The title of Michelle Obama’s blockbuster bestseller, Becoming, lets you know that you’ll get the answers to many of the questions you’ve had about this extraordinary woman. You’ll find out how a kid who grew up in a cramped apartment on Chicago’s South Side graduated from Princeton and Harvard Law to ultimately become our first African-American first lady and one of the most admired women in the galaxy. More importantly, you’ll understand how she kept her authenticity, grace and sense of self while in the glare of an unrelenting media spotlight, where everything you say and do and wear is scrutinized. Obama is candid and frank, talking about the problems in the early years of her marriage, about being a mother, her dislike of politics and her distress with the current administration. She reads in her warm, familiar voice, and you’ll be swept up in her story, her triumphs and her trials. She’s lived a version of the American dream, but one shadowed by the very American nightmare of racism and prejudice.
It’s been much too long since I spent time with Precious Ramotswe and her colleagues at the Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, and it’s always a quiet joy to return. Colors of All the Cattle, Alexander McCall Smith’s 19th installment in his bestselling series, wonderfully narrated again by the liltingly voiced Lisette Lecat, transports us to the sunny charms of Botswana and Mma Ramotswe’s unshakable belief in “old-fashioned” Botswana kindness. Though she’s taken on a difficult case for a victim of a hit-and-run accident, Mma Ramotswe has been pushed into reluctantly running for city council by her friend, the formidable matron of the local “orphan farm.” Smith and Mma Ramotswe never let us down—modesty and honesty trump bravura, and keen but gentle detecting skills solve the case.
A private investigator went missing in 2006, his body never found, the case marred by mistakes and innuendos of corruption. That cold case heats up when some kids come across a red VW in a remote, wooded park, with a handcuffed skeleton in the trunk. That’s for openers in Ian Rankin’s 24th Rebus novel, In a House of Lies, performed by James Macpherson in an authentic Scottish burr that’s still soft enough to be easily understood. Though John Rebus is officially retired from Police Scotland’s Major Crime Division, he was on the case 12 years ago and is as eager as ever to get involved again. And with his former protégé, Detective Inspector Siobhan Clarke, assigned to the investigating team, that’s not hard to accomplish. Pay close attention—Rankin’s in great form, and there’s a lot going on in this intricately plotted police procedural.