Daily Archives: August 22, 2008

Friday Finds 8/22/2008

What great books did you hear about or find this week?

The Secret Female Pope Mistress of the Vatican: The True Story of Olimpia Maidalchini: The Secret Female Pope by Eleanor Herman. Morrow, $25.95 (452p) ISBN 9780061245558

In this engrossing “forgotten story” of the Vatican, Herman (Sex with the Queen) relays not only the life of 17th Cenutry Papal puppet-master Olimpia Maidalchini, but the political and social history of her age, including glimpses of art and architecture, family relations, medical care, religious traditions and daily life. Born into a family of average means, Maidalchini rebelled successfully against her father’s plans to place her in a convent. This early triumph gave her a will that she’d eventually use to grab the ultimate seat of power in 17th century Italy, the Papacy, through the likely accomplice of her indecisive brother-in-law, a lawyer with holy orders who was dazzled by Maidalchini’s intelligence, planning and accounting capabilities. He submitted to the her plans, and she eventually ushered him into power as Pope Innocent X. As her wealth and strength grow, so does the resentment around her, but her fate would be sealed by the bubonic plague. Exhaustively researched, with historical vignettes interwoven seamlessly, Herman’s latest provides a window into an age of empire, nepotism and intrigue that rivals any novel for fascinating reading. – Publisher’s Weekly

Zoli by Colum McCann. Random, $24.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6372-7

McCann’s story is loosely based on a real Gypsy poet, Papsuza, who was exiled by her people when her poems were published. He has enriched that story with insightful and evocative prose, and in Zoli has created a vibrant character who is able to maintain her identity and proud heritage, even when abandoned by those she loves. – BookPage

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Not a Genuine Black Man: Or, How I Claimed My Piece of Ground in the Lily-White Suburbs by Brian Copeland. Hyperion, $22.95 (336p) ISBN 1-4013-0233-5

Laugh through tears at Copeland’s chronicle of a black childhood in white San Leandro. “Honest and engaging, this memoir is a valuable book for anyone trying to straddle racial lines, for anyone who has ever felt out of place.” – Publishers Weekly