5 Hot Books: A Memoir about a Pornographer Father, Muckraking About a Major Corporation & More

1. The Profiteers: Bechtel and the Men Who Built the World by Sally Denton (Simon & Schuster)

From its start working on a huge construction project for the Hoover Dam in 1931, Bechtel has grown into one of the nation’s largest – and most secretive – privately held companies.  Denton, a determined investigative journalist, has previously exposed organized crime in Las Vegas and corruption in the Mormon Church. In this compelling corporate history, she artfully details how Bechtel accrued power by exploiting the “revolving door of capitalism,” through which its executives have glided effortlessly, moving between the company headquarters and the corridors of power in the nation’s capital.

2. Tender by Belinda McKeon (A Lee Boudreaux Book/Little, Brown & Company)

From the winner of the 2012 Faber Prize, this emotionally charged novel centers on a pair of close college friends in Dublin.  When it becomes clear that one is gay, the other becomes obsessive in a way that is deeply resonant and haunting.  This is, in the end, a heartbreaking book that captures the angst of college students who don’t quite fit into the world – and a friendship that darkens as it evolves.  

3. American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales (Alfred A. Knopf)

Vanity Fair writer Sales has interviewed more than 200 girls aged 13 to 19 across the country and heard their stories about how social media has ushered in a new and hostile culture for them, in ways that go beyond harassment and bullying.  One of its most pernicious effects: tremendous pressure on girls to be perfect.  Sales concludes that parental involvement is critically important to help girls free themselves from the dangers of the online world.

4. A Friend of Mr. Lincoln by Stephen Harrigan (Alfred A. Knopf)

One of the masters of the historical novel (The Gates of the Alamo, Remember Ben Clayton), Harrigan turns his attention this time to Abraham Lincoln during his early years in Springfield, when the future President worked as a a circuit-riding lawyer and member of the state legislature. Harrigan has imagined a poet, Cage Weatherby, and it is through him that the author provides a fresh and vital perspective on Lincoln, a young man marked by great ambition and distinctive wit, but also by preternatural sadness.

5. My Father, the Pornographer by Chris Offut (Atria Books)

Offut, a widely admired fiction writer, has written a compelling memoir of growing up with a dark and enigmatic father.  The senior Offut left his small insurance agency in eastern Kentucky and ended up writing nearly 375 books of pornography under a wide assortment of pen names. When he died, his son returned home to find thousands of letters and tens of thousands of novel pages his father had written – hazy guideposts to a secret life.  Despite its arresting title, Offut’s memoir is less about pornography than about a son’s attempt to understand a mysterious father.