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The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food

Dan Barber (Penguin)

Barber, journalist and chef of the trailblazing farm-to-table restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, New York, offers this multilayered narrative that addresses where food comes from—that is, from "soil," "land," "sea," to "seed." Barber's work is a deeply thoughtful and—offering a "menu for 2050"—even visionary work for a sustainable food chain.

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Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison

Nell Bernstein (The New Press)

In this resounding call to action, journalist Bernstein analyzes the U.S. juvenile justice system in which more than 66,000 youths are confined. Readers learn about the stark reality of a system that removes two elements central to adolescent development—connection and autonomy. With considerable empathy, the author introduces adolescents in and out of detention centers, capturing their struggles to overcome traumatic histories.

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The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas

Anand Giridharadas (Norton)

In what PW called "a classic story of arrival with a fresh and absorbing twist," New York Times columnist Giridharadas offers a riveting account of a hate crime and its unlikely reverberations. The book's catalyst is the encounter between Mark Stroman, a racist ex-con in Dallas who went on a post 9/11 killing spree targeting men he wrongly thought were Arabs, and Raisuddin Bhuiyan, a Bangladeshi-born convenience-store clerk who was shot by Stroman, but survived. PW praised the author's "evocative reportage."

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The Island of Knowledge: The Limits of Science and the Search for Meaning

Marcelo Gleiser (Basic)

Balancing hard science with philosophy, astronomer and physicist Gleiser shows how the horizons of human knowledge have constantly shifted throughout history and how those shifts have affected our understanding of our place in the universe. Or is it the multiverse?

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Michael Jordan: The Life

Roland Lazenby (Little, Brown)

In this hefty, revelatory biography by sportswriter Lazenby takes readers from Jordan's childhood in North Carolina, through his game-winning shot for the University of North Carolina in the 1982 NCCA Championship, to his tenure with the Chicago Bulls. It's a fascinating examination into the lonely, prideful man behind the glimmering icon.

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Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China

Evan Osnos (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

In his first book, New Yorker staff writer Osnos chronicles two potent, antagonistic forces—a swelling individualism and a political structure intent on controlling it—shaping China in this revealing journalistic portrait. Readers looking for a more substantive summer read will enjoy the vivid profiles of artists, writers, editors, economists, Internet dating entrepreneurs, conservative nationalists, liberal students, and dissidents, including imprisoned Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo and exiled lawyer-activist Chen Guangcheng.

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Take This Man

Brando Skyhorse (Simon & Schuster)

Skyhorse's vivid family memoir traces his ongoing struggle to search for an identity and fatherly guidance amidst his entanglement in his mother's chaotic lifestyle. Spanning Skyhorse's life, the book focuses primarily on his childhood growing up Echo Park, Los Angeles—the setting of his novel The Madonnas of Echo Park.

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Gotham Unbound: The Ecological History of Greater New York

Ted Steinberg (Simon & Schuster)

Estuaries are some of Earth's most dynamic ecological systems, and Steinberg shows how humans turned one, the mouth of the Hudson River, into one of the world's great metropolises. As the effects of climate change become increasingly apparent, his tale contextualizes past urban planning decisions and offers thoughtful appraisals of how we can continue to adapt to our unique ecological niche.

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Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle That Defined a Generation

Blake J. Harris (It Books)

Why spend all summer inside playing videogames, when you can have just as much fun reading about them at the beach? Harris’s new book chronicles one of the fundamental pop culture rivalries in recent history, the epic battle between Sega and Nintendo for market dominance in the early days of the videogame industry. Reminiscent of Ben Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires, the colorful personalities, bold risks, and underlying conflict make an intoxicating combination that will send millennial gamers into a nostalgic tailspin.

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