New York Times Bestsellers
Week of December 01, 2019
FICTION
#1  (Last Week: - Weeks on List: 1)  
A Minute To Midnight
Book Jacket   David Baldacci
#2  (Last Week: 4 Weeks on List: 64)  
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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#3  (Last Week: 2 Weeks on List: 6)  
The Guardians
 John Grisham
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#4  (Last Week: 1 Weeks on List: 2)  
Twisted Twenty-six
 Janet Evanovich
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#5  (Last Week: 3 Weeks on List: 4)  
Blue Moon
Book Jacket   Lee Child
Kirkus Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Jack Reacher lends a hand to an elderly couple under threat from loan sharks and winds up in the midst of an underworld war in the 24th entry in this series (Past Tense, 2018, etc.).After Reacher saves an old man from a mugging, he finds out the man and his wife went into hock to get money for their daughter's lifesaving medical treatment. Meanwhile, in the unnamed city where the novel is set, the Albanian and Ukrainian crime bosses who have divvied up the territory are vying to see who can take over for good before the appointment of a new police commissioner. The sudden appearance of Reacher makes each suspect he's an agent for outside forces and accelerates the body count between them. That this is the best premise for a Reacher novel in some time, even if it's partly lifted from Akira Kurosawa's film Yojimbo, can't quite disguise that something has gone off in the series. Reacher's apologies to a suffering old couple that there's not much he can do isn't really what we want in a heroespecially one who has always taken such pleasure in pissing off bullies. Whenever the plot shifts to the machinations between the rival gangsters it bogs down in exposition. And while Reacher's ass-kickings have always been amusing, the series has never developed the dark ability to turn the violence into a deadpan sick joke. The carnage here should be funnier the more extreme it gets. It's not bad, but it's far from the tight, nifty execution that made the Reacher books so much fun to begin with.Perhaps if there were more time between chapters, Child's series could recover the polish it deserves. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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#6  (Last Week: - Weeks on List: 1)  
Tom Clancy: Code Of Honor
Book Jacket   Marc Cameron
Kirkus Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Jack Ryan is a hands-on president in Cameron's latest Tom Clancy techno-thriller (Oath of Office, 2018, etc.).Developers have built artificial intelligence into a computer application called Calliope. Nearly sentient and thought of as female, she's "no ordinary gaming software" and can take over any connected electronic device and perform any mission asked of her. But don't call her just a virus. Calliope is a predator, "fairly bursting at the seams as she sought new challenges." Of course the Chinese military lusts after her like Dr. Strangelove lusted after nukes, so their spies are "all over the damn place." Meanwhile, Sen. Michelle Chadwick, who harbors a "visceral hatred of all things Jack Ryan," is shown a video of herself in the sack with a Chinese agent (oops!) and is persuaded to get close to Ryan. That's a bit awkward, but she agrees to approach the president with an olive branch and then politically destroy him. The Chinese plot spreads a wide net, entrapping Father Pat West, an ex-CIA agent and friend of Ryan's, who's thrown in jail in Indonesia. The poor guy is falsely accused of proselytizing Muslims and faces an uncertain future, and Ryan wants to go to Indonesia and personally get him released. First lady and ophthalmologist Dr. Cathy Ryan plays an important role by assisting on a little girl's eye surgery. And somewhere out in the field Jack Junior does his bit, making this a Ryan family affair. Of course the story is fun, as the Clancy yarns always are, but some backstories feel like filler necessary to reach 500 pages. Cameron's writing channels the great man's style to a T, but one day maybe Calliope will get the mission to take over the series and continue it forever. Imagine three generationshell, fourof Ryans in the White House.This one's as good as all the others and those to come. Read and enjoy, Clancy fans. 'Til next time. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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#7  (Last Week: 6 Weeks on List: 9)  
The Dutch House
 Ann Patchett
Kirkus Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Their mother's disappearance cements an unbreakable connection between a pair of poor-little-rich-kid siblings.Like The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer or Life Among Giants by Bill Roorbach, this is a deeply pleasurable book about a big house and the family that lives in it. Toward the end of World War II, real estate developer and landlord Cyril Conroy surprises his wife, Elna, with the keys to a mansion in the Elkins Park neighborhood of Philadelphia. Elna, who had no idea how much money her husband had amassed and still thought they were poor, is appalled by the luxurious property, which comes fully furnished and complete with imposing portraits of its former owners (Dutch people named VanHoebeek) as well as a servant girl named Fluffy. When her son, Danny, is 3 and daughter, Maeve, is 10, Elna's antipathy for the place sends her on the lamfirst occasionally, then permanently. This leaves the children with the household help and their rigid, chilly father, but the difficulties of the first year pale when a stepmother and stepsisters appear on the scene. Then those problems are completely dwarfed by further misfortune. It's Danny who tells the story, and he's a wonderful narrator, stubborn in his positions, devoted to his sister, and quite clear about various errorslike going to medical school when he has no intention of becoming a doctorwhile utterly committed to them. "We had made a fetish out of our disappointment," he says at one point, "fallen in love with it." Casually stated but astute observations about human nature are Patchett's (Commonwealth, 2016, etc.) stock in trade, and she again proves herself a master of aging an ensemble cast of characters over many decades. In this story, only the house doesn't change. You will close the book half believing you could drive to Elkins Park and see it.Like the many-windowed mansion at its center, this richly furnished novel gives brilliantly clear views into the lives it contains. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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#8  (Last Week: 5 Weeks on List: 5)  
The Night Fire
 Michael Connelly
Kirkus Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A cold case pulls Harry Bosch back from retirement and into another eventful partnership with Detective Rene Ballard of the LAPD.The widow of Bosch's retired mentor, Detective John Jack Thompson, has a present for Bosch, and it's a doozy: the murder book for the unsolved killing of ex-con John Hilton, shot to death in his car one night nearly 20 years ago, which Thompson swiped from the archives without authorization or explanation. Bosch, who wonders why Thompson lifted the murder book if he didn't intend to work the case, is eager to take a crack at it himself, but he needs the resources that only an active partner can provide. But Ballard, settled into the routine of the midnight shift after her exile from Robbery-Homicide (Dark Sacred Night, 2018), has just started working her own case, the arson that killed Eddie, a homeless man, inside his tent. As if that's not enough criminal activity, Bosch's half brother, Lincoln lawyer Mickey Haller, faces the apparently hopeless defense of Jeffrey Herstadt, who not only left his DNA under the fingernail of Walter Montgomery, the Superior Court judge he's accused of killing, but also obligingly confessed to the murder. Working sometimes in tandem, more often separately, and sometimes actively against the cops who naturally bridle at the suggestion that any of their own theories or arrests might be flawed, Ballard and Bosch slog through the usual dead ends and fruitless rounds of questioning to link two murders separated by many years to a single hired killer. The most mysterious question of allwhy did John Jack Thompson steal that murder book in the first place?is answered suddenly, casually, and surprisingly.Middling for this standout series but guaranteed to please anyone who thinks the cops sometimes get it wrong. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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#9  (Last Week: 8 Weeks on List: 11)  
The Institute
Book Jacket   Stephen King
Kirkus Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie.Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King's (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he's bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of "pray"? Or "depraved"?). Turns out he's a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others ("You ought to go see Doc Roper," he tells a local. "There are pills that will brighten your attitude"). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Mainethis is King, so it's got to be Maineand a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy ("You're in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was"). It's not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps.King fans won't be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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#10  (Last Week: 7 Weeks on List: 6)  
Olive, Again
Book Jacket   Elizabeth Strout
Kirkus Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. The thorny matriarch of Crosby, Maine, makes a welcome return.As in Strout's Pulitzer Prize-winning Olive Kitteridge (2008, etc.), the formidable title character is always a presence but not always onstage in these 13 interconnected tales of loneliness, loss, and love in its many flawed incarnations. Olive has not become any easier to like since her husband, Henry, died two years ago; "stupid" is a favorite adjective, and "phooey to you" a frequent term of dismissal. But over the course of about a decade we see Olive struggling, in her flinty way, to become "oh, just a tinytinybit better as a person." Her second marriage, to Jack Kennison, helps. "I like you, Olive," he says. "I'm not sure why, really. But I do." Readers will feel the same, as she brusquely comforts a former student with cancer in "Light" and commiserates with the grieving daughter-in-law she has never much liked in "Motherless Child." Yet that story ends with Olive's desolate conclusion that she is largely responsible for her fraught relationship with her son: "She herself had [raised] a motherless child." Parents are estranged from children, husbands from wives, siblings from each other in this keening portrait of a world in which each of us is fundamentally alone and never truly knows even those we love the most. This is not the whole story, Strout demonstrates with her customary empathy and richness of detail. "You must have been a very good mother," Olive's doctor says after observing Christopher in devoted attendance at the hospital after she has a heart attack, and the daughter of an alcoholic mother and dismissive, abusive father finds a nurturing substitute in her parents' lawyer in "Helped." The beauty of the natural world provides a sustaining counterpoint to charged human interactions in which "there were so many things that could not be said." There's no simple truth about human existence, Strout reminds us, only wonderful, painful complexity. "Well, that's life," Olive says. "Nothing you can do about it."Beautifully written and alive with compassion, at times almost unbearably poignant. A thrilling book in every way. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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NONFICTION
#1  (Last Week: - Weeks on List: 1)  
A Warning
 Anonymous
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#2  (Last Week: 1 Weeks on List: 3)  
Triggered
 Donald Trump Jr
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#3  (Last Week: 5 Weeks on List: 6)  
Me
Book Jacket   Elton John
#4  (Last Week: 13 Weeks on List: 50)  
Becoming
Book Jacket   Michelle Obama
 
#5  (Last Week: 2 Weeks on List: 3)  
Sam Houston And The Alamo Avengers
 Brian Kilmeade
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#6  (Last Week: 6 Weeks on List: 11)  
Talking To Strangers
 Malcolm Gladwell
Kirkus Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. The latest intellectually stimulating book from the acclaimed author.Every few years, journalist Gladwell (David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, 2013, etc.) assembles serious scientific research on oddball yet relevant subjects and then writes a bestseller. Readers expecting another everything-you-think-you-know-is-wrong page-turner will not be disappointed, but they will also encounter some unsettling truths. The author begins with a few accounts of black Americans who died at the hands of police, using the incidents to show how most of us are incompetent at judging strangers. Countless psychological studies demonstrate that humans are terrible at detecting lying. Experts such as FBI agents don't perform better. Judges interview suspects to determine if they deserve bail; they believe it helps, but the opposite is true. Computers, using only hard data, do much better. Many people had qualms about Bernie Madoff, but interviewers found him completely open and honest; "he was a sociopath dressed up as a mensch." This, Gladwell emphasizes, is the transparency problem. We believe that someone's demeanor reflects their thoughts and emotions, but it often doesn't. Gladwell's second bombshell is what he calls "default to truth." It seems like a university president resigns in disgrace every few months for the same reason: They hear accusations of abusive behavior by an employeee.g., Larry Nassar at Michigan State, Jerry Sandusky at Penn Stateconduct an investigation, but then take no action, often claiming that they did not have enough evidence of deceit. Ultimately, everyone agrees that they were criminally negligent. Another example is CIA official James Angleton, who was convinced that there was a Soviet mole in the agency; his decades of suspicion and search ruined careers and crippled American intelligence. Gladwell emphasizes that society could not function if we did not give everyone the benefit of the doubt. "To assume the best of another is the trait that has created modern society," he writes. "Those occasions when our trusting nature is violated are tragic. But the alternativeto abandon trust as a defense against predation and deceptionis worse."Another Gladwell tour de force but perhaps his most disturbing. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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#7  (Last Week: 4 Weeks on List: 3)  
Finding Chika
Book Jacket   Mitch Albom
Kirkus Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A young Haitian girl opens the door to unconditional love for an American couple.When Albom (The Next Person You Meet in Heaven, 2018, etc.) became director of the Have Faith Haiti Orphanage in Port-au-Prince, he knew the children would make an impact on his life, but one toddler in particular, Chika, stole his heart. She was born just three days before the earthquake that destroyed Haiti in 2010. "It was tragedy on an island where tragedy is no stranger," writes the author. When Chika arrived at the orphanage, she was only 3, but she quickly became a leader among the children. When she was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor, a condition the neurologist in Haiti said could not be treated there, Albom and his wife brought Chika into their Michigan home and sought out the best treatment they could find. When those treatments failed, they traveled for two years to other countries for experimental procedures, anything that would prolong Chika's life. In addition to his own viewpoint, the author narrates the story by imagining what Chika was thinking and feeling. As Albom makes clear from the start, Chika did not survive her condition (she died in 2017 at age 7); his writing about this journey is unadorned, heartwarming, and rarely maudlin. He shares his joy at becoming a father to this vivacious child, his fears as he reintroduced Chika to her biological father, and the pain and sorrow he felt when she died. He marvels at the relationship Chika had with his wife and shares his amazement that Chika so readily connected with other adults. The takeaway from this simple, moving memoir is that love has no boundaries and should not be hindered by ethnicity, religion, education, or money.A highly expressive, tender story about how "families are like pieces of art, they can be made from many materials." Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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#8  (Last Week: 7 Weeks on List: 92)  
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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#9  (Last Week: 11 Weeks on List: 6)  
The Body
 Bill Bryson
Kirkus Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. The intrepid explorer and popular travel writer journeys inwardliterallyto explore our mortal coil.A narrative by Bryson (The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain, 2016, etc.) rarely involves the unfolding of a grand thesis; instead, it's a congeries of anecdotes, skillfully strung, always a pleasure to read but seldom earthshakingly significant. So it is here. The author does some on-the-ground digging, talking to scientists and physicians, while plowing through libraries of literature to get at the story of how our bodies work. Early on, he pokes at the old bromide that the human body is an assemblage of a few dollars' worth of assorted chemicals and minerals. Not so, he writes: We're made up of 59 elements, including carbon and oxygen. But, he adds, "who would have thought that we would be incomplete without some molybdenum inside us, or vanadium, manganese, tin, and copper?" Bryson employs the example of an "obliging Benedict Cumberbatch," of medium height and build and good health, to venture that the real cost of a human is "a very precise $151,578.46," a figure that turns out to wiggle and wobble as we layer on additional costs. As ever, the author collects lovely oddments and presents them as so many glittering marbles: The largest protein in the body is titin, whose "chemical name is 189,819 letters long, which would make it the longest word in the English language except that dictionaries don't recognize chemical names." The heart, which, Bryson notes, doesn't really look like a valentine, does only one thing: It beats, "slightly more than once every second, about 100,000 times a day, up to 2.5 billion times in a lifetime." Along the way, the author considers whether the old surgical practice of bleeding was really a good thing to do (it wasn't), how "cytokine storms" work, and what the winning combination is for a long lifeone factor is wealth: "Someone who is otherwise identical to you but poorcan expect to die between ten and fifteen years sooner."A pleasing, entertaining sojourn into the realm of what makes us tick. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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#10  (Last Week: 3 Weeks on List: 2)  
With All Due Respect
 Nikki R Haley
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