In the Midst of Winter (Atria, $28), by master storyteller Isabel Allende, begins on a cold and snowy day in Brooklyn. After a traffic accident brings them together, Richard Bowmaster and Evelyn Ortega discover they’re connected by a dark secret. This also involves Lucia Maraz, Richard’s tenant and colleague, who he turns to for help after the incident. Owing to circumstances, our three protagonists, plus one dog, find themselves becoming closer while going to extraordinary lengths to hide their secret. As Allende narrates their various pasts, it becomes clear that each of them faces a personal winter, living a life frozen in place. Richard is a professor who believes the great passions of his life have come and gone. He maintains strict order to keep his regrets under control. Lucia, despite the struggles and disappointments she endured in her native Chile, still searches for happiness in the unlikeliest of places. Evelyn is a refugee from the violence in Guatemala, where she was robbed of family and future. Together this trio discovers, as Albert Camus wrote, an “invincible summer” within that slowly melts the frost enshrouding their lives and opens them to renewed hope and love. This is a beautiful story that will see you through all the seasons to come.
Sir Isaac Newton famously discovered that an object at rest or in motion will remain in that state unless acted upon by an outside force. Before Scott Kelly “slipped the surly bonds of earth” as an astronaut, this Newtonian law played out in a serendipitous fashion in his early life. As he describes in his tremendous Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery (Knopf, $29.95), he was on a trajectory to nowhere in particular. Growing up in New Jersey, Kelly was a lackluster student. He drifted and daydreamed all the way to college but hadn’t settled on a direction. During his freshman year the outside force arrived in the form of The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe. Never having been much of a reader, Kelly uncharacteristically devoured this book, finding inspiration in the tale of those early test pilots and astronauts. As a result, Kelly altered the course of his life and after years of struggle he proved he had the right stuff. The highlight of his memoir is his chronicle of his year aboard the International Space Station. Kelly vividly portrays not only the important work being done on the ISS but also daily life for a human floating in orbit. A moving, funny, and uplifting story, this is the closest you will get to experiencing the final frontier without strapping yourself to a rocket.
Gamergate is one of the darkest chapters in the history of the internet. It began in 2014 when independent video-game developer Zoe Quinn, who had recently ended an abusive relationship with a tech-savvy man, was deluged by a tidal wave of hatred. Her attacker made false allegations about Quinn online, knowing he would spark a backlash. In her extraordinary Crash Override (PublicAffairs, $27), Quinn chronicles her experience—and the details are shocking. Gamergate compromised all facets of her online persona. Professional opportunities evaporated. The mounting threats endangered not only Quinn but anyone she was in contact with. Against these incredible odds, Quinn persevered. She fought back, organizing a movement dedicated to fighting online hate. While I called Gamergate “history,” Quinn shows that it’s not. It is now. It is here. It is going on every day. She illustrates the toxicity people from marginalized communities face daily on the internet, and often from those they turn to for help. This insightful and inspiring book is a clarion call for widespread action that all internet users should heed.