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 Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

September 20, 2020

True Story of a Cold War Russian Spy and Peachy Memoir From a Unique Chef
 
Agent Sonya: Moscow's Most Daring Wartime Spy by Ben Macintyre. Journalist and historian Macintyre has made a nice career out of chronicling British intelligence history, with books like The Spy and the Traitor, A Spy Among Friends, and Double Cross. With Agent Sonya, he adds to his reputation as he uncovers the true story behind the Cold War's most intrepid female spy.  
 
In 1942, in a quiet village in the English Cotswolds, an 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, including that she was a high-ranking Soviet intelligence officer 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.

Armed with access to Sonya's diaries and correspondence and never-before-seen information on her clandestine activities, Macintyre delivers a compelling history of a legendary secret agent who influenced the course of the Cold War.
 
 
Eat a Peach: A Memoir by David Chang. One of the food world's true stars has written a candid and inspiring autobiography - not only about his rise to the top as a chef and restaurateur but also about his lifelong struggles with depression and anger management. Here's a bit of backstory:  
 
In 2004, Momofuku Noodle Bar opened in a tiny, stark space in Manhattan's East Village. Its young chef-owner, David Chang, worked the line, serving ramen and pork buns to a mix of fellow restaurant cooks and confused diners whose idea of ramen was instant noodles in Styrofoam cups. It would have been impossible to know it at the time - and certainly Chang would have bet against himself - but he, who had failed at almost every endeavor in his life, was about to become one of the most influential chefs of his generation. Hard work and good food won out, and Chang has since received six James Beard Awards, including Outstanding Chef, and his cookbook, Momofuku, was a bestseller. He is also host of two Netflix original documentary series, Ugly Delicious and Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner.   
 
Eat a Peach is a good read and an uplifting story. What it's not is a traditional cookbook filled with dozens of recipes and slick food photos. To that point, I include a review of the book by Jimmy Kimmel, host of Jimmy Kimmel Live!:  
"If you're looking for a cookbook, this is a terrible choice. Herein you will find the recipe for one of our brightest, most energetic, talented, and inspiring Americans (who also happens to be a chef). David Chang is a great storyteller with a great story to tell."
Humorist Brosh Delivers
 Heartfelt Sequel

  
Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh. Seven years after the publication of Hyperbole and a Half, artist and humorist Brosh returns with a sequel that features a new collection of comedic and illustrated autobiographical essays. The new book includes humorous stories from her childhood; the adventures of her very bad animals; merciless dissection of her own character flaws; incisive essays on grief, loneliness, and powerlessness; as well as reflections on the absurdity of modern life. For her huge fan following, this is an eagerly awaited volume. If you're not familiar with Brosh, you may want to check out her blog (see below). Her work is irreverent, outlandish, brutally honest, and - frankly - not everyone's cup of tea. 
 
In its starred review, Publishers Weekly wrote, "Gut-busting . . . . Like a millennial James Thurber, Brosh has a knack for seeding a small, choice detail that snowballs into existential chaos . . . [Her] spidery and demented digital portraits, a visual expression of fun-house mirror anxiety, fits her material perfectly. . . This achingly accurate and consistently hilarious comic memoir finds Brosh moving forward and becoming a stronger, braver storyteller page by page."   
 
If you'd like to visit Brosh online, you can click on the image below.
 
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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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