New York Times Bestsellers
Week of May 24, 2020
FICTION
#1  (Last Week: 2 Weeks on List: 89)  
Where The Crawdads Sing
Book Jacket   Delia Owens
Kirkus Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A wild child's isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder."The Marsh Girl," "swamp trash"Catherine "Kya" Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband's beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya's fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl's collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya's coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man's body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, "star quarterback and town hot shot," who was once Kya's lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel's weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymatha published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.Despite some distractions, there's an irresistible charm to Owens' first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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#2  (Last Week: 1 Weeks on List: 3)  
Camino Winds
Book Jacket   John Grisham
 
#3  (Last Week: 3 Weeks on List: 4)  
If It Bleeds
 Stephen King
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#4  (Last Week: 6 Weeks on List: 4)  
Walk The Wire
 David Baldacci
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#5  (Last Week: 4 Weeks on List: 2)  
The 20th Victim
Book Jacket   James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
#6  (Last Week: 7 Weeks on List: 2)  
Big Summer
Book Jacket   Jennifer Weiner
 
#7  (Last Week: 10 Weeks on List: 17)  
American Dirt
 Jeanine Cummins
Kirkus Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. This terrifying and tender novel is a blunt answer to the question of why immigrants from Latin America cross the U.S. borderand a testimony to the courage it takes to do it.Cummins (The Crooked Branch, 2013, etc.) opens this propulsive novel with a massacre. In a pleasant Acapulco neighborhood, gunmen slaughter 16 people at a family barbecue, from a grandmother to the girl whose quinceaera they are celebrating. The only survivors are Lydia, a young mother, and her 8-year-old son, Luca. She knows they must escape, fast and far. Lydia's husband, Sebastin, is among the dead; he was a fearless journalist whose coverage of the local cartel, Los Jardineros, is the reason los sicarios were sent, as the sign fastened to his dead chest makes clear. Lydia knows there is more to it, that her friendship with a courtly older man who has become her favorite customer at the small bookstore she runs is a secret key, and that she and her son are marked for death. Cummins does a splendid job of capturing Lydia's and Luca's numb shock and then panic in the aftermath of the shootings, then their indomitable will to survive and reach el norteany place they might go in Mexico is cartel territory, and any stranger might be an assassin. She vividly recounts their harrowing travels for more than 1,000 miles by bus, atop a lethally dangerous freight train, and finally on foot across the implacable Sonoran Desert. Peril and brutality follow them, but they also encounter unexpected generosity and heroism. Lydia and Luca are utterly believable characters, and their breathtaking journey moves with the velocity and power of one of those freight trains.Intensely suspenseful and deeply humane, this novel makes migrants seeking to cross the southern U.S. border indelibly individual. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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#8  (Last Week: - Weeks on List: 1)  
The Last Trial
 Scott Turow
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#9  (Last Week: 5 Weeks on List: 2)  
All Adults Here
Book Jacket   Emma Straub
#10  (Last Week: 8 Weeks on List: 4)  
The Book Of Longings
Book Jacket   Sue Monk Kidd
 


NONFICTION
#1  (Last Week: 1 Weeks on List: 10)  
Untamed
 Glennon Doyle
Kirkus Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. "Four years ago," she writes, "married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman." That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections"Caged," "Keys," "Freedom"the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author's girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a "caged girl made for wide-open skies." She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into "drinking, drugging, and purging," Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she'd been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband's infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she'd never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she's admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of "cream cheese parenting," which is about "giving your children the best of everything." The author's fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle's therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a "dangerous distraction." Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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#2  (Last Week: 2 Weeks on List: 75)  
Becoming
 Michelle Obama
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#3  (Last Week: 3 Weeks on List: 12)  
The Splendid And The Vile
Book Jacket   Erik Larson
Kirkus Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. The bestselling author deals with one of the most satisfying good-vs.-evil battles in history, the year (May 1940 to May 1941) during which Churchill and Britain held off Hitler.Bookshelves groan with histories of Britain's finest hour, but Larson (Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, 2015, etc.) employs a mildly unique strategy, combining an intense, almost day-to-day account of Churchill's actions with those of his family, two of his officials (Frederick Lindemann, who was Churchill's prime science adviser, and Lord Beaverbrook, minister of air production), and staff, including private secretary Jock Colville and bodyguard Walter Thompson. Since no one doubted they lived in extraordinary times and almost everyone kept journals and wrote letters, the author takes full advantage of an avalanche of material, much of which will be unfamiliar to readers. Churchill remains the central figure; his charisma, public persona, table talk, quirks, and sybaritic lifestyle retain their fascination. Authors have not ignored his indispensable wife, Clementine (Sonia Purnell's 2015 biography is particularly illuminating), but even history buffs will welcome Larson's attention to their four children, especially Mary, a perky adolescent and his favorite. He makes no attempt to rehabilitate Winston's only son, Randolph, a heavy-drinking spendthrift whose long-suffering wife, Pamela, finally consoled herself with a long affair with American representative Averell Harriman, which was no secret to the family and was entirely approved. Britain's isolation ended when Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, but Larson ends on May 10. The Blitz was in full swing, with a particularly destructive raid on London, but that day also saw Rudolf Hess, Hitler's second in command, fly to England and engage in a wacky attempt (planned since the previous autumn) to negotiate peace. Nothing came of Hess' action, but that day may also have marked the peak of the Blitz, which soon diminished as Germany concentrated its forces against the Soviet Union.A captivating history of Churchill's heroic year, with more than the usual emphasis on his intimates. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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#4  (Last Week: 4 Weeks on List: 117)  
Educated
Book Jacket   Tara Westover
Kirkus Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A recent Cambridge University doctorate debuts with a wrenching account of her childhood and youth in a strict Mormon family in a remote region of Idaho.It's difficult to imagine a young woman who, in her teens, hadn't heard of the World Trade Center, the Holocaust, and virtually everything having to do with arts and popular culture. But so it was, as Westover chronicles here in fairly chronological fashion. In some ways, the author's father was a classic anti-government paranoiacwhen Y2K failed to bring the end of the world, as he'd predicted, he was briefly humbled. Her mother, though supportive at times, remained true to her beliefs about the subordinate roles of women. One brother was horrendously abusive to the author and a sister, but the parents didn't do much about it. Westover didn't go to public school and never received professional medical care or vaccinations. She worked in a junkyard with her father, whose fortunes rose and fell and rose again when his wife struck it rich selling homeopathic remedies. She remained profoundly ignorant about most things, but she liked to read. A brother went to Brigham Young University, and the author eventually did, too. Then, with the encouragement of professors, she ended up at Cambridge and Harvard, where she excelledthough she includes a stark account of her near breakdown while working on her doctoral dissertation. We learn about a third of the way through the book that she kept journals, but she is a bit vague about a few things. How, for example, did her family pay for the professional medical treatment of severe injuries that several of them experienced? Andwith some justificationshe is quick to praise herself and to quote the praise of others.An astonishing account of deprivation, confusion, survival, and success. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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#5  (Last Week: 12 Weeks on List: 2)  
Plague Of Corruption
 Judy Mikovits and Kent Heckenlively
  Book Jacket
#6  (Last Week: 6 Weeks on List: 2)  
The Lincoln Conspiracy
 Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch
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#7  (Last Week: 7 Weeks on List: 22)  
The Mamba Mentality
Book Jacket   Kobe Bryant
Kirkus Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. The future NBA Hall of Famer explores his process and craft.Love him or hate himthere seems to be little sentiment in betweenformer Los Angeles Lakers star Bryant is one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He was always known for his laser-sharp focus, exacting preparation, diligent attention to details, and extreme competitiveness, and all of those qualities are on display in this photo-heavy look back on his career. The key word is "career," as the author provides almost no biographical detail unrelated to basketballwhich is probably appropriate given that he has displayed little interest in anything beyond the game. Conveyed via short, no-nonsense snippets and accompanying photos on nearly every page, the narrative, such as it is, reflects Bryant's commitment to the game. From training to practice to recovery to mental preparation to highly technical descriptions of his mechanicsand those of his opponentshe delves into it all. The book will appeal to die-hard basketball fans intrigued by one of the game's brightest minds, but the structure is somewhat haphazard and may lose general readers. The real stars here are the stunning photographs (at least one on every page, with many double-page spreads), all taken by Andrew D. Bernstein, the longtime Lakers official photographer. Each photo effectively demonstrates what Bryant is discussing, and some feature hand-drawn embellishments by the author, showing the angle and direction of a pass or cut or some other element of a particular play. Bryant also delivers capsule assessments of many of his teammates, opponents, and coaches over the years: "Pau [Gasol] was my favorite teammate ever"; "Phil Jackson was more than just a coachhe was a visionary"; "Tex Winter was a basketball genius"; "Jerry West and I had a father-son type of relationship"; Lamar Odom "was the cool-ass uncle who took care of everybody and always came through in the clutch."There's little that dedicated Kobe fans don't already know, but the book is a visually beautiful presentation that would make an ideal gift for the Lakers fan in the house. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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#8  (Last Week: 9 Weeks on List: 6)  
Hidden Valley Road
Book Jacket   Robert Kolker
 
#9  (Last Week: 11 Weeks on List: 6)  
Fortitude
 Dan Crenshaw
  Book Jacket
#10  (Last Week: 5 Weeks on List: 2)  
The Rural Diaries
 Hilarie Burton Morgan
  Book Jacket
 

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