Best New Books: Week of 9/12/23

“Life wasn’t about becoming, was it? It was about being.” – Kate Atkinson, Life After Life

Build the Life You Want: The Art and Science of Getting Happier by Arthur C. Brooks & Oprah Winfrey

nonfiction / self-help / psychology.

Build the Life You WantYou can get happier. And getting there will be the adventure of your lifetime.

In Build the Life You Want, Arthur C. Brooks and Oprah Winfrey invite you to begin a journey toward greater happiness no matter how challenging your circumstances. Drawing on cutting-edge science and their years of helping people translate ideas into action, they show you how to improve your life right now instead of waiting for the outside world to change.

With insight, compassion, and hope, Brooks and Winfrey reveal how the tools of emotional self-management can change your life―immediately. They recommend practical, research-based practices to build the four pillars of family, friendship, work, and faith. And along the way, they share hard-earned wisdom from their own lives and careers as well as the witness of regular people whose lives are joyful despite setbacks and hardship.

Equipped with the tools of emotional self-management and ready to build your four pillars, you can take control of your present and future rather than hoping and waiting for your circumstances to improve. Build the Life You Want is your blueprint for a better life.

“…inspiring…” – Pamela Thomas-Graham, Dandelion Chandelier

“Brooks is masterful at synthesizing enormous quantities of research into a simple and supportive text. A quick read, this hopeful book will benefit readers searching for enriched well-being.” – Kirkus Reviews

Chenneville by Paulette Jiles

fiction / historical fiction / western.

ChennevilleUnion soldier John Chenneville suffered a traumatic head wound in battle. His recovery took the better part of a year as he struggled to regain his senses and mobility. By the time he returned home, the Civil War was over, but tragedy awaited. John’s beloved sister and her family had been brutally murdered.

Their killer goes by many names. He fought for the North in the late unpleasantness, and wore a badge in the name of the law. But the man John knows as A. J. Dodd is little more than a rabid animal, slaughtering without reason or remorse, needing to be put down.

Traveling through the unforgiving landscape of a shattered nation in the midst of Reconstruction, John braves winter storms and confronts desperate people in pursuit of his quarry. Untethered, single-minded in purpose, he will not be deterred. Not by the U.S. Marshal who threatens to arrest him for murder should he succeed. And not by Victoria Reavis, the telegraphist aiding him in his death-driven quest, yet hoping he’ll choose to embrace a life with her instead.

And as he trails Dodd deep into Texas, John accepts that this final reckoning between them may cost him more than all he’s already lost…

“[A] beautifully written novel… The writing is poetic and descriptive, leavened with a hint of romance… With memorable and compelling characters, this slower-moving story will appeal to readers of history or Westerns.” – Melanie Kindrachuk, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“In her richly lyrical prose, acclaimed author Jiles turns to the waning weeks and months of the Civil War, a period when the scales of justice felt heavily tipped toward the war’s administrators and beneficiaries. Jiles uses John’s lawless quest to interrogate the inequalities in the justice system—inequalities that still echo loudly today.” – Stephanie Turza, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Jiles captivates with another reliably rugged western odyssey… As usual, Jiles impresses with vital characterizations, well-honed dialogue, and a granular depiction of the Old West. She also steeps readers in the lore of 19th-century technologies such as the telegraph, and dramatizes how it transformed society. This tale has true grit.” – Publishers Weekly

Crossings: How Road Ecology is Shaping the Future of Our Planet by Ben Goldfarb

nonfiction / science / nature / history.

CrossingsSome 40 million miles of roadways encircle the earth, yet we tend to regard them only as infrastructure for human convenience. While roads are so ubiquitous they’re practically invisible to us, wild animals experience them as entirely alien forces of death and disruption. In Crossings, environmental journalist Ben Goldfarb travels throughout the United States and around the world to investigate how roads have transformed our planet. A million animals are killed by cars each day in the U.S. alone, but as the new science of road ecology shows, the harms of highways extend far beyond roadkill. Creatures from antelope to salmon are losing their ability to migrate in search of food and mates; invasive plants hitch rides in tire treads; road salt contaminates lakes and rivers; and the very noise of traffic chases songbirds from vast swaths of habitat.

Yet road ecologists are also seeking to blunt the destruction through innovative solutions. Goldfarb meets with conservationists building bridges for California’s mountain lions and tunnels for English toads, engineers deconstructing the labyrinth of logging roads that web national forests, animal rehabbers caring for Tasmania’s car-orphaned wallabies, and community organizers working to undo the havoc highways have wreaked upon American cities.

Today, as our planet’s road network continues to grow exponentially, the science of road ecology has become increasingly vital. Written with passion and curiosity, Crossings is a sweeping, spirited, and timely investigation into how humans have altered the natural world—and how we can create a better future for all living beings.

“[A] swift and winding ride through the science of road ecology… a surprising reflection on what we owe to nature… the roadkill you spot along the highway will never look the same.” – Tess Joosse, Scientific American

“…captivating… Humor leavens the frequently grim subject matter… This one’s a winner.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“We take roads for granted, rarely thinking about how profoundly highways and vehicles effect the lives of animals and plants… An astute, funny, and imaginative writer, Goldfarb pairs horror with hope as he chronicles the brilliant innovations and tireless advocacy that resulted in lifesaving wildlife crossings, including park-like overpasses and cozy underpasses… awakens readers to the ecological catastrophes roads cause and what we can do to ameliorate the damage and improve life on Earth.” – Donna Seaman, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

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Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World by Naomi Klein

nonfiction / memoir / politics / philosophy / psychology / current events.

DoppelgangerWhat if you woke up one morning and found you’d acquired another self―a double who was almost you and yet not you at all? What if that double shared many of your preoccupations but, in a twisted, upside-down way, furthered the very causes you’d devoted your life to fighting against?

Not long ago, the celebrated activist and public intellectual Naomi Klein had just such an experience―she was confronted with a doppelganger whose views she found abhorrent but whose name and public persona were sufficiently similar to her own that many people got confused about who was who. Destabilized, she lost her bearings, until she began to understand the experience as one manifestation of a strangeness many of us have come to know but struggle to define: AI-generated text is blurring the line between genuine and spurious communication; New Age wellness entrepreneurs turned anti-vaxxers are scrambling familiar political allegiances of left and right; and liberal democracies are teetering on the edge of absurdist authoritarianism, even as the oceans rise. Under such conditions, reality itself seems to have become unmoored. Is there a cure for our moment of collective vertigo?

Naomi Klein is one of our most trenchant and influential social critics, an essential analyst of what branding, austerity, and climate profiteering have done to our societies and souls. Here she turns her gaze inward to our psychic landscapes, and outward to the possibilities for building hope amid intersecting economic, medical, and political crises. With the assistance of Sigmund Freud, Jordan Peele, Alfred Hitchcock, and bell hooks, among other accomplices, Klein uses wry humor and a keen sense of the ridiculous to face the strange doubles that haunt us―and that have come to feel as intimate and proximate as a warped reflection in the mirror.

Combining comic memoir with chilling reportage and cobweb-clearing analysis, Klein seeks to smash that mirror and chart a path beyond despair. Doppelganger asks: What do we neglect as we polish and perfect our digital reflections? Is it possible to dispose of our doubles and overcome the pathologies of a culture of multiplication? Can we create a politics of collective care and undertake a true reckoning with historical crimes? The result is a revelatory treatment of the way many of us think and feel now―and an intellectual adventure story for our times.

“I’ve been raving about Naomi Klein’s Doppelganger… I can’t think of another text that better captures the berserk period we’re living through.” – Michelle Goldberg, New York Times

Doppelganger is an in-depth critique of what late-stage capitalism hath wrought. But it’s also much more. Klein wields her polymathic expertise like a sword, slicing through the mirror world… There’s a lot going on in Doppelganger, yet somehow Klein ties it all together into what we seem to be lacking as individuals: a cohesive whole. Doppelganger is both timely and timeless, a work in a grand tradition.” – Chris Vognar, Los Angeles Times

“This story of mistaken identity would on its own be gripping and revealing enough, both as a psychological study and for its explorations of the double in art and history, the disorienting effects of social media, and the queasy feeling of looking into a distorted mirror. But the larger subject of Doppelganger turns out to be a far more complex and consequential confusion… A uniquely astute account of the scrambled political formations that have come out of the pandemic.” – Laura Marsh, The New Republic

“With alternative-fact-fueled rhetoric undermining essential institutions, Klein recognizes that an individual’s vulnerability to malignant outside influences is symptomatic of widespread threats to cultural norms. Her provocative thought exercise illuminates the myriad ways taken-for-granted balances can be upended and calls for heightened awareness of the dangers of identity erosion on both large and small scales.” – Carol Haggas, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Elon Musk by Walter Isaacson

nonfiction / biography.

Elon MuskWhen Elon Musk was a kid in South Africa, he was regularly beaten by bullies. One day a group pushed him down some concrete steps and kicked him until his face was a swollen ball of flesh. He was in the hospital for a week. But the physical scars were minor compared to the emotional ones inflicted by his father, an engineer, rogue, and charismatic fantasist.

His father’s impact on his psyche would linger. He developed into a tough yet vulnerable man-child, prone to abrupt Jekyll-and-Hyde mood swings, with an exceedingly high tolerance for risk, a craving for drama, an epic sense of mission, and a maniacal intensity that was callous and at times destructive.

At the beginning of 2022—after a year marked by SpaceX launching thirty-one rockets into orbit, Tesla selling a million cars, and him becoming the richest man on earth—Musk spoke ruefully about his compulsion to stir up dramas. “I need to shift my mindset away from being in crisis mode, which it has been for about fourteen years now, or arguably most of my life,” he said.

It was a wistful comment, not a New Year’s resolution. Even as he said it, he was secretly buying up shares of Twitter, the world’s ultimate playground. Over the years, whenever he was in a dark place, his mind went back to being bullied on the playground. Now he had the chance to own the playground.

For two years, Isaacson shadowed Musk, attended his meetings, walked his factories with him, and spent hours interviewing him, his family, friends, coworkers, and adversaries. The result is the revealing inside story, filled with amazing tales of triumphs and turmoil, that addresses the question: are the demons that drive Musk also what it takes to drive innovation and progress?

“[An] intimate look at someone who feels compelled to break the rules — even when such disruptions don’t necessarily fall in his favor.” – New York Times

“[The] most complete profile of Musk yet. Even Musk seems excited to read it.” – Shannon Carlin, Time

“…juicy details are plentiful… despite the book’s length, it zips along thanks to Isaacson’s economical prose and short chapters.” – Will Oremus, Washington Post

The Enchanters by James Ellroy

fiction / historical fiction / mystery.

The EnchantersLos Angeles, August 4, 1962. The city broils through a midsummer heat wave. Marilyn Monroe ODs. A B-movie starlet is kidnapped. The overhyped LAPD overreacts. Chief Bill Parker’s looking for some getback. The Monroe deal looks like a moneymaker. He calls in Freddy Otash.

The freewheeling Freddy O: tainted ex-cop, defrocked private eye, dope fiend, and freelance extortionist. A man who lives by the maxim “Opportunity is love.” Freddy gets to work. He dimly perceives Marilyn Monroe’s death and the kidnapped starlet to be a poisonous riddle that only he has the guts and the brains to untangle. We are with him as he tears through all those who block his path to the truth. We are with him as he penetrates the faux -sunshine of Jack and Bobby Kennedy and the shuck of Camelot. We are with him as he falters, and grasps for love beyond opportunity. We are with him as he tracks Marilyn Monroe’s horrific last charade through a nightmare L.A. that he served to create — and as he confronts his complicity and his own raging madness.

It’s the Summer of ’62, baby. Freddy O’s got a hot date with history. The savage Sixties are ready to pop. It’s just a shot away.

The Enchanters is a transcendent work of American popular fiction. It is James Ellroy at his most crazed, brilliant, provocative, profanely hilarious, and stop-your-heart tender. It is a luminous psychological drama and an unparalleled thrill ride. It is, resoundingly, the great American crime novel.

“[A] lush, manic novelization of Marilyn Monroe’s death and all that was hushed up around it… Underbellies don’t come any seamier than this… Ellroy’s rat-a-tat sleaze is pitch-perfect.” – Dan Piepenbring, Harper’s

“A descent into the conspiracy hellhole of Hollywood in the early 1960s… There are so many layers of sleaze that it can be tough to keep things straight as the breakneck momentum accelerates. The climax might well leave the reader as breathless as Ellroy’s prose, and in need of a good shower.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Likability can be boring, and Ellroy is a modern master of making his characters interesting instead of nice… Where some writers might light a match to illuminate their way through a chapter, Ellroy takes a flamethrower. Full on, all the time—a style that is intensely, unequivocally, unapologetically his… razor-sharp, rocket-fast, and always engaging… Monroe and the Kennedys is hardly virgin territory, but Ellroy’s playing on the edges of it makes the novel a fresh read. The Enchanters serves as confirmation of elevation back toward past glories… The demon dog is back ripping throats out.” – Malcolm Mackay, Air Mail

Fall of Ruin and Wrath by Jennifer L. Armentrout

fiction / fantasy / romance.

Fall of Ruin and WrathLong ago, the world was destroyed by gods. Only nine cities were spared. Separated by vast wilderness teeming with monsters and unimaginable dangers, each city is now ruled by a guardian―royalty who feed on mortal pleasure.

Born with an intuition that never fails, Calista knows her talents are of great value to the power-hungry of the world, so she lives hidden as a courtesan of the Baron of Archwood. In exchange for his protection, she grants him information.

When her intuition leads her to save a traveling prince in dire trouble, the voice inside her blazes with warning―and promise. Today he’ll bring her joy. One day he’ll be her doom.

When the Baron takes an interest in the traveling prince and the prince takes an interest in Calista, she becomes the prince’s temporary companion. But the city simmers with rebellion, and with knights and monsters at her city gates and a hungry prince in her bed, intuition may not be enough to keep her safe.

Calista must follow her intuition to safety or follow her heart to her downfall.

“A compelling first book in a new fantasy series will leave readers wanting more.” – Kirkus Reviews

“[Armentrout] takes us on a ride with the twists and turns the storyline takes. I loved Thorne and Lis together. The banter between them is something I always look for in JLA couples.” – Shannon, Cocktails & Books

Fall of Ruin and Wrath introduces a compelling and well-designed new world of intuition, rulers who feed on the pleasure of the lowborn, and the terrifying knowledge of what is to come for the people you love. A read you won’t want to put down.” – Katie Varner, Indie Next

Glitter and Concrete: A Cultural History of Drag in New York by Elyssa Maxx Goodman

nonfiction / history / culture.

Glitter and ConcreteFrom the lush feather boas that adorned early female impersonators to the sequined lip syncs of barroom queens to the drag kings that have us laughing in stitches, drag has played a vital role in the creative life of New York City. But the evolution of drag in the city—as an art form, a community and a mode of liberation—has never before been fully chronicled.

Now, for the first time, journalist and drag historian Elyssa Maxx Goodman unearths the dramatic, provocative untold story of drag in New York City in all its glistening glory. Goodman ducks beneath the velvet ropes of Harlem Renaissance balls, examines drag’s crucial role in the Stonewall Uprising, traces drag’s influence on disco and punk rock as well as its unifying power during the AIDS crisis and 9/11, and culminates in the era of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Informed by meticulous research and archival work, as well as original interviews with high-profile performers, Glitter and Concrete is a significant contribution to queer history and an essential read for anyone curious about the story that echoes beneath the heels.

“…comprehensive… An essential addition to the literature of both drag and queer history.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] uniquely comprehensive, vibrant, and eye-opening history of the art form in New York City… Richly enlightening, enthralling, and invaluable.” – Donna Seaman, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“The intersection of queerness and drag is explored in-depth, and the book examines how culture and laws have affected how and when drag can be performed… extremely timely… A vital purchase for any collection.” – Heather Sheahan, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

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How I Won a Nobel Prize by Julius Taranto

fiction / comedy.

How I Won a Nobel PrizeHelen is one of the best minds of her generation. A young physicist on a path to solve high-temperature superconductivity, which could save the planet, Helen is torn when she discovers her brilliant advisor is involved in a sex scandal. Should she give up on her work with him? Or should she accompany him to a controversial university, founded by a provocateur billionaire, that hosts academics that other schools have thrown out?

Helen decides she must go–her work is too important. She brings along her partner, Hew, who is much less sanguine about living on an island where the disgraced and deplorable get to operate with impunity. Soon enough, Helen finds herself drawn to an iconoclastic older novelist, while Hew stews in an increasingly radical protest movement. Their rift deepens until both confront choices that will reshape their lives–and maybe the world.

Irreverent, generous, anchored in character, and provocative without being polemical, How I Won a Nobel Prize illuminates the compromises we’ll make for progress, what it means to be a good person, and how to win a Nobel Prize. Turns out it’s not that hard–if you can run the numbers.

“A bright, well-turned satirical debut.” – Kirkus Reviews

“[It’s] Taranto’s humor, especially his sentence-level wordplay, that keeps this book from collapsing under the weight of its high-concept, highstakes premise. And if absurdist flourishes, centrist moral sensibilities, and superconductor tech-jargon anchor the book’s aesthetics in the late 1990s, the love story at its core feels raw and tech-laden in a uniquely contemporary way.” – Brendan Driscoll, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] knotty, entertaining debut… Taranto handles the weighty rhetoric around cancel culture and academic freedom with a light touch… a beguiling story about the inevitable entanglement of professional, personal, and moral situations and feelings.” – Publishers Weekly

A Hundred Vicious Turns by Lee Paige O’Brien

fiction / young adult / fantasy.

A Hundred Vicious TurnsRat Evans, nonbinary heir to one of the oldest magical bloodlines in New York, doesn’t cast spells anymore. For as long as Rat can remember, they’ve been surrounded by doorways no one else sees and corridors that aren’t on any map. Then one day, they opened a passage and found a broken tower in a field of weeds—and something followed them back.

When Rat is accepted into Bellamy Arts, all they want is a place to hide and to make sure they never open another passageway again. But when the only other person who knows what really happened last year—Harker Blakely, the dangerously gifted trans boy who used to be Rat’s closest friend—turns up on campus, Rat begins to realize that Bellamy Arts might not be as safe as they’d thought. And the tower might not be through with them yet.

Soon, Rat finds themself caught in a web of secrets and long-buried magic, with their friend-turned-enemy at their throat. But the closer they come to uncovering the truth about the tower, the further they’re drawn toward the unsettling powers that threaten to swallow them whole.

“Dark, thrilling, and fantastical.” – Kirkus Reviews

“For those who especially enjoyed the secret map shenanigans and sneaking around hidden room antics of a certain series to which all YA magic school books are now inevitably compared…” – Caitlyn Paxson, NPR

A Hundred Vicious Turns caught my heart immediately… It’s an emotional thriller following these friends-to-enemies-to who knows what, with dark magic and lost secrets. If you’re looking for a book to get deeply f—ing obsessed with, it’s this one.” – Christina Orlando,

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I Am Stan: A Graphic Biography of the Legendary Stan Lee by Tom Scioli

nonfiction / graphic novel / biography.

I Am StanEveryone knows Stan Lee: His work at the creative helm of Marvel Comics resulted in the creation of many of the superheroes we know and love today, including Spider-Man, Iron Man, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, and more. During his decades-long career at Marvel, Lee turned the comic book publisher into a cultural juggernaut that shaped and defined the burgeoning industry.

In I Am Stan, critically acclaimed artist Tom Scioli reveals the man behind the comics and cameos using the same medium Stan Lee revolutionized. This stunning graphic novel takes readers from his early days in the comics industry through his rise at Marvel (then Timely Comics), where his career was touched by other iconic creatives including Jack Kirby and Joe Simon. Their collaboration would lead to the creation of the most iconic superheroes of today, and bring about the Marvel Age of the 60’s and 70’s that introduced new industry stars like Steve Ditko, and John Buscema. Readers will follow Lee’s trajectory from his daily life at Marvel to his later years as a spokesperson for the company and for comics as a whole, and finally to his last years away from the spotlight. Scioli provides a clear-eyed view of Lee’s triumphs at Marvel as well as the controversies that surrounded the creator at the end of his life.

Told in Scioli’s inimitable, vividly cinematic illustration style, I Am Stan reveals Stan Lee’s life through the medium he knew best and reveals the inner workings of the legendary creator.

“[Scioli] avoids reducing Lee to a one-dimensional caricature by deliberately highlighting his mercurial nature… Scioli has created the most compelling and layered portrait of Lee to date. A brilliant achievement.” – Tom Batten, Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] fast-paced, comprehensive history of a comics industry great… Throughout, Scioli highlights his subject’s penchant for revisionist history by juxtaposing Lee’s claims about creating some of Marvel’s most famous heroes with his co-workers’ counterclaims, and the consistently entertaining script doesn’t shy away from Lee’s notorious pettiness or vanity either. It’s an apt memorial to a great creative mind who was his own best publicist.” – Publishers Weekly

“[By] using the visual format, Scioli has managed to humanize the icon that Stan Lee himself created in ways no other biography I’ve read has done, and for that, I’m grateful.” – Steven Thompson, Forces of Geek

Idlewild by James Frankie Thomas


IdlewildIdlewild is a tiny, artsy Quaker high school in lower Manhattan. Students call their teachers by their first names, there are no grades, and every day begins with 20 minutes of contemplative silence in the Meetinghouse. It is during one of those meetings that an airplane hits the Twin Towers.

For two Idlewild outcasts, 9/11 serves as the first day of an intense, 18-month friendship. Fay is prickly, aloof, and obsessed with gay men; Nell is shy, sensitive, and obsessed with Fay. The two of them bond fiercely and spend all their waking hours giddily parsing their environment for homoerotic subtext. Then, during rehearsals for the fall play, they notice two sexually ambiguous boys who are potential candidates for their exclusive Invert Society. The pairs become mirrors of one another and drive each other to make choices that they’ll regret for the rest of their lives.

Looking back on these events as adults, the estranged Fay and Nell trace that fateful school year, recalling backstage theater department intrigue, antiwar demonstrations, smutty fanfic written over AIM, a shared dial-up connection—and the spectacular cascade of mistakes, miscommunications, and betrayals that would ultimately tear the two of them apart.

“A very queer and very fresh take on teen friendship… exquisite and revolutionary. You won’t want to miss this.” – Adam, Debutiful

“Equal parts funny and insightful, this is a propulsive exploration of gender identity, sexuality, and self-discovery.” – Kirkus Reviews

“[An] intoxicating debut… Thomas astutely captures his characters’ anxieties as the drama unfolds, and his choice to give them the benefit of hindsight allows for a nuanced and sensitive portrayal of Fay’s identity formation. It’s easy to grow obsessed with this auspicious novel.” – Publishers Weekly

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Normal Rules Don’t Apply: Stories by Kate Atkinson


Normal Rules Don't ApplyIn this brilliant volume, nothing is quite as it seems. We meet a queen who makes a bargain she cannot keep; a secretary who watches over the life she has just left; a lost man who bets on a horse that may–or may not–have spoken to him. Everything that readers love about the novels of Kate Atkinson is here–the inventiveness, the verbal felicity, the sharp observations on human nature, and the deeply satisfying emotional wallop.

Witty and wise, with subtle connections between the stories, Normal Rules Don’t Apply is a startling and funny feast for the imagination, stories with the depth and bite to create their own fully-formed worlds.

Normal Rules Don’t Apply has all the Atkinsonian ingredients you’d expect… This collection is lots of fun—she really makes it look easy.” – Janet Manley, Literary Hub

“Fans of Atkinson’s historical and crime fiction will enjoy her tangible characters and their circumstances, so playfully imagined, and recognize at least one familiar rule, small shifts can lead to profound changes.” – Annie Bostrom, Booklist

“This stunning collection from Atkinson is a master class in literary worldbuilding… Atkinson delights in metafictional possibilities: young Franklin’s idea for a novel—’A text based on non-linear dynamics, a Borgesian exploration of parallel worlds’—though ridiculed by other characters, mimics the collection’s structure. If the concept sounds promisingly fun, the whimsical but sharp prose is built to match, full of speculative glee, but tinged with poignancy.” – Publishers Weekly

Punished for Dreaming: How School Reform Harms Black Children and How We Heal by Bettina L. Love

nonfiction / education / history / politics / current events.

Punished for DreamingIn Punished for Dreaming Dr. Bettina Love argues forcefully that Reagan’s presidency ushered in a War on Black Children, pathologizing and penalizing them in concert with the War on Drugs. New policies punished schools with policing, closure, and loss of funding in the name of reform, as white savior, egalitarian efforts increasingly allowed private interests to infiltrate the system. These changes implicated children of color, and Black children in particular, as low performing, making it all too easy to turn a blind eye to their disproportionate conviction and incarceration. Today, there is little national conversation about a structural overhaul of American schools; cosmetic changes, rooted in anti-Blackness, are now passed off as justice.

It is time to put a price tag on the miseducation of Black children. In this prequel to The New Jim Crow, Dr. Love serves up a blistering account of four decades of educational reform through the lens of the people who lived it. Punished for Dreaming lays bare the devastating effect on 25 Black Americans caught in the intersection of economic gain and racist ideology. Then, with input from leading U.S. economists , Dr. Love offers a road map for repair, arguing for reparations with transformation for all children at its core.

“Detailed and persuasive, this is a must-read for educators.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“An uncompromising indictment of education reform… An impassioned plea for educational justice.” – Kirkus Reviews

“[Love] lays out the racial injustices rampant in the public education system, from the era of school segregation to the massive resistance to Brown v. Board of Education to the current era of so-called school choice… She methodically shows readers the ways that policymakers on the left and right have created system after system that prioritizes money first, white children second, and Black children never… Punished for Dreaming is an important—though enraging and ­heartbreaking—read.” – Jenny Hamilton, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Rouge by Mona Awad 

fiction / horror / suspense.

RougeFor as long as she can remember, Belle has been insidiously obsessed with her skin and skincare videos. When her estranged mother Noelle mysteriously dies, Belle finds herself back in Southern California, dealing with her mother’s considerable debts and grappling with lingering questions about her death. The stakes escalate when a strange woman in red appears at the funeral, offering a tantalizing clue about her mother’s demise, followed by a cryptic video about a transformative spa experience. With the help of a pair of red shoes, Belle is lured into the barbed embrace of La Maison de Méduse, the same lavish, culty spa to which her mother was devoted. There, Belle discovers the frightening secret behind her (and her mother’s) obsession with the mirror—and the great shimmering depths (and demons) that lurk on the other side of the glass.

Snow White meets Eyes Wide Shut in this surreal descent into the dark side of beauty, envy, grief, and the complicated love between mothers and daughters. With black humor and seductive horror, Rouge explores the cult-like nature of the beauty industry—as well as the danger of internalizing its pitiless gaze. Brimming with California sunshine and blood-red rose petals, Rouge holds up a warped mirror to our relationship with mortality, our collective fixation with the surface, and the wondrous, deep longing that might lie beneath.

“Surreal, archetypal, and totally hypnotic.” – Maggie Lange, Bustle

“[A] delightfully twisted fairy tale… The author’s acerbic wit radiates in this excoriating story of beauty’s ugly side. ” – Publishers Weekly

“[A] hypnotic tour de force… Awad approaches the increasingly well-trod ground of sinister wellness gurus with aplomb, creating an atmosphere of creeping discomfort and surreality right from the start… This is the stuff of fairy tales—red shoes, ballrooms, mirrors, and thorns but also sincerity, poignancy, and terror.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Awad’s latest is a dreamy (or perhaps nightmarish) gothic fairy tale about a mother, a daughter, and their shared obsession with their own beauty. Like all of Awad’s novels, it reels you in, shakes your brain until you’re not sure what you’re seeing, and then floats off cackling on a cloud of smoke. Metaphorically, that is. I’d forgive you for not being sure.” – Emily Temple, Literary Hub

The Secret Hours by Mick Herron

fiction / suspense / mystery.

The Secret HoursTwo years ago, a hostile Prime Minister launched the Monochrome inquiry, investigating “historical over-reaching” by the British Secret Service “to investigate historical over-reaching.” Monochrome’s mission was to ferret out any hint of misconduct by any MI5 officer—and allowed Griselda Fleet and Malcolm Kyle, the two civil servants seconded to the project, unfettered access to any and all confidential information in the Service archives in order to do so.

But MI5’s formidable First Desk did not become Britain’s top spy by accident, and she has successfully thwarted the inquiry at every turn. Now the administration that created Monochrome has been ousted, the investigation is a total bust—and Griselda and Malcolm are stuck watching as their career prospects are washed away by the pounding London rain.

Until the eve of Monochrome’s shuttering, when an MI5 case file appears without explanation. It is the buried history of a classified operation in 1994 Berlin—an operation that ended in tragedy and scandal, whose cover-up has rewritten thirty years of Service history.

The Secret Hours is a dazzling entry point into Mick Herron’s body of work, a standalone spy thriller that is at once unnerving, poignant, and laugh-out-loud funny. It is also the breathtaking secret history that Slough House fans have been waiting for.

“This page-turning stand-alone novel is a perfect entry point into the eccentric world of civil servants and spies that Herron’s Slough House series so wittily portrays.” – Becky Meloan, Washington Post

“[A] riveting standalone thriller that combines modern political machinations with Cold War–era spy craft… Espionage fans of all stripes will devour this exemplary outing.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Hailed as a twenty-first-century Le Carré, Herron is a master at portraying the dark, disturbing world of espionage… Gripping, cryptic, tragic, and suspenseful, this must-read will keep readers riveted from first page to last.” – Emily Melton, Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

The Six: The Untold Story of America’s First Women Astronauts by Loren Grush

nonfiction / biography / history / science.

The SixWhen NASA sent astronauts to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s the agency excluded women from the corps, arguing that only military test pilots—a group then made up exclusively of men—had the right stuff. It was an era in which women were steered away from jobs in science and deemed unqualified for space flight. Eventually, though, NASA recognized its blunder and opened the application process to a wider array of hopefuls, regardless of race or gender. From a candidate pool of 8,000 six elite women were selected in 1978—Sally Ride, Judy Resnik, Anna Fisher, Kathy Sullivan, Shannon Lucid, and Rhea Seddon.

In The Six, acclaimed journalist Loren Grush shows these brilliant and courageous women enduring claustrophobic—and sometimes deeply sexist—media attention, undergoing rigorous survival training, and preparing for years to take multi-million-dollar payloads into orbit. Together, the Six helped build the tools that made the space program run. One of the group, Judy Resnik, sacrificed her life when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded at 46,000 feet. Everyone knows of Sally Ride’s history-making first space ride, but each of the Six would make their mark.

“…eye-opening… imbu[es] her portraits of each with an intimacy that makes them utterly memorable.” – Priscilla Kipp, BookPage, STARRED REVIEW

“People who enjoyed Hidden Figures will find much to like in this book. Grush has an important story to tell, and she tells it well. An inspiring story of the first American women to go into space, charting their own course for the horizon.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Based on archival material and interviews with the surviving pioneering female astronauts and the families of those who have passed, this is a well-rounded narrative of the lives of these trailblazing women.” – Laurie Unger Skinner, Booklist

The Vaster Wilds by Lauren Groff 

fiction / historical fiction.

The Vaster WildsA servant girl escapes from a colonial settlement in the wilderness. She carries nothing with her but her wits, a few possessions, and the spark of god that burns hot within her. What she finds in this terra incognita is beyond the limits of her imagination and will bend her belief in everything that her own civilization has taught her.

Lauren Groff’s new novel is at once a thrilling adventure story and a penetrating fable about trying to find a new way of living in a world succumbing to the churn of colonialism. The Vaster Wilds is a work of raw and prophetic power that tells the story of America in miniature, through one girl at a hinge point in history, to ask how—and if—we can adapt quickly enough to save ourselves.

“Anytime there’s a new book by Lauren Groff, it’s reason to rejoice… [The Vaster Wilds] may be the one that puts her over the top… Groff has an incomparable gift for making historical fiction feel visceral and relevant.” – Suzanne Van Atten, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“[A] page-turner with a built-in engine… once you slip into its rich rhythms, it’s an engrossing and rewarding journey.”- Chloe Schama, Vogue

“[A] thrilling historical adventure… the existential themes at the heart of Lauren Groff’s fifth novel—the rawness of life, the precious inner-workings of nature, the drive to continue on in the face of challenges—are as timely as they come.” – Shannon Carlin, Time

“…extraordinary… There are many exciting episodes—the narrator encounters a bear, a wolf, and an unruly former Jesuit priest who also subsists in the wild—and the staggering ending reveals the details surrounding her escape. Groff builds and maintains suspense on multiple levels, while offering an unflinching portrayal of her heroine’s desperation and will to survive. This is a triumph.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

The Young Man by Annie Ernaux; translated by Alison L. Strayer

nonfiction / memoir.

The Young ManThe Young Man is Annie Ernaux’s account of her passionate love affair with A., a man some 30 years younger, when she was in her fifties. The relationship pulls her back to memories of her own youth and at the same time leaves her feeling ageless, outside of time— together with a sense that she is living her life backwards.

Amidst talk of having a child together, she feels time running its course, and menopause approaching. The Young Man recalls Ernaux as the “scandalous girl” she once was, but is composed with the mastery and the self-assurance she has achieved across decades of writing.

“A sublime book.” – Olivia de Lamberterie, Elle

“A crucial addition to Ernaux’s oeuvre.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Once again the work of the writer Annie Ernaux appears as both a rigorous study of life and an experiment. These fragments of living, however evanescent, are precious, irreplaceable, like a skin that never fades.” – Caroline Montpetit, Le Devoir

“…stunning… Throughout, she suffuses even simple moments—a brasserie lunch, a glimpse out of the window at her lover’s house—with a kind of magic, seamlessly layering the perspectives of her current and former selves. The result is a poignant and essential addition to Ernaux’s oeuvre.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

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