Five books people are talking about this week — or should be:
1. Shrill: Notes from A Loud Woman by Lindy West (Hachette)
West wants to kick down boundaries set for women, the ones insisting that they become quiet, compliant caregivers. She wants to fight for diverse voices, and proclaim the inherent value of fat people. She was a reason the #ShoutYourAbortion hashtag went viral, and she believes in compassion, listening, kindness and voting. Her This American Life radio story on confronting the Internet troll impersonating her dead father made people laugh and cheer. And so will this powerful, funny memoir.
2. Heat and Light by Jennifer Haigh (Ecco)
Haigh brought Western Pennsylvania’s coal country vividly to life in her earlier works of fiction, Baker Towers and News from Heaven. She returns to this familiar territory, with the same beautiful writing and keen instinct for class fault lines, but this time her perspective is more panoramic. History echoes through her latest novel as closed coal mines give way to the promise of fracking. Haigh moves easily between shareholders’ meetings in Houston and the deeply observed taverns, meth dens, churches, and schools of Bakerton, Pa., where the past poisons the present.
3. Paper: Paging Through History by Mark Kurlansky (W. W. Norton)
With all of the current talk about “going paperless,” this might seem like an inauspicious moment to celebrate paper. But Kurlansky, author of earlier mono-focused books like Cod and Salt, makes this an historical journey well worth the ride. He has a deep instinct for telling detail, which he combines with a disarmingly fun narrative style. Kurlansky makes a compelling case that paper has always been a revolutionary force – a foundation for expression of every sort — and that it is certainly not dead yet.
4. The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Scribner)
In his Pulitzer Prize winning The Emperor of All Maladies, Mukherjee explicated the genesis and horrors of cancer, and now he turns his formidable explanatory talents to the world of the gene. He draws on his own family history of mental illness to illuminate the relationships between genes and identity, and provides fascinating insights into the ways in which genes can be manipulated — for good and for ill.
5. The Sun & the Moon & the Rolling Stones by Rich Cohen (Spiegel & Grau)
In his earlier books, on subjects ranging from the Chicago Bears to his family’s relationship with the “Sweet and Low” company, Vanity Fair contributor Cohen has shown a gift for story telling of the highest order — revealing passionate curiosity and dodging sentimentality. This time, he writes of his stint in the 1990s as a young reporter following the Rolling Stones, drawing on that enviable experience to explain the band’s magic and enduring influence.