The books we love coming out this week include new titles by Pekka Hämäläinen, Adrian Hon, and Kevin Hazzard.
Oxford University scholar Hämäläinen (Lakota America) delivers a sweeping and persuasive corrective to the notion that “history itself is a linear process that moves irreversibly toward Indigenous destruction.” Reorienting the history of the Western Hemisphere away from “European ambitions, European perspectives, and European sources,” he focuses instead on the “overwhelming and persistent Indigenous power” that lasted in North America from 10000 BCE until the end of the 19th century. Throughout, Hämäläinen highlights the agency, resilience, diversity, and kinship of Indigenous peoples, detailing how the Comanche, the Lakota, the Mohawks, and other tribes formed alliances to forestall European conquest. Skillfully shifting across regions and time periods, Hämäläinen documents how Native nations expanded, contracted, and even relocated in response to opportunities or pressures, and employed a range of methods (diplomacy, trade, and war among them) to resist colonization. Revelations abound—from the rampant enslavement of Indigenous people by European settlers to the strategic advantages that smallpox and other diseases gave to some Native nations—as do immersive renderings of Native cultural traditions and incisive analyses of developments including Western tribes’ domestication of horses in the 1700s and the formation of Native American and British alliances after the Revolutionary War. This top-notch history casts the story of America in an astonishing new light.
Hon (A History of the Future in 100 Objects), CEO and founder of game developer Six to Start, warns in this convincing outing that gamification—using “ideas from game design to make difficult or dull activities more fun”—has “become the twenty-first century’s most advanced form of behavioural control.” Tools purportedly designed to motivate students or increase worker productivity actually have insidious psychological effects, he suggests, often resulting in covert wage decreases, as employees are pressured into working more for no increased pay. Myriad examples bolster his case: he describes classroom behavior-monitoring apps that function as an “on-ramp to Foucault’s panopticon,” games used at Amazon that incentivize “returning from break faster,” race-against-the-clock timers that gives McDonald’s managers leverage to “discipline and punish poor performers,” and the “veritable bonanza of quests and bonuses” at Uber, “all to entice drivers into working as long as they possibly can.” Hon ends with detailed, practical steps to combat this trend: designers ought to “act ethically” and accept responsibility when their games cause harm, and legislation should be passed to mandate transparency regarding business productivity quotas and to protect workers’ privacy. This passionate survey is a wake-up call for workers and political leaders alike.
Journalist and former paramedic Hazzard (A Thousand Naked Strangers) paints a riveting portrait of Freedom House EMS, a pioneering group of Black paramedics in 1970s Pittsburgh. Expertly contextualizing the group’s achievements within the contentious racial climate and archaic medical practices of the era, Hazzard spotlights medic John Moon, who “loved Angela Davis and the afro but [was] polite to the point (almost) of deference”; Peter Safar, an émigré Austrian anesthesiologist inspired by his 11-year-old daughter’s death from an asthma attack to reimagine ambulance services and paramedic training; and Freedom House medical director Nancy Caroline, who was tapped by Safar to revamp his training program. Hazzard explains how the 1966 death of former Pittsburgh mayor David Lawrence highlighted the inadequacy of ambulance care provided by the city’s police department, which also had an “acrimonious” relationship with residents of Pittsburgh’s predominantly African American neighborhood, the Hill District. He also documents Freedom House’s battles with a stubborn mayor and police leaders, and the stirring stories of Black paramedics who developed methods now used by ambulance departments around the world. The result is a fascinating and deeply rewarding study of triumph in the face of adversity.
Bestseller Guillory (The Wedding Party) sets this scintillating workplace romance at a Napa Valley vineyard. Its co-owner, Margot Noble, faces a crisis of conscience when she realizes that her recent steamy one-night stand is also her new employee, Luke Williams, hired by her brother in her absence. Though their intense attraction lingers, Margot’s determined not to sleep with her employee (again). Her brother, the vineyard’s other owner, doesn’t believe she deserves to have inherited her half of the business from their uncle, and she doesn’t want to give him any more ammunition to use against her. The situation is just as fraught for Luke, who recently quit a high-paying tech job with a discriminatory boss—a fact he hasn’t yet told his mother, who also mistakenly believes he’s dating his best friend. A relationship with Margot would only complicate things further—but knowing that does nothing to curtail his desire. When his mother has an accident, Luke quits the vineyard to fill in at her inn, giving Luke and Margot the opportunity to explore their chemistry at last. His shyness and her strength are an orgasmic combination, but Margot’s fear of being judged and Luke’s need to prove himself worthy threaten their happiness. The lush background and Guillory’s signature blend of sexy, sweet, and funny keep the pages flying. This is a gem.
In this gorgeous and roving debut, Belgian poet Van den Broeck (Chameleon) recounts her odyssey researching the lives of 13 architects who all died by suicide, some under mysterious circumstances. Whether from stress, public pressure, flaw in design, or a fatal passion, the reasons for each death remain unknown, and Van den Broeck’s search for the truth carries her across Europe and into centuries past. While musing on Gaston Eysselinck’s (1907–1953) post office building in Ostend, Van den Broeck reveals that the Belgian architect’s “unyielding nature” and “insistence on having his own way” resulted in his expulsion and permanent ban from entering the building site in June 1953 (six months later, Eysselinck would die). She also details how British military engineer William Skinner’s “tale of suicide”—used as a lure to attract tourists to the 18th-century Scottish fortress Fort George—“perpetuates the idea that architects who fail commit suicide.” Seeking to find “the line between creator and creation,” Van den Broeck’s exploration extends beyond the lives and works of her subjects, turning into both a philosophical meditation on creativity and a brilliant character study of misunderstood artists. The result is a genre-bending work that’s sure to fascinate those interested in art and architecture, as well as anyone curious about the dangerous mechanisms of the creative mind.
A remorseless killer stalks a beach town in Maillard’s spectacular debut. The story opens in dramatic fashion when a man with obscured eyes bludgeons two girls to death with a baseball bat, but what follows amplifies the sense of dread not with increasing violence but the steady accrual of mundane yet sinister detail. Like many of the 1980s horror films whose template Maillard draws from, the anxieties of this insular, seemingly idyllic community are refracted through its teenagers’ reactions to the danger. Quiet, bespectacled Dan indulges in dark secrets of his own. Tomboyish Pola vacillates between anger, fear, and her feelings for Dan, bonded to her through their outsider statuses and mother issues (his cloying and domineering, hers a drinker). Familiar tropes crop up, like the accompanying media frenzy (in which the killer is dubbed “the Bloody Batter”) and mounting body count and disappearances. But Maillard is focused on subverting slasher tropes with supernatural suggestions, familial trauma, sexual violence, and reimagining the “final girl” scenario as a fiery ritual. The town’s eeriness is compounded by Maillard’s suspiciously serene charcoal-style drawings, which combine Chris Van Allsburg mystery with tight close-ups. This will enrapture fans of elevated horror.
Chef Forkish (The Elements of Pizza), founder of Ken’s Artisan Pizza, turns his attention to developing doughs and techniques specifically for pans and Dutch ovens in his magnificent latest. His revised starter, a natural levain, calls for reduced flour, takes only a week to produce, and results in less sourdough discard. Each recipe (many work with or without the levain) is stirred by hand in a container or bowl and yields a single loaf. Forkish takes care to explain why he blends flours—to compensate for varying amounts of gluten, and for deeper flavor—and how he has standardized the process into eight steps, so it will “become automatic after a few times of doing it.” Same-day breads—including black bread made with black rice flour, and raisin-pecan made with a rye and whole-wheat blend—take as little as six hours. His overnight loaves are flavor-enhanced from a rest in the refrigerator, while three days of simple fermentation yield delicious Dutch oven breads like a walnut loaf so good that eating it, Forkish writes, “should make you pause, put down the phone, and just go to that special place in your imagination where unicorns live.” Meanwhile, the apple-cider levain recipe, inspired by Forkish’s Portland, Ore., bakery, promises hearty richness and “chars beautifully on the grill.” This will be a surefire boon for home bread bakers.
“Be it records or romantic partners, we fall in love with the ones who make us feel like our best and truest self,” writes music producer and neuroscientist Rogers in this pitch-perfect deep dive into the power of music. Determined to ascertain how and why music resonates so strongly with its listeners, Rogers—the chief engineer for Prince’s Purple Rain—breaks down the emotional and scientific importance of lyrics, melody, rhythm, and timbre. In brainy yet breezy prose, she explores how a song’s melody can actually be more impactful than its lyrics; how audiences crave to hear lyrics they can relate to; and why making music with others facilitates a sense of belonging: “Communal music making bypasses the need to express your musical self as an individual, letting you fuse your identity with something larger than yourself.” Most resonant is Rogers’s fascinating foray into the ways the mind and music connect; because “our auditory circuitry has more varied and direct connections to our emotion circuitry than does our visual circuity,” she writes, “music activates our mind wandering network—and our personal self—more easily and fully than any other art form.” Combining erudite analysis with plenty of soul, this will have music lovers rapt.