And Now For Something Completely Different

aronJim Shepard is what is known as a “writer’s writer.” That is, he’s not well known by the larger reading public, and you won’t find his books in supermarkets. That will probably change with The Book of Aron (Knopf, May 2015), his latest novel.

Aron is a young Polish boy whose family is driven from their country home by the Nazi invasion. They end up in Warsaw, where Aron joins other children in trying to both survive and help their families. I expect this novel to break my heart.

“Shepard succeeds because he never wavers from his novel’s moral focus. This is a book about annihilation, and the human spirit that somehow lives on, in slivers and cracks. This is the truth that Shepard siphons away from a history otherwise filled with the chill of encroaching brutality, the truth that renders a work of extraordinary fiction. —Nicholas Miriello, Los Angeles Review of Books

mt charProbably less devastating will be Scott Hawkins’ debut novel, The Library at Mount Char (Crown, June 2015). I have no idea what it’s about, even after reading multiple reviews and blurbs. All I know is that there’s a library containing the secrets of the universe and that the consensus seems to be the novel is “bizarre.” That’s enough for me to put it on my wish list.

geekLast but not least, is Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology (PublicAffairs, May 2015) by Kentaro Toyama. Mr Toyama is an award-winning computer scientist who has spent more than a decade trying to address global poverty, education, and health issues via technology. His conclusion: there is no pure, technological solution to human problems.

In his book, Mr Toyama presents his thesis of social change through social, people-oriented solutions. By telling the stories of people who’ve followed this path, Mr Toyama presents a vivid and refreshing alternative to hopelessness, culture war rhetoric, and information overload. Is there an answer to income inequality and poverty, and is it within each of our grasp?

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