Amazon's best books of August: Today's releases

Erin Kodicek on August 20, 2019

Today's releases include a book that challenges the reader to take tangible steps towards creating a more equitable society; a deliciously dark thriller; and an account of the astonishing levels of criminal activity happening on the high seas.

Learn more about these and all of our picks for the Best Books of the Month.  

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How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

Most people will tell you that racism is all about hatred and ignorance. In How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi's follow-up to his National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning, he explains that racism is ultimately structural. Racism directs attention away from harmful, inequitable policies and turns that attention on the people harmed by those policies. Kendi employs history, science, and ethics to describe different forms of racism; at the same time, he follows the events and experiences of his own life, adapting a memoir approach that personalizes his arguments. This is a very effective combination, fusing the external forces of racism with Kendi's own reception and responses to that racism—the result will be mind-expanding for many readers. Kendi's title encompasses his main thesis: simply not being racist isn't enough. We must actively choose to be "antiracist," working to undo racism and its component polices in order to build an equitable society. To read this book is to relate to the author as an individual and realize just how much we all have in common. As Kendi writes: race is a mirage, assigning an identity according to skin color, ignoring the individual. --Chris Schluep

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The Whisper Man by Alex North

Told in alternating voices, Alex North's thriller The Whisper Man delivers strong twists and a truly surprising ending. A fresh start always seems like a good idea, but for Tom Kennedy and his son Jake, it doesn't go so well. When the two move back to Tom's hometown, their arrival coincides with the kidnapping of a boy who is Jake's age. The crime appears to have the hallmark of Frank Carter, a serial killer who terrorized the town twenty years earlier, and part of the novel is narrated by the cop who captured Carter decades earlier. The Whisper Man is spine-tinglingly creepy, and the suspense keeps building, layer by layer. Little reveals only serve to keep the reader guessing, and the end feels like more than a reveal--for me it was as if the entire atmosphere of the story took an unexpected and chilly turn. At first, the storyline appears to employ a familiar genre trope, but it veers wonderfully from the expected, and North's inclusion of a touching father-son relationship in this psychological thriller took it to the top of our best of the month list.--Seira Wilson

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The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier by Ian Urbina

It’s becoming harder to disappear on this increasingly connected, overpopulated planet, so if you're feeling hemmed in, maybe you should buy a boat. Three-fifths of the planet is covered in water, an expanse so vast that anyone can seemingly get away with anything without consequence. The high seas have always been where the illicit action is, and Ian Urbina—a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist—took to the waves to find it. And did he ever. Urbina traveled the globe on a risky mission, hopping boats to amass a catalog of just about every contemptible human activity imaginable. Smugglers, traffickers, pirates, poachers, stowaways, mercenaries, and polluters fill The Outlaw Ocean’s more than 400 pages, and the theme is overwhelming, often catastrophic degradation: of people, the environment, borders, and the rule of law (or at least its illusion). In the frigid waters of Antarctica’s Southern Ocean, Urbina boards a vigilante vessel on a months-long, slow-burn chase of a notorious fish-poaching operation. In the seaside brothels of Thailand, trafficked prostitutes attract young men who are themselves consigned as slave labor on fishing boats. Armies of private “security” forces kill time aboard floating armories, waiting for their next unofficial deployments. These crimes may seem isolated and remote—drops in the ocean, so to speak—but they don’t occur in a vacuum, or for nothing; they support choices made every day in government, in commerce, and in our homes. The Outlaw Ocean is illuminating, terrifying, and often dismaying. It’s also unique, vitally important, and strangely thrilling. —Jon Foro

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