Best New Books: Week of 9/13/22

“A second chance doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. In many ways, it is the more difficult thing. Because a second chance means that you have to try harder. You must rise to the challenge without the blind optimism of ignorance.” – Ling Ma, Severance

Act of Oblivion by  Robert Harris

Fiction / Historical Fiction / Suspense.

act of oblivion‘From what is it they flee?’

He took a while to reply. By the time he spoke the men had gone inside. He said quietly, “They killed the King.”

1660 England. General Edward Whalley and his son-in law Colonel William Goffe board a ship bound for the New World. They are on the run, wanted for the murder of King Charles I–a brazen execution that marked the culmination of the English Civil War, in which parliamentarians successfully battled royalists for control.

But now, ten years after Charles’ beheading, the royalists have returned to power. Under the provisions of the Act of Oblivion, the fifty-nine men who signed the king’s death warrant and participated in his execution have been found guilty in absentia of high treason. Some of the Roundheads, including Oliver Cromwell, are already dead. Others have been captured, hung, drawn, and quartered. A few are imprisoned for life. But two have escaped to America by boat.

In London, Richard Nayler, secretary of the regicide committee of the Privy Council, is charged with bringing the traitors to justice and he will stop at nothing to find them. A substantial bounty hangs over their heads for their capture–dead or alive…

Robert Harris’s first historical novel set predominantly in America, Act of Oblivion is a novel with an urgent narrative, remarkable characters, and an epic true story to tell of religion, vengeance, and power–and the costs to those who wield it.

Act of Oblivion is a belter of a thriller. It will be compulsive reading for those who loved An Officer and a Spy, Harris’s book about the Dreyfus affair. Like that novel, the research is immaculate. A chewy, morally murky slice of history is made into a thriller that twists and surprises. The characters are strong and we care about their predicament. The story stretches over continents and years, but the suspense feels as taut as if the three main characters were locked in a room with a gun.” – The Times

“Gripping… Thoroughly enjoyable… [This] deeply researched story is the author’s brilliant reimagining of real historical events, with sympathetic characters and a compelling plot.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Harris again turns a historical event into a canny page-turner… Harris humanizes the hunter and the hunted, and brings to life an obscure chapter in colonial American history. This further burnishes Harris’s reputation as a talented author of historical suspense.” – Publishers Weekly

Alive at the End of the World: Poems by  Saeed Jones

Nonfiction / Poetry.

Alive at the End of the WorldIn haunted poems glinting with laughter, Saeed Jones explores the public and private betrayals of life as we know it. With verve, wit, and elegant craft, Jones strips away American artifice in order to reveal the intimate grief of a mourning son and the collective grief bearing down on all of us.

Drawing from memoir, fiction, and persona, Jones confronts the everyday perils of white supremacy with a finely tuned poetic ear, identifying moments that seem routine even as they open chasms of hurt. Viewing himself as an unreliable narrator, Jones looks outward to understand what’s within, bringing forth cultural icons like Little Richard, Paul Mooney, Aretha Franklin and Diahann Carroll to illuminate how long and how perilously we’ve been living on top of fault lines. As these poems seek ways to love and survive through America’s existential threats, Jones ushers his readers toward the realization that the end of the world is already here—and the apocalypse is a state of being.

“Jones’s latest is yet another masterly work, though sung in a distinctly different tenor… [His] most free-flowing work yet, a centripetal collection where rage and pain and weariness swirl and coalesce with stunning emotional and conceptual clarity, yet so intimate it feels bled from the author’s very veins.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Jones unravels and reconfigures language like he’s untying a knot, then rethreads the strands in a delicate new construction… Jones writes in the space between wreckage and resilience. He offers a calibrated reckoning with his own grief, cradled in ambiguity―and we wait, holding our breath, to see what is tendered next.” – The New Yorker

“The potent latest from Jones excoriates an American present that refuses to learn from its past or correct for a possibly disastrous future. A kaleidoscope of grief and anger mixes with the poet’s wit, giving these timely poems a striking directness… Balancing elegy with gallows humor, this penetrating collection shows Jones at his poetic best.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Always the First to Die by  R.J. Jacobs

Fiction / suspense / Mystery / Horror.

always the first to dieAfter her husband’s death, Lexi has refused to return to the Pinecrest Estate on the Florida Keys, too many hard memories on that strip of land. Memories of meeting her husband on the set of an iconic horror movie. Of being cast as an extra, of watching herself get killed on screen. And of scoffing at the rumors of the Pinecrest Estate “curse,” until she witnessed a cast member die that very summer. But when her daughter sneaks away to visit her grandfather, legendary horror movie director Rick Plummer, Lexi is forced to face her past. That’s when a Category Four hurricane changes course and hits the southern coast.

Unable to get through to her daughter, Lexi drives to the Keys in the wake of the storm. What she finds is an island without cell service, without power, and with limited police presence. A desolate bit of land, with only a few remaining behind: the horror director, the starlet once cast as the final girl, the young teenager searching for clues of her father, the mother determined to get off the island, and… the person picking them off one-by-one.

Soon enough Lexi’s life begins to resemble Rick’s most famous horror film, and she must risk her life to save her daughter before someone, or something, destroys them all.

“[A] solid mystery… Jacobs makes good use of traditional horror tropes―things that go bump in the night, dark rooms, a creepy mansion, and no phone service―while convincingly showing Florida before and after a category-four hurricane. Horror film buffs will want to check this one out.” – Publishers Weekly

“Nothing sets up the perfect conditions for a locked room mystery like being trapped in the Florida Keys, especially if you’re there to rescue your daughter from your horror film producer father-in-law, who’s trying to repeat both the success and sacrifices of his most famous production. Also, there’s an unstable actress ready to sue the production and convinced that someone’s trying to kill her. And that husband who went missing a year back? Maybe you’re about to find out why. Fans of horror cinema will enjoy the meta-textual elements of the novel, as the characters frequently discuss not just scary movies, but the nature of fear itself. ” – CrimeReads

The Ballad of Never After by  Stephanie Garber

Fiction / Young Adult / Fantasy / Romance.

Ballad of Never AfterNot every love is meant to be.

After Jacks, the Prince of Hearts, betrays her, Evangeline Fox swears she’ll never trust him again. Now that she’s discovered her own magic, Evangeline believes she can use it to restore the chance at happily ever after that Jacks stole away.

But when a new terrifying curse is revealed, Evangeline finds herself entering into a tenuous partnership with the Prince of Hearts again. Only this time, the rules have changed. Jacks isn’t the only force Evangeline needs to be wary of. In fact, he might be the only one she can trust, despite her desire to despise him.

Instead of a love spell wreaking havoc on Evangeline’s life, a murderous spell has been cast. To break it, Evangeline and Jacks will have to do battle with old friends, new foes, and a magic that plays with heads and hearts. Evangeline has always trusted her heart, but this time she’s not sure she can…

The Ballad of Never After is an extraordinary tale delivered by a genuinely talented author.” – YA Books Central

“Nonstop adventure and multiple twists will keep fans turning pages, and the will-they-won’t-they nature of Jacks and Evangeline’s relationship will leave readers breathless… Those who have yearned to return to this world won’t be disappointed.” – School Library Journal

“Frothy descriptions, chaotic adventure, and surprisingly poignant moments of introspection come together to make The Ballad of Never After a delightful story about both literal magic and the magic of belief–in oneself and otherwise.” – MSN

Before We Were Trans: A New History of Gender by  Kit Heyam

Nonfiction / History.

before we were transToday’s narratives about trans people tend to feature individuals with stable gender identities that fit neatly into the categories of male or female. Those stories, while important, fail to account for the complex realities of many trans people’s lives.

Before We Were Trans illuminates the stories of people across the globe, from antiquity to the present, whose experiences of gender have defied binary categories. Blending historical analysis with sharp cultural criticism, trans historian and activist Kit Heyam offers a new, radically inclusive trans history, chronicling expressions of trans experience that are often overlooked, like gender-nonconforming fashion and wartime stage performance. Before We Were Trans transports us from Renaissance Venice to seventeenth-century Angola, from Edo Japan to early America, and looks to the past to uncover new horizons for possible trans futures.

“…eye-opening… highly informative… The author draws from a remarkable array of historical examples, expanding the definition of what we should consider trans history along the way… While clearly the work of a diligent historian, the text avoids feeling too dry and is a relatively accessible read… Overall, the book will fascinate anyone interested in a subject that many readers likely misunderstand. A capable, worthy demonstration of how the history of disrupting the gender binary is as long as human history itself.” – Kirkus Reviews

“…expansive and illuminating… puts a broad range of historical individuals and groups under the trans umbrella… Though some readers may disagree with Heyam’s radically inclusive approach, their desire for more gender nonconforming people to see themselves reflected in history is appealing and persuasive. This is an essential addition to trans history.” – Publishers Weekly

“…well researched… engaging… can be read as an introduction to the history of gender and how broad trans history is… history shows this isn’t some new trend as some people would like you believe.” – Readers Enjoy Authors’ Dreams

Bliss Montage: Stories by  Ling Ma ★


bliss montageWhat happens when fantasy tears through the screen of the everyday to wake us up? Could that waking be our end?

In Bliss Montage, Ling Ma brings us eight wildly different tales of people making their way through the madness and reality of our collective delusions: love and loneliness, connection and possession, friendship, motherhood, the idea of home. From a woman who lives in a house with all of her ex-boyfriends, to a toxic friendship built around a drug that makes you invisible, to an ancient ritual that might heal you of anything if you bury yourself alive, these and other scenarios reveal that the outlandish and the everyday are shockingly, deceptively, heartbreakingly similar.

“Brilliant.” – Polygon

“This delightfully strange dip back into Ma’s brain is as wonderful as you expect. It touches on what amounts to the greatest hits of human existence: friendship, love, the meaning of home and why we need each other. Read it. Just read it.” – Good Housekeeping

“Weird and wonderful, surreal and subversive, these stories prove that Ma is well on her way to a landmark career.” – Esquire

“Swift, smart short stories… As always, Ling Ma’s big, weird ideas set the stage for keen emotional insights.” – Philadelphia Inquirer

Blowback by  James Patterson &  Brenda DuBois

Fiction / Suspense.

blowbackUS President Keegan Barrett has swept into office on his success as Director of the CIA. Six months into his first term, he devises a clandestine power grab with deadly consequences.

Barrett personally orders CIA agents Liam Grey and Noa Himel to execute his plan, but their loyalties are divided. The CIA serves at the pleasure of the president, yet they’ve sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

When the threat comes directly from the Oval Office, that’s where the blowback begins.

Blowback asks us to imagine what would happen if a narcissistic psychopath were elected to the White House [and] to experience the terror of the world hanging in the balance at a moment when only a handful of determined patriots can save us… It’s pure Patterson… This is narrative stripped down to the studs… we didn’t wander in here expecting Proust. We want gee-whiz technology and bloodless mayhem. Check, check. And of course, we want to experience the terror of the world hanging in the balance at a moment when only a handful of determined patriots can save us.” – Washington Post

“James Patterson and Brendan DuBois’s team-up blends old school politics with cutthroat espionage and sociopolitical climate to give you an incredulous thriller that’s just the right amount of insane to be actually true… Blowback has the essential ingredients to match up to great political thrillers with a little bit of craziness sprinkled in there to make it a notch better.” – The Best Thriller Books

“[A] fast-moving thriller… The authors offer nothing new, but they throw in some historical anecdotes of interest, deliver tense action scenes, and tie up all the loose ends. Those who haven’t already encountered the insane president plot will have fun.” – Publishers Weekly

Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships by  Nina Totenberg

Nonfiction / Memoir / Biography / politics.

dinners with ruthFour years before Nina Totenberg was hired at NPR, where she cemented her legacy as a prizewinning reporter, and nearly twenty-two years before Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court, Nina called Ruth. A reporter for The National Observer, Nina was curious about Ruth’s legal brief, asking the Supreme Court to do something revolutionary: declare a law that discriminated “on the basis of sex” to be unconstitutional. In a time when women were fired for becoming pregnant, often could not apply for credit cards or get a mortgage in their own names, Ruth patiently explained her argument. That call launched a remarkable, nearly fifty-year friendship.

Dinners with Ruth is an extraordinary account of two women who paved the way for future generations by tearing down professional and legal barriers. It is also an intimate memoir of the power of friendships as women began to pry open career doors and transform the workplace. At the story’s heart is one, special relationship: Ruth and Nina saw each other not only through personal joys, but also illness, loss, and widowhood. During the devastating illness and eventual death of Nina’s first husband, Ruth drew her out of grief; twelve years later, Nina would reciprocate when Ruth’s beloved husband died. They shared not only a love of opera, but also of shopping, as they instinctively understood that clothes were armor for women who wanted to be taken seriously in a workplace dominated by men. During Ruth’s last year, they shared so many small dinners that Saturdays were “reserved for Ruth” in Nina’s house.

Dinners with Ruth also weaves together compelling, personal portraits of other fascinating women and men from Nina’s life, including her cherished NPR colleagues Cokie Roberts and Linda Wertheimer; her beloved husbands; her friendships with multiple Supreme Court Justices, including Lewis Powell, William Brennan, and Antonin Scalia, and Nina’s own family—her father, the legendary violinist Roman Totenberg, and her “best friends,” her sisters. Inspiring and revelatory, Dinners with Ruth is a moving story of the joy and true meaning of friendship.

“Engrossing and engaging… Totenberg’s story includes triumphs and failures, good times and bad, and a poignant account of Ginsburg’s final illnesses and death.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Readers will come away with a fuller portrait of RBG, but also a wonderful rendering of Totenberg’s friendships and perhaps a deeper appreciation for their own.” – Shelf Awareness

“…luminous… riveting… it’s Totenberg’s writing about the personal hardships they overcame together-including the death of Totenberg’s first husband, Sen. Floyd Haskell, and Ginsburg’s bouts with colon, pancreatic, and lung cancer-that imbues her narrative with emotional depth, making this portrait of friendship all the more captivating. Readers are sure to be charmed.” – Publishers Weekly

The Dragon’s Promise by  Elizabeth Lim

Fiction / Young adult / Fantasy / romance.

dragon's promisePrincess Shiori made a deathbed promise to return the dragon’s pearl to its rightful owner, but keeping that promise is more dangerous than she ever imagined.

She must journey to the kingdom of dragons, navigate political intrigue among humans and dragons alike, fend off thieves who covet the pearl for themselves and will go to any lengths to get it, all while cultivating the appearance of a perfect princess to dissuade those who would see her burned at the stake for the magic that runs in her blood.

The pearl itself is no ordinary cargo; it thrums with malevolent power, jumping to Shiori’s aid one minute, and betraying her the next—threatening to shatter her family and sever the thread of fate that binds her to her true love, Takkan. It will take every ounce of strength Shiori can muster to defend the life and the love she’s fought so hard to win.

“For readers seeking sincere romance and quests, this fulfills its promise.” – Kirkus Reviews

“As with Six Crimson Cranes, Elizabeth Lim again showcases herself as a masterful world-builder. With her eloquent yet highly accessible writing style, Lim paints her readers an image of a magnificently magical world… a fast-paced, beautifully written finale to a much-loved duology.” – Voice

“…riveting… Throughout The Dragon’s Promise, a love of family shines through. Shiori’s promise is to her departed stepmother, who she mourns and learns empathy for as the story progresses.” – Common Sense Media

Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands by  Kate Beaton

Nonfiction / Graphic Novel / Memoir / CURRENT EVENTS.

ducksBefore there was Kate Beaton, New York Times bestselling cartoonist of Hark! A Vagrant fame, there was Katie Beaton of the Cape Breton Beatons, specifically Mabou, a tight-knit seaside community where the lobster is as abundant as beaches, fiddles, and Gaelic folk songs. After university, Beaton heads out west to take advantage of Alberta’s oil rush, part of the long tradition of East Coasters who seek gainful employment elsewhere when they can’t find it in the homeland they love so much. With the singular goal of paying off her student loans, what the journey will actually cost Beaton will be far more than she anticipates.

Arriving in Fort McMurray, Beaton finds work in the lucrative camps owned and operated by the world’s largest oil companies. Being one of the few women among thousands of men, the culture shock is palpable. It does not hit home until she moves to a spartan, isolated worksite for higher pay. She encounters the harsh reality of life in the oil sands where trauma is an everyday occurrence yet never discussed. Her wounds may never heal.

Beaton’s natural cartooning prowess is on full display as she draws colossal machinery and mammoth vehicles set against a sublime Albertan backdrop of wildlife, Northern Lights, and Rocky Mountains. Her first full-length graphic narrative, Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands is an untold story of Canada: a country that prides itself on its egalitarian ethos and natural beauty while simultaneously exploiting both the riches of its land and the humanity of its people.

“Powerful and brilliant… This is easily the best graphic work I’ve read this year.” – BuzzFeed

“What makes this the kind of book that you can’t stop thinking about is the empathy with which Beaton sees the world.” – Thrillist

“Beaton creates an indelible portrait of environmental degradation, fraught interpersonal relationships among a workforce largely disconnected from home, and greedy corporations that seem only vaguely aware of the difficult work’s effect on their employees. [Ducks is] a fascinating, harrowing, unforgettable book about a place few outsiders can comprehend.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

A Girlhood: Letter to My Transgender Daughter by  Carolyn Hays


girlhoodA parent’s love letter to a daughter who has always known exactly who she is.

One ordinary day, a caseworker from the Department of Children and Families knocked on the Hays family’s door to investigate an anonymous complaint about the upbringing of their transgender child. It was this knock, this threat, that began the family’s journey out of the Bible Belt but never far from the hate and fear resting at the nation’s core.

Self-aware and intimate, A Girlhood asks us all to love better, not just for the sake of Hays’s child but for children everywhere enduring injustice and prejudice just as they begin to understand themselves. A Girlhood is a call to action, an ode to community, a plea for empathy, a hope for a better future. A Girlhood is a love letter to a child who has always known exactly who she is—and who is waiting for the rest of the world to catch up.

“Poignant… [a] clear-eyed, love-filled tale.” – Booklist

“Touching, combative, compelling… this memoir begins with the suspense of a thriller and ends with… hope.” – Vogue

“Hays here presents a different view of God—as a being of pure love that would never consider her daughter a mistake, but instead, a gift.” – Oprah Daily

How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water by  Angie Cruz ★


How Not to Drown in a Glass of WaterWrite this down: Cara Romero wants to work.

Cara Romero thought she would work at the factory of little lamps for the rest of her life. But when, in her mid-50s, she loses her job in the Great Recession, she is forced back into the job market for the first time in decades. Set up with a job counselor, Cara instead begins to narrate the story of her life. Over the course of twelve sessions, Cara recounts her tempestuous love affairs, her alternately biting and loving relationships with her neighbor Lulu and her sister Angela, her struggles with debt, gentrification and loss, and, eventually, what really happened between her and her estranged son, Fernando. As Cara confronts her darkest secrets and regrets, we see a woman buffeted by life but still full of fight.

Structurally inventive and emotionally kaleidoscopic, How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water is Angie Cruz’s most ambitious and moving novel yet, and Cara is a heroine for the ages.

“[An] endearing portrait of a fierce, funny woman.” – Washington Post

“Cruz’s latest novel blazes with brilliance, from its first-person character development to its structure to its deliciously slow reveals… You can’t help but root for Cara.” – AV Club

“Cara’s voice is direct and full of personality. We can hear her talking to us throughout the book and turning these pages is like being invited into a neighbor’s kitchen for a good gossip session… Cruz has created an unforgettable character in Cara. And readers will feel like they’ve made a new, fascinating friend.” – New York Journal of Books

“The result is gloriously funny (and also devastating) vignettes that shrewdly demonstrate how much our government institutions overlook the cultural, social, and economic differences of those who are not white, wealthy, and educated. An exuberant novel, unlike anything I’ve ever read, that I gulped down in one sitting.” – Amazon

Lessons by  Ian McEwan ★

Fiction / Historical Fiction.

lessonsWhen the world is still counting the cost of the Second World War and the Iron Curtain has closed, eleven-year-old Roland Baines’s life is turned upside down. Two thousand miles from his mother’s protective love, stranded at an unusual boarding school, his vulnerability attracts piano teacher Miss Miriam Cornell, leaving scars as well as a memory of love that will never fade.

Now, when his wife vanishes, leaving him alone with his tiny son, Roland is forced to confront the reality of his restless existence. As the radiation from Chernobyl spreads across Europe, he begins a search for answers that looks deep into his family history and will last for the rest of his life.

Haunted by lost opportunities, Roland seeks solace through every possible means—music, literature, friends, sex, politics, and, finally, love cut tragically short, then love ultimately redeemed. His journey raises important questions for us all. Can we take full charge of the course of our lives without causing damage to others? How do global events beyond our control shape our lives and our memories? And what can we really learn from the traumas of the past?

Epic, mesmerizing, and deeply humane, Lessons is a chronicle for our times—a powerful meditation on history and humanity through the prism of one man’s lifetime.

“A luminous, beautifully written, and gripping book about lives imperfectly lived. McEwan’s new novel is ranging, ambitious, teasingly autobiographical, and unsettling in the manner of his best work, a story of monstrous behavior set against major tides of the last 80 years. Roland Baines, a kind of spectator to history, is our hero [and] is both haunted by trauma and able to push away from it, toward love, parenthood, forgiveness, grace.” – Vogue

Lessons is deep and wide, ambitious and humble, wise and substantial. It is, to my mind, McEwan’s best novel in 20 years because it is so alert to human texture and complexity.” – The New Statesman

“McEwan returns with his best work since the Booker- and NBCC-winning Atonement… Throughout, McEwan poignantly shows how the characters contend with major historical moments while dealing with the ravages of daily life, which is what makes this so affecting. He also employs lyrical but pared-down prose to great effect… Once more, the masterly McEwan delights.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Richly observed… A tale of aspiration, disappointment, and familial dysfunction spread across a vast historic panorama… McEwan’s imagination delivers plenty of family secrets and reflects on ‘so many lessons unlearned’ in a world that’s clearly wobbling off its axis.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Like a Rolling Stone: A Memoir by  Jann S. Wenner

Nonfiction / memoir / Journalism / Music / History.

like a rolling stoneJann Wenner has been called by his peers “the greatest editor of his generation.”

His intensely personal memoir vividly describes and brings you inside the Rock and Roll Era—not just the music, but also the politics, the culture, the entire seismic generational change that swept America and beyond. As both a reporter and a player, Wenner writes with the clarity of a journalist and the private knowledge of an insider. He takes us into the life and work of his many friends – Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Bono, and Bruce Springsteen, to name a few. He was instrumental in the careers of Hunter S. Thompson, Tom Wolfe, and Annie Leibovitz. His journalistic and generational journey ended up in the Oval Office with his legendary interviews with Bill Clinton and Barak Obama, leaders to whom Rolling Stone gave it’s historic, full-throated backing.

Like a Rolling Stone is a beautifully written portrait of not just one man’s life, but the life of an entire generation.

“A frank, sharp memoir by a zeitgeist-savvy entrepreneur who ranks among the earliest of modern influencers.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Wenner writes engagingly and doesn’t pull his punches. It’ll be hard to keep this book on the library shelves.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Jann Wenner’s memoir is more than an account of his extraordinary life, it is a love letter to the people and events that shaped our culture over decades… With each new chapter, the impact of his devotion to covering what mattered—in entertainment, politics, and investigations into everything from fast food to Facebook—grows clearer and more impressive. A mesmerizing chronicle, Like a Rolling Stone is worthy of a standing ovation.” – Amazon

Marple: Twelve New Mysteries by  Various Authors

Fiction / Mystery / Suspense.

marpleA brand-new collection of short stories featuring the Queen of Mystery’s legendary detective Jane Marple, penned by twelve remarkable bestselling and acclaimed authors.

This collection of a dozen original short stories, all featuring Jane Marple, will introduce the character to a whole new generation. Each author reimagines Agatha Christie’s Marple through their own unique perspective while staying true to the hallmarks of a traditional mystery.

  • Naomi Alderman
  • Leigh Bardugo
  • Alyssa Cole
  • Lucy Foley
  • Elly Griffiths
  • Natalie Haynes
  • Jean Kwok
  • Val McDermid
  • Karen M. McManus
  • Dreda Say Mitchell
  • Kate Mosse
  • Ruth Ware

Miss Marple was first introduced to readers in a story Agatha Christie wrote for The Royal Magazine in 1927 and made her first appearance in a full-length novel in 1930’s The Murder at the Vicarage. It has been 45 years since Agatha Christie’s last Marple novel, Sleeping Murder, was published posthumously in 1976, and this collection of ingenious new stories by twelve Christie devotees will be a timely reminder why Jane Marple remains the most famous fictional female detective of all time.

“Each author captures Christie—and Marple—perfectly, while also displaying just a bit of her own unique touch… This new and entertaining collection by some of our favorite writers will hook a new group of readers to the formidable Miss Marple.” – Washington Post

“Readers will be eager to try this anthology as a dozen celebrated crime fiction authors try their hand at writing traditional short stories featuring Christie’s amateur sleuth. As in any collection, some stories stand out, but they all capture the character of the shrewd, always underestimated Miss Marple.” – Library Journal

“Twelve contemporary authors, all acclaimed crime writers, bring Agatha Christie’s beloved Miss Jane Marple to print for the first time in 45 years, beautifully reinvigorating one of mystery fiction’s most enduring sleuths. The stories… are equally attuned to our heroine’s wry sagacity and to her ability to detect evil intent wherever it lurks, including under the mistletoe. A thoroughly entertaining collection for all Christie devotees. Combining the enduring appeal of Miss Marple with some of today’s most popular mystery writers could hardly go wrong, and it doesn’t here.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Nona the Ninth by  Tamsyn Muir ★

Fiction / Fantasy / Science Fiction.

nona the ninthHer city is under siege.

The zombies are coming back.

And all Nona wants is a birthday party.

In many ways, Nona is like other people. She lives with her family, has a job at her local school, and loves walks on the beach and meeting new dogs. But Nona’s not like other people. Six months ago she woke up in a stranger’s body, and she’s afraid she might have to give it back.

The whole city is falling to pieces. A monstrous blue sphere hangs on the horizon, ready to tear the planet apart. Blood of Eden forces have surrounded the last Cohort facility and wait for the Emperor Undying to come calling. Their leaders want Nona to be the weapon that will save them from the Nine Houses. Nona would prefer to live an ordinary life with the people she loves, with Pyrrha and Camilla and Palamedes, but she also knows that nothing lasts forever.

And each night, Nona dreams of a woman with a skull-painted face…

“Nona’s lovely, simple, and occasionally silly voice works especially well in juxtaposition with the dark, dense backdrop of the series so far, creating a riveting contrast. Readers will be on the edges of their seats.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“[Nona the Ninth] sees Muir double down on what now feels like her standard practice of confounding expectations and delivering something nobody expected… Almost every character here has lost something or someone, and the different ways in which they deal with that provide a powerful emotional kick to the story alongside the eventual implications of its twisty, unexpected plot. Nona the Ninth may not be what you expected, but it might just be what you need.” – Grimdark Magazine

“A deceptively quiet beginning rockets to a thrilling finish, preparing us for the next volume’s undoubtedly explosive finale.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“It has grief. It has loss and cruelty and violence. It also has most of the other ingredients we’ve come to expect and adore from this series: exquisite meme deployment; sick necro fights; sick sword fights… [It] will make you cry and tell you lies but—I swear—will neither give you up, nor let you down.” –

People Person by  Candice Carty-Williams ★

Fiction / Comedy.

People PersonIf you could choose your family… you wouldn’t choose the Penningtons.

Dimple Pennington knows of her half siblings, but she doesn’t really know them. Five people who don’t have anything in common except for faint memories of being driven through Brixton in their dad’s gold jeep, and some pretty complex abandonment issues. Dimple has bigger things to think about.

She’s thirty, and her life isn’t really going anywhere. An aspiring lifestyle influencer with a terrible and wayward boyfriend, Dimple’s life has shrunk to the size of a phone screen. And despite a small but loyal following, she’s never felt more alone in her life. That is, until a dramatic event brings her half siblings Nikisha, Danny, Lizzie, and Prynce crashing back into her life. And when they’re all forced to reconnect with Cyril Pennington, the absent father they never really knew, things get even more complicated.

From an author with “a flair for storytelling that appears effortlessly authentic” (Time), People Person is a vibrant and charming celebration of discovering family as an adult.

“A darkly comedic novel of family… As heartfelt as it is hilarious. Carty-Williams probes hard questions about race, microaggressions and abandonment within a larger, somehow softer story about what makes a family, what makes a friend and what happens when the two are one and the same.” – Shelf Awareness

“…anchored in emotional realism and a hopeful warmth… this is a delightful, uplifting and emotionally satisfying novel about building new connections in the face of deep-rooted abandonment wounds and hideous disappointment.” – The Guardian

“A highly personal book – Carty-Williams has explained it was born of a conversation between her and her older sister Selena around sibling loyalty – the world of the Penningtons is infused with humour. Their interactions are so well-observed, you’ll wonder whether the Queenie author has been eavesdropping on your conversations with your own siblings. A gripping study of the intangible nature of sibling bonds, then – and what you might do for someone you share little more than DNA with.” – MSN

“…high-spirited, socially conscious… This way-out combination of family drama, madcap plot, and political edge ends up being quite endearing.” – Kirkus Reviews

The Search for the Genuine: Nonfiction 1970-2015 by  Jim Harrison


search for the genuineNew York Times bestselling author Jim Harrison (1937-2016) was a writer with a poet’s economy of style and trencherman’s appetites and ribald humor.

In The Search for the Genuine, a collection of new and previously published essays, the giant of letters muses on everything from grouse hunting fishing to Zen Buddhism and matters of the spirit, including reported pieces on Yellowstone and shark-tagging in the open ocean, commentary on writers from Bukowski to Neruda to Peter Matthiessen, and a heartbreaking essay on life– and, for those attempting to cross in the ever-more-dangerous gaps, death–on the US/Mexico border.

Written with Harrison’s trademark humor, compassion, and full-throated zest for life, this chronicle of a modern bon vivant is a feast for fans who may think they know Harrison’s nonfiction, from a true “American original” (San Francisco Chronicle).

“Harrison may be gone, but his writing speaks to a force larger than life: it continues to teach and inform years later, which is all a writer could ever really dream of.” – Literary Hub

“A rollicking but sentimental tribute to a life wholly lived.” – Garden & Gun

“Spanning 45 years, this new bevy of essays and musings bursts with insight, adventure, and well-lived experiences… his writing is always and truly ‘genuine.’ Forthright, perpetually curious, and compassionate, Harrison remains wholly compelling and readers will be grateful that this buoyant, observant, and caring writer took time away from his sublime poetry to create these enriching essays.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

The Storm Is Here: An American Crucible by  Luke Mogelson

Nonfiction / History / Politics.

storm is hereAfter years of living abroad and covering the Global War on Terrorism, Luke Mogelson went home in early 2020 to report on the social discord that the pandemic was bringing to the fore across the US. An assignment that began with right-wing militias in Michigan soon took him to an uprising for racial justice in Minneapolis, then to antifascist clashes in the streets of Portland, and ultimately to an attempted insurrection in Washington, D.C. His dispatches for The New Yorker revealed a larger story with ominous implications for America. They were only the beginning.

This is the definitive eyewitness account of how–during a season of sickness, economic uncertainty, and violence–a large segment of Americans became convinced of the need to battle against dark forces plotting to take their country away from them. It builds month by month, through vivid depictions of events on the ground, from the onset of COVID-19 to the attack on the US Capitol–during which Mogelson followed the mob into the Senate chamber–and its aftermath. Bravely reported and beautifully written, The Storm Is Here is both a unique record of a pivotal moment in American history and an urgent warning about those to come.

“[A] remarkable work of reportage… The Storm Is Here holds up the traditional role of journalist as neutral observer and finds it wanting… In their pursuit of truth, intrepid reporters such as Mogelson light our path forward.” – Oprah Daily

“Mogelson’s fine reporting is multifaceted… including a dazzling account of the January 6 riot from inside the Capitol itself… An unflinching, minutely observed, and wholly unsettling portrait of today’s America, begging the question: Can the center hold?” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Mogelson’s man-on-the-ground, mostly primary-source journalism, with stacks of sources and reference books to inform historical context, provides a clear-eyed and chilling view. It’s the kind of book people will correctly label ‘important’ for a long time, a must-read.” – AV Club

Strangers to Ourselves: Unsettled Minds and the Stories that Make Us by  Rachel Aviv ★

Nonfiction / science / Psychology.

strangers to ourselvesIn Strangers to Ourselves, a powerful and gripping debut, Rachel Aviv raises fundamental questions about how we understand ourselves in periods of crisis and distress. Drawing on deep, original reporting as well as unpublished journals and memoirs, Aviv writes about people who have come up against the limits of psychiatric explanations for who they are. She follows an Indian woman, celebrated as a saint, who lives in healing temples in Kerala; an incarcerated mother vying for her children’s forgiveness after recovering from psychosis; a man who devotes his life to seeking revenge upon his psychoanalysts; and an affluent young woman who, after a decade of defining herself through her diagnosis, decides to go off her meds because she doesn’t know who she is without them. Animated by a profound sense of empathy, Aviv’s exploration is refracted through her own account of living in a hospital ward at the age of six and meeting a fellow patient with whom her life runs parallel―until it no longer does.

Aviv asks how the stories we tell about mental disorders shape their course in our lives. Challenging the way we understand and talk about illness, her account is a testament to the porousness and resilience of the mind.

“A perceptive and intelligent work about mental illness… Aviv applies her signature conscientiousness and probing intellect to every section of this eye-opening book. Her profiles are memorable and empathetic… A moving, meticulously researched, elegantly constructed work of nonfiction.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] revelatory account of mental illness… Aviv’s narrative is so attuned to subtlety and complexity that any summary risks making it sound like she’s doing something she’s not. This isn’t an anti-psychiatry book — Aviv is too aware of the specifics of any situation to succumb to anything so sweeping and polemical. What she does is recognize the multiplicity of stories that attach to her subjects’ experiences, exploring a variety of interpretations instead of jumping at the impulse to explain them away.” – New York Times

Strangers to Ourselves is a stunning book about people whose experiences of mental illness exceed the limits of Western psychiatry… a compassionate and necessary exploration of the complex relationship between how we understand ourselves and how psychiatric diagnoses define us.” – BookPage, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] fascinating, empathetic case study of people who have come up against the limits of psychiatric explanations for who they are… not to be missed!” – Book Culture

Sugar Street by  Jonathan Dee


Sugar StreetIn Jonathan Dee’s elegant and explosive new novel, Sugar Street, an unnamed male narrator has hit the road. Rid of any possible identifiers, his possessions amount to $168,548 in cash stashed in an envelope under his car seat. Vigilantly avoiding security cameras, he drives until he hits a city where his past is unlikely to track him down, and finds a room to rent from a less-than-stable landlady whose need for money outweighs her desire to ask questions. He seems to have escaped his former self. But can he?

In a story that moves with swift dark humor and insight, Dee takes us through his narrator’s attempt to disavow his former life of privilege and enter a blameless new existence. Having opted out of his material possessions and human connections, the pillars of his new self – simplicity, kindness, above all invisibility – grow shakier as he butts up against the daily lives of his neighbors in their politically divided working-class city. With the suspense of a crime thriller and the grace of our best literary fiction, Dee unspools the details of our unlikely hero’s former life and his developing new one in a drumbeat roll up to a shocking final act.

Dee has been compared by the Wall Street Journal to authors such as Jonathan Franzen and Jennifer Egan for his expansive, contemporary, social novels; Sugar Street is a leaner, more personal, but still uncannily timely look at the volatile America of today. A risky, engrossing and surprisingly visceral story about a man trying to escape his own troubling footprint and start his life over.

“Compelling and thrilling… Dee’s impressive versatility is on display once again in this scintillating and entertaining tale.” – Booklist

“[An] energetic character study… Dee’s work grapples intriguingly with the narrator’s liberal myopia. It stands as a showcase of Dee’s masterly prose.” – Publishers Weekly

“Jonathan Dee’s pitch-dark eighth novel, is an intense character study of a man in crisis. It’s a bleak tale of someone running from a troubled past into an equally perilous future, and Dee succeeds in maintaining the tension about his character’s fate throughout.” – Shelf Awareness

What If? 2: Additional Serios Scientific Answers to Absurd Scientific Questions by  Randall Munroe

Nonfiction / Science / physics / comedy.

what if 2The millions of people around the world who read and loved What If? still have questions, and those questions are getting stranger. Thank goodness xkcd creator Randall Munroe is here to help. Planning to ride a fire pole from the moon back to Earth? The hardest part is sticking the landing. Hoping to cool the atmosphere by opening everyone’s freezer door at the same time? Maybe it’s time for a brief introduction to thermodynamics. Want to know what would happen if you rode a helicopter blade, built a billion-story building, made a lava lamp out of lava, or jumped on a geyser as it erupted? Okay, if you insist.

Before you go on a cosmic road trip, feed the residents of New York City to a T. rex, or fill every church with bananas, be sure to consult this practical guide for impractical ideas. Unfazed by absurdity, Randall consults the latest research on everything from swing-set physics to airplane-catapult design to clearly and concisely answer his readers’ questions. As he consistently demonstrates, you can learn a lot from examining how the world might work in very specific extreme circumstances.

Filled with bonkers science, boundless curiosity, and Randall’s signature stick-figure comics, What If? 2 is sure to be another instant classic adored by inquisitive readers of all ages.

“A delight for science geeks with a penchant for oddball thought experiments.” – Kirkus Reviews

“…entertaining… combines Munroe’s true research and truly funny prose with his signature stick-figure illustrations… Munroe slyly engages with write-in inquiries while either ‘doing the math’ himself or reaching out to field experts.” – Washington Post


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