'Flights' by Olga Tokarczuk & 13 Other New Books You Need To Know This Week
Late August usually means lots of thunderstorms, which makes it the perfect month to take yourself indoors and spend some time thinking about your summer decisions (oh boy) and reading some of these new book releases.
There's some debate over whether or not August qualifies as "late summer." Technically, yes. Practically speaking, it will probably stay warm until early October. That means you have six more weeks of sweating so profusely that your the pages of your book get dimpled and creased by the water pouring out your body. That also means you have plenty of time to get yourself to the beach (if that's your thing) or to park out in front of your air conditioner with a cool glass of lemonade and dive in to one of these new books.
This week brings with it an incredible memoir about family dysfunction and it's affect upon generations of people, an unforgettable novel about the end-of-the-world and one woman's insistence on working through it, a nonfiction book about the history of serial killers, and two YA anthologies about the complexities of existing as a woman and marginalized person in America today.
Here are the 14 new books to read this week:
'All Happy Families' by Jeanne McCullough
The title of Jeanne McCullough's breathtaking memoir is a nod to Anna Karenina, so you know you're in for Russian lit-levels of family drama. The memoir begins with the author's wedding — a beach affair hosted at the family's East Hampton mansion. But the festivities go awry when her father suffers a massive stroke from alcohol withdrawal and falls into coma. Despite this, the bride's mother insists the wedding must go on — and it does, sparking a chain of events that force the family to grapple with their legacy of dysfunction.
'Severance' by Ling Ma
Have you ever gotten so caught up in a really good book that you missed your subway stop? That's sort of what happens to the main character of Severance, except she gets so caught up in the mundanity of her life — work, movies with boyfriend, sleep, repeat — that she scarcely notices when a plague sweeps New York and the entire population flees the city. She isn't sick, so she decides to stay behind as part of an office skeleton crew and begins blogging photos of the abandoned city under the name NY Ghost. But she can't make it alone forever — and when a group of survivors bound for the "Facility" roll through town, she decides to join them. And for the record, this is definitely an "Oops, missed by subway stop" book.
'Can You Learn to Be Lucky?: Why Some People Seem to Win More Often Than Others' by Karla Starr
Unfortunately, the answer to this book's title is not "Yes, and here's how" but rather another question: "How are you perpetuating your own unluckiness, and what can you do to stop it?" In Can You Learn To Be Lucky?, Starr argues that "random" unlucky events influence our behavior in incredibly predictable ways. So maybe you can't control what happens to you, but you can certainly control your response — and create your own "luck" in the process.
'Our Stories, Our Voices: 21 YA Authors Get Real About Injustice, Empowerment, and Growing Up Female in America' edited by Amy Reed
I don't need to tell you that being a woman is difficult. (For proof, please direct your attention to the entire #MeToo movement or Hillary Clinton's campaign for president.) But of course, the challenges of being a woman are only exacerbated by other marginalizations: being a woman of color, being a woman with a disability, being a woman who is queer, being a woman who is fat, etc. In this powerful essay collection, 21 YA authors write about their own experiences being a woman in America — in all its messy, complicated glory.
'The Looking Glass' by Janet McNally
This book has everything you want out of a summertime book: fairy tales, a compelling examination of sisterhood, a missing girl, and an epic road trip. Sylvie's sister disappeared without a trace, and no one is quite sure if she's in trouble or if she ran away. But when a copy of the fairy tale book the two sisters were obsessed with as kids mysteriously re-appears, Sylvia begins to see signs of her sister everywhere. So she enlists the help of her best friend's brother and embarks on a road trip to find her.
'See All the Stars' by Kit Frick
A stunning meditation on grief and friendship masked as a mystery, See All The Stars is one of summer's most unforgettable YA novels. Ellory used to have the perfect life — she was part of a sparkling group of four inseparable friends, and she was falling in love with a beautiful boy in the heat of summer. Now, she's alone — no friends, no boyfriends, just secrets.
'Fresh Ink: An Anthology' edited by Lamar Giles
Published in partnership with We Need Diverse Books, this unconventional story collection features a variety of narrative formats: there are 10 short stories, one graphic short story, and a one-act play written by the late Walter Dean Myers. All written by marginalized creators, this collection is a stunning ode to the power of diversity in books.
'A River of Stars' by Vanessa Hua
Scarlett Chen's married lover shipped her from China to a maternity home in Los Angeles for one reason: He wants his unborn child, a son, to become an American citizen. But a sonogram reveals something unexpected about the baby, so Scarlett flees L.A. with another pregnant girl in tow and resettles in San Francisco's Chinatown. But the baby's father isn't far behind her, and her journey is far from over.
'Where the Crawdads Sing' by Delia Owens
The cover of this novel gives me serious "creepy bayou" vibes, and the book definitely delivers on that promise. The book is set in the quiet North Carolina town of Barkley Cove, where rumors of a "Marsh Girl" have percolated for years. She's not a rumor, but a real-life human being who has made a home on the marsh by herself. But in 1969, golden boy Chase Andrews is found dead — and the beautiful, wild Marsh Girl becomes the number one suspect and the subject of more attention from the townspeople than she's ever before experienced.
‘Sons of Cain’ by Peter Vronsky
So, you want to read about serial killers, huh? I don't blame you. With climate change and a somewhat unstable president threatening to destroy the world at any moment, it's somewhat soothing to think about the constants in life — like the existence of serial killers. In Sons of Cain, Peter Vronsky delivers an expansive history of serial murder — beginning in 15,000 BC and ending in the modern day.
'His Favorites' by Kate Walbert
His Favorites takes one dark turn after another, so don't read this one if you're Going Through It. (Unless that's exactly what you need.) The novel begins when Jo — plagued with extreme grief and guilt over her best friend's death — flees her hometown and enrolls in a prestigious boarding school. She is ready to begin again, but she quickly becomes entrapped in the secrets of a charismatic teacher.
'The Carrying' by Ada Limón
I devoured this exquisite collection in one single day, and highly recommend you cancel your plans this weekend to do the same. In an interview with Bustle writer E. Ce Miller, poet Ada Limón explains why poetry is so necessary in our current political climate: "We are leaning in to the idea of real complication. The real mess. And as much as we crave answers right now, crave solutions, crave a fix, I think we also distrust those things. What we can trust is the real complicated questions. And complicated questioning is what poetry does best."
'Flights' by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft
The winner of the Man Booker International Prize for translated fiction, Flights is split into 116 short parts — yes, there are 116 short parts, all narrated by the same nameless woman. Flights, as the title indicates, is a meditation on journeys through space and time, and it's a disorienting, intelligent, and unforgettable book.
'Cherry' by Nico Walker
The story behind Cherry is almost as good as the story within it — because author Nico Walker, an Iraq veteran and heroine addict, is currently in jail for robbing banks. The hero of Cherry mirrors him in many ways: He's a young man who joins the army, unprepared for the horrors that await him. When he returns, his PTSD and opioid addiction keep him from making any real money — so he turns to robbing banks as a solution.