Every weekday, we feature a different review on Booklist Online that highlights starred reviews, high-demand titles, and/or titles especially relevant to our current issue’s spotlight. We’ve collected the reviews from December 5 through 9 below, so that you can revisit the week’s best books.
Monday, December 5
The Undoing Project: A Friendship that Changed our Minds, by Michael Lewis
Early on in bestselling Lewis’ latest inquiry (Flash Boys, 2014; The Big Short, 2010), he appears to have hatched a hybrid of sorts: a biography of two gifted Israeli psychologists, Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, fused with a primer on the field of cognitive and mathematical psychology. But with each page, the book reveals itself as a radiant if cerebral romance about two brilliant minds, novel ideas, truth, country, and duty.
Tuesday, December 6
Just a Girl, by Carrie Mesrobian
Rianne’s spent her whole life in Wereford, a small, nothing town in the Midwest, living with her divorced mom, getting up to mild trouble with her friends, casually sleeping around, and not trying terribly hard in school. By the time senior year rolls around, she still doesn’t have any plans for her future, and she finds herself in a relationship with notorious playboy Luke Pinsky, who’s kind of loyal and sweet, if oblivious to her needs. There’s nothing simple about being just a girl, and this resonant, thoughtful novel makes that abundantly, stunningly clear.
Wednesday, December 7
Instrumental: A Memoir of Madness, Medication, and Music, by James Rhodes
As a six-year-old, Rhodes faced horrific sexual abuse at the hands of his elementary-school wrestling coach. At 30, Rhodes finally begins to process this early trauma, landing him in a series of mental-health wards where, ultimately, music, which as a child he turned to in a nearly obsessive indulgence, saves him. In this triumphant and arresting memoir, Rhodes charts his ongoing recovery and journey to his place as today’s most exciting classical pianist—he performs concerts in hospital wards, or in major concert halls in jeans and sneakers, anything to bring classical music down from the ivory tower
Thursday, December 8
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, by Lisa See
In a remote mountain village, the survival of an Akha tribe, one of China’s 55 ethnic minorities, depends on tea. Rigid traditions prohibit Li-yan from keeping her newborn. She saves her daughter by leaving her in a nearby town, wrapped in blankets with a tea cake that hints at her distinctive heritage. Over the course of decades, See (China Dolls, 2014) reveals Li-yan’s exceptional story of departure and eventual return.
Friday, December 9
The Burning World, by Isaac Marion
Marion’s Warm Bodies (2011) was a refreshingly unique zombie novel. It told the love story of R, a recovering zombie, and Julie, a human girl. The book’s popularity led to a movie and a clamoring for a sequel, but it was clear that in order to continue R and Julie’s story, Marion would have to deepen the world building and characters—so, instead, he wrote a prequel, The New Hunger(2013). Now, Marion has finally returned with that much-desired sequel.