EMPIRE OF DECEPTION: The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated the Nation by Dean Jobb. (Algonquin) In 1920s Chicago, Leo Koretz defrauded hundreds of people (including members of his own family) and lured them to invest millions of dollars in bogus overseas projects. Jobb’s rollicking history of the con man doubles as a sobering reminder that, as reviewer Paula Uruburu said, “those who think everything is theirs for the taking are destined to be taken.”
God Help The Child by Toni Morrison. (Vintage) Even as a baby, Bride, the character at the heart of this story, was spurned by her parents because of her dark skin, and her cold upbringing reverberates throughout her adult life. The novel, which reviewer Kara Walker called “a brisk modern-day fairy tale with shades of the Brothers Grimm,” delivers a blunt moral: “What you do to children matters.”
There Was And There Was Not: A Journey Through Hate And Possibility In Turkey, Armenia, And Beyond by Meline Toumani. (Picador/Metropolitan/Holt) Growing up in an Armenian community in New Jersey, Toumani was steeped in fierce anti-Turkish rhetoric revolving around the genocide that began in 1915. As an adult, she moved to Istanbul to better understand the Turkish view. Her memoir recounts her years living amid an alternate understanding of history.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. (Anchor) This expansive novel is an exploration of heartbreak and the limits of human resilience. Yanagihara’s central character, Jude, emerges from a brutal childhood and builds an ostensibly successful life – he graduates with a law degree from Harvard, finds meaningful work as a litigator and is the heart of a close-knit group of friends – yet struggles to reconcile his past traumas.
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Our Lives, Our Fortunes And Our Sacred Honor: The Forging Of American Independence, 1774-1776 by Richard R. Beeman. (Basic Books) American independence from Britain may seem to have been an inevitable outcome, but Beeman offers a window into a time when that future was not so certain. His account follows the 22 months when delegates from the colonies, often with no more in common with one another than their status as British subjects, imagined a cohesive nation and identity.
Outlaws by Javier Cercas. Translated by Anne McLean. (Bloomsbury) In the late 1970s, when teenage gangs roamed post-Franco Spain, this novel’s narrator, Ignacio Cañas, joined a group headed by a notorious outlaw, Zarco, but left after a failed robbery. Years later, Cañas is a successful lawyer and Zarco is in jail, but the men’s lives intersect again.
Stalin. Volume I: Paradoxes Of Power, 1878-1928 by Stephen Kotkin. (Penguin) This book, the first of a projected three-volume study, recounts Stalin’s childhood in Georgia and subsequent rise to power. Kotkin’s account also delivers an impressive history of late imperial Russia.
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