Barbara’s Picks, Oct. 2013, Pt. 5: Wrapping Up a Huge Month with Malcolm Gladwell, Malala Yousafzai, & More

Chen Guangcheng. Untitled Memoir. Times: Holt. Oct. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780805098051. $28. MEMOIR
Chen has been named a 2012 Brave Thinker, 2012 Rebel of the Year, and 2012 Global Thinker by the Atlantic, GQ, and Foreign Policy, respectively. And no wonder. Blinded by illness in infancy and illiterate until his teens, Chen taught himself law and came to defend China’s less fortunate, particularly women who had suffered forced sterilization. That led to house arrest, a dramatic escape over a back wall, and something of a diplomatic crisis after Chen sought shelter in the U.S. embassy in Beijing. Here Chen details his flight to freedom while giving the backstory of his life, thus offering a real insider’s look at China today.

Gladwell, Malcolm. David and Goliath: The Triumph of the Underdog. Little, Brown. Oct. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780316204361. $29. CD: Hachette Audio. PSYCHOLOGY
The Davids, the have nots, the meek of the earth. They can indeed triumph, but Gladwell is less interested in celebrating their victories than understanding how they happen. As with the No. 1 national best sellers The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers, he doesn’t settle for the standard case studies of inspirational literature but digs deep into conflict in Northern Ireland, uphill battles in cancer researchers, and reasons why some classrooms fail to show that what’s truly advantageous isn’t always what we think. Five years have passed since the publication of Outliers, so fans will be eager for this Gladwell fix.

Goodwin, Doris Kearns. The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism. S. & S. Oct. 2013. 848p. ISBN 9781416547860. $35; ebk. ISBN 9781451673791. CD: S. & S. Audio. HISTORY
Drawing support from muckraking journalists like Ida Tarbell and Lincoln Steffens, Theodore Roosevelt used the bully pulpit to stare down monopolies, money brokers, and corrupt politicians—only to see his anointed successor, William Howard Taft, dilute many of the reforms he had put in place. That led Roosevelt to run against Taft—and lose, permanently weakening the progressive strain in the Republican Party. Trust Goodwin, who’s produced best-selling, Pulitzer-worthy magic in her examination of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln, to present another absorbing book on a topic that resonates today.

Grisham, John. Untitled Thriller. Doubleday. Oct. 2013. NAp. ISBN 9780385537131. $28.95. CD: Random Audio. THRILLER
Remember A Time To Kill’s Jake Brigance? (And how can you not, Grisham fans?) He’s back, trying to make sure that justice is served in Ford County, MS, even as one small town’s trial of the century seems set on pulling folks apart. Just starting to buzz, perhaps owing to the absence of plot details, but the return of Jack Brigance will set readers on fire.

Laskin, David. The Family: Three Journeys into the Heart of the Twentieth Century. Viking. Oct. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9780670025473. $32. HISTORY
For Laskin, it’s not just personal. The six children of his great-great-grandfather, a Torah scribe named Shimon Dov HaKohen who lived on the outskirts of the Russian Empire, scattered in a way that captures the contours of 20th-century history. One branch of the family settled in America and founded the Maidenform Bra Company, another went to Palestine and helped birth Israel, and yet another stayed home to suffer the Holocaust. Laskin’s The Children’s Blizzard was award-winning history that also sold (so far, more than 120,000 copies in hardcover and paperback combined), and the new title has inspired in-house awe, so I’m really betting on this one.

Phillips, Jayne Anne. Quiet Dell. Scribner. Oct. 2013. 480p. ISBN 9781439172537. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781439172551. S. & S. Audio. LITERARY FICTION
In 1930s Illinois, recently widowed Asta Eicher gratefully welcomed the attentions of kindly Harry Powers, who later murdered her and her children for their money—one of many similar killings he committed. Eventually, he was executed in West Virginia, in a town not far from where Phillips grew up. Here, Phillips, always brilliant at locating darkness in the ordinary (see, for instance, the National Book Award finalist Lark and Termite), goes to the edge as she reimagines Powers’s life. This story has been tumbling around in Phillips’s mind for four decades, so it should be polished to perfection.

Rice, Anne. The Wolves of Midwinter: The Wolf Gift Chronicles. Knopf. Oct. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780385349963. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385349970. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. PARANORMAL FICTION
Last year’s The Wolf Gift found Rice immersing herself in the world of wolfen powers—and successfully, too, as the book has sold 175,000 copies in multiple formats. Here she continues the story of Reuben Golding, the transformed Man Wolf, as he seeks instruction about his new condition from the Morphenkinder while dwelling at a stately mansion along the Northern California coastline. It’s Christmas, but as Rueben discovers, the Morphenkinder have their own way of celebrating the holiday. Meanwhile, the mansion discloses a spectral presence full of desperate longing. Vampires, witches, wolves—they’re all Rice’s province; with a nine-city tour to Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Yousafzai, Malala & Christina Lamb. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Was Shot by the Taliban. Little, Brown. Oct. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780316322409. $26. MEMOIR/POLITICAL SCIENCE
On October 9, 2012, the teenage Yousafzai was very nearly assassinated by members of the Taliban who objected to her education and women’s rights activism in Pakistan. Currently, she lives in Birmingham, England, under threat of execution by the Taliban if she returns home to Pakistan’s Swat Valley. Through this book, however, she can continue arguing for her beliefs. Named Foreign Correspondent of the Year five times, Lamb has been reporting from Pakistan for 26 years and seems like just the right person to help Yousafzai tell her hugely significant story.

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.