A proliferation of animals in this newest selection of books we’re looking forward to, be they on the cover or within the pages. And it’s not just swans and fish, but dragons, too!
Butler to the World by Oliver Bullough
The Suez Crisis of 1956 was the nadir of Britain’s twentieth century, the moment when the once-superpower was bullied into retreat. “Great Britain has lost an empire and not yet found a role,” said Dean Acherson, a former US secretary of state. Acheson’s line has entered into the canon of great quotations: but it was wrong. Britain had already found a role. The leaders of the world just hadn’t noticed it yet.
Butler to the World reveals how Britain came to assume its role as the center of the offshore economy. Written polemically, but studded with witty references to the butlers of popular fiction, it demonstrates how so many elements of modern Britain have been put at the service of the world’s oligarchs.
The Biden administration is putting corruption at the heart of its foreign policy, and that means it needs to confront Britain’s role as the foremost enabler of financial crime and ill behavior. This book lays bare how London has deliberately undercut U.S. regulations for decades, and calls into question the extent to which Britain can be considered a reliable ally.
Due June 14
Maker of Swans by Paraic O’Donnell
In the dead of night, shots ring out over the grounds of a sprawling English estate. The world-weary butler Eustace recognizes the gunman—his longtime employer, Mr. Crowe—and knows he must think and act quickly. Who is the man lying dead on the lawn? Who is the woman in his company? Can he clean up his master’s mess like he always has before? Or will this bring a new kind of reckoning?
Mr. Crowe was once famed for his gifts—unaccountable gifts, known only to the members of a secretive order. Protected and privileged, he was courted by countesses and great men of letters. But he has long since retreated from that glittering world, living alone but for Eustace and Clara, his mysterious young ward. He has been content to live quietly, his great library gathering dust and his once magnificent gardens growing wild. He has left the past behind. Until now.
Because there are rules, even for Mr. Crowe and his kind, that cannot be broken. And this single night of passion and violence will have consequences, stirring shadows from the past and threatening those he now cares for. He and the faithful Eustace will be tested as never before. So too will Clara, whose own extraordinary gifts remain hidden, even from herself. If she is to save them all, she must learn to use them quickly and unlock the secret of who she is.
It is a secret beyond imagining. A secret that will change everything.
Due June 7
Guarded by Dragons by Rick Gekoski
In Guarded by Dragons, Gekoski invites readers into this enchanted world as he reflects on the gems he has unearthed throughout his career. He takes us back to where his love of collecting began – perusing D.H. Lawrence first editions in a slightly suspect Birmingham carpark. What follows are dizzying encounters with literary giants as Gekoski publishes William Golding, plays ping-pong with Salman Rushdie and lunches with Graham Greene. A brilliant stroke of luck sees Sylvia Plath’s personal copy of The Great Gatsby fall into Gekoski’s lap, only for him to discover the perils of upsetting a Poet Laureate when Ted Hughes demands its return.
Hunting for literary treasure is not without its battles and Gekoski boldly breaks the cardinal rule never to engage in a lawsuit with someone much richer than yourself, while also guarding his bookshop from the most unlikely of thieves. The result is an unparalleled insight into an almost mythical world where priceless first editions of Ulysses can vanish, and billionaires will spend as much gold as it takes to own the manuscript of J.K. Rowling’s Tales of Beedle the Bard.
Engaging, funny and shrewd, Guarded by Dragons is a fascinating discussion on value and worth. At the same time, Gekoski artfully reveals how a manuscript can tell a thousand stories.
Due June 28
Minique by Anna Maxymiw
Montréal, 1680s: Minique has a secret she can’t ever tell. She knows there are horrific consequences for girls and women who do not conform. She saw it with her own eyes when Anne, the aubergiste, was viciously marched through town and charged with crimes she didn’t commit. Besides, Minique has never had family members to tell. She remembers little of her mother, a fille du roi, who arrived in Montréal on a ship; she rarely sees her father, a coureur des bois who is often away; and she barely speaks with her Tante Marie, a stern, hard woman.
Years later, after a string of tragedies, Minique has abandoned the hostility of the town and its people. She has built a home for herself in the woods, outside the boundary of Montréal. But her solitary existence is interrupted when she learns that Antoine de Cadillac, an ambitious Frenchman with a violent past, is after a monopoly of the fur trade in New France. Though initially repulsed by his greed, Minique is powerfully drawn to him. Soon, their paths start to cross in unpredictable ways as Cadillac’s determination to learn more about the “witch in the wood” intensifies. They forge a reckless, passionate connection with an ever-shifting dynamic that Minique welcomes until she realizes that everything—down to the core of who she is and the secret she carries—is at stake.
Due June 7
Voice of the Fish by Lars Horn
Lars Horn’s Voice of the Fish, the latest Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize winner, is an interwoven essay collection that explores the trans experience through themes of water, fish, and mythology, set against the backdrop of travels in Russia and a debilitating back injury that left Horn temporarily unable to speak. In Horn’s adept hands, the collection takes shape as a unified book: short vignettes about fish, reliquaries, and antiquities serve as interludes between longer essays, knitting together a sinuous, wave-like form that flows across the book.
Horn swims through a range of subjects, roving across marine history, theology, questions of the body and gender, sexuality, transmasculinity, and illness. From Horn’s upbringing with a mother who used them as a model in photos and art installations—memorably in a photography session in an ice bath with dead squid—to Horn’s travels before they were out as trans, these essays are linked by a desire to interrogate liminal physicalities. Horn reexamines the oft-presumed uniformity of bodily experience, breaking down the implied singularity of “the body” as cultural and scientific object. The essays instead privilege ways of seeing and being that resist binaries, ways that falter, fracture, mutate. A sui generis work of nonfiction, Voice of the Fish blends the aquatic, mystical, and physical to reach a place beyond them all.
Due June 7
Lapvona by Otessa Moshfegh
Little Marek, the abused and delusional son of the village shepherd, never knew his mother; his father told him she died in childbirth. One of life’s few consolations for Marek is his enduring bond with the blind village midwife, Ina, who suckled him when he was a baby, as she did so many of the village’s children. Ina’s gifts extend beyond childcare: she possesses a unique ability to communicate with the natural world. Her gift often brings her the transmission of sacred knowledge on levels far beyond those available to other villagers, however religious they might be. For some people, Ina’s home in the woods outside of the village is a place to fear and to avoid, a godless place.
Among their number is Father Barnabas, the town priest and lackey for the depraved lord and governor, Villiam, whose hilltop manor contains a secret embarrassment of riches. The people’s desperate need to believe that there are powers that be who have their best interests at heart is put to a cruel test by Villiam and the priest, especially in this year of record drought and famine. But when fate brings Marek into violent proximity to the lord’s family, new and occult forces upset the old order. By year’s end, the veil between blindness and sight, life and death, the natural world and the spirit world, will prove to be very thin indeed.
Due June 21
Rehearsals for Living by Robyn Maynard and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
When the world entered pandemic lockdown in spring 2020, Robyn Maynard, influential author of Policing Black Lives, and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, renowned artist, musician, and author of Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies, began writing each other letters—a gesture sparked by a desire for kinship and connection in a world shattering under the intersecting crises of pandemic, police killings, and climate catastrophe. These letters soon grew into a powerful exchange about where we go from here.
Rehearsals for Living is a captivating and visionary work—part debate, part dialogue, part lively and detailed familial correspondence between two razor-sharp writers. By articulating to each other Black and Indigenous perspectives on our unprecedented here and now, and reiterating the long-disavowed histories of slavery and colonization that have brought us to this moment, Maynard and Simpson create something new: an urgent demand for a different way forward, and a poetic call to dream up other ways of ordering earthly life.
Due June 14
Aue by Becky Manawatu
- (verb) to cry, howl, groan, wail, bawl.
- (interjection) expression of astonishment or distress.
Taukiri was born into sorrow. Aue can be heard in the sound of the sea he loves and hates, and in the music he draws out of the guitar that was his father’s. It spills out of the gang violence that killed his father and sent his mother into hiding, and the shame he feels about abandoning his eight-year-old brother to a violent home.
But Taukiri’s brother, Arama, is braver than he looks, and he has a friend, and his friend has a dog, and the three of them together might just be strong enough to turn back the tide of sadness.
This bestselling multi-award-winning novel is both raw and sublime, introducing a compelling new voice in New Zealand fiction.
Due June 3
The Puzzler by A.J Jacobs
New York in the 1900s. A young girl fascinated by rare books defies all odds and becomes the director of one of the country’s most prestigious private libraries. It belongs to the magnate J. P. Morgan,darling of the international aristocracy and one of the city’s richest men.
Flamboyant, brilliant, beautiful, Belle is among New York society’s most sought after intellectuals. She also hides a secret. Although she looks white, she is African American, the daughter of a famous black activist who sees her desire to hide her origins as the consummate betrayal. Torn between history’s ineluctable imperatives and the freedom to belong to the society of her choosing, Belle’s drama, which plays out in a violently racist America, is one that resonates forcefully, and illuminatingly even today.
The fruit of years of research and interviews, Alexandra Lapierre’s magnificent novel recounts the struggles, victories, and heartbreaks of a woman who is free, astonishingly determined, daring, and fully, exuberantly alive.
Due June 24
Cult Classic by Sloane Crosley
One night in New York City’s Chinatown, a woman is at a work reunion dinner with former colleagues when she excuses herself to buy a pack of cigarettes. On her way back, she runs into a former boyfriend. And then another. And . . . another. Nothing is quite what it seems as the city becomes awash with ghosts of heartbreaks past.
What would normally pass for coincidence becomes something far stranger as the recently engaged Lola must contend not only with the viability of her current relationship but with the fact that both her best friend and her former boss, a magazine editor turned mystical guru, might have an unhealthy investment in the outcome. Memories of the past swirl and converge in ways both comic and eerie, as Lola is forced to decide if she will surrender herself to the conspiring of one very contemporary cult.
Is it possible to have a happy ending in an age when the past is ever at your fingertips and sanity is for sale? With her gimlet eye, Sloane Crosley spins a wry literary fantasy that is equal parts page-turner and poignant portrayal of alienation.
Due June 7