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Picks and Pans Main: Books

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The Steal

by Rachel Shteir |



Murder, we get. In every culture it is bad-a crime against humanity, even if we sometimes understand why it happens. Shoplifting is more of a shape-shifter. It’s become the great American crime, and just about everyone has done it at least once. In this intelligent, sometimes startling book, Shteir looks at the history of lifting (from Eve-that apple-to Moll Flanders to Winona Ryder) and our manifold motivations, from raw need to sheer thrills; as Philip Roth memorably put it, “The not paying for things is intoxicating.” Is shoplifting a crime, a mental condition, a legitimate protest against modern materialism? Whatever it is, it’s interesting to consider how we can despise the petty thief at the mall, yet laud the Robin Hoods and Butch Cassidys of literature. And remember how Ryder’s cool-hipster stock rose after her troubles? As one scholar of thievery observed, “People secretly applaud those who do not play by the rules.”

Turn of Mind

by Alice LaPlante |



For Dr. Jennifer White, becoming the prime suspect in the death of her closest friend will never make a lasting impression. The 64-year-old retired hand surgeon has Alzheimer’s, and her short-term memory, her identity and her whereabouts when the body was discovered-with four fingers surgically removed-are all mutable realities. Told in Dr. White’s voice, this poignant debut immerses us in dementia’s complex choreography. By turns brilliant, hallucinatory and heartbreakingly vulnerable, Dr. White may fail to recognize her adult children, but in the next moment she effortlessly describes the “neurofibrillary tangles [that] proliferate” inside her brain. As her memories roam the decades, she is revealed as a fiercely unsentimental woman who might indeed be capable of taking a life. Turn of Mind has been described as a mystery, but the police case is only one piece of LaPlante’s lyrical mosaic, an indelible portrait of a disappearing mind.

Before I Go To Sleep

by S.J. Watson |


Imagine drifting off every night knowing that your memories will be wiped away by morning. That’s the fate of Christine Lucas, whose bewildering internal world is rendered with chilling intimacy in this debut literary thriller. Waking each day with a stranger who says he’s her husband, Ben, Christine is patiently told about the rare amnesia she suffers, the result of an accident. She also receives a daily call from Dr. Nash, a psychologist who directs her to a hidden journal she must read to rediscover her identity. But why has she written on the first page “Don’t Trust Ben,” and why has she recorded events that he keeps concealed? Is Ben trying to protect her fragile mind, or does he have more sinister motives? You’ll stay up late reading until you know.

Witches of East End

by Melissa de la Cruz |



Centuries after the practice of magic was forbidden, Freya, Ingrid and their mom struggle to restrain their witchy ways as chaos builds in their Long Island town. A bubbling cauldron of mystery and romance, the novel shares the fanciful plotting of Blue Bloods, the author’s teen vampire series. Though Witches loses its tongue-in-cheek charm when it goes full-on fantasy, it’s still breezy fun.