PositiveBooklistWe flash between the hot, sticky months of summer 2016, when Sebastian marvels at the ease with which the younger generation proclaims their sexuality, and memories of his adolescence, when as an insecure boy he found solace in the beauty of paintings and sculpture. His only friend was skinny, quiet Oscar Burnham, another boy questioning his sexual identity ... Zak Salih’s first novel is a gorgeously written meditation on being a gay man in America now. He imbues Sebastian and Oscar with complexity and flaws, two men unsure about the path their life is meant to take. Salih offers a cleareyed exploration of the sometimes fine line between friendship and romance, and how past slights can rear their heads in the most unexpected ways. A raw and captivating debut.
Roy Richard Grinker
RaveBookPageFrom autism to anorexia, people with mental illnesses or neurodivergent brains have long experienced stigma ... In the fascinating and illuminating Nobody’s Normal: How Culture Created the Stigma of Mental Illness, Grinker explores the origins of this stigmatization ... His compassion shines through in this meticulously researched and carefully written book, a passionate call for humans to think about how we view those with mental illness.
Julia Claiborne Johnson
RaveBookPageIn the wonderful, sweet Better Luck Next Time, a much older Ward recounts his time at the Flying Leap Dude Ranch to an unknown listener, whose identity is revealed at the end of the book ... Johnson follows up her hilarious first book, Be Frank With Me, with this more serious—but still witty and charming—offering. She paints a vivid picture of a hot, dry Reno summer during which women wait to see whether their luck has run out or is just beginning ... a story that will stay with you for a long time.
RaveBookPageI Want to Be Where the Normal People Are is a uniquely fun read in part because of the way that Bloom frequently switches formats. One chapter is a screenplay about why she loves theater, while another is a poem apologizing to all her former roommates for being terrible to live with, and she sprinkles excerpts from her real childhood diaries throughout. In addition to the laugh-out-loud portions, Bloom is brutally honest about her shortcomings, self-aware about her quirky approach to life and candid about the years of therapy that have helped her live with OCD.The conclusion Bloom reaches, of course, is that there’s really no such thing as normal. Perhaps even more to the point—who wants to be normal when you could live life as loudly and fully as Rachel Bloom?
PositiveBookPageBragg’s voice is as rich as ever as he finds fresh ways of telling stories both hilarious and poignant ... little jewels on family, faith, food and Fords. Bragg’s Alabama roots especially shine through when he writes about his family, and oh how we love hearing about his family ... Bragg balances the quaint by dipping his toe into current events—something he has typically shied away from in his writing ... In lighter, more mouthwatering chapters, Bragg reveals himself to be a heck of a food writer ... vintage Bragg: comforting, thought-provoking and as heartfelt as it gets.
RaveBookPage...brisk and engaging. Her writing is warm, funny and oh-so-British. The characters she creates feel real ... In this time of increased isolation, The Switch offers a hopeful reminder to reach out to our neighbors with an open mind. It’s a cozy, lovely story about how community matters more than ever.
PositiveBookPageWarning: Reading this book will make you very, very hungry ... entertaining and informative ... Berkowitz writes with unbridled glee about the subject of \'cakey blues and bloomy rinds and marbly cheddars.\' The result is a thorough, fascinating and hunger-inducing (but never cheesy) examination of the culture of cheesemaking.
RaveBookPageHinojosa offers a searing, clear-eyed account of growing up in America after she emigrated from Mexico as an infant. Weaving her own life story with key milestones in U.S. immigration history, she produces a brave examination of the United States’ shortcomings ... quite simply, beautiful. Written in Hinojosa’s honest, passionate voice, this memoir takes readers on a journey through one immigrant’s experience. Hinojosa was able to realize the American dream, but she urges us not to look away from all the others for whom America is a nightmare.
PositiveBookPage... flirts with but never devolves into a formulaic revenge plot, which would cheapen what turns out to be a surprising and satisfying story. First-time novelist Berman deftly captures the entertainment industry in all its fickleness and offers a complex, compassionate portrait of the lasting scars of abuse and trauma.
RaveBookPageAuthor Lauren Ho is a former legal adviser, and her debut novel is a blast. Andrea is a relatable, laugh-out-loud protagonist, a high achiever who also gives in to her weaker instincts on occasion. Last Tang Standing is a near-perfect blend of Crazy Rich Asians and Bridget Jones’s Diary, yet it still feels wholly original.
RaveBookPage...[Irby] writes stunningly astute, hilarious essays about topics both serious (becoming a stepmother) and less so (her slightly lazy beauty rituals). But like all the best essayists, Irby brings deeper insights to even her most lighthearted work ... In \'Girls Gone Mild,\' Irby reflects on her extreme reluctance to go out, now that she’s rounding the corner to 40 ... By the end of the essay, Irby has made peace with her new slower pace of life. It’s simultaneously funny and poignant, as are all the entries in this unflinching collection.
RaveBookPageNot a word is wasted in this slim, beautiful novel. Reading Anne Tyler is always pure pleasure, and Redhead by the Side of the Road is the author at her best. This joyful book is a powerful reminder of how much we need human connection.
PositiveBookPageThis trippy, intriguing novel imagines what this long-rumored diary might contain ... Written in spare, foreboding entries, The Lost Diary of M takes a fresh look at a woman whose mysterious death will likely never be solved. Author Paul Wolfe takes great care with his subject, painting a nuanced, never sensationalized picture of a complex woman.
RaveBookPageCoe moves past the well-worn tropes we’ve come to associate with George Washington. Her nuanced portrait paints a man torn between service to country and family ... Washington’s story is as well documented as anyone’s in American history. Yet Coe finds fresh angles from which to examine him. And she doesn’t shy away from the most troubling aspect of Washington’s legacy: When he died, he owned 123 slaves ... Despite the heavy subject matter, Coe writes with style and humor ... reminds us of the importance of public service and diplomacy, and Coe makes colonial history not just fascinating but relevant.
PositiveBookPage[Rothschild\'s] understanding of the eccentric world of English aristocrats shines throughout this remarkably entertaining novel. Her writing is whimsical yet poignant as she examines how privilege can become a burden, and how an inheritance system so focused on men impacts the women drawn into it ... Part comedy of manners, part serious meditation on money and gender roles, House of Trelawney is both deeply thought-provoking and thoroughly fun.
PositiveBookPage... chillingly good ... infused with a low-grade dread from the very first page ... Katz has delivered a whip-smart, beautifully written meditation on marriage, masculinity and the thin line between happiness and disaster.
RaveBookpageAuthor James Sallis has delivered a long list of excellent crime novels, as well as biographies and books of poetry. With its spare but insightful prose and probing exploration of the price of our sins, Sarah Jane fits among his finest ... Sallis imbues his story with an astonishingly real sense of place ... This book will leave you marveling about our ability to carve out a life, no matter how different it is from what we expected.
Meg Waite Clayton
PositiveBookPage... devastating ... In a time when many parents are again facing the impossible choice of seeking safety for their children, even if it means separation and uncertainty, The Last Train to London reads like a warning note from the past. Yet the novel also glimmers with hope: the heroism of everyday people putting their own comfortable lives in jeopardy to help others.
PositiveBookPage... a gorgeous collection of essays that reads like a memoir ... Sagan writes with stunning clarity and absolute joy ... a marvel. It dazzles and comforts while making us consider our own place in the vast universe.
RaveBook Page...a pitch-perfect anthology that captures the nuances of life in the nation\'s capital ... Although the writing is consistently vibrant, the real treats in this book are Graham\'s vignettes introducing each piece. An observer of D.C. life for decades (she even refers to herself in the introduction as the Forrest Gump of Washington always managing to be ringside for historical events), Graham\'s comments add considerable zing to the volume.
PositiveBookPageIn this amiable if slightly unfocused follow-up to Sex and the City, the iconic 1990s bible for single-girl life in Manhattan, we check in with Bushnell as she closes out her 50s ... As Bushnell paints a picture of how women navigate aging, she can lapse into overgeneralized and sometimes contradictory statements. Her friends are all hormonal victims of what she calls middle-age madness, or MAM, fighting with each other and drinking too much. Yet they also are suddenly finding themselves \'catnip for younger men.\' ... But the effervescent Bushnell still has the ability to make readers laugh with her casually dry one-liners ... One can’t help but root for her.
PositiveBookPage... beautiful, wrenching ... confronts our bitter history and its violence and ugliness, which still resonate generations later ... [Coates] weaves a clear-eyed story that has elements of magic but is grounded in a profoundly simple truth: A person’s humanity is tied to their freedom.
PositiveBookPage... a beautifully honest look at the exhilaration and heavy weight that comes with breaking barriers. Welteroth didn’t set out to shatter ceilings, but she is a force of nature. I can’t wait to see what she does next.
RaveBookPageBunny is an astonishingly self-assured [novel], a surreal journey into the depths of a nightmare. Awad’s writing is somehow both gorgeous and gritty as she explores creativity, art and the universal desire to belong.
PositiveBookPageBev Thomas, herself a psychologist, paints a sympathetic portrait of a grieving mother—one with no body to bury—and the choices she makes just to survive. A Good Enough Mother is both a heartbreaking story of love and loss and a hopeful meditation on the winding path to healing.
Megan K. Stack
PositiveBookPageStack truly becomes aware of the hardships facing the women she employs: alcoholism, domestic violence, poverty. She delves into their stories with searing honesty and self-reflection ... Women’s Work is a brave book, an unflinching examination of privilege and the tradeoffs all women make in the name of family.
RaveBookPageHillenbrand is undoubtedly a terrific reporter and storyteller, with an eye for details that make each page sing. But her truest gift may be her innate respect for her subjects. Hillenbrand never deifies Zamperini, who returned from war a broken man prone to flashbacks and barroom brawls before a chance encounter with evangelist Billy Graham turned his life around. Unbroken is a spellbinding celebration of resilience, forgiveness and the human capacity for finding beauty in the unlikeliest places.
RaveBookPage\"His wonderfully introspective new memoir, I.M., makes clear that Mizrahi is still the same creative force of nature, just polished down and with more years under his well-crafted belt ... I.M. is as generous a memoir as I can remember. Mizrahi lays bare his struggles with body image, insomnia and relationships. He meditates on the fickle nature of the fashion industry and spills a little tea on his many celebrity friends. The book is like a classic Mizrahi design: joyful, colorful and always with a twist of the unexpected.\
PositiveBookPageHistorian Lucy Worsley manages to offer a fresh look by focusing on 24 days throughout the monarch’s life. By zooming in on key dates to examine Victoria as a queen, wife and mother, the book is simultaneously fast-paced and substantial. Some scholars have tried to reframe Victoria as a feminist, a strong leader decades ahead of her time. But Worsley concludes Victoria was deeply traditional ... Worsley’s portrait of the queen is unflinching ... Yet through Worsley’s clear-eyed and graceful writing, we also see a woman aiming to do right by her subjects and her family, even within the confines of the times.
PositiveBookPage\"Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen... deliver again with An Anonymous Girl. It’s a taut exploration of marriage and manipulation. Dr. Shields is a chilling psycho for the ages...\
RaveBookPage\"Liane Moriarty is simply unparalleled at infusing flawed characters with humor and heartbreak. [Moriarty possesses a] singular brand of storytelling ... Nine Perfect Strangers... [offers] an irresistible take on our wellness-obsessed culture, where the weirder the treatment, the better.\
Jose Antonio Vargas
PositiveBookPageDear America, is a clarion call for humanity in a time of unprecedented focus on the 11 million people living in America without a clear path to citizenship. Vargas writes passionately about the undeniable intersection between race, class and immigration and traces the bitter history of American immigration policy. He speaks on behalf of our neighbors, our colleagues, those undocumented humans we interact with every day—often unknowingly—who are part of our community while always standing on the outside.
PositiveBookPage\"Boyd...is exceptionally good at evoking a vivid sense of place. He takes us to the gloomy Scottish countryside and the Mediterranean shores of Nice, enveloping the reader in a time in European history when horses are being replaced by cars, women still have few choices, and men can settle their feuds without the interference of law.\
RaveBookPageLisa McCubbin’s insightful portrait is admiring without being fawning, candid without a whiff of tabloid salaciousness ... A journalist and co-author of several bestselling memoirs from Secret Service agents, McCubbin has deftly unearthed stories from those close to Betty Ford: her children, friends and former employees. The result is a vivid picture of a singularly influential woman.
PositiveBookPage[Geni is] an astonishing storyteller who brings the sun-baked plains of Oklahoma to life on every page. The narrative toggles seamlessly ... The Wildlands is perfectly of its time, when humans are more alert than ever to our impact on the world around us.
PositiveBookPageThe Design of Childhood is a fascinating look at how our surroundings shape our childhoods, both today and in the past ... \'To understand what children can do,\' Lange writes, \'you need to give them tools and experiences that are open-ended, fungible: worlds of their own making.\' Lange applies the same logic to other elements of a child’s life: Playgrounds ... Planned communities ... This is a fascinating look at the world from a pint-size perspective.
PositiveBookpageA memoir that recounts spending five wide-eyed years traveling the world on Air Force One, producing transcripts of President Barack Obama’s press conferences and speeches. She joins a team of D.C. insiders who hopscotch the globe, from Senegal to Tanzania to Stonehenge, all in service to their country and to the man they call POTUS ... the few chosen to serve the president also form intense bonds, and they get a front seat to history. Dorey-Stein and her colleagues bear witness to the White House response to the tragedy of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. She forms a tight band of friends within \'the Bubble\'—her name for the president’s cliquish traveling entourage—and she begins an ill-fated romance with a magnetic yet noncommittal senior staffer ... Dorey-Stein offers a generous, vivid portrait of what it’s like to work at the epicenter of power when your job is to stay out of the spotlight. She navigates heartbreak, career indecision and friendship like virtually every 20-something. But unlike other young women, she does it all in the shadow of the White House.
RaveBookPageGiffin draws the reader in like few storytellers can, and All We Ever Wanted is no exception. She effortlessly captures the voices of a struggling single father, a strong yet vulnerable teenage girl and a mother desperate to know the truth about her own child. All We Ever Wanted is a deeply moving cautionary tale about the perils of privilege.
RaveBookPageLively has been a voracious gardener her entire adult life, and it shows in her nearly encyclopedic knowledge of gardening. Yet this is not a traditional gardening book. You won’t find tips for slug removal, growing roses or mulching. And thank goodness for that, because Lively has so much more to say about the relevance of gardens ... Lively’s trademark British wit makes several delightfully acidic appearances, but Life in the Garden is also at times almost unbearably poignant, coming as late as it does in the life of the wonderfully prolific author.
RaveBookPage\"Despite its searing subject matter, How to Be Safe is beautifully written ... McAllister presents a clear indictment of modern America’s sickness: a toxic mix of disappearing jobs and opioids and misogyny and isolation and violence. He’s not afraid to give voice to the issue that so many politicians step around. As he makes clear, there are solutions.\
RaveBookPage\"Her latest collection covers everything from fertility to vertigo, and it carries a newfound heft that can only be gained with age and experience ... Crosley’s writing crackles with wit and humanity. Look Alive Out There reaffirms her place as one of the most generous essayists writing today.\
RaveBookPage\"The Italian Teacher is another superbly poignant novel featuring deeply imperfect people making deeply human decisions. It is about loyalty, the power and pretension of art and, most of all, the ties that bind.\
RaveBookPageKimmery Martin’s excellent debut novel serves up an irresistible mix of romance, ER drama, friendship and betrayal. Martin, a physician herself, writes in a clear and lively way, flashing between the friends and between present day and their exhausting but exhilarating medical school years. In her hands, dramatic hospital scenes and routine kitchen conversations are equally compelling.
PositiveBookPage...searing … For the most part, Young sidesteps any direct judgment of the war, but his writing makes clear the toll the war took on him personally … Young is unflinching, even slightly removed as he examines the most brutally personal moments of his years in service. Sometimes he writes in the first person, sometimes in the second. He incorporates sketches of his body along with self-diagnoses of his physical and psychic pain, which are insightful rather than self-indulgent. And he pays tribute to those he served with, including those who came home broken or didn’t come home at all.
PositiveBookPageSo how does This Could Hurt — based entirely around the daily happenings of a human resources team — yield such a delicious, satisfying book? Because Jillian Medoff delivers a story that is about so much more than run-of-the-mill office politics ...a worthy follow-up to Medoff’s bestseller I Couldn’t Love You More. Filled with heart and humor, it will ring true to anyone who’s experienced both the cruelty and the camaraderie that make up the modern American workplace.
RaveBookPageA slim but powerful volume, Goodbye, Vitamin is written in journal-like dispatches as Ruth watches her father, Howard, slide down the tunnel of Alzheimer’s disease ... As Ruth comes to grips with the messy reality of her family, she strengthens her ties with her long-suffering mom and younger brother ...a funny and beautiful meditation on family bonds and finding one’s place in an ever-changing world.