Book List, Indie Next

May 2021 Indie Next List

Spring has sprung! We’re excited to share with you the May Indie Next List – every featured title is a great read! Each book cover links to the book’s page on our website for purchase and is followed by the Indie Next blurb and publisher description.

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

Great Circle is about two women 100 years apart: pilot Marian Graves and Hadley Baxter, the actress cast to play the famous pilot. This epic novel is fascinating, adventurous, and well-written, with great characters, historical details, and fantastic settings. Don’t miss this journey!

Kathy Morrison, Newtown Bookshop, Newtown, PA

This book has just about everything I love to read about – female aviators, polar adventure, shipwrecks, spunky and strong-willed female heroines, I loved it all. Written in alternating timelines, I found myself fully immersed in them both, longing for each story while I was reading the other. It is the best sort of historical and contemporary fiction mashup to read as the weather gets warmer.

Sarah, Towne Book Center manager

An unforgettable story of a daredevil female aviator determined to chart her own course in life, at any cost—Great Circle spans Prohibition-era Montana, the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, New Zealand, wartime London, and modern-day Los Angeles.

After being rescued as infants from a sinking ocean liner in 1914, Marian and Jamie Graves are raised by their dissolute uncle in Missoula, Montana. There–after encountering a pair of barnstorming pilots passing through town in beat-up biplanes–Marian commences her lifelong love affair with flight. At fourteen she drops out of school and finds an unexpected and dangerous patron in a wealthy bootlegger who provides a plane and subsidizes her lessons, an arrangement that will haunt her for the rest of her life, even as it allows her to fulfill her destiny: circumnavigating the globe by flying over the North and South Poles.

A century later, Hadley Baxter is cast to play Marian in a film that centers on Marian’s disappearance in Antarctica. Vibrant, canny, disgusted with the claustrophobia of Hollywood, Hadley is eager to redefine herself after a romantic film franchise has imprisoned her in the grip of cult celebrity. Her immersion into the character of Marian unfolds, thrillingly, alongside Marian’s own story, as the two women’s fates–and their hunger for self-determination in vastly different geographies and times–collide. Epic and emotional, meticulously researched and gloriously told, Great Circle is a monumental work of art, and a tremendous leap forward for the prodigiously gifted Maggie Shipstead.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Remember how much you loved The Martian? Prepare to love this book even more. I found myself engrossed from the very beginning, and every page brings a new delight. Weir writes incredible characters that leave a mark you’ll feel long after you’re done.

Mattie Shepard, Gramercy Books, Bexley, OH

When an astronaut wakes up next to his two dead crewmates millions of miles away from home, with no memory of who he is or why he’s there, and he soon remembers he’s tasked with saving his planet. But will he be able to help his world in the face of a dark and unforgiving setting, and will he get his memories back before it’s too late? Project Hail Mary is an immersive sci-fi novel, full of suspense & the indelible humor that Andy Weir is known for. With enough action for any experienced sci-fi reader to enjoy, while also catering to the layperson (like me) this book is a phenomenal read & an absolute 10/10 from me! It kept the action flowing at all times, with the dual timeline of past and present breaking up possible monotony of being in one setting for too long. Andy Weir is an expert craftsman in the sci-fi genre, and all of his books have been 10/10 for me, but this one took another step further, and will be one I think about for a long time. Aspects of the science in this story were so creative and unexpected, and kept me guessing until the very end. And the ending left me smiling through the tears for sure. Can’t wait for what Weir does next!

Rachele, Towne Book Center bookseller

A lone astronaut must save the earth from disaster in this incredible new science-based thriller from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Martian.

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space on this tiny ship, it’s up to him to puzzle out an impossible scientific mystery—and conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And with the clock ticking down and the nearest human being light-years away, he’s got to do it all alone.

Or does he?

An irresistible interstellar adventure as only Andy Weir could deliver, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian—while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

What fun! This delightful book should be in every beach bag this summer. A hilariously comedic rom-com with memorable characters, set in varied vacation spots in various years. I enjoyed the changing timeline and seeing the relationship as it grew through the years.

Shelley Lowe, Monkey and Dog Books, Fort Worth, TX

Two best friends. Ten summer trips. One last chance to fall in love. 

From the New York Times bestselling author of Beach Read, a sparkling new novel that will leave you with the warm, hazy afterglow usually reserved for the best vacations.

Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.

Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.

Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner

I was struck by just how much I loved this book for how it walks through grief not as a way to leave it behind, but as a way to remember its exact shape. I’m grateful for its funny, self-deprecating, and wise observations, and for its difficult beauty.

Steve Haruch, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN

From the indie rockstar of Japanese Breakfast fame, and author of the viral 2018 New Yorker essay that shares the title of this book, an unflinching, powerful memoir about growing up Korean American, losing her mother, and forging her own identity.

In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food.

As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band–and meeting the man who would become her husband–her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother’s diagnosis of terminal cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.

Vivacious and plainspoken, lyrical and honest, Zauner’s voice is as radiantly alive on the page as it is onstage. Rich with intimate anecdotes that will resonate widely, and complete with family photos, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread.

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

I adore Laura Dave and absolutely loved The Last Thing He Told Me. Wonderful characters, amazing writing, and a twisty plot kept me turning the pages as fast as I could. Truly unputdownable and a thoroughly enjoyable read!

Kaitlin Smith, Copperfield’s Books Healdsburg, Healdsburg, CA

A gripping mystery about a woman who thinks she’s found the love of her life—until he disappears.

Before Owen Michaels disappears, he smuggles a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers—Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.

As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered, as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss, as a US marshal and federal agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.

Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they’re also building a new future—one neither of them could have anticipated.

With its breakneck pacing, dizzying plot twists, and evocative family drama, The Last Thing He Told Me is a riveting mystery, certain to shock you with its final, heartbreaking turn.

Secrets of Happiness by Joan Silber

No one is better than Joan Silber at revealing the hidden links that connect people. The small, human details in Secrets of Happiness feel at first like ripples in a pond, but they prove in the end to be mighty waves in an ocean the size of the world.

James Crossley, Madison Books, Seattle, WA

When a man discovers his father in New York has long had another, secret, family—a wife and two kids—the interlocking fates of both families lead to surprise loyalties, love triangles, and a reservoir of inner strength in this “expansive and elegantly crafted novel” (Fresh Air, NPR).

Ethan, a young lawyer in New York, learns that his father has long kept a second family—a Thai wife and two kids living in Queens. In the aftermath of this revelation, Ethan’s mother spends a year working abroad, returning much changed, as events introduce her to the other wife. Across town, Ethan’s half brothers are caught in their own complicated journeys: one brother’s penchant for minor delinquency has escalated, and the other must travel to Bangkok to bail him out, while the bargains their mother has struck about love and money continue to shape their lives.

As Ethan finds himself caught in a love triangle of his own, the interwoven fates of these two households elegantly unfurl to encompass a woman rallying to help an ill brother with an unreliable lover and a filmmaker with a girlhood spent in Nepal. Evoking a generous and humane spirit, and a story that ranges over three continents, Secrets of Happiness elucidates the ways people marshal the resources at hand to forge their own forms of joy.

Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau

Mary Jane is 14 in 1975 and her summer nannying job is filled with surprises, spontaneity, and love as she is pulled into the family of the little girl she watches. A sweet and funny story of discovering yourself, your loved ones, and where you fit in. It really hit home for me.

Courtney Boches, Reads & Company, Phoenixville, PA

Almost Famous meets Daisy Jones & The Six in this funny, wise, and tender novel about a fourteen-year-old girl’s coming of age in 1970s Baltimore, caught between her straight-laced family and the progressive family she nannies for—who happen to be secretly hiding a famous rock star and his movie star wife for the summer.

In 1970s Baltimore, fourteen-year-old Mary Jane loves cooking with her mother, singing in her church choir, and enjoying her family’s subscription to the Broadway Showtunes of the Month record club. Shy, quiet, and bookish, she’s glad when she lands a summer job as a nanny for the daughter of a local doctor. A respectable job, Mary Jane’s mother says. In a respectable house.

The house may look respectable on the outside, but inside it’s a literal and figurative mess: clutter on every surface, Impeachment: Now More Than Ever bumper stickers on the doors, cereal and takeout for dinner. And even more troublesome (were Mary Jane’s mother to know, which she does not): the doctor is a psychiatrist who has cleared his summer for one important job—helping a famous rock star dry out. A week after Mary Jane starts, the rock star and his movie star wife move in.

Over the course of the summer, Mary Jane introduces her new household to crisply ironed clothes and a family dinner schedule, and has a front-row seat to a liberal world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll (not to mention group therapy). Caught between the lifestyle she’s always known and the future she’s only just realized is possible, Mary Jane will arrive at September with a new idea about what she wants out of life, and what kind of person she’s going to be. 

The Woman with the Blue Star by Pam Jenoff

In The Woman With the Blue Star, Jenoff continues to showcase herself as one of the masters of historical fiction, deftly intertwining emotional power with historical accuracy. Much like The Lost Girls of Paris, this is one our customers will be coming back for again and again.

Alex Brubaker, Midtown Scholar Bookstore, Harrisburg, PA

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Girls of Paris comes a riveting tale of courage and unlikely friendship during World War II.

1942. Sadie Gault is eighteen and living with her parents in the Krak w Ghetto during World War II. When the Nazis liquidate the ghetto, Sadie and her pregnant mother are forced to seek refuge in the perilous tunnels beneath the city. One day Sadie looks up through a grate and sees a girl about her own age buying flowers.

Ella Stepanek is an affluent Polish girl living a life of relative ease with her stepmother, who has developed close alliances with the occupying Germans. While on an errand in the market, she catches a glimpse of something moving beneath a grate in the street. Upon closer inspection, she realizes it’s a girl hiding.

Ella begins to aid Sadie and the two become close, but as the dangers of the war worsen, their lives are set on a collision course that will test them in the face of overwhelming odds. Inspired by incredible true stories, The Woman with the Blue Star is an unforgettable testament to the power of friendship and the extraordinary strength of the human will to survive.

Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone

You will tie yourself in knots trying to figure out what’s happening in Mirrorland, the story of two sisters growing up with different stories attached to the games they play, stories that take on a life of their own years later as buried memories come to the fore.

Pete Mock, McIntyre’s Fine Books, Pittsboro, NC

With the startling twists of Gone Girl and the haunting emotional power of Room, Mirrorland is a thrilling work of psychological suspense about twin sisters, the man they both love, and the dark childhood they can’t leave behind.

Cat lives in Los Angeles, far away from 36 Westeryk Road, the imposing gothic house in Edinburgh where she and her estranged twin sister, El, grew up. As girls, they invented Mirrorland, a dark, imaginary place under the pantry stairs full of pirates, witches, and clowns. These days Cat rarely thinks about their childhood home, or the fact that El now lives there with her husband Ross.

But when El mysteriously disappears after going out on her sailboat, Cat is forced to return to 36 Westeryk Road, which has scarcely changed in twenty years. The grand old house is still full of shadowy corners, and at every turn Cat finds herself stumbling on long-held secrets and terrifying ghosts from the past. Because someone—El?—has left Cat clues in almost every room: a treasure hunt that leads right back to Mirrorland, where she knows the truth lies crouched and waiting…

A twisty, dark, and brilliantly crafted thriller about love and betrayal, redemption and revenge, Mirrorland is a propulsive, page-turning debut about the power of imagination and the price of freedom.

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

I devoured this smart, suspenseful novel about a failed novelist who reignites his career with a stolen plot and gains fame and notoriety. Korelitz’s depiction of the book world is a treat for those of us in it, but her twisty, psychologically astute plotting will hold broad appeal.

Becky Dayton, The Vermont Book Shop, Middlebury, VT

Hailed as “breathtakingly suspenseful,” Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Plot is a propulsive read about a story too good not to steal, and the writer who steals it.

Jacob Finch Bonner was once a promising young novelist with a respectably published first book. Today, he’s teaching in a third-rate MFA program and struggling to maintain what’s left of his self-respect; he hasn’t written—let alone published—anything decent in years. When Evan Parker, his most arrogant student, announces he doesn’t need Jake’s help because the plot of his book in progress is a sure thing, Jake is prepared to dismiss the boast as typical amateur narcissism. But then . . . he hears the plot.

Jake returns to the downward trajectory of his own career and braces himself for the supernova publication of Evan Parker’s first novel: but it never comes. When he discovers that his former student has died, presumably without ever completing his book, Jake does what any self-respecting writer would do with a story like that—a story that absolutely needs to be told.

In a few short years, all of Evan Parker’s predictions have come true, but Jake is the author enjoying the wave. He is wealthy, famous, praised and read all over the world. But at the height of his glorious new life, an e-mail arrives, the first salvo in a terrifying, anonymous campaign: You are a thief, it says.

As Jake struggles to understand his antagonist and hide the truth from his readers and his publishers, he begins to learn more about his late student, and what he discovers both amazes and terrifies him. Who was Evan Parker, and how did he get the idea for his “sure thing” of a novel? What is the real story behind the plot, and who stole it from whom?

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

Satisfying the need for more Greek/Roman transformational myths from much-needed other viewpoints, Jennifer Saint delivers tales of Ariadne and her sister Phaedra’s life on Crete and beyond. Less heroic yarn and more character inquisitiveness — a refreshing addition.

Michelle Bear, Edmonds Bookshop, Edmonds, WA

A mesmerizing debut novel for fans of Madeline Miller’s Circe.

Ariadne, Princess of Crete, grows up greeting the dawn from her beautiful dancing floor and listening to her nursemaid’s stories of gods and heroes. But beneath her golden palace echo the ever-present hoofbeats of her brother, the Minotaur, a monster who demands blood sacrifice.

When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives to vanquish the beast, Ariadne sees in his green eyes not a threat but an escape. Defying the gods, betraying her family and country, and risking everything for love, Ariadne helps Theseus kill the Minotaur. But will Ariadne’s decision ensure her happy ending? And what of Phaedra, the beloved younger sister she leaves behind?

Hypnotic, propulsive, and utterly transporting, Jennifer Saint’s Ariadne forges a new epic, one that puts the forgotten women of Greek mythology back at the heart of the story, as they strive for a better world.

Madhouse at the End of the Earth by Julian Sancton

What I love about polar expedition stories is imagining surviving the same situation. Madhouse at the End of the Earth is a fascinating study of chasing fame at any cost and the price paid when things go horribly wrong. A worthy addition to the canon of polar expedition history.

Tom Beans, Dudley’s Bookshop Cafe, Bend, OR

The harrowing true survival story of an early polar expedition that went terribly awry—with the ship frozen in ice and the crew trapped inside for the entire sunless, Antarctic winter

In August 1897, the young Belgian commandant Adrien de Gerlache set sail for a three-year expedition aboard the good ship Belgica with dreams of glory. His destination was the uncharted end of the earth: the icy continent of Antarctica.

But de Gerlache’s plans to be first to the magnetic South Pole would swiftly go awry. After a series of costly setbacks, the commandant faced two bad options: turn back in defeat and spare his men the devastating Antarctic winter, or recklessly chase fame by sailing deeper into the freezing waters. De Gerlache sailed on, and soon the Belgica was stuck fast in the icy hold of the Bellingshausen Sea. When the sun set on the magnificent polar landscape one last time, the ship’s occupants were condemned to months of endless night. In the darkness, plagued by a mysterious illness and besieged by monotony, they descended into madness.

In this epic tale, Julian Sancton unfolds a story of adventure and horror for the ages. As the Belgica’s men teetered on the brink, de Gerlache relied increasingly on two young officers whose friendship had blossomed in captivity: the expedition’s lone American, Dr. Frederick Cook—half genius, half con man—whose later infamy would overshadow his brilliance on the Belgica; and the ship’s first mate, soon-to-be legendary Roald Amundsen, even in his youth the storybook picture of a sailor. Together, they would plan a last-ditch, nearly certain-to-fail escape from the ice—one that would either etch their names in history or doom them to a terrible fate at the ocean’s bottom.

Drawing on the diaries and journals of the Belgica’s crew and with exclusive access to the ship’s logbook, Sancton brings novelistic flair to a story of human extremes, one so remarkable that even today NASA studies it for research on isolation for future missions to Mars. Equal parts maritime thriller and gothic horror, Madhouse at the End of the Earth is an unforgettable journey into the deep.

The Music of Bees by Eileen Garvin

Comparing this book to Eleanor Oliphant left me a bit skeptical, but the comparison is fair and I’d even say that The Music of Bees stands on its own beautifully. Add in some interesting facts on bees and heartwarming stories of lovable, offbeat characters and you have a winner.

Pat Rudebusch, Orinda Books, Orinda, CA

Three lonely strangers in a rural Oregon town, each working through grief and life’s curveballs, are brought together by happenstance on a local honeybee farm where they find surprising friendship, healing–and maybe even a second chance–just when they least expect it.

Forty-four-year-old Alice Holtzman is stuck in a dead-end job, bereft of family, and now reeling from the unexpected death of her husband. Alice has begun having panic attacks whenever she thinks about how her life hasn’t turned out the way she dreamed. Even the beloved honeybees she raises in her spare time aren’t helping her feel better these days.

In the grip of a panic attack, she nearly collides with Jake–a troubled, paraplegic teenager with the tallest mohawk in Hood River County–while carrying 120,000 honeybees in the back of her pickup truck. Charmed by Jake’s sincere interest in her bees and seeking to rescue him from his toxic home life, Alice surprises herself by inviting Jake to her farm.

And then there’s Harry, a twenty-four-year-old with debilitating social anxiety who is desperate for work. When he applies to Alice’s ad for part-time farm help, he’s shocked to find himself hired. As an unexpected friendship blossoms among Alice, Jake, and Harry, a nefarious pesticide company moves to town, threatening the local honeybee population and illuminating deep-seated corruption in the community. The unlikely trio must unite for the sake of the bees–and in the process, they just might forge a new future for themselves.

Beautifully moving, warm, and uplifting, The Music of Bees is about the power of friendship, compassion in the face of loss, and finding the courage to start over (at any age) when things don’t turn out the way you expect.

The Newcomer by Mary Kay Andrews

Mary Kay Andrews knows how to put mystery and beach together to make a blockbuster novel. I know it’s really summer when a new novel by Andrews becomes available. The Newcomer is perfect for us right now. It’s got it all. I can’t wait to start hand-selling it.

Jean Lewis, Copperfish Books, Punta Gorda, FL

Mary Kay Andrews, the New York Times bestselling author and Queen of the Beach Reads delivers her next page-turner for the summer with The Newcomer.

In trouble and on the run…

After she discovers her sister Tanya dead on the floor of her fashionable New York City townhouse, Letty Carnahan is certain she knows who did it: Tanya’s ex; sleazy real estate entrepreneur Evan Wingfield. Even in the grip of grief and panic Letty heeds her late sister’s warnings: “If anything bad happens to me—it’s Evan. Promise me you’ll take Maya and run. Promise me.”

With a trunkful of emotional baggage…

So Letty grabs her sister’s Mercedes and hits the road with her wailing four-year-old niece Maya. Letty is determined to out-run Evan and the law, but run to where? Tanya, a woman with a past shrouded in secrets, left behind a “go-bag” of cash and a big honking diamond ring—but only one clue: a faded magazine story about a sleepy mom-and-pop motel in a Florida beach town with the improbable name of Treasure Island. She sheds her old life and checks into an uncertain future at The Murmuring Surf Motel.

The No Vacancy sign is flashing & the sharks are circling…

And that’s the good news. Because The Surf, as the regulars call it, is the winter home of a close-knit flock of retirees and snowbirds who regard this odd-duck newcomer with suspicion and down-right hostility. As Letty settles into the motel’s former storage room, she tries to heal Maya’s heartache and unravel the key to her sister’s shady past, all while dodging the attention of the owner’s dangerously attractive son Joe, who just happens to be a local police detective. Can Letty find romance as well as a room at the inn—or will Joe betray her secrets and put her behind bars? With danger closing in, it’s a race to find the truth and right the wrongs of the past.

Pop Song by Larissa Pham

Pop Song is an engaging blend of art criticism, memoir, and travelogue with the raw and confessional style of the microblogging generation. Larissa Pham’s prose bounces seamlessly and dexterously from looking outward to inward and back with equal attention, passion, and insight.

Matt Stowe, Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY

Like a song that feels written just for you, Larissa Pham’s debut work of nonfiction captures the imagination and refuses to let go.

Pop Song is a book about love and about falling in love–with a place, or a painting, or a person–and the joy and terror inherent in the experience of that love. Plumbing the well of culture for clues and patterns about love and loss–from Agnes Martin’s abstract paintings to James Turrell’s transcendent light works, and Anne Carson’s Eros the Bittersweet to Frank Ocean’s Blonde–Pham writes of her youthful attempts to find meaning in travel, sex, drugs, and art, before sensing that she might need to turn her gaze upon herself.   

Pop Song is also a book about distances, near and far. As she travels from Taos, New Mexico, to Shanghai, China and beyond, Pham meditates on the miles we are willing to cover to get away from ourselves, or those who hurt us, and the impossible gaps that can exist between two people sharing a bed.

Pop Song is a book about all the routes by which we might escape our own needs before finally finding a way home. There is heartache in these pages, but Pham’s electric ways of seeing create a perfectly fractured portrait of modern intimacy that is triumphant in both its vulnerability and restlessness.

Olympus, Texas by Stacey Swann

A gripping debut that takes all of the skeletons out of the Briscoe family closet and throws them on the front lawn. The depth of character development speaks to my own east Texan family, which feels disconcerting and scandalous. A page-turning read that you won’t want to end.

Charley Rejsek, BookPeople, Austin, TX

A bighearted debut with technicolor characters, plenty of Texas swagger, and a powder keg of a plot in which marriages struggle, rivalries flare, and secrets explode, all with a clever wink toward classical mythology.
 
The Briscoe family is once again the talk of their small town when March returns to East Texas two years after he was caught having an affair with his brother’s wife. His mother, June, hardly welcomes him back with open arms. Her husband’s own past affairs have made her tired of being the long-suffering spouse. Is it, perhaps, time for a change? Within days of March’s arrival, someone is dead, marriages are upended, and even the strongest of alliances are shattered. In the end, the ties that hold them together might be exactly what drag them all down.

An expansive tour de force, Olympus, Texas cleverly weaves elements of classical mythology into a thoroughly modern family saga, rich in drama and psychological complexity. After all, at some point, don’t we all wonder: What good is this destructive force we call love?

Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian

Trapped in a marriage with a violent man in Puritan New England, the fierce and resilient Mary Deerfield has the audacity to file for divorce in a time when women are accused of witchcraft for any non-conforming behavior. While historical, this story rings true for today.

Lisa Casper, Tattered Cover Colfax, Denver, CO

A young Puritan woman–faithful, resourceful, but afraid of the demons that dog her soul–plots her escape from a violent marriage in this riveting and propulsive novel of historical suspense from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Flight Attendant.

Boston, 1662. Mary Deerfield is twenty-four-years-old. Her skin is porcelain, her eyes delft blue, and in England she might have had many suitors. But here in the New World, amid this community of saints, Mary is the second wife of Thomas Deerfield, a man as cruel as he is powerful. When Thomas, prone to drunken rage, drives a three-tined fork into the back of Mary’s hand, she resolves that she must divorce him to save her life. But in a world where every neighbor is watching for signs of the devil, a woman like Mary–a woman who harbors secret desires and finds it difficult to tolerate the brazen hypocrisy of so many men in the colony–soon becomes herself the object of suspicion and rumor. When tainted objects are discovered buried in Mary’s garden, when a boy she has treated with herbs and simples dies, and when their servant girl runs screaming in fright from her home, Mary must fight to not only escape her marriage, but also the gallows. A twisting, tightly plotted novel of historical suspense from one of our greatest storytellers, Hour of the Witch is a timely and terrifying story of socially sanctioned brutality and the original American witch hunt.

Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells

I haven’t felt such joy reading a sci-fi series in a long time. Murderbot is just the best. If you’ve been putting off reading The Murderbot Diaries, go start right now!

Katherine Osborne, Letterpress Books, Portland, ME

The New York Times bestselling security droid with a heart (though it wouldn’t admit it!) is back in Fugitive Telemetry!

Having captured the hearts of readers across the globe (Annalee Newitz says it’s “one of the most humane portraits of a nonhuman I’ve ever read”) Murderbot has also established Martha Wells as one of the great SF writers of today.

No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.

When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?)

Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!

Again!

A new standalone adventure in the New York Times-bestselling, Hugo and Nebula Award winning series!

Seed to Dust by Marc Hamer

This book has the kind of calm coziness that will leave your mind abuzz with wonder and reflection about the natural world, gardens, and our place in them. Gardener or not, this book has lessons for us all on the kind of patience, quiet, and listening we could use a bit more of in this world.

Jacob Rogers, McNally Jackson Books, New York, NY

For readers of Late Migrations and Vesper Flights

From the acclaimed author of How to Catch a Mole, this meditative memoir explores the wisdom of plants, the joys of manual labor, and the natural cycle of growth and decay that runs through both the garden’s life and our own.

Marc Hamer has nurtured the same 12-acre garden in the Welsh countryside for over two decades. The garden is vast and intricate. It’s rarely visited, and only Hamer knows of its secrets. But it’s not his garden. It belongs to his wealthy and elegant employer, Miss Cashmere. But the garden does not really belong to her, either. As Hamer writes, “Like a book, a garden belongs to everyone who sees it.”

In Seed to Dust, Marc Hamer paints a beautiful portrait of the garden that “belongs to everyone.” He describes a year in his life as a country gardener, with each chapter named for the month he’s in. As he works, he muses on the unusual folklores of his beloved plants. He observes the creatures who scurry and hide from his blade or rake. And he reflects on his own life: living homeless as a young man, his loving relationship with his wife and children, and–now–feeling the effects of old age on body and mind.

As the seasons change, Hamer also reflects on the changes he has observed in Miss Cashmere’s life from afar: the death of her husband and the departure of her children from the stately home where she now lives alone. At the book’s end, Hamer’s connection to Miss Cashmere changes shape, and new insights into relationships and the beauty and brutality of nature emerge.

Just like all good books and gardens, Seed to Dust is filled with equal parts life and death, beauty and decay, and every reader will find something different to admire.

While Justice Sleeps by Stacey Abrams

From the first pages, this crime novel from author/activist Stacey Abrams drew me into the world of the Supreme Court (and chess!) and the seedy underbelly of the U.S. government. This race through the streets of Washington, DC, also contains a deeply satisfying ending that I won’t give away.

Megan Birch-McMichael, The Silver Unicorn Bookstore, Acton, MA

From celebrated national leader and bestselling author Stacey Abrams, While Justice Sleeps is a gripping, complexly plotted thriller set within the halls of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Avery Keene, a brilliant young law clerk for the legendary Justice Howard Wynn, is doing her best to hold her life together–excelling in an arduous job with the court while also dealing with a troubled family. When the shocking news breaks that Justice Wynn–the cantankerous swing vote on many current high-profile cases–has slipped into a coma, Avery’s life turns upside down. She is immediately notified that Justice Wynn has left instructions for her to serve as his legal guardian and power of attorney. Plunged into an explosive role she never anticipated, Avery finds that Justice Wynn had been secretly researching one of the most controversial cases before the court–a proposed merger between an American biotech company and an Indian genetics firm, which promises to unleash breathtaking results in the medical field. She also discovers that Wynn suspected a dangerously related conspiracy that infiltrates the highest power corridors of Washington.

As political wrangling ensues in Washington to potentially replace the ailing judge whose life and survival Avery controls, she begins to unravel a carefully constructed, chesslike sequence of clues left behind by Wynn. She comes to see that Wynn had a much more personal stake in the controversial case and realizes his complex puzzle will lead her directly into harm’s way in order to find the truth. While Justice Sleeps is a cunningly crafted, sophisticated novel, layered with myriad twists and a vibrant cast of characters. Drawing on her astute inside knowledge of the court and political landscape, Stacey Abrams shows herself to be not only a force for good in politics and voter fairness but also a major new talent in suspense fiction.

Hot Stew by Fiona Mozley

A young millionaire wants to turn an old Soho brothel into luxury condos, but the tenants aren’t going to leave without a fight. A riveting tale about wealth, class, gentrification, power, and gender, this story shows readers just how unjust the world can be. A 2021 must-read!

Jennie Minor, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, NC

In the middle of the bustle of London’s Soho, among the theaters and sex shops and pubs, sits a building. It isn’t particularly assuming. But it’s a prime piece of real estate, and a young millionaire, Agatha Howard, wants to convert it into luxury condos as soon as she can kick out all the tenants.

The problem is, the building in question houses a brothel, and Precious and Tabitha, two of the women who live and work there, are not going to go quietly. And another problem is, just where did Agatha’s fortune come from? The fight over this piece of property also draws in the men who visit, including Robert, a one-time member of a far-right group and enforcer for Agatha’s father; Jackie, a policewoman intent on making London a safer place for all women; Bastian, a rich and dissatisfied party boy who pines for an ex-girlfriend; and a collection of vagabonds and strays who occupy the basement. In this much-anticipated follow-up to Fiona Mozley’s brilliant debut, Elmet, as these characters—with surprising hidden connections and shadowy pasts—converge, the fight over the property boils over into a hot stew.

Entertaining, sharply funny, and dazzlingly accomplished, Hot Stew confronts questions about wealth and inheritance, gender and power, and the things women must do to survive in an unjust world.

Meet Me in Another Live by Catriona Silvey

An absolutely incredible concept brought to life by a stunning new voice in literature. We get to know the two protagonists so completely as they live their lives. This novel has time travel, mystery, self-exploration, and at its heart true love. Just the best kind of storytelling.

Becky Doherty, Northshire Saratoga, Saratoga Springs, NY

For fans of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue and Life After Life, a powerful and poignant genre-bending debut novel about a man and woman who must unravel why they continue to meet in different versions of reality—a thrilling and imaginative exploration of the infinite forms of love and how our choices can change everything.

Thora and Santi have met before. They will meet again. Only they can make sure it’s not for the last time.

Thora and Santi are strangers in a foreign city when a chance encounter intertwines their fates. At once, they recognize in each other a kindred spirit—someone who shares their insatiable curiosity, who is longing for more in life than the cards they’ve been dealt. Only days later, though, a tragic accident cuts their story short.

But this is only one of the many connections they share. Like satellites trapped in orbit around each other, Thora and Santi are destined to meet again: as a teacher and brilliant student; a caretaker and dying patient; a cynic and believer. In alternating realities they become friends, colleagues, lovers, and enemies. As blurred memories and strange patterns compound, Thora and Santi come to a shocking revelation—they must discover the truth of their mysterious attachment before their many lives come to one, final end.

By turns joyful, devastating, and quietly profound, Meet Me in Another Life is a spectacularly compelling page-turner filled with astonishing twists that affirms the power of love to connect us beyond time and space.

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

Vern is a captivating protagonist from page one: gritty, determined, flawed, clever, and resourceful. The story slowly fills in all the details of a life that wasn’t what it seemed, and offers an ending you can’t predict. Sorrowland is beautiful, ugly, engaging, and awe-inspiring.

Sydne Conant, A Room Of One’s Own Bookstore, Madison, WI

A triumphant, genre-bending breakout novel from one of the boldest new voices in contemporary fiction

Vern—seven months pregnant and desperate to escape the strict religious compound where she was raised—flees for the shelter of the woods. There, she gives birth to twins, and plans to raise them far from the influence of the outside world.

But even in the forest, Vern is a hunted woman. Forced to fight back against the community that refuses to let her go, she unleashes incredible brutality far beyond what a person should be capable of, her body wracked by inexplicable and uncanny changes.

To understand her metamorphosis and to protect her small family, Vern has to face the past, and more troublingly, the future—outside the woods. Finding the truth will mean uncovering the secrets of the compound she fled but also the violent history in America that produced it.

Rivers Solomon’s Sorrowland is a genre-bending work of Gothic fiction. Here, monsters aren’t just individuals, but entire nations. It is a searing, seminal book that marks the arrival of a bold, unignorable voice in American fiction.

Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur

At its heart, Folklorn is a haunting and lyrical novel about mythology, science, generational trauma, and identity, but it’s also much more. I took my time reading this since I wanted to really stop and think about the questions it raised. A truly memorable, genre-bending reading experience!

Grace Rajendran, University Book Store, Seattle, WA

A genre-defying, continents-spanning saga of Korean myth, scientific discovery, and the abiding love that binds even the most broken of families.

Elsa Park is a particle physicist at the top of her game, stationed at a neutrino observatory in the Antarctic, confident she’s put enough distance between her ambitions and the family ghosts she’s run from all her life. But it isn’t long before her childhood imaginary friend—an achingly familiar, spectral woman in the snow—comes to claim her at last.

Years ago, Elsa’s now-catatonic mother had warned her that the women of their line were doomed to repeat the narrative lives of their ancestors from Korean myth and legend. But beyond these ghosts, Elsa also faces a more earthly fate: the mental illness and generational trauma that run in her immigrant family, a sickness no less ravenous than the ancestral curse hunting her.

When her mother breaks her decade-long silence and tragedy strikes, Elsa must return to her childhood home in California. There, among family wrestling with their own demons, she unravels the secrets hidden in the handwritten pages of her mother’s dark stories: of women’s desire and fury; of magic suppressed, stolen, or punished; of the hunger for vengeance.

From Sparks Fellow, Tin House alumna, and Harvard graduate Angela Mi Young Hur, Folklorn is a wondrous and necessary exploration of the myths we inherit and those we fashion for ourselves.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s