Monday, August 6, 2012

April Books

**Girl Child by Tupelo Hassman is an exquisite counterpoint to “Starboard Sea” as Rory Hendrix devours the Girl Scout Handbook to discover a way out of the Reno trailer park where she lives with her mother, Jo, a hard-luck bartender at the Truck Stop. Rory’s been told that she is a “third-generation bastard surely on the road to whoredom.”  From diary entries, social workers’ reports, half-recalled memories, arrest records, family lore, Supreme Court opinions, and her grandmother’s letters, Hassman crafts a devastating collage that shows the frighteningly unfair world of the bottom 1%.

**The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont is “A rich, quietly artful novel that is bound for deep water, with questions of beauty, power and spiritual navigation.” Jason Prosper lives in the elite world of Manhattan penthouses, Maine summer estates, old-boy prep schools, and exclusive sailing clubs. Now at a “last chance” school trying to cope with the suicide of his sailing partner and best friend, Jason needs to grow up.  The novel is reminiscent of Catcher in the Rye with a little mystery thrown in for good measure.

Bull Street by David Lender is the story of Richard Blum, a naïve, young Wall Streeter who gives a jaded billionaire the chance for redemption, as they figure out how they were framed by an insider trading ring before they wind up in jail or dead.  Lender knows Wall Street and weaves an engaging, albeit formulaic, story that lacks subtlety or nuance. 
**Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think  by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler  optimistically  documents how four forces—exponential technologies, the DIY innovator, the “Technophilanthropist”, and the Rising Billion—are conspiring to solve our biggest problems  in the near and medium term future.  The authors introduce dozens of innovators who are making great strides in each our major problem areas--water, food, energy, healthcare, education, freedom and lays out a strategic roadmap for governments, industry and entrepreneurs.

*Schmidt Steps Back by Louis Begley reveals a very different Schmidt than the movie version with Jack Nicholas.  Schmidt is now in his late 70’s and is reviewing the past decade with numerous, varied lovers (a 20-year old Puerto Rican waitress, a 50-year-old Czech NGO manager and the French widow of a former law partner, among others).  He copes with the traumas of his estranged daughter by sharing his financial largess-- made possible partially through his new role as head of a multi-national foundation founded by his billionaire friend. Despite the broad brush, Begley manages to paint a portrait that is engaging and almost believable.

The Obamas by Jodi Kantor “takes us deep inside the White House as the first couple try to grapple with their new roles, change the country, raise children, maintain friendships, and figure out what it means to be the first black President and First Lady.” Filled with excellent detail and insight into their partnership, emotions and personalities, The Obamas is a balanced, yet intimate portrait that will surprise informed readers who thought they knew the President and First Lady.

The Darlings by Christina Alger is “a sophisticated page-turner about a wealthy New York family embroiled in a financial scandal” a la Bernie Madoff. As the son-in-law of Carter Carling, attorney Paul Ross has grown accustomed to New York society and all of its luxuries.  When the economy tanks, Carter offers Paul  the chance to head the legal team at his hedge fund.  When the Darling family is involved in a red-hot scandal, Paul must decide if he will he save himself or protect the family business at all costs.

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