Weekend Reading

Jon Foro on February 22, 2019
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This weekend the Amazon Books Editors will be reading up on: The Allies' mission to thwart horse-rustling Nazis; a budding cross-generational (and completely imaginary) rivalry between two "egghead" giants of nonfiction; a disastrous armed robbery that capped off the 1970s' run of epic bad-vibes; a romantic vacation read, complete with cupcakes and man-buns (the hairstyle, people); and a bit of self-reckoning for the device age.

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Elizabeth Letts is one of those rare writers who can deftly flex her fiction and nonfiction muscles. This month she released Finding Dorothy, a biographical novel that tells the story behind The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (and the famous film that followed), but this weekend I’m going to check out something from her backlist: The Perfect Horse. Many of us have heard the heroic story of the “Monuments Men”—Allied troops tasked with retrieving iconic artworks stolen by the Nazis during WWII. In The Perfect Horse, Elizabeth Letts sheds light on another of Hitler’s infamous heists—that of prized stallions from Hungary, Poland, Yugoslavia, and other parts of Europe, with the aim of employing eugenics to breed the consummate war horse (of course, of course). The harrowing mission to save these magnificent creatures, not just from the clutches of the Nazis, but the advancing—and very hungry—Russian army, was approved by General George S. Patton, evidently no slouch on the polo field. But consent came with a worrying caveat: if things went south, the ragtag band of rescuers were on their own. So why, in the midst of so much human suffering, did these men willingly risk their lives in this equine endeavor? Letts will let me know. —Erin Kodicek

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We haven't heard from Jared Diamond in several years. I have this pet theory that he has been watching Yuval Noah Harari's rise and thinking he'd better get back into the book publishing game before he's eclipsed by the new, best-selling young buck. That theory is completely made up in my own head. It's only conjecture and there's no proof to any of it. But it's fun for me to imagine egghead writers in Kardashian-like situations. It makes them seem more human—for what's more human than a Kardashian? —Chris Schluep

[Editor's note: This was written just before Chris left for vacation]

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I grew up in the ‘70s, and while I carry a large amount of nostalgia for the “Me Decade,” I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that the ‘70s were objectively terrible: Gas shortages, Watergate, the Vietnam War, Patty Hearst, Jonestown, Ted Bundy, airplane hijackings, Battle of the Network Stars. But damn, those things are fun to read about! I have heard that “00” years officially belong to the previous decade (if not, that doesn’t serve my purpose here). Norco ‘80 (June 11) is no Ocean’s 11—it’s the story of a violent bank robbery attempted by a gang of scroungy, heavily armed young men under the command of an apocalyptic guru, a pointless catastrophe featuring multiple fatalities, a downed helicopter, and consequences reaching well into the following decades. —Jon Foro

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Full disclosure: I don't know if I would have picked this up right now were it not a Reese Witherspoon book club pick. I like Witherspoon’s taste in the books she's chosen for her club and the books she's chosen to adapt for the screen with her film company. The Proposal, I gotta say, looked like an outlier. But, it's good! The Proposal is light, and it's fun—there's a boyfriend with a man bun, excellent girlfriends, cupcakes, and romance that isn't cheesy. The characters and their relationships with each other are relatable for the most part, and I like the social commentary that author Jasmine Guillory manages to include without being clunky about it. This would be a great vacation read and definitely one to get for your beach bag this summer! — Seira Wilson

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Yes, it's 100% ironic that I'm reading Cal Newport's Digital Minimalism on my Kindle, but half the fun in life is recognizing the absurd moments, right? I'm not too deep in yet, but so far he's recommending a 30-day digital break so you can figure out what you really need, what you sometimes need, and what you don’t actually need at all. The idea is that by halting your fascination with your device, you'll open up your life to experiences you truly want to have instead of filling up your moments with, well, time-wasters. I held my breath and deleted my favorite game off my phone last weekend… and so far, so good. We played the same game, but in board game format, as a family last night after dinner. I'm looking forward to more recommendations from Cal Newport this weekend.— Adrian Liang

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