A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson
M.T. Edvardsson’s A Nearly Normal Family is a gripping legal thriller that forces the reader to consider: How far would you go to protect the ones you love? In this twisted narrative of love and murder, a horrific crime makes a seemingly normal family question everything they thought they knew about their life―and one another.
A legal thriller and page-turner, A Nearly Normal Family is a psychologically gripping murder mystery — gripping because to some degree, it resonates with all of us — what are the compromises we would make to protect our loved ones. A story of a young girl from a well-regarded family, the daughter of a pastor father and a criminal defence attorney mother, who’s caught up in the murder of a businessman and lover. What the motive would be is unclear and at first her parents are determined to fight for her innocence.
The structure is interesting with three separate narratives told from different perspectives — one by the father, one by the daughter and one by the mother. However each perspective questions the reality, understanding and assumption of the other two perspectives, building up a blended picture of how each person’s sense of reality is hauntingly different.
A Nearly Normal Family is more about the fascinating characters and their shifting perceptions of reality than it is about the murder mystery itself. It’s a brilliantly, provocative read, asking daring questions about family and love that most people would avoid, in true Scandinavian style. My favourite quote: “Is there any sort of situation where you can say with certainty that a single person is responsible for what happens? Everything in life is dependent on so many different factors that interact in so many different ways.” Bookshop.org & Amazon
Almond by Won-pyung Sohn (author), Sandy Joosun Lee (translator)
The Emissary meets The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime in this poignant and triumphant story about how love, friendship, and persistence can change a life forever.
This story is, in short, about a monster meeting another monster. One of the monsters is me. Yunjae was born with a brain condition called Alexithymia that makes it hard for him to feel emotions like fear or anger. He does not have friends—the two almond-shaped neurons located deep in his brain have seen to that—but his devoted mother and grandmother provide him with a safe and content life. Their little home above his mother’s used bookstore is decorated with colorful Post-it notes that remind him when to smile, when to say “thank you,” and when to laugh.
Then on Christmas Eve—Yunjae’s sixteenth birthday—everything changes. A shocking act of random violence shatters his world, leaving him alone and on his own. Struggling to cope with his loss, Yunjae retreats into silent isolation, until troubled teenager Gon arrives at his school, and they develop a surprising bond.As Yunjae begins to open his life to new people—including a girl at school—something slowly changes inside him. And when Gon suddenly finds his life at risk, Yunjae will have the chance to step outside of every comfort zone he has created to perhaps become the hero he never thought he would be. Readers of Wonder by R.J. Palaccio and Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig will appreciate this “resonant” story that “gives Yunjae the courage to claim an entirely different story.” (Booklist, starred review) BookBrowse & Amazon
The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
When war hits the serene Syrian city of Aleppo, Nuri and his wife Asra are shell-shocked, quite literally. Their homely life in the city with wonderful family and friends is turned upside down. Nuri is a beekeeper. Him and his wife Asra are forced to escape, letting themselves into a dangerous world, where they suffer a multitude of losses. Having to smuggle themselves into the UK they encounter heart-breaking suffering, pain and hardship — yet they are more than determined to find safety again and rebuild their lives.
A refugee story that we have all recently encountered. Gripping and persuasive, it will keep you hooked. My favourite quote: “But in Syria there is a saying: inside the person you know, there is a person you do not know. Bookshop.org & Amazon
Broken People by Sam Lansky
He fixes everything that’s wrong with you in three days.”
This is what hooks Sam when he first overhears it at a fancy dinner party in the Hollywood hills: the story of a globe-trotting shaman who claims to perform “open-soul surgery” on emotionally damaged people. For neurotic, depressed Sam, new to Los Angeles after his life in New York imploded, the possibility of total transformation is utterly tantalizing. He’s desperate for something to believe in, and the shaman—who promises ancient rituals, plant medicine and encounters with the divine—seems convincing, enough for Sam to sign up for a weekend under his care.
But are the great spirits the shaman says he’s summoning real at all? Or are the ghosts in Sam’s memory more powerful than any magic?At turns tender and acid, funny and wise, Broken People is a journey into the nature of truth and fiction—a story of discovering hope amid cynicism, intimacy within chaos and peace in our own skin. USA Today & Amazon
Conjure Women by Afia Atakora
Conjure Women is a sweeping story that brings the world of the South before and after the Civil War vividly to life. Spanning eras and generations, it tells of the lives of three unforgettable women: Miss May Belle, a wise healing woman; her precocious and observant daughter Rue, who is reluctant to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a midwife; and their master’s daughter Varina. The secrets and bonds among these women and their community come to a head at the beginning of a war and at the birth of an accursed child, who sets the townspeople alight with fear and a spreading superstition that threatens their newly won, tenuous freedom.
Magnificently written, brilliantly researched, richly imagined, Conjure Women moves back and forth in time to tell the haunting story of Rue, Varina, and May Belle, their passions and friendships, and the lengths they will go to save themselves and those they love. Amazon
Daughters of Smoke & Fire by Ava Homa
Set in Iran, this extraordinary debut novel takes readers into the everyday lives of the Kurds. Leila dreams of making films to bring the suppressed stories of her people onto the global stage, but obstacles keep piling up. Leila’s younger brother Chia, influenced by their father’s past torture, imprisonment, and his deep-seated desire for justice, begins to engage with social and political affairs. But his activism grows increasingly risky and one day he disappears in Tehran. Seeking answers about her brother’s whereabouts, Leila fears the worst and begins a campaign to save him. But when she publishes Chia’s writings online, she finds herself in grave danger as well. BookBrowse
Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh
While on her daily walk with her dog in a secluded woods, a woman comes across a note, handwritten and carefully pinned to the ground by stones. “Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body.” But there is no dead body. Our narrator is deeply shaken; she has no idea what to make of this. She is new to this area, alone after the death of her husband, and she knows no one.
Becoming obsessed with solving this mystery, our narrator imagines who Magda was and how she met her fate. With very little to go on, she invents a list of murder suspects and possible motives for the crime. Oddly, her suppositions begin to find correspondences in the real world, and with mounting excitement and dread, the fog of mystery starts to fade into menacing certainty. As her investigation widens, strange dissonances accrue, perhaps associated with the darkness in her own past; we must face the prospect that there is either an innocent explanation for all this or a much more sinister one.
A triumphant blend of horror, suspense, and pitch-black comedy, Death in Her Hands asks us to consider how the stories we tell ourselves both reflect the truth and keep us blind to it. Once again, we are in the hands of a narrator whose unreliability is well earned, and the stakes have never been higher. Book Browse & Amazon
The End of October by Laurence Wright
At an internment camp in Indonesia, forty-seven people are pronounced dead with acute hemorrhagic fever. When Henry Parsons–microbiologist, epidemiologist–travels there on behalf of the World Health Organization to investigate, what he finds will soon have staggering repercussions across the globe: an infected man is on his way to join the millions of worshippers in the annual Hajj to Mecca. Now, Henry joins forces with a Saudi prince and doctor in an attempt to quarantine the entire host of pilgrims in the holy city . . . A Russian émigré, a woman who has risen to deputy director of U.S. Homeland Security, scrambles to mount a response to what may be an act of biowarfare . . . Already-fraying global relations begin to snap, one by one, in the face of a pandemic . . . Henry’s wife, Jill, and their children face diminishing odds of survival in Atlanta . . . And the disease slashes across the United States, dismantling institutions–scientific, religious, governmental–and decimating the population. As packed with suspense as it is with the fascinating history of viral diseases, Lawrence Wright has given us a full-tilt, electrifying, one-of-a-kind thriller. Amazon
Goldilocks by Laura Lam
Despite increasing restrictions on the freedoms of women on Earth, Valerie Black is spearheading the first all-female mission to a planet in the Goldilocks Zone, where conditions are just right for human habitation.
It’s humanity’s last hope for survival, and Naomi, Valerie’s surrogate daughter and the ship’s botanist, has been waiting her whole life for an opportunity like this – to step out of Valerie’s shadow and really make a difference. But when things start going wrong on the ship, Naomi begins to suspect that someone on board is concealing a terrible secret – and realizes time for life on Earth may be running out faster than they feared…
Goldilocks is The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Martian – a bold and thought-provoking new high-concept thriller. Amazon
The Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight
Lizzie Kitsakis is working late when she gets the call. Grueling hours are standard at elite law firms like Young & Crane, but they’d be easier to swallow if Lizzie was there voluntarily. Until recently, she’d been a happily underpaid federal prosecutor. That job and her brilliant, devoted husband Sam—she had everything she’d ever wanted. And then, suddenly, it all fell apart.
No. That’s a lie. It wasn’t sudden, was it? Long ago the cracks in Lizzie’s marriage had started to show. She was just good at averting her eyes. The last thing Lizzie needs right now is a call from an inmate at Rikers asking for help—even if Zach Grayson is an old friend. But Zach is desperate: his wife, Amanda, has been found dead at the bottom of the stairs in their Brooklyn brownstone. And Zach’s the primary suspect.
As Lizzie is drawn into the dark heart of idyllic Park Slope, she learns that Zach and Amanda weren’t what they seemed—and that their friends, a close-knit group of fellow parents at the exclusive Brooklyn Country Day school, might be protecting troubling secrets of their own. In the end, she’s left wondering not only whether her own marriage can be saved, but what it means to have a good marriage in the first place. Amazon
The Guest List by Lucy Foley
The bride – The plus one – The best man – The wedding planner – The bridesmaid – The body
On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.
But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why? Amazon
K: A Novel by Ted O’Connell
Professor Francis Kauffman has unwittingly landed himself in prison where he’s faced with an insurmountable task: execute a fellow inmate. Charged with igniting a political insurrection amongst his students at a university in Beijing, Kauffman is sent to the notorious Kun Chong Prison, where his existence grows stranger by the hour as he struggles with the weight of his imprisonment and his incurable need to write about it in a place where art is forbidden, and the inmates must act as executioners. As cultures clash in his filthy, crowded cell, it soon becomes clear that he’s destined for a labor camp…or worse. In this surreal and brutally honest literary thriller, Kauffman reflects on the turbulent family history that brought him to China, where he leads a solitary, expat life of soulless insurance jobs and all-night writing binges, only to wind up fighting a battle for his life inside the walls of Kun Chong. Amazon &
Lakewood: A Novel by Megan Giddings
A startling debut about class and race, Lakewood evokes a terrifying world of medical experimentation—part The Handmaid’s Tale, part The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
When Lena Johnson’s beloved grandmother dies, and the full extent of the family debt is revealed, the black millennial drops out of college to support her family and takes a job in the mysterious and remote town of Lakewood, Michigan.
On paper, her new job is too good to be true. High paying. No out of pocket medical expenses. A free place to live. All Lena has to do is participate in a secret program—and lie to her friends and family about the research being done in Lakewood. An eye drop that makes brown eyes blue, a medication that could be a cure for dementia, golden pills promised to make all bad thoughts go away. The discoveries made in Lakewood, Lena is told, will change the world—but the consequences for the subjects involved could be devastating. As the truths of the program reveal themselves, Lena learns how much she’s willing to sacrifice for the sake of her family.
Provocative and thrilling, Lakewood is a breathtaking novel that takes an unflinching look at the moral dilemmas many working-class families face, and the horror that has been forced on black bodies in the name of science. Amazon & Buzzfeednews https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/wendyjfox/21-great-books-from-small-presses-to-read-now
The Last Flight by Julie Clark
Claire Cook has a perfect life. Married to the scion of a political dynasty, with a Manhattan townhouse and a staff of ten, her surroundings are elegant, her days flawlessly choreographed, and her future auspicious. But behind closed doors, nothing is quite as it seems. That perfect husband has a temper that burns as bright as his promising political career, and he’s not above using his staff to track Claire’s every move, making sure she’s living up to his impossible standards. But what he doesn’t know is that Claire has worked for months on a plan to vanish.
A chance meeting in an airport bar brings her together with a woman whose circumstances seem equally dire. Together they make a last-minute decision to switch tickets―Claire taking Eva’s flight to Oakland, and Eva traveling to Puerto Rico as Claire. They believe the swap will give each of them the head start they need to begin again somewhere far away. But when the flight to Puerto Rico goes down, Claire realizes it’s no longer a head start but a new life. Cut off, out of options, with the news of her death about to explode in the media, Claire will assume Eva’s identity, and along with it, the secrets Eva fought so hard to keep hidden.
For fans of Lisa Jewell and Liv Constantine, The Last Flight is the story of two women―both alone, both scared―and one agonizing decision that will change the trajectory of both of their lives. Amazon
Night.Sleep.Death.The Stars by Joyce Carol Oates
Night Sleep Death The Stars is a gripping examination of contemporary America through the prism of a family tragedy: when a powerful parent dies, each of his adult children reacts in startling and unexpected ways, and his grieving widow in the most surprising way of all.
Stark and penetrating, Joyce Carol Oates’s latest novel is a vivid exploration of race, psychological trauma, class warfare, grief, and eventual healing, as well as an intimate family novel in the tradition of the author’s bestselling We Were the Mulvaneys. Amazon
Rodham by Curtis Sittenfield
In 1971, Hillary Rodham is a young woman full of promise: Life magazine has covered her Wellesley commencement speech, she’s attending Yale Law School, and she’s on the forefront of student activism and the women’s rights movement. And then she meets Bill Clinton. A handsome, charismatic southerner and fellow law student, Bill is already planning his political career. In each other, the two find a profound intellectual, emotional, and physical connection that neither has previously experienced.
In the real world, Hillary followed Bill back to Arkansas, and he proposed several times; although she said no more than once, as we all know, she eventually accepted and became Hillary Clinton.
But in Curtis Sittenfeld’s powerfully imagined tour-de-force of fiction, Hillary takes a different road. Feeling doubt about the prospective marriage, she endures their devastating breakup and leaves Arkansas. Over the next four decades, she blazes her own trail—one that unfolds in public as well as in private, that involves crossing paths again (and again) with Bill Clinton, that raises questions about the tradeoffs all of us must make in building a life.
Brilliantly weaving a riveting fictional tale into actual historical events, Curtis Sittenfeld delivers an uncannily astute and witty story for our times. In exploring the loneliness, moral ambivalence, and iron determination that characterize the quest for political power, as well as both the exhilaration and painful compromises demanded of female ambition in a world still run mostly by men, Rodham is a singular and unforgettable novel. Amazon
This is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf
Twenty-five years ago, the body of sixteen-year-old Eve Knox was found in the caves near her home in small-town Grotto, Iowa—discovered by her best friend, Maggie, and her sister, Nola. There were a handful of suspects, including her boyfriend, Nick, but without sufficient evidence the case ultimately went cold.
For decades Maggie was haunted by Eve’s death and that horrible night. Now a detective in Grotto, and seven months pregnant, she is thrust back into the past when a new piece of evidence surfaces and the case is reopened. As Maggie investigates and reexamines the clues, secrets about what really happened begin to emerge. But someone in town knows more than they’re letting on, and they’ll stop at nothing to keep the truth buried deep. Amazon
Writers & Lovers by Lily King
Following the breakout success of her critically acclaimed and award-winning novel Euphoria, Lily King returns with another instant New York Times bestseller: an unforgettable portrait of an artist as a young woman.
Blindsided by her mother’s sudden death, and wrecked by a recent love affair, Casey Peabody has arrived in Massachusetts in the summer of 1997 without a plan. Her mail consists of wedding invitations and final notices from debt collectors. A former child golf prodigy, she now waits tables in Harvard Square and rents a tiny, moldy room at the side of a garage where she works on the novel she’s been writing for six years. At thirty-one, Casey is still clutching onto something nearly all her old friends have let go of: the determination to live a creative life. When she falls for two very different men at the same time, her world fractures even more. Casey’s fight to fulfill her creative ambitions and balance the conflicting demands of art and life is challenged in ways that push her to the brink.
Writers & Lovers follows Casey―a smart and achingly vulnerable protagonist―in the last days of a long youth, a time when every element of her life comes to a crisis. Written with King’s trademark humor, heart, and intelligence, Writers & Lovers is a transfixing novel that explores the terrifying and exhilarating leap between the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another. Amazon
Attention: A Love Story by Casey Schwartz
In 2000, during her first year at Brown University, journalist Casey Schwartz tried Adderall for the first time — and for the next 10 years she’d grapple with an addiction to it. In Attention, Schwartz recounts her relationship with the drug, contextualizing it within a culture that fetishizes and obsesses over attention — where to place it, what deserves it, how to navigate an economy built on taking it. Schwartz deftly weaves together scientific research and reporting, personal narrative, and textual analysis, creating a hybrid story — and if attention is the best way to perform love, then indeed this is a love story from Schwartz to the notion of attention — that is as critical and philosophical as it is personal. —A.R.
Combining expert storytelling with genuine self-scrutiny, Casey Schwartz details the decade she spend taking Adderall to help her pay attention (or so she thought) and then considers the role of attention in defining our lives as it has been understood by thinkers such as William James, David Foster Wallace, and Simone Weil. From our craving for distraction to our craving for a cure, from Silicon Valley consultants and psychedelic researchers to the findings of trauma expert Dr. Gabor Maté, Schwartz takes us on an eye-opening tour of the modern landscape of attention.
Blending memoir, biography, and original reporting, Schwarz examines her attempts to preserve her authentic life and decide what is most important in it. Attention: A Love Story will resonate with readers who want to determine their own minds, away from the siren call of their screens. Amazon & Bookshop.org
Dead Reckoning: The Story of How Johnny Mitchell and His Fighter Pilots Took on Admiral Yamamoto and Avenged Pearl Harbor by Dick Lehr
“AIR RAID, PEARL HARBOR. THIS IS NO DRILL.” At 7:58 a.m. on December 7, 1941, an officer at the Ford Island Command Center typed what would become one of the most famous radio dispatches in history, as the Japanese navy launched a surprise aerial assault on U.S. bases on Hawaii. In a little over two hours, more than 2,400 Americans were dead, propelling the U.S.’s entry into World War II.
Dead Reckoning is the epic true story of the high-stakes operation undertaken sixteen months later to avenge that deadly strike – a longshot mission hatched hastily at the U.S. base on Guadalcanal. Expertly crafting this “hunt for Bin Laden”-style WWII story, New York Times bestselling author Dick Lehr recreates the tension-filled events leading up to the climactic clash in the South Pacific skies – frontline moments loaded with xenophobia, spycraft, sacrifice and broken hearts.
Lehr goes behind the scenes at Station Hypo on Hawaii, where U.S. Navy code breakers first discovered exactly where and when to find Admiral Yamamoto, on April 18, 1943, and then chronicles in dramatic detail the nerve-wracking mission to kill him. He focuses on Army Air Force Major John W. Mitchell, the ace fighter pilot from the tiny hamlet of Enid, Mississippi who was tasked with conceiving a flight route, literally to the second, for the only U.S. fighter plane on Guadalcanal capable of reaching Yamamoto hundreds of miles away – the new twin-engine P-38 Lightning with its fabled “cone of fire.”
Given unprecedented access to Mitchell’s personal papers and hundreds of private letters, Lehr reveals for the first time the full story of Mitchell’s wartime exploits up to the face-off with Yamamoto, along with those of key American pilots Mitchell chose for the momentous mission: Rex Barber, Thomas Lanphier Jr., Besby Holmes, and Ray Hine. The spotlight also shines on their enemy target –Admiral Yamamoto, the enigmatic, charismatic commander in chief of Japan’s Combined Fleet, whose complicated feelings about the U.S.—he studied at Harvard—add rich complexity. In this way Dead Reckoning offers at once a fast-paced recounting of a crucial turning point in the Pacific war and keenly drawn portraits of its two main protagonists: Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of Pearl Harbor, and John Mitchell, the architect of the Yamamoto’s demise. Amazon &
Entangled: How Fungi Make our Worlds, Change our Minds and Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake
When we think of fungi, we likely think of mushrooms. But mushrooms are only fruiting bodies, analogous to apples on a tree. Most fungi live out of sight, yet make up a massively diverse kingdom of organisms that supports and sustains nearly all living systems. Fungi provide a key to understanding the planet on which we live, and the ways we think, feel, and behave.
In Entangled Life, the brilliant young biologist Merlin Sheldrake shows us the world from a fungal point of view, providing an exhilarating change of perspective. Sheldrake’s vivid exploration takes us from yeast to psychedelics, to the fungi that range for miles underground and are the largest organisms on the planet, to those that link plants together in complex networks known as the “Wood Wide Web,” to those that infiltrate and manipulate insect bodies with devastating precision.
Fungi throw our concepts of individuality and even intelligence into question. They are metabolic masters, earth makers, and key players in most of life’s processes. They can change our minds, heal our bodies, and even help us remediate environmental disaster. By examining fungi on their own terms, Sheldrake reveals how these extraordinary organisms—and our relationships with them—are changing our understanding of how life works. Amazon
Furious Hours : Murder, Fraud & Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep
In Furious Hours, Casey Cep masterfully brings together the tales of a serial killer in 1970s Alabama and of Harper Lee, the beloved author of To Kill a Mockingbird, who tried to write his story. Reverend Willie Maxwell was a rural preacher accused of murdering five of his family members, but with the help of a savvy lawyer, he escaped justice for years until a relative assassinated him at the funeral of his last victim. Despite hundreds of witnesses, Maxwell’s murderer was acquitted—thanks to the same attorney who had previously defended the reverend himself. Sitting in the audience during the vigilante’s trial was Harper Lee, who spent a year in town reporting on the Maxwell case and many more trying to finish the book she called The Reverend. Cep brings this remarkable story to life, from the horrifying murders to the courtroom drama to the racial politics of the Deep South, while offering a deeply moving portrait of one of our most revered writers. My favourite quote: “Self-pity is a sin,” she told a reporter in 1963, already frustrated, only three years after Mockingbird. “It is a form of living suicide.”\. Bookshop.org & Amazon
Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollett
HOLLYWOOD PARK is a remarkable memoir of a tumultuous life. Mikel Jollett was born into one of the country’s most infamous cults, and subjected to a childhood filled with poverty, addiction, and emotional abuse. Yet, ultimately, his is a story of fierce love and family loyalty told in a raw, poetic voice that signals the emergence of a uniquely gifted writer.
We were never young. We were just too afraid of ourselves. No one told us who we were or what we were or where all our parents went. They would arrive like ghosts, visiting us for a morning, an afternoon. They would sit with us or walk around the grounds, to laugh or cry or toss us in the air while we screamed. Then they’d disappear again, for weeks, for months, for years, leaving us alone with our memories and dreams, our questions and confusion. …
So begins Hollywood Park, Mikel Jollett’s remarkable memoir. His story opens in an experimental commune in California, which later morphed into the Church of Synanon, one of the country’s most infamous and dangerous cults. Per the leader’s mandate, all children, including Jollett and his older brother, were separated from their parents when they were six months old, and handed over to the cult’s “School.” After spending years in what was essentially an orphanage, Mikel escaped the cult one morning with his mother and older brother. But in many ways, life outside Synanon was even harder and more erratic.In his raw, poetic and powerful voice, Jollett portrays a childhood filled with abject poverty, trauma, emotional abuse, delinquency and the lure of drugs and alcohol. Raised by a clinically depressed mother, tormented by his angry older brother, subjected to the unpredictability of troubled step-fathers and longing for contact with his father, a former heroin addict and ex-con, Jollett slowly, often painfully, builds a life that leads him to Stanford University and, eventually, to finding his voice as a writer and musician.
Hollywood Park is told at first through the limited perspective of a child, and then broadens as Jollett begins to understand the world around him. Although Mikel Jollett’s story is filled with heartbreak, it is ultimately an unforgettable portrayal of love at its fiercest and most loyal. Amazon & BookBrowse
May Be You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
From a New York Times best-selling author, psychotherapist, and national advice columnist, a hilarious, thought-provoking, and surprising new book that takes us behind the scenes of a therapist’s world–where her patients are looking for answers (and so is she).
One day, Lori Gottlieb is a therapist who helps patients in her Los Angeles practice. The next, a crisis causes her world to come crashing down. Enter Wendell, the quirky but seasoned therapist in whose office she suddenly lands. With his balding head, cardigan, and khakis, he seems to have come straight from Therapist Central Casting. Yet he will turn out to be anything but.
As Gottlieb explores the inner chambers of her patients’ lives — a self-absorbed Hollywood producer, a young newlywed diagnosed with a terminal illness, a senior citizen threatening to end her life on her birthday if nothing gets better, and a twenty-something who can’t stop hooking up with the wrong guys — she finds that the questions they are struggling with are the very ones she is now bringing to Wendell.
With startling wisdom and humor, Gottlieb invites us into her world as both clinician and patient, examining the truths and fictions we tell ourselves and others as we teeter on the tightrope between love and desire, meaning and mortality, guilt and redemption, terror and courage, hope and change.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone is revolutionary in its candor, offering a deeply personal yet universal tour of our hearts and minds and providing the rarest of gifts: a boldly revealing portrait of what it means to be human, and a disarmingly funny and illuminating account of our own mysterious lives and our power to transform them. If you’re considering therapy and need something to convince you of its power then I would highly, highly, highly recommend Lori Gottlieb’s book “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” — engaging with real life case studies, it reaffirms our belief in the power of psychoanalysis and conventional therapy to release us from our own suffering, opening the gate to truly understanding ourselves better, self-acceptance and being kinder to ourselves. Amazon
The Strange Case of Dr Couney: How a Mysterious European Showman Saved Thousands of American Babies by Dawn Raffel
What kind of doctor puts his patients on display? This is the spellbinding tale of a mysterious Coney Island doctor who revolutionized neonatal care more than one hundred years ago and saved some seven thousand babies. Dr. Martin Couney’s story is a kaleidoscopic ride through the intersection of ebullient entrepreneurship, enlightened pediatric care, and the wild culture of world’s fairs at the beginning of the American Century.
As Dawn Raffel recounts, Dr. Couney used incubators and careful nursing to keep previously doomed infants alive, while displaying these babies alongside sword swallowers, bearded ladies, and burlesque shows at Coney Island, Atlantic City, and venues across the nation. How this turn-of-the-twentieth-century émigré became the savior to families with premature infants—known then as “weaklings”—as he ignored the scorn of the medical establishment and fought the rising popularity of eugenics is one of the most astounding stories of modern medicine. Dr. Couney, for all his entrepreneurial gusto, is a surprisingly appealing character, someone who genuinely cared for the well-being of his tiny patients. But he had something to hide…
Drawing on historical documents, original reportage, and interviews with surviving patients, Dawn Raffel tells the marvelously eccentric story of Couney’s mysterious carnival career, his larger-than-life personality, and his unprecedented success as the savior of the fragile wonders that are tiny, tiny babies.Amazon & Bookshop.org
Untamed by Glennon Doyle
This is how you find yourself.
There is a voice of longing inside each woman. We strive so mightily to be good: good partners, daughters, mothers, employees, and friends. We hope all this striving will make us feel alive. Instead, it leaves us feeling weary, stuck, overwhelmed, and underwhelmed. We look at our lives and wonder: Wasn’t it all supposed to be more beautiful than this? We quickly silence that question, telling ourselves to be grateful, hiding our discontent—even from ourselves.
For many years, Glennon Doyle denied her own discontent. Then, while speaking at a conference, she looked at a woman across the room and fell instantly in love. Three words flooded her mind: There She Is. At first, Glennon assumed these words came to her from on high. But she soon realized they had come to her from within. This was her own voice—the one she had buried beneath decades of numbing addictions, cultural conditioning, and institutional allegiances. This was the voice of the girl she had been before the world told her who to be. Glennon decided to quit abandoning herself and to instead abandon the world’s expectations of her. She quit being good so she could be free. She quit pleasing and started living.
Soulful and uproarious, forceful and tender, Untamed is both an intimate memoir and a galvanizing wake-up call. It is the story of how one woman learned that a responsible mother is not one who slowly dies for her children, but one who shows them how to fully live. It is the story of navigating divorce, forming a new blended family, and discovering that the brokenness or wholeness of a family depends not on its structure but on each member’s ability to bring her full self to the table. And it is the story of how each of us can begin to trust ourselves enough to set boundaries, make peace with our bodies, honor our anger and heartbreak, and unleash our truest, wildest instincts so that we become women who can finally look at ourselves and say: There She Is. Amazon
What’s it Like to be Bird by David Allen Sibley
“Can birds smell?” “Is this the same cardinal that was at my feeder last year?” “Do robins ‘hear’ worms?” In What It’s Like to Be a Bird, David Sibley answers the most frequently asked questions about the birds we see most often. This special, large-format volume is geared as much to nonbirders as it is to the out-and-out obsessed, covering more than two hundred species and including more than 330 new illustrations by the author. While its focus is on familiar backyard birds–blue jays, nuthatches, chickadees–it also examines certain species that can be fairly easily observed, such as the seashore-dwelling Atlantic puffin. David Sibley’s exacting artwork and wide-ranging expertise bring observed behaviors vividly to life. (For most species, the primary illustration is reproduced life-sized.) And while the text is aimed at adults–including fascinating new scientific research on the myriad ways birds have adapted to environmental changes–it is nontechnical, making it the perfect occasion for parents and grandparents to share their love of birds with young children, who will delight in the big, full-color illustrations of birds in action. Unlike any other book he has written, What It’s Like to Be a Bird is poised to bring a whole new audience to David Sibley’s world of birds. Amazon
Wuhan Diary by Fang Fang
On January 25, 2020, after the central government imposed a lockdown in Wuhan, acclaimed Chinese writer Fang Fang began publishing an online diary. In the days and weeks that followed, Fang Fang’s nightly postings gave voice to the fears, frustrations, anger, and hope of millions of her fellow citizens, reflecting on the psychological impact of forced isolation, the role of the internet as both community lifeline and source of misinformation, and most tragically, the lives of neighbors and friends taken by the deadly virus.
A fascinating eyewitness account of events as they unfold, Wuhan Diary captures the challenges of daily life and the changing moods and emotions of being quarantined without reliable information. Fang Fang finds solace in small domestic comforts and is inspired by the courage of friends, health professionals and volunteers, as well as the resilience and perseverance of Wuhan’s nine million residents. But, by claiming the writer´s duty to record she also speaks out against social injustice, abuse of power, and other problems which impeded the response to the epidemic and gets herself embroiled in online controversies because of it.
As Fang Fang documents the beginning of the global health crisis in real time, we are able to identify patterns and mistakes that many of the countries dealing with the novel coronavirus have later repeated. She reminds us that, in the face of the new virus, the plight of the citizens of Wuhan is also that of citizens everywhere. As Fang Fang writes: “The virus is the common enemy of humankind; that is a lesson for all humanity. The only way we can conquer this virus and free ourselves from its grip is for all members of humankind to work together.”
Blending the intimate and the epic, the profound and the quotidian, Wuhan Diary is a remarkable record of an extraordinary time. Amazon
Almond by Won-pyung Sohn
Yunjae was born with a brain condition called Alexithymia that makes it hard for him to feel emotions like fear or anger. He does not have friends―the two almond-shaped neurons located deep in his brain have seen to that―but his devoted mother and grandmother aren’t fazed by his condition. Their little home above his mother’s used bookstore is decorated with colorful post-it notes that remind him when to smile, when to say “thank you,” and when to laugh. Yunjae grows up content, even happy, with his small family in this quiet, peaceful space.
Then on Christmas Eve―Yunjae’s sixteenth birthday―everything changes. A shocking act of random violence shatters his world, leaving him alone and on his own. Struggling to cope with his loss, Yunjae retreats into silent isolation, until troubled teenager Gon arrives at his school and begins to bully Yunjae.
Against all odds, tormentor and victim learn they have more in common than they realized. Gon is stumped by Yunjae’s impassive calm, while Yunjae thinks if he gets to know the hotheaded Gon, he might learn how to experience true feelings. Drawn by curiosity, the two strike up a surprising friendship. As Yunjae begins to open his life to new people―including a girl at school―something slowly changes inside him. And when Gon suddenly finds his life in danger, it is Yunjae who will step outside of every comfort zone he has created to perhaps become a most unlikely hero. BookBrowse & Amazon
American Royals by Katharine McGee
A novel that contemplates an American Royal family — the Washingtons. Upon the victory of the American revolution, one of the founding fathers, George Washington is offered a crown. 250 years later, this crown still stands and his family continue to govern as the first and only American Royal family. First in line, Princess Beatrice is dreading becoming queen, with all freedom of choice removed, including who she will marry. Her siblings, Princess Samantha and Prince Jefferson (both twins) have issues of their own — the latter being America’s favourite heartthrob, with many ladies vying for his heart. Amazon
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Susan Collins
It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.
The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined — every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute…and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes. Amazon & Book Browse
The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante
Villasante’s YA debut novel is simply gorgeous. Illegal El Salvadoran immigrant, seventeen-year-old Marisol, finds herself desperately seeking refuge in America under the threat of death, after falling head over heels in love with Liliani, only to result in the death of her brother, her mother going in hiding and her and her sister escaping to the US. Caught at the US border, her asylum request is doomed to be denied. There is however an opportunity to redeem herself, by partaking in an experiment that provides an opportunity to stay in the United States. A ‘grief’ experiment, she’s required to take on a grief of another into her own body to save a life, essentially to become a ‘grief keeper’. Marisol, desperate to keep her sister safe will do anything — however she never fully understands what she’s being asked to do — she takes on an emotional roller coaster, falling in love, which might just help her heal her own choking grief. A touching tale of heartbreak, love, family, faith and healing in the midst of man-made boundaries for love and for belonging. Amazon
Thank you for looking at my Summer Book Picks.
The summaries are from Bookshop.org, Buzzfeednews.org, BookBrowse, Amazon NPR, Book Passage or me. Please look at my blog for more lists:
Two I missed to tell you about!
The Pull of the Stars By Emma Donoghue
In Dublin, 1918, a maternity ward at the height of the Great Flu is a small world of work, risk, death, and unlooked-for love, in “Donoghue’s best novel since Room” (Kirkus Reviews)
In an Ireland doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city center, where expectant mothers who have come down with the terrible new Flu are quarantined together. Into Julia’s regimented world step two outsiders — Doctor Kathleen Lynn, a rumoured Rebel on the run from the police , and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney.
In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over three days, these women change each other’s lives in unexpected ways. They lose patients to this baffling pandemic, but they also shepherd new life into a fearful world. With tireless tenderness and humanity, carers and mothers alike somehow do their impossible work.
In The Pull of the Stars, Emma Donoghue once again finds the light in the darkness in this new classic of hope and survival against all odds. Amazon
The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins by Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing
What a rare mushroom can teach us about sustaining life on a fragile planet
Matsutake is the most valuable mushroom in the world―and a weed that grows in human-disturbed forests across the northern hemisphere. Through its ability to nurture trees, matsutake helps forests to grow in daunting places. It is also an edible delicacy in Japan, where it sometimes commands astronomical prices. In all its contradictions, matsutake offers insights into areas far beyond just mushrooms and addresses a crucial question: what manages to live in the ruins we have made?
A tale of diversity within our damaged landscapes, The Mushroom at the End of the World follows one of the strangest commodity chains of our times to explore the unexpected corners of capitalism. Here, we witness the varied and peculiar worlds of matsutake commerce: the worlds of Japanese gourmets, capitalist traders, Hmong jungle fighters, industrial forests, Yi Chinese goat herders, Finnish nature guides, and more. These companions also lead us into fungal ecologies and forest histories to better understand the promise of cohabitation in a time of massive human destruction.
By investigating one of the world’s most sought-after fungi, The Mushroom at the End of the World presents an original examination into the relation between capitalist destruction and collaborative survival within multispecies landscapes, the prerequisite for continuing life on earth. Amazon
“Said to be the first thing to grow in the bomb-blasted ruins of Hiroshima, the matsutake holds an extraordinary place in Japanese life, and the logistics around importing this elusive mushroom have far-reaching and extraordinary connections to distant lands and far-flung people. Tsing’s storytelling here is expansive, and this book is the key to understanding the role that a single commodity can have in a global network, and the hope that we still can have when it seems that everything is coming apart.” —Jeff Waxman