Best New Books: Week of 10/8/2019

“The very reason I write is so that I might not sleepwalk through my entire life.” – Zadie Smith



FICTION



Grand Union: Stories by  Zadie Smith ★

grand unionZadie Smith has established herself as one of the most iconic, critically-respected, and popular writers of her generation. In her first short story collection, she combines her power of observation and inimitable voice to mine the fraught and complex experience of life in the modern world. With ten extraordinary new stories complemented by a selection of her most lauded pieces for The New YorkerThe Paris Review, and Granta, Grand Union explores a wide range of subjects, from first loves to cultural despair, as well as the desire to be the subject of your own experience. In captivating prose, she contends with race, class, relationships, and gender roles in a world that feels increasingly divided.

Nothing is off limits, and everything–when captured by Smith’s brilliant gaze–feels fresh and relevant. Perfectly paced, and utterly original, Grand Union highlights the wonders Zadie Smith can do.

Description from Goodreads.

“These masterful tales impress, engage and occasionally infuriate as Smith brings her dazzling wit and acute sensitivity to bear… All genres are Smith’s to play with.” – BookPage, STARRED REVIEW

“It feels fitting… that [Smith’s] first short-story collection is as eclectic as it is… Taken all together, the book does feel like a kind of grand union: the lucky synthesis of everything swirling inside Smith’s big, beautiful brain.” – Entertainment Weekly

Grand Union applies [Smith’s] sharp skills of observation and her playful wit… The virtuoso Smith doesn’t stick to one genre. Dystopia and horror sit adjacent to historical fiction in this energetic collection. Her fans will appreciate her rigorous engagement with identity, class, family and place.” – New York Observer

“Smart and bewitching… The modern world is refracted in ways that are both playful and rigorous, formally experimental and socially aware… Smith exercises her range without losing her wry, slightly cynical humor. Readers of all tastes will find something memorable in this collection.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook


What Happens in Paradise by  Elin Hilderbrand

what happens in paradiseA year ago, Irene Steele had the shock of her life: her loving husband, father to their grown sons and successful businessman, was killed in a helicopter crash. But that wasn’t Irene’s only shattering news: he’d also been leading a double life on the island of St. John, where another woman loved him, too.

Now Irene and her sons are back on St. John, determined to learn the truth about the mysterious life -and death – of a man they thought they knew. Along the way, they’re about to learn some surprising truths about their own lives, and their futures.

Lush with the tropical details, romance, and drama that made Winter in Paradise a national bestseller, What Happens in Paradise is another immensely satisfying page-turner from one of America’s most beloved and engaging storytellers.

Description from Goodreads.

“You’ll be counting the days until you can return to the Virgin Islands with these characters in the concluding volume of the trilogy. Print the bumper sticker-‘I’d Rather Be Living in an Elin Hilderbrand Novel.'” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Once again, Hilderbrand demonstrates her mastery of immersive escapism with a carefully deployed pineapple-banana smoothie or the blue tile of an outdoor shower… The absolute pleasure of the reading experience combined with a cliff-hanger ending will have readers anxiously awaiting the conclusion to the trilogy.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“…captivating… Those who want a sweet page-turner that’s more than just beach fare will want to take a look.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | Audiobook | Playaway | eBook | eAudiobook


The Girl at the Door by  Veronica Raimo

girl at the doorMiden is a society built from the ground up. Commissions dedicated to fairness, equality, and mindful living have been created following “the Crash,” and Miden, an island apart from the wreckage, has risen from the ashes of society as we know it. While on vacation in this oasis, a seemingly aimless woman meets an attractive man, and soon after she moves to the island to start a new life with him.

Six months pregnant and just beginning to feel comfortable in her lover’s space, she feels as though she may have finally found ownership of her life – until the day the girl arrives. Slight and pretty, the girl discloses a drawn out and violent affair she’s had with her professor, the father of the woman’s child. In alternating perspectives, the professor and his pregnant girlfriend reflect upon their own lives, each other, and their interloper. As the powers that be gather testimony and consider the case, the couple is forced to confront their own paranoia, fetishes, and transgressions in light of the student’s accusations.

As their idyllic society grapples with the scandal, boundaries blur and alliances shift as reputation, truth, and self-preservation threaten to upend their relationship. Provocative and unnerving, The Girl at the Door explores the bureaucracy of a scandal, and the thin line between lust and possession. In an age in which blunt power and fickle nuance take turns upon the stage, Raimo has delivered an unflinching exploration of the politics and power of sex.

Description from Goodreads.

“[The Girl at the Door] talks about harassment, consensus, populism and vigilantism, but also about what we feel when our actions are analyzed from outside and we become characters in someone else’s narrative.” – Forbes Italia

“Perfection is not such a beautiful place when you look at it too closely, and Veronica Raimo here enlightens its depths with elegant, mesmerizing and merciless writing.” – La Repubblica

“A surprising novel, as surprising is the setting where it takes place… A novel with an international appeal, we would just love to read more books like this.” – Rolling Stone Italy

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook | Hoopla eAudiobook


Here Until August: Stories by  Josephine Rowe

here until augustThe stories in Here Until August follow the fates of characters who, by choice or by force, are traveling beyond the boundaries of their known worlds. These are people who move with the seasons. We meet them negotiating reluctant or cowardly departures, navigating uncertain returns, or biding the disquieting calm that so often precedes moments of decisive action.

In one story, an agoraphobic French émigré compulsively watches disturbing footage from the other side of the world as she attempts to keep a dog named Chavez out of trouble. In another, a young couple weather the interiority of a Montreal winter, more attuned to the illicit goings-on of their neighbors than to their own hazy, unfolding futures. Other stories play out against the fictional counterparts of iconic Australian and American locales, places that are recognizable but set just beyond the brink of familiarity: flooded townships and distant islands, sunlit woodlands or paths made bright by ice, places of unpredictable access and spaces scrubbed from maps.

From the Catskills to New South Wales, from the remote and abandoned island outports of Newfoundland to the sprawl of a North American metropolis, these transformative stories show us how the places where we choose to live our lives can just as easily turn inward as outward.

Description from Goodreads.

“Revelatory… Rowe’s shape shifting, capturing the nuances of different nationalities effortlessly, is almost as remarkable as the precise, delicate, and frequently witty prose… Pitch-perfect examinations of place and psyche from a writer to watch closely.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Josephine Rowe demonstrates in her new story collection an uncanny ability to find moments both devastating and sublime in even the most mundane aspects of life, like a millennial Alice Munro. Each of the book’s ten stories are singularly transfixing; reading them is like drifting from one lighted window to the next, bearing witness to the lives within, feeling more profoundly the darkness around you when the story ends, when you can’t see inside any longer. But while you can see inside, Rowe offers exquisite, many faceted glimpses into the lives of people drifting and settled―often both at the same time―all reflecting the unnerving awareness that life’s transience might be the only permanent thing there is.” – NYLON

“The Australian author’s talent for relating her very human characters’ rich interior lives is even more on display than in her impressive debut novel… Love and loss underpin these 10 stories, which follow characters’ evolving acceptance of their situations, by degrees. Often, Rowe pierces through threatening clouds with humor, especially in her genuine, clever dialogue… These expansive tales are bound to grip, surprise, and enrapture short-story lovers.” – Booklist

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook



SUSPENSE



Ninth House by  Leigh Bardugo ★

ninth houseGalaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

Description from Goodreads.

“Genuinely terrific… The worldbuilding is rock solid, the plot is propulsive, and readers will be clamoring for a sequel as soon as they read the last page.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Simultaneously elegant and grotesque, eerie and earthbound…Wry, uncanny, original and, above all, an engrossing, unnerving thriller.” – Washington Post

“Instantly gripping… Creepy and thrilling… The world of this book is so consistent and enveloping that pages seem to rush by.” – BookPage, STARRED REVIEW

“Excellent… Bardugo gives [her protagonist] a thoroughly engaging mix of rough edge, courage and cynicism.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook



MYSTERY



A Bitter Feast by  Deborah Crombie

bitter feastScotland Yard Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid and his wife, Detective Inspector Gemma James, have been invited for a relaxing weekend in the tranquil Cotswolds, one of Britain’s most beautiful and historic regions, famous for its rolling hills, sheep-strewn green meadows, golden cottages, and timeless villages that retain the spirit of old England.

Duncan, Gemma, and their children are guests at Beck House, the country estate belonging to the family of Melody Talbot, Gemma’s trusted detective sergeant. No ordinary farmers, the Talbots are wealthy and prominent with ties to Britain’s most powerful and influential. A centerpiece of this glorious fall getaway is a posh charity luncheon catered by up-and-coming chef Viv Holland. After more than a decade in London, Viv has returned to her native Glouscestershire, making a name for herself with her innovative, mouthwatering use of the local bounty. Attended by several dozen of the area’s well-to-do, as well as national food bloggers and restaurant critics, the event could make Viv a star.

But a tragic car accident followed by a series of mysterious deaths could ruin her ascent. Each piece of information that surfaces makes it clear that the killer had a connection with Viv’s pub—and perhaps with Beck House itself.

Does the truth lie in the past? Or is it more immediate, woven into the tangled relationships and bitter resentments swirling among the staff at Beck House and at Viv’s pub? Or is it even more personal, entwined with secrets hidden by Viv, her business partner Bea Abbot, and Viv’s eleven-year-old daughter Grace?

Further revelations rock the Talbots’ estate and pull Duncan and Gemma and their colleagues into the investigation. With so much at stake both personally and professionally, especially for Melody Talbot, finding the killer becomes one of the team’s most crucial cases.

Description from Goodreads.

“As in books by Elizabeth George and P. D. James, the intriguing personal relationships and family dynamics drive this well-crafted, impressive mystery-drama.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Crombie keeps this series on its toes with her smooth procedural techniques and engagingly eccentric characters.” – New York Times Book Review

“Through several points of view, this multifaceted novel provides a sobering cautionary tale about the exploitation of idealism and the abuse of power.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook



HISTORICAL FICTION



The Girl with the Leica by  Helena Janeczek

girl with the leica1st August 1937. A parade of red flags marches through Paris. It is the funeral procession for Gerda Taro, the first female photographer to be killed on a battlefield. Robert Capa, who leads the procession, is devastated. They have been happy together: he taught her how to use the Leica before they left together to fight in the Spanish Civil War.

Other figures from Gerda’s past are in the crowd: Ruth Cerf, her friend from Leipzig, who shared the hardships of their first years in Paris after fleeing from Germany; Willy Chardack, who resigned himself to the role of loyal companion after Gerda snubbed him for Georg Kuritzkes, a fighter in the International Brigades. For all of them, Gerda will remain a stronger and more vivid presence than her image of anti-fascist heroine. It is her who binds together a narrative spanning distant times and places, bringing back to life the snapshots of these young people and the challenges they faced in the 1930s, from economic depression to the rise of nazism, to the hostility towards refugees in France. But for those who loved her, those young years would remain a time when, as long as Gerda was alive, everything seemed possible.

Description from Goodreads.

“A biography; a feminist parable; a declaration of love for photography; a narrative tableau of the 1930s: The Girl with the Leica is all of this at once. Helena Janeczek worked on this book for six years. And it shows.” – Il Sole 24 Ore

“In The Girl with the Leica Helena Janeczek brings into focus a world of young artists, photographers, and ‘intellectual refugees’ caught in the storm of 20th-century history, between one war and the other. Still, her prodigious characters remain capable of happiness, vital, and ‘free from everything’. Janeczek’s novel perfectly reproduces their sparkling passions.” – Vanity Fair

“A story of bravery and determination that leaves us breathless and with a sense of emptiness, as if we have known [Gerda Taro] personally.” – Repubblica

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook



ROMANCE



The Giver of Stars by  Jojo Moyes

giver of starsAlice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.

The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Horseback Librarians of Kentucky.

What happens to them—and to the men they love—becomes a classic drama of loyalty, justice, humanity and passion. Though they face all kinds of dangers, they’re committed to their job—bringing books to people who have never had any, sharing the gift of learning that will change their lives.

Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope. At times funny, at others heartbreaking, this is a richly rewarding novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.

Description from Goodreads.

“Epic in scope and fiercely feminist… an unforgettable story.” – PopSugar

“Moyes brings an often forgotten slice of history to life… the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library… A love letter to the power of books and friendship.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

““[A] homage to the power of reading and the strength of community… A must-read for women’s fiction.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | Audiobook | Playaway | eBook | eAudiobook



YOUNG ADULT



The Furies by  Katie Lowe

furiesIn 1998, a sixteen-year-old girl is found dead.

She’s posed on a swing on her boarding school’s property, dressed all in white, with no known cause of death. Whispers and rumors swirl, with no answers. But there are a few who know what happened; there is one girl who will never forget.

One year earlier: a new student, Violet, steps on the campus of Elm Hollow Academy, an all-girl’s boarding school on the outskirts of a sleepy coastal town. This is her fresh start, her chance to begin again in the wake of tragedy, leave her demons behind. Bright but a little strange, uncertain and desperate to fit in, she soon finds herself invited to an advanced study group, led by her alluring and mysterious art teacher, Annabel.

There, with three other girls–Alex, Grace, and Robin–the five of them delve into the school’s long-buried grim history: of Greek and Celtic legends; of the school founder’s “academic” interest in the occult; of gruesome 17th century witch trials. Annabel does her best to convince the girls that her classes aren’t related to ancient rites and rituals, and that they are just history and mythology. But the more she tries to warn the girls off the topic, the more they drawn to it, and the possibility that they can harness magic for themselves.

Violet quickly finds herself wrapped up in this heady new world of lawless power–except she is needled by the disappearance of a former member of the group, one with whom Violet shares an uncanny resemblance. As her friends’ actions take a turn for the darker and spiral out of control, she begins to wonder who she can trust, all the while becoming more deeply entangled. How far will these young girls go to protect one another… or to destroy one another?

Description from Goodreads.

“Murder and witchcraft mix with a heady cocktail of drugs, booze, and revenge in this elegant, pitch-perfect coming-of-age story.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Through myth and memory, adolescence in all its facets is explored: fun, the tightness of friendship, the fragility in those very same friendships, toxic behaviour, obsession, narcissism, grimness, and liberty. Lowe has done a fantastic job of weaving so many threads together to create a hauntingly dark tale of adolescent female fury.” – Sublime Horror

“…powerful and atmospheric… 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.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book



NONFICTION



How We Fight For Our Lives: A Memoir by  Saeed Jones ★

how we fight for our lives“People don’t just happen,” writes Saeed Jones. “We sacrifice former versions of ourselves. We sacrifice the people who dared to raise us. The ‘I’ it seems doesn’t exist until we are able to say, ‘I am no longer yours.’ ”

Haunted and haunting, Jones’s memoir tells the story of a young, black, gay man from the South as he fights to carve out a place for himself, within his family, within his country, within his own hopes, desires, and fears. Through a series of vignettes that chart a course across the American landscape, Jones draws readers into his boyhood and adolescence—into tumultuous relationships with his mother and grandmother, into passing flings with lovers, friends and strangers. Each piece builds into a larger examination of race and queerness, power and vulnerability, love and grief: a portrait of what we all do for one another—and to one another—as we fight to become ourselves.

Blending poetry and prose, Jones has developed a style that is equal parts sensual, beautiful, and powerful—a voice that’s by turns a river, a blues, and a nightscape set ablaze. How We Fight for Our Lives is a one of a kind memoir and a book that cements Saeed Jones as an essential writer for our time.

Description from Goodreads.

“[This] memoir marks the emergence of a major literary voice… written with masterful control of both style and material.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Jones’ explosive and poetic memoir traces his coming-of-age as a black, queer, and Southern man in vignettes that heartbreakingly and rigorously explore the beauty of love, the weight of trauma, and the power of resilience.” – Entertainment Weekly

“Scorching… a commentary not only on what it takes to become truly and wholly oneself, but on race and LGBTQ identity, power and vulnerability, and how relationships can make and break us along the way.” – Good Housekeeping

“An unforgettable memoir that pulls you in and doesn’t let go until the very last page.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book


On the Plain of Snakes: A Mexican Journey by  Paul Theroux

on the plain of snakesLegendary travel writer Paul Theroux drives the entire length of the US–Mexico border, then goes deep into the hinterland, on the back roads of Chiapas and Oaxaca, to uncover the rich, layered world behind today’s brutal headlines.

Paul Theroux has spent his life crisscrossing the globe in search of the histories and peoples that give life to the places they call home. Now, as immigration debates boil around the world, Theroux has set out to explore a country key to understanding our current discourse: Mexico. Just south of the Arizona border, in the desert region of Sonora, he finds a place brimming with vitality, yet visibly marked by both the US Border Patrol looming to the north and mounting discord from within. With the same humanizing sensibility he employed in the Deep South, Theroux stops to talk with residents, visits Zapotec mill workers in the highlands, and attends a Zapatista party meeting, communing with people of all stripes who remain south of the border even as their families brave the journey north.

From the writer praised for his “curiosity and affection for humanity in all its forms” (New York Times Book Review), On the Plain of Snakes is an exploration of a region in conflict.

Description from Goodreads.

“Illuminating, literate, and timely—a must-read for those interested in what’s going on inside Mexico.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] dark-edged but ultimately hopeful travelogue… Theroux’s usual excellent mix of vivid reportage and empathetic rumination is energized by a new spark of political commitment. Armchair travelers will find an astute, familiar guide in Theroux.” – Publishers Weekly

“Tourists headed to Mexico and those interested in the current migrant situation will learn a great deal.” – Library Journal

Available Formats:

Print Book


Information Wars: How We Lost the Global Battle Against Disinformation and What We Can Do About It by  Richard Stengel

information warsDisinformation is as old as humanity. When Satan told Eve nothing would happen if she bit the apple, that was disinformation. But the rise of social media has made disinformation even more pervasive and pernicious in our current era. In a disturbing turn of events, governments are increasingly using disinformation to create their own false narratives, and democracies are proving not to be very good at fighting it.

During the final three years of the Obama administration, Richard Stengel, the former editor of TIME and an Under Secretary of State, was on the front lines of this new global information war. At the time, he was the single person in government tasked with unpacking, disproving, and combating both ISIS’s messaging and Russian disinformation. Then, in 2016, as the presidential election unfolded, Stengel watched as Donald Trump used disinformation himself, weaponizing the grievances of Americans who felt left out by modernism. In fact, Stengel quickly came to see how all three players had used the same playbook: ISIS sought to make Islam great again; Putin tried to make Russia great again; and we all know about Trump.

In a narrative that is by turns dramatic and eye-opening, Information Wars walks readers through this often frustrating battle. Stengel moves through Russia and Ukraine, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and introduces characters from Putin to Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Mohamed bin Salman to show how disinformation is impacting our global society. He illustrates how ISIS terrorized the world using social media, and how the Russians launched a tsunami of disinformation around the annexation of Crimea – a scheme that became the model for their interference with the 2016 presidential election. An urgent book for our times, Information Wars stresses that we must find a way to combat this ever growing threat to democracy.

Description from Goodreads.

“…refreshingly frank… With great clarity, he recounts the hurdles he encountered: bureaucratic procedures, acronyms and government-speak, endless vetting and turf battles, all of which slowed efforts to bring his print-oriented office into the era of social media. …bring[s] the dangers of this global messaging onslaught home… A revealing look at America’s difficult struggle to combat false, misleading narratives.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Readers interested in how disinformation fits into today’s foreign affairs landscape will want to give this a look.” – Publishers Weekly

“[Stengel] thoughtfully details his time working within the State Department to promote American ideals in the face of an array of disinformation generated by Russia and others during and before the 2016 U.S. election… This sobering book is indeed needed to help individuals better understand how information can be massaged to produce any sort of message desired. Recommended for general political science and current affairs collections.” – Library Journal

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook

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