Best New Books: Week of 1/24/2023

“Home is where somebody notices when you are no longer there.” – Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project

Accidentally Famous by Marissa Clarke

fiction / romance.

Accidentally FamousJack Winston may be Hollywood’s biggest action hero, but he’s seriously burned out. He can’t even save himself from his PR team’s latest scheme: dating a starlet. But when his assistant accidentally tags Cassidy James from Blink, Maine (wherever that is) on social media, the paparazzi decide that she’s Jack’s latest fling. Now Jack needs to do some serious damage control… starting with the adorable home reno pro in paint-splattered overalls.

Cassidy is not prepared when the Jack Winston shows up in her quiet little town—and whew, he is that gorgeous in person. Before she can pick her jaw up off the floor, his PR team is bombarding them with a whole new plan involving “fake girlfriend,” “optics,” and “sign this NDA” (whatever that is). But no one warned her that Mr. A-List Action Star is hot, funny as all get out, and loves old houses as much as she does.

Now they have two weeks to convince everyone they’re in a fake relationship—two weeks that will drive Cassidy’s reno business through the roof and help Jack reclaim his “spark.” The plan is going fine, dare she say, perfectly… until she discovers something that will change everything.

“…adorable… sure to win readers’ hearts… An appealing supporting cast—especially Cassidy’s bubbly bestie, Amanda, and (surprisingly) Jack’s cutthroat manager, Marion—underpin the enchanting narrative. Readers looking for kisses-only small-town romance will devour this enjoyable tale.” – Publishers Weekly

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Blush by Helen Hardt

fiction / romance.

BlushAmanda Thomas is hopelessly in love with Jackson Paris, but he will never see her as anything more than his sweet and innocent bestie. After being virgin-adjacent for too long, Mandy is officially ready to move on. She wants to learn about hot, dirty sex, so she joins an online dating app where the enigmatic Mr. Dark promises to fulfill all of her wicked fantasies…

Jackson Paris has been keeping secrets from his stunning, too-innocent best friend—like forbidden sexual proclivities and his membership at the exclusive Black Rose Underground club. But Mandy has decided she needs an education—the filthy kind. As Mr. Dark, Jackson can safely give her a taste of what she wants—and deter her from pursuing more—without revealing his identity.

But in the dim, provocative atmosphere of Black Rose Underground, there are no secrets. Here, every wicked appetite is satisfied. And for the first time, Mandy will discover who her best friend really is… just in time to shock him with a secret of her own.

“Bestseller Hardt burns up the pages of the kinky friends-to-lovers romance… Hardt does a fine job of balancing heat and emotion as both Mandy and Jackson adjust to their changing relationship. This red-hot tale will have readers fanning themselves.” – Publishers Weekly

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Breaking All the Rules by Amy Andrews

fiction / romance.

Breaking All the RulesSometimes you gotta toss your whole life into a burning dumpster to find what’s most important…

Beatrice Archer has always done everything she’s supposed to —worked her ass off, ignored her non-existent personal life, and kept her mouth shut. Now she’s over it. The rat race, respectability… the underwire bras. She’s taking her life back. Starting with moving to Nowhere, Colorado to live life on her own terms.

Now Bea gives exactly zero forks. Beer for breakfast. Sugar for everything else. Baggy sweats and soft cotton undies FTW. Then a much younger and delightfully attractive cop is called to deal with her flagrant disregard for appropriate clothing outside the local diner (some folks just don’t appreciate bunny slippers) and Bea realizes there’s something missing from her little decathlon of decadence… and he might be the guy to help her out.

When it comes to breaking rules, Officer Austin Cooper is surprisingly eager to assist. He’s charming, a little bit cowboy, and a whole lot sexy. But Bea’s about to discover that breaking the rules has consequences. And all of the cherry pies in Colorado can’t save her from what’s coming…

“Andrews proves herself a master of romantic banter in this snappy small-town tale… there’s no denying [Bea and Austin’s] flirtatious connection. This is a treat.” – Publishers Weekly

“Andrews’ touching, sexy book is a rare gem in the romance genre, balancing both a woman’s relationship with herself and with her lover… The author cleverly subverts romance genre tropes with a messy mid-30s female lead and a realistically naïve yet astute younger man. Social dichotomies of ‘love or career’ and conventional ideas of beauty are dismantled cleverly through the plot structure. An insightful, steamy, and poignant romance.” – Kirkus Reviews

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The Bullet Garden by Stephen Hunter

fiction / suspense / historical fiction / Action.

The Bullet GardenJuly, 1944: The lush, rolling hills of Normandy are dotted with a new feature—German snipers. From their vantage points, they pick off hundreds of Allied soldiers every day, bringing the D-Day invasion to its knees. It’s clear that someone is tipping off these snipers with the locations of American GIs, but who? And how?

General Eisenhower demands his intelligence service to find the best shot in the Allied military to counter this deadly SS operation. Enter Pacific hero Earl Swagger, assigned this crucial and bloody mission. With crosshairs on his back, Swagger can’t trust anyone as he infiltrates the shadowy corners of London and France for answers.

From “a true master at the pinnacle of his craft” (Jack Carr, author of the Terminal List series), The Bullet Garden is an electrifying historical thriller that is sure to become a classic.

“An electrifying historical thriller that is sure to become a classic.” – Ryan Steck, The Real Book Spy

“[This] is no one-dimensional battlefield drama; Earl proves just as capable at dealing with self-serving bureaucrats as he is at hunting rival snipers, and Hunter captures the backroom shenanigans expertly. He also injects perfectly placed moments of comic relief into the narrative, largely through the high jinks of two enlisted men, Archer and Goldberg, who would rather talk movies than fight Nazis, but in whom Swagger sees something more. A tour de force of a war novel.” – Bill Ott, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“…superb… All the elements slot neatly into place in the end, particularly Swagger’s ingenious solution to the problem of the German snipers. Terrific writing, amusing literary references, fascinating gun lore, and intense action scenes help make this one of Hunter’s best. Established fans and newcomers alike will be enthralled.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Children of the State: Stories of Survival and Hope in the Juvenile Justice System by Jeff Hobbs

nonfiction / history / current events / true crime / politics.

Children of the StateThere has been very little written about juvenile detention and the path to justice. For many kids, a mistake made at age thirteen or fourteen—often resulting from external factors coupled with a biologically immature brain—can resonate through the rest of their lives, making high school difficult, college nearly impossible, and a middle-class life a mere fantasy. Here, in Children of the State, Jeff Hobbs challenges any preconceived perceptions about how the juvenile justice system works—and demonstrates in brilliant, piercing prose: No one so young should ever be considered irredeemable.

Writing with great heart and sensitivity, Hobbs presents three different true stories that show the day-to-day life and the challenges faced by those living and working in juvenile programs: educators, counselors, and—most importantly—children. While serving a year-long detention in Wilmington, Delaware—one of the violent crime capitols of America—a bright young man considers both the benefits and the immense costs of striving for college acceptance while imprisoned. A career juvenile hall English Language Arts teacher struggles to align the small moments of wonder in her work alongside its statistical futility, all while the San Francisco city government considers a new juvenile system without cinderblocks—and possibly without teachers. A territorial fistfight in Paterson, New Jersey is called a hate crime by the media and the boy held accountable seeks redemption and friendship in a demanding Life & Professional Skills class in lower Manhattan. Through these stories, Hobbs creates intimate portraits of these individuals as they struggle to make good decisions amidst the challenges of overcoming their pasts, and also asks: What should society do with young people who have made terrible mistakes?

Just as he did with The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, Jeff Hobbs has crafted a gorgeous, captivating, and transcendent work of journalism with tremendous emotional power. Intimate and profound, relevant and revelatory, Children of the State masterfully blends personal stories with larger questions about race, class, prison reform, justice, and even about the concept of “fate.”

“A well-argued case for a better approach to turning young lawbreakers to better paths.” – Kirkus Reviews

“[A] gripping and harrowing study of the American juvenile justice system… Deeply researched and fluidly written, this is a searing portrait of an ongoing tragedy.” – Publishers Weekly

“Based on extensive hours of observation and interviews, he gives each of the four individuals a voice within a realistic but empathetic narrative, one that is hopeful, but not naive. The prize-winning Hobbs honors the complexity of each person’s life and experiences and shows the impact on youth of social pressure and frustration and such outside forces as court dates and COVID-19. The result is an eye-opening, fully humanizing, deeply affecting look at the often-misunderstood juvenile justice system and its inhabitants—young people of earnestness, disappointment, hope, and resilience.” – Cynthia Dieden, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Courtiers: Intrigue, Ambition, and the Power Players Behind the House of Windsor by Valentine Low

nonfiction / history / politics.

CourtiersThroughout history, the British monarchy has relied on its courtiers – the trusted advisers in the King or Queen’s inner circle – to ensure its survival as a family, an ancient institution, and a pillar of the constitution. Today, as ever, a vast team of people hidden from view steers the royal family’s path between public duty and private life. Queen Elizabeth II, after a remarkable 70 years of service, saw the final seasons of her reign without her husband Philip to guide her. Meanwhile, newly ascended Charles seeks to define what his future as King, and that of his court, will be.

The question of who is entrusted to guide the royals has never been more vital, and yet the task those courtiers face has never been more challenging. With a cloud hanging over Prince Andrew as well as Harry and Meghan’s departure from royal life, the complex relationship between modern courtiers and royal principals has been exposed to global scrutiny. As the new Prince and Princess of Wales, William and Kate – equipped with a very 21st century approach to press and public relations – now hold the responsibility of making an ancient institution relevant for the decades to come.

Courtiers reveals an ever-changing system of complex characters, shifting values and ideas over what the future of the institution should be. This is the story of how the monarchy really works, at a pivotal moment in its history.

“This book is riveting. Extraordinarily well written, it canters along, packed with impeccable inside information. Low… is one of the exceptional minds writing about the British monarchy today.” – Thomas Blaikie, Literary Review

“Greatest weight is given to the latest War of the Windsors, with Low clearly having an access-all-areas pass to the power players in the three—apparently highly competitive—Royal households, revealing the jockeying to control both the narrative and the ear of the monarch, and the fall outs and missteps that have played out in the tabloids. Courtiers makes Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall look like he simply wasn’t trying very hard.” – Vanessa Cronin, Amazon

Courtiers is a suave history of the monarchy over the past century, seen through the prism of those who serve it… highly readable… fascinating… Courtiers give us a remarkable insight into the unseen operation of the monarchy.” – Mark Bolland, The Spectator

The Devil’s Ransom by Brad Taylor

fiction / suspense / action.

The Devil's RansomConducting a routine cover development trip to Tajikistan, Pike and Jennifer learn that Afghanistan has fallen, and there’s a man on the run. One that has done more for the United States in Afghanistan than anyone else. Pulled in to extract him, Pike collides headlong into a broader mystery: His covert company, along with every other entity in the Taskforce, has been hit with a ransomware attack, and there’s some connection between the Taliban and the hack. Given the order to track down the perpetrators, he has no idea that the problem set is much, much larger and more dangerous than a simple attack on his organization. That hack was just a test-run, and the real one is coming soon, engendered by a former NSA specialist in the U.S. government.

A man who wants to return to the bipolar world of the Cold War, the turncoat has cloaked his attack behind hackers from Serbia and Russia, and if successful, his target will alter the balance of power on the global stage. So far, the specialist has remained one step ahead of the Taskforce, but he has just made one massive mistake: hitting Pike Logan.

“Thriller fans will love the ticking-clock action.” – Kirkus Reviews

The Devil’s Ransom is not only a ‘ripped from the headlines’ story, but Brad Taylor seems to have delved into our collective psyches and wrenched out our darkest fears as well. Full of kinetic action showing Pike Logan and his team at their very best, the plotline is cleverly balanced out with ethical and moral quandaries that will have you debating long after you’re done with this book. This might be the most balanced and thought provoking installment of this iconic series.” – J. Todd Wilkins, The Best Thriller Books

The Faraway World by Patrica Engel


The Faraway WorldTwo Colombian expats meet as strangers on the rainy streets of New York City, both burdened with traumatic pasts. In Cuba, a woman discovers her deceased brother’s bones have been stolen, and the love of her life returns from Ecuador for a one-night visit. A cash-strapped couple hustles in Miami, to life-altering ends.

The Faraway World is a collection of arresting stories from the New York Times bestselling author of Infinite Country, Patricia Engel, “a gifted storyteller whose writing shines even in the darkest corners” (Washington Post). Intimate and panoramic, these stories bring to life the liminality of regret, the vibrancy of community, and the epic deeds and quiet moments of love.

“A pleasure to read… Engel’s multinational update of dirty realism is full of ironic flair, imagination, and empathy.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“A haunting read… No matter how far these stories travel, Engel infuses intimacy and care in every single life she writes.” – Chicago Review of Books

“A powerful new story collection that captures the diasporic experience of the modern Americas in all its complexity, nuance, and humanity… Her stories also move between registers—at times sweeping and tinged with history, other times intensely personal. Always, her characters are real people, dealing with real struggles, rendered beautifully, with insight and understanding.” – Dwyer Murphy, Literary Hub

“These 10 compelling stories follow characters that feel as real as I do, grappling with human struggles that feel both uniquely new and nearly universal. If you’re looking for a collection that will touch your heart and make you look at your fellow humans more generously, this one’s a can’t-miss.” – Lizz Schumer, Good Housekeeping

A Fashionable Fatality by Alyssa Maxwell

fiction / mystery / historical fiction.

A Fashionable FatalityAmid the aftermath of the Great War and its hardships, it’s no wonder that many wish to rediscover life’s pleasures–parties, fashion, dancing. Still, Lady Phoebe and Eva are disconcerted when a small gathering at the home of Phoebe’s sister, Julia, becomes a far larger and more glamorous affair…

Julia has invited her favorite French fashion designer, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, and Coco’s current beau, the Earl of Chesterhaven. Coco has brought an entourage of her own, including two models, and intends to use the gardens as a photographic setting for her latest creations.

Madame Chanel is as outspoken as she is talented, offering a scathing critique of Phoebe’s fashion sense. There is tense competition between the models as well. When one of the guests is found dead of smoke inhalation, it appears to be a tragic accident. But was a footman really to blame for mistakenly closing the fireplace flue, or is there a more sinister explanation?

Phoebe is determined to find out, despite the protestations of her sweetheart, Owen Seabright. Both above and below stairs, Phoebe and Eva uncover myriad motives–career ambition, romantic rivalries, and even deeper betrayals. For despite the surface beauty, there are ugly secrets in the world of Maison Chanel, ones that a killer will risk anything to protect.

“…engrossing… Phoebe and Eva make a great team, seamlessly working together above stairs and below stairs to uncover the truth… Fans of lighter historicals should be satisfied.” – Publishers Weekly

“The addition of the notorious Chanel adds interest to a solid golden age–style mystery.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Plenty of suspects, hidden clues, historical details, and glimpses into the lives of the well-to-do and those who work for them add interest to this mystery. Readers with an eye for fashion will enjoy the detailed descriptions of 1920s clothing and accessories while fans of the series will be excited to return to Phoebe and Eva’s world as they navigate a new mystery and ongoing relationships.” – Tristan Draper, Library Journal

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Fieldwork: A Forager’s Memoir by Iliana Regan

nonfiction / memoir / food.

FieldworkNot long after Iliana Regan’s celebrated debut, Burn the Place, became the first food-related title in four decades to become a National Book Award nominee in 2019, her career as a Michelin star-winning chef took a sharp turn north. Long based in Chicago, she and her new wife, Anna, decided to create a culinary destination, the Milkweed Inn, located in Michigan’s remote Upper Peninsula, where much of the food served to their guests would be foraged by Regan herself in the surrounding forest and nearby river. Part fresh challenge, part escape, Regan’s move to the forest was also a return to her rural roots, in an effort to deepen the intimate connection to nature and the land that she’d long expressed as a chef, but experienced most intensely growing up.

On her family’s farm in rural Indiana, Regan was the beloved youngest in a family with three much older sisters. From a very early age, her relationship with her mother and father was shaped by her childhood identification as a boy. Her father treated her like the son he never had, and together they foraged for mushrooms, berries, herbs, and other wild food in the surrounding countryside–especially her grandfather’s nearby farm, where they also fished in its pond and young Iliana explored the accumulated family treasures stored in its dusty barn. Her father would share stories of his own grandmother, Busia, who’d helped run a family inn while growing up in eastern Europe, from which she imported her own wild legends of her native forests, before settling in Gary, Indiana, and opening Jennie’s Caf, a restaurant that fed generations of local steelworkers. He also shared with Iliana a steady supply of sharp knives and–as she got older–guns.

Iliana’s mother had family stories as well–not only of her own years marrying young, raising headstrong girls, and cooking at Jennie’s, but also of her father, Wayne, who spent much of his boyhood hunting with the men of his family in the frozen reaches of rural Canada. The stories from this side of Regan’s family are darker, riven with alcoholism and domestic strife too often expressed in the harm, physical and otherwise, perpetrated by men–harm men do to women and families, and harm men do to the entire landscapes they occupy.

As Regan explores the ancient landscape of Michigan’s boreal forest, her stories of the land, its creatures, and its dazzling profusion of plant and vegetable life are interspersed with her and Anna’s efforts to make a home and a business of an inn that’s suddenly, as of their first full season there in 2020, empty of guests due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She discovers where the wild blueberry bushes bear tiny fruit, where to gather wood sorrel, and where and when the land’s different mushroom species appear–even as surrounding parcels of land are suddenly and violently decimated by logging crews that obliterate plant life and drive away the area’s birds. Along the way she struggles not only with the threat of COVID, but also with her personal and familial legacies of addiction, violence, fear, and obsession–all while she tries to conceive a child that she and her immune-compromised wife hope to raise in their new home.

With Burn the Place, Regan announced herself as a writer whose extravagant, unconventional talents matched her abilities as a lauded chef. In Fieldwork, she digs even deeper to express the meaning and beauty we seek in the landscapes, and stories, that reveal the forces which inform, shape, and nurture our lives.

“An intimate, passionate, and fresh perspective on the natural world and our place within it.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“…poignant… Readers will be moved.” – Publishers Weekly

“Her descriptive and raw writing will transport those willing to go on the journey into the bounty of the forest. Regan’s latest work may very well surpass the critical success and praise of her debut in 2019. Her honesty is captivating, and her writing creates a tangible experience that is remarkable and unforgettable. This is a story many readers will not want to miss.” – Kimberly Barbour, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

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Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn

fiction / romance.

Georgie, All AlongLongtime personal assistant Georgie Mulcahy has made a career out of putting others before herself. When an unexpected upheaval sends her away from her hectic job in L.A. and back to her hometown, Georgie must confront an uncomfortable truth: her own wants and needs have always been a disconcertingly blank page.

But then Georgie comes across a forgotten artifact—a “friendfic” diary she wrote as a teenager, filled with possibilities she once imagined. To an overwhelmed Georgie, the diary’s simple, small-scale ideas are a lifeline—a guidebook for getting started on a new path.

Georgie’s plans hit a snag when she comes face to face with an unexpected roommate—Levi Fanning, onetime town troublemaker and current town hermit. But this quiet, grouchy man is more than just his reputation, and he offers to help Georgie with her quest. As the two make their way through her wishlist, Georgie begins to realize that what she truly wants might not be in the pages of her diary after all, but right by her side—if only they can both find a way to let go of the pasts that hold them back.

Honest and deeply emotional, Georgie, All Along is a smart, tender must-read for everyone who’s ever wondered about the life that got away…

“Clayborn’s stories always feel equally specific and universal, written with vulnerability, humor, and empathy, and this latest is no exception. Georgie and Levi each have an incredibly charged presence on the page as the story explores their individual narratives, but their differences allow them to forge an entirely perfect whole. A modern yet timeless love story.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Told from alternating viewpoints, this tender and sexy contemporary romance from Clayborn also features strong friendships and will appeal to fans of Emily Henry.” – Migdalia Jimenez, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Clayborn spins a gentle tale of two people who set out to find themselves and stumble into love along the way… The smooth, vivid prose makes it easy to invest in the protagonists’ well-rendered character growth. This introspective romance is a treat.” – Publishers Weekly

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The Great Escape: A True Story of Forced Labor and Immigrant Dreams in America by Saket Soni

nonfiction / history.

The Great EscapeIn late 2006, Saket Soni, a twenty-eight-year-old Indian-born community organizer, received an anonymous phone call from an Indian migrant worker in Mississippi. He was one of five hundred men trapped in squalid Gulf Coast “man camps,” surrounded by barbed wire, watched by guards, crammed into cold trailers with putrid toilets, forced to eat moldy bread and frozen rice. Recruiters had promised them good jobs and green cards. The men had scraped up $20,000 each for this “opportunity” to rebuild hurricane-wrecked oil rigs, leaving their families in impossible debt. During a series of clandestine meetings, Soni and the workers devised a bold plan. In The Great Escape, Soni traces the workers’ extraordinary escape, their march on foot to Washington, DC, and their twenty-three-day hunger strike to bring attention to their cause. Along the way, ICE agents try to deport the men, company officials work to discredit them, and politicians avert their eyes. But none of this shakes the workers’ determination to win their dignity and keep their promises to their families.

Weaving a deeply personal journey with a riveting tale of twenty-first-century forced labor, Soni takes us into the lives of the immigrant workers the United States increasingly relies on to rebuild after climate disasters. The Great Escape is the gripping story of one of the largest human trafficking cases in modern American history—and the workers’ heroic journey for justice.

“[A] harrowing account of a latter-day revolt of people who were essentially enslaved—in 21st-century America… A searing exposé of corporate criminality and its governmental enablers.” – Kirkus Reviews

“…revelatory… Soni writes with empathy (‘Jacob was carrying the burdens of his coworkers, and now I was carrying his’) and conviction (‘Our march would be a traveling act of civil disobedience’). This is a searing account of the harrowing road to justice.” – Publishers Weekly

“…riveting… a must-buy… accessible and gripping… this book stands out for its startlingly complex and intimate portraits of the immigrants, lawyers, immigration agents, and civil rights leaders encountered in these pages… This book will appeal to students of U.S. immigration and civil-rights history, as well as anyone who loves a beautifully told story.” – Williem Marx, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

The Guest Lecture by Martin Riker


The Guest LectureIn a hotel room in the middle of the night, Abby, a young feminist economist, lies awake next to her sleeping husband and daughter. Anxious that she is grossly underprepared for a talk she is presenting tomorrow on optimism and John Maynard Keynes, she has resolved to practice by using an ancient rhetorical method of assigning parts of her speech to different rooms in her house and has brought along a comforting albeit imaginary companion to keep her on track—Keynes himself.

Yet as she wanders with increasing alarm through the rooms of her own consciousness, Abby finds herself straying from her prepared remarks on economic history, utopia, and Keynes’s pragmatic optimism. A lapsed optimist herself, she has been struggling under the burden of supporting a family in an increasingly hostile America after being denied tenure at the university where she teaches. Confronting her own future at a time of global darkness, Abby undertakes a hero’s quest through her memories to ideas hidden in the corners of her mind—a piecemeal intellectual history from Cicero to Lewis Carroll to Queen Latifah—as she asks what a better world would look like if we told our stories with more honest and more hopeful imaginations.

With warm intellect, playful curiosity, and an infectious voice, Martin Riker acutely animates the novel of ideas with a beating heart and turns one woman’s midnight crisis into the performance of a lifetime.

“…light, charming and shyly philosophical second novel… has a grainy, semi-comic feel for what angst and failure really feel like… In Riker’s hands, Abigail is good company.” – Dwight Garner, New York Times

“If you’ve ever spent a sleepless night worrying about your career, your family and the gross inequality of American life, then chances are you will love, or at least relate to, The Guest Lecture… A quirky second novel of breathtaking genius.” – Ann Levin, AP News

“Mesmerizing… The Guest Lecture is a novel of ideas and feelings, of feelings about ideas and ideas about feelings. If this lecture will be her final word on her subject, Abigail naturally wants to express everything. Living in ‘an era of overload’ can feel like a rush, and the book doesn’t deny us that. It bursts with philosophy, jokes, factoids, tense academic social dynamics and fragments of formative memory.” – Maggie Lange, Washington Post

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Judas Goat: Poems by Gabrielle Bates

nonfiction / poetry.

Judas GoatGabrielle Bates’s electric debut collection Judas Goat plumbs the depths of intimate relationships. The book’s eponymous animal is used to lead sheep to slaughter while its own life is spared, and its harrowing existence echoes through this spellbinding collection of forty poems, which wrestle with betrayal and forced obedience, violence and young womanhood, and the “forbidden felt language” of sexual and sacred love. These poems conjure encounters with figures from scriptures, domesticated animals eyeing the wild, and mothering as a shapeshifting, spectral force; they question what it means to love another person and how to exorcise childhood fears. All the while, the Deep South haunts, and no matter how far away the speaker moves, the South always draws her back home.

In confession, in illumination, Bates establishes herself as an unflinching witness to the risks that desire necessitates, as Judas Goat holds readers close and whispers its unforgettable lines.

“Hypnotic… A deliciously (perhaps devilishly) original book.” – Nick Ripatrazone, The Millions

“These poems are both generous and spare, full of unconventional portraits of longing―for safety, for love, for a motherhood one doesn’t truly desire. Bates is a wise, tender witness to the parts of ourselves we rarely expose.” – Isle McElroy, Vulture

“Bates writes every line with fierceness and an unflinching eye for desire and risk, crafting a collection that never has to scream its most powerful lines to embed them in your mind for years to come.” – Chicago Review of Books

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Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia by David Graeber

nonfiction / history / politics.

Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real LibertaliaPirates have long lived in the realm of romance and fantasy, symbolizing risk, lawlessness, and radical visions of freedom. But at the root of this mythology is a rich history of pirate societies–vibrant, imaginative experiments in self-governance and alternative social formations at the edges of European empire.

In graduate school, David Graeber conducted ethnographic field research in Madagascar, producing what would eventually become a doctoral thesis on the island’s magic, slavery, and politics. During this time, he encountered the Zana-Malata, an ethnic group made up of mixed descendants of the many pirates who settled on the island at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia, Graeber’s final posthumous book, is the outgrowth of this early research, and the culmination of ideas that he explored in his classic, bestselling works Debt and The Dawn of Everything (written with the archeologist David Wengrow).

Graeber explores how the proto-democratic practices of the Zana-Malata came to shape the Enlightenment project defined for too long as distinctly European. He illuminates the non-European origins of what we consider to be “Western” thought, and endeavors to recover forgotten forms of social and political order that gesture toward new, hopeful possibilities for the future.

“…thought-provoking… This work will appeal to those interested in pirates or unorthodox views of the Enlightenment.” – Dave Pugl, Library Journal

“[A] lively display of up-to-date anthropology… provocative… a tour de force of anthropological scholarship and an important addition to Malagasy history… those who love pirate lore or who seek evidence that mixed populations were long capable of establishing proto-democratic societies will also find enlightenment in these pages. Certain to be controversial, but all the more important for that.” – Kirkus Reviews

The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett

fiction / mystery / suspense.

The Twyford CodeIt’s time to solve the murder of the century…

Forty years ago, Steven Smith found a copy of a famous children’s book, its margins full of strange markings and annotations. He took it to his remedial English teacher, Miss Isles, who became convinced it was the key to solving a puzzle. That a message in secret code ran through all Edith Twyford’s novels. Then Miss Isles disappeared on a class field trip, and Steven’s memory won’t allow him to remember what happened.

Now, out of prison after a long stretch, Steven decides to investigate the mystery that has haunted him for decades. Was Miss Isles murdered? Was she deluded? Or was she right about the code? And is it still in use today? Desperate to recover his memories and find out what really happened to Miss Isles, Steven revisits the people and places of his childhood. But it soon becomes clear that Edith Twyford wasn’t just a writer of forgotten children’s stories. The Twyford Code has great power, and he isn’t the only one trying to solve it…

The Twyford Code is a tour de force… a mind-bending, heartwarming mystery that is not to be missed.” – Alison Flood, The Observer

“Every page is a joy, with laugh-out-loud moments even as the plot becomes more outlandish, and the startling final reveal crowns Hallett as the queen of unreliable narrators.” – Joan Smith, The Times

“…ingenious… Filled with numerous clues, acrostics, and red herrings, this thrilling scavenger hunt for the truth is delightfully deceptive and thoroughly immersive.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Unraveling: What I learned About Life While Shearing Sheep, Dyeing Wool, and Making the World’s Ugliest Sweater by Peggy Orenstein

nonfiction / memoir.

UnravelingThe Covid pandemic propelled many people to change their lives in ways large and small. Some adopted puppies. Others stress-baked. Peggy Orenstein, a lifelong knitter, went just a little further. To keep herself engaged and cope with a series of seismic shifts in family life, she set out to make a garment from the ground up: learning to shear sheep, spin and dye yarn, then knitting herself a sweater.

Orenstein hoped the project would help her process not just wool but her grief over the recent death of her mother and the decline of her dad, the impending departure of her college-bound daughter, and other thorny issues of aging as a woman in a culture that by turns ignores and disdains them. What she didn’t expect was a journey into some of the major issues of our time: climate anxiety, racial justice, women’s rights, the impact of technology, sustainability, and, ultimately, the meaning of home.

With her wry voice, sharp intelligence, and exuberant honesty, Orenstein shares her year-long journey as daughter, wife, mother, writer, and maker–and teaches us all something about creativity and connection.

“Orenstein recounts her adventures in learning new skills with the openness and keen observations of a wise friend. This is a delight to read and will be of interest not only to crafters but also to anyone who’s learned something new as an adult.” – Anitra Gates, Library Journal

“…insightful… Orenstein poignantly reveals what she’s learned from the craft (‘Decades of knitting have taught me that fixing mistakes is part of the process’) and humorously describes her hands-on experiences (on attempting to use an electric clipper on a ewe: ‘She is wriggling like a greased-up toddler’). This snapshot of creative self-discovery will enlighten readers.” – Publishers Weekly

“Creativity and craft can soothe anxiety, encourage connection and spark joy; Peggy Orenstein’s book about learning to make a sweater from scratch will do the same.” – BookPage

Win Son Presents a Taiwanese American Cookbook by Josh Ku & Trigg Brown with Cathy Erway

nonfiction / food / cooking.

Win Son Presents a Taiwanese American CookbookJosh Ku, born in Queens to parents from southern Taiwan, and Trigg Brown, a native Virginian whose mentor was a Taiwanese-American chef, forged a friendship over food—specifically, excellent tsang ying tou, or “flies’ head,” a dish of chopped budding chives kissed with pork fat. Their obsession with Taiwanese food and culture propelled them to open Win Son together in 2016. The East Williamsburg restaurant quickly established itself as a destination and often incurs long waits for their vibrant and flavorful Taiwanese-American cuisine.

Ku and Brown have teamed up with Cathy Erway, Taiwanese food expert and celebrated writer, to create this book which explores and celebrates the cuisine of Taiwan and its ever-simmering pot of creative influences. Told through the eyes, taste buds, travels, and busy lives of Ku, Brown, and Erway, this book brings the cuisine of this misunderstood island nation into the spotlight. With 100 creative, yet accessible recipes, this book will unravel the history of this diaspora cuisine. While featuring classic dishes and well-known favorites, this cookbook also stretches this cuisine’s definition, introducing new dishes with brazen twists that are fun, flavorful, and decidedly American-born in style.

“Josh and Trigg have made Taiwanese American food approachable for any home cook.” – Tom Colicchio, chef & owner of Crafted Hospitality and Top Chef head judge

“The food at Win Son and in this book is so vibrant and so damned delicious, you will want to scrape the bowls clean.” – Claus Meyer, cofounder of Noma

“Whenever I’m asked for restaurant recommendations, Win Son is the place I send people to. To be able to cook my menu favorites at home is the absolute best and to read the stories behind the dishes is even better.” – Farideh Sadeghin, executive culinary director of Munchies

Button Hoopla Read

The World and All That It Holds by Aleksandar Hemon

fiction / historical fiction.

The World and All That It HoldsAs the Archduke Franz Ferdinand arrives in Sarajevo one June day in 1914, Rafael Pinto is busy crushing herbs and grinding tablets behind the counter at the pharmacy he inherited from his estimable father. It’s not quite the life he had expected during his poetry-filled student days in libertine Vienna, but it’s nothing a dash of laudanum from the high shelf, a summer stroll, and idle fantasies about passersby can’t put in perspective.

And then the world explodes. In the trenches in Galicia, fantasies fall flat. Heroism gets a man killed quickly. War devours all that they have known, and the only thing Pinto has to live for are the attentions of Osman, a fellow soldier, a man of action to complement Pinto’s introspective, poetic soul; a charismatic storyteller; Pinto’s protector and lover.

Together, Pinto and Osman will escape the trenches, survive near-certain death, tangle with spies and Bolsheviks. Over mountains and across deserts, from one world to another, all the way to Shanghai, it is Pinto’s love for Osman–with the occasional opiatic interlude–that keeps him going.

“…epic… Throughout a narrative spanning decades, from Sarajevo to Shanghai, the bleakness of war and its aftershocks remains relentless… Yet the writing remains powerful, beautiful, and the epilogue provides an origin story that puts everything that has preceded it in fresh light. Hemon pulls no punches in his most ambitious novel to date.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

The World and All That It Holds would be an audacious title for a book by anybody except God ― or Aleksandar Hemon. But this Bosnian American author will make you a believer… Mad tyrants and elegant spies cross through the chapters of this epic with dazzling effect, but none really can draw our eyes from Pinto nor his eyes from Osman… The real miracle of The World and All That It Holds is that despite holding so much, we come to know the fragile joys of this one melancholy man so well that he feels written into our own past.” – Ron Charles, Washington Post

“…plung[es] readers into the horrors and grim absurdities of war in prose molten with caustic irony, furious wit, bitter rage, and transcendent beauty… Every encounter, battlefield, prison, refugee encampment, and densely crowded Shanghai street under Japanese attack is rendered with exacting sensory detail and haunting spiritual mysteries. Hemon’s unflinching, riveting, funny, worldly-wise, and soulful magnum opus wrestles with humanity’s shocking depravity and incandescent courage and love.” – Donna Seaman, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW


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One comment

  1. Sean,

    Great summary of new books(as usual) and some GREAT NF which is my love!!!!! Keep us the GREAT work!!!!
    Don Schaller

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