Tuesday New Release Day: Starring VanderMeer, Hess, Murugan, Olafsson, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Jeff VanderMeer, Annette Hess, Perumal Murugan, Olaf Olafsson, and more—that are publishing this week.

Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Dead Astronauts: “VanderMeer returns to the hallucinatory world of Borne, where an all-powerful company has ravaged a metropolis known only as the City, in this lackluster novel. Into this unpredictable landscape come three astronauts, Chen, Moss, and Grayson, determined to explore their otherworldly environment, which is watched over by a mysterious blue fox that seems capable of transcending time and space. After the first few chapters, fragmentary subplots bubble up: there is Charlie X, a rogue astronaut from the expedition fighting to hold on to his memories amid a creeping amnesia; a massive sea monster awaits its death; a mysterious journal containing knowledge of demons that foretells the coming of the monster Behemoth is passed between survivors; a total darkness called Nocturnalia threatens to engulf the dead city; and a shapeshifter confronts a cosmic duck over ownership of the journal. If this sounds overstuffed, it’s because it is. It’s certainly among VanderMeer’s most experimental work, but the novel never coalesces; the characters and concepts are too loosely sketched and the prose is both grandiose and oddly humorless, punctuated by lines such as ‘A fox is a question that must be answered’ and ‘The duck represented a paradox.’ This diffuse novel reads like unused notes from Borne and feels incomplete.”

The Story of a Goat by Perumal Murugan

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Story of a Goat: “This superbly fabulist tale from Murugan (One Part Woman) dives into the inner life and turmoil of a Asuras, a fictional farming village in rural India, through a small but determined goat and her unlikely caretakers. A large, mysticlike man gifts a rare black goat to an old farmer one day on his way home from the field. When the old farmer brings the malnourished goat home to his wife, she quickly gets to work caring for the goat, whom she names Poonachi. It’s not an easy start for Poonachi, who must deal with the abuses of the village children, refuses to suckle, and is attacked by a tiger. But in the hands of the old woman, Poonachi eventually thrives alongside their older goats and becomes her inseparable companion. As Poonachi grows older, she learns that life is filled with struggle and suffering, but also that it holds moments of beauty and love. Anthropomorphic Poonachi lets readers into many of her thoughts and experiences, including a vibrant view of life under a government regime that banned black goats (which supposedly can’t be seen in the dark) and oversaw long periods of famine and food rationing. Murugan explores the lively inner life of an observant goat in this imaginative exploration of rural life under the caste system.”

The German House by Annette Hess (translated by Elisabeth Lauffer)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The German House: “Hess’s strong debut follows Eva Bruhns, who works as an interpreter at the Frankfurt Auschwitz trials in 1963 Germany, in which German defendants have been charged with crimes they perpetrated at Auschwitz during WWII. Eva becomes emotionally invested as she interprets the testimonies of Polish witnesses from Polish to German, but she doesn’t understand why her parents, Edith and Ludwig, owners of the German House restaurant, don’t seem to care about the trial. As Eva continues her work and makes a trip to Auschwitz along with other members of the trial team, she uncovers secrets her parents have hidden from her about her father’s work during the war. The period detail is impressive, but the highlight is Eva, a complex and thoughtful woman who finds herself in the midst of a significant moment in history. This novel will appeal to both WWII fiction fans and those seeking historical novels anchored by a strong, memorable heroine.”

The Sacrament by Olaf Olafsson

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Sacrament: “Olafsson (One Station Away) offers a mesmerizing and powerful look at abuse in the Catholic Church through the eyes of an elderly French nun called upon to revisit a two-decades-old case from 1987 in Iceland. Back then, Sister Johanna Marie, brought in to investigate because she had learned the language from her Icelandic college roommate, discovered that priests engaged in abhorrent behavior with impunity. Now, in 2009, she would rather tend her convent’s rose garden, but when a Cardinal calls upon her to obtain new evidence from a witness who will speak only to her, she agrees to help. The circumstances of the original case are vividly recalled: during an investigation of a priest accused of abusive behavior, the priest fell to his death from a bell tower. Johanna is concerned now about what this witness remembers and what he will reveal. Besides the investigation particulars, the reader discovers why Johanna became a nun and why she had to mask her feelings for her college roommate—a hidden love that impacted the rest of her life. The author shines a light on the enigmatic workings of the Catholic Church and, in an astounding dénouement, delves into the balance between justice and vengeance, and the power of conviction, absolution, and redemption. This is an incisive novel.”

This Is Happiness by Niall Williams

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about This Is Happiness: “In glorious and lyrical prose, Williams (History of the Rain) spins the tale of one 1958 season in the village of Faha, County Kerry, where young ‘Noe’ Crowe, only 17 and already departed from the seminary, has washed up with his grandparents. The story opens on the Wednesday of Holy Week with the cessation of an almost constant rain, relieving the villagers of their life ‘under a fall of watery pitchforks.’ To add to this wonder, the electricity is finally coming to Faha and with it a lodger at Ganga and Doady Crowe’s house. Christy McMahon is a man of broad experience who seems ‘as if it was he who told the world the joke of himself’ and a perfect companion to Noe. During that late spring and early summer, Noe assists Christy in signing up the locals for electric service, and they spend their evenings on a quest for music at countryside pubs. Most important for Christy is his attempt to gain forgiveness from Annie Mooney, now Annie Gaffney, widow of the village chemist, a woman that Christy left at the altar decades before. Meanwhile, love springs on Noe unawares as he comes under the thrall, in succession, of each of the lovely Troy sisters, daughters of Faha’s doctor, whose attention Noe needs after an accident. Noe’s reminiscences of that period are full of beauty and hard-won wisdom. This novel is a delight.”

I Offer My Heart as a Target by Johanny Vázquez Paz (translated by Lawrence Schimel)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about I Offer My Heart as a Target: “In the introduction to this piercing and timely exploration of gender, violence, and social justice, novelist, poet, and critic Rigoberto González writes: ‘The survivor speaks her truth, or rather, writes her way to truth as an avenue of expression.’ As the book unfolds, readers witness the role of language in creating truth from a variety of aesthetic vantages, ranging from the philosophical to the image-driven: ‘To smoke in another language causes a cancer that spreads; first the lips, then the tongue,’ Paz explains in ‘Diaspora of Words.’ Throughout, she calls attention to language as a reason for those in power to exclude, and effectively disenfranchise, those individuals beneath them. Yet language also appears as a source of understanding, connection, and community: ‘We went to live to indulge the enemy/ to resist nights of storms and orphanhood to hear the silence of the lips/ sealed by the ignorance of the language.’ To understand others, individuals must first learn how they organize, structure, and understand the world around them through language, Paz suggests. ‘Against all prognoses,/ we survive,’ she proclaims in this moving book that, with Schimel’s skillful translation, highlights resilience in the face of oppression.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Duffy, Habral, and Lynch

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from Bobby Duffy, Bohumil Habral, and Thomas Lynch—that are publishing this week.

Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything by Bobby Duffy

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Why We’re Wrong About Nearly Everything: “Duffy, Policy Institute director at King’s College London, puts his 20 years of research into opinion formation to good use in this illuminating first book. Through cogent analysis, made accessible through charts and anecdotes, he thoroughly examines ‘general and widespread delusions about individual, social, and political realities.’ The book divides misperceptions into two categories: mistakes people make in their own thinking, and mistakes originating in what they are told by others, both by authority figures and the media, and by friends, family, and colleagues. Within these categories, Duffy’s examples of things people often get wrong range from the trivial, such as whether the Great Wall of China is visible from space (it isn’t), to the consequential, such as whether violent crime is on the rise (a single high-profile case can make people think it is, even when crime rates are actually declining). While addressing such well-known conceptual pitfalls as the inherent ‘bias toward information that confirms what we already believe,’ Duffy avoids pessimism. He focuses on the things everyone can do to change how they process information, such as learning not to focus on extreme examples, or improving critical reading abilities. The result is a well-informed breath of intellectual fresh air about how best to avoid misunderstanding the world.”

All My Cats by Bohumil Habral (translated by Paul Wilson)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about All My Cats: “This slender volume from novelist Hrabal (1914–1997), originally published in 1983, is an affecting meditation on the joys and occasional griefs of sharing his life with a large group of cats. While working in Prague during the week, Hrabal constantly worries about the animals that inhabit—and which he’s allowed to completely overrun—his country cottage, and only upon returning there for the weekend can he feel relieved. Should anything happen to him or his wife, he frets, ‘Who would feed the cats?’ So when a new litter brings the cottage’s feline population over capacity, and Hrabal rashly decides to kill several kittens, readers will be shocked. That he can keep them on his side afterward—by persuasively showing himself as appalled at what he’s done—is a testament to his storytelling skills. These include an ability to balance brutal moments with tender ones, as when relating how even his feline-averse wife ‘always looked forward to mornings, when we’d wake up and I’d open the door and five grown cats would come charging into the kitchen and lap up two full bowls of milk.’ Hrabal’s involving and moving story will prod his audience to look more closely at their own relationships with other creatures.”

The Depositions by Thomas Lynch

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Depositions: “This meditative, often emotionally affecting collection from funeral director, poet, and essayist Lynch (Whence and Whither) explores, with personal honesty and philosophical curiosity, the intersection of faith, death, family, and vocation. It features selections from Lynch’s four previous collections, along with five new pieces. It begins with ‘The Undertaking,’ an introduction to his trade that is moving and humorous in turns—the latter, particularly, as Lynch considers people’s frequent discomfort with his profession, noting, ‘I am no more attracted to the dead than the dentist is to your bad gums.’ Despite this flippant remark, Lynch explores his work as a spiritual one. In ‘How We Come to Be the Ones We Are,’ he recalls how learning Catholicism’s language and rituals in childhood informed his work. In ‘Y2Kat,’ one of the standout pieces, Lynch views his first marriage’s collapse through the metaphor of the ancient, seemingly immortal family cat that hates him, again expertly straddling the line between comedy and tragedy. In the new essays, Lynch contemplates the potential collapse of his second marriage and the challenge of maintaining sobriety during dark days, among other topics. Providing an excellent entry point for newcomers to Lynch’s work, this assemblage is an erudite but unpretentious discussion of life and mortality by a master craftsman of language.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring MacLaughlin, Gritton, Hamilton, Dunn, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Nina MacLaughlin, JP Gritton, Saskia Hamilton, Stephen Dunn, and more—that are publishing this week.

Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung by Nina MacLaughlin

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Wake, Siren: “MacLaughlin, whose debut book was the carpentry memoir Hammerhead, heads in a vastly different direction with this collection of myths recast for the #MeToo era. In more than 30 short stories, nymphs and human women are allowed to tell their own stories, many of which depict gods and heroes as more dangerous than the lascivious and mischievous rogues they’ve often been portrayed as. These settings are largely unmoored from traditional chronology, borrowing freely from both classical tropes and contemporary popular culture, and some—such as one where incestuous Myrrha confesses everything to her therapist, or another in which the cyclops Polyphemus is Galatea’s cyberstalker—are inventive in form. There is nevertheless a certain sameness to many of the stories, perhaps unavoidable in such a project, but MacLaughlin largely succeeds in varying the recurrent themes of sexual violence and women’s subsequent rage and inevitable transformations, largely imposed by gods to ensure women’s silence. The emotional heart of the collection arrives when the horrific story of Proche and Philomela is immediately followed by Baucis’s sensually and emotionally satisfying tale of a long, love-filled marriage. In the latter story, the narrator states that ‘Not all stories are sad,’ a much-needed reminder at this point in the collection. MacLaughlin skillfully elevates what could have been merely a writerly exercise, instead composing a chorus of women’s justifiable rage echoing down through the millennia.”

The Confession Club by Elizabeth Berg

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Confession Club: “Berg (The Story of Arthur Truluv) returns to Mason, Mo., for this feel-good testament to taking risks, falling in love, and reinvention. Here, the focus is on the irrepressible members of a monthly club of eight women ranging in age from 20s to 80s, who bare their fibs, sins, and shame. ‘They knew they were mostly silly,’ Berg writes. ‘They enjoyed being silly, because sometimes you just needed to take a load off.’ The heart of this story belongs to cooking school teacher Iris, who’s ‘coming into my fifties,’ divorced and childless when she falls in love with John, 66, a homeless Vietnam vet still haunted by the war and the wife and child he left behind. Berg effortlessly wraps her arms around this busy universe of quirky characters with heartbreaking secrets and unflagging faith. ‘We forget how ready people are to help,’ 47-year-old “stout and practical” club member Toots says, adding: ‘To say those words to yourself or another, ‘I forgive you’? Most powerful words in the world.’ Readers new to Berg’s Mason will be dazzled by this bright and fascinating story, and fans will be cheering for the next volume set there.”

Labyrinth by Burhan Sönmez (translated by Umit Hussein)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Labyrinth: “Sönmez’s latest, following Istanbul, Istanbul, is a cerebral philosophical meditation on memory and what it means to live without it. Boratin Bey is a 28-year-old blues singer living in Istanbul, or at least that is what he has been told. After jumping from the Bosphorus Bridge in an apparent suicide attempt, the musician has experienced complete amnesia: ‘He raises his eyes and looks at his face. The face he met a week ago. It’s that new. Hello stranger, he says.’ His friend and bandmate Bek helps him relearn who he is, or was, answering basic questions such as ‘what sort of person was I, what did I look like?’ Boratin wanders unfamiliar streets, kisses a woman he is told he knows, and attends the funeral of someone who he is told was a friend, Zafir—who, as Boratin describes it, ‘got left behind in the past and disappeared there.’ Indeed, the central question of the novel is if the loss of one’s past is a loss of selfhood or a liberation. As another patient says to him, ‘Maybe you are unfortunate to still be alive and fortunate to have lost your memory.’ Both poetic and an existential novel of ideas, Sönmez’s prose, in Hussein’s translation, is accessible and profound, bringing to mind Albert Camus and Patrick Modiano. While Boratin must learn to find fulfilment with ‘a blank memory,’ this is a book that will undoubtedly linger in a reader’s mind.”

Wyoming by JP Gritton

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Wyoming: “In a voice rough as a chainsaw blade and Midwestern as green bean casserole, debut author Gritton chronicles the trip-to-hell-and-back life of the troubled Shelley Cooper. After a fire ravages the mountains in the vicinity of Montgrand, Colo., and most of the construction work dries up, Shelley steals an air compressor from his boss and loses his job. He needs money, same as his weed-growing older brother, Clayton, and his sister, May, who is married to Shelley’s best friend Mike. Clayton’s wife, Nancy, has the same shaking sickness her mother had, and May and Mike’s little daughter, Layla, has cancer: in short, these are folks ‘whose bad luck run longer than an interstate.’ Something deep and unnameable bothers Shelley; he cares an awful lot about Mike, though his discontent mostly seems like a mean streak to others. When Clay starts coming up with mystery money, Shelley becomes suspicious; his brother already spent five years in prison for dealing weed, and Shelley blames this calamity for their mother’s death. Nevertheless, he agrees to deliver Clay’s latest batch of marijuana to Houston, and what happens on this trip is both violently tragic and a twisted sort of redemption. Pitch perfect cadences sing from the mouths of Gritton’s characters, and the author performs skilled loop-de-loops in and out of Shelley’s memories. This auspicious debut marks Gritton as a storyteller to watch.”

The Dolphin Letters, 1970-1979 edited by Saskia Hamilton

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Dolphin Letters: “The push and pull of love and anger course through this riveting collection of correspondence between onetime literary power couple Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Hardwick. Beginning soon after Lowell’s move to England, without Hardwick, to teach, the book then tracks her discovery of his infidelity, their 1972 divorce, and his 1973 publication of The Dolphin, a sonnet sequence drawing extensively on her letters to him. It then covers the aftermath, which saw Hardwick deeply hurt, and their friends (including Elizabeth Bishop, Mary McCarthy, and Adrienne Rich) rallying around her. Though Lowell is perhaps better known, Hardwick emerges as the collection’s central figure. Her voice resonates more deeply, with frustrated but loving concern for Lowell—who struggled with manic-depressive disorder—and with protectiveness toward their daughter, Harriet. Despite such pressures, Hardwick also, as Harriet noted, ‘was never freer or more livel’ than after the divorce, when she was able to focus on her own creativity rather than on her feckless husband. Bolstered by a helpful introduction and timeline by poet and Barnard professor Hamilton (Corridor), this compulsively readable collection illuminates a tumultuous time in two celebrated writers’ lives.”

Pagan Virtues by Stephen Dunn

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Pagan Virtues: “In this 19th book, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Dunn (Different Hours) offers up the soul of a mature, solitary man who appreciates company, but who finds that love is, ultimately, ‘a better way to be alone.’ The humble pagan virtues he upholds may be less flashy than religious ones, but they provide many ‘options,’ such as ‘to uphold the beautiful// by renouncing the pretty.’ Moving from instructions to his eulogist (‘for accuracy you might say/ I often stopped,/ that I rarely went as far as I dreamed’) to the disenchantments of success, he advises the lucky to ‘try to settle in,/ take your place, however undeserved,/ among the fortunate.’ The book’s center is the luxurious pit of ‘The Mrs. Cavendish Poems,’ a sequence that moves through an affair with an unsettled, run-on address to the eponymous lady, plumbing the solipsism of its sorrow: ‘the sea doesn’t want to be bothered today,/ it merely wishes to behave like a lake / reflect back a face it believes is its own… / it would also like to change / its salty ways, but like you, / Mrs. Cavendish, it can’t.’ Intimations of illness and age are carried forward with small steps of irony and courage in Dunn’s latest, moving work.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Davis, Jackson, Comensal, Pinckney, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Lydia Davis, Lauren Michele Jackson, Jorge Comensal, Darryl Pinckney, and more—that are publishing this week.

Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

Essays One by Lydia Davis

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Essays One: “The first in a planned two-volume collection of the nonfiction of short story author Davis (Samuel Johnson Is Indignant) proves a cornucopia of illuminating and timeless observations on literature, art, and the craft of writing. A master of short, punchy prose works, Davis discloses her influences, some of which may be surprising even to longtime fans, including Roland Barthes, Franz Kafka, and Grace Paley, among many more. In a few essays, Davis presents first drafts of her own work along with the final versions, annotating and explaining revisions and providing an instructive window into her process. Interwoven throughout are short pieces on some of Davis’s favorite artists, or alternatively, those whom she finds pleasingly confounding. In the latter category is expressionist painter Joan Mitchell, whose 1973 work Les Bluets Davis credits with helping her to accept and embrace the inscrutable. Invaluable is the 2013 piece ‘Thirty Recommendations for Good Writing Habits,’ which outlines best practices for creative writing, from honing one’s observational techniques to crafting believable dialogue. Fans of Davis’s unfailingly clever work should add this volume to their collection, and creative writers of every genre should take the opportunity to learn from a legend.”

The Innocents by Michael Crummey

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Innocents: “In his fifth novel, Crummey (Sweetland) imparts another heartfelt, extraordinary perspective on survival in the rugged isolation of his homeland of Newfoundland, this time from two pre-adolescent, newly orphaned siblings, after illness fells their infant sister and parents. Evered and Ada Best endure inconceivably severe weather conditions; their 19th-century livelihoods are at the mercy of nature—will they harvest enough fish to trade for necessary winter provisions? Besides the biannual visits of the ship, ironically named The Hope and run by an unscrupulous money-man, the brother and sister only have each other for companionship. Happenstance brings a captain and his cook to their cove—just in time to save a feverish Ada from near death; later a ship full of sailors looking to replace their mainmast arrives, temporarily enlivening their existence. Against the sensitive portrayal of how two naïfs handle their budding sexuality, these fortuitous encounters underscore Evered’s and Ada’s innocence about life and the larger world. Crummey delivers profound insight into how individuals grapple with the forces of nature, not only in the unpredictable environment, but in the mystifying interior of their temperaments, drives, and character. This story of how two guileless youngsters navigate life will have a deep emotional impact on its readers.”

White Negroes: When Cornrows Were in Vogue … and Other Thoughts on Cultural Appropriation by Lauren Michele Jackson

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about White Negroes: “Northwestern University professor Jackson’s insightful debut essay collection takes on cultural appropriation—particularly of black innovation by white celebrities, artists, and entrepreneurs—through the lens of power dynamics, identifying it as a process by which ‘society’s imbalances are exacerbated and inequalities prolonged.’ In the realm of pop culture, she analyzes the pursuit of ‘urban’ sexual wildness by Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus, the aesthetic but not economic investment of the Kardashians in black fashion, and Paula Deen’s fetishistic presentation of Southern food alongside explicit racism. Her exploration of the art world juxtaposes the public reaction to Rachel Dolezal, made famous by her ‘impulse to inhabit blackness,’ with accusations against institutions such as the Whitney Biennial, which she asserts ignores black artists but treats depictions of antiblack violence as edgy and relevant. She identifies toxic white resentment of black success in the recent viral videos of white people calling the police on black people (often children) for using public pools, having lemonade stands, or barbecuing in parks. Jackson is uncompromising in her bold language, palpable in her outrage; she keeps her razor-sharp analysis in an accessible but academic register. She both calls out the damage done by appropriative and oppressive behavior and calls in white readers to take part in valuing black contributions in a way that helps black lives.”

The Bad Side of Books: Selected Essays of D.H. Lawrence edited by Geoff Dyer

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Bad Side of Books: “Dyer (Broadsword Calling Danny Boy) selects and introduces an uneven but fascinating array of essays by D.H. Lawrence (1885–1930). Comprising 38 selections from the earlier collections Phoenix and Phoenix II, the book demonstrates Lawrence’s mastery of multiple genres, from philosophical tract (‘Of Being and Not-Being’) and book review (‘Death in Venice by Thomas Mann’), to memoir (“Myself Revealed”) and nature writing (“Flowery Tuscany”). Dyer edits with a light hand, presenting the essays in strict chronological order so readers can ‘follow the twists and turns of Lawrence’s writing and thought over time.’ Occasionally, his editorial presence proves too recessive, with minimal footnotes. The wide variety of topics—one stretch of essays considers, in turn, Cézanne, pornography, Christianity, and the mines of Lawrence’s home county of Nottingham—makes it likely that any reader can find something of interest, but unlikely that the entirety will appeal consistently to those new to Lawrence. Such neophytes will also find that some of Lawrence’s thoughts regarding race, ethnicity, and gender jar discordantly against modern norms. Nonetheless, it’s an impressive example of a curious mind grappling with big issues, and samples the work of a writer of great intelligence and wit.”

The Mutations by Jorge Comensal (translated by Charlotte Whittle)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Mutations: “Comensal’s punchy debut follows a group of physically and emotionally ailing characters in present-day Mexico City. Lawyer Ramon Martinez opens his mouth ‘like an angry baboon’ to discover a painful lump. His whole tongue needs to be removed; his wife Carmela seems more worried about his children’s reactions than his pain, though she adopts his insomnia ‘in solidarity.’ Psychoanalyst Teresa de la Vega, a breast cancer survivor, specializes in treating people with illnesses. One patient is Eduardo, a young man also very concerned with cancer, having had leukemia as a child. Teresa obsesses over Eduardo as Carmela does over her family. When Eduardo comes down with bronchitis, Teresa and the reader are compelled to wonder about the connection between neurosis and physical ailments. A quote from Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor introduces the novel’s second half. Teresa, Eduardo, and Ramon and his family anchor the narrative, while Comensal folds in other, complementary plot threads. Ramon’s doctor, Joaquin Aldama, becomes passionately involved in the care of his terminal patient Lorena Galvan, but not so much in that of Luis Ramirez, who is fond of complex conspiracy theories about his illness. The novel gets its comic charge from blunt and colorful descriptions of emotional situations that in other fiction would dictate long and evocative passages (‘The dream’s latent content represented the paradox of the jouissance of the Other.’). Sidestepping sentimentality and elaborate emotional expression, Comensal brings comic compassion to his treatment of contemporary neuroses.”

Busted in New York and Other Essays by Darryl Pinckney

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Busted in New York and Other Essays: “This robust group of essays written between 1994 and 2018 by novelist Pinckney (Black Deutschland) explores African-American identity, politics, and culture. Covering such topics as Aretha Franklin’s ‘profound influence’ and what Pinckney sees as Afro-pessimism’s futility, the author puts his insightful perspective on full display in each selection. From the highs of Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign to the lows of police violence in Ferguson, Mo., Pinckney acknowledges both the social progress that’s been made and the urgency for further change. In the book’s title essay, Pinckney recounts spending a night in the Manhattan municipal jail known as ‘the Tombs’ after he and two friends were arrested for smoking a joint outside a nightclub. Spending that night and much of the next day behind bars, Pinckney observes how ‘the system’ exercises absolute control over ‘the nonwhite young, the poor’ in ways previously unknown to him and his friends, all educated professionals able to easily brush off the experience. Reflections on black women’s experiences are relatively underrepresented, but nonetheless, Pinckney demonstrates his extensive range as a commentator on African-American life. This collection offers a deep dive into his prolific career as an indispensable critic of his times.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Machado, Pico, Sexton, Tariq, Older, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Carmen Maria Machado, Tommy Pico, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, Malcolm Tariq, Daniel José Older, and more—that are publishing this week.

Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about In the Dream House: “In this haunting memoir, National Book Award–finalist Machado (Her Body and Other Parties) discusses the mental and physical abuse she was subjected to by her girlfriend. The book is divided into short, piercing chapters, in which Machado refers to the victimized version of herself as ‘you.’ (‘I thought you died, but writing this, I’m not sure you did.’) Machado discusses meeting the girlfriend (her first) in Iowa City, where Machado was getting her MFA. She masterfully, slowly introduces unease and dread as the relationship unfolds. The girlfriend turns threatening if Machado doesn’t immediately return her calls, starts pointless fights, and inflicts physical discomfort on Machado (squeezing her arm for no reason, for instance). The hostile environment turns utterly oppressive, yet Machado stays, becoming further disoriented by someone who inflicts harm one minute and declares her love the next. Machado interestingly weaves in cultural references (to movies like 1944’s Gaslight and 1984’s Carmen) as she considers portrayals of abuse. She points out that queer women endure abuse in their relationships just as heterosexual women do, and queer abusers shouldn’t be protected: ‘We deserve to have our wrongdoing represented.’ The author eventually leaves her toxic relationship behind, but scars remain. Machado has written an affecting, chilling memoir about domestic abuse.”

Feed by Tommy Pico

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Feed: “In the riveting fourth installment of Pico’s imaginative tetralogy, food, music, sex, and the void serve as means to reveal and dissect the speaker’s interior life. Stepping outside of his alter ego persona, Teebs, to wonder about the possibility of a ‘true self,’ Pico resists the obvious narrative and claims that Teebs, perhaps, is more real than himself. The speaker declares himself a ‘recipe’ made of the ingredients of his past and his family, defined by the intergenerational trauma of Native American genocide and displacement. His Native identity is both an albatross and an amulet of protection: ‘My spirits surround me like a cloud of disapproving aunties, keeping most of you at bay.’ Amid the purposeful cacophony and confusion the poet throws at the reader, exacerbated by a lack of punctuation and erratic changes in line length, there are moments of stunning beauty: ‘What a better time than in the face / of spring and the spring / ephemerals—a bloom / so / short / it puts the fleet in ‘fleeting feeling.’ Readers familiar with Pico’s work will find continuity from previous volumes; the poet’s present concerns and ongoing obsessions are proffered in a seemingly stream-of-consciousness format that is actually meticulously well-organized. New readers, as well, can easily dive in.”

On Swift Horses by Shannon Pufahl

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about On Swift Horses: “Pufahl’s powerful debut follows two brothers just back from the Korean War and the woman from Kansas who loves them both. Muriel agrees to marry Lee not long after he and his brother, Julius, step off their ship in Long Beach, but it’s Julius with whom she finds a haunting affinity. When he disappears, both Muriel and Lee live for word from him again. Muriel and Julius are gamblers; Muriel overhears horse betting tips from men who drink at the Heyday Lounge in San Diego where she works. Muriel wins enough at the Del Mar racetrack to buy her husband the lot on which he builds their dream house. Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, Julius falls in love with Henry, a tender card cheat who’s run out of town. Desperate to find him, Julius returns to his brother’s house, steals money from Muriel, and goes in search of him. Muriel, in turn, searches for Julius, and finds herself instead. SoCal’s illicit gay joints, Mexico, and memories of Kansas are finely wrought, though by the time Muriel discovers that the mystery Julius represents actually resides deep inside her own self, Pufahl’s gorgeous metaphors and heartbreaking revelations may make readers feel like less is more. Peopled by singular characters and suffused with a keen sense of time and place, Pufahl’s debut casts a fascinating spell. This melancholy story will show up in the dreams of those whose heartstrings it has tugged.”

Space Invaders by Nona Fernández

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Space Invaders: “This standout debut from Chilean author Fernández dexterously tells the story of a group of Chilean friends haunted by the absence of their old classmate and friend, Estrella González, who left their school as they grew up during the Pinochet dictatorship. Years later, the friends all remember Estrella differently. Fuenzalida remembers her voice; Maldonado dreams about the letters Estrella sent to her (three of which are in the text); Riquelme remembers going to Estrella’s house to play Space Invaders and witnessing Estrella’s father, a high-ranking officer for Pinochet, remove his wooden prosthetic hand after he got home from work. The narrative eventually winds its way to revealing what happened to Estrella. Fernández’s masterstroke is her remarkable structure: the novella is related in fragments that drift and remain unreliable, which evokes the pervasive fear and uncertainty of life under Pinochet. ‘Time isn’t straightforward, it mixes everything up, shuffles the dead, merges them, separates them out again…. Whether we were there or not is no longer clear…. we’re left with traces of the dream, like the vestiges of a doomed naval battle.’ Fernández’s outstanding novel explores the nature of memory and dreams, and how after a certain point, they become indistinguishable.”

The Revisioners by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Revisioners: “Sexton (A Kind of Freedom) returns with this excellent story of a New Orleans family’s ascent from slavery to freedom, paying poetic tribute to their fearlessness and a ‘mind magic’ that fixes the present, sees into the future, and calls out from the past. In alternating chapters, two women tell their haunting, frightening, and ultimately uplifting stories: Ava, a mixed-race single mom struggling to establish a career and raise a teenage son in 2017, and her great-great-grandmother Josephine, a former slave who in 1924 proudly runs the family farm. Ava’s decision to be the caregiver for her rich white grandmother, Martha, as she slips into dementia will trigger disturbing premonitions for her own cancer-stricken mother, a doula named Gladys. Josephine’s story focuses largely on her struggle to turn over management of the family farm to a son intent on standing up to the Klan—and a troubling interaction with a shy white neighbor who seeks out Josephine’s rumored powers to get pregnant and appease an abusive husband. A chilling plot twist reveals the insidious racial divide that stretches through the generations, but it’s the larger message that’s so timely. ‘Ain’t no use in hate,’ Josephine’s mother advises. ‘Whatever you trying to get away from, hate just binds you to it.’ This novel is both powerful and full of hope.”

Heed the Hollow by Malcolm Tariq

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Heed the Hollow: “Winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, Tariq’s daring debut explores the intersection of black, queer, and Southern identity through the concept of ‘bottom,’ both as a sexual role and a position in the social hierarchy. The conceit is often playful, as in the repeated phrase ‘Malcolm Tariq’s Black Bottom,’ which is woven throughout the collection: ‘His Tastykake / cake / His Doublicious Kandy Kake / cake cake / the bounce/  of his Little Debbie / cake.’ More often, this concept makes erotic submission continuous with historical traumas, torquing familiar expressions: ‘Take this moan as historical rendering, / my downward-facing sigh. Thy rod / and thy staff they come for me.’ Charting a journey from Savannah to Michigan, Tariq’s confessionalism can be direct, as in the title poem (‘I take my own pills as I once learned / to sign for my mother’s birth / control. Preventative measures’), or suggestively and wittily oblique: ‘He’s never had / a black man. I’ve never had myself.’” Readers of Robin Coste Lewis will appreciate Tariq’s archival erasures, while Natasha Trethewey fans will appreciate a journey to South Carolina’s ‘Ellis Island of Slavery,’ where ‘baby strollers and casual dog walks/ file before a single marquee meant to hold/ place for history.’ Reckoning with historical atrocities and making use of a variety of formal gestures, Tariq triumphs in creating his distinctive brand of blues.”

The Book of Lost Saints by Daniel José Older

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Book of Lost Saints: “A ghost of the Cuban revolution haunts the pages of this vivid and emotional literary fantasy from Older (Shadowhouse Fall). Marisol Aragones died after Castro gained power and the Cuban revolution turned sour, but she can’t remember how or why. Now a disembodied spirit in early-2000s New Jersey, with only a tenuous foothold in the land of the living, her one hope for piecing together her past is through her nephew, Ramon. Marisol spends her days observing—and criticizing—Ramon’s work as a hospital security guard and DJ and his hopeless feelings for his no-strings-attached fling, Aliceana Mendoza. At night, she infiltrates his dreams to give him visions of what little she remembers of her life during the revolution. These dreams send Ramon on a quest to uncover long-buried family secrets, dragging a difficult truth from his mother and traveling with Aliceana to Cuba, where the resistance works against the government in secret. Older’s descriptions of Cuba, both past and present, are thoroughly transportive. This moving story of family and freedom is sure to captivate readers.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Aciman, NDiaye, Wilson, Garrett, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of André Aciman, Marie NDiaye, Kevin Wilson, Natalie Eve Garrett, and more—that are publishing this week.

Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

Find Me by André Aciman

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Find Me: “The elegant sequel to Aciman’s celebrated first novel, Call Me by Your Name, revisits his best-known characters some 20 years later. The story opens as Samuel, a classics professor who has abandoned hope of love, boards the train from Florence to Rome to visit his pianist son, Elio, the earlier novel’s narrator. On the train, Samuel strikes up a conversation with a beautiful photographer named Miranda, an American expatriate like him, though she’s half his age. In dialogue that quickly turns searching, they sense in each other a soul mate (‘I’ve known you for less than an hour on a train. Yet you totally understand me’); later that day, once they arrive in Rome, they begin planning new lives together. Several years later, Elio has moved to Paris. He begins a satisfying relationship with Michael, an attorney two decades or so his senior, but Elio’s memories of Oliver, whom he loved and lost as a teen, reawaken. A third segment focuses on Oliver, now a married father yet unable to leave the past and its passion behind, before Elio and Oliver meet again in the novel’s brief coda. Elio is the heart of the novel, as its core themes—including fatherhood, music, the nature of time and fate, the weight and promise of the past—are infused with eroticism, nostalgia and tenderness in fluid prose. The novel again demonstrates Aciman’s capacity to fuse the sensual and the cerebral in stories that touch the heart.”

Eat Joy edited by Natalie Eve Garrett (illustrated by Meryl Rowin)

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Eat Joy: “In this delightful anthology, Garrett (The Artists’ and Writers’ Cookbook, editor) presents culinary essays from notable authors and the dishes associated with them. In ‘Comfort with Eggs,’ short story writer Laura van den Berg, addressing her anorexia as a teen, faces ‘the ghost of the person who believed it was… reasonable to starve herself to death’; novelist Chantel Acevedo cherishes hours with her grandmother toasting stove-top ‘Merenguitos’ (‘gooey like a marshmallow’); and for novelist Rakesh Satyal in ‘Bake Your Fear,’ baking pies was ‘waving a Pride flag before I could officially come out.’ Prominent writers shine, including Colum McCann, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Alexander Chee, whose story about a juice cleanse entertains. Accompanying recipes often prioritize comfort over ambition: Edwidge Danticat shares diri blan (white rice) on her father’s deathbed; short story writer Carmen Maria Machado mixes Kraft macaroni and cheese with tomato soup and hot dogs in ‘Meals of My Twenties’; and novelist Anthony Doerr slurps brownie batter in the wilderness in ‘Homesick at the Outer Edge of the World.’ Garrett has selected the best kind of culinary writing—unfussy recipes and heartfelt stories that use food as an avenue for reflection. Foodies and fiction readers alike will devour this excellent collection.”

The Cheffe by Marie NDiaye

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Cheffe: “The life and career of a majestically talented, intensely private master chef is narrated by her greatest admirer and loyal employee in NDiaye’s engrossing psychological novel (following My Heart Hemmed In). Born in the early 1950s in the southwestern French town of Sainte-Bazeille, to a large, poor family, the Cheffe leaves school at 14 to work as a maid for the Clapeaus, a wealthy older couple who ‘loved eating with a fervent, unrelenting love.’ She finds her calling in replacing the Clapeaus’ vacationing cook and goes on to devote herself to cooking, moving through kitchens ‘with the kind of controlled, dynamic, galvanizing intentness that attracted miraculous ideas’ and eventually opening her own award-winning restaurant. But this single-mindedness is also the source of painful lifelong conflict between the Cheffe and her only daughter, whom the narrator resents for what he sees as ingratitude. Deeply in love with the taciturn Cheffe, who makes him her confidante but doesn’t return his feelings, the narrator acknowledges his bias but insists on the accuracy of his insights. Like the Cheffe’s recipes, at first tantalizingly simple but eventually so austere they threaten to ‘tumble into fruitlessness’ and become useless, the narrator’s efforts to describe the Cheffe’s mind and heart are both enthralling and fundamentally unreliable as a record of her life. Readers will be consumed by this tale of talent and obsession, even as the Cheffe herself remains both fascinating and mysterious.”

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Nothing to See Here: “Wilson (Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mine) turns a bizarre premise into a beguiling novel about unexpected motherhood. When aimless, low-achieving 28-year-old Lillian Breaker receives a mysterious invitation from Madison Roberts, her former roommate at a prestigious high school, longtime correspondent, and now wife to a senator, she does not hesitate to travel to Franklin, Tenn. Madison offers her a job as a very discreet governess for the senator’s twin children from a prior marriage. Ten-year-olds Bessie and Roland sometimes burst into flames, and Madison is desperate to avoid a scandal upsetting the senator’s chances of becoming secretary of state. Lillian accepts and, with begrudging help from Carl, the senator’s shadowy right-hand man, guides the children through coping mechanisms in the guest house on the family’s lavish estate while Madison and Senator Roberts remain icy toward them. Their progress is upended, though, when the senator’s prospects rapidly change and Lillian has to decide where her loyalties are. Lillian’s deadpan observations zip from funny to heartbreaking while her hesitancy and messy love satisfyingly contrasts with Madison’s raw drive for power and tightly controlled affection. Wilson captures the wrenching emotions of caring for children in this exceptional, and exceptionally hilarious, novel.”

The Intangibles by Elaine Equi

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Intangibles: “‘I write because certain combinations of words really are magical,’ Equi explains in her enchanting 14th collection. Her signature quirkiness and alien perspectives on the quotidian (including T-shirts, rhubarb and radishes, and poems built from the ‘invisible architecture’ of scents) make appearances, and, as in previous volumes, many of these poems are written in response to modern technology: ‘Once upon a time, everything was not / connected to everything else… People knew too / how to inhabit a moment, / even while daydreaming, / all the way to the far edges.’ ‘Deep in the Rectangular Forest’ offers a slightly ominous look at post-internet, post-social-media behavior and the role individuals play in this technological habitat: ‘we pollinated the mostly mediocre content / with an innocuous brand of wit. // Left to our own devices, we’d eavesdrop / on conversations around the world. / If something was unpleasant, we deleted it.’ These poems suggest people should enjoy the fun of language while it lasts, before it’s ‘ground to numeric sand’ and ‘the rabbit / of the alphabet / drops back / into the void / of the black hat.’ Like her ‘Monogrammed Aspirin’—in which E is for both Excedrin and Elaine—Equi’s poems are easy-to-swallow capsules, so filled with ideas that, occasionally, they feel curtailed, as though they could have gone on longer.”

Vanity Fair’s Women on Women edited by Radhika Jones and Tad Friend

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Vanity Fair’s Women on Women: “This dazzling collection features 28 profiles of famous women, including politicians, artists, musicians, and actresses, from the last 36 years of Vanity Fair. The profiles, each of which was written by a woman, offer snapshots of their subjects at key points in time, often with remarkable prescience. For a 1992 piece about Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail stumping for her husband, author Gail Sheehy is present to witness Clinton watching Gennifer Flowers’s CNN interview on her affair with Bill, but more importantly, she captures her personality astutely, as the ‘tougher, cooler, and more intellectually tart of the two’ Clintons. Amy Fine Collins’s 1995 piece on Audrey Hepburn explores how the legendary actress’s relationship with designer Hubert de Givenchy helped shape her career. In 1985, Tina Brown articulates the precise nature of Princess Diana and Prince Charles’s mismatch, 11 years before their divorce, while, in 1984, Janet Coleman finds Whoopi Goldberg, just prior to the release of The Color Purple, wrestling with the implications of stardom, as ‘she had never yet been censored and was concerned for her integrity.’ This is an ideal collection for those who enjoy celebrity profiles with a bit more substance.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Attenberg, Shelburne, Matar, Ocampo, Pinsky, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Jami Attenberg, Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne, Hisham Matar, Silvina Ocampo, Robert Pinsky, and more—that are publishing this week.

Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

All This Could Be Yours by Jami Attenberg

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about All This Could Be Yours: “A patriarch’s death strains a family’s already fraught relationships in this dazzling novel from Attenberg (All Grown Up). Shady real estate developer Victor Tuchman suffers a heart attack in New Orleans and is rushed to the hospital. During his final, lingering day, his family mentally rehashes key moments of his life in hopes of understanding the man they are losing. His wife, Barbra, still annoyed about leaving their Connecticut mansion, occupies herself with obsessive walking while remembering Victor’s quick transition from shy suitor to abusive tyrant. His daughter, Alex, flies in from Chicago, desperate to know the truth about Victor’s criminal past, and begrudges her mother’s insistence she let it go and make peace. Victor’s son Gary, who is in Los Angeles to jump-start his career in the movies, avoids answering calls from the family and intentionally misses his flight. Gary’s wife, Twyla, slips into a nervous breakdown during a cosmetic shopping spree, slowly revealing the true root of her distress. As Victor fades, the family’s dysfunction comes to light and they make drastic choices about their future. Attenberg excels at revealing rich interior lives—not only for her main cast, but also for cameo characters—in direct, lucid prose. This is a delectable family saga.”

The Beadworkers by Beth Piatote

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Beadworkers: “Piatote’s debut collection mixes poetry, verse, and prose to form an impressive reflection on the lives of modern Native Americans. Piatote, a Nez Perce enrolled with the Colville Confederated Tribes, fits much nuance and profundity into stories that often reflect on the ways in which contemporary mainstream American culture continues to erase the identities and traditions of indigenous groups. In ‘Beading Lesson,’ the narrator teaches a girl how to make traditional beaded earrings, noting how fewer and fewer people have been learning the skill in recent years. In ‘wIndin!,’ two friends work on a piece of political art, a board game that comments on systemic oppression of Native Americans throughout history. A woman reunites with an old friend and considers the ways their relationship to each other and their families have changed in ‘Katydid.’ The most impressive and longest, ‘Antikoni,’ is a reimagining of Antigone, complete with a chorus of Aunties. In Piatote’s version, Antikoni strives to rescue the remains of her ancestors from the museum where they have been interred by the ‘White Coats’ and ‘White Gloves’—’We were born into this suffering. That our own/ blood would be divided/ from us, that our mourning could never come to an/ end, for it can never/ properly begin.’ The Nez Perce language is featured throughout the verse passages, and Piatote includes many explanatory footnotes. This beautiful collection announces Piatote as a writer to watch.”

Initiated by Amanda Yates Garcia

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Initiated: “Garcia, self-proclaimed ‘Oracle of Los Angeles,’ shares the series of initiations that led to her practice as a professional witch, writer, and healer in her superb debut. Raised in Northern California, Garcia was introduced to the feminist practice of Goddess magic by her mother, but she rejected those teachings for years. After experiencing horrific abuse at the hands of a family member, she left home at 16 for San Francisco, drifted to Europe, then landed in Los Angeles to chase her dream of being an artist. Garcia realizes that, like magic, art made ‘the things we imagine visible to us; it pulls them into material reality and changes the way we experience the world.’ Throughout her travels, she experiences visions that lead her thoughts back to witchcraft. Then, following a stint in grad school, she performs an official witch ceremony on her 30th birthday with members of her L.A. community and realizes ‘nothing could give me the satisfaction of witchcraft.’ She also reveals times of personal ‘darkness,’ such as working as a stripper and pursuing toxic relationships, crediting witchcraft for helping her escape: ‘The moment you stop seeing yourself as a supplicant and start seeing yourself as a participant, a coconspirator, an agent, that shift marks the moment you become a witch.’ Effortlessly weaving Goddess myths from diverse cultures with her own life story, Garcia’s reverent, powerful work will encourage readers to forge their own values and join in her ‘re-enchantment’ of the world.”

The Promise by Silvina Ocampo

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Promise: “This haunting and vital final work from Ocampo (1903–1993), her only novel, is about a woman’s life flashing before her eyes when she’s stranded in the ocean. The nameless narrator has fallen off a ship, and as she floats, her mind takes over, presenting a flotilla of real and imagined memories about the people in her life in the form of a version of the book she promises herself she’ll finish. The book’s main thread is a woman, Irene, and a man, Leandro, with whom both Irene and the narrator get involved. But the fluid narrative also encompasses brief snapshots of a murder mystery, the narrator’s grandmother’s eye doctor (‘In profile, his intent rabbit face was not as kind as it was head-on.’), her hairdresser, her ballerina neighbor, and the fruit vendor to whom her brother was attracted as a boy (‘it was a fruit relationship, perhaps symbolizing sex’). The narrator’s potent, dynamic voice yields countless memorable lines and observations: ‘The only advantage of being a child is that time is doubly wide, like upholstery fabric’; ‘What is falling in love, anyway? Letting go of disgust, of fear, letting go of everything.’ But the book’s true power is its depiction of the strength of the mind (‘what I imagine becomes real, more real than reality’) and the necessity of storytelling, which for the narrator is literally staving off death: ‘I told stories to death so that it would spare my life.’ Ocampo’s portrait of one woman’s interior life is forceful and full of hope.”

Also on shelves: Holding on to Nothing by Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne, A Month in Siena by Hisham Matar, and The Mind Has Cliffs of Fall edited by Robert Pinsky.

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Strout, Percy, Vapnyar, Hodgman, O’Brien, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Elizabeth Strout, Benjamin Percy, Lara Vapnyar, John Hodgman, Tim O’Brien, and more—that are publishing this week.

Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Olive, Again: “As direct, funny, sad, and human as its heroine, Strout’s welcome follow-up to Olive Kitteridge portrays the cantankerous retired math teacher in old age. The novel, set in small-town coastal Crosby, Maine, unfolds like its predecessor through 13 linked stories. ‘Arrested’ begins just after the first novel ends, with 74-year-old widower Jack Kennison wooing 73-year-old Olive. ‘Motherless Child’ follows the family visit when Olive tells her son she plans to marry Jack. In ‘Labor,’ Olive awkwardly admires gifts at a baby shower, then efficiently delivers another guest’s baby. Olive also offers characteristic brusque empathy to a grateful cancer patient in ‘Light,’ and, in ‘Heart,’ to her own two home nurses—one a Trump supporter, one the daughter of a Somali refugee. ‘Helped’ brings pathos to the narrative, ‘The End of the Civil War Days’ humor, ‘The Poet’ self-recognition. Jim Burgess of Strout’s The Burgess Boys comes to Crosby to visit brother Bob (‘Exiles’). Olive, in her 80s, living in assisted care, develops a touching friendship with fellow resident Isabelle from Amy and Isabelle (‘Friend’). Strout’s stories form a cohesive novel, both sequel and culmination, that captures, with humor, compassion, and embarrassing detail, aging, loss, loneliness, and love. Strout again demonstrates her gift for zeroing in on ordinary moments in the lives of ordinary people to highlight their extraordinary resilience.”

Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Your House Will Pay: “Based on a true case, Cha’s ambitious tale of race, identity, and murder delivers on the promise of her Juniper Song mysteries (Dead Soon Enough, etc.). Racial tensions in Los Angeles are at a boiling point following the police shooting of a black teenager, and 27-year-old Grace Park, who lives with her Korean immigrant parents, shares the sense of outrage felt by many. Her sheltered world is suddenly shattered when her mother, Yvonne, is shot in front of the family pharmacy in a drive-by shooting. Dark family secrets begin to emerge about Yvonne’s involvement in the notorious 1991 shooting of Ava Matthews, an unarmed young black woman, by a Korean shopkeeper. Grace is torn by conflicting emotions of concern for her mother and shame at the implications of her mother’s crime. Meanwhile, Ava’s brother, Shawn Matthews, has tried to put the past behind him. When news of Yvonne’s attempted murder reaches him, it brings up emotions Shawn has long fought to keep down. The tension rises as the authorities circle in on his family as possible suspects in Yvonne’s shooting. This timely, morally complex story could well be Cha’s breakout novel.”

Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Wild Game: “This page-turning memoir about an especially fraught mother-daughter relationship from novelist Brodeur (Man Camp) reads like heady beach fiction. At age 14, Brodeur became enmeshed in her mother Malabar’s affair with Ben—a married lifelong friend of Brodeur’s stepfather Charles—covering for them even after Charles’s death. At 21, Brodeur cheated on a boyfriend with Ben’s son Jack: ‘like our parents before us, we spoke in a language rich in innuendo.’ She later became engaged to Jack, who knew nothing of their parents’ affair, and kept quiet about it until Ben confessed to his family and ended the relationship with Malabar. Brodeur and Jack’s wedding became ‘Malabar’s battleground. She would be radiant… and show Ben what he was missing’; to that end, Malabar brought out a family heirloom promised to Brodeur on her wedding day—a necklace of allegedly priceless gems—and wore it herself. Wealth and social prominence abound against a summertime Cape Cod backdrop: Malabar was a Boston Globe food columnist, Charles founded the Plimoth Plantation living history museum, and Ben was a proud Mayflower descendant. Nine months after Ben’s wife’s died, Ben and Malabar married, and Malabar quickly cut off Brodeur, whose own marriage was crumbling: ‘Now that Malabar finally had Ben… she no longer needed me.’ This layered narrative of deceit, denial, and disillusionment is a surefire bestseller.”

Suicide Woods by Benjamin Percy

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Suicide Woods: “Percy’s haunting, well-crafted prose frequently elevates the mundanity and isolation of being human into something otherworldly in his genre-bending collection (after The Dark Net). The brisk, cleverly written puzzler ‘Suspect Zero’ begins with a body found in a train car and invites readers to follow the clues to the killer’s identity. In the chilling ‘The Cold Boy,’ a man finds his young nephew trapped beneath the ice of a frigid lake and fears the worst, but the boy survives, and his relief soon gives way to terror. In the visceral, but strangely affecting ‘Heart of a Bear,’ an injured bear covets a family’s humanity, leading to tragic results. In the title story, a man employs a disturbing experiment meant to induce a fear of death in a group of suicidal people, and an ember of hope burns at the heart of ‘The Balloon,’ which follows two lonely survivors during the dark days of a pandemic. In the exceedingly creepy novella ‘The Uncharted,’ a risk-averse employee of a virtual map making company joins a dangerous rescue mission to retrieve a team that went missing in a part of Alaska dubbed the Bermuda Triangle of the North. This gripping, often unnerving collection showcases Percy’s talent as a skilled, versatile storyteller.”

Divide Me By Zero by Lara Vapnyar

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Divide Me By Zero: “Vapnyar bottles a profound sense of discontent in her tragicomic novel (Still Here), chronicling the life and loves of Katya Geller, an immigrant to Staten Island from Soviet-era Russia. Framed by the death of her beloved but difficult mother, a mathematician, the story unfolds in chapters headed by her mother’s notes for a math textbook for adults, which Katya finds also apply to matters of the heart. Katya is a mess of a daughter, juggling her husband, a couple of lovers, and a couple of kids. She tries to make sense of her life, her marriage, and the writing she discovers she’s good at, mining for guidance her childhood in Russia, her parents’ relationship, even the cowardice of her lover, B. She falls briefly for a very rich Russian named Victor and considers a divorce. Among the many pleasures of the novel is Vapnyar’s portrayal of the intellectual connection Katya has with her children, which is disarmingly lovely. Throughout, Vapnyar expertly exposes selfish desires and quiet discontent. This is a frank, amusing, and melancholy novel.”

Medallion Status by John Hodgman

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Medallion Status: “Comedian and actor Hodgman (Vacationland) discusses being in, but mostly out, of the spotlight in a humorous essay collection that addresses topics including his television appearances and his struggles to maintain his elite airline frequent flier status after he stopped flying extensively for work. ‘I enjoy being seen and recognized,’ Hodgman writes, but ‘frankly it doesn’t happen often these days.’ The author casts himself as a used-to-be-somewhat-famous person trying to figure out his place in the world. ‘Secret Family’ relates how he overspent on a fancy Hollywood hotel, then crashed with friends: ‘Home is where they have to take you in,’ he concludes. He talks about failing to get himself invited to a Golden Globes party (‘Career Advice for Children’), scoring free jeans at the Emmy Awards gifting lounge (‘Nude Rider’), and attending his 20-year college reunion (‘Secret Society’) and seeing ‘all my old crumbling friends.’ Hodgman’s best material focuses on the marketing tricks of the airline industry (‘Thank You for Being Gold’), which manipulates passengers, Hodgman included, into competing for perks. ‘The Sky Lounge is not aspirational,’ Hodgman writes. ‘It is desperational.’ This funny, sometimes delightfully absurd book offers sharp meditations on status, relevance, and age, and fame—or at least being fame-adjacent.”

Music: A Subversive History by Ted Gioia

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Music: A Subversive History: “In this excellent history, music critic Gioia (How to Listen to Jazz) dazzles with tales of how music grew out of violence, sex, and rebellion. Gioia opens with humans fashioning musical instruments from animal bones, such as a Neanderthal flute made with a bear’s femur, and writes, ‘When the instruments didn’t come from the dead animal, they evolved from the weapons used to kill it,’ such as a hunter’s bow, which became the ‘earliest stringed instrument.’ He then explores the roots of eroticism in music in Sumerian songs and myths, and the divide between the sacred and the vulgar in music. Gioia explains how the early Catholic church elevated the human voice as the only instrument above reproach, since other instruments, drums in particular, were tainted by their pagan associations. In the Middle Ages, passionate secular songs were being performed by roaming troubadours whose new way of singing expressed a deep sensitivity to the inner romantic life. Crisply written with surprising insights, Gioia’s history ranges from Beethoven’s outsider status, due to what was considered to be his mysterious and gloomy music, to the execution and murder ballads in 20th-century folk music, and ending with the rise of rock and roll and hip-hop. Gioia’s richly told narrative provides fresh insights into the history of music.”

A Year Without a Name by Cyrus Grace Dunham

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about A Year Without a Name: “This meditative memoir by 27-year-old writer and activist Dunham, who uses they/them pronouns, provides a diaristic account of their unresolved relationship to gender and their journey to becoming Cyrus (the one boy name their parents had chosen while expecting) via a name change, hormones, and eventual top surgery. Born Grace, Dunham sensed they were different from other children around the age of five. Early on, they engaged in compulsive behavior (such as relying on magical numbers) and heard voices in their head: ‘a secondary, analytical voice that prevented [me] from taking total pleasure in anything’ and ‘the sped-up, echoing voice of Amelia Earhart, my narrative ghost, calling out to me.’ After high school, Dunham lost their virginity to a girl, figuring ‘if I couldn’t be the boy she desired, at least I’d be the girl who understood.’ The book follows the trails of other obsessive relationships— ‘Devotion is the closest thing I’ve known to a stable gender, insofar as our gender is a set of rules we either accept or make for ourselves,’ Dunham writes—and touches on their struggle with mental illness and their difficult feelings after their sister (who along with other family members is never named) became famous. Dunham demonstrates a self-reflective awareness of their own psychology. This memoir will resonate deeply with other young people seeking gender harmony.”

Dad’s Maybe Book by Tim O’Brien

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Dad’s Maybe Book: “This tender memoir begins in 2003, when 58-year-old novelist O’Brien (The Things They Carried) has a one-year-old son and another one on the way. In the format of letters to his sons, he shares the joys of fatherhood, which are muted by the prospect that his children may know him only as an old man—or not know him at all (‘Life is fragile. Hearts go still’). For the next 15 years, with the ashes of his father in an urn on his bookcase, O’Brien writes for his children what he wished his father had left him: ‘Some scraps of paper signed ‘Love Dad’.’ O’Brien covers nights of colic, basketball games, and homework battles, but this is not a compendium of cute witticisms. He taps into the dark corners of his mind, sharing an analysis of, say, the parallels between the Battle of Lexington and Concord in 1775 and his 1969 tour of duty in Vietnam’s Quang Ngai Province. He then presents a well-reasoned argument for replacing the word ‘war’ with the phrase ‘killing people, including children,’ and war’s impact on culture. O’Brien concludes with a humorous, moving letter of instruction for his 100th birthday. With great candor, O’Brien succeeds in conveying the urgency parents may feel at any age, as they ready their children for life without them.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Smith, Jones, Jemc, Dancyger, Marantz

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Zadie Smith, Saeed Jones, Jac Jemc, Lilly Dancyger, Andrew Marantz, and more—that are publishing this week.

Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

Grand Union by Zadie Smith

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Grand Union: “In Smith’s smart and bewitching story collection, the novelist’s first (after the essay collection Feel Free), the modern world is refracted in ways that are both playful and rigorous, formally experimental and socially aware. A drag queen struggles with aging in ‘Miss Adele Amidst the Corsets’ as she misses the ‘fabled city of the past’ now that ‘every soul on these streets was a stranger.’ A child’s school worksheet spurs a humorous reassessment of storytelling itself in the postmodern ‘Parents’ Morning Epiphany.’ ‘Two Men Arrive in a Village,’ in which a violent duo invades a settlement, aspires to ‘perfection of parable.’ Some stories, including ‘Just Right,’ about a family in prewar Greenwich Village, and the sci-fi ‘Meet the President!,’ in which a privileged boy meets a lower-class English girl, read more like exercises. But more surprising and rewarding are stories constructed of urban impressions and personal conversations, like ‘For the King,’ in which the narrator meets an old friend for dinner in Paris. And the standout ‘The Canker’ uses speculative tropes to reflect on the current political situation: people live harmoniously in storyteller Esorik’s island society, until the new mainland leader, the Usurper, inspires ‘rage’ and the ‘breaking of all the cycles [Esorik] had ever known.’ Smith exercises her range without losing her wry, slightly cynical humor. Readers of all tastes will find something memorable in this collection.”

How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about How We Fight for Our Lives: “Poet Jones (Prelude to Bruise) explores sexual identity, race, and the bond between a mother and child in a powerful memoir filled with devastating moments. As a gay African-American boy growing up in Texas, Jones struggled to find his way. In 1998, at age 12, ‘I thought about being gay all the time,’ he writes, but at home the subject was taboo. Here, Jones candidly discusses his coming of age, his sexual history, and his struggle to love himself. He describes engaging in destructive behavior in college, including repeated relations with a sadistic, racist man, and their encounters graphically illustrate how sex and race can be used as weapons of hate. Jones writes that, at that grim time in his life, he appeared to others to be a happy young man: ‘Standing in front of the mirror, my reflection and I were like rival animals, just moments away from tearing each other limb from limb.’ Jones beautifully records his painful emergence into adulthood and, along the way, he honors his mother, a single parent who struggled to support him financially, sometimes emotionally, but who loved him unconditionally until her death in 2011. Jones is a remarkable, unflinching storyteller, and his book is a rewarding page-turner.”

False Bingo by Jac Jemc

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about False Bingo: “Jemc’s electric, nimble collection (after The Grip of It) plumbs its characters’ most intimate relationships and unearths potent hidden truths. In ‘Delivery,’ a father’s sudden spike in online shopping signifies a troubling development. In ‘Don’t Let’s,’ a woman stays in the Georgia Lowcountry, trying to clear her mind after leaving an abusive relationship, but finds signs of a ghost’s presence in her house. ‘Pastoral,’ about the work of a porn actress who has a husband and two sons, defies convention by having no conflict at all (‘There are no wolves at the door…. There is no obstacle that requires overcoming’). A woman’s stay at a wellness retreat is impinged upon by an overbearing fellow retreater in ‘Maulawiyah.’ In ‘Hunt and Catch,’ a woman named Emily is ominously followed by a man in a garbage truck (‘When he waved, Emily felt like someone had shoved the skin of her face in the direction of his hand’). In ‘Trivial Pursuit,’ an unnamed couple is irritated by the eccentricities of a couple known as the Board Game Couple before dumping them for the Artist Couple, followed by a succession of other couples, each with their own problems. Many of these stories are only a few pages, allowing Jemc to deliver a range of payoffs, some unsettling, some poignant, all evocative. This constantly shifting collection will leave readers beguiled.”

Burn It Down edited by Lily Dancyger

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Burn It Down: “Editor Dancyger collects essays from 22 female writers contemplating (and unleashing) anger, continuing the #MeToo ethos of emotional transparency and righteous indignation, to bracing and powerful effect. The writers are a diverse group and cover a wide range of experiences. Samantha Riedel recalls unlearning a lifetime of aggressive masculine social conditioning after transitioning from male to female, while still harnessing the power of anger to scare off harassers and put TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) in their place. Lisa Marie Basile documents years of suffering from a chronic illness and having her symptoms minimized by doctors and friends alike, declaring her refusal to be dismissed: ‘There is too much beauty in being alive to silence my intuition, to ignore my body, to not sing its needs and demand they be met.’ Evette Dionne writes of the ‘angry black woman’ stereotype, and how it silences women and shapes perceptions of famous African-American women such as Serena Williams. Other rage-inducing topics include intentional misgendering, religious discrimination, sexism in the classroom, and perimenopause. As Dancyger notes in her introduction, women’s anger has long been trivialized and discredited, but this collection allows that anger the space to flourish. It is a cathartic and often inspiring reading experience.”

Ghosts of Berlin by Rudolph Herzog

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Ghosts of Berlin: “Everyday problems are complicated by weird plot thickeners in these seven vivid and intriguing stories from the author of A Short History of Nuclear Folly. A filmmaker as well and the son of director Werner Herzog, Herzog writes relatively lengthy stories told in short cuts; the reader has time to inhabit the world of the protagonist before the plot turns dark, often with a strain of deadpan humor. In ‘Needle and Thread,’ Bjorn is so wrapped up in his corporate dealings that he ignores, at his own peril, the pleas of his daughter, Alena, about a figure lurking in her bedroom. In ‘Key,’ the admittedly neurotic violinist Stiebel struggles to adjust to his new apartment and a move to Berlin. He develops a complicated relationship with a prickly neighbor named Wondrak, who triggers inexplicable emotions in him. In ‘Tandem,’ Greek immigrant and language teacher Dmitri finds himself drawn to his sweet German student Lotte, until she commits a shockingly rapacious act. The common thread in the stories is the city of Berlin and the dark shadows in its history. These links unfold in different ways as each story progresses. That this history is rarely addressed directly adds tension and resonance. The macabre mischief in Herzog’s tales is far from benign and speaks eloquently to the anxiety of modern life.”

The Furies by Katie Lowe

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Furies: “Lowe’s powerful and atmospheric debut features a troubled young woman who becomes entangled in witchcraft and murder at a private British all-girls school. Soon after starting at Elm Hollow Academy, teen Violet Taylor falls in with Alex, Grace, and their chain-smoking, impossibly cool ringleader, Robin, and begins drinking, shoplifting, and taking drugs. She especially bonds with Robin and joins an exclusive study group where the girls explore the ‘great women of art and literature,’ including the rumors that Elm Hollow’s founder was a powerful witch. After Violet is sexually assaulted , she and her friends perform a dark revenge ritual involving animal sacrifice. When the brutalized body of student Emily Frost, who was missing for months, is found in the elm in Elm Hollow’s courtyard, the girls pin her murder on the dean, leading to further shocking violence. Lowe’s sinuous prose weaves a disturbing tale of friendship, obsession, and revenge, and readers must decide whether Violet is a trustworthy narrator. Those who thrill to dark coming-of-age tales with a dash of the uncanny will find much to enjoy.”

Antisocial by Andrew Marantz

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Antisocial: “Marantz, a staff writer at the New Yorker, makes a timely and excellent debut with his chronicle of how a ‘motley cadre of edgelords’ gleefully embraced social media to spread their ‘puerile’ brand of white nationalism. In examining how ‘the unthinkable became thinkable’ in American politics, he narrates that tech entrepreneurs disrupted the old ways of vetting and spreading information—including the traditional media of which Marantz identifies himself as a part—but refused to take up a role as gatekeepers, and the white nationalists seeped in like poison. Marantz profiles alt-right figures and tech titans alike: vlogger Cassandra Fairbanks, Proud Boys leader Gavin McInnes, antifeminist Mike Cernovich, Reddit founder Steve Huffman (who experimented with gatekeeping by deleting the site’s forum dedicated to the ‘Pizzagate’ conspiracy theory), The Filter Bubble author and tech entrepreneur Eli Pariser, and clickbait startup CEO Emerson Spartz, who opines, ‘If it gets shared, it’s quality.’ A running theme is how journalists should cover ‘a racist movement full of hypocrites and liars,’ and, indeed, Marantz doesn’t shy away from asking pointed questions or noting his subjects’ inconsistencies. This insightful and well-crafted book is a must-read account of how quickly the ideas of what’s acceptable public discourse can shift.”

Tuesday New Release Day: Starring Winterson, Lerner, Díaz, Walbert, and More

Here’s a quick look at some notable books—new titles from the likes of Jeanette Winterson, Ben Lerner, Jaquira Díaz, Kate Walbert, and more—that are publishing this week.

Want to learn more about upcoming titles? Then go read our most recent book preview. Want to help The Millions keep churning out great books coverage? Then sign up to be a member today.

Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Frankissstein: “Winterson (The Gap of Time) reimagines literary classic Frankenstein—both the story and the genesis of it—in her magnificent latest. The book shuttles back and forth between 1816, when a challenge leads Mary Shelley to write her indelible character and the monster he creates, and the present day, when a transgender man named Ry Shelley delves deeper into the burgeoning world and industry surrounding robotics and AI. A medical doctor, Ry supplies body parts to the professor Victor Stein, a brilliant if elusive man whose vision of the future is one in which human intelligence can transcend the limitations of needing a physical body. Victor’s interest in Ry is multifold: there is what Ry can procure for him through hospitals, and there is attraction—both romantic and platonic interest in the physical manifestation of Ry’s gender identity, which Victor calls ‘future-early’ and Ry calls ‘doubleness.’ Winterson’s recreation of the story of Mary Shelley’s creative process and later life and work is splendid, but it’s the modern analogue of the famous Lake Geneva party that is truly inspired. There is the hilariously crass sexbot entrepreneur Ron Lord, the evangelical capitalist Claire, and the nosy nuisance of Vanity Fair reporter Polly D, who’s constantly convinced she’s on to something. This vividly imagined and gorgeously constructed novel will have readers laughing out loud—and then pondering their personhood and mortality on the next page.”

The Topeka School by Ben Lerner

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about The Topeka School: “Lerner made a huge impact on contemporary fiction with his two previous drawn-from-life novels, Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04. With his latest, he leaves behind his typically erudite first-person protagonists in favor of a Kansas boyhood in the 1990s. For the time being, high school senior Adam Gordon can only dream of ‘a vaguely imagined East Coast city where his experiences in Topeka could be recounted only with great irony.’ But he is a brilliant member of the debate club and the son of two psychotherapists, Jonathan and Jane, who are tied to the Foundation, an experimental treatment facility where Adam is himself a patient of the eccentric (and possibly psychic) Dr. Kenneth Erwood. Readers delve deeper in the Foundation in evocative chapters narrated by Adam’s parents, who tell the story of their courtship, Jonathan’s extramarital affair with Jane’s best friend Sima, and adventures in academia. Also haunting the novel is the figure of Darren, a teenage outsider whose inclusion in Adam’s clique ends in a disastrous act of violence. Lerner’s greatest strength lies in interstitial period details in the zeitgeist: Bob Dole, Reverend Fred Phelps, and Tupac Shakur. Loosely plotted but riveting, this novel expertly locates the thread of the anxious present in the memory-stippled past.”

Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl by Jeannie Vanasco

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl: “Vanasco (The Glass Eye) was raped during her sophomore year of college, and in this powerful memoir, she confronts her assailant, a man she calls Mark. Vanasco and Mark became friends at 13, and in 2003, while on break from Northwestern University, Vanasco attended a party at the house where Mark lived. She became drunk and Mark took her to his room in the basement. Vanasco graphically describes what followed: Mark undressed her, penetrated her vaginally with his fingers, masturbated over her while she cried, and told her: ‘It’s just a dream.’ Fourteen years later, Vanasco contacted Mark to discuss the assault and here delves into their uncomfortable email exchanges, phone calls, and meetings. Mark has become a remorseful loner, and reveals to her that he’s still a virgin. Vanasco worries about giving him a voice in her book: ‘But by interviewing him, I also can invert the power dynamic… he’ll probably come across as too defensive. And maybe I want that.’ In unadorned prose, the author interweaves her exchanges with Mark with stories of other predatory men she’s known, including a high school teacher who punished her after she rejected him. This is a painful reminder of the ugly ways some men treat women, and Vanasco’s nuanced story will resonate with those who’ve endured sexual inappropriateness in any form.”

Reinhardt’s Garden by Mark Haber

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Reinhardt’s Garden: “Haber’s debut novel (after the collection Deathbed Conversions) is an exhilarating fever dream about the search for the secret of melancholy. The story opens in 1907, in the forests of Uruguay, as Croatian Jacov Reinhardt searches for Emiliano Gomez Carrasquilla, a reclusive writer who Reinhardt believes holds the key to understanding melancholy—an all-consuming emotion for Reinhardt and the subject of a treatise he’s desperately trying to complete. At the story’s outset, 10 men have already died on the expedition, and it seems to the book’s unnamed narrator, Reinhardt’s longtime factotum, that they’re going in circles. As the doomed expedition plods about, the narrator slips into his memories of Reinhardt: his cataloguing of different nationalities’ melancholic characters (‘A Russian was a downright brilliant melancholic but was in love with his own melancholia so that it was sentimental and embarrassing’), his construction of a weird castle in Stuttgart with fake walls and trap doors, and his relationship with a retired prostitute named Sonja. The true pleasure of Haber’s novel—a single paragraph—is how it swirls and doubles back on itself on both a story level, with memories bleeding into one another, and on a prose level: Reinhardt seeks ‘to unearth the melancholy at the root of joy, or perhaps the joy at the root of melancholy, because the order, he said, has always been immaterial.’ Haber’s dizzying vision dextrously leads readers right into the melancholic heart of darkness.”

Toil & Trouble by Augusten Burroughs

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Toil & Trouble: “In his whimsical but thin latest, Burroughs reveals another odd facet of the famously dysfunctional family life he recalled in his bestselling Running with Scissors: witchcraft. Having received the ‘Gift’ of witchcraft powers from his mother and grandmother, witchery for Burroughs is not about flying broomsticks but rather visions, premonitions, and intense desires, focused by improvised ‘magick’ rituals, that somehow nudge ordinary life in a fortunate direction. (His first try ends in a schoolyard bully getting his comeuppance via a poetically fitting medical condition.) In adulthood, a series of spells enable him and husband Christopher to move from Manhattan to a dream house in rural Connecticut, and the book is at heart an affectionate, gently humorous portrait of their neurotic version of domestic tranquility, told through picaresque anecdotes sometimes tangentially related to magic. A ghostly voice sounds at the 200-year-old manse; a tornado blows through; raucous local eccentrics show up; Christopher soothes Burroughs’ manifold anxieties; Burroughs fusses over Christopher and dramatizes his own obsessions with decor, cleaning chores, landscaping, and dogs. The material is sometimes funny and touching, but too often it’s mundane—’the puppy is so perfectly behaved, not peeing once indoors.’ Burroughs’s fans will love his comic riffs, but others may not fall under the spell of this uninvolving saga.”

Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Díaz

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Ordinary Girls: “Díaz’s strong debut memoir charts her poor, violent childhood in Puerto Rico and Miami and her bumpy transition from girlhood to womanhood. The book opens in 1985 in Puerto Rico, where Díaz’s father, Papi, was a drug dealer and her mother, Mami, was an erratic personality who’d soon be in the grips of schizophrenia. Within a few years the family moved to Miami Beach, in pursuit of better opportunities. Díaz recalls that her parents were constantly fighting and uprooting her and her two siblings: ‘every new apartment would be smaller than the last.’ She writes about being a juvenile delinquent and ‘a closeted queer girl in a homophobic place,’ taking drugs, running away, getting married at 17, and being sexually assaulted. Her most gripping stories concern the women in her life: her angry maternal grandmother, who mocked her appearance; her paternal grandmother, who brought her joy and relief; and her mother, a ‘shattered creature’ whom she watched descend into mental illness and addiction. A turning point for Díaz comes toward the end of the book, when Díaz details how enlisting in the Navy at 18 gave her the stability she needed. Díaz’s empowering book wonderfully portrays the female struggle and the patterns of family dysfunction.”

Solar Perplexus by Dean Young

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about Solar Perplexus: “‘I don’t know what people mean/ by reality,’ Young (Shock by Shock) writes in the first lines of his celebratory 15th book of poetry, his first since a heart transplant in 2011. With a transformed attention to life’s shifts and minutiae, Young’s signature unmoored poetics style is filled with quick shifts and leaps as he examines life’s surreal moments and unexpected humor. Indisputably, Young’s poems unfold in ways that are impossible to paraphrase: ‘As in a love affair. As when a trumpet/ hovers in the air. The average cloud/ outweighs a bus. That strewed dust above/ is the universe.’ The first half of the poems collected resist narrative, or even the perspective of an ‘I.’ ‘The ultimate monster is always the self,’ Young notes, and when the self does appear in these poems, it often does through ungrounded observation, such as ‘I myself am a top.’ Throughout, Young reflects on the effects of poetry on language and his own life: ‘Poetry, I love/ you certainly without any irritable/ reaching after fact. Resistance/ makes you shine.’ There lies a particular pleasure in the deeply interior logic of these poems.”

She Was Like That by Kate Walbert

Here’s what Publishers Weekly had to say about She Was Like That: “This collection of 12 stories from Walbert (His Favorites) creates a taut, clever, and disturbing portrait of motherhood. Fathers, living with the family or apart, do not share their wives’ disquiet. In ‘M&M World,’ a mother takes her daughters to the crowded candy-themed Times Square megastore and panics when she loses sight of her youngest girl. ‘Playdate’ is also set in New York City. Two six-year-olds play together while their mothers chat, until one mother reads the other’s list of things that make her nervous: crowds, school, shadows, playdates. ‘Conversation’ and ‘The Blue Hour’ feature women that feel emotionally stranded. ‘Do Something,’ ‘Slow the Heart,’ and ‘A Mother Is Someone Who Tells Jokes’ show women whose children are dead, ill, or impaired. Memories of deceased mothers haunt the protagonists of ‘Paris, 1994’ and ‘To Do.’ In ‘Radical Feminists,’ a mother of two runs into her long-hated sexist former boss. Set from the 1950s to the present, Walbert portrays mothers beset by worry, fear, and dissatisfaction as they try to accentuate joy in their children’s lives. This is a piercing, intimate, and exquisite collection.”