A Guantánamo Diary, plus Pierce Brown, Miranda July, & More | Barbara’s Picks, Jan. 2015, Pt. 1

Brown, Pierce. Golden Son. (Red Rising Trilogy, Bk. 2). Del Rey. Jan. 2015. 448p. ISBN 9780345539816. $25; ISBN 9780345539823. SFgoldenson
In Brown’s debut, Red Rising, a rigidly hierarchical society on Mars keeps Reds slaving beneath the soil under the pretense that they are building for a future the dominant Golds already enjoy. But a Red named Darrow breaks through to the surface and begins insinuating himself into Gold society, the better to bring it down. The book, a LibraryReads top pick and a New York Times best seller, was quickly snatched up for film, with Marc Forster directing and Brown himself writing the script. This second in the “Red Rising” trilogy continues Darrow’s saga and should not be missed by fans of literate, politically informed fantasy. Buzzing like mad; go, Reds!

Hirsi Ali, Ayaan. The Muslim Reformation. Harper. Jan. 2015. 256p. ISBN 9780062333933. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062333957. RELIGION
Somali-born and Muslim-raised, a refugee in the Netherlands who eventually won a seat in the Dutch Parliament, and currently a fellow at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Hirsi Ali is a world-renowned human rights activist critical of Islam and supportive of women’s rights—views that she has laid out, not without controversy, in New York Times best sellers like Infidel and Nomad. She’s so controversial, in fact, that this spring Brandeis canceled its plans to award her an honorary degree. Here, she stares down her critics with a call for Islam to reform, asking how the Arab Spring morphed into a fight over sharia law as she challenges fundamentalists and argues that most Muslims worldwide want change. The aim? An Islam for the 21st century. With a 75,000-copy first printing.

July, Miranda. The First Bad Man. Scribner. Jan. 2015. 288p. ISBN 9781439172568. $25. LITERARY FICTION
These days, July is everywhere. On the film front, she wrote, directed, and starred in The Future, as well as Me and You and Everyone We Know, which received a special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival and the Caméra d’Or at Cannes. On the fiction front, she’s published stories in places like The New Yorker, and her 2007 collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You, won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. She’s also a multimedia performance artist who just launched the messaging service app, Somebody. So what’s her first novel about? Sensitive, highly strung Cheryl, who obsesses over a hot-to-trot-with-everyone board member at the women’s self-defense nonprofit where she works, has her life blown out of the water when her bosses ask if their 21-year-old daughter can move in with her. Self-serving, gorgeous, and nasty, Clee nevertheless does Cheryl the favor of bringing her down to earth. With a five-city tour to Los Angeles, New York, Portland (OR), San Francisco, and Seattle.keen

Keen, Andrew. The Internet Is Not the Answer. Atlantic Monthly. Jan. 2015. 256p. ISBN 9780802123138. $25. SOCIAL SCIENCE
Since Internet entrepreneur Keen founded Audiocafe.com in 1995 and currently serves as executive director of the Silicon Valley salon FutureCast and host of the popular Techcrunch chat show Keen On, you might expect him to rave about all things cyber. But as evidenced by his first book, The Cult of the Amateur, Keen was an early Internet agnostic. Here he comes out swinging, arguing that the Internet has been bad news for everyone but a select group of young, privileged, rich, white Silicon Valley guys. Far from creating jobs, he says, it’s actively helped push up unemployment, and the mindless mob mentality it fosters is great for big business but a real brake on art, innovation, and personal freedom. Will digital media organizations submit to regulation and strict antitrust compliance, as Keen demands? Watch the fights break out.

Oates, Joyce Carol. The Sacrifice. Ecco. Jan. 2015. 288p. ISBN 9780062332974. $26.99. LITERARY FICTION
A 14-year-old girl is allegedly the victim of a particularly brutal act of racial violence, and tensions long kept under wraps in a New Jersey town explode. Using voices across the racial divide, from the victim and her mother to the police and the media, Oates examines a fracturing community caught up in the spectacle of a crime and its consequences. In the end, she aims to go beyond stereotype (you can see the debate shaping up) and asks whether youth and truth and trust must always be sacrificed to past damage and current sensationalism. With a 35,000-copy first printing.

Slahi, Mohamedou Ould. Guantánamo Diary. Little, Brown. Jan. 2015. 400p. ed. by Larry Siems. ISBN 9780316328685. $29; ebk. ISBN 9780316328609. lib. ebk. ISBN 9780316294676. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. MEMOIR/LAWslahi
Born in Mauritania and educated in Germany on a scholarship, Slahi briefly fought with al-Qaeda units in Afghanistan, which were battling the Soviet-backed government with America’s blessing. After completing his degree and working in both Germany and Canada, he was detained by a Jordanian commando team but cleared of wrongdoing. Later, having been captured by a CIA rendition team, he was imprisoned at Guantánamo, where he has remained since 2002 without being charged with a crime; the government has ignored a federal judge’s release order. After three years, Slahi began this, the only diary available by someone still imprisoned at Guantánamo; 2013 excerpts on Slate generated a huge online debate. Rightly billed as a publishing event.

Vaillant, John. The Jaguar’s Children. Houghton Harcourt. Jan. 2015. 288p. ISBN 9780544315495. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780544290082. LITERARY FICTION
Vaillant’s The Golden Spruce won the Governor General’s Award in 2005; five years later, The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival burned itself into the memory of anyone who read it. Now Vaillant moves deftly from nonfiction storytelling to first fiction, focusing on a young man making the dangerous crossing from Mexico to the United States. Sealed in a broken-down water truck with his fellow passengers, the coyotes having taken all their money and disappeared with the promise of finding a mechanic, Hector recalls his life while trying desperately to deliver a message with which he’s been entrusted via friend Cesar’s cell phone. American-born Vaillant, who currently lives in Canada, has spent time in Oaxaco and researched this novel extensively. With a 50,000-copy first printing.




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.