What to Read

August 2, 2018


South Toward Home: Adventures and Misadventures in My Native Land

By Julia Reed


In considering the pleasures and absurdities of her native culture, Julia Reed quotes another Southern writer, Willie Morris, who said, “It’s the juxtapositions that get you down here.” These juxtapositions are, for Julia, the soul of the South, and in her warmhearted and funny new book, she chronicles her adventures through the highs and the lows of Southern life. She writes about the region’s music and food, its pesky critters and prodigious drinking habits, its inhabitants’ penchant for making their own fun and, crucially, their gift for laughing at themselves. With her distinctive voice and knowing eye, Julia also provides her take on the South’s more embarrassing characteristics, from the politics of lust and the persistence of dry counties to the “seemingly bottomless propensity for committing a whole lot of craziness in the name of the Lord.” No matter what, she writes, “My fellow Southerners have brought me the greatest joy – on the page, over the airwaves, around the dinner table, at the bar or, hell, in the checkout line.”





The Soul of America: The Battle for our Better Angels

By Jon Meacham


Our current climate of partisan fury is not new, and in The Soul of America Meacham shows us how what Abraham Lincoln called the “better angels of our nature” have repeatedly won the day. Painting surprising portraits of Lincoln and other presidents and illuminating the courage of such influential citizen activists as Martin Luther King, Jr. and early suffragettes Alice Paul and Carrie Chapman Catt, among many others, Meacham brings vividly to life turning points in American history. Each of these dramatic hours in our national life have been shaped by the contest to lead the country to look forward rather than back, to assert hope over fear – a struggle that continues even now.While the American story has not always – or even often – been heroic, we have been sustained by a belief in progress even in the gloomiest of times. In this inspiring book, Meacham reassures us, “The good news is that we have come through such darkness before” – as, time and again, Lincoln’s better angels have found a way to prevail.





The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma’s Table

By Rick Bragg


In his newest book, Rick Bragg brings us a delectable, rollicking food memoir, cookbook and loving tribute to a region, a vanishing history, a family and, especially, to his mother.Margaret Bragg does not own a single cookbook. She measures in "dabs" and "smidgens" and "tads" and "you know, hon, just some." She cannot be pinned down on how long to bake corn bread ("about fifteen to twenty minutes, depending on the mysteries of your oven"). Her notion of farm-to-table is a flatbed truck. But she can tell you the secrets to perfect mashed potatoes, corn pudding, redeye gravy, pinto beans and hambone, stewed cabbage, short ribs, chicken and dressing, biscuits and butter rolls. The irresistible stories in this book are of long memory – many of them pre-date the Civil War, handed down skillet by skillet from one generation of Braggs to the next. In The Best Cook in the World, Rick finally preserves his heritage by telling the stories that framed his mother's cooking and education, from childhood into old age.





The Golden House

By Salman Rushdie


On the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration, an enigmatic billionaire from foreign shores takes up residence in the architectural jewel of “the Gardens,” a cloistered community in New York’s Greenwich Village. The neighborhood is a bubble within a bubble, and the residents are immediately intrigued by the eccentric newcomer and his family. Along with his improbable name, untraceable accent, and unmistakable whiff of danger, Nero Golden has brought along his three eccentric adult sons. There is no mother, no wife, until Vasilisa, a sleek Russian expat, snags the septuagenarian Nero, becoming the queen to his king. Our guide to the Goldens’ world is their neighbor René, an ambitious young filmmaker. Seduced by their mystique, he is inevitably implicated in their quarrels, their infidelities and, indeed, their crimes. Meanwhile, like a bad joke, a certain comic-book villain embarks upon a crass presidential run that turns New York upside down. Set against the strange and exuberant backdrop of current American culture and politics, The Golden Houseis a modern epic of love and terrorism, loss and reinvention – a powerful, timely story told with the daring and panache that make Salman Rushdie a force of light in our dark new age.



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