A couple of short-story collections feature in this week’s set of anticipated books alongside the ingredients for a perfect lazy weekend: puzzles, music, and good reads!
The Puzzler by A.J Jacobs
What makes puzzles—jigsaws, mazes, riddles, sudokus—so satisfying? Be it the formation of new cerebral pathways, their close link to insight and humor, or their community-building properties, they’re among the fundamental elements that make us human. Convinced that puzzles have made him a better person, A. J. Jacobs—four-time New York Times bestselling author, master of immersion journalism, and nightly crossworder—set out to determine their myriad benefits. And maybe, in the process, solve the puzzle of our very existence.
In The Puzzler, Jacobs meets the most zealous devotees, enters (sometimes with his family in tow) any puzzle competition that will have him, unpacks the history of the most popular puzzles, and aims to solve the most impossible head-scratchers, from a mutant Rubik’s Cube, to the hardest corn maze in America, to the most sadistic jigsaw. Chock-full of unforgettable adventures and original examples from around the world—including new work by Greg Pliska, one of America’s top puzzle-makers, and a hidden, super-challenging but solvable puzzle that will earn the first reader to crack it a $10,000 prize*—The Puzzler will open readers’ eyes to the power of flexible thinking and concentration.
Due April 26
Embrace Fearlessly the Burning World by Barry Lopez
An ardent steward of the land, fearless traveler, and unrivaled observer of nature and culture in all its forms, Lopez lost much of the Oregon property where he had lived for over fifty years when it was consumed by wildfire, likely caused by climate change.
Fortunately, some of his papers survived, including five never-before published pieces that are gathered here, along with essays written in the final years of his life; these essays appear now for the first time in book form.
Written in his signature observant and vivid prose, these essays offer an autobiography in pieces that a reader can assemble while journeying with Lopez along his many roads. They unspool memories at once personal and political, including tender, sometimes painful stories from Lopez’s childhood in New York City and California; reports from the field as he accompanies scientists on expeditions to study animals; travels to Antarctica and some of the most remote places on earth; and to life in his own backyard, adjacent to a wild, racing river. He reflects on those who taught him: the Indigenous elders and scientific mentors who sharpened his eye for the natural world–an eye that, as the reader comes to see, missed nothing. And with striking poignancy and searing candor, he confronts the challenges of his last years as he contends with the knowledge of his mortality, as well as with the dangers the Earth—and all of its people–are facing.
Due May 24
The Wordhord by Hana Videen
Old English is the language you think you know until you actually hear or see it. Unlike Shakespearean English or even Chaucer’s Middle English, Old English—the language of Beowulf—defies comprehension by untrained modern readers. Used throughout much of Britain more than a thousand years ago, it is rich with words that haven’t changed (like word), others that are unrecognizable (such as neorxnawang, or paradise), and some that are mystifying even in translation (gafol-fisc, or tax-fish). In this delightful book, Hana Videen gathers a glorious trove of these gems and uses them to illuminate the lives of the earliest English speakers. We discover a world where choking on a bit of bread might prove your guilt, where fiend-ship was as likely as friendship, and where you might grow up to be a laughter-smith.
The Wordhord takes readers on a journey through Old English words and customs related to practical daily activities (eating, drinking, learning, working); relationships and entertainment; health and the body, mind, and soul; the natural world (animals, plants, and weather); locations and travel (the source of some of the most evocative words in Old English); mortality, religion, and fate; and the imagination and storytelling.
Due May 10
The Colony by Audrey Magee
It is the summer of 1979. An English painter travels to a small island off the west coast of Ireland. Mr. Lloyd takes the last leg by curragh, though boats with engines are available and he doesn’t much like the sea. But he wants the authentic experience, to be changed by this place, to let its quiet and light fill him, give him room to create.
He doesn’t know that a Frenchman follows close behind. Masson has visited the island for many years, studying their language. He is fiercely protective of their isolation; it is essential to exploring his theories of language preservation and identity.
But the people who live on this rock—three miles long and half a mile wide—have their own views on what is being recorded, what is being taken, and what ought to be given in return. Over the summer, each of them— from great-grandmother Bean Uí Fhloinn, to widowed Mairéad, to fifteen-year-old James, who is determined to avoid the life of a fisherman—will wrestle with their own values and desires. Meanwhile, all over Ireland, violence is erupting. And there is blame enough to go around.
Due May 10
This Woman’s Work by Kim Gordon
In this radical departure from the historic narrative of music and music writing being written by men, for men, This Woman’s Work challenges the male dominance and sexism that have been hard-coded in the canons of music, literature, and film and has forced women to fight pigeon-holing or being side-lined by carving out their own space. Women have to speak up, to shout louder to tell their story—like the auteurs and ground-breakers featured in this collection, including: Anne Enright on Laurie Anderson; Megan Jasper on her ground-breaking work with Sub Pop; Margo Jefferson on Bud Powell and Ella Fitzgerald; and Fatima Bhutto on music and dictatorship.
This Woman’s Work also features writing on the experimentalists, women who blended music and activism, the genre-breakers, the vocal auteurs; stories of lost homelands and friends; of propaganda and dictatorships, the women of folk and country, the racialized tropes of jazz, the music of Trap and Carriacou; of mixtapes and violin lessons.
Due May 3
Companion Piece by Ali Smith
Here we are in extraordinary times.
Is this history?
What happens when we cease to trust governments, the media, each other? What have we lost? What stays with us? What does it take to unlock our future?
Following her astonishing quartet of Seasonal novels, Ali Smith again lights a way for us through the nightmarish now, in a vital celebration of companionship in all its forms. Every hello, like every voice, holds its story ready, waiting.
Due May 3
Trust by Hernan Diaz
Even through the roar and effervescence of the 1920s, everyone in New York has heard of Benjamin and Helen Rask. He is a legendary Wall Street tycoon; she is the brilliant daughter of eccentric aristocrats. Together, they have risen to the very top of a world of seemingly endless wealth. But the secrets around their affluence and grandeur excites gossip. Rumours about Benjamin’s financial maneuvers and Helen’s reclusiveness start to spread—all as a decade of excess and speculation draws to an end. At what cost have they acquired their immense fortune? This is the mystery at the center of a successful 1938 novel entitled Bonds, which all of New York seems to have read. But it isn’t the only version.
Hernan Diaz’s Trust brilliantly puts the story of these characters into conversation with other accounts—and in tension with the life and perspective of a young woman bent on disentangling fact from fiction. The result is a novel that becomes more exhilarating and profound with each new layer and revelation.
Due May 3
God Isn’t Here Today by Francine Cunningham
The stories in Francine Cunningham’s debut collection God Isn’t Here Today ricochet between form and genre, taking readers on a dark, irreverent, yet poignant journey led by a unique and powerful new voice.
Driven by desperation into moments of transformation, Cunningham’s characters are presented with moments of choice—some for the better and some for the worse. A young man goes to God’s office downtown for advice; a woman discovers she is the last human on Earth; an ice cream vendor is driven insane by his truck’s song; an ageing stripper uses undergarments to enact her escape plan; an incubus tires of his professional grind; and a young woman inherits a power that has survived genocide, but comes with a burden of its own.
Even as they flirt with the fantastic, Cunningham’s stories unfold with the innate elegance of a spring fern, reminding us of the inherent dualities in human nature—and that redemption can arise where we least expect it.
Due May 10
Grey Bees by Andrey Kurkov
Little Starhorodivka, a village of three streets, lies in Ukraine’s Grey Zone, the no-man’s-land between loyalist and separatist forces. Thanks to the lukewarm war of sporadic violence and constant propaganda that has been dragging on for years, only two residents remain: retired safety inspector turned beekeeper Sergey Sergeyich and Pashka, a rival from his schooldays. With little food and no electricity, under constant threat of bombardment, Sergeyich’s one remaining pleasure is his bees.
As spring approaches, he knows he must take them far from the Grey Zone so they can collect their pollen in peace. This simple mission on their behalf introduces him to combatants and civilians on both sides of the battle lines: loyalists, separatists, Russian occupiers and Crimean Tatars.
Wherever he goes, Sergeyich’s childlike simplicity and strong moral compass disarm everyone he meets. But could these qualities be manipulated to serve an unworthy cause, spelling disaster for him, his bees and his country?
Due April 29
Homesickness by Colin Barrett
Colin Barrett brings together eight character-driven stories, each showcasing his inimitably observant eye and darkly funny style.
A quiet night in a local pub is shattered by the arrival of a sword-wielding fugitive; a funeral party teeters on the edge of this world and the next, as ghosts simply won’t lay in wake; a shooting sees a veteran policewoman confront the banality of her own existence; and an aspiring writer grapples with his father’s cancer diagnosis and in his despair wreaks havoc on his mentor’s life.
Due May 3