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Amazon’s Best Books of the Month: February 2017


So many books, so little time! Our friends at Amazon have released yet another exciting list of their top 10 book picks for the month. Are you a fan of the 80s? A mythology buff? Which of these titles will find its way to your TBR pile?

The top spotlight pick of the month is the delightfully intriguing-sounding 4 3 2 1: A Novel by Paul Auster.

Nearly two weeks early, on March 3, 1947, in the maternity ward of Beth Israel Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, Archibald Isaac Ferguson, the one and only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson, is born. From that single beginning, Ferguson’s life will take four simultaneous and independent fictional paths. Four identical Fergusons made of the same DNA, four boys who are the same boy, go on to lead four parallel and entirely different lives. Family fortunes diverge. Athletic skills and sex lives and friendships and intellectual passions contrast. Each Ferguson falls under the spell of the magnificent Amy Schneiderman, yet each Amy and each Ferguson have a relationship like no other. Meanwhile, readers will take in each Ferguson’s pleasures and ache from each Ferguson’s pains, as the mortal plot of each Ferguson’s life rushes on.

An exciting debut novel on the list, The Impossible Fortress: A Novel by Jason Rekulak warms us to the cores of our 80s-loving little hearts:

Until May 1987, fourteen-year-old Billy Marvin of Wetbridge, New Jersey, is a nerd, but a decidedly happy nerd.

Afternoons are spent with his buddies, watching copious amounts of television, gorging on Pop-Tarts, debating who would win in a brawl (Rocky Balboa or Freddy Krueger? Bruce Springsteen or Billy Joel? Magnum P.I. Or T.J. Hooker?), and programming video games on his Commodore 64 late into the night. Then Playboy magazine publishes photos of Wheel of Fortune hostess Vanna White, Billy meets expert programmer Mary Zelinsky, and everything changes.

A love letter to the 1980s, to the dawn of the computer age, and to adolescence—a time when anything feels possible—The Impossible Fortress will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you remember in exquisite detail what it feels like to love something—or someone—for the very first time.

And the rest of the list for the month:

The Upstarts: How Uber, Airbnb and the Killer Companies of the New Silicon Valley Are Changing the World by Brad Stone

In the spirit of iconic Silicon Valley renegades like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, another generation of entrepreneurs is using technology to upend convention and disrupt entire industries. These are the upstarts, idiosyncratic founders with limitless drive and an abundance of self-confidence. Led by such visionaries as Travis Kalanick of Uber and Brian Chesky of Airbnb, they are rewriting the rules of business and often sidestepping serious ethical and legal obstacles in the process.

The Upstarts is the definitive story of two new titans of business and a dawning age of tenacity, conflict and wealth. In Brad Stone’s riveting account of the most radical companies of the new Silicon Valley, we discover how it all happened and what it took to change the world.

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but instead of giving them to him, she hides them in the thousands of books he has collected over the years. When Ingrid has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving behind her beautiful but dilapidated house by the sea, her husband, and her two daughters, Flora and Nan.

Twelve years later, Gil thinks he sees Ingrid from a bookshop window, but he’s getting older and this unlikely sighting is chalked up to senility. Flora, who has never believed her mother drowned, returns home to care for her father and to try to finally discover what happened to Ingrid. But what Flora doesn’t realize is that the answers to her questions are hidden in the books that surround her. Scandalous and whip-smart, Swimming Lessons holds the Coleman family up to the light, exposing the mysterious truths of a passionate and troubled marriage.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales.

Gaiman fashions these primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds and delves into the exploits of deities, dwarfs, and giants. Through Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerge these gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to duping others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Profoundly moving and gracefully told, Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them. Betrayed by her wealthy lover, Sunja finds unexpected salvation when a young tubercular minister offers to marry her and bring her to Japan to start a new life.

So begins a sweeping saga of exceptional people in exile from a homeland they never knew and caught in the indifferent arc of history. In Japan, Sunja’s family members endure harsh discrimination, catastrophes, and poverty, yet they also encounter great joy as they pursue their passions and rise to meet the challenges this new home presents. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, they are bound together by deep roots as their family faces enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari

Yuval Noah Harari, author of the critically-acclaimed New York Times bestseller and international phenomenon Sapiens, returns with an equally original, compelling, and provocative book, turning his focus toward humanity’s future, and our quest to upgrade humans into gods.

Over the past century humankind has managed to do the impossible and rein in famine, plague, and war. This may seem hard to accept, but, as Harari explains in his trademark style—thorough, yet riveting—famine, plague and war have been transformed from incomprehensible and uncontrollable forces of nature into manageable challenges. What then will replace famine, plague, and war at the top of the human agenda? As the self-made gods of planet earth, what destinies will we set ourselves, and which quests will we undertake?

Universal Harvester: A Novel by John Darnielle

Jeremy works at the Video Hut in small-town Iowa. It’s a job, quiet and predictable, and it gets him out of the house, where he lives with his dad and where they both try to avoid missing Mom, who died six years ago in a car wreck.

But when a local schoolteacher comes in to return her copy of an old movie, she has an odd complaint: “There’s something on it,” she says, but doesn’t elaborate. Two days later, a different customer returns a different tape, a new release, and says it’s not defective, exactly, but altered: “There’s another movie on this tape.”

Jeremy doesn’t want to be curious, but he brings the movies home to take a look…

Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George Saunders

The long-awaited moving and original father-son story featuring none other than Abraham Lincoln, as well as an unforgettable cast of supporting characters, living and dead, historical and invented.

Lincoln in the Bardo is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction’s ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?

Insomniac City: New York, Oliver, and Me by Bill Hayes

Bill Hayes came to New York City in 2009 with a one-way ticket and only the vaguest idea of how he would get by. But, at forty-eight years old, having spent decades in San Francisco, he craved change. Grieving over the death of his partner, he quickly discovered the profound consolations of the city’s incessant rhythms, the sight of the Empire State Building against the night sky, and New Yorkers themselves, kindred souls that Hayes, a lifelong insomniac, encountered on late-night strolls with his camera.

And he unexpectedly fell in love again, with his friend and neighbor, the writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks, whose exuberance–“I don’t so much fear death as I do wasting life,” he tells Hayes early on–is captured in funny and touching vignettes throughout. What emerges is a portrait of Sacks at his most personal and endearing, from falling in love for the first time at age seventy-five to facing illness and death (Sacks died of cancer in August 2015). Insomniac City is both a meditation on grief and a celebration of life. Filled with Hayes’s distinctive street photos of everyday New Yorkers, the book is a love song to the city and to all who have felt the particular magic and solace it offers.

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