This Week’s Biggest Books

April is right around the corner, which means three months have slipped past and you haven’t even made a dent in your Must Read List … from last year. And now we’re going to pile on and offer you another exciting round up of books everyone is excited about. You’d best get to reading, because this week we’ve got the conclusion of the Natchez Burning Trilogy from Greg Iles, a new Joe Pickett thriller from C.J. Box, a fascinating story from bestseller Lisa See that explores life, love, and tea in China in the mid-20th century, and a heartwarming love story from Debbie Macomber that’s like coming home. The lesson here is simple: Take a break and read more.

Mississippi Blood, by Greg Iles
Iles’ concluding novel in the Natchez Burning trilogy starts off at a tense boil…and then somehow increases the tension. Penn Cage, now mayor of Natchez, Mississippi, finds himself—and his family—targeted by the Double Eagles, a splinter KKK group led by the loathsome and deadly Snake Knox. Penn’s father, Tom, heads to trial for the killing of his nurse and lover, Viola Turner, and Penn turns to author Serenity Turner for assistance chasing down witnesses. As the racial violence escalates, everyone’s commitment to their ideals is tested, and Iles brings all of the plot threads together in well-constructed trail scenes that offer plenty of surprises.

Vicious Circle, by C.J. Box
The 17th Joe Pickett novel starts off in high gear and never lets up, opening with Picket in a plane using infrared technology to track Dave Farkus, hunter and disability scam artist. Joe catches up with Farkus just in time to see the man shot to death. It doesn’t take long for Joe to identify the key suspect—Dallas Cates, sometime rodeo star who just got done doing 18 months in prison thanks to Farkus’ testimony. Cates makes little effort to hide the fact that he’s seeking the ultimate revenge against Farkus—and has assembled a team of meth heads, sociopaths, and other scary folks to do so. Joe finds both himself and his family included in Cates’ plans, and Cates proves to be smarter and more evil than Joe could possibly have suspected.

If Not for You, by Debbie Macomber
Macomber crafts a touching story centered on the obstacles that always threaten to keep us isolated and lonely. Music teacher Beth is new to town, and is set up on a blind date with mechanic Sam. They don’t quite hit it off, and that would have been that except Beth is involved in a terrible accident. Sam, a good guy, stands by her and helps her in recovery, and a real bond of love begins to form. Meanwhile, Beth helps her aunt track down the love from her past that got away, and as usual Macomber explores these interlocked relationships with assurance, teasing out the hidden connections and painting detailed pictures of who these characters are as people. Filled with humor and affection, once again reading Macomber is like coming home.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, by Lisa See
Set in 1949 China, this lush, sprawling story begins with Li-Yan, a young woman and member of the ethnic minority Ahka. Li-Yan wishes nothing more than to follow the traditional ways of her people, but finds herself going against tradition in every step of her journey to becoming a renowned tea master: She goes to school, she speaks to men, she becomes pregnant, and instead of killing the child as per tradition she gives her up for adoption, leaving just a tea cake with the baby as a sign of her love. Her daughter, Haley, is adopted by an American family and grows up in Los Angeles, haunted by the tea cake and the mother she never met. Lisa See revels in the beautiful details of the Ahka and of tea—its science, its art, and its rich symbolism. Readers will be equally enthralled.

Good Grief: Heal Your Soul, Honor Your Loved Ones, and Learn to Live Again, by Theresa Caputo
Caputo, star of the TV show Long Island Medium turns her psychic gifts and long experience dealing with grieving people to offer both hope and guidance for anyone who has lost a loved one. Caputo claims that the spirits give us permission to grieve, but also want us to go on with our lives, and she offers some concrete, practical exercises designed to help people move through their grief. These meditations and structured reflections are giving real heft with the inclusion of stories from Caputo’s own life and the lives of her clients, which illustrate just how powerful simple concepts of spirituality can be. Caputo’s assured, sympathetic tone gives the book a warm, inviting feel that encourages anyone reading it to be open, honest, and to allow themselves to be healed after tragedy.

The Magnolia Story, by Chip and Joanna Gaines with Mike Dagostino
Fans of home renovation and so-called “property porn” shows on HGTV and similar networks might have tuned into Chip and Joanna Gaines’ show Fixer Upper for the real estate—but they stayed for the charm. Now hosting one of the most popular shows in their lane, the Gaines family has enjoyed a quickly-growing fan base that want to know how in the world such nice, fun, and good-hearted people built their own little television and renovation empire. In this charming book, Chip and Joanna recount their early years, the beginnings of their relationship, and the lucky day a television producer happened to stumble on a blog post Joanna wrote. Along the way are a lot of hilarious and heartwarming stories as the Gaines’ prove to be just as nice, smart, and grounded as they appear to be on the show.

Trump’s War, by Michael Savage
Savage, who along with the audience of his radio show The Savage Nation claims partial credit for Donald Trump’s surprise victory in last year’s presidential election, takes a victory lap in this book analyzing Trump’s message, campaign, and the challenge that faces the 45th president. Savage has long been the voice of a far-right America that views the European Union as a grim example of what America could be if left to the supposed “progressive” players in Washington, and in this book he has no illusions that Trump will have an easy time of putting his campaign promises into action, offering up his suggested strategies for the success of Trumpism—which he and his fans claim as their own.

Dangerous Games, by Danielle Steel
Steel demonstrates why she’s a master of the form with her new thriller, focusing on television journalist Alix Phillips, a strong, experienced woman who thinks nothing of flying into the world’s danger zones for a story, accompanied by her quiet, reserved ex-Navy Seal cameraman, Ben. When Phillips begins looking into Olympia Foster, widow of a popular Senator assassinated before he could fulfill his political potential, she uncovers an explosive story that could transform the balance of power in the country and around the world. Foster’s relationship with Vice President Tony Clark leads to a federal investigation—and to threats against Alix and her family. Alix and Ben find themselves pitted against forces they couldn’t have imagined as secret after secret reveal just how much danger they’re really in.

The Cutthroat, by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott
Cussler and Scott’s tenth Isaac Bell novel explores a killer concept: Jack the Ripper, alive and gleefully murdering his way across the globe in the early 20th century. Initially hired to find the runaway daughter of a wealthy businessman, Bell is too late, discovering the girl murdered in gruesome fashion. When this leads to the discovery of similar murders around the world, Bell forms a “Cutthroat Squad” to locate the serial killer behind it, a group of the toughest and smartest agents in the Van Dorn Detective Agency. The result is a globe-trotting adventure that incorporates Cussler’s love of authentic historical technology with his usual panache while sketching out a plausibly terrifying alternate world where one of history’s worst killers flew under the radar for decades.

Silence Fallen, by Patricia Briggs
In the 10th Mercy Thompson novel, Briggs adds a a bit of international espionage flavor to the soup as Mercy is kidnapped to Italy by the ancient and powerful vampire Iacopo Bonarata—who also severs her connection to Adam and the werewolf pack. Alone in the truest sense of the word, Mercy must use all of her wits to escape and reestablish contact with Adam, who meanwhile assembles a tactical assault team of supernatural figures to hunt for her across Europe. Vampire witches, golems, and tense action sequences make this page-turner speed by, as we race to learn why, exactly, Mercy was taken in the first place.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson
From its in-your-face title you now this is not your parents’ self-help book—in fact, it’s not really a self-help book at all. Manson, known for his hilarious and popular blog, offers up a guide to maturity more than anything else. He takes down more traditional self-help books that offer praise and imply that everyone is special; Manson points out that not everyone can be special, or the word becomes meaningless. Instead, he suggests that the best way to find some measure of happiness and inner peace is to hone your ability to deal with the inevitable disappointments and setbacks that come in life. The title refers not to being “indifferent” he says, but rather to an attitude where you accept yourself and your flaws instead of blindly seeking affirmation that you are someone you’re not. Anyone looking for a funny, intelligent guide to being better should look no further.

Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors, by George W. Bush
It’s impossible to tell how history will treat ex-presidents. Since leaving office, George W. Bush has kept a low political profile, but has been busy in other, more important ways—working with veterans. As the commander-in-chief who personally ordered our men and women in uniform into harm’s way, President Bush has been quietly meeting some of America’s veterans—and painting their portraits. Sixty-six of these amazing works of art have been collected in this beautiful book, each accompanied by an essay about the veteran’s service, also written by Bush. The former president’s devotion to our servicemen and women is a testament to his character, as is the fact that the profits will all be donated to the George W. Bush Presidential Center, a non-profit organization that seeks to highlight the struggles of returning veterans and provide practical assistance as they struggle to adapt to civilian life.

Unshakeable: Your Financial Freedom Playbook, by Tony Robbins
Robbins continues to offer up life-coaching and advice, this time following up his best-selling Money: Master the Game with a clear, concise action plan to put his financial advice into effect in your own, no matter your current situation. Partnering with renowned financial advisor Peter Mallouk, Robbins sticks to practical advice that focuses on getting your financial house in order, securing your retirement, and maintaining an “unshakeable” mindset that looks beyond money to a sense of peace and confidence that will serve you well in any facet of your life.

Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman
Working from the original Norse legends, Gaiman applies his novelist talents to craft the old myths into a cohesive narrative in which the gods emerge as characters with motivations and flaws, telling us the story of Odin, father of the gods, and his sons Thor and Loki from the beginning, but not quite like we’ve experienced it before, from how Asgard was built to how Thor came into possession of his famous hammer. Gaiman is true to the apocalyptic tone of the old myths, stories that cast the world as a place of struggle and violence, where dying in battle was probably your best option. If you’ve read American Gods, you know Gaiman has a gift for making old stories not just new, but unmistakably his own.

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
Saunders’ celebrated short stories have plenty of speculative elements to them, and his debut novel is markedly supernatural. The Lincoln of the title is, of course, Abraham Lincoln, and the setting is a graveyard in the 19th century. The book’s true protagonists are the ghosts who populate the graveyard where Lincoln’s son Willie—dead at 11 years old—has been interred. These spirits have chosen to remain in an in-between state of existence, avoiding judgment and retaining all of the prejudices and personalities of their living years. Lincoln’s presence energizes them, and they determine to save his son’s spirit from their own static fate. This novel, Saunders’ first, is delivered with the writer’s trademark wit, eye for delirious detail, and a prose style so absorbing you forget you’re reading and not hearing a story by the fire on a chilly winter’s night.

Big Agenda: President Trump’s Plan to Save America, by David Horowitz
As the entire country scrambles to catch up with the fallout from the 2016 Presidential Election, even the most erudite of pundits finds themselves struggling. President Trump certainly means to govern like no chief executive before him, and to make sense of the early months of his administration is going to require a significant learning curve and a willingness to do some homework. That’s where Horowitz’s ambitious book comes in: in it, he lays out a likely course of action for the young administration in its early days—and a range of possible consequences to follow. It’s about as timely a book as you can find.

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Carlton Abrams
Everyone experiences hardship and tragedy, and everyone struggles, sometimes, to find joy in their lives. When things are going poorly, staying happy and positive is often an impossibility—or is it? Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama are two spiritual men who have endured hardship beyond most of our imaginations—and yet it’s not an exaggeration to describe them as the two most joyful men in the world. In 2015, Tutu traveled to India to meet with the Dalai Lama on his 80th birthday, and to reflect on their lives in search of lessons for others on how to find happiness and joy no matter what else is going on. The result is captured in this remarkable book, filled with wisdom, humor, and the sort of lessons that take lifetimes to understand.

Killing the Rising Sun, by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard
O’Reilly and historian Dugard are back with the latest in the mega-successful Killing series. This time, instead of an individual, O’Reilly casts the Empire of Japan in the role of victim, exploring the final days of the war when Japan seemed destined to fight a brutal, bloody last stand that would cost millions of lives. As General Douglas MacArthur planned the invasion of Japan, the Manhattan Project was finishing work on what would become the biggest game-changer in terms of geopolitics and warfare ever: the Atomic Bomb. When FDR died in office, his Vice President Harry Truman suddenly found himself forced to make the most fateful decision of the war: invade Japan and pay the butcher’s bill, or drop the bomb and change the world. As always, O’Reilly sets the table with a deft eye for drama and clarifies the issues surrounding this complicated and momentous event.

Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur
This collection from the “Instapoet” Kaur was originally self-published, and has been a sales juggernaut ever since. With raw, powerful poetry on subjects ranging from abuse, violence, and what it’s like to be a woman in the modern world, Kaur has engaged people all over the world—including people who would never normally be interested in poetry. But the power and dynamism of Kaur’s poems can’t be denied, and anyone who reads them comes away with a slightly larger understanding of the world around them. This sort of transmittable epiphany is the whole point of poetry, and explains the runaway success of one of our fastest-rising writing stars.

Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance
It’s the rare memoir that aspires to do more than tell the author’s story, but Vance does just that in this remarkable book. Simultaneously the life story of this self-described “hillbilly” and an examination of the societal forces in operation throughout his existence that helped him rise up and graduate Yale Law School, Vance takes a refreshingly honest and objective view of his family, seeing their many strengths as well as their various flaws, and offers a complex and moving worldview that sees the power of a close-knit community and a tightly bonded family as the most important factors in his own success. If you’ve never known anyone who referred to themselves in all seriousness as a hillbilly, this book will be both a revelation and an education.

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