RaveBooklist\"Galizia combines memoir, true crime, and history as he details Malta’s complicated past for a riveting and unnerving story that remains fully unresolved.\
RaveBooklist\"In her signature oddball style, she honestly and hilariously discusses all of this while offering some weighty (yet somehow still funny) analysis of mental health stigma, our broken health care system, and taking advantage of people in genuine need of help. Those who love Maria Bamford will love this, and those who don’t might by the end.\
PositiveBooklistThough the combination of seriousness and comedy of errors can be jarring, readers will love becoming a part of Crow Valley.
Veronica Raimo, trans. Leah Janeczko
PositiveBooklistVeronica has a distinct voice and is very funny, even when addressing very unfunny things. Lurking under all this is Raimo’s fascinating contemplation of the interplay of identity and memory.
PositiveBooklistCompelling and quietly disturbing ... Fischer expertly captures the intensity of a first relationship and the constant self-questioning of an insecure young woman.
RaveBooklistAnother collection of humorous, self reflective essays. She is at her comic best in several pieces ... There’s tons of emotional depth hidden under the layers of comedy.
RaveBooklistGrim and affecting ... Geary’s writing is wonderfully revealing and beautiful, particularly when describing characters’ clothing, which is often used to show or hide their emotions. Altogether achingly memorable.
PositiveBooklistThe war story is more propulsive, but Sundaram’s honest writing serves both the personal and political well.
Matthew Pratt Guterl
PositiveBooklistGuterl focuses much of the story on himself and his closest siblings... and on the realities of growing up in a big family. But he is clear-eyed about his privilege, even within his family, and about his parents who, with the best of intentions, have the whiff of white saviors. Readers may wish to hear more from his siblings’ voices, but this doesn’t detract from this unique perspective on race.
PositiveBooklistNot one for neat endings, Chakrabarti puts the impetus on readers to decide the consequences of characters’ actions and where their fates lie. It’s an affecting technique for a captivating collection infused with a meaningful, lingering sense of unease and melancholy.
De'Shawn Charles Winslow
PositiveBooklistWinslow offers several points of view in this character-driven mystery, once again pulling readers in with conversational, highly readable writing while deftly weaving in themes of race, sexuality, and small-town dynamics. Another winner.
PositiveBooklist\"Guinn focuses on the standoff and the myriad bad decisions by the ATF and the FBI, capably tracing a throughline to the increase in anti-government hate groups. Readers may be left wanting more on the provocative idea of Waco’s continued influence, but overall this is extremely well done and thought-provoking.\
PositiveBooklistAmbitious, sprawling, chock full of characters ... Readers would do well to keep the book’s multiple viewpoints sorted from the beginning and should know that, with unrelenting doom throughout its 800-plus pages, this is a demanding but worthwhile read.
Tegan Nia Swanson
PositiveBooklistElements of mystery, supernatural, and dystopian fiction vie for attention in Swanson’s intriguing and inventive debut ... While the mash of genres doesn’t always make for suspenseful reading, Swanson’s novel explores themes of violence against women, small town prejudice, and corporate disregard in fascinating and unexpected ways that fans of stylish, experimental fiction will appreciate.
RaveBooklistDaniel turns her poetic sensibilities onto herself in this mash-up of memoir and narrative nonfiction ... While the jumble of memoir and history may throw some readers, they’ll find writing so beautiful it’s worth the price of admission.
RaveBooklistChaudry shares this candid and bighearted story about her lifelong love/hate relationships with food and her body ... On this long road to repairing her self-esteem and her relationship with food, Chaudry is totally engaging, a perfect host. And after her descriptions of food, readers will be very happy to see recipes included at the end. Utterly delicious!
PositiveBooklistCoscarelli was embedded in the Atlanta scene for several years, making his storytelling feel both historic and immediate as it places the reader right there with him. Fans of behind-the-music stories will be glued to the page.
RaveBooklistCorcoran’s detailing of recent Mexican history provides crucial understanding of the environment she, her sources, and local journalists are operating under. She also injects a strong sense of place and fear into this copiously detailed, compelling true-crime tale.
PositiveBooklistErudite ... Belcourt’s smart, thoughtful writing will appeal to readers who prize introspection over plot, and is also a great crossover for memoir readers.
RaveBooklistEscoffery’s collection of interconnected stories confirms his already prize-winning status ... The writing and characters are nuanced, with much pain and trauma but also moments of levity and humor. Trelawny is a wonder, constantly trying to improve himself and yet battered again and again by his own actions, or, more likely, those outside his control, like the ever-present Miami hurricanes.
RaveBooklistParks blends memoir with investigative journalism in this story intertwining the past and present in the small town of Delhi, Louisiana ... Parks’ work of self-investigation is a fascinating, engrossing tale about identity and belonging.
PositiveBooklist... a page-turning true-crime story as well as an eye-opening look at the treatment of convicts experiencing mental illness ... Hale is no stranger to controversy, and some readers may be turned off by her seeming empathy for Anissa and Morgan, which reads at the expense of Bella. Otherwise this is an engrossing account that is sure to include new information even to those familiar with the shocking story.
PositiveBooklistCampbell’s writing is intimate and enveloping, and while main characters may share commonalities, their stories are quite eclectic. The rare perspective of Campbell’s collection makes this a breath of fresh air.
PositiveBooklistStevens’ writing is beautiful and evocative of the Majorcan landscape as she slowly develops the arc of Sand and Chopin’s affair and elucidates Blanca’s life spent in tantalizing anticipation. While each story suffers slightly at the hands of the other, this is a winner with appeal beyond historical fiction readers.
PositiveBooklistCalder deftly captures the dichotomy of true self and presented self, especially in a world of technology and social media, and the angst within when those two things don’t match, as they rarely do. A somewhat uneven but overall intriguing, worthwhile collection.
Mecca Jamilah Sullivan
RaveBooklistEngrossing ... There are no broad strokes in this novel. With grace and patience, Sullivan invites the reader into Malaya’s interior world—one of yearnings and rejections—and her rapidly changing exterior world. An affecting and memorable debut.
PositiveBooklistRenowned Danish writer Jessen’s short-story collection shows her penchant for writing about everyday lives as they’re disrupted in ways, large and small, that alter her character’s trajectories ... While large events occur—a murder, even—Jessen’s writing remains subdued and detailed, ensuring that readers will be drawn into each story and feel emotionally connected to the characters. Danish life is simply and realistically woven throughout, with hints that some of these stories may be set in the same small town. Expertly translated by Aiken, Jessen’s language flows beautifully, making this a collection readers could easily devour in a sitting; its characters and themes will stay with them long after.
PositiveBooklistCross-Smith continues to weave spellbinding tales of love and lust in the wake of adversity ... Cross-Smith never allows Vincent’s indecisiveness to come off as naivete or weakness; she is an utterly appealing heroine. Another winning novel from Cross-Smith.
Camille Kouchner, trans. by Adriana Hunter
PositiveBooklistThis record of Kouchner’s coming to terms with the secret set off a new #MeToo movement in France—one that confronts incest. It also resulted in her stepfather’s resignation from Parliament. Kouchner writes in poetically short sentences, paragraphs, and chapters, helping to soften the raw and difficult subject matter.
RaveBooklistIlluminating and authentic ... The book’s first and third parts, covering her childhood and her MS diagnosis (along with the birth of her son), respectively, are spellbinding. While the middle section that follows her career lags at times, it does little to take away from Blair’s compelling story and remarkably good writing.
PositiveBooklistThis domestic thriller from Day serves up a dramatic plot twist that will leave readers questioning everything ... Marisa is a sympathetic character, but when the point of view switches to Kate’s, things take a sharp turn. To say anything more would be too much, but know that Day offers a page-turner that lightly incorporates mental health and infertility. While it may be unrealistic, it’s also highly readable, and fans of the genre will gobble it up.
RaveBooklist... mesmerizing ... Utterly engaging and always respectful, Trailed is highly recommended for true crime fans who love fascinating tangents, like those Miles offers on the National Park Service, Woodswomen, and the establishment of hate crime laws.
PositiveBooklistWitty ... Lighthearted ... While things maybe tie up a bit too perfectly, this is a breezy, fun read with just enough heft.
PositiveBooklist[Genis] devotes a chapter to Rikers itself, because it’s Rikers; the rest of the book is organized into facets of prison life and its inhabitants, with a level of detail that’s staggering ... Genis’ identity as a white Jewish man informs his experience. While sometimes shocking, this memoir is also highly entertaining and should find wide readership.
RaveBooklistWeinman weaves a strange and compelling tale about murder, deception, fame, and friendship ... Weinman makes great use of the many letters that exist between all three of them. This is a psychologically fascinating must-read for true-crime buffs.
RaveBooklistLeddy’s explorations into schizophrenia and its relationship to traumatic brain injury enrich the story and beg comparisons to Susan Cahalan’s Brain on Fire (2012), which she references. Not easy reading but exceptionally thoughtful and insightful, this memoir is a testament to Kait, Leddy, and their mother.
PositiveBooklistAttenberg tends to make friends wherever she goes, which is no surprise given that her frank and charming writing creates an intimacy with the reader. A fantastic choice for those who love writers’ memoirs, such as Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel (2018), or an autobiographical ode to single ladies like Glynnis MacNicol’s No One Tells You This (2018).
PositiveBooklistA serious subject, women who kill, gets a jaunty treatment by author Wright. Brief essays give an overview of women who committed murder for a variety of reasons but with a common thread of bucking the patriarchy ... Wright likes to keep it humorous, which mostly suits the sketches but sometimes feels out of place and could turn some folks off. Readers who want to just dip their toes in the lady-killer pool will be most pleased with this book and will likely find at least a couple of subjects they want to explore further.
PositiveBooklistRicky is a hothead and a self-saboteur supreme, yet his earnestness and humor make him endearing, and Kwak’s unconventional and sharp writing further draws readers in. Go Home, Ricky! explores race, class, and identity in subtle yet fascinating ways and is an extremely promising first novel from a distinct voice.
PositiveBooklistReaders should be prepared for pages detailing tennis matches—a basic understanding of the game and scoring is a prequisite—as well as irritation with Thomas in moments of bold self-absorption. At the same time, the author’s honesty is also what makes this memoir appealing, and Thomas’ insights into the world of amateur tennis are compelling. A capable memoir for those who love tennis and competition.
PositiveBooklistPatel gently weaves larger issues of racism and homophobia into Renu and Akash’s emotionally rich first-person narration. A winner for book clubs and those who enjoy a little heartstring pulling.
Sean Thor Conroe
PositiveBooklistFuccboi is Conroe’s I-novel ... His struggle with being masculine but woke is psychosomatically explored as he develops a debilitating skin condition that a dermatologist believes may be due to a lack of testosterone. While metaphors like this are overworked, Conroe’s stylish, conversational writing (he thanks his publisher for letting him write how he talks) is intriguing and will appeal most to experimental fiction readers.
PositiveBooklistSavaş expertly crafts another slim, quiet yet deep novel that will attract readers who seek well-written, character-driven fiction.
PositiveBooklist... shocking and, ultimately, life-affirming ... An eye-opening account sure to please those who love a good cult book or just a good memoir.
Hiromi Kawakami, tr. Ted Goossen
PositiveBooklistIt is all weird, wonderful, and surprisingly funny. Readers who appreciate the fairy-tale feel in the stories of Helen Oyeyemi will find that here, in this wholly original collection.
PositiveBooklistQuinones chronicles the devastation wrought by these newer synthetic drugs, while also showing how corporate marketing and Americans’ desire for a quick fix combined with our addictive nature tie into the problem. But he also writes of hope ... Quinones introduces a lot of people in a lot of places, and does a good job of keeping everyone straight. He is always engaging, though some information feels rehashed and his conclusions don’t always seem clear. Regardless, readers looking for the latest take on the drug trade and recovery as well as those who flock to well written journalism will dig into this.
MixedBooklistHe expounds on this and other serious themes including the death of his sister, toxic masculinity, and love (although much more sex) in a consistently confident, brash, and vulgar yet earnest tone ... While the essays go off topic and tend to ramble, the form does replicate the feeling of watching a stand-up comedy show, and there are definitely laughs to be had and a few insights to gain. Many readers will likely be turned off by the writing and his confrontational style, but his legion of fans will love it.
RaveBooklist... a captivating, thoughtful, classification-defying read ... While the threads don’t always tie together seamlessly, it’s a small complaint for the insightful, fresh perspective that Samaha applies to immigration, history, and what it means to be American, all so fascinating and engagingly shared.
RaveBooklistIn this thoroughly warm, witty, entertaining, and character-driven novel spanning decades, Winman...shares bighearted ideas about friendship, love, art, and community ... While Still Life is slim on plot and heavy on coincidence, it is hard to envision a reader who won’t be smitten by Winman’s characters and their banter, like old Cressy, who takes his advice from a tree, and Claude, the blue parrot who may be Shakespeare reincarnated.
PositiveBooklistChakrabarti’s absorbing debut is an ode to art, friendship, and love ... Chakrabarti’s characters are sharply drawn and alluring, and Jaryk’s survivor’s guilt is palpable. At its heart this is a love story, and literary readers not used to cheering for a happy ending may find themselves doing just that.
PositiveBooklistBlackburn’s second book of short stories is eclectic and satisfying even as it leaves readers with little closure ... Written from a distinct point of view and certainly never dull, this collection will appeal to those who enjoy experimental fiction and firmly places Blackburn as a writer to watch.
MixedBooklistThe relentless abuse makes for difficult reading, and only a small portion of the book is dedicated to Gilpin’s life after graduation and her eventual recovery from the trauma. So, while not exactly hopeful, Stolen is definitely eye-opening and memorable.
PositiveBooklistArudpragasam uses a deeply introspective and philosophical lens to examine themes of war, displacement, and grief, as he did in his first novel ... He uses poetry, literature, and film to sift through his feelings, and his detailed retellings result in several stories within the story. Long, contemplative passages make this best suited for those who relish lovely writing and philosophical musings, who will thoroughly enjoy it.
RaveBooklistRomantic Novelists’ Association award-winner Gayle delights ... With a winning main character, this absolutely heartwarming story unfolds with just enough surprises and heft to keep readers engaged. A natural choice for fans of Helen Simonson’s Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand or any of the myriad recent books about cranky men finding late-in-life joy.
PositiveBooklistWhile Brottman clearly believes Bechtold no longer poses a threat to himself or others, it may not be quite so clear to readers. Regardless, she makes a compelling case against the unjust, seemingly arbitrary treatment of those deemed criminally insane.
RaveBooklistKupersmith combines elements of horror, mystery, and historical and literary fiction to create a strange and wondrous story ... Kupersmith expertly ties these characters together through plot and reccurring talismans—snakes, a dog, a lottery ticket, a policeman’s hat—and magically manages to create a story both epic and intensely intimate. Patient and observant readers will be richly rewarded.
PositiveBooklistThroughout a life of uphill battles, abuse, and hustling, Myers-Powell has managed to retain her humor, attitude, and fight, all on full display in this stirring memoir ... Graphic but never gratuitous (you won’t find detailed descriptions of her prostitution work), Leaving Breezy Street is engaging and candid. Those who like gritty memoirs of resilience will relish it, and it is a perfect nonfiction crossover for urban fiction readers.
PositiveBooklist\" The films’ plots are loosely outlined with bits of history and criticism thrown in, but this is primarily a warm and engaging story of the Koreskys and the bond between mother and son. Knowing the films is helpful but not required, making the book appealing to a wide swath of readers.
PositiveBooklistPhillips (Fierce Kingdom, 2017) nails dialogue and characters’ emotions even as the loose plot meanders. The gentle foreboding lends an air of suspense, and the era’s details (Tab, anyone?), misogyny (which Phillips explores well), and racism (which she could have explored further) fill out the setting. Fans of character-driven women’s fiction should be on the lookout.
RaveBooklistTracing the paths of immigration and poverty, Tran’s moving and exceptionally readable memoir is at once heartbreaking, shocking, and hopeful ... Tran is exceptional at telling her story with honesty and without judgment. Readers who loved Tara Westover’s Educated (2018) will find a similarly compelling memoir of resilience in a not-often-seen America.
PositiveBooklistThis compact yet powerful novel illuminates the refugee crisis through the lives of workers at a small London pizzeria ... The narration alternates between Shan and Nia, and the story comes to a head as Nia becomes involved in the dangerous business of helping Tuli find Shan’s family. Lalwani matches story and pacing perfectly, interspersing leisurely days at the restaurant with intense scenes ... This timely and adept novel deserves wide readership.
PositiveBooklist... unlike other essayists who might use this trope for humor, Swanson is continually looking for meaning and depth ... Swanson searches for sense and narrative in a world that is often senseless and even bleak. While he provides more questions than answers, Swanson’s contemplative collection is relatable, timely, and thought-provoking.
PositiveBooklistIt’s easy to see how Salaam became a motivational speaker, writing throughout the book of transforming traumatic experiences: \'you must take the emotions that come up in your reflection and move that energy into something purposeful.\' An uplifting and hopeful book about a terrible miscarriage of justice and the lives impacted.
PositiveBooklistVeteran reporter Smith crosses the river of grief with the help of courageous people facing difficult medical situations in this memoir-journalism mash-up ... Smith learns to face Christopher’s death, move forward with courage, and experience joy without guilt. This difficult yet hopeful reading journey will appeal to memoir fans and those interested in medical nonfiction.
RaveBooklist[An] honest and thought-provoking memoir in essays ... Hough’s story is often painful, including homelessness and a brief stint in jail, and her time in the cult is horrifying, but her candid and direct writing makes for engrossing reading, and jolts of humor provide levity. Her story is not one readers often see, and it deserves a wide audience.
Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
RaveBooklistMasterfully building character (although Julian and David get the short shrift) and dropping revelations through flashbacks, D’Aprix Sweeney’s writing is smooth and propelling. Readers of introspective, relational novels will devour this.
PositiveBooklistWhile at times bombastic and bewildering, the novel also features moments of brilliance, especially in the dialogue and the surprising connections. A literary feast for a patient reader.
PositiveBooklist... absorbing ... Chude-Sokei wants nothing more than to be a part of Black culture, both out of admiration and survival, although his love of David Bowie is just one of many things he feels set him apart from both cultures. He explores this dichotomy in clear, engaging writing, making this book highly recommended for all memoir readers.
PositiveBooklistIn her second novel, Cross-Smith once again shows adeptness at exploring the range of human emotions, particularly the fragility of relationships in the wake of tragedy ... he weekend turns into a fairly rote new-love story, even with the added suspense that Emmett is hiding something terrible and possibly terrifying. But Cross-Smith is no fan of fairytales, offering twists that keep the novel interesting and realistic. A page-turning pleaser with a heroine to love.
PositiveBooklist... highly readable ... Dicks nails Michael’s inner thoughts and dialogue, and his portrayals of his relationships (with his siblings and the psychologist in particular) are refreshingly sweet. The \'other mother\' conceit wears thin after a while, mostly because Michael’s story is compelling enough, but it takes little away from this engaging novel.
PositiveBooklistFlashbacks illuminate Kay’s backstory, including his drag queen days and relationship with Evan, and every character has a moment to tell their story. Hernandez delivers beautiful and heartbreaking scenes in a story that is hard especially because of how close it feels to our present.
Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham
RaveBooklist... an intriguing and beautiful book meant to inspire ... an incredible array of creative people ... Punctuated throughout with photography and other artwork and using vibrant colors smartly, the book is as interesting visually as intellectually. In their introduction, the editors state that one of their intentions with this book \'is to encourage readers to follow their interests into a deep warren of rabbit holes and discoveries.\' They succeed; every reader will engage with this work differently, and will be able to come back to it again and again for inspiration.
RaveBooklist... makes for fun reading, enhanced by veteran entertainment journalist Maerz’s expert chapter introductions and many, well-organized conversations with everyone from Linklater to the stars to the film crew. But Alright, Alright, Alright is also an interesting peek into the many relationships that must be navigated in the making of a film, and a surprising foray into the nature of memory and nostalgia. A must for fans of the movie and readers interested in the moviemaking experience.
Connor Towne O'Neill
PositiveBooklistThis timely, engaging book examines whiteness through controversial Confederate symbols and statues that have become a focal point in the national discussion about systemic racism and white supremacy. Producer of the podcast White Lies, O’Neill focuses on several statues and a building named after Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest, who looms large in Confederate lore ... O’Neill uses a literary-journalism style and gives voice to both sides of the argument ... Still, it’s clear in both O’Neill’s personal reckoning and his brief history of the monuments and their ties to white supremacy that he believes they are one of the many ways we keep \'intact the things we want to believe about our country, our past, our present, ourselves.\'
PositiveBooklistDarby exposes the important roles that women play—and have played throughout history—in movements based on white nationalism and white supremacy ... Journalist Darby...rounds out these stories by placing them in history, showing how white women have played significant parts in hate movements including Nazism and the KKK. This book is eye-opening and incredibly timely.
PositiveBooklistBelcourt’s writing is poetic and philosophical, and often meanders in lovely and thought-provoking ways, whether he writes of colonialism, his grandmother, or his queer/NDN identity. Clearly a student, too, he includes words of other writers, particularly Ocean Vuong and Maggie Nelson, but his voice is distinctly his own. This timely and intriguing collection would make a great read-alike for Saeed Jones’ How We Fight for Our Lives (2019).
PositiveBooklistProlific author Leavitt (Cruel Beautiful World, 2016) mines the aftermath of one couple’s tragedy in her latest novel ... Leavitt’s seamless writing easily carries readers through the compelling story. While more character development would have been welcome, this doesn’t take away from the book’s emotional wallop. Leavitt’s fans and readers of domestic drama will be thrilled.
PositiveBooklistMcCarthy unfolds the story in a delightfully suspenseful way, even while some bombshells fizzle, using the duplicitous and unreliable Rose to full effect. Readers who need a character to root for won’t find one here, but those who enjoy books about the dark side of female friendship—think Megan Abbott—will be right at home.
PositiveBooklistWhile his first book is being touted as a memoir about growing up in the Synanon cult, Jollett, frontman for the band Airborne Toxic Event, actually writes much more about his life after escaping it ... He is a very good writer able to relay details of his difficult life, even as a young child, and despite occasionally overwrought descriptions, the story remains engaging and heartbreaking. A good choice for fans of memoirs about overcoming dysfunctional childhoods like Educated...and The Glass Castle...
PositiveBooklist... heartbreaking ... what predominates is a loving portrait of Sarah, Andersen’s baby sister ... Legitimate questions are raised about Sarah’s death and the criminal elements she was cavorting with, but as noted, few are answered. The more interesting story, however, is that of Sarah and Rose; two sides of the same coin whose roles could easily have been reversed. Perfect for memoir readers who enjoyed Stephanie Wittels Wachs’ Everything is Horrible and Wonderful (2018) or Maureen Cavanagh’s If You Love Me (2018).
PositiveBooklistWasserman...asks big questions about how well we can really know another person, the nature of truth as it relates to memory, and what this all means for how we perceive ourselves. While the novel takes a while to get moving, it ultimately has some great twists and all those questions Wasserman raises make it an excellent book-discussion choice.
PositiveBooklist...a well written, evocative novel following three women grappling with their newfound identities ... While their tales are thematically linked throughout, it is not until late in the book that further connections appear—but each story line is captivating regardless ... A winner for fans of historical fiction, literary women’s fiction, and Jewish interest stories, this would also make for an interesting book discussion.
PositiveBooklist... thoughtful and compassionate ... Thompson-Hernandez never shies away from the cowboys’ trauma, and his respect for them is clear. This is an endearing tribute to them, Akbar, and the benefits of equine therapy.
PositiveBooklistJournalist and memoirist Sheff...chronicles one man’s time on death row and his use of Buddhist practices to discover hope and healing ... Sheff’s highly readable account of Masters’ experiences offers readers an inspirational story that also functions as an introduction to Buddhist principles.
PositiveBooklistMilliken’s debut is a surprisingly suspenseful coming-of-age novel starring an earnest young woman who loves horses and, maybe, girls ... While the plot is swift-moving and engaging, it is occasionally overstuffed and secondary characters could be better developed. Still, Rory is a lovely companion, and readers will enjoy following her through her trials and tribulations.
PositiveBooklist... [a] unique coming-of-age tale ... ension escalates, the novel’s tone becomes foreboding—but the ending is still a shocker. This is a little southern gothic, a little supernatural, and a little reminiscent of Wiley Cash’s suspensful A Land More Kind than Home (2012).
RaveBooklistJust like life, McFarland’s debut is big, messy, and complicated while also being a completely engrossing portrait of her characters and their hometown. She deftly weaves in issues of race and consent. Perfect for those who like books about family dysfunction, this would also make a great book discussion selection.
RaveBooklist... heart-wrenching ... The alternating narrators of Brian, Sharon, and Jess are fleshed out in all of their complexities and contradictions. This immersive, tragic book will stay with readers.
PositiveBooklist...a detailed historical account ... Reddi’s richly imagined, character-driven novel sheds light on a little-known history of Indians in the U.S. and surprisingly echoes current events. A wonderful historical saga for fans of Jane Smiley’s Some Luck.
Rachel Vorona Cote
MixedBooklistWhile seeing the relationship between Jane Eyre and Britney Spears or Miss Havisham and Madonna is fascinating, Vorona Cote’s combo of criticism, theory, and memoir gets muddled at times, and her thesis gets lost in the personal (and vice versa), while her writing runs the gamut from academic to confessional. Readers who enjoy a feminist take on pop culture, à la Bitch magazine, will be right at home.
PositiveBooklist... page-turning ... Ward’s work involves explaining complicated and ever-changing political situations, mostly in short segments, and her writing displays these skills. Readers will come away with at least a basic understanding of multiple international conflicts. This is a wonderful addition to the list of recent titles about women working in war-torn lands.
PositiveBooklistSisman gives readers a chronological romp through Peters’ continual attempts to pass himself off as a student of the church, a preacher, a teacher, and even a principal of two religious schools, all in the name of notoriety. While Peters is definitely a character, he is also a bigamist, a misogynist, and a sexual harasser (at the very least) and yet Sisman passes these off as more of his trickster ways instead of recognizing them as the predatory behaviors they are. This lack of synthesis is unfortunate, but the story of Trevor-Roper and Peters is an entertaining case of truth being stranger than fiction.
PositiveBooklist... odd and wondrous short stories ... in each case the very thing meant to help actually creates more problems. This has the effect of keeping character[s]\'s humanness at the center of each story; appearing at first to be about the double-edged sword of technology, the collection is actually about people confronting their all-too-human emotions. While occasionally uneven, at her best, South is reminiscent of George Saunders, replete with strangeness and dark humor. This intriguing collection should put South on readers’ radars and is perfect for fans of Black Mirror.
PositiveBooklistAndrews writes beautiful, unusual descriptions, and short chapters give the story a poetic sensibility. Her intertwining of time periods and mother-daughter relationships through generations is so well done that it is a real loss when she abandons it for a more straightforward telling. Andrews’ debut declares her one to watch.
RaveBooklist\"Mitchell’s straightforward style suits the stories perfectly: neither the families’ continued heartache nor the hate of those on trial need be embellished to be affecting. While the cases themselves are drawn out over many years, the reading, especially the extensive courtroom scenes, is riveting ... this is both an important Civil Rights document and a timely read in the wake of the recent rise of hate crimes.\
PositiveBooklistThe details are appalling but it is even more outrageous that Shelly gets away with it for years mostly because her daughters are terrified of her even after moving away. Olsen presents the story chronologically and in a simple, straightforward style, which works well: it is chilling enough as is.
PositiveBooklistFlea is a surprisingly good writer and writes in bursts of memories, detailing both pivotal and mundane moments in short chapters with equal parts pathos and humor. This is not an RHCP tell-all: the book ends with the band’s first-ever live performance. Rather, RHCP fans or not, readers will find a unique coming-of-age memoir that’s also an ode to books, music, and performing.
RaveBooklistFox’s clear, present-tense prose keeps readers in the action while maintaining the heft of reality, even in totally surreal situations. With loads of suspense and adrenaline, and a streaming series starring Brie Larson reportedly in the works, this insider’s view into how the CIA functions and what life is like for a covert agent will appeal to many, including readers who don’t normally stray from fiction thrillers.
PositiveBooklist... reads like poetry and is reminiscent in style of Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life (2005). The cumulative effect hits the mark, and readers are sure to be moved to tears themselves. This is a lovely meditation on life and death through the lens of tears, both those spurred by grief and those by joy.
PositiveBooklistIn this honest and engaging true-crime memoir, Betz-Hamilton revisits her small-town Indiana childhood and college years, and the identity fraud that rocked her family ... his memoir has all the suspense and twists of a thriller; even as readers begin to suspect the truth, it still shocks. This bloodless true-crime tale is highly recommended for fans of books about con artists and family secrets.
Rachel Eve Moulton
PositiveBooklistA creepy locale and a terrifying, larger-than-life villain give this debut novel its chills, while terrors of the human kind—abuse, drug addiction, self-harm—give it heft ... Horror fans looking for a beach read will find it in this plot-driven, page-turning novel—but they shouldn’t expect a tidy ending.
PositiveBooklistMcQuade uses natural imagery (especially birds and trees) and an infusion of strangeness and wonder that verges on the supernatural to connect these stories, which are also linked thematically. Piecing together these connections demands close reading—and rewards it, with details to savor. Short-story fans should be on the lookout for McQuade, whose style nestles somewhere between Elizabeth Strout’s and Helen Oyeyemi’s.
PositiveBooklistAward-winning journalist Ashline’s first book is an in-depth portrait of a cult and its downfall after the murder of one of its members ... Ashline relates the compelling story in painstaking detail, and it can be difficult to keep straight everyone involved (even with a name reference at the beginning), but readers looking for a cult origin story will find this a captivating read.
PositiveBooklistHere, [Freitas] shares how she’s inhabited two different worlds—one where she’s successful and strong, another where she feels terrified and alone—for years, and shows how debilitating and shameful the experience can be for a survivor of stalking ... Freitas is incredibly honest and doesn’t shy away from her feelings that she is in some way at fault. She rounds out her memories with details of her family and friends as well as more studious synthesis, and calls for campus reform, adding heft to an already important story.
PositiveBooklistMonroe’s writing is superb and each woman’s story is fascinating even if, as a whole, the book lacks a cohesive narrative thread. Regardless, true crime aficionados will appreciate this spin on the genre.
Daniel R. Day
PositiveBooklistDay is a natural storyteller with a distinct point of view that clearly comes through in this enjoyable memoir. He incorporates the social history of Harlem, a fascinating backdrop, and writes as compellingly about his city and its people as he does about his life.
RaveBooklistThe subtitle of Callahan’s true-crime drama is a bit misleading, as the \'hunt\' for Israel Keyes is over by page 60. But what follows is a fascinating attempt to profile a serial killer that defies categorization ... Keyes is terrifying, and his crimes horrific, but Callahan’s focus on the FBI’s attempts to learn about his other crimes makes for a truly edge-of-your-seat page-turner even without the “hunt.” A must for fans of Mindhunter (1995)—both the book and its recent Netflix adaptation—and the long-running police drama Criminal Minds.
Amanda Lee Koe
PositiveBooklistExpansive and engaging ... Koe brings her well-known protagonists to life, and manages a sprawling story with panache. This has wide appeal for historical-fiction enthusiasts, film buffs, and readers looking for a WWII novel with a twist.
De'Shawn Charles Winslow
PositiveBooklist...a fierce, memorable antiheroine ... Winslow is a natural storyteller whose writing is like a mash-up of Zora Neale Hurston and Edward Kelsey Moore, and his characters spark to life, especially Knot, who Winslow magically makes both enraging and endearing. Although at times entire years are glossed over in this short novel, its humor and heart will win over many readers.
PositiveBooklistBerman’s spot-on dialogue keeps the pages turning in a novel with little plot, making her timely second novel a good, if less-polished, read-alike for Meg Wolitzer’s The Female Persuasion (2018). It should find a large readership.
PositiveBooklistPitoniak’s dialogue-heavy prose keeps a quick pace, and her characters and the TV-news setting ring true, even as the propulsive plot begins to strain credibility. Hand this to readers who like books exploring the dark side of female friendships, à la Megan Abbott, or fans of Tara Isabella Burton’s Social Creature (2018).
RaveBooklistSavas’ quiet and emotionally rich novel is a tender portrait of a young woman exploring her identity ... In short, vignette-like chapters, Savas jumps between places and times, treating readers to Nunu’s astute inner monologues ... this novel is deceptively simple and subtly profound and will appeal to those fond of character studies and lovely writing.
PositiveBooklistWoodfox’s shocking memoir of his years in prison, mostly under solitary confinement, is a testament to the human spirit and a scathing indictment of the justice system ... Woodfox’s story reads like a prison diary and is unrelenting in its portrait of the day-to-day humiliations and racism experienced by Black prisoners ... Woodfox’s difficult story is a call to action for justice-system reform.
PositiveBooklistWilson’s truly inspiring memoir is also a handbook for creating a life of meaning ... With coauthor Witter, Wilson engagingly tells his riveting story while also exposing corrupt justice practices and the ways that society consistently works against former convicts, especially black men. Highly recommended for fans of The Sun Does Shine (2018), by Anthony Ray Hinton, as well as anyone who loves an uplifting life story.
PositiveBooklistLand’s honest writing, especially about her feelings of inadequacy, and her insights into the people whose homes she cleans are beyond engaging. Readers will understand working hard while simultaneously fearing that if one thing goes wrong, if one unplanned expense rears its ugly head, if one benefit doesn’t come through, a delicate balance could be completely upended. For readers of Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed (2001), Matthew Desmond’s Evicted (2016), and Sarah Smarsh’s Heartland (2018).
MixedBooklistThe author’s hybrid of memoir and journalism works well for general readers, keeping things engaging and witty even as she misses the mark with some of her humor. A timely book for folks who wonder how we ended up in this post-truth world as well as readers of books like A Beautiful, Terrible Thing (2017) by Jen Waite.
PositiveBooklistEngrossing and moving ... Alternating among each sister’s perspective, the story unravels at a measured pace, deliciously feeding the reader surprises about the past and present throughout. This is a good choice for readers who enjoyed Caroline Leavitt’s Cruel Beautiful World (2016), Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage (2018), and other family dramas.
PositiveBooklist[Abdulali] writes in a conversational style and injects a levity that, rather than betraying the seriousness of her subject, makes it more possible to handle the necessary yet horrifying details of rape of all kinds. An important book working towards an important goal: meaningful and thoughtful discussion of a taboo subject.
MixedBooklist\"In this page-turner, a mash-up of memoir and true crime, Brottman explores a mysterious death and her own psyche ... Events unfold in real time, adding an element of suspense (that, unfortunately, feels unfulfilled with the anticlimactic conclusion). This may disappoint those seeking straightforward true crime, but those who choose books with dark subject matter, suspense, and microhistory elements will all find something to enjoy here.
PositiveBooklistCavanagh’s writing is honest and straightforward, her pace fast and tone foreboding; all this makes for a page-turner that puts readers beside her on the emotional roller coaster that dealing with a loved one’s substance abuse is. Perfect for readers anticipating the upcoming film Beautiful Boy, based on David Sheff’s bestselling 2007 memoir.
PositiveBooklistProulx’s domestic tragedy is a slow burn of a novel ... Proulx...never takes the easy road. Instead of writing either pure suspense or feel-good family drama, she maintains a low level of intensity that never feels gratuitous or unrealistic. A solid choice for fans of suspenseful, character-driven fiction.
PositiveBooklist Online\"Debut-author Patel’s 10 compact yet meaty stories feature characters—most of them first-generation Indian Americans, as the author is—trying to navigate a world full of expectations (go to college, land a prestigious job, get married, have children) only to find themselves continually thwarted ... Patel explores universal themes in unexpected ways and excels at portraying nuanced characters in even the briefest stories. Readers in search of a fresh new voice should be on the lookout for Patel.
RaveBooklistIn interconnected short stories, Holmes’ debut breathes life into a group of friends who are simultaneously trying to shake off their past and honor it ... He doesn’t shy away from difficult subject matter or from showing his characters’ flaws, which makes for some incredibly tough scenes to read, but also highlights the everyday travails of black men in America. Readers looking for timely, nuanced fiction about race and masculinity should definitely pick this up.
MixedBooklist OnlineMarkley’s debut novel is set in small-town Ohio, post 9/11, and catalogs the myriad ways that war and recession have failed a generation who have known little else. In New Canaan, a town suffering after factories shutter, readers follow four stories of twentysomethings who knew each other in high school, and the fallout of long-held secrets ... Markley...firmly plants readers in the setting even as the author jumps in time, often from paragraph to paragraph. After the leisurely paced majority of the book, the final 100 pages feel rushed, and the climax comes from seemingly nowhere, but even this does little to take away from an...tragic story.
RaveBooklist\"The author’s youthful longing for her father’s approval drives this memoir. Though Jobs’ rejections, from denying he named one of the first Apple computers after the author (he did) to telling her how stupid debate is after she wins a competition, can be difficult to read, Brennan-Jobs skillfully relays her past without judgement, staying true to her younger self. It is a testament to her fine writing and journalistic approach that her memoir never turns maudlin or gossipy. Rather than a celebrity biography, this is Brennan-Jobs’ authentic story of growing up in two very different environments, neither of which felt quite like home.\
PositiveBooklist OnlineCoulter...had a great but high-pressure job and a wonderful marriage—a generally enviable life. She had also been working her way up to a bottle of wine a night ... Once she quits, her abstention leaves an emotional void that she continually tries to fill, and also a social one ... The essays in this collection, her first book, are about finding her way in a life that once revolved around drinking. They simultaneously address love, sex, vulnerability, and being a woman in the world, in general. At turns heartrending and hilarious, Coulter is wonderfully conversational and never preachy as she tells her story of sobriety.
PositiveBooklistFreiman’s coming-of-age satire is a humorous and bawdy skewering of identity politics. Ziggy, 15, attends a prestigious Australian all-girls private school, where she struggles with having a flat chest, not being popular, and confusing sexual fantasies that often involve Nazis ... Ziggy is a wonderful character to lead the satirical charge, as she’s convincingly just trying to figure out who she is and how she belongs in the world. Her earnestness offsets the over-the-top humor. Although the novel loses some steam at the halfway point, Freiman’s assured writing carries readers through to the surprisingly heartwarming end.
MixedBooklist\"In his debut novel, Martin’s writing is clever and funny, but Peter can be a trying narrator whose waywardness and terrible choices elicit more derision than empathy. Still, this is a solid choice for those who enjoy novels of lost twentysomethings’ introspection.\
RaveBooklistA testament to Gumbiner’s fine writing, readers will easily slip into Berg’s day-to-day existence; Gumbiner relays Berg’s ambivalence, desperation, and anxiety without resorting to over-the-top scenarios or dialogue. He allows his characters and small-town setting to shine in this beautiful novel about finding one’s place, no matter how small, in the world.
PositiveBooklistEngaging and honest ... MacNicol is relatable, and the joy she finds in her life, lived on her own terms, is striking.
PositiveBooklistDebut novelist Yen’s years of working with multiple tech companies provide a real insider’s peek at the craziness of the industry while still keeping it light. This is Silicon Valley chick lit with a smart and smart-ass heroine trying to \'have it all,\' and readers of books like Elisabeth Egan’s A Window Opens (2015) and Allison Pearson’s I Don’t Know How She Does It (2002) will enjoy this modern take.
RaveBooklist Online\"Investigative reporter and Baffler contributor Pein’s first book should terrify you ... Pein dedicates a good chunk of the book to a small but vocal faction bent on government destruction and dabbling in alt-right politics and even eugenics. Even scarier, they face little resistance from the larger tech world. Like Jon Ronson, Pein combines serious journalism with humor and his own antics for an entertaining and caustic mix. If Silicon Valley and Black Mirror had a book baby, it would be Live Work Work Work Die.\
PositiveBooklistDespite the nebulous self that emerges, Hodson’s writing style betrays her in a way, offering a clear and strong point of view. Although less successful pieces can lose the narrative thread and read disjointedly, this is overall a unique collection about being an artist and a woman in a world that doesn’t always value either.
Blanche McCrary Boyd
MixedBooklistEllen is a nuanced protagonist who is by turns empathetic and enraging. Without clearly defined motivations, though, she comes off as a bit of a white savior, and, in turn, revelations tend to fall flat. Ellen’s chosen form of activism, however, is endlessly discussable, and the tortured history of Charleston makes for a compelling setting.
PositiveBooklistIn descriptive and impressive prose, Wood gives us his version of what happened and why ... Wood’s focus on his own life will distract true-crime fans, who will be disappointed with the lack of actual crime or investigation. But those who appreciate style and creativity, which Wood has in abundance, will enjoy this.
RaveBooklist OnlineBased on her award-winning short story of the same name, Kenny’s debut novel is a quiet and moving coming-of-age tale set during WWII ... Kenny artfully weaves Cielle’s story of coming to terms with the fact that though loving people won’t necessarily save them or keep them safe, those relationships are still worth it ... With a light touch, Kenny tells an impactful story of everyday lives in trying circumstances.
T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong
RaveBooklistThis timely, well-researched, highly readable account will appeal to readers interested in true crime and social justice issues.
RaveBooklistCulliton’s assured and clever novel reads more like that of a seasoned novelist than a debut ... Culliton tempers her generally unlikable characters with short chapters, often under three pages; omniscient third-person narration; and oddly comic—think Miranda July—writing. Readers who have wished the narration of The Royal Tenenbaums was an actual book need look no further than The Misfortune of Marion Palm.
PositiveBooklistAlthough there is very little description of actual violence, the premise alone means the squeamish (and animal lovers) should probably skip this one. Those who want a tidy ending will also be disappointed. But fans of literary page-turners, like Sunil Yapa’s Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist (2016), won’t want to miss this.
RaveBooklist...surprising, suspenseful, and moving ... The subject matter is difficult, and the author doesn’t shy away from graphic descriptions, but readers are rewarded with a book that defies both its genres, turning into something wholly different and memorable.
RaveBooklistLockwood magically combines laugh-aloud moments with frank discussions of social issues and shows off her poet’s skills with lovely, metaphor-filled descriptions that make this memoir shine.