The Incest Diary by Anonymous

An anonymous author reveals a lifetime of secrets in this unforgettable memoir as she tells the story of her relationship with her father, who raped her over the course of her childhood, until the author was 21. The result is one of the most frank and cathartic depictions of child abuse ever written. The author recalls abusing her Barbie dolls, her sense of being the “other woman” to her own mother, and the mingling of violence with desire, a tendency so crucial to the author’s development that it continues to govern her adult relationships. This is not a story of things getting better, but an unflinching and staggeringly artful portrait of a shattered life. “Sex with my father made me an orphan,” she writes, and the feeling is underscored, pages later, with a fact: “He threatened to kill himself if I told anyone.” Works of art by Fernando Botero and Frida Kahlo are invoked throughout, as are the fairy tales in which the author searches for analogues to explain her condition. But by the end of the book, she has articulated an experience that for many victims remains unspeakable.

Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter by Scott Adams

Dilbert cartoonist Adams, with his usual adroit touch and sense of humor, offers an enjoyably provocative guide to the art of persuasion. In 2016, Adams predicted that Donald Trump would win the presidency when few others considered him a serious contender. What did Adams see that experts missed? Declaring himself a “lifelong student” of the art of persuasion, Adams offers sharp insights into how Trump persuades people, keeps the spotlight on himself and the topics of his choice, and used these skills to talk his way into the White House. Using examples from Trump’s campaign, Adams outlines the tools and methods he sees as typical of master persuaders. He discusses why it’s effective to create a visual image such as the “big, beautiful wall,” which captured voters’ attention with a simple solution to a complex problem. To improve a social or business reputation, Adams writes, link to a strong “brand,” just as Trump did by borrowing his campaign slogan from Ronald Reagan’s successful 1980 campaign. In addition to a highly readable—and persuasive—guide to presenting ideas effectively, Adams has also written an insightful study of how Trump bested seasoned politicians.

Unstoppable: My Life So Far by Maria Sharapova

In this insightful memoir, 30-year-old tennis star Sharapova details her life from her earliest memories to the present day. Her father, Yuri, whisked six-year-old Maria from Russia to Florida because of her tennis skills, at tennis star Martina Navratilova’s suggestion: “Your daughter can play; you need to get her out of the country to a place where she can develop her game.” What ensued for Maria was a life lived on tennis courts—either playing in tournaments or toiling in academies—partially funded by whatever work Yuri could find. Maria excelled quickly, though at the cost of a typical childhood. After winning Wimbledon at 17, she entered another isolated sphere, one of celebrity and its trappings. “In short,” she writes, “winning fucks you up.” She is similarly blunt when discussing how to lose and her rivalry with Serena Williams, whom Sharapova discovered bawling after Sharapova beat her at Wimbledon in 2004 (“I think she hated me for seeing her at her lowest moment”). Sharapova’s eloquent self-awareness provides a rare glimpse into the disorienting push and pull of a famous athlete’s life. “I know you want us to love this game—us loving it makes it more fun to watch,” she writes. “But we don’t love it. And we don’t hate it. It just is, and always has been.” 16 pages of full-color photos.

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates

National Book Award-winner Coates (Between the World and Me) collects eight essays originally published in the Atlantic between 2008 and 2016, marking roughly the early optimism of Barack Obama’s presidency and the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. The selection includes blockbusters like “The Case for Reparations” and “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” which helped to establish Coates as one of the leading writers on race in America, as well as lesser-known pieces such as his profile of Bill Cosby (written in late 2008, before the reemergence of rape allegations against Cosby) and a piece on Michelle Obama before she became first lady. The essays are prefaced with new introductions that trace the articles from conception to publication and beyond. With hindsight, Coates examines the roots of his ideas (“Had I been wrong?” he writes, questioning his initial optimism about the Obama Administration) and moments of personal history that relay the influence of hip-hop, the books he read, and the blog he maintained on his writing. Though the essays are about a particular period, Coates’s themes reflect broader social and political phenomena. It’s this timeless timeliness–reminiscent of the work of George Orwell and James Baldwin–that makes Coates worth reading again and again. (Oct.)

Henry VIII: And the Men Who Made Him by Tracy Borman

Henry VIII is most often remembered as the king with six wives. But in her fascinating new biography, Henry VIII: And the Men Who Made Him, Tracy Borman argues that as a monarch and as a man, Henry is best understood by examining his relationships with the men who surrounded him.

Throughout his life, Henry was at the center of a tumultuous group at court, from advisers like Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell to scholar Thomas More and the powerful dukes of Buckingham and Norfolk. Borman writes, “It was these men who shaped Henry into the man—and the monster—that he would become.”

Borman, who serves as curator of Britain’s Historic Royal Palaces, has a long familiarity with the Tudors. She has written a book about their private lives as well as a biography of Cromwell. (A confession: I can no longer imagine him as anyone other than Mark Rylance, thanks to his masterful portrayal in the BBC’s adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall.) Here, Borman’s deep background knowledge serves her—and the reader—well. The pages and years fly by, and one has the feeling of stepping into an engaging historical lecture by a master of the subject.

The study follows a chronological approach, and Borman shines a light on some lesser- known characters as well as the major players. We also see more of how those in Henry’s inner circle of advisers, aristocrats and servants interacted with one another. Throughout, Borman uses events to peel back layers of Henry’s character, arguing that his relationships with men “show him to be capable of fierce, but seldom abiding loyalty; of raising men only to destroy them later.”

For readers curious about royal history or fascinated by the styles of leaders in our own time, Henry VIII: And the Men Who Made Him makes for a compelling read. And it will hopefully tide committed Tudor fans over until Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light, the final book in her trilogy about Cromwell, comes out—whenever that may be.

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