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  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2018/07/05 Permalink
    Tags: a year in provance, chasing the sun, Fiction, one-way ticket, sag harbor,   

    10 Books To Read Instead of Taking a Vacation This Summer 

    There’s nothing rougher than listening to friends, family, or co-workers (maybe especially co-workers) chatter on about their amazing summer vacation plans if you yourself have none. Whether due to finances, work responsibilities, or simple bad luck, not everyone can plan a great trip every year, and that can make the hot summer months seem longer, sadder, and hotter than they truly are.

    Readers, of course, know a good way to go on a trip whenever they want to: all it takes is the right book. The 10 books below not only tell gripping, emotionally powerful stories—they also take you someplace you’ve likely never been, and let you revel in a foreign culture and landscape.

    Call Me by Your Name, by André Aciman
    Not only is this tender love story a pure delight in terms of character and storytelling, reading it is also almost as good as an actual trip to the Italian Riviera. In-between acting on their burgeoning attraction, 17-year old Elio and 24-year old Oliver lounge around the sort of gorgeous Italian countryside and charming villas that are the stuff travel agents’ dreams are made of. If you can read this beautiful, brief novel and somehow not want to travel to the Mediterranean to drink wine and read books, we can only conclude you have no soul. That, or you already live there.

    Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts
    India is big. Like, really, really big. Saying you want to “go to India” is sort of like saying you want to go to Europe, or the Moon—you really need to be more specific. That being said, despite the often grimy subject matter, Roberts’ controversial biography-as-novel introduces to an India that is equal parts overwhelming and exciting, overcrowded, hot, and beautiful, as seen through the eyes of an escaped convict on the run. You might not want to follow in the author’s supposed footsteps exactly, but reading this book is like getting off a plane in India without any money or a current passport and just diving into the country.

    Wedding Night, by Sophie Kinsella
    Underneath the farcical, bubbling story of a woman who gets fed up with a boyfriend who won’t as her to tie the knot and immediately accepts the proposal of an old flame, running off to a luxury resort in Greece to get married while her sister works behind the scenes for an annulment is a love letter to the gorgeous Greek Islands on which the story is set. Anyone who’s seen Mama Mia probably entertains a daily fantasy of moving to such a place; this book is almost as good as heading there for your own 5-star destination wedding.

    Ulysses, by James Joyce
    Yes, yes—this is an intimidating postmodern novel that scares the pants off seasoned academics and literature experts. It’s also a funny, salty tour of Dublin—granted, it’s Dublin on June 16, 1904, but you can still recognize the old bones of the city Joyce is making love to on every one of these many, many pages. Reading this classic might be more work than most books, but the end result will likely be a burning desire to visit Ireland and walk the streets that Leopold Bloom and company traversed in Joyce’s mind all those years ago.

    The Black Book, by Orhan Pamuk
    This unconventional and unexpected mystery doubles as a testament to just how awesome it is to live in Istanbul. As Galip searches for his missing wife and accidentally assumes the identity of the man he suspects she ran off with, Pamuk layers on stories about life in the ancient city, painting a picture of a beautiful, mysterious place that is equal parts modern and traditional. If you can’t get to Istanbul yourself (with or without the fraught mystery and confusing sense of reality), this book will definitely make you feel like you and the city are old friends, well met.

    Chasing the Sun, by Natalia Sylvester
    Set in Lima, Peru, this story of violence and kidnapping may not initially seem like much of an advertisement for a vacation—but once you realize that Sylvester set the story during a period of chaos and trouble that is long in the past, you can see the beauty and passion of the country peeking out around the edges. As a desperate husband works with a professional negotiator to try and get his kidnapped wife back from terrorists, Lima emerges as the sort of gorgeous spot anyone would want to explore over the course of a few lazy weeks, just taking in the lush Latin vibes. Minus the kidnapping, of course.

    Sag Harbor, by Colson Whitehead
    Not every amazing vacation spot is overseas, but not every New Yorker (or every American) can just jet out to the Hamptons every summer. If you are one of the many who can’t, check out Whitehead’s brilliant 2009 novel, which explores deep issues of race, culture, and capitalism while also introducing you to an intimate view of high-rolling Long Island you might not get anywhere else. You might not be able to afford the summer-long vacation the kids in this novel experience (without parental supervision, too), but you’ll definitely want to move the Hamptons up on your must-see list.

    The Hundred Foot Journey, by Richard C. Morais
    You might not need much motivation to visit the Occitanie region of France (or, you know, France), but this delightful book, focused on the rivalry between two restaurants in the region, will make you pine for a place you’ve likely never been. Many people think France is Paris, and vice versa, but France is a big place, composed of several regions that were once independent countries, and thus have their own flavor and cultural je ne sais quoi. This book will put Occitanie on your list.

    A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle
    Can’t spend a year in the south of France whipping an old villa into shape and sampling the local wines and cheeses? Well, that’s rotten luck. The good news is that this novel-like memoir is sort of like going there and doing just that. What’s great about the book is how Mayle treats the region and its people as a real, tangible place, with frustrations and problems as well as beauty and incredible food. That being said, you can’t read this and not want to head off immediately, job and responsibilities be damned.

    The Hairdresser of Harare, by Tendai Huchu
    Finally, it’s easy to get lost in African literature and come away with the idea that the continent is dangerous, unsettled place to visit. But even more so than India, Africa is a land of many different nations and even climates. Huchu’s brilliant novel presents one of them to you all its messy glory. It is set in Zimbabwe, and follows the surprising and ultimately tragic relationship between hairdressers Vimbai and Dumisani, while making country seem like the sort of place smart, adventurous people might visit.

    What books take you where you wish you could go?

    The post 10 Books To Read Instead of Taking a Vacation This Summer appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Sarah Skilton 2:00 pm on 2018/07/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , Fiction,   

    July’s Best New Fiction 

    Anglophiles, take note: this month is all about historical fiction, several of which take place in Merry Old England. Travel to London during World Wars I and II, or to the early 1800s for a Pride & Prejudice retelling that ushers Mary Bennet into the spotlight. Then cross the Atlantic for a Virginia-set Southern Gothic and a New York-to-LA road trip, or board a fast boat to China for a Shanghai family drama. 

    Dear Mrs. Bird, by AJ Pearce
    Taking the London Blitz as its backdrop, this historical debut focuses on female friendships as well as the possibility of finding comfort in the empathy of strangers. When upbeat, 20something Emmeline Lake answers an ad for a job at Women’s Friend magazine, she’s hoping it will launch her career as a journalist. Instead, she finds herself assisting Mrs. Bird, the magazine’s judgmental advice columnist. Mrs. Bird won’t even consider answering letters about “unpleasant” topics (doesn’t she notice there’s a war on?). Emmy decides to write back for her, offering kindness and compassion to those whose struggles have been consigned to the rubbish heap.

    The Dying of the Light, by Robert Goolrick
    Fans of Southern Gothic will lose their minds for this dramatically rich story about Diana Cooke, the most beautiful teen debutante of the 1919 season, who marries a cruel man in order to save her family’s derelict Virginia mansion. Known as Saratoga, the estate has been in the Cooke family for a century and represents much more than the lavish parties it once hosted. However, the real trouble starts when the widowed Diana’s cherished son returns home from college with his roommate in tow.

    Saving Beck, by Courtney Cole
    Though known for her psychologically gripping, bestselling romance books, Cole’s new novel takes her writing in a new direction, one informed by her own life. Using dual perspectives, Saving Beck tells the story of widowed Natalie and her eldest child, grieving, guilt-ridden Beck, who blames himself for the car crash that killed his father. When Beck’s family life falls apart, burdening him with new responsibilities, he turns to heroin for relief. This appears to be a thoughtful, extraordinarily honest look at addiction.

    The Lido, by Libby Page
    Octogenarian Rosemary has resided in Brixton, London, since birth. Twentysomething Kate is a nervous newcomer to town who’s accepted an unglamorous reporting job at the local paper. The two form an unexpected bond of friendship while attempting to save the lido, the beloved public swimming pool that’s been a constant to Rosemary her entire life, from her WWII childhood to her years of marriage. Will Rosemary’s memories of what makes the pool so important be enough to keep it open? Can Kate cast off her anxiety and self-doubt and lead the charge on Rosemary’s behalf?

    Ghosted, by Rosie Walsh
    A brief, intense, and life-changing romance between middle-aged Sarah and Eddie ends in heartache and confusion when Eddie’s promised phone call after some time apart never comes. Sarah’s friends try to convince her she’s been ghosted, but Sarah can’t bear the idea of never seeing or hearing from Eddie again. She’s convinced something has gone terribly wrong, and her instincts are correct—leading her to uncover secrets she never saw coming.

    America For Beginners, by Leah Franqui
    Pival Sengupta, a recently widowed Indian woman, travels to the U.S. for the first time via a madcap touring company, in hopes of locating her estranged son, Rahi. The road trip from New York to LA allows Pival to learn about Rahi through his adoptive homeland. Her companions include a tour guide who’s only been in America for a year, and a would-be actress. The team members find solace in each other’s journeys and viewpoints. 

    Mary B: An untold story of Pride and Prejudice, by Katherine J. Chen
    Middle child Mary Bennet, an avid reader and writer, is voted least likely to marry by her family, but that doesn’t mean she’s going to sit on the sidelines of life. In fact, in this novel of behind the scenes and offscreen moments surrounding the events of P&P, Mary reveals herself to be observant and charming, with a quiet wit. Pair it with Curtis Sittenfeld’s 2017 novel, Eligible, for the best in old school and contemporary Austen retellings.

    What We Were Promised, by Lucy Tan
    Desperate housewife and mother Lina Zhen has trouble acclimating to her new life of leisure in modern-day Shanghai, but her husband Wei’s job provides everything the family could want. Still, Lina is restless and distracted, particularly when a reunion with her true love—Wei’s brother, Qiang—looms on the horizon after a twenty-year absence. The only person who senses the hidden tumult about to erupt is Sunny, the Zhens’ long-term housekeeper, who is privy to more than a few secrets.

    Fruit of the Drunken Tree, by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
    A historical coming of age novel set in Bogotá, Colombia, during the worst years of Pablo Escobar’s narcoterrorism, Fruit’s narration comes from the POV of two girls: seven-year-old Chula and thirteen-year-old Petrona, the family maid whose own family is being destroyed by the drug war. Petrona is determined to turn things around for her loved ones, but when she puts her trust in the wrong boy, she’s not the only one who’ll pay the price.

    Eagle Crane, by Suzanne Rindell
    Harry (who is Japanese American) and Louis (who is white) were neighbors and best pals during the Depression and their barnstorming days as stunt pilots in California, but the rivalry between their respective families, as well as a romantic interest in the same woman, caused problems for the two men. Jumping ahead a few years, it appears Harry and his father have been murdered in a plane crash after escaping from an internment camp, but the FBI is convinced the case is not as cut-and-dry as it appears.

    The post July’s Best New Fiction appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 8:00 pm on 2018/06/18 Permalink
    Tags: , books to get sandy, Fiction,   

    The Best New Books to Read on the Beach 

    When it comes to sticking your toes in the sand and your nose in some prose, not every book measures up. A Beach Read is a book that brings certain things to the table: it should be fast-paced, twisty, and surprising, and above all it should be the sort of book that’s capable of distracting you from the sun, the sand, and the sea for a little while. If you find yourself constantly looking up from the page to watch dogs catching Frisbees, you might be reading the wrong book.

    We got you. Here are eight books so absorbing you might need extra sunblock, because you are going to lose track of time when you’re reading them.

    The Cast, by Danielle Steel
    Steel is an expert at casually constructing stories that suck you into their gossipy, oh-no-they-didn’t drama. In The Cast, Kait Whittier is a magazine columnist who has put two marriages behind her and is in no rush to try her hand at a third, preferring instead to enjoy the company of her children and the challenge of her work. When she meets a television producer by chance, she pitches him an idea for a TV series based on her own grandmother’s remarkable life—and the producer loves it. Suddenly Kait finds herself plunged into a Hollywood production, meeting the cast and crew that will bring her grandmother’s story to the screen. Kait quickly bonds with them, from the icy director to the quietly suffering lead actress, and they become her second family—just in time to help Kait through one of the greatest personal challenges of her life.

    The Perfect Couple, by Elin Hilderbrand
    Here’s a beachy hook for your summer reading: a perfect wedding in glamorous Nantucket hits some rocks when the Maid of Honor is found dead in the ocean the morning of the big day. Hilderbrand is at the top of her game as she introduces the bride, Celeste Otis, who has a bag packed and is ready to bolt from her own wedding when social media influencer Merritt Monaco is found dead, despite the fact that her would-be husband, Benji, seems wonderful. Mixed up in everything is novelist Greer Garrison, who’s hit a bit of a midlife crisis as her publisher is asking for a complete rewrite of her latest novel. Hilderbrand is a master at combining the beachy fun of a location like Nantucket with some serious thriller and mystery chops—this is a beach read you won’t be able to put down, we promise.

    All We Ever Wanted, by Emily Giffin
    This emotionally complex story centers on a social media controversy that spirals out of control. Nina is a former middle-class girl who married rich, confident Kirk and moved to Nashville. Their son, Finch, is headed for Princeton, and life seems perfect, even as Nina begins to question her husband’s character and her own choices. Tom is a single dad raising spirited Lyla, who gets a scholarship to the exclusive Windsor Academy. When a photo of Lyla at a party, unconscious and vulnerable, hits the internet, the whole town is thrown into an uproar—especially since it seems like Finch is the one who took the photo. Giffin has a gift for making other people’s problems very real and very compelling. While all your stress drains away on the beach, nothing beats reading about other people’s stress—so bring the popcorn and your sunglasses and start turning those pages.

    Calypso, by David Sedaris
    Sometimes the beach requires bite-sized fiction you can pick up and put down without breaking the thread. If you’re sharing a beach house this summer, this one is ideal for you: Sedaris collects a whopping twenty-one essays in this volume, all centered on the beach house he purchased a few years ago and that has served as a central gathering place for his family ever since. With his usual self-deprecation and sharp wit, Sedaris chronicles the arguments, discussions, and adventures he gets into both with and without his family, and continues to fearlessly explore his mother’s death and his sister’s suicide as well as issues including whether Jesus was attractive or not. Laugh-out-loud funny in places and incredibly moving in others, Sedaris continues to prove he’s one of our greatest living essayists with this fantastic collection.

    Shelter in Place, by Nora Roberts
    Beachy reading doesn’t have to be breezy and light. Roberts spins a tense story about the survivors of a mass shooting event at the DownEast Mall. College student Reed Quartermaine managed to save a child during the chaos, and meets first responder Essie McVee, who inspires him to follow that instinct and become a police officer. High school student Simone Knox is the first to call 911 and becomes famous, and uses that fame to launch a career as an artist, honoring the victims she couldn’t save by sculpting them. Three years after the attack, Reed notices that people who were there that fateful day are being murdered—and then he’s attacked himself, by the sister of one of the shooters, or someone everyone believes to be the shooter. The truth slowly unspools as Reed risks everything to investigate, falling for Simone in the process in this fast, pulse-pounding story with a lot of heart.

    The High Tide Club, by Mary Kay Andrews
    If you’ve ever let your mind wander while sitting on the beach, wondering what might happen if adventure suddenly dropped into your vacay, this is the book for you. Andrews starts off her newest with an intriguing mystery, then pulls off a twist that makes it even more interesting. Brooke Trappnell is a struggling attorney and single mother, so she’s elated, if mystified, when local millionaire Josephine Warrick invites her to her island compound just off the coast of the small Georgia town they call home. Josephine, 99, is dying, and she wants her estate to go to three old friends she has been estranged from for years. Two of the self-named High Tide Club have passed away, but Brooke is charged with tracking down the last survivor and the descendants of the others and arranging for them to come to Josephine so she can make amends and change her will. Brooke knows Josephine isn’t telling her everything—and there’s an old unsolved murder in the mix—but before anything can be figured out Josephine dies without changing her will. Brooke and the High Tide Club are left scrambling to save the estate, follow her wishes, and solve the mysteries surrounding her.

    Love and Ruin, by Paula McLain
    The past is often more romantic than the present, so if your current beach experience isn’t particularly cinematic, here’s a book that’ll bring the drama you’re missing. McLain returns to Hemingway’s life with a thrilling focus on his third wife, the independent, brilliant Martha Gellhorn. Already famous in her own right for her journalistic work during the 1930s, Gellhorn meets the older Hemingway and their romance sizzles—for a time. McLain masterfully brings these historical figures to life, depicting the neediness and instability Hemingway brought to the table, traits that slowly ruin their love and marriage. Gellhorn makes her break from Hemingway in dramatic fashion, stowing away on a hospital ship bound for Normandy on D-Day, becoming the first journalist of either gender to report back from the massive invasion of Fortress Europe. The story’s twists and turns wouldn’t be believed if it wasn’t based on real people—real people unlike any you may have known.

    By Invitation Only, by Dorothea Benton Frank
    In this charming new Lowcountry story, Fred, a South Carolina farmer, and Shelby, daughter of a wealthy Chicago couple, are getting married. Fred’s mother, Diane, has lived on a small island off the coast her whole life and is planning the engagement party in her typically low-key way. When she invites Shelby’s parents, Susan and Alejandro, to attend, what follows is a collision of two worlds and two very different styles, as Susan and Diane get along like oil and water. Back in Chicago, Susan throws a second party, kicking off a struggle of wills as Susan keeps trying to make the wedding bigger and more elaborate and the kids keep trying to scale it back. A family tragedy only accelerates the pace—and anyone who has lived the stress of planning a wedding will find Frank’s delightful treatment of the two families to be extremely entertaining.

    The post The Best New Books to Read on the Beach appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Cristina Merrill 4:00 pm on 2018/06/13 Permalink
    Tags: , by invitation only, calypso, , , , , , , , Fiction, , love and ruin, , , , rainy day friends, , , the cast, , the perfect couple   

    10 Beach Reads to Get You into That Summer State of Mind 

    Summer is nearly here! That means plenty of time for lounging about in the great outdoors. Here are 10 page-turning stories to enjoy as you soak up the sun. Some are light and breezy, and others are a bit darker—covering everything from murders to social media scandals. There are fresh starts and betrayals and secrets. They all have one thing in common, though: They’re each filled with beautiful, colorful characters who will make you want to keep turning the pages, even when the going gets rough. (Especially when the going gets rough, actually.)

    So put on your biggest shades, slather on the SPF-whatever-you-need, and enjoy! Just don’t forget to turn over once in a while.

    The Cast, by Danielle Steel
    Hoping to dip your toes into a glamorous, Hollywood-esque story? Seek no further! Steel’s yarn is about a woman, Kait Whittier, who has a respectable magazine writing career. After meeting Zack Winter, a television producer, Kait becomes inspired to write a TV series based on her grandmother’s life. She soon finds herself in the middle of a major production filled with all kinds of people. All is going quite well, until she is confronted with a major maternal-related issue. Will she be able to get through it? And will her new inner circle help her?

    The Perfect Couple, by Elin Hilderbrand
    Fans of The Castaways and A Summer Affair will have a chance to revisit some of their favorite characters in this novel! It’s wedding season on Nantucket, which doesn’t exactly thrill the locals. (So. Many. Tourists.) Then a bride-to-be is found dead just a few hours before the ceremony was supposed to begin, and many of those who were close to her are prime suspects. Chief of Police Ed Kapenash is on the case, and he soon realizes that no lovey-dovey couple—or family, for that matter—is perfect. He’s going to have to ask some difficult questions in order to solve this case and bring the bride’s loved ones closure.

    All We Ever Wanted, by Emily Giffin
    Giffin’s latest tale is about a major incident that goes viral on social media. Nina Browning is living the good life in Nashville. Her wealthy husband just sold his tech company for a major profit, and their son got accepted to Princeton. Living a very different life is Tom Volpe, a single dad working multiple jobs to raise his daughter, Lyla, while making sure she doesn’t screw things up at her new prep school. One night, at a wild party, a scandalous photo is taken that can shake up everything these two families have worked for. Can they manage to survive the scandal and pick up the pieces of their lives?

    Calypso, by David Sedaris
    Humor book alert! Funnyman David Sedaris’s latest book is about his purchase of a beach house. This may seem like The Dream for just about anyone, but, as Sedaris learns, it’s not all fun and games. He thought it would be a relaxing retreat, but he still can’t escape the facts of life, such as middle age and mortality. There are plenty of his patented and hilarious ruminations on both in this volume, so be prepared for lots of belly laughs in spite of yourself—and maybe some stares from the people sitting nearby.

    Shelter in Place, by Nora Roberts
    Roberts’ latest book deals with a mass shooting at a mall, and how it affects the lives of the survivors for years to come. One man decides to go into law enforcement, while one woman finds a much-needed outlet in her art. Years have passed since that horrible night, but the pain still lingers, and it may not even be over yet. Let’s just say that someone bad is waiting to cause more chaos. Fans know that Roberts (and her alter writing ego, J.D. Robb) consistently delivers thrillers filled with the most wonderful human characters.   

    The High Tide Club, by Mary Kay Andrews
    Attorney Brooke Trappnell has been summoned by 99-year-old heiress Josephine Bettendorf Warrick to the old lady’s beach home. Josephine wants to make things right with the descendants of her old girl gang. They called themselves The High Tide Club back in the day, and let’s just say they used to have oodles of fun together. (Case in point: They went skinny dipping. A lot.) Of course, many things have happened since those days. Oh, and Josephine also wants Brooke to help her protect her land from greedy hands. Brooke soon finds herself in the middle of decades-old drama as she reunites everyone at Josephine’s home.

    Love and Ruin, by Paula McLain
    McLain is at it again! After the success of The Paris Wife, a fictional account of Ernest Hemingway’s marriage to Hadley Richardson, his first of multiple marriages, this new tome delves into Hemingway’s marriage with journalist Martha Gellhorn. Martha travels to Madrid to report on the Spanish Civil War and ends up crossing paths with the soon-to-be-super-famous writer. Throughout their relationship, one of her main struggles is to make sure she remains her own person, which many a modern reader can appreciate. Hemingway scholars know how this particular love story ends, but it’s still fun to read about a romance between two interesting and intelligent people with lots of inner turmoil.

    By Invitation Only, by Dorothea Benton Frank
    A wedding is about to take place, and let’s just say the bride and groom come from very different backgrounds. Fred’s family are Southern peach farmers, while Shelby comes from a wealthy Chicago family. One side is very hardworking, while the other side—or certain folks on it—have a bit of a sense of entitlement. Everyone is feeling a little bit out of their element, especially the two mothers. Will Fred and Shelby’s relationship survive class differences? And will everyone be feeling the love when Fred and Shelby say “I do?” (That is, IF they do?)

    Cottage by the Sea, by Debbie Macomber
    Annie Marlow has been through some pretty painful experiences, so she decides to hightail it to the Pacific Northwest. There she meets a colorful cast of characters, including Keaton, who helps her fix up her seaside rental cottage. He’s a very nice, zen kind of guy, which Annie really needs right now. Life is going smoothly, and then Annie gets a major opportunity thrown her way. Add to that a landlady with some major emotional walls around her and a teenager who might be in desperate need of Annie’s help, and you’ve got a page turner you won’t be able to put down.

    Rainy Day Friends, by Jill Shalvis
    Lanie Jacobs’ husband recently passed away, and she’s still getting over her grief when she discovers that she wasn’t his only wife. She’s devastated, to say the least, and she decides to make a fresh start for herself by working at the Capriotti Winery. It’s a family-run venture, and Lanie gets plenty of distraction from the noisy Capriotti family. There’s also the matter of Mark Capriotti, an Air Force veteran who is now the deputy sheriff. He and Lanie soon realize that they really like each other. Then a 21-year-old newcomer with some dark secrets shows up, which just might ruin everything that Lanie has worked for.

    The post 10 Beach Reads to Get You into That Summer State of Mind appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 6:00 pm on 2018/06/07 Permalink
    Tags: , consider the source, Fiction, , ,   

    The Ex-Presidents Bookshelf 

    With a few notable exceptions, becoming president of The United States is a demanding career path that requires boundless energy, deep resources both personal and practical, and formidable brain power. Just getting into office takes decades of work, and once there, you’ve got to be able to process a lot of information and basically be always-on. As such, it shouldn’t be a surprise that ex-presidents do things like write books after they leave office—a lifetime of outperforming everyone else from your high school class doesn’t just go dormant when you leave your successor’s inauguration. It also shouldn’t surprise that many of these books are excellent works that endure the test of time.

    Here are 10 books written by ex-presidents that deserve their shelf in your personal library.

    The President is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson
    This new release gets the top spot for the simple reason that it’s the rare work of fiction by an ex-president. No one could have predicted that Bill Clinton had the chops to write a novel, but partnering with Patterson means that whatever Bill might lack in storytelling skills is made right. The combination of one of the modern masters of the thriller and someone who spent eight years as the most powerful man in the world, reading all the classified reports and dealing with situations we won’t even learn about until a century from now, is pretty exciting, and the premise had us hooked from page one: determined to stop a terrorist threat, the president goes rogue—and goes AWOL—and takes matters into his own hands.

    The Diary of James K. Polk During His Presidency, by James Polk
    What makes this book a must-read? On the one hand, it’s a glimpse into what being president was like in the mid-19th century, when the U.S. was a much different country and holding the office was a much different job. On the other hand, Polk passed away unexpectedly just a few weeks after leaving office, leading many historians to note that he therefore had no opportunity to edit and revise his memoirs. These are the raw notes he took, in the moment, recording his thoughts and reactions in real time. Considering hew began keeping a diary in service to his frequent arguments with his cabinet, the drama quotient is delightfully high.

    Crusade in Europe, by Dwight D. Eisenhower
    Eisenhower is one of then most remarkable men to have ever served as president. After a brilliant military career that culminated in the D-Day invasion of Europe and the ultimate defeat of the Axis powers in World War II, Eisenhower ran for president in 1952 and became one of the most important people to serve in the office, overseeing a country that was rapidly transforming into a superpower in just about every sense of the word—military, economic, and otherwise. His 1948 book about his experience in World War II is remarkable, walking you through events and decisions that continue to impact our world today and giving you a glimpse into the challenges of commanding such a huge and disparate military effort.

    Profiles in Courage, by John F. Kennedy
    Kennedy’s authorship of this book has been thrown into question over the years, but it remains a remarkable book from a politically ambitious senator who would be elected president a few years after its publication. What sets it apart from many other books by politicians is the fact that Kennedy didn’t write about himself, instead choosing to highlight eight other senators throughout American history who risked their political lives and futures to do what they felt was right, despite pressure from their peers or party to do otherwise. Whoever actually wrote the book, it’s a stirring work that still reminds us that sometimes, you have to put country over party, and justice over everything.

    The Virtues of Aging, by Jimmy Carter
    Jimmy Carter lost his bid for re-election in 1980, when he was 56 years old. Nearly two decades later, on his way to being one of our wisest and steadiest ex-presidents, he wrote this charming, thoughtful rumination on aging in modern times, a subject few like to think about. He was in his mid-70s then, of course, and that seemed like an appropriate time to think about old age, but here we are, 20 years after that moment, and Carter is, thankfully, still with us, and still active. If you can’t learn something about aging gracefully from a man who’s been alive post-presidency almost as long as he was alive pre-presidency, you’re not trying very hard.

    Portraits of Courage, by George W. Bush
    Like John F. Kennedy before him, Bush chose to make his 2017 book not about himself, but about the true heroes that serve our country. Poignantly, many of the men and women depicted in Bush’s portraits served while he was president, meaning that his decisions directly affected their lives, a heavy burden that many would seek to insulate themselves from. Bush is a surprisingly accomplished artist, proving that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself, or to grapple with the darker side of your legacy in new ways. His own courage in addressing the consequences of his own decision-making results in a remarkable book.

    The Jefferson Bible, by Thomas Jefferson
    The amazing thing about the United States is how dynamic it is; laws are reinterpreted, policies changed, and roles redefined on a regular basis. Determining what our Founding Fathers truly thought about various subjects has therefore become more than an academic exercise, but a vitally important element of our legislative and judicial process. Thomas Jefferson had very unique ideas about religion and spirituality that don’t necessarily jibe with today’s mainstream understandings of either, and his “bible” is a prime example, a version of the book Jefferson hand-crafted by cutting out sections and rearranging them onto the page with glue–excising the miracles, references to Jesus’ divinity, and other aspects of the good book Jefferson found to be “fanciful.” The result is a fascinating glimpse into one of our most unusual presidential minds.

    Through the Brazilian Wilderness, by Theodore Roosevelt
    There have been few presidents as accomplished—and indefatigable—as Roosevelt, who served led the Rough Riders, served two presidential terms, ran for a third, and spent his retirement doing more before 6AM than most of us do all week. Roosevelt was pushed throughout his adult life to be physically fit and strong after a childhood of weakness and poor health, and his expedition into uncharted areas of South America at the age of fifty-five is a testament to the energy he brought to every aspect of his existence. The expedition encountered cannibals, flesh-eating bacteria, and plenty of other dangers, but was ultimately a scientific success on a grand scale. Roosevelt’s firsthand account is thrilling, and will make you wonder why modern presidents seem to do little more than collect fees for speeches.

    Dreams of My Father, by Barack Obama
    Obama remains a singular president, and a man already recognized for his writing and speaking prowess long before his political career saw him become the first black president of the United States. His 2004 book explores his biracial legacy in a strikingly personal manner. Where most political books tend towards policy and wonky recitations of campaign speeches, Obama chose to be intimate and honest as he struggled with his father’s memory, his African roots, and his identity as an American. Even if he hadn’t become president, this would be a book worth reading, just to understand a little better what it means to be an American in the 21st century.

    Personal Memoirs, by Ulysses S. Grant
    One of the greatest examples of a memoir written by a man with nothing left to lose, this vibrant and sharply written work was composed by Grant when he was dying and nearly broke—he wrote it hoping set his family up with an income after he was gone (and died just a few days after completing it). In these pages you get insight into Grant, who was both one of our greatest military leaders and possibly one of our worst presidents—either a drunken layabout or a brilliant commander, depending on who you ask. His decisions during his military career had direct impact on the development of this country, and his decisions while president are still being debated today. This is a book any student of history should read.

    The post The Ex-Presidents Bookshelf appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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