The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine by Alexander McCall Smith – Book

 

woman_sunshinebig

Alexander McCall Smith has been writing The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series of books for more than a decade and I love them all. These stores remind me that there is still sweetness in this chaotic and sometimes wicked world of ours. Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi Radiphuti rarely have dangerous crimes to untangle. They are often called upon to clear up domestic difficulties, misunderstandings, or familial treacheries. Mma Ramotswe and her cohort (although somewhat eccentric) generally solve these delicate situations and sometimes set other things straight along the way.

In this current novel, The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine, Mma Makutsi forces Mma Ramotswe to take a vacation. When a case comes in and when it seems to have been placed in the lap of the perhaps-too-softhearted part-time pinch hitter Rra Polopetsi, Mma Ramotswe almost puts her friendship with Mma Makutsi in jeopardy. She proves that she is not good at vacationing. But her vacation gives her time to think some very good thoughts that remind her about her blessings:

“She gazed at her husband, Being loved and admired by a man like that – and she knew this man, this mechanic, this fixer of machines with their broken hearts, did indeed love and admire her – was like walking in sunshine; it gave the same feeling of warmth and pleasure to bask in the love of one who has promised it, publicly at a wedding ceremony, and who is constant in his promise that such love will be given for the rest of his days. What more could any woman ask? None of us, she thought, not one single one of us, could ask for anything more than that.”

Perhaps we don’t all agree with this sentiment and we might be inclined to want this and still want more, however, the emotion of this expression of marital love gives us hope that goodness will win out over evil and that we still inhabit a moral universe.

Even though this is the sixteenth novel in the series I don’t think I will ever tire of visiting my fictional friends in Gaborone, Botswana.

The Last Great Conspiracy Theory?

 

conspiracytheorybig

Have we reached the last great conspiracy theory? We have been watching a conspiracy theory tennis tournament play out between the Democrats and the Republicans at least since 2012. The Benghazi tennis ball has been smashed back and forth for ages because the damning revelations were supposed to be timed to interfere with the 2016 election. Finally the anticlimactic report of the last Benghazi investigation (we hope it is the last because it’s costing the American people big bucks) concludes that all evidence suggests that Hillary Clinton was not guilty of any wrongdoing in this devastating attack in Libya. There was no assistance that could have arrived in time to save our people in Benghazi and Hillary Clinton was not, as many stated, asleep at the most crucial moments.

The fact that Hillary Clinton used a private server while at the State Department was the one juicy piece of info that came out of the Benghazi investigations. The Republicans put the Benghazi investigation to rest because they gleefully imagined that Hillary would be indicted by the FBI for something, treason, I guess. This seems a rather hyperbolic outcome to wish for given that it would suggest that Hillary is a seer who knew that the attacks in Benghazi would happen when she became Secretary of State and planned in advance to cover her tracks. But it sort of fits the Lucifer label that Republicans tried to attach to her at the RNC last week. (Republicans have a thing about Lucifer – they are so paranoid about the UN that they speak of something called the Luciferian Church of the UN, which does not exist.) I suspect they are saying that if Hillary is Lucifer on earth she could have known about the Benghazi attacks in advance. If you have to use this kind of bizarre reasoning to get where you want to go wouldn’t it seem that it is time to backtrack and start over, or just be quiet?

So now the GOP is left with just one more tennis ball to bat around and they must try to make the volley last until Hillary is tarred and feathered just before people go to the polls because Republicans cannot win this election without sliming their opponent, considering the caliber of their own candidate. This final round of our conspiracy tournament involves the Clinton Foundation and the arms deals made by the State Department while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State. It is possible that these are two separate spheres that simply look like they overlap (a simple conflict of interest), or it is also possible that there was collusion between Bill and Hillary and that her arms deals while in the State Department were actually tied to the donations made to the Clinton Foundation. I have spoken before about the difficulty with seeing simple cause-effect relationships in complex matters. You must carefully connect the dots to prove that the money given to the Clinton Foundation was indeed used to influence arms deals in the State Department. The optics are bad, but is there actually any connection?

I don’t recall a time when we have had a husband and wife team where each partner had aspirations for the Presidency of the United States of America. Had the times been different for women would Eleanor Roosevelt have made a great Presidential candidate? Possibly. But that moment did not happen. But we are fifty plus years past those days. We now have a past President, Bill Clinton, doing his post Presidential best to help save the people on the planet from poverty and exploitation. And we have Hillary Clinton who believes she can do a good job as our first female President. I assume Bill Clinton’s goals are altruistic. Others assume he is using the Clinton Foundation to increase his personal wealth and bankroll his wife’s election campaign. People who hypothesize about this know that such activities are illegal and yet they believe that Bill and Hillary Clinton are so powerfully connected and privileged that they will not only steal from a charitable foundation with the family name right on it but also that their guilt will be covered up by powerful people. That all sounds pretty diabolical. But is it true?

Furthermore the argument goes on to say that Hillary drummed up contributions for the family charity while she made her rounds as Secretary of State and that she traded State Department arms deals for those contributions. There are the charts hanging out on the internet that look pretty damning.   http://www.ibtimes.com/clinton-foundation-donors-got-weapons-deals-hillary-clintons-state-department-1934187\

clinton foundation chart 1 big

 

 

clinton foundation chart 2 big

 

Yikes! I can see why people get all exercised over this. But just because events are contiguous does not prove a cause-effect relationship. If there is a true cause and effect connection between these two sets of data then perhaps Bill and Hillary Clinton should be in jail. But, even though Hillary’s judgment was called into question on the email server decision, it would take some pretty stunningly unrealistic rationalizations for the Clintons to sell arms through the State Department in exchange for campaign contributions from foreign governments and make those funds look like charitable donations. Why would anyone expect to get away with something so blatantly illegal when contemplating a run for the highest office in our nation? I still do not accept that the Clintons are corrupt enough to plan and execute a scheme like this. I believe that the Clinton Foundation is Bill’s project and does have charitable goals. I also believe that Hillary did not go around the globe trading ostensibly charitable contributions from foreign governments for arms offered to foreign nations by the State Department. Connect the dots if you can. If you can’t retire the ball and get off the court and end this third round of the great conspiracy tennis tournament.

 

 

Donald Trump is Deranged: The Details

narcissist 4 sm

Once again I argue that Donald Trump is deranged. His derangement takes several forms. He is, first of all, a certifiable megalomaniac (see narcissistic personality disorder). People with this disorder are sometimes leaders because their ego drives them to destroy all obstacles in their path, but they are usually too selfish to share power with anyone. While Julius Caesar began his governance of Rome by heading a republican form of government, he soon became disillusioned with the Roman senators and he felt that he towered over them in every way. He became “dictator in perpetuity” and the Fall of Rome began. (By the way, he was also assassinated,) Donald Trump is just such a man. He does not have equals, only underlings.

He is not the right person to head a Democracy. He does not even believe in free speech unless it praises him. This should be frightening to all who love America and what we stand for. If he gets elected I will be scared to speak against him. Is he just a verbal bully or is he a true thug who will use power like a weapon? We don’t know, do we? I was only ever nervous about speaking out against two other Presidents – Nixon and G W Bush (because of his henchmen) – both Republicans.

The Republican Party seems to think that in order to keep order in America we must flirt with fascism. (Donald Trump acts like a fascist.) They don’t like people who speak softly even if they do carry a big stick. They want to be sure the world knows that any leader they back will talk tough and use that big stick, with malice, at the slightest offense. The problem with this is that our biggest stick is actually a nuke, which Donald Trump refuses to say he will only use under the most dire circumstances.

Donald Trump is a deal maker, which in his case, means that he will do almost any sleazy old thing as long as it is marginally legal. So he tells Americans, who think our government is taking care of so many undeserving people that it can no longer take care of them, that he will build a wall – that he will kick out all the freeloaders. And he will bring back all the jobs. But if he can’t do these deals, he will not mind disappointing his followers and he will do different deals which they may or may not like. That is the true “Art of the Deal.”

Trump seems to have the emotional maturity of a child. Name-calling, cheap taunts, foolish nicknames, these things may look like they send opponents scurrying but his targets only disengage because if they fight back they have to lose any gravitas they might ever have in the future. Donald is a junk yard dog who will keep throwing dirtier dirt until his temper tantrum gets him what he wants. He may seem to win but he really just sets his “phaser” to stun and those he vanquishes decide to walk away and live to fight another day.

I understand that the things he promises look appealing to some. He seems like he can bring back simpler times when Americans were predominantly Christians of European origin who spoke English. His followers seem to yearn for this and believe that he will basically give them back the America of their childhoods. The world has moved on however, and it will most likely prove impossible for Donald Trump to produce an American future that corresponds to his fantastical promises. The 21st century is what it is and that is what we must learn to participate in and we must prove that we know how to thrive even as our world changes. As for Donald, if he is President I hope he gets good meds. If he is not elected he can be as eccentric as he pleases. He is wealthy enough to get away with it.

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler – Book

vinegar girl

While it is fun to imagine writing a modern version of The Taming of the Shrew, there are some cultural differences between the 21st century and the 18th century that offer challenges to an author that may be insurmountable. Not the least is Shakespeare’s title. The actual word, shrew, must have been invented by men. Even Shakespeare’s female contemporaries when speaking among themselves most likely expressed anger at the term or, possibly a tolerant sort of humor (rolled eyeballs) provided the males in their lives were not actually abusive. In our times men in Western cultures who call women shrews had better be ready for some serious pushback.

We see the humor in the situation though – a woman with a sharp tongue is softened by love for a man who uses his wits to defuse her opposition and we believe he will offer her the respect and affection she needs to take off her armor. Since even someone who seems like a scold deserves love, a happy ending is satisfying and offers hope. Kate, however, is not quite enough of a scold in Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler to have the same impact as Shakespeare’s Kate.

Anne Tyler may have had the idea to do this modern novel based on Shakespeare’s play in the back of her mind for many years. It is not a bad read, but not, I think, as strong as most of Tyler’s other novels. It lacks detail and it is not as witty as the acid give and take of the original. The novel seems more like a writer’s outline than a fully fleshed out offering. In this case Vinegar Girl, although interesting conceptually is a bit lacking in the execution. Of course Shakespeare is formidable writer to take on. If you don’t make your expectations impossibly high, you will enjoy the story. Anne Tyler still has skills that have been polished by a long career as a bestselling author.

Donald Trump is Deranged

Donald Trump 2

Donald Trump is deranged. It is covered over right now with engineered speeches, teleprompter puppeteering, suave political management, and a boring running mate, but the crazy is still in there. We already got to listen to it for an entire primary season. The Republican National Committee now has Donald Trump tied down like Gulliver in Lilliput (Jonathan Swift). Donald Trump will either break free at some point and invite us to his rave once again or his children will be running our government with the able (that’s sarcasm) help of another intolerant throwback to the 50’s, Mike Pence, his VP.

Media

How did he, Donald Trump get this far? I blame all of the media, currently very busy denying they had any part in this. And even more, I blame their bosses who, I am sure, insisted they televise every move Trump made in the primaries because the ratings were through the roof (today’s version of the events the Roman Coliseum was designed for). We know this happened because the print media and the broadcast media have both kept us informed about the money Donald didn’t have to spend. Commentators on every network got to relax and let Donald script their shows for them in his shockingly unscripted way.

What does it matter now who is to blame? We are apparently stuck with this nightmare scenario. However, it does still matter. The media, even the liberal-leaning media, likes to paint Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as being somehow equally awful. Sometimes Hillary even has a slight edge over Donald. I don’t know what your favorite channel choice is, but mine is MSNBC. At least once in almost every hour of every day someone on Morning Joe, and Meet the Press Daily, and Andrea Mitchell’s show, or even the new Bloomberg offering goes on and on about Hillary’s unfavorable and untrustworthy ratings and sums up, ad infinitum, the (unproven) sins she committed that have earned her the low ratings. I have never seen anyone so maligned for so little. Even Donald Trump is not so consistently assigned to the suddenly proverbial burning dumpster and he has done and said some truly reprehensible things.

So, although it seems clear to rational folks that Donald Trump should never be the President of the United States of America here we are watching a week long pretense in the form of the Republican Convention that seems to say that what we are witnessing is a normal and traditional election, when we could actually be witnessing the end of America as we know it. The entire charade is shameful and without the endless media circus might never have happened. Do you job, media people, and make sure that you find a way to repair the damage you have done before it is really too late, if it isn’t already.

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant – Book

Originalsbig

How often have you wondered what traits and habits turn someone into “an original” – someone who succeeds in some way that makes them stand out, or even just someone who pursues their own interests without being concerned about what is considered as “normal”, or “cool”? How often have you wondered if you might be an “original” if you only did not have to work? This nonfiction offering, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant, attempts to study individuals or businesses that cultivate new ground either successfully or not. There is, quite logically, an attempt to create a matrix of characteristics which might help you analyze whether or not you might be an original, and traits which might explode some myths about people we respect as originals. He includes examples from current culture to back up his points.

Originals may not have the traits you would expect them to have. For example, the author tells us, originals are often procrastinators who put off delivering their final product until the last minute, which gives them time for late developments. They do not accept failure but they often fail many times before they find an idea that works. Grant tells about the ups and downs of the Warby-Parker site creators of the online eye glass site. People thought buying eyeglasses online would never fly but this site is now quite successful. The authors tells us that these originals and, in fact, most of these risk-takers often do not give up their day jobs. It seems that leaping in one aspect of your life while maintaining stability in others areas seems to be the rule rather than the exception.

The author goes through many studies that have been conducted by business experts trying to discover what makes businesses succeed or fail. The Segway and the Polaroid camera are both examples of business products that lost ground because the creators did not want dissenters and hired only admirers who could not break the “bubble” that would have allowed the business to respond flexibly to cultural trends or be aware of market trends that should have been heeded.

I don’t know how exhaustive our knowledge of “originals” is as a result of what this author shares with us. Any attempt to quantify complex and many-faceted intangibles; to produce a list of causes that will produce a desired effect in order to bring about such a non-concrete outcome, is bound to be oversimplified. Adam Grant does not actually give us a list of methodologies to become originals, rather he attempts to explode the myths we already have about what conditions it takes to be such an inventor, creator, prime mover. However there is plenty of encouragement In Grant’s book for people who think that all Originals are uniformly productive and consistently confident. It is also interesting to see what areas are the focus of those who study businesses.

You can find my reviews at Nancy Brisson at http://goodreads.com/

 

The Excellent Lombards by Jane Hamilton – Book

The Excellent Lombards big

In The Excellent Lombards Jane Hamilton is doing a Jane Smiley-style farm family story for us. Jane Smiley hasn’t always write about the same farm but she usually writes about a similar era, the era when family farms are no longer profitable, or the children don’t want to continue being farmers, or the suburbs crowd out the farms as developers convince farmer after farmer to sell off parcels of land for housing developments or malls or a Walmart Superstore, a Seven-Eleven. There are always a few farmers who are not ready to sell, who cannot imagine any other way of life or who have a child (in this case, a daughter, Francie) who is in love with the family land and the family business. Jane Hamilton gives us such a tale in her new novel.

There are two brothers, the Lombard brothers, who live on the family land with its 3 houses, 3 barns, four hundred acres of forest, sheep pastures and the prize, the apple orchard. This orchard and the surrounding land has been in the family for four generations. In this generation Sherwood and Dolly Lombard occupy the main house with their two children, Adam and Amanda. Mary Hill, an adopted cousin lives upstairs in the big old farmhouse. Sherwood is not a true farmer, he invents things. Adam and Amanda are being groomed for college. They do not like the outdoors and are unlikely to want to run an orchard.

On the other side of the road Francie lives with her Mom and Dad, Jim and Nellie Lombard and Francie’s brother William. Francie is the narrator. We hear her voice through several years as she changes from child to teenager but the book is not childish. In this generation Francie is the Lombard who loves the farm, cannot imagine any other life and is thrown for a loop whenever she glimpses what the probable fate of the orchard and the estate and the lifestyle will be. Does it still matter in modern times that Francie is a girl? You will have to see for yourself what you think about this.

What I always loved about Jane Smiley was the way she immersed us in a farm family, and we experienced the tortuous inheritance decisions, the romance of a life lived close to nature on owned land, the anxieties of the economics of farm families, so dependent on uncontrollable variables like weather and world events and markets. Jane Hamilton brings to life these same elements that have eventually led to fewer and fewer family farms in America. We have all watched farms disappear from the near hinterlands around our cities. We all see the poor Canada geese trying to conduct their natural lives on tiny manicured wetlands near car dealerships. We have watched them cross eight lane highways with their ducklings – well at least I have. Every day I ride on a road that ran through farmland and now runs through senior housing.

Francis never says this but we can see that she worries. As much as she loves the farm she sees that she would have to learn the things that May Hill knows and she does not want to become May Hill. May Hill is a genius when it comes to fixing farm equipment but she is also a rather scary recluse. Francie says this about May Hill, “She did not like anyone – she did not want to see you on the path.”

Jane Hamilton and The Excellent Lombards made me long to inherit an orchard, at least before the realities began to outweigh the romanticism, but she, like Jane Smiley, made me wish that family farms had never become too culturally irrelevant to survive, or too labor-intensive for modern sensibilities and too lacking in economic stability to be attractive. I fall for this sort of farm tale every time. It is always the same, like a familiar litany, but different enough to captivate me, like an old photograph that gives me such enjoyable nostalgia that I don’t mind seeing it again and again. It would be sad if this way of life did not leave a trace, but as long as people read the books about farming written by these two women, it will live on.

The State Department and Hillary Clinton

Hillary home DC small Hillary home small

I want to make another argument on behalf of Hillary Clinton – surprise, surprise – because I just don’t feel that we are using the correct perspective to examine this issue of the “emails”. I also know that what I am suggesting is not an understanding that is written anywhere, or one that perhaps has ever been mentioned before. However, given the unusual nature of the position of Secretary of State, and given that due weight has not been given to how the State Department operates in the digital age, I feel that there are some extenuating circumstances that affect whoever holds this position and that there needs to be some discussion about the role of the Secretary of State.

I am suggesting that the position of Secretary of State is unique because the Secretary of State is rarely in the State Department in Washington, D C but is traveling constantly to near and distant locations. I am arguing that, for this reason, wherever the Secretary of State is, the State Department goes with her or him. So if the Secretary is on a plane, the bubble of the State Department goes along. If the Secretary of State is in a hotel room, the State Department is there. If the Secretary of State is with a foreign leader or a group of foreign nationals, the State Department is there. When the Secretary of State is in his/her home office, the State Department is there. I would argue that Hillary did not ever remove documents from the State Department because wherever she went the State Department was there. As long as Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State, the State Department and Hillary Clinton were inseparable.

If her arrangements threatened national security the threat does not seem to be greater than that to any other system, including government systems. We do not have a way to make our digital networks completely secure at this time. However, given that the Secretary of State takes the State Department with her/him at all times, government security should reach to all digital equipment in the Secretary’s home and equipment carried abroad.

It seems to me that we need to update government agencies to operate in this digital age much more than we need to prosecute employees who take it into their own hands to set up systems that work without undue complexity. I also do not believe that Hillary lied to Congress about receiving or sending classified emails, especially now that we are aware of the inconsistencies in the classification system. I believe it was shown that she only sent emails to people who were classified, although some nasty soul pointed out that her assistants handled emails and they did not have clearance and her lawyers read her email and they did not have clearance. (I’m sure that has never happened before.) Hillary will have to explain why she said that the State Department knew about her private server, but if she is always the head of the State Department then it seems that her home office is simply an extension of the State Department and the same attention to national security is observed at her home office either in Chappaqua or in Washington, DC as would be observed at the State Department in Washington, D C.

I still believe that this issue is being blown out of all proportion because of the 2016 election and the Republicans who are having a hissy-fit because it looks like all their careful plan to capture the Presidency and possess the power in all three branches of Congress seems to be thwarted at every turn, reminiscent of the Road Runner and Wiley E Coyote.

The FBI is being used by the GOP, but the FBI has limitations. However much we may trust them to be nonpartisan, they can only conduct investigations that are narrow in scope and defined by the limits of the task they are given. The FBI cannot look at the big picture and analyze all aspects of this particular situation. The GOP can keep giving them new directives forever and if there is even a whiff of wrongdoing then the FBI will have to investigate. But the optics are that the GOP has the FBI playing fetch. (Good dog.)

 

Shooting Black Folks Must Stop

black folk killed by police

How will we solve this problem that our nation is having with our police shooting black folks who are either guilty of nothing or of committing a petty criminal act? The list grows and grows. Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling and many, many more. It looks like the police are on a secret campaign to rid themselves of black people. It looks intentional. There is a certain consistent order of events. Someone defies authority in some small way and this defiance is used as an excuse to escalate, to get the man or woman who dares to fight back verbally or act defensively to look guilty of something. Then someone off camera shouts “he’s got a gun” (not usual when women are being apprehended). Then the shots ring out and there is no need for a trial or imprisonment or any official routine because the person is dead. Surprisingly the body cameras which these officers wear are often off or aimed in the wrong direction when events reach their terrible denouement.

I understand that law enforcement becomes more and more complicated as the inequalities in our culture are exposed to the light of day. I know that there are those in our communities who have committed criminal acts to get ahead when traditional pathways were closed to them. I get it that there are some mean folks out there who would as soon kill a policeman as any other human being who they felt was threatening them. I suppose that mistakes will be made. However, when the “mistakes” seem to occur frequently and when they seem to follow a certain pattern it would appear that some action plan is called for to make it stop.

If black people are not being targeted we must at least face the bad, bad optics of these now-all-too-familiar shootings with their attendant grief and loss. There are echoes that go back to slavery with people hunting down their runaway slaves. We must stop doing this. We must find some new ways to help our policemen and women fight crime in our communities without executing people who seem to hardly qualify as the most dangerous people on our streets. I believe that if we can’t find a way out of this brutal and unjust law enforcement behavior that peaceful demonstrations will eventually turn into angry outcries. We know that the police involved will be investigated and we know how the investigation will end. If we find our police guilty in these cases we undermine their authority.

This relatively new pattern of picking off people one-by-one is exacerbated by our guns everywhere policies enforced by the gun industry and the NRA and a Conservative interpretation of the Second Amendment. The complications and divisions present in our culture at this moment will make it difficult to resolve this issue. Anger is the emotion that seems to be driving current events. It doesn’t matter because these shootings and the fact that they seem to fall all too often on Americans of color is a stain on our nation that could eventually destroy the freedom that is the pillar of our Democracy.

The work must be done in our communities and what we must provide young Americans of African Descent and poor Americans are pathways to a better future so that they will not be forced into antisocial behaviors by circumstances that make their lives difficult and seemingly without value. We don’t need to talk any longer about doing this. We do need to talk to plan what we will do. Then we need to put our money where our mouths are and carry out our plans. Our plans will not be perfect. It is the very nature of humans that we are cannot be perfect. We can’t allow ourselves to be so nervous about possible negative effects that will appear down the line. We must earnestly try to solve the inequalities in our America or America will fail.

 

 

June-July, 2016 Book List

books small 3

I usually publish my book lists around the 15th of each month, but my site was under construction and it scattered my wits and interrupted my schedule, so here is the list for both June and July and there are treasures in here and there is plenty of politics, mostly of the Conservative variety. I did not have the usual bulletins from Publishers Weekly, but the New York Times Book Review started arriving like clockwork. Is this like that saying that when one door closes another one opens? Of course, these lists produce both anticipation and anxiety. Which book/s will I love this time? How will I ever, ever get to all of these books? That’s life, full of the paradoxes.

 

Amazon

 

Literature and Fiction

Here Comes the Sun: A Novel by Nicole Dennis-Benn

Pond by Claire Louise Bennett

Invincible Summer by Alice Adams

The Heavenly Table: A Novel by Donald Ray Pollock

Pierced by the Sun by Laura Esquivel

As Good As Gone: A Novel by Larry Watson

Siracusa by Delia Ephron

Ninety-Nine Stories of God by Joy Williams

Night of the Animals: A Novel by Bill Broun

Sarong Party Girls: A Novel by Cheryl Lu-lien Tan

The Singles Game by Lauren Weisberger

 

Hot New Releases

Crisis of Character: A White House Service Office Discloses His Firsthand Experience with Hillary, Bill, and How They Operate by Gary J. Byrne

Wake up America: the Nine Virtues that Made Our Nation Great – and Why We Need Them More Than Ever by Eric Bolling

The Girls: A Novel by Emma Cline

The Black Widow by Daniel Silva

Gravity Falls: Journal 5 by Alex Hirsch, Rob Renzetti

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family by J. D. Vance

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg

If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty by Eric Metaxas

The Intimidation Game: How the Left is Silencing Free Speech by Kimberly Strassel

Here’s to Us by Elin Hilderbrand

The Gilded Years: A Novel by Karin Tanabe

 

Mystery, Thriller, Suspense

I Am No One: A Novel by Patrick Flanery

All is Not Forgotten: A Novel by Wendy Walker

The Castle of Kings by Oliver Potzch

Wolf Lake: A Novel by John Verdon

How to Set a Fire and Why: A Novel by Jesse Ball

The Heavenly Table: A Novel by Donald Ray Pollock

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

The Last One: A Novel by Alexandra Olivia

The Black Widow by Daniel Silva

Dark Matter: A Novel by Blake Crouch

 

Independent Booksellers

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Rocks by Peter Nichols

The Girls by Emma Cline

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Barkskins by Annie Proulx

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Modern Lovers by Emma Straub

Here’s to Us by Elin Hilderbrand

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

The Course of Love by Alain de Botton

Murder on the Quai by Cara Black

Charcoal Joe by Walter Mosley

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

The After Party by Anton Di Sclafini

Smoke by Dan Vyleta

 

New York Times Book Review

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Smoke by Dan Vyleta

The Book of Esther by Emily Barton (YA)

The Sport of Kings by C. E. Morgan

Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years by John Guy (NF)

The New Arab Wars by Marc Lynch (NF)

Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner? By Katrin Marçal (NF)

The Money Cult by Chris Lehmann  (NF)

A Million Windows by James McNamara

Barkskins by Annie Proulx

The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism

by Yuval Leven (NF)

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson (NF)

Spiral: Trapped in the Forever War by Mark Danner (NF)

Jackson, 1964: And Other Dispatches from Fifty Years of Reporting on Race in America by Calvin Trillin (NF)

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg (NF)

Money Changes Everything: How Finance Made Civilization Possible by William N. Goetzmann (NF)

Native Believer by Ali Eteraz

 

1st novels

The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth Church (don’t know if this is a great book, but it is a great title)

Happy Family by Tracy Barone

The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt by Tracy Farr

Stork Mountain by Miroslav Penkov

 

Crime Fiction

Charcoal Joe by Walter Mosley

Willnot by James Sallis

Murder on the Quai by Cara Black

Burn What Will Burn by C B McKenzie

The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter

The Extra by A B Yehoshua

The Drowned Detective by Neil Jordon

Born on Tuesday by Elnathan John

I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillian

The Sun in Your Eyes by Deborah Shapiro+