Best New Books: Week of 9/5/23

“The past is always tense, the future perfect.” – Zadie Smith

Amazing Grace Adams by Fran Littlewood


Amazing Grace AdamsGrace Adams gave birth, blinked, and now suddenly she is forty-five, perimenopausal and stalled―the unhappiest age you can be, according to The Guardian. And today she’s really losing it. Stuck in traffic, she finally has had enough. To the astonishment of everyone, Grace gets out of her car and simply walks away.

Grace sets off across London, armed with a £200 cake, to win back her estranged teenage daughter on her sixteenth birthday. Because today is the day she’ll remind her daughter that no matter how far we fall, we can always get back up again. Because Grace Adams used to be amazing. Her husband thought so. Her daughter thought so. Even Grace thought so. But everyone seems to have forgotten. Grace is about to remind them… and, most important, remind herself.

“…frank, nuanced, and evocative. A gripping story of joy, grief, stress, worry, love at first sight, parenting, and trauma.” – Kirkus Reviews

“…Littlewood easily captures the grief Grace feels at nearing the end of her reproductive years, and the mother-daughter relationship is similarly well drawn… like her protagonist, [she] consistently finds the right words.” – Publishers Weekly

“A moving novel about a mother grappling with a past tragedy and oncoming perimenopause. Estranged from her daughter and with a pending divorce, she fights back and shows her family who she really is and how she will not give up on them. Or herself.” – Alexandria Hammett, Indie Next

Creep: Accusations and Confessions by Myriam Gurba

nonfiction / memoir.

CreepA creep can be a singular figure, a villain who makes things go bump in the night. Yet creep is also what the fog does—it lurks and slithers into place, muffling screams, obscuring the truth, and providing cover for those prowling within it.

Now, Myriam Gurba delves into the sociology of “creep,” taking a deep dive into the dark recesses of the toxic traditions and the people that plague today’s America, analyzing the abusers who haunt our books, schools, and homes. Blending cultural criticism with her powerful, deeply personal experiences, Gurba examines the ways in which oppression is collectively enacted, sustaining ecosystems that unfairly perpetuate suffering and premature death to our most vulnerable. Yet identifying individual creeps, social groups, and cultures is only the beginning; the bulk of the book examines how we as individuals, communities, and institutions can challenge creeps and rid ourselves of the fog that seeks to blind us.

With her brilliant mind, brazen style, and wry humor, Gurba implicates everyone from Joan Didion to her former abuser, everything from Mexican stereotypes to the carceral state. Braiding her own history and identity throughout, she argues for a new way of conceptualizing oppression, and she does it with her signature blend of bravado and humility.

“As insightful as it is poetic, [Creep] explores the knife’s edge between sanity and madness.” – Bay Area Reporter

“Witty, confident, and effortlessly provocative, Gurba writes about the things that piss her off with poison and precision, sometimes daring readers to look for themselves in the tangled complicity flowchart… Creep goes to some dark places, but there’s something joyous about Gurba’s righteous and ravenous worldview.” – Patrick Rapa, Philadelphia Inquirer

“Gurba’s ability to deftly connect cultural and personal histories with heartbreaking poeticism and laugh-out-loud wit is often dazzling. A profound collection of essays on the ways violence seeps into the lives of the marginalized.” – Michelle Hart, Electric Literature

“Gurba’s lyrical prose forces us to face the sexism, racism, homophobia, and other systems of oppression that allow some Americans to get away with murder while the rest of us live in constant fear. Every piece is rife with well-timed humor and surprising conclusions, many of which come from the author’s staggering command of history. Profoundly insightful, thoroughly researched, incredibly inventive, and laugh-out-loud funny, this book is a masterpiece of wit and vulnerability. A truly exceptional essay collection about safety, fear, and power.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Do You Remember Being Born? by Sean Michaels


Do You Remember Being BornMarian Ffarmer is a world-renowned poet and a legend in the making—but only now, at 75 years old, is she beginning to believe in the security of her successes. Unfortunately, a poet’s accomplishments don’t necessarily translate to capital, and as her adult son struggles to buy his first home, her confidence in her choices begins to fray. Marian’s pristine life of mind—for which she’s sacrificed nearly all personal relationships, from romance to friendship to motherhood—has come at a cost.

Then comes a cryptic invitation from the Tech Company. Come to California, the invitation beckons, and write with a machine. The Company’s lucrative offer—for Marian to co-author a poem in a ‘historic partnership’ with their cutting-edge poetry bot, named Charlotte—chafes at everything she believes about artmaking as an individual pursuit… yet, it’s a second chance she can’t resist. And so to California she goes, a sell-out and a skeptic, for an encounter that will unsettle her life, her work and even her understanding of kinship.

Both a love letter to and interrogation of the nature of language, art, labor, capital, family, and community, Do You Remember Being Born? is Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Sean Michaels’s empathetic response to some of the most disquieting questions of our time—a defiant and joyful recognition that if we’re to survive meaningfully at all, creative legacy is to be reimagined and belonging to one’s art must mean, above all else, belonging to the world.

“A tender and moving character portrait full of sharp scenes and memorable observations. While the novel might have a timely premise, it’s a jumping-off point for timeless meditations on art, family, connection and the meaning of a life. These topics will always speak to us, at least until we’re replaced by the machines.” – Lincoln Michel, New York Times

“Sean Michaels achieves an astonishing level of narrative, emotional and psychological density with his tightly focused novel Do You Remember Being Born?… Sentence by sentence, line by line, Michaels builds a beautiful structure with dizzying, surprising imagery, conjuring metaphors that will leave you with a smile and lingering questions… Do You Remember Being Born? is a captivating success.” – Matthew Jackson, BookPage

“A timely work reminiscent of Richard Powers’ Galatea 2.2, Michaels’ tale shows how AI can, paradoxically, stymie creation through its limitlessness and need for human guidance.” – Alexander Moran, Booklist

“Readers wary of AI’s role in the production of art will approach the premise warily, but Michaels entices with probing and humane questions about what it means to be an artist. By focusing on Marian’s conundrums, Michaels elevates what could have been a gimmick.” – Publishers Weekly

Evil Eye by Etaf Rum


Evil EyeRaised in a conservative and emotionally volatile Palestinian family in Brooklyn, Yara thought she would finally feel free when she married a charming entrepreneur who took her to the suburbs. She’s gotten to follow her dreams, completing an undergraduate degree in Art and landing a good job at the local college. As a traditional wife, she also raises their two school-aged daughters, takes care of the house, and has dinner ready when her husband gets home. With her family balanced with her professional ambitions, Yara knows that her life is infinitely more rewarding than her own mother’s. So why doesn’t it feel like enough?

After her dream of chaperoning a student trip to Europe evaporates and she responds to a colleague’s racist provocation, Yara is put on probation at work and must attend mandatory counseling to keep her position. Her mother blames a family curse for the trouble she’s facing, and while Yara doesn’t really believe in old superstitions, she still finds herself growing increasingly uneasy with her mother’s warning and the possibility of falling victim to the same mistakes.

Shaken to the core by these indictments of her life, Yara finds her carefully constructed world beginning to implode. To save herself, Yara must reckon with the reality that the difficulties of the childhood she thought she left behind have very real—and damaging—implications not just on her own future but that of her daughters.

“Rum follows the acclaimed A Woman Is No Man with a deeply resonant tale of multigenerational trauma and survival.” – Lesley Williams, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Rum’s nuanced approach to difficult questions of individual and cultural identity is refreshing.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Just like A Woman Is No Man, Evil Eye has the power to reach readers of all ages and cultures, who will undoubtedly cheer Yara on as she forges a new path.” – Alice Cary, BookPage

“The fierce feminist sentiments and nuanced approach to Yara’s fraught marriage and family history make for a winning combination. This satisfies on multiple levels.” – Publishers Weekly

The Fraud by Zadie Smith

fiction / historical fiction.

The FraudIt is 1873. Mrs. Eliza Touchet is the Scottish housekeeper—and cousin by marriage—of a once-famous novelist, now in decline, William Ainsworth, with whom she has lived for thirty years.

Mrs. Touchet is a woman of many interests: literature, justice, abolitionism, class, her cousin, his wives, this life and the next. But she is also skeptical. She suspects her cousin of having no talent; his successful friend, Mr. Charles Dickens, of being a bully and a moralist; and England of being a land of facades, in which nothing is quite what it seems.

Andrew Bogle, meanwhile, grew up enslaved on the Hope Plantation, Jamaica. He knows every lump of sugar comes at a human cost. That the rich deceive the poor. And that people are more easily manipulated than they realize. When Bogle finds himself in London, star witness in a celebrated case of imposture, he knows his future depends on telling the right story.

The “Tichborne Trial”—wherein a lower-class butcher from Australia claimed he was in fact the rightful heir of a sizable estate and title—captivates Mrs. Touchet and all of England. Is Sir Roger Tichborne really who he says he is? Or is he a fraud? Mrs. Touchet is a woman of the world. Mr. Bogle is no fool. But in a world of hypocrisy and self-deception, deciding what is real proves a complicated task.

Based on real historical events, The Fraud is a dazzling novel about truth and fiction, Jamaica and Britain, fraudulence and authenticity and the mystery of “other people.”

“…almost flawless… exuberant… Fans of Smith will pick up on the familiar laundry of her sensibility within the first few pages of The Fraud: the boisterous narrative intelligence; the ear for dialogue; the chronic absence of boring sentences.” – Abhrajyoti Chakraborty, The Guardian

“Smith wrestles contemporary themes surrounding women’s independence, racism, and class disparity from centuries-old events in her beautifully crafted historical. Readers of Geraldine Brooks or Hilary Mantel will be enthralled.” – Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“…mesmerizing… a triumph of historical fiction.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Wielding delectably honed language in pithy chapters spiked with surprising revelations, needling observations, and lacerating truths, Smith, in her most commanding novel to date, dramatizes with all-too relevant insights crucial questions of veracity and mendacity, privilege and tyranny, survival and self, trust and betrayal.” – Donna Seaman, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Holly by Stephen King 

fiction / suspense / mystery / horror.

HollyStephen King’s Holly marks the triumphant return of beloved King character Holly Gibney. Readers have witnessed Holly’s gradual transformation from a shy (but also brave and ethical) recluse in Mr. Mercedes to Bill Hodges’s partner in Finders Keepers to a full-fledged, smart, and occasionally tough private detective in The Outsider. In King’s new novel, Holly is on her own, and up against a pair of unimaginably depraved and brilliantly disguised adversaries.

When Penny Dahl calls the Finders Keepers detective agency hoping for help locating her missing daughter, Holly is reluctant to accept the case. Her partner, Pete, has Covid. Her (very complicated) mother has just died. And Holly is meant to be on leave. But something in Penny Dahl’s desperate voice makes it impossible for Holly to turn her down.

Mere blocks from where Bonnie Dahl disappeared live Professors Rodney and Emily Harris. They are the picture of bourgeois respectability: married octogenarians, devoted to each other, and semi-retired lifelong academics. But they are harboring an unholy secret in the basement of their well-kept, book-lined home, one that may be related to Bonnie’s disappearance. And it will prove nearly impossible to discover what they are up to: they are savvy, they are patient, and they are ruthless.

Holly must summon all her formidable talents to outthink and outmaneuver the shockingly twisted professors in this chilling new masterwork from Stephen King.

“[A] chilling new masterwork from Stephen King… With his trademark mastery of suspense, King keeps readers on the edge of their seats, eagerly turning the pages…” – Evan Wilson, Medium

“The Stephen King fan favorite (and favorite of King himself) Holly Gibney is back, and now she’s the main character in her own feature story. Matched up against two Moriarty-esque professors, she has to continue to grow as a detective, as she has in all her other appearances.” – Barnes & Noble

“Opening up a new Stephen King novel and encountering his conversational prose is like settling into a comfortable chair or digging into a favorite meal. There’s an immediate sense of satisfaction… The story is the kind of thing King excels at, too—dark, mysterious, and deeply unsettling. This is the novel Holly deserves.” – David Pitt, Booklist

“King’s choice to set the novel in the middle of COVID works, both to develop his characters and to keep Holly off base, emotionally and professionally. He eschews the supernatural here but finds all the horror possible in the evil that ‘normal’ people may do. Mystery and horror readers will find much to love.” – Jane Jorgenson, Library Journal

I’m a Fan by Sheena Patel


I'm a FanI stalk a woman on the internet who is sleeping with the same man as I am.

Sheena Patel’s incandescent first novel begins with the unnamed narrator describing her involvement in a seemingly unequal romantic relationship. With a clear and unforgiving eye, she dissects the behavior of all involved, herself included, and makes startling connections between the power struggles at the heart of human relationships and those of the wider world. I’m a Fan offers a devastating critique of class, social media, patriarchy’s hold on us, and our cultural obsession with status and how that status is conveyed.

In this unforgettable debut, Patel announces herself as a dynamic, commanding new voice in literature, capable of rendering a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences viscerally on the page. Sex, brutality, politics, work, art, tenderness, humor—Patel tackles them all while making the reader complicit in the inescapable trap of fandom that seems to define the modern condition.

“[A] barbed, gut-punch confession… Writing in scathing bursts, Patel mutates a predictable cliché into an implosive exposé of white privilege, gendered power dynamics, women-for-women hypocrisy, all pointing to a disheartening failure of human connections. An anti-Bridget Jones for the short-fused, screen-addicted generation.” – Terry Hong, Booklist

“Many of Patel’s insights are breathtakingly keen, particularly when detailing how, as a person of color, the narrator is expected to lay her pain bare to receive the pleasure of belonging… Patel acutely captures how identity and intimacy can feel both deepened and deadened in the Instagram era’s attention economy.” – Publishers Weekly

I’m a Fan is a fast, fizzing cherry bomb of a debut by Sheena Patel, mining the darkest depths of coercion, seduction and abuser dynamics. It has the urgency of a diary, mixed with a certain hard and sharp clarity… Like a sociopathic ex who’s stalking your Twitter, I’m a Fan will stick with you for a very long time.” – Bidisha, The Guardian

Let’s Eat: 101 Recipes to Fill Your Heart & Home by Dan Pelosi

nonfiction / food / cooking.

Let's EatGrossyPelosi is your best friend in the kitchen—actually, he’s family.

In his debut cookbook, larger-than-life personality Dan Pelosi offers up a warm hug of home cooking, sharing both comfort food and connection with 101 of his nearest and dearest Italian American recipes. Some have been passed down through his family, and others have been cooked up from scratch—but all are made with love and accompanied by fun, meaningful stories to warm your heart while filling your belly. Read how Bimpy (the 100-year-old grandpa the internet loves to love!) smuggled homemade subs into Yankee Stadium, then craft your ultimate Big Italian Sandwich. Relive the memory of Dan learning how to make his friend’s mom’s stuffed chicken cutlets in their Jersey Shore house (and getting himself adopted into their family), then level up with Prosciutto & Mozzarella–Stuffed Chicken Parm. Learn how Dan’s mom would spring him out of school before the final bell (just to preheat the oven), then make your own Early Dismissal Pot Roast. And rewind to the beginning of Dan’s relationship with his boyfriend, Gus, then recreate the Zabaglione (and the romantic Cheesecake Factory ambiance) that inspired their first “I love you.”

In addition to the staple chapters like Eggs, Appetizers, Pasta, Meat & Fish, and Sweets, you’ll also find deep dives on Italian food recipes like Dough and Marinara, presented with hero recipes you can spin into all kinds of deliciousness. (Don’t worry—his viral Vodka Sawce is here!) Also sprinkled throughout this recipe book are Grossy’s Guides to cooking, cleaning, organizing, and everything you need to become intuitive in your kitchen.

Approachable and tasty, Dan’s recipes are meant to be shared with the ones you love. Set the table, grab a chair, roll up your sleeves… now LET’S EAT!

“A cookbook that’s as useful in the kitchen as it is fun to read. Dan Pelosi is practically right there in the kitchen with you, having a grand time as you put together these delicious recipes together. This is a guy who is passionate about his cooking, and you will be too.” – Barnes & Noble

“Even a veteran in the kitchen will find plenty of helpful advice… Home cooks of all levels will appreciate the love of life and food exuded from these pages and recipes and the delicious dishes that result from the effort. Just as practical as it is delectable, this cookbook successfully conveys the author’s love of his family and cooking so that home cooks can bring his passion to their table.” – Sarah Tansley, Library Journal

The Longmire Defense by Craig Johnson

fiction / mystery / western.

The Longmire DefenseDeep in the heart of the Wyoming countryside, Sheriff of Absaroka County, Walt Longmire, is called to a crime scene like few others that he has seen. This crime brings up issues that go back to Walt’s grandfather’s time in Wyoming, as the revelations he learns about his grandfather come back to offer clues and motives for Walt’s investigation. Filled with back-country action, and with the great cast of characters that readers have come to love with the Longmire series, this new book will be sure to satisfy both long-time readers and those new to the series.

“Longmire lovers, rejoice! He’s back with a deeply personal case that uncovers family secrets… Learning the history of a beloved protagonist raises an exciting mystery to a higher level.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“The whodunit, which presents a dizzying number of red herrings, is one of Johnson’s trickiest, keeping readers deliciously off-balance throughout. Series newcomers will have no problem jumping into the action, and longtime readers will relish the dive into Longmire’s family history.” – Publishers Weekly

“As compelling as ever, Johnson’s storytelling effortlessly transports the reader into the heart of Absaroka County… [The] blend of intriguing mystery and a perfectly cast cast of characters that makes Johnson’s latest novel one of his best novels to date, and a perfect place for new readers to meet Sheriff Longmire.” – Erin Avery, USA Today

Mother-Daughter Murder Night by Nina Simon

fiction / mystery.

Mother-Daughter Murder NightNothing brings an estranged family together like a murder next door.

High-powered businesswoman Lana Rubicon has a lot to be proud of: her keen intelligence, impeccable taste, and the L.A. real estate empire she’s built. But when she finds herself trapped 300 miles north of the city, convalescing in a sleepy coastal town with her adult daughter Beth and teenage granddaughter Jack, Lana is stuck counting otters instead of square footage—and hoping that boredom won’t kill her before the cancer does.

Then Jack—tiny in stature but fiercely independent—happens upon a dead body while kayaking near their bungalow. Jack quickly becomes a suspect in the homicide investigation, and the Rubicon women are thrown into chaos. Beth thinks Lana should focus on recovery, but Lana has a better idea. She’ll pull on her wig, find the true murderer, protect her family, and prove she still has power.

With Jack and Beth’s help, Lana uncovers a web of lies, family vendettas, and land disputes lurking beneath the surface of a community populated by folksy conservationists and wealthy ranchers. But as their amateur snooping advances into ever-more dangerous territory, the headstrong Rubicon women must learn do the one thing they’ve always resisted: depend on each other.

“Nancy Drew meets Columbo in this feisty-female–driven whodunit.” – Kirkus Reviews

“On the cozy side, this debut mystery is woven around family rifts and redemption, and will leave readers with warm fuzzies.” – Booklist

“[A] spirited debut… Simon stocks her layered plot with plausibly motivated suspects and convincing red herrings, but it’s her indomitable female characters and their nuanced relationships that give this mystery its spark. Readers will be delighted.” – Publishers Weekly

The Raging Storm by Ann Cleeves

fiction / mystery / suspense.

The Raging StormFierce winds, dark secrets, deadly intentions.

When Jem Rosco—sailor, adventurer, and legend—blows into town in the middle of an autumn gale, the residents of Greystone, Devon, are delighted to have a celebrity in their midst. But just as abruptly as he arrived, Rosco disappears again, and soon his lifeless body is discovered in a dinghy, anchored off Scully Cove, a place with legends of its own.

This is an uncomfortable case for Detective Inspector Matthew Venn. Greystone is a place he visited as a child, a community he parted ways with. Superstition and rumor mix with fact as another body is found, and Matthew finds his judgment clouded. As the winds howl, and Venn and his team investigate, he realizes that no one, including himself, is safe from Scully Cove’s storm of dark secrets.

“A surprising denouement moves this character-based mystery to the top tier.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“The third in Cleeves’s award-winning series is an atmospheric police procedural that builds on the other books while introducing fascinating suspects.” – Lesa Holstine, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“…outstanding… Cleeves crafts a devilishly intricate mystery that will surprise even seasoned genre fans, and Venn remains an appealing lead every bit as memorable as the author’s Vera Stanhope or Jimmy Perez. Cleeves’s fans and newcomers alike will be hungry for the next entry.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger

fiction / historical fiction / mystery.

The River We RememberOn Memorial Day, as the people of Jewel, Minnesota gather to remember and honor the sacrifice of so many sons in the wars of the past, the half-clothed body of wealthy landowner Jimmy Quinn is found floating in the Alabaster River, dead from a shotgun blast. Investigation of the murder falls to Sheriff Brody Dern, a highly decorated war hero who still carries the physical and emotional scars from his military service. Even before Dern has the results of the autopsy, vicious rumors begin to circulate that the killer must be Noah Bluestone, a Native American WWII veteran who has recently returned to Jewel with a Japanese wife. As suspicions and accusations mount and the town teeters on the edge of more violence, Dern struggles not only to find the truth of Quinn’s murder but also put to rest the demons from his own past.

Caught up in the torrent of anger that sweeps through Jewel are a war widow and her adolescent son, the intrepid publisher of the local newspaper, an aging deputy, and a crusading female lawyer, all of whom struggle with their own tragic histories and harbor secrets that Quinn’s death threatens to expose.

Both a complex, spellbinding mystery and a masterful portrait of midcentury American life, The River We Remember is an unflinching look at the wounds left by the wars we fight abroad and at home, a moving exploration of the ways in which we seek to heal, and a testament to the enduring power of the stories we tell about the places we call home.

“Historical fiction that resonates with our time makes for a great reading experience—especially when it’s done in the literary style of rich, careful language; realistic evocation of place; and deep exploration into character. William Kent Krueger has delivered just this combination in his latest standalone novel, The River We Remember.” – New York Journal of Books

“Although I love the Cork O’Connor books, I think William Kent Krueger’s absolute best work resides in his stand-alone titles. This book will reside in my heart for quite a time to come. [A] great message of truth, love, and forgiveness.” – Katie Lancaster, Indie Next

“…absorbing… Krueger constructs a sort of Mayberry noir: the sheriff’s department consists of one room with six cells attached, and a neighbor lady brings home-cooked meals for both the sheriff and the inmates. The narrative shuttles between a longing for this lost time and recognition that postwar America was filled with shattered veterans and war widows.” – Connie Fletcher, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

The September House by Carissa Orlando

fiction / horror / mystery / suspense.

The September HouseWhen Margaret and her husband Hal bought the large Victorian house on Hawthorn Street—for sale at a surprisingly reasonable price—they couldn’t believe they finally had a home of their own. Then they discovered the hauntings. Every September, the walls drip blood. The ghosts of former inhabitants appear, and all of them are terrified of something that lurks in the basement. Most people would flee.

Margaret is not most people.

Margaret is staying. It’s her house. But after four years Hal can’t take it anymore, and he leaves abruptly. Now, he’s not returning calls, and their daughter Katherine—who knows nothing about the hauntings—arrives, intent on looking for her missing father. To make things worse, September has just begun, and with every attempt Margaret and Katherine make at finding Hal, the hauntings grow more harrowing, because there are some secrets the house needs to keep.

“If P.G. Wodehouse had written The Amityville Horror, the result might have approximated Orlando’s equally charming and spooky debut… This utterly original haunted house tale is a joy.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“With grim humor, emotional resonance, and brilliant subversion of a familiar trope, this compelling debut is perfect for fans of Clay MacLeod Chapman, Simone St. James, and Grady Hendrix… The metaphor is layered and at times heartbreaking, as secrets held by both a house and a family come to light with terrifying poignancy in this wonderfully eerie debut.” – Emily Vinci, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

The September House pulls inspiration from classic settings such as the Bates Motel, Rose Red, the Overlook Hotel and Hill House, but Orlando’s characterization of the old Victorian is fresh and fascinating… Margaret’s delightfully matter-of-fact voice puts a new spin on even the oldest of tropes, and the novel’s horrifying events unfold at a furious pace. The September House is a riveting adventure that will grab you by the ankles and drag you down into the pitch-black basement you’ve been warned to avoid.” – Stephanie Cohen-Perez, BookPage

Sure, I’ll Join Your Cult: A Memoir of Mental Illness and the Quest to Belong Anywhere by Maria Bamford

nonfiction / memoir / comedy / psychology.

Sure, I'll Join Your CultFrom “weird, scary, ingenious” (New York Times) stand-up comedian Maria Bamford, a brutally honest and hilariously frenetic memoir about show business, mental health, and the comfort of rigid belief systems—from Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, to Suzuki violin training, to Richard Simmons, to 12-step programs.

Maria Bamford is a comedian’s comedian (an outsider among outsiders) and has forever fought to find a place to belong. From struggling with an eating disorder as a child of the 1980s, to navigating a career in the arts (and medical debt and psychiatric institutionalization), she has tried just about every method possible to not only be a part of the world, but to want to be a part of it.

In Bamford’s signature voice, Sure, I’ll Join Your Cult, brings us on a quest to participate in something. With sincerity and transparency, she recounts every anonymous fellowship she has joined (including but not limited to Debtors Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, and Overeaters Anonymous), every hypomanic episode (from worrying about selling out under capitalism to enforcing union rules on her Netflix TV show set to protect her health), and every easy 1-to-3-step recipe for fudge in between.

Singular and inimitable, Bamford’s memoir explores what it means to keep going, and to be a member of society (or any group she’s invited to) despite not being very good at it. In turn, she hopes to transform isolating experiences into comedy that will make you feel less alone (without turning into a cult following).

“[A] consistently funny and occasionally heartbreaking glimpse into a unique comedic mind.” – Publishers Weekly

“Celebrated comedian Maria Bamford is a winsome and unapologetic tour guide through her own life, reflecting on her search for achievement, belonging and healing.” – Linda M. Castellitto, BookPage

“Laugh-out-loud funny, weird, and touching—a great example of what a celebrity memoir can bring to readers.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Things We Left Behind by Lucy Score

fiction / romance.

Things We Left BehindThere was only one woman who could set me free. But I would rather set myself on fire than ask Sloane Walton for anything.

Lucian Rollins is a lean, mean vengeance-seeking mogul. On a quest to erase his father’s mark on the family name, he spends every waking minute pulling strings and building an indestructible empire. The more money and power he amasses, the safer he is from threats.

Except when it comes to the feisty small-town librarian that keeps him up at night…

Sloane Walton is a spitfire determined to carry on her father’s quest for justice. She’ll do that just as soon as she figures out exactly what the man she hates did to—or for—her family. Bonded by an old, dark secret from the past and the dislike they now share for each other, Sloane trusts Lucian about as far as she can throw his designer-suited body.

When bickering accidentally turns to foreplay, these two find themselves not quite regretting their steamy one-night stand. Once those flames are fanned, it seems impossible to put them out again. But with Sloane ready to start a family and Lucian refusing to even consider the idea of marriage and kids, these enemies-to-lovers are stuck at an impasse.

Broken men break women. It’s what Lucian believes, what he’s witnessed, and he’s not going to take that chance with Sloane. He’d rather live a life of solitude than put her in danger. But he learns the hard way that leaving her means leaving her unprotected from other threats.

It’s the second time he’s ruthlessly cut her out of his life. There’s no way she’s going to give him a third chance. He’s just going to have to make one for himself.

Things We Left Behind is perfect for fans of morally grey love interests, suspense, and spicy ‘enemies to lovers’ romances.” – Andrea Reid, The Nerd Daily

Wednesday’s Child: Stories by Yiyun Li


Wednesday's ChildA grieving mother makes a spreadsheet of everyone she’s lost. Elsewhere, a professor develops a troubled intimacy with her hairdresser. And every year, a restless woman receives an email from a strange man twice her age and several states away. In Yiyun Li’s stories, people strive for an ordinary existence until doing so becomes unsustainable, until the surface cracks and the grand mysterious forces—death, violence, estrangement—come to light. And even everyday life is laden with meaning, studded with indelible details: a filched jar of honey, a mound of wounded ants, a photograph kept hidden for many years, until it must be seen.

Li is a truly original writer, an alchemist of opposites: tender and unsentimental, metaphysical and blunt, funny and horrifying, omniscient and unusually aware of just how much we cannot know. Beloved for her novels and memoirs, she returns here to her earliest form, gathering pieces that have appeared in The New Yorker, Zoetrope, and elsewhere. Taken together, the stories in Wednesday’s Child, written over the span of a decade, articulate the cost, both material and emotional, of living—exile, assimilation, loss, love—with her trademark unnerving beauty and wisdom.

“Few writers tackle the way grief reverberates through our lives with Li’s frankness, tact, and humor.” – Jasmine Vojdani, Vulture

“[A] splendid and elegantly observed collection… Distinguished by their fully realized characters, nuanced narration, and striking portraits of everyday struggles, these stories find Li at the top of her game.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Breaks may be required between these 11 stellar stories, both to absorb the brilliance of Li’s prose and to honor the breathtaking heartbreak trapped within… Storytellers become lifesavers—ironically, tragically—even of the dead.” – Terry Hong, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“When I read Yiyun Li’s fiction, I never wonder why things are as they are in the world of the story or novel… Things are included because they are so. They are true. There’s no arguing about life, and that is my experience of reading the work: it is always surprising, and it could never be any other way.” – Elizabeth McCracken, Electric Literature

What You Are Looking For Is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama; translated by Alison Watts


What You Are Looking For Is in the LibraryWhat are you looking for?

This is the famous question routinely asked by Tokyo’s most enigmatic librarian, Sayuri Komachi. Like most librarians, Komachi has read every book lining her shelves—but she also has the unique ability to read the souls of her library guests. For anyone who walks through her door, Komachi can sense exactly what they’re looking for in life and provide just the book recommendation they never knew they needed to help them find it.

Each visitor comes to her library from a different juncture in their careers and dreams, from the restless sales attendant who feels stuck at her job to the struggling working mother who longs to be a magazine editor. The conversation that they have with Sayuri Komachi—and the surprise book she lends each of them—will have life-altering consequences.

With heartwarming charm and wisdom, What You Are Looking For Is in the Library is a paean to the magic of libraries, friendship and community, perfect for anyone who has ever found themselves at an impasse in their life and in need of a little inspiration.

“A delightful, gentle unfolding of stories that offer hope and joy to those who find themselves in a pivotal moment in life.” – Kirkus Reviews

“A comforting read filled with serendipity and simple wisdom, this is a celebration of community, connection, and the transformative power of libraries.” – Jane Harper, Booklist

“J.R.R. Tolkien invented a term, eucatastrophe, for ‘the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous ‘turn.’’ It takes real novelistic skill to set up such a turn — one that thrills and magnetizes to exactly the same degree as a gnarly twist or a shocking rug-pull… Over and over, Aoyama demonstrates how it’s done… an undeniable page-turner, its mechanism energized by a simple question, posed again and again by the uncanny librarian, Mrs. Komachi.” – Robin Sloan, New York Times

Button Hoopla Listen

While You Were Out: An Intimate Family Portrait of Mental Illness in an Era of Silence by Meg Kissinger

nonfiction / memoir / psychology.

While You Were OutGrowing up in the 1960s in the suburbs of Chicago, Meg Kissinger’s family seemed to live a charmed life. With eight kids and two loving parents, the Kissingers radiated a warm, boisterous energy. Whether they were spending summer days on the shores of Lake Michigan, barreling down the ski slopes, or navigating the trials of their Catholic school, the Kissingers always knew how to live large and play hard.

But behind closed doors, a harsher reality was unfolding—a heavily medicated mother hospitalized for anxiety and depression, a manic father prone to violence, and children in the throes of bipolar disorder and depression, two of whom would take their own lives. Through it all, the Kissingers faced the world with their signature dark humor and the unspoken family rule: never talk about it.

While You Were Out begins as the personal story of one family’s struggles then opens outward, as Kissinger details how childhood tragedy catalyzed a journalism career focused on exposing our country’s flawed mental health care. Combining the intimacy of memoir with the rigor of investigative reporting, the book explores the consequences of shame, the havoc of botched public policy, and the hope offered by new treatment strategies.

Powerful, candid and filled with surprising humor, this is the story of one family’s love and resilience in face of great loss.

“An impassioned argument for reform in caring for the afflicted.” – Kirkus Reviews

“[A] searing debut memoir… Kissinger brings passion and immediacy to the subject, sharing her own story and those of her sources with bracing frankness. She’s particularly good at the complexities of talking about suicide, and how pressures against such conversations may have prevented her family from averting tragedy. As both a candid family portrait and a polemic against institutional neglect of people with mental illness, this delivers.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Kissinger devotes much of her reporting career to traveling across the country to figure out why 5.6 percent of adults with serious mental illness are so misunderstood and inadequately treated. She pulls no punches in this honest, tragic account.” – Karen Springen, Booklist


Read the avalon free public library top 100 books of the week HERE!

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