Today's releases include the riveting story of the rise and fall of Uber; a novel by Salman Rushdie that pays homage to fellow satirist and cultural critic, Miguel de Cervantes; an intriguing tale of espionage involving the use of Doctor Zhivago as a weapon of war; and a delightfully comic novel about two sisters’ infatuation with language.
Learn more about these and all of our picks for the Best Books of the Month.
Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac
Love it or hate it, Uber changed the way we use transportation in the U.S. and beyond. The story of this Silicon Valley start-up and its maverick founder Travis Kalanick is utterly riveting, and in Super Pumped author Mike Isaac gives readers an insider’s view of the stunning highs and catastrophic lows of what Isaac calls one of the first mobile unicorns. Through a combination of rapid-fire technological advances and hubris, Uber not only challenged an antiquated system, they delivered it a death blow that has had profound repercussions. The abhorrent behavior, cut-throat mentality, and frat-boy corporate culture within Uber may make you question how it became such a success, but this was also a power structure founded on remarkable creativity, innovation, and tenacity. Kalanick was a master of manipulation and deception during his reign at Uber, and it’s fascinating to see the machinations and greed that were ultimately his downfall. Once again, Uber is making headlines, and Super Pumped gives readers the jump on some of the backroom dealings that are now coming to light. A masterful work of investigative journalism perfect for readers who were captivated by Bad Blood, Mike Isaac’s book is a wild ride that you won’t want to miss. —Seira Wilson, Amazon Book Review
Quichotte: A Novel by Salman Rushdie
Quichotte is Salman Rushdie at his best. An exquisite satire on the world we live in, Rushdie’s latest novel pays Cervantes a great, clever compliment with this deliciously funny Don Quixote for modern times. Quichotte is a story within a story, a fictional novelist unraveling his own journey of love and family through writing the story of a man (whom the novelist names Quichotte) not wholly unlike himself. Quichotte is a simple man who has watched too much television and now believes we are living in a world of “Anything-Can-Happen”, when even an aged pharmaceutical salesman can win the love of a beautiful TV star whom he has never met. And so Quichotte’s quest begins. Quichotte creates a son for himself, Sancho, sprung wholly formed to sit beside him in his reliable Chevy Cruz on this cross-country adventure and with whom he might share his vision of the world. Unfortunately, this familial bond does not turn out the way Quichotte imagined. The fictional novelist finds himself in the same situation, discovering that the truths he’s told himself about his relationships and family have been wrong all along. A road trip across America in an age that would be utterly surreal if we weren’t actually living it, Quichotte is an antidote to fear, a novel bursting with intelligence and wit—and exactly what so many of us need right now. --Seira Wilson
The Secrets We Kept: A Novel by Lara Prescott
There are a few love stories in The Secrets We Kept, mostly of the unhappy kind: adulterous, unrequited, forbidden, and ill-fated. And in between these thwarted romances, history happens. In Russia, a mistress suffers years in a Gulag rather than betray her married lover—Boris Pasternak, author of Doctor Zhivago—to Stalin. Her suffering inspires Pasternak to create Lara, a literary heroine for the ages. A few years later, in mid-1950s Washington DC, two intriguing, courageous women work as spies for the CIA while masquerading as typing pool secretaries. It’s a long way from the Gulag to the Beltway, but Prescott cleverly links these two narratives via the progress of the Doctor Zhivago manuscript, whose besieged creator half-pleads, half-prays, “May it make its way around the world.” That this contraband masterpiece did make its way around the world while Russians were forbidden to read it, and that the CIA hatched an audacious plot to smuggle it into Soviet Russia so as to turn its citizens against communism, is credited to men with famous surnames: Pasternak, Stalin, Dulles, and even publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli. But Prescott’s mesmerizing novel brings women out of the shadows and gives them their due, as spies and muses yes, but also as unsung heroines who put their lives on the line to get a novel out into the world, trusting that to do so would rouse a nation and change the course of history. --Vannessa Cronin
The Grammarians: A Novel by Cathleen Schine
Light-as-air but free of fluff, this funny, moving book plunges the reader into the life of identical twins Laurel and Daphne. From an early age, the parents are bewildered by their closeness and word play, which the sisters turn like a double-barreled shotgun on their psychiatrist uncle who finds them altogether unnerving: “’We revolt you.’ Laurel said, running past him. ‘We are revolting,’ Daphne said. ‘Against you,’ she added.” The first half of the book, when Laurel and Daphne are always together, is just plain fun. The second half reminds you that the real pleasure here is the author’s heartfelt but unsentimental portrayal of how relationships change over time: the interior experience of growing apart from the person you love best, how a mother can go from an amiable stranger to a friend. The sibling rivalry between the girls' father and his brother is also spot-on and affecting. While the novel ends just as you’re in full thrall to the characters, this lithe slip of a story is too complete a pocket universe to regret it’s not longer. —Katy Ball
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