The Light Across the River: A Novel
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Willow Wilson's sprawling, fantastical novel takes place during the reign of the last sultan of Muslim Iberia, focusing on a concubine named Fatima and her best friend Hassan. The two have a dangerous secret — Hassan, the palace mapmaker, can draw maps that bend reality — and when Fatima accidentally reveals this to a woman from the newly formed Spanish monarchy, she puts her and Hassan's lives at risk. Wilson describes their escape from the palace and their subsequent journey through the country — trying to elude the Inquisition with the help of a wry jinn — with heart and humor, weaving in an ongoing exploration of the meaning and value of freedom.
Favorite passage: "When she was a child, everyone in the palace wanted to touch her, from cooks to kings: they all marveled at the profound color of her eyes, the evenness of her complexion, yet they joked with each other about taming her hair and her temper. It rendered all their praise suspect: even compliments were infuriating. At its core it's a story of a encounter between a young Gottfried Leibniz and a blind astronomer who makes the unlikely prediction of a solar eclipse, but it's also about the astronomer's magical history, as relayed to Leibniz.
These nested stories — about art and reality, genius and insanity, fathers and sons — drive the narrative, and are encapsulated by the narrator's own recounting of the three-hour encounter, referring frequently to Leibniz's later writings on their meeting. It is at once a pitch-perfect send-up of an overwrought philosophical tract and a philosophical tract in its own right — meaty, hilarious, and a brilliant examination of intangible and utterly human mysteries.
Favorite passage: "Bad thinkers, I include incidentally Kepler and Tycho and Galileo in this category, and also Copernicus, start over here and end up over there , and the farther apart here and there are the better they think they've thought, and the louder the world claps, as if they're children in a jumping competition, because the world thinks thinking is a kind of jumping Looking for the best way to answer the many many questions her son — who is half Jewish and half Indian — asks about not only the world but also his place in it, Jacob turns to her own history, and looks at the conversations about race, sexuality, injustice, and love that have helped her make sense of the world.
Jacob's medium — cut-out illustrations and text bubbles over photographs — allows for the dialogue to propel the story, and more significantly, allows the reader to feel the immediacy of the impact of people's words. Favorite passage: "Sometimes, you hear someone say something so new and true and obvious that it completely bewilders you, making the familiar paths of your daily life unrecognizable. How, you wonder, did you not see it before, this particular road forward, this way of moving that no longer requires you to lead yourself astray?
It's everything Oyeyemi does best — funny, dreamy, vast, and just a tad eerie. Read the first chapter here. Favorite passage: "A gingerbread addict once told Harriet that eating her gingerbread is like eating revenge. A year-old boy tries to navigate life in rural, impoverished Vermont, alongside a young mother with cancer, a year-old brother who's become something of a celebrity in their Catholic community for his aggressive abortion protests, and a father trying his best to keep everyone afloat.
When he meets Taylor — a girl from a nearby trailer park who seems to live her life free from the fears and rules that keep our unnamed narrator reined in — the two quickly develop a meaningful connection. Soon the Light Will Be Perfect is a heartbreaking, gently wrought story about reckonings: with adulthood, faith, love, and death. Favorite passage: "He explains how to be sure a board is square, how he'll have to measure and cut, how the urethane will protect the surface, how the wood will take shape over the summer, and I nod.
Though what I want to know is how the chemo will shape the tumors in my mother, I settle for the answers he has. Now, she is struggling to keep them afloat. Favorite passage: "She'd shut her eyes, eager for the darkness to melt away the weariness that weighed down her bones. Yet all she could see were her children clinging to their father, to each other, as if a deluge was about to overtake them and they were each other's only salvation.
For the inaugural title of their new book publishing imprint, literary magazine A Public Space is releasing Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage, a collection of the late Bette Howland's autobiographical short stories spanning the entirety of her career.
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Favorite passage: "Survivor. The word seemed like some primeval amphibian dragging itself up from a swirling sea and gasping toward the sand. Ignorant, tedious, triumphant word: containing so much of the pain and necessity of living.
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Okay, yes, this book is not technically a spring book, but I loved it so much I couldn't let it go without mention. Alex DiFrancesco packs a ton of insight into this slim essay collection, writing frankly about their years spent figuring out their identity, navigating complicated relationships, surviving mental illness, and contending with the often overwhelming desire to abandon everything and just disappear.
Most compelling, though, is DiFrancesco's work toward finding evidence of connections between them and others in the trans community — both presently and in the past. Favorite passage: "We can write our own stories so much better than those who use us to glimpse what it's like on the outside. Polly Rosenwaike's debut short story collection centers on motherhood — women who do and don't want to be mothers, women who are mothers or soon will be — and how the question of motherhood affects every other aspect of life.
There's the biologist who befriends a colleague's daughter while in the midst of scheduling her own abortion, the editor whose miscarriage causes her to reevaluate her ideas of success, the woman whose younger sister announces an unplanned pregnancy while she herself is in her second year of trying.
Rosenwaike fully inhabits the interiority of these and other women — and though they reside in overlapping spheres, each is distinct in her desires, jealousies, fears, and hopes. Favorite passage: "When had it started, where had it come from — the belief that she had to keep all her muck, her mistakes, her failures hidden until some dream of a magical time when she might be old enough, graceful enough, smart enough, to leave all of that behind? In his latest collection, Jericho Brown tackles history and trauma both private and public, personal and narrative — especially blackness and anti-blackness, queerness and anti-queerness.
Brown is experimental in format — often its playfulness acts in contrast against its heavy themes — and his rumination on desire, violence, loss, and faith is resonant. Favorite passage: "You don't have breath.
It's impossible not to fall in love with the young Chris Rush who opens this fiery memoir about coming of age in a Catholic family in the s; he's a boy who saved his money to buy a pink silk cape, who practiced fainting just for the drama, who spent his free time making paper flowers and then started a small business of selling them to his parents' wealthy friends, who overheard his father angry over these habits and telling his mother, "The boy is a goddamn queer.
Favorite passage: "To Mom, the past was something you sped by — and best to do it at ten miles over the speed limit, in a brand-new Cadillac. The stories circle around a young boy figuring out his sexual identity while holding down a job at his family restaurant; around him, a city of creators, survivors, and hustlers vibrates with life. Favorite passage: "We tried our hand at a dime of week courtesy of Jeff's older sisters downtown but I spent that evening lost inside of myself, marveling at all of the space in my head no one had taken the time to tell me about. The decision is impulsive but not surprising; Prior-Palmer describes her tendency to question norms and invite chaos.
The journey is absolutely riveting. Favorite passage: "I hadn't noticed until now that part of me preferred to travel slowly and catastrophically. Nor had I realized this preference would be at odds with participating in a race. Queenie opens at a gynecological appointment, our protagonist with her legs splayed, making the kind of awkward conversation anyone who's been in the stirrups knows too well.
It sets the tone for this wry, candid novel — which has been aptly described as a "black Bridget Jones " — perfectly. Reading about year-old Queenie as she navigates romantic entanglements, a frustrating job at a local newspaper, the ongoing tension among her and her white, middle-class peers, and pressure from her Jamaican British family, feels like listening to a good friend's woes and wins — and cheering her on along the way.
Favorite passage: "I checked OKCupid. I'd filled in my profile and added some things about myself in the About Me section that might remind men that I was a person as well as someone they could have sex with. Turns out the sadness that silence from the person you love brings can be temporarily erased by the dull thrill of attention from strangers. On a winter day in s Colorado, high schooler Sammy Henderson takes a shortcut across a frozen river and falls through the ice. His death leaves his family gutted — especially his older sister Kathleen — and his secret girlfriend, year-old Irene, alone and pregnant with his child.
If the Ice Had Held explores the wake of this tragedy in the decades that follow — how Kathleen opens up to Irene and agrees to raise her child, how that child grows up to be a woman struggling to find footing in her own romantic relationships and ends up entangled in a love triangle that unexpectedly ties her to her past. Throughout, Fox pivots seamlessly among the perspectives of these key players, crafting a poignant story that questions fate and free will.
Favorite passage: "She would always remember how at Sammy's funeral there was nothing to say; he was young, and he was gone before he could do much. She would remember that she wished she had reached for his hand that night they were walking home, even if she thought it silly. She would remember that he was special for small things Over the course of the century, Serpell traces the history of Zambia through the experiences of three families entangled in a generations-long cycle of revenge. Favorite passage: "This is the story of a nation — not a kingdom or a people — so it begins, of course, with a white man.
Anika Fajardo's debut memoir explores family and identity, describing her decision in her early 20s to build a relationship with her estranged father, Renzo. Fajardo — who was born in Colombia but raised in Minnesota by her American mother — visits Renzo in his native Colombia, and the reunion is conflicted, awkward.
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Fajardo describes the pain of yearning for something you can't quite articulate, of getting what you thought you wanted and finding it less than satisfying. She dives into her family's past and continues her story into her own adulthood, laying bare the many complicated ways our family informs who we are and how we interact with the world. Favorite passage: "I wondered how different knowing and remembering were. I met countless people whose names I immediately forgot, I remembered stories that never happened, and I knew nothing about ones that had.
Juliet Grames's epic novel follows Mariastella Fortuna, the indomitable Italian woman who, in the course of a long life beginning in Calabria and ending in the US, escapes death seven times — or eight, depending who you ask. Stella's life is rich in eccentric characters and unlikely encounters, and she inhabits a world that is tinged with magic but still limited by patriarchal values — and she carries with her a dark family history. It's an extensive, often cheeky, exploration of lineage, fate, and womanhood.
Favorite passage: "Assunta cried silently, open-eyed, her tears sliding off her cheeks and landing on the protrusion of her belly. She was crying because a part of her was relieved at Antonio's going away, at not having to cater to his insatiable alimentary and sexual appetites, which had become very trying when she was tired from the pregnancy. She felt guilty for feeling this way. As, the priest told her at confession, she should.
In Humans , Tom Phillips a former BuzzFeed employee outlines the unique human ability to, as the subtitle promises, fuck it all up. It's hard to imagine someone other than Phillips pulling off a plus page roast of mankind, but his perfect blend of brilliance and goofiness makes it a joy to read. But as Phillips warns in the intro, if you don't enjoy schadenfreude, Humans might not be for you. Favorite passage: "The story of human progress starts with our capacity for thinking and creativity.
That's what sets humans apart from other animals — but it's also what leads us to make complete tits of ourselves on a regular basis. Sarah Pinsker's debut short story collection is speculative and strange, exploring such wide-ranging scenarios as a young man receiving a prosthetic arm with its own sense of identity, a family welcoming an AI replicate of their late Bubbe into their home, or an 18th-century seaport town trying to survive a visit by a pair of sirens — all while connecting them in a book that feels cohesive.
The stories are insightful, funny, and imaginative, diving into the ways humans might invite technology into their relationships. Favorite passage: "The real Bubbe said to remember with my hands, so I showed the new Bubbe how the secret to kasha was to mix in the chicken fat. My real grandmother had been my teacher, but this one needed me to teach her. In his debut novel, Fernando A.
Flores tours a slightly altered world, with a widower named Esteban Bellacosa as the guide. Bellacosa wanders the US—Mexico border, investigating an underground economy built on the revival and selling of extinct animals. It's a dark and dangerous underbelly, involving the mass kidnapping and murder of scientists, the misuse of groundbreaking technology meant to solve world hunger, and a cartel that trades in exotic dishes ever since the government legalized narcotics.
As Bellacosa is swept up in this bizarre world, Flores weaves in his motivation — grief over the deaths of his daughter and wife — and creates an intricate, philosophical, trippy thriller. Favorite passage: "Maybe the machine that needs to be invented now is a machine that lets all men and women keep being human, and not become beasts.
That would be quite a scientific achievement. A machine that would let people maintain their human dignities, that won't let them succumb to barbarism. Gibson's writing is exuberant, electric, and frank; this is a love letter, despite — despite the bleakness of late capitalism, the complicated pull of our many devices, our often terrifying political sphere. There is still so much to love in this world, and Gibson recognizes it in small moments of shared humanity and pockets of the natural world.
In Little Glass Planet , he invites us to celebrate with him. As the pair discover new desires and temptations, they redraw the boundaries of their identities and navigate intimacy as new adults — and Rooney is masterful in her teasing out the roles of love, loyalty, privilege, and power in their relationship.
Favorite passage: "Even in memory she will find this moment unbearably intense, and she's aware of this now, while it's happening. Once inside the museum, the champion fly-tier grabbed hundreds of bird skins—some collected years earlier by a contemporary of Darwin's, Alfred Russel Wallace, who'd risked everything to gather them—and escaped into the darkness. Two years later, Kirk Wallace Johnson was waist high in a river in northern New Mexico when his fly-fishing guide told him about the heist.
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He was soon consumed by the strange case of the feather thief. What would possess a person to steal dead birds? Had Edwin paid the price for his crime? What became of the missing skins? Amazon's synopsis : In , Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup "unicorn" promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood testing significantly faster and easier. There was just one problem: The technology didn't work.
A riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, a tale of ambition and hubris set amid the bold promises of Silicon Valley. Imprisoned for over two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.
One day in July , Lale, prisoner , comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her. Amazon's synopsis : Poornima and Savitha have three strikes against them: they are poor, they are ambitious, and they are girls. After her mother's death, Poornima has very little kindness in her life.
She is left to care for her siblings until her father can find her a suitable match. So when Savitha enters their household, Poornima is intrigued by the joyful, independent-minded girl. Suddenly their Indian village doesn't feel quite so claustrophobic, and Poornima begins to imagine a life beyond arranged marriage. But when a devastating act of cruelty drives Savitha away, Poornima leaves behind everything she has ever known to find her friend.
Her journey takes her into the darkest corners of India's underworld, on a harrowing cross-continental journey, and eventually to an apartment complex in Seattle. Alternating between the girls' perspectives as they face ruthless obstacles, Shobha Rao's "Girls Burn Brighter" introduces two heroines who never lose the hope that burns within. Amazon's synopsis: Toby is a happy-go-lucky charmer who's dodged a scrape at work and is celebrating with friends when the night takes a turn that will change his life — he surprises two burglars who beat him and leave him for dead.
Struggling to recover from his injuries, beginning to understand that he might never be the same man again, he takes refuge at his family's ancestral home to care for his dying uncle Hugo. Then a skull is found in the trunk of an elm tree in the garden — and as detectives close in, Toby is forced to face the possibility that his past may not be what he has always believed. Amazon's synopsis : How do computers and robots change the meaning of being human? How do we deal with the epidemic of fake news? Are nations and religions still relevant? What should we teach our children?
Yuval Noah Harari's "21 Lessons for the 21st Century" is a probing and visionary investigation into today's most urgent issues as we move into the uncharted territory of the future. As technology advances faster than our understanding of it, hacking becomes a tactic of war, and the world feels more polarized than ever, Harari addresses the challenge of navigating life in the face of constant and disorienting change and raises the important questions we need to ask ourselves in order to survive.
Amazon's synopsis : The definitive, dramatic biography of the most important African American of the nineteenth century: Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave who became the greatest orator of his day and one of the leading abolitionists and writers of the era. Amazon's synopsis : Our narrator should be happy, shouldn't she? She's young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, works an easy job at a hip art gallery, lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like the rest of her needs, by her inheritance.
But there is a dark and vacuous hole in her heart, and it isn't just the loss of her parents, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her best friend, Reva. It's the year in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong? Through the story of a year spent under the influence of a truly mad combination of drugs designed to heal our heroine from her alienation from this world, Moshfegh shows us how reasonable, even necessary, alienation can be.
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Both tender and blackly funny, merciless and compassionate, it is a showcase for the gifts of one of our major writers working at the height of her powers. Amazon's synopsis : Dakota Territory, Following the murders of a frontier fort's politically connected sutler and his wife in their illicit off-post brothel, Lieutenant Martin Molloy and his long-suffering orderly, Corporal Daniel Kohn, are ordered to track down the killers and return with "boots for the gallows" to appease powerful figures in Washington.
The men journey west to the distant outpost in a beautiful valley, where the soldiers inside the fort prove to be violently opposed to their investigations. Unable to adapt to life as migrant farm laborers in peacetime Ohio, they reenlist in the army and are shipped to Fort Phil Kearny in the heart of the Powder River Valley. Here they are thrown into merciless combat with Red Cloud's coalition of Native tribes fighting American expansion into their hunting grounds. Amazon's synopsis : In this masterful work, Beth Macy takes us into the epicenter of America's twenty-plus year struggle with opioid addiction.
From distressed small communities in Central Appalachia to wealthy suburbs, from disparate cities to once-idyllic farm towns, it's a heartbreaking trajectory that illustrates how this national crisis has persisted for so long and become so firmly entrenched. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America's last true frontier. Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents' passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family.
At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt's fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own.
In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves. Amazon's synopsis : Tommy Orange's "groundbreaking, extraordinary" The New York Times "There There" is the "brilliant, propulsive" People Magazine story of twelve unforgettable characters, Urban Indians living in Oakland, California, who converge and collide on one fateful day. It's "the year's most galvanizing debut novel" Entertainment Weekly.
Dene Oxendene is pulling his life back together after his uncle's death and has come to work at the powwow to honor his uncle's memory. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew Orvil, who has taught himself traditional Indian dance through YouTube videos and will perform in public for the very first time.
There will be glorious communion, and a spectacle of sacred tradition and pageantry. And there will be sacrifice, and heroism, and loss. Amazon's synopsis : Midwestern movie house owner Virgil Wander is "cruising along at medium altitude" when his car flies off the road into icy Lake Superior. Virgil survives but his language and memory are altered and he emerges into a world no longer familiar to him. Awakening in this new life, Virgil begins to piece together his personal history and the lore of his broken town, with the help of a cast of affable and curious locals — from Rune, a twinkling, pipe-smoking, kite-flying stranger investigating the mystery of his disappeared son; to Nadine, the reserved, enchanting wife of the vanished man, to Tom, a journalist and Virgil's oldest friend; and various members of the Pea family who must confront tragedies of their own.
But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Amazon's synopsis : On a dark midwinter's night in an ancient inn on the river Thames, an extraordinary event takes place. The regulars are telling stories to while away the dark hours, when the door bursts open on a grievously wounded stranger. In his arms is the lifeless body of a small child. Hours later, the girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life. Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can science provide an explanation?
These questions have many answers, some of them quite dark indeed. Amazon's synopsis : Anna Fox lives alone — a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine maybe too much , watching old movies, recalling happier times Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn't, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.
What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one — and nothing — is what it seems. He and his partners learn to track other humans under blistering sun and through frigid nights. They haul in the dead and deliver to detention those they find alive. Plagued by a growing awareness of his complicity in a dehumanizing enterprise, he abandons the Patrol for civilian life. Amazon's synopsis : Although Scott Carey doesn't look any different, he's been steadily losing weight.
There are a couple of other odd things, too. He weighs the same in his clothes and out of them, no matter how heavy they are. Scott doesn't want to be poked and prodded. He mostly just wants someone else to know, and he trusts Doctor Bob Ellis. In the small town of Castle Rock, the setting of many of King's most iconic stories, Scott is engaged in a low grade — but escalating — battle with the lesbians next door whose dog regularly drops his business on Scott's lawn. One of the women is friendly; the other, cold as ice.