Juliana Kiyan is a Publicity Manager for Penguin Press. On weekends you can find her tucked under a tree with a book in Prospect Park or attempting a new pie recipe.
Ian Buruma’s writing never fails to engage the mind and soul. His most recent book YEAR ZERO is a remarkable global history of 1945 and how we reckoned with the aftermath of World War II. Buruma crosses the globe to show how regime change was carried out across Asia and Europe, and what the effects of war and liberation had on populations. 1945 witnessed the emergence of a new world, and reading this book, it’s nearly impossible to imagine the scale of transformation on both geopolitical terms and for everyday people on the ground. But then Buruma introduces his own father’s story, which serves as deeply personal thread throughout the book. His journey home after being forced into a labor camp in Berlin and his attempt to return to “normalcy” puts a face to the experiences of so many in his generation. The introduction is an incredibly moving piece of writing—read it and you won’t be able to put the book down until you turn the last page.
Alan Blinder is a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board and economics professor at Princeton, and this is his wide-angle, very readable account of the financial crisis. There have been many terrific, informative books, articles, and films about the meltdown and its immediate aftermath and how the Bush and Obama administrations grappled with the many ensuing crises. What stands out about Blinder’s book to me is the comprehensiveness of the narrative—step by step, he identifies the origins, the government’s reaction and actions both administrations took, and next steps for recovery. It’s an important reminder of where we’ve come from and how not to repeat the same mistakes.
Phil Klay’s collection of stories is searing and beautifully observed. It’s impossible to highlight one, as each is a different voice or lens through which Klay examines and untangles the American experience in Iraq. As we reckon with our foreign policy of the past decade and look ahead to the next election and the choices we’ll be faced with, Redeployment is a vital reminder of what war does to the hearts and minds of individuals who serve and to our collective soul as a country. Redeployment has rightfully been touted as an instant classic, Klay as one of the most talented new writers. To add my voice to the chorus: read it, read it now.
Command and Control reads like a thriller but is all-too-terrifyingly true. Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, writes a groundbreaking history about the management of America’s nuclear arsenal over the past half century and explores the dilemma that has existed since the dawn of the nuclear age: How do you deploy weapons of mass destruction without being destroyed by them? He opens the book with a minute-by-minute account of the “Damascus accident” at a nuclear missile silo in Arkansas, which begins with a simple mishap, then quickly spirals. It had my heart pounding, and Schlosser interweaves this incredible story with a wide-ranging narrative. A riveting, unnerving read.
Celeste Ng’s exquisite debut novel is a portrait of the Lee family in a moment of crisis, then grief. The Lees live in Ohio in the 1970s, and their prized middle daughter, Lydia, has been discovered dead in the town’s lake. (This isn’t a spoiler! The first line of the book is, “Lydia is dead.”) The father, James, is a second-generation Chinese American who aches for his children to fit in; the mother, Marilyn, is a white woman from Virginia who hopes her daughter won’t face the same limitations that she did when she was younger. Their children—Nath, Lydia, and Hannah—straddle two worlds of belonging and wanting, as they attempt to understand who they are and who they want to become. The book is a moving examination of being an outsider and the spectrum of what it’s like to be treated as different. It takes place during a time when Loving v. Virginia had only recently struck down interracial marriage bans, before our anguished conversations about motherhood and “having it all,” before Cheerios featured a multiracial family in a Superbowl ad. Yet many of the issues the characters face are just as relevant today—I find myself thinking about them all the time. Ultimately, though, Ng tells a beautiful, deeply felt, and heartbreaking story of an American family and their universal struggles to communicate and understand one another.
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