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You will probably be hearing about this book everywhere. Believe the hype. (e.g. Sunday New York Times Book Review, SF Chronicle, GoodReads). I, for one, am willing to put my reputation of 18.5 years as a bookseller on the line for this one. You will love it. Wild is, at its base, a memoir of a struggling young woman and her challenging solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail (1,100 miles of it!). But it's so much more--full of heart, humor, hope, and humanity. Still need convincing? My wife (a writer and former bookseller) and I almost never read the same book (it seems inefficient to us--is that weird?). In rare instances, we will more or less force the other to read something-- and she read (and loved) Wild. So it's not a guy book or a women's book--it's just a great book. --Pete
In the tradition of the best contemporary narrative nonfiction (Random Family, Nothing to Envy, Under the Banner of Heaven) Behind the Beautiful Forevers reads like a rich, character-driven novel. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Katherine Boo details life in the Annawadi slum of Mumbai--and the lives of some of India's poorest people--without being pitying or sentimental. Poverty does not make the people in her book noble, but her account of their day-to-day lives gives them a voice. This book will change the way you look at globalization and the world.
We all know the terrible things that happened in the Bay Area in the late '60's and '70's: Zebra murders and Zodiac killings, SLA kidnappings and terror, Charlie Manson and Jim Jones, the mayor and a supervisor assassinated in their offices. What really hit home for me reading Season of the Witch is how closely these events came one upon another. This is a fascinating, but ultimately uplifting, story of a crazy time in San Francisco history.
Fifty years ago, every county in the nation had an almshouse, a place for the care of those who are sick and poor. Now San Francisco's Laguna Honda is the last of its kind. When Victoria Sweet began working there more than 20 years ago, she expected her tenure to be a short one. But she found that at Laguna Honda, she could practice a different type of medicine than she would have been allowed in a regular hospital, what she came to call "slow medicine." God's Hotel is filled with amazing stories of this type of care: of the illnesses and recovery (and often relapse) of the patients; of Dr. Sweet's own spiritual journey; and of the funky old hospital itself, with its chicken coop and its open wards, as it struggles to retain its identity in a battle with efficiency experts who've never looked a patient in the eye. This book is filled with wisdom, humor, and even a few miracles.
How's this for a timely book? In Debt, anthropologist David Graeber presents a stunning reversal of conventional wisdom. He shows that for more than 5,000 years, since the beginnings of the first agrarian empires, humans have used elaborate credit systems to buy and sell goods--that is, long before the invention of coins or cash. It is in this era, Graeber argues, that we also first encounter a society divided into debtors and creditors.
Andrea Wulf's exciting history of the scientific quest to understand, predict, and chronicle the transit of Venus across the face of the sun stands out among the handful of books published to coincide with 2012's transit--which happens on June 6. Full of remarkable characters and daring adventure, Wulf's history proves that while the heavens provide us with sublime spectacles, there are no less magnificent endeavors happening here on earth.
Long live William Gass! One of the greatest essayists of the latter half of the 20th century, Gass, now an octogenarian, shows no signs of letting up or letting his readers down. This collection spans typically Gassian themes, from grammar to genocide, and is ripe with his distinctive verbal wit and flashy, exuberant style. A marvelous collection to be savored.
Telegraphy, Morse code, the drum language of the Congo, genetics,
thermodynamics, language, entropy, cybernetics, quantum physics... a
tour of the index of James Gleick's latest work of popular science
writing reveals just how ubiquitous and inescapable the concept of
information has become. A must-read for anyone interested in
understanding the currents of our time, Gleick's work is already being
hailed as a classic. --SS
Bossypants is truly hilarious, smart, and weird, just like Tina Fey --
and just like Tina Fey, it is thoroughly entertaining. But don't take
our word for it, check out the blurbs from Mark Twain, the internet, and Tina's dad.
I was 15 or 16 when I read Jack Kerouac's Desolation Angels and fell in love with the idea of spending months in solitude as a fire lookout deep in the wilderness. That smoldering daydream has been rekindled by Philip Connors' fine new memoir/ecological history, Fire Season. Spend a season with Connors in a remote corner of New Mexico to get a clear-eyed view of a rare breed of humanity. --Stephen
Empire of the Summer Moon is two stories. The first traces the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe in American history. The second is the saga of a pioneer woman, Cynthia Ann Parker, who was kidnapped by Comanches as a nine-year-old girl, and her mixed-blood son Quanah, who became the last and greatest chief of the Comanches. "A ripping good read" about "an epic frontier peopled with real men and women, living and dying and hoping and dreaming at the bloody edge of civilization."
For two thousand years, if one wanted to know about the natural world and the stars above, one merely consulted Aristotle. The development of the scientific method was a philosophical revolution. Dolnick illuminates this change in quick, breezy, and eminently accessible chapters. This is the summer beach read of science history books. I never suspected physics and calculus could be discussed in such an engaging and entertaining manner. --Jeff M.
This sumptuous and candid chef memoir satisfies like an exhilarating and earthy ragout. Hamilton is the owner of the celebrated East Village restaurant Prune -- her childhood nickname given by her boundary-lacking mother, from whom she learned the art of brasserie cooking. The memoir chronicles her decade spent working in high-volume warehouse catering kitchens, wielding a spatula through her undergrad and MFA-earning years, all while journaling religiously and astutely. With her "Protestant dishwasher work ethic," Hamilton unclogs grease traps, butchers lambs and works the brunch shift over hot burners at nine months pregnant. This memoir is a resonant, salty, working-class addition to the genre of hash-slinger confessional. --KD
David Brooks tells the story of how success happens, why we behave the way we do and why we need the things we seek with all the intellectual curiosity and emotional wisdom that make his columns among the most read in the nation. At once broad in scope and intimately human in its depiction of people and relationships, The Social Animal is an insightful and enlightening examination of who we are and why.
Sara Wheeler is the best guide you could ask for. She gives her readers the history and culture of the areas she's visiting, and introduces them to the people she meets without becoming a personality in her own book. The Magnetic North is an invaluable survey of the Arctic, both where it has been and where it is heading.
The Pulitzer Prize winning Emperor of All Maladies is expertly researched, clearly narrated, and hopeful, if realistic. It's everything you hope for in a non-fiction narrative.
For those not interested at first glance, I just have to say that this is one of the most compelling non-fiction books I've read in years. A page-turner chock full of scientists, discovery, failure, "victims," genomics, politics, moral quandaries and a persistently evasive disease that will, alas, afflict one in three American women and one in two American men in their lifetimes. Knowledge is power, right? Get your knowledge here.