Weekly Words About New Books in

Independent Bookstores

May 19, 2024

Non-Fiction Bestsellers Chronicle A Hellish Russian Captivity and a Political Pro's Advice on How to Communicate Better

Coming Home by Brittney Griner. Even if you don't follow women's basketball, you should know Griner's name, although her increased celebrity has been unimaginably hard-earned. Her story is harrowing and heartbreaking, and it's pretty remarkable that she survived and was able to write this book at all.

On February 17, 2022, Griner arrived in Moscow ready to spend the women's professional basketball's offseason playing for the Russian women's team where she had been the centerpiece of previous championship seasons. Instead, a security checkpoint became her gateway to hell when she was arrested for mistakenly carrying under one gram of medically prescribed hash oil.

In Coming Home, Griner shares the painful details of her sudden arrest; her bewilderment and isolation while navigating a foreign legal system amid her trial and sentencing; her emotional anguish as the first American woman ever to endure a Russian penal colony; the prisoner swap with Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout; and her rise from hostage to global spokesperson on behalf of America's forgotten. 

She also shares how her love for Cherelle, her college sweetheart and wife of six years, anchored her during their greatest storm; how her family's support pulled her back from the brink; and how hundreds of letters from friends and neighbors lent her resolve to keep fighting. It's quite a remarkable story, and Griner documents her nearly year-long imprisonment in great detail and with honest emotion. It's also a damning indictment of an abysmal, corrupt justice system operating under the auspices of a heinous dictator.

"Riveting . . . Coming Home delves unflinchingly into the dehumanizing indignities the Olympic athlete suffered during the 10 months she served out of a nine-year sentence." --The Washington Post

Say More: Lessons from Work, the White House, and the World by Jen Psaki. Not many White House Press Secretaries have captured the nation's interest the way Jen Psaki did. A political advisor who served under both the Obama and Biden administrations, she was President Biden's press secretary until May 2022, a role in which many praised her ability to break through the noise and successfully deliver her message. In her new book, she takes readers along the campaign trail, to the State Department, and inside the White House under two Presidents.

Psaki writes about reporting to bosses from the hot-tempered Rahm Emanuel to the coolly intellectual Barack Obama to the surprisingly tenderhearted John Kerry. She also talks about her time working closely with President Joe Biden in his administration and efforts to set a new tone for the country, one that would restore a sense of calm and respect for the role of the media. After leaving the White House, she became the successful host of MSNBC's Sunday afternoon and Monday evening program, Inside with Jen Psaki, about which she also writes.

But Say More is not just a book of political reminiscences; Psaki offers advice on better communication in general. Drawing on years of experience - and occasional blunders - she addresses the best ways to give and receive feedback, how to connect with your audience, how to listen actively, and much more. 

Kirkus Reviews wrote favorably about the book, noting, "Throughout the book, Psaki mines her most sensitive moments for lessons on communication to impart to her readers... The narrative shines brightest when Psaki approaches her personal and professional past with circumspection, infusing her words with humor and vulnerability."

Romance Is in the Air...and on Indie Bestseller Lists

Funny Story by Emily Henry and This Summer Will Be Different by Carley Fortune. In a sign that summer is near, two beach read romances stand atop independent bookstore bestseller fiction lists. On the hardcover side, Funny Story by the always dependable Emily Henry is ensconced at #1, while on the paperback side, Canadian author Carley Fortune's This Summer Will Be Different heads the list.

Funny Story is about Daphne and Miles, opposite types who become unexpected roommates when their respective love interests - Peter and Petra - dump them to become engaged to each other. The jilted lovers become friends, accept the wedding invites sent by their exes, and take pleasure in pretending they are a couple in order to annoy their formers - which they do. I won't spoil the ending (smile), but suffice to say Henry is in her usual fine form, with nice character development and her trademark witty dialogue.

In This Summer Will Be Different, Fortune creates what Kirkus Review calls a "steamy, romantic summer read with a charming setting." When Bridget invites her best friend Lucy to her family home on Prince Edward Island (see "charming setting" reference above), it comes with one caveat for Lucy - don't get involved with Bridget's brother. Needless to say, Lucy blows it almost immediately, although she doesn't realize the charming Felix is the banned sibling until after they sleep together. Desperate not to disappoint her bestie, Lucy keeps the relationship secret - even as she returns to the island annually and manages, despite her best efforts, to re-entangle herself with Felix. When, in present day, Bridget suddenly flees Toronto a week before her wedding, Lucy drops everything to follow her to the island and help with her friend's evident crisis. Of course, Felix is also on hand, and something about their relationship has changed. Crisis management, anyone?

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Hi, I'm Hut Landon, and I'm a bookseller in an independent bookstore in BerkeIey, CA.

My goal here is to keep readers up to date about new books hitting the shelves, share what indie booksellers are recommending in their stores, and pass on occasional news about the book world. 

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