Staff Pick

Sarah Smarsh’s passionate Heartland (Scribner, $26) uses various narrative strategies to call attention to the overlooked “distance between how poverty is handled in public policy and what it looks like in human lives.”  Specifically focusing on rural white working class poverty, Smarsh notes both how hard it is to talk about class in America and how little what sparse language there is has to do with her family of Kansas wheat farmers, carpenters, and waitresses; her relatives neither fit the definitions of “redneck,” “roughneck” or “hillbilly,” nor conformed to the stereotypes for “trailer trash.”  Far from being lazy, Smarsh’s people work incessantly, often holding down three or more jobs at once. The product of generations who survived the harsh prairies by knowing that “you either work together or starve alone,” Smarsh learned early that “what poverty requires” are “creative, industrious people.” So why did these hard-workers have so much trouble paying the bills?  Looking around at her mother’s and aunts’ teenage pregnancies, multiple marriages, and frustrated ambitions, she decided not to bring a child into poverty, but to break the cycle that had made her own childhood so unsettled.

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781501133091
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Scribner - September 18th, 2018

Staff Pick

The backstory to Elaine Pagels’s The Origin of Satan, Revelations, and groundbreaking studies of the Gnostic gospels is as much emotional as scholarly. As she realized when she was asked Why Religion? (Ecco, $27.99) her own life illuminates both why she’s made a career of studying religious texts as well as why religion itself still exists in the supposedly secular 21st-century. The daughter and wife of scientists, Pagels was taught early on to trust the rational, despite her biologist father’s unpredictable bouts of rage. At fifteen she went with friends to a Billy Graham crusade and was astonished, hearing Graham preach about nuclear weapons, to learn that science wasn’t always trustworthy. She was also intrigued by the shared spectacle of music and ritual, and craved experiences that would similarly “engage the imagination.” Pagels fell away from evangelicalism soon after finding it, but she continued to look for, and discover, experiences that could only be called spiritual. Then in 1987 Pagels’s five-year old son died, followed in July 1988 by the death of her husband, the physicist Heinz Pagels. Struggling to face these incomprehensible losses, Pagels plunged into the Gnostic gospels once again, she discovered other ways to shape grief and to interpret the problem of suffering in the world.

Why Religion?: A Personal Story Cover Image
$27.99
ISBN: 9780062368539
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Ecco - November 6th, 2018

Staff Pick

When he was nineteen, John Kaag was so devoted to Nietzsche that he nearly killed himself following in his footsteps on an Alpine trek. Nearly twenty years later, Kaag is still drawn to that ascetic ideal. Though he understands things in Nietzsche that he didn’t before, he makes a second pilgrimage to Sils Maria, the village where Nietzsche lived from 1883 to 1888. In Hiking With Nietzsche (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, $26) he's still hoping to reach the heights, but this time, he brings a wife and four-year-old daughter, as well as a more mature perspective that finds Zarathustra not a guide to the unalloyed truth, but a work by a dissatisfied, imperfect individual. Kaag largely maintains this clear-eyed, unromantic view throughout this refreshing and insightful book that, like the wonderful American Philosophy, is as much memoir as it is biography and history of ideas.

Hiking with Nietzsche: On Becoming Who You Are Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780374170011
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - September 25th, 2018

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