Mansoor, covered in blood, is walking home through the markets of Delhi, as passers-by gossip about the bombing that just occurred while oblivious to one of its victims right in their midst. This is one from a series of scenes that opens Karan Mahajan’s sophomore effort, The Association of Small Bombs. Mahajan examines the personal and the political –– and the hairline divide between the two –– with tart effectiveness. Without flinching from India’s sundry social divisions and political conflicts, Mahajan also writes a novel that doesn’t drift from a very human-scale viewpoint, and that’s what makes the story’s gradual unraveling so engrossing.
I was biking to work at our 5th and K location one morning when I saw the telltale signs of an eviction right around the corner from the store: the pile of furniture and personal effects disgorged on a sidewalk less than a block away from the store, with armed, flak-jacketed US Marshals standing nearby. That morning, still shaken by the sight, I pulled a copy of Matthew Desmond’s newly arrived book off the shelf. Desmond transforms what could have been a thinly topical current affairs book into a masterwork of reportage with the depth of an anthropological study. As the book shifts between the narratives of the landlords and their tenants, Desmond maintains profound empathy for all the individuals he portrays; yet he also undergirds these narratives with a flinty contempt for the ways in which structural inequality keep so many in precarious housing situations.
While best known for his commitment to Zen Buddhism and nonviolence, Thich Nhat Hanh is also a prolific author. His latest is presented to us as his memoirs, but readers will soon discover that the book is less a straight-ahead autobiography than his accumulated 90 years of wisdom through vignettes of daily life and lessons learned. Thich Nhat Hanh takes us from his childhood in Vietnam and his days at a monk novice to the establishment of Plum Village in France and his international travels and meetings with Martin Luther King Jr. and Thomas Merton. However, these events themselves are always tangential to how they deepened his practice and furthered his commitment to building a true, lasting peace in the world. During a time where many of our customers have come in sharing feelings of deep anxiety over the recent political developments and in society’s collective ability to take care of all its members, many readers may appreciate the deep well of compassion and knowledge contained herein.