Ellen Heltzel: Fall's Hottest Books

Book Critic and author of "Between the Covers," Ellen Heltzel, joined us today with her picks for Fall's best books.

Get more book recommendations from Ellen on the Book Babes website.

"Ed King," by David Guterson -- The Northwest writer who gave us "Snow Falling on Cedars" is back with his best novel since, a modern-day version of "Oedipus Rex" set in Portland and Seattle. The title character -- Ed King, get it now? -- is a foundling who becomes a math whiz and wins big in high-tech, standing shoulder to shoulder with Microsoft after unwittingly 1) killing his biological father, and 2) linking up with his biological mom. Who knew Guterson had so much humor and a terrific satirist's eye for our materialistic, gadget-crazy world? Northwest readers will love how he uses real places and events to set his scenes.

"The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism," by Deborah Baker -- How and why does a nice Jewish girl from Larchmont, N.Y., become an avowed Muslim who helps develop the intellectual underpinnings for Islamic terrorism? These are the confounding questions that Baker explores in this unusual biography of Margaret Marcus, who in the 1960s became Maryam Jameelah and relocated to Pakistan, where she still lives. Jameelah has spent a half-century arguing that true Muslims cannot budge in their conflict with the secular West.

"Shards," by Ismet Prcic -- Prcic, who now lives in Portland, writes a first novel that reads like a memoir and in many ways is -- it's the story of the Bosnian war and dispersal of his people, told through his experiences and his diary, with some fiction thrown in. But more than what happened to him is how he tells it, with machine gun-like delivery that's appropriate to the tale. (Profanity advisory: If you have any problem with the F word, stay as far away from this book as possible.)

"In the Light of Darkness: A Photographer's Journal After 9/11," by Kate Brooks -- This is another extraordinary and hard-edged book, but with pictures. Brooks, a young photojournalist, spent the decade after 9/11 documenting the violence of war and insurgency in the Middle East -- a world so violently askew that there was no room for normal human emotions or interactions. Her reckless determination is daunting, and the results are powerful but sobering, intended to question how we use U.S. military power around the world.

"Start Something That Matters," by Blake Mycoskie -- OK, finally, a happy book, one from the young guy who in a 2006 trip to Argentina saw all the barefoot children and decided he needed to do something about it. So he created a footwear company that gives away a pair of shoes for every one it sells. Here the entrepreneurial Mycoskie advocates for blending profit and passion . Apropos: Instead of calling himself CEO of TOMS Shoes, Mycoskie prefers the title "Chief Shoe Giver."


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