Book List, Indie Next

September Indie Next List

We’re excited to share with you the September 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.

Matrix by Lauren Groff

Lauren Groff has created an incredibly powerful portrait of the compelling Marie de France, banished to 12th-century England to live in a failing abbey. I fell in love with Marie and the sisters she lives with.

Rosanna Nissen, Barrett Bookstore, Darien, CT

One of our best American writers, Lauren Groff returns with her exhilarating first new novel since the groundbreaking Fates and Furies.

Cast out of the royal court by Eleanor of Aquitaine, deemed too coarse and rough-hewn for marriage or courtly life, seventeen-year-old Marie de France is sent to England to be the new prioress of an impoverished abbey, its nuns on the brink of starvation and beset by disease.

At first taken aback by the severity of her new life, Marie finds focus and love in collective life with her singular and mercurial sisters. In this crucible, Marie steadily supplants her desire for family, for her homeland, for the passions of her youth with something new to her: devotion to her sisters, and a conviction in her own divine visions. Marie, born the last in a long line of women warriors and crusaders, is determined to chart a bold new course for the women she now leads and protects. But in a world that is shifting and corroding in frightening ways, one that can never reconcile itself with her existence, will the sheer force of Marie’s vision be bulwark enough?

Equally alive to the sacred and the profane, Matrix gathers currents of violence, sensuality, and religious ecstasy in a mesmerizing portrait of consuming passion, aberrant faith, and a woman that history moves both through and around. Lauren Groff’s new novel, her first since Fates and Furies, is a defiant and timely exploration of the raw power of female creativity in a corrupted world.

Feral Creatures by Kira Jane Buxton
(sequel to Hollow Kingdom)

Feral Creatures is dark, hilarious, and apocalyptic. It has all the same heart, tenderness, bizarre humor, and hilarity as Hollow Kingdom. This is a follow-up not to be missed!

Michelle Malonzo, Changing Hands, Tempe, AZ

Once upon an apocalypse, there lived an obscenely handsome American crow named S.T. . . .

When the world last checked-in with its favorite Cheeto addict, the planet had been overrun by flesh-hungry beasts, and nature had started re-claiming her territory from humankind. S.T., the intrepid crow, alongside his bloodhound-bestie Dennis, had set about saving pets that had become trapped in their homes after humanity went the way of the dodo.

That is, dear reader, until S.T. stumbled upon something so rare—and so precious—that he vowed to do everything in his power to safeguard what could, quite literally, be humanity’s last hope for survival. But in a wild world plagued by prejudiced animals, feather-raising environments, new threats so terrifying they make zombies look like baby bunnies, and a horrendous dearth of cheesy snacks, what’s a crow to do?

Why, wing it on another big-hearted, death-defying adventure, that’s what! Joined by a fabulous new cast of animal characters, S.T. faces many new challenges plus his biggest one yet: parenthood.

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

A love letter to 1960s Harlem that’s also a heist novel, a family saga, and so much more. Colson Whitehead proves once again that he’s always at the top of his game!

Alyssa Raymond, Copper Dog Books, Beverly, MA

From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, a gloriously entertaining novel of heists, shakedowns, and rip-offs set in Harlem in the 1960s.

Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked… To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver’s Row don’t approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it’s still home.

Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger all the time.

Cash is tight, especially with all those installment-plan sofas, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace, Ray doesn’t ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweler downtown who doesn’t ask questions, either.

Then Freddie falls in with a crew who plan to rob the Hotel Theresa–the Waldorf of Harlem–and volunteers Ray’s services as the fence. The heist doesn’t go as planned; they rarely do. Now Ray has a new clientele, one made up of shady cops, vicious local gangsters, two-bit pornographers, and other assorted Harlem lowlifes.

Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. As Ray navigates this double life, he begins to see who actually pulls the strings in Harlem. Can Ray avoid getting killed, save his cousin, and grab his share of the big score, all while maintaining his reputation as the go-to source for all your quality home furniture needs?

Harlem Shuffle’s ingenious story plays out in a beautifully recreated New York City of the early 1960s. It’s a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem.

But mostly, it’s a joy to read, another dazzling novel from the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning Colson Whitehead.

The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Cordova

This story sparkles and enchants! It’s a rich and layered multigeneration saga featuring strong women and a mystery veiled in magical realism that will tease and feed your imagination.

Grace Rajendran, University Book Store, Seattle, WA

Perfect for fans of Alice Hoffman, Isabel Allende, and Sarah Addison Allen, this is a gorgeously written novel about a family searching for the truth hidden in their past and the power they’ve inherited, from the author of the acclaimed and “giddily exciting” (The New York Times Book Review) Brooklyn Brujas series.

The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low or empty, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers—even for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed, leaving them with more questions than answers.

Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey, and Tatinelly’s daughter, Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, the four descendants travel to Ecuador—to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked back.

Alternating between Orquídea’s past and her descendants’ present, The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is an enchanting novel about what we knowingly and unknowingly inherit from our ancestors, the ties that bind, and reclaiming your power.

Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger

In this prequel set in 1963, we meet 12-year-old Cork’s family as his father investigates a murder. Even as Cork believes he will never be a cop, we can see Cork’s inevitable future as an investigator.

Carol Blizzard Dunn, Northwind Book & Fiber, Spooner, WI

The author of the instant New York Times bestseller This Tender Land returns with a powerful prequel to his acclaimed Cork O’Connor series—a book about fathers and sons, long-simmering conflicts in a small Minnesota town, and the events that echo through youth and shape our lives forever.

Aurora is a small town nestled in the ancient forest alongside the shores of Minnesota’s Iron Lake. In the summer of 1963, it is the whole world to twelve-year-old Cork O’Connor, its rhythms as familiar as his own heartbeat. But when Cork stumbles upon the body of a man he revered hanging from a tree in an abandoned logging camp, it is the first in a series of events that will cause him to question everything he took for granted about his hometown, his family, and himself.

Cork’s father, Liam O’Connor, is Aurora’s sheriff and it is his job to confirm that the man’s death was the result of suicide, as all the evidence suggests. In the shadow of his father’s official investigation, Cork begins to look for answers on his own. Together, father and son face the ultimate test of choosing between what their heads tell them is true and what their hearts know is right.

In this masterful story of a young man and a town on the cusp of change, beloved novelist William Kent Krueger shows that some mysteries can be solved even as others surpass our understanding.

My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

Jade isn’t the final girl; she doesn’t fit the requirements for a typical slasher flick. When her town becomes the setting for a real-life slasher case, she fills the role of wise woman to the appropriate final girl.

April Gosling, Boulder Book Store, Boulder, CO

In her quickly gentrifying rural lake town Jade sees recent events only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror films could have prepared her for in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, New York Timesbestselling author Stephen Graham Jones.

“Some girls just don’t know how to die…”

Shirley Jackson meets Friday the 13th in My Heart Is a Chainsaw, written by the author of The Only Good Indians Stephen Graham Jones, called “a literary master” by National Book Award winner Tananarive Due and “one of our most talented living writers” by Tommy Orange.

Alma Katsu calls My Heart Is a Chainsaw “a homage to slasher films that also manages to defy and transcend genre.” On the surface is a story of murder in small-town America. But beneath is its beating heart: a biting critique of American colonialism, Indigenous displacement, and gentrification, and a heartbreaking portrait of a broken young girl who uses horror movies to cope with the horror of her own life.

Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.

Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges…a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body. My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph.

On Freedom by Maggie Nelson

I have long anticipated Maggie Nelson’s newest work and On Freedom does not disappoint. Who doesn’t want to know her thoughts on art, sex, drugs, and climate?

Dartricia Rollins, Charis Books & More, Atlanta, GA

An expansive, exhilarating work of criticism by one of the most significant writers of our day

So often deployed as a jingoistic, even menacing rallying cry, or limited by a focus on passing moments of liberation, the rhetoric of freedom both rouses and repels. Does it remain key to our autonomy, justice, and well-being, or is freedom’s long star turn coming to a close? Does a continued obsession with the term enliven and emancipate, or reflect a deepening nihilism (or both)? On Freedom examines such questions by tracing the concept’s complexities in four distinct realms: art, sex, drugs, and climate.

Drawing on a vast range of material, from critical theory to pop culture to the intimacies and plain exchanges of daily life, Maggie Nelson explores how we might think, experience, or talk about freedom in ways responsive to the conditions of our day. Her abiding interest lies in ongoing “practices of freedom” by which we negotiate our interrelation with—indeed, our inseparability from—others, with all the care and constraint that entails, while accepting difference and conflict as integral to our communion.

For Nelson, thinking publicly through the knots in our culture—from recent art-world debates to the turbulent legacies of sexual liberation, from the painful paradoxes of addiction to the lure of despair in the face of the climate crisis—is itself a practice of freedom, a means of forging fortitude, courage, and company. On Freedom is an invigorating, essential book for challenging times.

Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang

In this brutally honest coming-of-age memoir, Qian Julie Wang comes to terms with the deprivations and struggles of her undocumented Chinese upbringing in New York City in the 1990s.

Kayleen Rohrer, InkLink Books, East Troy, WI

An incandescent memoir from an astonishing new talent, Beautiful Country puts readers in the shoes of an undocumented child living in poverty in the richest country in the world.

Extraordinary…With immense skill, Wang parses how her family’s illegal status blighted nearly every aspect of their life, from pushing her parents’ marriage to the brink to compromising their health. While Wang’s story of pursuing the American dream is undoubtedly timeless, it’s her family’s triumph in the face of “xenophobia and intolerance” that makes it feel especially relevant today. Consider this remarkable memoir a new classic.–Publishers Weekly, *Starred Review*

In Chinese, the word for America, Mei Guo, translates directly to “beautiful country.” Yet when seven-year-old Qian arrives in New York City in 1994 full of curiosity, she is overwhelmed by crushing fear and scarcity. In China, Qian’s parents were professors; in America, her family is “illegal” and it will require all the determination and small joys they can muster to survive.

In Chinatown, Qian’s parents labor in sweatshops. Instead of laughing at her jokes, they fight constantly, taking out the stress of their new life on one another. Shunned by her classmates and teachers for her limited English, Qian takes refuge in the library and masters the language through books, coming to think of The Berenstain Bears as her first American friends. And where there is delight to be found, Qian relishes it: her first bite of gloriously greasy pizza, weekly “shopping days,” when Qian finds small treasures in the trash lining Brooklyn’s streets, and a magical Christmas visit to Rockefeller Center–confirmation that the New York City she saw in movies does exist after all.

But then Qian’s headstrong Ma Ma collapses, revealing an illness that she has kept secret for months for fear of the cost and scrutiny of a doctor’s visit. As Ba Ba retreats further inward, Qian has little to hold onto beyond his constant refrain: Whatever happens, say that you were born here, that you’ve always lived here.

Inhabiting her childhood perspective with exquisite lyric clarity and unforgettable charm and strength, Qian Julie Wang has penned an essential American story about a family fracturing under the weight of invisibility, and a girl coming of age in the shadows, who never stops seeking the light.

The Guide by Peter Heller

This follow-up to The River is just as pitch perfect, with each bit of suspense doled out at just the right time. You don’t need to read The River before reading The Guide, but it will definitely deepen the experience.

Paul Swydan, The Silver Unicorn Bookstore, Acton, MA

The best-selling author of The River returns with a heart-racing thriller about a young man who is hired by an elite fishing lodge in Colorado, where he uncovers a plot of shocking menace amid the natural beauty of sun-drenched streams and forests.

“Peter Heller is the poet laureate of the literary thriller.” —Michael Koryta, New York Times best-selling author of Those Who Wish Me Dead

Kingfisher Lodge, nestled in a canyon on a mile and a half of the most pristine river water on the planet, is known by locals as “Billionaire’s Mile” and is locked behind a heavy gate. Sandwiched between barbed wire and a meadow with a sign that reads “Don’t Get Shot!” the resort boasts boutique fishing at its finest. Safe from viruses that have plagued America for years, Kingfisher offers a respite for wealthy clients. Now it also promises a second chance for Jack, a return to normalcy after a young life filled with loss. When he is assigned to guide a well-known singer, his only job is to rig her line, carry her gear, and steer her to the best trout he can find.

But then a human scream pierces the night, and Jack soon realizes that this idyllic fishing lodge may be merely a cover for a far more sinister operation. A novel as gripping as it is lyrical, as frightening as it is moving, The Guide is another masterpiece from Peter Heller.

The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell is indeed a master of suspense with The Night She Disappeared. Multiple timelines add to the suspense as the characters’ lives began to interweave and the story builds to an unexpected climax.

Eileen McGervey, One More Page Books, Arlington, VA

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Then She Was Gone comes another riveting work of psychological suspense about a beautiful young couple’s disappearance on a gorgeous summer night, and the mother who will never give up trying to find them…

On a beautiful summer night in a charming English suburb, a young woman and her boyfriend disappear after partying at the massive country estate of a new college friend.

One year later, a writer moves into a cottage on the edge of the woods that border the same estate. Known locally as the Dark Place, the dense forest is the writer’s favorite area for long walks and it’s on one such walk that she stumbles upon a mysterious note that simply reads, “DIG HERE.”

Could this be a clue towards what has happened to the missing young couple? And what exactly is buried in this haunted ground?

With her signature “rich, dark, and intricately twisted” (Ruth Ware, New York Times bestselling author) prose, Lisa Jewell has crafted a dazzling work of suspense that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final page.

Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kurian

This stunning psychological suspense novel will have you reading well into the night. That ending! Fans of Gillian Flynn and Caroline Kepnes will love this intense book.

William Carl, An Unlikely Story, Plainville, MA

Never Saw Me Coming is a compulsive, voice-driven thriller by an exciting new talent in fiction that will keep you pinned to the page and rooting for a would-be killer.

You should never trust a psychopath. But what if you had no choice?

It would be easy to underestimate Chloe Sevre… She’s a freshman honor student, a legging-wearing hot girl next door, who also happens to be a psychopath. She spends her time on yogalates, frat parties and plotting to kill Will Bachman, a childhood friend who grievously wronged her.

Chloe is one of seven students at her DC-based college who are part of an unusual clinical study of psychopaths–students like herself who lack empathy and can’t comprehend emotions like fear or guilt. The study, led by a renowned psychologist, requires them to wear smart watches that track their moods and movements.

When one of the students in the study is found murdered in the psychology building, a dangerous game of cat and mouse begins, and Chloe goes from hunter to prey. As she races to identify the killer and put her own plan for revenge into action, she’ll be forced to decide if she can trust any of her fellow psychopaths–and everybody knows you should never trust a psychopath.

No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull

Cadwell Turnbull weaves fantasy with current events to reveal how difficult it is to hold onto your humanity when society denies your existence or, worse, systematically erases you.

Nicole A. Johnson, Baltimore Read Aloud, Baltimore, MD

One October morning, Laina gets the news that her brother has been shot and killed by Boston cops. But what looks like a case of police brutality soon reveals something much stranger. Monsters are real. And they want everyone to know it.

As creatures from myth and legend come out of the shadows, seeking safety through visibility, their emergence sets off a chain of seemingly unrelated events. Members of a local werewolf pack are threatened into silence. A professor follows a missing friend’s trail of bread crumbs to a mysterious secret society. And a young boy with unique abilities seeks refuge in a pro-monster organization with secrets of its own. Meanwhile, more people start disappearing, suicides and hate crimes increase, and protests erupt globally, both for and against the monsters.

At the center is a mystery no one thinks to ask: Why now? What has frightened the monsters out of the dark?

The world will soon find out.

Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

From the author of Mexican Gothic comes a classic noir with a side of romance based on the Mexican government’s suppression of dissent in the ’60s and ’70s and the involvement of the CIA and KGB.

Rebecca Dowling, Hockessin Book Shelf, Hockessin, DE

1970s, Mexico City. Maite is a secretary who lives for one thing: the latest issue of Secret Romance. While student protests and political unrest consume the city, Maite escapes into stories of passion and danger.

Her next-door neighbor, Leonora, a beautiful art student, seems to live a life of intrigue and romance that Maite envies. When Leonora disappears under suspicious circumstances, Maite finds herself searching for the missing woman–and journeying deeper into Leonora’s secret life of student radicals and dissidents.

Meanwhile, someone else is also looking for Leonora at the behest of his boss, a shadowy figure who commands goon squads dedicated to squashing political activists. Elvis is an eccentric criminal who longs to escape his own life: He loathes violence and loves old movies and rock ‘n’ roll. But as Elvis searches for the missing woman, he watches Maite from a distance–and comes to regard her as a kindred spirit who shares his love of music and the unspoken loneliness of his heart.

Now as Maite and Elvis come closer to discovering the truth behind Leonora’s disappearance, they can no longer escape the danger that threatens to consume their lives, with hitmen, government agents, and Russian spies all aiming to protect Leonora’s secrets–at gunpoint.

Velvet Was the Night is an edgy, simmering historical novel for lovers of smoky noirs and anti-heroes.

Dare to Know by James Kennedy

A company can tell you with 100% accuracy when you are going to die. But what happens when you live beyond your expiration date? As you read Dare to Know, your sense of reality will melt away.

Bob Lingle, Off the Beaten Path Bookstore, Lakewood, NY

Dark Matter meets Annihilation in this mind-bending and emotional speculative thriller set in a world where the exact moment of your death can be predicted–for a price.

Our narrator is the most talented salesperson at Dare to Know, an enigmatic company that has developed the technology to predict anyone’s death down to the second. Divorced, estranged from his sons, and broke, he’s driven to violate the cardinal rule of the business by forecasting his own death day. The problem: his prediction says he died twenty-three minutes ago.

The only person who can confirm its accuracy is Julia, the woman he loved and lost during his rise up the ranks of Dare to Know. As he travels across the country to see her, he’s forced to confront his past, the choices he’s made, and the terrifying truth about the company he works for.

Wildly ambitious and highly immersive, this mind-bending thriller explores the destructive power of knowledge and collapses the boundaries between reality, myth, and conspiracy as it races toward its shocking conclusion.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

If, like me, your catnip is the taciturn, brainy, hot hero who is secretly a big squishy marshmallow at heart, look no further than this awesome debut!

Angela Trigg, The Haunted Book Shop, Mobile, AL

When a fake relationship between scientists meets the irresistible force of attraction, it throws one woman’s carefully calculated theories on love into chaos.

As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive’s career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding…six-pack abs.

Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.

Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff

In the vein of The Name of the Wind, a vampire hunter recounts his life to his executioner. This epic dystopian fantasy is dark and seductive. The violence! The expletives! The smut! What’s not to love?

Leah Atlee, Bright Side Bookshop, Flagstaff, AZ

With Empire of the Vampire, Jay Kristoff has once again shown why he is a master storyteller. Gabriel de Leon is a complex and complicated new hero for Jay’s legion of fans, and soon-to-be fans, to follow over what promises to be an amazing new series. Jay’s vampires are not the sparkly YA vamps, nor the Dracula inspired vampires of the late 1990s/early 2000s. They are delectably French-flavored and with the introduction of Gabriel as a half-vampire, Jay has allowed himself a great deal of creative freedom to bend the old rules of vampire lore to his world. I absolutely cannot wait to share this book with my friends and fellow book lovers who loved Mia of the Nevernight Chronicles as I’m sure they will fall head over heels for Empire of the Vampire while simultaneously continuing to curse Jay for wreaking havoc on beloved fictional characters.

TBC Manager Sarah

From New York Times bestselling author Jay Kristoff comes Empire of the Vampire, the first illustrated volume of an astonishing new dark fantasy saga.

From holy cup comes holy light;
The faithful hand sets world aright.
And in the Seven Martyrs’ sight,
Mere man shall end this endless night.


It has been twenty-seven long years since the last sunrise. For nearly three decades, vampires have waged war against humanity; building their eternal empire even as they tear down our own. Now, only a few tiny sparks of light endure in a sea of darkness.

Gabriel de León is a silversaint: a member of a holy brotherhood dedicated to defending realm and church from the creatures of the night. But even the Silver Order could not stem the tide once daylight failed us, and now, only Gabriel remains.

Imprisoned by the very monsters he vowed to destroy, the last silversaint is forced to tell his story. A story of legendary battles and forbidden love, of faith lost and friendships won, of the Wars of the Blood and the Forever King and the quest for humanity’s last remaining hope:

The Holy Grail.

Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

Another incredible story! The characters are vibrant and familiar, and the intimate moments are uniquely painted. It’s as if a close friend is confessing their life to you and you are seeing yourself in it.

Katie Kenney, Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT

Beautiful World, Where Are You is a new novel by Sally Rooney, the bestselling author of Normal People and Conversations with Friends.

Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend, Eileen, is getting over a break-up, and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood.

Alice, Felix, Eileen, and Simon are still young—but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They have sex, they worry about sex, they worry about their friendships and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world?

The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

While Dev believes in fairytale romances, Charlie most certainly does not. That doesn’t stop the two of them from stumbling into their own romantic comedy that will leave you absolutely charmed.

Lauren Homza, Rediscovered Books, Boise, ID

In this witty and heartwarming romantic comedy—reminiscent of Red, White & Royal Blue and One to Watch—an awkward tech wunderkind on a reality dating show goes off-script when sparks fly with his producer.

Dev Deshpande has always believed in fairy tales. So it’s no wonder then that he’s spent his career crafting them on the long-running reality dating show Ever After. As the most successful producer in the franchise’s history, Dev always scripts the perfect love story for his contestants, even as his own love life crashes and burns. But then the show casts disgraced tech wunderkind Charlie Winshaw as its star.

Charlie is far from the romantic Prince Charming Ever After expects. He doesn’t believe in true love, and only agreed to the show as a last-ditch effort to rehabilitate his image. In front of the cameras, he’s a stiff, anxious mess with no idea how to date twenty women on national television. Behind the scenes, he’s cold, awkward, and emotionally closed-off.

As Dev fights to get Charlie to connect with the contestants on a whirlwind, worldwide tour, they begin to open up to each other, and Charlie realizes he has better chemistry with Dev than with any of his female co-stars. But even reality TV has a script, and in order to find to happily ever after, they’ll have to reconsider whose love story gets told.

Graceland, at Last by Margaret Renkl

Margaret Renkl’s essays alternate between balm for the soul and outrage at the world with all of its injustices. She makes me think and see things in a different light, and for that I’m eternally grateful.

Jayne Rowsam, Mystery to Me, Madison, WI

From the author of the bestselling #ReadWithJenna/TODAY Show book club pick Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss

For the past four years, Margaret Renkl’s columns have offered readers of The New York Times a weekly dose of natural beauty, human decency, and persistent hope from her home in Nashville. Now more than sixty of those pieces have been brought together in this sparkling new collection.”

People have often asked me how it feels to be the ‘voice of the South, ‘” writes Renkl in her introduction. “But I’m not the voice of the South, and no one else is, either.” There are many Souths–red and blue, rural and urban, mountain and coast, Black and white and brown–and no one writer could possibly represent all of them. In Graceland, At Last, Renkl writes instead from her own experience about the complexities of her homeland, demonstrating along the way how much more there is to this tangled region than many people understand.

In a patchwork quilt of personal and reported essays, Renkl also highlights some other voices of the South, people who are fighting for a better future for the region. A group of teenagers who organized a youth march for Black Lives Matter. An urban shepherd whose sheep remove invasive vegetation. Church parishioners sheltering the homeless. Throughout, readers will find the generosity of spirit and deep attention to the world, human and nonhuman, that keep readers returning to her columns each Monday morning.

From a writer who “makes one of all the world’s beings” (NPR), Graceland, At Last is a book full of gifts for Southerners and non-Southerners alike.

A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins

I remember the addictiveness of Girl on The Train and Into the Water, and Paula Hawkins did not let readers down with this new book. A Slow Fire Burning was an amazing read that I couldn’t put down.

Deanna Bailey, Story on the Square, McDonough, GA

With the same propulsion that captivated millions of readers worldwide in The Girl on the Train and Into the Water, Paula Hawkins unfurls a gripping, twisting story of deceit, murder, and revenge.

When a young man is found gruesomely murdered in a London houseboat, it triggers questions about three women who knew him. Laura is the troubled one-night-stand last seen in the victim’s home. Carla is his grief-stricken aunt, already mourning the recent death of yet another family member. And Miriam is the nosy neighbor clearly keeping secrets from the police. Three women with separate connections to the victim. Three women who are – for different reasons – simmering with resentment. Who are, whether they know it or not, burning to right the wrongs done to them. When it comes to revenge, even good people might be capable of terrible deeds. How far might any one of them go to find peace? How long can secrets smolder before they explode into flame?

Look what you started.

Fuzz by Mary Roach

Human encounters with wildlife are increasing as land development shrinks wildlife habitat. Roach recounts dangerous engagements, some head-shaking practices, and plenty of laugh-out-loud turf wars.

Kay Wosewick, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

Mary is back with her distinctive inquisitiveness and desire to understand the world around her. I laughed, I gasped, I went through all the emotions and more that I’ve come to experience with the reading of one of Mary Roach’s books!

TBC Manager Sarah

Join “America’s funniest science writer” (Peter Carlson, Washington Post), Mary Roach, on an irresistible investigation into the unpredictable world where wildlife and humans meet.

What’s to be done about a jaywalking moose? A bear caught breaking and entering? A murderous tree? Three hundred years ago, animals that broke the law would be assigned legal representation and put on trial. These days, as New York Times best-selling author Mary Roach discovers, the answers are best found not in jurisprudence but in science: the curious science of human-wildlife conflict, a discipline at the crossroads of human behavior and wildlife biology.

Roach tags along with animal-attack forensics investigators, human-elephant conflict specialists, bear managers, and “danger tree” faller blasters. Intrepid as ever, she travels from leopard-terrorized hamlets in the Indian Himalaya to St. Peter’s Square in the early hours before the pope arrives for Easter Mass, when vandal gulls swoop in to destroy the elaborate floral display. She taste-tests rat bait, learns how to install a vulture effigy, and gets mugged by a macaque.

Combining little-known forensic science and conservation genetics with a motley cast of laser scarecrows, langur impersonators, and trespassing squirrels, Roach reveals as much about humanity as about nature’s lawbreakers. When it comes to “problem” wildlife, she finds, humans are more often the problem—and the solution. Fascinating, witty, and humane, Fuzz offers hope for compassionate coexistence in our ever-expanding human habitat.

Fault Lines by Emily Itami

Emily Itami has given us an incredibly engaging, hilarious, and relatable narrator in Mizuki as she navigates the fault lines in her marriage, in her past, and within herself.

Danielle Raub, Itinerant Literate Books, Charleston, SC

Combining the incisive intimacy of Sally Rooney with the sharp wit of Helen Fielding, a compulsively readable and astonishingly relatable debut novel about marriage, motherhood, love, self and the vibrant, surprising city that is modern Tokyo

Mizuki is a Japanese housewife. She has a hardworking husband, two adorable children, and a beautiful Tokyo apartment. It’s everything a woman could want, yet sometimes she wonders whether she would rather throw herself off the high-rise balcony than spend another evening not talking to her husband and hanging up laundry.

Then, one rainy night, she meets Kiyoshi, a successful restaurateur. In him, she rediscovers freedom, friendship, and the neon, electric pulse of the city she has always loved. But the further she falls into their relationship, the clearer it becomes that she is living two lives—and in the end, we can choose only one.

Funny, provocative, and startlingly honest, Fault Lines is for anyone who has ever looked in the mirror and asked, who am I and how did I get here? A bittersweet love story and a piercing portrait of female identity, it introduces Emily Itami as a debut novelist with astounding resonance and wit.

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers

This is the best book I’ve read this year. An ambitious debut novel tracing the history of one family against the backdrop of American history and showing the stories that are remembered and the ones that are forgotten.

Benedict Tanter, Main Point Books, Wayne, PA

The 2020 National Book Award–nominated poet makes her fiction debut with this magisterial epic—an intimate yet sweeping novel with all the luminescence and force of HomegoingSing, Unburied, Sing; and The Water Dancer—that chronicles the journey of one American family, from the centuries of the colonial slave trade through the Civil War to our own tumultuous era. 

The great scholar, W. E. B. Du Bois, once wrote about the Problem of race in America, and what he called “Double Consciousness,” a sensitivity that every African American possesses in order to survive. Since childhood, Ailey Pearl Garfield has understood Du Bois’s words all too well. Bearing the names of two formidable Black Americans—the revered choreographer Alvin Ailey and her great grandmother Pearl, the descendant of enslaved Georgians and tenant farmers—Ailey carries Du Bois’s Problem on her shoulders.

Ailey is reared in the north in the City but spends summers in the small Georgia town of Chicasetta, where her mother’s family has lived since their ancestors arrived from Africa in bondage. From an early age, Ailey fights a battle for belonging that’s made all the more difficult by a hovering trauma, as well as the whispers of women—her mother, Belle, her sister, Lydia, and a maternal line reaching back two centuries—that urge Ailey to succeed in their stead.

To come to terms with her own identity, Ailey embarks on a journey through her family’s past, uncovering the shocking tales of generations of ancestors—Indigenous, Black, and white—in the deep South. In doing so Ailey must learn to embrace her full heritage, a legacy of oppression and resistance, bondage and independence, cruelty and resilience that is the story—and the song—of America itself.

Hao by Ye Chun

A wonderful collection of short stories that span the Chinese and Chinese American diaspora through time and place. These women, strong yet powerless, find their own meaning of hao (good).

Audrey Huang, Belmont Books, Belmont, MA

An extraordinary debut collection of short stories by a three-time Pushcart Prize winner following Chinese women in both China and the United States who turn to signs and languages as they cross the alien landscapes of migration and motherhood.

“The most common word in Chinese, perhaps, a ubiquitous syllable people utter and hear all the time, which is supposed to mean good. But what is hao in this world, where good books are burned, good people condemned, meanness considered a good trait, violence good conduct? People say hao when their eyes are marred with suspicion and dread. They say hao when they are tattered inside.”

By turns reflective and visceral, the stories in Hao examine the ways in which women can be silenced as they grapple with sexism and racism, and how they find their own language to define their experience.

In “Gold Mountain,” a young mother hides above a ransacked store during the San Francisco anti-Chinese riot of 1877. In “A Drawer,” an illiterate mother invents a language through drawing. And in “Stars,” a graduate student loses her ability to speak after a stroke. Together, these twelve stories create “an unsettling, hypnotic collection spanning centuries, in which language and children act simultaneously as tethers and casting lines, the reasons and the tools for moving forward after trauma. “You’ll come away from this beautiful book changed” (Julia Fine, author of The Upstairs House).

The Archer by Shruti Swamy

The Archer is the story of a young Indian woman who longs to be a classical dancer — to feel that rhythm, to have that as her life focus — yet is continually buffeted by her choices and those made for her.

Becky Milner, Vintage Books, Vancouver, WA

In this transfixing novel, a young woman comes of age in 1960s- and 1970s-era Bombay, a vanished world that is complex and indelibly rendered. Vidya’s childhood is marked by the shattering absence and then the bewildering reappearance of her mother and baby brother at the family home. Restless, observant, and longing for connection with her brilliant and increasingly troubled mother, Vidya navigates the stifling expectations of her life with a vivid imagination until one day she peeks into a classroom where girls are learning kathak, a dazzling, centuries-old dance form that requires the utmost discipline and focus. Her pursuit of artistic transcendence through kathak soon becomes the organizing principle of her life, even as she leaves home for college and falls in complicated love with her best friend. As the uncertain future looms, she must ultimately confront the tensions between romantic love, her art, and the legacy of her own imperfect mother.

Lyrical and deeply sensual, with writing as mesmerizing as kathak itself, Shruti Swamy’s The Archer is a bold portrait of a singular woman coming of age as an artist–navigating desire, duty, and the limits of the body. It is also an electrifying and utterly immersive story about the transformative power of art, and the possibilities that love can open when we’re ready.

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