Biography and Memoir
From the Corner of the Oval by Beck Dorey-SteinWhat it is: a gossipy chronicle of Beck Dorey-Stein's five-year tenure as a White House stenographer during the Obama administration.
Is it for you? Dorey-Stein's funny and touching reflections focus more on workplace relationships (including an affair with a senior staffer) than political intrigue.
Reviewers say: "[This] breezy page turner is essentially Bridget Jones goes to the White House" (The New York Times).
Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir by Jean GuerreroWhat it's about: After her Mexican immigrant father was diagnosed with schizophrenia, journalist Jean Guerrero set out to investigate his claims that he was being targeted by the CIA, digging into her family history to traverse borders both tangible and inexplicable.
For fans of: dysfunctional family memoirs like Jeanette Walls' The Glass Castle and Mary Karr's The Liars' Club.
Book buzz: Crux is the winner of the PEN/FUSION Emerging Writers Prize.
Empress: The Astonishing Reign of Nur Jahan by Ruby LalWhat it's about: the life of Nur Jahan (1577-1645), an aristocratic and politically savvy Muslim woman who rose to prominence serving as co-sovereign of the Mughal empire of India with her husband, Emperor Jahangir.
Notable achievements: Considered the true ruler of the empire, throughout her reign Nur Jahan minted currency, designed gardens, palaces, and tombs that influenced her stepson's design of the Taj Mahal, and once led men into battle "sitting atop a war elephant and armed with a musket" to rescue her kidnapped husband.
No One Tells You This by Glynnis MacNicolWhat it's about: On the eve of her 40th birthday, Glynnis MacNicol grappled with her ambivalence over society's expectations for women of a certain age (getting married, having children) and feeling like a failure for not wanting those things.
Reviewers say: "a funny, frank, and fearless memoir" (Kirkus Reviews).
Want a taste? "I had known early on that I did not want my mother's life. If anything, I actively unwanted it."
The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela by Nelson Mandela; edited by Sahm VenterWhat it is: an illuminating collection of 255 letters written by anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela during his 27-year imprisonment.
Why it's significant: Editor Sahm Venter's meticulous annotations complement Mandela's resonant prose, providing rich context to the spheres -- both personal and political -- that Mandela stayed active in throughout his incarceration.
Don't miss: Mandela's letters to his own captors, in which he advocates for stronger prisoners' rights.
Shooting Ghosts: A U.S. Marine, a Conflict Photographer, and Their Journey Back... by Thomas J. Brennan and Finbarr O'ReillyWhat it's about: Marine sergeant Thomas J. Brennan and war photographer Finbarr O'Reilly met in 2010 during a Taliban attack, striking up a friendship after O'Reilly photographed Brennan's injuries.
What sets it apart: In this ode to the healing power of friendship, alternating chapters recount the men's battle-weary postwar life, providing unique perspectives on post-traumatic stress disorder and the will to survive.
The Bridge Ladies by Betsy LernerWhat it is: a moving chronicle of how a New Haven, Connecticut women's bridge club helped author Betsy Lerner reconcile with her estranged mother.
Read it for: Engaging profiles of the five bridge club members reveal how their shared hobby has sustained them through more than 50 years of personal triumphs and tragedies.
You might also like: Becky Aikman's Saturday Night Widows: The Adventures of Six Friends Remaking Their Lives.
Jackie's Girl: My Life with the Kennedy Family by Kathy McKeonWhat it is: a charming account of Irish immigrant Kathy McKeon's decade serving as Jacqueline Kennedy's live-in assistant and governess following President Kennedy's 1963 assassination.
Don't miss: Kennedy's loyalty and generosity to her staff inspired a deep friendship and devotion that endured even after McKeon left her employ.
Is it for you? McKeon's humorous (and occasionally sobering) reflections offer a personal peek into the post-Camelot era, perfect for those fascinated by the Kennedy dynasty.
The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals, and Breakthroughs in Modern Art by Sebastian SmeeWhat it is: an absorbing collective biography charting the the intimate friendships and dramatic rivalries among eight modern artists, including Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.
Author alert: Sebastian Smee is a Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic for the Washington Post.
Try this next: Mary Gabriel's Ninth Street Women, which profiles five trailblazing women who revolutionized the modern art scene.
Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson by Gordon S. WoodWhat it's about: the unlikely friendship between two of America's Founding Fathers, whose disparate personalities and conflicting ideologies often put them at odds.
Did you know? Adams and Jefferson died within hours of each other on July 4, 1826.
About the author: Historian Gordon S. Wood is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Radicalism of the American Revolution.
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