(Staff Favorites) John’s Picks
THE TANGLED TREE: A RADICAL NEW HISTORY OF LIFE
A very enjoyable read of the history, personalities, and science leading to what Quammen calls the three big surprises revealed by the new method of molecular phylogenetics that compellingly invites a rethinking of “… who we are…and what we are, and how life on our planet has evolved.” Quammen understands how off-putting the term molecular phylogenics is, but his deserved reputation as one of our most reliable and readable guides through science for the curious, educated general reader is on full display here. A caveat: those looking for a linear story line or a deep dive into only the science may be disappointed by Quammen’s broad approach to the material.
Horowitz is one of the masters currently working in the whodunnit genre, and he effortlessly employs every beloved device aficionados have come to expect. In an interview, Horowitz says of Magpie Murders, “I wanted it to be more than just a murder mystery story. I wanted it to be…a sort of a treatise on the whole genre of murder mystery writing.” In addition, Magpie Murders is a bravura example of the maxim “If they liked it once, they’ll love it twice”. So, does the script of an author’s final book, in which the death is revealed of his acclaimed and very lucrative fictional detective, hold clues to his own impending suicide–or, is it, perhaps, murder? JG
A coterie of Londoners and essex country-folk are drawn into the orbit of Cora Seaborne, recently widowed and freed from an abusive marriage. Cora’s desire to become a naturalist draws her to rivers and estuaries of Essex where rumors of a water-monster have reawakened the locals’ fears of a long-ago evil. Thr rumors fuel Cora’s hopes of discovering, instead, dinosaur fossils suitable for display in museums–and, perhaps, a living throwback to the geologic past. Author Perry is remarkable in her rich evocation of the Essex weather, earth, flora, and fauna that Cora eager;y encounters. Equally remarkable is Perry’s depiction of her late-Victorian cast who are anything but the fusty, repressed characters of modern imagination. In this work of historical fiction, ancients fears and superstitions clash with a thoroughly modern gamut of passion, science, and reason to propel Perry’s cast into one another’s lives and to the threshold of the 20th century.
WW is over and the Cold War is just beginning. The setting is Istanbul, it’s feet deeply planted in both Asia and Europe, where this well-paced story of murder, espionage, love and remembrance of simpler times takes place. Honor, trust and decency seem to be in short supply, fading with the warm, summer light. It’s a very dangerous and morally confusing time, especially for an innocent forced to play a deadly game amongst ruthless amateurs and professionals. Which colleague, old friend–even lover–can one trust? Never mind Russian former-allies, side-jumping Romanians, smugglers of Jews to Palestine, or to the officially neutral Turkish hosts who play all sides against the middle.
THANK YOU FOR BEING LATE
Thomas L. Friedman
Change isn’t new, but the rate of that change today is…breathtakingly so. Friedman considers this to be the Age of Acceleration. Expect to see the words ‘exponentially’ and ‘compounded’ frequently. If you’re an optimist like Friedman, this may be a glimpse of a brave new world. If not, prepare for a mind-boggling descent down the rabbit hole. Thank You employs the classic Friedman approach: a globe-spanning range of topics on a theme, generously leavened with Friedman’s personal observations and quotes from smart, articulate, engaging experts and players. This can be read cover-to-cover or dipped into as fancy–and ability to adapt–allows. Warning: Not for the change-adverse.