Best New Books: Week of 3/1/22

“Anyway the trick to life is, if you don’t like what is happening, go back to sleep until it stops.” – Catriona Ward, The Last House on Needless Street

Antiquities and Other Stories by  Cynthia Ozick


In “Antiquities”, Lloyd Wilkinson Petrie, one of the seven elderly trustees of the now-defunct (for thirty-four years) Temple Academy for Boys, is preparing a memoir of his days at the school, intertwined with the troubling distractions of present events. As he navigates, with faltering recall, between the subtle anti-Semitism that pervaded the school’s ethos and his fascination with his own family’s heritage–in particular, his illustrious cousin, the renowned archaeologist Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie–he reconstructs the passions of a childhood encounter with the oddly named Ben-Zion Elefantin, a mystifying older pupil who claims descent from Egypt’s Elephantine Island.

Included alongside this wondrous tale, touched by unsettling irony and with the elusive flavor of a Kafka parable, are four additional stories in Cynthia Ozick’s brilliant, distinctive voice, weaving myth and mania, history and illusion: “The Coast of New Zealand”, “The Bloodline of the Alkanas”, “Sin”, and “A Hebrew Sibyl”.

Description from Goodreads.

“A delight… Richly patterned and strongly colored.” – New York Times

“One of our era’s central writers… at once a warning against the hazards of nostalgia and an invitation to take a longer view of how we got to where we are.” – The New Yorker

“In her fascinating new novella, “Antiquities”, Cynthia Ozick elevates the notion of an unreliable narrator to delightfully confusing new heights. Entertaining as it is at the level of pure storytelling, this fictional whirligig will have you rereading and rethinking to plumb its depths.” – Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Beauty of Dusk: On Vision Lost and Found by  Frank Bruni

Nonfiction / Memoir / health.

One morning in late 2017, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni woke up with strangely blurred vision. He wondered at first if some goo or gunk had worked its way into his right eye. But this was no fleeting annoyance, no fixable inconvenience. Overnight, a rare stroke had cut off blood to one of his optic nerves, rendering him functionally blind in that eye—forever. And he soon learned from doctors that the same disorder could ravage his left eye, too. He could lose his sight altogether.

In The Beauty of Dusk, Bruni hauntingly recounts his adjustment to this daunting reality, a medical and spiritual odyssey that involved not only reappraising his own priorities but also reaching out to, and gathering wisdom from, longtime friends and new acquaintances who had navigated their own traumas and afflictions.

The result is a poignant, probing, and ultimately uplifting examination of the limits that all of us inevitably encounter, the lenses through which we choose to evaluate them and the tools we have for perseverance. Bruni’s world blurred in one sense, as he experienced his first real inklings that the day isn’t forever and that light inexorably fades, but sharpened in another. Confronting unexpected hardship, he felt more blessed than ever before. There was vision lost. There was also vision found.

Description from Goodreads.

“[An] affecting, illuminating memoir… With compassion and grace, Bruni guides us along a literal pilgrimage between light and darkness, a tender meld of science reporting and philosophical investigation.” – Oprah Daily

“Uplifting and beautiful.” – Katie Couric Media

“A book about vision loss that becomes testimony to human courage, a moving memoir that offers perspective, comfort, and hope.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

The Believer: Encounters with the Beginning, the End, and Our Place in the Middle by  Sarah Krasnostein

Nonfiction / SOCIOLOGY.

For Sarah Krasnostein it begins with a Mennonite choir performing on a subway platform, a fleeting moment of witness that sets her on a fascinating journey to find out why people need to believe in absolute truths and what happens when their beliefs crash into her own. Some of the people Krasnostein interviews believe in things many people do not. Ghosts. UFOs. The literal creation of the universe in six days. Some believe in things most people would like to. Dying with dignity and autonomy. Facing up to our transgressions with truthfulness. Living with integrity and compassion.

By turns devastating and delighting, and captured in snapshot-vivid detail, these six profiles with a death doula, a geologist who believes the world is six thousand years old, a lecturer in neurobiology who spends his weekends ghost hunting, the fiancé of a disappeared pilot and UFO enthusiasts, a woman incarcerated for killing her husband after suffering years of domestic violence, and Mennonite families in New York will leave you convinced that the most ordinary-seeming people are often the most remarkable and that deep and abiding commonalities can be found within the greatest differences.

Vivid, unconventional, entertaining, and full of wonder, Krasnostein interweaves the stories of these believers with compassion and empathy, culminating in an unforgettable tour of the human condition that cuts to the core of who we are as people, and what we’re doing on this earth.

Description from Goodreads.

“An illuminating meditation on the nature of belief and the quest for meaning.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“A fascinating portrait of the human condition, Sarah Krasnostein’s latest explores a range of belief systems through six profiles… A great read for our ‘deeply fractured times.’” – Literary Hub

“This collection of essays will be great for groups looking for something approachable but thoughtful as Krasnostein explores all kinds of strangers’ beliefs about the afterlife, a higher power, and everything in between and what happens when their beliefs clash with the beliefs of others. It’s definitely a poignant piece for today and will open up lots of discussion possibilities for book groups.” – Book Riot

Border Less by  Namrata Poddar


Dia Mittal is an airline call center agent in Mumbai searching for an easier life. As her search takes her to the United States, Dia’s checkered relationship with the American Dream dialogues with the experiences and perspectives of a global South Asian community across the class spectrum–call center agents, travel agents, immigrant maids, fashion designers, blue- and white-collar workers in the hospitality industry, junior and senior artists in Bollywood, hustling single mothers, academics, tourists in the Third World, refugees displaced by military superpowers, Marwari merchants and trade caravans of the Silk Road, among others. What connects the novel’s web of brown border-crossing characters is their quest for belonging and negotiation of power struggles, mediated by race, class, gender, nationality, age, or place. With its fragmented form, staccato rhythm, repetition, and play with English language, Border Less questions the “mainstream” Western novel and its assumptions of good storytelling.

Description from Goodreads.

“Not only does this resonant feminist debut challenge normative narratives of immigrant life, it also disrupts the notion of the Western novel in form and function.” – Ms.

“The range of perspectives harnessed announces Poddar as an exciting new voice in immigrant fiction.” – Publishers Weekly

“[A] story that is made whole through its fragmentation. A thoughtful exploration of what it means to belong.” – BuzzFeed

Checkout 19 by  Claire-Louise Bennett ★


In a working-class town in a county west of London, a schoolgirl scribbles stories in the back pages of her exercise book, intoxicated by the first sparks of her imagination. As she grows, everything and everyone she encounters become fuel for a burning talent. The large Russian man in the ancient maroon car who careens around the grocery store where she works as a checkout clerk, and slips her a copy of Beyond Good and Evil. The growing heaps of other books in which she loses-and finds-herself. Even the derailing of a friendship, in a devastating violation. The thrill of learning to conjure characters and scenarios in her head is matched by the exhilaration of forging her own way in the world, the two kinds of ingenuity kindling to a brilliant conflagration.

Exceeding the extraordinary promise of Bennett’s mold-shattering debut, Checkout 19 is a radical affirmation of the power of the imagination and the magic escape those who master it open to us all.

Description from Goodreads.

“I’ll remember this book for its disarmingly figurative language and its subtle observational humor… [Bennett] traces one person’s idiosyncratic, recursive artistic becoming — not just the reading, writing, and cigarette smoking but the relationships and experiences that unlock new ways of seeing.” – Vulture

“Bennett has the superb ability to capture the reality of a mind: it is rare to think in fully formed, conclusion-ridden ideas, after all… Checkout 19 is a fresh take on the coming-of-age novel… Bennett manages to convince the reader that somewhere, her narrator continues to think and ponder and live and wrestle with being in a body, like the rest of us.” – Literary Hub

“Incandescent, surreal, mordantly funny, wrenching, and exhilarating, Bennett’s enrapturing paean to literature echoes Jorge Luis Borges, Clarice Lispector, Lynne Tillman, and Lucy Ellmann, pays direct homage to myriad writers, traces the nexus of literature and life, and maps a book-besotted woman’s search for meaning.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Chorus by  Rebecca Kauffman

Fiction / Historical Fiction.

The seven Shaw siblings have long been haunted by two early and profoundly consequential events. Told in turn back and forth over time, from the early twentieth century through the 1950s, each sibling relays their own version of the memories that surround both their mother’s mysterious death and the circumstances leading up to and beyond one sister’s scandalous teenage pregnancy. As they move into adulthood, the siblings assume various new roles: caretaker to their aging father, addict, enabler, academic, decorated veteran, widow, and mothers and fathers to the next generation.

Entangled in a family knot, each sibling encounters divorce, drama, and death, while haunted by a mother who was never truly there. Through this lens, they all seek not only to understand how her death shaped their family, but also to illuminate the insoluble nature of the many familial experiences we all encounter—the concept of home, the tenacity that is a family’s love, and the unexpected ways through which healing can occur.

Chorus is a hopeful story of family, of loss and recovery, of complicated relationships forged between brothers and sisters as they move through life together, and of the unlikely forces that first drive them away and then ultimately back home.

Description from Goodreads.

“Kauffman’s luminous latest showcases her knack for delving into the hearts of her characters… Vibrant… a superbly executed saga.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Lovely… Readable and compelling… The novel’s arrangement feels meaningful as turning-point moments in the sibling’s lives take center stage, one after the other… Kauffman’s writing style renders complex dynamics in simple, impactful language and scenes.” – Booklist

“Kauffman has written a deceptively light tale about the heart of a family healing around a defining loss and siblings sustaining each other through adulthood, with lovely phrases and prose throughout. Though the sections are never weighty, together they form a satisfying story of complicated relationships against the backdrop of a ‘beautiful world [with] a forked tongue.’ A comforting and pastoral novel.” – Kirkus Reviews

Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama: A Memoir by  Bob Odenkirk ★

Nonfiction / Memoir / Comedy.

Bob Odenkirk’s career is inexplicable. And yet he will try like hell to explain it here, because that is what memoirs are for. Charting a “Homeric” decades-long “Odyssey” from his origins in the seedy comedy clubs of Chicago all the way to a dramatic career that is baffling to his friends, it’s almost like there are two or three Bob Odenkirks… but there is just one and one is enough, frankly.

Bob embraced a life in comedy after a chance meeting with Second City’s legendary Del Close, which eventually led to a job as a writer at SNL. As he weathered the beast that is live comedy, he stashed away the secrets of sketch writing–employing them in the immortal “Motivational Speaker” sketch for his friend Chris Farley, honing them on The Ben Stiller Show, and perfecting them on Mr. Show With Bob and David, which inspired an entire generation of comedy writers and stars. Then his career met the hope-dashing machine that is Hollywood development. But when all hope was lost for the umpteenth time, Bob was more astonished than anyone to find himself on Breaking Bad. His embrace of this strange new world of dramatic acting led him to working with Steven Spielberg, Alexander Payne, and Greta Gerwig, until finally re-re-inventing himself as a bona-fide worldwide action star for reasons that even he does not fully grasp! Read this and do your own psychoanalysis–it’s fun!

Throughout Bob’s travels, his memoir preserves the voice he cultivated from years of comedy writing. Featuring humorous tangents, joyful interludes, never-before-seen photos, wild characters from his winding career, and his trademark upbeat but unflinching drive, Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama is a classic showbiz tale–and a moving story about what it’s like to risk everything you think you know to make a change.

Description from Goodreads.

“Bob Odenkirk’s elegantly titled Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama takes readers on a hilarious tour of the comedian and actor’s career… Celebrity memoirs are a dime a dozen, but if there were one we’d put our money on as being well worth the time this year, it’s this one.” – AV Club

“All readers who enjoy truth telling and satire will find Odenkirk’s memoir engaging, as will all his fans who want to know why and how this famous comedian transformed himself into a serious actor.” – Booklist

“Oftentimes hilarious… gleeful and irreverent… Comedy fans will find plenty of laughs and some heartening lessons, too.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Odenkirk recounts fascinating and humorous behind-the-scenes stories from the many sets he’s worked on, plus insights about big names in entertainment… [His] account of triumph, struggle, and his firm belief that comedy is a unifying source of connection will inspire his fans and motivate aspiring entertainers.” – Library Journal

Gallant by  V.E. Schwab ★

Fiction / Young Adult / Fantasy / Horror.

Olivia Prior has grown up in Merilance School for girls, and all she has of her past is her mother’s journal—which seems to unravel into madness. Then, a letter invites Olivia to come home—to Gallant. Yet when Olivia arrives, no one is expecting her. But Olivia is not about to leave the first place that feels like home, it doesn’t matter if her cousin Matthew is hostile or if she sees half-formed ghouls haunting the hallways.

Olivia knows that Gallant is hiding secrets, and she is determined to uncover them. When she crosses a ruined wall at just the right moment, Olivia finds herself in a place that is Gallant—but not. The manor is crumbling, the ghouls are solid, and a mysterious figure rules over all. Now Olivia sees what has unraveled generations of her family, and where her father may have come from.

Olivia has always wanted to belong somewhere, but will she take her place as a Prior, protecting our world against the Master of the House? Or will she take her place beside him?

Description from Goodreads.

“The gripping writing and effective incorporation of horror elements, including haunting, inky artwork, are satisfyingly spine-tingling.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Evocative prose, eerie [black and white] artwork by Šumberac, and superbly rendered characters… elevate this affective, bone-chilling standalone from Schwab, which fuses Shirley Jackson’s gothic horror sensibilities with the warmth and dark whimsy of Neil Gaiman.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“This story strikes just the right balance between menace and melancholy, and the undercurrent of grief running beneath the suspense and horror brings emotional nuance and deep sympathy for each character… Schwab’s exquisite prose is rich… A surefire hit… [for] any reader looking for a dark read on a stormy night.” – Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, STARRED REVIEW

The Heights by  Louise Candlish

Fiction / Suspense / Mystery.

The Heights is a tall, slender apartment building among warehouses in London. Its roof terrace is so discreet, you wouldn’t know it existed if you weren’t standing at the window of the flat directly opposite. But you are. And that’s when you see a man up there—a man you’d recognize anywhere. He may be older now, but it’s definitely him.

But that can’t be because he’s been dead for over two years. You know this for a fact.

Because you’re the one who killed him.

Description from Goodreads.

“[M]esmerizing… This cleverly constructed novel will keep readers enthralled until the last page.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Dark, disturbing, and deeply affecting, this humdinger of a story is full of unexpected twists and is sure to keep readers riveted from first page to last.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness by  Meghan O’Rourke

Nonfiction / Memoir / Science / Health.

A silent epidemic of chronic illnesses afflicts tens of millions of Americans: these are diseases that are poorly understood, frequently marginalized, and can go undiagnosed and unrecognized altogether. Renowned writer Meghan O’Rourke delivers a revelatory investigation into this elusive category of “invisible” illness that encompasses autoimmune diseases, post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, and now long COVID, synthesizing the personal and the universal to help all of us through this new frontier.

Drawing on her own medical experiences as well as a decade of interviews with doctors, patients, researchers, and public health experts, O’Rourke traces the history of Western definitions of illness, and reveals how inherited ideas of cause, diagnosis, and treatment have led us to ignore a host of hard-to-understand medical conditions, ones that resist easy description or simple cures. And as America faces this health crisis of extraordinary proportions, the populations most likely to be neglected by our institutions include women, the working class, and people of color.

Blending lyricism and erudition, candor and empathy, O’Rourke brings together her deep and disparate talents and roles as critic, journalist, poet, teacher, and patient, synthesizing the personal and universal into one monumental project arguing for a seismic shift in our approach to disease. The Invisible Kingdom offers hope for the sick, solace and insight for their loved ones, and a radical new understanding of our bodies and our health.

Description from Goodreads.

“Meghan O’Rourke’s book is a searing and thoroughly researched exploration of the pain and confusion that many [chronic illness sufferers] go through in their quest to have their health issues taken seriously by the medical establishment—and, often, the world at large.” – Vogue

“[A] personal and deeply moving exploration of life with chronic illness… [The Invisible Kingdom] may serve as an affirmation that people living with chronic illness are not alone… both moving and educational.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“A call to arms in the fight for compassionate healthcare… The Invisible Kingdom is a medical detective story with the drama and style of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. O’Rourke’s book has ignited a necessary conversation, proving the pen to be as mighty as the stethoscope.” – Oprah Daily

I Was Better Last Night: A Memoir by  Harvey Fierstein

Nonfiction / memoir / comedy / Theater.

Harvey Fierstein’s legendary career has transported him from community theater in Brooklyn, to the lights of Broadway, to the absurd excesses of Hollywood and back. He’s received accolades and awards for acting in and/or writing an incredible string of hit plays, films, and TV shows: Hairspray, Fiddler on the Roof, Mrs. Doubtfire, Independence Day, Cheers, La Cage Aux Folles, Torch Song Trilogy, Newsies, and Kinky Boots. While he has never shied away from the spotlight, Mr. Fierstein says that even those closest to him have never heard most of the tales–of personal struggles and conflict, of sex and romance, of his fabled career–revealed in these wildly entertaining pages.

I Was Better Last Night bares the inner life of this eccentric nonconforming child from his roots in 1952 Brooklyn, to the experimental worlds of Andy Warhol and the Theatre of the Ridiculous, to the gay rights movements of the seventies and the tumultuous AIDS crisis of the eighties, through decades of addiction, despair, and ultimate triumph.

Mr. Fierstein’s candid recollections provide a rich window into downtown New York City life, gay culture, and the evolution of theater (of which he has been a defining figure), as well as a moving account of his family’s journey of acceptance. I Was Better Last Night is filled with wisdom gained, mistakes made, and stories that come together to describe an astonishingly colorful and meaningful life. Lucky for us all, his unique and recognizable voice is as engaging, outrageously funny, and vulnerable on the page.

Description from Goodreads.

“Defined by a campy yet bittersweet comic sensibility, Fierstein’s vivid writing about the pratfalls, exhilaration, and painstaking craft of a life in theater beguiles.” – Publishers Weekly

“Despite Fierstein’s somberness when appropriate, he also excels at showcasing his quick wit. Interspersed with his creative and artistic journeys are hilarious stories of his encounters with celebrities… It all adds up to an encapsulation of Fierstein’s philosophy that there is ‘no such thing as having lived too much.’ A poignant, clever, and entertaining look at an impressive, unique career.” – Kirkus Reviews

“His memoir is filled with evocative characters and scenes, and his wit and way with dialogue shine… Written with verve and enthusiasm, Fierstein’s memoir will be a must-read for his fans and for theater lovers and anyone who appreciates pop culture.” – Library Journal

The Letter from Briarton Park by  Sarah E. Ladd

Fiction / Historical Fiction / Romance / Mystery.

Cassandra Hale grew up knowing little about her parentage, and she had made peace with the fact that she never would. But Cassandra’s world shifts when a shocking deathbed confession reveals a two-year-old letter from Mr. Clark, the master of Briarton Park, with hints to her family’s identity. Stung by betrayal, she travels to the village of Anston only to learn Mr. Clark has since passed away.

James Warrington is a widower and the new master of Briarton Park, where he lives with his two young daughters, his sister, and his mother-in-law. When Cassandra appears at his doorstep with a letter from the previous owner and then proceeds to assist his family in an unexpected way, he is honor bound to help uncover the answers she seeks.

The more time Cassandra spends in Anston, the more she begins to suspect not everything—or everyone—is as they seem. As details emerge, the danger surrounding her intensifies. Using wit and intuition, she must navigate the treacherous landscapes between truth and rumor and between loyalty and deception if she is to uncover the realities of her past and find the place her heart can finally call home.

Sarah Ladd’s latest Regency romance, first in the new Houses of Yorkshire series, combines mystery and intrigue with the best of historical storytelling.

Description from Goodreads.

“…captivating… Ladd balances mystery and romance to create a light but satisfying story. Readers will look forward to the next in the series.” – Publishers Weekly

The Letter from Briarton Park is a beautifully written tale of ever-building suspense, daring rescues, and subtle romance. These three themes are interwoven throughout this story, and each balances the other to make for an enthralling read.” – Austenprose

The Love of My Life by  Rosie Walsh

Fiction / Mystery / Suspense / Romance.

Emma was quite certain she’d never fall in love again. But then she met an obituary writer, Leo, and within months, they were engaged. Seven years later came Ruby, their daughter, and then John Keats, their rescue dog. Now Emma, a marine biologist, has her perfect little ecosystem. They are happy, crammed into the tiny house her grandmother left her.

Leo was adopted as a baby, and this noisy, joyous little family is the first place he has ever felt he belongs. In fact, everything would be just perfect if Emma was who she said she was. If Emma was even her real name…

Because of Emma’s preeminence in her field, Leo is asked to write his own wife’s obituary while she is still alive. That’s when he finds that the woman he thinks he knows doesn’t really exist. As Leo starts to unravel the truth about the stranger in his bed, Emma’s old life breaks out of the carefully cultivated shell she created, threatening to wash away everything she has worked so hard to build.

When the very darkest moments of Emma’s past finally emerge, she must somehow prove to Leo that she really is the woman he always thought she was.

But first, she must tell him about the love of her other life.

Description from Goodreads.

“Walsh masterfully shows both [protagonists’] points of view while maintaining an intoxicating air of mystery… a propulsive thriller with heart that will keep readers guessing.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] heartbreaking thriller… [that] explores the complexity of secrets in marriages… Walsh cleverly integrates twists that not even jaded readers will be able to predict… that builds to an emotionally raw yet satisfying conclusion. Walsh is a writer to watch.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

The Night Shift by  Alex Finlay

Fiction / Supense / mystery.

It’s New Year’s Eve 1999. Y2K is expected to end in chaos: planes falling from the sky, elevators plunging to earth, world markets collapsing. A digital apocalypse. None of that happens. But at a Blockbuster Video in Linden, New Jersey, four teenage girls working the night shift are attacked. Only one survives. Police quickly identify a suspect who flees and is never seen again.

Fifteen years later, in the same town, four teenage employees working late at an ice cream store are attacked, and again only one makes it out alive.

Both surviving victims recall the killer speaking only a few final words… “Goodnight, pretty girl.”

In the aftermath, three lives intersect: the survivor of the Blockbuster massacre who’s forced to relive her tragedy; the brother of the original suspect, who’s convinced the police have it wrong; and the FBI agent, who’s determined to solve both cases. On a collision course toward the truth, all three lives will forever be changed, and not everyone will make it out alive.

Twisty, poignant, and redemptive, The Night Shift is a story about the legacy of trauma and how the broken can come out on the other side, and it solidifies Alex Finlay as one of the new leading voices in the world of thrillers.

Description from Goodreads.

“[Finlay] has outdone himself with this latest… [He] grabs readers from the very first line and keeps them propulsively turning pages with absolutely thrilling cliffhangers.” – Newsweek

“Finlay does a fine job weaving the tangled lives and crimes together in a suspenseful tale… Thriller fans will eagerly await Finlay’s next.” – Publishers Weekly

One Italian Summer by  Rebecca Serle ★


When Katy’s mother dies, she is left reeling. Carol wasn’t just Katy’s mom, but her best friend and first phone call. She had all the answers and now, when Katy needs her the most, she is gone. To make matters worse, their planned mother-daughter trip of a lifetime looms: two weeks in Positano, the magical town where Carol spent the summer right before she met Katy’s father. Katy has been waiting years for Carol to take her, and now she is faced with embarking on the adventure alone.

But as soon as she steps foot on the Amalfi Coast, Katy begins to feel her mother’s spirit. Buoyed by the stunning waters, beautiful cliffsides, delightful residents, and, of course, delectable food, Katy feels herself coming back to life.

And then Carol appears—in the flesh, healthy, sun-tanned, and thirty years old. Katy doesn’t understand what is happening, or how—all she can focus on is that she has somehow, impossibly, gotten her mother back. Over the course of one Italian summer, Katy gets to know Carol, not as her mother, but as the young woman before her. She is not exactly who Katy imagined she might be, however, and soon Katy must reconcile the mother who knew everything with the young woman who does not yet have a clue.

Description from Goodreads.

“Poignant and ultimately uplifting. The mouthwatering descriptions of Katy’s food and the lush Italian coast bring a strong, atmospheric sense of place. Recommend to fans of Helen Fisher’s Faye, Faraway and those who enjoy being transported to other countries through fiction.” – Booklist

“A touching story… the mother-daughter bond is made palpable through Katy’s grief and desire for connection.” – Publishers Weekly

“Going down as easy as a limoncello on a hot summer’s day, this daydream of a story affirms what it means to love and be loved. An enchanting book for the last cold days of winter, but also suggest it to readers come summer.” – Library Journal

Run Towards the Danger: Confrontations with a Body of Memory by  Sarah Polley ★

Nonfiction / Memoir.

These are the most dangerous stories of my life. The ones I have avoided, the ones I haven’t told, the ones that have kept me awake on countless nights. As these stories found echoes in my adult life, and then went another, better way than they did in childhood, they became lighter and easier to carry.

Sarah Polley’s work as an actor, screenwriter, and director is celebrated for its honesty, complexity, and deep humanity. She brings all those qualities, along with her exquisite storytelling chops, to these six essays. Each one captures a piece of Polley’s life as she remembers it, while at the same time examining the fallibility of memory, the mutability of reality in the mind, and the possibility of experiencing the past anew, as the person she is now but was not then. As Polley writes, the past and present are in a “reciprocal pressure dance.”

Polley contemplates stories from her own life ranging from stage fright to high-risk childbirth to endangerment and more. After struggling with the aftermath of a concussion, Polley met a specialist who gave her wholly new advice: to recover from a traumatic injury, she had to retrain her mind to strength by charging towards the very activities that triggered her symptoms. With riveting clarity, she shows the power of applying that same advice to other areas of her life in order to find a path forward, a way through. Rather than live in a protective crouch, she had to run towards the danger.

In this extraordinary book, Polley explores what it is to live in one’s body, in a constant state of becoming, learning, and changing.

Description from Goodreads.

“A visceral and incisive collection of six propulsive personal essays.” – Vanity Fair

“The little girl who carried the weight of Hollywood movie budgets and theater actors’ salaries on her shoulders is now a grown woman whose stolen childhood has made her at once a stunningly sophisticated observer of the world and an imperfect witness to the truth. Her willingness to embrace such paradoxes, in this book as well as in her films, is the mark of a real artist.” – New York Times

“Sarah Polley has embodied what feels like multiple lives. She’s been Canada’s sweetheart, a teen activist, an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, a documentarian, a filmmaker, and a TV director. It’s no wonder her diverse body of work tends to center on protagonists whose identities are shifting and morphing under the weight of an unexamined past and a tense present. In this essay collection, Polley projects that recurring question of memory on pivotal moments in her own life for a book that [is] more vulnerable and introspective than your usual child-star-turned-adult narrative.” – The AV Club

Scattered All Over the Earth by  Yoko Tawada, translated by  Margaret Mitsutani


Welcome to the not-too-distant future: Japan, having vanished from the face of the earth, is now remembered as “the land of sushi.” Hiruko, its former citizen and a climate refugee herself, has a job teaching immigrant children in Denmark with her invented language Panska (Pan-Scandinavian): “homemade language. no country to stay in. three countries I experienced. insufficient space in brain. so made new language. homemade language.”

As she searches for anyone who can still speak her mother tongue, Hiruko soon makes new friends. Her troupe travels to France, encountering an umami cooking competition; a dead whale; an ultra-nationalist named Breivik; unrequited love; Kakuzo robots; red herrings; uranium; an Andalusian matador. Episodic and mesmerizing scenes flash vividly along, and soon they’re all next off to Stockholm.

With its intrepid band of companions, Scattered All Over the Earth (the first novel of a trilogy) may bring to mind Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or a surreal Wind in the Willows, but really is just another sui generis Yoko Tawada masterwork.

Description from Goodreads.

“Tawada’s strange, exquisite book toys with ideas of language, identity, and what it means to own someone else’s story or one’s own.” – The New Yorker

“Wonderful―what is truly affecting is Tawada’s language, which jumps off the page and practically sings.” – NPR

“Threats abound―a changing climate, terrorism, and hostile political structures create danger and uncertainty―but these characters carry within themselves the seeds of a possible new world. Yoko Tawada’s Scattered All Over the Earth is a cheerful dystopian novel that celebrates inventiveness, possibilities, and human connections.” – Foreword Reviews

Sundial by  Catriona Ward

Fiction / Horror / Suspense.

You can’t escape what’s in your blood…

All Rob wanted was a normal life. She almost got it, too: a husband, two kids, a nice house in the suburbs. But Rob fears for her oldest daughter, Callie, who collects tiny bones and whispers to imaginary friends. Rob sees a darkness in Callie, one that reminds her too much of the family she left behind.

She decides to take Callie back to her childhood home, to Sundial, deep in the Mojave Desert. And there she will have to make a terrible choice.

Callie is worried about her mother. Rob has begun to look at her strangely, and speaks of past secrets. And Callie fears that only one of them will leave Sundial alive…

The mother and daughter embark on a dark, desert journey to the past in the hopes of redeeming their future.

Description from Goodreads.

“Masterful… [A] must-read for fans of gothic literature and taut psychological thrillers.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Tell Me an Ending by  Jo Harkin

Fiction / Science Fiction / Suspense.

What if you once had a painful memory removed? And what if you were offered the chance to get it back?

Tell Me an Ending follows four characters grappling with the question of what to remember—and what they hoped to forget forever.

Finn, an Irish architect living in the Arizona desert, begins to suspect his charming wife of having an affair.

Mei, a troubled grad school drop-out in Kuala Lumpur, wonders why she remembers a city she’s never visited.

William, a former police inspector in England, struggles with PTSD, the breakdown of his marriage, and his own secret family history.

Oscar, a handsome young man with almost no memories at all, travels the world in a constant state of fear.

Into these characters lives comes Noor, an emotionally closed-off psychologist at the memory removal clinic in London, who begins to suspect her glamorous boss Louise of serious wrongdoing.

Description from Goodreads.

“As thought-provoking as it is suspenseful.” – CrimeReads

“Thrilling… Harkin masterfully probes her characters, questioning whether deleted memories translate into altered narratives that fundamentally transform who a person is.” – Shelf Awareness

“This high-concept debut asks an interesting question: What if we could edit our memories?… Harkin builds a picture of a world radically altered by a controversial technology and of people who are learning that you can’t change the past without impacting the present. An intellectually and emotionally satisfying thriller.” – Booklist

What It Took to Win: A History of the Democratic Party by  Michael Kazin

Nonfiction / History / Politics.

The Democratic Party is the world’s oldest mass political organization. Since its inception in the early nineteenth century, it has played a central role in defining American society, whether it was exercising power or contesting it. But what has the party stood for through the centuries, and how has it managed to succeed in elections and govern?

In What It Took to Win, the eminent historian Michael Kazin identifies and assesses the party’s long-running commitment to creating “moral capitalism”–a system that mixed entrepreneurial freedom with the welfare of workers and consumers. And yet the same party that championed the rights of the white working man also vigorously protected or advanced the causes of slavery, segregation, and Indian removal. As the party evolved towards a more inclusive egalitarian vision, it won durable victories for Americans of all backgrounds. But it also struggled to hold together a majority coalition and advance a persuasive agenda for the use of government.

Kazin traces the party’s fortunes through vivid character sketches of its key thinkers and doers, from Martin Van Buren and William Jennings Bryan to the financier August Belmont and reformers such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Sidney Hillman, and Jesse Jackson. He also explores the records of presidents from Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson to Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Throughout, Kazin reveals the rich interplay of personality, belief, strategy, and policy that define the life of the party–and outlines the core components of a political endeavor that may allow President Biden and his co-partisans to renew the American experiment.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] very fine new history of the Democrats… Nuanced… What It Took to Win is a rich but accessible book.” – The New Republic

“A lively, timely survey… [Kazin’s] chapter on New York politics and Tammany Hall is brilliant… This should be today’s go-to book on its subject.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Kazin delivers a wonderfully detailed record of the Democratic Party, from its beginnings to the present… Kazin’s account is an unvarnished and illuminating look at the past and potential future of a political party that endures.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW


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