Kai Bird, Courtney Collins, Stacey D’Erasmo, Timothy Geithner, Ruth Reichl | Barbara’s Picks, May 2014, Pt. 4

Bird, Kai. The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames. Crown. May 2014. 432p. ISBN 9780307889751. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780307889775. CD: Random Penguin Audio. BIOGRAPHY
Given continuing tensions in the Middle East—and how much they have escalated in the last decades—we should pay attention to Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer Bird’s account of CIA agent Robert Ames, one of America’s most important assets in the region until his life was cut short by the bomb that exploded outside the American Embassy in Beirut in April 1983. Ames formed fruitful ties with major figures throughout the Arab world, including the PLO’s Ali Hassan Salameh, but after the separate deaths of both men America’s relationship with the Muslim world chilled.

Collins, Courtney. The Untold. Amy Einhorn: Putnam. May 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780399167096. $26.95. LITERARY FICTION
Collins’s debut offers a fictionalized account of real-life Jessie Hickman, a female bushranger and outlaw in 1920s Australia whose story as presented here ranges excitingly from the circus life to horse stealing to imprisonment to forced marriage to fiery escape and endless pursuit. But the real reason to read the book is the extraordinary, toughly lyrical language and deeply felt look at how people make their own fate. Maybe Collins is a new female Cormac McCarthy, and maybe not. Either way, she’s worth more than watching.

D’Erasmo, Stacey. Wonderland. Houghton Harcourt. May 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780544074811. $22; ebk. ISBN 9780544073692. LITERARY FICTION
Stegner Fellow D’Erasmo started out with 2000’s wonderfully meditative Tea, won a few Lambdas, then got front-page coverage in the New York Times Book Review for her most recent book, The Sky Below. But this new work is billed as her commercial breakout. D’Erasmo peers into the life of flame-haired, golden-voiced Anna, an overnight indie rock star who just as suddenly crashed and is now attempting a comeback at age 44. To get the facts, she toured Europe with the Scissor Sisters; the author will also tour for the book, hitting New York, Seattle, Austin, Portland, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. A 40,000-copy first printing.

Geithner, Timothy. Untitled. Crown. May 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780804138598. $32. CD: Random Penguin Audio. ECONOMICS
To understand how America handled the global financial crisis of the last few years, you could ask Geithner, U.S. Treasury Secretary from 2009 to 2013 and before that chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Here he offers an insider’s account of what strategies were adopted and why they worked—or didn’t—so that we can plan better for the future. With a tour embracing New York, Washington, DC, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco/Silicon Valley, Miami, and Philadelphia.

Reichl, Ruth. Delicious! Random. May 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781400069620. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780679604617. CD: Random Penguin Audio. POP FICTION
Not a yummy cookbook or another arresting memoir from the former editor in chief of Gourmet, but this first novel is still drenched in food lore and love. Billie Breslin is thrilled to find work at New York’s upscale foodie magazine, Delicious, then devastated when it is shut down. Left behind to answer the magazine’s public relations hotline until further notice, she finds a letter in the magazine’s library from intrepid 12-year-old Lulu to James Beard that makes her rethink her own life.


Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @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.