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 Weekly Words about New Books in
Independent Bookstores

December 8, 2019

Two Bestselling Non-Fiction Titles From Last Fall Now in Paperback   
 
The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis. The author of the of The Big Short, Moneyball, and The Undoing Project (among others) once again proves himself a masterful storyteller in a work that is part civics lesson and part (very) cautionary tale. Who knew the range of activities and monitoring for which government departments like Energy, Agriculture, and Commerce are responsible? As it turns out, they do complex and important work, much of which Trump-appointed department heads know little or nothing about. As a matter of fact, the ignorance and arrogance of men put in charge of critical agencies is actually quite disheartening. In Agriculture, the funding of vital programs like food stamps and school lunches is being slashed. The Commerce Department may not have enough staff to conduct the 2020 Census properly. Over at Energy, where international nuclear risk is managed, it's not clear there will be enough inspectors to track and locate black market uranium before terrorists do.   
 
The good news is that these departments are filled with intelligent, committed staffers who care about their work. Lewis found several such folks and allows them to tell much of the story. The focus of the book is on the three agencies mentioned above, and the scope of their responsibilities is quite remarkable. Reading about government bureaucracy may sound tedious, but Lewis excels in bringing seemingly arcane subjects to life. He devotes a good portion of his narrative to one of Commerce's most critical agencies, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which (among other things) runs the National Weather Service and tracks hazardous weather conditions. It's fascinating reading and gives one hope, even if the person now in charge is one of the most inappropriate appointments made by this administration (you'll read why). Lewis has shone light on the good and important work being done by unsung public servants while making a compelling case for it to continue under competent, informed leadership. In addition, this paperback edition contains a
afterward from the author that offers new insights one year later.  
 
 
These Truths: A History of the United States by Jill Lepore. Harvard historian and award-winning author Lepore has produced an ambitious and eminently readable one-volume American history that offers an interpretation of the origins and rise of a divided nation. Her premise, as she herself writes, is that a "nation born in contradiction, liberty in a land of slavery, sovereignty in a land of conquest, will fight, forever, over the meaning of it s history."    
   
With that, Lepore begins in 1492, asking whether the course of events over more than five centuries has proven the nation's truths, or belied them. To answer that question, she examines the state of American politics, the legacy of slavery, the persistence of inequality, and the nature of technological change. And she does so without much of an agenda, being more concerned with how and why events happened than with judging them too strongly.
 
In a rave review last year when These Truths was first published, NPR's Michael Schaub said in part, "...has America lived up to the ideas of the founders of this country, many of whom failed to heed their own words in the first place? That's the question that forms the basis of Lepore's magnificent book." 
Best Time to Travel to Some of the World's Most Interesting Places
 
Where to Go When: Unforgettable Trips for Every Month A DK Eyewitness Travel Guide. This imaginative and creatively designed volume is a great gift for anyone who loves travel or is planning to do more. Showcasing
some of the most amazing places in the world and the best time of year to visit them, this beautifully illustrated book offers a month-by-month guide to more than 100 destinations. A few examples: Discover when to explore Costa Rica's rainforests, journey into the clouds in Nepal, sail between Croatia's cypress-clad islands, or gaze at the saw-toothed crags of Canada's Rocky Mountains.  
 
Whether you're in the mood for festivals and culture, an unforgettable journey, natural wonders, rest and relaxation, or active adventures, Where To Go When has you covered. And even if you make it no further than your armchair, this is a travel guide to be savored.
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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