A.J. Baime’s “The Accidental President: Harry S. Truman and the Four Months that Changed the World” dives deep into the tumultuous first four months of Truman’s presidency. Tracing Truman’s rise from failed farmer to leader of the free world, Baime constructs a compelling argument that no other President has ever faced such a fraught entrance into the office.
Jessica Yu’s “Garden of the Lost and Abandoned” tracks the work of Gladys Kalibbala, a Ugandan reporter whose weekly column on missing children works to reunite her subjects with their families. Equal parts detective, social worker, and child advocate, Kalibbala hunts down the origin of each child’s story, working tirelessly to find a solution for each child’s predicament. Yu brings her skills as a documentary filmmaker (she won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short for “Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien”) to bring Kalibballa’s story to life. While “Garden of Lost and Abandoned” is her first book, it has been met with rapturous praise. Kirkus Reviews called it “an eloquent affirmation of the vast capacity of the human heart,” while Amazon selected it as one of its Best Books of the Month: Nonfiction. Yu spoke to Brendan Dowling via telephone on November 6th, 2017.
Phil Harrison’s novel The First Day spans decades in tracing the fallout caused by a tumultuous love affair in Belfast. When Beckett scholar Anna meets local pastor Orr in 2012, they embark on a passionate relationship despite their profound differences, thus permanently altering their families’ lives. Thirty years later, their son Sam must deal with the aftershocks of their relationship as he navigates his carefully isolated life in New York City. Publishers Weekly noted “Harrison’s remarkable writing elevates a story that is all the more powerful for its eschewing of easy answers and resolution,” while Kirkus raved that “Harrison’s elegant prose and deeply felt characters create a novel with a fiercely beating heart.”
Tova Mirvis’ memoir The Book of Separation chronicles how questioning her faith sparked monumental changes in her life, including the dissolution of her marriage. Through clear-hearted prose, Mirvis wrestles with her Orthodox Jewish upbringing, her evolving faith, and the courage it takes to step away from one’s community to forge one’s own path. Mirvis’ previous novels […]
Patrick “PC” Sweeney is the Political Director of EveryLibrary, and coauthor of Winning Elections and Influencing Politicians for Library Funding, published by ALA Neal-Schuman.
Spirituality and Hollywood are two words many people may not use in the same sentence but in The Ken Commandments journalist and author Ken Baker explores the various practices of the rich and famous while redefining his own beliefs.
Vanessa Grigoriadis’ Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power and Consent on Campus is a thoughtful overview of sexual assault on today’s college campuses. Interviewing over a hundred students, parents, and university officials, Grigoriadis combines meticulous research with beautiful writing to produce a panoptic view of today’s college campus. A sensitive look at a painful topic, Blurred Lines is a must-read for parents of college-age children.
Amy Stewart’s Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions marks the third in the acclaimed Kopp Sisters’ series, which kicked off with 2015’s Girl Waits With Gun. Here, eldest sister Constance, now a deputy sheriff, bucks against a system where local women are being jailed under flimsy (yet legal) pretenses. As she fights to bring justice to two recently arrested women, her youngest sister Fleurette contemplates pursuing her theatrical ambitions, threatening to disrupt the close-knit family dynamic. With Confessions, Stewart mines an often overlooked period of American history, yielding rewarding results while providing a captivating legal thriller. Fans of historical fiction will be eager to see how the three Kopp sisters—the steadfast Constance, flinty Norma, and starry-eyed Fleurette—continue to surprise as they navigate their sharply changing world. Amy Stewart spoke to Brendan Dowling via telephone on August 4th, 2017.
Kelly Reilly’s debut novel, The Ordinary Adventures of Hannah Alexander, centers around the geology-obsessed Hannah Alexander. Left under the care of her enigmatic grandmother for the summer, Hannah has settled down for a mundane three months until a sinkhole mysteriously appears in her backyard. In short order, mystical insects fly out of the hole and […]
Rachel Kadish’s The Weight of Ink tells the story of two academics separated by 350 years: Helen Watt, a British professor at the tail end of her career, and Ester Velasquez, a Portuguese Jew living in 1660’s London. When Helen is tasked with verifying recently discovered scholarly papers written by a mysterious “Aleph,” she hires American grad student Aaron to assist her. As Helen and Aaron realize the possibility exists that Aleph is a woman, interest in the papers escalates and the two find themselves having to fend off competing forces. Bouncing between present day England and London right before the plague, Kadish explores the inner lives of all three characters as each is pushed to save the thing they love. Booklist praised The Weight of Ink as “a richly textured, addictive novel,” while Toni Morrison called Kadish “a gifted writer, astonishingly adept at nuance, narration, and the politics of passion.”
Justin Dillon had a thriving career in music before moving into the field of global activism. For over ten years, he has been a key figure in the anti-slavery movement through his organizations Made In A Free World and Slavery Footprint. With his new book, A Selfish Plan to Change the World: Finding Big Purpose in Big Problems, Dillon imparts the lessons he’s learned along the way, shares his tactics for implementing change, and creating the change you want to see.
While readers might be familiar with Dana Schwartz through her extremely popular twitter parody accounts, @guyinyourmfa and @dystopianya, they will be introduced to another side of her with her charming and insightful novel, And We’re Off. Nora Holmes is set to spend the summer before her senior high school at a prestigious art institute in Ireland, the perfect place to be with like-minded students, escape the gaze of her tightly wound mother, and shed the memories of a fizzled relationship. All of this is thrown away when her mother, nursing her own wounds after a painful divorce, decides at the last moment to accompany Nora on the trip. With a deft eye for character and plotting, Schwartz crafts a winning road trip while also exploring topics like identity, creativity, and of course, mother-daughter relationships.
PL Assistant Editor Brendan Dowling talks with author Michael Callahan, author of 2015’s “Searching for Grace Kelly.” Michael is also a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a former deputy editor at Town and Country and Marie Claire. His new book, “The Night She Became Miss America” was released in April, 2017.
PL’s Brendan Dowling talks with author Yoojin Grace Wuertz about her recently released novel “Everything Belongs to Us.”
Hala Alyan’s debut novel Salt Houses spans four generations in the life of a family on the West Bank, following their journey from the early 60s to the present day. Through all of the challenges the family endures—wars, invasions, love affairs, and displacement—they are held together by the luminous Alia. Equal parts headstrong and effervescent, Alia loves her family with a fierce compassion and remains bonded to them as various forces compel them to move to Kuwait, Beirut, Boston, and Paris. Alyan’s background as a clinical psychologist is evident in the novel, endowing characters big and small with an emotional complexity. The Millions praised Salt Houses as a “heartbreaking and important story” while Bustle said that it “illuminates the heartache and permanent unsettledness experienced by refugees all over the world.” Alan spoke with Brendan Dowling via telephone on April 18th.