Top Reads for April

April is supposedly the cruelest month, but we’re not feeling that way here at Scribd. This month, we launched our first Scribd Original, Mueller’s War. Plus, as always, there’s a slew of other books to read this month, including The Parisian by Isabella Hammad and Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe.

Mueller’s War (Scribd Exclusive)

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Stephanie: Speculation around “The Mueller Report” — the findings from special council Robert Mueller’s recently concluded top secret inquiry into the Trump Campaign and Russian interference into the 2016 election — has been dominating headlines and the American consciousness over the last two weeks. But what do we really know about Bob Mueller, the man responsible for one of the most important investigations in U.S. history?

In our first Scribd Original, Mueller’s War, award-winning journalist Garrett Graff — Mueller’s preeminent biographer-in-waiting — gives us the first in-depth account of Mueller’s time as a Marine during the deadliest year of the Vietnam War, and in doing so, reveals why and how Mueller became who he is today: a man with integrity beyond reproach. A man devoted to duty, honor, and country above all else.

Also available as an audiobook.

Say Nothing

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Katie: Like Erik Larson and David Grann, reporter Patrick Radden Keefe has written a gripping book that is part haunting true crime and part history. The title comes from an old Irish saying, “Whatever you say, say nothing.” And Keefe’s writing plunges you into the tense, sectarian atmosphere of Belfast during the darkest days of the Troubles when this menacing saying was a way of life. Seeking answers to why a widowed mother of 10 was disappeared while neighbors stood silently by, Keefe reveals the inside story of the violence that ripped apart Belfast and exploded across London. He describes the devastating impact of that bloodshed, and shares how young combatants struggled later in life to come to terms with what they had done. Had they committed acts of war or simply murder?

Now is a particularly poignant moment to be reading this absorbing history, with headlines shouting about the chaotic uncertainty of Brexit and the Irish border proving to be a major sticking point in negotiations. If a hard border returns between the Republic of Ireland and the North, will anything like the Troubles reignite? Say Nothing makes it clear that while the Troubles may be past, they are far from ancient history.

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The Parisian (Out April 9th)

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Alex: The Parisian is technically a work of historical fiction, but it doesn’t feel like it. It feels like a classic work from fin de siècle Europe, a novel comparable to those of E. M. Forester and D. H. Lawrence. And it’s a bit disconcerting to realize that a work of new literary fiction that doesn’t attempt to subvert the form or genre is — well — strange. There are no tricks here, but the writing is elegant and restrained, the pacing assured, and the characters and plot gripping and believable. It’s the sort of writing that reminds you how rare it is to encounter a straightforward novel executed perfectly.

There is one aspect of the novel that differentiates it from the work of actual European Modernists: its protagonist is a Middle Eastern immigrant who has moved to France to study medicine. As WWI intensifies and the towns and schools empty of young French men, he’s increasingly aware not just of his otherness, but of the implications of his continuing studies at a French school while his classmates are sent to the front — some of them to fight against his own countrymen. He encounters racism that’s all the more devastating given the intentions of the perpetrator, bumps up against, and then transcends, cultural barriers — all to then return to Palestine, and find himself experiencing the world in reverse. The parallels to today are hard to miss, but there’s too much artistry and beauty in this novel to read it as a simple political allegory. A modern classic, in every sense of the word.

Odds Against Tomorrow

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Ashley: With new climate reports saying we only have until 2020 to avoid the worst of climate change’s effects, the odds certainly do look increasingly stacked against more tomorrows. Written after Hurricane Katrina but before Hurricane Harvey, Nathaniel Rich’s climate disaster satire feels, perhaps, too plausible. In it, a young genius mathematician who’s obsessed with worst-case scenarios calculates the odds that various disasters — from hurricanes to bombings to elevator accidents — will occur, all for an insurance company that wants to cash in on people’s fears using a legal liability loophole. Capitalism and the climate go head-to-head in this frightening, manic read that does also, somehow, elicit chuckles (albeit nervous ones) with its wit. Odds Against Tomorrow manages to stay safely in the realm of satire — the characters are a little too quirky, the corporate culture a little too cartoony — but it will definitely give you new fears to ponder as we barrel towards the next natural disaster and the approaching apocalypse.

Also available as an audiobook.

The Ohlone Way

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Andrew: Published over 40 years ago, The Ohlone Way remains relevant because of its unique approach to describing life in the Native American tribes that densely populated the Bay Area for thousands of years.

Before the disruptive arrival of the Spanish and the mission system, the peoples that would come to be known as the Ohlone lived in this region for dozens of generations. Their way of life came to an end shortly after the arrival of Europeans, however, and what vestiges of their culture remained were obliterated within a few generations.

Malcolm Margolin, a journalist writing in the mid 1970s, set out to make the Ohlone way comprehensible to contemporary readers. To that end, he took an unusual approach. Rather than a dry, historical text, he turned his extensive research toward descriptive ends, writing a series of vignettes describing what the day-to-day experience of different aspects of life in the Bay Area were for thousands of years, including hunting, gathering, marriage, illness, politics, war, and more.

The Ohlone Way remains popular as a university text, and is an excellent introduction to Native American studies. In particular for those of us (like Scribd and many of its employees) in the Bay Area, this text is an invaluable resource to understanding the people on whose land we live and work.

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