Best New Books: Week of 1/26/2021

“I don’t know what I think until I write it down.” – Joan Didion


Burnt Sugar by  Avni Doshi ★

burnt sugarIn her youth, Tara was wild. She abandoned her loveless marriage to join an ashram, endured a brief stint as a beggar (mostly to spite her affluent parents), and spent years chasing after a dishevelled, homeless ‘artist’ – all with her young child in tow. Now she is forgetting things, mixing up her maid’s wages and leaving the gas on all night, and her grown-up daughter is faced with the task of caring for a woman who never cared for her.

This is a love story and a story about betrayal. But not between lovers – between mother and daughter. Sharp as a blade and laced with caustic wit, Burnt Sugar unpicks the slippery, choking cord of memory and myth that binds two women together, making and unmaking them endlessly.

Description from Goodreads.

Burnt Sugar is an unsettling, sinewy debut, startling in its venom and disarming in its humor from the very first sentence.” – The Guardian

“Doshi’s visceral debut is a no-holds-barred excavation of how hate can both poison and sustain.” – Daily Mail

“Avni Doshi’s debut novel has cut a slow but inexorable path around the world, dazzling readers in country after country… a work of extraordinary insight, courage and sophistication.” – Washington Post

“A landmark portrait of toxic parenting and its tangled aftermath.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook

Faye, Faraway by  Helen Fisher

faye farawayFaye is a thirty-seven-year-old happily married mother of two young daughters. Every night, before she puts them to bed, she whispers to them: “You are good, you are kind, you are clever, you are funny.” She’s determined that they never doubt for a minute that their mother loves them unconditionally. After all, her own mother Jeanie had died when she was only seven years old and Faye has never gotten over that intense pain of losing her.

But one day, her life is turned upside down when she finds herself in 1977, the year before her mother died. Suddenly, she has the chance to reconnect with her long-lost mother, and even meets her own younger self, a little girl she can barely remember. Jeanie doesn’t recognize Faye as her daughter, of course, even though there is something eerily familiar about her…

As the two women become close friends, they share many secrets—but Faye is terrified of revealing the truth about her identity. Will it prevent her from returning to her own time and her beloved husband and daughters? What if she’s doomed to remain in the past forever? Faye knows that eventually she will have to choose between those she loves in the past and those she loves in the here and now, and that knowledge presents her with an impossible choice.

Emotionally gripping and ineffably sweet Faye, Faraway is a brilliant exploration of the grief associated with unimaginable loss and the magic of being healed by love.

Description from Goodreads.

“A warm, witty, wholehearted glimpse inside a parallel universe. Genuine and touching, Fisher’s narrative voice will appeal to fans of Kelly Harms, Lia Louis, and Julie Valerie. Exploring the power of believing in the impossible, Faye, Faraway is a delight.” – Booklist

“Readers interested in pondering the basis of faith will find much to contemplate in this story.” – Kirkus Reviews

“[An] enchanting debut… Fisher’s achingly authentic characters leap off the page and capture readers’ hearts. This addictive, emotionally heavy page-turner marks a delightful spin on the time travel genre.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook

My Brilliant Life by  Ae-ran Kim

my brilliant lifeDespite being house-bound due to an accelerated-aging disorder, Areum lives life to its fullest, vicariously through the stories of his parents, conversations with Little Grandpa Jang—his sixty-year-old neighbor and best friend, and through the books he reads to visit the places he would otherwise never see.

For several months, Areum has been working on a manuscript, piecing together his parents’ often embellished stories about his family and childhood. He hopes to present it on his birthday, as a final gift to his mom and dad; their own falling-in-love story.

As his seventeenth birthday approaches, Areum moves into the long-term ward in the city hospital, bringing abrupt change to his daily life; from a new friend who might be more—or less—than she seems, to his loving parents who are definitely keeping something from him. There are also the challenges of the creeping darkness in his eyes, and the loneliness of his shrinking connection to the world outside his window. Areum meets these situations head on, and with the support of family and friends, finds joy in even the most difficult times.

Interweaving the past and present of a tight-knit family, Ae-ran Kim’s My Brilliant Life evokes the full breadth of human emotions; happiness and sadness, pain and relief, emptiness and significance; masterfully exploring the power of empathy.

Description from Goodreads.

“It’s a flawless book… I loved My Brilliant Life.” – Books and Bao

“Areum’s reckoning with his fate makes for a wrenching story. This slim book has so much heart, packing quite an emotional investment into its 208 pages. As fleeting as Areum’s fictional life may be, he will not be a character easily forgotten.” – Bookpage

“This quirky, bighearted book crackles with life on every page.” – Asymptote Journal

Available Formats:

Print BookeBook | eAudiobook


If I Disappear by  Eliza Jane Brazier

if i disappearSera loves true crime podcasts. They make her feel empowered in a world where women just like her disappear daily. She’s sure they are preparing her for something. So when Rachel, her favorite podcast host, goes missing, Sera knows it’s time to act. Rachel has always taught her to trust her instincts.

Sera follows the clues hidden in the episodes to an isolated ranch outside Rachel’s small hometown to begin her search. She’s convinced her investigation will make Rachel so proud. But the more Sera digs into this unfamiliar world, the more off things start to feel. Because Rachel is not the first woman to vanish from the ranch, and she won’t be the last…

Rachel did try to warn her.

Description from Goodreads.

“This twisted and riveting thriller is one that will keep you up late at night with suspense.” – CNN

“Deliciously eerie.” – Popsugar

“Blending the true crime compulsion of Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark with the immersive creepy-craziness of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects, Brazier creates a heady, pitch-dark cocktail all her own.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

eBook | eAudiobook


A Tourist’s Guide to Murder by  V.M. Burns

tourist's guide to murderSam joins Nana Jo and her Shady Acres Retirement Village friends Irma, Dorothy, and Ruby Mae on a weeklong trip to London, England, to experience the Peabody Mystery Lovers Tour. The chance to see the sights and walk the streets that inspired Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle is a dream come true for Sam—and a perfect way to celebrate her new publishing contract as a mystery author.

But between visits to Jack the Ripper’s Whitechapel district and 221B Baker Street, Major Horace Peabody is found dead, supposedly of natural causes. Despite his employer’s unfortunate demise, the tour guide insists on keeping calm and carrying on—until another tourist on their trip also dies under mysterious circumstances. Now it’s up to Sam and the Shady Acres ladies to mix and mingle among their fellow mystery lovers, find a motive, and turn up a murderer…

Description from Goodreads.

“Colorful characters and just enough mystery trivia boost the fast-moving plot. Cozy fans are sure to have fun.” – Publishers Weekly

“Cozy fans get two mysteries for the price of one: The intuitive heroine finishes her novel and solves a murder.” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook


The Ex Talk by  Rachel Lynn Solomon ★

ex talkShay Goldstein has been a producer at her Seattle public radio station for nearly a decade, and she can’t imagine working anywhere else. But lately it’s been a constant clash between her and her newest colleague, Dominic Yun, who’s fresh off a journalism master’s program and convinced he knows everything about public radio.

When the struggling station needs a new concept, Shay proposes a show that her boss green-lights with excitement. On The Ex Talk, two exes will deliver relationship advice live, on air. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other. Neither loves the idea of lying to listeners, but it’s this or unemployment. Their audience gets invested fast, and it’s not long before The Ex Talk becomes a must-listen in Seattle and climbs podcast charts.

As the show gets bigger, so does their deception, especially when Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other. In an industry that values truth, getting caught could mean the end of more than just their careers.

Description from Goodreads.

The Ex Talk delivers. This book is quick, spicy, and sweet.” – Shondaland

“Delightfully romantic and emotionally uplifting.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“The transition from enemies to lovers is handled with wit and humor in YA author Solomon’s exceptional adult debut (after Today Tonight Tomorrow), which puts an unexpected twist on the fake relationship trope.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Solomon makes her adult debut with this sizzling rivals-to-lovers romcom, where the heat comes from both precise characterization and a focus on direct communication. Bursting with zest and deep emotion, this one’s a winner.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:


Big Bad Wolf by  Suleikha Snyder

big bad wolfJoe Peluso has blood on his hands. But lawyer and psychologist Neha Ahluwalia is determined to help him craft a solid defense… even if she can’t defend her own obsession. Because Joe took out those Russian mobsters for good reason–they were responsible for the death of his beloved foster brother. Those six bad guys were part of the ruthless clan of bear shifters who control Brooklyn’s Russian mafia, so his vigilante justice has earned him countless enemies in New York’s supernatural-controlled underworld, and no friends in a government that now bends to Russia at every turn.

Joe knows that creatures like him only deserve the worst. Darkness. Solitude. Punishment. But meeting Neha makes him feel human for the first time in forever. He’s never wanted anything in his life like he wants Neha, and he’ll break almost any rule to spend a minute alone with her. But when the Russian mob attacks the jail for payback, Joe and Neha are forced to escape. Before long they’re on the run–from monsters who want him dead and from their own traitorous hearts.

Description from Goodreads.

“Refreshingly diverse and engaging… an extraordinarily gripping world.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Adventure and romance kick in full blast in Snyder’s engrossing and diverse tale of paranormal romantic suspense.” – Booklist

“Snyder’s pulpy, suspenseful debut shocks, surprises, and titillates… Snyder easily charms the reader into wanting more from this world…” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook


We Could Be Heroes by  Mike Chen ★

we could be heroesJamie woke up in an empty apartment with no memory and only a few clues to his identity, but with the ability to read and erase other people’s memories—a power he uses to hold up banks to buy coffee, cat food and books.

Zoe is also searching for her past, and using her abilities of speed and strength… to deliver fast food. And she’ll occasionally put on a cool suit and beat up bad guys, if she feels like it.

When the archrivals meet in a memory-loss support group, they realize the only way to reveal their hidden pasts might be through each other. As they uncover an ongoing threat, suddenly much more is at stake than their fragile friendship. With countless people at risk, Zoe and Jamie will have to recognize that sometimes being a hero starts with trusting someone else—and yourself.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] fun, fast-moving superhero adventure… [a] creative spin on the standard hero/villain origin story.” – Publishers Weekly

“[A] refreshing, light take on the superhero origin story… a well written, elegantly structured tale of joy and friendship.” – BookPage

“…propulsive, entertaining… both brainy and fast on its feet. Chen also has a nicely comic touch with aspects of 21st century living.” – San Francisco Chronicle

We Could Be Heroes offers a lot of fun for fans of both superheroes and brisk sci-fi.” – BookBub

Available Formats:

eBook | Hoopla eBook

The Mask Falling by  Samantha Shannon

mask fallingDreamwalker Paige Mahoney has eluded death again. Snatched from the jaws of captivity and consigned to a safe house in the Scion Citadel of Paris, she finds herself caught between those factions that seek Scion’s downfall and those who would kill to protect the Rephaim’s puppet empire.

The mysterious Domino Program has plans for Paige, but she has ambitions of her own in this new citadel. With Arcturus Mesarthim-her former enemy-at her side, she embarks on an adventure that will lead her from the catacombs of Paris to the glittering hallways of Versailles. Her risks promise high reward: the Parisian underworld could yield the means to escalate her rebellion to outright war.

As Scion widens its bounds and the free world trembles in its shadow, Paige must fight her own memories after her ordeal at the hands of Scion. Meanwhile, she strives to understand her bond with Arcturus, which grows stronger by the day. But there are those who know the revolution began with them-and could end with them…

Description from Goodreads.

“Keenly imagined… Atmospheric and unnerving… Once again, the predicaments are complicated and suspenseful, the new and returning characters are intriguing… For all its superbly choreographed action and paranormal inventiveness, this is, at heart, a gripping tale of trust and love, valor and sacrifice, and equality and justice.” – Booklist

“Shannon expertly blends genres to create a story that is at once a political thriller, a dystopian epic, and a paranormal adventure. This bold series installment will leave fans eager for more.” – Publishers Weekly

“Real entertainment. Shannon has continued to build on this imagined world with intricacy, and Paige’s voice comes through to deliver a suspenseful story.” – Washington Post

Available Formats:

Print Book


The Girls I’ve Been by  Tess Sharpe

girls i've beenNora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother’s protégé. But when mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.

For five years Nora’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:

#1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’re all friends, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris.

#2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because:

#3: Right after they enter bank, two guys start robbing it.

The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora’s something else entirely. They have no idea who they’re really holding hostage…

Description from Goodreads.

“An arrestingly incisive narrative… fiercely captivating and impressively characterized, this tightly plotted thriller is engrossing from start to finish.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“The tension is absolutely nailbiting.” – The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Not since Veronica Mars have hardscrabble swagger, enormous grief and teenage noir been combined into such a satisfying piece of storytelling. The Girls I’ve Been is a heart-wrenching, perfectly paced, cinematic thriller… a romance, a tragedy and a story about reclaiming agency and power. It is a triumph.” – Bookpage, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


Let Me Tell You What I Mean by  Joan Didion ★

let me tell you what i meanTen pieces never before collected that offer an illuminating glimpse into the mind and process of a legendary writer.

Here are six pieces written in 1968 from the “Points West” Saturday Evening Post column Joan Didion shared from 1964 to 1969 with her husband, John Gregory Dunne about: American newspapers; a session with Gamblers Anonymous; a visit to San Simeon; being rejected by Stanford; dropping in on Nancy Reagan, wife of the then-governor of California, while a TV crew filmed her at home; and an evening at the annual reunion of WWII veterans from the 101st Airborne Association at the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas. Here too is a 1976 piece from the New York Times magazine on “Why I Write”; a piece about short stories from New West in 1978; and from The New Yorker, a piece on Hemingway from 1998, and on Martha Stewart from 2000. Each one is classic Didion: incisive, bemused, and stunningly prescient.

Description from Goodreads.

“You don’t need to tell us to read Joan Didion twice… [This collection] is just what you need to start the year off right.” – HelloGiggles

“Didion’s remarkable, five decades-long career as a journalist, essayist, novelist, and screen writer has earned her a prominent place in the American literary canon, and the twelve early pieces collected here underscore her singularity. Her musings—whether contemplating ‘pretty’ Nancy Reagan living out her ‘middle-class American woman’s daydream circa 1948’ or the power of Ernest Hemingway’s pen—are all unmistakably Didionesque. There will never be another quite like her.” – O, The Oprah Magazine

“Never miss an opportunity to read this author of novels and nonfiction, who has the eye of a detective, the heart of a romantic and the soul of a skeptical truth-teller.” – Detroit Free Press

“This slim volume of uncollected nonfiction is full of small pleasures: Didion’s trademark anti-sentimentality, for one; her rhythmic prose; her ruthlessness (see her assessments of gambling addicts, hippies, Nancy Reagan); her wit. In the charming ‘Telling Stories’ we also get self-effacement: a piece about why she never made the grade as a young short story writer… complete with rejection notices compiled by her agent.” – Vogue

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook

Just As I Am by  Cicely Tyson with  Michelle Burford ★

just as i am“In her long and extraordinary career, Cicely Tyson has not only succeeded as an actor, she has shaped the course of history.” –President Barack Obama, 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony

Just As I Am is my truth. It is me, plain and unvarnished, with the glitter and garland set aside. In these pages, I am indeed Cicely, the actress who has been blessed to grace the stage and screen for six decades. Yet I am also the church girl who once rarely spoke a word. I am the teenager who sought solace in the verses of the old hymn for which this book is named. I am a daughter and mother, a sister, and a friend. I am an observer of human nature and the dreamer of audacious dreams. I am a woman who has hurt as immeasurably as I have loved, a child of God divinely guided by His hand. And here in my ninth decade, I am a woman who, at long last, has something meaningful to say.” – Cicely Tyson

Description from Goodreads.

“It’s Cicely Tyson. So get your copy, take a deep breath and take in the wonder.” – Ms.

“A forthright self-portrait of a determined woman and iconic cultural figure.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Extraordinary… a book readers of every generation will want to savor… essential, passionate, raw, revelatory…” – O, The Oprah Magazine

“…spirited… This showstopping tale hits the mark.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

The Devil You Know: A Black Power Manifesto by  Charles M. Blow ★

devil you knowRace, as we have come to understand it, is a fiction; but, racism, as we have come to live it, is a fact. The point here is not to impose a new racial hierarchy, but to remove an existing one. After centuries of waiting for white majorities to overturn white supremacy, it seems to me that it has fallen to Black people to do it themselves.

Acclaimed columnist and author Charles Blow never wanted to write a “race book.” But as violence against Black people—both physical and psychological—seemed only to increase in recent years, culminating in the historic pandemic and protests of the summer of 2020, he felt compelled to write a new story for Black Americans. He envisioned a succinct, counterintuitive, and impassioned corrective to the myths that have for too long governed our thinking about race and geography in America. Drawing on both political observations and personal experience as a Black son of the South, Charles set out to offer a call to action by which Black people can finally achieve equality, on their own terms.

So what will it take to make lasting change when small steps have so frequently failed? It’s going to take an unprecedented shift in power. The Devil You Know is a groundbreaking manifesto, proposing nothing short of the most audacious power play by Black people in the history of this country. This book is a grand exhortation to generations of a people, offering a road map to true and lasting freedom.

Description from Goodreads.

“A must-read in the efforts to dismantle deep-seated poisons of systemic racism and white supremacy.” – San Francisco Chronicle

“Valuable as a thought experiment alone but also an ‘actual plan’ for effecting lasting political change.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

Ida B. the Queen: The Extraordinary Life and Legacy of Ida B. Wells by  Michelle Duster

ida b the queenCalled “a dangerous negro agitator” by the FBI, and a “brave woman” by Frederick Douglass, an inspiring biography of the American pioneer by Ida B. Wells’s great-granddaughter, Michelle Duster.

Winner of a 2020 Pulitzer Prize Special Citation, Ida B. Wells was born enslaved in Holly Springs, Mississippi, in 1862. In this inspiring and accessible biography, Duster tells the incredible story of Wells’s life, including stories from her childhood in Mississippi, her famous refusal to give up her seat on a ladies’ train car in Memphis, and her later work as a pioneering journalist and anti-lynching crusader.

Overlooked and underestimated, Wells would single-handedly change the course of American history and come to inspire millions. Ida B. the Queen shines a bright light on one of the most extraordinary women in history.

Description from Goodreads.

“Visually stunning… readers who are looking for bold, out-of-the-box, approaches to social change will undoubtedly be inspired by Ida B. the Queen.” – Forbes

“Bow down to this biography that shows why Ida B. Wells is an icon for all seasons.” – Refinery29

“With bold graphics and a compelling story, Ida B. the Queen is sure to be one of the year’s best biographies.” – Bustle

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook

The Price You Pay for College: An Entirely New Road Map for the Biggest Financial Decision Your Family Will Ever Make by  Ron Lieber

price you pay for collegeSending a teenager to a flagship state university for four years of on-campus living costs more than $100,000 in many parts of the United States. Meanwhile, many families of freshmen attending selective private colleges will spend triple—over $300,000. With the same passion, smarts, and humor that infuse his personal finance column, Ron Lieber offers a much-needed roadmap to help families navigate this difficult and often confusing journey.

Lieber begins by explaining who pays what and why and how the financial aid system got so complicated. He also pulls the curtain back on merit aid, an entirely new form of discounting that most colleges now use to compete with peers.

While price is essential, value is paramount. So what is worth paying extra for, and how do you know when it exists in abundance at any particular school? Is a small college better than a big one? Who actually does the teaching? Given that every college claims to have reinvented its career center, who should we actually believe? He asks the tough questions of college presidents and financial aid gatekeepers that parents don’t know (or are afraid) to ask and summarizes the research about what matters and what doesn’t.

Finally, Lieber calmly walks families through the process of setting financial goals, explaining the system to their children and figuring out the right ways to save, borrow, and bargain for a better deal.

The Price You Pay for College gives parents the clarity they need to make informed choices and helps restore the joy and wonder the college experience is supposed to represent.

Description from Goodreads.

“Aims to provide parents and students financing their own way with the information they need to make more informed, financially sound goals and decisions.” – Fortune

“If you have a teen headed for college in a few years, you literally can’t afford to skip this candid guide by The New York Times‘ ‘Your Money’ columnist Ron Lieber. He grills college presidents and financial aid gatekeepers to answer all your biggest questions about the right ways to save, borrow and bargain for a better deal.” – Working Mother

“A revealing and useful guide for the aspiring consumer of higher education.” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

American Baby: A Mother, a Child, and the Shadow History of Adoption by  Gabrielle Glaser

american babyIn 1960s America, at the height of the Baby Boom, women were encouraged to stay home and raise large families, but sex and childbirth were taboo subjects. Premarital sex was not uncommon, but birth control was hard to get and abortion was illegal. In 1961, sixteen-year-old Margaret Erle fell in love and became pregnant. Her unsympathetic family sent her to a maternity home. In the hospital, nurses would not even allow her to hold her own newborn. After she was finally badgered into signing away her rights, her son vanished into an adoption agency’s hold.

Claiming to be acting in the best interests of all, the adoption business was founded on secrecy and lies. American Baby lays out how a lucrative and exploitative industry removed children from their birth mothers and placed them with desperate families, fabricating stories about infants’ origins and destinations, then closing the door firmly between the parties forever. They struck shady deals with doctors and researchers for pseudoscientific “assessments,” and shamed millions of young women into surrendering their children.

Gabrielle Glaser dramatically demonstrates the expectations and institutions that Margaret was up against. Though Margaret went on to marry and raise a large family with David’s father, she never stopped longing for and worrying about her firstborn. She didn’t know he spent the first years of his life living just a few blocks away from her, wondering often about where he came from and why he was given up. Their tale–one they share with millions of Americans–is one of loss, love, and the search for identity.

Adoption’s closed records are being legally challenged in states nationwide. Open adoption is the rule today, but the identities of many who were adopted or who surrendered a child in the decades this book covers are locked in sealed files. American Baby both illuminates a dark time in our history and shows a path to justice, honesty and reunion that can help heal the wounds inflicted by years of shame and secrecy.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] sweeping and novelistic account… This is more than just the story of ‘a lifelong separation and a bittersweet reunion.’ It’s a well-paced work of research made stronger by Glaser’s ability to write with clarity and intensity about a harsh reality. Never losing sight of her story’s emotional heart, Glaser delivers a page-turning and illuminating work.” – Publishers Weekly, BOXED & STARRED REVIEW

“Combining personal tragedy and overall history, this book evokes sympathy for a wide swath of mid-century American women.” – Library Journal

“Glaser painstakingly researched Margaret’s story, and here wraps it around a social history of adoption, exploring evolving cultural and political views about motherhood. She shows how orphan trains and babyfarms gave way to corporate private adoptions, and documents the years-long legal battles wrought by adoptees and birth parents trying to access their personal histories… This book is a testament to the mothers who never forgot their children, and searched for them with love and longing.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

Let the Lord Sort Them: The Rise and Fall of the Death Penalty by  Maurice Chammah

let the lord sort themIn 1972, the United States Supreme Court made a surprising ruling: the country’s death penalty system violated the Constitution. The backlash was swift, especially in Texas, where executions were considered part of the cultural fabric, and a dark history of lynching was masked by gauzy visions of a tough-on-crime frontier. When executions resumed, Texas quickly became the nationwide leader in carrying out the punishment. Then, amid a larger wave of criminal justice reform, came the death penalty’s decline, a trend so durable that even in Texas the punishment appears again close to extinction.

In Let the Lord Sort Them, Maurice Chammah charts the rise and fall of capital punishment through the eyes of those it touched. We meet Elsa Alcala, the orphaned daughter of a Mexican American family who found her calling as a prosecutor in the nation’s death penalty capital, before becoming a judge on the state’s highest court. We meet Danalynn Recer, a lawyer who became obsessively devoted to unearthing the life stories of men who committed terrible crimes, and fought for mercy in courtrooms across the state. We meet death row prisoners–many of them once-famous figures like Henry Lee Lucas, Gary Graham, and Karla Faye Tucker–along with their families and the families of their victims. And we meet the executioners, who struggle openly with what society has asked them to do. In tracing these interconnected lives against the rise of mass incarceration in Texas and the country as a whole, Chammah explores what the persistence of the death penalty tells us about forgiveness and retribution, fairness and justice, history and myth.

Written with intimacy and grace, Let the Lord Sort Them is the definitive portrait of a particularly American institution.

Description from Goodreads.

“A nuanced and deeply reported account of evolving attitudes toward the death penalty in America… a thorough, finely written, and unflinching look at one of the most controversial aspects of the American justice system.” – Publishers Weekly

Let the Lord Sort Them has the icy finality of an autopsy report, and the same intimate particularity… Chammah’s strength as a writer lies in his synthetic approach, which assesses the law itself and its actors (defendants, defense lawyers) in pretty much equal measure. It’s a book pitched straight into the gulf between universal theory and individual experience.” – The New Republic

[A] nuanced look at the complex history of the death penalty… [Chammah’s] outstanding storytelling and thorough research make this an excellent analysis of modern legal and criminal-justice history.” – Booklist

Available Formats:

Print Book

Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It by  Ethan Kross

chatterTell a stranger that you talk to yourself, and you’re likely to get written off as eccentric. But the truth is that we all have a voice in our head. When we talk to ourselves, we often hope to tap into our inner coach but find our inner critic instead. When we’re facing a tough task, our inner coach can buoy us up: Focus–you can do this. But, just as often, our inner critic sinks us entirely: I’m going to fail. They’ll all laugh at me. What’s the use?

In Chatter, acclaimed psychologist Ethan Kross explores the silent conversations we have with ourselves. Interweaving groundbreaking behavioral and brain research from his own lab with real-world case studies–from a pitcher who forgets how to pitch, to a Harvard undergrad negotiating her double life as a spy–Kross explains how these conversations shape our lives, work, and relationships. He warns that giving in to negative and disorienting self-talk–what he calls “chatter”–can tank our health, sink our moods, strain our social connections, and cause us to fold under pressure.

But the good news is that we’re already equipped with the tools we need to make our inner voice work in our favor. These tools are often hidden in plain sight–in the words we use to think about ourselves, the technologies we embrace, the diaries we keep in our drawers, the conversations we have with our loved ones, and the cultures we create in our schools and workplaces.

Brilliantly argued, expertly researched, and filled with compelling stories, Chatter gives us the power to change the most important conversation we have each day: the one we have with ourselves.

Description from Goodreads.

“Stimulating… Readers dealing with issues of self-talk would do well to pick up Kross’s stimulating foray into popular psychology.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“A practical, useful guide to quieting one’s inner noise.” – Booklist

“[A] fascinating narrative, fluidly written and packed with insight… [Kross] shows us how we might have better chats with ourselves, ones that make us happier, healthier, and more productive… A book that will truly change minds.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook

Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth by  Avi Loeb

extraterrestrialHarvard’s top astronomer lays out his controversial theory that our solar system was recently visited by advanced alien technology from a distant star.

In late 2017, scientists at a Hawaiian observatory glimpsed an object soaring through our inner solar system, moving so quickly that it could only have come from another star. Avi Loeb, Harvard’s top astronomer, showed it was not an asteroid; it was moving too fast along a strange orbit, and left no trail of gas or debris in its wake. There was only one conceivable explanation: the object was a piece of advanced technology created by a distant alien civilization.

In Extraterrestrial, Loeb takes readers inside the thrilling story of the first interstellar visitor to be spotted in our solar system. He outlines his controversial theory and its profound implications: for science, for religion, and for the future of our species and our planet. A mind-bending journey through the furthest reaches of science, space-time, and the human imagination, Extraterrestrial challenges readers to aim for the stars—and to think critically about what’s out there, no matter how strange it seems.

Description from Goodreads.

“A tantalizing, probing inquiry into the possibilities of alien life.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Ingenious… Loeb’s thought-provoking work of popular science will entertain those who wonder if humans are alone in the universe.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book

Everybody Has a Podcast (Except You): A How-to Guide from the First Family of Podcasting by  Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy Griffin McElroy

everybody has a podcast except youJustin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy made their names as “advice giving brothers who have no business giving advice” (New York Times) on the hit podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me. But while they may not have the best relationship or workplace advice, they certainly make you laugh, and they do know a thing or two about podcasting.

In fact, the McElroy Brothers have spent the last decade making podcasts, including My Brother, My Brother and Me; The Adventure Zone; Sawbones; and more. From their start, independently producing and releasing the early episodes of My Brother, My Brother and Me, to their eleven currently available podcasts, the McElroys have become experts in creating successful podcasts. And now, they want to share what they’ve learned with you.

In Everybody Has a Podcast (Except You), the McElroy Brothers will walk you through the process of turning an idea into ear-candy for legions of fans, sharing their expertise on everything from deciding on an effective name (definitely not something like My Brother, My Brother and Me), what type of microphone to use (definitely not one from the video game Rock Band), to making lots and lots of money (spoiler: you probably won’t).

A must-read for anyone interested in podcasting, Everybody Has a Podcast (Except You) shares the keys to success as well as the mistakes to avoid and draws on the vast experiences of three of the funniest and most successful podcasters working today.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A]n excellent how-to guide for starting a podcast.” – Booklist Queen

“The McElroys have injected their signature quirk and humor into every page. More than that, they make the sometimes-daunting process of podcasting completely approachable… It’s not just funny; it contains truly good advice that one would expect from a family with their experience. Even readers who open the book without the desire to start a podcast might be inspired to give it a try.” – Booklist

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook

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