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 Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

September 6, 2020

'Tis the Season for Taking Aim at Trump and his Allies
   
Whether planned or not, the next two weeks features the publication of several books critical of Donald Trump and one that takes on the National Rifle Association. They won't all be bestsellers, but the press and social media will be abuzz about the allegations, charges, and opinions that will be flying around. Here are brief looks at four of the titles, three of which will be in bookstores this week and one which will be published September 15 (preorder if you're interested).

Disloyal: The True Story of the Former Personal Attorney to President Donald J. Trump by Michael Cohen. This one could be subtitled "It's a Bad Idea to  Piss Off Your Personal Fixer." 
There's no question that Cohen, once one of the President's fiercest surrogates, closest confidants, and staunchest defenders, has a chip on his shoulder and is hardly objective. But he witnessed firsthand and was also an active participant in the inner workings of Trump's business empire, political campaign, and presidential administration. Cohen knows where many of the skeletons are buried and he has a very big shovel. 
 
 
Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump by Peter Strzok. This one deals with serious business and Strzok is well-equipped to  sound the alarm. He served in the FBI from 1996 to 2018, rising to become the deputy of its Counterintelligence Division, and is the recipient of the FBI's highest investigative honor, the Director's Award for Excellence. So no slouch here. In his role heading the FBI's investigation of Russia's election interference, he soon became concerned about the extent of foreign influence at the highest levels of our government. He wrote private texts expressing those concerns, but they became public and the Trump administration forced him out of the Bureau in August 2018. By that time, Strzok had seen more than enough to convince him that the commander in chief had fallen under the sway of the Kremlin, which, for him, raised a critical question: When a president appears to favor personal and Russian interests over those of our nation, has he become a national security threat?  
 
 
Inside the NRA: A Tell-All Account of Corruption, Greed, and Paranoia Within the Most Powerful Political Group in America by Joshua Powell. This blistering exposé of the National Rifle Association is delivered by a former member of its top leadership. in 2016, Powell began his new role as a senior strategist and chief of staff to NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre. What Powell uncovered was horrifying: "the waste and dysfunction at the NRA was staggering." He describes how the NRA became feared as the Death Star of Washington lobbies and so militant and extreme as "to create and fuel the toxicity of the gun debate until it became outright explosive." He asserts that the intentional toxic messaging was the product of LaPierre's leadership and the extremist branding by his longtime PR puppet master Angus McQueen. In damning detail, Powell exposes the NRA's plan to "pour gasoline" on the fire in the fight against gun control, to sew discord to fill its coffers, and to secure the presidency for Donald J. Trump. Yikes.
 
 
Rage by Bob Woodward. Coming on September 15, this looks to be the biggest and most-talked book of the group. Obviously, Woodward's reputation and journalistic credentials help, and his first book about Trump two years ago, Fear, was a huge bestseller. Rage draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand witnesses and Trump himself, as well as participants' notes, emails, diaries, calendars, and confidential documents. What emerges are stunning new details about early national security decisions and operations and Trump's moves as he faces a global pandemic, economic disaster, and racial unrest. Rage shows how, at key decision points, Trump's responses to the crises of 2020 were rooted in the instincts, habits, and style he developed during his first three years as president.  Woodward also obtained 25 personal letters exchanged between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that have not been public before. Kim describes the bond between the two leaders as out of a "fantasy film," as the two leaders engage in an extraordinary diplomatic minuet. Yikes again.   
Novel of a Long-Term Marriage Shaken by Death and Betrayal
  
Monogamy by Sue Miller. It's been a while since Miller has written a novel, but with books like The Good Mother, Family Pictures, and The Distinguished Guest on her resume, Monogamy is a welcome treat for many.  
 
Graham and Annie have been married for nearly 30 years, and their seemingly effortless devotion has long been the envy of their circle of friends and acquaintances. Graham is a bookseller, a big, gregarious man with large appetites - curious, eager to please, a lover of life, and a convivial host. Annie, more reserved and introspective, is a photographer. She is about to have her first gallery show after a 6-year lull and is worried that the best years of her career may be behind her. When Graham suddenly dies, Annie is lost - what is the point of going on without him? Then, while she is still mourning him intensely, she discovers that Graham had been unfaithful to her. That knowledge shakes her to the core her as she wonders if she ever truly knew the man who loved her.
 
In its starred review, Publishers Weekly praised this "robust, character-driven examination of the inner workings of a lengthy marriage...The novel is grounded by vibrant prose, vividly portrayed secondary characters, and the resiliency of everlasting love... A spectacular, powerful return."  
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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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