“Earlier this year, I picked up an advanced reading copy of Laura Secor’s Children of Paradise: The Struggle for the Soul of Iran. Of the many great reads in our Middle Eastern Studies section, this new release is especially important and timely given the Obama administration’s historic nuclear deal with Iran. This book focuses on the Iran’s history in the modern era. Through a series of bios of influential leaders and thinkers in Iran as well as ordinary citizens, Secor traces the intellectual and social underpinnings of the revolution of 1979 and the decades that have followed. Reoccurring themes that occur in the book are the Iranian people’s struggle to reconcile eastern and western ideas; modernity and religion; and national attachments that span millennia.
I am only about halfway through this book, and feel a great deal more informed about the events that have shaped where we are now in relations between Iran and the West. It got me looking after other books to open my eyes to our world. (Over the course of reading this book, I also finished Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, an eloquent and indelible portrait of another elusive place that has dominated our political discourse in recent years. It is also one of the best nonfiction books I have ever read.)
As for further reading on Iran, I recommend Azar Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books or Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel Persepolis. The strength of these two books is their great cultural sensitivity in telling the stories of extraordinary Iranian women who lived the events described in Secor’s book.” You can find copies of Children of Paradise on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
Calamity by Brandon Sanderson
“The final installment in the Reckoners series, a sci-fi trilogy about a future where select humans gifted with incredible power lose themselves to darkness, Steelheart began the story of a young man whose father was murdered by an incredibly powerful Epic. Though the story isn’t unique in this world, David Charleston’s dedication to learning everything he can about the Epics and how to kill them was rare. His intel and marksmanship (and really bad metaphors) made the Reckoners, a group of resistance fighters in a dark age, a force to be contended with.
I’m in the middle of Calamity now, and the book is winding up for a really great finish. Flipping between edge of your seat firefight and stealthy subterfuge with a healthy dose of reality-bending superhuman powers, Sanderson is pulling out all the stops for the grand finale. I’m incredibly excited to see the author Thursday night!” You can find copies of Calamity on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Brandon Sanderson comes to BookPeople to speak and sign his latest on Thursday, February 25th at 7 PM.
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
“I just finished A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James for my book club, which meets this Friday. (New & Noteworthy USUALLY meets on the 4th Thursday of every month, but we’re having Brandon Sanderson that night, so I have to be there. And I want to TALK about this book.) I read it in a single day–I had to immerse myself in the language and the story. There are twelve different narrators, for one, and most of the book is written in Jamaican patois, for two. I spent some serious time with furrowed brow, trying to make head and tails of the narrative, but what I took away from James’ novel is that it absolutely deserves the praise and awards. There are some details so subtle it took me rereading the paragraph several times to get them, or flipping back and forth over hundreds of pages to make sure I had followed the moment correctly. There are references and phrases that linger like the ghosts who themselves linger in the pages. It is a remarkable, remarkable novel. I don’t know that I can say I enjoyed it–how can one really enjoy such a book?–but reading it was immensely valuable to me.” You can find copies of A Brief History of Seven Killings on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. The New & Noteworthy Book Club meets to discuss this award-winning novel on Friday, February 26th at 7 PM on BookPeople’s 3rd floor.
“Evel Knievel was an American institution and a living legend for decades, but the reality of the flashy daredevil’s life was a disturbing pileup of fear, crime, crushed bones, gasoline, and Wild Turkey. In his academic yet accessible biography, Leigh Montville transcends value judgements to examine the paradox that flew high above the imagination of a generation, as often being blasted to smithereens as emerging from the wreckage.” You can find copies of Evel on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.