Shelf Awareness for Readers for Tuesday, December 7, 2021


Forge: Project Namahana by John Teschner

From My Shelf

The Gift of Staying Present

The books that have granted me the most joy are those that have kept me connected to the present during this time of great uncertainty. We covered many of them in our Gift Cookbooks issue, with its bounty of new recipes and new flavor combinations; our general Gift issue, teeming with photographic and exotic books ideal for inspiration; and the Children's and Young Adult Gift issue with titles to accompany the young people in your life as they try to make sense of the world. But if you know someone who prefers shorter bursts of reading, here are three books of essays that buoyed me this fall--at least one of which may be ideal for someone on your list.

My salve was John Green's book of essays rating elements and experiences of our present-day world, The Anthropocene Reviewed (Dutton, $28). It began as a series of podcasts, but the way in which Green fine-tunes words heard into a feast for the eyes is a wonder to behold.

Ann Patchett's collection of essays These Precious Days (Harper, $26.99) is a work of alchemy: she takes her own experience of the pandemic--clearing things out, supporting her community, observing the shadow of mortality--and transforms them, through beauty and honesty, into gold.

And the one I've returned to most often these past 20 months is The Book of Delights by Ross Gay. The daily observations he records with a poet's sense of awe and precision prompted me to immerse myself in the glory of nature, the joy of a shared meal, the nugget of wisdom gleaned from a friend. I have given this book at graduations, at times of loss, in congratulations for a new job, and... just because. These wonderful companions will keep you--and the friends you give them to--rooted in the moment. And what a gift that is. --Jennifer M. Brown, senior editor, Shelf Awareness


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Book Candy

When the Beatles Wanted to Star in Lord of the Rings

Mental Floss recalled "when the Beatles wanted to star in a Lord of the Rings movie."

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Dictionary.com's Word of the Year is "intertwined with so many of the things we've experienced in 2021: allyship."

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Better Book Titles featured "30 hilariously bizarre books that actually exist."

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Atlas Obscura explored the Kenneth Dike Library in Ibadan, Nigeria, which houses unusual Arabic manuscripts and was designed to keep the building cool.

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"Stephen Fry on the power of words in Nazi Germany: How dehumanizing language laid the foundation for genocide." (via Open Culture)

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" 'It is surreal': the five-second book reviews going viral on TikTok." (via the Guardian)


Astra House Fiction: 'We Lead with Our Convictions'

Danny Vazquez, an Astra House editor, offers an introduction to the publisher's fiction program:

It's the year 2012 in Adam Soto's debut novel, This Weightless World, when a mysterious signal reaches earth from a planet 75 light years away. Initially received as a sign of hope for a technologically advanced future, the signal eventually stops as abruptly as it had started. A classic science fiction trope that typically leads into a story about a war between worlds, here, is instead turned inward, to examine the lives of a revolving cast of characters. Exploring the everyday effects of a supposed cataclysmic, paradigm-shifting event that ends up not really changing much at all, This Weightless World paints an ugly portrait of human exceptionalism and reveals the destructive, paralyzing effects of capitalism, the confusing realities we've created for ourselves, and the reasons we're so often reluctant to break away from them.

In God of Mercy, Igbo-American author Okezie Nwọka enters into a powerful tradition of magical realist, postcolonial works of fiction. In the novel, we follow the life of Ijeọma and the village of Ichulu, which finds itself at a crossroads, a crisis of warring gods triggered when Ijeoma begins literally to take flight. God of Mercy imagines the condition of African peoples unchanged by external influence into the modern day by way of a village in Igboland that has escaped the exploitation, deprivation, and displacement of colonialism. A celebration of tradition as a marker of cultural identity and an appeal to the value of shifting norms, God of Mercy is a novel about what might become of a people left to design their own future, what conflicts might arise among them as they might have appeared in an alternate timeline.

Our ambition to represent multifaceted expressions of intellectual thought and personal experience are on full display in this stunning pair of fall 2021 debut novels, as in the rest of our fall fiction list. Melissa Lozada-Oliva's Dreaming of You is a novel-in-verse as rock opera as seance, resurrecting Tejano pop star Selena Quintanilla from the dead while exploring and exploding ideas of Latinidad, love, loss, celebrity worship, and disillusionment. And in Jerusalem Beach, Israeli author and neuroscientist Iddo Gefen plays with speculative technologies in deeply humane and often humorous short stories that reveal a world that's just a step from the familiar. At Astra House, we lead with our convictions and we value works that present counter-narratives and original thinking, works that expand beyond genre conventions and broaden and deepen our understanding of the world.

Astra House strives to publish works that challenge readers' expectations, and it is our great hope that readers will find the challenge as rewarding as the experience of being submerged in these expansive fictional worlds.


Astra House 2021 Gift Guide: A Gift Book for Every Reader

When you give a book as a gift, you're giving someone a new perspective, an adventure, an opportunity to light up their imagination and stir up passion. Astra House makes books that invite readers to see the world in a whole new way—and we have a great gift book for every reader.

If Cheryl Strayed's Wild made you long for the Appalachians, visit the Altai Mountains in Northwestern China with Li Juan (translated by Yan Yan and Jack Hargreaves). Winter Pasture is the gift for readers who like travel writing and adventure in faraway lands, and was named one of the Best Travel Books of 2021 by the Washington Post, Smithsonian, and Forbes.

If Etgar Keret speaks to you, get to know Iddo Gefen (translated by Daniella Zamir). Jerusalem Beach is a perfect gift for readers with an interest in Jewish family life across the long 20th century and a penchant for witty critiques of the tech industry.

If you love Mary Oliver's poetry about nature and desire, discover Yu Xiuhua (translated by Fiona Sze-Lorrain). Moonlight Rests on My Left Palm is a great gift for readers who like poetry about nature and rural life, with explorations of desire confined to the limits and possibilities of the human body.

If The New Jim Crow opened your mind, Derecka Purnell's new book will be an unforgettable next read. Becoming Abolitionists makes a great gift for readers who are tired of violence and inequality and hungry for real structural change. It was named a Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book and Best, Most Urgent Current Affairs of 2021.

If you are moved by Arundhati Roy's lyrical, unnerving, and deeply humane tales of modern India, allow Saumya Roy to introduce you to the residents of Deonar. One of NPR's best books of 2021, Castaway Mountain is an impossible true love story set against the backdrop of climate catastrophe, a tale that will speak to readers who want to better understand the ways we are all connected.

If you love unique explorations of Latinx identity and culture, try Melissa Lozada-Oliva's new novel in verse. Dreaming of You is just right for readers who want to know the what the latest buzz is all about, and who enjoy self-deprecating humor, juicy gossip, and beloved pop stars resurrected from the dead.

If you love sci-fi and pondering the meaning of life, meet debut author Adam Soto. This Weightless World will captivate readers who enjoy introspective characters; sci-fi plot twists; and musings on the meaning of life on Earth.

If you are moved and inspired by the works of Chinua Achebe and Toni Morrison, meet Okezie Nwọka. God of Mercy will speak powerfully to readers reconciling their faith in a higher power with the vile history of religious zealotry and looking for a rich, vibrant world unfettered by colonialism.

If you like queer stories with an edge and Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters, meet Iván Monalisa Ojéda (translated by Hannah Kauders) and his/her incredible friends. Las Biuty Queens is for readers who love gritty stories about New York City at night and about friends supporting each other as they try to make it in the big city.

If you love Sally Rooney's socially conscious novels about friendship and desire, get to know Iranian literary star Nasim Marashi (translated by Poupeh Missaghi). I'll Be Strong For You is perfect for readers who like to immerse themselves in coming-of-age stories that center on female friendship.


Book Review

Fiction

Admit This to No One: Collected Stories

by Leslie Pietrzyk


Fourteen exquisite, interlinked stories, set mostly in Washington, D.C., comprise Leslie Pietrzyk's shrewd Admit This to No One. Pietrzyk (Silver Girl) humanizes Beltway insiders (and wannabe outsiders), even as she skewers their hypocrisies, weaknesses and dreams. In a city where "so, what do you do?" matters most, Pietrzyk is more concerned with exploring "what are you... really who are you."

Pietrzyk opens and closes with Madison, a 15-year-old waiting for her father at the Kennedy Center in " 'Til Death Do Us Part," later a college student emulating said father as she juggles cheating relationships in "Every Man in History." Madison is one of the children of the philandering Speaker of the House, whose well-known inappropriate affairs blocked his path to the presidency. His oldest--and favorite--daughter, Lexie, finally broke away 10 years ago, but when, in "Stay There," she hears at her 40th birthday party that he's comatose, she immediately leaves North Carolina for D.C. She uncharacteristically pulls the "do you know who I am?" card in "My Father Raised Me," then invents a pregnancy to access his hospital room past her father's territorial young fourth wife in "Kill the Fatted Calf."

Pietrzyk deftly interrupts the family dysfunction with broader reveals. The standout "People Love a View" captures a white cop/Black driver scenario that goes horrifically awry in the most unexpected ways. "Wealth Management," "This Isn't Who We Are" and "Green in Judgment" each brilliantly exposes white entitlement pretense. The winks, protestations and complicity throughout induce both can't-make-this-stuff-up shock and all-too-knowing nods. Racism, sexism, elitism, so many -isms, fabulously fuel one of the finest collections of the year. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: Leslie Pietrzyk's sharp, penetrating second collection offers 14 fabulous, interlinked stories exposing D.C. insiders and wannabe outsiders.

Unnamed Press, $18, paperback, 255p., 9781951213411

Tundra Books (NY): Professor Goose Debunks Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Paulette Bourgeois, illustrated by Alex G. Griffiths


Five Tuesdays in Winter

by Lily King


In her first story collection, Five Tuesdays in Winter, novelist Lily King (Writers and Lovers; Euphoria) introduces characters with the familiar attributes readers appreciate from her, in 10 stories of love and longing, coming-of-age and declining, friendship and families.

King's stories are hopeful. In "When in the Dordogne," a sheltered 14-year-old boy--sure he was "a martini baby" and "a deep inconvenience" to his late-in-life parents--gains new perspectives from the two college boys house-sitting with him during the summer they travel to Europe. "Creature" finds a 14-year-old protagonist hired as a live-in nanny in one of her town's "fancier houses." When her innocence is compromised, she draws on her wit and newfound self-confidence.

In the surrealistic and darkly funny "The Man at the Door," a nursing mother is trying to focus on writing her novel when a "familiar stranger" bangs on her door, claiming he's from her publisher. His mysterious intrusion takes bizarre twists as she gains control of his visit and her life. Books and writing figure in several entries. The titular story's divorced bookseller, by nature "reticent" according to his ebullient 12-year-old daughter, Paula, is quietly smitten with his part-time employee, sure she would rebuke his advances. Paula's positive nature steers the course of the story to its heartwarming ending.

Even in stories with strife and conflict--a child shunning her newly widowed mother, an octogenarian visiting his comatose granddaughter--love and hope prevail. When each of the 10 tales ends, the next one begs to be read, as King's crisply descriptive prose and optimistic perspective guarantee a richly rewarding experience. --Cheryl McKeon, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, N.Y.

Discover: Novelist Lily King's collection offers richly varied characters in hopeful and optimistic stories.

Grove Press, $27, hardcover, 240p., 9780802158765

Tyndale House Publishers: Long Way Home by Lynn Austin


Where You Come From

by Saša Stanišić, trans. by Damion Searls


Where You Come From by Saša Stanišić (Before the FeastHow the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone) is a playful, formally adventurous novel that freely blends truth and fiction in its meditation on homelands. Born in Yugoslavia, a country that no longer exists, Stanišić's family was forced to flee to Germany during the Bosnian War in 1992. The line between novel and memoir is frequently blurred, with the novel mimicking his grandmother's surreal existence as her dementia progresses and the past increasingly intrudes on the present. In perhaps the novel's most enjoyable--and melancholy--surprise, it includes a branching choose-your-own-adventure with a variety of endings and fantastical digressions.

The concerns here are weighty, frequently referencing the unreality of being from a place that no longer exists, a diverse nation torn apart by genocidal violence. However, it would be a mistake to view Where You Come From as a somber book, with the author's earnestness both undercut and reinforced by humor.

The novel is separated into short chapters, with readers receiving anything from nostalgic memories of a Yugoslavian soccer team to sardonic descriptions of the former nation's "problems" and how they were or weren't solved: "The problem of critics of the government was solved by locking them up on an island, and that definitely didn't feel exactly great, of course." Where You Come From is determined to surprise and unmoor readers, perhaps in the same way the author/protagonist found the course of his own life surprising and disconcerting, with the author's restless imagination a constant, delightful companion. --Hank Stephenson, the Sun magazine, manuscript reader

Discover: Where You Come From uses autofiction and playful digressions to explore what it means to be from somewhere that no longer exists.

Tin House Books, $17.95, paperback, 364p., 9781951142759

How High?--That High

by Diane Williams


Evading the constraints of typical short fiction, How High?--That High, the 10th collection by Diane Williams (Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine), includes 34 vignettes that challenge convention with fervor. Williams's willful brevity and tantalizing obscurity make How High? a subversive puzzle box that dismantles standard notions of characterization and storytelling with deft precision.

Williams luxuriates in the possibilities of each cryptic sentence, flirting with the separation between fiction and poetry. Each story in How High? is brief--some, like "Finished Being," are only a single sentence. Others, like "Garden Magic," condense life-altering disappointments into a few laconic paragraphs, or allow a single moment of private reflection to bloom into a web of darkly illuminating associative episodes. "I am in a room where decisions are unlikely to be thought out," one of her narrators broods, "where I lack strong enough character and vital drive to take my dark thoughts and plant them at the right time like spring bulbs." Though a conventional narrative is sometimes (not always) discernable, Williams seems most interested in discovering the weight of personal narrative that animates or stymies her characters. Her claustrophobic portraits often revolve around a private moment of abjection that haunts the protagonist, holding them perpetually in its grip.

The lacerating quality of Williams's prose supplies a ruthless and powerful vehicle for these painfully intimate studies of human inadequacy and disappointment. Her preoccupation with form is a testament to her abiding love of the craft, as well as a reminder that craft's greatest enemy is always staidness. --Devon Ashby, sales & marketing assistant, Shelf Awareness

Discover: This challenging collection of short stories from celebrated author Diane Williams relies on experimental prose to illuminate the passions and failures of its cryptically sketched characters.

Soho Press, $25, hardcover, 128p., 9781641293068

Romance

The Wedding Ringer

by Kerry Rea


Kerry Rea's first novel, The Wedding Ringer, is a funny, profane romance with unexpected depth. It begins with Willa Callister, resigned to being "Princess effing Sparkleheart" for her sister's event company, accidentally ruining a birthday party. Willa used to be an influencer in Columbus, Ohio, with a hugely popular blog detailing her visits to local places--until the day she found her fiancé in bed with her best friend and deleted all her social media accounts. Now disillusioned about both love and friendship, and unable to manage even washing her hair, let alone hitting the hottest new restaurants, she glumly plays the world's worst princess at birthday parties. Willa is stuck in this terrible rut, unable to see a way out, until the day she meets a flustered woman named Maisie in a coffeeshop, and Maisie tries to hire Willa as her bridesmaid.

Willa, somewhat to her own astonishment, finds herself agreeing to the scheme. And as she and Maisie fake their friendship, and Willa is drawn deeper into Maisie's circles of friends and family (including the handsome groomsmen), she discovers that maybe, just maybe, she could find both love and friendship again.

Hilariously funny, but also sweet and poignant, The Wedding Ringer is the sort of romance novel to be gobbled up in an afternoon. It's a charming rom-com, perfect for anyone who's ever hoped for a second chance, or for readers of Kerry Winfrey or Susannah Nix. --Jessica Howard, bookseller at Bookmans, Flagstaff, Ariz.

Discover: In this sweet romance, a woman hired to be a bridesmaid becomes a friend of the bride, and falls for a groomsman.

Berkley, $16, paperback, 368p., 9780593201848

Biography & Memoir

They Called Us 'Lucky': The Life and Afterlife of the Iraq War's Hardest Hit Unit

by Ruben Gallego, Jim DeFelice


"Without luck in war, we're all dead." This chilling truth, shared by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D., Ariz.) in his debut memoir, They Called Us 'Lucky' (coauthored with Jim DeFelice), comes as the U.S. marks the 20th anniversary of the War on Terror. An outstanding entry in the field of military memoir, Gallego's colloquial narrative stays on target throughout his many grim experiences with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines in the Iraq War. Known as "Lucky Lima" for its lack of casualties in the first two months of its deployment, the nickname became ironic when the only luck "Lucky Lima" had was bad: the unit lost more men than any other in the war.

Gallego's journey from Harvard undergraduate to Marine Corps reservist ("one of the most important and consequential choices of my life") is rife with a candid humor that immediately endears him to readers. But the memoir takes a darker turn when Gallego's reserve unit is activated in early 2005, ordered to patrol for arms caches and insurgents. When luck ran out, it ran out in a big way: one day their platoon sergeant; the next day, Gallego's best friend. His grief is punctuated with obsessive reflections on the fickleness of "luck"; by his count, he escaped death 11 times while others fell around him. PTSD features prominently as part of Gallego's "afterlife" of war, serving as a sober reminder that "we have a duty not just to understand the ugliness of war, but to think of its context, implications, and effects on those who fight it." --Peggy Kurkowski, book reviewer and copywriter in Denver, Colo.

Discover: Ruben Gallego offers a spellbinding account of his "spur of the moment" decision to enlist and his devastating experiences at the height of the Iraq War.

Custom House, $29.99, hardcover, 336p., 9780063045811

History

The Broken Constitution: Lincoln, Slavery, and the Refounding of America

by Noah Feldman


Constitutional scholar Noah Feldman (The Three Lives of James Madison) reveals a surprisingly iconoclastic Abraham Lincoln in his provocative study The Broken Constitution: Lincoln, Slavery, and the Refounding of America. Many books have traced the evolution of Lincoln's legal and political thinking, but none argues as effectively that Lincoln took a hammer to the Founding Fathers' Constitution to create a new, moral Constitution placing freedom and equality above the tired "mechanism of compromise" that characterized its predecessor.

Prior to the Civil War, the Constitution had "a different meaning and different functions... than it did afterward," the main one being to preserve the Union and its capacity to expand through a delicate Congressional balance of power between North and South. While Lincoln supported the "compromise Constitution" of slavery for much of his public life, his thinking underwent fundamental shifts as president. The original Constitution was based upon a "cold reason" that required many immoral compromises over slavery, but Feldman claims that after the South "broke" the Constitution via secession, Lincoln felt free to do some breaking of his own. Wielding the constitutional theory of necessity, Lincoln forcibly coerced states back into the Union, suspended habeas corpus, and issued the Emancipation Proclamation to shatter and remake the Constitution into a "new covenant" of freedom worthy of "veneration and moral aspiration."

Feldman provides an accessible and engaging reinterpretation of one of the country's most esteemed documents and one of its most significant presidents. --Peggy Kurkowski, book reviewer and copywriter in Denver, Colo.

Discover: The Broken Constitution refreshingly reappraises the U.S.'s oldest operating document and examines Abraham Lincoln's unmistakable reshaping of its immoral compromises into a "new birth of freedom."

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30, hardcover, 384p., 9780374116644

Psychology & Self-Help

Speaking of Race: Why Everybody Needs to Talk About Racism--and How to Do It

by Celeste Headlee


Celeste Headlee (Do Nothing) wants everyone to engage in conversations about race and racism; "not talking about it," she notes, "has not made it go away." She unpacks both the why and how of these conversations in Speaking of Race.

Headlee's background in public radio shines through in the clear narrative arc she applies to the guidance in Speaking of Race, first placing conversations about race and racism in their historical and social context before moving into conversation guidelines and practices. This includes calls to engage with respect and acceptance (though she is quick to point out that these principles are not the same as tolerating violence, threats or a refusal to acknowledge another's basic humanity), ways to find common ground amid disagreement, and acknowledgement that not all conversations will lead to an immediate or dramatic change. Instead, Headlee encourages readers to recognize that not all discussions of race need to be debates: "debates have changed very few minds, but conversations have the power to change hearts."

That change of heart is at the core of Headlee's work and comes across in her earnest and approachable style. She's as candid and authentic as she encourages readers to be in their own conversations. Speaking of Race is a call to reimagine what conversations about race could look and feel like, a reminder to be willing to stay present despite what discomfort those conversations might bring up. And though it may be uncomfortable at times, Headlee also offers readers a call to remain hopeful that change is possible. --Kerry McHugh, freelance writer

Discover: This is an encouraging and important guide to engaging in conversations about race and racism with honesty, authenticity and humility.

Harper Wave, $27.99, hardcover, 272p., 9780063098152

Health & Medicine

Eat Like a Human: Nourishing Foods and Ancient Ways of Cooking to Revolutionize Your Health

by Dr. Bill Schindler


Based on the simple premise that food should be nutritious, safe and bioavailable, Eat Like a Human: Nourishing Foods and Ancient Ways of Cooking to Revolutionize Your Health by archeologist and chef Bill Schindler guides readers to consider not just what people should eat, but how people should eat to achieve optimal health. Each chapter addresses different food groups, including plants, grains, maize, animals and bugs, dairy and sugar. Schindler also includes recipes and illustrated diagrams for making nutrient-rich foods such as fermented ketchup, acorn flour, traditional sourdough bread, pancakes and pasta, cricket granola, honey ice cream and charcoal mayonnaise.

Co-star of the National Geographic television series The Great Human Race, Schindler is an animated storyteller and persuasive advocate for resurrecting ancient technologies for harvesting and preparing food. He answers the question of how people should eat by promoting nutrient-enhancing techniques our ancestors developed intuitively, such as bacterial fermentation, the use of ash, charcoal and clay as detoxifiers, cooking with nutrient-dense soil and adopting a "nose-to-tail" approach to eating animals. Foraging for wild plants or visiting farmers markets instead of buying domesticated produce out of season is an effective way to improve diets.

A realist who appreciates the social value of modern traditions, such as eating cake at birthday parties, Schindler urges readers not to forgo the food rituals that make for a culturally rich life, but instead to adapt the strategies presented in Eat Like a Human to individual circumstances and make incremental, manageable advancements toward improved biological health. --Shahina Piyarali, reviewer

Discover: An archeologist and chef recommends ancient food preparation techniques that preserve the nutrient density of foods, and shares recipes using wild greens, cricket flour and unrefined sugar.

Little, Brown Spark, $28, hardcover, 304p., 9780316244886

Poetry

Day of the Child: A Poem

by Arra Lynn Ross


Poet Arra Lynn Ross stretches each image or line into something unexpected yet lovely. In Day of the Child, Ross has constructed a single work divided into 99 short stanzas, each liquid and sonorous. Most of the stanzas use you to address her son, Max, this "boy of mine, bright-born of embers," visible in every line. A poet himself, Max's lines are occasionally captured, misspellings and all, inside the cocoon of his mother's stanzas. Concrete images are abundant though they often glance off into abstraction, leaving the reader with more feeling than photograph. Throughout, Ross plays with time and the passing of it as she considers her role as a mother and an artist, noting that "Quantum theory says time is always:/ each moment has always been, will always be:/ bright islands in the sea. Great currents: you, me./ Always, the green ball/ in the street's pink petals. You, unmade; yet there, adored."

In this book-length poem, Ross is able to mingle Minecraft and homework with milkweed and honey locust; she can rhyme facades and gods and leave every poem shimmering with a taut energy. Alliteration is profuse, saturating scenes like "these minutes/ all leanings & leavings limned/ (on my lap, light in arms; I rub your limbs)." This collection is for those who know the brilliant ache of a child always growing and for those who delight in sound and image united in verse. --Sara Beth West, freelance reviewer and librarian

Discover: Day of the Child is a book-length poem arranged in 99 brief stanzas, brilliantly capturing the joys and painful truths of parenthood, art and beauty.

Milkweed Editions, $16, paperback, 96p., 9781571315373

Children's & Young Adult

The Nobleman's Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks

by Mackenzi Lee


The final book in the Montague siblings series maintains the same high level of whip-smart humor and sensitive social commentary as the earlier titles (The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue; The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy). Adventures galore overlay the intense challenges of an anxiety disorder--yes, they had anxiety back in the day, too.

Adrian Montague is a brilliant, profoundly anxious young man in 18th-century England. His secret life as a radical writing about social reform is at decisive odds with his public persona as the son of a wealthy, conservative member of parliament. Ever since the sudden death of his mother the previous year, Adrian's anxiety and despair have grown crushing. When a broken spyglass that once belonged to his mother comes into his possession, Adrian becomes convinced that she had inadvertently become tied to a sailor's legend about the Flying Dutchman. Adrian launches himself on a world tour that encompasses Morocco, Portugal, the Netherlands and Iceland. Along the way, he picks up Monty and Felicity, the older siblings he never knew existed. Adrian's desperate quest masks a deeper need: to understand and conquer the debilitating anxiety disorder he seems to have shared with his mother.

Mackenzi Lee has established a reputation for adventures both swashbuckling and socially sharp. And very funny. She demonstrates her extensive historical research in surprising details about the vibrant LGBTQ+ community, as well as the taverns, chamber pots, piracy and politics that made up life in 18th-century cities and ports around the globe. Packed with political intrigue, romance (gay and straight), angry pirates, ghost stories and more powerful female leaders than you can shake a cutlass at, The Nobleman's Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks is what the world needs now. Long-suffering Montague siblings fans will be "abso-bloody-lutely" thrilled. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: The tempestuous final book in the Montague siblings series boasts the complex plots, keen social commentary and laugh-out-loud dialogue readers loved in the earlier titles.

Katherine Tegen Books, $18.99, hardcover, 592p., ages 13-up, 9780062916013

Passport

by Sophia Glock


Few titles need official CIA permission to be published, but Sophia Glock's perceptive graphic novel memoir, Passport, had to go through the "daunting and complicated task" of obtaining the CIA's Publication Review Board approval. Glock's parents were "intelligence officers," an admission they disclosed when they deemed her mature enough to understand (although she might have already known). That revelation provided Glock a fuller understanding of a childhood defined by constant moving, endless questions and deflected answers.  

"Sometimes I feel my life could be summed up in a series of collections," Glock muses. By 15, she's lived in nine apartments, worn seven uniforms and lived in six countries with three brothers, two parents and one sister. For now, the family (minus the two oldest at college) lives somewhere in Central America, protected by walls and twice-a-day security checks. Glock's parents experiment with sending her to a Spanish-only school, which doesn't quite work out. She's transferred to the "exclusive" American school where a stage play, first crush, ambivalent friendships, a classmate's suicide and family dramas all become part of her growing up.

Glock captures her adolescence in well-ordered panels shaded in violet, peach and occasional reds. To highlight emotional situations, Glock allows her speech bubbles to overflow panel borders. As emotions rise, the characters mimic the overflowing text and break the panels' rigid edges. Glock explains that "many details have been removed from the book" to earn the CIA's consent, but perhaps what might be imagined as missing reveals as much as what remains. Youth notwithstanding, Glock recognizes her unearned privilege amid a legacy of colonialism and U.S. domination. Despite possible elisions, Glock's memories resonate with vulnerable self-awareness and poignant charm. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Discover: Debut graphic memoirist Sophia Glock adroitly recounts the CIA-approved memories of her peripatetic adolescence as the daughter of two intelligence officers living abroad.

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $24.99, hardcover, 320p., ages 12-up, 9780316458986

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