Barbara’s Picks, Sept. 2013, Pt. 1: Keith Ellison, Stephen King, Sena Jeter Naslund, Diane Ravitch

Ellison, Keith. My Country, ’Tis of Thee. Gallery: S. & S. Sept. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9781451666878. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781451666892. POLITICAL SCIENCE
Elected U.S. Representative to Minnesota’s 5th congressional district in 2007, Ellison is the first Black Muslim in the U.S. Congress and the first African American elected to the House from Minnesota. Not a memoir, though it contains personal anecdotes, his work decries the current political polarization and argues for an America that truly embraces all peoples and beliefs. Ellison has been in the news since his election and just last week exchanged harsh words with Fox News’s Sean Hannity, who accused him of ties to radicals, including Nation of Islam pastor Louis Farrakhan. So his comments here will be news, too. With a 75,000-copy first printing.

King, Stephen. Doctor Sleep. Scribner. Sept. 2013. 544p. ISBN 9781476727653. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781476727660. CD: S & S Audio. HORROR
Remember Danny Torrance, the child protagonist of The Shining? Now he’s middle-aged Dan Torrance, settled in a quiet New Hampshire town, successfully resisting alcohol, and working at a nursing home where his remaining “shining” power helps comfort the dying. He’s also befriended a 12-year-old named Abra Stone with the shiniest “shining” imaginable and must protect her from The True Knot, quasi-immortals who look like old fuddy-duddies in polyester but in fact live off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly but surely tortured to death. The 1.5 million-copy first printing says it all.

Naslund, Sena Jeter. The Fountain of St. James Court; or, Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman. Morrow. Sept. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9780061579325. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062199454. lrg. prnt. LITERARY
From Ahab’s Wife to Adam & Eve to Abundance, which limns the world of Marie-Antoinette, the best-selling, multi-award-winning Naslund is known for creating persuasive female characters. In this novel-within-a-novel, she offers two: French painter Elisabeth Vigée-LeBrun, who barely survived the revolution, and Kathryn Callaghan, who has written a fictional account of Vigée-LeBrun. Kathryn, who is standing meditatively by the fountain of Venus Rising from the Sea as the novel opens, has spent too much time in the past and must reckon with her life in contemporary America. With a 100,000-copy first printing, a six-city tour to Birmingham, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Louisville, Nashville, and Seattle, and a reading group guide.

Ravitch, Diane. Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger for America’s Public Schools. Knopf. Sept. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780385350884. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385350891. EDUCATION
A former assistant secretary of education who has taught at Columbia University’s Teachers’ College, Ravitch has been at the forefront of educational debate for more than 40 years; her 2010 book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System, sums up her current, loud-spoken opposition to test-based measurements of teacher success and the entire charter movement, which she condemns as privatization. Her challenge to the current reform movement puts in her opposition to many political leaders, including President Obama and his secretary of education, Arne Duncan. She continues her arguments in this current title, which does not find her in a conciliatory mood. An important addition to ongoing efforts to improve education in this country.

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.