5 HOT BOOKS: Why You Should Get Off Social Media, America's Fall and More


1. Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier (Henry Holt)

Lanier, a digital pioneer and author of books such as You Are Not a Gadget, asks: “How can you remain autonomous in a world where you are under constant surveillance and are constantly prodded by algorithms run by some of the richest corporations in history, which have no way of making money except by being paid to manipulate your behavior?” In this urgent and sharply written manifesto, Lanier argues that social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter are undermining truth, costing us our free will, making everything we say meaningless, destroying our capacity for empathy, making politics impossible, and turning us into jerks.

2. Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America’s Fifty-Year Fall – And Those Fighting to Reverse It by Steven Brill (Knopf)

Rather than taking a conventionally partisan view of America’s dysfunction and decline, Brill makes a lucid and engaging argument that our meritocracy has produced an aristocracy in which knowledge workers build moats around themselves and the nation declines. Founder of Court TV, The American Lawyer magazine, and the Yale Journalism Initiative, Brill writes of his own experience as a bookworm from working-class Queens who ended up at Deerfield Academy, then Yale College and Law School -- and describes how the nation's embrace of a meritocratic world he knows well has had a slew of unintended consequences. In this kaleidoscopic, bighearted, and ambitious book, he bets that “Americans will retake their democracy,” and points to idealistic individuals fighting the tailspin with campaign finance reform, new takes on labor law, and other approaches to answering “the call of a new New Frontier.”

3. A Brotherhood of Spies: The U-2 and the CIA’s Secret War by Monte Reel (Doubleday)

In his suspenseful new book, Reel focuses on a central chapter in the Cold War – the 1960 crash of a U-2 spy plane in the Soviet Union which revealed American’s espionage program. Nearly six decades after this dramatic episode, which nearly provoked a full-scale nuclear war, Reel has dug deep into the archives and brings to life the four men who masterminded the spy plane project: a scientist, inventor, and corporate leader of Polaroid; an intense, creative engineer who designed the innovative high-altitude spy plane; the brainy project manager; and the pilot, a coal miner’s son who was shot down and captured, and who came to view the U-2 drama as a cautionary tale of a governmental labyrinth of secrecy and clandestine operations. Reel’s perceptive understanding of these men, entwined with his deep knowledge of the era’s history and the origins of the CIA, make for a fascinating perspective on mid-century America.

4. The Dante Chamber by Matthew Pearl (Penguin Press)

While Pearl’s best-selling thriller The Dante Club was set in 1865 Boston with its brilliantly reimagined Harvard professors Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and James Russell Lowell, in The Dante Chamber he has relocated the action across the pond in London, with a captivating circle of luminary poets. At the heart of the novel is Christina Rossetti, whose brother, the eccentric artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti, has disappeared. She and another brother are joined by Robert Browning, Alfred Tennyson, and Holmes in an attempt to solve the mystery. While parts of the story evoke Dante’s “Purgatory,” a rereading of The Divine Comedy is not necessary to appreciate this wildly clever novel of suspense.

5. Another Side of Paradise by Sally Koslow (Harper)

In the stormy love affair of novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hollywood gossip columnist Sheilah Graham, his last flame, Koslow draws from the historical record to deliver a page-turning work of fiction, tracing his demise and her rise through her own self-invention. Against the backdrop of 1930s Hollywood, Koslow depicts alcoholic and floundering Fitzgerald still emotionally entangled with wife Zelda, and Graham, hiding her background as a Jewish orphan from London’s slums who adroitly segued onto the stage before transforming herself into a celebrity journalist. Koslow begins her novel with Fitzgerald’s death, with Graham not quite a widow and feeling like the “unwelcome mourner,” looking back at their affair, his efforts to educate her through the Western canon reading list, and her attempts to prop up his flailing screenwriting career.