Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
The sequel to Hilary Mantel’s 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and New York Times bestseller, Wolf Hall delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn
Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice.
At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies follows the dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally with his natural enemies, the papist aristocracy. What price will he pay for Anne’s head?
First lines: “His children are falling from the sky. He watches from horseback, acres of England, stretching behind him. They drop, gilt-winged, each with a blood filled gaze.”
Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity by Joel Stein
Joel Stein (who you might know for his hilarious TIME magazine columns) was not quite ready to be the father of a little boy. Joel pictured having to go camping and fix a car and use a hammer and throw a football and watch professionals throw footballs and figure out whether to be sad or happy about the results of said football throwing.
So begins his quest to confront his effete nature whether he likes it or not (he doesn’t), by doing a twenty-four-hour shift with L.A. firefighters, going hunting, rebuilding a house, driving a Lamborghini, enduring three days of boot camp with the U.S. Army, day-trading with $100,000, and going into the ring with UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture.
Seeking help from a panel of experts, including his manly father-in-law, Boy Scouts, former NFL star Warren Sapp, former MLB All-Star Shawn Green, Adam Carolla, and a pit bull named Hercules, he expects to learn that masculinity is defined not by the size of his muscles, but by the size of his heart (also, technically, a muscle). This is not at all what he learns.
First lines: “Being a man seems a little intimidating, so I’m going to start off by being a 11 year old boy.”
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
At the heart of this vibrant saga is a vast ship, the Ibis. Her destiny is a tumultuous voyage across the Indian Ocean shortly before the outbreak of the Opium Wars in China. In a time of colonial upheaval, fate has thrown together a diverse cast of Indians and Westerners on board, from a bankrupt raja to a widowed tribeswoman, from a mulatto American freedman to a free-spirited French orphan. As their old family ties are washed away, they, like their historical counterparts, come to view themselves as jahaj-bhais, or ship-brothers. The vast sweep of this historical adventure spans the lush poppy fields of the Ganges, the rolling high seas, and the exotic backstreets of Canton.
First lines: “The vision of a tall-masted ship, at sail on the ocean, came to Deeti on an otherwise ordinary day, but she knew instantly that the apparition was a sign of destiny, for she had never seen such a vessel before, not even in a dream: how could she have, living as she did in Northern Bihar, four hundred miles from the coast?”