Staff Pick

The 1986 Chernobyl accident is so far the most serious nuclear disaster in history. Yet more than thirty years later, the extent of its damage isn’t clear: experts disagree about the number of deaths it caused (from thirty-one to hundreds of thousands), about the danger, if any, of low-dose radiation, the extent of the danger zone and need for resettlement, the various vectors through which radiation spreads, and much more. Whatever statements were issued in the early days, Brown shows in her comprehensive study of the incident and its ongoing aftermath, were largely made up for the sake of avoiding panic;  reassuring numbers were not science but “expediency and politics.” Brown, a historian with extensive experience in the former Soviet Union, spent years in archives tracing the complicated chain of official denials and lies. Her report of the massive cover-up is shocking. But it’s her meetings with frustrated doctors, scientists, and especially residents still living in irradiated villages—where the environmental damage is severe and irreversible—that are heartbreaking. And as she did in her excellent Plutopia, she shows that Americans were as invested in defending nuclear power as the Soviets were and used many of the same tactics in downplaying the dangers from atmospheric and underground tests. Few know, for instance, that the radiation released from explosions in Nevada between 1951 and 1992 “dwarfed Chernobyl emissions three times over.” Not just about Chernobyl, this book brings home that since we first split the atom, we’re all living in a contaminated zone.

Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393652512
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - March 12th, 2019

Staff Pick

Truer’s revelatory history tells much more than the story of “Native America from 1890 to the present.”  To understand 1890—the date of the massacre of 150 Lakota Sioux at Wounded Knee, which seemed to be the final nail in the coffin of America’s indigenous peoples—we have to know the innumerable ways the U.S. had already tried to deal with its “Indian problem,” how Europeans had treated the Natives from first contact, and what life was like on the continent during the centuries before it was “discovered” by whites. Treuer covers this complicated history in detail; if the number of treaties, acts, and battles is dizzying, what comes through clearly is that there is no single “Indian” story. Each tribe—and often each clan within the tribe—occupies distinct cultural and geographical landscapes, and each has been impacted differently by the various means whites have used to try to control them. These stories are fascinating and long overdue—without them, the story of America, and especially of the West, has been both partial and seriously impoverished. Treuer’s central thesis, however, is that despite whites’ relentless battle to exterminate Natives—a mission often explicitly stated as that—they failed. Wounded Knee was not the end of the story, just one chapter in an ongoing saga that gradually led from allotment, U.S. citizenship, the Indian Reorganization Act, and the Termination Act, to the American Indian Movement, casinos, and more enterprises initiated by Natives themselves. Growing up on Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota, Treuer, a member of the Ojibwe, did not see “ruined lives,” but people who could “choose to be Indian.” Since 1890, Native populations have grown—and grown stronger.

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594633157
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Riverhead Books - January 22nd, 2019

Staff Pick

This beguiling story of a flood, a plague, a mysterious beast, and a pilgrimage could be a video game, a half-repressed memory, or a version of Revelation. Davis keeps all possibilities open as we follow a group of siblings trekking across the Savage Domain, each, as in Chaucer, telling his or her tale. The plot has the spare richness of a fable charting the fall from innocence through a dark time when “spite and harshness blazed up everywhere.” But it’s Davis’s uncanny and beautiful language that gives the real shivers, making you look twice with statements such as “like most humans she had a single heart” and ”when you arrive at the edge of the world you stop remembering things like how you got there.”

The Silk Road: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781555978297
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Graywolf Press - March 5th, 2019