This Just In: Salinger – A Life; 12 Steps to Compassion; The Tourist; and a Preview of a February Release

Just as I would do if you were standing here helping me open the boxes, in “This Just In” I want to share my enthusiasm or curiosity about books that are just coming into the store, usually this very day, but not always. Today I have 3 books: a biography of J.D. Salinger (Catcher in the Rye); a prescriptive book from the leading popular writer on faith, Karen Armstrong; and a hot novel just coming out in paperback.

At the end, I’ll share with you an upcoming book that’s drawing a lot of notice. It, too, is coming out in quality paperback, a perfect book for book clubs to consider in 2011.


J D Salinger: A LifeJ.D. Salinger poured forth with a handful of novels in the mid-20th Century, then never submitted another book for publication. Catcher in the Rye is deservedly placed in the canon of the era, but once Salinger withdrew from the public eye, he guarded his privacy like a terrier. Kenneth Slawenski offers the first definitive biography of the writer since his death in 2010 and reviewers are calling it “superb” and “first-rate” and it apparently is filled with new information. The traumas Salinger endured during combat in World War II draw special attention as influences on his work.

Insights fill every page. Did you know Salinger was friends with Judge Learned Hand, a stalwart of individual liberties and freedom of speech? He was often called the “tenth justice” of the Supreme Court. Hand and Salinger, we’re told, shared personal traits that bonded them together. “Both were intensely fascinated by religion and enjoyed conversations on spiritual topics that often consumed hours.”


Twelve Steps to a Compassionate LifeSpeaking of spirituality, my patrons are clamoring for Karen Armstrong’s latest book, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. Armstrong was the winner of the 2008 TED prize and she used the cash to establish the Charter for Compassion. In this book, she makes a naked plea that we all take the time for inner reflection and offers us tools to develop a keener sense of compassion within us.

“The religions,” she says, “which should be making a major contribution to one of the chief tasks of our generation — which is to build a global community, where people of all opinions and all ethnicities can live together in harmony — are seen as part of the problem, not as part of the solution.”


The TouristThere’s one movie out right now called The Tourist, starring Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie, which is intended to be comical. It appears that George Clooney is the cinematic force behind bringing a completely different book to the screen. It is The Tourist, by Olen Steinhauer, now out in paperback carrying the label of New York Times Bestseller.

Steinhauer, known for his 5 Cold War novels, beginning with Bridge of Sighs, has left the brinksmanship hugger-mugger behind to tell the story of an operative whose mission is no more.

The title character is Milo Weaver, a professional “tourist” in the employ of the CIA. He’s not forced to retire, but he is recalled to desk duty. When a long-sought assassin is arrested, Milo is forced to return to the undercover world to uncover some unpopular truths.


Next month, Simon & Schuster will release The Postmistress, a period novel that’s sure to strike a tone with fans of The Help and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Kathryn Stockett

The PostmistressIn 1940, Iris James is the postmistress in coastal Franklin, Massachusetts. Iris knows more about the townspeople than she will ever say, and believes her job is to deliver secrets. Yet one day she does the unthinkable: slips a letter into her pocket, reads it, and doesn’t deliver it.

Meanwhile, Frankie Bard broadcasts from overseas with Edward R. Murrow. Her dispatches beg listeners to pay heed as the Nazis bomb London nightly. Most of the townspeople of Franklin think the war can’t touch them. But both Iris and Frankie know better…

The Postmistress is a tale of two worlds—one shattered by violence, the other willfully naïve—and of two women whose job is to deliver the news, yet who find themselves unable to do so. Through their eyes, and the eyes of everyday people caught in history’s tide, it examines how stories are told, and how the fact of war is borne even through everyday life.


Filed under Book Alert, Book Review

2 responses to “This Just In: Salinger – A Life; 12 Steps to Compassion; The Tourist; and a Preview of a February Release

  1. Bonnie Thrasher

    Have you read the Salinger bio?

    • No, B. It just came in and I had no advance copy to preview. But it appears to be chock full of “did you know” elements and it certainly falls into the “books I would like to read” category.

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