Barbara’s Picks, May 2012, Pt. 3: Albright, Wilson, Fountain, First Novelist Cash

Cash, Wiley. A Land More Kind Than Home. Morrow. May 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780062088147. $24.99; eISBN 9780062088246. LITERARY THRILLER
Growing up in insular Marshall, NC, bright, inquisitive Jess Hall watches out for his older autistic brother, Stump. But Jess can’t protect Stump when he sees something he shouldn’t, which has shattering implications for both boys, forcing them to grow up very quickly. This town is not as bucolic as it seems, and with Jess, town conscience Adelaide, and troubled sheriff Clem Barefield as our narrators, we learn a lot about the nature of evil. Nice in-house enthusiasm for this first novel, but what really sold me was the comparison to works by John Hart, Ron Rash, and Tom Franklin‚ an unbeatable trio of darkly thoughtful writers. With a 100,000-copy first printing and a seven-city tour to Ashville, Birmingham, Charlotte, Jackson, Memphis, Oxford, and Raleigh.

Fountain, Ben. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Ecco: HarperCollins. May 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780060885595. $25.99; eISBN 9780062096821. LITERARY
Heroes of a quick, fiercely fought battle at Iraq’s Al-Ansakar Canal, captured on tape by an embedded Fox News crew, the eight surviving Bravo Squad members are in demand. The Bush administration has sent them on tour, which includes a halftime appearance at a Dallas Cowboys game. Among the men is 19-year-old Texan Billy Lynn, who takes in the fawning overtures of the team owner, the players, and at least one gorgeous Cowboys cheerleader even as he faces hard truths about himself, his family, and his country. He also recalls the sergeant who changed his life and then died in his arms. Fountain is the Pen/Hemingway Award winner of the bristly and satisfying Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, so I expect lots from this book. With a 50,000-copy first printing and a 12-city tour to Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, New York, Boston, San Francisco, Denver, Oxford, Jackson, Nashville, and Raleigh/Durham, plus an appearance at next year’s BookExpo America.

Albright, Madeleine. Prague Winter: A Personal Story of Remembrance and War, 1937-1948. Harper: HarperCollins. May 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780062030313. $27.99; eISBN 9780062030368. lrg. prnt. MEMOIR/HISTORY
The former secretary of state and author of several New York Times best sellers, including Madame Secretary, Albright looks back at her earliest years to record what it was like living in Prague from 1937 to 1948. In just over a decade, Prague endured the German invasion, World War II, the Holocaust, the defeat of fascism, and the triumph of communism after the war. Albright relies not only on her own memories but on primary sources, interviews, and recently released documents to tell a story that ranges from the Terezin (Theresienstadt) concentration camp to the war councils of Hitler and the Allied leaders to London’s bomb shelters and finally her late discovery of her Jewish heritage. Blending the personal with a broad view of a key time and place in world history, this book should be mesmerizing. With a 150,000-copy first printing and a ten-city tour to Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Denver, New York, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

Wilson, E.O. The Social Conquest of Earth. Norton. Apr. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780871404138. $27.95. SCIENCE
Harvard professor emeritus, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and the man who gave us the term (and, indeed, the concept) sociobiology, preeminent scientist Wilson asks three key questions‚ where did we come from? what are we? and where are we going?‚ and in answering them offers what could be his magnum opus. In a major move, he shifts the focus from kin selection to group selection as the primary force underlying human evolution. Then he shows how everything characterizing Homo sapiens, from art to religion to politics, is rooted in biology. Here’s a scientist’s-eye view, no doubt gracefully told, explaining why we humans have inherited the earth. Important.

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.