Book Previews


Fools and Mortals , by Bernard Cornwell

New York Times bestselling author Bernard Cornwell makes a dramatic departure with this enthralling, action-packed standalone novel that tells the story of the first production of A Midsummer Night's Dream—as related by William Shakespeare’s estranged younger brother.

Lord, what fools these mortals be . . .

In the heart of Elizabethan England, Richard Shakespeare dreams of a glittering career in one of the London playhouses, a world dominated by his older brother, William. But he is a penniless actor, making ends meet through a combination of a beautiful face, petty theft and a silver tongue. As William’s star rises, Richard’s onetime gratitude is souring and he is sorely tempted to abandon family loyalty.

So when a priceless manuscript goes missing, suspicion falls upon Richard, forcing him onto a perilous path through a bawdy and frequently brutal London. Entangled in a high-stakes game of duplicity and betrayal which threatens not only his career and potential fortune, but also the lives of his fellow players, Richard has to call on all he has now learned from the brightest stages and the darkest alleyways of the city. To avoid the gallows, he must play the part of a lifetime . . . .

Showcasing the superb storytelling skill that has won Bernard Cornwell international renown, Fools and Mortals is a richly portrayed tour de force that brings to life a vivid world of intricate stagecraft, fierce competition, and consuming ambition.

An American Marriage , by Tayari Jones
Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.
This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriageis a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward--with hope and pain--into the future.

Look For Me , by Lisa Gardner
In #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Gardner's latest twisty thrill ride, Detective D. D. Warren and Find Her's Flora Dane return in a race against the clock to either save a young girl's life...or bring her to justice.

The home of a family of five is now a crime scene: four of them savagely murdered, one—a sixteen-year-old girl—missing. Was she lucky to have escaped? Or is her absence evidence of something sinister? Detective D. D. Warren is on the case—but so is survivor-turned-avenger Flora Dane. Seeking different types of justice, they must make sense of the clues left behind by a young woman who, whether as victim or suspect, is silently pleading, Look for me.

The Great Alone , by Kristin Hannah

Alaska, 1974.
Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.
For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if means following him into the unknown.

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.

Night Moves , by Jonathan Kellerman
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The master of the psychological thriller makes all the right moves in this new novel of spellbinding suspense.

Even with all his years of experience, LAPD homicide detective Milo Sturgis knows there are crimes his skill and savvy cannot solve alone. That’s when he calls on brilliant psychologist Alex Delaware to read between the lines, where the darkest motives lurk. And if ever the good doctor’s insight is needed, it’s at the scene of a murder as baffling as it is brutal.
There’s no spilled blood, no evidence of a struggle, and, thanks to the victim’s missing face and hands, no immediate means of identification. And no telling why the disfigured corpse of a stranger has appeared in an upscale L.A. family’s home. Chet Corvin, his wife, and their two teenage children are certain the John Doe is unknown to them. Despite that, their cooperation seems guarded. And that’s more than Milo and Alex can elicit from the Corvins’ creepy next-door neighbor—a notorious cartoonist with a warped sense of humor and a seriously antisocial attitude.

As the investigation ensues, it becomes clear that this well-to-do suburban enclave has its share of curious eyes, suspicious minds, and loose lips. And as Milo tightens the screws on potential persons of interest—and Alex tries to breach the barriers that guard their deepest secrets—a strangling web of corrupted love, cold-blooded greed, and shattered trust is exposed. Though the grass may be greener on these privileged streets, there’s enough dirt below the surface to bury a multitude of sins. Including the deadliest.

The Masterpiece , by Francine Rivers
New York Times bestselling author Francine Rivers returns to her romance roots with this unexpected and redemptive love story, a probing tale that reminds us that mercy can shape even the most broken among us into an imperfect yet stunning masterpiece.

A successful LA artist, Roman Velasco appears to have everything he could possibly want―money, women, fame. Only Grace Moore, his reluctant, newly hired personal assistant, knows how little he truly has. The demons of Roman’s past seem to echo through the halls of his empty mansion and out across his breathtaking Topanga Canyon view. But Grace doesn’t know how her boss secretly wrestles with those demons: by tagging buildings as the Bird, a notorious but unidentified graffiti artist―an alter ego that could destroy his career and land him in prison.

Like Roman, Grace is wrestling with ghosts and secrets of her own. After a disastrous marriage threw her life completely off course, she vowed never to let love steal her dreams again. But as she gets to know the enigmatic man behind the reputation, it’s as if the jagged pieces of both of their pasts slowly begin to fit together . . . until something so unexpected happens that it changes the course of their relationship―and both their lives―forever.

White Houses , by Amy Bloom
For readers of The Paris Wife and The Swans of Fifth Avenue comes a love story inspired by “one of the most intriguing relationships in history”*—between Eleanor Roosevelt and “first friend” Lorena Hickok. 

Lorena Hickok meets Eleanor Roosevelt in 1932 while reporting on Franklin Roosevelt’s first presidential campaign. Having grown up worse than poor in South Dakota and reinvented herself as the most prominent woman reporter in America, “Hick,” as she’s known to her friends and admirers, is not quite instantly charmed by the idealistic, patrician Eleanor. But then, as her connection with the future first lady deepens into intimacy, what begins as a powerful passion matures into a lasting love, and a life that Hick never expected to have. She moves into the White House, where her status as “first friend” is an open secret, as are FDR’s own lovers. After she takes a job in the Roosevelt administration, promoting and protecting both Roosevelts, she comes to know Franklin not only as a great president but as a complicated rival and an irresistible friend, capable of changing lives even after his death. Through it all, even as Hick’s bond with Eleanor is tested by forces both extraordinary and common, and as she grows as a woman and a writer, she never loses sight of the love of her life. 

From Washington, D.C. to Hyde Park, from a little white house on Long Island to an apartment on Manhattan’s Washington Square, Amy Bloom’s new novel moves elegantly through fascinating places and times, written in compelling prose and with emotional depth, wit, and acuity.

Surprise Me , by Sophie Kinsella
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A witty and emotionally charged novel that delves into the heart of a marriage, and how those we love and think we know best can sometimes surprise us the most
After ten years together, Sylvie and Dan have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, and beautiful twin girls, and they communicate so seamlessly they finish each other’s sentences. They have a happy marriage and believe they know everything there is to know about each other. Until it’s casually mentioned to them that they could be together for another sixty-eight years . . . and panic sets in. 
They decide to bring surprises into their marriage to keep it fresh and fun. But in their pursuit of Project Surprise Me—from unexpected gifts to restaurant dates to sexy photo shoots—mishaps arise, with disastrous and comical results. Gradually, surprises turn to shocking truths. And when a scandal from the past is uncovered, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other at all.
With a colorful cast of eccentric characters, razor-sharp observations, and her signature wit and charm, Sophie Kinsella presents a humorous yet moving portrait of a marriage—its intricacies, comforts, and complications. Surprise Me reveals that hidden layers in a close relationship are often yet to be discovered.

Poison , by John Lescroart
In John Lescroart’s latest thriller, San Francisco attorney Dismas Hardy is called upon to investigate the murder of a wealthy man whose heirs are all potential suspects.

Dismas Hardy is looking forward to easing into retirement and reconnecting with his family after recovering from two glancing gunshot wounds courtesy of a recent client. But this plan is cut short when, against his wife’s wishes, he is pulled back into the courtroom by the murder of Grant Wagner, the steely owner of a successful family business. The prime suspect is Wagner’s bookkeeper, Abby Jarvis, a former client of Hardy’s who had been receiving large sums of cash under-the-table from the company—but she insists that she’s innocent and Dismas wants to believe her.

As he prepares for trial, Dismas probes deeply into the Wagner clan’s history, discovering dark secrets, jealous siblings, gold-digging girlfriends, startling betrayals, and menacing blackmailers. Suspense builds as the trial date looms, and the closer Dismas gets to the Wagners, the clearer it becomes that he has a large target painted on his back.

With John Lescroart’s razor-sharp dialogue, intricate plotting and relentless pacing, Poison is a nail-biter that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

Munich , by Robert Harris
From the internationally best-selling author of Fatherlandand the Cicero Trilogy--a new spy thriller about treason and conscience, loyalty and betrayal, set against the backdrop of the fateful Munich Conference of September 1938.

Hugh Legat is a rising star of the British diplomatic service, serving at 10 Downing Street as a private secretary to the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. Paul von Hartmann is on the staff of the German Foreign Office--and secretly a member of the anti-Hitler resistance. The two men were friends at Oxford in the 1920s, but have not been in contact since. Now, when Hugh flies with Chamberlain from London to Munich, and Rikard travels on Hitler's train overnight from Berlin, their paths are set on a disastrous collision course. And once again, Robert Harris gives us actual events of historical importance--here are Hitler, Chamberlain, Mussolini, Daladier--at the heart of an electrifying, unputdownable novel.

The Power , by Naomi Alderman
What would happen if women suddenly possessed a fierce new power?

In THE POWER, the world is a recognizable place: there's a rich Nigerian boy who lounges around the family pool; a foster kid whose religious parents hide their true nature; an ambitious American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But then a vital new force takes root and flourishes, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power--they can cause agonizing pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world drastically resets.

From award-winning author Naomi Alderman, THE POWER is speculative fiction at its most ambitious and provocative, at once taking us on a thrilling journey to an alternate reality, and exposing our own world in bold and surprising ways.

Two Nights , by Kathy Reichs
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A standalone thriller featuring a “tough-talking, scarred heroine”* from the author of the Temperance Brennan series, the basis for the hit TV show Bones.

Meet Sunday Night, a woman with physical and psychological scars, and a killer instinct. . . .

Sunnie has spent years running from her past, burying secrets and building a life in which she needs no one and feels nothing. But a girl has gone missing, lost in the chaos of a bomb explosion, and the family needs Sunnie’s help. Is the girl dead? Did someone take her? If she is out there, why doesn’t she want to be found?

It’s time for Sunnie to face her own demons—because they just might lead her to the truth about what really happened all those years ago.

Unquiet Grave , by Sharyn McCrumb
From New York Times bestselling author Sharyn McCrumb comes a finely wrought novel set in nineteenth-century West Virginia, based on the true story of one of the strangest murder trials in American history—the case of the Greenbrier Ghost.

Lakin, West Virginia, 1930
Following a suicide attempt and consigned to a segregated insane asylum, attorney James P. D. Gardner finds himself under the care of Dr. James Boozer. Fresh out of medical school, Dr. Boozer is eager to try the new talking cure for insanity, and encourages his elderly patient to reminisce about his experiences as the first black attorney to practice law in nineteenth-century West Virginia. Gardner's most memorable case was the one in which he helped to defend a white man on trial for the murder of his young bride—a case that the prosecution based on the testimony of a ghost.

Greenbrier, West Virginia, 1897
Beautiful, willful Zona Heaster has always lived in the mountains of West Virginia. Despite her mother’s misgivings, Zona marries Erasmus Trout Shue, the handsome blacksmith who has recently come to Greenbrier County. After weeks of silence from the newlyweds, riders come to the Heasters’ place to tell them that Zona has died from a fall, attributed to a recent illness. Mary Jane is determined to get justice for her daughter. A month after the funeral, she informs the county prosecutor that Zona’s ghost appeared to her, saying that she had been murdered. An autopsy, ordered by the reluctant prosecutor, confirms her claim.

The Greenbrier Ghost is renowned in American folklore, but Sharyn McCrumb is the first author to look beneath the legend to unearth the facts. Using a century of genealogical material and other historical documents, McCrumb reveals new information about the story and brings to life the personalities in the trial: the prosecutor, a former Confederate cavalryman; the defense attorney, a pro-Union bridgeburner, who nevertheless had owned slaves; and the mother of the murdered woman, who doggedly sticks to her ghost story—all seen through the eyes of a young black lawyer on the cusp of a new century, with his own tragedies yet to come.

With its unique blend of masterful research and mesmerizing folklore, illuminating the story’s fascinating and complex characters, The Unquiet Grave confirms Sharyn McCrumb’s place among the finest Southern writers at work today.

Plague Land , by Alex Scarrow

The only thing more terrifying than a deadly virus is a deadly virus with an agenda...

Leon and his younger sister, Grace, have recently moved to London from New York and are struggling to settle into their new school when rumors of an unidentified plague in Africa begin to fill the news. Within a week, the virus hits London. The siblings witness people turning to liquid before their eyes, and they run for their lives.

A month after touching Earth's atmosphere, the virus has wiped out most of the population. Desperate to stay alive, Leon and Grace are reluctantly taken in by a tight-knit group of survivors. But as they struggle to win their trust, the siblings realize that the virus isn't their only enemy, and survival is just the first step...

Robert B Parker's The Hangman's Sonnet, by Reed Farrel Coleman
The stellar new novel in Robert B. Parker's New York Timesbestselling series featuring Paradise police chief Jesse Stone. 

Jesse Stone, still reeling from the murder of his fiancée by crazed assassin Mr. Peepers, must keep his emotions in check long enough to get through the wedding day of his loyal protégé, Suitcase Simpson. The morning of the wedding, Jesse learns that a gala 75th birthday party is to be held for folk singer Terry Jester. Jester, once the equal of Bob Dylan, has spent the last forty years in seclusion after the mysterious disappearance of the master recording tape of his magnum opus, The Hangman's Sonnet

That same morning, an elderly Paradise woman dies while her house is being ransacked. What are the thieves looking for? And what's the connection to Terry Jester and the mysterious missing tape? Jesse's investigation is hampered by hostile politicians and a growing trail of blood and bodies, forcing him to solicit the help of mobster Vinnie Morris and a certain Boston area PI named Spenser. While the town fathers pressure him to avoid a PR nightmare, Jesse must connect the cases before the bodies pile up further.

Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza , by Shaun David Hutchinson
From the critically acclaimed author of We Are the Ants and At the Edge of the Universe comes a mind-bending, riveting novel about a teen who was born to a virgin mother and realizes she has the power to heal—but that power comes at a huge cost.

Sixteen-year-old Elena Mendoza is the product of a virgin birth.

This can be scientifically explained (it’s called parthenogenesis), but what can’t be explained is how Elena is able to heal Freddie, the girl she’s had a crush on for years, from a gunshot wound in a Starbucks parking lot. Or why the boy who shot Freddie, David Combs, disappeared from the same parking lot minutes later after getting sucked up into the clouds. What also can’t be explained are the talking girl on the front of a tampon box, or the reasons that David Combs shot Freddie in the first place.

As more unbelievable things occur, and Elena continues to perform miracles, the only remaining explanation is the least logical of all—that the world is actually coming to an end, and Elena is possibly the only one who can do something about it.

Beautiful Days , by Joyce Carol Oates

A new collection of thirteen mesmerizing stories by American master Joyce Carol Oates, including the 2017 Pushcart Prize–winning “Undocumented Alien”

The diverse stories of Beautiful Days, Joyce Carol Oates explore the most secret, intimate, and unacknowledged interior lives of characters not unlike ourselves, who assert their independence in acts of bold and often irrevocable defiance.

“Fleuve Bleu” exemplifies the rich sensuousness of Oates’s prose as lovers married to other persons vow to establish, in their intimacy, a ruthlessly honest, truth-telling authenticity missing elsewhere in their complicated lives, with unexpected results. 

In “Big Burnt,” set on lushly rendered Lake George, in the Adirondacks, a cunningly manipulative university professor exploits a too-trusting woman in a way she could never have anticipated. In a more experimental but no less intimate mode, “Les beaux jours” examines the ambiguities of an intensely erotic, exploitative relationship between a “master” artist and his adoring young female model. And the tragic “Undocumented Alien” depicts a young African student enrolled in an American university who is suddenly stripped of his student visa and forced to undergo a terrifying test of courage.

In these stories, as elsewhere in her fiction, Joyce Carol Oates exhibits her fascination with the social, psychological, and moral boundaries that govern our behavior—until the hour when they do not.

The Hush , by John Hart

Building on the world first seen in The Last Child (“A magnificent creation” ―The Washington Post), John Hart delivers a stunning vision of a secret world, rarely seen.

It’s been ten years since the events that changed Johnny Merrimon’s life and rocked his hometown to the core. Since then, Johnny has fought to maintain his privacy, but books have been written of his exploits; the fascination remains. Living alone on six thousand acres of once-sacred land, Johnny’s only connection to normal life is his old friend, Jack. They’re not boys anymore, but the bonds remain. What they shared. What they lost.

But Jack sees danger in the wild places Johnny calls home; he senses darkness and hunger, an intractable intent. Johnny will discuss none of it, but there are the things he knows, the things he can do. A lesser friend might accept such abilities as a gift, but Jack has felt what moves in the swamp: the cold of it, the unspeakable fear.

More than an exploration of friendship, persistence, and forgotten power, The Hush leaves all categories behind, and cements Hart's status as a writer of unique power.

The Storm King , by Brendan Duffy
Haunted by dark secrets and an unsolved mystery, a young doctor returns to his isolated Adirondacks hometown in a tense, gripping novel in the vein of Michael Koryta and Harlan Coben.

Burying the past only gives it strength—and fury.

Nate McHale has assembled the kind of life most people would envy. After a tumultuous youth marked by his inexplicable survival of a devastating tragedy, Nate left his Adirondack hometown of Greystone Lake and never looked back.  Fourteen years later, he’s become a respected New York City surgeon, devoted husband, and loving father. 
Then a body is discovered deep in the forests that surround Greystone Lake.
This disturbing news finally draws Nate home. While navigating a tense landscape of secrets and suspicion, resentments and guilt, Nate reconnects with estranged friends and old enemies, and encounters strangers who seem to know impossible things about him. Haunting every moment is the Lake’s  sinister history and the memory of wild, beautiful Lucy Bennett, with whom Nate is forever linked by shattering loss and youthful passion. 
As a massive hurricane bears down on the Northeast, the air becomes electric, the clouds grow dark, and escalating acts of violence echo events from Nate’s own past. Without a doubt, a reckoning is coming—one that will lay bare the lies that lifelong friends have told themselves and unleash a vengeance that may consume them all.

The Escape Artist , by Brad Meltzer
Nola is a mystery
Nola is trouble.
And Nola is supposed to be dead.
Her body was found on a plane that mysteriously fell from the sky as it left a secret military base in the Alaskan wilderness. Her commanding officer verifies she's dead. The US government confirms it. But Jim "Zig" Zigarowski has just found out the truth: Nola is still alive. And on the run.
Zig works at Dover Air Force Base, helping put to rest the bodies of those who die on top-secret missions. Nola was a childhood friend of Zig's daughter and someone who once saved his daughter's life. So when Zig realizes Nola is still alive, he's determined to find her. Yet as Zig digs into Nola's past, he learns that trouble follows Nola everywhere she goes.
Nola is the U.S. Army's artist-in-residence-a painter and trained soldier who rushes into battle, making art from war's aftermath and sharing observations about today's wars that would otherwise go overlooked. On her last mission, Nola saw something nobody was supposed to see, earning her an enemy unlike any other, one who will do whatever it takes to keep Nola quiet.
Together, Nola and Zig will either reveal a sleight of hand being played at the highest levels of power or die trying to uncover the US Army's most mysterious secret-a centuries-old conspiracy that traces back through history to the greatest escape artist of all: Harry Houdini.

Fledgling , by Octavia Butler
"A master storyteller, Butler casts an unflinching eye on racism, sexism, poverty, and ignorance and lets the reader see the terror and beauty of human nature." - The Washington Post 

This is the story of an apparently young, amnesiac girl whose alarmingly unhuman needs and abilities lead her to a startling conclusion: She is in fact a genetically modified, 53-year-old vampire. Forced to discover what she can about her stolen former life, she must at the same time learn who wanted-and still wants-to destroy her and those she cares for and how she can save herself. 

A Death in Live Oak , by James Grippano

From the 2017 winner of the Harper Lee Prize for legal fiction comes a powerful and timely story of race, politics, injustice, and murder as shocking and incendiary as today’s headlines.

When the body of Jamal Cousin, president of the pre-eminent black fraternity at the Florida's flagship university, is discovered hogtied in the Stygian water swamps of the Suwanee River Valley, the death sets off a firestorm that threatens to rage out of control when a fellow student, Mark Towson, the president of a prominent white fraternity, is accused of the crime.

Contending with rising political tensions, racial unrest, and a sensational media, Towson’s defense attorney, Jack Swyteck, knows that the stakes could not be higher—inside or outside the old Suwanee County Couthouse.  The evidence against his client, which includes a threatening text message referencing "strange fruit" on the river, seems overwhelming. Then Jack gets a break that could turn the case. Jamal's gruesome murder bears disturbing similarities to another lynching that occurred back in the Jim Crow days of 1944. Are the chilling parallels purely coincidental? With a community in chaos and a young man’s life in jeopardy, Jack will use every resource to find out.

As he navigates each twist and turn of the search, Jack becomes increasingly convinced that his client may himself be the victim of a criminal plan more sinister than the case presented by the state attorney. Risking his own reputation, this principled man who has devoted his life to the law plunges headfirst into the darkest recesses of the South’s past, and its murky present, to uncover answers.

For Jack, it's about the truth. Traversing time, from the days of strict segregation to the present, he’ll find it—no matter what the cost—and bring much-needed justice to Suwanee County.


Directorate S , by Steve Coll
Resuming the narrative of his Pulitzer Prize-winning Ghost Wars, bestselling author Steve Coll tells for the first time the epic and enthralling story of America's intelligence, military, and diplomatic efforts to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan since 9/11

Prior to 9/11, the United States had been carrying out small-scale covert operations in Afghanistan, ostensibly in cooperation, although often in direct opposition, with I.S.I., the Pakistani intelligence agency. While the US was trying to quell extremists, a highly secretive and compartmentalized wing of I.S.I., known as "Directorate S," was covertly training, arming, and seeking to legitimize the Taliban, in order to enlarge Pakistan's sphere of influence. After 9/11, when fifty-nine countries, led by the U. S., deployed troops or provided aid to Afghanistan in an effort to flush out the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the U.S. was set on an invisible slow-motion collision course with Pakistan.

Today we know that the war in Afghanistan would falter badly because of military hubris at the highest levels of the Pentagon, the drain on resources and provocation in the Muslim world caused by the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and corruption. But more than anything, as Coll makes painfully clear, the war in Afghanistan was doomed because of the failure of the United States to apprehend the motivations and intentions of I.S.I.'s "Directorate S". This was a swirling and shadowy struggle of historic proportions, which endured over a decade and across both the Bush and Obama administrations, involving multiple secret intelligence agencies, a litany of incongruous strategies and tactics, and dozens of players, including some of the most prominent military and political figures. A sprawling American tragedy, the war was an open clash of arms but also a covert melee of ideas, secrets, and subterranean violence. 

Coll excavates this grand battle, which took place away from the gaze of the American public. With unsurpassed expertise, original research, and attention to detail, he brings to life a narrative at once vast and intricate, local and global, propulsive and painstaking. 

This is the definitive explanation of how America came to be so badly ensnared in an elaborate, factional, and seemingly interminable conflict in South Asia. Nothing less than a forensic examination of the personal and political forces that shape world history, Directorate S is a complete masterpiece of both investigative and narrative journalism.

Enlightenment Now , by Steven Pinker
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? In this elegant assessment of the human condition in the third millennium, cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, which play to our psychological biases. Instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise, not just in the West, but worldwide. This progress is not the result of some cosmic force. It is a gift of the Enlightenment: the conviction that reason and science can enhance human flourishing.

Far from being a naïve hope, the Enlightenment, we now know, has worked. But more than ever, it needs a vigorous defense. The Enlightenment project swims against currents of human nature--tribalism, authoritarianism, demonization, magical thinking--which demagogues are all too willing to exploit. Many commentators, committed to political, religious, or romantic ideologies, fight a rearguard action against it. The result is a corrosive fatalism and a willingness to wreck the precious institutions of liberal democracy and global cooperation. 

With intellectual depth and literary flair, Enlightenment Nowmakes the case for reason, science, and humanism: the ideals we need to confront our problems and continue our progress.