The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
For centuries, doctors have struggled to define mental illness–how do you diagnose it, how do you treat it, how do you even know what it is? In search of an answer, in the 1970s a Stanford psychologist named David Rosenhan and seven other people–sane, normal, well-adjusted members of society–went undercover into asylums around America to test the legitimacy of psychiatry’s labels. Forced to remain inside until they’d “proven” themselves sane, all eight emerged with alarming diagnoses and even more troubling stories of their treatment. Rosenhan’s watershed study broke open the field of psychiatry, closing down institutions and changing mental health diagnosis forever.
But, as Cahalan’s explosive new research shows, very little in this saga is exactly as it seems. What really happened behind those closed asylum doors, and what does it mean for our understanding of mental illness today?
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The Accomplice by Joseph Kanon
Seventeen years after the fall of the Third Reich, Max Weill has never forgotten the atrocities he saw as a prisoner at Auschwitz—nor the face of Dr. Otto Schramm, a camp doctor who worked with Mengele on appalling experiments and who sent Max’s family to the gas chambers. As the war came to a close, Schramm was one of the many high-ranking former-Nazi officers who managed to escape Germany for new lives in South America, where leaders like Argentina’s Juan Perón gave them safe harbor and new identities. With his life nearing its end, Max asks his nephew Aaron Wiley—an American CIA desk analyst—to complete the task Max never could: to track down Otto in Argentina, capture him, and bring him back to Germany to stand trial.
Unable to deny Max, Aaron travels to Buenos Aires and discovers a city where Nazis thrive in plain sight, mingling with Argentine high society. He ingratiates himself with Otto’s alluring but wounded daughter, whom he’s convinced is hiding her father. Enlisting the help of a German newspaper reporter, an Israeli agent, and the obliging CIA station chief in Buenos Aires, he hunts for Otto—a complicated monster, unexpectedly human but still capable of murder if cornered. Unable to distinguish allies from enemies, Aaron will ultimately have to discover not only Otto, but the boundaries of his own personal morality, how far he is prepared to go to render justice.
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The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues—a bee, a key, and a sword—that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth. What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians—it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also of those who are intent on its destruction. Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose—in both the mysterious book and in his own life.
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The Deep by Rivers Solomon
Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian. This demanding role has been bestowed on Yetu.
Yetu remembers for everyone, and the memories, painful and wonderful, traumatic and terrible and miraculous, are destroying her. And so, she flees to the surface, escaping the memories, the expectations, and the responsibilities—and discovers a world her people left behind long ago.
Yetu will learn more than she ever expected to about her own past—and about the future of her people. If they are all to survive, they’ll need to reclaim the memories, reclaim their identity—and own who they really are.
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The Witches are Coming by Lindy West
From the very moment powerful men on top started falling to the #MeToo movement, the lamentations have been raging from every corner: this is feminism gone too far, this is injustice, this is a witch hunt. In The Witches Are Coming, firebrand author Lindy West, turns that refrain on its head.
In a laugh-out-loud, incisive cultural critique, West suggest that Americans reckon with the dark truths that we’ve long left unexamined. She unpacks the complicated, and sometimes tragic, journey and politics of not being a white man in the 21st century. She tracks the misogyny and propaganda hidden (or not so hidden) in the media she and her peers devoured growing up, a buffet of distortions, delusions, prejudice and outright bullsh*t that has allowed white male mediocrity to maintain a death grip on American culture and politics.
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We Met in December by Rosie Curtis
Twenty-nine-year-old Jess is following her dream and moving to London. It’s December, and she’s taking a room in a crumbling, but grand, Notting Hill house-share with four virtual strangers. On her first night, Jess meets Alex, the guy sharing her floor, at a Christmas dinner hosted by her landlord. They don’t kiss, but as far as Jess is concerned the connection is clear. She starts planning how they will knock down the wall between them to spend more time together.
But when Jess returns from a two-week Christmas holiday, she finds Chris has started dating someone else—beautiful Emma, who lives on the floor above them. Now Jess faces a year of bumping into (hell, sharing a bathroom with) the man of her dreams…and the woman of his.
This Land Is Their Land: The Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the Troubled History of Thanksgiving by David J. Silverman
In March 1621, when Plymouth’s survival was hanging in the balance, the Wampanoag sachem (or chief), Ousamequin (Massasoit), and Plymouth’s governor, John Carver, declared their people’s friendship for each other and a commitment to mutual defense. Later that autumn, the English gathered their first successful harvest and lifted the specter of starvation. Ousamequin and 90 of his men then visited Plymouth for the “First Thanksgiving.” The treaty remained operative until King Philip’s War in 1675, when 50 years of uneasy peace between the two parties would come to an end.
400 years after that famous meal, historian David J. Silverman sheds profound new light on the events that led to the creation, and bloody dissolution, of this alliance. Focusing on the Wampanoag Indians, Silverman deepens the narrative to consider tensions that developed well before 1620 and lasted long after the devastating war-tracing the Wampanoags’ ongoing struggle for self-determination up to this very day.
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
In the Dream House is Carmen Maria Machado’s engrossing and wildly innovative account of a relationship gone bad, and a bold dissection of the mechanisms and cultural representations of psychological abuse. Tracing the full arc of a harrowing relationship with a charismatic but volatile woman, Machado struggles to make sense of how what happened to her shaped the person she was becoming.
And it’s that struggle that gives the book its original structure: each chapter is driven by its own narrative trope–the haunted house, erotica, the bildungsroman–through which Machado holds the events up to the light and examines them from different angles. She looks back at her religious adolescence, unpacks the stereotype of lesbian relationships as safe and utopian, and widens the view with essayistic explorations of the history and reality of abuse in queer relationships.
On Swift Horses by Shannon Pufahl
Muriel is newly married and restless, transplanted from her rural Kansas hometown to life in a dusty bungalow in San Diego. The air is rich with the tang of salt and citrus, but the limits of her new life seem to be closing in: She misses her freethinking mother, dead before Muriel’s nineteenth birthday, and her sly, itinerant brother-in-law, Julius, who made the world feel bigger than she had imagined. And so she begins slipping off to the Del Mar racetrack to bet and eavesdrop, learning the language of horses and risk. Meanwhile, Julius is testing his fate in Las Vegas, working at a local casino where tourists watch atomic tests from the roof, and falling in love with Henry, a young card cheat. When Henry is eventually discovered and run out of town, Julius takes off to search for him in the plazas and dives of Tijuana, trading one city of dangerous illusions and indiscretions for another.
Space Invaders by Nona Fernández
Space Invaders is the story of a group of childhood friends who, in adulthood, are preoccupied by uneasy memories and visions of their classmate Estrella González Jepsen. In their dreams, they catch glimpses of Estrella’s braids, hear echoes of her voice, and read old letters that eventually, mysteriously, stopped arriving. They recall regimented school assemblies, nationalistic class performances, and a trip to the beach. Soon it becomes clear that Estrella’s father was a ranking government officer implicated in the violent crimes of the Pinochet regime, and the question of what became of her after she left school haunts her erstwhile friends. Growing up, these friends―from her pen pal, Maldonado, to her crush, Riquelme―were old enough to sense the danger and tension that surrounded them, but were powerless in the face of it. They could control only the stories they told one another and the “ghostly green bullets” they fired in the video game they played obsessively.
One of the leading Latin American writers of her generation, Nona Fernández effortlessly builds a choral and constantly shifting image of young life in the waning years of the dictatorship. In her short but intricately layered novel, she summons the collective memory of a generation, rescuing felt truth from the oblivion of official history.
The Book of Lost Saints by Daniel José Older
Marisol vanished during the Cuban Revolution, disappearing with hardly a trace. Now, shaped by atrocities long-forgotten, her foul-mouthed spirit visits her nephew, Ramon, in modern day New Jersey. Her hope: That her presence will prompt him to unearth their painful family history.
Ramon launches a haphazard investigation into the story of his ancestor, unaware of the forces driving him on his search. Along the way, he falls in love, faces a run-in with a murderous gangster, and uncovers the lives of the lost saints who helped Marisol during her imprisonment.
The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell
Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.
She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.
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The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
In 1924, Josephine is the proud owner of a thriving farm. As a child, she channeled otherworldly power to free herself from slavery. Now her new neighbor, a white woman named Charlotte, seeks her company, and an uneasy friendship grows between them. But Charlotte has also sought solace in the Ku Klux Klan, a relationship that jeopardizes Josephine’s family.
Nearly one hundred years later, Josephine’s descendant, Ava, is a single mother who has just lost her job. She moves in with her white grandmother, Martha, a wealthy but lonely woman who pays Ava to be her companion. But Martha’s behavior soon becomes erratic, then threatening, and Ava must escape before her story and Josephine’s converge.
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