Barbara’s Picks, Jan. 2014, Pt. 3: Tiffany Baker, Rachel Joyce, Carville/Matalin, & More


Baker, Tiffany. Mercy Snow. Grand Central. Jan. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9781455512737. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781455512744; lib. ebk. ISBN 9781455551675. LITERARY FICTION
Baker launched her career smashingly with The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, a New York Times best-selling tale of some originality and spunk; its follow-up, The Gilly Salt Sisters, wasn’t as big a seller but delivered a lush, magical tale for the right readers. This third novel opens up some, limning tensions between two disparate families in Titan Falls, NH, while adding the dark, gothic feel of a decades-old mystery. When a terrible bus crash threatens to expose a secret, the mill owner’s wife decides that she can protect herself only by driving out the on-the-margins Snow family. But young Mercy Snow heartily resists efforts to blame the crash on her troublesome brother. Then a crumbling skeleton is uncovered near the crash site, and the narrative goes into high gear.

Carville, James & Mary Matalin. You Can Go Home Again. Blue Rider: Penguin Group (USA). Jan. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780399167249. $28.95. MEMOIR/POLITICAL SCIENCE
Perhaps the only practitioners of true bipartisanship in the country, Carville and Matalin surprised us all by marrying after the 1992 presidential campaign, during which he strategized for Bill Clinton and she for George H.W. Bush. In their first joint book since 1994’s eye-opening best seller, All’s Fair: Love, War, and Running for President, they speak in alternate voices, with Carville discussing mainly politics and Matalin the interleaving of the public and the private. Both discuss raising a family in high-pressure Washington, DC, however, and their decision to move to post-Katrina New Orleans and help rebuild the city. Billed as the memoir of the year—and, remember, this book is publishing in January.

Finch, Charles. The Last Enchantments. St. Martin’s. Jan. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9781250018717. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250018700. LITERARY FICTION
The author of the well-received Charles Lenox mysteries breaks out with a sophisticated story of one young man’s awakening. Recent Yale graduate William Baker heads to Oxford when the political campaign to which he has dedicated himself founders, leaving behind the beautiful, hard-driving love of his life. All he wants is a year off, but instead he meets a passel of intriguing characters, from a rap-loving Indian economist to charming but classically snobbish flatmate Tom. Then there’s Sophie, who forces William to reconsider everything. Big publicity and in-house excitement, and I suspect that Finch has thrown his heart into this one.

Harford, Tim. The Undercover Economist Strikes Back: How To Run—or Ruin—an Economy. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Jan. 2014. 240p. ISBN 9781594631405. $27.95. ECONOMICS
Having taught us the basics in his best-selling The Underground Economist, Financial Times columnist Harford here looks at the big picture, giving us instruction in macroeconomics, e.g., the study of how the global economy works. He also explains why we should care, which shouldn’t surprise us in a world where banks smash up against one another like billiard balls and Third World laborers sweat and die so that First Worlders can have nice, cheap clothing. Harford starts with a user-friendly question—what would you do if you ran the world’s economy?—then clarifies the answers. Really useful.

Joyce, Rachel. Perfect. Random. Jan. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9780812993301. $25; ISBN 9780679645122. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. LITERARY FICTION
After an award-winning career as an actor and playwright, Joyce turned her hand to fiction and came up with the international best seller The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, published here last year to unending acclaim. In this follow-up, she’s replaced enterprising retiree Harold Fry with equally enterprising 11-year-old Byron Hemmings, who’s dismayed when his mother seems totally oblivious to a terrible event that happens one perfectly ordinary morning while driving him and his sister through thick fog on the way to school. The suddenly distrustful Byron’s world is upended, and with good buddy James he hatches a plan to discover what really happened.

Kenyon, Sherrilyn. Dark Bites: A Short Story Collection. St. Martin’s. Jan. 2014. 448p. ISBN 9780312376864. $25.99. PARANORMAL ROMANCE
Kenyon’s darkly intriguing works regularly claim the top spot on the New York Times best sellers list, and there are more than 30 million copies of her books in print. This first story collection includes pieces she has written over many years, including a few zingers—e.g., “Phantom Lover” (about V’Aiden), “A Dark-Hunter Christmas,” (about Gallagher), and “Love Bytes” (about Adrian)—that have appeared only on her website. Plus, there will be a new Dark-Hunter story. Fans are already clamoring.

Soueif, Ahdaf. Cairo: Memoir of a City Transformed. Pantheon. Jan. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780307908100. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780307908117. POLITICAL SCIENCE/MIDDLE EAST
Published in the UK in January 2012, this work concerns not only the 18 days of upheaval in Cairo that led to the fall of the Mubarak regime but the city itself, recalled here as the heart and soul of her family. It was originally scheduled for publication here in April 2013 but was delayed so that Soueif could update the UK edition to include commentary on events following the election of Muhammad Morsi as Egypt’s President, though she won’t be able to add anything about Morsi’s fall. As author of the novel The Map of Love, a best seller shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Soueif knows how to write—and right now understanding Egypt is crucial.

Sundaram, Anjan. Stringer: A Reporter’s Journey in the Congo. Doubleday. Jan. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780385537759. $25.95. MEMOIR/INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
Winner of a Reuters journalism award in 2006, Sundaram has reported from Africa and the Middle East for the New York Times and the Associated Press, popped up in venues ranging from Foreign Policy to the Huffington Post, and been interviewed by the BBC World Service and Radio France Internationale. But for much of his career he’s been a stringer, abandoning a career in mathematics to start out in dangerous Congo with little in the way of experience or contacts. This memoir sees him struggling to learn his craft while battling malaria, isolation, financial woes, and the tendency of high-and-mighty editors to send in name reporters when a big story breaks. More than a reporter’s story, though, this is an intensely rendered account of the immeasurable sadness of Congo that ends with the tumultuous 2006 elections; the evidence suggests that Sundaram writes with precision and a grave fearlessness.


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.


  1. Connie Walde says:

    Hi Barbara, Tiffany Baker is an excellent author. I really like her books. Have you read any of her other ones? This one will be good when its released in 2014 but have you read The Little Giant of Aberdeen County?

    Thanks for sharing!

    Dr Connie