BookBrowse Highlights

This week, our First Impressions reviewers recommend The Blind Light by Stuart Evers, a powerful and heartfelt novel about a friendship forged between two soldiers on a military base in 1959 and the subsequent connections between their families spanning decades.

In Editor's Choice, we look at the highly-anticipated latest from bestselling author Jess Walter, The Cold Millions. This historical novel is set in Spokane, WA in the early 20th century and features two brothers caught up in the fight for free speech launched by a nascent union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). In our Beyond the Book article, we discuss the history and impact of this significant organization.

Make sure to also check out the new Culture Corner, current and upcoming discussions for the BookBrowse Book Club, and our latest Giveaway to win Agent Sonya: Moscow's Most Daring Wartime Spy by Ben Macintyre.

Very best,
First Impressions
Each month we give away books to BookBrowse members who live in the U.S. to read and review. Members who choose to participate receive a free book about every 3-4 months. Here are their opinions on one recently released title.
The Blind Light
by Stuart Evers

"The Blind Light is a slow burn novel exploring power struggles, both in friendships and families. It follows two English friends and their families from the late 1930s into the 21st century, and the characters and their relationships are vividly drawn. This is not a 'feel good' story and not everyone is cast in a favorable light, which is what made it such a satisfying read for me." - Julie M.

"The Blind Light by Stuart Evers started slowly for me, but soon I wanted to read more and more. Told over the course of 60 years, we watch members of two families bond in friendship, fight, despair, suffer losses, and stab each other in the back, all while the threats of atomic war and terrorism loom large. These are not all likeable characters, but it was fascinating to watch their development and growth over the decades as well as their tenacity through uncertain times. The novel is a thoughtful look at the ties that bind." - Nancy L.

"The writing is beautiful, the characters are not. I found myself intrigued by the writer's stream of consciousness style and third-person narrative, intertwined to tell the story of the two men's families across decades. It's a slow starter but I found myself drawn in and curious as each of the characters revealed their inner thoughts. A story well told; I thoroughly enjoyed it." - Barbara O.
W.W. Norton & Company. Novel. 544 pages. Published Oct 13, 2020
Number of Reader Reviews: 13, Readers' Consensus: 4.0/5.0
Editor's Choice
The Cold Millions
by Jess Walter

Jess Walter's The Cold Millions centers around 16-year-old Rye Dolan and his 23-year-old brother Gig. The pair have spent months tooling around the western United States, working odd jobs and hopping rails as it suits them. As the book opens, they've landed in Spokane, Washington in 1909 just as the nascent union, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), is poised to battle the town's wealthy business owners and corrupt police force over free speech issues. The idealistic Gig is drawn into the conflict, pulling the idolizing Rye right along with him into the fracas, setting each on a path that will forever impact their lives and their relationship.

The author has chosen a very specific time, place and event for his novel: it is based on the Spokane Free Speech Fight of 1909, which resulted in the incarceration of hundreds of activists and workers and unfolded much as Walter outlines in the book. Many of the characters, too, have real-life counterparts, such as Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, a pregnant 19-year-old union organizer from New Hampshire, and Spokane Police Chief John Sullivan, among others. Beyond just the events, though, the author's attention to historical detail is impressive, truly transporting readers to an earlier era. Even his prose seems appropriate for the time period; its cadence may be challenging to get into at first, but once one adjusts, the writing style enhances the book's feel of being set in a Western city at the turn of the century. ... continued
Beyond the Book:
Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)
The plot of Jess Walter's novel, The Cold Millions, revolves around the actions of the newly-formed Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in Spokane, Washington in 1909.

The principles of socialism were circulating in the United States around the turn of the century, and many of the AFL's membership began to feel the group's acceptance of capitalism and its exclusion of trade workers was unacceptable. Six prominent AFL members met in Chicago in 1904 to discuss their options. They decided to break with their organization and form a new one, which they'd call the Industrial Workers of the World. In June, 1905, a convention of 200 socialists and trade unionists met and officially created the IWW. Led by miner William Haywood, this initial meeting was attended by many of the day's most famous labor and socialist activists, including Eugene Debs and Mary Harris "Mother" Jones. ... continued
Harper. Historical Fiction. 352 pages. Published Oct 27, 2020
BookBrowse Rating: 5/5, Critics' Consensus: 5/5
Review and article by Kim Kovacs
Culture Corner
Each week, we're sharing a few links to cultural experiences you can access from home during the pandemic, such as online concerts, theater and art.

This week, we're looking at the early years of photography in the 19th century. We bring you this fascinating piece of art history through resources from the British Library, Ted-Ed, The Guardian and more.
  • How bookstores are weathering the pandemic
  • At this bookstore in Taiwan, visitors shop in the dark
  • Why lockdown was the plot twist that libraries needed
  • New York's Strand bookstore appeals for help and gets 25,000 orders
  • August bookstore sales dropped 31%
  • Ava DuVernay to write, direct and produce 'Caste' film adaptation at Netflix
  • ABA Launches 'Boxed Out' campaign in support of indie bookstores
Current & Upcoming Book Discussions
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About the Book:

The "master storyteller" (San Francisco Chronicle) behind the New York Times bestseller The Spy and the Traitor uncovers the true story behind the Cold War's most intrepid female spy.

In 1942, in a quiet village in the leafy English Cotswolds, a thin, elegant woman lived in a small cottage with her three children and her husband, who worked as a machinist nearby. Ursula Burton was friendly but reserved, and spoke English with a slight foreign accent. By all accounts, she seemed to be living a simple, unassuming life. Her neighbors in the village knew little about her.

They didn't know that she was a high-ranking Soviet intelligence officer. They didn't know that her husband was also a spy, or that she was running powerful agents across Europe. Behind the facade of her picturesque life, Burton was a dedicated Communist, a Soviet colonel, and a veteran agent, gathering the scientific secrets that would enable the Soviet Union to build the bomb.


Macintyre…has found a real-life heroine worthy of his gifts as John le Carré's nonfiction counterpart…[He] gives an enthralling account of the territory that exists between devotion to the cause and sheer love of the game." - New York Times

"[F]ascinating...Macintyre's richly detailed account, though a bit ponderous at times, shines a new light on two of WWII's most notorious spy rings. Espionage fans will be thrilled." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Crown. History. 400 pages. Published Sep 15, 2020
About BookBrowse
At BookBrowse, we believe that the very best books don't just entertain and engage, they also enlighten, wrapping us in their world, giving us a window into the lives of others or a mirror to reflect on ourselves. These are the books we seek out and feature on BookBrowse, both fiction and nonfiction.
Published every Thursday, BookBrowse Highlights is one of BookBrowse's four free newsletters. We also publish Publishing This Week every Sunday; and Book Club News and Librarian News monthly.
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