October 22, 2019

Dust off your summer reading glasses

Politics is dominating not only headlines, but bookstores, as well, and some of the most intriguing author events in early summer will provide yet more opportunity to agonize over Trump, Sanders and Clinton. Even Sebastian Junger’s new book about why tribalism can be a good thing, and the latest novel from Brad Meltzer, a master of the political thriller, have something to say about how power is wielded in America nowadays. On a different note, thankfully, a bit of escapism can still be found in a charming memoir about the iconic Moulin Rouge in Paris by one of its starring dancers. But best of all, you can meet all of the authors in person at Southern California venues in the days and weeks ahead.

Amid the rancor of American politics, Ronald Reagan looms large for his optimism, kindness and sheer likeability. After all, he created the “commandment” that Donald Trump is determined to break at every opportunity: “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican.” No one is better equipped to tell us about the real Ronald Reagan than his son Michael Reagan, whose latest book about his father (co-written with Jim Denney) is “Lessons My Father Taught Me: The Strength, Integrity, and Faith of Ronald Reagan” (Humanix Books). Reagan tells us he visits his father’s grave on the anniversary of his death and reads the inscription on the headstone: “I know in my heart that man is good. That what is right will always eventually triumph. And there’s purpose and worth to each and every life.” He uses his book “to show you how my father’s values and wisdom impacted my life — and changed the world.” I hope someone sends a copy to The Donald.

Reagan will discuss and sign his book at 2 p.m. June 4 at Barnes & Noble at The Grove at Farmer’s Market, 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles. 

An unforgettable book that introduced a new phrase into the American lexicon  — “The Perfect Storm” — marked Sebastian Junger’s debut as a best-selling author. Since then, he has written about such elemental topics as “War” and “Fire,” and has distinguished himself as a documentary filmmaker, too, with “Restrepo” and “Korengal.” Now he captures yet another aspect of the zeitgeist with “Tribes: On Homecoming and Belonging” (Twelve).  An Amazon best-seller before it was even published, the book is an impressive enterprise that draws on anthropology, psychology and sociology, as well as the author’s considerable adventures, and seeks to find out what binds together the members of a tribe. Nowadays, “tribalism” is used mostly as a term of disparagement, but Junger argues that tribal connections can be found not only in what we call primitive societies, but in every human community. What’s more, he insists that tribal bonds, like the ones that develop in combat units, are the strongest of all human connections. For Junger, tribalism can be a corrective to the loneliness and lack of meaning in modern American life.

Junger will present and sign copies of his provocative new book at 11 a.m. June 5 at Vroman’s, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena.