This collection of essays from poet Mary Oliver ranges wildly in its topics, covering her childhood roaming among great black oaks, the literature of Edgar Allen Poe, and the mystical sagacity of bears. “Upstream” is a gorgeous meditation on life, the wild, and the essential work of the poet, and her title essay ends with a challenge — a plea — that seems all the more relevant in our current political landscape: “Give [the children] the fields and the woods and the possibility of the world salvaged from the lords of profit.”
— Dan LoPreto, Word [126 Franklin St. at Milton Street in Greenpoint, (718) 383–0096, www.wordbr
As we anxiously watch the world being remade in Washington, it may be prudent to reflect on a previous turn of the circle. “The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made” is the story of the six men who, in the wake of World War II, were primarily responsible for the post-war order, the Cold War, and in many respects the Pax Americana that may be coming apart. Thoroughly researched and expertly written by Isaacson and Thomas, this is an ambitious and extraordinary six-in-one biography and exploration of the ethos of a bygone type of American statesman.
— Nick Trotta, Greenlight Bookstore [686 Fulton St. between S. Elliott Place and S. Portland Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 246–0200,
Community Bookstore’s pick: “Lincoln in the Bardo” by George Saunders
“Lincoln in the Bardo” is George Saunders’s first foray into the novel, and what a strange trip it is. As the Civil War rages, Abraham Lincoln sits in a graveyard mourning the death of his son Willie, whose soul is stuck in a space between life and death: the Bardo, which is peopled by a cast of misfits of all classes and colors and manners of demise, crammed together in an afterlife of chatter, arguments, petty disputes, and lost loves. This chorus of the dead is a reminder that the weird and strange and foreign have deep, foundational roots in our national psyche, and it’s best we remember that.
— Hal Hlavinka, Community Bookstore [43 Seventh Ave. between Carroll Street and Garfield Place in Park Slope, (718) 783–3075, www.commun
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