This Week’s Biggest Books

The Fall publishing season has begun in earnest. This week alone we have great new books from Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen King, and J.D. Robb as well as the much-anticipated sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale from Margaret Atwood, Jim Mattis’ fascinating new memoir, and the hilarious new book from xkcd’s Randall Munroe. Good luck trying to read them all this month!

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know, by Malcolm Gladwell

Prompted by the death of Sandra Bland, an African American academic who died in jail after a traffic stop, Gladwell turns his sharp mind to the subject of how we size up strangers—and usually get it wrong. It’s something we all do all the time—you meet someone, and you form an opinion based on what you see, hear—and assume. Gladwell thinks on the unearned confidence that most of us apply to this process, and offers entertaining examples of times when sizing up strangers went terribly—or comically—wrong. A thoughtful book that is both timely and fascinating, Gladwell will inspire people to treat the strangers they meet in life differently and with more humility.

Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, by Jim Mattis and Bing West

General Jim Mattis looks back over a storied military and political career that has taught him more about leadership than most people could ever hope to learn. Divided into three sections, Mattis’ memoir reflects on what it means to lead men directly into battle, to coordinate huge forces while being far from the front lines, and finally what it takes to weigh the needs of an entire nation when crafting strategy. Mattis, who started his career as a common recruit and became a four-star general and then, briefly, Secretary of Defense under Donald Trump, brings humility and wisdom to an uncommon memoir, a book with something to teach everyone who reads it, no matter their position or profession.

The Oracle: The Jubilean Mysteries Unveiled, by Jonathan Cahn

If you’ve ever wondered if there’s a big secret behind everything, something that’s determining everything that happens in the world—Cahn is here to tell you that there is. An ancient revelation still guides history with an invisible hand, and explains the various mysteries that have cropped up over time, touching on events and people ranging from Mark Twain to Donald Trump and beyond. Cahn carefully casts the reveal of this mystery in the form of a story, and the reader comes along with him on a world-spanning adventure in search of The Oracle, revealing each of the Jubilean mysteries one by one over the course of the book—and offering readers the answers to everything.

Hurricanes, by Rick Ross with Neil Martinez-Belkin

Rick Ross is a huge hip hop star with an oversize persona—a persona that’s as much about creating his own reality as anything else. In this fascinating memoir, Ross recounts his life, going into detail concerning his creative process, his sometimes controversial past (including whether or not he once worked as a corrections officer, an era of his life he once vehemently denied despite evidence to the contrary) and his ability to use his ‛gift of foresight’ to navigate his career. From a violence-scorched childhood, his star turn in high school football, and his career slinging dope to his never dull musical career marked by arrests, feuds, and health crises, Ross is an always interesting, entertaining—and enlightening figure.

How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems, by Randall Munroe

If you’re familiar with Munroe’s other books (What If and Thing Explainer) or his famous webcomic xkcd, you know just how hilarious this book is going to be. Munroe walks you through how to accomplish various simple, every day tasks in the most impractical, ridiculous, but 100% scientifically plausible way possible. Need a weather report? Analyze the pixels of your photos. Need to cross a river? If you boil it away, problem solved. Want to rid your life of this very book? Munroe devotes several pages to the subject, each solution funnier than the last. For science nerds and those that love them, this is essential reading if only so you know the absolute least-efficient way of accomplishing just about anything.

The Institute, by Stephen King

Luke is a special kid, with special abilities. One night his parents are brutally murdered during an apparent home invasion that turns out to be something more. Luke is kidnapped by the killers and forced into the titular Institute, where Luke and other children are overseen by a sinister staff led by Mrs. Sigsby, who hopes to extract their powers, which range from telekinesis to telepathy. Luke soon discovers that eventually all the kids in the Institute graduate to the “Back Half,” from which point they are never seen again. This book brings back everything we loved about King’s ’80s hits like Firestarter and It.

The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood’s unexpected followup to her groundbreaking feminist dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale is sure to be the biggest science fiction novel of 2019—and we say that without having read a word of it yet. A lot has changed in the 35 years since the first book was published, but little that makes its dark vision of the future—in which an environmental disaster and an idealogical uprising have seen America toppled and replaced by the theocratic state of Gilead and increasingly rare fertile women are forced to bear children for the wealthy and powerful—seem any less prescient. There’s no telling how The Testaments will end the story of resilient Handmaid Offred, but we’re hopeful it will live up to the legacy of its forebear.

Killer Instinct, by James Patterson and Howard Roughan

Detective Elizabeth Needham (featured in the hit 2018 TV series Instinct, inspired by Patterson and Roughan’s Murder Games ) in the wake of a deadly terrorist attack that strikes New York City just as the pair are tackling a murder case with disturbing connections to Reinhart’s shrouded past. In the fog of disaster, Needham becomes a hero—and the next target of the dangerous sociopath behind the attack. Dr. Reinhart is an expert on why people kill, but he quickly finds that this enemy is beyond anything he’s experienced in his career—and he’ll have to figure out what he’s dealing with fast, or an entire city will suffer for it.

Vendetta in Death, by J.D. Robb

Robb’s 49th foray into sci-fi tinged near future finds Lieutenant Eve Dallas facing three dead bodies in three days—all of them men, all of them horribly mutilated, and all of them sporting a strange poem signed by Lady Justice. Working with partner Delia Peabody and husband Roarke, Dallas wades through the gory details of the killings and manages to find the common denominator between the victims—and the fact that the killer is targeting men who have abused positions of power and harassed women—or worse. Lady Justice is brilliant, and transforms herself in order to be irresistible to her marks, and once inside their defense she strikes. Dallas must find a way to trap this smart, self-styled vigilante before she can claim a fourth victim, and she’ll need every bit of help she can get in order to wade through the long list of potential suspects before another mutilated body turns up on the streets of future New York.

Radicals, Resistance, and Revenge: The Left’s Plot to Remake America, by Jeanine Pirro

Fox News personality Pirro returns with a sequel to her bestseller Liars, Leakers, and Liberals that continues the argument that Democrats and other forces on the left side of the political spectrum aren’t simply in opposition to their political opponents, but are engaged in a vast and disturbing conspiracy to completely alter Amercia’s fundamentals. She charges that the ‛Left’ is leaving the border undefended in order to allow drugs and crime to destroy our society, promoting socialism so that younger generations have a negative view of traditional Amercian values, and engaging in many other dirty tricks both subtle and obvious in order to change the country right under our noses.

The Girl Who Lived Twice, by David Lagercrantz

The sixth book in the late Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series (and third from David Lagercrantz), opens with Lisbeth Salander nowhere to be found. Mikael Blomkvist goes looking for her even as he investigates the death of a man who doesn’t exist in any records, but whose final words hinted at explosive knowledge involving the most powerful people. Salander has sold her apartment and vanished from the internet entirely, and as the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo secretly stalks her worst enemy—her twin sister Camilla—her fate and Blomkvist’s will once again intertwine.

A Better Man, by Louise Penny

Penny’s 15th Chief Inspector Gamache novel begins with Gamache returning to work after his recent suspension. Demoted and reporting to his own son-in-law, Jean-Guy, Gamache catches the case of Vivienne Godin, a young, pregnant woman whose body is found amidst the debris of a violent spring flood. Both Gamache and Jean-Guy are convinced her abusive husband murdered her, and they set about building the case against him. But when that case turns out to be less substantial than they imagined, Gamache must step back and ask himself some hard questions—and begin the investigation again with fresh eyes.

Old Bones, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Preston and Child promote archaeologist Nora Kelly from key supporting character in their Special Agent Pendergast books to the main character of her own series. Kelly learns of the existence of a diary kept by the wife of George Donner (of Donner Party fame), and of the possibility suggested by the diary of a heretofore unknown third camp set up by members of the ill-fated expedition. As Kelly searches for evidence of this huge historical find, fellow Pendergast alum FBI agent Corrie Swanson works a murder case with a link to the Donner Party as well. It isn’t long before the two women combine forces to solve a typically twisty Preston/Child mystery.

Inland, by Téa Obreht

In 1893 Arizona, Nora Lark waits with her son and her niece; her husband, a writer, is off in search of desperately needed water, and her older boys have left after a terrible fight. Lurie Mattie seeks to evade the warrant issued for his arrest by joining the Camel Corps, a real-life experiment to introduce the animals to the American Southwest. As Nora’s young son warns her of a monster hunting on their land, Lurie sees the spirits of the departed all around him—spirits that seem to want something from him. Slowly, these two stories about desperate, determined people converge, twisting together towards an unexpected ending that will stay with you forever.

The Inn, by James Patterson and Candice Fox

The remote Inn at Gloucester is former cop Bill Robinson’s dream for retirement: a dozen rooms whose occupants pay rent in exchange for the privacy Bill is more than happy to give them. The tenants include local sheriff Clayton Spears, army vet Nick Jones, and loyal groundskeeper Effie Johnson, and everything is going fine until a gang of criminals move into the Inn, bringing with them drugs, murder, and yet more violence. Bill soon realizes that he can’t escape the darkness of the world, and these fiercely independent people will have to band together to defend their home turf—whatever the cost.

One Good Deed, by David Baldacci

Baldacci spins a tightly-plotted period piece to introduce a new hero: Aloysius Archer, a veteran of World War II in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. When released in 1949, he finds himself in Poca City with strict instructions to get a job and stay out of trouble. Archer visits a local bar seeking a little bit of both when he gets a job offer: businessman Hank Pittleman wants a debt collected. Archer takes on the job, and soon finds himself in a mess of small-town plotting, as Pittleman’s mistress tries to use Archer for her own ends and the debt proves harder to collect than Archer expected. When someone shows up dead, the local police seem to think Archer, recently-arrived ex-con, did the deed. Archer brains, brawn, and desperation are all that’s keeping him from returning to prison—or worse.

The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West, by David McCullough

David McCullough, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, returns with an in-depth study of the settlement of the Northwest Territory, telling the stories of the hardy and fearless pioneers who traveled into the unknown determined to enlarge and enrich our country with their bare hands and at risk of their very lives. The movement west began sooner than most people realize, with the first settlers—veterans of the Revolutionary War—arriving in Ohio in 1788. McCullough tells the story of the town they carved out of the wilderness through the eyes of five historical figures, who becomes characters in a story about bravery, tragedy, diplomacy, and the conquest of a wilderness that wanted nothing more than to sweep them aside.

Educated, by Tara Westover

This incredible memoir is heartbreaking and inspiring all at once, as Westover recounts her brutal childhood being raised by a devout Mormon and incredibly paranoid father who thought Y2K was going to end the world, refused to send his kids to school or doctors, and who forced them to work under dangerous conditions at his construction business. Westover tells of her bullying brother who punished her for any perceived deviation from their religious principles, the series of horrifying injuries she suffered and the homeopathic treatments administered by her mother, and the general atmosphere of terror fostered by a father who forced his family to live off the grid and stockpiled weapons for the end of the world that never came. Westover somehow escaped and went on to attend Cambridge University, suffering a breakdown when she realized how cut off from the world she’d been before earning her Ph.D. A remarkable story of spiritual and mental survival that will inspire you to push past problems that will no longer seem so big.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson

This just might be the bible of the new self-help generation. Where the old-school approach treated happiness as a prize everyone deserves, Manson argues—forcibly and with a lot of sharp wit—that it’s better to be honest about your own limitations, and seek to adjust how you approach life instead of deciding life should be adjusted to suit your needs. Bracing and sometimes alarming, this book is a dash of cold water to the face that so many of us need. You will be happier for having read it, because the best way to start changing your life for the better is to start seeing it with clear eyes.

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens

Owens’ debut novel is buzzy for a reason, earning its comparisons to Barbara Kingsolver. In 1969, Kya Clark has come to be known as the Marsh Girl, living in the wild, on her own. When local heartthrob Chase Andrews is killed, she is the prime suspect, and is quickly arrested. The story is much more complex, looping back twenty years to Kya’s harsh upbringing, her lack of schooling, and her relationship with two local boys—the kind, intelligent Tate Walker, who teachers her to read, and the handsome, charming Chase, who teaches her to love. As her trial begins, Kya is fighting for more than just her freedom as Owens skillfully depicts the simultaneous freedom and suffocation of small-time life and keeps the plot twists coming.

Becoming, by Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama is one of the most accomplished people living today, as well as a trailblazer who not just one of the most popular First Ladies of all time, but also the first African-American to serve in the role. But Obama was never just a silent partner in her marriage; she’s a woman of rare accomplishment who brings her considerable charm and wit to this memoir that starts with her childhood on Chicago’s South Side and takes us through her time in the spotlight. Along the way she details her own struggles, offers insights on how she raised two poised daughters while under a microscope, and spills a little tea about some of the famous, powerful people she’s interacted with over the years.

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