My Picks: January 2012, Pt. 5: O'Nan's Latest, plus Social Media, Roger Williams, and Egypt's Revolution

O’Nan, Stewart. The Odds: A Love Story. Viking. Jan. 2012. 400p. ISBN 9780670023165. $25.95. LITERARY FICTION
Art and Marion Fowler are jobless and facing foreclosure, even as their marriage teeters on the brink. So what do they do? Head to Niagara Falls, book the bridal suite at the area’s fanciest casino, and risk all at the roulette wheel. Another from the beloved O’Nan, who so sensitively makes the everyday hurts of everyday people real and important. This book will resonate profoundly in today’s strapped environment; great for book clubs.

Andrews, Lori. Facebook Nation. Free Pr: S. & S. Jan. 2011. 256p. ISBN 9781451650518. $24.99. TECHNOLOGY/LAW
Social media allow us to stay intimately connected across the globe and to serve as movers and shakers in our own milieu, but they also profoundly threaten our rights. Colleges and employers base their rejections on information found on the web, thieves check out folks’ vacation plans to plot their heists, and at one school administrators used laptop cameras to spy on students at home. Director of the Institute for Science, Law and Technology at Illinois Institute of Technology and a specialist in social media, Andrews has a lot to say on the subject. First and foremost, she wants to establish a Constitution for the web to assure our rights. An important conversation; let’s get started.

Barry, John M. Roger Williams and the Creation of the American Soul: Church, State, and the Birth of Liberty. Viking. Jan. 2012. 240p. ISBN 9780670023059. $35. HISTORY
At a time when folks were roundly debating the relationship between government and God, as well as government and the individual, Roger Williams started America on its current path by proposing the separation of church and state and linking religious freedom to individual liberty. Then he went and practiced what he was preaching by setting up his own government in the wilderness (the colony of Providence Plantation), a society that explicitly countered fellow Puritan John Winthrop’s blazing City on the Hill. Author of The Great Influenza, a best seller and winner of both the Francis Parkman Prize and the Keck Prize, Barry should ably articulate Williams’s ideas and their lasting importance. Not just for history majors; these ideas speak to us today.

Khalil, Ashraf. Liberation Square: Inside the Egyptian Revolution and the Rebirth of a Nation. St. Martin’s. Jan. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781250006691. $25.99. CURRENT EVENTS
The 18-day revolution that led to the ouster of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was a long time coming, so it’s good to have this reflection by Egyptian American journalist Khalil. He has lived in Cairo since 1997, so he can provide the necessary historical context even as he documents the efforts of the protestors, which he saw firsthand. (He was with them in Tahrir Square, sniffing in the teargas.) This work also comments on the forthcoming Egyptian elections, giving us a comprehensive past-present-future package that would seem more than worthwhile to consult as we try to understand what’s happening in Egypt today. [See also last week’s pick, Wael Ghomin’s Revolution 2.0.]

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @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.