BookFilter: Elizabeth Strout's Latest, A Takedown Of Harvard Business School and The Cookbook Of The Year

04/28/2017 05:08 pm ET

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What we're reading:

“Anything is Possible” explores the same setting of Pulitzer Prize-winner Elizabeth Strout's 2016 novel “My Name Is Lucy Barton.” Here, Strout opens a Pandora’s Box of human ills: Affairs, alcoholism, loneliness, family abandonment, envy -- just about anything people struggle with everywhere, every day. It is a collection of linked short stories set in small town Illinois, so the characters in the background of one story may pop up as the central figures in another. Think of it as prose’s answer to Edgar Lee Masters’ “Spoon River Anthology.” Strout is so good at characterizations and descriptions: knock on any door and she will open it for you and let you look in. What she shows you is not the dreariness of the human condition but its possibility. Those possibilities are always hovering, the way hope is always hovering around at the bottom of Pandora’s Box.... Read More.

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Unquestionably one of the most anticipated cookbooks of the year. And no wonder: she began at Chez Panisse, NPR dubbed her "the next Julia Child" and this isn't just a collection of recipes. By focusing on the four key elements of cooking -- salt, fat, acid and he3at -- Nosrat shows you how to cook and thus how to deal with any crisis. Understanding what you're doing and why makes the how a lot easier. Plus, it looks fun and inviting, not intimidating. It's subtitled "mastering the elements of good cooking" and if Nosrat can help us master just some of them, she's better than they say.... Read More.

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The best-selling phenomenon Fredrik Backman delivers what is sure to be another heart-warming bestseller. He made his name with some quirky old people but here Backman focuses in on teenagers. In a fictional spin on "Friday Night Lights," Beartown is about how the hopes and dreams of a dying small town are wholly invested in their local high school hockey team and the chance they might actually win the national semi-finals match and then...who knows? Gentle, humorous, open-hearted, like all of Backman.... Read More.

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Few institutions have proven as influential as the Harvard Business School, almost its own entity in the august educational behemoth known as Harvard. So many titans of industry and government have passed through HBS it's the educational equivalent of Goldman Sachs. McDonald charts the history of HBS and then takes it to task: it's clearly profitable in every sense of the word but is it successful? Has it matched its own stated goal of turning out business leaders who can solve problems "in socially constructive ways"? Or in fact has HBS proven toxic in churning out leaders who focus on short term goals, quarterly profits and personal wealth and power rather than building businesses that are good for all its employees and god forbid society at large.... Read More.

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Sometimes you just want a big, fat, juicy read and Crystal King's debut novel fits the bill. Pitched as "Upstairs, Downstairs" in ancient Rome, it focuses on a brilliant chef purchased by one of Rome's leading figures named Apicius. That man is famed for his parties and he just knows this talented wizard with food named Thrasius will be just the ticket to clinching his fame as Rome's greatest epicure. We can all picture the lavish, bacchanalian feasts of ancient Rome. But did we ever picture the people behind the scenes putting it all together? Romance, power, politics and mouth-watering meals described in detail? We think we've just discovered the Food Channel's first miniseries.... Read More.

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In this new look at baseball and how Big Data is turning the sport upside down, Keith Law wants to drive a stake through the heart of old school fans who still scoff at Moneyball and insist gut and intangibles matter more than all those fancy new stats. Law says, "Nope." And then proves it by showing why too much faith was placed in the old, misleading statistics that guided baseball for a century and why the new ones are so much better, smarter, more meaningful. We say baseball is in a golden age of competitiveness for one statistical reason only: the luxury tax. But baseball is a sport that loves a good argument and Law is making one here.... Read More.

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An acclaimed spy novel, this might well mark the commercial -- and certainly the critical -- breakthrough for writer William Christie. It's 1936 in the Soviet Union and a 16 year old orphan who has lived by his wits pretty much all his life finally comes under the gaze of the KGB. He's given a choice (which means no choice at all) -- disappear into the bowels of the penal system or be trained as a spy and inserted into Nazi Germany posing as a long-lost German teenager. Naturally, he chooses the later and our hero is soon living a double or perhaps triple life as a Soviet spy in Nazi Germany who has no love for either government but sure would like to survive.... Read More.

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After you're done leaning in, sometimes you need friends and family to lean on. Sandberg shares the painful story of how her personal life collapsed when she discovered her husband collapsed dead on the floor of a gym. She wanted him back more than anything but a friend woke Sandberg up by saying, "Option A Is not available" and urging her to make the most of Option B. That story is combined with the inspiring stories of others and Adam Grant's roundup of the latest science on how remarkably durable people are and the many ways they flourish in the face of adversity.... Read More.

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Doctorow is one of our canniest writers and in this near-future dystopian novel -- that's sci-fi to those of you who aren't snobs about genre -- he's having a lot of fun. Doctorow wonders: what will happen when (not if, but most likely when) anyone can print out the basic necessities of life (food, clothing, shelter) from a computer? Some party the night away and laugh at the losers who still work. Others become "walkaways," who don't just dance the night away but set out for an entirely new life. Then someone figures out how to cheat death and all hell really breaks loose. So it sounds fun and it'll have to be to match the fun of the blurbs Doctorow inspired, including ones from Edward Snowden (I guess he's got a lot of time on his hands) to Kim Stanley Robinson (one of our favorites) to this gem from Neal Stephenson: "Cory Doctorow has authored the Bhagavad Gita of hacker/maker/burner/opensource/git/gnu/wiki/99%/ adjunctfaculty/Anonymous/shareware/thingiverse/cypherpunk/LGTBQIA*/squatter/upcycling culture and zipped it down into a pretty damned tight techno-thriller with a lot of sex in it".... Read More.

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Imagine New York City paralyzed by a mad bomber, a lunatic randomly placing explosives literally anywhere and everywhere: Penn Station, Grand Central, public restrooms, movie theaters. But this isn't some terrorism, post-9/11 nightmare. It actually happened for 16 years in the 1940s and 1950s when a disgruntled employee angry about some workplace indignity took his frustration out on the world, planting dozens of bombs, watching 22 explode and injuring 15 people. That's the once notorious story of the Mad Bomber which is given new life in this work of popular history about how a desperate New York City turned to a psychiatrist that specialized in the criminal mind. And his success in combing through clues and messages from the bomber to paint a picture of the man they were trying to catch -- and then even hatch a plan to trap him -- helped birth the modern technique of criminal profiling.... Read More.

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Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the founder and CEO of the forthcoming websiteBookFilter, a book lover’s best friend. Trying to decide what to read next?Head to BookFilter! Need a smart and easy gift? Head to BookFilter? Wondering what new titles came out this week in your favorite categories, like cookbooks and mystery and more? Head to BookFilter! It’s a website that lets you browse for books online the way you do in a physical bookstore, provides comprehensive info on new releases every week in every category and offers passionate personal recommendations every step of the way. It’s like a fall book preview or holiday gift guide — but every week in every category. He’s also the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day and features top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It’s available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website and hisdaily blog.Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes.

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