Best New Books: Week of 3/8/22

“I’m not going to limit myself just because people won’t accept the fact that I can do something else.” – Dolly Parton

Booth by  Karen Joy Fowler ★

Fiction / Historical Fiction.

In 1822, a secret family moves into a secret cabin some thirty miles northeast of Baltimore, to farm, to hide, and to bear ten children over the course of the next sixteen years. Junius Booth–breadwinner, celebrated Shakespearean actor, and master of the house in more ways than one–is at once a mesmerizing talent and a man of terrifying instability. One by one the children arrive, as year by year, the country draws frighteningly closer to the boiling point of secession and civil war.

As the tenor of the world shifts, the Booths emerge from their hidden lives to cement their place as one of the country’s leading theatrical families. But behind the curtains of the many stages they have graced, multiple scandals, family triumphs, and criminal disasters begin to take their toll, and the solemn siblings of John Wilkes Booth are left to reckon with the truth behind the destructively specious promise of an early prophecy.

Booth is a startling portrait of a country in the throes of change and a vivid exploration of the ties that make, and break, a family.

Description from Goodreads.

Booth is a sad, astonishing, and beautifully written look at a complicated, secretive family that failed to save one of their own from himself. Highly recommended.” – Historical Novels Review

“The historical context [Fowler] offers is of a pre–Civil War America of deep moral divides, political differences tearing close families apart, populism and fanaticism run amok. The similarities to today are riveting and chilling.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Razor-sharp… Fowler sets the stage in remarkable prose… The nuanced plot is both historically rigorous and richly imagined. This is a winner.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Like the very best historical novels, Booth is a literary feast, offering much more than a riveting story and richly drawn characters. It offers a wealth of commentary about not only our past but also where we are today, and where we may be headed.” – BookPage, STARRED REVIEW

Glory by  NoViolet Bulawayo ★


Glory centers around the unexpected fall of Old Horse, a long-serving leader of a fictional country, and the drama that follows for a rumbustious nation of animals on the path to true liberation. Inspired by the unexpected fall by coup, in November 2017, of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s president of nearly four decades, Bulawayo’s bold, vividly imagined novel shows a country imploding, narrated by a chorus of animal voices who unveil the ruthlessness and cold strategy required to uphold the illusion of absolute power, and the imagination and bullet-proof optimism to overthrow it completely.

As with her debut novel We Need New Names, Bulawayo’s fierce voice and lucid imagery immerses us in the daily life of a traumatized nation, revealing the dazzling life force and irrepressible wit that lies barely concealed beneath the surface of seemingly bleak circumstances. At the center of this tumult is Destiny, who has returned to Jidada from exile to bear witness to revolution–and focus on the unofficial history and the potential legacy of the women who have quietly pulled the strings in this country.

The animal kingdom–its connection to our primal responses and resonance in the mythology, folktales, and fairytales that define cultures the world over–unmasks the surreality of contemporary global politics to help us understand our world more clearly, even as Bulwayo plucks us right out of it. Glory is a blockbuster, an exhilarating ride, and crystalizes a turning point in history with the texture and nuance that only the greatest of fiction can.

Description from Goodreads.

“Manifoldly clever… brilliant… This is not Animal Farm. Not its remix, nor its translation. Glory is its own vivid world, drawn from its own folklore. This is a satire with sharper teeth, angrier, and also very, very funny.” – New York Times

“Few writers possess a literary voice as inimitable as Bulawayo’s… [The] dazzling voices of this novel will draw you deep into its ambitious and mystifying heart.” – Vulture

Glory is like nothing we’ve read before. It’s a strange, creative, experimental book that will take the reading world by storm, a satire grounded in hope.” – BookRiot

“Throughout, Bulawayo keenly displays the perspectives of political players and the civilians who bear the brunt of their violence. With satire that feels necessary and urgent, Bulawayo brings clarity to a murky political morass.” – Publishers Weekly

(Coming Soon)

The Golden Couple by  Greer Hendricks &  Sarah Pekkanen

Fiction / Suspense / Mystery.

If Avery Chambers can’t fix you in 10 sessions, she won’t take you on as a client. Her successes are phenomenal–she helps people overcome everything from domineering parents to assault–and almost absorb the emptiness she sometimes feels since her husband’s death.

Marissa and Mathew Bishop seem like the golden couple–until Marissa cheats. She wants to repair things, both because she loves her husband and for the sake of their 8-year-old son. After a friend forwards an article about Avery, Marissa takes a chance on this maverick therapist, who lost her license due to controversial methods.

When the Bishops glide through Avery’s door and Marissa reveals her infidelity, all three are set on a collision course. Because the biggest secrets in the room are still hidden, and it’s no longer simply a marriage that’s in danger.

Description from Goodreads.

“…suspenseful… the authors keep the pages turning. This one represents a return toward the high standard of their early nail-biters.” – Publishers Weekly

“…engrossing [and] dramatic…” – Crossing the Pond

“Fans of Gone Girl and Woman on the Train will enjoy the surprises, unreliable witnesses, and slow reveals in this thriller.” – Library Journal

In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss by  Amy Bloom

Nonfiction / Memoir.

Amy Bloom began to notice changes in her husband, Brian: He retired early from a new job he loved; he withdrew from close friendships; he talked mostly about the past. Suddenly, it seemed there was a glass wall between them, and their long walks and talks stopped. Their world was altered forever when an MRI confirmed what they could no longer ignore: Brian had Alzheimer’s disease.

Forced to confront the truth of the diagnosis and its impact on the future he had envisioned, Brian was determined to die on his feet, not live on his knees. Supporting each other in their last journey together, Brian and Amy made the unimaginably difficult and painful decision to go to Dignitas, an organization based in Switzerland that empowers a person to end their own life with dignity and peace.

In this heartbreaking and surprising memoir, Bloom sheds light on a part of life we so often shy away from discussing–its ending. Written in Bloom’s captivating, insightful voice and with her trademark wit and candor, In Love is an unforgettable portrait of a beautiful marriage, and a boundary-defying love.

Description from Goodreads.

“A stunning portrayal of how love can reveal itself in life’s most difficult moments.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“This shimmering love story and road map is must-read testimony… You will never forget this book, and if you do, let’s hope someone close to you remembers.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“With candor and compassion, In Love will challenge the way you think about this controversial and heart-wrenching dilemma that many have no choice but to confront.” – Amazon Editors

(Coming Soon)

The Last Confessions of Sylvia P. by  Lee Kravetz

Fiction / Historical Fiction / Mystery.

A seductive literary mystery and mutigenerational story inspired by true events, The Last Confessions of Sylvia P. imaginatively brings into focus the period of promise and tragedy that marked the writing of Sylvia Plath’s modern classic The Bell Jar. Lee Kravetz uses a prismatic narrative formed from three distinct fictional perspectives to bring Plath to life–that of her psychiatrist, a rival poet, and years later, a curator of antiquities.

Estee, a seasoned curator for a small Massachusetts auction house, makes an astonishing find: the original manuscript of Sylvia Plath’s semi-autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, written by hand in her journals fifty-five years earlier. Vetting the document, Estee will discover she’s connected to Plath’s legacy in an unexpected way.

Plath’s psychiatrist, Dr. Ruth Barnhouse, treats Plath during the dark days she spends at McLean Hospital following a suicide attempt, and eventually helps set the talented poet and writer on a path toward literary greatness.

Poet Boston Rhodes, a malicious literary rival, pushes Path to write about her experiences at McLean, tipping her into a fatal spiral of madness and ultimately forging her legacy.

Like Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife, and Theresa Anne Fowler’s Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, The Last Confessions of Sylvia P. bridges fact and fiction to imagine the life of a revered writer. Suspenseful and beautifully written, Kravetz’s masterful literary novel is a hugely appealing read.

Description from Goodreads.

“Kravetz’s debut novel is a compelling literary mystery that explores the creation of poet Sylvia Plath’s only novel… Writing about real literary figures can be tricky, especially if their descendants are still living, but the author brings his characters, both imagined and historical, to life with sensitivity.” – Kirkus Reviews

“An engrossing fiction debut… Kravetz brings both authority and empathy to his depictions of mental illness. He also reveals himself to be a fine novelist.” – Publishers Weekly

“…engaging… Kravetz makes good use of history’s rich material to spin a captivating story about some of the art world’s most notorious writers and thinkers.” – San Francisco Chronicle

The Lightning Rod by  Brad Meltzer

Fiction / Mystery / Suspense.

Archie Mint has led a charmed life–he’s got a beautiful wife, two impressive kids, and a successful military career. When he’s killed while trying to stop a robbery in his own home, his family is shattered–and then shocked when the other shoe drops. Mint’s charmed life, so perfect on the surface, held criminal secrets none of them could have imagined.

While working on Mint’s body before his funeral, mortician “Zig” Zigarowski discovers something he was never meant to see. That telling detail leads him to Dover Air Force Base, where he uncovers Mint’s involvement in a top-secret military unit and his connection to military artist and Sergeant First Class Nola Brown. Two years ago, Nola saved Zig’s life–so he knows better than most that she’s as volatile and dangerous as a bolt of lightning.

Everyone wants to talk to Nola, but she’s not cooperating–and indeed doesn’t want to be found. In order to track her down, Zig teams with Nola’s long missing brother, who’s just as combustible as she is. As they follow Nola’s trail, they discover one of the U.S. government’s most intensely guarded secrets–an undisclosed military facility that dates back to the Cold War and holds the key to something far more sinister: a hidden group willing to compromise the very safety and security of America itself.

Trouble always finds her…

She’s the lightning rod.

Description from Goodreads.

“Meltzer likes his conspiracy stories, and he puts a lot of work into them, but he seems to love his characters just as much. Zig and Nola are two of his strongest characters, and it feels like there are plenty more stories to be told about them.” – Booklist

“[An] exciting sequel… Meltzer makes his leads emotionally plausible. One hopes Zig and Nola will be back soon.” – Publishers Weekly

The Old Woman with the Knife by  Gu Byeong-Mo, translated by  Chi-Young Kim

Fiction / Suspense.

At sixty-five, Hornclaw is beginning to slow down. She lives modestly in a small apartment, with only her aging dog, a rescue named Deadweight, to keep her company. There are expectations for people her age–that she’ll retire and live out the rest of her days quietly. But Hornclaw is not like other people. She is an assassin.

Double-crossers, corporate enemies, cheating spouses–for the past four decades, Hornclaw has killed them all with ruthless efficiency, and the less she’s known about her targets, the better. But now, nearing the end of her career, she has just slipped up. An injury leads her to an unexpected connection with a doctor and his family. But emotions, for an assassin, are a dangerous proposition. As Hornclaw’s world closes in, this final chapter in her career may also mark her own bloody end.

A sensation in South Korea, and now translated into English for the first time by Chi-Young Kim, The Old Woman with the Knife is an electrifying, singular, mordantly funny novel about the expectations imposed on aging bodies and the dramatic ways in which one woman chooses to reclaim her agency.

Description from Goodreads.

“Darkly funny, this South Korean novel examines the universal challenge of aging while maintaining societal relevance.” – Washington Post

“Skillfully rendered… a thriller with heart.” – Kirkus Reviews

“This startling work upends every stereotype of old ladies and killers… unforgettable.” – First Clue

(Print Copy Coming Soon)

Read Dangerously: The Subversive Power of Literature in Troubled Times by  Azar Nafisi

Nonfiction / Literature / Politics.

What is the role of literature in an era when the president wages war on writers and the press? What is the connection between political strife in our daily lives, and the way we meet our enemies on the page in fiction? How can literature, through its free exchange, affect politics?

In this galvanizing guide to resistance literature, Nafisi seeks to answer these questions. Drawing on her experiences as a woman and voracious reader living in the Islamic Republic of Iran, her life as an immigrant in the United States, and her role as literature professor in both countries, she crafts an argument for why, in a genuine democracy, we must engage with the enemy, and how literature can be a vehicle for doing so.

Structured as a series of letters to her father, Baba, who taught her as a child about how literature can rescue us in times of trauma, Nafisi explores the most probing questions of our time through the works of Toni Morrison, Salman Rushdie, James Baldwin, Margaret Atwood, and more.

Description from Goodreads.

“An erudite, accessible and inspiring book.” – The Southern Bookseller Review

“[A] stunning look at the power of reading… Nafisi’s prose is razor-sharp, and her analysis lands on a hopeful note… This excellent collection provokes and inspires at every turn.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“A contemporary treatise on oppression wherever it exists, Read Dangerously raises Nafisi to new heights… Illuminate[s] the lessons of literature at a time when the state of the world seems bleak… A political writer’s brilliant attempt to understand historical and political events, as well as human nature.” – New York Journal of Books

Run, Rose, Run by  Dolly Parton &  James Patterson

Fiction / Suspense / Mystery.

Every song tells a story.
She’s a star on the rise, singing about the hard life behind her.
She’s also on the run. Find a future, lose a past.

Nashville is where she’s come to claim her destiny. It’s also where the darkness she’s fled might find her. And destroy her.

Run, Rose, Run is a novel glittering with danger and desire—a story that only America’s #1 most beloved entertainer and its #1 bestselling author could have created.

Description from Goodreads.

“A big-hearted tale of music and perseverance from a living country legend… sheer, frankly bonkers fun…” – Reader’s Digest

“The fairy-tale characters and details of the country-music scene are so much fun…” – Kirkus Reviews

“…one of those books that plays on your mind all day if you have to put it down, wondering what will happen to the characters you’ve come to know and love and once you’ve finished reading, a pang of sadness washes over you that the story, the journey you’ve been on with these characters has drawn to a close.” – Maverick Country


Seeking Fortune Elsewhere: Stories by  Sindya Bhanoo


Traveling from Pittsburgh to Washington to Tamil Nadu, these astonishing stories about dislocation and dissonance see immigrants and their families confront the costs of leaving and staying, identifying sublime symmetries in lives growing apart.

In “Malliga Homes,” selected by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for an O. Henry Prize, a widow in a retirement community glimpses her future while waiting for her daughter to visit from America. In “No. 16 Model House Road,” a woman long subordinate to her husband makes a choice of her own after she inherits a house. In “Nature Exchange,” a mother grieving in the wake of a school shooting finds an unusual obsession. In “A Life in America,” a professor finds himself accused of having exploited his graduate students.

Sindya Bhanoo’s haunting stories show us how immigrants’ paths, and the paths of those they leave behind, are never simple. Bhanoo takes us along on their complicated journeys where regret, hope, and triumph appear in disguise.

Description from Goodreads.

“Exquisite… Bhanoo’s piercing stories further augment the growing shelves of spectacular first short story collections by women of color.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Stunning… Bhanoo transforms human drama into mystery. Graceful stories by a writer with enormous empathy for even the most flawed and forlorn among us.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“…stunning… Bhanoo finds novel ways for her protagonists to cope with adversity… This introduces a great new talent.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Truth and Other Lies by  Maggie Smith

Fiction / Suspense / Mystery.

Three women’s careers hang in the balance: a famous journalist, a fledging politician, and the young reporter with ties to each who must navigate the tricky terrain between secrets and lies.

Megan Barnes’ life is in free fall. After losing both her job as a reporter and her boyfriend in the same day, she retreats to Chicago and moves in with Helen, her over-protective mother. Before long, the two are clashing over everything from pro-choice to #MeToo, not to mention Helen’s run for US Congress which puts Megan’s career on hold until after the election.

Desperate to reboot her life, Megan gets her chance when an altercation at a campus rally brings her face to face with Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist Jocelyn Jones, who offers her a job on her PR team. Before long, Megan is pulled into the heady world of fame and glamour her charismatic new mentor represents.

Until an anonymous tweet brings it all crashing down. To salvage Jocelyn’s reputation, Megan must locate the online troll and expose the lies. But when the trail leads to blackmail, and circles back to her own mother, Megan realizes if she pulls any harder on this thread, what should have been the scoop of her career could unravel into a tabloid nightmare.

Fan of Jodi Picoult’s topical plot twists and Liane Moriarty’s character-driven novels will devour this fast-paced tale.

Description from Goodreads.

“An engaging and topical tale of politics and journalistic ethics with a feminist slant.”  – Kirkus Reviews

“The story moves at a quick pace, with shocking secrets revealed at every turn.” – Foreword Reviews

“This is a worthy read that covers a myriad of themes… a good starter point for deep conversation(s)…” – Story Circle Network

The Wok: Recipes and Techniques by  J. Kenji López-Alt

Nonfiction / Cooking.

J. Kenji López-Alt’s debut cookbook, The Food Lab, revolutionized home cooking, selling more than half a million copies with its science-based approach to everyday foods. And for fast, fresh cooking for his family, there’s one pan López-Alt reaches for more than any other: the wok.

Whether stir-frying, deep frying, steaming, simmering, or braising, the wok is the most versatile pan in the kitchen. Once you master the basics—the mechanics of a stir-fry, and how to get smoky wok hei at home—you’re ready to cook home-style and restaurant-style dishes from across Asia and the United States, including Kung Pao Chicken, Pad Thai, and San Francisco–Style Garlic Noodles. López-Alt also breaks down the science behind beloved Beef Chow Fun, fried rice, dumplings, tempura vegetables or seafood, and dashi-simmered dishes.

Featuring more than 200 recipes—including simple no-cook sides—explanations of knife skills and how to stock a pantry, and more than 1,000 color photographs, The Wok provides endless ideas for brightening up dinner.

Description from Goodreads.

“The intricacies of wok culture are brilliantly explored in this definitive offering from chef and New York Times cooking columnist López-Alt… Readers will be cooking with gas thanks to this fiery and insightful work.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Forget what you think you know about woks first, though, because you’re probably imagining specific restaurant-style wok cooking… ‘For about $40, you can have a great pan,’ [López-Alt] says. And with it, a host of great meals.” – Costco Connection

(Print Book Coming Soon)

The World Cannot Give by  Tara Isabella Burton ★

Fiction / Suspense.

When shy, sensitive Laura Stearns arrives at St. Dunstan’s Academy in Maine, she dreams that life there will echo her favorite novel, All Before Them, the sole surviving piece of writing by Byronic “prep school prophet” (and St. Dunstan’s alum) Sebastian Webster, who died at nineteen, fighting in the Spanish Civil War. She soon finds the intensity she is looking for among the insular, Webster-worshipping members of the school’s chapel choir, which is presided over by the charismatic, neurotic, overachiever Virginia Strauss. Virginia is as fanatical about her newfound Christian faith as she is about the miles she runs every morning before dawn. She expects nothing short of perfection from herself—and from the members of the choir.

Virginia inducts the besotted Laura into a world of transcendent music and arcane ritual, illicit cliff-diving and midnight crypt visits: a world that, like Webster’s novels, finally seems to Laura to be full of meaning. But when a new school chaplain challenges Virginia’s hold on the “family” she has created, and Virginia’s efforts to wield her power become increasingly dangerous, Laura must decide how far she will let her devotion to Virginia go.

The World Cannot Give is a shocking meditation on the power, and danger, of wanting more from the world.

Description from Goodreads.

“Equal parts dangerous and delicious…” – Entertainment Weekly

“Burton’s second novel is just as deliciously involving as her debut Social Creature, but makes rather better use of her doctorate in theology and ongoing religious scholarship… It’s a book about the nature of and limits of fervor, religious, sexual, and otherwise, and a spellbinding coming of age story that—despite being set in the Instagram-laden present—feels somehow plucked out of time.” – Crimereads

“A defiantly distinct meditation on power, desire, and the search for self. Events unfold from Laura’s perspective via an increasingly breathless third-person-present narrative, conferring voyeuristic intimacy. Deftly drawn, deeply insecure characters complement the melodramatic plot, which crescendos to a devastating close.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Burton writes with a heart-stopping understanding of the micro-dynamics among adolescents still uncentered at their cores. The insular campus setting and small scenes in crypts, libraries, and dorm rooms that contain big emotions and powerful dialogue will make readers cringe at what they can see coming.” – Booklist

(Coming Soon)


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