not only a status report on the changing world of higher education, but also a revelatory look at how social mobility works in America.
“You Don’t Know How Unique Your Own Mother is Until You’re Out in the World” — Bridgett M. Davis on Her Heartwarming Memoir
In The World According to Frannie Davis: My Mother’s Life in the Detroit Numbers, Bridgett M. Davis traces the extraordinary life of her mother, a glamorous businesswoman who ran a thriving Numbers enterprise in Detroit for over thirty years. Frannie Davis arrived in Detroit in 1958 as a young mother with little prospects to support a growing family. She quickly transformed a $100 loan from her brother into a prosperous Numbers venture, serving as a de facto banker, bookie, and counselor for her neighborhood. With luminous prose, Davis delves into her mother’s life, providing an insider’s look at the Numbers world and a sweeping look at Detroit’s evolving landscape in the sixties and seventies.
Maureen Stanton probes her dark teenage years with compassion and insight in her new memoir, Body Leaping Backwards: Memoir of A Delinquent Girlhood. Stanton grew up in a boisterous family in 1970s Walpole, Massachusetts, a working-class community where the local prison loomed large in each citizen’s life. Yet when her parents divorce, Maureen and her family find themselves reeling not only from the seismic shifts in their personal lives, but from the political and cultural changes in the country as well. Maureen’s mother, a devout woman who puts herself through college as a single mother, soon finds herself resorting to shoplifting in order to put food on the table. Maureen, meanwhile, experiments with angel dust and dabbles in delinquency, skipping school and breaking into nearby homes. Stanton combines rigorous historical research with acute perception, crafting a memoir that takes a clear-eyed look at adolescence.
Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue spins an irresistible premise— what if the son of the U.S. President fell in love with the Prince of Wales— into one of the summer’s most pleasurable reads. Alex Claremont-Davis breezes through life as the son of the United States’ first female President, but he’s brought up short by a contentious relationship with the straight-laced Prince Henry. After a disastrous run-in involving a Royal wedding cake, both men must pose as friends in order to rehabilitate their images. This false friendship soon uncovers very real feelings, and the two men unexpectedly find themselves falling in love. What follows is equal parts swoony romance and adept political comedy that has delighted critics and readers alike.
Heidi Diehl’s Lifelines tells the story of the brilliant Louise, bouncing between her life as a burgeoning art student fresh out of college to 2008, when she is in her late fifties with two grown children. In 1971, Louise moved to Germany to pursue her career as an artist. In short order, she fell in love with Dieter, a brooding musician, and had a baby with him. In 2008, Louise lives in Oregon, married to an unassuming professor of urban design, and has been unexpectedly retired from her job as an art teacher. When Dieter’s mother dies, Louise’s now-grown daughter, Elke, asks her to return to Germany for the funeral. Louise reluctantly agrees, reasoning that it will give her a chance to see her other daughter, Elke’s half-sister Margot, who’s touring Europe with her band. From there, Diehl orchestrates a marvelous family comedy as the different members are forced to confront long-buried secrets and unexamined facets of their relationships.
Gordon H. Chang’s Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad is a phenomenal work of historical research, giving readers an unprecedented look at the daily lives of the Chinese workers whose ingenuity and perseverance led to the construction of the transcontinental railroad. Chang dives into the workers’ lives both in China and in the U.S., providing insight into what motivated the workers to move across the ocean as well as the unimaginable working conditions they faced once in the States. Critics have heaped praise on Chang, with The Wall Street Journal stating that “he has written a remarkably rich, human and compelling story of the railroad Chinese” and Publisher’s Weekly calling his work “vibrating and passionate.”
Jason Barron combined entrepreneurial skills with artistic panache to create The Visual MBA: Two Years of Business School Packed into One Priceless Book of Pure Awesomeness. Barron used sketchnotes, a visual note-taking process, to retain information in his MBA program at Brigham Young University. The result turned to be so popular with professors and students alike that Barron turned the notes into a book, first through an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign and then through a publisher. The book is designed for anyone with a passing interest in the business world, and Barron’s lively illustrations make the most complex principle accessible to the lay person.
In How to Raise Successful People: Simple Lessons for Radical Results, Esther Wojcicki distills the techniques she’s developed for over fifty years as an educator and parent to help readers raise self-reliant children. Combining research and reflection, Wojcicki’s outlines how her method, TRICK (for Trust, Respect, Independence, Collaboration, and Kindness), empowers children to develop skills to be resilient members of society. Wojcicki is the founder of the Media Arts programs at Palo Alto High School as well as the CEO of Global Moonshots in Education, a non-profit which aims to instruct teachers and business leaders in the TRICK methodology.
Perhaps you know Lori Gottlieb from her popular “Ask a Therapist” column in The Atlantic, or her previous bestsellers Marry Him and Stick Figure. In her compassionate and emotionally generous new book, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, Gottlieb reveals a new side of herself when she pulls back the curtain of a therapist’s world. Part memoir and part case study, the book shifts between Gottlieb’s sessions with five different patients as well as her own work with her therapist, prompted by an unexpected crisis that upended her life. The result is a humane and empathetic exploration of six disparate characters struggling to take control of their lives as they journey back to happiness.