All posts by George Cooper

Grant – Ron Chernow

Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Chernow returns with a sweeping and dramatic portrait of one of our most compelling generals and presidents, Ulysses S. Grant.

Ulysses S. Grant’s life has typically been misunderstood. All too often he is caricatured as a chronic loser and an inept businessman, or as the triumphant but brutal Union general of the Civil War. But these stereotypes don’t come close to capturing him, as Chernow shows in his masterful biography, the first to provide a complete understanding of the general and president whose fortunes rose and fell with dizzying speed and frequency.

Before the Civil War, Grant was flailing. His business ventures had ended dismally, and despite distinguished service in the Mexican War he ended up resigning from the army in disgrace amid recurring accusations of drunkenness. But in war, Grant began to realize his remarkable potential, soaring through the ranks of the Union army, prevailing at the battle of Shiloh and in the Vicksburg campaign, and ultimately defeating the legendary Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Along the way, Grant endeared himself to President Lincoln and became his most trusted general and the strategic genius of the war effort.

Grant’s military fame translated into a two-term presidency, but one plagued by corruption scandals involving his closest staff members. More important, he sought freedom and justice for black Americans, working to crush the Ku Klux Klan and earning the admiration of Frederick Douglass, who called him “the vigilant, firm, impartial, and wise protector of my race.”

After his presidency, he was again brought low by a dashing young swindler on Wall Street, only to resuscitate his image by working with Mark Twain to publish his memoirs, which are recognized as a masterpiece of the genre. With lucidity, breadth, and meticulousness, Chernow finds the threads that bind these disparate stories together, shedding new light on the man whom Walt Whitman described as “nothing heroic… and yet the greatest hero.” Chernow’s probing portrait of Grant’s lifelong struggle with alcoholism transforms our understanding of the man at the deepest level. This is America’s greatest biographer, bringing movingly to life one of our finest but most underappreciated presidents. The definitive biography, Grant is a grand synthesis of painstaking research and literary brilliance that makes sense of all sides of Grant’s life, explaining how this simple Midwesterner could at once be so ordinary and so extraordinary.

Origin – Dan Brown

Whoever You Are.
Whatever You Believe.
Everything Is About To Change.

The stunningly inventive new novel from the world’s most popular thriller writer
Bilbao, Spain Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the ultramodern Guggenheim Museum Bilbao to attend a major announcement–the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever.” The evening’s host is Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old billionaire and futurist whose dazzling high-tech inventions and audacious predictions have made him a renowned global figure. Kirsch, who was one of Langdon’s first students at Harvard two decades earlier, is about to reveal an astonishing breakthrough . . . one that will answer two of the fundamental questions of human existence.

As the event begins, Langdon and several hundred guests find themselves captivated by an utterly original presentation, which Langdon realizes will be far more controversial than he ever imagined. But the meticulously orchestrated evening suddenly erupts into chaos, and Kirsch’s precious discovery teeters on the brink of being lost forever. Reeling and facing an imminent threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape Bilbao. With him is Ambra Vidal, the elegant museum director who worked with Kirsch to stage the provocative event. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret.

Navigating the dark corridors of hidden history and extreme religion, Langdon and Vidal must evade a tormented enemy whose all-knowing power seems to emanate from Spain’s Royal Palace itself . . . and who will stop at nothing to silence Edmond Kirsch. On a trail marked by modern art and enigmatic symbols, Langdon and Vidal uncover clues that ultimately bring them face-to-face with Kirsch’s shocking discovery . . . and the breathtaking truth that has long eluded us. Origin is stunningly inventive–Dan Brown’s most brilliant and entertaining novel to date.

The Rules of Magic – Alice Hoffman

From beloved author Alice Hoffman comes the spellbinding prequel to her bestseller, Practical Magic. Find your magic.
For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique. Difficult Franny, with skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, shy and beautiful Jet, who can read other people’s thoughts, and charismatic Vincent, who began looking for trouble on the day he could walk. From the start Susanna sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love.
But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse. The Owens children cannot escape love even if they try, just as they cannot escape the pains of the human heart. The two beautiful sisters will grow up to be the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while Vincent, their beloved brother, will leave an unexpected legacy. Thrilling and exquisite, real and fantastical,
The Rules of Magic is a story about the power of love reminding us that the only remedy for being human is to be true to yourself.

While You Were Gone (or Surviving) …..

For Key West, September may have been the month of Irma but the book biz was been on a roll. New books are out from a string of A-list authors. Our staff loves Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, Entertainment Weekly’s #1 Must-Read Book for Fall. Alice Hoffman brings us The Rules of Magic, a prequel to her triumphant Practical Magic. Dan Brown sets Professor Robert Langdon on a new quest in Origin, with his trademarked combination of tricky clues and sinister characters. Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan (Welcome to the Goon Squad) takes us back to the 1940’s with Manhattan Beach, a noir tale of a young woman caught up the world of the gritty Brooklyn waterfront.

If biography is your thing, Ron Chernow’s Grant promises to reshape thinking about the famed general, much as he did with Hamilton. Or you might want to check out new major biographies of Mohammad Ali, Herbert Hoover, Martin Luther, or Bunny Mellon — what a range of characters!

Other non-fiction includes The Origins of Creativity by the distinguished biologist E.O. Wilson and The Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by Thomas Childers. On the political front Hilary Clinton explains What Happened, conservative columnist Charle Sykes provides an insightful analysis of How the Right Lost Its Mind and Ta-Nehisi Coates.offers a lament We Were Eight Years in Power.

We’ve got them all in our stacks of new books. Come on down to Key West’s local independent bookstore and inhale the aroma of all the new goodies.

One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed…. – E.J. Dionne, Jr., Norman J. Ornstein & Thomas E. Mann

A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported

THE INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A call to action from three of Washington’s premier political scholar-journalists, One Nation After Trump offers the definitive work on the threat posed by the Trump presidency and how to counter it.

American democracy was never supposed to give the nation a president like Donald Trump. We have never had a president who gave rise to such widespread alarm about his lack of commitment to the institutions of self-government, to the norms democracy requires, and to the need for basic knowledge about how government works. We have never had a president who raises profound questions about his basic competence and his psychological capacity to take on the most challenging political office in the world.

Yet if Trump is both a threat to our democracy and a product of its weaknesses, the citizen activism he has inspired is the antidote. The reaction to the crisis created by Trump’s presidency can provide the foundation for an era of democratic renewal and vindicate our long experiment in self-rule.

The award-winning authors of One Nation After Trump explain Trump’s rise and the danger his administration poses to our free institutions. They also offer encouragement to the millions of Americans now experiencing a new sense of citizenship and engagement and argue that our nation needs a unifying alternative to Trump’s dark and divisive brand of politics—an alternative rooted in a New Economy, a New Patriotism, a New Civil Society, and a New Democracy. One Nation After Trump is the essential book for our era, an unsparing assessment of the perils facing the United States and an inspiring roadmap for how we can reclaim the future.

The Origins of Creativity – Edward O. Wilson

In this profound and lyrical book, one of our most celebrated biologists offers a sweeping examination of the relationship between the humanities and the sciences: what they offer to each other, how they can be united, and where they still fall short. Both endeavours, Edward O. Wilson reveals, have their roots in human creativity–the defining trait of our species.

Reflecting on the deepest origins of language, storytelling, and art, Wilson demonstrates how creativity began not ten thousand years ago, as we have long assumed, but over one hundred thousand years ago in the Paleolithic age. Chronicling this evolution of creativity from primate ancestors to humans, The Origins of Creativity shows how the humanities, spurred on by the invention of language, have played a largely unexamined role in defining our species. And in doing so, Wilson explores what we can learn about human nature from a surprising range of creative endeavors–the instinct to create gardens, the use of metaphors and irony in speech, and the power of music and song.

Our achievements in science and the humanities, Wilson notes, make us uniquely advanced as a species, but also give us the potential to be supremely dangerous, most worryingly in our abuse of the planet. The humanities in particular suffer from a kind of anthropomorphism, encumbered by a belief that we are the only species among millions that seem to matter, yet Wilson optimistically reveals how researchers will have to address this parlous situation by pushing further into the realm of science, especially fields such as evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and anthropology.

With eloquence and humanity, Wilson calls for a transformational “Third Enlightenment,” in which the blending of these endeavors will give us a deeper understanding of the human condition and our crucial relationship with the natural world.

Larry McMurtry – Thalia: A Texas Trilogy

Larry McMurtry burst onto the American literary scene with a force that would forever redefine how we perceive the American West. His first three novels– Horseman, Pass By (1961), * Leaving Cheyenne (1963), and The Last Picture Show (1966)– all set in the north Texas town of Thalia after World War II, are collected here for the first time. In this trilogy, McMurtry writes tragically of men and women trying to carve out an existence on the plains, where the forces of modernity challenge small- town American life. From a cattleranch rivalry that confirms McMurtry’s “full- blooded Western genius” (Publishers Weekly) to a love triangle involving a cowboy, his rancher boss and wife, and finally to the hardscrabble citizens of an oil- patch town trying to keep their only movie house alive, McMurtry captures the stark realities of the West like no one else. With a new introduction, Thalia emerges as an American classic that celebrates one of our greatest literary masters.

*Just named in 2017 by Publishers Weekly the #1 Western novel worthy of rediscovery.

Manhattan Beach – Jennifer Egan

Longlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction The daring and magnificent novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad–“propulsive, surprising, ravishing, and revelatory…a profound page-turner that will transport and transform every reader.”–Booklist (starred review). Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men. Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that once belonged to men, now soldiers abroad. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. One evening at a nightclub, she meets Dexter Styles again, and begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have vanished. With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Manhattan Beach is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world. It is a magnificent novel by the author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, one of the great writers of our time.

Fresh Complaint – Jeffrey Eugenides

The first collection of short fiction from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jeffrey Eugenides

Jeffrey Eugenides’s bestselling novels have shown him to be an astute observer of the crises of adolescence, self-discovery, family love, and what it means to be American in our times. The stories in “Fresh Complaint” explore equally rich­­—and intriguing­­—territory. Ranging from the bitingly reproductive antics of “Baster” to the dreamy, moving account of a young traveler’s search for enlightenment in “Air Mail” (selected by Annie Proulx for Best American Short Stories), this collection presents characters in the midst of personal and national emergencies. We meet a failed poet who, envious of other people’s wealth during the real-estate bubble, becomes an embezzler; a clavichordist whose dreams of art founder under the obligations of marriage and fatherhood; and, in “Fresh Complaint,” a high school student whose wish to escape the strictures of her immigrant family lead her to a drastic decision that upends the life of a middle-aged British physicist. Narratively compelling, beautifully written, and packed with a density of ideas despite their fluid grace, these stories chart the development and maturation of a major American writer.

We Were Eight Years in Power – Ta-Nehisi Coates

In these “urgently relevant essays,”* the National Book Award-winning author of Between the World and Me “reflects on race, Barack Obama’s presidency and its jarring aftermath”*–including the election of Donald Trump. “We were eight years in power” was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. In this sweeping collection of new and selected essays, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America’s “first white president.” But the story of these present-day eight years is not just about presidential politics. This book also examines the new voices, ideas, and movements for justice that emerged over this period–and the effects of the persistent, haunting shadow of our nation’s old and unreconciled history. Coates powerfully examines the events of the Obama era from his intimate and revealing perspective–the point of view of a young writer who begins the journey in an unemployment office in Harlem and ends it in the Oval Office, interviewing a president. We Were Eight Years in Power features Coates’s iconic essays first published in The Atlantic, including “Fear of a Black President,”

“The Case for Reparations,” and “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” along with eight fresh essays that revisit each year of the Obama administration through Coates’s own experiences, observations, and intellectual development, capped by a bracingly original assessment of the election that fully illuminated the tragedy of the Obama era. We Were Eight Years in Power is a vital account of modern America, from one of the definitive voices of this historic moment. *Kirkus Reviews (starred review)