There’s something awe-inspiring about the bravery and egoism of 15th- and 16th-century polar explorers. To set off in wooden ships with maps that were half cartographical error and half illustrations of sea monsters remains the height of adventure; that these sailors fought scurvy, icebergs, polar bears, and each other in the name of global hegemony and supply competition is harder to valorize but no less riveting. In Icebound,... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
Using tapestry as framework and metaphor, Higgins draws her retellings from imaginary textiles the female characters are weaving. A cunning and intriguing structure that allows for beautiful illustrations (and nods to the centrality of weaving in Greek mythology), Greek Myths is for lovers of Madeline Miller, Pat Barker, and D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths.Recommended by Rhianna W.
Powers’s author note made me cry, and its simple, astonishing empathy for children and the natural world only strengthens with each page of this beautifully wrought, difficult story about a loving father and raging son grieving for the Earth and its inhabitants.Recommended by Rhianna W.
For me, this extended period of “stay-at-home" has nourished an insatiable wanderlust. The greatest pleasures in traveling — both food and knowledge — are laid on the table in the brilliantly photographed Gastro Obscura. Leaf through this tome to discover beer made from fog, the delicacies of Delaware, and a fake banana, among other wonders.Recommended by Rhianna W.
The chef who changed the vegetable game with Six Seasons is back with a whole book devoted to the weird whole grains that beckon in the bulk aisle only to languish in the pantry. From crunchy quinoa tempura to sweet and savory takes on barley, Grains for Every Season is inventive, beautiful, and will get your hungry butt in the kitchen faster than you can say, “kamut pilaf.”Recommended by Rhianna W.
Few book releases make me as happy as a new Amor Towles release because few books make me as happy as every novel he’s ever written. His latest feat, a 1950s cross-country picaresque set on a freight train, might even top the charm, inventiveness, and sheer delight of A Gentleman in Moscow, which is still my number one pick for books that’ll make you smile.Recommended by Rhianna W.
A royalist apologia for America’s last king, or a correction for centuries of political shade? You choose, after reading Andrew Roberts’s gloriously well-researched biography of (Mad) King George III. Neither the pompous idiot of Hamilton nor the tragicomic figure of The Madness of King George, Roberts’s King George is a talented leader beset by mental illness and the machinations of the 18th-century court. An absolutely... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
Ní Ghríofa’s A Ghost in the Throat is the most interesting and beautiful book I’ve read this year. Biography, memoir, and autofiction (an intoxicating blend for anyone with lit critical impulses), A Ghost explores Ní Ghríofa’s obsession with Eibhlín Dubh and her 18th-century lament “Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire.” Unable to find much scholarship about Dubh, Ní Ghríofa plunges headfirst into translation and archival records,... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
Agatha of Little Neon follows the rarest of groups — four 21st-century nuns “called” to run a halfway house in a rundown RI town. Gently funny and subversive, Luchette populates her sparkling debut with memorable characters who help Agatha accept the ways both she and the Church she’s pinned her life to are changing.Recommended by Rhianna W.
After more than a year stuck at home, we are ready to hit the road! From day trips to weekend jaunts to a two-week adventure through our gorgeous region, author Allison Williams (and the always excellent Moon Travel series) offers fantastic guidance on where to go and stay, what to see, and more.Recommended by Rhianna W.
A profound portrait of PTSD and cultural marginalization, on and off the Laguna Pueblo reservation, Silko’s classic novel remains cutting-edge 44 years after its original publication. Weaving between past and present, Native folklore and stark depictions of reservation life, Silko uses formal innovation and lyricism to convey how trauma, depression, and colonization coalesce to break the spirit, and the potential of Native storytelling and... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
I was drawn to Diaz’s harsh, illuminative poems about watching her brother struggle with meth addiction, but her speakers contend with many kinds of appetite. The poems collected in When My Brother Was an Aztec range between mournful, angry, reflective, funny, and red hot, but at their centers are Diaz’s observations of life on the Mojave reservation where she grew up and her dizzying aptitudes for plainspokenness and the kind of surreal... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
Trusting that truth was better than fiction, I first picked up Winterson’s memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? It’s wonderful, but Winterson’s wry take on her Pentecostal childhood made me eager to reencounter the same themes and characters in novel form, where she could play outside the dictates of lived experience. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit didn’t disappoint. It’s rich and playful, blending autobiography with... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
I read Rushdie’s infamous novel at the gym, which is almost as ridiculous as the fact that it still feels a little scary to go on the record as liking it. The story of Gibreel and Saladin, who survive a plane crash by transforming into the Archangel Gabriel and the Devil, respectively, The Satanic Verses is a picaresque fueled by religious hallucinations and mundane misfortunes. It’s a brilliant allegory for the internal and social... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
In all her work, Lahiri blends wry observation with the kind of expansive empathy we need when we’re at our worst, or loneliest. Nowhere is this gift more apparent than in her perfect short story collection, Interpreter of Maladies. From an immigrant who craves the fish that remind her of home to a young housewife obsessed with Catholic idols to the titular interpreter, each familiar yet rare character is someone you’ll want to spend an... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
What Strange Paradise is a beautiful, angry novel about the migrant crisis in Europe. Expertly teasing out the strings of exile, pride, greed, trauma, longing, and hope that entangle his diverse characters, El Akkad makes clear indictments without sacrificing the complex emotions of the “bad” actors — the smugglers, the Greek islanders struggling with an influx of migrants, the apathetic tourists, a nationalistic and traumatized... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
I loved this extraordinary novel about the witch trial of Katharina Kepler. Set in a time when the cracks in the medieval order were yielding distress and innovation in equal abundance, Everyone vividly encapsulates the magic and terror of 17th-century Germany while telling a poignant story about a funny, querulous widow and the bonds of kinship.Recommended by Rhianna W.
Gregory Gourdet’s Everyone’s Table is an almost magical tome filled with delicious and surprising recipes for your next grain-free/dairy-free/legume-free feast. Nourishing and sumptuous, these dishes bring all the benefits of eating healthily without the disappointments of… eating healthily.Recommended by Rhianna W.
Sorrowland is the beautifully written, suspenseful story of Vern, a teen escapee from an all-Black utopian commune where the powers that be may have been colluding with the Feds to experiment on Black bodies. A genre-defying blend of Gothic, hard sci-fi, literary fiction, and social justice, Sorrowland is dizzying, bold, and completely gripping.Recommended by Rhianna W.
In Sanjena Sathian’s magical coming-of-age novel, Gold Diggers, a teenage boy burdened by his Indian immigrant parents’ and community’s obsession with academic achievement uses alchemy to siphon and imbibe other people’s success. An incisive and very funny take on the familial and cultural expectations of immigration, the symbiosis between immigrant striving and the American dream, and the weird ways getting a PhD in history from UC... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
Set in the rural Mississippi Gulf, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a ghost story, haunted by the lingering effects of generational poverty, the folk magic of the South, and the specters of America’s violent past, present, and future. Lush, layered, and richly imagined, Ward’s latest novel is a heartbreaking wonder. Recommended by Rhianna W.
Upon first read, award-winning author Chang-rae Lee’s latest novel, My Year Abroad, is a surreal picaresque that revels in Lee’s facility for humor and pyrotechnic prose. Pulling its young hero, Tiller, from the comic banality of suburban America into an intoxicating, if terrifying, journey through the casinos, brothels, karaoke clubs, and luxury mansions of Asia, the novel’s indelible cast of characters and increasingly outlandish... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
An improbably compelling fusion of bank robbery and women’s reproductive health, Anna North’s alternative western, Outlawed, explores how one woman copes with being ostracized for her infertility. Ada’s observant, wry voice and North’s propulsive plot make Outlawed easy to start and very difficult to put down!Recommended by Rhianna W.
Most of us can identify with Lizzie, the advice-slinging librarian at the center of Offill’s newest novel about life at the intersection of our polarized country. Navigating a whirlpool of left-wing and right-wing anxieties, climate crises, and the basic problems of everyday life, Lizzie struggles to answer everyone’s questions without losing her own footing.Recommended by Rhianna W.
Adventurous little mermaid Oona and her otter friend roam the ocean searching for treasure. One day, they find a perfectly sparkly crown stuck in the sand… but what will it take to pull it free? Hazy, color-saturated illustrations add an underwater dreaminess to Oona and Otto’s funny encounters with sharks, squid, and more.Recommended by Rhianna W.
Winning comparisons to Baldwin and sharing the Southern-inflected lyricism of Faulkner and Jesmyn Ward, Jones Jr.’s debut novel evokes one plantation community with striking clarity and emotional depth. Jones Jr.’s fascinating ensemble cast, grounded in its women and the central love story, and his riveting style combine to make this novel unmissable.Recommended by Rhianna W.
My third-grade daughter frequently quotes dialogue from Phoebe and Her Unicorn, followed by wild giggles, which is recommendation enough for me! Simpson’s graphic novel series about a little girl and her best friend, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, always manages a perfect balance of silly and utterly sincere, and this newest volume is no exception. Expect your child to laugh, sigh, and ask you for a unicorn.Recommended by Rhianna W.
Naomi Novik is a drop-all-chores, ignore-the-clock author for me, so I ran straight for the first book in her new series about… wait for it… a magic school for wizards! I know, you’re thinking you’ve been here before, but you really haven’t. The Scholomance is a terrifying place filled with monsters and ambitious teenagers (not the same thing, incredibly), and at its heart is rude, snarky, upright El, who does everything in her power not to give... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
A disciplined, engrossing work about learning to love generously and the role language can play in closing one off and opening one to understanding, The Magical Language of Others is an incredible achievement. A translation of memory, words, and feelings that, like all good translations, communicates the essence of the original text while creating something new and beautiful.Recommended by Rhianna W.
Gilbert’s newest novel really is everything the cover art promises: sex, spectacle, and Broadway-sized fabulousness cut with Gilbert’s insightful approach to exploring women’s inner lives, and an attention to historical detail that brings postwar NYC to life. Sent to live with her theater-owning aunt as a “punishment,” Vivian Morris finds all of the adventure, love, and sorrow an adventurous girl could hope for, and a reader could desire from... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
The riveting story of brothers Cole and Tinn, one human and one goblin changeling, continues in The Unready Queen, which pits the brothers and their new friend Fable against villagers bent on destroying the Wild Wood. Rich with menace and magic, this sequel continues the dark atmosphere and adventure of the first book, and will captivate young fantasy fans.Recommended by Rhianna W.
To quote a young friend of mine, butts are amazing! Squishy, strong, and multipurpose, the human heinie is a source of endless fascination and hilarity. From beginning readers to grandparents, Jonathan Stutzman’s explanatory ode to the tushie gets readers giggling while illuminating the universal wonder of down under.Recommended by Rhianna W.
Wahingtonian Nisi Shawl is a veteran speculative fiction writer and multi-award winner and nominee for her short fiction. Her work and teaching career have long focused on diversifying the speculative fiction community and canon, and on the ways sci-fi and fantasy writing can be used to address colonialism, globalization, sexism, and racial inequality. New Suns continues with these themes, focusing on the experience of otherness and... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
I discovered Margaret Atwood’s poetry in the Seminary Co-Op Bookstore in Chicago, and six years later my best friend was reading “Variations on the Word Sleep” at my wedding. If you love Atwood’s imaginative and incisive novels, her ability to channel those gifts into the discipline of poetry will transport you.Recommended by Rhianna W.
From its first beautiful sentence — “She does not want to remember but she is here and memory is gathering bones” — Maaza Mengiste’s magisterial The Shadow King drew me into the stark, dusty sweep of the Second Italo-Ethiopian War. Drenched in the blazing light of near-equatorial Africa , a light that feels almost omniscient as it slants through the narrative, the novel focuses most closely on a female servant named Hirut who becomes a... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
An English grammar that you can’t stop reading: I, too, thought that an oxymoron until I picked up Dreyer’s English. Enchanting and nerdy, esteemed copy editor Dreyer’s interest in the nitty-gritty of language is buffeted with enough wit and history that even semi-colons shimmer with glamour. An indispensable resource, Dreyer’s English reminds us that words (and punctuation, and spelling) matter, and that wielding them well is... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
Homeland Elegies delves powerfully into the experiences of Muslim Americans, delivering a scathing portrait of America as a pecuniary hell devoid of the compassion or imagination necessary to achieve multiracial equality. It is also an intimate work of autofiction, and Pulitzer Prize winner Ayad Akhtar hides little in his exploration of his parents’ marriage and flaws and of his own uneasy relationship with his Pakistani and American... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
Taylor brings the epic yet intimate story of the Logan family to a close in this beautiful and important novel. Following Cassie across the country, Taylor examines how racism varies across the U.S., and Cassie’s attempts to come to terms with the complexity of her identity within her family, the civil rights movement, at work, and in love.Recommended by Rhianna W.
BSC graphix fans — and their little siblings — will tear through Karen’s Witch, the first in a cute new series with easy-to-read text and large, colorful panels for younger readers. Karen is convinced that her next-door neighbor is a witch. Will she save the neighborhood from evil, or find out that appearances can be deceiving?Recommended by Rhianna W.
Depressed taxidermist Jessa-Lynn tries to be her family’s source of reason, only to repeatedly come up against her own emotional demons and her family’s eccentricities. Mostly Dead Things is absolutely fabulous: a quintessential Floridian novel, riotously strange and discomfiting, and at the same time deeply human.Recommended by Rhianna W.
It was only when I started describing Little Gods to people that I realized how seamlessly debut novelist Meng Jin integrates the huge, complicated themes of revolution, rebirth, time, and language into an intimate story, without sacrificing their grandeur or significance. At its heart, Little Gods is the story of a scientist, Su Lan, whose brilliance both attracts and alienates the people who love her. While her husband, child,... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
The second in Lunde’s proposed tetralogy of climate novels, The End of the Ocean alternates between Signe, a Norwegian activist who has spent her life protesting environmental destruction and corporate greed, and David, a single father living some 22 years later in a French refugee camp, trying to flee the global drought that destroyed his city. This sobering novel — which will leave you frantically plotting routes to the “water... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
I met my husband in a shabby production of Hamlet whose worn set pieces and mixed bag of actors could have been drawn directly from the provincial Irish theaters in Actress. In fact, everything Enright describes in Actress rings true: the alcohol-fueled parties filled with recitals, calculated and impromptu; the financial necessity, even for successful actors, of always working; the soul-crushing conformity of the... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
Sarah Perry’s beautiful novels richly reward the patient reader. Her world building is lavish and precise; though her prose often tilts into poetry, her characters are crystalline, giving the writing a paradoxical quality that is both ornate and bare. This confusion between what is exposed and what only imagined drives the wonderfully creepy Melmoth, in which a fabled wanderer combs the world for human wickedness, doling out consolation... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
Oluo is an excellent guide through the explosive terrain of 21st-century race relations, providing clear explanations of the many ways American society is structured to empower white people, particularly men. Arguing that a person can be complicit in a racist society without being an explicitly bad or racist person, Oluo takes some of the sting out of a conversation that rightly places the onus on white citizens to take the lead in confronting... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
Gleeson’s first cookbook has pride of place on my too-full shelves, but it’s going to be sharing the spotlight with Forest Feast Mediterranean, whose simple vegetarian recipes are accompanied by Gleeson’s equally mouthwatering watercolors and travel photography. Ideal for new vegetarian cooks who like their meals with a side of beautiful.Recommended by Rhianna W.
Harrison’s renderings of visionary women from around the world are insanely adorable and amazingly inspiring. Toddlers will love the bright colors and strong, simple text, and parents will love sharing their wonder and pride in the breadth of female achievement with their children.Recommended by Rhianna W.
A beautiful story about the courage and miracle of kindness under terrifying conditions, Palacio’s graphic novel about a young girl hidden in a hayloft during WWII reminds readers that acquiescing to violence is always the weaker choice. I cried through each perfectly rendered page.Recommended by Rhianna W.
Amanda Coplin’s debut novel fits squarely into the Really Wonderful Novel category, and deserves a far wider readership. Set among the apple orchards of Washington’s Wenatchee Valley, The Orchardist follows the life of the introspective Talmadge, who, as a child, loses his family in quick succession to accident, illness, and mystery. As an adult, Talmadge’s solitary life is disrupted by the arrival of two pregnant runaway prostitutes,... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
Rock’s unsettling novel doesn’t just linger in the mind; it sets up camp and stares hard as you process the blinding love that would lead a father and daughter into a nomadic existence. Lyrically written and unforgettable, My Abandonment is a masterful examination of parental love and duty, and the state’s role in mandating what those should look like and why.Recommended by Rhianna W.
I’ve been an admirer of local war reporter/comics journalist Joe Sacco since reading Safe Area Goražde, his incredible long-form comic about the Bosnian War. Journalism gathers many of his shorter cartoon pieces from war zones ranging from the Russian military occupation of Chechnya to the Iraq War to the Gaza Strip. Though the locations change, Sacco’s commitment to capturing the daily realities of both military and civilian... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
I first encountered Eli Clare’s slim memoir in a graduate course on Disability Theory, but to be honest what really struck me at the time — and has stayed with me in the years since — is Clare’s way of integrating the seasonal shifts and geography of Oregon into his powerful story of navigating life as a trans man with cerebral palsy. Exile and Pride does an astonishing job of conveying the parallel experiences of personal and... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
Juliet is a strange duck, and I loved every minute of her prevarications, snarky inner monologue, fondness for Shakespeare, and impressive appetite. Britain during WWII is always a compelling setting, but Kate Atkinson’s London, peopled with fifth columnists, shady spies, and earnest BBC programmers, evokes the period’s strangeness and moral ambiguity to wonderful effect.Recommended by Rhianna W.
Set in a richly imagined proxy for medieval Eastern Europe, Spinning Silver delves into the Jewish history of money lending and persecution by way of a dark retelling of the tale of the miller’s daughter, who spins straw into gold and so wins the king’s hand. The province of Lithvas is beset by a ceaseless winter wrought by the Staryk, a malicious people whose magical ice road shimmers in the woods. Desperate to save themselves, their... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
If you’ve ever found yourself wondering, Who feeds their tumor to a snapping turtle?, you need some David Sedaris in your life. His latest collection is hilarious, poignant, and distasteful in equal measure, a combination I found reassuringly human and absolutely delightful.Recommended by Rhianna W.
For the sheer pleasure of losing yourself in a striking time and place (colonial Malaysia in the 1930s); and in a love story between sharply drawn characters; and in a murder mystery involving ghost tigers, the Confucian virtues, an illicit trade in human fingers, and a train station that ferries the dead, nothing beats Choo’s evocative The Night Tiger. It threw me into that best of readerly conundrums: Racing through to see how it ends,... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
This brilliant hiking guide through Oregon’s and Washington’s wilderness areas is an entertainment-packed savior for families adventuring with young children. Gorton pairs each hike — all under four miles — with an educational scavenger hunt for flora and fauna, plus tips on where to go afterwards for treats. Waterfalls and ice cream? Who could resist?Recommended by Rhianna W.
In this slim novel, Toews captures the tragicomedy and intelligence of her Mennonite characters — isolated women who can’t read a book or a map, but nevertheless find the intellectual and physical courage to question the only home they’ve ever known. Full of sharp, surprising conversation, Women Talking explores universal themes of autonomy, justice, faith, community, and love while illuminating the deep intimacies and peculiarities of a... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
Freudenberger’s exploration of grief by way of astrophysics raises all kinds of fascinating questions: What is consciousness? Is there an afterlife? Can the dead text? Captivating and complex, with tender, indelible characters, Lost and Wanted is the perfect ghost story for skeptics and dreamers alike.Recommended by Rhianna W.
The lives of four wildly different siblings are threaded into the major events and ideological crises of the latter half of the 20th century in Chloe Benjamin's engaging second novel. Delving into topics as disparate as magic, the 1980s gay scene in San Francisco, longevity research, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, The Immortalists spreads itself a little too thin, but is consistently entertaining, absorbing, and illuminating.Recommended by Rhianna W.
Charming from start to finish, A Gentleman in Moscow, Towles’s story of a Russian aristocrat sentenced by the Bolsheviks to a lifetime of house arrest in the Metropol Hotel, is witty, philosophical, and subtly political. The almost insuppressible Count Rostov spends his captivity reading, forging deep and diverse friendships with the hotel’s staff and patrons, serving as head waiter in its famous Boyarsky restaurant, and even raising... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
Queenie is struggling with her career, a break-up, friendships, and toxic men... not to mention institutional racism, an eccentric Jamaican family, and serious childhood trauma. Queenie carefully explores heavy themes with sensitivity and humor in this addictive debut novel.Recommended by Rhianna W.
Narwhal’s Otter Friend had me at the scowling jellyfish. A sweet and funny exploration of how new friendships can sometimes test old ones, with all the strawberries, waffles, and derring-do I’ve come to expect from this delightful series.Recommended by Rhianna W.
Lucy dives deep into the self-abnegation and ego of Tinder culture and surfaces with overpriced underwear, a merman, and every awful, self-defeating thing you’ve ever said or engaged in to make someone love you. The Pisces is bold, funny, and smart, but Broder’s real accomplishment is this: though you spend the book urging Lucy out of the water, by the end it’s you under the waves, summoning the strength to make it back to land.Recommended by Rhianna W.
I am in love with Tim Kreider. Which — given the romantic anecdotes scattered abundantly throughout these beautifully composed and hilarious essays — suggests I have questionable taste in men... but excellent taste in literature.Recommended by Rhianna W.
It’s the moment almost all of us have imagined, in fear or expectation — discovering that our family is not our own. Unmoored by a DNA test taken on a lark, Inheritance is Shapiro’s absorbing story of finding her biological father. Beautifully written, like all of her work, and bracingly honest.Recommended by Rhianna W.
Tessa Hadley’s new novel, Late in the Day, is an exquisitely precise portrait of four middle-aged friends and lovers whose fragile alliances are challenged by a premature death. Hadley has a unique talent for finding the right words for inexpressible sentiments, elevating a quiet story about ordinary people into something akin to cut crystal: precious, perfect, and with a clarity that sings. With attendant themes of fine art,... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
This eerie novel, written from alternating perspectives (none of them reliable), imagines a world where toxic masculinity is an environmental pollutant; the only safe place is a crumbling mansion on King’s island, where Grace, Lia, and Sky live first with their parents, then with their mother, and finally with three uninvited men. The set-up’s compelling, but what gives The Water Cure its tantalizing hook is the reader’s creeping... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
Every kid dreams about snow days — building forts, making snowmen, drinking cocoa — but what if your dream come true turned into your worst nightmare? Greg and Rowley are about to experience just that in Kinney’s hilarious 13th volume of Diary of a Wimpy Kid.Recommended by Rhianna W.
In Small’s stunning graphic novel, Russell’s stumbles through a world of bullies, desires, kindnesses, and griefs play out against evocative, minimalist drawings that both capture and resist nostalgia for small-town life in the 1950s. Home After Dark is a haunting, startlingly quiet work that nonetheless speaks volumes about the essential disquiet of mid-century masculinity.Recommended by Rhianna W.
Red Clocks follows four women, the Mender, the Mother, the Daughter, and the Biographer, as they move through pregnancies, motherhood, and infertility in an America that has outlawed most forms of reproductive freedom. Despite this political background, the novel's central focus is on the internal legislation that governs motherhood — not the laws enacted by Congress, but the joys and recriminations every woman feels regarding pregnancy... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
This book just gets creepier and more prescient by the year. Alternating between a recognizable world of biological manipulation and moral equivalency and a postindustrial landscape, Oryx and Crake is an unsettling love triangle and a visionary retelling of the fall of man. This is Atwood at her absolute best: sardonic, scientifically fluent, and terrifyingly feasible. I’ve read it five times, never been bored, and always been astounded... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
Jesmyn Ward could probably write the marketing copy for Windex and it would read as a lyrical, historically rich paean to the dignity of window cleanser in the face of persistently aggressive grime. Her talent is that vast, her writing that empathetic and attuned to its subjects, its roots equally in the present day and the tropes of Greek mythology. Salvage the Bones takes place in the savage days before and after Hurricane Katrina, and... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
A Russian nesting doll of a novel, each of the six interlocking stories in Cloud Atlas contains oblique references to the ones that directly precede and follow it. Add to that a unique chronological structure that moves forward and then backward in time and Mitchell’s virtuosic handling of an array of narrative styles — including historical fiction, thriller, comedy, and sci-fi — and you have a novel that not only reads brilliantly, but... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
If you like your noir with a megadose of the wacky, Cantero’s gender-bending, bullets-flying, one-liner-zinging private eye, A. Z. Kimrean (one body, two minds), will thrill you with their gleeful upending of pretty much every rule in the PI playbook. This upside-down, inside-out love song to Elmore Leonard will have him turning in his grave, and you grinning out loud.Recommended by Rhianna W.
Drawing on his childhood spent in Appalachia and the Ohio Rust Belt, J. D. Vance explores and contends with the despair gripping America’s white working class. Both empathetic and alarmed, Hillbilly Elegy’s blend of family history and social criticism makes for an absorbing and timely read.Recommended by Rhianna W.
I don’t like guns, or violence, or Westerns, really, so there’s no reason why I should like Whiskey When We’re Dry as much as I do. Maybe it’s Jess, the tortured protagonist who goes out into the world like Shakespeare’s Rosalind accidentally stumbling into High Noon, all posturing and heart. Maybe it’s Larison’s evocative portrait of the old West, so dry, hot, and remorseless that I’d put the book down half-expecting to find... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
Equal parts murder mystery and scathing exposé of the US treatment of Native Americans, David Grann has crafted a true crime history that entertains even as it forces the reader to confront the evils of our national past and the uncomfortable parallels visible today.Recommended by Rhianna W.
An articulate refutation of Americans’ obsession with living forever (aka, our collective fear of death and the healthcare industry that feeds it), Natural Causes is eye-opening, well-researched, and thanks to Ehrenreich’s cranky wit, really funny. Doctors may not want this feisty author in their offices, but every patient should have her on their bookshelf.Recommended by Rhianna W.
In an unnamed country in the Middle East, besieged by violent militants, mysterious black doors begin to appear, offering escape into safer, Western terrain. Soon identical doors appear throughout the world, allowing millions of migrants to flood places like Greece, London, and Australia. Among these refugees are young lovers, Nadia and Saeed, through whom the reader gets to experience the extreme dislocation, privations, and freedoms of living... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
What I love most about this magnificent novel is the realistic way Fridlund places her young protagonist Linda's loneliness at the center of the story. Even though the plot contains very dramatic elements, the story's merit and complexity stem from its unswerving focus on Linda's interpretation of events, which is shaped by her limited adolescent viewpoint and troubled childhood. The result is a starkly beautiful novel that rings true, and is all... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
On the Run documents the years Goffman, a sociology professor, spent embedded in one of Philadelphia’s worst neighborhoods, befriending and observing a group of young Black men. Goffman’s argument is that the War on Drugs, while ineffective at curbing the illegal drug trade, has allowed a de facto surveillance state to develop in inner-city neighborhoods. Her argument is compelling, but what makes Goffman’s book exemplary are her... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
Wesley Lowery is an astonishingly young and talented reporter who covers race relations for the Washington Post. They Can’t Kill Us All, his first book, is a deeply researched exploration of the police shootings that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement, and a candid depiction of what it’s like to be a black journalist investigating and often entering into highly charged situations between white officers and the African... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
Whitehead manages to convey the whole horrible history of slavery — the African slavers, the transatlantic passage, the slave auctions, and the toxic environment of the Southern plantation — in the first three pages of this novel, using simple language and a notable absence of melodrama. It's an artistic coup that develops into a page-turner that imagines a real underground railroad system ferrying slaves to freedom, and the slave catchers who... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
Elmet captures a year in the lives of Cathy, Daniel, and Daddy, a close-knit family of squatters whose lives intersect with the wealthy landowner whose land they've appropriated. Equal parts Wuthering Heights and Snatch, Elmet is so specifically British that it manages to capture both the savage wilderness of Brontë and the violent margins of England's industrial north. It's the only British novel I've read... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
This is one of the most important books I've ever read. Each chapter profiles the life of a child killed by gun violence on the same randomly selected day in America, 11/23/13. Younge is quick to point out that this isn't a book about gun control; instead, it's a book about what happens when gun control is nonexistent in a country where poverty, racism, and segregation are endemic. Younge's 10 subjects are kids whose deaths would have gone... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
Sam Hawley is a single dad with a mysterious past written across his body in gunshot scars. His teenage daughter Loo is an outsider, smart but disconnected, and struggling with her own capacity for violence. Together they settle down in the working-class fishing town where Loo's mom grew up, and where local hostilities over fishing rights conjure violent memories and ultimately violence itself. This is a gripping novel, with complex characters... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
Is Dublin Murder Detective Antoinette Conway really being stalked by teammates trying to force her off the squad, or have months of harassment made her paranoid and bitter? And is the dull domestic violence case she's been assigned as textbook as it first appears? Once again, Irish mystery author Tana French doesn't disappoint, dishing up a psychologically rich murder mystery in which the detectives are as compelling as the whodunit.Recommended by Rhianna W.
Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado’s sublimely creepy debut, draws on the lexicons of urban legend, the 19th-century British gothic, and American society’s evolving ideas about female corporeality to tell stories about women on the edge. In the liminal worlds of Her Body and Other Parties — positioned somewhere between 21st-century America and a horrorscape of breathing pavement and sentient dresses — an... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
Chernow knocks it out of the park with this fascinating reappraisal of one of our country’s most distinguished yet reviled generals and politicians. By page 1,000, you’ll not only have stronger biceps, but a profound understanding of 19th-century America and the man who graces our $50 bill.Recommended by Rhianna W.
Gorgeous color illustrations accompany Harry, Ron, and Hermione’s pursuit of mysterious Azkaban escapee, Sirius Black. This beautiful edition provides a great excuse to reread the book, or introduce it to your favorite young reader.Recommended by Rhianna W.
Fans of Rupi Kaur's spare, emotionally resonant verse will be delighted with her second volume of poetry. Kaur's beautiful line drawings and characteristically affirmative, accessible style make the sun and her flowers as lovely to behold as it is to read. Recommended by Rhianna W.
A fascinating work of cultural criticism by irrepressible storyteller and scholar, Stephen Greenblatt, The Rise and Fall plots the evolution of Adam and Eve from pagan creations to Christian allegory to their reimagining as real persons, courtesy of St. Augustine. Vivid and engaging, this is a page-turning account of the early modern world.
The essays in this dynamic collection examine the history and current manifestations of white supremacy in American governance. A unique blend of memoir and cultural criticism, Coates’s new work will interest readers of Between the World and Me, as well as those seeking a searing and provocative critical perspective on race in America.Recommended by Rhianna W.
It took me a little while to settle into this original novel, which pairs the modern, small-town Loch Ness-esque mystery of Lauren Groff's The Monsters of Templeton with the quaint language and characterizations of a 19th-century British novel. At its center is Clara, a young widow who has finally escaped an abusive marriage. Free to indulge her interests in natural science, she finds herself (with her odd son and socialist female... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
Written as a deathbed confession, Moonglow charts the course of a Jewish delinquent’s life from the hustle of Philly to the munitions factories of Hitler’s Germany to the reaches of NASA’s rocket program. A sly novel disguised as a memoir, Moonglow bursts with the prose fireworks and profound compassion of Chabon’s finest work.Recommended by Rhianna W.
I've been waiting impatiently for cooler days to crack this book open and get baking. There's a whole chapter on challah! And a whole chapter on babka! And a whole chapter on bagels! With step-by-step photo tutorials on how to achieve professional-looking breads and pastries, and a wicked sense of fun (S'mores Babka?), Shannon Sarna has the fix for all the Jewish carbs you could crave.Recommended by Rhianna W.
I will happily drop everything to read the latest installment in Robin Hobb's epic Fitzchivalry Farseer series. Normally, fantasy series lose me well before the last book, but Hobb's unique focus on her characters' inner lives and keen attention to detail (whether she's describing the landscape, or different types of magic, or even what the characters are eating) makes reading her books an intimate yet cinematic experience. Plus, she does dragons... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.
E. J. Dionne’s clear-eyed but optimistic assessments of American politics always provide balm for my troubled mind. Are we in a heck of a mess? Most likely. Do we have the tools to clean it up? Absolutely. Relatable and inspiring, Dionne and his coauthors provide a vital lesson on American politics and citizen engagement.Recommended by Rhianna W.
I was assigned this book several times in college and graduate school, so I was shocked to learn that none of my coworkers had read it. Levi’s dispassionate, almost anthropological take on how he survived life in the Auschwitz concentration camp is stark, insightful, and incredibly nuanced. My own slim copy is underlined, highlighted, and tattered; and every time I return to it, I’m amazed by the endurance and acuity of the young Jewish chemist... (read more)Recommended by Rhianna W.