4 Booklist February 1, 2016 www.booklistreader.com
Philosophy & Psychology
Dinner with Edward: A Story of an
By Isabel Vincent.
Mar. 2016. 224p. Algonquin, $23.95 (9781616204228).
Vincent was at a difficult time in her life.
Her marriage was crumbling, and although a
recent move to New York had come with its
own stresses, in truth the
cracks in the relationship
had already been there.
She was challenged by her
reporting job at the New
York Post and the aggres-
sive brand of journalism
it demanded. Asked by a
friend to look in on her
ninetysomething father, whose wife had
recently died, Vincent agrees, but she cer-
tainly didn’t expect that her dinners with
the grieving man would act as a salve during
this tough time. Edward—a devoted host
and self-taught chef with a penchant for
dispensing advice and dabbling in poetry—
insists on preparing his multicourse feasts
for the two of them without assistance. And
what feasts they are! Vincent’s descriptions
of food, written with the sumptuous detail
of a restaurant review, are something to sa-
vor, as are her recollections of Edward and
the way he dedicated himself to living after
having lost the love of his life. Delightfully
combining the warmheartedness of Tuesdays
with Morrie with the sensual splendor of Ju-
lie and Julia, this is a memoir to treasure.
Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto.
By Lesley Hazleton.
Apr. 2016. 224p. Riverhead, $25.95 (9781594634130).
Perhaps it’s not surprising that the author
of accessible, balanced accounts of Muhammad, the Sunni-Shia split in Islam, and the
Blessed Virgin withholds judgment about
the existence of God. In eight personably
persuasive chapters, she counts the benefits
of agnosticism, though not so much for the
practice of objective historiography as for
personal intellectual freedom and mental
comfort. Neither believing nor disbelieving in God removes the irksome pressure to
choose sides. It allows deep and continual
exploration into the realities the word God
is used to contain. It permits living in doubt
or, as Emily Dickinson had it, “dwell[ing] in
possibility.” It accepts irresolvable mystery,
facilitates understanding how humans make
meaning, encourages acknowledging mortality (“The meaning of life is that it stops”),
and grasping—well, appreciating—infinity.
Finally, agnosticism lets one give up on
the soul—a possession—in favor of soul
as a “quality of existence,” as when we say
something is soulful. Informed by science,
philosophy, literature, history, travel, hiking,
and more, Hazleton’s manifesto makes the
suspension of conviction as attractive as any
theist or atheist testament. —Ray Olson
The Joy of Discipleship: Reflections from
Pope Francis on Walking with Christ.
By Francis. Ed. by Jim Campbell.
Feb. 2016. 154p. Loyola Univ., $22.95 (9780829443875);
paper, $16.95 (9780829444315). 282.092.
Made up of excerpts from speeches, homi-lies, and documents, this little book about
personal Christianity, about following in
Christ’s footsteps, presents the essence of
Pope Francis’ ministry. That ministry is prodigiously hopeful, refulgent with the good
news of salvation. Mercy is the essence of
the Gospel, Francis inculcates, and no one
is too sinful to receive it nor can anyone be
too tardy in accepting it, for God’s patience
is infinite. Upon accepting it, one may know
the joy of Christ’s Resurrection and one’s
relationship as a sibling of Christ because
one has chosen to follow in the way of love
expressed in compassion for all, particularly
through living in the image of God for humans, the married couple. Through such a
way of life, one becomes united with the
church and, ultimately, with Christ, taking everyone as sisters and brothers. This
is all very familiar stuff to Christians, or it
should be. Francis says it all over again with
remarkable clarity, friendliness, and beauty.
Strange Gods: A Secular History of
By Susan Jacoby.
Feb. 2016. 512p. Pantheon, $29.95 (9780375423758);
e-book (9781101870969). 204.
Religious conversions serve as turning
points throughout history. Though conversion narratives are popular, the social and
cultural situations that surround them often
receive less attention than the personal stories. Conversions do not occur in a vacuum,
and Jacoby’s book traces the religious lives
of famous (and some less famous) converts
and seeks to firmly anchor their narratives in
particular places and times. Beginning with
the rise of Christianity and the conversion
of Augustine of Hippo, and tracing historic conversions up through the twentieth
century, Jacoby highlights historical figures
including Edith Stein and Muhammad Ali,
painting a parallel portrait of the massive
cultural changes surging around them. Jacoby clearly has a point to prove, and she
paints a vivid picture of the ways in which
conversions happen and the myriad reasons
behind their happening. —Christine Engel
All In. By Simona Ahrnstedt. Kensington, $25 (9781496706195). July.
Best-selling Swedish novelist Ahrnstedt makes her American debut with this clever,
suspenseful, and sexy tale of love, family secrets, and corporate intrigue. Touted as the
first foreign-language romance novel to be translated and published in the U.S., this title
is poised to do for Swedish romance what Stieg Larsson’s series did for mysteries.
Here I Am. By Jonathan Safran Foer. Farrar, $27 (9780374280024). Sept.
Foer’s eagerly awaited first novel in 11 years portrays a Jewish family in Washington,
D.C., undergoing major upheavals while the Middle East convulses with invasions and
a natural disaster.
I Almost Forgot about You. By Terry McMillan. Crown, $27 (9781101902578). June.
McMillan sets her accomplished protagonist, Dr. Georgia Young, on a path to major
If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty. By Eric Metaxas. Viking,
$26 (9781101979983). June.
Best-selling Metaxas examines both the founding fathers’ intentions and our attempt to
live up to their vision of liberty and justice in a book bound to ignite discussion during this
Joe Gould’s Teeth. By Jill Lepore. Knopf, $25 (97811019477586). May.
A renowned and widely-read historian and archive sleuth, Lepore takes on the mystery
of a massive, long-lost manuscript and the secrets of the notorious Greenwich Village
eccentric Joe Gould.
HIGH-DEMAND HOT LIST
Watch for reviews of these high-demand titles by best-selling authors in
forthcoming issues of Booklist. —Donna Seaman