Elif Batuman, Mohsin Hamid, Chris Hayes, & More | Barbara’s Picks, Mar. 2017, Pt. 1

Batuman, Elif. The Idiot. Penguin Pr. Mar. 2017. 448p. ISBN 9781594205613. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781101622513. lrg. prnt. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. LITERARY FICTIONbatuman
As evidenced by her National Book Critics Circle finalist, The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them, Batuman is a refreshingly different breed of critic, offering intriguingly personal and at-a-slant takes showing what the books she reads mean in her life (and maybe yours). Her first novel examines what happens to Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, when she lands at Harvard in 1995 and gradually reimagines herself through first love and an equally important new passion, writing. Note that Batuman has to her name not just Whiting and Rona Jaffe honors but the Paris Review Terry Southern Prize for Humor, so don’t be surprised if you find her prose witty as well as insightful.

Brown, Taylor. The River of Kings. St. Martin’s. Mar. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9781250111753. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250111760. LITERARY FICTION
After his gripping, gorgeously written debut, Fallen Land, winner of outstanding reviews and the browntaylorMontana and Doris Betts fiction prizes, Brown returns with a novel about two brothers journeying down Georgia’s fabled Altamaha River, sometimes called the “Little Amazon.” The narrative blends the river’s treasured present—which includes 1,000-year-old virgin cypresses and evidence of the  oldest European fort in North America—with its intriguing past, as artist Jacques Le Moyne participates in a 1564 expedition meant to found a French settlement at the river’s mouth but is instead ripped apart by bloody battles with conquistadores and native tribes.

Hamid, Mohsin. Exit West. Riverhead. Mar. 2017. 240p. ISBN 9780735212176. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780735212183. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. LITERARY/POLITICAL FICTION
Following the PEN/Hemingway finalist Moth Smoke, the Man Booker short-listed The Reluctant hamidFundamentalist, and the multi-best-booked How To Get Filthy Rich, with the last two also best sellers, Hamid returns with a heartbreakingly relevant new work. Somewhere in the Middle East or South Asia, sweet Saeed and passionate, independent-minded Nadia (she even lives alone) have fallen in love. As their city tumbles toward civil war, they finally escape, traveling from a migrant camp on Mykonos to Vienna, a west London squat, and finally California, forever glowing with promise. Expect lots of attention for Hamid, a regular contributor to venues from the New York Times to NPR.

Hayes, Chris. A Colony in a Nation. Norton. Mar. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9780393254228. $26.95; ISBN 9780393254235. RACE RELATIONS
The Emmy Award–winning news anchor whose MSNBC-based All In with Chris Hayes attracts more than a million viewers each weeknight, Hayes here wrestles with America’s continuing racism. He hayesstarts by pointing out that measures like wealth, employment, and school segregation show racial equality stalled in the late 1960s, then argues that our society is essentially split in two. Rule of law prevails in the Nation, but in the Colony order is what matters, with civil rights compromised by fearfulness and heavy-duty policing leading to the shock of Ferguson. The very existence of the Colony threatens democracy—and could lead to another revolution. From the author of the New York Times best-selling Twilight of the Elites; an 11-city tour to New York, Washington, DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Kansas City, MO.

Joy, David. The Weight of This World. Putnam. Mar. 2017. 272p. ISBN 9780399173110. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780698184404. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. CRIME/LITERARY
Joy broke out in 2015 with Where All Light Tends To Go, which received a truckload of glowing joydavidreviews and an Edgar nomination for best first novel. Here he continues his distinct brand of literary noir with the story of Afghanistan-haunted veteran Thad Broom; his mother, April, herself burdened by a long-held secret; and Aiden McCall, who’s close to them both. After witnessing the accidental death of their drug dealer, Thad and Aiden end up with lots of ill-gotten drugs and funds and head out on a meth-facilitated road trip to nowhere. National tour, book club promotion, and library marketing.

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Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.