In 1972, a couple of young enthusiastic Americans came to Amsterdam, the city where anybody, anything and everything goes, and decided to open a store with American erotic magazines and book remainders bought for 10 cents a pound dry weight. Today the American Book Center has grown into one of the biggest, maybe even the biggest source of American (and British) English-language books and magazines on continental Europe. For general information about the store and their stock, visit www.abc.nl
Napoleon the Great by Andrew Roberts
In just 16 years, Napoleon Bonaparte revolutionised the art of warfare and consolidated many of the ideas that underpin modern life, such as secular education, religious tolerance and efficient political administration. He remade France according to his enlightenment ideals, transforming Europe forever in the process. On the basis of exhaustive research, Roberts reveals Napoleon’s magnetic personality, boundless physical and intellectual energy, his successes, failings and many contrasts. Lavishly illustrated and written with even-handed admiration, Roberts brings the myth to life.
The Tale of the Duelling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery by Sam Kean
In this gleeful tour of the human brain, we learn about the cannibals who developed a version of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease from eating the brains of dead relatives, and a man who developed, was cured of and then re-developed paedophilia as his brain tumour grew and shrank. There’s also the story of a French king, pierced in the head with a jousting lance, who was treated with charred mummy and rhubarb. The cure failed but his autopsy was groundbreaking in the development of neuroscience. Packed with gruesome historical tales and curious case histories, this is an amusing and informative introduction to what really goes on in our heads.
Elon Musk : How the Billionaire CEO of Spacex and Tesla is Shaping Our Future by Ashlee Vance
The real-life inspiration for Hollywood’s version of Iron Man is Elon Musk, the man behind Pal, SpaceX, Tesla, and SolarCity. After being forced out of PayPal, Musk survived malaria, then lost an infant son. He moved to LA and blew his entire fortune on rockets and electric cars. The result? Musk’s net worth topped $5 billion. Vance talked to Musk for 30 hours and interviewed nearly 300 people to compile this lively portrait of someone with insatiable drive and determination who, from a rough South African childhood, became probably the world’s most important entrepreneur.
America’s Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare System by Steven Brill
Brill’s story of the monumental fight to pass the Affordable Care Act is both thorough and fascinating. He explains how businesses lobbied successfully to have its proposals watered down; why profiteering and price fixing continues to be a huge problem; how the website launch failed and was rescued by a team of geeks; and why healthcare in America is essentially a political issue. Here also are incredible stories of people bankrupted by illness, and even the author’s own unexpected first-hand experiences. Impassioned but fair, full of insights, history, and even humour, Brill’s is an energetic account of Obamacare now and in the future. At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen: Celebrating the Art of Eating Well by Amy Chaplin Starting with a comprehensive guide to kitchen and pantry essentials and ending with advice on gentle cleanses, this vegetarian – and mostly vegan and gluten-free – cookbook provides wonderful meals to fill your days from breakfast to dessert, including Black Rice Breakfast Pudding, Beet Tartlets with Poppy Seed Crust and White Bean Fennel Filling, and Chocolate Hazelnut Layer Cake with Cherry Filling and Ganache. Full of fresh ideas and gorgeous photographs, there’s plenty here to tempt even the most committed carnivore.
Quicksand by Steve Toltz
Aldo is an ex-con, a useless entrepreneur, an aphorism-spouting philosopher and an endearing yet insufferable man, so unlucky that even his suicide attempts are thwarted by apparent immortality. His best friend Liam, a failed novelist, has undertaken to write the book of Aldo’s life. He details the many catastrophes that have befallen him via narrative indulgences, including bizarre murder trial testimony and a conversation with God. Brimming with dark hilarity, dazzling prose, razor-sharp dialogue and wonderful existential melancholy, this is the long-awaited new work by the author of A Fraction of the Whole.
Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
Ani FaNelli appears to have an Instagram-perfect life. She writes for a fashion magazine, has a wardrobe stuffed with designer labels and is about to marry a man who is handsome and rich. But Ani is unravelling. Through a series of deftly unfolding, painful flashbacks we learn what happened to Ani at her prestigious high school to make her the unpleasant, mildly psychopathic character she has become. Knoll does a great job of pacing the story to reveal just enough puzzle pieces to keep you gripped, allowing the final twist to take you completely by surprise.
Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
In a tunnel in Detroit lie the head and torso of a young black boy fused together with the rear half of a fawn. Its creator is Clayton Broom, a failed artist led by a strange superconsciousness he knows as ‘the dream’. This work is not a one-off piece. As Detective Gabriella Versado tracks Clayton down, we follow several characters whose lives become linked with the case in surprising and awful ways. This new novel from the author of The Shining Girls, praised by Stephen King, defies genre and twists familiar tropes and plot lines inside out to create something genuinely terrifying. An original and breath-taking thriller, full of wit, tension and sharp social satire.
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
When Harper Lee submitted her first novel to a publisher, they told her to write it again, from the point of view of one of the younger characters. The result was To Kill A Mockingbird. But what of that original novel? It surfaced again in 2014 and Lee has agreed to allow it to be published unchanged. In it, Scout returns to Maycomb, Alabama where she and many of the other characters from To Kill a Mockingbird are adjusting to the turbulent events transforming 1950s America. Moving, funny and compelling, it casts new light on an eternal classic.
Festival of Insignificance by Milan Kundera
Four friends meet in the gardens, museums, cafés and parties of contemporary Paris, and talk. About everything. About sex, women’s navels, Stalin, history, art, theatre, language, politics, the meaning of life, and not having cancer. Their conversations are both light and weighty, discussing serious problems but never uttering one serious sentence, fascinated by the real world but carefully avoiding realism. Unmistakably Kundera, this slight, seemingly insignificant book is an excellent introduction to his work.
The Familiar, Volume 1: One Rainy Day in May by Mark Danielewski
The author of House of Leaves blurs the line between text and image, with collage, alternative alphabets, colour coding, and epigraphs from all sorts of cultural sources in this novel/artwork in which no two pages look the same. 12-year-old Xanther goes with her father to buy a dog, but instead rescues a cat. This tiny creature will threaten the world we think we know and our future; and nine people across the globe – their narratives distinguished by different typefaces – must make a terrifying choice. This, like all of Danielewski’s work, is made for puzzle solvers. It’s 880 pages long and the first of 27 volumes. It often – deliberately – makes no sense. It won’t suit everyone but, for some readers, it will be an absolute delight.