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2017 Favorite of Favorites Librarian Approved! In a world full of hype, who can you trust? Librarians: that’s who! We’re not selling anything: books are our mission, our vocation, our passion, and we can’t wait to share the very best with you! Out of the 110 books to make the LibraryReads list in 2017, here are the ten which received the most votes from public library staff across the country.

You can get a new librarian-approved reading list every month by subscribing to our free newsletter at WWW.LIBRARYREADS.ORG


A M E R I C A’ S B O O K R E V I E W

11 features

book reviews




t o p p i c k : The Music Shop

How would you live if you knew when you would die?




A debut thriller with Hitchcockian undertones


by Rachel Joyce

t o p p i c k : Himalaya Bound


by Michael Benanav


t o p p i c k : Love, Hate and Other

Filters by Samira Ahmed


t o p p i c k : Just Like Jackie

by Lindsey Stoddard

The life-changing phrases we should use more often


NEW YEAR, NEW YOU Start 2018 out right!


LENI ZUMAS Five women try to take control of their own fates



MEERA LEE PATEL Meet the author-illustrator of My Friend Fear


ANN HULBERT Explore the fascinating lives of child prodigies



TIMING IS EVERYTHING Two books explain how to best seize the moment


HOLLY BLACK Return to the dangerous, beautiful world of Faerie



LOREN LONG Meet the illustrator of Love

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PUBLISHER Michael A. Zibart


EDITOR Stephanie Koehler





Lily McLemore

Sukey Howard



Elizabeth Grace Herbert

Allison Hammond




Sada Stipe

Roger Bishop


Savanna Walker


Mary Claire Zibart

Hilli Levin


Andrew Catá

Penny Childress

19 Cover photo credit Sandra Chiu Collaged leaves sourced from: Shutterstock/zhuda; TairA; Nataliva; Denis Kovin; aarrows; Africa Studio


BookPage is a selection guide for new books. Our editors evaluate and select for review the best books published in a variety of categories. BookPage is editorially independent; only books we highly recommend are featured.


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B O O K PA G E · 2143 B E LC O U R T AV E N U E · N A S H V I L L E , T N 37212

B O O K PA G E . C O M


Two FBI agents are caught in a merciless vigilante’s crosshairs in New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Eden’s electric Killer Instinct series.

“What romantic suspense is supposed to be—

fast, furious, and very sexy.”

—New York Times bestselling author Karen Rose •

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Legendary love The action is relentless and the stakes dire in Heart on Fire (Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99, 416 pages, ISBN 9781492626077), Amanda Bouchet’s rousing conclusion to her acclaimed fantasy romance series, the Kingmaker Chronicles. Griffin and Catalia Thalyria are nearing the end of

threat at hand. Explosions, gun battles and a terrifying, cop-killing criminal pepper the rocket-powered plot. Author Lynette Eason’s formidable female characters stand out, as do the male leads who trust the women’s judgment without question. This is a kisses-only story that moves fast and furiously.

the quest to unify their land, bring peace to their people and defeat their most dangerous enemy— Cat’s mother. But the scope and nature of Cat’s magical powers might be the couple’s greatest concern. If she cannot control them, she puts all at risk, including her beloved husband and the life they have created together. And as Griffin learns more about himself and his union with Cat, the truth threatens everything they have built and still hope to achieve. Bouchet has built a fascinating world replete with gods and other creatures of Greek myth. There is never a dull moment, and readers will root for the main characters until the final page.


A Regency romance gets complicated in If Ever I Should Love You (Avon, $7.99, 368 pages, ISBN 9780062655745), the first novel in Cathy Maxwell’s new Spinster Heiresses series. Roman Gilchrist, the new Earl of Rochdale, needs a rich wife. The holdings he’s inherited require significant wealth to put back to rights, but the idea of marrying for money doesn’t sit well with him. That is, until he discovers that one of the richest heiresses in London is none other than Leonie Charnock. He’d courted her years ago in India, and the repercussions of his rivalry with another of her suitors caused her to flee DEADLY PURSUIT to England and ruined Roman’s In Oath of Honor (Revell, $15.99, promising military career. Now a powerful nobleman, Roman real368 pages, ISBN 9780800727215), police officer Isabelle St. John izes she has everything he wants— beauty, brains and a substantial works to solve a murder that hits painfully close to home. By her dowry. Leonie has tried forgetting side is Detective Ryan Marshall, a her past, but seeing Roman brings back painful memories and the family friend who has never been more than that—until now. As they attraction she’d once felt for him. begin unraveling the case, they find Would a union with him—her parthemselves dealing with a crimients are pressuring her to wed—be nal organization that seems oddly so bad? Their subsequent marriage interested in an upcoming mayoral forces them to confront the past, race. This might have implications their secrets and the frightening for Izzy’s family—a new administra- thought that they just might be tion could mean her chief of police falling in love. This is a touching, mother would be ousted from her emotional romance between job—but continued investigation characters whose struggles will proves there’s a much more serious resonate with many readers. 11/17/17 10:02 AM


THE HOLD LIST Each month, BookPage editors share special reading lists—our personal favorites, old and new.

Binge-read a new series We can plow through a new season of “Call the Midwife” or “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” in one or two sittings, but when was the last time you read a whole book series from beginning to end? For readers who want to kick off the new year with an immersive experience, here are five series openers worthy of your utter devotion.

STILL LIFE by Louise Penny Once you enter the charming community of Three Pines, you’ll never want to leave. Perfect for fans of traditional detective stories, this award-winning series opener introduces Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec, who is called to the rural village to investigate the suspicious death of an elderly teacher. And after 13 books, Penny is still churning them out at a yearly rate, so prepare for this relationship to be long term.

MY BRILLIANT FRIEND by Elena Ferrante There’s a good chance you’ve already received recommendations for Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet from gushy friends, fervent booksellers and rhapsodic librarians. So no more excuses: Read it now, because chances are, you’ll love every soapy Italian moment. Plus, Ferrante is handling the screenplay for HBO’s forthcoming adaptation, so your Neapolitan infatuation may continue indefinitely.

CINDER by Marissa Meyer It was hard to choose just one YA series for this list—we seem to be in endless supply of stellar tales for younger readers that have high crossover potential—but you can’t go wrong with the romantic, dystopian Lunar Chronicles. Each book transforms a classic fairy tale into a thrilling, futuristic adventure filled with cyborgs, androids and outer-space villains.

THE CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR by Jean M. Auel As Auel’s six-book Earth’s Children series unfolded over three decades, it developed a devoted, rapt fan base to equal George R.R. Martin’s. Set in prehistoric Europe and centered on an outsider Cro-Magnon woman who joins a tribe of Neanderthals, this epic historical tale creates a stunning, well-researched portrait of an Ice Age world that’s both brutal and beautiful.

NEVER MIND by Edward St. Aubyn Oh, how we love a sympathetic monster. And the gruesomely narcissistic family portrayed in St. Aubyn’s five Patrick Melrose novels are indeed monsters, but we can’t look away from these addicts, abusers and straight-up jerks. Throughout the series (soon to be adapted for a limited TV series starring Benedict Cumberbatch), St. Aubyn displays peerless humor, elegant style and profound judge of character.


Making connections J.M. Coetzee, the Nobel laureate from South Africa, is a rare breed of writer: a world-class novelist with a Ph.D. Thankfully, over the last 40-odd years, no traces of the pedantic or dryly academic have crept into Coetzee’s marvelous fiction, which is incisive, spare and eminently readable. And when Coetzee dons the hat of a literary critic, as he does in the 23 pieces collected in his new book, Late Essays: 2006–2017 (Viking, $28, 304 pages, ISBN 9780735223912), it is his novelist’s eye that prevails, albeit tempered by years of thinking deeply about writing. The result makes for engaging reading for those who share a love of literature. The subjects of these essays are wide ranging, covering writers from the 17th century to the 20th, and even some still at work today. For the most part, the pieces were written originally as book prefaces or for The New York Review of Books. Some focus on writers read by few Americans outside of academia, although Coetzee’s lively comments might encourage serious-minded readers to seek out their work. But the majority of the essays are concerned with writers most of us have at least a passing familiarity with—Daniel Defoe, Robert Walser, Patrick White—and some, such as Philip Roth, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Gustave Flaubert or Leo Tolstoy, are surely on most book lovers’ shelves. Coetzee’s thoughtful essays may inspire readers to return to these classics and discover them anew. One four-essay grouping about Samuel Beckett forms an enlightening set piece that offers psychological and linguistic insight into Beckett’s art. Not incidentally, Coetzee’s Ph.D. dissertation, written almost 50 years ago, was about Beckett. His earlier master’s degree thesis was about Ford Madox Ford,

and there is an excellent introduction to Ford’s masterpiece, The Good Soldier, here as well. It’s clear that Coetzee, now approaching 80, has spent a lifetime thinking about the works that have influenced his own writing. Indeed, his words on Beckett might easily be applied to Coetzee’s own work: “Are our lives directed by an intelligence, malign or benign; or on the contrary is what we go through just stuff happening? Are we part of an experiment on so grand a scale that we cannot descry even its outlines, or on the contrary is there no scheme at all of which we form a part?” Readers looking for insight into the famously private Coetzee’s own work will need to read between the lines—he keeps himself out of the discussion. Still, the perceptive reader will spot the connections between the novelist and the literary critic’s subject choices. Many of Coetzee’s subjects in Late Essays are outsiders, a common theme in his own work, and quite a few are émigrés—some, such as Samuel Beckett and Irène Némirovsky, were literal exiles, and others, such as Defoe, Flaubert and Hawthorne, were, in Coetzee’s view, strangers in their own lands. CoeCoetzee has tzee, whose spent a lifetime primary thinking about fictional setting has been the works his troubled that have native South influenced his Africa, spent own writing. significant chunks of his life abroad in the U.K. and U.S., and he is now an Australian citizen. Late Essays is one of those collections of essays that, at first glance, may seem to be nothing more than a somewhat random gathering of a great writer’s scattered work. Yet as pages turn, one becomes increasingly drawn in by Coetzee’s insights—subtly interconnected, ever elucidating.




Two agents race against time to foil the Führer Today is British diplomat Hugh Legat’s anniversary, but it’s not exactly a festive one. As Robert Harris’ latest thriller, Munich (Knopf, $27.95, 320 pages, ISBN 9780525520269), opens, the year is 1938; the world hovers on the brink of war as Hitler’s army mobilizes at the Czechoslovakian border. Legat’s wife meets him for lunch in London directly after her appointment to have their kids fitted for gas masks. Their celebratory lunch is quickly interrupted by a summons to 10 Downing Street, where a decision will be made with regard to declaring war against Germany. Meanwhile, in Berlin, German diplomat Paul Hartmann stands knee-deep in a plot to halt Hitler. Legat and Hartmann were university pals, and now they will find themselves standing between Hitler and a New World Order. Harris has built a career upon pains-

takingly researched what-if stories centered on World War II, and with Munich, he weaves fiction into the fabric of history without even the tiniest hint of a seam. This is a fine addition to a fine writer’s oeuvre.

DOUBLE THE TROUBLE Two rival storylines vie for the reader’s attention in Andrew

Grant’s third Cooper Devereaux novel, False Witness (Ballantine, $27, 320 pages, ISBN 9780399594335). The first thread

—J. I. BAKER, journalist and author of The Empty Glass

Learn more at


it would be pretty cut and dried— that your sympathies would lie with the victim, that you would feel abhorrence for the shooter and perhaps something between those two poles regarding the mute witness. But the reality is somewhat more complex than that, as the reader discovers again and again that a person is not defined by the worst thing he has ever done.


“Valerie Fraser Luesse’s beautiful story reveals the human heart that always beats beneath the headlines . . . Missing Isaac will break—and then heal—your heart.”


involves a series of killings, each victim being a young woman on her 21st birthday, with the added commonality of each having given up a child for adoption. The second, of a rather more personal nature, is the deathbed offer of an extortionist who claims to have evidence exonerating Alabama police detective Devereaux’s

Available wherever books and ebooks are sold.

disgraced father. The serial killer storyline is a race against the clock, as the killer seems to be ramping up both in body count and in the time between killings. There is a bit of backstory necessary to the narrative, as False Witness is the third installment in the series, but Grant offers up enough detail to propel the story forward while still leaving some surprises for those who read the earlier books. And, in the fashion of the best mysteries, just when you think you have arrived at the denouement, Grant hits you with one last twist to take you to a place you had no expectation of visiting.

FAULTY MEMORIES Christopher J. Yates sets the tone in the first few pages of his latest thriller, Grist Mill Road (Picador, $26, 352 pages, ISBN 9781250150288), chronicling a shooting that virtually defines the term “senseless crime.” The year is 1982. Three kids—one shooter (Matthew), one victim (Hannah) and one witness (Patrick)—were all the tender age of 12 when Matthew fired 49 shots. The fact that the pellets were BBs was the only thing that saved Hannah’s life. Fast-forward 26 years. All three live in New York City, and Hannah and Patrick are married to one another. A high-tension chance encounter all these years later is about to prove life altering. You’d think that

To read a Dave Robicheaux novel is to get the distinct sense that author James Lee Burke has personal experience with every feeling or characteristic portrayed on the pages therein, be they heartwarming or excruciating: an alcoholic’s demon-plagued life; the love and loss of a good woman; friendships that transcend conventional explanation; and a strong, if not always accurate, moral compass. This time out, in the 21st installment of the series, titled simply Robicheaux (Simon & Schuster, $27.99, 464 pages, ISBN 9781501176845), the embattled (and “embottled”) detective must come to terms with the distinct possibility that he is responsible for the very murder he is investigating. Conflict of interest, you say? Not so much in rural Louisiana, where corruption is the blue-plate special of the day, and it’s served up with hefty side orders of racism, ignorance and crippling poverty. Burke paints conflicting pictures of his beloved adopted state, sometimes as a romantic, Maxfield Parrish-esque, Spanish moss-covered utopia awash in shades of cobalt and amber. Other times it’s a stark, black-and-white expressionist woodcut laden with social disarray. And in doing so, he completely rises above the genre for which he is best known. That Burke can convey all of this and still craft a hell of a mystery driven in equal parts by character, plot, history and milieu is nothing short of incredible.


for the New Year

Almost famous The Strays (Twelve, $14.99, 256 pages, ISBN 9781455537716), Emily Bitto’s hypnotic debut novel, is the story of four girlfriends who come of age in 1930s Australia. Sisters Eva, Beatrice and Heloise are the daughters of controversial painter Evan Trentham. Their new friend, Lily, is in awe of the family. She’s bewitched by the artists who

inhabit the Trenthams’ circle, their cultured ways and their communal approach to life in the face of straitlaced Australian society. Longing to join the Trentham clan, Lily becomes close to Eva, who possesses a sophistication beyond her teenage years, and the two hover on the margins of the grownups’ world, smoking, drinking and learning more than they should about the habits of artists. But the more time Lily spends with the family, the more she comes to realize that the freewheeling bohemian facade they display hides a world of trouble. Bitto explores friendship, family and the nature of creativity in this remarkably assured first novel. Filled with a luminous sense of yearning and loss, it’s a compelling snapshot of a bygone era.

SOUTHERN CROSSING Legendary journalist and author Joan Didion shares new material from notebooks she kept in the 1970s in South and West: From a Notebook (Vintage, $15, 160 pages, ISBN 9780525434191). One section is drawn from a journal documenting a 1970 trip the author made with John Gregory Dunne, her late husband, through Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, and features Didion’s interviews with regional notables, including author Walker Percy. It captures the

Fresh Book Club Reads

unsettled tenor of the times, with insights on race and history that will strike a chord with readers. This is classic Didion, and her sly observations are enlivened by her wonderfully sensitive intelligence. The book also includes a section of Didion’s reflections on her home state of California and the 1976 trial of Patty Hearst. Didion’s many fans will find much to enjoy in this work from one of our most inimitable authors.

TOP PICK FOR BOOK CLUBS Acclaimed author Viet Thanh Nguyen follows up his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Sympathizer (2015), with an electrifying collection of short stories. In The Refugees (Grove, $16, 224 pages, ISBN 9780802127365), Nguyen uses the Vietnamese enclaves of California as the backdrop for narratives that examine the nature of the émigré experience. The narrator of “Black-Eyed Woman” encounters the ghost of her brother, who died while attempting to rescue her from pirates during an escape from the Vietcong. In “The Other Man,” Liem, newly arrived in America, is stunned to learn that his new roommates are gay. “The War Years” is the chronicle of a clan of Vietnamese merchants who are pressured by a group of fellow refugees into giving money to support dissidents fighting in Vietnam. As a whole, this beautifully executed collection serves as a powerful consideration of the meaning of home and the importance of human connection. In probing the lives and circumstances of Vietnamese-Americans, Nguyen has produced stories that will resonate with a wide range of readers, regardless of background.

THE WICKED CITY by Beatriz Williams A deliciously spicy adventure that mixes past and present, and centers on a Jazz Age love triangle involving a rugged Prohibition agent, a saucy redheaded flapper, and a debonair Princeton grad.

FAMILY TREE by Susan Wiggs From the #1 New York Times bestselling author comes a powerful, emotionally complex story of love, loss, the pain of the past— and the promise of the future.

SUNDAY SILENCE by Nicci French Crackling with suspense, packed with emotion, Sunday Silence is a psychological thriller perfect for fans of Elizabeth George and Paula Hawkins.

OUR HEARTS WILL BURN US DOWN by Anne Valente The lives of four teenagers are brought together in this powerful coming-of-age story with the bittersweet poignancy of Everything I Never Told You.

 @Morrow_PB

 @bookclubgirl

 William Morrow  Book Club Girl




Big, bold Bobby It’s January, so resolutions are rampant, and many of us want to embrace a healthier diet. If you’re a part of that cohort, Bobby Flay has some advice and over 200 recipes to help you attain your goals. They’re all in his aptly titled new cookbook, Bobby Flay Fit: 200 Recipes for a Healthy Lifestyle (Clarkson Potter, $32.50, 256 pages, ISBN 9780385345934). I can’t guarantee their efficacy in producing

a slimmer you, but I can tell you that Flay is still going strong. Food is Flay’s focus, but as he got older, he didn’t love what he saw in the mirror or his ebbing energy. So he reassessed his way of eating, began creating energy-boosting snacks to stave off hunger (like Spicy Black Bean-Lime Hummus) and put a lot of emphasis on healthy basics like vinaigrettes, sauces, salsas, spice rubs and pickles to add intensity and pizazz without too many calories. You’ll find a full array of crave-worthy dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with sides, soups and desserts that are bursting with Flay’s signature bold flavors. What you won’t find is deprivation of any kind.


Well threaded in winter fun to cook and eat in a more planet-friendly way. “Everything” is a vast category, but the remarkable Bittman has covered the bases and added globally sourced dishes, a new chapter on beverages and recipes for everything from Adzuki Croquettes to Za’atarsprinkled popcorn, Zucchini Bread Pancakes and all the plant-based wonders in between. His directions are straightforward and include charts, sidebars and ingredient substitutions galore; his headnotes are chatty, and his enthusiasm leaps from every page.


POK POK The Drinking Food of Thailand (Ten Speed, $35, 272 pages, ISBN 9781607747734), Andy Ricker’s ode to the authentic spicy, salty and sour food that Thai late-night revelers rely on, is a cookbook perfect for armchair travel. But if the spirit of spirit-friendly food lures you into the kitchen, Ricker’s book provides you with recipes for “quintessential boozer grub” like a batch of fried cashews covered in salt, chilies and green onions or Drunkard’s BITTMAN IS BACK Stir-Fry, a fiery, true-Thai version of the Drunken Noodles served in If more meatless Mondays—or totally meatless meals—are on many Thai restaurants in the U.S. your agenda for the new year, Mark There are 50 recipes and at least as many stories and glorious photoBittman’s completely revised 10th anniversary edition of How to Cook graphs here that will transport you Everything Vegetarian (HMH, $35, to the nontouristy Thailand that Ricker fell in love with years ago. 832 pages, ISBN 9781118455647), now lusciously illustrated with Every recipe, from snacks to soups, salads and stews, has detailed full-color photographs, should instructions, and there’s a thorough be in your kitchen. Though it’s discussion of special Thai cooking become a lot easier to stick to a techniques, as well as ingredients vegetarian or vegan diet in the last decade, Bittman’s meatless master and where to find them. So munch class is the ultimate resource, ready a snack, lift a glass and banish the to inspire, instruct and make it winter blahs!




Since it’s January and all, I thought I’d highlight two crafts that can keep us content indoors, beneath a cozy blanket: sewing and knitting. Stitch Camp: 18 Crafty Projects for Kids & Tweens (Storey, $19.95, 208 pages, ISBN 9781612127507) presents the full gamut of fiber-based crafts to a young audience—at least that’s the intention—but I’d argue it’s an equally welcoming guide for any

novice with needles. Do I want to take my first tentative stitches in creating a colorful beanbag that’s also a hand warmer? I do, indeed. All the better that my 9-year-old can learn alongside me. Other cute projects abound: felt envelopes, arm warmers, phone cozies and woven necklaces. Authors Nicole Blum and Catherine Newman point out the “solo or social” quality of fiber crafts, adding that while they’ve done their best to provide easy-to-follow instructions, “there is still no substitute for learning these skills from a real, live human.” With that in mind, a “fiber-fun” afternoon with my kiddo and her grandmother sounds like a date I need to put on the calendar.

THE PERFECT STITCH Another new title to celebrate the art of needle and thread is Natalie Chanin’s The Geometry of Hand-Sewing: A Romance in Stitches and Embroidery from Alabama Chanin and the School of Making (Abrams, $24.99, 144 pages, ISBN 9781419726637). Chanin is the creative force behind Alabama Chanin, her lifestyle company known for its commitment to sustainability and breathtakingly embroidered garments. Here, she passes her expertise onto readers, anchoring stitchery lessons in the

useful tool of two plastic stitching cards, included in the back of the book. Not unlike old-school cardboard guides created to introduce children to sewing, these cards are based on a geometric grid system and can be used to practice stitches or to stencil patterns onto fabric. The stitches detailed here can be combined in any number of dazzling ways, but even Chanin’s simplest stitch could do wonders to a basic cotton T-shirt or scarf.

TOP PICK IN LIFESTYLES Confession: I’m a hard sell on any book that purports to teach me how to cultivate joy and kindness, unplug or develop an attitude of gratitude. Excellent objectives, all! I’m just a reluctant student. Bear this in mind when I say that A Book That Takes Its Time: An Unhurried Adventure in Creative Mindfulness (Workman, $27.50, 340 pages, ISBN 9780761193777), based on Irene Smit and Astrid van der Hulst’s award-winning Dutch magazine Flow, wooed me with its smart design and abundance of what the editors call “goodies” that make it a paper product-lover’s interactive feast. This is way more than just a book: It’s loaded with pullouts like stickers, posters, small blank books, postcards and more. Each piece offers a simple way to live more mindfully and in the now. The layout and illustration styles change with each new article, giving the compendium a magazine-like feel. You can open it up anywhere and dive in—just do so slowly, as its creators encourage. Savor, reflect and breathe in that glorious smell of paper and glue!

Forget the fad diets, join the food freedom movement! Enter for a chance to win a

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LISTEN MORE! “A fiendishly clever romantic thriller in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.” —Anita Shreve, New York Times bestselling author of The Stars are Fire

columns The ex factor Addictive domestic thrillers with twist-filled plots and unreliable narrators are increasingly popular. Add in assumptions that should not be assumed, shape-shifting, surprising characters and a complex chronology, and you have a hint of what you’ll find in The Wife Between Us (Macmillan Audio, 11 hours). Written by duo Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen and set in the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, the story at first seems

READ BY JULIA WHEL AN “Faster and more twisted than a roller coaster... Sometimes I Lie is not to be missed. I loved it!” —Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl



READ BY HAYLEY AT WELL “Her genius is to create characters you really care for.” —Daily Express





to involve a classic love triangle. We have Vanessa, the first wife, who appears to be stalking Nellie, a lovely, young, unsophisticated preschool teacher. Nellie has fallen head over heels in love with Vanessa’s ex-husband, 30-something Richard—a handsome, super-successful hedge fund manager. Is Richard really the quintessential Prince Charming of every girl’s dreams? Has the divorce unhinged Vanessa and driven her to look for revenge? Or might Vanessa be trying to save Nellie from falling into Richard’s not-so-princelike clutches? All will be made clear, or perhaps not, as you listen to Julia Whelan’s tautly paced performance.

ANALYZING GOD’S HUMANITY The very title of Reza Aslan’s latest book, God: A Human History (Random House Audio, 5.5 hours), lets you know that it takes on the challenge of a serious and academic subject loaded with emotional minefields. Aslan has made the study of religion his life’s work. Though his scholarship is thorough and wide-ranging—covering anthropology, philosophy, cognitive theory, biblical studies and more— he writes and narrates his work with verve and personal commitment that make his ideas accessible and compelling. Going back

to prehistory, Aslan looks at the earliest depictions of a deity and follows the evolution of religion. He presents a fascinating explanation for why we humans have fashioned God in our own image. In fact, he thinks this “compulsion” is hardwired in our brains. Aslan does not attempt to prove the existence or nonexistence of God, but he does believe that foisting the human condition on the divine brings consequences that keep us from “a more mature, more peaceful, more primal form of spirituality.” It’s guaranteed to make you think.

TOP PICK IN AUDIO Spy novel aficionados are likely familiar with the CIA, MI6, Soviet and post-Soviet spies, and other parts of the worldwide intelligence community. But what do we know about the inner workings of China’s espionage establishment? Listen to David Ignatius’ The Quantum Spy (Recorded Books, 10.5 hours), deftly narrated by Edoardo Ballerini, and you’ll get a good handle on it as the action moves from D.C. and Seattle to Singapore and Beijing. Moreover, you’ll be clued into the United States and China’s ongoing race to be the first to build an incomprehensibly fast and powerful quantum computer. Ignatius’ engaging thriller follows the CIA’s efforts to catch a longtime mole while also trying to ward off Chinese attempts to steal American cyber secrets and foil a plan to turn an Iraq War-hardened, Chinese-American veteran into a double agent. Ignatius cleverly reveals the clandestine world of the CIA and offers insight into current political realities in the world’s most populous nation.

cover story


Only the good die young


t’s fitting that Chloe Benjamin was born on All Soul’s Day, a religious festival remembering those who have died. Her latest novel, The Immortalists, explores the eternal mysteries of death and the boundaries of science, religion and magic.

“The Immortalists felt like the book that I was always meant to write,” Benjamin says during a phone call from her home in Madison, Wisconsin. “If I died now, at least I would have written this. I don’t think I’ll ever have a book like this again.” That’s a somewhat startling statement coming from a young writer, but at just age 29, Benjamin is well on her way to being an established author. Her first novel, the award-winning The Anatomy of Dreams, explored another intangible—the surprising power of lucid dreaming. Benjamin says of her two novels, “The Anatomy of Dreams is a more internal look at the conscious and the subconscious, and an almost claustrophobic exploration of the central relationship. With The Immortalists, I wanted to cover more ground socially, culturally and historically, as well as interpersonally. It felt important to challenge myself to write a book with greater scope and diversity.” The premise of The Immortalists is immediately gripping: In


By Chloe Benjamin

Putnam, $26, 352 pages ISBN 9780735213180, audio, eBook available


1969, the four siblings of the Gold family (Varya, age 13; Daniel, 11; Klara, 9; Simon, 7) live in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, where their father owns a tailor shop. When Daniel gets wind of a mysterious fortuneteller, the children track her down and have an encounter that will forever change their lives. The soothsayer predicts the exact date of each of their deaths. The four sections of the book address each sibling’s life in order of their predicted demise. Simon was told he would die young, while Varya seems destined to live until a ripe old age. Or is she? One of the book’s central questions is whether the fortuneteller is clairvoyant, or whether her prophecies simply become self-fulfilling. “I wanted to leave this open to interpretation, to see what the reader thinks,” Benjamin says. “I’ve always really been drawn to books with multiple perspectives or books that show how different people can interpret the same event in such varied ways.” The book’s beginning brings to mind the four siblings who step through the wardrobe in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. What’s more, at one point in The Immortalists, Klara’s daughter cries out, “It’s like Narnia!” when it begins to snow. Benjamin laughs at the reference, explaining, “That was actually something I said when I arrived at college on the East Coast. Everyone made very prompt fun of me, because I was coming from California.” As for parallels to the C.S. Lewis classic, Benjamin says they were unintentional, although she admits, “I think those books were in the petri dish that created this one.” The Gold children all take strikingly different paths: Daniel, the oldest Gold boy, becomes a mili-

tary doctor, while Varya ends up a scientist. Simon and Klara run away to San Francisco, where Simon dances, both ballet and in a gay bar. Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, following in the footsteps of her namesake grandmother. She even takes to performing her grandmother’s act, the Jaws of Life, in which she hangs from a rope by her teeth, calling herself “The Immortalist.” Benjamin, who initially knew nothing about magic, modeled the Jaws of Life trick after a “It was really real act she one of the stumbled hardest upon during her research. A writing Hungarian imexperiences migrant who I’ve had.” called herself Tiny Kline once performed this extraordinary feat over Times Square and later played a flying Tinker Bell in Disneyland. “I think she just held on with her teeth,” Benjamin says. “It was so dangerous and unbelievable.” It’s not surprising that showmanship is at the forefront of so much of the novel. Benjamin’s mother is a stage actor, and as a child Benjamin was involved in theater and active in ballet until college. “I miss those things a lot,” she admits, “but I don’t feel brave enough to perform at this point in my life. I’m more comfortable writing something where I can make it as perfect as I can and then put it out there for consumption. But that level of risk and uncertainty and vulnerability—and also a kind of flash and dazzle—was a part of my childhood.” Benjamin did substantial re-

search for each section of the book, adding: “I don’t make it easy on myself. There’s an adage to write what you know; I’m more interested in writing about what I want to know.” The research for Varya’s section proved most vexing. At first Benjamin had Varya study a species known as the immortal jellyfish, which seemed to be a perfect thematic fit­­—although the subject had its own challenges. “I had to read so much molecular biology,” Benjamin recalls, “and that is not the way my brain works. So I’d be practically crying, sitting with this stack of academic journals that I couldn’t possibly understand. I worked on that section for years.” Ultimately, she ended up starting it over. “It was really one of the hardest writing experiences I’ve had.” The completed novel spans decades, explores a variety of philosophical questions and addresses everything from gay life in 1970s San Francisco to the ethics of scientific research on animals. As for her next novel, Benjamin is already at work. “I get an idea maybe once every five years,” she says, “and it’s like, OK, well I guess that’s what I’m writing. So as much as it’s driving me crazy, I have faith.”




An act of cloak-and-dagger publishing


n suspense fiction, as in life, things aren’t always as they appear. We view events through similar, although by no means identical, lenses. And therein lies the fun, both between the covers of The Woman in the Window, the new year’s most audacious psychological suspense debut, and in the intriguing, real-life turn of the table by its pseudonymous author, A.J. Finn. As The Woman in the Window opens, we meet Dr. Anna Fox, a New York child psychologist turned thoroughly modern mess following her unexplained separation from her husband and daughter 11 months prior. Now an agoraphobic, voyeuristic shut-in, Anna whiles away the days within her Manhattan brownstone, wineglass in hand, monitoring her park-side neighbors through her digital camera, binge-watching classic movies (Rear Window, anyone?) and counseling other agoraphobics online. Then Anna observes and reports to police a shocking act of violence at the residence of a new neighbor. Did she imagine it? Can police (and the reader) trust her interpretation of the event? Suffice to say, the plot twists that follow blow the roof off her carefully insulated world. While fans of Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train and Alfred Hitchcock’s films will feel right at home in An-


By A.J. Finn

Morrow, $26.99, 448 pages ISBN 9780062678416, audio, eBook available



na’s wine-addled reality, the unusual backstory behind its provenance bears a touch of suspense fiction as well. A.J. Finn is actually Dan Mallory, a 38-year-old senior vice president and editor for William Morrow who spent years at Oxford pursuing his doctorate in literature, largely inspired by his love of the classic suspense fiction of Agatha Christie, Ruth Ware and his dissertation subject, Patricia Highsmith. Like many in publishing, Mallory admits he’d fantasized about tasting life on the other side of the editing desk. Unfortunately, timing was an issue. “It was a flicker in my mind for some time—this idea that I could write something—but [it wasn’t something] that I pursued with any intent whatsoever,” Mallory says by phone from his Manhattan office. “I never wrote so much as a poem as an adult, in part because, for the longest time—probably since 1988 when The Silence of the Lambs was published—the market was dominated by serial killer thrillers by the likes of Thomas Harris, James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell. I enjoyed the serial killer thriller as much as the next reader; I just didn’t have one in me.” That changed dramatically in 2012 with the publication of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. “She ushered in a new world that we now term ‘psychological suspense.’ This was the sort of book that I had read and studied, that I might try to write,” Mallory says. “It was only after the market seemed propitious and readers demonstrated an appetite for this sort of literature that I thought to myself, right—if I come up with a story, perhaps now is the time to strike. And low and behold, this character strolled into my head, dragging her

story behind her.” As Anna made herself at home, Mallory found her overactive, incessantly introspective mind to be a “comfortable fit.” Like Anna, the author has struggled with severe depression, and explains that Anna’s experience with agoraphobia closely matches his own. “Since I wrote the book, I’ve been in a much better place psychologically than I was for over a decade,” Mallory says. “ ‘Is this really “At the same time, I develplausible? oped a pretty Wouldn’t keen sense people shut of empathy. That’s the their blinds?’ silver lining of NO! No one depression, or in New York at least it was shuts their in my case. So I felt for this blinds!” character.” As easy as it was to channel Anna, Mallory also effortlessly accessed the inner voyeur of his readers. “I wrote the book in my flat in Chelsea, and my desk is right beside the window in my living room. Across the street is a pair of beautiful brownstones, and the windows are never shuttered, the curtains never drawn,” he says. “A few readers, on finishing or even getting a couple chapters into the book, have said to me, ‘Is this really plausible? Wouldn’t people shut their blinds?’ NO! No one in New York shuts their blinds!” But why the pseudonym? This is where Mallory performed his own third-act twist. “Because I work in publishing, I wanted to hedge my bets when

it came time to submit the book,” he explains. “It would have been embarrassing for me had the book not been acquired, which was what I expected. But we submitted the book, and within 36 hours, we were fielding offers. At which point my agent and I said, ‘Right, it’s time for me to come clean and introduce myself as myself, so they know what they’re getting into.’ Happily, no one backed out.” One thing’s for sure: The format of The Woman in the Window, with exactly 100 chapters, each no more than five or six pages, is a thriller editor’s dream. “I don’t know that I consciously tapped into much of my [editorial] experience, but then I wouldn’t need to, would I? Because it’s built into me, it’s baked into me by this point!” Mallory chuckles. “Man, I love a short chapter. This is a technique that I admired in James Patterson’s work.” Mallory’s success with his debut thriller, which sold in September for a rumored seven figures and will be marketed in 38 territories, may have set a record for a newcomer. Having successfully jumped the table from editor to author, Mallory bid farewell to William Morrow in December to craft his next psychological thriller, set in San Francisco. Until then, we’ll start closing our blinds.

A moving novel about a Louisiana woman’s unusual calling to prepare meaningful last meals for death row prisoners…

In a flood-ravaged Appalachian wilderness, a young woman reckons with the rocky emotional terrain from innocence to wisdom for a story of survival, self-discovery, family, and love.

A haunting portrait of mid-20th Century life in moonshine country…



& Beauty




In the tradition of The Help comes a story of women’s relationships, Southern traditions, and the hidden magic in the everyday.

Av a i l a b l e E v e r y w h e r e B o o k s A r e S o l d




Finding the right thing to say


eading Kelly Corrigan’s Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say is like reading a letter from a dear friend whom you can talk to about anything, who makes you laugh when you feel distinctly humorless or who can just sit quietly with you when talking feels like too great an effort.

Not surprisingly, in the 10 years since her first book, the bestselling memoir The Middle Place, Corrigan has become a voice that people really like to hear, whether in TED Talks, her podcast series “Exactly” or in her subsequent memoirs, Lift (2010) and Glitter and Glue (2014). Her latest memoir, Tell Me More, is a collection of essays about 12 phrases that she is working on saying more and have proved central to Corrigan’s life. They can be difficult things to say, like “I don’t know” and “No,” or phrases that are ostensibly easier to utter—but perhaps aren’t—like “Yes” and “I love you.” In every entry, Corrigan unpacks her life with poignancy and humor as she wrestles with relatable issues, from family blowups to unruly pets to debilitating grief, and muses on the things that give life levity and beauty. But beneath every illuminating, empathetic entry in Tell Me More, there is grief and love that ebb and flow for Corrigan’s friend Liz, who recently died of cancer. Corrigan


By Kelly Corrigan

Random House, $26, 240 pages ISBN 9780399588372, audio, eBook available



is a cancer survivor herself, and the disease marks a place in each of her books. “I’m 50, and it feels like half the people I know have had cancer,” Corrigan says during a call to her home outside San Francisco, where she lives with her husband, two daughters and their dog. “Frankly, cancer, in the ways I’m dealing with it in the book, is just my version of crisis. . . . Your version might be unemployment, financial setbacks, your parents have Alzheimer’s—you can sub in anything you want. [Tell Me More] is not so much about cancer, but about crisis.” Cancer played a part in Corrigan’s initial decision to pursue a career in writing over a decade ago. “I’ve always written in a journal to help make sense of my life, and I’m a huge letter-writer,” she says. But her father’s terminal illness provided a new, urgent deadline to begin writing. “Self-publishing was just becoming a thing [10 years ago], so I self-published The Middle Place. The visual of handing my dad a book was enough to motivate me to write it.” The book’s later traditional publication, she says, was the “realization of a lifetime fantasy.” It also began a transition into a writer’s life, one that’s grounded in communicating stories and learning about others’ lives. That’s a dream setup for Corrigan. “I ask a lot of questions. I’ve definitely been teased by friends for wanting a conversation to go deeper or further.” After all, she says, “That’s why readers are readers: We have some unanswered questions. Every friend I have, I’m asking them hard questions all the time. I want to know how everyone’s doing everything, [about] their relationship with their parents, their biggest fight with their spouse, who they despise at work and why. I want to

know! I think that’s more interesting than almost anything.” Corrigan’s burning curiosity isn’t one-sided, though, and in Tell Me More, she turns that gaze on herself with great skill and insight. During the writing of the book, Corrigan says she “needed and wanted something to hold onto. . . . My father and friend died, and I’m not a much better person for it—I’m still getting sucked into trivial, quotidian bulls**t. I’m “It’s the still feeling ultimate sorry for mycompliment self.” you could The result is a mix of give me, that workaday agI helped you gravation and understand philosophical your life better.” beauty. For example, the chapter titled “It’s Like This” is about a hectic weekday morning gone maddeningly wrong, but it’s also a meditation on grief, impatience, her daughters’ quirks and the ways she and her husband handle stress. It’s also an excellent representation of how our initial reactions to events might be influenced by something else entirely. As the author writes, “Hidden in the morning’s frustrations, like a rattlesnake in the woodpile, is something else. I close my eyes so I can listen for the other thing—the further-away, much worse thing— in the quiet of my own head.” When asked why she thinks people respond so well to her, both on the page and in person, she says, “Articulating emotions and notions is something I’ve done before you hear it coming out of



my mouth. . . . I think that’s why people say, ‘I wish I could put my finger on it the way you do.’ I say, right, because I’m trying hard to, that’s my job, that’s my profession. I’m very happy to do that for all of us. It’s a total thrill for me, that I’m being useful in this way. It’s the ultimate compliment you could give me, that I helped you understand your life better or put words to something you couldn’t articulate.” Tell Me More will be perhaps even more overtly useful than Corrigan’s earlier books. Its phrasal chapter headings like “I Was Wrong” and “Good Enough” make it easy for readers to turn to sections that speak to them. “To me, Tell Me More is all the more useful [because of] the way it’s laid out,” Corrigan says. “I could be more subtle about it. . . . But again, a huge impetus for me is to be useful—to make myself useful. I needed to boil it down to something memorable for my own sake.” During her 20-city book tour for Tell Me More, Corrigan is looking forward to hearing which of the 12 phrases most resonate with readers: “One thing I’m really psyched to hear is what other sentences people are clinging to.” Plus, she says with a laugh, “I’m so grateful anyone wants to talk about my writing.”


Warning: Work in progress


ot goals for 2018? Yeah, we thought so. For gentle motivation, practical guidance and fresh ideas on how to make this the best year yet, check out the inspiring books below.

FIX YOUR FINANCES January is the ideal time to size up your fiscal situation. If the prospect of looking at your checking account puts you in a panic, then pick up a copy of Chelsea Fagan’s The Financial Diet: A Total Beginner’s Guide to Getting Good with Money (Holt, $19, 208 pages, ISBN 9781250176165). This handy manual is packed with concise, clear advice on fundamentals like maintaining a personal budget and building credit. Fagan, a journalist and successful blogger, strikes a breezy, cordial tone on the page. Untangling knotty topics such as investing and retirement planning, she delivers a crash course in economics that’s informative and—yes!—enjoyable. Featuring invaluable insights from a wide range of financial experts, The Financial Diet also includes economical recipes, tips for getting more mileage out of your wardrobe and smart suggestions for stretching that paycheck. “Saving money isn’t about depriving yourself,” Fagan says. “It’s about deciding you love Future You as much as you love Today You.” With a nifty layout by designer Lauren Ver Hage, this appealing book can help you make 2018 the year of spending—and saving—wisely.

BE YOUR BEST SELF Does your 2018 todo list include learning to love yourself? If the answer is yes, then here’s your next need-to-read title: Sarah Knight’s inspiring You Do You: How to Be Who You Are and Use What You’ve Got to Get What You Want (Little, Brown, $19.99, 320 pages, ISBN 9780316445122). An author with attitude (her 2015 book was titled The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck), Knight uses humor and a bold, cut-tothe-chase style to lay out strategies

for avoiding what she calls Lowest Common Denominator Living—a follow-the-crowd mindset that smothers individuality. Knight instead champions learning to identify—and successfully express—your needs and letting go of the expectations of others. And the concept of perfection that permeates our culture? Knight can show you how to tune it out and turn your weaknesses into assets. A self-esteem essential, You Do You will empower you to take risks and take charge of every aspect of your life. Self-love (not to mention like) can’t be achieved overnight, but Knight’s book will get you started.

REFINE YOUR CHARM French femmes— self-possessed and effortlessly elegant—are the envy of women around the world. What gives them that extra edge? According to bestselling author Jamie Cat Callan, it’s charm, a quality the French appear to have perfected. In Parisian Charm School (TarcherPerigee, $19, 224 pages, ISBN 9780143130963), Callan shows you how to cultivate the trait through a transformative take on life that includes practical steps for nurturing your own unique appeal. In chapters enlivened by warm personal anecdotes and inspiring quotes, Callan provides assignments that will nudge you out of your routine and get you engaged with others. She offers instruction in charm-related undertakings, like how to plan a world-class dinner

party (and command attention at said fête) and how to flirt effectively (yes, it’s possible to do this without sacrificing your dignity). She also recommends easy wardrobe adjustments with advice on wearing the bold colors you’ve always loved but may have been too much of a wallflower to try. Stepping out of your comfort zone will put you on the path to attaining Parisian allure. “Trust your heart,” Callan counsels. “Say yes. And bring the flowers.” Très charmant!

meditation plunge. The reasons range from lack of time to boredom with the routine. Harris counters these and other impediments with practical advice on starting—and sticking with—a meditation regimen, and he offers easy techniques for neophytes. Harris’ book will revise your ideas about the ancient exercise and help you feel more focused in the months to come.

CHEAT ON YOUR DIET Taking a more mindful approach to nutrition is a post-holiday objective many of us set for ourselves. Whether you’re trying to break a serial snacking habit or focus on long-term weight loss, you should take a look at Aaron Carroll’s The Bad

Food Bible: How and Why to Eat Sinfully (HMH, $25, 272 pages, ISBN 9780544952560). In this inforMeditation: It’s one mative, accessible book, Carroll, a of those polarizing practices that doctor and healthcare expert, sifts seems to have as many detractors as devotees. ABC News anchor Dan through the research, advice and straight-up hype surrounding diets Harris was a longtime doubter of to reveal that some of the foods we the discipline—until he experiview as off-limits aren’t as awful as enced a panic attack on live TV. In we think. an effort to manage his anxiety, he According to Carroll, we can turned to meditation, and it was once again make room on our a choice that transformed his life. plates for red meat, eggs, dairy Harris chronicled his conversion and bread. He discusses these experience in his bestselling 2014 and other controversial culinary memoir, 10% Happier. In his new categories in the book, stressing book, Meditation for Fidgety the significance of moderation Skeptics (Spiegel & Grau, $26, along the way. “More important 304 pages, ISBN 9780399588945), than what you’re eating is how co-authored with meditation you’re eating it—especially how teacher Jeff Warren and journalist often and how much,” he says. The Carlye Adler, Harris aims to find out why so many folks are resistant book has plenty of sensible tips for maintaining a healthy diet, such as to the ritual. Hopping aboard the cooking nutritious dishes at home 10% Happier tour bus with the free-spirited Warren as his sidekick, and making each meal a communal affair. After all, Carroll says, Harris tours 18 states and talks to food is meant to be enjoyed. Here’s people from all walks of life about to a delicious new year! what keeps them from taking the






A STATE OF FREEDOM By Neel Mukherjee


A groovy kind of love

Norton $25.95, 288 pages ISBN 9780393292909 Audio, eBook available WORLD FICTION


After Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, is there any other book written by any other Brit about the intersection of love and vinyl records that’s worth reading? Why, yes, there is. And Rachel Joyce’s magnificent The Music Shop is it. Joyce, whose 2012 bestseller The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, digs deep in the crates and finds her groove in this novel of loves lost and found. Frank—we never find out his last name, but we don’t need to, because he’s so indelible a character—is the sort of “music whisperer” that every serious record store geek aspires to be. As Frank correctly intuits, the man looking for Chopin is actually in desperate need of an By Rachel Joyce Aretha Franklin infusion, while the unexpected “Adagio for Strings” Random House, $27, 320 pages by Samuel Barber perfectly patches the Def Leppard-loving customer ISBN 9780812996685, audio, eBook available with a hole in her soul. It speaks volumes that Frank files Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” next to Bowie’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the POPULAR FICTION Spiders from Mars” and Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” After all, they’re all concept albums. But Frank has some emotional damage himself, and his potential salvation shows up not in the stacks of wax, but unbidden one day in a green coat, passed out in front of his shop. Clearly Joyce has taken Holland-Dozier-Holland’s multimillion-selling song to heart: “You can’t hurry love / No, you just have to wait / She said love don’t come easy / It’s a game of give and take.” Without giving away more of the plot, it’s worth noting that Joyce’s novel is intellectually and emotionally satisfying on every possible level. If you love words, if you love music, if you love love, this is 2018’s first must-read, and it will be without question one of the year’s best.


Pamela Dorman $26, 368 pages ISBN 9780735221963 Audio, eBook available DEBUT FICTION

An inveterate free spirit, Lucia Bok is a dreamer and a seeker. It seems her brain and body never stop wandering, taking her from her first breaths in Tennessee to college in New York City and itinerant stints abroad in Latin America and Vietnam. But to what end? During her South American travels, she stumbles across the answer: The object of her quest is encapsulated by a Spanish word, querencia, which means “a place we’re most comfortable, where we know who we are, where we feel our most


authentic selves.” This one word will define the rest of Lucia’s life and the battle she faces when her capricious eccentricities transform into full-blown psychoses, forcing her and her loved ones to discover where Lucia—and her illness—truly belongs in the world. Mira T. Lee’s debut novel, Everything Here Is Beautiful, is an astonishing and imaginative chronicle of mental illness and the unbreakable bonds of family. Taking readers on a journey from the halls of a psychiatric ward to the remote countryside of Ecuador, Lee examines the enigma that is Lucia through various perspectives, bringing together in a discordant symphony the voices of her sister, her husband, her lover and even Lucia herself (in both her lucid and agitated states). In shimmering prose, Lee nimbly unfurls a story that slithers like a serpent back and forth through

A State of Freedom, Neel Mukherjee’s bleak but beautifully constructed third novel, offers five loosely connected stories set in modern-day India. Five characters from diverse backgrounds experience displacement and devastation as they move from east to west, from village to city—even from life to death. Mukherjee’s empathy for the underdog is apparent in the creation of his most resilient characters. Milly, who works as a maid, is forced to arrange her own kidnapping after her employers refuse to let her out of their house. Lakshman, whose chance encounter with a bear cub convinces him to leave his family, roams from village to village with the animal that he slowly trains to dance (though the training is extremely violent and gruesome, and may prove difficult for sensitive readers). Equally time and across the threshold becompelling is the London publishtween what is perceived and what er visiting his parents in Bombay is real, producing a nuanced view who defies strict cultural etiquette of a complex woman and what it to involve himself in the personal means to love her. life of the family cook, Renu. This Everything Here Is Beautiful almost comic piece, which has the boldly delves into mental illness’s domestic richness and class-conprofound impact on love and rela- sciousness of “Downton Abbey,” tionships, exploring tricky quantakes a grimmer turn when the daries like to whom the burden of publisher visits the village of the responsibility falls and whether it cook’s impoverished extended is possible to separate an individfamily. ual from her illness. There are no With recurring characters and easy answers to these questions, motifs throughout its disparate and Lee does not pretend otherchapters, A State of Freedom wise. Instead, she presents us with echoes the structure and themes a sensitive and elusive story of of V.S. Naipaul’s Booker Prize-winsisterhood and schizophrenia that ning novel, In a Free State (1971), is brimming with another one of which also focused on the internaLucia’s favorite words: saudade, a tional effects of political and social deep, melancholic longing for a disruption in five distinct stories. person or state that is absent. There’s also a bit of Henry James in This electrifying first novel is the discernible tensions between wistful, wise and utterly unforgetOld World complexity and New table. World innocence, as well as the — S T E P H E N I E H A R R I S O N interplay between real life and the

A woman’s body


eni Zumas’ imaginative Red Clocks follows the intertwining stories of five women struggling to express their own worth.




Why do you refer to your female protagonists by titles that highlight their relationships to others (the Biographer, Daughter, Wife, Mender and Explorer), rather than by their names? I was thinking a lot about the narratives women inherit about motherhood, marriage, professional ambition, purpose in life—and how these narratives are not a great fit for many of us. So I imagined five very different female characters and gave them different labels to highlight some of the roles women perform. . . . All of them face longstanding questions about women’s bodies—who decides what your body is used for? Who decides what you can and cannot do with it? What happens if you end up not taking the motherhood path, or you choose not to have a romantic partner—what label is assigned to you then? How has your own life and journey to motherhood informed the characterization of these women? Red Clocks is rooted in my experience of trying to have a baby on my own, via artificial insemination. I bought strangers’ sperm on the internet and fielded warnings from friends and family about how hard it would be to raise a child alone. I thought I would get pregnant easily, but I didn’t. I started to question why I wanted so badly to have a baby in the first place. Several years later, I had a son with my partner. Even as a mother I feel a kinship with women who aren’t . . . and I remain ambivalent about the ways in which the mother role is framed as an imperative (moral, emotional, social, existential) at the expense of other roles and identities. You used transcripts of the Salem witch trials to inform the Mender’s trial, but you ended up editing much of that out. What remains of that research in the text? The transcripts pushed me to think about the connections (both explicit and buried) between the 17th century’s blaming of individual women for collective misfortune and the 21st century’s anxiety about women who live beyond the reach of social norms. I wanted to tie my characters to another pocket of history where the fear of powerful women resulted in tragedy. The eating of bodies—such as stranded ships resorting to cannibalism, and even the Wife eating earth after declaring separation from her husband—is a recurring theme. Why? I think I was exploring (consciously and unconsciously) modes of interbeing. The Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh coined this term to describe the state of mutual dependence we all live in. We may imagine ourselves as separate entities, discrete selves, but is this really accurate? Cloud becomes rain becomes tree becomes paper; there is a cloud in this piece of paper. . . . And the act of eating itself—so fraught for so many of us! . . . Women have been told that controlling our calories is key to controlling our lives. We learn to aim corrective and punitive energies inward, upon ourselves. Rather than criticize a culture that equates a woman’s worth with her appearance, we should criticize our own appearance. Visit to read Rather than change the system, more of our Q&A with Leni Zumas. we should change our waistline.


reviews ghostly realm of the dead. But this is no pastiche; Mukherjee’s depiction of social inequalities and his belief that even the lowliest person has a story to be told is very much his own. —LAUREN BUFFERD

RED CLOCKS By Leni Zumas

Little, Brown $26, 368 pages ISBN 9780316434812 eBook available SPECULATIVE FICTION

FICTION including the reader. With spare prose that sets a tone as chilly and bleak as the Oregon coastal setting, Zumas doesn’t shy away from the grotesque while presenting a tale that’s haunting, thought provoking and painfully timely. —LESLIE HINSON

THIS COULD HURT By Jillian Medoff

Harper $26.99, 384 pages ISBN 9780062660763 Audio, eBook available COMIC FICTION

The Biographer. The Daughter. The Wife. The Mender. The Explorer. Leni Zumas refers to her protagonists by these descriptors, invoking the reductive distance from which women are viewed in a patriarchal society: “That’s someone’s daughter.” They are also Ro, Mattie, Susan, Gin and Eivør—the dynamic women of Zumas’ magnificent second novel, Red Clocks. Ro, a high school teacher, works tirelessly on her biography of the 19th-century trailblazing Faroese explorer Eivør Mínervudottír, who shucked societal norms for decades, ultimately freezing to death at age 42 on a polar expedition. Also 42, Ro dreams of having a child, but under the new Personhood Amendment and the “Every Child Needs Two” act, in vitro fertilization is banned, and adoption is reserved for married couples. Mattie, 15, is Ro’s gifted student. She is pregnant and doesn’t want to be. Susan, a mother of two, is so unhappy with her nuclear family that she contemplates driving off a cliff. Gin, an introverted healer, becomes the subject of a witch-hunt after being accused of conspiring to perform an abortion. Each woman explores her sense of self and what it means to be selfish or selfless about her desires and ambitions. Why can Eivør watch the gruesome slaughter of pilot whales but not lambs? Why can Mattie conceive an unwanted baby when Ro can’t get pregnant? Zumas plays with extremes, exposing the inner hypocrite in everyone,

Corporate America: boring, soulless, fixated on profit. So how does This Could Hurt—based entirely around the daily happenings of a human resources team—yield such a delicious, satisfying book? Because Jillian Medoff delivers a story that is about so much more than run-of-the-mill office politics. Rosa Guerrero, a widow and seasoned executive whose career has been her proudest accomplishment, heads up human resources at Ellery Consumer Research Group, a Manhattan company feeling the pain of the Great Recession. “If 2008 was a rollicking roller coaster of pink slip parties and ex-banker bacchanals,” Medoff writes, “then 2009 was the head-splitting hangover, the global economy splayed on the couch, wired, tired, too broken to move.” While Rosa is fiercely protective of her employees, she also gets the sense that they’re not exactly living up to their full potential. There’s Peter, her trusted VP of operations, who gets caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Rob, her lead for recruiting and training, manages to defeat a few levels of Brick Breaker on his Blackberry every day, but not much else. Lucy, who oversees policy and communications, soldiers on through the recession, but loses a little bit of her drive every day. Kenny, a whip-smart Wharton grad in charge of compensation, knows he’s underemployed but doesn’t have a clue how to fix his life.

FICTION Only Leo, her trusted employee benefits manager, lives up to Rosa’s exacting standards. But he is miserable in his job and his life. When Rosa is stricken by a serious health issue a few months before retirement, her team comes together to protect her. But can they step up after so many years of inertia? This Could Hurt is a worthy follow-up to Medoff’s bestseller I Couldn’t Love You More. Filled with heart and humor, it will ring true to anyone who’s experienced both the cruelty and the camaraderie that make up the modern American workplace. —AMY SCRIBNER

through her graceful writing style, which can seem stiff at first but soon immerses readers in “Downton Abbey”-esque drama. With meticulous historical detail, the luxury of the Carnegies’ world is juxtaposed with the destitution of the poor, as Clara balances her place among the elite while sympathizing with her family, sending money to them overseas and bringing her cousins food on her scarce holidays. Though Clara is fictional, it’s as important as ever to have stories of the strong women behind men, reminding us of the invisible feminists throughout history. —SARAH WALLER

CARNEGIE’S MAID By Marie Benedict Sourcebooks Landmark $25.99, 288 pages ISBN 9781492646617 Audio, eBook available HISTORICAL FICTION

Following The Other Einstein, her debut novel about Albert Einstein’s first wife, author Marie Benedict once again centers a stirring historical tale on a one-ofa-kind woman. In Carnegie’s Maid, Benedict creates a fictional woman who influences Andrew Carnegie’s transformation from industrial tycoon to the creator of thousands of free lending libraries, resulting in an imaginative story of forbidden love and the injustice of social classes. Clara Kelley, an immigrant farm girl from Ireland, arrives in industrial 1860s Pittsburgh and expects to work in a mill to support her family back home. Instead, just off the ship, she assumes the identity of a different Clara Kelley, a second-class passenger who did not make the voyage, and finds herself the lady’s maid to Andrew Carnegie’s mother. Using her quick wit and family-taught education, Clara soon becomes indispensable, but she endangers her position by forming an ever-deepening relationship with Andrew, learning his business secrets and sharing ideas. Benedict evokes the time period


Doubleday $26.95, 352 pages ISBN 9780385542296 eBook available DEBUT FICTION

Inspired by true events, Sharon Bala’s multifaceted debut novel is not only about a group of 500 Sri Lankan refugees, the titular “boat people,” but also about the people they left behind and those who will decide their fates upon arriving in 2009 Vancouver. Bala builds her narrative around one of the refugees, Mahindan, and his 6-year-old son, Sellian. Mahindan’s case (as well as four other refugees’) is represented by Priya, a second-generation Sri Lankan-Canadian law student who has been grudgingly assigned to refugee law her last semester. While Grace, a third-generation Japanese-Canadian, adjudicates each case, her mother, Kumi, uncovers secrets from her childhood partly spent in an internment camp. However truthfully he tells it, reception of Mahindan’s story is vulnerable to political pressures and other characters’ moods. Will Priya convince Grace to grant him asylum, or will he be deported? Cinematic details—such as sights and sounds at the market in Mahindan’s hometown and charac-

ters’ gestures as they talk—transport us to a tension-rich drama. Bala moves fluidly from past to present, mixing memories with current crises. In one scene, while Christmas lights and snowfall glisten outside, Priya’s uncle confesses to her the story of his own flight from Sri Lanka. In another, Kumi’s internment story is set alongside a discussion between Grace and the Prime Minister, who believes the threat of terrorism is high among the refugees. Such juxtapositions build and maintain suspense all the way to the last line, where readers are left hanging, as if justice is in our hands. How do we react to the immigration crisis? What would we do in any of these characters’ shoes? The Boat People reminds us of the fragile nature of truth. —MARI CARLSON

NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT By Kristan Higgins HQN $26.99, 400 pages ISBN 9781335915276 Audio, eBook available POPULAR FICTION

Nora Stuart could have lived her whole life without ever again stepping foot in her hometown, the tiny island of Scupper, Maine, where she spent her first 15 years being too chubby, too smart and too lonely. But then she gets hit by a Beantown Bug Killer van while crossing the street near the Boston hospital where she works as a gastroenterologist. When she awakes in a hospital bed, happy to know that death has spared her, she knows it’s time to go back home and set things right. One might expect a homecoming 15 years in the making to be met with hugs, at least from one’s own mother, but that’s not the case for Nora—not that she’s surprised. Armed with humor and an unshakable faith in happiness, Nora returns home to discover her stoic mother has a strange new side hustle, her niece is an eye-rolling, punk-rock teenager, and the rest of

her high school class has all grown up. It’s clear to Nora that healing her wounds, both physical and emotional, won’t be as easy as she’d hoped. As Nora deals with burgeoning romances, old family secrets, sad realities and hopeful new alliances, bestselling author Kristan Higgins adds humor at every opportunity to Now That You Mention It and proves that it is possible to deal with our past demons without losing our minds. This page-turner is filled with laughs, nostalgia and the seemingly outlandish suggestion that sometimes being hit by a van is exactly what one needs to venture back home. —CHIKA GUJARATHI

THE BEAUTY By Aliya Whiteley Titan $12.95, 288 pages ISBN 9781785655746 eBook available HORROR

Aliya Whiteley’s The Beauty is just the thing for readers who prefer maximum weirdness and body horror in their books. Set in a post-apocalyptic colony where all the women have died of a bizarre fungus and only the men remain, the story transmogrifies, folds, spindles and mutilates gender roles and common expectations. The narrator is a boy named Nate, who functions as the griot for a colony of bereft and bewildered men. That the women, from the eldest to the newly born, have all died is dreadful and mysterious enough, and then the men start to notice mushrooms growing out of the women’s graves. The mushrooms evolve into yellow, ambulatory beings with heads but no faces. These mushroom-fungus creatures claim a number of the men. They are seemingly irresistible, bringing such pleasure that the men call them the Beauties. The men see in them their lost mothers, wives, lovers, sisters, daughters. But the Beauties’ love,


reviews gentleness and subservience are not unconditional, and the changes they wreak in some of the men who love them are freakish. Sometimes, the freakishness is welcome, as a man may be so enraptured by his devoted Beauty that he’ll tolerate anything to be with it. But other men of the colony resist and pay the price. Also included within The Beauty is a tantalizing novella titled Peace, Pipe, about an astronaut’s relationship with an alien entity that the astronaut calls Pipe. On the other hand, maybe Pipe isn’t an alien at all. Maybe what the astronaut takes as Pipe’s voice is just the sound of water in the plumbing of the space where the astronaut has been quarantined after a disastrous mission. Despite the Möbius-strip twistiness of her stories, Whiteley imbues them with compassion and—dare I say—humanity. Love and hope punch their way through, despite all obstacles. You’ll be surprised by how moved you are at the end. —ARLENE MCKANIC

FICTION career achieves nothing near the same level of success. This tests his loyalty, and things get worse when a manuscript goes missing, casting suspicion on Richard and threatening the lives of everyone around him. The first thing readers will notice in Fools and Mortals, as they will in Cornwell’s The Last Kingdom, is the voice. Richard tells his own story, and as crafted by Cornwell’s skilled hands, he tells it beautifully. Right away, there’s a sense of the Shakespearean balance of wit and drama. Just as he did with his series of novels on Alfred the Great, Cornwell places us in proximity to history we know and then brushes greater depth and detail into the personal story he’s trying to convey. Readers will long to hear more from Richard and for more details about Elizabethan stagecraft. If you love historical fiction, Shakespeare, Cornwell’s work or all of the above, Fools and Mortals is a must-read. It’s a riveting novel driven by a distinctive voice that’s sure to hook you. —MATTHEW JACKSON

FOOLS AND MORTALS By Bernard Cornwell

Harper $27.99, 384 pages ISBN 9780062250872 Audio, eBook available HISTORICAL FICTION

There’s something audacious about fictionalizing even a portion of the life of William Shakespeare. Bernard Cornwell is well versed in historical writing—he’s perhaps the living king of the genre at this point—but this is Shakespeare we’re talking about. It’s intimidating territory, and not every novelist can do it well. With his usual knack for detail and characterization, Cornwell plunges fearlessly into Shakespearean England for his latest novel. Fools and Mortals follows Richard, William’s brother, as he longs for a career on the London stage. Loyal to his brother, Richard watches as William rises through the ranks of English theater, even as his own



Random House $27, 224 pages ISBN 9780812988635 Audio, eBook available SHORT STORIES

Ernest Hemingway once ventured that all American literature derives from Huckleberry Finn. By this he meant American literature elevates vernacular speech, befitting literature in a democracy. Denis Johnson’s posthumous anthology, The Largesse of the Sea Maiden, is superlative proof of that. Johnson is best known for his Vietnam War novel Tree of Smoke and short story collection Jesus’ Son. A pupil of Raymond Carver, he has garnered a reputation for the sordid and the hard-boiled. But only one story in his new collection, “The Starlight on Idaho,” might be called Carver-esque. It concerns a man in rehab and in

fact is less Carver than Bukowski. It’s a no-hoper’s cri de coeur, avoiding the prevalent clichés of the rehab genre. Johnson’s stories are that of a depleted and decadent civilization. He observes trains everywhere going off the rails. The joke of the title story, which is composed of many interlinked tales, is that modern life is distinctly lacking in largesse and sea maidens. The story “Doppelgänger, Poltergeist” is dedicated to Elvis, as the King is as close to mythology as such a society can come. Swirling speculations about Elvis’ supposed twin lost in childbirth reach a crescendo, which occurs just as the World Trade Center towers are struck and collapse. Once a recovering addict, the late Johnson seems fixated on death and recovery. His stylistic range is certainly wondrous, straddling the starkness of “Starlight” and the hysterical realism of “Doppelgänger, Poltergeist.” Critics like B.R. Myers have found Johnson’s prose affected and artless, and one does wonder sometimes what purpose fiction serves if it doesn’t inspire. After all, even folksy Huckleberry Finn did that. But Johnson’s stories are pertinent and engaging. They hold up a mirror to society’s dregs and to that extent are flawless. —KENNETH CHAMPEON

THE AFTERLIVES By Thomas Pierce Riverhead $27, 384 pages ISBN 9781594632532 eBook available DEBUT FICTION

Tackling life’s biggest question is an ambitious goal for a first novel—but Thomas Pierce, one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 recipients, does it with aplomb. Set in the near future, The Afterlives is a mordantly funny and deeply human look at one man’s quest to find out what happens after we die. Jim Byrd has firsthand experi-

ence with death. His heart stops momentarily when he is only 33, but all he remembers is darkness. Ever since, Jim has wondered what that meant. Soon after, at a local restaurant, two more life-changing events happen: Jim reconnects with a high school girlfriend, Annie, and hears a disembodied voice that might be a ghost. As he and Annie fall in love, Jim draws her into his investigation of the voice, a search that uncovers a century-old love triangle and leads to a mysterious scientist in Little Rock, Arkansas, who might have some answers. Pierce, a graduate of the University of Virginia creative writing program whose short story collection, Hall of Small Mammals, was a literary favorite in 2015, displays a nimble sense of humor and wild creativity in The Afterlives. The near future he conjures here is one believable step from our own, with holograms, called “Grammers,” taking over service jobs and medical devices that can be monitored from your smartphone. The fantastical afterlife elements are grounded in Pierce’s realistic depiction of relationships, from romantic to parental. “Do you think we’re not supposed to have it? That, to a certain extent, we’re supposed to live in the dark?” Jim asks. Maybe knowledge of life after death is a futile quest, but Pierce’s intelligent debut proves there’s still something to gain from pursuing it. —T R I S H A P I N G

OLIVER LOVING By Stefan Merrill Block

Flatiron $26.99, 400 pages ISBN 9781250169730 Audio, eBook available LITERARY FICTION

A school shooting: four dead, six wounded. It’s the stuff of our society’s worst recurring nightmare. And it provides the backdrop for Oliver Loving, Stefan Merrill Block’s moving third novel, the story of one family’s struggle to cope with the devastating aftermath of

FICTION such a tragedy. Nearly 10 years after he’s shot in the head at the high school homecoming dance in the small West Texas town of Bliss, Oliver Loving, now 27, lies paralyzed and mute at Crockett State Assisted Care Facility. His parents’ marriage fractured long ago, and his younger brother wrestles with the nearly impossible challenge he’s set for himself: finding the words to tell his brother’s story in a way that will, if only figuratively, bring him back to life. A glimmer of hope that Oliver may be emerging from his locked-in state only thrusts the Lovings deeper into crisis. Block peels away the layers of concealment, both personal and communal, that have masked the truth about what led Hector Espina Jr., a recent graduate of the high school, to return one otherwise uneventful evening with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and wreak havoc on an entire town. But in contrast to the sensationalism of our ritualized news coverage, this is a ruminative novel whose accumulating emotional force depends on the acuteness of Block’s patient character development and the unassuming grace of his prose. As periodic eruptions of gun violence surface randomly and inexplicably across our national landscape, it seems the horror of one is barely grasped before the next arrives. For all the intensity of our collective desire to move on from each of these human-inflicted disasters, Oliver Loving soberly reminds us that there are people left behind for whom the grief and pain will never disappear. —HARVEY FREEDENBERG

KING ZENO By Nathaniel Rich FSG / MCD $28, 400 pages ISBN 9780374181314 eBook available


Has anyone written the Great Novel of New Orleans? If not, Nathaniel Rich’s sprawling, funny,

tragic, generous new work, King Zeno, comes close. It reminded this reviewer of John Dos Passos’ U.S.A. trilogy, with its clever melding of real and fictional events, its snippets of newspaper articles and astonishingly memorable characters. Like the U.S.A. novels, the action in King Zeno takes place around the time of World War I. An axe murderer is preying on Italian grocers and their families, and sometimes tosses what’s left of them into the dig site for the Industrial Canal. Sicilian-born Beatrice Vizzini is bankrolling the construction of the canal, which will connect the Mississippi with Lake Pontchartrain. (The canal is real; Beatrice is fictional.) The imperious Beatrice is ever worried about her son, Giorgio, a hulking brute who is probably not as stupid as he wants everyone to think he is. Detective Bill Bastrop is on the Axman case. He is just back from the trenches and suffering from what we would now call Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. More than this, he shot an innocent man suspected of being a robber—though this wasn’t taken very seriously, as the man was African-American. On the other side of town, Isadore “King” Zeno is a young man who can play a fierce cornet but has a pregnant wife and mother-in-law to support. The money just isn’t rolling in—until it is, thanks to a prank that he almost regrets. Eventually, Bill and Isadore, Beatrice and Giorgio find themselves tangled in the Axman’s mayhem. Rich not only knows these folks and their loved ones, but he also knows New Orleans. He loves the honky-tonks, cathouses and bayous, the names of its streets and even the fetid mud and miasmic summer heat. He is cognizant of the city’s racial hierarchies, which may not be as brutal as those in neighboring Mississippi but still have the power to crush young black men. Readers will genuinely worry for Isadore and his friends, ever threatened by this sledgehammer of racism. Because of this, the ending is a nail-biter—with a twist. King Zeno is the New Orleans novel we’ve been waiting for. —ARLENE MCKANIC


the title of your new book? Q: What’s 

Q: Describe the book in one sentence.

does freedom mean to you? Q: What 

do you seek inspiration for your work? Q: How 

is your greatest wish? Q: What 

does it mean to sit with your fears? Q: What 

Q: Words of wisdom?

MY FRIEND FEAR Author and illustrator Meera Lee Patel shares a vivid personal meditation on facing fear in My Friend Fear: Finding Magic in the Unknown (TarcherPerigee, $18, 176 pages, ISBN 9780143131571). Bursting with beautiful watercolor illustrations and inspiring quotes, the newest book from the bestselling author of Start Where You Are offers readers a reflective look at harnessing the power of one of life’s most challenging emotions.





TREATING PEOPLE WELL By Lea Berman and Jeremy Bernard


A threatened way of life REVIEW BY CARLA JEAN WHITLEY

All the Van Gujjar tribe wants is to maintain their ancient way of life. For centuries, the forest-dwelling, nomadic Indian tribe has spent winters in the jungle and summers in the Himalayas, where the water buffalo they herd find abundant food and a break from blazing heat. But in recent years, the country’s national park system has challenged their way of life. People aren’t meant to live in preserved lands, the park system argues. The Van Gujjars should stay out. That tension is central to Himalaya Bound, in which writer and photographer Michael Benanav recounts one Van Gujjar family’s 2009 migration from the forests to the mountains. Benanav spent 44 days alongside the family as they traveled 125 miles and encountered 11,000 feet of elevation gain—by foot. The days are long and, in many ways, simple as the tribe presses By Michael Benanav toward its destination. But there’s dramatic tension at the heart of the Pegasus, $26.95, 224 pages ISBN 9781681776224, eBook available journey. Will the family be able to summer in its ancestral land, in what is now Rajaji National Park? Or will officials hold true to their word and TRAVEL ban the tribe? As Benanav describes his experience traversing these miles, he offers a deeper understanding of the family’s troubles. India isn’t alone in questioning the notion of people in national parks; America has done the same, also challenging indigenous peoples’ right to their tribal lands. The argument is often made in the name of conservation. But as Benanav reveals, the relationships between humans, land and animals aren’t quite so easily explained. Benanav deftly weaves scientific and historic context into the story of one family and one migration. As he does, he also shares an American’s perspective of this radically different way of life. The result is a compelling, thoughtful tale that encourages readers to examine their lives and impact upon the earth.

CRÆFT By Alexander Langlands

Norton $26.95, 352 pages ISBN 9780393635904 eBook available HISTORY

To be clear, the title of this book by Alexander Langlands is Cræft, not “craft.” When we think of craft, we tend to think of expensive handmade objects, often considered anachronisms in a world of mass production and mass consumption. Cræft (pronounced “creft”) is the Anglo-Saxon root for the modern word “craft,” and it includes both the product and the process of crafting. But cræft has a more profound meaning: It

is the wisdom, handed down from previous generations, that enables the crafter to create a perfectly useful object. Langlands is an experimental archaeologist; he replicates ancient artifacts and processes to gain greater insights into the cultures that produced them. In Cræft, he explains how ancient craftsmen used their skill, available natural resources and especially cræft to solve the problems that life threw at them. Need temporary sheep pens? Use your weaving skills to create portable wicker fencing. Want a permanent solution for keeping sheep out of your grain fields? Forge tools that help you prune and manipulate trees to form hedgerows. No trees around? Use rocks to create dry stone walls of such cunning manufacture that they last for generations—without mortar.

Scribner $27, 256 pages ISBN 9781501157981 Audio, eBook available ETIQUETTE

Think your job is difficult? Imagine being the White House social secretary—and no, it’s not all flowers and teacups. You play host to thousands every year, risk insulting world leaders with a small misstep, and your bosses are the president and first lady of the United States. In Treating People Well, former social secretaries Lea Berman, who served the George W. Bush White House, and Jeremy Bernard, who served the Obama White House, share their stories. Berman and Bernard are good friends, and they are often asked, “How could two people from such disparate political viewpoints find anything to agree on?” Their answer: “We stay connected out of a fundamental belief that we both want what’s best for our country and that we can . . . get there by working together.” Part memoir, part career guide, Langlands is not merely deTreating People Well sorts Berscribing the past; cræft has shaped man’s and Bernard’s experiences our present and can enhance our into social principles such as future. Anyone who has walked in “listen first, talk later” and “own the English countryside can see your mistakes,” then details how cræft molded the natural envi- their own failures and successes. ronment: Ancient burial mounds, Bernard almost crossed the line weirs and dikes, even the barren when joking too familiarly in front moorlands that inspired the Brontë of staffers and the Obamas, and sisters testify to the human knack Berman recounts calamities early for devising ingenious solutions in her tenure, such as mistakenly to difficult problems. The imporcombining the enormous White tance of cræft is demonstrated by House Congressional picnic with a the devastating effects its absence PBS concert one summer evening. can have: The modern tendency Each chapter offers common-sense to favor mechanization over cræft, guidance for finding success in Langlands posits, has resulted in both personal and professional flooding, soil degradation and relationships and navigating social global warming. In a world with settings with grace. diminishing resources, it might be Berman and Bernard also wise to tap into cræft to ensure a sprinkle in anecdotes about other sustainable future. Langlands has presidents, first ladies and their written an excellent introduction staffs, including the Reagan, Carter, to guide us. Eisenhower, Roosevelt and even — D E B O R A H M A S O N Washington administrations. Occa-



Lives of child geniuses


n her latest book, Ann Hulbert explores the lives of 15 brilliant child prodigies and the lessons they can provide.



Why is society fascinated by child prodigies? Seeing children do amazing, age-inappropriate feats is bound to be both thrilling and unsettling. As rarities who flout the natural order of development, prodigies have been greeted down the ages as wondrous anomalies. But they’ve also been scrutinized as auguries bearing messages—often conflicting ones—about change. Did your research shatter any preconceived notions you had about child prodigies? I expected the trajectories of prodigies to be more streamlined than the meandering paths of ordinary children. The truth is, the lives of the children I explore contain lots of ups and downs, unforeseen obstacles, lucky breaks and unpredictable swerves. What are the most common mistakes parents can make when confronted with genius? Remarkable talents in children usually emerge because they go hand-in-hand with unusually intense interests. A small boy notices numbers everywhere and loves doing complicated calculations in his head. A little girl is a total bookworm and gets hooked on writing. But what parents are all too tempted to do, especially when stunned by youthful genius and steeped in a rug-rat-race culture like ours, is to turn self-driven pursuits into a structured enterprise with milestones to meet. In a nutshell: Parents are prone to butt in too much, and to forget that childhood happens only once and goes by very quickly. Have the stories you’ve uncovered affected your parenting style? I routinely lamented the stress that my two kids (now young adults) experienced in their high-powered private school. I also sighed over the many extracurricular advantages they had in their busy lives, feeling how unfair it was that they were so enriched and stimulated—and also worrying that crammed schedules and résumé-padding could too easily kill genuine interests and commitments. And then when SAT-prep time came, I signed them up for it anyway. This close-tohome ambivalence about early super-performance was no small part of what inspired me to embark on the book. Would you like to have been a child prodigy (or perhaps you were!)? I did have a brief phase of writing horse-related stories under a pen name, but I’m grateful to have been spared being a prodigy. I wish I’d learned how to play the piano well. But looking back, I’m glad that an utter lack of natural talent didn’t stop me from plugging away. I took real pleasure, in my teenage doldrums, from stumbling through pieces that I loved. Did you find that the child prodigies you researched, from math and musical geniuses to writers and chess players, all had something (besides genius) in common? They shared remarkable powers of focus, and they all worked extremely hard—and in just about every case, they were not kids who effortlessly got along with peers (or had time to spend getting betVisit to read more ter at mingling). of our Q&A with Ann Hulbert.


reviews sionally these anecdotes feel shoehorned to fit the book’s principles, but the book’s theme—treat others well, and you’ll do well, too—is more needed than ever. —SARAH McCRAW CROW


Knopf $27.95, 400 pages ISBN 9781101947296 eBook available

TEARS OF SALT By Pietro Bartolo and Lidia Tilotta

Norton $25.95, 208 pages ISBN 9780393651287 Audio, eBook available CURRENT EVENTS

Pietro Bartolo runs the sole medical clinic in his homeland of Lampedusa, a tiny Italian island BIOGRAPHY 70 miles off the coast of Tunisia that has become the gateway— and graveyard—for an unending stream of refugees trying to escape Maybe you never expected to the varied horrors confronting read biographical analyses of them in Africa, the Middle East and Shirley Temple and Bill Gates in the Asia. Bartolo’s Tears of Salt, written same book, but the more you think with Italian journalist Lidia Tilotta, about it, the more it makes sense. is equal parts memoir, celebration It certainly did to Ann Hulbert, of his birthplace and report from author of Off the Charts. the front. Above all, though, it is a Hulbert, who previously covered plea for compassion. a century of child-rearing advice in Bartolo begins his narrative by Raising America, turns her sights to describing how, at age 16, he nearly the intriguing phenomenon of early drowned in the icy Mediterranean genius. In Off the Charts, she peers after falling unnoticed from his into the formative years of 15 indifather’s fishing boat. The sensation viduals, combining lively biograph- of going under, gasping for breath ical sketches with serious analysis and feeling left behind, provided of the factors that contributed to him with a template for undertheir ascendancy in the public eye. standing the terror of countless Most of these prodigies we know, others who have suffered the while some—such as precocious same fate—but without the happy novelist Barbara Newhall Follett— ending of survival. Now he treats have been virtually lost to history, the living and anatomizes the dead but all offer important lessons. who reach Lampedusa’s shore. By Not surprisingly, those lessons his count, he and his medical team tend to circle back to the prodihave treated nearly 300,000 refugies’ parents—who run the gamut gees over the past 25 years. from free-range advocate to prison But it’s not the massive numbers warden without the charm—and that give Bartolo’s account its emoin many ways the book is as much tional impact—it’s the attention about the parents as it is about he focuses on individual survivors, their progenies. Wisely, Hulbert such as the teenage brothers Modownplays judging the children’s hammed and Hassan. Because Mogenius and lets the facts—and hammed, the eldest, is paralyzed, often the prodigies—speak for Hassan carries him on his back all themselves. the way from their native Somalia Rest assured, there’s no one-size- to Libya and then vigilantly guards fits-all approach to rearing a gehim against further injury throughnius. And even the most seemingly out the perilous ocean passage. well-adjusted prodigies don’t exOnce ashore, he fiercely resumes actly breeze through adolescence. his burden. Bartolo tells many such The “hidden lessons” are there in stories of courage and sacrifice. plain sight, but many of them are “Whenever I see images of impossible to avoid. migrants being callously deported — K E I T H H E R R E L L in their thousands, forced to return

NONFICTION to the hell they have escaped, I am outraged,” Bartolo writes. “What kind of person has the nerve to seal the destiny of all these people with a mere signature on a piece of paper, then smile about it to the cameraman and pose for photographs?” — EDWARD MORRIS


HEAVENS ON EARTH By Michael Shermer

Holt $30, 320 pages ISBN 9781627798570 eBook available SPIRITUALITY

By Niall Ferguson

How do you convincingly dismiss most of civilization’s beliefs in the hereafter and still arrive at fresh optimism about the meaning of our all-too-human existence? TECHNOLOGY Bestselling author and Scientific American columnist Michael Shermer does a fine job of it—and much more—in his absorbing The most important changes in 15th book, Heavens on Earth: The history have often been achieved Scientific Search for the Afterlife, by networks of informally orgaImmortality, and Utopia. nized groups of people rather than As the subtitle promises, staby hierarchies led by monarchs tistics and studies abound in this and governments. In his sweeping, thoroughly researched book. Bestimulating and enlightening The lievers, philosophers, scholars and Square and the Tower, noted hisphysicians all have their theories torian Niall Ferguson draws from and “proofs” for life after death, a wide range of sources to trace methodically examined and just as the crucial role that different kinds respectfully refuted by Shermer. of human networks have played But wait—don’t we already know throughout history. there is little credible evidence of Social network-based revolutions life after death? Who, after all, has greatly transformed Western civili- died and returned to tell us about zation, and Ferguson offers several it? And if there is no life after death, convincing cases, such as the Refhow does one find purpose in life? ormation, the Scientific Revolution Allow Shermer to introduce you to and the Enlightenment, which the singularitarians, Omega Point were all the product of networks. Theorists, transhumanists, extroFor example, no ruler ordered the pians, cryonicists and mind-upmassive changes wrought in the loaders. The quest for utopia here Industrial Revolution. Instead, they on earth has inspired communities occurred through the combining of as diverse as Jim Jones’ deadly cult capital and technological networks and the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, with networks of kinship, friendCalifornia. ship and shared religion. Another If the pursuit of immortality example is the collapse of commu- in an afterlife or utopia proves nism, as revolutions are networked elusive, Shermer concludes by phenomena. Individual leaders offering a cogent argument for were important, but the growing seeking answers in a purposeful number of citizens willing to stand life. “Heaven and hell are within us, against their governments was not above and below us,” he insists. what fatally weakened the Eastern “We create our own purpose.” Find European regimes. meaning in love, family, work and Ferguson’s superb, thought-pro- involvement both socially and voking book brings these events politically. Ultimately, Shermer is a vividly to life and will help readers believer in the power of our unique view history from a unique persouls. He suggests, compellingly, spective. that we seek heaven here on earth. Penguin Press $30, 592 pages ISBN 9780735222915 Audio, eBook available





When timing is everything


ime: There’s never enough of it, and it slips through our fingers. As the poet Mary Oliver asked, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

In this pair of books, a firsttime author and a bestselling author offer their advice on making the most of the time we have. In When to Jump: If the Job You Have Isn’t the Life You Want (Holt, $26, 336 pages, ISBN 9781250124210), Mike Lewis recalls landing a plum job at a major corporation after graduating from an Ivy League school. He thought he’d achieved everything he could hope for, but at age 23, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he should be doing something else. “For twenty-three years, I had chased plainly laid out goals,” he writes. “Goals that were easy to want to chase because they were popular with the older people around me and were even popular among my own peers. . . . I felt compelled to run faster toward particular goals—at the risk of forgetting what I was hurling toward, and why.” So did Lewis want a different corporate position, or perhaps a career switch to science or the arts? No. He wanted, somewhat unbelievably, to pursue a professional career playing squash. And he did! Lewis’ book offers practical advice about how—and most importantly when—to make a big career switch. Lewis isn’t the only one who has taken a huge, life-changing leap, and essays by these passionate risk-takers bolster this compelling book. Others who have listened to their own “little voice,” as Lewis calls it, and switched careers include a mechanical engineer who becomes a trainer, a reporter who joins the

Marines and a garbage collector who now designs furniture. I promise I like this next book for more than just its rock-solid, evidence-based defense of naps. Daniel H. Pink, who taught us the secrets of achieving high performance in his bestselling Drive, returns with another deeply researched and lively book. In When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing (Riverhead, $28, 272 pages, ISBN 9780735210622), Pink reveals that timing really is everything. No matter where one lives, everyone experiences the same daily rhythm: a peak, a trough and a rebound. It may be at different times for different people (some people are night owls while others are morning people, while still another group is what Pink calls “third birds”). The trick is to take advantage of the time when you’re at your best to do your toughest work. And that time is rarely mid­ afternoon. Pink noted a British survey that pinpoints the most unproductive moment of the day: 2:55 p.m. Afternoon is when hospital workers are least likely to wash their hands, it’s when Danish schoolchildren fare worse on exams and it’s when prisoners are less likely to get parole. Throughout the book, Pink breaks down the science of timing by offering what he calls the “Time Hacker’s Handbook.” These are simple tips to maximize your time, such as how to take the perfect nap. This marriage of research, stories and practical application is vintage Pink, helping us use science to improve our everyday lives.





Keep your wits about you— this is the land of Faerie


olly Black has played in the world of faeries for as long as she can remember. When she was a child, her mother would enchant her with ghost stories, convince her that their house was haunted and even set up scavenger hunts for her to find little indications of faeries around their neighborhood. “I grew up with a great deal of belief in the supernatural,” Black says during a call to her home in western Massachusetts, where it’s a damp, misty day. “It seemed very possible that the faerie world was always just around the corner. And when you really believe, it seems a lot scarier.” Black went on to read, fall in love with and draw inspiration from the original folklore and art of faeries—which are far darker than most people realize. Faeries are “often seen as kind of Tinker Bell-y in that pastel, friendly way,” Black says. “But the original folklore is pretty brutal.” Some faeries might “steal people, trick people, lead them astray, off cliffs and into the water where creatures will eat you.” These are the kinds of darker faerie characters that Black explores in many of her bestselling faerie novels, and more deeply than ever in


By Holly Black

Little, Brown, $18.99, 372 pages ISBN 9780316310277, audio, eBook available Ages 15 and up



The Cruel Prince, the first book in her new Folk of the Air trilogy. As The Cruel Prince opens, human twin sisters Jude and Taryn get their first introduction to the creatures of Faerie by way of Madoc, their mother’s first husband and the bloodthirsty grand general of the High Court’s armies. Though he knocks on their door and slaughters their mother and father right in front of them, he is not without honor. He not only takes back his biological, half-faerie daughter, Vivian, who’d been “stolen” from him, but he also agrees to adopt her half-sisters—Jude and Taryn— and return with them to Faerie and raise them as his own. Ten years pass as Jude and Taryn grow up in Faerie, learning the inner workings of this strange land while being treated like members of the court. The downside to this, however, is that they must attend classes with Prince Carden, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King. But the faerie king will soon abdicate the throne and pass down his crown to one of his many children. This transition of power could unravel the entire, delicate fabric of Faerie—to the advantage of those ready to pounce on any sign of weakness. Jude and Taryn are determined to carve out a place for themselves. But as Jude digs deeper into Faerie’s dark corners—all the while spying and learning of long-running political intrigues, power games and rivalries—the faeries she meets along the way only further demonstrate how cruel this place can be. As Jude transforms into someone who’s more than just a simple pawn, readers see the intimate duality of her struggle for place and power.

Fans of Black’s faerie realm will recognize this tale as new territory: “Most [faerie] stories are set in our [human] world and are about a kid from Faerie who was switched,” Black explains, but The Cruel Prince “isn’t about just one person stumbling into a faerie situation and maybe learning their “It seemed own magic.” Set almost envery possible that the faerie tirely in Faerie, with human world was characters always just who were raised there around the and therefore corner. And know all the when you rules, this story really believe, reveals greater depth and it seems a lot detail of Faerie scarier.” than ever before. Black’s characters are no longer playing the game without knowing the consequences, and to her, “that idea of having to rely on your wits and on cleverness, when everybody else has magic, is really interesting.” Black unfolds this sweeping, twisting narrative with the finetuned understanding of someone who’s spent nearly her whole life poking around the depths of Faerie. It’s just what fans expect from the beloved author, whose various faerie books have sold over 2.5 million copies. To date, she has

published more than 30 novels, and her Spiderwick Chronicles, co-crafted with Tony DiTerlizzi, were made into a feature film. But for all her critical acclaim and reader appreciation, it was her 2014 Newbery Honor for Doll Bones that engendered the greatest transformation in how she viewed herself as a writer. “I grew up seeing those stickers on books and knowing those were ‘the good books,’ ” Black says. “When you’re a person who writes fantasy, you’re usually thought of in a different way—as a genre writer—and genre writers are often seen as not serious. So it really was a big shift in my view of my own writing to think that it could be seen as a serious work, as something that was objectively good.” To put it mildly, The Cruel Prince is definitely good. The singular reading experience continues in the upcoming second book in the planned trilogy, which finds Black’s characters in a much larger political arena within Faerie. As Black gleefully explains, we’ll get to watch with bated breath as her cast of human and faerie characters learns “how everyone wants power for their own reasons—and how much harder it is to keep that power than it is to get it.”

National Book Award Winner

9781617734496 Kensington $15

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Life through a unique lens REVIEW BY JILL RATZAN

“Out-ofthis-galaxy adventure!”

Seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz wants to make documentary films, go to NYU and date as she pleases. Her parents want her to choose a college closer to their suburban Chicago home, study law or medicine and marry a suitable Indian-Muslim boy. When such a boy, Kareem, materializes at a family wedding, everyone’s interests seem to dovetail. Kareem is sweet, funny and has all the right “biostats,” but Maya’s heart longs for Phil, the unreachable captain of the football team. As Maya attempts to balance her parents’ traditionalism with her own modern outlook, a terrorist attack in Chicago inspires violent anti-Muslim sentiment in Maya’s neighborhood, tying personal perspectives into a larger global picture. Maya’s best friend, Violet, and her liberal-leaning Aunt Hina encourage her to make her own path in the world, but how can she take a leading role in her own story when she’s most comfortBy Samira Ahmed able observing life from behind her camera lens? Soho Teen, $18.99, 288 pages The love-triangle trope may seem slightly stale, but debut author ISBN 9781616958473, audio, eBook available Samira Ahmed’s treatment is anything but. Mentions of travel bans Ages 13 and up and suicide bombers are extremely timely, and the themes of immigraFICTION tion, family and identity broached here are always relevant. Reminiscent of Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier, Love, Hate and Other Filters brings an authentic new voice to Muslim-American literature for young adults.

—#1 New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas


Katherine Tegen $17.99, 368 pages ISBN 9780062402509 eBook available Ages 13 and up ROMANCE

“A moving… timely novel.” —Ailsa, Goodreads ★★★★

28 17_441_BookPage_TEEN_January.indd 1

Teens Ammy and Noah meet on an Amtrak train headed to upstate New York. Ammy is reluctantly on her way to her father’s second wedding, and Noah is attempting to make a grand gesture and win back his ex-girlfriend. When their train breaks down in the middle of a snowstorm, the pair decides to make a bold move: leave the train and make their way through the snowstorm together. As their simple one-mile journey to the bus station turns into a 24-hour adventure, the two start to become friends (and discover a mutual attraction)—until morning

11/21/17 4:05 PM

comes and a new discovery leads to disaster. Author Leah Konen (The Romantics) has created two charming protagonists that young readers will find highly relatable. Although the pair have opposing viewpoints on the realities of love and relationships—Noah with his blind optimism and Ammy with her equally blinding cynicism—sparks quickly fly in this sweet story. However, trouble soon comes when Noah desperately tries to cling to his stale romance and Ammy attempts to close the door to her budding feelings. Ammy and Noah’s journey from the broken-down train is outlandish, but that’s the point—both kids are taking an uncharacteristic risk. Love and Other Train Wrecks is equal parts inspiring, heartbreaking and fun to read as Ammy and Noah tackle obstacle after obstacle in dogged determination to get where they’re going. Maybe all they really need on this journey is each other. —SARAH WEBER

EVERLESS By Sara Holland

HarperTeen $17.99, 368 pages ISBN 9780062653659 Audio, eBook available Ages 13 and up FANTASY

Jules Ember lives in Sempera, a land where time and blood are bonded into currency. Debts are paid with blood coins, leeching actual time from the lives of the poor and making the wealthy virtually immortal. Jules wants to help pay her father’s debts, but Papa is adamant that she not sell her blood for him. Desperate to save her only parent, Jules takes a job at Everless, the estate where she and Papa lived as servants until she was 7 years old. At Everless, Jules is back in the orbit of the owners, the noble Gerling family, especially the two Gerling boys, Roan and Liam. Roan

TEEN and Jules were once playmates, and Jules believes Liam is the reason she and Papa were forced to flee Everless after a dramatic accident. The estate bustles with preparations for Roan’s wedding to the queen’s ward, Ina Gold, an event that will bring the powerful queen of Sempera to the estate. Despite Papa’s cryptic warnings that Jules isn’t safe near the queen, inklings of a hidden past urge Jules into a tangled web of secrets among Sempera’s wealthy and powerful. As Jules discovers more about Ina Gold, the two Gerling brothers and her own past, she comes closer to a truth with far-reaching consequences for all of Sempera. Author Sara Holland’s cliffhanger conclusion makes it clear there’s more to come in this story, which is exactly what readers will want. This fascinating world, built on the concepts of time and inequality, supports compelling characters in Holland’s intriguing—and sometimes chilling—debut novel. —ANNIE METCALF


HarperTeen $17.99, 336 pages ISBN 9780062306678 eBook available Ages 13 and up GOTHIC FICTION

Liana Liu’s second novel, Shadow Girl, is a coming-of-age tale wrapped in a ghost story. Mei’s father left home a couple of years before the book begins, and since then, she and her Chinese mother have struggled to make ends meet and keep her brother out of trouble. Now that Mei has graduated from high school, she’s making plans to earn money during the summer before attending the local city college in the fall. After many years as a camp counselor and academic tutor, Mei gets a job tutoring a young girl named Ella Morison at her wealthy family’s summer house on

Arrow Island. With room and board included along with generous pay, Mei is sure this is a great plan. When she gets to the island and meets Ella, Mei discovers the job may be harder than she anticipated. There is something wrong with the house and Ella’s family. Does Mei really see a ghost? Does Ella? What does the ghost want? While Mei tries to answer these supernatural questions, she also unravels her own complicated feelings about Ella’s stepbrother, Henry, her goals in life and who she really is. Liu’s writing style is compelling, making Shadow Girl difficult to put down. Readers may find it strange that the main character’s name is mentioned only once, in the penultimate chapter, in Chinese. Regardless of this irritation, Shadow Girl is a darn good read.

lives finally intersect. Searcy weaves an intricate and twisty-turny thriller in The Truth Beneath the Lies. Teens will be gripped, but they’ll have to be prepared for some harsh realizations and situations. This is page-turning intensity at its best, but ultimately—no spoiler here—only one girl will survive. —SHARON VERBETEN



TRULY DEVIOUS By Maureen Johnson

Katherine Tegen $17.99, 432 pages ISBN 9780062338051 Audio, eBook available Ages 14 and up MYSTERY

By Chelsea Sedoti Sourcebooks Fire $17.99, 432 pages ISBN 9781492642312 Audio, eBook available Ages 14 and up FICTION

—J E N N I F E R B R U E R K I T C H E L

Seventeen-year-old Eldon Wilkes counts the days in Madison—a By Amanda Searcy dump of a town in the Mojave Desert—where he pumps gas to make Delacorte ends meet. The only cool person in $17.99, 336 pages his family, his sister Ebba, is unreISBN 9781524700898 sponsive in a care facility. But the eBook available town of Madison has a well-kept Ages 14 and up secret: Every resident on their 18th THRILLER birthday walks deep into a cavern on the edge of town and makes a wish that comes true. Eldon has 25 days to decide on With chapters that alternate his wish. His mom urges him to between two troubled, seemingly wish for money to hire specialists unconnected girls, Amanda Searto heal his sister, but Eldon worries cy’s debut novel packs an intense she’s beyond saving. Eldon decides punch. to interview the people of Madison Sixteen-year-old Kayla wants to about their wishes and studies a get far away from her life, which history book that lists every wish includes her unstable mother, gov- ever made. From what he can tell, ernment housing and a lifeless job nary a wish has improved the lives of the wisher or anyone else. at a grocery store. Falling in love could change everything—or so In As You Wish, author Chelsea she believes. Betsy is on the run as Sedoti (The Hundred Lies of Lizzie well, but it’s from the voice on the Lovett) masterfully crafts a tale that other end of the burner phone that draws together the stories of an enkeeps ringing in her room. She has tire town’s residents while focusing no choice but to answer it immedi- on Eldon and his friends. Through ately, or she won’t live to see anoth- Eldon’s wrenching struggles, we er day. The alternating first-person see how the possibility of getting chapters gradually introduce the what you think you want is fraught girls, and although their individual with complications. Despite the tragedies take a while to unfold, magical elements, Eldon’s actions the urgent pace and danger around and longings ring true, remindevery corner make for riveting ing us that every day serves up reading—especially when the girls’ life-altering choices, both large


and small.

Stevie Bell is a true-crime aficionado— a hyper-focused FBI hopeful who also happens to be well-versed in the Ellingham Academy murders. In 1936, Albert Ellingham, the Vermont boarding school’s rich founder, lost his wife and daughter in a bizarre kidnapping and ransom scheme. Many books have been written about the case, and theories about the identity of the killer, Truly Devious (named for the moniker left on a strange riddle), abound, but no one has solved the crime. Seventeen-year-old Stevie thinks she can, and when she’s admitted to the prestigious Ellingham, she makes the murders her student project. But how does a teenage girl solve a case that has stumped criminologists for decades? And when Truly Devious inexplicably starts killing again, how will Stevie not only survive a burgeoning social life at school but also outsmart a murderer intent on making her the next victim? Maureen Johnson, the bestselling author of the Shades of London series, is a lively storyteller who has crafted a page-turning puzzle filled with dynamic characters. In this first book of a new series, readers will identity with one of her well-drawn characters: Stevie, who suffers from anxiety; Janelle, the exuberant engineer focused on academics and not her love life; Nate, the fantasy author with writer’s block; or Ellie, the artist comfortable in her own skin. Murder sets up the story, but Stevie and her friends make this reading experience truly delightful. — K I M B E R LY G I A R R A T A N O


reviews T PI OP CK



How to make a family REVIEW BY ALICE CARY

Punch! That’s what Robinson Hart does to Alex Carter, the biggest bully in fifth grade, when he calls her a “motherless Robin bird.” Robinson’s mother died soon after she was born, so Alex hit a nerve. In this moment, the feisty, memorable, baseball-loving heroine of Lindsey Stoddard’s Just Like Jackie momentarily forgets the words of her grandpa: “The man you’re named for was a great ballplayer. The first black player in the league. People taunted him all the time, but he didn’t pay no mind.” School administrators in the small Vermont town try to help Robbie control her broiling anger, but a family tree project isn’t helping. She knows little about her family, except that she is one-quarter black and lives with her black grandpa, whom she adores. By Lindsey Stoddard Robbie is happiest when she’s helping Grandpa fix cars at his garage, HarperCollins, $16.99, 256 pages along with the other mechanic, Harold, who is adopting a baby with ISBN 9780062652911, eBook available his partner. But Robbie’s been increasingly on edge because she’s Ages 8 to 12 also trying to hide an important secret: Grandpa is becoming more MIDDLE GRADE and more forgetful. She knows she needs to find out about her family before Grandpa’s memories are gone forever. Robbie soon learns that she’s not the only one aggravated by the family tree project. She’s forced to attend Group Guidance meetings at school, along with none other than the dreaded Alex Carter and several other students. A sensitive counselor named Ms. Gloria gently allows each group member to gradually open up and reveal their troubles in a Breakfast Club sort of way. Just Like Jackie covers a cornucopia of social hot points: Alzheimer’s, a parent dying of cancer, divorce, mixed-race families, gay couples, anger management, bullying, adoption and more. The story never feels forced, however, nor the issues gratuitous. Stoddard’s natural storytelling talent allows Robbie’s character to emerge like an extraordinary butterfly breaking its way out of a cocoon.

words handed down by its people contain the same wisdom handed down throughout the world. In From the Heart of Africa, Canadian author Eric Walters presents 15 proverbs, gathered during his travels throughout Africa. Representing many African countries and cultures, the proverbs are short and simple. A place of origin and a brief description (written at a child’s level) supplement each proverb, but the accompanying artwork is what truly elevates this book. The artists are from all walks of life—a street artist, a horticulturalist, art teachers and designers all lend their creativity—and they use a variety of mediums and styles. While each illustration is unique, shared traditions and cultural pride create continuity from page to page. Collectively, the images are vibrant, celebratory and full of texture. A foreword informs readers on the importance of oral tradition, making this an important addition to school libraries. From the Heart of Africa reminds us that while Africa is at a great distance, the soul of the continent—and humanity— is never far. —J I L L L O R E N Z I N I


I AM LOVED By Nikki Giovanni Illustrated by Ashley Bryan

Caitlyn Dlouhy $17.99, 32 pages ISBN 9781534404922 eBook available Ages 4 to 8

Nikki Giovanni and Ashley Bryan first collaborated in 1996 with The Sun Is So Quiet, and now they join creative forces once again to bring a new gift to readers. Anyone who knows Bryan knows his big, openhearted embrace of life, and Giovanni’s spare and eloquent poems embody his loving spirit, as in “Leaves,” which Giovanni has


called a “love poem, from me to Ashley.” She writes, “When I’m sitting / In a tree / Looking for a friend / I hope you’ll be the one / Standing at the root / Holding out your arms / To gently catch / My fall.” That spirit suffuses this volume, from “Because,” a gentle poem addressed to sons and daughters, to reflections on the strengths of ancestors in “I Am a Mirror.” But there’s also resoluteness behind these poems, a willingness to hint at big themes—age, death, loss, independence, heaven, the auction block and the middle passage, and an encouragement to take a stand. As in all good literature for the young, adult readers might see more in the words and images. “Wild Flowers” will resonate with anyone who has experienced recent loss: “Autumn will come . . .

anyway . . . Let us continue . . . our dance . . . beneath the sun.” Complementing Giovanni’s luminous poetry, Bryan’s ever-gorgeous tempera-and-watercolor art is a jeweled treasure—a stained glass and patchwork-quilt vision of love. —DEAN SCHNEIDER

FROM THE HEART OF AFRICA Edited by Eric Walters

Tundra $17.99, 40 pages ISBN 9781770497191 Ages 6 to 9

Most American readers have never set foot in Africa; its customs and languages may seem distant and even foreign. But the

Katherine Tegen $16.99, 368 pages ISBN 9780062491077 Audio, eBook available Ages 8 to 12 MIDDLE GRADE

Panthers sleep during the day and prowl at night. That’s how it has been, and always will be. In The Lost Rainforest: Mez’s Magic, written by National Book Award finalist Eliot Schrefer, the daywalkers and the nightwalkers live separate lives and never mix. That is, until Mez the panther sneaks from her den at dawn and discovers another nightwalker with an astonishing story to tell. The magic that keeps the nightwalkers asleep during the day and daywalkers asleep at night was broken only once in recent



memory: An eclipse combined the magic of the sun and moon, changing every animal born during that time into shadowwalkers, who can cross the Veil and walk in light and dark. Now, Mez discovers a growing group of shadowwalkers— including an anaconda, a bat, a tree frog and a monkey—who become bound together by a larger purpose. They must stop the Ant Queen before she emerges and destroys Caldera, their rainforest home. Filled with well-developed and extremely likable characters, Mez’s Magic is a fast-paced and broad-reaching first entry in a new series. Animal lovers and fans of adventure tales will get caught up in the tense and twisting action. —KEVIN DELECKI


Meriano’s debut launches a new series that celebrates Mexican-American culture and traditions. Spanish-speaking readers will appreciate Leo’s renewed desire to learn Spanish, and readers of all backgrounds will be eager to try out their own baking (or magic?) skills with the recipes included at the end of Leo’s story.


the title of your Q: What’s  new book?

would you describe Q: How  the book?



Crown $16.99, 288 pages ISBN 9781524700201 eBook available Ages 8 to 12

Q: W  ho has been the biggest influence on your work? Q: What was your favorite subject in school? Why?


Paul Durham, author of the Luck Uglies series, masterfully draws By Anna Meriano readers into his new book, The Walden Pond Last Gargoyle, with a cryptic first $16.99, 320 pages chapter that ends with a disturbing ISBN 9780062498465 question: “What goes bump in the Audio, eBook available night? If you’re lucky, I do.” Ages 8 to 12 And so we are introduced to Penhallow, the last gargoyle, whose MIDDLE GRADE mission is to tirelessly watch over his domain—the aged Boston apartment building on which Eleven-year-old Leonora (Leo) comes from a long line of talented he’s perched—and to protect its bakers in Rose Hill, Texas. This Día residents from all things dangerous de los Muertos, however, Leo starts and evil. Penhallow has scant memto suspect that a talent for baking ory of being anything but a block isn’t the only thing that runs in the of stone with wings, claws and eyes that gleam with the light of life. He family—and she soon discovers that her mom, her Tía Paloma and can shape-shift at will—at times her four older sisters are all brujas, assuming the form of a humanlike witches of Mexican ancestry whose wisp in jeans and hoodie, other recipes double as magic spells. times becoming a teeth-gnashing, Netherkin-eating monster. Leo has always felt a little sepaThe city Penhallow inhabits rated from her Mexican heritage— churns with hostile energy. Penshe can’t even understand much Spanish—but she’s eager to discov- hallow can sense it, but he doesn’t er whether she, too, is a bruja. Her know how to vanquish it. He can sister Isabel assures Leo that she’ll handle the Netherkins one or two acquire her own special power at a time, but when he discovers he once she turns 15, but there’s no is up against the ruler of the underreason why Leo can’t start pracworld, the evil Boneless King, it will ticing some spells now, right? take all his strength—and the help When Leo finds a spell to help her of a new friend—to defeat him. grieving best friend, it seems easy A tale of love, life, evil and death enough—but soon Leo’s magical seems heady stuff for young readbaking project is wreaking havoc ers, but they will relish it as fully both at school and at home. as Penhallow relishes swallowing Chock full of humor, magic, imps and Netherkins. friendship and sisterhood, Anna —BILLIE B. LITTLE

was your childhood hero? Q: Who 

books did you enjoy as a child? Q: What 

one thing would you like to learn to do? Q: What 

Q: What message would you like to send to young readers?

LOVE Loren Long’s lush, warm illustrations capture love in many forms—from the sound of parents’ voices to the creases in a grandfather’s face—in Love (Putnam, $17.99, 40 pages, ISBN 9781524740917, ages 4 to 8), written by Matt de la Peña. Long, the bestselling author-illustrator of the Otis series, lives near Cincinnati with his wife, two sons and two Weimaraners.


BookPage January 2018  
BookPage January 2018  

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