This Week’s Hot Reads: Aug. 15, 2011
From a life story too wild to be true to the pop culture rocking the Arab Spring, five great new books to read now.
An unbelievable but true story that will make your own life seem banal.
Stefan Templeton has led the kind of life that’s too wild, too lucky, and simply too unbelievable to be true, but it is. The son of an interracial couple (his father a Black Power activist, his mother an aristocratic Norwegian), Stefan grew up torn between these different worlds. After a rough high school in West Baltimore, he headed off to find adventure: He hunted in France, became a playboy in Paris, worked as a medic in Colombia, trained as a deep-sea diver with Jacques Cousteau’s crew, settled in Norway and married a local girl before pulling off one of the biggest jewel heists in Scandinavian history, and, yes, even more. But while his adventures are the heart of the book, it’s the end that keeps you reading, as Stefan struggles to find peace and finally constancy in his life. David Matthews, Stefan’s childhood friend and the author of Ace of Spades, recounts all of this with panache and superb pacing to deliver a story so fantastic, it may as well be a novel.
A grand group effort: 26 topflight crime writers collaborate on one murder mystery.
What could be better than a mystery by your favorite writer? How about a mystery by all your favorite authors, or at least 26 of them. And if a novel by committee sounds dreadful, think again. Styles don’t always jibe from chapter to chapter, but more often than not, this is a delightful experiment with contributions from a marquee-name list of authors that includes Sandra Brown, Thomas Cook, Alexander McCall Smith, Tess Gerritsen, Marcus Sakey, Matthew Pearl, and Kathy Reichs.
The compelling debut memoir of Kenyan author Binyavanga Wainaina.
The author of the provocative and necessary article How to Write About Africa, Binyavanga Wainaina, now turns to his own life in this debut about his middle-class upbringing in Kenya. In a deeply personal memoir, Wainaina describes his childhood, education, family reunions, and travels around Kenya. Through it all, he recounts the changing political scene that ended up shaping both his personal views and his native country. A compelling debut that takes us on a vivid “safari” through his early life.
A witty, sharp collection of interconnected short stories by Vanity Fair contributor Elissa Schappell.
Elissa Schappell, the author of Use Me, returns with a collection of eight short stories, connecting the lives of a group of archetypal female characters over several decades. From a struggling artist to a college party girl to a reluctant mother-to-be, Schappell delves into each character and explores the common experiences that define them all. Along the way, she weaves a clever narrative that depicts women’s lives in the changing cultural landscape from the 1970s to the present.
An expert account of the upheaval and incredible potential that followed the Arab Spring.
In 2008, journalist Robin Wright predicted that the Middle East was on the verge of massive social and political change. Three years later, Wright examines the changes that have swept through the Middle East. As millions in the area peacefully demand democracy and basic human rights, Wright suggests that the 21st century may not be a clash of civilizations, but a commonality of civilizations. But the new “counter-jihad” will be hindered by societies that are politically inexperienced and struggling economically. The award-winning author offers an in-depth exploration of the conditions that brought about the Arab Spring, and examines the positive and negative changes left in its wake.