When the Stars Go Dark
When Anna Hart returns to her hometown of Mendocino in Northern California, it’s to try to escape her grief following a death she might have prevented. Mendocino may be home, but it carries its own traumas: Anna was orphaned young, and grew up with a series of foster families. The local sheriff, an old friend of Anna’s, asks her to help investigate an apparent kidnapping; Anna, a homicide detective in San Francisco, agrees, even if she’s meant to be here to get away from all that. As more girls disappear, Anna is reminded of much older—and unsolved—disappearances…
Neil—Neeraj, when he’s in trouble—is a high school freshman and son of Indian immigrants. Ensconced in the desi community near Atlanta, GA, Neil is aware that he’s not as ambitious as he’s meant to be. His sister’s dead-set on going to Duke, and his neighbor and childhood friend, Anita, has even transferred to a fancy private school in her pursuit of Harvard. When Neil learns that Anita’s been getting a boost via her mother’s concoctions of stolen gold and ambition, he wants in. But as surely as gold glitters, good is not the only thing to come of it.
First Person Singular
Murakami fans will rejoice at this newest addition to their library: a brand new collection of Haruki Murakami short stories. As the title indicates, all the stories here are told in first-person singular, and the narrators are all quintessentially Murakamian: plain and ordinary (at least, they consider themselves to be such) yet full of philosophical musings and an odd propensity for the magical to burst out of reality around them. In one story, Charlie Parker’s ghost haunts a student taking creative license with his back catalogue; in another, a talking monkey aches for companionship. (Plus, the volume ends with a bonus nonfiction piece!)
The Dictionary of Lost Words
In the late 19th century, a group of lexicographers is hard at work at the University of Oxford’s Scriptorium (which, grand as the term may sound, is a rather shabby shed) putting together the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. One of their children, Esme, sits with her father and watches as words get discarded from making it into the final edition. As she grows up, she begins to make an earnest attempt to recover these lost words, paralleling the rise of the women’s suffrage movement in England. Whose words were cut? Why? And can they really be rescued?
Crying in H Mart
You may have heard of Michelle Zauner, either from her band, Japanese Breakfast, or from the popular essay published in 2018 bearing the same title as this memoir, her debut. Zauner, one of the few Asian American kids when she was going to school in Eugene, Oregon, was nurtured by her Korean mother via food and care, but also struggled with the weight of her mother’s expectations. As she grew up, she forged her own path. But when her mother fell ill, Zauner wanted to be close to her, to the food she was raised on, to her nourishment.
The Haunting of Alma Fielding
In this nuanced nonfiction, Kate Summerscale shares the story of Alma Fielding, who became a headline sensation in 1938 due to the strange phenomena occurring in her vicinity. From broken crockery to the appearance of animals out of thin air, her claims were so odd that she knew the police would dismiss her—so she went to the papers. When Nandor Fodor, a Hungarian ghost hunter for the International Institute for Psychical Research, arrived to investigate the claims, things became even stranger. But he guessed that the trauma of WWI and the budding violence in Europe might play a role.
The Music of Bees
Alice Holtzman is mourning the recent death of her husband when, barely managing to take care of herself, she also nearly runs over a teenager one day. Jake, the wheelchair-using teenager with a really big mohawk, is interested in the bees in Alice’s truck, and soon escapes his abusive household to come stay with her and help out. After Alice quits her job and dedicates herself full time to the bees, she hires the deeply anxious Harry to work part-time on the farm. As the trio finds their rhythm, they take on a pesticide company’s bee-killing practices.
When Otto and Xavier are gifted a special train trip to celebrate their commitment to one another, they set off willingly enough with their pet mongoose in tow. But the journey is no ordinary one: there’s a mystery at its center that they have to help unravel, and their host, Ava Kapoor, seems to be one part of it. Reality seems to bend on the train too: it includes bazaars, people whose faces can’t quite be pinned down, and signs that either read “Hello” or, alarmingly, “Help.” As Otto and Xavier work through the mysteries, they also unravel each other’s pasts.
Heart of Fire
Mazie K. Hirono
When Senator Mazie K. Hirono sought to become a public servant, she knew she wanted to make change, to make her own experiences growing up less common. When Hirono was small, her mother, Laura, took her two oldest children from Japan to Hawai’i to start over; Laura worked hard, but the family still had no access to healthcare or much support for quite some time. Later, when Hirono was elected to public office, she was expected to be small and demure, to fit the Asian American woman stereotype; in 2016, unwilling to stifle herself further, she began speaking out, ferociously.
You Love Me
Fans of the series or the Netflix adaptation, You, will be hungry for the newest installment in Caroline Kepnes’s series. Joe, who has finally left his ex-girlfriend, Love Quinn, along with his son, is now on an island near Seattle, where he starts volunteering at a library and quickly becomes obsessed with one of the librarians. Mary Kay DiMarco is a parent, just like him, and he knows how hard that can be. He’s certain that he’ll be able to win her over the old-fashioned way, by being a “nice guy”… His stalker tendencies get in the way, though. Oops.
Samuel Sooleymon is seventeen when he gets a chance he can’t pass up. A fervid basketball player, Sooley makes the cut and joins his native South Sudan’s national team, and travels to the U.S. to play an exhibition game. There’s a civil war going on at home, though, and he receives news that his own town has been attacked by rebel troops, leaving him uncertain of his family’s fate. He’s recruited to a college basketball team, and the possibility of being able to bring his family over to the U.S. drives him to get better and better.
The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano
Rose and her husband, Luke, fight about her taking prenatal vitamins. The argument is really about whether or not Rose wants a child—she never has, and Luke, who didn’t either, has decided that he really does after all. They break up. Or do they? We reset and return to the fight, which ends differently this time. In nine different iterations, Rose returns to that symbolic argument, that moment where things could go in so many different ways. In some of these lives, she has a child; in others, she doesn’t; always, she is her feminist self, living her truth.
Many of us know what it’s like to work hard, harder, hardest, and still feel like we’re getting nowhere. Many high achievers believe that they must overwork, do more, and ultimately overtire themselves in the race to get ahead—that is, after all, what so many of us have been taught about how success happens. Greg McKeown sees another way: instead of taking the winding, tiring road, we can find a different path entirely. If you’re an exhausted striver, then this book, with actionable tips and ideas for how to change your relationship to work, is for you.
Empire of Pain
Patrick Radden Keefe
In 2017, New Yorker staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe wrote an exposé on the Sackler family, whose wealth is directly tied to the billions made from the development and sale of the drug OxyContin, which is considered to have launched the opioid crisis in the United States. In this book, he further investigates the family’s history, from the Great Depression to today, and the wealth they created from providing anxiety and painkiller medications. From dirty backroom deals to living room drama, the twists and turns of this chronicle of three generations of the Sacklers is worth your time.
In Jhumpa Lahiri’s first book written in Italian, which she then translated into English herself, an unnamed narrator watches the people who inhabit and visit a European city with the intimacy of safe distance. The title refers to the chapter headers that orient readers in what space the woman’s observations taking place in: on a sidewalk, by the sea, in her head, etc. Although she doesn’t like looking back at her mostly unhappy childhood, she’s plagued by her relationships with her dead father and elderly mother. Her friends and lovers are also at a remove. Is loneliness her truest locale?
The Hill We Climb
“When day comes we ask ourselves / where can we find light in this never-ending shade? / The loss we carry / a sea we must wade. / We’ve braved the belly of the beast, / We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, / and the norms and notions / of what just is
isn’t always just-ice.” So begins Amanda Gorman’s beautiful poem, read at President Biden’s inauguration. Gorman is the youngest poet to recite at such an event, and you can enjoy her full, breathtaking vision in this lovely pocket edition with a foreword by Oprah Winfrey.
When Tessa, a producer at the BBC Belfast News and mother of infant Finn, learns that there’s been a robbery believed to have been carried out by the IRA, she’s not entirely surprised: there’s been an uptick in IRA activity recently, she knows. What does surprise her is that her sister, Marian, has been linked to the robbery and to the IRA. More shocking still, her sister admits it’s true, but that she’s a double agent, and she needs Tessa’s help. Tessa, wishing for a more peaceful world for her son, decides to do her part in facilitating its existence. This Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick will grip you from the first page to the last.
Brandi Carlisle, the Grammy-award-winning singer, songwriter, performer, and producer, did not come to her place in the spotlight easily, nor was she inducted into it via the privilege of being born into an entertainment industry family. Raised in a tumultuous, yet ultimately loving, family struggling with poverty, alcoholism, and mental illness, her childhood was rocky at times, not least because of her near-death experience with meningitis and coming out as a teenager only to be snubbed by the church she loved. If you love where Carlisle is now, you’ll want to see this journey of how she arrived there.
Hana Khan Carries On
Hana is your typical millennial: extraordinarily overworked and also pursuing her creative dreams. She waitresses part-time at her family’s restaurant, Three Sisters Biryani Poutine, the only halal restaurant in the area, and she’s also interning at a local radio station hoping to land a full-time gig. She also spends a lot of time working on her own podcast, Ana’s Brown Girl Rambles. When a new and upscale halal restaurant begins setting up shop in the same neighborhood, the threat to the family’s business sets Hana into planning mode. But plans go awry when she meets the cute owner…
What Comes After
Isaac and Lorrie are neighbors, but more than that, they share a uniquely painful bond: Lorrie’s teenage son, Jonah, murdered his best friend, Daniel, who was Isaac’s teenage son, before killing himself. Where both parents are grieving their sons, Lorrie has the added element of guilt over the link between their deaths; but Isaac carries his own guilt too, thinking back on Daniel’s bullying tendencies. When a pregnant teenage girl, Evangeline, enters their lives, Isaac, who has been trying to find solace in his faith, welcomes her in. But why is she there? Is she linked to the dead boys?
Roll up, roll up to our list of favorite reads, hot off the presses! We’ve got a little bit of everything for you this much, from moving memoirs like Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner and Heart of Fire by Senator Mazie K. Hirono, to gripping debut novels like Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian and The Music of Bees by Eileen Garvin. We’ve also got some poetry from National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman, page-turning nonfiction about the wealthy family behind the roots of the opioid crisis, and much more.