A House in the Sky, by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett
Recommended by Jane Johnson, senior editor
The book that most riveted me this year is Amanda Lindhout’s story of being kidnapped for 460 days in Somalia, written with the fantastic Sara Corbett. Lindhout was a travel enthusiast who was attempting to shift from drink waitressing (she conserved her suggestions for plane tickets) to journalism, on her means to report on health education for ladies outside of Mogadishu, when she was abducted by guys figured out to ransom her. Have you read Jaycee Dugard’s memoir of the years she spent in bondage, or Elizabeth Smart’s brand-new best-seller? Without disrespect to either, this book goes much, much deeper. It includes a heart-pounding escape effort, Lindhout’s insight into her captors, and the seeds of her recovery. Somehow, because coming home to her native Canada, she has actually introduced a foundation to help Somali females. Here’s a Q&A I did with Lindhout. Her fortitude and sincerity has stayed with me and instructed me. Get this book and I vow you’ll understand why.
We Are All Totally Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler
Recommended by Ally Smith, Future Tense editor
Rosemary, the narrator of this sweet, sad book, had a distinctly unconventional childhood: For the first six years of her life, she was raised together with Fern, a chimp, as part of a psychology experiment. Through Rosemary and Fern, Fowler checks out how sibling relationships specify us– and how foggy youth memories and guilt can confuse our personal narratives.
The Circle, by Dave Eggers
Recommended by Andrew Craig, executive producer, Slate podcasts
This cheerily dystopian tale, centered on the increase of an omnipotent business hybrid of Google, Facebook, and Amazon, drove me nuts. The characters are cartoonish and cringingly naÃ¯ve, bordering on idiotic. They regularly fail to see either their business’s megalomaniacal id or the plot’s greatly telegraphed twists. And yet, somehow even those narrative flaws left me with what I think is a roughly precise picture of Silicon Valley’s techno-utopianism. Eggers’ Kool-Aid– guzzling designers, happily working 24/7 at their EPCOT-like university, keep popping into my head every time I read about Google’s newest, no-doubt well-meaning effort to do our thinking for us. We’ll drive the vehicle; you simply kick back and shop …
War Reporter, by Dan O’Brien
Recommended by Dick Anderson, politics and foreign affairs editor
This book of poetry by American poet and playwright O’Brien is effective, inventive, and absolutely initial in the way it plumbs the numbing horror of being a witness to war. A collaboration in between O’Brien and Canadian war reporter Paul Watson, who won the Pulitzer prize for his picture of a dead U.S. soldier being dragged with the streets of Mogadishu, War Reporter is visceral, troubling, at times consoling, and constantly truthful. O’Brien’s work is an incredible accomplishment. Anybody who appreciates how we fight– and exactly how we return– need to read it.
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, by Anton DiSclafani
Recommended by Kate Turnbull, developments editor
Don’t let the reality that this novel is set at a boarding school and showcases a 15-year-old protagonist fool you into thinking it’s for young adults– this attractive and involving tale is suspenseful, dazzling, and erotic. I’m a sucker for historical fiction with strong female characters, and this is a standout in the genre. While the book was marketed as a charming summertime read, you’ll delight in ending up being wrapped up in Thea Atwell’s world at any time of year.
The Gamble: Choice and Possibility in the 2012 Presidential Election, by John Sides and Lynn Vavreck
Suggested by Sam Smith, Jurisprudence contributor
It’s not quite the book that informs you everything you think you learn about political campaigns is wrong, however it is a needed corrective to the personality-driven and hyperventilating accounts of presidential projects driven by an information media out to offer half-baked narratives. An incomparably legible book, despite the fact that it is written by political experts and released by an academic press.
The Birds of America: The Bien Chromolithographic Version, by John James Audubon with text by Joel Oppenheimer
Advised by Lisa Kime, science and wellness editor
If you love birds, nature, or wildlife art (or enjoy somebody who does), this stunning book is the splurge of the season. It reproduces 150 of Audubon’s finest plates in splendid detail and in a generous 21-by-14-inch edition, utilizing plates commissioned in 1858 by Audubon’s household but whose publication was stopped by the Civil War. The opening biography describes why he was among the greatest adventurer/explorers of UNITED STATE history.