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.