Friday, March 11, 2016

Friday Freebie: Liar by Rob Roberge, Unslut by Emily Lindin, Mesa of Sorrows by James F. Brooks, Empire of Deception by Dean Jobb, Lives in Ruins by Marilyn Johnson, and Fight Like a Girl by Laura Barcella

Congratulations to Lisa Murray, winner of last week’s Friday Freebie contest: The Miracle Girl by Andrew Roe.

This week’s book giveaway is a grab-bag of recent non-fiction titles: Liar: A Memoir by Rob Roberge, UnSlut: A Diary and a Memoir by Emily Lindin, Mesa of Sorrows: A History of the Awat'ovi Massacre by James F. Brooks, Empire of Deception: The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated the Nation by Dean Jobb, Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble by Marilyn Johnson, and Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World by Laura Barcella. Liar, Unslut, and Mesa of Sorrows are hardcovers, the rest are trade paperback editions. Read on for more details about the books...

When Rob Roberge learns that he's likely to have developed a progressive memory-eroding disease from years of hard living and frequent concussions, he is terrified by the prospect of becoming a walking shadow. In a desperate attempt to preserve his identity, he sets out to (somewhat faithfully) record the most formative moments of his life—ranging from the brutal murder of his childhood girlfriend, to a diagnosis of rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, to opening for famed indie band Yo La Tengo at The Fillmore in San Francisco. But the process of trying to remember his past only exposes just how fragile the stories that lay at the heart of our self-conception really are. As Liar twists and turns through Roberge’s life, it turns the familiar story of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll on its head. Darkly funny and brutally frank, it offers a remarkable portrait of a down and out existence cobbled together across the country, from musicians’ crashpads around Boston, to seedy bars popular with sideshow freaks in Florida, to a painful moment of reckoning in the scorched Wonder Valley desert of California. As Roberge struggles to keep addiction and mental illness from destroying the good life he has built in his better moments, he is forced to acknowledge the increasingly blurred line between the lies we tell others and the lies we tell ourselves.

When Emily Lindin was eleven years old, she was branded a “slut” by the rest of her classmates. For the next few years of her life, she was bullied incessantly at school, after school, and online. At the time, Emily didn't feel comfortable confiding in her parents or in the other adults her my life. But she did keep a diary. UnSlut is adapted from Emily’s much-acclaimed blog “The UnSlut Project” presenting unaltered excerpts from that diary alongside split-page commentary to provide context and perspective.

The Hopi community of Awat’ovi existed peacefully on Arizona’s Antelope Mesa for generations until one bleak morning in the fall of 1700―raiders from nearby Hopi villages descended on Awat’ovi, slaughtering their neighboring men, women, and children. While little of the pueblo itself remains, five centuries of history lie beneath the low rises of sandstone masonry, and theories about the events of that night are as persistent as the desert winds. The easternmost town on Antelope Mesa, Awat’ovi was renowned for its martial strength, and had been the gateway to the entire Hopi landscape for centuries. Why did kinsmen target it for destruction? Drawing on oral traditions, archival accounts, and extensive archaeological research, James Brooks unravels the story and its significance. Mesa of Sorrows follows the pattern of an archaeological expedition, uncovering layer after layer of evidence and theories. Brooks questions their reliability and shows how interpretations were shaped by academic, religious and tribal politics. Piecing together three centuries of investigation, he offers insight into why some were spared―women, mostly, and taken captive―and others sacrificed. He weighs theories that the attack was in retribution for Awat’ovi having welcomed Franciscan missionaries or for the residents’ practice of sorcery, and argues that a perfect storm of internal and external crises revitalized an ancient cycle of ritual bloodshed and purification. A haunting account of a shocking massacre, Mesa of Sorrows is a probing exploration of how societies confront painful histories, and why communal violence still plagues us today.

It was a time of unregulated madness. And nowhere was it madder than in Chicago at the dawn of the Roaring Twenties. Enter a slick, smooth-talking, charismatic lawyer named Leo Koretz, who enticed hundreds of people to invest as much as $30 million—upward of $400 million today—in phantom timberland and nonexistent oil wells in Panama. This rip-roaring tale of greed, financial corruption, dirty politics, over-the-top and under-the-radar deceit, illicit sex, and a brilliant and wildly charming con man on the town, then on the lam, is not only a rich and detailed account of a man and an era; it’s a fascinating look at the methods of swindlers throughout history. As Model Ts rumbled down Michigan Avenue, gang-war shootings announced Al Capone’s rise to underworld domination. As bedecked partygoers thronged to the Drake Hotel’s opulent banquet rooms, corrupt politicians held court in thriving speakeasies and the frenzy of stock market gambling was rampant. Leo Koretz was the Bernie Madoff of his day, and Dean Jobb shows us that the American dream of easy wealth is a timeless commodity.

The author of The Dead Beat and This Book is Overdue! turns her piercing eye and charming wit to the real-life avatars of Indiana Jones—the archaeologists who sort through the muck and mire of swamps, ancient landfills, volcanic islands, and other dirty places to reclaim history for us all. Pompeii, Machu Picchu, the Valley of the Kings, the Parthenon—the names of these legendary archaeological sites conjure up romance and mystery. The news is full of archaeology: treasures found (British king under parking lot) and treasures lost (looters, bulldozers, natural disaster, and war). Archaeological research tantalizes us with possibilities (are modern humans really part Neanderthal?). Where are the archaeologists behind these stories? What kind of work do they actually do, and why does it matter? Marilyn Johnson’s Lives in Ruins is an absorbing and entertaining look at the lives of contemporary archaeologists as they sweat under the sun for clues to the puzzle of our past. Johnson digs and drinks alongside archaeologists, chases them through the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, and even Machu Picchu, and excavates their lives. Her subjects share stories we rarely read in history books, about slaves and Ice Age hunters, ordinary soldiers of the American Revolution, children of the first century, Chinese woman warriors, sunken fleets, mummies. What drives these archaeologists is not the money (meager) or the jobs (scarce) or the working conditions (dangerous), but their passion for the stories that would otherwise be buried and lost.

Nearly every day there’s another news story, think piece, or pop cultural anecdote related to feminism and women’s rights. Conversations around consent, equal pay, access to contraception, and a host of other issues are foremost topics of conversation in American media. And today’s teens are encountering these issues from a different perspective than any generation has before—but what’s often missing from the current discussion is an understanding of how we’ve gotten to this place. Fight Like a Girl introduces readers to the history of feminist activism in the U.S. in an effort to celebrate those who paved the way and draw attention to those who are working hard to further the feminist cause today.

If you’d like a chance at winning all six books, simply email your name and mailing address to

Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line. Please include your mailing address in the body of the e-mail. One entry per person, please. Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until midnight on March 17, at which time I’ll draw the winning name. I’ll announce the lucky reader on March 18.  If you’d like to join the mailing list for the once-a-week newsletter, simply add the words “Sign me up for the newsletter” in the body of your email. Your email address and other personal information will never be sold or given to a third party (except in those instances where the publisher requires a mailing address for sending Friday Freebie winners copies of the book).

Want to double your odds of winning?  Get an extra entry in the contest by posting a link to this webpage on your blog, your Facebook wall or by tweeting it on Twitter. Once you’ve done any of those things, send me an additional e-mail saying “I’ve shared” and I’ll put your name in the hat twice.

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