And Now We Have Everything is the most honest book about becoming a mom I've read. I don't have kids and don't know that I ever will, but I have a lot of anxieties about parenting and childrearing and Meaghan's writing aligns with them perfectly. This book is really funny in a kick-you-in-the-stomach kind of way, and I found myself laughing and sobbing a lot while reading it. As a childless bookseller, I wholeheartedly believe everyone — mothers in any sense of the term and others — would benefit from reading this book. — Emily L.
We all know the Dead Girl. She's the reason for the story, but rarely the focus. Instead, she's a prop, a symbol, a fetish, a harbinger, or a means to an end. Bolin deftly explores this morbid phenomenon in the first section of her vital new essay collection. From there, she goes on to (among other things) challenge Joan Didion's iconic but problematic portraits of Southern California, reveals the subtle brilliance of seemingly banal pop hits, and considers hypochondria as a psychological manifestation of overwhelming existential dread. Dead Girls takes the world we see and reveals the strangeness under the surface, the menace hiding beneath the ordinary.
— Lauren P.
Bob Woodward has made an institution of meticulously-reported, deeply-sourced books about the inner workings of presidential deliberations. I can only imagine that applying this same formula to the current administration was a much more difficult undertaking; instead of seasoned bureaucrats who — although biased — could be relied upon to recount events with accuracy, the Trump administration offers an entirely different sort of government official.
Given this extreme situation, Woodward has done as good a job as any journalist could be expected to do at chronicling and contextualizing the anger, irrationality, and dishonesty that he found to be the driving forces in the current White House. As in all his previous books, some sources are treated more favorably than they deserve (this book offers the most positive treatment that Kellyanne Conway will ever receive). But that is an essential feature of Woodward’s insider accounts: the guessing at who revealed what and how they shaped the narrative. This kind of DC parlor game is necessary in this instance, as Fear is certain to be one of the lasting accounts of this most unusual time.
— Keith M.
Annie Lowrey’s Give People Money is a perfect general interest policy book. It grapples with a big, important idea from a variety of angles with a charming and accessible style. Lowrey makes a compelling case for a major policy imitative, but doesn’t shy away from asking the big (or small) questions that bedevil all progressive moonshots.
— Keith M.
Laymon has a voice that is singular and devastating in its honesty. I'm not in the business of claiming a book changed my life, but reading this book shifted something foundational. A truly outstanding memoir. — Britney T.
This spare, poetic memoir has stuck with me more than any other book I read this year. Mailhot unflinchingly bares her history of loss, betrayal, and survival in beautifully written essays that compel you to keep reading, and to read again. — Piers R.
As captivating and wholly engaging as each of his previous books, Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind explores the intriguing history of psychedelics and the remarkable promise they currently show in treating a variety of medical and psychological maladies, including PTSD and depression. — Jeremy G.
I first read this book in early 2018 and was simply overwhelmed. I slept with the lights on and refused to answer the door for weeks! Then in April, when the Golden State Killer was finally identified, I reread McNamara’s “Letter to an Old Man” and felt the hairs on my arms stand straight up. I’ve never encountered a work of nonfiction that left me feeling quite so terrified and amazed. — McKenzie W.
The world vibrates with weirdness, some people are just more attuned to it than others. This book is an astonishingly profound exploration of the pathos, humor, beauty, and irreconcilable strangeness that exists underneath the numbing mundanity of everyday life. Whether he is speculating about the inner lives of the Royal Family, searching for tigers in the Himalayas, or driving down Route 66 to Area 51, Phillips is always digging further, unwilling to stay at the surface of a story. Framing his research within the context of his own experiences and emotions, he merges the external and internal, unceasing in his pursuit of the maddeningly elusive "whole truth." It might not even exist — by the end of this collection, it almost felt beside the point. Impossible Owls is a tiny behemoth of a book, a sprawling universe in paperback. — Lauren P.
I am in love with Tim Kreider. Which — given the romantic anecdotes scattered abundantly throughout these beautifully composed and hilarious essays about everything from monogamy to the War on Terror to basically dating your cat — suggests I have questionable taste in men... but excellent taste in literature. I implore you to pick this one up. — Rhianna W.
I was so excited to read The Line Becomes a River having heard Cantú's story on This American Life. This firsthand account, from a very well-educated Border Patrol agent, is a compassionate view of the humans on both sides of the wall and their motivations. Even if you've heard all you need to know about immigration and U.S. policy, Cantú's perspective brings you as close as you can get to being there.
— Kim S.
Hampton Sides brings the "forgotten war" to the forefront of the reader's mind with On Desperate Ground. In the same narrative fashion as Ghost Soldiers, Sides takes the reader through the lives of a small group of Marines who are heavily outnumbered by not only the Koreans, but Mao's Chinese troops as well. This is a fantastic tale of military bravery from a war that should be anything but forgotten.
— Jeffrey J.
Nate Chinen has written an accessible guide to the state of jazz in the 21st century. In it, he gives readers a framework that we can use to discover new musicians and make connections between genres. Playing Changes helped me listen more carefully, freely, and boldly, inspired by the music it describes. Read it with both your mind and ears open. — Adam P.
Lockwood’s riotous retelling of growing up in a rectory with her Catholic priest father and her disease-obsessed mother is a memoir like no other. Her poetic talents elevate her prose to skyscraper levels of absurdity and warmth, creating an immensely enjoyable and impactful read. — Haley B.
This book is important and necessary. Anyone concerned about the deep divides in American politics must read this book. Saslow is a brilliant reporter and the story of how a young leader of the white nationalist movement was engaged, befriended, challenged, and ultimately changed by college friends who deeply disagreed with his politics is an example of the rays of hope that we need right now. It's also a terrifying portrait of the white nationalist movement and the shift of rage-fueled racism into the mainstream. I was deeply disturbed, sickened, and scared. I was also moved by the compassion and relentless engagement across political divides. — Kathi K.
Oluo is an excellent guide through the explosive terrain of 21st-century race relations, providing clear explanations of the many ways American society is structured to empower white people, particularly men. Arguing that a person can be complicit in a racist society without being an explicitly bad or racist person, Oluo takes some of the sting out of a conversation that rightly places the onus on white citizens to take the lead in confronting racial discrimination and violence. It’s a tricky balance — not placing blame but demanding recognition and reparation — and Oluo manages it with grace and care. — Rhianna W.
I read this ambitious history of the Third Reich in small doses over a period of nine months. So often I closed the book with my jaw completely dropped. Exceptionally readable and thoroughly researched, historian Thomas Childers's newest work has been hailed as possibly the best one-volume overview of Nazi Germany available, with frequent comparisons to William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. With access to documents and research Shirer never had, Childers corrects some of the misconceptions of that earlier work. It's a chilling, engrossing read, and absolutely essential to understanding the rise of Hitler's totalitarian regime. — Lori M.
Leah Dieterich lays all of her insecurities and uncertainties excruciatingly bare in this excavation of her marriage. Using compelling prose, she peels back the surface of everything, and it is mesmerizing; she digs until she understands what she feels, what she wants, and why she wants it. Exploring open marriage, bisexuality, honesty, and fear, this is an eye-opening dissertation on love, desire, commitment, and human nature — and Dieterich holds nothing back in the mining of her life. — Dianah H.
Adam Becker's What Is Real? is a fascinating history of the development of quantum mechanics. I love that the book focuses not only on the competing theories but on the colorful cast of physicists who developed and promoted them over the last century. Becker makes the case that cutting-edge physics has been as much a battle of personalities as a search for empirical truth. — Piers R.