What we're reading: Reviews from the staff of the Northshire Bookstore

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"Last Palace: Europe's Turbulent Century in Five Lives and One Legendary House" by Norman Eisen

Eisen is uniquely qualified to write this book because, as U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia, he was one of the most recent occupants of the palace built in Prague the 1920s by Otto Petschek. Eisen weaves an incredible story of the palace and its occupants, from Ashkenazi to Hollywood royalty, Nazis, communists, heroes, villains, and victims. The book extends from the 1920s through the Velvet Revolution to the present. The plot twists would rival any mystery. Eisen's own existence, not just his ambassadorship, winds around the thread of his own mother surviving the Holocaust, the Russian invasion, and rise of Communism. This book is fascinating, insightful and timely.

— Maeve Noonan (Saratoga Springs)

"Opium: How an Ancient Flower Shaped and Poisoned Our World" by John Halpern

Opium and its many offspring, including morphine, heroin, and chemically created concoctions like OxyContin, have seduced, enchanted, enthralled, and destroyed millions. The authors pull opium up by its roots, revealing that its centuries-long potency, allure, and potential for healing have repeatedly been dwarfed by its addictive power of destruction.

— Mike Hare (Saratoga Springs)

"For the Good of the Game" by Bud Selig

Long-time Milwaukee Brewers owner and long-time Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig spins a conversational yarn about baseball's on-field and off-field strikeouts and home runs. Drug use, labor disputes, ownership squabbles, and legal and financial headaches occupied much of Selig's tenure, but he makes a pitch that baseball still deserves its title as the national pastime. — Mike Hare (Saratoga Springs)

"The Source of Self-Regard" by Toni Morrison

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In mourning Toni Morrison, the world has rightfully renewed its celebration of her Nobel Prize-winning novels. But since early this year, with the publication of The Source of Self-Regard, her nonfiction has resurfaced as well, the tome a vast compilation of her essays, speeches, and meditations showing Morrison's visionary facets, her bold breadth's scope exploring the world that long feted her, so that world might realize its own native variety. Ranging from considerations of art not as apart from place, but culturally forming its societies, with especial reflection on literary visions; to lectern discussions on "black matters" creating not only her novels, but in making up her lifetime's history lived; to poignant, compelling essays confronting what it has meant to be alive amid humanity's ongoing crises of conscience, the collection not only reaffirms Morrison's star on the literary canon, but explores the possibilities for living our differences toward the same illuminant end.

— Ray Marsocci (Manchester)

"How To" by Randall Munroe

In "What If?" Randall Munroe gathered absurd questions and answered them at the greatest heights that serious scientific rigor would allow. Now, in "How To," he flips the formula and takes serious real-world tasks and ponders the most absurd (and yet still scientifically rigorous) processes to complete them. Many solutions cross-reference each other ("How to Fill a Pool" tells you that first you'll need an empty pool to fill and directs you to "How to Dig a Hole"), and a few reference "What If?" to the point of one even directing you to a web address for one that wasn't in the print edition. This makes for delightful reading and flipping back and forth - the closest I've come to falling down a Wikipedia hole in print media in a long time. I'd expect nothing less from Munroe.

— Andrew Bugenis (Saratoga Springs)

"The Nanny" by Gilly Macmillan

What if you couldn't trust your own mother? Jocelyn has spent her entire life consumed with disdain and distrust for the woman who sent away her beloved nanny when she was a child. When a body turns up in the lake on their property, she can't help but think the worst of her mother. Soon, though, all she believes she knows and suspects is called into question as her world is turned upside down by a series of fabulous twists too enticing to spoil. A wonderful thriller which examines the trustworthiness of memory and how much we really know about those who share the intimate moments of our lives

— Ashley Castle (Manchester)

The Northshire Bookstore, founded in Manchester in 1976, is an independent book store with locations at 4869 Main St. and 424 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.


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