You’ll be swept into The Son, Philipp Meyer’s brilliantly crafted, multigenerational saga that swirls through the history of Texas from pre-Civil War days to the present. Told in three alternating voices, this compellingly complex narrative begins with Eli, the McCullough clan’s patriarch and most intriguing member. Captured in 1846 by the Comanche raiders who slaughtered his mother, sister and brother, Eli came to love his years with the Comanches and let his mentor’s maxim—you only get rich by taking what you want—guide his rise to wealth and power. His son, Peter, evoked through a diary he kept in the years before WWI, is a counterbalance to his avaricious father, the one McCullough who doesn’t revel in the family’s unabashed empire building. Jeanne, Peter’s granddaughter, adds the third voice. Now 86 and one of the world’s richest women, she drifts in and out of memories of the Texas oil boom, her fight to make it in a man’s world and the corrosive consequences of too much money. This extraordinary epic of American greed is performed by an all-star quartet of readers, led by the always-pitch-perfect Will Patton.

HAWKING ON HIMSELF
My Brief History, Stephen Hawking’s book about his life and intellectual evolution, is very brief indeed. And it’s as remarkable for the things he doesn’t talk about (love, loss, marriage, divorce, children) as it is for the things he chooses to share (his groundbreaking work on black holes, his passionate quest to understand the laws of the universe). One of the most famous scientists alive (“a rock star scientist,” as he puts it), a theoretical physicist and cosmologist, he’s the author of many serious scholarly books, impenetrable by mere mortals, and books for the rest of us, including A Brief History of Time, which has sold more than 10 million copies. Hawking describes his youth, his eccentric intellectual parents, their fixer-upper Victorian home, his early school days and the great leaps forward he made in university. Everything changed when he was diagnosed with ALS at 21. He found the focus that had eluded him—and the rest is scientific history. He does talk about living with his deteriorating physical condition, yet says he has no regrets, that he’s “realized his potential” and lived in a glorious time for doing theoretical physics. This is a great gift for an aspiring scientist.

TOP PICK IN AUDIO
Her tone is measured, quietly intense, charged with grief and sorrow, the very softness of her voice making what she says all the more affecting, making her testament, The Testament of Mary, all the more powerful. The actual voice belongs to the incomparable Meryl Streep; the words are Colm Tóibín’s, as he reimagines the very cornerstones of Christianity. The Mary of this testament doesn’t have alabaster skin and upturned eyes. She’s a very human woman, aging in exile, still mourning the brutal death of her only son, missing her husband and trying to piece her devastating memories together, to recount the Crucifixion and the events leading up to it as she knew them. She is also trying to keep the two evangelists whose uninvited visits plague her from putting false words in her mouth and false images in their writings. So we become her listeners, hearing about what she witnessed, hearing a very different truth, a truth without consolation. A mesmerizing, disturbing audiobook.

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