BEN McNALLY BOOKS

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An occasional preview of some forthcoming books of interest.

Universal Man by Richard Davenport-Hines

HarperCollins UK
Universal Man by Richard Davenport-Hines

John Maynard Keynes is the man who saved Britain from financial crisis not once but twice — over the course of two World Wars. He remains a highly influential figure, nearly 70 years after his death. But who was he?

In this entertaining biography, Richard Davenport-Hines gives us the man behind the economics: the connoisseur, intellectual, public official and statesman who was equally at ease socialising with the Bloomsbury Group as he was persuading prime ministers and presidents.

By exploring the desires and experiences that made Keynes think as he did, Davenport-Hines reveals the aesthetic basis of Keynesian economics, and explores why the ideas of this Great Briton continue to resonate so powerfully today.

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Falling in Love by Donna Leon

Atlantic Monthly Press
Falling in Love by Donna Leon

Donna Leon’s Death at La Fenice, the first novel in her beloved Commissario Guido Brunetti series, introduced readers to the dazzling world of Venetian opera and Italy’s finest living female soprano, Flavia Petrelli—then a suspect in the poisoning of a renowned German conductor. After Brunetti kept her out of prison and went on to save the life of her female American lover in Acqua Alta, Flavia has once again returned to Venice and La Fenice to perform the lead in Tosca, and Brunetti has tickets to an early show.

The night he and his wife, Paola, attend, Flavia gives a stunning performance to a standing ovation. Back in her dressing room, she finds bouquets of yellow roses—too many roses. Every surface of the room is covered with them. An anonymous fan has been showering Flavia with these beautiful gifts in London, St. Petersburg, Amsterdam, and now, Venice, but she no longer feels flattered. A few nights later, invited by Brunetti to dine at his in-laws’ palazzo, Flavia confesses her alarm at these excessive displays of adoration. Brunetti promises to look into it. And when a talented young Venetian singer who has caught Flavia’s attention is savagely attacked, Brunetti begins to think that Flavia’s fears are justified in ways neither of them imagined. He must enter into the psyche of an obsessive fan before Flavia, or anyone else, comes to harm.

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Days of Rage by Bryan Burrough

Penguin Press
Days of Rage by Bryan Burrough

The Weathermen. The Symbionese Liberation Army. The FALN. The Black Liberation Army. The names seem quaint now, when not forgotten altogether. But there was a stretch of time in America, roughly between 1968 and 1975, when there was on average more than one significant terrorist act in this country every week, and the FBI combated these groups and others as nodes in a single revolutionary underground, dedicated to the violent overthrow of the American government.

The FBI’s response to the leftist revolutionary counterculture has not been treated kindly by history, and it is true that in hindsight many of its efforts seem almost comically ineffectual, if not criminal in themselves. But part of the extraordinary accomplishment of Bryan Burrough’s groundbreaking book is to temper those easy judgments with an understanding of just how deranged these times were, how charged with menace. Burrough re-creates an atmosphere that seems almost unbelievable just forty years later, conjuring a time of native-born radicals, most of them “nice middle-class kids,” smuggling bombs into skyscrapers and detonating them inside the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol, at a courthouse in Boston, at a Wall Street restaurant packed with lunchtime diners.

Benefiting from the extraordinary number of people from the underground and the FBI who speak about their experiences for the first time, Days of Rage is filled with important revelations and fresh details about the major revolutionaries and their connections and about the FBI and its desperate efforts to make the bombings stop. The result is mesmerizing and completely new—a book that takes us into the hearts and minds of homegrown terrorists and federal agents alike and weaves their stories into a spellbinding secret history of the 1970s.

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Satin Island by Tom McCarthy

Jonathan Cape
Satin Island by Tom McCarthy

Meet U. -- a talented and uneasy figure currently pimping his skills to an elite consultancy in contemporary London. His employers advise everyone from big businesses to governments, and, to this end, expect their 'corporate anthropologist' to help decode and manipulate the world around them -- all the more so now that a giant, epoch-defining project is in the offing.

Instead, U. spends his days procrastinating, meandering through endless buffer-zones of information and becoming obsessed by the images with which the world bombards him on a daily basis: oil spills, African traffic jams, roller-blade processions, zombie parades. Is there, U. wonders, a secret logic holding all these images together -- a codex that, once cracked, will unlock the master-meaning of our age? Might it have something to do with South Pacific Cargo Cults, or the dead parachutists in the news? Perhaps; perhaps not.

As U. oscillates between the visionary and the vague, brilliance and bullshit, Satin Island emerges, an impassioned and exquisite novel for our disjointed times.

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