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10 best books of February: the Monitor’s picks

February 13, 2018
These are the February titles that most impressed the Monitor’s book critics:

1.  “Directorate S,” by Steve Coll
Steve Coll expertly unravels the adventures and misadventures of the principal powers and individual actors throughout the uneven arc of war in Afghanistan and Pakistan that has spanned decades. “Directorate S” is the sequel to Coll’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Ghost Wars,” which tracks the key players and events across Central Asia, the Middle East, and the United States that ultimately led to 9/11.  

2.  “A Long Way from Home,” by Peter Carey

A road race in 1950s Australia is the setting for Booker Prize-winning author Peter Carey’s entertaining and finely observed novel. A gutsy driver, her timid husband, and their oddball navigator cross a continent marred not only by poor roads but also racial injustice. As the team drive north, they encounter dispossessed Aboriginal people – and the story then swerves in a different direction.

3.  “Enlightenment Now,” by Steven Pinker
Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker once again waves the flag for progress. In his earlier book “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” Pinker argued that there has been an astonishing decline of violence on Earth. Here he broadens his scope, putting that decline in the context of what he sees as the stirring extent of progress humans have achieved since the 18th century. Pinker argues that “the Enlightenment has worked – perhaps the greatest story seldom told.”

4. “Hotel Silence,” by Audur Ava Olafsdottir
In this novel translated from Icelandic, protagonist Jónas, in despair about his failed marriage, checks into a rundown hotel with a plan to commit suicide. A handyman by trade, he instead ends up making the water run, fixing the windows, keeping the lights on, and helping all. This sparsely written book is full of wonder,

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