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Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War

Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War

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An exploration of how technology and best intentions collide in the heat of war

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

In The Bomber Mafia, Malcolm Gladwell weaves together the stories of a Dutch genius and his homemade computer, a band of brothers in central Alabama, a British psychopath, and pyromaniacal chemists at Harvard to examine one of the greatest moral challenges in modern American history.

Most military thinkers in the years leading up to World War II saw the airplane as an afterthought. But a small band of idealistic strategists, the "Bomber Mafia," asked: What if precision bombing could cripple the enemy and make war far less lethal?

In contrast, the bombing of Tokyo on the deadliest night of the war was the brainchild of General Curtis LeMay, whose brutal pragmatism and scorched-earth tactics in Japan cost thousands of civilian lives, but may have spared even more by averting a planned US invasion. In The Bomber Mafia, Gladwell asks, "Was it worth it?"

Things might have gone differently had LeMay's predecessor, General Haywood Hansell, remained in charge. Hansell believed in precision bombing, but when he and Curtis LeMay squared off for a leadership handover in the jungles of Guam, LeMay emerged victorious, leading to the darkest night of World War II. The Bomber Mafia is a riveting tale of persistence, innovation, and the incalculable wages of war.

This small book is big in scope - presenting yet another facet of WWII that is new to me.  And who can make a complex topic understandable and fascinating better than Malcolm Gladwell?!  This was a one-sitting read which is completely rare for me and nonfiction.  Here’s the gist: in the 1920s a small group of Army Airmen, the eponymous Bomber Mafia, start to imagine the possibilities of war waged entirely from the air - conceivably limiting casualties with precision bombing.  At the same time, eccentric Dutch inventor and American immigrant, Carl Norden creates the bombsight - a gadget that could “drop a bomb into a pickle barrel at thirty thousand feet.” And then WWII erupts and theory and innovation have a test site.  Gladwell presents two Army Air Corps generals, Haywood Hansell and Curtis LeMay with differing approaches at a key turning point in history - the Pacific Theater in the Spring of 1945. Because it’s Gladwell, there are a couple relevant, chatty digressions and a pinch of psychology which elevate the book from textbook history to lived narrative. I couldn’t put it down! - Carrie

Chatter

Chatter

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER - An award-winning psychologist reveals the hidden power of our inner voice and shows how to harness it to combat anxiety, improve physical and mental health, and deepen our relationships with others.

 

"A masterpiece."--Angela Duckworth, bestselling author of Grit- Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain, Adam Grant, and Daniel H. Pink's Next Big Idea Club Winter 2021 Winning Selection

 

One of the best new books of the year--The Washington Post, BBC, USA Today, CNN Underscored, Shape, Behavioral Scientist, PopSugar - Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and Shelf Awareness starred reviews

Tell a stranger that you talk to yourself, and you're likely to get written off as eccentric. But the truth is that we all have a voice in our head. When we talk to ourselves, we often hope to tap into our inner coach but find our inner critic instead. When we're facing a tough task, our inner coach can buoy us up: Focus--you can do this. But, just as often, our inner critic sinks us entirely: I'm going to fail. They'll all laugh at me. What's the use?

 

In Chatter, acclaimed psychologist Ethan Kross explores the silent conversations we have with ourselves. Interweaving groundbreaking behavioral and brain research from his own lab with real-world case studies--from a pitcher who forgets how to pitch, to a Harvard undergrad negotiating her double life as a spy--Kross explains how these conversations shape our lives, work, and relationships. He warns that giving in to negative and disorienting self-talk--what he calls "chatter"--can tank our health, sink our moods, strain our social connections, and cause us to fold under pressure.

 

But the good news is that we're already equipped with the tools we need to make our inner voice work in our favor. These tools are often hidden in plain sight--in the words we use to think about ourselves, the technologies we embrace, the diaries we keep in our drawers, the conversations we have with our loved ones, and the cultures we create in our schools and workplaces.

 

Brilliantly argued, expertly researched, and filled with compelling stories, Chatter gives us the power to change the most important conversation we have each day: the one we have with ourselves.

Chilbury Ladies' Choir

Chilbury Ladies' Choir

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NATIONAL BESTSELLER - "A delightful debut."--People

For readers of Lilac Girls and The Nightingale, The Chilbury Ladies' Choir unfolds the struggles, affairs, deceptions, and triumphs of a village choir during World War II.


As England becomes enmeshed in the early days of World War II and the men are away fighting, the women of Chilbury village forge an uncommon bond. They defy the Vicar's stuffy edict to close the choir and instead "carry on singing," resurrecting themselves as the Chilbury Ladies' Choir. We come to know the home-front struggles of five unforgettable choir members: a timid widow devastated when her only son goes to fight; the older daughter of a local scion drawn to a mysterious artist; her younger sister pining over an impossible crush; a Jewish refugee from Czechoslovakia hiding a family secret; and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past.

An enchanting ensemble story that shuttles from village intrigue to romance to the heartbreaking matters of life and death, Jennifer Ryan's debut novel thrillingly illuminates the true strength of the women on the home front in a village of indomitable spirit.

I Will Judge You by Your Bookshelf

I Will Judge You by Your Bookshelf

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A look at the culture and fanaticism of book lovers, from beloved New York Times illustrator Grant Snider

 

It's no secret, but we are judged by our bookshelves. We learn to read at an early age, and as we grow older we shed our beloved books for new ones. But some of us surround ourselves with books. We collect them, decorate with them, are inspired by them, and treat our books as sacred objects. In this lighthearted collection of one- and two-page comics, writer-artist Grant Snider explores bookishness in all its forms, and the love of writing and reading, building on the beloved literary comics featured on his website, Incidental Comics. With a striking package including a die-cut cover, I Will Judge You By Your Bookshelf is the perfect gift for bookworms of all ages.

Like Streams to the Ocean

Like Streams to the Ocean

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - "As inviting, wide-ranging, and philosophical as an all-night conversation with a best friend, and as revealing and thought-provoking as the diary of a curious adventurer."--Sasha Sagan, author of For Small Creatures Such as We

 

You can travel the world looking for yourself, but if you don't know what you're looking for, how can you find it? Like Streams To The Oceanis about examining the things that make us who we are and getting to know ourselves, our stories, and the decisions that shape our one and only life.

 

Writing with the passion and clarity that made his debut, To Shake the Sleeping Self, a national bestseller, Jedidiah Jenkins brings together new and old writings to explore the eight subjects that give life meaning: ego, family, home, friendship, love, work, death, the soul.

 

Who am I? What am I made of? How much of how I act boils down to avoiding the things that make me feel small? As he examines the experiences that shape our conscious and subconscious answers to these questions, Jenkins leads readers in a wide-ranging conversation about finding fulfillment in the people and places around us and discovering the courage to show our deepest selves to the world.

Mary Jane

Mary Jane

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The best book of the summer. -- InStyle

I LOVED this novel....If you have ever sung along to a hit on the radio, in any decade, then you will devour Mary Jane at 45 rpm. --Nick Hornby

Almost Famous meets Daisy Jones & The Six in this delightful (New York Times Book Review) novel about a fourteen-year-old girl's coming of age in 1970s Baltimore, caught between her straight-laced family and the progressive family she nannies for--who happen to be secretly hiding a famous rock star and his movie star wife for the summer.

In 1970s Baltimore, fourteen-year-old Mary Jane loves cooking with her mother, singing in her church choir, and enjoying her family's subscription to the Broadway Showtunes of the Month record club. Shy, quiet, and bookish, she's glad when she lands a summer job as a nanny for the daughter of a local doctor. A respectable job, Mary Jane's mother says. In a respectable house.

The house may look respectable on the outside, but inside it's a literal and figurative mess: clutter on every surface, Impeachment: Now More Than Ever bumper stickers on the doors, cereal and takeout for dinner. And even more troublesome (were Mary Jane's mother to know, which she does not): the doctor is a psychiatrist who has cleared his summer for one important job--helping a famous rock star dry out. A week after Mary Jane starts, the rock star and his movie star wife move in.

Over the course of the summer, Mary Jane introduces her new household to crisply ironed clothes and a family dinner schedule, and has a front-row seat to a liberal world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll (not to mention group therapy). Caught between the lifestyle she's always known and the future she's only just realized is possible, Mary Jane will arrive at September with a new idea about what she wants out of life, and what kind of person she's going to be.

Of Women and Salt

Of Women and Salt

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AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A GOOD MORNING AMERICA BOOK CLUB PICK

A sweeping, masterful debut about a daughter's fateful choice, a mother motivated by her own past, and a family legacy that begins in Cuba before either of them were born

In present-day Miami, Jeanette is battling addiction. Daughter of Carmen, a Cuban immigrant, she is determined to learn more about her family history from her reticent mother and makes the snap decision to take in the daughter of a neighbor detained by ICE. Carmen, still wrestling with the trauma of displacement, must process her difficult relationship with her own mother while trying to raise a wayward Jeanette. Steadfast in her quest for understanding, Jeanette travels to Cuba to see her grandmother and reckon with secrets from the past destined to erupt.

From 19th-century cigar factories to present-day detention centers, from Cuba to Mexico, Gabriela Garcia's Of Women and Salt is a kaleidoscopic portrait of betrayals--personal and political, self-inflicted and those done by others--that have shaped the lives of these extraordinary women. A haunting meditation on the choices of mothers, the legacy of the memories they carry, and the tenacity of women who choose to tell their stories despite those who wish to silence them, this is more than a diaspora story; it is a story of America's most tangled, honest, human roots.

Pretty Things

Pretty Things

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER - Two wildly different women--one a grifter, the other an heiress--are brought together by the scam of a lifetime in a page-turner from the New York Times bestselling author of Watch Me Disappear.

An ID Book Club Selection - "It's Dynasty meets Patricia Highsmith."--The Washington Post

 

Nina once bought into the idea that her fancy liberal arts degree would lead to a fulfilling career. When that dream crashed, she turned to stealing from rich kids in L.A. alongside her wily Irish boyfriend, Lachlan. Nina learned from the best: Her mother was the original con artist, hustling to give her daughter a decent childhood despite their wayward life. But when her mom gets sick, Nina puts everything on the line to help her, even if it means running her most audacious, dangerous scam yet.

 

Vanessa is a privileged young heiress who wanted to make her mark in the world. Instead she becomes an Instagram influencer--traveling the globe, receiving free clothes and products, and posing for pictures in exotic locales. But behind the covetable façade is a life marked by tragedy. After a broken engagement, Vanessa retreats to her family's sprawling mountain estate, Stonehaven: a mansion of dark secrets not just from Vanessa's past, but from that of a lost and troubled girl named Nina.

 

Nina's, Vanessa's, and Lachlan's paths collide here, on the cold shores of Lake Tahoe, where their intertwined lives give way to a winter of aspiration and desire, duplicity and revenge.

 

This dazzling, twisty, mesmerizing novel showcases acclaimed author Janelle Brown at her best, as two brilliant, damaged women try to survive the greatest game of deceit and destruction they will ever play.

Carrie: This is your respectable beach read, because it is excellent thriller with lots of layers of complexity and morality. Nina Ross is a grifter along with her boyfriend Lachlan. They are sort of modern-day Robin Hoods who target rich, flashy idiots and steal and re-sell items they might not even miss (jewelry, antiques, etc.) "Wealth was a band-aid, not an inoculation," is the kind of insight that gives the story an added layer of credibility. In fact Nina has a degree in Art History and an antiques store which is a front, though she had good intentions of living life on the up and up until her mother (also a con) was diagnosed with cancer and needed major money for her med bills. Nina targets society girl and social media influencer Vanessa Liebling and her Lake Tahoe home, Stone Haven for her next big heist. This one is personal. Nina lived in Tahoe as a teenager and was involved with Vanessa's kind, down-to-earth brother Benny in high school until the snooty Liebling family put a stop to it. Nina and her mother were essentially ousted from Tahoe and this becomes a pivotal moment for her. Vanessa is vapid, superficial and gullible. Posing as Ashley, the yoga instructor, and Michael O'Brien the English professor from Portland, the con couple rents the caretaker cottage from Vanessa in an attempt to get close to her and the cash. Vanessa starts to fall for it, but gets tipped off about Nina/Ashley. Now the con changes hands and directions. This happens several times with surprising outcomes and revelations - it's books within books and by the end, I didn't know who to root for, but I liked being along for the ride. It kept me guessing through the final chapter and the epilogue ended everything smoothly, but with just a little seed of doubt. Gotcha!

Sorrow and Bliss

Sorrow and Bliss

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"Improbably charming...will have you chortling and reading lines aloud." --PEOPLE

A compulsively readable debut novel--spiky, sharp, intriguingly dark, and tender--about a woman on the edge that combines the psychological insight of Sally Rooney with the sharp humor of Nina Stibbe and the emotional resonance of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.

Martha Friel just turned forty. Once, she worked at Vogue and planned to write a novel. Now, she creates internet content. She used to live in a pied-à-terre in Paris. Now she lives in a gated community in Oxford, the only person she knows without a PhD, a baby or both, in a house she hates but cannot bear to leave. But she must leave, now that her husband Patrick--the kind who cooks, throws her birthday parties, who loves her and has only ever wanted her to be happy--has just moved out.

Because there's something wrong with Martha, and has been for a long time. When she was seventeen, a little bomb went off in her brain and she was never the same. But countless doctors, endless therapy, every kind of drug later, she still doesn't know what's wrong, why she spends days unable to get out of bed or alienates both strangers and her loved ones with casually cruel remarks.

And she has nowhere to go except her childhood home: a bohemian (dilapidated) townhouse in a romantic (rundown) part of London--to live with her mother, a minorly important sculptor (and major drinker) and her father, a famous poet (though unpublished) and try to survive without the devoted, potty-mouthed sister who made all the chaos bearable back then, and is now too busy or too fed up to deal with her.

But maybe, by starting over, Martha will get to write a better ending for herself--and she'll find out that she's not quite finished after all.

This was the first book I put on the Champagne list as I started my Spring reading - I knew I had to bring it to the right crowd.  It put me in mind of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and Nothing to See Here, which are past PPB features.  The understated dry humor is the book’s shining quality and secret weapon because the story’s premise is painful. (Hence the title!) Martha just turned 40 and has been battling a misdiagnosed mental illness for about 20 years and a pretty unconventional childhood to boot and it has come to a head because her husband, who she has known from childhood has finally had enough. One reviewer called this an anti-love love story - Martha has built up so many defenses that she is practically a fortress.  But the hope that seeps through makes this a fab read. - Carrie

The Lost Manuscript

The Lost Manuscript

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Poignant and powerful.--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The Lost Manuscript is a charming epistolary novel about the love of books and magical ability they have to bring people together.

Sometimes a book has the power to change your life...

When Anne-Lise Briard books a room at the Beau Rivage Hotel for her vacation on the Brittany coast, she has no idea this trip will start her on the path to unearthing a mystery. In search of something to read, she opens up her bedside table drawer in her hotel room, and inside she finds an abandoned manuscript. Halfway through the pages, an address is written. She sends pages to the address, in hopes of potentially hearing a response from the unknown author. But not before she reads the story and falls in love with it. The response, which she receives a few days later, astonishes her...

Not only does the author write back, but he confesses that he lost the manuscript 30 years prior on a flight to Montreal. And then he reveals something even more shocking--that he was not the author of the second half of the book.

Anne-Lise can't rest until she discovers who this second mystery author is, and in doing so tracks down every person who has held this manuscript in their hands. Through the letters exchanged by the people whose lives the manuscript has touched, she discovers long-lost love stories and intimate secrets. Romances blossom and new friends are made. Everyone's lives are made better by this book--and isn't that the point of reading? And finally, with a plot twist you don't see coming, she uncovers the astonishing identity of the author who finished the story.

Oooh la la!  This utterly charming book takes place in France and is one of those bring-unlikely-people-together stories that warms your heart and highlights the ways we all need each other. When Anne-Lise finds a manuscript in the nightstand drawer of the hotel she is visiting, she reads it and becomes engrossed (and a little obsessed!).  Her first move is to send it to the address listed on the last page, returning it to the author who has not seen it for 30+ years!  Thus begin the letters that comprise the novel and create a widening web of associations and friendships as they try to find out where the draft has been for so long - and who added the ending.  If you liked The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer or The Red Notebook or The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurain, this is your book. - Carrie

Whereabouts

Whereabouts

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A NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER

A marvelous new novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Lowland and Interpreter of Maladies--her first in nearly a decade--about a woman questioning her place in the world, wavering between stasis and movement, between the need to belong and the refusal to form lasting ties.

A Most Anticipated Novel of 2021 from

- Buzzfeed - O, The Oprah Magazine - TIME - Vulture - Vogue - LitHub - Harper's Bazaar

Exuberance and dread, attachment and estrangement: in this novel, Jhumpa Lahiri stretches her themes to the limit. In the arc of one year, an unnamed narrator in an unnamed city, in the middle of her life's journey, realizes that she's lost her way. The city she calls home acts as a companion and interlocutor: traversing the streets around her house, and in parks, piazzas, museums, stores, and coffee bars, she feels less alone.

We follow her to the pool she frequents, and to the train station that leads to her mother, who is mired in her own solitude after her husband's untimely death. Among those who appear on this woman's path are colleagues with whom she feels ill at ease, casual acquaintances, and "him," a shadow who both consoles and unsettles her. Until one day at the sea, both overwhelmed and replenished by the sun's vital heat, her perspective will abruptly change.

This is the first novel Lahiri has written in Italian and translated into English. The reader will find the qualities that make Lahiri's work so beloved: deep intelligence and feeling, richly textured physical and emotional landscapes, and a poetics of dislocation. But Whereabouts, brimming with the impulse to cross barriers, also signals a bold shift of style and sensibility. By grafting herself onto a new literary language, Lahiri has pushed herself to a new level of artistic achievement.

One Amazing Thing - May Skinny Books

One Amazing Thing

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An acclaimed novel by the author of The Mistress of Spices, and Before We Visit the Goddess. Jhumpa Lahiri praises: "One Amazing Thing collapses the walls dividing characters and cultures; what endures is a chorus of voices in one single room."

 

Late afternoon sun sneaks through the windows of a passport and visa office in an unnamed American city. Most customers and even most office workers have come and gone, but nine people remain. A punky teenager with an unexpected gift. An upper-class Caucasian couple whose relationship is disintegrating. A young Muslim-American man struggling with the fallout of 9/11. A graduate student haunted by a question about love. An African-American ex-soldier searching for redemption. A Chinese grandmother with a secret past. And two visa office workers on the verge of an adulterous affair.

 

When an earthquake rips through the afternoon lull, trapping these nine characters together, their focus first jolts to their collective struggle to survive. There's little food. The office begins to flood. Then, at a moment when the psychological and emotional stress seems nearly too much for them to bear, the young graduate student suggests that each tell a personal tale, "one amazing thing" from their lives, which they have never told anyone before. And as their surprising stories of romance, marriage, family, political upheaval, and self-discovery unfold against the urgency of their life-or-death circumstances, the novel proves the transcendent power of stories and the meaningfulness of human expression itself. From Chitra Divakaruni, author of such finely wrought, bestselling novels as Sister of My Heart, The Palace of Illusions, and The Mistress of Spices, comes her most compelling and transporting story to date. One Amazing Thing is a passionate creation about survival -- and about the reasons to survive.

This was the May Skinny Book selection and I was pushing it as far as ‘skinny’ goes, but I think once the group got the names straight, all were hooked.  The premise is a bit of a trope:  a group of strangers get stuck together for a length of time and share stories.  But the author did a fantastic job of building on that to a completely fresh take with completely fresh results: 9 people trying to procure visas to India are trapped when an earthquake rocks the building and seals them in the office. The situation is dire: a couple small injuries, no electricity, water slowly trickling in, only small snacks and a few water bottles. But to pass the time and avoid panic, they each agree to tell a story about one amazing thing.  Wow!  So the book becomes two threads you care about: what each character shares, and will they get out? - Carrie