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  • Jeff Somers 4:00 pm on 2017/06/26 Permalink
    Tags: , , summer reading   

    The Summer’s Best History Books in Paperback 

    The most shocking thing about summer is that it reminds you it’s been a year since last summer. It also means all the great history books you meant to read a few months ago are now in paperback, the better to read at the beach. These eight history books were well worth it in hardcover, making them the ultimate bargains in paperback.

    Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill, by Candice Millard
    In modern times, Winston Churchill is often reduced to the jowly, growling, portly man who made epic speeches during the Blitz. Churchill was one of the most important people in the world long before World War II, however—a man who rose to the epitome of power in England, only to stumble and fall before finding greatness again. Millard makes an argument that Churchill was more than just a brilliant politician, examining a specific moment in his youth—his capture and escape from a POW camp during the Boer War—finding within him a James Bond type, a man of daring action and peerless talent. This fascinating character study will drive you to reconsider your opinion of the man who remains quite possibly the most famous prime minister of all time.

    Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution, by Nathaniel Philbrick
    Everyone should read Philbrick’s incredible examination of the Revolutionary War, focused on the two men who dominated its early years: George Washington and Benedict Arnold. Philbrick will surprise even a well-read historian with revelations about the personalities and politics of the early Revolution; his in-depth examination of Washington and Arnold offers up plenty of surprises—the former wasn’t the perfect leader he’s sometimes imagined to be, and the latter wasn’t entirely unjustified in the anger and sense of betrayal that led his name to become shorthand for treachery.

    Five Presidents: My Extraordinary Journey with Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford, by Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin
    Hill, a Secret Service agent who served from 1958 to 1975 under Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford—and immortalized in the Zapruder Film when he leaped onto the President’s car after Kennedy was shot—offers incredible insights into the top tier of American power. Dealing with his own undiagnosed psychological problems after the trauma of the Kennedy assassination, Hill battled through to serve his country with distinction. His eye for detail makes this book fascinating from beginning to end, as even private moments take on the weight of history. While presidents might be judged by their actions, orders, and written accounts, eye-witness testimonies like Hill’s are every bit as essential.

    Red Platoon: A True Story of American Valor, by Clinton Romesha
    Medal of Honor awardee Romesha recounts the incredibly story of the Battle of Keating. The Command Outpost was located in one of the most remote and dangerous areas of Afghanistan, and on October 3rd, 2009 the Taliban attacked it, sparking one of the bloodiest battles in the war’s history, leaving eight American soldiers and more than 150 Taliban dead. Romesha combines his own firsthand experience of the conflict with impressive journalism, bringing hours of interviews and research to the story in order to give you a real sense of the desperation and pressure these soldiers were under. Red Platoon is a visceral experience anyone debating the moral hazard of war must read.

    Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon, by Larry Tye
    Nearly fifty years after his assassination, Bobby Kennedy has become more saint than human being, with all his problematic failings sanded down in veneration. Tye has a deep respect for Kennedy’s accomplishments, but doesn’t shy away from depicting the very real human being who evolved and changed over the years. Bobby Kennedy in his youth was a very different man from the Bobby Kennedy who many now see as the last gasp of 1960s optimism, and Tye presents a clear-eyed view of the man over time.

    The Romanovs: 1613-1918, by Simon Sebag Montefiore
    Sometimes history requires a broad vision and huge cast of characters, and sometimes, you need to drill down to a focal point. Montefiore does the latter in spectacular fashion, tracing a single family’s origins, exploits, and violent ending. Of course, the family happens to be the Romanovs, who collectively ruled the Russian Empire for three centuries, producing some of the most colorful and powerful figures in history while carving out a huge but delicate empire. Few families were as cohesive and as interesting, and few had as much influence over history, as the doomed Romanovs, whose decisions, failures, and obsessions loom over the modern age.

    The Winter Fortress: The Epic Mission to Sabotage Hitler’s Atomic Bomb, by Neal Bascomb
    While the Allies knew the Nazis were working on their own atomic bomb during World War II, they didn’t know how close it was to completion. If this sounds like the premise of a taut spy thriller, you’d be right—but it’s also real history. The German bomb effort relied on heavy water, which was produced in German-occupied Norway, and Bascomb spins the tale of multiple efforts to destroy the facility with a fiction writer’s skill for tension and surprise. That the heroic efforts of overmatched resistance soldiers—on skis—are all true makes this one of the most remarkable books you’ll ever read about World War II.

    Commander in Chief: FDR’s Battle with Churchill, 1943, by Nigel Hamilton
    In the story of World War II, Winston Churchill is usually painted as the stalwart strategist and brilliant leader, and Roosevelt is given less attention. Hamilton seeks to rectify this with the second installment of his study of Roosevelt’s life and career, focusing on the pivotal year of 1943, when Roosevelt brought forth his vision of a European invasion, the total destruction of Germany, and the establishment of the United Nations—a plan Churchill superficially endorsed, but attempted to block and undermine at every turn, because he didn’t think it could succeed. The Roosevelt that emerges from these pages is a leader for the ages, and a revelation for those who haven’t yet studied one of the greatest presidents ever.

    The post The Summer’s Best History Books in Paperback appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 5:30 pm on 2017/06/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , summer reading   

    A Summer Break Reading Guide for All Ages 

    Summer means different things to different people, depending on their age, their life situation, their life goals—and their reading habits. Some folks read their one book a year over the summer, lazing on a beach. Others sail into June with a reading list arranged alphabetically and by length. Some just like to wander into bookstores all summer long and pick up random books. If you err on the side of planning, here are some recommendations for how to approach your summer reading list, designed for all kinds of people doing all kinds of things.

    For teens fresh out of school
    Are you ready for the summer? Sure, there’s going to be plenty to do as you try to cram a full year of living into a three-month period that must also include Little League, dance class, and camping with the scouts, but there’s always time to read. If you’re into fantasy novels with a kick, check out Royal Bastards, by Andrew Shvarts, which is like Game of Thrones if the kids did more butt-kicking and less suffering. Looking for a great romance to reignite your faith in humanity? Try Once and for All, by Sarah Dessen, in which Louna’s summer job working for her wedding planner mother leads to a second-chance romance. And if you want a period-piece mystery (and who doesn’t?), check out The Pearl Thief, by Elizabeth Wein.

    For older teens heading into college
    This is it, the last summer before the rest of your life, so make the most of it. First, indulge a little and have some fun with Stephen King’s latest, Gwendy’s Button Box. Next, bone up on your life skills with How to Be a Bawse, by Lilly Singh—because you’re gonna need those skills. Finally, burnish your literary side with A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway, a perfect novel to get your brain back into a more thoughtful mode.

    For graduates seeking their first job
    It’s time to put away childish things and get a job—or at least designate a single room (or drawer) in your new place where the childish things live. In the meantime, entering into adult life is daunting, so kick it off with The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson, one of the best guides to life you’ll ever read. Then, get practical with Finance for Normal People, by Meir Statman, and get a side hustle going with the help of The Big Life, by Ann Shoket—because you’re gonna need one.

    For parents about to have a houseful of kids on summer break
    You’ve gotten used to being able to sip a cup of tea and listen to a podcast while you plan your day, but that’s all over. Soon you’ll be living in a bouncy house that doesn’t bounce. You’re gonna need an escape, so stock up on smart but thrilling new books like The Lying Game, by Ruth Ware, or a sci-fi adventure like The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O., by Neal Stephenson, or a smart retelling of a classic like The One that Got Away, Melissa Pimentel’s take on Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

    For young professionals still dreaming of long-lost summer vacation
    Sometimes you’re like Jack from Lost and you just want to go back to the island—in this case, the days when you were still a kid and not a world-weary adult. Relive the good old days this summer while commuting to your first real job, with a delightful confection like hilarious diary-style story Confessions of a High School Disaster, by Emma Chastain, coming-of-age classic Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky, or, as a reminder of how awful everything was in high school, Carrie, by Stephen King.

    For empty nesters
    Your footfalls echo through the place, and suddenly you have nothing but time. This is the summer you train yourself to read again, with all the books you’ve missed over the last, oh, twenty years, like big art mystery The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt, perennial must-read My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante, and alt-universe slavery era epic Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead.

    For the newly retired
    You did your bit, you saved your pennies, you raised your kids: you now have the time to read whatever you want—and time means you can start a book series with a few dozen books, because why not? Start off with a classic historical adventure like the Aubrey-Maturin series, by Patrick O’Brian, or an epic fantasy like The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan, or J.D. Robb’s In Death series, kicking off with Naked in Death.

    For folks who don’t read much
    You’ve got one book in you every year, so it has to count. This summer, there are a huge list of wonderful reads to choose from, including what might be this year’s Gone Girl, The Couple Next Door, by Shari Lapena, or The Duchess, the latest from go-to fave Danielle Steel, or what’s sure to be the new hot title in thrillers this year, Rag Doll, by Daniel Cole.

    For folks who read everything
    You’ve spent the first six months of the year reading at a pace that would kill most people, so you don’t really need a summer list, do you? Try to spice it up anyway with indie books you might miss otherwise, like Stephen Florida, by Gabe Habash, the story of a high school athlete unaware of the enormity of his own depression, or Sour Heart, by Jenny Zhang, which captures what HBO’s Girls would be if it accurately represented the demographics of New York City, or a fun nostalgia-soaked horror novel like Meddling Kids, by Edgar Cantero.

    A can’t-miss, fail-safe choice for everybody
    You have a bunch of books, or you only read one book, or you don’t like to be ruled by lists—fair enough. Take a bit of a stretch and read Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders. It’s a little weird, a little literary, and, for some, a little hard to get into over the first few pages. Then something clicks and you adore it, and it makes your summer.

    The post A Summer Break Reading Guide for All Ages appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Melissa Albert 7:30 pm on 2017/06/08 Permalink
    Tags: , , , elin hildebrand, summer reading   

    Elin Hildebrand Shares Her Favorite Summer Reads 

    In Elin Hildebrand’s The Identicals, out next week, Hilderbrand takes readers to the sunny shores of Martha’s Vineyard. There, we meet the 39-year-old Frost sisters: fun-loving, hard-drinking Harper, who’s allergic to responsibility, and her estranged identical twin sister, Tabitha, a cultured and elegant woman and single mother who lives a few miles away in Nantucket, where she struggles to keep their mother’s boutique afloat. The twins haven’t gotten along in years, but when scandal engulfs them both, they decide to swap islands—and lives—in a desperate attempt to help right each other’s wrongs. In preparation for Hildebrand’s latest scrumptious and intelligent beach fare, the author shared her picks for the best summer reads.


    For me, a great summer read does NOT have to be set at the beach.  It merely has to be completely engrossing, a real page-turner, and extra points for escapism.

    Saints for All Occasions, by Courtney Sullivan
    This is a good old-fashioned family saga.  It begins in Ireland in the fifties and follows the immigrant parents over to Boston right up to 2009. When tragedy strikes, the family gathers and all the secrets come out.  You may feel as though you’ve read this story before, but Sullivan’s gorgeous, precise, empathetic prose draws you in and makes the whole thing fresh and new.  You WILL fall in love with this family. Suggested for: New England beach vacations!

    The Vacationers, by Emma Straub
    Possibly the perfect beach read.  This novel follows an upper class American family to Majorca for the summer.  It’s whip-smart, erudite, and so, so clever.  It has sumptuous European details and juicy scandal.  Extra points for escapism! Suggested for: Your trip to the south of France or Santorini!

    Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley
    After a private plane filled with important people crashes off of Martha’s Vineyard, there are only two survivors, and authorities puzzle over what happened. This is a thriller AND a beach book!  It’s written in the kind of prose you can vividly see in your mind’s eye—I say it should be a movie!—and I devoured every delicious page.  Suggested for: anywhere BUT Martha’s Vineyard.

    The Admissions, by Meg Mitchell Moore
    This is one of my favorite books in recent years. It’s about a family with three daughters, and the eldest is desperately trying to get into Harvard.  Set in the high-stress, high-tech, high-property-value world of San Francisco, this novel keeps you guessing and cheering and biting your nails to the very end. Suggested for: summer college tours, parents only.

    Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult
    I read this novel while on St. John this past March and was both mesmerized and inspired. Picoult is the GOAT (Greatest of All Time), especially when it comes to novels that deal with “issues.”  This novel takes on Race with a capital R, but Race takes a backseat to Picoult’s impeccable characterizations; you develop sympathy for all of the characters in this book, even those you might not naturally be inclined to like. And that, my friends, is a feat only the most masterful of storytellers can pull off.  Suggested for: everyone, everywhere.

    The post Elin Hildebrand Shares Her Favorite Summer Reads appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Melissa Albert 2:00 pm on 2017/05/17 Permalink
    Tags: , , , served cold, summer reading   

    The Child Author Fiona Barton Shares Her Favorite Cold-Case Mysteries 

    Last year Fiona Barton told a tangled tale in The Widow, centered on long-suffering housewife Jean, her recently deceased husband, and the kidnapping he was accused of years before his death. Her latest thriller, The Child, out this June, sees the revival of another cold case when a journalist finds herself bound to chase the mystery of a baby’s skeleton found in the remains of a demolished house, to its roots.

    Barton is, unsurprisingly, a fan of the cold-case mystery in her reading as well. Here she shares with us some of her favorites, perfect creepy reading for cool summer nights.

    The righting of historic wrongs has chimed with something fundamental in me since I was a young reader. I love the forensic skills, the psychological insights, and the sheer bloody-mindedness of various detectives—professional or accidental—inching toward the truth of a long-buried secret. It will be no surprise, then, that I have gone down this route in my second novel, The Child, in which the discovery of a newborn’s skeleton sets in motion an investigation by journalist Kate Waters into the identity of the nameless child. I am following tentatively in the footsteps of some of the greats in the genre, starting with Agatha Christie, the queen of the uncovered clue, and finishing with my current read, Val McDermid’s latest starring her cold case detective, DCI Karen Pirie. Some of my choices for this list are hardboiled crime, some literary, some old, some new, but all held me spellbound.

    Five Little Pigs, by Agatha Christie
    This is often described as Christie’s neglected masterpiece and pitches Hercule Poirot into a 16-year-old-murder (with hemlock), a possible miscarriage of justice, and a convoluted family feud. So far, so what? But it’s not so much the plot in this novel that enthralls, it’s the way Christie presents the riddle of the murder from five different viewpoints. Her Belgian detective asks the five key suspects to write him a letter describing what they heard and saw on the day of the murder and sets out to solve the crime without visiting the scene. Elegantly resolved and an immensely satisfying ending.

    Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson 
    This is the novel that introduced me to Jackson Brodie, Atkinson’s troubled private investigator (are there any other kind?). As the title suggests, he deals with more than one cold case—there are three family tragedies, including the disappearance of a child from a tent in a back garden thirty years earlier, an axe murder by a new mother, and the stabbing to death of a solicitor’s daughter. Now, don’t say you are not getting good value… The stories intertwine expertly and unexpectedly, leaving you desperate to read the next one.

    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson
    This astonishing debut, published posthumously, was a fairly nuclear introduction to Scandi Noir. The story centers around the dysfunctional Vanger family and the unsolved disappearance of a young relative in 1966. The hunt for the truth is led by a journalist and the anarchic hacker Lisbeth Salander. The story is gritty, sometimes unbearably graphic, but swept me through its 463 pages to the awful, shuddering denouement.

    The Dry, by Jane Harper 
    The secrets of small towns have fascinated writers and readers since the first psychological thriller was penned. (Wikipedia tells me that was in 11th-century Japan, and who am I to argue?) Jane Harper has set her cold-case mystery in the worst drought in Australia in a century, teasing us with the irony of temperatures. Her Federal Agent Aaron Falk goes home for the first time in decades for the funeral of a boyhood friend. The friend is said to have committed suicide after murdering his wife and young son in horrifying circumstances, but all may not be as it seems, and Falk reluctantly becomes embroiled in reinvestigating the crime. Meanwhile, a much older crime that touches the investigator intimately is exposed as a rich seam of lies and collusion that underpin the community.

    The Little Friend, by Donna Tartt 
    Donna Tartt is a genius. This, her second novel, sets a 12-year-old heroine to solve the death of her brother, found beneath a tupelo tree on Mother’s Day when she was still a toddler. The 11-page prologue is a masterclass of building and sustaining unbearable tension before we are plunged into the mind of Harriet, the child determined to find nine-year-old Robin’s killer. It is complex, sublime, and has stayed with me. I am rushing to read it again.

    Out of Bounds, by Val McDermid 
    The latest outing for DCI Karen Pirie, head of Police Scotland’s Historic Case Unit, is my current book on the bedside table. The danger with having a known character who only deals with cold cases is that there may be nothing new to add to the genre, but McDermid is surprising me page by page. This time, the detective has to revisit a 20-year-old rape and murder after a teenage joyrider crashes a stolen car and a routine DNA test links him to an unsolved crime. Fab twists and turns and am learning new Scottish words all the time…

    The Remorseful Day, by Colin Dexter
    Having lived for many years in Oxford, for me the last Inspector Morse novel is a must. I had been part of the backdrop to the Morse series for 25 years (my daughter was actually an extra in one episode of the TV version), and I grew to love the curmudgeonly copper and his long-suffering sidekick, Lewis. The duo are normally part of live investigations, but in this book they consider a cold case, which may or may not have personal connections for Morse. It is a wonderfully intricate valedictory for a brilliant character.

    Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier 
    I refuse to apologize for including this classic thriller in every literary Top Ten I’ve put together. It was in my Top Novels with Marriages with Secrets, the list of books that have influenced me most, and Best First Lines. It is a masterpiece with an unsolved murder at its heart, a second wife, and the scariest housekeeper ever created. What’s not to like?

    Fiona Barton’s The Child hits shelves June 27, and is available for pre-order now.

    The post The Child Author Fiona Barton Shares Her Favorite Cold-Case Mysteries appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Whitney Collins 5:40 pm on 2016/07/07 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , summer reading   

    Unforgettable Stories from a Hilarious Mother/Daughter Duo 

    The dynamic mother-daughter duo of Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella, New York Times bestselling authors known for teaming up to write their hilarious Philadelphia Inquirer column “Chick Wit,” are back with another collection of short, humorous essays. I’ve Got Sand In All The Wrong Places is the seventh installment in the entertaining memoir series by this prolific pair, and it’s the perfect take-along for wherever you’re headed this summer, beach or otherwise. With stories averaging about four pages, every one full of laugh-out-loud scenarios, this bright and breezy selection is custom-crafted for those in vacation mode.

    Within, readers will find touching and hilarious entries on everything from A(ging) to Z(oology), with stops at bachelorette party bouncers, Cartier excursions, and exes along the way. Need a giant laugh? Be sure to read Lisa’s “With Apologies to Mother Mary,” an entry on her unwillingness to wear anything but fleece. Need another? Don’t miss Francesca’s “A Thing of Beauty,” a piece on how clubbing and vodka Red Bulls are meant for an age group that somehow escapes hangovers that feel like “the afterlife.” Other lolworthy essays inlude ruminations on cremating pet chickens instead of barbecuing them, a homemade butternut soup disaster, and taking up golf at 60.

    Many of the essays are both wistful and witty. Lisa discusses her beloved parents’ deaths. Francesca opens up in a series of entries about an assault and mugging. And both women are fiercely honest (and funny) about sex (or lack thereof), anxiety (specifically panic attacks and bridge-crossing phobias), and feminism…not to mention male strippers dressed as handymen and Pope Francis’ message of love.

    While Lisa might be best known for her impressive bibliography of bestselling legal thrillers, and Francesca was thrice honored at Harvard University for her creative writing, we’re grateful these two have found their stride with humorous nonfiction. Chosen as “Best Beach Book” by People Magazine, the “Perfect Summer Must-Read” by O, The Oprah Magazine, and “the perfect present for moms, grandmas, and aunts” by CosmopolitanI’ve Got Sand In All The Wrong Places has earned a place in your travel tote.

    I’ve Got Sand In All The Wrong Places hits shelves July 12, and is available for pre-order now.

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