Issue 5

Endurance: A Year in Space A Lifetime of Discovery 

by Scott Kelly

This is the book we have been anticipating since the pioneering NASA astronaut Scott Kelly returned home to much fanfare from his year aboard the International Space Station.

Kelly has experienced things very few have: He’s logged more than 520 days in space on four spaceflights and currently holds the records for total time in space and for single-mission endurance by an American astronaut. He delivers a candid account of his recent voyage, the journeys off the planet that preceded it, and his colorful formative years. He describes navigating the extreme challenge of long-term spaceflight, both existential and banal: the devastating effects on the body; the isolation from everyone he loves and the comforts of Earth; the pressures of constant close cohabitation; the catastrophic risks of depressurization or colliding with space junk; and the still more haunting threat of being unable to help should tragedy strike at home—an agonizing situation Kelly faced on another mission when his twin brother’s wife, Gabrielle Giffords, was shot while he still had two months in space.

Kelly’s humanity, compassion, humor, and passion resonate throughout as he recalls his rough-and-tumble New Jersey childhood and the youthful inspiration that sparked his astounding career all while he makes clear his belief that Mars will be the next step in American spaceflight.

Grant 

by Ron Chernow

Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award author Ron Chernow has turned his attention to Ulysses S. Grant, delivering  a deeply researched biography—and doorstop, totaling nearly 1,000 pages—that explains how this Midwesterner could at once be so ordinary yet so extraordinary.

Early in his career, Grant’s business ventures had ended dismally, and his alcoholism caused him to resign in disgrace from service in the Mexican-American War. During the Civil War, Grant rose through the ranks of the Union army, prevailing at the battle of Shiloh and in the Vicksburg campaign, ultimately defeating Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Along the way, Grant endeared himself to President Lincoln and became his most trusted general and the strategic genius of the war effort. Grant’s military fame translated into a two-term presidency, but it was plagued by corruption scandals involving his closest staff members. More importantly, he sought freedom and justice for black Americans, working to crush the Ku Klux Klan and earning the admiration of Frederick Douglass. After his presidency, he was again brought low by a swindler on Wall Street, only to resuscitate his image by working with Mark Twain to publish his memoirs. Chernow finds the threads that bind these disparate stories together, shedding new light on the man whom Walt Whitman described as “nothing heroic…and yet the greatest hero”.

Forest Dark: A Novel

by Nicole Krauss

Jules Epstein—a man whose drive, avidity, and outsized personality has, 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 who is planning a reunion for the descendants of King David and insists that Epstein is part of that storied dynastic line. He also meets the rabbi’s beautiful daughter, who convinces Epsein to become involved in her own project—a film about the life of David being shot in the desert—with life-changing consequences.

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.

The Twelve-Mile Straight: A Novel

by Eleanor Henderson

Set in rural Georgia during the years of the Depression and Prohibition, twin babies—one light-skinned, the other dark—are born to Elma Jesup, a white sharecropper’s daughter. Accused of her rape, field hand Genus Jackson is lynched and dragged behind a truck down the Twelve-Mile Straight, the road to the nearby town.

In the aftermath, the farm’s inhabitants are forced to contend with their complicity in a series of events that left a man dead and a family irrevocably fractured. Despite prying eyes and curious whispers, Elma begins to raise her babies as best as she can under the roof of her mercurial father and with the help of Nan, the young black housekeeper who is as close to Elma as a sister. But soon it becomes clear that the ties that bind all of them together are more intricate than any could have ever imagined. As startling revelations mount, a web of lies begins to collapse around the family, destabilizing their precarious world and forcing all to reckon with the painful truth.

Acclaimed author Eleanor Henderson has returned with a novel that combines the intimacy of a family drama with the staggering presence of a great Southern saga. Tackling themes of racialized violence, social division, and financial crisis, The Twelve-Mile Straight is a startlingly timely, emotionally resonant and skillfully written literary achievement.