Reviews of the Week with Emily St. John Mandel, Jason Reynolds, and More!

Every weekday, we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

We here at Booklist continue to celebrate our Top of the List and 2019 Editors’ Choice selections. We invite you to check out the latest #ReviewsOfTheWeek, which are certain to be on everyone’s best-of lists next year, with the same zeal!

Monday, January 13

The Glass Hotel, by Emily St. John Mandel

Mandel follows her breakout dystopian hit, Station Eleven (2014), with another tale of wanderers whose fates are interconnected, this time by a Ponzi scheme rather than the demise of most of the world’s population. Beautiful young bartender Vincent Smith (named for poet Edna St. Vincent Millay) has no illusions about the relationship she enters into with Jonathan Alkaitis, an uber-wealthy investor more than twice her age. Vincent leaves her job at the remote Hotel Caiette to move into Jonathan’s mansion in Connecticut and pretend to be his wife, attending dinners with his investors. Mandel reveals early on that Jonathan’s business dealings aren’t above board, but even with this information front and center, she still manages to build nail-biting tension as things start to go wrong for Jonathan and his associates.

Tuesday, January 14

The Conference of Birds, by Ransom Riggs

The pulse-pounding fifth volume of the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series continues storylines introduced in Map of Days (2018) pertaining to the growing tensions between America’s peculiar gangs, as well as Jacob’s rescue of Noor, a powerful teen peculiar and possible player in an ancient prophecy. Miss Peregrine’s brood reconvenes in Devil’s Acre, where they try to decipher the original prophecy and puzzle out how to get Noor safely to an old associate of Abe’s known only as V. Meanwhile, as Miss Peregrine and the other ymbrynes endeavor to broker peace between the American gangs, a jailbreak in Devil’s Acre throws a wrench in the proceedings.

Wednesday, January 15

The Night Watchman, by Louise Erdrich

Patrice, 19, supports her family by laboring at the jewel bearing plant and splitting logs to heat their humble home on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota, and it is Patrice who journeys to Minneapolis to search for Vera, her missing older sister. Thomas is the plant’s night watchman and the guiding conscience in this spellbinding, reverent, and resplendent drama by the paramount storyteller of the northern plains. In her sixteenth novel, a work of distinct luminosity, Erdrich based soulful, disciplined, and witty Thomas on her grandfather. Accordingly, Thomas is a member of the Chippewa council, and deeply concerned about a 1953 bill pending in the U.S. Congress that threatens to terminate the legal status of their Chippewa band.

Thursday, January 16

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

Reynolds continues his prolific streak with an absorbing young reader’s adaptation of Kendi’s National Book Award–­winning title, Stamped from the Beginning. “This is not a history book,” declares Reynolds at the outset, an announcement that instantly absorbs readers, displaying the author’s singular way of communicating with young people. Reynolds’ “remix” begins in 1415 and travels into the present in five well-paced sections, following the general outline of Kendi’s comprehensive title. Through figures like Cotton Mather, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Angela Davis, among others, the thought patterns of segregationists, assimilationists, and antiracists are elucidated, along with the impact such ideas have on all aspects of American life. Throughout the book, Reynolds inserts pauses (“Record scratch”) and interjects with commentary (“Let that sink in”) and clarifications, a way of insisting that the pages are not merely text, but a conversation.

Friday, January 17

The Genius of Women: From Overlooked to Changing the World, by Janice Kaplan

In this deep dive on the universal failure to recognize female genius, Kaplan (The Gratitude Diaries, 2015) includes a little bit of everything: history, psychology, sociology, biology, neurology, humor, celebrity weigh-ins, denial, dismissal, stories of thwarted careers and diverted glory, and exhortations for readers to celebrate the women geniuses amongst us. This sounds like an awful lot, and it is, but Kaplan’s writing style is engaging and full of relatable examples. Her tone ranges from strident to self-depreciating, and her observations are supported by facts, anecdotes, personal profiles, and interviews with women who certainly qualify as contemporary geniuses. Readers will be enlightened, stupefied, and provoked in turn, as Kaplan repeatedly harpoons ingrained notions about genius being the exclusive domain of men.



About the Author:

Michael Ruzicka, Office Manager, was raised in suburban Los Angeles, received a BA in Creative Writing/Poetry at UC Santa Cruz, then moved to Birmingham, AL, where he spent five years owning an independent bookstore and earned an MLIS. He has brought his librarian skills to Vanderbilt’s Television News Archive, Battle Ground Academy, The Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Michael is very excited to be a part of Booklist and call Chicago his home.

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