Weekly Words About New Books in

Independent Bookstores

April 7, 2024

New Nonfiction Paperbacks - Engaging Essays from a NPR Favorite, and a Fierce Look at the Persistence of Poverty in America

The Best Strangers in the World: Stories from a Life Spent Listening by Ari Shapiro.The likeable and popular NPR personality has written an engaging memoir-in-essays that doubles as a love letter to journalism. Shapiro recounts his start at NPR, encounters with politicians from President Obama on down, and his life as a globetrotting journalist. He writes about growing up gay, his marriage in San Francisco when same-sex wedlock was newly legalized, time spent as a Middle East war reporter, his co-hosting of All Things Considered (the most listened-to afternoon drive-time radio news program in the country), and more. As might be expected, Shapiro takes care not to focus the spotlight too closely on himself, although his natural curiosity, positivity, and knack for storytelling shine throughout. He is a consummate reporter with a self-deprecating sense of humor and knack for uncovering and sharing small details that add so much to his writings.

“This collection’s success is due to the author’s companionable, ever sincere tone, his willingness to be vulnerable, and his unwavering magnanimity. A clever and compulsively readable crowd pleaser.” — Kirkus Reviews

Poverty, by America by Matthew Desmond. The acclaimed sociologist and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship is the author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, which won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. In his latest book, he delivers a fierce and thorough argument about why poverty persists in America. The short answer? Because the rest of us benefit from it.

Desmond draws on history, research, and original reporting to show how affluent Americans knowingly and unknowingly keep poor people poor. Those of us who are financially secure exploit the poor, driving down their wages while forcing them to overpay for housing and access to cash and credit. We prioritize the subsidization of our wealth over the alleviation of poverty, designing a welfare state that gives the most to those who need the least. That said, Desmond also helps us imagine solutions and builds an ambitious case for ending poverty, calling on us all to become poverty abolitionists. Poverty, by America will make readers think and hopefully provide new impetus for changing the status quo.

"A data-driven manifesto that turns a critical eye on those who inflict and perpetuate unlivable conditions on others."--The Boston Globe

"Urgent and accessible . . . It's refreshing to read a work of social criticism that eschews the easy and often smug allure of abstraction, in favor of plainspoken practicality. Its moral force is a gut punch."--The New Yorker

A Perfect Choice for National Poetry Month

You Are Here: Poetry in the Natural World edited by Ada Limon. The notable and award-winning Limon is the current Poet Laureate of the United States, serving her second term. She's also the author of several poetry collections, including The Carrying, Bright Dead Things, and her latest, The Hurting Kind. Now, in association with the Library of Congress, she has overseen and edited a singular collection of 50 poems reflecting on our relationship to the natural world. And it's only fitting that You Are Here has been published during National Poetry Month. Here's a description from the publisher:

For many years, "nature poetry" has evoked images of Romantic poets standing on mountain tops. But our poetic landscape has changed dramatically, and so has our planet. This collection seeks to challenge outdated views, instead illuminating the myriad ways our landscapes--both literal and literary--are changing. Poets represented here are among or most accomplished, including Joy Harjo, Diane Seuss, Rigoberto González, Jericho Brown, Paul Tran, and more. Each poem engages with its author's local landscape--be it the breathtaking variety of flora in a national park, or a lone tree flowering persistently by a bus stop--offering an intimate model of how we relate to the world around us and a beautifully diverse range of voices from across the United States. 

In it's review of the book, Publishers Weekly writes,"This beautifully curated anthology of 50 previously unpublished poems challenges preconceptions about 'nature poetry' as it meditates on humanity's relationship to the planet . . . This collection stands apart for the strength of its entries and the breadth of its superb meditations on a pressing theme." 

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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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