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  • July 26, 2012 : 16:07
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The Dog Stars

Releasing next week, The Dog Stars is a compelling debut from author Peter Heller, which decisively strikes at the ever-arching desire to know what makes us human. Set in near-future America after an unknown virus has depleted the majority of the population, the reader is introduced to old Hig, the novel’s cynical protagonist who’s left with nothing but his gun-toting comrade, faithful canine and undying love for his ’52 Cessna, christened “The Beast.” Gruff, tormented and inspirational, Heller has the astonishing ability to make you laugh, cringe and feel ridiculously vulnerable throughout the novel that will have you rereading certain passages with a hard lump in the pit of your stomach. One of the most powerful reads in years.

Buy it here: US or Canada

In the Garden of Beasts

A must-read for history buffs, Erik Larson’s meticulously researched In the Garden of Beasts reads more like a novel than a history text. Told mainly from the perspective of the new American ambassador to Germany and his party-girl 20-something daughter Martha, the book details the events of 1933-34, giving an outsider’s perspective of the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. Although every reader will know at least the broad details of World War II and some of the events leading up to it, the book manages to build an almost thriller-like air of suspense, showing the ambassador and his family’s initial infatuation with gay 1930s Berlin and their gradual disenchantment. All the major historical figures make at least brief appearances, and unexpectedly, many of them are represented in Martha’s social life, from her affairs with a Russian spy, the head of the Gestapo and the son of the German crown prince to, perhaps most shocking for present-day readers, a blind date with the Führer himself.

Buy it here: US or Canada

Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails

Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails is Anthony Swofford’s second memoir. Readers of Jarhead looking for more of Swofford’s Gulf War experiences may be disappointed: Hotels, Hospitals, and Jails details Swofford’s life after his homecoming, his struggle to reconcile his soldier past with his civilian present through a haze of alcohol, drugs and promiscuity. But first and foremost, HHaJ is about family: about the legacy a veteran passes on to his children, and about Swofford’s attempt to come to an understanding of the dying father whose choices he abhors yet whom he greatly resembles, to learn to love him while learning how not to become him.

Buy it here: US or Canada

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