Best New Books: Week of 5/2/23

“You can say any fool thing to a dog and the dog will just give you this look that says, ‘My GOSH, you’re RIGHT! I NEVER would’ve thought of that!’” – Dave Barry

America Redux: Visual Stories from Our Dynamic History by Ariel Aberg-Riger

nonfiction / young adult / history.

America ReduxWhat are the stories we tell ourselves about America?

How do they shape our sense of history,

cloud our perceptions,

inspire us?

America Redux explores the themes that create our shared sense of American identity and interrogates the myths we’ve been telling ourselves for centuries. With iconic American catchphrases as chapter titles, these twenty-one visual stories illuminate the astonishing, unexpected, sometimes darker sides of history that reverberate in our society to this very day–from the role of celebrity in immigration policy to the influence of one small group of white women on education to the effects of “progress” on housing and the environment, to the inspiring force of collective action and mutual aid across decades and among diverse groups.

Fully illustrated with collaged archival photographs, maps, documents, graphic elements, and handwritten text, this book is a dazzling, immersive experience that jumps around in time and will make you view history in a whole different light.

“This stellar offering combines startling facts, gripping prose, and appealing, vibrant collage illustrations that use photographs, maps, and other ephemera… Thought-provoking connections are made to today’s burning issues… Beautifully illustrated, riveting, enraging, and empowering: a must-read.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] pictorial stunner… Aberg-Riger uses vibrant, mixed-media graphic collages combining maps, vintage magazine ads, and old photographs to present a kaleidoscopic visual accounting… This work enthralls from start to finish, culminating in a triumphant victory that tackles censorship and revisionist history.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“In this interactive, visually stunning compilation, Aberg-Riger assembles some of the stories U.S. history textbooks typically leave out. While the themes encompass difficult topics, Aberg-Riger concludes many chapters with ways activists have changed and continue to change the course of these ongoing issues in America. An essential resource to promote perspective and dialogue around American identity.” – Angela Leeper, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Austin Noir edited by Hopeton Hay, Scott Montgomery, & Molly Odintz

fiction / mystery / suspense.

Austin NoirYou’ve probably heard of Austin. You may have been here for South by Southwest. Your best friend may have recently relocated here from California. You might have thought about moving here yourself, then decided it wasn’t worth it to live in Texas. You may have moved to Austin decades ago. You may even have been born and raised in Austin, and now you’re on the outskirts of San Antonio or (god forbid) Waco because you can’t afford to buy a house anywhere else. Or you may be living in a shiny new building downtown, watching the final stages of a sleepy town’s transformation into modern metropolis. One thing you’ll hear from almost any Austin resident: it was better when they got here…

As the city expands, construction never stops, struggling futilely to keep up with new demand. The running joke is that the city bird is the crane. Rents and property values keep climbing. We fear becoming Dallas… The writers contributing to this collection represent a kaleidoscopic view of the city—not just in where they set the stories, but in their different social, economic, and cultural perspectives.

“A perfect testament to Austin’s ability to look backward while moving forward.” – Kirkus Reviews0

“[A] standout installment… the volume takes on a rare sophistication worthy of its subject. This is the collection the city—and noir readers everywhere—deserve.” – Dwyer Murphy, Literary Hub

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Camera Girl: The Coming of Age of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy by Carl Sferrazza Anthony

nonfiction / biography / history.

Camera GirlCamera Girl brings to cinematic life Jackie’s years as a young, single woman trying to figure out who she wanted to become. Chafing at the expectations of her family and the societal limitations placed on women in that era, Jackie pursued her dream career as a writer. Set primarily during the years of 1949 to 1953, when Jackie was in her early twenties, the book recounts in heretofore unrevealed detail the story of her late college years and her early adulthood as a working woman.

Before she met Jack Kennedy, Jacqueline Bouvier was the Washington Times-Herald’s “Inquiring Camera Girl,” posing compelling questions to members of the public on the streets of DC and snapping their photos with her unwieldy Graflex camera. She then fashioned the results into a daily column, of which six hundred were published.

Carl Sferrazza Anthony, a historian and leading expert on First Ladies, draws on these columns and previously unseen archives of Jackie’s writings from this time, along with insights gleaned from interviews he conducted with the former First Lady’s friends, colleagues, and family members. Camera Girl offers a fresh perspective on the woman later known as Jacqueline Kennedy and Jackie O, introducing us to the headstrong, self-assured young woman who went on to be one of the world’s most famous people. It’s a glamorous and surprisingly hard-charging story of a person determined to define herself, told with admiration, empathy, and journalistic rigor.

“Whether she’s avoiding a traffic ticket after speeding in her car named Zelda, or translating books for Kennedy’s report on the history of France in Indochina, this portrait of young Jackie Bouvier shines with wit and intelligence.” – Denise Miller, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“A uniquely focused portrait of the former first lady before Camelot… A well-crafted biography that could easily spawn both a delightful TV drama or a historical look at female journalists.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“By drawing on extensive interviews with Jackie’s contemporaries and family, oral histories, and presidential archives, Anthony delivers a well-rounded depiction of this eternally fascinating, covertly complicated, and perennially misunderstood historical and cultural icon.” – Carol Haggas, Booklist

Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

fiction / science fiction / fantasy.

Chain-Gang All StarsLoretta Thurwar and Hamara “Hurricane Staxxx” Stacker are the stars of Chain-Gang All-Stars, the cornerstone of CAPE, or Criminal Action Penal Entertainment, a highly-popular, highly-controversial, profit-raising program in America’s increasingly dominant private prison industry. It’s the return of the gladiators and prisoners are competing for the ultimate prize: their freedom.

In CAPE, prisoners travel as Links in Chain-Gangs, competing in death-matches for packed arenas with righteous protestors at the gates. Thurwar and Staxxx, both teammates and lovers, are the fan favorites. And if all goes well, Thurwar will be free in just a few matches, a fact she carries as heavily as her lethal hammer. As she prepares to leave her fellow Links, she considers how she might help preserve their humanity, in defiance of these so-called games, but CAPE’s corporate owners will stop at nothing to protect their status quo and the obstacles they lay in Thurwar’s path have devastating consequences.

Moving from the Links in the field to the protestors to the CAPE employees and beyond, Chain-Gang All-Stars is a kaleidoscopic, excoriating look at the American prison system’s unholy alliance of systemic racism, unchecked capitalism, and mass incarceration, and a clear-eyed reckoning with what freedom in this country really means.

“[A] brilliant and cutting send-off of reality television, football, and mass incarceration.” – Molly Odintz, CrimeReads

“Vividly imaginative and startling in its clarity of intent… A sort of The Hunger Games meets Gladiator meets WWE meets the modern private prison system.” – Lauren Puckett-Pope, Elle

“…breathtaking and pulse-pounding… Both the political allegory and the edge-of-your-seat action work beautifully. Readers will be wowed.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Like Orwell’s 1984 and Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Adjei-Brenyah’s book presents a dystopian vision so upsetting and illuminating that it should permanently shift our understanding of who we are and what we’re capable of doing… So raw and tragic and primal is Chain-Gang All-Stars that despite its futuristic elements, it has the patina of some timeworn epic… shockingly intimate and moving.” – Ron Charles, Washington Post

Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati

fiction / fantasy / historical fiction.

ClytemnestraAs for queens, they are either hated or forgotten. She already knows which option suits her best…

You were born to a king, but you marry a tyrant. You stand by helplessly as he sacrifices your child to placate the gods. You watch him wage war on a foreign shore, and you comfort yourself with violent thoughts of your own. Because this was not the first offence against you. This was not the life you ever deserved. And this will not be your undoing. Slowly, you plot.

But when your husband returns in triumph, you become a woman with a choice.

Acceptance or vengeance, infamy follows both. So, you bide your time and force the gods’ hands in the game of retribution. For you understood something long ago that the others never did.

If power isn’t given to you, you have to take it for yourself.

“A dazzling portrait of Clytemnestra… an outstanding portrait in humanity, motherhood, sisterhood, grief, loss and revenge.” – Kate Braithwaite, Historical Novel Society

“[An] impressive debut… Despite the essential plot beats being well-known, Casati makes this grim tale feel fresh through vivid imagery and nuanced characterizations.” – Publishers Weekly

“…propulsive… Richly drawn and lovingly rendered, Casati’s Clystemnestra is a brilliant, fierce woman placed, again and again, in untenable circumstances… Readers who are enjoying the current plethora of mythological retellings won’t want to miss this absorbing examination of a complicated queen.” – Kristine Huntley, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“…stunning… Clytemnestra is a great literary achievement that gives voice to characters who, due to their genders, have been vilified and silenced throughout the millennia… a literary tour de force…” – Erika Harlitz Kern, Foreword Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

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The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese

fiction / historical fiction.

The Covenant of WaterSpanning the years 1900 to 1977, The Covenant of Water is set in Kerala, on South India’s Malabar Coast, and follows three generations of a family that suffers a peculiar affliction: in every generation, at least one person dies by drowning—and in Kerala, water is everywhere. The family is part of a Christian community that traces itself to the time of the apostles, but times are shifting, and the matriarch of this family, known as Big Ammachi—literally “Big Mother”—will witness unthinkable changes at home and at large over the span of her extraordinary life. All of Verghese’s great gifts are on display in this new work: there are astonishing scenes of medical ingenuity, fantastic moments of humor, a surprising and deeply moving story, and characters imbued with the essence of life.

A shimmering evocation of a lost India and of the passage of time itself, The Covenant of Water is a hymn to progress in medicine and to human understanding, and a humbling testament to the hardships undergone by past generations for the sake of those alive today. It is one of the most masterful literary novels published in recent years.’

“…breathtaking… The book beautifully explores the lessons we learn from our ancestors in an always changing world.” – Real Simple

“[A] grand epic that will sweep you off your feet… a resounding and astounding, intimate and expansive, story of how cultural, social, and racial politics play out in the lives of wives, doctors, artists—many of whom are orphans—striving to find home and purpose in a world that is ever-shifting and ever-dangerous. Filled with shimmery, charismatic people who love deeply and dream big, The Covenant of Water is an entirely magnetic read that you won’t want to end.” – Al Woodworth, Amazon

“A masterpiece. Put it on your bookcase next to A Passage to India by E.M. Forster or anything by the brave and brilliant Salman Rushdie. Indeed, put it next to any great novel of your choice. Sprawling, passionate, tragic and comedic at turns… Verghese, probably the best doctor-writer since Anton Chekhov, upends all of our expectations… You won’t want it to end.” – Arlene McKanic, BookPage, STARRED REVIEW

“Instantly and utterly absorbing… Verghese—who gifts the matriarch his mother’s name and even some of her stories—illuminates colonial history, challenges castes and classism, and exposes injustices, all while spectacularly spinning what will undoubtedly be one of the most lauded, awarded, best-selling novels of the year.” – Terry Hong, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

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The Ferryman by Justin Cronin

fiction / science fiction / fantasy / suspense.

The FerrymanFounded by the mysterious genius known as the Designer, the archipelago of Prospera lies hidden from the horrors of a deteriorating outside world. In this island paradise, Prospera’s lucky citizens enjoy long, fulfilling lives until the monitors embedded in their forearms, meant to measure their physical health and psychological well-being, fall below 10 percent. Then they retire themselves, embarking on a ferry ride to the island known as the Nursery, where their failing bodies are renewed, their memories are wiped clean, and they are readied to restart life afresh.

Proctor Bennett, of the Department of Social Contracts, has a satisfying career as a ferryman, gently shepherding people through the retirement process–and, when necessary, enforcing it. But all is not well with Proctor. For one thing, he’s been dreaming–which is supposed to be impossible in Prospera. For another, his monitor percentage has begun to drop alarmingly fast. And then comes the day he is summoned to retire his own father, who gives him a disturbing and cryptic message before being wrestled onto the ferry.

Meanwhile, something is stirring. The Support Staff, ordinary men and women who provide the labor to keep Prospera running, have begun to question their place in the social order. Unrest is building, and there are rumors spreading of a resistance group–known as “Arrivalists”–who may be fomenting revolution.

Soon Proctor finds himself questioning everything he once believed, entangled with a much bigger cause than he realized–and on a desperate mission to uncover the truth.

“Twisty, thrilling, and beautifully written.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Justin Cronin brings readers a powerful premise and excellent world-building in The Ferryman… emotionally-charged, unique, intense, challenging, and thought-provoking…” – Pam Guynn, Mystery & Suspense

“[A] fantastic extravaganza all its own, with a plot that hinges on unpredictable twists that run far ahead of reader expectations… a sensational speculative tale that is sure to get people talking.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] page-turner that is impossible to put down. A profoundly genius culmination of every twisty event and unveiled secret caps off this mind-bending masterpiece. The velvety prose, the creepy heart-clenching suspense, and the meaning and emotion layered into every word all give rise to an incredibly thought-provoking sci-fi thriller from Cronin.” – Andrea Dyba, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

fiction / fantasy / romance.

Fourth WingTwenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a quiet life among books and history. Now, the commanding general—also known as her tough-as-talons mother—has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: dragon riders.

But when you’re smaller than everyone else and your body is brittle, death is only a heartbeat away… because dragons don’t bond to “fragile” humans. They incinerate them.

With fewer dragons willing to bond than cadets, most would kill Violet to better their own chances of success. The rest would kill her just for being her mother’s daughter—like Xaden Riorson, the most powerful and ruthless wingleader in the Riders Quadrant.

She’ll need every edge her wits can give her just to see the next sunrise.

Yet, with every day that passes, the war outside grows more deadly, the kingdom’s protective wards are failing, and the death toll continues to rise. Even worse, Violet begins to suspect leadership is hiding a terrible secret.

Friends, enemies, lovers. Everyone at Basgiath War College has an agenda—because once you enter, there are only two ways out: graduate or die.

“[It] will fly off the shelves.” – Erin Niederberger, Library Journal

“[An] astounding debut… Yarros’s worldbuilding is intricate without being overbearing, setting the stage for Violet’s satisfying growth into a force to be reckoned with. Readers will be spellbound and eager for more.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Suspenseful, sexy, and with incredibly entertaining storytelling, the first in Yarros’ Empyrean series will delight fans of romantic, adventure-filled fantasy.” – Sal A. Joyce, Booklist

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Gone to the Wolves by John Wray

fiction / historical fiction.

Gone to the WolvesKip, Leslie, and Kira are outliers–even in the metal scene they love. In arch-conservative Gulf Coast Florida in the late 1980s, just listening to metal can get you arrested, but for the three of them the risk is well worth it, because metal is what leads them to one another.

Different as they are, Kip, Leslie, and Kira form a family of sorts that proves far safer, and more loving, than the families they come from. Together, they make the pilgrimage from Florida’s swamp country to the fabled Sunset Strip in Hollywood. But in time, the delicate equilibrium they’ve found begins to crumble. Leslie moves home to live with his elderly parents; Kip struggles to find his footing in the sordid world of LA music journalism; and Kira, the most troubled of the three, finds herself drawn to ever darker and more extreme strains of metal. On a trip to northern Europe for her twenty-second birthday, in the middle of a show, she simply vanishes. Two years later, the truth about her disappearance reunites Kip with Leslie, who in order to bring Kira home alive must make greater sacrifices than they could ever have imagined.

In his most absorbing and ambitious novel yet, John Wray dives deep into the wild, funhouse world of heavy metal and death cults in the 1980s and ’90s. Gone to the Wolves lays bare the intensity, tumult, and thrill of friendship in adolescence–a time when music can often feel like life or death.

“[A] masterly opus of Florida metalheads… Wray writes about music with the enthusiasm of a fan and the precision of a critic, packing the pages with spot-on details and cannily capturing the allure of extreme music. The pages of this anthem are as uncompromising as the music they depict.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] melodious exploration of the succor that music and fan groups can provide, especially to rudderless teens desperate to find anchor anywhere.” – Poornima Apte, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Wray deftly captures teenage alienation, the precarity of adolescence, and the way multiple subgenres of metal can provide solace, be it via glitzy fantasy or doomy angst… A giddy, harrowing, manic, and often dark coming-of-age tale.” – Kirkus Reviews

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The Half Moon by Mary Beth Keane


The Half MoonMalcolm Gephardt, handsome and gregarious longtime bartender at the Half Moon, has always dreamed of owning a bar. When his boss finally retires, Malcolm stretches to buy the place. He sees unquantifiable magic and potential in the Half Moon and hopes to transform it into a bigger success, but struggles to stay afloat.

His smart and confident wife, Jess, has devoted herself to her law career. After years of trying for a baby, she is facing the idea that motherhood may not be in the cards for her. Like Malcolm, she feels her youth beginning to slip away and wonders how to reshape her future.

Award-winning author Mary Beth Keane’s new novel takes place over the course of one week when Malcolm learns shocking news about Jess, a patron of the bar goes missing, and a blizzard hits the town of Gillam, trapping everyone in place. With a deft eye and generous spirit, Keane explores the disappointments and unexpected consolations of midlife, the many forms forgiveness can take, the complicated intimacy of small-town living, and what it means to be a family.

“…Keane’s charming, tautly-paced, and introspective novel will delight…” – Stephanie Turza, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“…deft, satisfying… Keane writes in a realist vein–the vivid, domesticated world of Anne Tyler, of William Trevor, of Elizabeth Strout—but her insights into matters of the heart, longing and restlessness especially, have astonishing delicacy.” – Taylor Antrim, Vogue

“Keane takes a nuanced look at a troubled marriage… Keane pulls off a quiet, contemplative novel about the dwindling time for second chances.” – Publishers Weekly

“A deep dive into the complexities of marriage makes this novel perfect fodder for book discussions. Should appeal to fans of Elizabeth Berg, Eleanor Lipman, and Meg Wolitzer.” – Stacy Alesi, Library Journal

The Hebridean Baker: Recipes and Wee Stories from the Scottish Islands by Coinneach MacLeod

nonfiction / food / cooking.

The Hebridean BakerFàilte, I’m the Hebridean Baker!

Close your eyes and imagine yourself in the remote Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Do you see yourself walking along a deserted beach? Climbing a heather-strewn hill with a happy wee dog by your side? Sipping a dram at a ceilidh to the tune of a Gaelic song? Or chatting by a warm stove with a cuppa and a cake? For me, it is all these things, and more… and they have inspired every page of this book.

From Croft Loaf to Cranachan Chocolate Bombs, Oaty Apricot Cookies to Heilan’ Coo Cupcakes, there’s something here to put a smile on everyone’s face. Focusing on small bakes that use a simple set of ingredients, these recipes will unleash your inner Scottish baker—it’s all about rustic home baking and old family favorites because, as the Hebridean Baker always says, “Homemade is always best!”

The Hebridean Baker is your ticket to the Scottish Highlands. Perfect for fans of Outlander and anyone who loves to discover new books via TikTok and BookTok, this beautiful cookbook is a wonderful gift for home bakers and lovers of Scottish culture. It features:

More than 70 traditional recipes (with a modern twist)
Gorgeous full-color photos
Heartwarming stories from the Hebridean Baker himself
This unique baking book is a must-have in any cookbook library!

“Mr. MacLeod’s exuberant, cheeky enthusiasm for a cooking culture that leans on tight community bonds and defiant good humor is contagious. He’s having fun.” – Tucker Shaw, Wall Street Journal

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Imogen, Obviously by Becky Albertalli

fiction / young adult / romance.

Imogen, ObviouslyImogen Scott may be hopelessly heterosexual, but she’s got the World’s Greatest Ally title locked down.

She’s never missed a Pride Alliance meeting. She knows more about queer media discourse than her very queer little sister. She even has two queer best friends. There’s Gretchen, a fellow high school senior, who helps keep Imogen’s biases in check. And then there’s Lili—newly out and newly thriving with a cool new squad of queer college friends.

Imogen’s thrilled for Lili. Any ally would be. And now that she’s finally visiting Lili on campus, she’s bringing her ally A game. Any support Lili needs, Imogen’s all in.

Even if that means bending the truth, just a little.

Like when Lili drops a tiny queer bombshell: she’s told all her college friends that Imogen and Lili used to date. And none of them know that Imogen is a raging hetero—not even Lili’s best friend, Tessa.

Of course, the more time Imogen spends with chaotic, freckle-faced Tessa, the more she starts to wonder if her truth was ever all that straight to begin with…

Imogen, Obviously is perhaps Albertalli’s best book yet, with an introspective look at how identity can shift and an engaging love story.” – Rachel Strolle, BuzzFeed

“Drawn from Albertalli’s experience with coming out, this novel offers an endearing story of one teen’s struggle for self-acceptance. A sure hit with Albertalli’s existing fans, this is likely to win her more in those who want a thought-provoking take on how sometimes what you want is more obvious to your heart than to your head.” – The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“Albertalli lays out the complicated and beautiful layers that come with accepting personal change and having the courage to take an honest look at oneself. A masterpiece that will be cherished by anyone who has felt they might not belong.” – Aurora Dominguez, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Magnolia Table, Volume 3: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering by Joanna Gaines

nonfiction / food / cooking.

Magnolia Table 3Joanna Gaines—cofounder of Magnolia, cook and host of Magnolia Table with Joanna Gaines, and New York Times bestselling author—brings us her third cookbook filled with timeless and nostalgic recipes—now reimagined—for today’s home cook. 

Whether it’s in the making, the gathering, or the tasting of something truly delicious, this collection of recipes from Magnolia Table, Volume 3 is an invitation to savor every moment. In Joanna’s first cookbook, the #1 New York Times bestselling Magnolia Table, she introduced readers to her favorite passed-down family recipes. For her second cookbook, Magnolia Table, Volume 2, she pushed herself beyond her comfort zone to develop new recipes for her family. In this, her third cookbook, Joanna shares the recipes—old and new—that she’s enjoyed the most over the years. The result is a cookbook filled with recipes that are timeless, creative, and delicious! Just as in her past books, within each recipe Joanna speaks to the reader, explaining why she likes a recipe, what inspired her to create it in the first place, and how she prefers to serve it. The book is beautifully photographed and filled with dishes you will want to bring into your own home, including:

  • Honey Butter Layered Biscuit Bites 
  • Bananas Foster Pancakes 
  • Brussels Sprout Gruyére Gratin 
  • White Chicken Alfredo Lasagna 
  • Garlic Shrimp over Parmesan Risotto 
  • Peanut Butter Pie 
  • Brownie Cookies

“[The] best of both worlds.” – Rebecca Aizin, People

Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune

fiction / romance.

Meet Me at the LakeFern Brookbanks has wasted far too much of her adult life thinking about Will Baxter. She spent just twenty-four hours in her early twenties with the aggravatingly attractive, idealistic artist, a chance encounter that spiraled into a daylong adventure in Toronto. The timing was wrong, but their connection was undeniable: they shared every secret, every dream, and made a pact to meet one year later. Fern showed up. Will didn’t.

At thirty-two, Fern’s life doesn’t look at all how she once imagined it would. Instead of living in the city, Fern’s back home, running her mother’s Muskoka lakeside resort–something she vowed never to do. The place is in disarray, her ex-boyfriend’s the manager, and Fern doesn’t know where to begin.

She needs a plan–a lifeline. To her surprise, it comes in the form of Will, who arrives nine years too late, with a suitcase in tow and an offer to help on his lips. Will may be the only person who understands what Fern’s going through. But how could she possibly trust this expensive-suit wearing mirage who seems nothing like the young man she met all those years ago. Will is hiding something, and Fern’s not sure she wants to know what it is.

But ten years ago, Will Baxter rescued Fern. Can she do the same for him?

“[An] upbeat, often very witty Canadian romance novel… Escape to the lakefront with this entertaining romance.” – Kirkus Reviews

“A gorgeous (but struggling) lakeside resort, relationship drama, longing, and great characters make Meet Me at the Lake the perfect summer read.” – Susan Kehoe, Indie Next

“Fortune shines in this beautiful tale of love, loss, and forgiveness… The emotions are big, messy, and realistic as the protagonists’ path to forgiveness has some unexpected twists… This searing story of hard-won second chances is not to be missed.” – Publishers Weekly

Paper Names by Susie Luo

fiction / historical fiction.

Paper NamesSet in New York and China over three decades, Paper Names explores what it means to be American from three different perspectives. There’s Tony, a Chinese-born engineer turned Manhattan doorman, who immigrated to the United States to give his family a better life. His daughter, Tammy, who we meet at age nine and follow through adulthood, grapples with the expectations of a first generation American and her own personal desires. Finally, there’s Oliver, a handsome white lawyer with a dark family secret and who lives in the building where Tony works. A violent attack causes their lives to intertwine in ways that will change them forever.

Taut, panoramic and powerful, debut novelist Susie Luo’s Paper Names is an unforgettable story about the long shadows of our parents, the ripple effect of our decisions and the ways in which our love transcends difference.

“[A] panoramic debut…” – Avery Westervelt, BookBub

“An entertaining and touching debut from a new voice in Chinese American literature.” – Kirkus Reviews

“[A] well-woven tale about the legacies that are passed down through generations, even when family members upend their lives in search of distance from one another.” – BookPage

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The Perfect Ones by Nicole Hackett

fiction / suspense / mystery.

The Perfect OnesEveryone wants to be them, but internet fame comes at a price…

Two days after arriving in Iceland for an influencer trip, Instagram celeb Alabama Wood goes missing. With no leads, the Icelandic police start their investigation by focusing on the two influencers seemingly closest to Alabama on the trip. Celeste Reed, Alabama’s best friend of ten years, and Hollie Goodwin, fitness guru and Alabama’s unwilling idol.

Celeste and Alabama have grown apart recently because Celeste has been too distracted by her five-year-old’s behavioral issues and her husband’s refusal to admit that there’s a problem. What Celeste doesn’t tell them is how she has been coping with these worries and how it involves Alabama in ways no one would guess.

On the outside, Hollie appears to have everything—the husband, the body, and over one million Instagram followers. In reality, however, Hollie came to Iceland to escape the implosion of her life behind the screen. The only person who suspected something amiss behind Hollie’s precisely filtered pictures is Alabama.

As secrets are revealed and loyalties are tested, debut author Nicole Hackett asks: do we control our online image, or does it control us?

“…compelling… A twisty thriller with many detours and surprises.” – Kirkus Reviews

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The Power of Trees: How Ancient Forests Can Save Us If We Let Them by Peter Wohlleben; translated by Jane Billinghurst

nonfiction / science / nature.

The Power of TreesIn his beloved book The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben revealed astonishing discoveries about the social networks of trees and how they communicate. Now, in The Power of Trees, he turns to their future, with a searing critique of forestry management, tree planting, and the exploitation of old growth forests.

As human-caused climate change devastates the planet, forests play a critical role in keeping it habitable. While politicians and business leaders would have us believe that cutting down forests can be offset by mass tree planting, Wohlleben offers a warning: many tree planting campaigns lead to ecological disaster. Not only are these trees more susceptible to disease, flooding, fires, and landslides, we need to understand that forests are more than simply a collection of trees. Instead, they are ecosystems that consist of thousands of species, from animals to fungi and bacteria. The way to save trees, and ourselves? Step aside and let forests—which are naturally better equipped to face environmental challenges—heal themselves.

With the warmth and wonder familiar to readers from his previous books, Wohlleben also shares emerging scientific research about how forests shape climates both locally and across continents; that trees adapt to changing environmental conditions through passing knowledge down to their offspring; and how old growth may in fact have the most survival strategies for climate change.

At the heart of The Power of Trees lies Wohlleben’s passionate plea: that our survival is dependent on trusting ancient forests, and allowing them to thrive.

“If we don’t learn to leave the trees alone, the trees will eventually be alone anyway—but without us. Wohlleben brilliantly and readably shows us how urgent and how hard it is to do nothing.” – Charles Foster, The Guardian

“…another love letter from Wohlleben to the green world… [The Power of Trees] makes the case for how we should allow forests throughout the world to regrow and in the process help heal not only the climate but us, as well.” – Lydia Millet, Oprah Daily

“This book inspires wonderment at the resiliency of forests facing climate change, while taking a critical look at how even the best of environmental intentions may have long-lasting negative consequences.” – Wade Lee-Smith, Library Journal

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Practice Makes Perfect by Sarah Adams

fiction / romance.

Practice Makes PerfectAnnie Walker is on a quest to find her perfect match-someone who nicely compliments her happy, quiet life running her flower shop in Rome, Kentucky. Unfortunately, she worries her goal might be too far out of reach when she overhears her date saying she is “so unbelievably boring.” Is it too late to become flirtatious and fun like the leading ladies in her favorite romance movies? Maybe she only needs a little practice… and Annie has the perfect person in mind to become her tutor: Will Griffin.

Will–the flirtatious, tattooed, and absolutely gorgeous bodyguard–is temporarily back in Rome, providing security for Amelia Rose as excitement grows for her upcoming marriage to Noah Walker. He has one personal objective during his time in town: stay away from Annie Walker. But no sooner than he gets settled, Will soon finds himself not only breaking his rule, but tasked with far more than simply providing security.

Will wants no part in changing the sweet and lovely Annie, but he can’t bring himself to say no to her request, so he officially agrees to teach her how to be the next leading lady of Rome, Kentucky, and find the love of her life-even if he doesn’t believe in love himself. Between faking a relationship so the meddling town doesn’t catch on to what’s really happening on their practice dates, and tutoring lessons that convince Annie to add passion to her list of must-haves in a mate, it doesn’t take long for the lines of their friendship to blur…

“With wonderful characters, this cute romance is a great second installment in the When in Rome series.” – Sonya Skibicki, Library Reads

“Adams returns to Rome, Kentucky, with a pair of endearing characters, each stuck in the rut of their past, who need each other to see a different future.” – Kellie Tilton, Library Journal

“[The] pair’s chemistry is off the charts, relayed in playful banter and plenty of charged moments. Returning readers will not be disappointed.” – Publishers Weekly

The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw 

fiction / horror / fantasy.

The Salt Grows HeavyYou may think you know how the fairytale goes: a mermaid comes to shore and weds the prince. But what the fables forget is that mermaids have teeth. And now, her daughters have devoured the kingdom and burned it to ashes.

On the run, the mermaid is joined by a mysterious plague doctor with a darkness of their own. Deep in the eerie, snow-crusted forest, the pair stumble upon a village of ageless children who thirst for blood, and the three ‘saints’ who control them.

The mermaid and her doctor must embrace the cruelest parts of their true nature if they hope to survive

“With this brilliantly constructed tale that consciously takes on a well-known story and violently breaks it open to reveal a heartfelt core, Khaw cements their status as a must-read author.” – Becky Spratford, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] darkly beautiful nightmare brought to life, which will drive a dagger through your heart and leave you begging for more… Cassandra Khaw’s writing is immaculate, with every word carefully chosen for maximum impact… The Salt Grows Heavy is a truly mesmerizing story and one of the finest works of horror and dark fantasy I have ever read, dripping with a gruesome and disquieting passion.” – John Mauro, Grimdark Magazine

“…viciously dark… action-packed, unctuous, and deliciously creepy… overflowing with eerie body horror, sensory details of cold snow and warm blood, and terrifying monsters (both protagonists and villains).” – Leah von Essen, Booklist

“Khaw’s prose is rich and gorgeous (‘In my dreams, I still swim that soundless black, still travel its eddies of salt and cold nothing’), and the surprising tenderness at the story’s heart is only magnified by the violence and gore that surround it. Both elements prove devastatingly effective in constructing a folklore-infused world that feels wholly unique for contemporary horror fiction. Expertly blending a gothic atmosphere with elements of splatterpunk, this brilliant novella is not to be missed.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Shy by Max Porter


ShyThis is the story of a few strange hours in the life of a troubled teenage boy.

You mustn’t do that to yourself Shy. You mustn’t hurt yourself like that.

He is wandering into the night listening to the voices in his head: his teachers, his parents, the people he has hurt and the people who are trying to love him.

Got your special meds, nutcase?

He is escaping Last Chance, a home for “very disturbed young men,” and walking into the haunted space between his night terrors, his past, and the heavy question of his future.

The night is huge and it hurts.

In Shy, Max Porter extends the excavation of boyhood that began with Grief Is the Thing with Feathers and continued with Lanny. But here he asks: How does mischievous wonder and anarchic energy curdle into something more disturbing and violent? Shy is a bravura, lyric, music-besotted performance by one of the great writers of his generation.

“[A] slender burst of Joycean prose… a singular shoutout to lost boys everywhere.” – Publishers Weekly

“[An] unforgettable rendering of universal experiences of alienation and sorrow. Readers who appreciate a deep dive into the human psyche will recognize the grace with which Porter renders his poignant protagonist.” – Shoba Viswanathan, Booklist

“Porter does a fine job of inhabiting the mind of a teenager in ways that may remind readers of David Mitchell’s novel Black Swan Green, with all the confusion and lack of resolution that come with the territory. Laughs most definitely do not ensue, but Porter gets his bumbling, anomic antihero down to a T.” – Kirkus Reviews

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Swamp Story by Dave Barry

fiction / comedy / mystery / suspense.

Swamp StoryJesse Braddock is trapped in a tiny cabin deep in the Everglades with her infant daughter and her ex-boyfriend, a wannabe reality TV star who turned out to be a lot prettier on the outside than on the inside. Broke and desperate for a way out, Jesse stumbles across a long-lost treasure, which could solve all her problems—if she can figure out how to keep it. The problem is, some very bad men are also looking for the treasure, and they know Jesse has it.

Meanwhile, Ken Bortle of Bortle Brothers Bait and Beer has hatched a scheme to lure tourists to his failing store by making viral videos of the “Everglades Melon Monster.” The Monster is in fact an unemployed alcoholic newspaperman named Phil wearing a Dora the Explorer costume head. Incredibly, this plan actually works, inspiring a horde of TikTokers to swarm into the swamp in search of the monster at the same time villains are on the hunt for Jesse’s treasure. Amid this mayhem, a presidential hopeful arrives in the Everglades to start his campaign. Needless to say, it does not go as planned. In fact, nothing in this story goes as planned. This is, after all, Florida.

“[A] hilarious Florida tale… Florida’s humorist laureate finds chaos and comedy in the Everglades.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Crime fiction doesn’t come much funnier than this… Barry conducts the hijinks like a maestro of comic suspense. Carl Hiaasen fans will be in heaven.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Get ready to laugh out loud with Dave Barry’s return to fiction, Swamp Story. It’s a hilarious Sunshine-State caper… The Pulitzer Prize-winner and self-described ‘Florida Man’ always delivers the laughs, and Swamp Story is no exception.” – Elizabeth Held, Parade

Traffic: Genius, Rivalry, and Delusion in the Billion-Dollar Race to Go Viral by Ben Smith

nonfiction / business / media / technology / history.

TrafficIf attention is the new oil, Ben Smith’s Traffic is the story of the time between the first gusher and the impact of climate change. The curtain opens in Soho in the early 2000s, after the first dotcom crash but before Google, Apple, and Facebook exploded, when it seemed that New York City rather than Silicon Valley might become tech’s center of gravity. There, within a few square blocks, Nick Denton’s merry band of nihilists at his growing Gawker empire and Jonah Peretti’s sunnier crew at HuffPost and BuzzFeed were building the foundations of viral internet media. It was tech’s age of innocence: the old establishment might have been discredited by the Iraq War, but digital news would facilitate the spread of truth. After all, didn’t progressive activists online get Barack Obama elected?

Ben Smith, who would go on to earn a controversial reputation as BuzzFeed’s editor-in-chief, was there to see it, and he chronicles it all with marvelous lucidity scored with dark wit, sparing no one—and certainly not himself. Smith tells a nuanced story: yes, Denton’s ideology of radical transparency was problematic, but at least he had an ideology. Jonah Peretti survived long after Denton’s Gawker perished because his focus on clicks was relentlessly content-agnostic. But unintended consequences began to snowball.

Traffic explores one of the great ironies of our time: the internet, which was going to help the left remake the world in its image, has become the motive force of right populism. People like Steve Bannon and Andrew Breitbart and Gavin McInnes and Chris Poole, the creator of 4chan, all seemed like minor characters in the narrative in which Nick and Jonah and crew were the stars. By 2020, any reasonable observer might wonder if the opposite wasn’t the case. To understand how we got here, Traffic is essential and enthralling reading.

“…engrossing and suspenseful…” – Virginia Heffernan, New York Times

“The author gives a detailed, smart account of the foibles of those early days, when no one knew how to conduct decent journalism and make money at the same time… There’s no better history of the Wild West days of early social media than this one.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] riveting insider’s look at the history of online news media… Smith’s rigorous journalism and proximity to his subject imbue this with abounding insight, and the author’s sharp eye for character gives it the feel of a novel. Sobering and captivating, this is an essential take on the 21st-century media landscape.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley

fiction / young adult / fantasy / mystery / suspense.

Warrior Girl UnearthedPerry Firekeeper-Birch was ready for her Summer of Slack but instead, after a fender bender that was entirely not her fault, she’s stuck working to pay back her Auntie Daunis for repairs to the Jeep.

Thankfully she has the other outcasts of the summer program, Team Misfit Toys, and even her twin sister Pauline. Together they ace obstacle courses, plan vigils for missing women in the community, and make sure summer doesn’t feel so lost after all.

But when she attends a meeting at a local university, Perry learns about the “Warrior Girl”, an ancestor whose bones and knife are stored in the museum archives, and everything changes. Perry has to return Warrior Girl to her tribe. Determined to help, she learns all she can about NAGPRA, the federal law that allows tribes to request the return of ancestral remains and sacred items. The university has been using legal loopholes to hold onto Warrior Girl and twelve other Anishinaabe ancestors’ remains, and Perry and the Misfits won’t let it go on any longer.

Using all of their skills and resources, the Misfits realize a heist is the only way to bring back the stolen artifacts and remains for good. But there is more to this repatriation than meets the eye as more women disappear and Pauline’s perfectionism takes a turn for the worse. As secrets and mysteries unfurl, Perry and the Misfits must fight to find a way to make things right – for the ancestors and for their community.

“…Perry’s snarky first-person narration propels this intelligent heist narrative, culminating in a thrilling and empowering read.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“…compellingly readable and deeply thought-provoking. A page-turning heist grounded in a nuanced exploration of critical issues of cultural integrity.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“[An] an extremely engrossing story… Highly recommended for thriller fans and readers who loved Boulley’s debut, as well as Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give and Jen Ferguson’s The Summer of Bitter and Sweet.” – Mia P. Manansala, Booklist

You Are Here by Karin Lin-Greenberg


You Are HereTina, a 40ish, Chinese-American hairstylist at the mall’s salon dreams of being a visual artist. Her young, friendless son Jackson secretly studies to become a magician. Ro, an elderly widow, comes to the mall as a respite from loneliness. Beautiful high school senior Maria nurses Hollywood aspirations while working in the mall food court. And Kevin, part of a mixed-race couple facing a marital crisis, manages the mall’s lone bookstore while his wife, Gwen, a successful poet and academic, can’t escape dreams of her children falling from the loft of their tiny house while they sleep.

With shops slowly going out of business, a sense of dread creeps into this once vibrant community. As residents grapple with how their lives will change once they lose their jobs, a tragedy at the mall brings the town to crisis. Some wonder whether this is the time to finally pursue postponed dreams, and for others, this sudden, violent act pushes them to strengthen their connections to the people who truly matter in their lives. Exploring how our identities and aspirations are inextricably bound to the places we call home, You Are Here is a stunning, keenly perceptive, and deeply humane portrait of a community in transition, and illustrates the conflicts and connections that can arise in the most ordinary of settings.

“Absolutely irresistible.” – People

“…exceptional… This is a remarkable study of ordinary people’s extraordinary inner lives.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Lin-Greenberg’s masterful and understated debut novel is an engrossing, character-driven story that will delight fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng… Lin-Greenberg beautifully translates the lives of an ordinary group of people into an extraordinary, even triumphant novel. You Are Here is sure to be a book club favorite.” – Patricia Smith, Booklist

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You Have to Be Prepared to Die Before You Can Begin to Live: Ten Weeks in Birmingham That Changed America by Paul Kix

nonfiction / history / politics.

You Have to Be Prepared to Die Before You Can Begin to LiveIt’s one of the iconic photographs of American history: A Black teenager, a policeman and his lunging German Shepherd. Birmingham, Alabama, May of 1963. In May of 2020, as reporter Paul Kix stared at a different photo–that of a Minneapolis police officer suffocating George Floyd–he kept returning to the other photo taken half a century earlier, haunted by its echoes. What, Kix wondered, was the full legacy of the Birmingham photo? And of the campaign it stemmed from?

In You Have To Be Prepared To Die Before You Can Begin To Live, Paul Kix takes the reader behind the scenes as he tells the story of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s pivotal 10 week campaign in 1963 to end segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. At the same time, he also provides a window into the minds of the four extraordinary men who led the campaign―Martin Luther King, Jr., Wyatt Walker, Fred Shuttlesworth, and James Bevel. With page-turning prose that reads like a thriller, Kix’s book is the first to zero in on the ten weeks of Project C, as it was known―its specific history and its echoes sounding throughout our culture now. It’s about Where It All Began, for sure, but it’s also the key to understanding Where We Are Now and Where We Will Be. As the fight for equality continues on many fronts, Project C is crucial to our understanding of our own time and the impact that strategic activism can have.

“An eloquent contribution to the literature of civil rights and the ceaseless struggle to attain them.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] gripping, novelistic account… In brisk, tension-filled chapters, Kix recounts the crusade’s ups and downs and draws vivid profiles of participants… Readers will be riveted from the first page to the last.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Brilliantly building the backstories of the heroes, the villains, and the fits and starts of the campaign that would change America, Kix makes history come alive. This is the best kind of narrative nonfiction: your heart will pound, your blood will boil, you’ll feel the rush of adrenaline as MLK Jr. writes letters from a Birmingham jail, and the fear of hate and racism that exists—then and now—will compel you to action.” – Al Woodworth, Amazon


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