Monday, June 3, 2013

May Books

 Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan got great reviews—“A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life.” After the Great Recession sidelines his tech career, Clay Jannon takes a job at a strange bookstore in San Francisco, and soon realizes that the establishment is a facade for a strange secret sect that will take the intellectual resources of his nerdy friends and Google to unravel.

*The Next Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business by Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen is a “widely anticipated, transformational vision of the future: a world where everyone is connected—a world full of challenges and benefits.” Clearly, it is an important book by “two of our most prescient and informed public thinkers” and deserving of incredible reviews from around the world. Nevertheless,  after struggling through the first 200 pages, I settled for a 20 page summary prepared by Amazon. 

The Trust by Norb Vonnegut offers an insider’s perspective   and dark humor in a fast-talking suspense thriller.  Summoned to Charleston to settle the affairs of a drowned real estate magnate and mentor who had been running a lucrative investment firm and a successful philanthropic trust,  Grove O'Rourke authorizes a charitable transfer only to discover disturbing links between the organization and illicit groups. Lots of action and close escapes follow in a readable novel that isn’t likely to make many college reading lists.

*The Dinner by Herman Koch is a dark, suspenseful novel of love and hate and how they often overlap. At a fashionable, pretentious Amsterdam restaurant, two couples move from small talk to the wrenching shared challenge of their teenage sons' senseless act of violence that has triggered a police investigation and will force the parents to make the most difficult decision of their lives. During the course on a single meal, each parent will determine the extent to which each family will go to protect their children. “Tautly written, incredibly gripping, and told by an unforgettable narrator,” The Dinner has doubtless been the topic of countless dinner party debates in 26 countries.

The Kingdom of Men by Kim Barnes, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for In the Wilderness, traces the experiences of a dirt poor woman in the 1960s who gets pregnant to escape her Oklahoma town and then follows her new husband to an expat community provided by The Saudi American Petroleum Company.  As she learns to enjoy the relative luxury of her new life, the death of a young Bedouin woman causes her to question the prescribed role of women and the values of her new community. A great concept, but crippled by one-dimensional characters and a disappointing ending.

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