New Releases this Week: April 13th, 2021
Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty
by Patrick Radden Keefe (Doubleday, $32.50)
A grand, devastating portrait of three generations of the Sackler family, famed for their philanthropy, whose fortune was built by Valium and whose reputation was destroyed by OxyContin, by the prize-winning, bestselling author of Say Nothing
The Sackler name adorns the walls of many storied institutions—Harvard, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oxford, the Louvre. They are one of the richest families in the world, known for their lavish donations to the arts and the sciences. The source of the family fortune was vague, however, until it emerged that the Sacklers were responsible for making and marketing a blockbuster painkiller that was the catalyst for the opioid crisis. Empire of Pain begins with the story of three doctor brothers, Raymond, Mortimer and the incalculably energetic Arthur, who weathered the poverty of the Great Depression and appalling anti-Semitism. Working at a barbaric mental institution, Arthur saw a better way and conducted groundbreaking research into drug treatments. He also had a genius for marketing, especially for pharmaceuticals, and bought a small ad firm. Arthur devised the marketing for Valium, and built the first great Sackler fortune. He purchased a drug manufacturer, Purdue Frederick, which would be run by Raymond and Mortimer. The brothers began collecting art, and wives, and grand residences in exotic locales. Their children and grandchildren grew up in luxury.
Forty years later, Raymond’s son Richard ran the family-owned Purdue. The template Arthur Sackler created to sell Valium—co-opting doctors, influencing the FDA, downplaying the drug’s addictiveness—was employed to launch a far more potent product: OxyContin. The drug went on to generate some thirty-five billion dollars in revenue, and to launch a public health crisis in which hundreds of thousands would die. This is the saga of three generations of a single family and the mark they would leave on the world, a tale that moves from the bustling streets of early twentieth-century Brooklyn to the seaside palaces of Greenwich, Connecticut, and Cap d’Antibes to the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. Empire of Pain chronicles the multiple investigations of the Sacklers and their company, and the scorched-earth legal tactics that the family has used to evade accountability. The history of the Sackler dynasty is rife with drama—baroque personal lives; bitter disputes over estates; fistfights in boardrooms; glittering art collections; Machiavellian courtroom maneuvers; and the calculated use of money to burnish reputations and crush the less powerful. Empire of Pain is a masterpiece of narrative reporting and writing, exhaustively documented and ferociously compelling. It is a portrait of the excesses of America’s second Gilded Age, a study of impunity among the super elite and a relentless investigation of the naked greed and indifference to human suffering that built one of the world’s great fortunes.
Under the Wave at Waimea
by Paul Theroux (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28)
“Theroux’s work is like no one else’s.” –Francine Prose, New York Times Book Review
From legendary writer Paul Theroux comes an atmospheric novel following a big-wave surfer as he confronts aging, privilege, mortality, and whose lives we choose to remember.
Now in his sixties, big-wave surfer Joe Sharkey has passed his prime and is losing his “stoke.” The younger surfers around the breaks on the north shore of Oahu still idolize the Shark, but his sponsors are looking elsewhere. One night, while driving home from a bar after one too many, Joe accidentally kills a stranger near Waimea, a tragedy that sends his life out of control. As the repercussions of the accident spiral ever wider, Joe’s devoted girlfriend, Olive, throws herself into uncovering the dead man’s identity and helping Joe find vitality and refuge in the waves again.
Set in the lush, gritty underside of an island paradise readers rarely see, UNDER THE WAVE AT WAIMEA offers a dramatic, affecting commentary on privilege, mortality, and the lives we choose to remember. It is a masterstroke by one of the greatest writers of our time.
The Bookseller of Florence: The Story of the Manuscripts that Illuminated the Renaissance
by Ross King (Atlantic Monthly Press, $30)
The Renaissance in Florence conjures images of beautiful frescoes and elegant buildings–the dazzling handiwork of the city’s skilled artists and architects. But equally important for the centuries to follow were geniuses of a different sort: Florence’s manuscript hunters, scribes, scholars, and booksellers, who blew the dust off a thousand years of history and, through the discovery and diffusion of ancient knowledge, imagined a new and enlightened world.
At the heart of this activity, which bestselling author Ross King relates in his exhilarating new book, was a remarkable man: Vespasiano da Bisticci. Born in 1422, he became what a friend called “the king of the world’s booksellers.” At a time when all books were made by hand, over four decades Vespasiano produced and sold many hundreds of volumes from his bookshop, which also became a gathering spot for debate and discussion. Besides repositories of ancient wisdom by the likes of Plato, Aristotle, and Quintilian, his books were works of art in their own right, copied by talented scribes and illuminated by the finest miniaturists. His clients included a roll-call of popes, kings, and princes across Europe who wished to burnish their reputations by founding magnificent libraries.
Vespasiano reached the summit of his powers as Europe’s most prolific merchant of knowledge when a new invention appeared: the printed book. By 1480, the king of the world’s booksellers was swept away by this epic technological disruption, whereby cheaply produced books reached readers who never could have afforded one of Vespasiano’s elegant manuscripts.
A thrilling chronicle of intellectual ferment set against the dramatic political and religious turmoil of the era, Ross King’s brilliant The Bookseller of Florence is also an ode to books and bookmaking that charts the world-changing shift from script to print through the life of an extraordinary man long lost to history–one of the true titans of the Renaissance.
Names of New York: Discovering the City’s Best Past, Present, and Future Through it’s Place-Names
by Joshua Jelly-Schapiro (Pantheon, $22)
In place-names lie stories.
That’s the truth that animates this fascinating journey through the names of New York City’s streets and parks, boroughs and bridges, playgrounds and neighborhoods.
Exploring the power of naming to shape experience and our sense of place, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro traces the ways in which native Lenape, Dutch settlers, British invaders, and successive waves of immigrants have left their marks on the city’s map. He excavates the roots of many names, from Brooklyn to Harlem, that have gained iconic meaning worldwide. He interviews the last living speakers of Lenape, visits the harbor’s forgotten islands, lingers on street corners named for ballplayers and saints, and meets linguists who study the estimated eight hundred languages now spoken in New York.
As recent arrivals continue to find new ways to make New York’s neighborhoods their own, the names that stick to the city’s streets function not only as portals to explore the past but also as a means to reimagine what is possible now.
The Way of Integrity: Finding the Path to Your True Self
by Martha Beck (The Open Field, $26)
“This radiant book will not only change your life, but perhaps even save it.”–Elizabeth Gilbert, #1 New York Times bestselling author
“Martha Beck’s genius is that her writing is equal parts comforting and challenging. A teacher, a mother, a sage, she holds our hand as she leads us back home to ourselves.”–Glennon Doyle, #1 New York Times bestselling author
Bestselling author, life coach and sociologist Martha Beck explains why “integrity”–needed now more than ever in these tumultuous times–is the key to a meaningful and joyful life
As Martha Beck says in her book, “Integrity is the cure for psychological suffering. Period.”
In The Way of Integrity, Beck presents a four-stage process that anyone can use to find integrity, and with it, a sense of purpose, emotional healing, and a life free of mental suffering. Much of what plagues us–people pleasing, staying in stale relationships, negative habits–all point to what happens when we are out of touch with what truly makes us feel whole.
Inspired by The Divine Comedy, Beck uses Dante’s classic hero’s journey as a framework to break down the process of attaining personal integrity into small, manageable steps. She shows how to read our internal signals that lead us towards our true path, and to recognize what we actually yearn for versus what our culture sells us.
With techniques tested on hundreds of her clients, Beck brings her expertise as a social scientist, life coach and human being to help readers to uncover what integrity looks like in their own lives. She takes us on a spiritual adventure that not only will change the direction of our lives, but bring us to a place of genuine happiness.
Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis
by Serhii Plokhy (W.W. Norton & Co., $35)
A harrowing account of the Cuban missile crisis and how the US and USSR came to the brink of nuclear apocalypse.
Nearly thirty years after the end of the Cold War, today’s world leaders are abandoning disarmament treaties, building up their nuclear arsenals, and exchanging threats of nuclear strikes. To survive this new atomic age, we must relearn the lessons of the most dangerous moment of the Cold War: the Cuban missile crisis.
Serhii Plokhy’s Nuclear Folly offers an international perspective on the crisis, tracing the tortuous decision-making that produced and then resolved it, which involved John Kennedy and his advisers, Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro, and their commanders on the ground. In breathtaking detail, Plokhy vividly recounts the young JFK being played by the canny Khrushchev; the hotheaded Castro willing to defy the USSR and threatening to align himself with China; the Soviet troops on the ground clearing jungle foliage in the tropical heat, and desperately trying to conceal nuclear installations on Cuba, which were nonetheless easily spotted by U-2 spy planes; and the hair-raising near misses at sea that nearly caused a Soviet nuclear-armed submarine to fire its weapons.
More often than not, the Americans and Soviets misread each other, operated under false information, and came perilously close to nuclear catastrophe. Despite these errors, nuclear war was ultimately avoided for one central reason: fear, and the realization that any escalation on either the Soviets’ or the Americans’ part would lead to mutual destruction.
Drawing on a range of Soviet archival sources, including previously classified KGB documents, as well as White House tapes, Plokhy masterfully illustrates the drama and anxiety of those tense days, and provides a way for us to grapple with the problems posed in our present day.
The Arabesque Table: Contemporary Recipes from the Arab World
by Reem Kassis (Phaidon Press, $39.95)
Acclaimed author Reem Kassis returns with a one-of-a-kind collection of original contemporary recipes tracing the rich history of Arab cuisine.
The Arabesque Table takes inspiration from the traditional food of the Arab world, weaving Reem Kassis’s historic research and cultural knowledge with her contemporary interpretations of an ancient, remarkably diverse cuisine.
In her personal, engaging voice, Reem bridges past and present to open up the world of Arabic cooking today, showcasing a mosaic of 130 delicious, accessible home recipes. Organized by primary ingredient, the recipes and vivid photographs bring the dishes to life while her narrative offers not only a sense of taste, but a sense of time and place as well.
More than just a compilation of modern Arabic recipes, The Arabesque Table celebrates the evolution of Arab cuisine and the stories of cross-cultural connection it recounts, paying tribute to the history and journey that have led to this point.
With the past on full display in this heavily researched and exciting book, you will find dishes from the Golden Age of Islam: like Narjissiya (a fava bean and egg hash) and Makmoora (a layered chicken, onion and pine nut pot pie), as well as contemporary and globally inspired interpretations: like Tahini Cheesecake and Caramelized Butternut Squash Fatteh with Za’atar, revealing a cuisine that is vibrant, nourishing, and exciting, but above all, reminding us of how powerful food is in defining the relationship between people, place and identity.