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Staff recommendations of great books released in Fall, 2011
If there's anyone else who can write on a wider range of topics than Christopher Hitchens, and do so with such breathtaking erudition, I'm not aware of them. Arguably, Hitchens' latest collection of over one hundred essays taken mostly from Slate, The Atlantic, and Vanity Fair is a perfect example. From the religious beliefs (or lack thereof) of America's founders, to the affront of intrusive table service in fine restaurants, Hitch covers it all.
The Emperor of All Maladies is the kind of book that could only be written by a passionate expert. Luckily, we have Siddhartha Mukherjee, an oncologist and writer who has penned a stunning 'biography' of one of the world's worst afflictions. This volume spans the history of cancer and includes stories of Mukherjee's patients, and it is in these chapters that the author's devotion and compassion shines clearest. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, this moving and important book should be widely read.
Oliver Sacks, meet your match. Melanie Thernstrom’s Pain Chronicles is a wonderful meld of science, memoir, history, and mystery. Thernstrom interweaves her own struggle with chronic pain with amazing research tracing the concept of pain in history—from ancient Babylonian pain-banishing spells to modern brain imaging. Think of it: pain, though universal, in many ways is invisible; when we stub a toe, there is nothing to reflect the pain we feel other than our behavior to it (in the toe-stubbing case, much hopping and hollering). But pain—that thing that travels and channels and blooms and dissipates—what exactly is it? Thernstrom’s research is masterful at making the invisible visible; her detailed writing, and ever-readable stories, offer insight and meaning as a way to transcend suffering and make it known.
Written by the bestselling Haitian-American author (Breath, Eyes, Memory), Create Dangerously is a powerful presentation of the ability of writing and art to offer strength, healing, and redemption in the face of conflict and upheaval. Dave Eggers calls it “The most powerful book I've read in years. . . . A call to arms for all immigrants, all artists, all those who choose to bear witness, and all those who choose to listen. Though it describes great upheaval, tragedy, and injustice, it's full of humor, warmth, grace, and light.”