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Telegraph Avenue

by Michael Chabon |

REVIEWED BY ROBIN MICHELI

People PICK

NOVEL

Telegraph Avenue is home to Brokeland Records, the vintage LP emporium owned by Archy Stallings (easygoing, black) and Nat Jaffe (high-strung, Jewish), the anchor of a neighborhood straddling Oakland and Berkeley, Calif., and the center of Chabon’s exuberant new novel. It’s August 2004, and proposals to build a giant music store up the block bring the hope that it would revitalize the community but also fears that it could destroy its character and run Brokeland out of business, a prospect that mirrors other painful challenges imposed on the partners and their intertwined families. While pop culture nostalgia abounds with an emphasis on comic books (a Chabon favorite) and ’70s movies, music on vinyl, and a reverence for it, also play a steady groove in the narrative, and the writing-stylized, humorous and often dazzling-is inflected with tones of jazz and funk. But it’s Chabon’s ear for the sounds of the human soul that make this book a masterpiece, as his vividly drawn characters learn to live at the intersection of disappointment and hope.

Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures

by Emma Straub |

REVIEWED BY MEREDITH MARAN

NOVEL

Born in 1920s Wisconsin, Elsa flees to Los Angeles as a teen and is reincarnated as Laura Lamont by a powerful studio exec who molds and then marries her. Movie stardom follows, along with complications both personal and professional. Straub makes masterful use of the golden age of Hollywood to tap contemporary questions about the price of celebrity and a working mother’s struggle to balance all that matters.

No Easy Day

by Mark Owen |

REVIEWED BY KRISTEN MASCIA

MEMOIR

When Navy SEALs took down Osama bin Laden in May 2011, Americans rejoiced. But according to a member of that elite squad, Matt Bissonnette (pseudonym Mark Owen), we didn’t know the real story. Frustrated by inaccuracies and descriptions of SEALs as “egomaniacs,” Bissonnette here tries to set the record straight, describing the raid in riveting, sometimes shocking, detail: the look of bin Laden’s body (his beard was dyed), even the contents of his bureau (neatly folded tees). The Department of Defense may take legal action against Bissonnette, now retired, for allegedly breaching nondis-closure agreements, but he has given us a brave retelling of one of the most important events in U.S. military history.

Mortality

by Christopher Hitchens |

REVIEWED BY KYLE SMITH

MEMOIR

Even as he lay dying of esophageal cancer last year, noted essayist Hitchens remained a wit and bon vivant. During his painful extended exit, he says, there were “so many tributes” that it seemed as if “rumors of my life have also been greatly exaggerated.” Dealing unflinchingly with bodily ravagement, reflecting on life’s beauty and remaining rakish about his ideological foes, Hitchens proves that great writers are truly immortal.

Those We Love Most

by Lee Woodruff |

NOVEL

Woodruff knows all too well that life can change “in an instant”-also the title of the book she wrote with her husband, ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff, about the injuries he sustained in Iraq. In this debut novel she mines that experience, creating a wrenching tale about a wife keeping guilty secrets, a husband carrying his grief to the local bar and a family whose deepest truths are laid bare by tragedy. Can their bonds survive? Woodruff proves herself as a novelist by keeping us turning pages to find out.

The Time Keeper

by Mitch Albom |

REVIEWED BY SUE CORBETT

NOVEL

In his newest book, Albom conjures a backstory for Father Time (here called Dor), who must help a man dying of cancer and a teen considering suicide make peace with the lives they’ve been given. There are no new ideas here-immortality isn’t all that, God limits our days, so we must make each one precious-but the dose of inspiration Albom’s (mercifully short) sermon delivers is heartfelt.

COMMENTS? WRITE TO KIM HUBBARD: bookseditor@peoplemag.com