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 Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

February 12, 2017
New Bestsellers Offer Thoughtful Discourse, Four Intriguing Lives, and a Keep-You-Guessing Thriller 

Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson. The well-re spected African-American academic, New York Times contributing
Op-Ed writer, and author of nearly 20 books has prod uced an impassioned, to-the-point call for action on racism. It's a provocative and deeply personal call for change, written specifically for a white audience. Dyson argues that if we are to make real racial progress we must face difficult truths, including being honest about how black grievance has been ignored, dismissed, or discounted. It may not be a fun book for many to read, but the importance of his message cannot be ignored. But don't take my word for it, let author Stephen King convince you:  
"Here's a sermon that's as fierce as it is lucid. It shook me up, but in a good way. This is how it works if you're black in America, this is what happens, and this is how it feels. If you're black, you'll feel a spark of recognition in every paragraph. If you're white, Dyson tells you what you need to know, what this white man needed to know, at least. This is a major achievement. I read it and said amen."   
 

4 3 2 1
by Paul Auster. His first novel in seven years may prove daunting for even his fans, but Auster's literary prowess can't be denied. He is at his most ambitious here, creating an 800+ novel that imagines an ordinary man who experien ces many lives. The story begins In 1947, when Archie Ferguson is born in Newark, New Jersey. From there, Ferguson's life, which is related in alternating chapters, takes four simultaneous and independent fictional paths. Four identical Fergusons made of the same DNA go on to lead four parallel and entirely different lives. Family fortunes diverge. Athletic skills and sex lives and friendships and intellectual passions contrast. Each Ferguson falls under the spell of the magnificent Amy Schneiderman, yet each Amy and each Ferguson have a relationship like no other. Auster also interjects historical realism into the four lives, so that Archie the sportswriter attends the 1954 World Series game in which Willie Mays made his famous catch and Archie the journalist reports on the bombing of Cambodia. 4 3 2 1 is a commitment to be sure, but it's certainly a fascinating premise.


Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough. With the success of psychological thrillers like Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, publishers are falling all over themselves to find the next big hit. With the early buzz this one has created, Behi nd Her Eyes may be one to watch. The premise of a romantic  triangle involving a wife and husband and his new secretary seems conventional enough, but Pinborough soon doles out the menace and creates an ever-twisting, thriller that author Harlan Coben - himself no slouch in creating suspense - has called a "dark, electrifying page-turner with a corker of an ending." Independent booksellers have been similarly impressed and made the book one of their 20 favorite new titles on the February Indie Next list. Here's one review that captures the excitement:

" Behind Her Eyes took me totally by surprise. From the beginning I knew it was the story of a very disturbed person, but which one was the sick one? I knew something happened in the past that was driving two of the main characters, and I thought I was discovering the truth about the past - but, boy, was I wrong. A very dark and eerie psychological thriller of love and obsession that you will not be able to put down until you discover the truth."
- Nancy McFarlane, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC
 Early Buzz Abounds For This Week's Top Fiction Title
Lincoln at the Bardo by George Saunders. He may be the best writer and MacArthur genius grant winner you've never heard of, although Saunders' Tenth of December short story collection in 2013 certainly made new fans. One thing is sure - Lincoln in the Bardo, his first novel, will introduce  George Saunders to many more readers. Officially arriving in bookstores on Valentine's Day, the book has already received great reviews in The New York Times (written by Underground Railroad author Colson Whitehead), Washington Post, and Chicago Tribune, among others. It was also featured on NPR's Fresh Air this weekend, not bad for a novel that isn't out until Tuesday.

Saunders builds his unique ghost story from  historical fact - in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln's beloved eleven-year-old son Willie died and was laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. According to newspaper reports of the time, a grief-stricken Lincoln returned to the crypt several times to hold his boy's body.

What he finds, thanks to Saunders' fertile imagination, is that his son's arrival has caused an uproar within a community of ghosts in the bardo - a term from Tibetan Buddhism referring to the transitional state between death and the next realm. Willie Lincoln is now part of a strange purgatory where the resident ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and tell their life stories, many connected to the Civil War still in full swing. And then Willie's dad shows up to mourn and things really get interesting.

WHERE TO FIND 
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WHY THE COLUMN?
Hi, I'm Hut Landon, and I work as a bookseller in an independent bookstore in BerkeIey, California.

My goal with this newsletter is to keep readers up to date about new books hitting the shelves, share what indie booksellers are recommending in their stores, and pass on occasional news about the book world.

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