Thursday, April 25, 2013

John's Playlist

It's that time once again to feature one amazing Warwick's bookseller and their current "must reads", or as we call it, their "playlists". This week John is presenting a unique selection of books, both fiction and non-fiction sure to entice a diverse group of readers. John, who has been at Warwick's since March of 2000, is someone who wears many hats at Warwick's, among them book buyer, bookseller, and receiver--his enthusiasm for smart literature and fascinating non-fiction helps to make him one of our most well-rounded readers, as seen in his picks below.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
Boo, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, writes evocatively and movingly about the people living in Annawadi, a slum in the shadow of the Mumbai airport and a row of the city’s luxury hotels. The people you meet in this book (especially Abdul) will stay with you, will haunt you, as powerfully as any character you have ever encountered in fiction. Given both the hands-on depth of her research and her restrained yet evocative writing, I am certain that no better book has ever been written, or ever will be written, about how the struggle to survive in conditions of abject poverty shapes and distorts human personalities, families, and communities.

Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think 
by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger & Kenneth Cukier
Analyzing big data — that is, massive and complex collections of data — has already yielded astonishing results and will utterly transform the world. This is a must-read book for, among others, scientists, doctors, policymakers, and business people. Really, if you care about the future, you should read this!

The Book of Barely Imagined Beings: A 21st Century Bestiary 
by Caspar Henderson
This book won me right away with the sheer beauty of its cover, typography, and illustrations — all of which remind one of the medieval bestiaries that inspired this book. This A-Z bestiary (Axolotl to Zebra Fish) of weird, delightful, amazing, and very real creatures entertainingly weaves together natural history, human history, philosophy, science, and literature. It certainly achieves the goal set by the author of better understanding and imagining “being and beings.” You will indeed think about the world, its beings, and yourself differently and more profoundly after reading this book.

Ghostman by Roger Hobbs
A compelling “bad guy” protagonist, “wise” dialogue, an almost geek-like fascination with criminal machinations, a high body count, and a ticking clock suspense plot — this debut thriller has a lot going for it, and . . . it delivers! Hopefully, this will be the first in a long series of books.

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach
Nobody writes science with more humor, with more of a love of scientists and the crazy things they study, with more of a mischievous delight in enlightening her readers by making them squirm than the brilliant Mary Roach. Her current book, a tour of the human body from sniffing to chewing to digestion to excretion — that is, mouth to anus — is quite possibly her best one yet. I guarantee that you will not only be entertained and enlightened, you will also find it nearly impossible not to share with your friends and family all of the fascinating things you learn about saliva.

How to Create the Perfect Wife: Britain's Most Ineligible Bachelor and his Enlightened Quest to Train the Ideal Mate by Wendy Moore
Possesed of a love of liberty and of stoicism, moved especially by a terrifically bad reading of Rousseau, Thomas Day adopts some orphans and, having failed to get anyone to the altar, sets about to create a well-educated, stoically virtuous, and obedient wife. Wendy Moore develops out of this crazy story a grounded and nuanced portrait of the interplay of education, enlightenment notions of liberty, and gender in Georgian England. Day’s activities would ultimately be a source for many literary works, but the story of what eventually happened both to him and to Sabrina is perhaps the most fascinating part of this entertaining and, at times, jaw dropping social history.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Moshin Hamid
Narrated by “you,” Hamid’s novel is a “self-help” book, one that in relating the life story of its narrator, proposes to show the reader how to thrive amidst the corruption, wild entrepreneurship, crime, violence, and rapid urbanization that characterizes the “Asia” of the title. This is also a modern love story, a tale of personal rise and fall, and a satirical take on the ravages of urbanization and modernization. Hamid's inventive, unsentimental prose and his sharp wit will have you flying through this book.

Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff
In 1945, a plane crashed in an isolated valley in the mountains of Papua New Guinea. The three survivors of the crash — a WAC and two GIs — found themselves wounded and trapped in a valley populated by warrior tribes. Their dramatic rescue was global front page news in 1945. Zuckoff has peppered this compulsively readable narrative with fascinating details. Great stuff!

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
The work of Daniel Kahneman and his collaborator Amos Tversky transformed cognitive science, the study of psychology, and led to the emergence of behavioral economics. Many popular books in business and science are rooted in their work. Now you can get a more detailed and nuanced portrait of their work and its results directly from the source in this intellectual masterpiece. Most surprising is how accessible and entertaining this book truly is. It will also, if you work at it, improve your thinking.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Wolf Hall is one of the best historical novels I have ever read. The only recent rival for me is Mantel’s second book in the Cromwell trilogy, Bring Up the Bodies (in paperback in May). Her prose is far more vital than one usually finds in a historical novel, and her ability to write and observe believably from inside the head of Thomas Cromwell is staggering. I thought I was done reading about the Tudors until I read the first page of Wolf Hall.

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