Leonardo da Vinci was an outlier in so many ways: a peripatetic polymath, handsome, unmarried, an innovator, unquestionably an artistic genius. He doesn’t typify his era any more than geniuses ever do. Leonardo was a party of one.
The 1970s were a tumultuous time in the U.S, defined by such events as the Vietnam War; the Watergate scandal; the Arab oil boycott; serious economic problems; and shocking revelations about illegal activities by our intelligence agencies. At one point, a Gallup poll found that 68 percent of Americans believed the government lied to them. All of this happened as the nation, somewhat dispirited, celebrated its bicentennial. Drawing on a vast array of sources, Rick Perlstein captures all of this and more in his sweeping, insightful and richly rewarding The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan.
Miles J. Unger’s magisterial new biography, Michelangelo: A Life in Six Masterpieces, tells its subject’s life story through the lens of his art—appropriately so, given Michelangelo’s willful transmutation of the role of the Renaissance artist. When Michelangelo began his apprenticeship, artists were seen as little more than craftsmen, churning out statuary and paintings to decorate the villas and churches of the wealthy nobility. Michelangelo’s greatest achievement—in Unger’s portrayal—is not to be found in his artwork (the statue of David or the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel) but rather in his creation of the artist himself as secular genius.
While teaching a group of volunteers about marine stewardship one morning, researcher Ken Balcomb was confronted with a crisis the likes of which he'd never seen: an inexplicable mass stranding of beaked whales. While racing up and down the Bahamas coastline, trying to save lives or at least preserve specimens for autopsy, he struggled to comprehend what could have caused the whales such trauma. When the U.S. Navy's sonar program was implicated, Balcomb was torn; proud of his own service record, he nonetheless broke confidentiality about Navy practices to try and save the lives of whales. Joining forces with environmental lawyer Joel Reynolds, the two face off against a government in the throes of a national security panic in War of the Whales.
War and Peace. The very title incites both awe and no small measure of dread in many a reader’s heart. Indisputably one of the major achievements of the western literary canon—many would argue the greatest—Tolstoy’s masterwork is daunting in length and scope. At some 1,500 pages (depending on the typeface, of course), divided into 361 chapters, with nearly 600 characters, its sprawling narrative spans the eight years of Napoleon’s 1805-1812 invasion of Russia and beyond. It is a perennial bestseller, but how many who buy it actually read it?
According to author Jessica Lawson, Tom Sawyer was a tattletale and Becky Thatcher was the real rascal getting into all sorts of trouble in St. Petersburg, Missouri. That’s the inventive premise of this gem of a chapter book that stirs up all of the ingredients of the American classic to create a thoughtful, energetic new debut novel.
What happens when a group of middle school geniuses trains for months to win a special contest at a Disney World-style Florida theme park called Incredo Land? That’s the premise of Bringing Down the Mouse, a page-turning caper whose hero is sixth-grader Charlie Lewis, known as “Numbers,” the nerdy son of an MIT professor dad and a mom with two Ph.D.s.
Don’t get too attached to the protagonist in Pardon Me! He pays the ultimate price for his bad behavior in this be-good-or-else cautionary tale from Daniel Miyares, his debut picture book as both author and illustrator.
Hannah loves the game of seduction. She dresses to tease and unabashedly enjoys the pleasure of sex. Her one unassailable prohibition is no sex without a condom. So Hannah is shocked when she discovers that she’s pregnant, not only because of the impending scandal, but because the only person who could be the father is the one person Hannah cannot name. More than one guy at Hannah’s high school is sweating things out when Aaron Tyler, new transfer student, announces that Hannah’s baby belongs to him.
The challenge of finding an appropriately awesome present for Father’s Day can get more difficult with each passing year. A tie? Too tedious. Cologne? Cliché! This month, skip the tired traditions and surprise Pop with one of these newly released books.