We’re still home, and we’re still reading. Books & Books founder Mitch Kaplan offers a few of his store’s latest selections, which run the gamut from alternative political history to a profound fish tale to a classic Florida novel.
This stirring debut from Indian-American novelist Megha Majumdar has quickly emerged as one of the season’s buzziest books, earning hosannas from pretty much all the major critics. It’s set in Kolkata, where a terrorist attack on a train entangles the fates of three characters in different social strata: Jivan, a lower-class Muslim girl whose Facebook comment about the attack finds her in the crosshairs of the authorities; PT Sir, a striving gym teacher who becomes embroiled in right-wing politics; and Lovely, a transgender woman with an infectious authorial voice to match her adopted name. The New York Times called A Burning “a novel of our pandemic times.”
Fictional imaginings of one of modern America’s premier political dynasties have been in vogue lately, if you consider the Broadway success of Lucas Hnath’s play “Hillary and Clinton.” Now Curtis Sittenfeld, in her seventh novel, has penned an alternate history in which Hillary Rodham, diligent law student and zealous advocate for women’s liberation, turns down Bill Clinton’s marriage proposals and instead forges her own independent path. Rodham traces the title character’s 40-year journey through politics, endeavoring to see a familiar and polarizing figure anew.
Though it sold well when released last August, this guidebook from America’s leading scholarly voice on antiracism has rocketed back to the Times Best-seller List in wake of the unrest and change that have gripped the nation since Memorial Day. It’s never a better time for white allies in the antiracism movement to explore Kendi’s multilayered mix of history lesson, political thesis and memoir, which explores his own changing beliefs over the decades; the racism apparent everywhere from polygenism in the 1600s to contemporary presidential races; and other illuminating concepts drawn from ethics, law and science.
I discovered new respect for the salmon on a cruise port in Alaska a couple of years ago, when I watched these incredible fishes swimming upstream in incalculable numbers, many sacrificing themselves along the way. Environmental writer Mark Kurlansky goes a thousand times deeper in his latest comprehensive account of this vital species. Situating the salmon as a kind of a underwater canary in the Earth’s coal mine, Kurlansky ties their survival to the future of a planet ravaged by climate change, in a sprawling narrative that took the author to such far-flung locales as Ireland, Norway, Iceland, Japan and the Kamchatka Peninsula. Oh, and there are pictures!
A CLASSIC WORTH REVISITING
Kaplan’s most surprising pick this month is one of those only-in-Florida tales from one of our state’s most-read exports, the great Carl Hiaasen. Originally published in 2002 and later adapted for film, Hiaasen’s eco-adventure centers on Roy, a seventh-grader in “Coconut Cove” who, while enduring the wrath of a bully on his school bus, spots a mysterious shoeless boy through the bus window. He follows the stranger’s steps, only to discover a fantastic world of potty-trained alligators, sparkling-tailed snakes, eccentric humans—and burrowing owls whose habitat is in grave danger. Like much of Hiaasen’s work, Hoot is written as a young-adult novel with enough wit and sophistication to appeal to older readers as well.
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