Recommended Reads by AViD Authors
Lazy Little Loafers
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Orchid Thief comes a smart, hilarious take on what babies contribute—or don’t—to the world.
Ever experienced stroller envy? Ever wished you were applauded just for walking across a room? Ever wanted to loaf about the park on a blanket in the middle of a school day with nothing on your agenda but being relaxed and happy? Then you should be a baby. They’ve got it made.
In this charming, droll story, a world-weary older sister ponders the question, why don’t more babies work? Her answers, hilariously tinged with resentment, offer up a wickedly accurate picture of just how great babies have it.
Known for her keen and witty observations of various subcultures, Susan Orlean here turns her gaze on babies. The resulting picture book is tongue-in-cheek fun for older siblings and anyone looking for a lazy, praise-filled day.
The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup
In a collection of essays from The New Yorker, the acclaimed author of The Orchid Thief offers a series of intriguing profiles of some of the colorful people she has encountered, from the first female Spanish matador to the African king who drives a New York City cab to Silly Billy, a popular entertainer on the children's birthday-party circuit. Reprint. 35,000 first printing.
Rin Tin Tin
One of the most acclaimed nonfiction books of 2011, Susan Orlean’s New York Times bestseller Rin Tin Tin is “an unforgettable book about the mutual devotion between one man and one dog” (The Wall Street Journal).
He believed the dog was immortal. So begins Susan Orlean’s sweeping, powerfully moving account of Rin Tin Tin’s journey from abandoned puppy to movie star and international icon. Spanning almost one hundred years of history, from the dog’s improbable discovery on a battlefield in 1918 to his tumultuous rise through Hollywood and beyond, Rin Tin Tin is a love story about "the mutual devotion between one man and one dog" (The Wall Street Journal) that is also a quintessentially American story of reinvention, a captivating exploration of our spiritual bond with animals, and a stirring meditation on mortality and immortality.
In a tour de force, prize-winning New York Times reporter C.J. Chivers traces the invention of the assault rifle, following the miniaturization of rapid-fire arms from the American Civil War, through WWI, Vietnam, to present day Afghanistan when Kalashnikovs and their knock-offs number as many as 100 million, one for every seventy persons on earth.
At a secret arms-design contest in Stalin’s Soviet Union, army technicians submitted a stubby rifle with a curved magazine. Dubbed the AK-47, it was selected as the Eastern Bloc’s standard arm. Scoffed at in the Pentagon as crude and unimpressive, it was in fact a breakthrough—a compact automatic that could be mastered by almost anyone, last decades in the field, and would rarely jam. Manufactured by tens of millions in planned economies, it became first an instrument of repression and then the most lethal weapon of the Cold War. Soon it was in the hands of terrorists.
In a searing examination of modern conflict and official folly, C. J. Chivers mixes meticulous historical research, investigative reporting, and battlefield reportage to illuminate the origins of the world’s most abundant firearm and the consequences of its spread. The result, a tour de force of history and storytelling, sweeps through the miniaturization and distribution of automatic firepower, and puts an iconic object in fuller context than ever before.
The Gun dismantles myths as it moves from the naïve optimism of the Industrial Revolution through the treacherous milieu of the Soviet Union to the inside records of the Taliban. Chivers tells of the 19th-century inventor in Indianapolis who designs a Civil War killing machine, insisting that more-efficient slaughter will save lives. A German attaché who observes British machine guns killing Islamic warriors along the Nile advises his government to amass the weapons that would later flatten British ranks in World War I. In communist Hungary, a locksmith acquires an AK-47 to help wrest his country from the Kremlin’s yoke, beginning a journey to the gallows. The Pentagon suppresses the results of firing tests on severed human heads that might have prevented faulty rifles from being rushed to G.I.s in Vietnam. In Africa, a millennial madman arms abducted children and turns them on their neighbors, setting his country ablaze. Neither pro-gun nor anti-gun, The Gun builds to a terrifying sequence, in which a young man who confronts a trio of assassins is shattered by 23 bullets at close range. The man survives to ask questions that Chivers examines with rigor and flair.
Throughout, The Gun animates unforgettable characters—inventors, salesmen, heroes, megalomaniacs, racists, dictators, gunrunners, terrorists, child soldiers, government careerists, and fools. Drawing from years of research, interviews, and from declassified records revealed for the first time, he presents a richly human account of an evolution in the very experience of war.
The Song of Achilles
WINNER OF THE ORANGE PRIZE FOR FICTION 2012
Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their differences, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles's mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.
A striking debut novel about an unforgettable childhood, by a Nigerian writer the New York Times has crowned "the heir to Chinua Achebe."
Told by nine-year-old Benjamin, the youngest of four brothers, THE FISHERMEN is the Cain and Abel-esque story of a childhood in Nigeria, in the small town of Akure. When their father has to travel to a distant city for work, the brothers take advantage of his absence to skip school and go fishing. At the forbidden nearby river, they meet a madman who persuades the oldest of the boys that he is destined to be killed by one of his siblings. What happens next is an almost mythic event whose impact-both tragic and redemptive-will transcend the lives and imaginations of the book's characters and readers. Dazzling and viscerally powerful, THE FISHERMEN is an essential novel about Africa, seen through the prism of one family's destiny.
Goodbye for Now
A 2013 Endeavour Award Finalist
When Sam Elling creates an algorithm to pair people with their soul mates online, he meets Meredith, his own perfect match. But when Meredith's grandmother Livvie dies unexpectedly, Sam puts his algorithm to even better use: it compiles Livvie's old emails and video chats to create a computer simulation so that Meredith can say goodbye. It's not supernatural; it's computer science, and Meredith loves it--too much to keep to herself.
Together, she and Sam open RePose to help others who have lost a loved one. Business takes off, but for every person who just wants to say goodbye, there's someone else who can't let go. This twenty-first-century love story asks what would happen if saying goodbye were just the beginning, and shows how love can take on a life of its own.
The Orchid Thief
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK
A modern classic of personal journalism, The Orchid Thief is Susan Orlean’s wickedly funny, elegant, and captivating tale of an amazing obsession. Determined to clone an endangered flower—the rare ghost orchid Polyrrhiza lindenii—a deeply eccentric and oddly attractive man named John Laroche leads Orlean on an unforgettable tour of America’s strange flower-selling subculture, through Florida’s swamps and beyond, along with the Seminoles who help him and the forces of justice who fight him. In the end, Orlean—and the reader—will have more respect for underdog determination and a powerful new definition of passion.
In this new edition, coming fifteen years after its initial publication and twenty years after she first met the “orchid thief,” Orlean revisits this unforgettable world, and the route by which it was brought to the screen in the film Adaptation, in a new retrospective essay.
Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.
Praise for The Orchid Thief
“Stylishly written, whimsical yet sophisticated, quirkily detailed and full of empathy . . . The Orchid Thief shows [Orlean’s] gifts in full bloom.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Fascinating . . . an engrossing journey [full] of theft, hatred, greed, jealousy, madness, and backstabbing.”—Los Angeles Times
“Orlean’s snapshot-vivid, pitch-perfect prose . . . is fast becoming one of our national treasures.”—The Washington Post Book World
“Orlean’s gifts [are] her ear for the self-skewing dialogue, her eye for the incongruous, convincing detail, and her Didion-like deftness in description.”—Boston Sunday Globe
“A swashbuckling piece of reporting that celebrates some virtues that made America great.”—The Wall Street Journal
Pulitzer Prize winner C.J. Chivers’s unvarnished New York Times bestseller is a chronicle of modern combat, told through the eyes of the fighters who have waged America’s longest wars: “A classic of war reporting…there is no downtime in this relentless book” (The New York Times).
More than 2.7 million Americans have served in Afghanistan or Iraq since September 11, 2001, and C.J. Chivers reported on both wars from their beginnings. The Fighters vividly conveys the physical and emotional experience of war as lived by six combatants: a fighter pilot, a corpsman, a scout helicopter pilot, a grunt, an infantry officer, and a Special Forces sergeant.
Chivers captures their courage, commitment, sense of purpose, and ultimately their suffering, frustration, and moral confusion as new enemies arise and invasions give way to counterinsurgency duties for which American forces were often not prepared.
The Fighters is a “gripping, unforgettable” (The Boston Globe) portrait of modern warfare. Told with the empathy and understanding of an author who is himself an infantry veteran, The Fighters is “a masterful work of atmospheric reporting, and it’s a book that will have every reader asking—with varying degrees of urgency or anger or despair—the final question Chivers himself asks: ‘How many lives had these wars wrecked?’” (Christian Science Monitor).
"A bold and subversive retelling of the goddess's story," this #1 New York Times bestseller is "both epic and intimate in its scope, recasting the most infamous female figure from the Odyssey as a hero in her own right" (Alexandra Alter, The New York Times).
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child--not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power--the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.
Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.
But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.
With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man's world.
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER--NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR, The Washington Post, People, Time, Amazon, Entertainment Weekly, Bustle, Newsweek, the A.V. Club, Christian Science Monitor and Refinery 29, Buzzfeed, Paste, Audible, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Thrillist, NYPL, Self Real Simple, Goodreads, Boston Globe, Electric Literature, BookPage, the Guardian, Book Riot, Seattle Times, and Business Insider
An essential read for our times: an eye-opening memoir of working-class poverty in America that will deepen our understanding of the ways in which class shapes our country and “a deeply humane memoir that crackles with clarifying insight”.*
Sarah Smarsh was born a fifth generation Kansas wheat farmer on her paternal side, and the product of generations of teen mothers on her maternal side. Through her experiences growing up on a farm thirty miles west of Wichita, we are given a unique and essential look into the lives of poor and working class Americans living in the heartland.
During Sarah’s turbulent childhood in Kansas in the 1980s and 1990s, she enjoyed the freedom of a country childhood, but observed the painful challenges of the poverty around her; untreated medical conditions for lack of insurance or consistent care, unsafe job conditions, abusive relationships, and limited resources and information that would provide for the upward mobility that is the American Dream. By telling the story of her life and the lives of the people she loves with clarity and precision but without judgement, Smarsh challenges us to look more closely at the class divide in our country.
Beautifully written, in a distinctive voice, Heartland combines personal narrative with powerful analysis and cultural commentary, challenging the myths about people thought to be less because they earn less.
“Heartland is one of a growing number of important works—including Matthew Desmond’s Evicted and Amy Goldstein’s Janesville—that together merit their own section in nonfiction aisles across the country: America’s postindustrial decline...Smarsh shows how the false promise of the ‘American dream’ was used to subjugate the poor. It’s a powerful mantra” *(The New York Times Book Review).
An Orchestra of Minorities
Shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize A "superb and tragic novel" (Boston Globe) about a Nigerian poultry farmer who sacrifices everything to win the woman he loves, by the author of The Fishermen
Set on the outskirts of Umuahia, Nigeria and narrated by a chi, or guardian spirit, AN ORCHESTRA OF MINORITIES tells the story of Chinonso, a young poultry farmer whose soul is ignited when he sees a woman attempting to jump from a highway bridge. Horrified by her recklessness, Chinonso joins her on the roadside and hurls two of his prized chickens into the water below to express the severity of such a fall. The woman, Ndali, is stopped her in her tracks.
Bonded by this night on the bridge, Chinonso and Ndali fall in love. But Ndali is from a wealthy family and struggles to imagine a future near a chicken coop. When her family objects to the union because he is uneducated, Chinonso sells most of his possessions to attend a college in Cyprus. But when he arrives he discovers there is no place at the school for him, and that he has been utterly duped by the young Nigerian who has made the arrangements.. Penniless, homeless, and furious at a world which continues to relegate him to the sidelines, Chinonso gets further away from his dream, from Ndali and the farm he called home.
Spanning continents, traversing the earth and cosmic spaces, and told by a narrator who has lived for hundreds of years, the novel is a contemporary twist of Homer's Odyssey. Written in the mythic style of the Igbo literary tradition, Chigozie Obioma weaves a heart-wrenching epic about destiny and determination.
This Is How It Always Is
“It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me think.” —Liane Moriarty, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Big Little Lies
This is how a family keeps a secret...and how that secret ends up keeping them.
This is how a family lives happily ever after...until happily ever after becomes complicated.
This is how children change...and then change the world.
This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess.
When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl.
Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be. They’re just not sure they’re ready to share that with the world. Soon the entire family is keeping Claude’s secret. Until one day it explodes.
Laurie Frankel's This Is How It Always Is is a novel about revelations, transformations, fairy tales, and family. And it’s about the ways this is how it always is: Change is always hard and miraculous and hard again, parenting is always a leap into the unknown with crossed fingers and full hearts, children grow but not always according to plan. And families with secrets don’t get to keep them forever.
The Library Book
A dazzling love letter to a beloved institution—and an investigation into one of its greatest mysteries—from the bestselling author hailed as a “national treasure” by The Washington Post.
On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?
Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.
In The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.
Along the way, Orlean introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters from libraries past and present—from Mary Foy, who in 1880 at eighteen years old was named the head of the Los Angeles Public Library at a time when men still dominated the role, to Dr. C.J.K. Jones, a pastor, citrus farmer, and polymath known as “The Human Encyclopedia” who roamed the library dispensing information; from Charles Lummis, a wildly eccentric journalist and adventurer who was determined to make the L.A. library one of the best in the world, to the current staff, who do heroic work every day to ensure that their institution remains a vital part of the city it serves.
Brimming with her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, The Library Book is Susan Orlean’s thrilling journey through the stacks that reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country. It is also a master journalist’s reminder that, perhaps especially in the digital era, they are more necessary than ever.
AViD Blog Entries
The 2019 AViD podcast series concludes as C.J. Chivers joins Aaron Gernes. Chivers, author of The Fighters, discusses the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and the process of gathering the stories of the soldiers highlighted in his book. Chivers will be at the Central Library for Auth...Read More
AViD author Madeline Miller joins special guest host Laura Rowley on the DMPL Podcast. Miller discusses her critically-acclaimed novel, Circe. She discusses recasting Circe into a feminist hero and how women were given short shrift and often demeaned in ancient storytelling. It’s...Read More