This week’s set of anticipated reads features just about everything you’d need for a family dinner party: the family members, the party, and even a cookbook!
The Big Con by Mariana Mazzucato & Rosie Collington
There is an entrenched relationship between the consulting industry and the way business and government are managed today that must change. Mariana Mazzucato and Rosie Collington show that our economies’ reliance on companies such as McKinsey & Company, Boston Consulting Group, Bain & Company, PwC, Deloitte, KPMG, and EY stunts innovation, obfuscates corporate and political accountability, and impedes our collective mission of halting climate breakdown.
The “Big Con” describes the confidence trick the consulting industry performs in contracts with hollowed-out and risk-averse governments and shareholder value-maximizing firms. It grew from the 1980s and 1990s in the wake of reforms by the neoliberal right and Third Way progressives, and it thrives on the ills of modern capitalism, from financialization and privatization to the climate crisis. It is possible because of the unique power that big consultancies wield through extensive contracts and networks—as advisors, legitimators, and outsourcers—and the illusion that they are objective sources of expertise and capacity. In the end, the Big Con weakens our businesses, infantilizes our governments, and warps our economies.
In The Big Con, Mazzucato and Collington throw back the curtain on the consulting industry. They dive deep into important case studies of consultants taking the reins with disastrous results, such as the debacle of the roll out of HealthCare.gov and the tragic failures of governments to respond adequately to the COVID-19 pandemic. The result is an important and exhilarating intellectual journey into the modern economy’s beating heart. With peerless scholarship, and a wealth of original research, Mazzucato and Collington argue brilliantly for building a new system in which public and private sectors work innovatively for the common good.
Release date: March 7th
Sweet Enough by Alison Roman
Casual, effortless, chic: These are not words you’d use to describe most desserts. But before Alison Roman made recipes so perfect that they go by one name—The Cookie, The Pasta, The Lemon Cake—she was a restaurant pastry chef who spent most of her time learning to make things the hard way. She studied flavor, technique, and precision, then distilled her knowledge to pare it all down to create dessert recipes that feel special and approachable, impressive and doable. In Sweet Enough, Alison has written the book for people who think they don’t have the time or skill to pull off dessert. Here, the desserts you want to make right away, you can make right away.
Alison shows you how to make simple yet sublime sweets with her trademark casualness, like how to make jam in the oven, then turn that jam into a dessert—swirled into ice cream or folded into easy one-bowl cake batter. (Opening a jar of jam is more than fine, too.) She waxes poetic on the virtues of frozen fruit and teaches you the best way to throw your own Sundae Party. There are effortless cakes that take just minutes to get into a pan. And there are new, instant classics with a signature Alison twist, like Salted Lemon Pie, Raspberries and Sour Cream, Toasted Rice Pudding, or a Caramelized Maple Tart. Requiring little more than your own two hands and a few mixing bowls, the recipes are geared towards those without fancy equipment or specialty ingredients.
Whether you’re a dedicated baker or, better yet, someone who doesn’t think they are a baker, Sweet Enough lets you finish any dinner, any party, or any car ride to a dinner party with a little something wonderful and sweet.
Release date: March 28th
How to Think Like a Woman by Regan Penaluna
As a young woman growing up in small-town Iowa, Regan Penaluna daydreamed about the big questions: Who are we and what is this strange world we find ourselves in? In college she fell in love with philosophy and chose to pursue it as an academician, the first step, she believed, to becoming a self-determined person living a life of the mind. What Penaluna didn’t realize was that the Western philosophical canon taught in American universities, as well as the culture surrounding it, would slowly grind her down through its misogyny, its harassment, its devaluation of women and their intellect. Where were the women philosophers?
One day, in an obscure monograph, Penaluna came across Damaris Cudworth Masham’s name. The daughter of philosopher Ralph Cudworth and a contemporary of John Locke, Masham wrote about knowledge and God, and the condition of women. Masham’s work led Penaluna to other remarkable women philosophers of the era: Mary Astell, who moved to London at age twenty-one and made a living writing philosophy; Catharine Cockburn, a philosopher, novelist, and playwright; and the better-known Mary Wollstonecraft, who wrote extensively in defense of women’s minds. Together, these women rekindled Penaluna’s love of philosophy and awakened her feminist consciousness.
In How to Think Like a Woman, Regan Penaluna blends memoir, biography, and criticism to tell the stories of these four women, weaving throughout an alternative history of philosophy as well as her own search for love and truth. Funny, honest, and wickedly intelligent, this is a moving meditation on what philosophy could look like if women were treated equally.
Release date: March 24th
Biography of X by Catherine Lacey
When X—an iconoclastic artist, writer, and polarizing shape-shifter—falls dead in her office, her widow, wild with grief and refusing everyone’s good advice, hurls herself into writing a biography of the woman she deified. Though X was recognized as a crucial creative force of her era, she kept a tight grip on her life story. Not even CM, her wife, knew where X had been born, and in her quest to find out, she opens a Pandora’s box of secrets, betrayals, and destruction. All the while, she immerses herself in the history of the Southern Territory, a fascist theocracy that split from the rest of the country after World War II, as it is finally, in the present day, forced into an uneasy reunification.
A masterfully constructed literary adventure complete with original images assembled by X’s widow, Biography of X follows a grieving wife seeking to understand the woman who enthralled her. CM traces X’s peripatetic trajectory over decades, from Europe to the ruins of America’s divided territories, and through her collaborations and feuds with everyone from Bowie and Waits to Sontag and Acker. And when she finally understands the scope of X’s defining artistic project, CM realizes her wife’s deceptions were far crueler than she imagined.
Pulsing with suspense and intellect while blending nonfiction and fiction, Biography of X is a roaring epic that plumbs the depths of grief, art, and love. In her most ambitious novel yet, Catherine Lacey, one of our most acclaimed literary innovators, pushes her craft to its highest level, introducing us to an unforgettable character who, in her tantalizing mystery, shows us the fallibility of the stories we craft for ourselves.
Release date: March 21st
Sea Change by Gina Chung
Ro is stuck. She’s just entered her thirties, she’s estranged from her mother, and her boyfriend has just left her to join a mission to Mars. Her days are spent dragging herself to her menial job at the aquarium, and her nights are spent drinking sharktinis (Mountain Dew and copious amounts of gin, plus a hint of jalapeño). With her best friend pulling away to focus on her upcoming wedding, Ro’s only companion is Dolores, a giant Pacific octopus who also happens to be Ro’s last remaining link to her father, a marine biologist who disappeared while on an expedition when Ro was a teenager.
When Dolores is sold to a wealthy investor intent on moving her to a private aquarium, Ro finds herself on the precipice of self-destruction. Wading through memories of her youth, Ro realizes she can either lose herself in the undertow of reminiscence, or finally come to terms with her childhood trauma, recommit to those around her, and find her place in an ever-changing world.
Release date: March 28th
Just a Mother by Roy Jacobsen
After a long journey through Norway, Ingrid has returned to Barrøy, the island that bears her family name. The Second World War still casts its long shadow: former collaborators face cold shoulders, while others wish to leave the painful years in the past. When a boy arrives on the island, Ingrid assumes responsibility for him, and so he joins the Barrøy community, raised alongside Ingrid’s own daughter, another child of war.
As letters from distant friends arrive with news of a society undergoing dramatic changes, Ingrid must decide which stories to keep to herself, and which she should she bring to light. What kind of future does she imagine—for herself, and for the children?
Release date: March 7th
Brother & Sister Enter the Forest by Richard Mirabella
After years of severed communication, Justin appears on his sister’s doorstep needing a place to stay. The home he’s made for himself has collapsed, as has everything else in his life. When they were children, Willa played the role of her brother’s protector, but now, afraid of the chaos he might bring, she’s reluctant to let him in.
Willa lives a carefully ordered life working as a nurse and making ornate dioramas in her spare time. As Justin tries to connect with the people she’s closest to—her landlord, her boyfriend, their mother—she begins to feel exposed. Willa and Justin’s relationship has always been strained yet loving, frustrating and close. But it hits a new breaking point when Justin spirals out of control, unable to manage his sobriety and the sustained effects of a brain injury.
Years earlier, in high school, desperate to escape his home life and his disapproving, troubled mother, Justin falls into the hands of his first lover, a slightly older boy living on his own who offers Justin some semblance of intimacy and refuge. When Justin’s boyfriend commits a terrifying act of violence, the two flee on a doomed road trip, a journey that will damage Justin and change his and his family’s lives forever.
Weaving together these two timelines, Brother & Sister Enter the Forest unravels the thread of a young man’s trauma and the love waiting for him on the other side.
Release date: March 14th
Chlorine by Jade Song
Ren Yu is a swimmer. Her daily life starts and ends with the pool. Her teammates are her only friends. Her coach, her guiding light. If she swims well enough, she will be scouted, get a scholarship, go to a good school. Her parents will love her. Her coach will be kind to her. She will have a good life.
But these are human concerns. These are the concerns of those confined to land, those with legs. Ren grew up on stories of creatures of the deep, of the oceans and the rivers. Ones that called sailors to their doom. Ones that dragged them down and drowned them. Ones that feasted on their flesh. Ones of the creature that she’s always longed to become: mermaid.
Ren aches to be in the water. She dreams of the scent of chlorine—the feel of it on her skin. And she will do anything she can to make a life for herself where she can be free. No matter the pain. No matter what anyone else thinks. No matter how much blood she has to spill.
Release date: March 28th
Dinner Party by Sarah Gilmartin
A riveting, beautifully written, and poignant coming-of-age story about the heartrending complications of sibling relationships and the trauma of family secrets, perfect for fans of Kate Atkinson, Maggie O’Farrell, and Anne Enright.
Kate has taught herself to be careful, to be meticulous.
To mark the anniversary of a death in the family, she plans a dinner party – from the fancy table settings to the perfect Baked Alaska waiting in the freezer. Yet by the end of the night, old tensions have flared, the guests have fled, and Kate is spinning out of control.
But all we have is ourselves, her father once said, all we have is family.
Set between the 1990s and the present day, from a farmhouse in Carlow to Trinity College, Dublin, Dinner Party is a dark, sharply observed debut told with sharp, elegant humour that thrillingly unravels into family secrets and tragedy.
Release date: March 7th
Rombo by Esther Kinsky
Il rombo is an Italian term for the subterranean rumble before an earthquake. In May and September 1976, two severe earthquakes ripped through the Friuli region in northeastern Italy, causing extensive damage. About a thousand people died under the rubble, tens of thousands were left without shelter, and many ended up leaving their homes forever.
Rombo is a record of this disaster and its aftermath, as told by seven men and women who were children at the time: Anselmo, Mara, Olga, Gigi, Silvia, Lina, and Toni. They speak of portents that preceded the earthquakes and of the complete disorder that followed, the obliteration of all that was familiar and known by heart. Their memories, like the earth, are subject to rifts and abysses. Esther Kinsky splices these indelible, incomplete recollections with exacting descriptions of the alpine region, forgoing a linear narrative for a deftly layered collage that reaches back and forth in time. The brilliantly original book that emerges is both memorial and purgatorial mount.
Release date: March 14th