Best New Books: Week of 1/16/2018

Hopefully you got through all of last week’s great new books because we have another week jam-packed with exciting releases. We get the final, posthumous short-story collection from an American master, some excitingly unique takes on the science fiction and fantasy genres, even more riveting suspense, some sweeping historical fiction, and a pair of books that are perfectly attuned to the current political moment. No matter what you’re into, you should find something to enjoy below. Happy reading!



FICTION



The Largesse of the Sea Maiden by  Denis Johnson

largesse of the sea maidenA new story collection, the first since his seminal Jesus’ Son, from “the most essential writer of his generation” (Los Angeles Times), a National Book Award winner and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist.

Twenty-five years ago, Denis Johnson published Jesus’ Son, “a work of spare beauty and almost religious intensity” (Entertainment Weekly), which remains a touchstone today, ardently beloved by readers and writers alike. Included in The New York Times‘ list of the “25 Best Books of the Last 25 Years” (alongside Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Philip Roth’s American Pastoral), it is routinely described in the press as the single most important and influential book of short stories in a generation.

Now, after years of writing novels and plays in a very different mode, Johnson returns to the short story form that first catapulted him to the highest pedestal of American writers. Though the subject matter — middle-aged life and the elusive and unexpected ways the mysteries of the universe assert themselves — finds Johnson in new territory, the style is pure, vintage, inimitable Johnson.

Taken together, the stories in this powerful and deeply felt collection are Denis Johnson at his absolute best, the highest-caliber work of an American master.

Description from Goodreads.

“These four stories rank with Johnson’s best work, but the title story, a catalogue of singular moments related by a man who tells us he’s passing through life as if it were a masquerade, ranks with the best fiction published by any American writer during this short century.” – New York Magazine 

“Denis Johnson’s posthumous collection winks from beyond the grave. . . . Johnson told aspiring authors to write as if ink were blood, because it is precious. So are farewells like this. . . . It is a vital addition to Johnson’s oeuvre.” – Time

“We lost one of the great writers of his generation last year, but before his death, Denis Johnson finished off one final, brilliant short story collection. . . . Beautifully indicates Johnson’s singular voice, the way he contemplated the past and edges toward the cosmic.” – Entertainment Weekly

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Everything Here is Beautiful by  Mira T. Lee

everything here is beautifulTwo sisters: Miranda, the older, responsible one, always her younger sister’s protector; Lucia, the vibrant, headstrong, unconventional one, whose impulses are huge and, often, life changing. When their mother dies and Lucia starts to hear voices, it’s Miranda who must fight for the help her sister needs — even as Lucia refuses to be defined by any doctor’s diagnosis.

Determined, impetuous, she plows ahead, marrying a big-hearted Israeli only to leave him, suddenly, to have a baby with a young Latino immigrant. She will move with her new family to Ecuador, but the bitter constant remains: she cannot escape her own mental illness. Lucia lives life on a grand scale, until inevitably, she crashes to earth. And then Miranda must decide, again, whether or not to step in — but this time, Lucia may not want to be saved. The bonds of sisterly devotion stretch across oceans, but what does it take to break them?

Told from alternating perspectives, Everything Here Is Beautiful is, at its core, a heart-wrenching family drama about relationships and tough choices — how much we’re willing to sacrifice for the ones we love, and when it’s time to let go and save ourselves.

Description from Goodreads.

“An incredibly moving and thoughtful exploration of mental illness and its toll on family and loved ones [told] with empathy and tenderness.” – Buzzfeed

“Astonishing and imaginative. . . . This electrifiying first novel is wistful, wise and utterly unforgettable.” – BookPage

“Lee’s debut novel is a profoundly relatable drama about how far you would, or should, go for family.” – Marie Claire

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It Occurs to Me That I Am America: New Stories and Art Edited by  Jonathan Santlofer

it occurs to me that i am americaIn time for the one-year anniversary of the Trump Inauguration and the Women’s March, this provocative, unprecedented anthology features original short stories from thirty bestselling and award-winning authors—including Alice Walker, Richard Russo, Walter Mosley, Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Hoffman, Neil Gaiman, Michael Cunningham, Mary Higgins Clark, and Lee Child—with an introduction by Pulitzer Prize–winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen.

When Donald Trump claimed victory last November, the US literary world erupted in indignation. Many of America’s leading writers and artists openly resist the current administration’s dogma and earliest policy moves, and they’re not about to go gently into that good night. In It Occurs to Me That I Am AmericaNew Stories and Art, more than thirty of the most acclaimed modern writers consider the fundamental ideals of a free, just, and compassionate democracy—through fiction.

Featuring artwork by some of today’s best known artists, cartoonists, and graphic novelists—including Art Spiegelman, Roz Chast, Marilyn Minter, and Eric Fischl—who cover political, social, and cultural issues, this anthology is a beautiful, enduring collection that will resonate with anyone concerned with the contest for our American soul.

Description from Goodreads.

It Occurs to Me That I Am America is a masterful literary achievement, one that should enter the pantheon of great books. More than a collection of fine works by some of our country’s most accomplished and talented writers and artists, it is a telling reflection of the America we have become in these troubled times and communicates a hope for the American we can be. For a nation consumed by anger and blindness, it is a critical salve to remind us all of what it means to be an American. And it should be required reading for future generations, so that the knowledge of who we are is never again forgotten.” – Kurt Eichenwald, Vanity Fair contributing editor

“There is a pitch battle in progress for the soul of our country. The writers and artists in this anthology represent a wide spectrum of views but each speaks for and to our better nature and to a vision of the United States in which all can thrive in a moment of crisis when others seek to reduce us to the worst possible, most exclusive view of our collective capacities. Their contributions are patriotism in practice. Reading and looking at their work we have reason to take heart and fight harder when the stakes could hardly be higher.” – Robert Storr, Professor, Yale University

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The Infinite Future by  Tim Wirkus

infinite futureAn exhilarating, original novel, set in Brazil, Idaho, and outer space, about an obsessive librarian, a down-at-heel author, and a disgraced historian who go on the hunt for a mystical, life-changing book–and find it.

The Infinite Future is  a mindbending novel that melds two page-turning tales in one. In the first, we meet three broken people, joined by an obsession with a forgotten Brazilian science-fiction author named Salgado-MacKenzie. There’s Danny, a writer who’s been scammed by a shady literary award committee; Sergio, journalist turned sub-librarian in São Paulo; and Harriet, an excommunicated Mormon historian in Salt Lake City, who years ago corresponded with the reclusive Brazilian writer. The motley trio sets off to discover his identity, and whether his fabled masterpiece–never published–actually exists. Did his inquiries into the true nature of the universe yield something so enormous that his mind was blown for good?

In the second half, Wirkus gives us the lost masterpiece itself–the actual text of The Infinite Future, Salgado-MacKenzie’s wonderfully weird magnum opus. The two stories merge in surprising and profound ways. Part science-fiction, part academic satire, and part book-lover’s quest, this wholly original novel captures the heady way that stories inform and mirror our lives.

Description from Goodreads.

“Stupendously inventive and rewarding…The second half of Wirkus’ tale is…a sci-fi epic which echoes Battlestar Galactica and the fiction of Ursula K. Le Guin in equal measure…Especially well suited for fans of Jonathan Lethem and Ron Currie, this work announces Wirkus as one of the most exciting novelists of his generation.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

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HISTORICAL FICTION



Carnegie’s Maid by  Marie Benedict

carnegies maidFrom the author of The Other Einstein, the mesmerizing tale of what kind of woman could have inspired an American dynasty.

Clara Kelley is not who they think she is. She’s not the experienced Irish maid who was hired to work in one of Pittsburgh’s grandest households. She’s a poor farmer’s daughter with nowhere to go and nothing in her pockets. But the other woman with the same name has vanished, and pretending to be her just might get Clara some money to send back home.

If she can keep up the ruse, that is. Serving as a lady’s maid in the household of Andrew Carnegie requires skills he doesn’t have, answering to an icy mistress who rules her sons and her domain with an iron fist. What Clara does have is a resolve as strong as the steel Pittsburgh is becoming famous for, coupled with an uncanny understanding of business, and Andrew begins to rely on her. But Clara can’t let her guard down, not even when Andrew becomes something more than an employer. Revealing her past might ruin her future — and her family’s.

With captivating insight and heart, Carnegie’s Maid tells the story of one brilliant woman who may have spurred Andrew Carnegie’s transformation from ruthless industrialist into the world’s first true philanthropist.

Description from Goodreads.

“With its well-drawn characters, good pacing, and excellent sense of time and place, this volume should charm lovers of historicals, romance, and the Civil War period. Neither saccharine nor overly dramatized, it’s a very satisfying read. ” – Library Journal

“Feels like Downton Abbey in the United States…Benedict demonstrates the relevance of history to the present day in this impeccably researched novel of the early immigrant experience. Deeply human, and brimming with complex, vulnerable characters, Carnegie’s Maid shows the power of ambition tempered by altruism, and the true realization of the American Dream.” – Erika Robuck; Hemingway’s Girl

Available Formats:

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The Girls in the Picture by  Melanie Benjamin

girls in the pictureAn intimate portrait of the close friendship and powerful creative partnership between two of Hollywood’s earliest female superstars: Frances Marion and Mary Pickford. An enchanting new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue and The Aviator’s Wife.

Hollywood, 1914. Frances Marion, a young writer desperate for a break, meets “America’s Sweetheart,” Mary Pickford, already making a name for herself both on and off the screen with her golden curls and lively spirit. Together, these two women will take the movie business by storm.

Mary Pickford becomes known as the “Queen of the Movies”—the first actor to have her name on a movie marquee, and the first to become a truly international celebrity. Mary and her husband, Douglas Fairbanks, were America’s first Royal Couple, living in a home more famous than Buckingham Palace. Mary won the first Academy Award for Best Actress in a Talkie and was the first to put her hand and footprints in Grauman’s theater sidewalk. Her annual salary in 1919 was $625,000—at a time when women’s salaries peaked at $10 a week. Frances Marion is widely considered one of the most important female screenwriters of the 20th century, and was the first writer to win multiple Academy Awards. The close personal friendship between the two stars was closely linked to their professional collaboration and success.

This is a novel about power: the power of women during the exhilarating early years of Hollywood, and the power of forgiveness. It’s also about the imbalance of power, then and now, and the sacrifices and compromises women must make in order to succeed. And at its heart, it’s a novel about the power of female friendship.

Description from Goodreads.

“[Melanie] Benjamin fully captures the giddy excitement of the blossoming movie business in the 1910s and 1920s and has chosen intriguingly flawed protagonists with compelling life stories that aren’t widely known today. This engrossing and rewarding read provides the same mixture of well-researched plot and fascinating characters [that has] made Benjamin’s previous novels so outstanding.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

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Munich by  Robert Harris

munichFrom the bestselling author of Fatherland, Conclave, and An Officer and a Spy.

September 1938.

Hitler is determined to start a war.

Chamberlain is desperate to preserve the peace.

The issue is to be decided in a city that will forever afterwards be notorious for what takes place there.

Munich.

As Chamberlain’s plane judders over the Channel and the Fürher’s train steams relentlessly south from Berlin, two young men travel with secrets of their own.

Hugh Legat is one of Chamberlain’s private secretaries; Paul Hartmann a German diplomat and member of the anti-Hitler resistance. Great friends at Oxford before Hitler came to power, they haven’t seen one another since they were last in Munich six years earlier. Now, as the future of Europe hangs in the balance, their paths are destined to cross again.

When the stakes are this high, who are you willing to betray? Your friends, your family, your country or your conscience?

Description from Goodreads.

“A brilliantly constructed spy novel set amid the politicking of Chamberlain’s last-ditch negotiations with Hitler.” – The Guardian

“A tense and subtle narrative of the 1938 deal that sold out the Czechs.” – Financial Times

Available Formats:

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MYSTERY & SUSPENSE



City of Endless Night by  Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

city of endless nightWhen Grace Ozmian, the beautiful and reckless daughter of a wealthy tech billionaire, first goes missing, the NYPD assumes she has simply sped off on another wild adventure. Until the young woman’s body is discovered in an abandoned warehouse in Queens, the head nowhere to be found.

Lieutenant CDS Vincent D’Agosta quickly takes the lead. He knows his investigation will attract fierce scrutiny, so D’Agosta is delighted when FBI Special Agent A.X.L. Pendergast shows up at the crime scene assigned to the case. “I feel rather like Brer Rabbit being thrown into the briar patch,” Pendergast tells D’Agosta, “because I have found you here, in charge. Just like when we first met, back at the Museum of Natural History.”

But neither Pendergast nor D’Agosta are prepared for what lies ahead. A diabolical presence is haunting the greater metropolitan area, and Grace Ozmian was only the first of many victims to be murdered . . . and decapitated. Worse still, there’s something unique to the city itself that has attracted the evil eye of the killer.

As mass hysteria sets in, Pendergast and D’Agosta find themselves in the crosshairs of an opponent who has threatened the very lifeblood of the city. It’ll take all of Pendergast’s skill to unmask this most dangerous foe-let alone survive to tell the tale.

Description from Goodreads.

“This, yet another masterpiece by Preston & Child, will be the perfect way to start out your New Year. Just as it was when D’Agosta and Pendergast first met up in the thrilling book, Relic, they are together once again solving a crime of mammoth proportions. Preston, Child, and their well-known characters are always sheer perfection!” – Suspense Magazine

“Fans of the Pendergast series will be delighted with this latest romp and its careful plotting and suspense should appeal to mystery fans generally as well.” – Library Journal

Available Formats:

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The Take by  Christopher Reich

takeFrom New York Times bestselling author Christopher Reich, an international spy thriller featuring Simon Riske: one part James Bond, one part Jack Reacher.

Riske is a freelance industrial spy who, despite his job title, lives a mostly quiet life above his auto garage in central London. He is hired to perform the odd job for a bank, an insurance company, or the British Secret Service, when he isn’t expertly stealing a million-dollar watch off the wrist of a crooked Russian oligarch.

Riske has maintained his quiet life by avoiding big, messy jobs; until now. A gangster by the name of Tino Coluzzi has orchestrated the greatest street heist in the history of Paris: a visiting Saudi prince had his pockets lightened of millions in cash, and something else. Hidden within a stolen briefcase is a secret letter that could upend the balance of power in the Western world. The Russians have already killed in an attempt to get it back by the time the CIA comes knocking at Simon’s door.

Coluzzi was once Riske’s brother-in-arms, but their criminal alliance ended with Riske in prison, having narrowly avoided a hit Coluzzi ordered. Now, years later, it is thief against thief, and hot on their trail are a dangerous Parisian cop, a murderous Russian femme fatale, her equally unhinged boss, and perhaps the CIA itself.

In the grand tradition of The Day of the Jackal and The Bourne Identity, Christopher Reich’s The Take is a stylish, breathtaking ride.

Description from Goodreads.

“There’s plenty of action, interesting bits of tradecraft, and well-sketched locales in London, Paris, and Marseille. Best of all is Reich’s succinct prose style.” – Booklist

“Reich’s stylish and action-packed thriller introduces an appealing new protagonist. . . . Recommend to fans of Daniel Silva.” – Library Journal

Available Formats:

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Light It Up by  Nick Petrie

light it upIn the newest action-packed thriller starring war veteran Peter Ash, a well-planned and flawlessly executed hijacking reveals the hidden dangers of Colorado’s mellowest business, but Ash may find there’s more to this crime than meets the eye.

Combat veteran Peter Ash leaves a simple life rebuilding hiking trails in Oregon to help his good friend Henry Nygaard, whose daughter runs a Denver security company that protects cash-rich cannabis entrepreneurs from modern-day highwaymen. Henry’s son-in-law and the company’s operations manager were carrying a large sum of client money when their vehicle vanished without a trace, leaving Henry’s daughter and her company vulnerable.

Then, when Peter is riding shotgun on another cash run, the cargo he’s guarding comes under attack from hijackers and he narrowly escapes with his life. As the incidents mount, he has to wonder: for criminals as sophisticated as these, is this money really worth the risk? And if not, what about his cargo is worth more?

Description from Goodreads.

“Like Robert Parker’s Spenser, Ash is a self-contained, unstoppable force with very useful friends. Vividly troubled yet likable, he intrigues the reader even while managing to save a little part of his world—again. The action in this third outing is nonstop; the drug scene is timely; the characters, including the villains, are deftly drawn, and the tension keeps rising.” – Library Journal 
 
“Propulsive…Petrie is a master of orchestrating convincing mayhem.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

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SCI-FI & FANTASY



Iron Gold by  Pierce Brown

iron goldThey call him father, liberator, warlord, Reaper. But he feels a boy as he falls toward the pale blue planet, his armor red, his army vast, his heart heavy. It is the tenth year of war and the thirty-second of his life.

A decade ago, Darrow was the hero of the revolution he believed would break the chains of the Society. But the Rising has shattered everything: Instead of peace and freedom, it has brought endless war. Now he must risk everything he has fought for on one last desperate mission. Darrow still believes he can save everyone, but can he save himself?

And throughout the worlds, other destinies entwine with Darrow’s to change his fate forever:

A young Red girl flees tragedy in her refugee camp and achieves for herself a new life she could never have imagined.

An ex-soldier broken by grief is forced to steal the most valuable thing in the galaxy—or pay with his life.

And Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile to the sovereign, wanders the stars with his mentor, Cassius, haunted by the loss of the world that Darrow transformed, and dreaming of what will rise from its ashes.

Red Rising was the story of the end of one universe, and Iron Gold is the story of the creation of a new one. Witness the beginning of a stunning new saga of tragedy and triumph from masterly New York Times bestselling author Pierce Brown.

Description from Goodreads.

“…lived up to every expectation I had and maybe even set some new ones for the rest of the series. It has all the traits that Ioved in the Red Rising series, but the current story stays fresh and exciting.” – The Speculative Herald

“Suffice it to say, readers will be soon be dying to read the next one.” – Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog

Available Formats:

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Senlin Ascends by  Josiah Bancroft

senlin ascendsThe first book in the word-of-mouth phenomenon debut fantasy series about one man’s dangerous journey through a labyrinthine world. 

The Tower of Babel is the greatest marvel in the world. Immense as a mountain, the ancient Tower holds unnumbered ringdoms, warring and peaceful, stacked one on the other like the layers of a cake. It is a world of geniuses and tyrants, of airships and steam engines, of unusual animals and mysterious machines.

Soon after arriving for his honeymoon at the Tower, the mild-mannered headmaster of a small village school, Thomas Senlin, gets separated from his wife, Marya, in the overwhelming swarm of tourists, residents, and miscreants.

Senlin is determined to find Marya, but to do so he’ll have to navigate madhouses, ballrooms, and burlesque theaters. He must survive betrayal, assassination, and the long guns of a flying fortress. But if he hopes to find his wife, he will have to do more than just endure.

This quiet man of letters must become a man of action.

Description from Goodreads.

Senlin Ascends starts off with a bang, and it never slows down. With its breathtaking pace, this book will appeal to a wide variety of readers.” – San Francisco Book Review

“This is fantasy storytelling of a high order.” – The Toronto Star

“Brilliant debut fantasy . . . This novel goes off like a firework and suggests even greater things in the author’s future.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

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NONFICTION



When They Call You a Terrorist by  Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bandele

when they call you a terroristThe emotional and powerful story of one of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter and how the movement was born.

From one of the co-founders of the Black Lives Matter movement comes a poetic memoir and reflection on humanity. Necessary and timely, Patrisse Cullors’ story asks us to remember that protest in the interest of the most vulnerable comes from love. Leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement have been called terrorists, a threat to America. But in truth, they are loving women whose life experiences have led them to seek justice for those victimized by the powerful. In this meaningful, empowering account of survival, strength, and resilience, Patrisse Cullors and Asha Bandele seek to change the culture that declares innocent black life expendable.

Description from Goodreads.

This searing, timely look into a contemporary movement from one of its crucial leading voices belongs in all collections.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“With great candor about her complex personal life, Khan-Cullors has created a memoir as compelling as a page-turning novel.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

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