As the weather warms up, we have some suggestions soon to be hot off the press.
This is Your Mind on Plants by Michael Pollan
Of all the things humans rely on plants for—sustenance, beauty, medicine, fragrance, flavor, fiber—surely the most curious is our use of them to change consciousness: to stimulate or calm, fiddle with or completely alter, the qualities of our mental experience. Take coffee and tea: People around the world rely on caffeine to sharpen their minds. But we do not usually think of caffeine as a drug, or our daily use as an addiction, because it is legal and socially acceptable. So, then, what is a “drug”?
In this unique blend of history, science, and memoir, as well as participatory journalism, Pollan examines and experiences plants from several very different angles and contexts, and shines a fresh light on a subject that is all too often treated reductively—as a drug, whether licit or illicit.
Due July 6
Ethel Rosenberg by Anne Sebba
In June 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a couple with two young sons, were led separately from their prison cells on Death Row and electrocuted moments apart. Both had been convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage for the Soviet Union, despite the fact that the US government was aware that the evidence against Ethel was shaky at best and based on the perjury of her own brother.
This book is the first to focus on one half of that couple for more than thirty years, and much new evidence has surfaced since then. Ethel was a bright girl who might have fulfilled her personal dream of becoming an opera singer, but instead found herself struggling with the social mores of the 1950’s. She longed to be a good wife and perfect mother, while battling the political paranoia of the McCarthy era, anti-Semitism, misogyny, and a mother who never valued her. Because of her profound love for and loyalty to her husband, she refused to incriminate him, despite government pressure on her to do so. Instead, she courageously faced the death penalty for a crime she hadn’t committed, orphaning her children.
Due June 8
Troy by Stephen Fry
In this brilliant conclusion to his bestselling Mythos trilogy, legendary author and actor Stephen Fry retells the tale of the Trojan War.
Full of tragic heroes, intoxicating love stories, and the unstoppable force of fate, there is no conflict more iconic than the Trojan War. Troy is the story of the epic battle retold by Fry with drama, humor, and vivid emotion. Achilles, Hector, Odysseus, Helen, their lovers, and their mortal enemies all burn bright in Fry’s compelling prose.
Due June 22
The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris
In the waning days of the Civil War, brothers Prentiss and Landry—freed by the Emancipation Proclamation—seek refuge on the homestead of George Walker and his wife, Isabelle. The Walkers, wracked by the loss of their only son to the war, hire the brothers to work their farm, hoping through an unexpected friendship to stanch their grief. Prentiss and Landry, meanwhile, plan to save money for the journey north and a chance to reunite with their mother, who was sold away when they were boys.
Parallel to their story runs a forbidden romance between two Confederate soldiers. The young men, recently returned from the war to the town of Old Ox, hold their trysts in the woods. But when their secret is discovered, the resulting chaos unleashes convulsive repercussions on the entire community.
Due June 15
Distant Fathers by Marina Jarre
This singular autobiography unfurls from author Marina Jarre’s native Latvia during the 1920s and ’30s and expands southward to the Italian countryside. In distinctive writing as poetic as it is precise, Jarre depicts an exceptionally multinational and complicated family: her elusive, handsome father—a Jew who perished in the Holocaust; her severe, cultured mother—an Italian Lutheran who translated Russian literature; and her sister and Latvian grandparents. Jarre tells of her passage from childhood to adolescence, first as a linguistic minority in a Baltic nation and then in traumatic exile to Italy after her parents’ divorce. Jarre lives with her maternal grandparents, French-speaking Waldensian Protestants in the Alpine valleys southwest of Turin, where she finds fascist Italy a problematic home for a Riga-born Jew. This memoir—likened to Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov or Annie Ernaux’s The Years and now translated into English for the first time—probes questions of time, language, womanhood, belonging and estrangement, while asking what homeland can be for those who have none, or many more than one.
Due July 2
Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor
In the series of linked stories at the heart of Filthy Animals, set among young creatives in the American Midwest, a young man treads delicate emotional waters as he navigates a series of sexually fraught encounters with two dancers in an open relationship, forcing him to weigh his vulnerabilities against his loneliness. In other stories, a young woman battles with the cancers draining her body and her family; menacing undercurrents among a group of teenagers explode in violence on a winter night; a little girl tears through a house like a tornado, driving her babysitter to the brink; and couples feel out the jagged edges of connection, comfort, and cruelty.
Psychologically taut and quietly devastating, Filthy Animals is a tender portrait of the fierce longing for intimacy, the lingering presence of pain, and the desire for love in a world that seems, more often than not, to withhold it.
Due June 22
Dear Senthuran by Akwaeke Emezi
In three critically acclaimed novels, Akwaeke Emezi has introduced readers to a landscape marked by familial tensions, Igbo belief systems, and a boundless search for what it means to be free. Now, in this extraordinary memoir, the bestselling author of The Death of Vivek Oji reveals the harrowing yet resolute truths of their own life. Through candid, intimate correspondence with friends, lovers, and family, Emezi traces the unfolding of a self and the unforgettable journey of a creative spirit stepping into power in the human world. Their story weaves through transformative decisions about their gender and body, their precipitous path to success as a writer, and the turmoil of relationships on an emotional, romantic, and spiritual plane, culminating in a book that is as tender as it is brutal.
Electrifying and inspiring, animated by the same voracious intelligence that distinguishes their fiction, Dear Senthuran is a revelatory account of storytelling, self, and survival.
Due June 8
Home of the Floating Lily by Silmy Abdullah
Set in both Canada and Bangladesh, the eight stories in Home of the Floating Lily follow the lives of everyday people as they navigate the complexities of migration, displacement, love, friendship, and familial conflict. A young woman moves to Toronto after getting married but soon discovers her husband is not who she believes him to be. A mother reconciles her heartbreak when her sons defy her expectations and choose their own paths in life. A lonely international student returns to Bangladesh and forms an unexpected bond with her domestic helper. A working-class woman, caught between her love for Bangladesh and her determination to raise her daughter in Canada, makes a life-altering decision after a dark secret from the past is revealed.
In each of the stories, characters embark on difficult journeys in search of love, dignity, and a sense of belonging.
Due June 22
China Room by Sunjeev Sahota
1929. Fifteen-year-old Mehar is one of three wives married to three brothers on a farm in small-town Punjab. The problem is, she doesn’t know which of them is her husband. She and her “sisters” spend their days hard at work, sequestered from the men–except when their domineering mother-in-law, Mai, summons them to a darkened chamber at night. Curious and headstrong, Mehar can’t help but try to piece together what Mai doesn’t want her to know. From beneath her veil, she studies the sounds of the men’s voices, the calluses on their fingers as she serves their tea. When at last, through the slats of the family’s china room, she glimpses something that seems to confirm her husband’s identity, a passion is ignited that will put more than one life at risk.
1999. A British Sikh man drops out of university and travels to Punjab, hoping to shake an addiction that has held him in its grip for over a year. Growing up in small-town England, the son of an immigrant shopkeeper, his experiences of racist ostracism and violence led him to seek a dangerous form of escape. Now, as he rides out his withdrawal at an old farmstead belonging to the family, he meets a woman, an outcast who offers him friendship.
Due July 13
Shoko’s Smile by Choi Eunyoung
In crisp, unembellished prose, Eun-young Choi paints intimate portraits of the lives of young women in South Korea, balancing the personal with the political. In the title story, a fraught friendship between an exchange student and her host sister follows them from adolescence to adulthood. In “A Song from Afar,” a young woman grapples with the death of her lover, traveling to Russia to search for information about the deceased. In “Secret,” the parents of a teacher killed in the Sewol ferry sinking hide the news of her death from her grandmother.
In the tradition of Sally Rooney, Banana Yoshimoto, and Marilynne Robinson–writers from different cultures who all take an unvarnished look at human relationships and the female experience–Choi Eunyoung is a writer to watch.
Due June 1