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The Most Extraordinary Stories
A Search for Six of Six Million
As a child, Daniel Mendelsohn never tired of hearing his grandfather's stories about growing up in a small eastern European town called Bolechow; but the story that haunted him most was the one his grandfather wouldn't tell: the story of his great-uncle Shmiel, his wife, and their four daughters, all of whom perished in the Holocaust. When his grandfather died, Mendelsohn set out on a remarkable journey across four continents to discover the family's fate -- and stumbled across the unexpected truth by sheer accident. A mystery about the past and the lonely secrets that envelope it, this achingly beautiful memoir is not to be missed.
A Journey Between China's Past and Present
New Yorker correspondent and Beijing resident Peter Hessler dives headlong into the enigma of 21st-century China in this absorbing look at an emerging world power in the throes of cultural conflict. A sequel of sorts to Hessler's delightful debut, River Town, this elegant, discursive travelogue captures the daily lives of real people in vivid "slice of life" vignettes framed by fascinating forays into China's distant past. Whittling a vast country of a billion people down to human dimensions is no easy task, but we think Hessler has done the job in this remarkable book.
Strange Piece of Paradise
A true crime spelled by the victim, who starts: "Poised on that twilight edge between life and death, I felt intimately the part of me that was flesh, and I knew also that I was something more." And goes on, electrifying, disturbing, moving. Jentz goes back to Oregon, where, in 1997, she was one of two girls attacked by a stranger with an axe. Fifteen years, deep scars, and scary memories later, she came back and found the man in her nightmares free and a crime waiting to be solved. Her factual and personal storytelling can be appreciated by other surviving victims and devour as a thriller by more fortunate readers.
The Ghost Map
The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic - and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World
The title of this engaging work by Steven Johnson, author of the subversive Everything Bad Is Good for You, refers to a milestone of epidemiology -- a map tracing house-by-house deaths to water pump locations in a neighborhood identified as ground zero of London's 1854 cholera outbreak. Johnson's history of the map and its author, physician John Snow, immerses us in the Dickensian sociology of a city whose population density was four times that of modern Manhattan and where the prevailing theories of epidemics were less scientific than moralistic. The failure of Snow's map to convince his peers that cholera was waterborne (the next generation would conclude otherwise) makes this a bittersweet study of Victorian reason, determination, and struggle.
The Last Season
Joining the ranks of top adventure writers, Eric Blehm weaves a suspenseful nonfiction whodunit that will hook you from the first page. Anyone who's experienced the grandeur of the High Sierras will immediately fall under the spell of this tale about a passionate backcountry ranger, his mysterious disappearance, and one of the largest search-and-rescue missions ever conducted by the Park Service. But even the most devoted of urban dwellers will find Blehm's page-turning adventure a transcendent read that belongs on the shelf next to Jon Krauker's Into the Wild.
The Last Battle of the Civil War
Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Nicholas Lemann captured our attention with his riveting, myth-shattering look at the events leading to the death of Reconstruction after the Civil War. Following characters large and small, he gives life to this shameful period marked by an organized, violent campaign to overturn the 14th and 15th Amendments. Filled with drama, despair, and gut-wrenching stories of good and evil, few books this year shined a more welcome light on a disturbing subject.
The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer
James L. Swanson
We all know how it ends: The famed actor who killed Abraham Lincoln was chased down and killed a few weeks later in a barn. But pick up Manhunt and discover how a talented historical sleuth can turn one of the most fabled events from America's past into a page-turning murder mystery that keeps shocking you with revelations until the end. There are dramatic twists and turns as Lincoln scholar James L. Swanson follows Booth and his conspirators into seedy hotels, back alleys, and finally out of the Capitol and into the Virginia countryside. It's a thrill ride the entire way, one that earns our enthusiastic thumbs-up.
A Forgotten History of Family, Fatherland, and Vichy France
This gripping story of secrets and a bitter family heritage grew from British publisher Carmen Callil's attempts to understand the 1970 suicide of her analyst, Anne Darquier, whom Callil credited with saving her life. The trail led her back to Anne's long-estranged father, Louis Darquier; as commissioner for Jewish affairs in Vichy France, Darquier was responsible for the deportation of numerous Jews to Auschwitz. With skill, unfailing patience, and quiet fury, Callil unravels this shattering story of wartime atrocoties and a daughter's unbearable burden.
A Three Dog Life
It's hard to argue with Stephen King, who pronounced this the best memoir he had ever read. Through a series of poignant, precise vignettes, Thomas describes life as she has known it since a hit-and-run accident left her beloved husband disabled, subject to rages, terrors, hallucinations, and living without memory in a perpetual present. Humor, sincerity, surprise, and three very supportive dogs make this book as remarkable as the fate of its main characters.
The Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero
Pulitzer Prize winner David Maraniss weaves a mesmerizing biography of the first Latino player named to the Baseball Hall of Fame, tracing Roberto Clemente's rise to iconic status right before his tragic death on a mission of mercy. It's baseball biography at its best. But where Maraniss really makes his mark is in capturing Clemente's time, a period in United States history where being a man of color posed a challenge as great as a 95-mile-an-hour fastball.