Barnes, Ehrenreich, Powers, & More | Barbara’s Picks, Apr. 2018

Al Samawi, Mohammed. The Fox Hunt. Morrow. Apr. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9780062678195. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062678218. lrg. prnt. MEMOIR
Raised a devout Muslim in the Old City of Sana’a, Yemen, Al Samawi contemned Judaism until  he began reading a Bible someone sneaked him when he was 21. Reaching out to Jews on social media and attending interfaith conferences soon brought him death threats and forced him to flee to the port city of Aden. As civil war rent the city, he again turned to social media, and four young people, inexperienced but bold, worked across six platforms and ten time zones to save him. Now he’s in America, working for various NGOs, and his story has been bought by the producer of La La Land.

Barnes, Julian. The Only Story. Knopf. Apr. 2018. 272p. ISBN 9780525521211. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780525521297. LITERARY FICTION
A love affair between a 48-year-old and a 19-year-old is hardly unheard of, but Man Booker Prize winner Barnes reverses gender expectations, with home-from-university Paul falling for married mother Susan Mcleod when they’re partnered together at a mixed-doubles tournament at their south-of-London tennis club. First, they’re lovers, then they’re living together, combating irate family members on both sides. Decades later, with Susan dead, Paul contemplates all that went so well and all that finally went wrong. Barnes’s 21 previous titles are all still in print.

Ehrenreich, Barbara. Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Our Illusion of Control. Twelve. Apr. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9781455535910. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781455535880. SOCIAL SCIENCE/DEATH & DYING

Who knew that the author of the New York Times best-selling Nickel and Dimed has a Ph.D. in cellular immunology from Rockefeller University? It comes in handy here as she follows her tough, contrarian bent to challenge our obsession with living longer by practicing mindfulness, following fitness gurus, and shunning French fries. In fact, a quick look at the cellular basis of aging shows that we’re pretty powerless as time marches on; the body makes up its own mind. With a 75,000-copy first printing; a six-city tour to New York, Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle.

Erbelding, Rebecca. Rescue Board: The Untold Story of America’s Efforts To Save the Jews of Europe. Doubleday. Apr. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9780385542517. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780385542524. Downloadable: Random Audio. HISTORY
In January 1944, with Treasury Department staff having discovered evidence that the State Department was blocking dissemination of information about the unfolding Holocaust and was still refusing to grant relief funds that could help save Europe’s remaining Jews, Treasury lawyer John Pehle accompanied Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr. to a meeting with President Franklin Roosevelt President. Roosevelt immediately created the War Refugee Board (WBR), headed by Pehle, which ultimately saved tens of thousands of Jewish lives; among those it recruited to help was Swedish businessman Raoul Wallenberg. Erbelding is a scholar associated with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, which will open a major exhibit on the subject in April 2018.

Flanagan, Richard. First Person. Knopf. Apr. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9780525520023. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780525520030. Downloadable: Random Audio. LITERARY FICTION
Struggling writer Kif Kehlmann is broke, so of course he accepts an offer to ghost write the memoir of corporate bad guy Siegfried Heidl, accused of defrauding the banks of $700 million. (Never mind that he’s being paid only $10,000, and he must be finished in six weeks.) Soon, though, Kif feels less lucky than manipulated, as if Heidl weren’t disclosing his own life but redirecting Kif’s. Flanagan’s Man Booker Prize winner, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, has 275,000 copies in print across formats.

Jamison, Leslie. The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath. Little, Brown. Apr. 2018. 272p. ISBN 9780316259613. $30. ebk. ISBN 9780316259620. MEMOIR
From the New York Times best-selling author of The Empathy Exams, whose novel, The Gin Closet, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, comes a memoir that focuses not on the down-down-down of addiction but on the energizing act of recovery. Personal insights, of course (it’s a memoir) but also reporting on the recovery movement in general and thoughts drawn from the works of John Berryman, Jean Rhys, Raymond Carver, Billie Holiday, and more. With a 100,000-copy first printing.

Kertzer, David I. The Pope Who Would Be King: The Exile of Pius IX and the Emergence of Modern Europe. Random. Apr. 2018. 512p. ISBN 9780812989915. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780812989922. Downloadable: Random Audio. HISTORY/RELIGION
Pulitzer Prize winner for The Pope and Mussolini, Brown professor Kertzer, an expert on the Vatican and modern Italian history, turns to Pope Pius IX, elected in 1846 and the longest-reigning pope ever. At first, Pius IX sought to counter anger at the Church’s corruption with liberalizing tendencies, even granting people of the Papal States a constitution. But revolution throughout Europe compelled him to defend the Church’s rights. A crucial, game-changing time in European history.

Miller, Madeline. Circe. Lee Boudreaux: Little, Brown. Apr. 2018. 400p. ISBN 9780316556347. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780316556330. LITERARY FICTION
Classics, anyone? Actually, classics, everyone; Miller’s last title, The Song of Achilles, won the Orange Prize and was a New York Times best seller. Born into the house of Helios, god of the sun, Circe lacks the power of those around her and prefers human companions. Then she discovers she has the gift of witchcraft and is soon banished to a desert island, where she encounters famed figures in Greek mythology from Daedalus to Medea to Odysseus. With a 75,000-copy first printing.

Morris, Mary. Gateway to the Moon. Nan A. Talese: Doubleday. Apr. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9780385542906. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385542913. LITERARY FICTION/CULTURAL HERITAGE
Winner of the Rome Prize and, more recently, the Anisfield-Wolf Books Award for The Jazz Palace, Morris relates a story of cultural connection that is deeply intriguing. In 1492, even as the Jews and the Moors are being forced from Spain, Spanish Jew Luis de Torres sails with Columbus as his interpreter. De Torres’s descendants settle in Mexico and eventually New Mexico, where, in the present-day town Entrada de la Luna, aspiring young astronomer Miguel Torres can’t fathom why the customs observed by the recently arrived Rothstein family echo those of his own family.

Powers, Richard. The Overstory. Norton. Apr. 2018. 512p. ISBN 9780393635522. $27.95. LITERARY FICTION
A National Book Award winner, Pulitzer Prize finalist, and three-time National Book Critics Circle finalist, Powers is a big writer working with big themes in original ways. His new work focuses on the environment, particularly on trees and the recent Timber Wars centered in the Pacific Northwest, with a disparate group of characters brought together to save the last of the country’s virgin forests. Among them: a scientist who learns that trees can communicate, a Vietnam War air force loadmaster saved after he’s shot from the sky by falling into a banyan tree, and a partied-out young woman sent back from the dead. With a six-city tour to New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Wolitzer, Meg. The Female Persuasion. Riverhead. Apr. 2018. 464p. ISBN 9781594488405. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780525533221. lrg. prnt. CD/downloadable: Penguin Audio. LITERARY/WOMEN’S FICTION
Timid new college student Greer Kadetsky, devoted to boyfriend Cory but otherwise uncertain of her life and herself, has a sudden sense of purpose when she hears leading feminist Faith Frank speak on campus. Remarkably, Faith takes an interest in Greer, setting her on an unexpected new path. Timely reading as circumstances revivify the fight for women’s rights; from the New York Times best-selling author of The Interestings.

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.

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