5 Hot Books: A Heartbreaking Account of Families Being Evicted, the Secrets of Being Productive, and More

Five books people are talking about this week -- or should be:

1. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond (Crown)

This book will break your heart.  Desmond’s narrative about a handful of Milwaukee families experiencing the process of eviction is destined to become a classic, sharing a shelf with Michael Harrington’s 1962 classic The Other America and other poverty exposes. Now a Harvard professor, and co-director of the Justice and Poverty Project, Desmond draws from his years spent living with evicted families, and he details the grim evolution of the sordid world of separating people from their homes.

2. Smarter, Faster, Better The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg (Random House)

From Pulitzer-Prize-winning New York Times reporter Duhigg, an illuminating explanation of how to expand productivity.  As in his previous bestseller The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Duhigg integrates research studies by neuroscientists, and other experts to explain how both lone individuals and complex organizations can get themselves into a “habit loop” involving a cue, routine, and reward which magically lead to success.

3. The Civil Wars of Julia Ward Howe: A Biography by Elaine Showalter (Simon & Schuster)

Until now, little has been known about the woman who wrote the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” With this insightful biography, much-admired literary critic and scholar Showalter has rescued Howe from obscurity and explained how the reception of the anthem gave her the strength and power to become a pacifist and suffragist leader.

4. We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge (Algonquin Books)

A refreshingly original debut novel which begins when a New England research institute hires an African-American family to raise a chimpanzee and teach it sign language. What sounds like a simple and clever conceit begins in comic style, but it turns dark when the institute’s history emerges, and the novel becomes a consideration of race, family and the thorny ties of history.

5. Girl Through Glass by Sari Wilson (Harper)

This psychologically complex debut novel begins with a young ballerina in the competitive hothouse of New York City ballet where she and the other “bunheads” – girls who twist their hair into a nub held in place with fine nets made of human hair – devote themselves to the pursuit of perfection. Wilson, trained as a dancer, cross-cuts the young dancer’s story from 1977, with that of a contemporary college dance professor, and deftly braids the stories together in an intense, engrossing novel.