Listener beware! Untrue is Wednesday Martin’s unvarnished, cogently argued, colorfully detailed take on women who are “untrue.” She’s talking about women’s sexuality, adultery, cheating and “stepping out,” and she doesn’t mince words or use euphemisms. So if you’re uncomfortable with sexual straight talk, this book is not for you. But if you’re perfectly OK with it, there’s much to shake up your perceptions. Martin sees the sexual double standard, with its misunderstanding of women’s hearts and libidos, as “one of our country’s foundational concepts” along with life and liberty. To explore female infidelity and sexual autonomy, she talked to and synthesized the work of experts—primatologists, anthropologists, psychologists and more—who challenge our received notions of female promiscuity and see it as a behavior with a “remarkably long tail.” Martin reads her own provocative, stereotype-slaying words with elan.
GILDED AGE GHOSTS
I’m not a big fan of paranormal fiction, but Rose Gallagher, the protagonist of Erin Lindsey’s Gilded Age thriller Murder on Millionaires’ Row, is so disarmingly charming and fabulously feisty that I happily followed the spectral happenings that swirl around her from the get-go. Though 19-year-old Rose grew up in the rough-and-tumble Five Points, a notorious Dickensian slum in Lower Manhattan, she’s now a maid in a Fifth Avenue townhouse owned by Thomas Wiltshire, an elegant, eligible young Englishman. Rose, of course, has a full-throttle crush on her boss, and when he goes missing, she uses all her grit and innate talent to solve the mystery of his disappearance. When that’s achieved, she finds herself in Thomas’ world, in which special Pinkerton operatives investigate supernatural events, work with witches and return errant shades to the afterlife. This engagingly fun first installment in Lindsey’s new series is delightfully performed by Barrie Kreinik.
TOP PICK IN AUDIO
The United States imprisons a higher portion of its population than any other country in the world, and roughly 130,000 inmates are in privately owned, for-profit prisons. Less than a decade ago, Shane Bauer, a senior reporter for Mother Jones, unknowingly crossed into Iran while hiking and was held for 26 months in an Iranian jail. In 2014, to investigate life inside a corporately run penitentiary, Bauer took a low-paying job as a guard at a facility in Winnfield, Louisiana, owned by the Corrections Corporation of America (now rebranded as CoreCivic). His on-the-ground reporting in American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment is powerful and disturbing. The conditions he experienced at Winnfield were horrendous, from dangerous understaffing that left prisoners with no classes and few activities, to subminimal medical care, unbridled sexual harassment and pervasive violence. And Bauer’s incisive examination of how the profit motive has shaped our prison system since the end of slavery amplifies his indictment. James Fouhey expertly narrates this vital exposé.