Prune restaurant sits in New York City’s East Village, across the street from my wife’s former apartment. Each Saturday morning we’d watch the intrepid brunch crowd congregate outside of this tiny eatery, lining up for a coveted table hours before it opened—rain or shine. Occasionally we were part of the patient crowd, and were rewarded with a rustic (and incredibly fattening) menu of delectables.

 

In Blood, Bones & Butter, Hamilton tells of a life surrounded by food, and the circuitous path she took to land at the center of the New York culinary world. The central memories of her rural childhood are filled with the enormous parties her parents would host, with 200 friends and family congregating to enjoy a feast. That early love for food led her around the world—learning about new cultures through their food—and finally culminated in her opening the critically-acclaimed Prune.

 


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In Cleopatra: A Life, Pulitzer Prize-winner Stacy Schiff takes on one of  history’s biggest stars: a woman who knew fame and fortune two thousand years before 24/7 celebrity gossip and tabloid culture made their debut.

 

In this epic book, Schiff recounts the notorious pharaoh’s short but impressive life. You likely know the broad strokes—ambition, murder, betrayal—but after reading this account, you’ll see Cleopatra in a new light. Her ambition may have led to her downfall, but it certainly makes for a page-turner of a story.


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In her charming, bestselling debut novel, The Weird Sisters, Eleanor Brown gives us three very different sisters—the progeny of a Shakespeare-scholar father—whose own dramas rival the Bard's best. All three have pursued very distinct life paths, but each has run into some serious bumps along the road. So when their mother falls ill, they see a chance to take a break from their own complicated lives. Of course, each sister doesn't know that the other has the exact same plan, and when all three land back at their childhood home, plenty of family drama ensues.

 

NOOK owners: go to shop, and search “Weird Sisters” to download this charming debut novel.

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If you think your love life is rocky, put yourself in Sarah and David's shoes. Not only are they on the verge of divorce, it turns out that their couples counselor is a zombie, and now rather than battling their own personal demons, they're fighting for their lives during the zombie-pocalyse! In Jesse Petersen's Married with Zombies—available for $2.99 for a limited time—this once-doomed couple finds that nothing brings you together like battling against an army of the undead. Suddenly trivial bickering just doesn't seem that important anymore!

 

If you're a proud member of the 'zombie lit' bandwagon, or just looking for a fun new romance to celebrate the holiday, this tongue-in-cheek tale is a fun read.

 

NOOK owners: go to shop, and search “Jesse Petersen” to download her books, including her latest, “Flip this Zombie.”

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Today we're pleased to have bestselling author Wes Moore joining us as a guest. He's the author of the excellent book, The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates and in honor of Black History Month, he's offering his thoughts on educational inequality in America, which he calls "the greatest civil rights issue that our nation faces today."

 

 

A common refrain we have heard over the past few years is that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s  valiant actions laid the course that culminated in the popular election and presidency of Barack Obama.  We have heard how Dr. King’s example, diligence, and obsession with truth and justice facilitated this great country’s evolution into a beacon of tolerance and progress, as evidenced by our nation's first African American Commander-in-Chief. That, in many respects, is very true, and I think that Dr. King would be very proud of the fruits of his legacy.  But as we find ourselves in the midst of Black History Month, it is important that we recognize that at the very core of President Obama’s noted rise is the greatest civil rights issue that our nation faces today. That is the basic and nationalistic right to a quality education. The fact remains that,  even with the heroic works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the armies of freedom fighters of all races and backgrounds who worked alongside him and who have continued since, had President Obama not had access to a top notch education and then applied himself so that he could earn credentials that validated his ascension not only in his own mind, but in the mind of others, this story would not have the same arc.

 

Indeed, the academic and intellectual attainments of our President are noteworthy. His Ivy League-laden pedigree places him at par with many of his predecessors and eventual successors in the Oval Office. Yet as we think about how we continue to further the broad cause of civil rights,  President Obama’s exceptionalism should be celebrated, but it should also be a real cause of pause and reflection. The President stands as a clear and poignant example of what is possible. However, current reports on the status of education, such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which measures math, science and reading competency, indicates that American students now rank anywhere between 15th and 31st place worldwide in those three categories. The 2010 Schott Report states that only 47% of African-American boys nationwide will graduate from high school on time. Both of these statistics stand as alarming, if not heartbreaking examples of what is currently happening with our national educational system at large. Something must be done to reverse this trend.    

 

The only way to turn the exceptions of President Obama’s stellar education into the norm for the many young people who are looking at us now for guidance, support, and leadership is to elevate the conversation on education in our country to a truly first-tier conversation. The importance of education in lifting generations of an entire people could be seen as early as the 18th century, when slaves were not permitted to read or write. Indeed, there was a time when a slave could be killed for trying to learn these basic life skills. But once the slave learned to read, they understood their world better. And once they understood their world better, they questioned their place in it. And once they started to question their place in their world, they were able to insist that their place in the world not always be on the bottom or in the back. The transformative nature of education was shown in America then, and it is no less potent today.   That is why some of the current statistics we face are so alarming, and force our call to action to be that much more focused.

 

In my book, “The Other Wes Moore,” I mention, “So many opportunities in this country are apportioned in this arbitrary and miserly way.” That tiered system of chosen inclusion and exclusion is as old as our republic itself and our dogged insistence on reform towards equality, no matter how slow at times, has been the essence and joy of our democracy. This battle for true educational parity, regardless of zip code, birth parents, school affiliation, or familial lineage, is the greatest tribute we can show to those historical and contemporary freedom fighters.  Because whether we like it or not, by not having an honest conversation about educational disparities, we are committing the biggest injustice and defiance of the legacy of those who came before us.  In Black History Month, we celebrate brilliance over brawn, resilience over apathy, and a re-commitment to addressing the core barrier to our drive for equal opportunity. Let us truly celebrate it by having useful dialogue that focuses on results and not simply status quo thinking, and retrenchment.

 

NOOK owners: go to “shop” and search for “The Other Wes Moore” to download this book.

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Author Brad Meltzer is a busy guy—he writes bestselling novels & graphic novels, and hosts the History Channel show, “Brad Meltzer's Decoded.” In this tale of government conspiracy—dating back to our nation's earliest days—unassuming archivist Beecher White finds himself swept up in a complex and dangerous situation. It seems that a group of secret spies has been working in the shadows dating back to the days of George Washington's administration, and they'll do anything to protect their clandestine machinations. Like the fascinating real-life conspiracies Meltzer explores on his popular History Channel show, The Inner Circle suggests that when it comes to the seat of power, there's much more going on than meets the eye.

 

So for a double-dose of thrilling action, check out this two-for-one NOOKbook edition.

 

NOOK owners: go to “shop” and search for “Brad Meltzer” to download his books.

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If you're looking for a moving, inspirational book that sheds light on the destructive consequences of bullying, you'll want to read Jodee Blanco's Please Stop Laughing at Me: One Woman's Inspirational Story. This bestselling memoir explores a chronic bullying-victim's struggles. The author endured years of extreme abuse, but has gone on to become one of the country's leading anti-bullying activists. Parents will also find helpful information in the bonus material focusing on cyber-bullying and tips for responding when your own child is bullied.

 

We hope you'll join us in combating bullying in all its forms.

 

NOOK owners: go to “shop” and search for “Please Stop Laughing at Me” to download this important book.

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Today, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we welcome Hampton Sides, author of the fascinating book, Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin, as he discusses his unique perspective on MLK's legacy.

 

 

A few people who’ve read Hellhound on His Trail have described it as “a thriller.” Though they intended this as a compliment, I’m not sure I took it as one—for, in effect, it might suggest that I’ve turned a national tragedy into an entertainment. If my book is a thriller, it’s also a requiem, the story of the last days of a great figure and the end of his movement. Rather than wrap King in a saintly nimbus, I wanted to make him human on the page, which means flawed, vulnerable, uncertain about the future, and buffeted by the stresses of his high position. But I remain in awe of the man and his soaring eloquence and his otherworldly courage. I’m ashamed that he was killed in my hometown. 

 

I believe King anticipated James Earl Ray. The night before his death he spoke of the threats that were out there from “some of our sick white brothers.” Like Robert Johnson waiting for his hellhound to come, King had spent much of his career looking over his shoulder for some deranged redneck to take him. If there was ever a sick white brother, Ray was it. 

James Earl Ray, like Jared Lee Loughner in Arizona, was just one in a long line of American nobodies who’ve left their permanent stain on our history. Though he spent his criminal career striving for anonymity, he desperately wanted the world to know he existed. He longed to do something bold and lasting. Sadly, like so many before him, he imagined the best way to leave his mark was to gun down an international figure who was young, eloquent, and charismatic. 

 

King traveled ceaselessly, of course, and Ray stalked him across the country. The assassination could have happened anywhere. To me, the fact that it happened in Memphis—the headquarters of Delta cotton, blues, rock n’ roll, and soul—seems almost scripted by fate. Memphis is one of the most racially freighted of places in America. It has always been perched, precariously but interestingly, on the nation’s racial fault-line. Nearly everything good and nearly everything bad about my native city has ultimately boiled down to race—and to the way in which blacks and whites have either collaborated or collided with one another.

 

On the night of King’s murder, my parents drove me and my brother a hundred miles away to the relative safety of a Holiday Inn in Jackson, Tennessee, to ride out the race riot they assumed would convulse the city. But the riots didn’t happen, and we returned home in a few days. Though Memphis was under a virtual state of siege, it was one of the few American cities of any size where the situation remained fairly calm. Out of deference to King, his spirit of non-violence pervaded the streets—and the center held.

 

Four days after the assassination, Coretta Scott King came to Memphis, wearing her widow’s veil, and led the peaceful march her husband had hoped to lead. This time there was no window-busting, no shouting or picketing, not even a song. For several miles, thousands of marchers threaded through the streets to City Hall. In the midst of all that beautiful sadness, no one breathed a word. The only sound was leather on pavement.

 

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In his newest story collection, Full Dark, No Stars, King offers four tales that add to his excellent output. These twisted stories include a woman who discovers disturbing secrets about her husband while he’s away on a trip, and a mystery writer who becomes a victim in a case that brings her unwillingly in to the world of crime she’s only imagined in the past.

 

Like all of King’s books, this is another hit worthy of its bestseller status.

 

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While the title might suggest that this book is aimed at a religious audience, it’s in fact much more of a holistic, broad-based examination of our culture’s relationship with food. The author, Geneen Roth, offers an inspiring and intelligent look at eating, offering concrete strategies for shedding old habits, and re-focusing your efforts on building a healthy relationship with food, rather than relying on quick-fixes and dubious diets.

 

If you’re looking for a new approach to weight loss and healthy eating this year, this book will offer an excellent start.

 

NOOK owners: go to shop, and search “Geneen Roth” to download her books.

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