By now you’ve no doubt torn through The Book of Life, the concluding volume in Deborah Harkness’ trilogy about a historian whose discovery of an ancient manuscript clues her in to a reality of witches, vampires, time travel, and a whole hidden world of monsters and mayhem (you’d think those ancient manuscripts would have warning labels). If you’re looking for a book that will extend the magic a little further, try Katherine Howe’s The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, about a graduate student who stumbles upon a host of witchy family secrets and a magical tome called a “physick book,” a volume that holds terrible lost secrets from hundreds of years in the past (seriously, people just leave these things lying around?).
The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee, by Marja Mills, recounts the writer’s years living in the house next door to one of the world’s most famously reclusive authors. It has become a must read not only for the promise of revealing details about why Lee never published anything after To Kill a Mockingbird, or because of the controversy it’s generated (the ailing Lee has denied agreeing to participate), but also because it paints a vivid picture of a changing South. If you’re looking for another book that provides an unusual window into the life of a great, reluctantly famous writer, Joyce Maynard’s memoir At Home in the World includes details of her relationship, at age 18, with then-53-year-old J.D. Salinger, and caused a similar furor when first published.
With The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) proves herself as adept a novelist as a memoirist. Rich in historical details of the 18th and 19th centuries, the book follows the life of Alma Whittaker, the daughter of a wealthy botanist who becomes a scientist in her own right, unearthing discoveries that challenge the way people think about the world. For another story of a woman who defied the thinking of her time, not just about science but about what a woman could accomplish in a world built for and by men, Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures recounts how Mary Anning, a girl living in rural England in the early 1800s, became one of the world’s greatest fossil hunters, her discoveries of ancient dinosaur bones changing much about Victorian ideas of science and religion. (For the record, Alma is fictional, but Mary was the real deal.)
The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age, by LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, and Chris Yeh, is an essential handbook for dealing with the challenges of managing an ever more connected, ever more mobile workforce. For more insights into sparking creativity and innovation in a world that is redefining the idea of “career,” look to Everything Connects, by Faisal Hoque and Drake Baer.
Amid omnipresent headlines of companies closing down manufacturing in the U.S. and moving jobs overseas, Factory Man, by Beth Macy, reveals how one dedicated businessman managed not only to keep his hundred-year-old Virginia furniture business’s doors open, but actually managed to grow it even while competing with cheaply manufactured imports. For a less colorful but still fascinating look at the way the global economy has changed American industry, read Paul Ingrassia’s Crash Course, a comprehensive review of what led to the near-collapse of the U.S. auto industry, and how, post-bailout, it has begun to thrive again.
What are you reading and recommending this week?