The Inner Life of Animals: Love, Grief, and Compassionasurprising Observations of a Hidden World

Hardcover 24.95

Forester Wohlleben (The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate–Discoveries from a Secret World, 2016) turns his attention to how animals feel.Writing nontechnically but with obvious depth of knowledge, the author invites readers to imagine that animals have many of the same feelings we do. His argument might not pass the most rigorous of scientific challenges, but it makes good sense. “Basically,” he writes, “emotions are linked to the unconscious part of the brain. If animals lacked consciousness, all that would mean is that they would be unable to have thoughts.” That does not presuppose, however, that animals cannot have emotions, since animals certainly have the same sorts of automatic nervous system responses humans have; in that view, maternal love may be hard-wired in deer or frogs just as much as it is in humans. All vertebrates, argues Wohlleben, share the same hardware, so to speak, for emotions, and he takes this down into other orders, noting, for instance, that fish produce oxytocin, “the hormone that not only brings joy to mothers, but also strengthens the love between partners,” and that even single-celled animals can perform complex tasks involving awareness of their surroundings and, therefore, at least a kind of intelligence. And what of the love that an animal might feel for a human? In that instance, the author observes, the driving force may not be anything quite so immutable but instead a more variable quality: the ability to have curiosity about the world. The upshot is that humans need to give animals more credit for feeling–and therefore should not be so quick to eat them, to say nothing of other kinds of maltreatment. Indeed, on reading this gently learned book, readers will pay more attention to animals generally and learn how to be better neighbors to them.Can squirrels be said to be good or bad? For an answer to questions of that sort, this is the book to read. A treat for animal lovers of all stripes.

Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect

Hardcover 55.00

This retrospective of American artist Andrew Wyeth’s career coincides with the centennial of his birth and an exhibition organized by the Brandy Wine River Museum of Art in Pennsylvania and the Seattle Art Museum. Curators Junker and Lewis, along with several contributing authors, explore the defining periods of Wyeth’s personal and artistic development. Early influences of note include Wyeth’s upbringing in a household that valued creative, unstructured play; the specter of WWI in the work of his father, artist N.C. Wyeth; and his father’s premature death, the result of a train accident. Essays address Wyeth’s focus on rural Maine and Pennsylvania, as well as the artist’s preoccupation with two families–the Kuerners and the Olsons, Christina Olson being the subject of his best-known work, Christina’s World. Wyeth’s interests in painting African-American subjects, outsider figures, and the solitude of rural America set the artist apart from his contemporaries, as does his integration of uncanny elements into otherwise realist works. Discussions of Wyeth’s erotic portraiture and his muses further contrast the artist’s “underground” identity with his more-public persona. With many paintings reproduced on full-page spreads, this is a welcome addition to a Wyeth library. Color illus.

Leonardo Da Vinci

Hardcover 35.00

A majestic biography of “history’s most creative genius.”With many exceptional popular history books under his belt, Isaacson (History/Tulane Univ.; The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, 2014, etc.) is close to assuming the mantle currently held by David McCullough. Here, Isaacson takes on another complex, giant figure and transforms him into someone we can recognize. The author believes the term “genius” is too easily bandied about, but Leonardo (1452-1519), from the tiny village of Vinci, near Florence, was “one of the few people in history who indisputably deserved–or, to be more precise, earned–that appellation.” He was self-taught and “willed his way to his genius.” With joyous zest, Isaacson crafts a marvelously told story “of a misfit: illegitimate, gay, vegetarian, left-handed, easily distracted, and at times heretical.” Like a child in a candy store, Isaacson often stops to exclaim; he shares his enthusiasm, and it’s contagious. For the author, the starting point are da Vinci’s notebooks, all 7,200 pages, the “greatest record of curiosity ever created.” Da Vinci’s groundbreaking, detailed drawings charted the inner worlds of the skull, heart, muscles, brain, birds’ wings, and a working odometer, along with doodles and numerous to-do lists. In his iconic Vitruvian Man, completed when he was 38 and struggling to learn Latin, “Leonardo peers at himself with furrowed brow and tries to grasp the secrets of his own nature.” Isaacson is equally insightful with the paintings, of which there are few. The Last Supper is a “mix of scientific perspective and theatrical license, of intellect and fantasy.” Regarding the uncompleted Mona Lisa, he writes “never in a painting have motion and emotion, the paired touchstones of Leonardo’s art, been so intertwined.” As Isaacson wisely puts it, we can all learn from Leonardo. Totally enthralling, masterful, and passionate, this book should garner serious consideration for a variety of book prizes

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy

Hardcover 28.00

“We were eight years in power” was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. In this sweeping collection of new and selected essays, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time: the unprecedented election of a black president followed by a vicious backlash that fueled the election of the man Coates argues is America’s “first white president.”But the story of these present-day eight years is not just about presidential politics. This book also examines the new voices, ideas, and movements for justice that emerged over this period–and the effects of the persistent, haunting shadow of our nation’s old and unreconciled history. Coates powerfully examines the events of the Obama era from his intimate and revealing perspective–the point of view of a young writer who begins the journey in an unemployment office in Harlem and ends it in the Oval Office, interviewing a president.We Were Eight Years in Power features Coates’s iconic essays first published in The Atlantic, including “Fear of a Black President,” “The Case for Reparations,” and “The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration,” along with eight fresh essays that revisit each year of the Obama administration through Coates’s own experiences, observations, and intellectual development, capped by a bracingly original assessment of the election that fully illuminated the tragedy of the Obama era. We Were Eight Years in Power is a vital account of modern America, from one of the definitive voices of this historic moment.

The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President

Hardcover 27.99

This is not normal.

Since the start of Donald Trump’s presidential run, one question has quietly but urgently permeated the observations of concerned citizens: What is wrong with him? Constrained by the American Psychiatric Association’s “Goldwater rule,” which inhibits mental health professionals from diagnosing public figures they have not personally examined, many of those qualified to answer this question have shied away from discussing the issue at all. The public has thus been left to wonder whether he is mad, bad, or both.

In THE DANGEROUS CASE OF DONALD TRUMP, twenty-seven psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health experts argue that, in Mr. Trump’s case, their moral and civic “duty to warn” America supersedes professional neutrality. They then explore Trump’s symptoms and potentially relevant diagnoses to find a complex, if also dangerously mad, man.

Philip Zimbardo and Rosemary Sword, for instance, explain Trump’s impulsivity in terms of “unbridled and extreme present hedonism.” Craig Malkin writes on pathological narcissism and politics as a lethal mix. Gail Sheehy, on a lack of trust that exceeds paranoia. Lance Dodes, on sociopathy. Robert Jay Lifton, on the “malignant normality” that can set in everyday life if psychiatrists do not speak up.

His madness is catching, too. From the trauma people have experienced under the Trump administration to the cult-like characteristics of his followers, he has created unprecedented mental health consequences across our nation and beyond.

It’s not all in our heads. It’s in his.

“There will not be a book published this fall more urgent, important, or controversial than The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump…profound, illuminating and discomforting” –Bill Moyers

Birding Without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World

Hardcover 27.00

In 2015, Noah Strycker, a young American birder, became the first person to see more than half of the 10,000 bird species on planet Earth in one year. Traveling to forty-one countries on seven continents with just a small backpack, a pair of binoculars, and a series of one-way tickets, Noah not only set a new world record, he also captured the hearts and imaginations of people all over the world.

Noah Strycker will visit J. Michaels Books on Thursday November  16, from 3 to 5 PM

The River of Consciousness

Hardcover 27.00

Oliver Sacks, a scientist and a storyteller, is beloved by readers for the extraordinary neurological case histories ( Awakenings, An Anthropologist on Mars) in which he introduced and explored many now familiar disorders–autism, Tourette’s syndrome, face blindness, savant syndrome. He was also a memoirist who wrote with honesty and humor about the remarkable and strange encounters and experiences that shaped him ( Uncle Tungsten, On the Move, Gratitude). Sacks, an Oxford-educated polymath, had a deep familiarity not only with literature and medicine but with botany, animal anatomy, chemistry, the history of science, philosophy, and psychology. The River of Consciousness is one of two books Sacks was working on up to his death, and it reveals his ability to make unexpected connections, his sheer joy in knowledge, and his unceasing, timeless project to understand what makes us human

Lincoln in the Bardo

Hardcover 28.00 Winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize

From the seed of historical truth that is the death of President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son Willie, George Saunders spins a “story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a supernatural realm … Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state–called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo–a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul”–Amazon.com.

Forest Dark

Hardcover 27.99, signed copies limited availability

“A brilliant novel. I am full of admiration.” –Philip Roth

“One of America’s most important novelists” (New York Times), the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of The History of Love, conjures an achingly beautiful and breathtakingly original novel about personal transformation that interweaves the stories of two disparate individuals–an older lawyer and a young novelist–whose transcendental search leads them to the same Israeli desert.

Jules Epstein, a man whose drive, avidity, and outsized personality have, for sixty-eight years, been a force to be reckoned with, is undergoing a metamorphosis. In the wake of his parents’ deaths, his divorce from his wife of more than thirty years, and his retirement from the New York legal firm where he was a partner, he’s felt an irresistible need to give away his possessions, alarming his children and perplexing the executor of his estate. With the last of his wealth, he travels to Israel, with a nebulous plan to do something to honor his parents. In Tel Aviv, he is sidetracked by a charismatic American rabbi planning a reunion for the descendants of King David who insists that Epstein is part of that storied dynastic line. He also meets the rabbi’s beautiful daughter who convinces Epstein to become involved in her own project–a film about the life of David being shot in the desert–with life-changing consequences.

But Epstein isn’t the only seeker embarking on a metaphysical journey that dissolves his sense of self, place, and history. Leaving her family in Brooklyn, a young, well-known novelist arrives at the Tel Aviv Hilton where she has stayed every year since birth. Troubled by writer’s block and a failing marriage, she hopes that the hotel can unlock a dimension of reality–and her own perception of life–that has been closed off to her. But when she meets a retired literature professor who proposes a project she can’t turn down, she’s drawn into a mystery that alters her life in ways she could never have imagined.

Bursting with life and humor, Forest Dark is a profound, mesmerizing novel of metamorphosis and self-realization–of looking beyond all that is visible towards the infinite.

Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir

Hardcover  28.99

In Where the Past Begins, bestselling author of The Joy Luck Club and The Valley of Amazement Amy Tan is at her most intimate in revealing the truths and inspirations that underlie her extraordinary fiction. By delving into vivid memories of her traumatic childhood, confessions of self-doubt in her journals, and heartbreaking letters to and from her mother, she gives evidence to all that made it both unlikely and inevitable that she would become a writer. Through spontaneous storytelling, she shows how a fluid fictional state of mind unleashed near-forgotten memories that became the emotional nucleus of her novels.

Tan explores shocking truths uncovered by family memorabilia–the real reason behind an IQ test she took at age six, why her parents lied about their education, mysteries surrounding her maternal grandmother–and, for the first time publicly, writes about her complex relationship with her father, who died when she was fifteen. Supplied with candor and characteristic humor, Where the Past Begins takes readers into the idiosyncratic workings of her writer’s mind, a journey that explores memory, imagination, and truth, with fiction serving as both her divining rod and link to meaning.