Art and Music reign supreme in this week’s set of books we’re looking forward to here at the shop, with a montage, a portrait, a chorus, and a few lessons.
Servants of the Damned by David Enrich
In his acclaimed #1 bestseller Dark Towers, David Enrich presented the never-before-told saga of how Deutsche Bank became the global face of financial recklessness and criminality. Now Enrich turns his eye towards the world of “Big Law” and the nearly unchecked influence these firms wield to shield the wealthy and powerful—and bury their secrets. To tell this story, Enrich focuses on Jones Day, one of the world’s largest law firms. Jones Day’s narrative arc—founded in Cleveland in 1893, it became the first law firm to expand nationally and is now a global juggernaut with deep ties to corporate interests and conservative politics—is a powerful encapsulation of the changes that have swept the legal industry in recent decades.
Since 2016, Jones Day has been in the spotlight for representing Donald Trump and his campaigns (and now his PACs)—and for the fleet of Jones Day attorneys who joined his administration, including White House Counsel Don McGahn. Jones Day helped Trump fend off the Mueller investigation and challenged Obamacare. Its once and future lawyers defended Trump’s Muslim ban and border policies and handled his judicial nominations. Jones Day even laid some of the legal groundwork for Trump to challenge the legitimacy of the 2020 election.
But the Trump work is but one chapter in the firm’s checkered history. Jones Day, like many of its peers, have become highly effective enablers of the business world’s worst misbehavior. The firm has for decades represented Big Tobacco in its fight to avoid liability for its products. Jones Day worked tirelessly for the Catholic Church as it tried to minimize its sexual-abuse scandals. And for Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, as it sought to protect its right to make and market its dangerously addictive drug. And for Fox News as it waged war against employees who were the victims of sexual harassment and retaliation. And for Russian oligarchs as their companies sought to expand internationally.
Due Sept. 20
The Enigma of Room 622 by Joël Dicker
A writer named Joël, Switzerland’s most prominent novelist, flees to the Hôtel de Verbier, a luxury resort in the Swiss Alps. Disheartened over a recent breakup and his longtime publisher’s death, Joël hopes to rest. However, his plans quickly go awry. It all starts with a seemingly innocuous detail: at the Verbier, there is no room 622.
Before long, Joël and fellow guest Scarlett uncover a long-unsolved murder that transpired in the hotel’s room 622. The attendant circumstances: the succession of Switzerland’s largest private bank, a mysterious counterintelligence operation called P-30, and a most disreputable sabotage of hotel hospitality. A European phenomenon, The Enigma of Room 622 is a matryoshka doll of intrigue–as precise as a Swiss watch–and Dicker’s most diabolically addictive thriller yet.
Due Sept. 13
Before We Were Trans by Kit Heyam
Today’s narratives about trans people tend to feature individuals with stable gender identities that fit neatly into the categories of male or female. Those stories, while important, fail to account for the complex realities of many trans people’s lives.
Before We Were Trans illuminates the stories of people across the globe, from antiquity to the present, whose experiences of gender have defied binary categories. Blending historical analysis with sharp cultural criticism, trans historian and activist Kit Heyam offers a new, radically inclusive trans history, chronicling expressions of trans experience that are often overlooked, like gender-nonconforming fashion and wartime stage performance. Before We Were Trans transports us from Renaissance Venice to seventeenth-century Angola, from Edo Japan to early America, and looks to the past to uncover new horizons for possible trans futures.
Due Sept. 13
The Sleeping Car Porter by Suzette Mayr
Baxter’s name isn’t George. But it’s 1929, and Baxter is lucky enough, as a Black man, to have a job as a sleeping car porter on a train that crisscrosses the country. So when the passengers call him George, he has to just smile and nod and act invisible. What he really wants is to go to dentistry school, but he’ll have to save up a lot of nickel and dime tips to get there, so he puts up with “George.”
On this particular trip out west, the passengers are more unruly than usual, especially when the train is stalled for two extra days; their secrets start to leak out and blur with the sleep-deprivation hallucinations Baxter is having. When he finds a naughty postcard of two queer men, Baxter’s memories and longings are reawakened; keeping it puts his job in peril, but he can’t part with the postcard or his thoughts of Edwin Drew, Porter Instructor.
Due Sept. 27
Gentrification is Inevitable and Other Lies by Leslie Kern
From the author of the best-selling Feminist City, this urbanite’s guide to gentrification knocks down the myths and exposes the forces behind the most urgent housing crisis of our time.
Gentrification is no longer a phenomenon to be debated by geographers or downplayed by urban planners—it’s an experience lived and felt by working-class people everywhere. Leslie Kern travels to Toronto, Vancouver, New York, London, and Paris to look beyond the familiar and false stories we tell ourselves about class, money, and taste. What she brings back is an accessible, radical guide on the often-invisible forces that shape urban neighbourhoods: settler-colonialism, racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, and more.
Gentrification is not inevitable if city lovers work together to turn the tide. Kern examines resistance strategies from around the world and calls for everyday actions that empower everyone, from displaced peoples to long-time settlers. We can mobilize, demand reparations, and rewrite the story from the ground up.
Due Sept. 6
The Bloater by Rosemary Tonks
Min works at the BBC as a sound engineer, and in theory she’s married, but her husband George is so invisible that she accidentally turns the lights off even when he’s still in the room. Luckily, she has her friends and lovers to distract her: in Min’s self-lacerating, bracingly opinionated voice, life boils down to sex appeal—and of late she’s being courted by an internationally renowned opera singer whom she refers to as The Bloater (a swelled, salted herring). Disgusted by and attracted to him in equal measure, her dilemma—which reaches a hysterical, hilarious pitch—is whether to sleep with him or not.
Rosemary Tonks—the salt and pepper of the earth—is a writer who gets her claws into the reader with all the joy of a cat and a mouse. Vain and materialistic, tender and savage, narrated in brilliant, sparkling prose, The Bloater is the perfect snapshot of London in the 1960s.
Due Sept. 6
A Minor Chorus by Billy-Ray Belcourt
An unnamed narrator abandons his unfinished thesis and returns to northern Alberta in search of what eludes him: the shape of the novel he yearns to write, an autobiography of his rural hometown, the answers to existential questions about family, love, and happiness.
What ensues is a series of conversations, connections, and disconnections that reveals the texture of life in a town literature has left unexplored, where the friction between possibility and constraint provides an insistent background score.
Whether he’s meeting with an auntie distraught over the imprisonment of her grandson, engaging in rez gossip with his cousin at a pow wow, or lingering in bed with a married man after a hotel room hookup, the narrator makes space for those in his orbit to divulge their private joys and miseries, testing the theory that storytelling can make us feel less lonely.
Due Sept. 13
Bliss Montage by Ling Ma
What happens when fantasy tears the screen of the everyday to wake us up? Could that waking be our end?
In Bliss Montage, Ling Ma brings us eight wildly different tales of people making their way through the madness and reality of our collective delusions: love and loneliness, connection and possession, friendship, motherhood, the idea of home. A woman lives in a house with all her ex-boyfriends. A toxic friendship grows up around a drug that makes you invisible. An ancient ritual might heal you of anything—if you bury yourself alive.
These and other scenarios investigate the ways that the outlandish and the ordinary are shockingly, deceptively, heartbreakingly alike.
Due Sept. 13
The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell
Florence, the 1550s. Lucrezia, third daughter of the grand duke, is comfortable with her obscure place in the palazzo: free to wonder at its treasures, observe its clandestine workings, and to devote herself to her own artistic pursuits. But when her older sister dies on the eve of her wedding to the ruler of Ferrara, Moderna and Regio, Lucrezia is thrust unwittingly into the limelight: the duke is quick to request her hand in marriage, and her father just as quick to accept on her behalf.
Having barely left girlhood behind, Lucrezia must now make her way in a troubled court whose customs are opaque and where her arrival is not universally welcomed. Perhaps most mystifying of all is her new husband himself, Alfonso. Is he the playful sophisticate he appeared to be before their wedding, the aesthete happiest in the company of artists and musicians, or the ruthless politician before whom even his formidable sisters seem to tremble?
As Lucrezia sits in constricting finery for a painting intended to preserve her image for centuries to come, one thing becomes worryingly clear. In the court’s eyes, she has one duty: to provide the heir who will shore up the future of the Ferranese dynasty. Until then, for all of her rank and nobility, the new duchess’s future hangs entirely in the balance.
Due Sept. 6
Lessons by Ian McEwan
When the world is still counting the cost of the Second World War and the Iron Curtain has closed, eleven-year-old Roland Baines’s life is turned upside down. 2,000 miles from his mother’s protective love, stranded at an unusual boarding school, his vulnerability attracts piano teacher Miss Miriam Cornell, leaving scars as well as a memory of love that will never fade.
Now, when his wife vanishes, leaving him alone with his tiny son, Roland is forced to confront the reality of his restless existence. As the radiation from Chernobyl spreads across Europe, he begins a search for answers that looks deep into his family history and will last for the rest of his life.
From the Suez Crisis to the Cuban Missile Crisis, the fall of the Berlin Wall to the current pandemic and climate change, Roland sometimes rides with the tide of history, but more often struggles against it. Haunted by lost opportunities, he seeks solace through every possible means—music, literature, friends, sex, politics and, finally, love cut tragically short, then love ultimately redeemed. His journey raises important questions for us all. Can we take full charge of the course of our lives without damage to others? How do global events beyond our control shape our lives and our memories? And what can we really learn from the traumas of the past?
Due Sept. 13