Best New Books: Week of 3/21/23

“A writer is someone who has written something today.” – J. A. Jance

American Mermaid by Julia Langbein

fiction / fantasy / comedy.

American MermaidPenelope Schleeman, a consistently broke Connecticut high school teacher, is as surprised as anyone when her sensitive debut novel, American Mermaid—the story of a wheelchair-bound scientist named Sylvia who discovers that her withered legs are the vestiges of a powerful tail—becomes a bestseller. Penelope soon finds herself lured to LA by promises of easy money to co-write the American Mermaid screenplay for a major studio with a pair of male hacks.

As the studio pressures Penelope to change American Mermaid from the story of a fierce, androgynous eco-warrior to a teen sex object in a clam bra, strange things start to happen. Threats appear in the screenplay draft; siren calls lure people into danger. When Penelope’s screenwriting partners try to kill Sylvia off entirely in a bitterly false but cinematic end, matters off the page escalate. Is Penelope losing her mind, or is Sylvia among us?

American Mermaid follows a young woman braving a world of casual smiles and ruthless calculation, where she discovers a beating heart in her own fiction–a creature she’ll do anything to protect. By turns both a comic and fabulously insightful tale of two female characters in search of truth, love, and self-acceptance as they move between worlds without giving up their voices.

“Filled with wit and more than few laugh-out-loud moments… a downright delightful debut novel.” – Kristine Huntley, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Langbein explores what it means to belong, how the shape of identity can morph and change, and just how hard it can be to hold onto the core of your being when everyone around you is pushing you to change.” – Jane Jorgenson, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

Armageddon: What the Bible Really Says About the End by Bart D. Ehrman

nonfiction / religion / history.

ArmageddonYou’ll find nearly everything the Bible has to say about the end in the Book of Revelation: a mystifying prophecy filled with bizarre symbolism, violent imagery, mangled syntax, confounding contradictions, and very firm ideas about the horrors that await us all. But whether you understand the book as a literal description of what will soon come to pass, interpret it as a metaphorical expression of hope for those suffering now, or only recognize its highlights from pop culture, what you think Revelation reveals… is almost certainly wrong.

In Armageddon, acclaimed New Testament authority Bart D. Ehrman delves into the most misunderstood—and possibly the most dangerous—book of the Bible, exploring the horrifying social and political consequences of expecting an imminent apocalypse and offering a fascinating tour through three millennia of Judeo-Christian thinking about how our world will end. By turns hilarious, moving, troubling, and provocative, Armageddon presents inspiring insights into how to live our lives in the face of an uncertain future and reveals what the Bible really says about the end.

“…well-sourced [and] accessible… Lucid and compelling, Ehrman challenges readers to encounter the ancient Book of Revelation once again. This title makes it worthwhile.” – Zachariah Motts, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Revelation is too significant to ignore and too important to be improperly read. [A] well-argued, certain-to-be-controversial account of the Bible’s closing story.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Ehrman takes a close look at what Revelation says and the horrific future it predicts for most of humanity, but he also incisively compares its values to what Jesus actually said in the Gospels… Ehrman is always highly readable, but this time he interacts with his audience, posing thought-provoking questions about what readers believe and how those beliefs affect their actions. Lots to ponder here.” – Ilene Cooper, Booklist

The Best Strangers in the World: Stories from a Life Spent Listening by Ari Shapiro

nonfiction / memoir.

The Best Strangers in the WorldFrom the beloved host of NPR’s All Things Considered, a stirring memoir-in-essays that is also a lover letter to journalism. In his first book, broadcaster Ari Shapiro takes us around the globe to reveal the stories behind narratives that are sometimes heartwarming, sometimes heartbreaking, but always poignant. He details his time traveling on Air Force One with President Obama, or following the path of Syrian refugees fleeing war, or learning from those fighting for social justice both at home and abroad.

As the self-reinforcing bubbles we live in become more impenetrable, Ari Shapiro keeps seeking ways to help people listen to one another; to find connection and commonality with those who may seem different; to remind us that, before religion, or nationality, or politics, we are all human. The Best Strangers in the World is a testament to one journalist’s passion for Considering All Things—and sharing what he finds with the rest of us.

“Smart, humane and just a bit quirky, The Best Strangers in the World is exactly the kind of memoir one would expect from Ari Shapiro… The eclectic quality of [these] stories paints a vivid picture of his wide-ranging career and will leave readers and listeners eager to hear the many stories to come.” – Harvey Freedenberg, Shelf Awareness

“…engaging… Throughout, Shapiro elegantly and compassionately shares the stories of people he’s encountered and how their individual experiences connect with humanity as a whole. Shapiro’s confident, clear voice and self-deprecating humor, familiar to his many fans, translates well to the written word. His writing will resonate with many and is a treasure for biography readers. Highly recommended.” – Anitra Gates, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“His legions of fans will be delighted to know that this memoir embodies the qualities he’s known for: self-deprecating humor, honesty, scrupulous attention to detail, and his ability to convey the impact of momentous world events through the stories of everyday people… The book keeps on giving, chapter after chapter, in turns humorous, introspective, or deeply serious, weaving together personal anecdotes, behind-the-scenes secrets, and heartbreaking profiles from war zones and refugee camps. Shapiro says he’s built his radio career on ’empathy, connection, and listening’— qualities that ring true in his writing as well.” – Kathleen McBroom, Booklist

Beyond That, the Sea by Laura Spence-Ash

fiction / historical fiction / romance.

Beyond That, the SeaAs German bombs fall over London in 1940, working-class parents Millie and Reginald Thompson make an impossible choice: they decide to send their eleven-year-old daughter, Beatrix, to America. There, she’ll live with another family for the duration of the war, where they hope she’ll stay safe.

Scared and angry, feeling lonely and displaced, Bea arrives in Boston to meet the Gregorys. Mr. and Mrs. G, and their sons William and Gerald, fold Bea seamlessly into their world. She becomes part of this lively family, learning their ways and their stories, adjusting to their affluent lifestyle. Bea grows close to both boys, one older and one younger, and fills in the gap between them. Before long, before she even realizes it, life with the Gregorys feels more natural to her than the quiet, spare life with her own parents back in England.

As Bea comes into herself and relaxes into her new life—summers on the coast in Maine, new friends clamoring to hear about life across the sea—the girl she had been begins to fade away, until, abruptly, she is called home to London when the war ends.

Desperate as she is not to leave this life behind, Bea dutifully retraces her trip across the Atlantic back to her new, old world. As she returns to post-war London, the memory of her American family stays with her, never fully letting her go, and always pulling on her heart as she tries to move on and pursue love and a life of her own.

As we follow Bea over time, navigating between her two worlds, Beyond That, the Sea emerges as a beautifully written, absorbing novel, full of grace and heartache, forgiveness and understanding, loss and love.

“[A] magnetic debut… Readers will be riveted.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Quietly stunning, with finely drawn characters and vivid descriptions, Beyond That, the Sea is a gorgeous, elegiac, novel about loss, family and the complexity of love.” – Katie Noah Gibson, Shelf Awareness

“Readers will feel the pull of new fictional friends from the first to the last page, and long afterward. Details of daily life build a strong sense of time and place in both countries and time frames further deepening this outstanding debut novelist’s portrayal of her characters.” – Stacey Hayman, Booklist

Biography of X by Catherine Lacey

fiction / historical fiction.

Biography of XWhen X—an iconoclastic artist, writer, and polarizing shape-shifter—falls dead in her office, her widow, wild with grief and refusing everyone’s good advice, hurls herself into writing a biography of the woman she deified. Though X was recognized as a crucial creative force of her era, she kept a tight grip on her life story. Not even CM, her wife, knew where X had been born, and in her quest to find out, she opens a Pandora’s box of secrets, betrayals, and destruction. All the while, she immerses herself in the history of the Southern Territory, a fascist theocracy that split from the rest of the country after World War II, as it is finally, in the present day, forced into an uneasy reunification.

A masterfully constructed literary adventure complete with original images assembled by X’s widow, Biography of X follows a grieving wife seeking to understand the woman who enthralled her. CM traces X’s peripatetic trajectory over decades, from Europe to the ruins of America’s divided territories, and through her collaborations and feuds with everyone from Bowie and Waits to Sontag and Acker. And when she finally understands the scope of X’s defining artistic project, CM realizes her wife’s deceptions were far crueler than she imagined.

Pulsing with suspense and intellect while blending nonfiction and fiction, Biography of X is a roaring epic that plumbs the depths of grief, art, and love. In her most ambitious novel yet, Catherine Lacey, one of our most acclaimed literary innovators, pushes her craft to its highest level, introducing us to an unforgettable character who, in her tantalizing mystery, shows us the fallibility of the stories we craft for ourselves.

“One of the most inventive works I’ve read in a long time, Catherine Lacey’s latest novel is a must-read for fans of ambitious, genre-bending literary fiction.” – David Vogel, BuzzFeed

“[A] staggering achievement… [a] masterpiece about the slippery nature of art, identity, and truth.” – Adrienne Westenfeld, Esquire

“Lacey has done such a brilliant job of making X impossible to envision, impossible to feel or grasp… There is an ambition in The Biography of X that’s thrilling not least because it shows how endless, how elastic and expansive―at a time when so much storytelling feels constricted, tight and close on a single consciousness―fiction can be.” – Lynn Steger Strong, The New Republic

“Lacey imposes a truly outstanding narrative authority on her pseudo-biography… the audacity of this book, joined with its vivid re-imaginings of countercultural scenes from the ’70s and ’80s and its glancing intersection with current-day debates about art and politics, seems likely to bring her to a much wider audience. If this does mark Ms. Lacey’s deserved elevation to mainstream attention, she has accomplished it without diluting the vital qualities of confusion, yearning and mystery.” – Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal

Collateral Damage by J.A. Jance

fiction / mystery / suspense.

Collateral DamageAfter spending twenty years behind bars, Frank Muñoz, a disgraced former cop, is out on parole and focused on just one thing: revenge. The wife who abandoned him after his arrest, the mistress who ratted him out for abetting a money-laundering scheme, the detectives who presided over his case all those years ago—they all have targets on their backs.

For Ali Reynolds, the first Christmas without her father is riddled with grief and uncertainty. And with her husband and founding partner of High Noon Enterprises, B. Simpson, preoccupied by an upcoming New Year’s trip to London, she is ready for a break. But when Stu Ramey barges into her home with grave news about a serious—and suspicious—accident on the highway to Phoenix involving B.’s car, things reach a breaking point.

At the hospital, a groggy, post-op B. insists that Ali take his place at a ransomware conference in London, as troubles brimming around High Noon come to light. But questions remain: Who would go to such lengths to cut the tech company from the picture? And what if Ali and the rest of the team are also in danger?

“[A] fast-paced thriller.” – K.L. Romo, Library Journal

“In the seventeenth in the series, Jance again delivers the multilevel plotting and fast-paced action that her fans have come to expect from her.” – Emily Melton, Booklist

“Jance has an uncanny way of bringing the plots together. Ali and company unravel this complex plot that allows readers some thrilling scenes.” – Elise Cooper, Military Press

Countdown by James Patterson & Brendan DuBois

fiction / suspense / mystery.

Countdown5 days to save the world, 4 days to save her family… James Patterson’s most terrifying time-bomb of a thriller since The President Is Missing.

Agent Amy Cornwall excels at working from the shadows—until a botched field operation reveals dark dealings between her bosses and an informant. And a hidden plot by a terrorist genius that could kill thousands of Americans. Among them: her husband and daughter.

She has to go dark. The Division wants to erase her. And they know every detail about her identity, her history, and her family.

Agent Cornwall’s countdown has begun.

“[An] exciting thriller.” – Varen Talwar, The Johns Hopkins News-Letter

Flux by Jinwoo Chong

fiction / science fiction / mystery / suspense.

FluxCombining elements of neo-noir, speculative fiction, and ’80s detective shows, Flux is a haunting and sometimes shocking exploration of the cyclical nature of grief, of moving past trauma, and of the pervasive nature of whiteness within the development of Asian identity in America.

In Flux, a brilliant debut in the vein of William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Ling Ma’s Severance, Jinwoo Chong introduces us to three characters —Bo, Brandon and Blue— who are tortured by these questions as their lives spin out of control.

* After 8-year-old Bo loses his mother in a tragic accident, his white father, attempting to hold their lives together, begins to gradually retreat from the family.

* 28-year-old Brandon loses his job at a legacy magazine publisher and is offered a new position. Confused to find himself in an apartment he does not recognize, and an office he sometimes cannot remember leaving, he comes to suspect that something far more sinister is happening behind the walls.

* 48-year-old Blue participates in a television exposé of Flux, a failed bioelectric tech startup whose fraudulent activity eventually claimed the lives of three people and nearly killed him. Blue, who can only speak with the aid of cybernetic implants, stalks his old manager while holding his estranged family at arms-length.

Intertwined with the saga of a once-iconic ’80s detective show, Raider, whose star has fallen after decades of concealed abuse, the lives of Bo, Brandon and Blue intersect with each other, to the extent that it becomes clear that their lives are more interconnected and interdependent than the reader could have ever imagined.

Can we ever really change the past, or the future? What truth do we owe our families? What truth do we owe ourselves?

“Jinwoo Chong has crafted a lavish mystery that’s hanging-off-the-edge-of-your-seat good.” – Melanie Curry, Cosmopolitan

Flux is brisk, stylish, and sexy, a high-stakes noir thriller that makes room for big philosophical ideas…” – Patrick Rapa, Philadelphia Inquirer

“[A] daringly constructed thriller, a mystery that propels you through it with burning questions, magnetic characters, and gasp-worthy twists… a book for our time.” – Emma Staffaroni, The Rumpus

“Not yet 30, Chong bursts forth, Athena-like, with an impossible-to-simply-label masterpiece that melds various genres—from Bildungsroman to speculative fiction, coming-of-age drama to epic tragedy, crime documentary to noirish thriller—into an intricate literary mosaic… Chong stuns readers with a multipronged, multilayered, multivoiced, magnificent enigma.” – Terry Hong, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Mind Over Batter: 75 Recipes for Baking as Therapy by Jack Hazan

nonfiction / cooking / self-help / psychiatry.

Mind over BatterYou may not realize it, but many essential therapeutic techniques can be accessed right in your own kitchen. In Mind over Batter, licensed psychotherapist and master baker Jack Hazan guides you through 75 simple, healing recipes that can help you tap into whatever you might be going through that day.

Inspired by the Syrian and Middle Eastern baked goods he grew up with, along with his take on classic American desserts, recipes are organized into themed chapters based on common life moments and needs.

In need of connection? Make some Pesto Pull-Apart Bread to share with your loved ones.

Looking for a way to release some anxiety? Knead away your stress with a Chocolate Babka Crunch.

Simply in need of some self-care? Whip up a single-serving indulgence like a Devil’s Food Mug Cake.

Throughout each chapter are invaluable exercises and “quick sessions” that connect baking processes to the evidence-based therapy tools Jack Hazan uses in his practice every day.

“[A] confidence-inspiring outing… Perfection is not the goal, the author notes, as pleasure comes as much from the baking and sharing as the eating. Hazan’s sunny disposition shines as he gives permission to bake, enjoy, and heal. Experienced and beginner bakers alike will agree with Hazan that ‘true joy can’t be bought. It can, however, be baked.’” – Publishers Weekly

“Hazan’s point of view is simple, comforting, and helpful for those in need of some talk therapy, with the added bonus of baked goods.” – Danise Hoover, Library Journal

“Woven among recipes are tips and advice for help with managing anxiety, creating good boundaries, and finding mindfulness. There are also practical baking affirmations throughout the book, which can be helpful for those who tend to panic in the kitchen. Yes, there are problems baking can’t solve, but there’s no shortage of stressed-out people in need of a little comfort—and sometimes, baking can help with that.” – Nataya Culler, Booklist

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Poverty, by America by Matthew Desmond

nonfiction / history / politics / sociology / economics / current events.

Poverty, by AmericaThe United States, the richest country on earth, has more poverty than any other advanced democracy. Why? Why does this land of plenty allow one in every eight of its children to go without basic necessities, permit scores of its citizens to live and die on the streets, and authorize its corporations to pay poverty wages?

In this landmark book, acclaimed sociologist Matthew Desmond draws on history, research, and original reporting to show how affluent Americans knowingly and unknowingly keep poor people poor. Those of us who are financially secure exploit the poor, driving down their wages while forcing them to overpay for housing and access to cash and credit. We prioritize the subsidization of our wealth over the alleviation of poverty, designing a welfare state that gives the most to those who need the least. And we stockpile opportunity in exclusive communities, creating zones of concentrated riches alongside those of concentrated despair. Some lives are made small so that others may grow.

Elegantly written and fiercely argued, this compassionate book gives us new ways of thinking about a morally urgent problem. It also helps us imagine solutions. Desmond builds a startlingly original and ambitious case for ending poverty. He calls on us all to become poverty abolitionists, engaged in a politics of collective belonging to usher in a new age of shared prosperity and, at last, true freedom.

“…powerful… a gut-wrenching call for change.” – Publishers Weekly

“This is a book that is bound to start a lot of conversations, and it will ask difficult questions of readers of all political stripes. They are questions well worth asking, and answering.” – Chris Schluep, Amazon

“This is the kind of awareness we desperately need to start to change this broken, cruel system.” – Emily Temple, Literary Hub

“…brilliantly researched and artfully written… This thoughtful investigation of a critically important subject, a piercing title by an astute writer who is both passionate and fearless, is valuable reading for all concerned with affecting positive change.” – Colleen Mondor, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

The Shoemaker’s Magician by Cynthia Pelayo

fiction / horror / mystery.

The Shoemaker's MagicianPaloma has been watching the Grand Vespertilio Show her entire life. Grand, America’s most beloved horror host showcases classic, low-budget and cult horror movies with a flourish, wearing his black tuxedo and hat, but Paloma has noticed something strange about Grand, stranger than his dark make-up and Gothic television set.

After Paloma’s husband, a homicide detective, discovers an obscure movie poster pinned on a mutilated corpse on stage at the Chicago Theater, she knows that the only person that can help solve this mystery is Grand. When another body appears at an abandoned historic movie palace the deaths prove to be connected to a silent film, lost to the ages, but somehow at the center of countless tragedies in Chicago.

The closer Paloma gets to Grand she discovers that his reach is far greater than her first love, horror movies, and even this film. And she soon becomes trapped between protecting a silent movie that’s contributed to so much death in her city and the life of her young son.

“…haunting… Pelayo loads the text with references to cult films and asides about their production histories that will delight horror buffs… This is not for the faint of heart.” – Publishers Weekly

“[A] tale that fascinates and frightens… an enchanting mix of Chicago history, folklore, and haunting atmosphere, anchored by a strong female protagonist. A gripping story filled with ghosts, mystery, and history…” – Becky Spratford, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Hot on the heels of her landmark breakout Children of Chicago, Cynthia Pelayo cements her name as a horror legend with The Shoemaker’s Magician, a paean to film, magic, Chicago and horror… With so many streets to travel down, Pelayo chooses the most magic of them all.” – Zach Rosenberg, Horror DNA

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The Sinister Booksellers of Bath by Garth Nix

fiction / young adult / fantasy / historical fiction.

The Sinister Booksellers of BathThere is often trouble of a mythical sort in Bath. The booksellers who police the Old World keep a careful watch there, particularly on the entity that inhabits the ancient hot spring.

This time trouble comes from the discovery of a sorcerous map, leading left-handed bookseller Merlin into great danger, requiring a desperate rescue attempt from his sister, the right-handed bookseller Vivien, and art student Susan Arkshaw, who is still struggling to deal with her own recently discovered magical heritage.

The map takes the trio to a place separated from this world, maintained by deadly sorcery and guarded by monstrous living statues. But this is only the beginning. To unravel the secrets of a murderous Ancient Sovereign, the booksellers must investigate centuries of disappearances and deaths. If they do not stop her, she will soon kill again. And this time, her target is not an ordinary mortal.

“[A] lot of fun… [the] unusual combination of action-drama and ancient mythologies is an interesting one.” – Mark Yon, SFF World

“A fast and fun outing in an immersive alternate world.” – Kirkus Reviews

“[A] satisfying sequel… It’s a treat to rejoin Susan and company on their ever-expanding adventures.” – Emily Graham, Booklist

The Things We Make: The Unknown History of Invention from Cathedrals to Soda Cans by Bill Hammack

nonfiction / history / science / engineering.

The Things We MakeDiscover the secret method used to build the world…

For millennia, humans have used one simple method to solve problems. Whether it’s planting crops, building skyscrapers, developing photographs, or designing the first microchip, all creators follow the same steps to engineer progress. But this powerful method, the “engineering method”, is an all but hidden process that few of us have heard of―let alone understand―but that influences every aspect of our lives.

Bill Hammack, a Carl Sagan award-winning professor of engineering and viral “The Engineer Guy” on YouTube, has a lifelong passion for the things we make, and how we make them. Now, for the first time, he reveals the invisible method behind every invention and takes us on a whirlwind tour of how humans built the world we know today. From the grand stone arches of medieval cathedrals to the mundane modern soda can, Hammack explains the golden rule of thumb that underlies every new building technique, every technological advancement, and every creative solution that leads us one step closer to a better, more functional world. Spanning centuries and cultures, Hammack offers a fascinating perspective on how humans engineer solutions in a world full of problems.

A book unlike any other, The Things We Make is a captivating examination of the method that keeps pushing humanity forward, a spotlight on the achievements of the past, and a celebration of the potential of our future that will change the way we see the world around us.

“[A] heartfelt ode in praise of engineers… offers several compelling examples of how engineering has changed our world and pushes back against the harmful myth of the lone inventor… A must-read for anyone interested in engineering or the history of technology and human achievement.” – John Keogh, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“…fascinating… Hammack brilliantly delineates the role of trial and error in human progress, and presents a knockout argument that a perfect understanding of the world is not a prerequisite to innovation. This clever and curious account delivers.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“An informative book about how the impulse of engineers to solve real-world problems is the source of progress… insightful… Hammack writes with admirable clarity, authority, and wisdom.” – Kirkus Reviews

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Totally Kosher: Tradition with a Twist! 150+ Recipes for the Holidays and Every Day by Chanie Apfelbaum

nonfiction / cooking.

Totally KosherKnown for bringing a trendy edge to kosher meals, Chanie’s recipes are approachable, playful, and tasty, and introduce exciting global flavors to the kosher canon of Jewish-inspired dishes–such as Miso Matzo Ball Soup, Instant Pot Paprikash, and Brownie Bar Hamantaschen that marries brownies with the Purim cookie favorite.

Chanie keeps cooking for family fun, fresh, and practical, too. She shares her secrets here, from kitchen hacks to favorite pantry ingredients that will transform your kosher cooking, as well as meal planning advice, make-ahead tips, and crowd-pleasing semi-homemade dinner spreads, like a serve-yourself Baked Potato Board or a festive Taco Board. Totally Kosher delivers more than 150 accessible, approachable ways to keep kosher food exciting and delicious for the entire family.

“Chanie Apfelbaum, author of Millennial Kosher, is back with another cookbook full of kosher recipes perfect for everyday meals and sharing at special events.” – CJ Connor, Book Riot

“Folks who don’t follow a kosher diet will still enjoy the big flavors and may be pleasantly surprised at how many meat-free options are on offer. Bright food photography and Apfelbaum’s easygoing style will attract new cooks and charm readers who are already comfortable at the stove… Fans of Apfelbaum’s popular blog Busy in Brooklyn already know this is a must-have cookbook for kosher kitchens, but it’s also a breath of fresh air for cooks looking for big flavors and a fun voice.” – Sarah Tansley, Library Journal

“…filled with doable yet exciting weeknight recipes… Totally Kosher offers a range of inspiration…” – Adeena Sussman, Hadassah

The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War by Jeff Sharlet

nonfiction / current events / politics / religion.

The UndertowAn unmatched guide to the religious dimensions of American politics, Jeff Sharlet journeys into corners of our national psyche where others fear to tread. The Undertow is both inquiry and meditation, an attempt to understand how, over the last decade, reaction has morphed into delusion, social division into distrust, distrust into paranoia, and hatred into fantasies―sometimes realities―of violence.

Across the country, men “of God” glorify materialism, a gluttony of the soul, while citing Scripture and preparing for civil war―a firestorm they long for as an absolution and exaltation. Lies, greed, and glorification of war boom through microphones at hipster megachurches that once upon a time might have preached peace and understanding. Political rallies are as aflame with need and giddy expectation as religious revivals. At a conference for incels, lonely single men come together to rage against women. On the Far Right, everything is heightened―love into adulation, fear into vengeance, anger into white-hot rage. Here, in the undertow, our forty-fifth president, a vessel of conspiratorial fears and fantasies, continues to rise to sainthood, and the insurrectionist Ashli Babbitt, killed on January 6 at the Capitol, is beatified as a martyr of white womanhood.

Framing this dangerous vision, Sharlet remembers and celebrates the courage of those who sing a different song of community, and of an America long dreamt of and yet to be fully born, dedicated to justice and freedom for all.

Exploring a geography of grief and uncertainty in the midst of plague and rising fascism, The Undertow is a necessary reckoning with our precarious present that brings to light a decade of American failures as well as a vision for American possibility.

“[The Undertow] induced a physiological response similar to the one I experienced while reading Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem. Both books are mood-altering, mind-altering odysseys.” – Elizabeth D. Samet, The American Scholar

“Poetic descriptions of America’s landscape and history punctuate Sharlet’s unsettling insights into the undercurrents of fear, isolation, and anger coursing through the country. It’s a jaw-dropping portrait of a country on the edge.” – Publishers Weekly

“Sharlet’s books require the kind of reportage that feels both immersive and terrifying―his work takes him deep into uncomfortable territory, holding a mirror up to the world we think we live in to reveal another place altogether. That’s what The Undertow promises: a deep dive into the religious dimensions―and fanaticism―of American politics. From a conference for incels to the celebrated martyrdom of a Capitol rioter, Sharlet’s new book will be a must read for everyone looking to understand how the country got to where we are.” – Emily Firetog, Literary Hub

The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear

fiction / mystery / historical fiction / suspense.

The White LadyPost-World War II Britain, 1947. Forty-one-year-old “Miss White,” as Elinor is known, lives in a village in Kent, England, so quietly and privately as to seem an enigma to her fellow villagers. Well she might, as Elinor occupies a “grace and favor” property, a rare privilege offered to faithful servants of the Crown for services to the nation. But the residents of Shacklehurst have no way of knowing how dangerous Elinor’s war work had been, or how deeply their mysterious neighbor continues to be haunted by her past.

It will take the child of Jim Mackie, a young farmworker and his wife, Rose, to break through Miss White’s icy demeanor—but Jim has something in common with Elinor. He, too, is desperate to escape his past. When the powerful Mackie crime family demands a return of their prodigal son for an important job, Elinor assumes the task of protecting her neighbors, especially the bright-eyed Susie, who reminds her of the darkest day of her life.

Elinor’s wartime training and instincts serve her well, but as she endeavors to neutralize the threat to Jim, Rose and Susie Mackie, she is rapidly led along a tunnel of smoke and mirrors in which former wartime colleagues – who know the truth about what happened in 1944, and the terrible event that led to her wartime suicide attempt – are compromised by more powerful influences.

Ultimately, Elinor will hold a gun to the head of a Mackie crime lord to uncover the truth behind the family’s pursuit of Jim, and in doing so, reveal the far-reaching tentacles of their power—along with the truth that will free Elinor from her past.

“Jacqueline Winspear has struck gold with another indomitable heroine of wartime Britain.” – Barry Turner, The Daily Mail

The White Lady is a perfect fit for lovers of historical mysteries featuring intrepid, resourceful women who emerge as equal to their male colleagues and sometimes are more courageous. As a neighbor comments about Elinor, ‘She’s handy with a gun.’ And she’s very clever. This is an excellent outing for Winspear.” – New York Journal of Books

“The real strength of the novel, lies in the poignant and beautifully written backstory of Elinor’s childhood in war-torn Belgium and her personal losses in a devastated London. Winspear is an absolute master of the character-driven thriller…” – Jane Murphy, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Y/N by Ester Yi


Y/NIt’s as if her life only began once Moon appeared in it. The desultory copywriting work, the boyfriend, and the want of anything not-Moon quickly fall away when she beholds the idol in concert, where Moon dances as if his movements are creating their own gravitational field; on live streams, as fans from around the world comment in dozens of languages; even on skincare products endorsed by the wildly popular Korean boyband, of which Moon is the youngest, most luminous member. Seized by ineffable desire, our unnamed narrator begins writing Y/N fanfic—in which you, the reader, insert [Your/Name] and play out an intimate relationship with the unattainable star.

Then Moon suddenly retires, vanishing from the public eye. As Y/N flies from Berlin to Seoul to be with Moon, our narrator, too, journeys to Korea in search of the object of her love. An escalating series of mistranslations and misidentifications lands her at the headquarters of the Kafkaesque entertainment company that manages the boyband until, at a secret location, together with Moon at last, art and real life approach their final convergence.

“[A] piercing, feverish, and frequently astonishing debut.” – Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

Y/N is an utterly brilliant, shining, and mesmerizing debut that will make you rethink everything you know about fandom, celebrity, and parasocial relationships.” – Tamara Fuentes, Cosmopolitan

“This debut novel, a Kafkaesque fever dream about fandom and obsession, arrives right on time… Haunting yet playful, immersive yet unreal, Y/N is a brilliant dissection of consumption in all its forms—how we consume art, and how it consumes us.” – Adrienne Westenfeld, Esquire

Y/N is one of the most daring novels of the year. Yi has set a new standard for internet-influenced literature by showing that online and literary narratives exist hand in hand, creating the world with every word.” – Eric A. Ponce, BookPage, STARRED REVIEW


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