Best New Books: Week of 10/12/21

“Coming home from very lonely places, all of us go a little mad: whether from great personal success, or just an all-night drive, we are the sole survivors of a world no one else has ever seen.” – John Le Carré

12 Bytes: How We Got Here. Where We Might Go Next by  Jeanette Winterson

Nonfiction / Essays / Science.

Drawing on her years of thinking and reading about Artificial Intelligence in its bewildering manifestations, Jeanette Winterson looks to history, religion, myth, literature, politics and, of course, computer science, to help us understand the radical changes to the way we live and love that are happening now.

With wit, compassion and curiosity, Winterson tackles AI’s most interesting talking points, from the algorithms that data-dossier your whole life, to the weirdness of backing up your brain.

Description from Goodreads.

“Winterson covers the past, present, and future of artificial intelligence in this fascinating survey… Through well-paced and articulate prose, Winterson makes granular tech know-how remarkably accessible… This is full of insight.” – Publishers Weekly

“Thought-provoking and necessary – and sometimes very funny.” –  The Guardian

“A vigorous, sharp mind probes the world of computer science and more… Digestible, witty, and provocative… Tucked into the corners of these erudite essays are multitudes of fascinating facts and thoughtful what-if speculations… Winterson is excellent at compressing a great deal of technical, scientific, philosophical, literary, and religious material.” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook

The Book of Magic by  Alice Hoffman

Fiction / Fantasy.

The Owens family has been cursed in matters of love for over three-hundred years but all of that is about to change. The novel begins in a library, the best place for a story to be conjured, when beloved aunt Jet Owens hears the deathwatch beetle and knows she has only seven days to live. Jet is not the only one in danger—the curse is already at work.

A frantic attempt to save a young man’s life spurs three generations of the Owens women, and one long-lost brother, to use their unusual gifts to break the curse as they travel from Paris to London to the English countryside where their ancestor Maria Owens first practiced the Unnamed Art. The younger generation discovers secrets that have been hidden from them in matters of both magic and love by Sally, their fiercely protective mother. As Kylie Owens uncovers the truth about who she is and what her own dark powers are, her aunt Franny comes to understand that she is ready to sacrifice everything for her family, and Sally Owens realizes that she is willing to give up everything for love.

The Book of Magic is a breathtaking conclusion that celebrates mothers and daughters, sisters and brothers, and anyone who has ever been in love.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] gorgeous story of family ties and the power of love.” – PopSugar

“[The] story brims with bewitching encounters and suspenseful conflicts revolving around good magic versus bad magic. Hoffman brings satisfying closure to the Owens saga.” – Publishers Weekly

“…breathtaking… This spellbinding and enchanting conclusion is the perfect way to end the cherished magical series that I, and so many other readers, have held so dearly for years. ” – Off the Shelf

Available Formats:

Print Book | Playaway | eBook | eAudiobook

The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family by  Ron Clint Howard

Nonfiction / Memoir / Film / Television.

“What was it like to grow up on TV?” Ron Howard has been asked this question throughout his adult life. In The Boys, he and his younger brother, Clint, examine their childhoods in detail for the first time. For Ron, playing Opie on The Andy Griffith Show and Richie Cunningham on Happy Days offered fame, joy, and opportunity—but also invited stress and bullying. For Clint, a fast start on such programs as Gentle Ben and Star Trek petered out in adolescence, with some tough consequences and lessons.

With the perspective of time and success—Ron as a filmmaker, producer, and Hollywood A-lister, Clint as a busy character actor—the Howard brothers delve deep into an upbringing that seemed normal to them yet was anything but. Their Midwestern parents, Rance and Jean, moved to California to pursue their own showbiz dreams. But it was their young sons who found steady employment as actors. Rance put aside his ego and ambition to become Ron and Clint’s teacher, sage, and moral compass. Jean became their loving protector—sometimes over-protector—from the snares and traps of Hollywood.

By turns confessional, nostalgic, heartwarming, and harrowing, The Boys is a dual narrative that lifts the lid on the Howard brothers’ closely held lives. It’s the journey of a tight four-person family unit that held fast in an unforgiving business and of two brothers who survived “child-actor syndrome” to become fulfilled adults.

Description from Goodreads.

“…fascinating… Candid, humorous, and entertaining, this intimate account will be a hit with the brothers’ fans.” – Publishers Weekly

“…delightful… this memoir will be treasured by television and movie history buffs alike; fans of the Howards will greatly enjoy their teasing, loving banter, and evocation of a gentler era.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“A treat for movie and TV buffs, this dual memoir is wholesome and satisfying… Fans of the Howards will revel in the details of their young ascents into the Hollywood spotlight.” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

Print Book | Large Print Book | Audiobook | eBook | eAudiobook

The Corpse Flower by  Anne Mette Hancock

Fiction / Suspense / Mystery.

It’s early September in Copenhagen, the rain has been coming down for weeks, and 36-year-old journalist Heloise Kaldan is in the middle of a nightmare. One of her sources has been caught lying, and she could lose her job over it. And then she receives the first in a series of cryptic and ominous letters from an alleged killer.

Wanted in connection with the fatal stabbing of a young lawyer three years earlier, Anna Kiel hasn’t been seen by anyone since she left the crime scene covered in blood. The police think she’s fled the country and have zero clues as to her motive. But homicide detective Erik Scháfer comes up with the first lead when the reporter who first wrote about the case is found murdered in his apartment. Has Anna Kiel struck again, or is there more than one killer at large? And why does every clue point directly to Heloise Kaldan?

Meanwhile, the letters keep coming, and they hint at a connection between Anna and Heloise. As Heloise starts digging deeper, she realizes that, to tell Anna’s story, she will have to revisit the darkest parts of her own past–confronting someone she swore she’d never see again.

Description from Goodreads.

“Structurally flawless.” – Washington Post

“Scandinavian noir at its noirest. It’s hard, maybe unthinkable, to imagine how Hancock will follow it up.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] gripping debut… Assured prose matches the intricate plot. Hancock is off to a strong start.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Hoopla eAudiobook

Death at Greenway by  Lori Rader-Day

Fiction / Mystery / Historical Fiction.

Bridey Kelly has come to Greenway House—the beloved holiday home of Agatha Christie—in disgrace. A terrible mistake at St. Prisca’s Hospital in London has led to her dismissal as a nurse trainee, and her only chance for redemption is a position in the countryside caring for children evacuated to safety from the Blitz.

Greenway is a beautiful home full of riddles: wondrous curios not to be touched, restrictions on rooms not to be entered, and a generous library, filled with books about murder. The biggest mystery might be the other nurse, Gigi, who is like no one Bridey has ever met. Chasing ten young children through the winding paths of the estate grounds might have soothed Bridey’s anxieties and grief—if Greenway were not situated so near the English Channel and the rising aggressions of the war.

When a body washes ashore near the estate, Bridey is horrified to realize this is not a victim of war, but of a brutal killing. As the local villagers look among themselves, Bridey and Gigi discover they each harbor dangerous secrets about what has led them to Greenway. With a mystery writer’s home as their unsettling backdrop, the young women must unravel the truth before their safe haven becomes a place of death…

Description from Goodreads.

“Irresistible… a Golden Age homage, an elegantly constructed mystery that on every page reinforces the message that everyone counts.” – New York Times Book Review

“[A] richly nuanced mystery… Rader-Day nicely evokes the isolation and dislocations of people in WWII Britain while revealing her characters’ complexities. Despite the many allusions to Christie’s life and work, she eschews an artificially neat conclusion. Fans of both Christie and Rader-Day will relish this.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Rader-Day, known for masterfully weaving historical elements into her female-focused literary thrillers, imbues this wartime whodunit with palpable emotion as Bridey reconciles her family’s bombing deaths through a plan to save another life.” – Booklist

Available Formats:


Empty Wardrobes by  Maria Judite de Carvalho


For ten years Dora has ritualistically mourned her husband’s death, a pointless ritual that forced her to rely on support from old friends and acquaintances. Her beloved husband, a “Christ” so principled he rejected any ambition whatsoever as a construct of a corrupt society, succeeded only in leaving Dora and their daughter with nothing. When her mother-in-law reveals a shattering secret about their marriage one night, Dora’s narrative of her own life is destroyed. Three generations of women—Dora, her daughter, and mother-in-law—must navigate a world that has been shaped by the blundering men off in the distance, figures barely present who nonetheless define the lives of the women they would call mother, wife, or lover.

Narrated through the gritted teeth of an acquaintance, Empty Wardrobes—Maria Judite de Carvalho’s cutting 1966 novel, translated from Portuguese for the first time by Margaret Jull Costa and introduced by Kate Zambreno—is a tale of women who are trapped within the quiet devastation of a patriarchal society and preyed upon by the ambient savageries that perch in its every crevice.

Description from Goodreads.

“Sharp… This unearthed story leaves readers with much to chew on.” – Publishers Weekly

“The first by this towering Portuguese novelist to be translated into English… A still, luminous book whose precise characters evoke broad truths about the human experience.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Maria Judite de Carvalho’s fiction… provides us with a vivid portrait of our times, especially in the strange, slippery area of everyday life…” – Expresso

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook

I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness by  Claire Vaye Watkins ★


Since my baby was born, I have been able to laugh and see the funny side of things: a) As much as I ever did. b) Not quite as much now. c) Not so much now. d) Not at all.

Leaving behind her husband and their baby daughter, a writer gets on a flight for a speaking engagement in Reno, not carrying much besides a breast pump and a spiraling case of postpartum depression. Her temporary escape from domestic duties and an opportunity to reconnect with old friends mutates into an extended romp away from the confines of marriage and motherhood, and a seemingly bottomless descent into the past. Deep in the Mojave Desert where she grew up, she meets her ghosts at every turn: the first love whose self-destruction still haunts her; her father, a member of the most famous cult in American history; her mother, whose native spark gutters with every passing year. She can’t go back in time to make any of it right, but what exactly is her way forward? Alone in the wilderness, at last she begins to make herself at home in the world.

Bold, tender, and often hilarious, I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness reaffirms Watkins as one of the signal writers of our time.

Description from Goodreads.

“If the evocative name of the book doesn’t grab you, Vaye Watkins’ stylish prose likely will.” – Thrillist

“The brutal, arid, electric terrain of remote California and Nevada crackles across almost every page… trippy and beautiful, slippery and seductive—a unique psycho-geography of a region that is integral to the American vision and yet seems to have too few literary chroniclers.” – Vogue

“Daring… Boldly imagined and authoritatively told, this ambitious novel reminds us that Watkins is one of the most visionary writers working today.” – Esquire

“[A] surreal, hilarious, and sneakily devastating hybrid of autobiography and fiction… [with] a voice that blazes with ferocious wit and candor.” – Literary Hub

Available Formats:

Print Book


The Loneliest Americans by  Jay Caspian Kang

Nonfiction / Memoir / History.

In 1965, a new immigration law lifted a century of restrictions against Asian immigrants to the United States. Nobody, including the lawmakers who passed the bill, expected it to transform the country’s demographics. But over the next four decades, millions arrived, including Jay Caspian Kang’s parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. They came with almost no understanding of their new home, much less the history of “Asian America” that was supposed to define them.

The Loneliest Americans is the unforgettable story of Kang and his family as they move from a housing project in Cambridge to an idyllic college town in the South and eventually to the West Coast. Their story unfolds against the backdrop of a rapidly expanding Asian America, as millions more immigrants, many of them working-class or undocumented, stream into the country. At the same time, upwardly mobile urban professionals have struggled to reconcile their parents’ assimilationist goals with membership in a multicultural elite–all while trying to carve out a new kind of belonging for their own children, who are neither white nor truly “people of color.”

Kang recognizes this existential loneliness in himself and in other Asian Americans who try to locate themselves in the country’s racial binary. There are the businessmen turning Flushing into a center of immigrant wealth; the casualties of the Los Angeles riots; the impoverished parents in New York City who believe that admission to the city’s exam schools is the only way out; the men’s right’s activists on Reddit ranting about intermarriage; and the handful of protesters who show up at Black Lives Matter rallies holding “Yellow Peril Supports Black Power” signs. Kang’s exquisitely crafted book brings these lonely parallel climbers together amid a wave of anti-Asian violence. In response, he calls for a new form of immigrant solidarity–one rooted not in bubble tea and elite college admissions but in the struggles of refugees and the working class.

Description from Goodreads.

“Kang combines his personal family history with deft reportage in a provocative and sweeping examination of racial identity, belonging and family.” – Time

The Loneliest Americans dares readers to push beyond their comfort zones and deconstruct the mythology of American identity.” – Literary Hub

“[A] searing treatise… Kang is refreshingly candid in his analysis, addressing how immigrants who come from Asia lack the intrinsic solidarity that has been foisted upon them… This excellent commentary on the Asian American experience radiates with nuance and emotion.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

No One Will Miss Her by  Kat Rosenfield

Fiction / Suspense / Mystery.

On a beautiful October morning in rural Maine, a homicide investigator from the state police pulls into the hard-luck town of Copper Falls. The local junkyard is burning, and the town pariah Lizzie Oullette is dead—with her husband, Dwayne, nowhere to be found. As scandal ripples through the community, Detective Ian Bird’s inquiries unexpectedly lead him away from small-town Maine to a swank city townhouse several hours south. Adrienne Richards, blonde and fabulous social media influencer and wife of a disgraced billionaire, had been renting Lizzie’s tiny lake house as a country getaway…even though Copper Falls is anything but a resort town.

As Adrienne’s connection to the case becomes clear, so too does her connection to Lizzie, who narrates their story from beyond the grave. Each woman is desperately lonely in her own way, and they navigate a relationship that cuts across class boundaries: transactional, complicated, and, finally, deadly. A Gone Girl for the gig economy, this is a story of privilege, identity, and cunning, as two devious women from opposite worlds discover the dangers of coveting someone else’s life.

Description from Goodreads.

“A clever and surprising psychological thriller… The superb character-driven plot delivers an astonishing, believable jolt.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“A story that will completely throw you for a loop just when you think you know what’s going on. No One Will Miss Her is an expertly written book with characters you’ll find so interesting and a plot that is equally intriguing.” – Seattle Book Review

“…tantalizing… The novel is as thrilling as it is curious… [keeps you] guessing to the last page.” – Connecticut Magazine

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

On Animals by  Susan Orlean ★

Nonfiction / Essays / Nature.

“How we interact with animals has preoccupied philosophers, poets, and naturalists for ages,” writes Susan Orlean. Since the age of six, when Orlean wrote and illustrated a book called Herbert the Near-Sighted Pigeon, she’s been drawn to stories about how we live with animals, and how they abide by us. Now, in On Animals, she examines animal-human relationships through the compelling tales she has written over the course of her celebrated career.

These stories consider a range of creatures—the household pets we dote on, the animals we raise to end up as meat on our plates, the creatures who could eat us for dinner, the various tamed and untamed animals we share our planet with who are central to human life. In her own backyard, Orlean discovers the delights of keeping chickens. In a different backyard, in New Jersey, she meets a woman who has twenty-three pet tigers—something none of her neighbors knew about until one of the tigers escapes. In Iceland, the world’s most famous whale resists the efforts to set him free; in Morocco, the world’s hardest-working donkeys find respite at a special clinic. We meet a show dog and a lost dog and a pigeon who knows exactly how to get home.

Equal parts delightful and profound, enriched by Orlean’s stylish prose and precise research, these stories celebrate the meaningful cross-species connections that grace our collective existence.

Description from Goodreads.

“Delightful… Another winner featuring the author’s trademark blend of meticulous research and scintillating writing.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Entertaining and informative… Orlean’s prose dazzles… Animal lovers will find much to savor.” – Publishers Weekly

“…remarkably eclectic… Ms. Orlean conveys the absurdity of the quest as well as its poignancy, relating the whole story with a tone of deadpan whimsy… I tend to like Ms. Orlean’s writing best at the length of a long magazine piece, not a full-length book, but the international flavor of many of these pieces gives this collection a hybrid pleasure. The vivid snapshots add up to a broad cumulative impression.” – Wall Street Journal

“[An] ebulliently descriptive, robustly factual, occasionally alarming collection… Orlean’s deep pleasure in learning startling facts, her often wry tales about her personal life, her omnivorous attention to detail, and her juggler’s skill with words yield vivid, provocative, amusing, and wondrous stories… Orlean thoughtfully and piquantly contrasts the marvels of animals and the damage humans do to them and their habitats, threatening their very survival… A revelry for readers wild for animals and/or enamored of vibrant essays.” – Booklist

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

The Pessimists by  Bethany Ball


Welcome to small-town Connecticut, a place whose inhabitants seem to have it all — the status, the homes, the money, and the ennui. There’s Tripp and Virginia, beloved hosts whom the community idolizes, whose basement hides among other things a secret stash of guns and a drastic plan to survive the end times. There’s Gunter and Rachel, recent transplants who left New York City to raise their children, only to feel both imprisoned by the banality of suburbia. And Richard and Margot, community veterans whose extramarital affairs and battles with mental health are disguised by their enviably polished veneers and perfect children. At the center of it all is the Petra School, the most coveted of all the private schools in the state, a supposed utopia of mindfulness and creativity, with a history as murky and suspect as our character’s inner worlds.

With deep wit and delicious incisiveness, in The Pessimists, Bethany Ball peels back the veneer of upper-class white suburbia to expose the destructive consequences of unchecked privilege and moral apathy in a world that is rapidly evolving without them. This is a superbly drawn portrait of a community, and its couples, torn apart by unmet desires, duplicity, hypocrisy, and dangerous levels of discontent.

Description from Goodreads.

“Cutting and concise… Consider it the east coast version of Big Little Lies.” – E! News

“A stinging satire about the hollowness of the suburban dream… Withering in its barbed wit, Ball’s mordantly penetrating portrait of middle-class malaise teems with infidelity, inequity, mistrust, and disappointment.” – Booklist

“Ball is a pleasure to read. Her sentences are brisk twists of the knife; every satirical dart is a bull’s-eye. She makes a meal out of her space-cadet suburbanites, with their expensive German cars and organic apple juice, but allows their concerns to be widely applicable: Will my children grow up to be OK? Will my life amount to anything? Does my spouse secretly loathe me? Should I be worried about this lump in my breast? Is the thrill of adultery powerful enough to outweigh the guilt of it? Suffering, Ball demonstrates, is universal, and fears are often irrational.” – New York Times

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook | Hoopla eAudiobook

Silverview by  John le Carré ★

Fiction / Mystery / Suspense.

Julian Lawndsley has renounced his high-flying job in the city for a simpler life running a bookshop in a small English seaside town. But only a couple of months into his new career, Julian’s evening is disrupted by a visitor. Edward, a Polish emigre living in Silverview, the big house on the edge of town, seems to know a lot about Julian’s family and is rather too interested in the inner workings of his modest new enterprise.

When a letter turns up at the door of a spy chief in London warning him of a dangerous leak, the investigations lead him to this quiet town by the sea…

Silverview is the mesmerizing story of an encounter between innocence and experience and between public duty and private morals. In his inimitable voice John le Carré, the greatest chronicler of our age, seeks to answer the question of what we truly owe to the people we love.

Description from Goodreads.

“First-rate prose and a fascinating plot distinguish the final novel from MWA Grand Master le Carré… This is a fitting coda to a remarkable career.” – Publishers Weekly

“The author’s last few novels have been increasingly valedictory, but this one is truly haunted by intimations of mortality.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Yes, le Carré has made these points before, but here, in his last ode to disillusioned spies, he makes them with a somber eloquence that reverberates all the more for its finality.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“One shouldn’t quarrel over a gift, and this last novel from le Carré, published posthumously, is a gift. Knowing it’s his last is difficult, however; the master of espionage fiction wrote at a high level through his 80s, and Silverview maintains that level.” – Washington Post

Available Formats:

Print Book | Audiobook | eBook | eAudiobook

State of Terror by  Hillary Rodham Clinton &  Louise Penny ★

Fiction / Mystery / Suspense.

State of Terror follows a novice Secretary of State who has joined the administration of her rival, a president inaugurated after four years of American leadership that shrank from the world stage. A series of terrorist attacks throws the global order into disarray, and the secretary is tasked with assembling a team to unravel the deadly conspiracy, a scheme carefully designed to take advantage of an American government dangerously out of touch and out of power in the places where it counts the most.

This high-stakes thriller of international intrigue features behind-the-scenes global drama informed by details only an insider could know.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] pulsating thriller.” – People

“The real-life inspiration is clear, but this version is way more fun.” – Entertainment Weekly

“Bestselling authors Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny have combined their unique perspectives to serve up a Byzantine tale of political intrigue on a global scale.” – PopSugar

“Hillary Rodham Clinton pairs up with powerhouse mystery novelist Louise Penny for State of Terror, a political thriller full of action and intrigue… Clinton and Penny create a heart-pounding mystery about terrorism, corruption and diplomacy, meticulously written with… details only someone on the inside could contribute.” – Time

Available Formats:

Print Book | Large Print Book | Audiobook | eBook | eAudiobook

Where the Deer and the Antelope Play: The Pastoral Observations of One Ignorant American in Search of the Real Dirt by  Nick Offerman

Nonfiction / Nature / Travel / Comedy.

Nick Offerman has always felt a kinship to the Land of the Free–not just to the people and their purported ideals but to the actual land itself. The bedrock, the topsoil, and everything in between that generates the health of your local watershed. In his new book, Nick takes a humorous, inspiring, and elucidating trip to America’s trails, farms, and frontier to celebrate the people, landscape, and stories, both historical and fresh, that have made it great.

The seeds of this book were planted in 2019, when Nick took two memorable journeys with friends–a hiking trip to Glacier National Park with his friends Jeff Tweedy and George Saunders, as well as an extended visit to his friend James Rebanks, the author of A Shepherd’s Life and English Pastoral. He followed that up with an excursion that could only have come about in 2020–Nick and his wife, Megan Mullally, bought an Airstream trailer to drive across the US in late 2020. All three journeys inspired some “deep-ish thinking from Nick, about the history and philosophy of our relationship with nature in our national parks, in our farming, and in our wildlife; what we mean when we talk about conservation; the importance of outdoor recreation; and the healthy building of both local and national communities across party lines, all subjects very close to Nick’s heart.

With witty, heartwarming stories, and a keen insight into the problems we all confront, this is both a ramble through and celebration of the land we all love.

Description from Goodreads.

“A hoot and a half for fans of sometimes-hapless wandering.” – Kirkus Reviews

“A great mix of wit and perceptive observation from travels in the United States and the United Kingdom… with a surprising amount of history, nature, and ecology thrown in.” – Library Journal

“Offerman brings dry humor and a reverence for nature and physical labor to his growing understanding of capitalist and colonial horrors, all while maintaining hope for the future.” – Seattle Times

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook

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