Ann Beattie, David Baldacci, Noah Feldman and Other New Reads

This week: a collection of Ann Beattie’s short stories, a Harvard law prof on FDR’s powerful court, Walter Mosley returns with a new mystery, a squash coach delivers winners for life, and David Baldacci tears up DC, again.

The New Yorker Stories by Ann Beattie

A collection of her classic stories that chronicles four decades of unraveling family structures and individual isolation.

Award-winning author Ann Beattie wrote more than 200 short stories in the waning decades of the 20th century, vividly capturing the tumultuous evolution of American family life. Her characters’ embodiment of the narcissism and drift of the 1970s immediately earned her acclaim as the voice of her generation. This collection gathers the 48 stories Beattie published in The New Yorker from 1974 to 2003, moret than half of which have never been anthologized. Booklist says her “brilliantly structured stories are mordantly funny, haunting, and wise, making for a glorious collection.”

Scorpions by Noah Feldman

Noah Feldman’s ambitious group biography of FDR’s four Supreme Court justices describes four liberal geniuses with deeply conflicting views of the Constitution.

Harvard constitutional law professor Noah Feldman is known for his books on Islam and for advising on the writing of the new Iraqi constitution in 2004. Now, the former Supreme Court clerk has turned his energies to a sweeping intellectual history of the four men Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed to the High Court. Taking his title from another clerk who described the court as “nine scorpions in a bottle,” Feldman examines the deep discord that roiled FDR’s justices over what type of constitutionalism would prevail and what sort of nation the United States would become. The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin says the book brings the four justices “vividly to life,” and “reminds us why, strangely enough, they matter today more than ever.”

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley

The bestselling author details the final days of a dementia-ridden man who gains sudden insight into a horrific murder from years past.

Walter Mosley takes his cunning writing style from the acclaimed mysteries of Lenoid McGill in The Long Fall and Known to Evil and moves to a compelling subject plaguing today’s media: aging. The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey follows the story of a 91-year-old man crippled with dementia. Ptolemy Grey’s apartment is overflowing with knickknacks and mementos that mean nothing to the dying Grey until a young family friend Robyn enters his life. She energizes Grey to reconnect with this world, which leads him to take an experimental drug that will only shorten his days on earth. But whatever days are left will be full of sharp awareness like he hasn’t felt in years. Grey discovers the shrouded secrets behind his family’s past, particularly a horrific murder that excites him to take action and clear his family’s stained history. “Mosley’s depiction of the indignities of old age is heartbreaking, and Ptolemy’s grace and decency make for a wonderful character and a moving novel,” writes Publishers Weekly.

Run to the Roar: Coaching to Overcome Fear by Paul Assaiante and James Zug

One of the country’s top coaches teams up with an award-winning journalist to write a book about the successes of the Trinity men’s squash team.

For a sport rarely given the media time it deserves, a book on a victorious squash match between Princeton University and Trinity College comes with life lessons that exceed expectations for sports and non-sports fans alike. Then again, it could also be the fact that Coach Paul Assaiante takes the time to learn about his players, their fears, and how to tackle them on and off the squash court. “I don’t care about your goals,” he writes in the book, “I want to know what you are afraid of. What are your anxieties, your doubts? What holds you back? What holds us back? Let’s confront your fears. Let’s run to the roar.” The book is divided into several stories focusing on the team’s players, who hail from all over the world. Each chapter is inevitably a life lesson. As Michael Bramberger of Sports Illustrated writes, “The genius of Paul Assaiante is not what he understands about squash... but what he understands about people. Reading this book... will make you better at something. Maybe squash. Luckily life.”

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Hell’s Corner by David Baldacci

Baldacci delivers another classic thriller of explosive scenes with complicated spy plots that outdo even his hyper style.

Once again, David Baldacci yanks readers back into the spy world of retired CIA assassin John Carr. Hell’s Corner is the fifth installment of a series of Carr’s adventures, including The Camel Club and The Collectors. This time Carr, along with British MI-6 agent Mary Chapman, have two plots to crack while avoiding death themselves. A climatic narrative that encompasses the backstabbing politics of Washington, D.C., with the thrill of international espionage. Carr, also known in his previous adventures as Oliver Stone, and Chapman must discover who is trying to kill the president and British prime minister. Prior to the attacks, Stone was given a covert and deadly mission in Russia. Carr has to decide which mission takes priority and which mission could put his friends at risk—all while still figuring out who he can trust. Balducci succeeds yet again in creating a virtual thrill ride on the page.

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