All posts by George Cooper

Munich – Robert Harris

From the internationally best-selling author of Fatherland and the Cicero Trilogy–a new spy thriller about treason and conscience, loyalty and betrayal, set against the backdrop of the fateful Munich Conference of September 1938.

Hugh Legat is a rising star of the British diplomatic service, serving at 10 Downing Street as a private secretary to the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. Rikard von Holz is on the staff of the German Foreign Office–and secretly a member of the anti-Hitler resistance. The two men were friends at Oxford in the 1920s, but have not been in contact since. Now, when Hugh flies with Chamberlain from London to Munich, and Rikard travels on Hitler’s train overnight from Berlin, their paths are set on a disastrous collision course. And once again, Robert Harris gives us actual events of historical importance–here are Hitler, Chamberlain, Mussolini, Daladier–at the heart of an electrifying, unputdownable novel.

Everything Here Is Beautiful – Mira T. Lee

‟A tender but unflinching portrayal of the bond between two sisters.”–Celeste Ng, New York Times bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You

A dazzling novel of two sisters and their emotional journey through love, loyalty, and heartbreak
Two sisters–Miranda, the older, responsible one, always her younger sister’s protector; Lucia, the headstrong, unpredictable one, whose impulses are huge and, often, life changing. When their mother dies and Lucia starts hearing voices, it is Miranda who must find a way to reach her sister. But Lucia impetuously plows ahead, marrying a bighearted, older man only to leave him, suddenly, to have a baby with a young Latino immigrant. She moves her new family from the States to Ecuador and back again, but the bitter constant is that she is, in fact, mentally ill. Lucia lives life on a grand scale, until, inevitably, she crashes to earth. Miranda leaves her own self-contained life in Switzerland to rescue her sister again–but only Lucia can decide whether she wants to be saved. The bonds of sisterly devotion stretch across oceans–but what does it take to break them? Told in alternating points of view, Everything Here Is Beautiful is, at its heart, the story of a young woman’s quest to find fulfillment and a life unconstrained by her illness. But it’s also an unforgettable, gut-wrenching story of the sacrifices we make to truly love someone–and when loyalty to one’s self must prevail over all.

The Chalk Man – C.J. Tudor

A riveting and relentlessly compelling psychological suspense debut that weaves a mystery about a childhood game gone dangerously awry, and will keep readers guessing right up to the shocking ending In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.
In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank . . . until one of them turns up dead. That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

Expertly alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Chalk Man is the very best kind of suspense novel, one where every character is wonderfully fleshed out and compelling, where every mystery has a satisfying payoff, and where the twists will shock even the savviest reader.

Gnomon – Nick Harkaway

A Best Science Fiction Book of 2017 — The Guardian

From the widely acclaimed author of The Gone-Away World and Tigerman, comes a virtuosic new novel set in a near-future, high-tech surveillance state, that is equal parts dark comedy, gripping detective story, and mind-bending philosophical puzzle. In the world of Gnomon, citizens are constantly observed and democracy has reached a pinnacle of ‘transparency.’ Every action is seen, every word is recorded, and the System has access to its citizens’ thoughts and memories–all in the name of providing the safest society in history. When suspected dissident Diana Hunter dies in government custody, it marks the first time a citizen has been killed during an interrogation. The System doesn’t make mistakes, but something isn’t right about the circumstances surrounding Hunter’s death. Mielikki Neith, a trusted state inspector and a true believer in the System, is assigned to find out what went wrong. Immersing herself in neural recordings of the interrogation, what she finds isn’t Hunter but rather a panorama of characters within Hunter’s psyche: a lovelorn financier in Athens who has a mystical experience with a shark; a brilliant alchemist in ancient Carthage confronting the unexpected outcome of her invention; an expat Ethiopian painter in London designing a controversial new video game, and a sociopathic disembodied intelligence from the distant future. Embedded in the memories of these impossible lives lies a code which Neith must decipher to find out what Hunter is hiding. In the static between these stories, Neith begins to catch glimpses of the real Diana Hunter–and, alarmingly, of herself. The staggering consequences of what she finds will reverberate throughout the world. A dazzling, panoramic achievement, and Nick Harkaway’s most brilliant work to date, Gnomon is peerless and profound, captivating and irreverent, as it pierces through strata of reality and consciousness, and illuminates how to set a mind free. It is a truly accomplished novel from a mind possessing a matchless wit infused with a deep humanity.

The Immortalists – Chloe Benjamin

A dazzling family love story reminiscent of Everything I Never Told You from a novelist heralded by Lorrie Moore as a “great new talent.” If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life? It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children–four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness–sneak out to hear their fortunes. The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality. A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.

“This literary family saga is perfect for fans of Celeste Ng and Donna Tartt.” People Magazine (Book of the Week)

“A sprawling, enchanting family saga.” Entertainment Weekly (The Must List)

Winter — Ali Smith

The second novel in the Man Booker Prize-nominated author’s Seasonal cycle; the much-anticipated follow-up to Autumn (a New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, Financial Times, The Guardian, Southern Living, and Kirkus Reviews best book of the year).

Winter. Bleak. Frosty wind, earth as iron, water as stone, so the old song goes. And now Art’s mother is seeing things. Come to think of it, Art’s seeing things himself. When four people, strangers and family, converge on a fifteen-bedroom house in Cornwall for Christmas, will there be enough room for everyone? Winter. It makes things visible. Ali Smith’s shapeshifting Winter casts a warm, wise, merry and uncompromising eye over a post-truth era in a story rooted in history and memory and with a taproot deep in the evergreens, art and love.

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing – Daniel H. Pink

Daniel H. Pink, the #1 bestselling author of Drive and To Sell Is Human, unlocks the scientific secrets to good timing to help you flourish at work, at school, and at home.

Everyone knows that timing is everything. But we don’t know much about timing itself. Our lives are a never-ending stream of “when” decisions: when to start a business, schedule a class, get serious about a person. Yet we make those decisions based on intuition and guesswork. Timing, it’s often assumed, is an art. In When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Pink shows that timing is really a science. Drawing on a rich trove of research from psychology, biology, and economics, Pink reveals how best to live, work, and succeed. How can we use the hidden patterns of the day to build the ideal schedule? Why do certain breaks dramatically improve student test scores? How can we turn a stumbling beginning into a fresh start? Why should we avoid going to the hospital in the afternoon? Why is singing in time with other people as good for you as exercise? And what is the ideal time to quit a job, switch careers, or get married? In When, Pink distills cutting-edge research and data on timing and synthesizes them into a fascinating, readable narrative packed with irresistible stories and practical takeaways that give readers compelling insights into how we can live richer, more engaged lives.

Cafe Con Libros

We’re proud to announce that the Monroe County Library’s popular Cafe Con Libros series will be cosponsored this year by Books & Books, and hosted at The Studios Key West. A distinguished writer will be appearing each Tuesday morning at 10:30am:

Jan. 23 – Lucy Burdette speaking about “Constructing a Cozy Crime”
Jan. 30 – Elisa Seagrave – “The Girl from Station X”
Feb. 6 – David Beckwith on turning reality into fiction
Feb. 13 – Ralph De Palma – “The Soul of Havana”
Feb. 20 – John Henry Felming – “We Can’t Help It If We’re From Florida”
Feb. 27 – Ryan McIlvain – “The Radicals”
Mar. 6 – Leslie Linsley – “Salvage Style”
Mar. 13 – Karen Brown – “The Clairvoyants”
Mar. 20 – Samuel Harrington, M.D. – “At Peace: Choosing a Good Death After a Long Life”
Mar. 27 – Kennith Michaels – “Only in Key West”
Click here for a printable version of the full schedule.

The Music Shop – Rachel Joyce

A love story and a journey through music, the exquisite and perfectly pitched new novel from the bestselling author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE TIMES (UK)

It is 1988. On a dead-end street in a run-down suburb there is a music shop that stands small and brightly lit, jam-packed with records of every kind. Like a beacon, the shop attracts the lonely, the sleepless, and the adrift; Frank, the shop’s owner, has a way of connecting his customers with just the piece of music they need. Then, one day, into his shop comes a beautiful young woman, Ilse Brauchmann, who asks Frank to teach her about music. Terrified of real closeness, Frank feels compelled to turn and run, yet he is drawn to this strangely still, mysterious woman with eyes as black as vinyl. But Ilse is not what she seems, and Frank has old wounds that threaten to reopen, as well as a past it seems he will never leave behind. Can a man who is so in tune with other people’s needs be so incapable of connecting with the one person who might save him? The journey that these two quirky, wonderful characters make in order to overcome their emotional baggage speaks to the healing power of music–and love–in this poignant, ultimately joyful work of fiction. Praise for The Music Shop

“Warmhearted, unusual and romantic, Rachel Joyce evokes the emotional power of your favorite record while underlining the importance of that forever-threatened little shop down a side street where music happens. . . . Joyce’s gift is in using simple language to convey profound observations on human nature.”The Times “Whether on foot, as in her novel The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, or track by track, on this unlikely musical odyssey, Joyce excels in enveloping readers in epic journeys of lost connections and loving reunions.”Booklist “Joyce sets up a charming cast of characters, and her spirals into the sonic landscapes of brilliant musicians are delightful, casting a vivid backdrop for the quietly desperate romance between Frank and Ilse.”Kirkus Reviews

“Rachel Joyce has established a reputation for novels that celebrate the dignity and courage of ordinary people and the resilience of the human spirit. . . . But what really elevates The Music Shop is Joyce’s detailed knowledge of–and passion for–music.”The Guardian

Green – Sam Graham Felsen

A coming-of-age novel about race, privilege, and the struggle to rise in America, written by a former Obama campaign staffer and propelled by an exuberant, unforgettable narrator.

“A fierce and brilliant book, comic, poignant, perfectly observed, and blazing with all the urgent fears and longings of adolescence.”–Helen Macdonald, author of H Is for Hawk Boston, 1992. David Greenfeld is one of the few white kids at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Middle School. Everybody clowns him, girls ignore him, and his hippie parents won’t even buy him a pair of Nikes, let alone transfer him to a private school. Unless he tests into the city’s best public high school–which, if practice tests are any indication, isn’t likely–he’ll be friendless for the foreseeable future. Nobody’s more surprised than Dave when Marlon Wellings sticks up for him in the school cafeteria. Mar’s a loner from the public housing project on the corner of Dave’s own gentrifying block, and he confounds Dave’s assumptions about black culture: He’s nerdy and neurotic, a Celtics obsessive whose favorite player is the gawky, white Larry Bird. Before long, Mar’s coming over to Dave’s house every afternoon to watch vintage basketball tapes and plot their hustle to Harvard. But as Dave welcomes his new best friend into his world, he realizes how little he knows about Mar’s. Cracks gradually form in their relationship, and Dave starts to become aware of the breaks he’s been given–and that Mar has not. Infectiously funny about the highs and lows of adolescence, and sharply honest in the face of injustice, Sam Graham-Felsen’s debut is a wildly original take on the American dream. Advance praise for Green “One of the most original voices you’ll read this year.”Southern Living “Superb . . . a memorable first novel . . . Green is replete with] wonderful characters, fully realized and multidimensional.”Booklist (starred review)Green] poignantly captures the tumultuous feelings of adolescence against the historical backdrop of a racially segregated city and country.”Library Journal (Editors’ Fall Pick) ” A] subtly humorous, surprisingly touching coming-of-age narrative . . . a memorable and moving portrayal of a complicated but deep friendship that just might survive the weight placed on it.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)