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12 New Books Keeping Us Company

12 New Books Keeping Us Company

Because we can’t stop saying it: We started a book club. And we hope you’ll join.

Because we can’t stop reading: Here, we have two gorgeous memoirs about relationships with famous literary figures (one formed in life, one posthumous). Novels about complex, compelling figures who are too often overlooked (corrections officers, a night watchman, women who want more than they are told they are allowed). Plus, love affairs, a tale of the piano graveyard in Siberia, and a book about how to be an artist.

Fiction

  • <em>How Much of These Hills Is Gold</em> by C Pam Zhang

    How Much of These Hills Is Gold by C Pam Zhang

    Have we mentioned that we started a book club? Facebook group, reading guide, hashtag, and all. Our first pick: poignant, haunting, beautiful. In her debut novel, C Pam Zhang tells the story of an immigrant family and two newly orphaned siblings who are on the run in a reimagined, gold-rush-era American West. It’s a story about trying to belong, trying to locate yourself in history, and trying to understand what it means to be home. It’s a story about family secrets, the responsibilities that weigh us down and buoy us, and the choices people make when they don’t have any. And it’s also a story about our relationship to nature and what’s been edited out, rewritten, or stolen from one culture by another. It stuns. (Read the beginning of the book here.)

  • <em>All Adults Here</em> by Emma Straub

    All Adults Here by Emma Straub

    Emma Straub’s novels are a straight-up delight to read. Which might be the hardest kind of novel to write. Her fourth novel (fifth book overall) involves three generations of a Hudson Valley family: There’s sixty-eight-year-old Astrid Strick, a widow who is finally ready to tell her kids about her relationship with the local hairdresser. Astrid’s daughter, Porter, who is pregnant via a sperm bank and maybe almost ready to tell her family about it. The oldest son, Elliott, a businessman who is plotting to change the local town and definitely doesn’t want to tell his mom about it. And the youngest son, Nicky, a Brooklynite who has sent his wise thirteen-year-old daughter, Cecilia, to live with Astrid after a bullying incident and who still doesn’t know what to say about it. How does it all come together and manage to feel witty and fresh? That’s Straub’s magic. (All Adults Here comes out May 4.)

  • <em>Weather</em> by Jenny Offill

    Weather by Jenny Offill

    Weather is quirky and brilliantly written. It’s about an unqualified librarian named Lizzie Benson. She’s drawn to disaster psychology and prone to serving as a fake shrink to her fearful mother and a brother who struggles with addiction and new fatherhood. In the little time she has left over, Lizzie works for her old mentor who hosts a famous podcast, Hell and High Water. It’s Lizzie’s job to answer the mail she receives—mainly from people worried about climate change and the decline of Western civilization. It’s very wry and clever. And one of those books that doesn’t waste any words.

  • <em>My Baby First Birthday</em> by Jenny Zhang

    My Baby First Birthday by Jenny Zhang

    If you read Jenny Zhang’s 2017 story collection Sour Heart, you already know and love her. And if you haven’t, starting May 12, you have a new opportunity to fall for her: My Baby First Birthday is a daring, visceral, R-rated, raw, and at times tender poetry collection. Its primary focus is women and the way we think about, idealize, reduce, punish, abuse, and love the bodies of women. Zhang takes on the patriarchy (of course), white fragility, capitalism, and more.

  • <em>Barker House</em> by David Moloney

    Barker House by David Moloney

    Barker House is a striking debut, written by David Moloney, who worked as a corrections officer at the county jail in Manchester, New Hampshire, from 2007 to 2011. A series of connected stories, Barker House follows nine corrections officer over the course of one year. It is unsentimental, unnerving, unflinching. Details, voices, and the specificity of this fictional jail and the people who inhabit it will burrow into you.

  • <em>The Night Watchman</em> by Louise Erdrich

    The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

    National Book Award–winning author Louise Erdrich is one of the most beloved writers of our time. Her new novel is based on her grandfather’s life—he worked as a night watchman and helped bring the fight against Native dispossession from rural North Dakota to D.C. The fictional account is highly moving.

Memoir

  • <em>My Autobiography of Carson McCullers</em> by Jenn Shapland

    My Autobiography of Carson McCullers by Jenn Shapland

    Don’t count yourself out just because you haven’t read Carson McCullers. Don’t count yourself out even if you’ve never heard of her. In this unconventional memoir, writer Jenn Shapland tells us about the love letters she came across while working as an archives intern. The letters were between Carson McCullers (a woman and literary figure who was born in 1917 and died in 1967) and a woman named Annemarie. Shapland, who identifies as a lesbian, sees herself in their words. And she decides to find out who McCullers really was—and if there’s a reason why she’s never been described as a lesbian. What follows is a succinct, thought-provoking exploration of women’s sexuality and the language that has been used to describe and limit our desires throughout history.

  • <em>Save Me the Plums</em> by Ruth Reichl

    Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl

    Recollections of the over-the-top glitz of early aughts magazine publishing are like a sparkling gin and tonic for the soul. A former editor in chief of America’s then food bible, Gourmet, Ruth Reichl knows her way around a tasting menu, around Paris, around her upstate kitchen, and around the extravagant circus that was Condé Nast during print media’s glory days. Written as a memoir detailing the highs, the lows, and the expense account that accompanied her tenure at Gourmet, Reichl doesn’t varnish the tough elements with gloss. The pages keep up with the author’s transition from restaurant critic to editor in chief, the tricky move to digital, and the sheer relentlessness of that world, then. Save Me the Plums is a gorgeously written ode to the colleagues Reichl loved, the issues that flew off the stands (and those that didn’t), and the recipes that kept her sane along the way. (The hardcover edition came out in 2019 and the paperback will be published May 5, 2020.)

  • <em>Good Morning, Destroyer of All Men’s Souls</em> by Nina Renata Aron

    Good Morning, Destroyer of All Men’s Souls by Nina Renata Aron

    While Nina Renata Aron is still trying to make sense of her relationship with a sister who struggled with addiction from a young age, she finds herself falling back into a relationship with a boyfriend who is struggling with addiction. Her memoir is part love affair and part attempt to understand the nature of addiction, codependency, desire, and obsession. It includes academic research, a review of the Al-Anon movement, and a meditation on the femininized phenomenon of codependency. It’s messy and engrossing.

  • <em>Here We Are</em> by Benjamin Taylor

    Here We Are by Benjamin Taylor

    Another memoir-esque book featuring a literary figure, Here We Are is an intimate story about Benjamin Taylor’s friendship with the late Phillip Roth. It comes out May 19. And it’s what you would expect from a talented writer, writing about his best friend who is considered one of the great greats in the American canon. It’s gorgeous. (Yes, even if you didn’t read The Ghost Writer, American Pastoral, or Everyman.)

Nonfiction

  • <em>The Lost Pianos of Siberia</em> by Sophy Roberts

    The Lost Pianos of Siberia by Sophy Roberts

    Sophy Roberts’s Siberia might not be the place you expect. She writes of a sprawling region—an eleventh of the world’s landmass—with no clear beginning and no firm end. It is freezing in the winter and too hot in the summer, speckled with generous characters and an entrenched musical history. The story starts when friends of the author are pining for an instrument worthy of their daughter’s extraordinarily talented but piano-less music teacher. In a tent on the steppe, Roberts learns that Siberia is considered a piano graveyard—pianos started populating Russia under the influence of Catherine the Great and were later carried by political exiles and prisoners across Siberia. And so begins a slightly madcap, real-life tale of Roberts’s many journeys across this snowy, forgotten-by-the-West land by train, snowmobile, and small, Soviet-era prop planes to hunt down rumors of these grand instruments left languishing in Siberia. Roberts, an acclaimed British travel writer, jolts the sleepy Siberia of our imaginations into 2020, and the result is a cannot-put-it-down tale of music and humanity. (Note: The Lost Pianos came out in the UK in February; the US edition will be published in August.)

  • <em>How to Be an Artist</em> by Jerry Saltz

    How to Be an Artist by Jerry Saltz

    “But art doesn’t have to make sense,” writes Jerry Saltz in How to Be an Artist. “Art is like birdsong: it’s made of patterns, inflections, shadings, shifts—all things that have emotional and perceptual impact, even if we can never really translate their meanings. Every work of art is a culturescape of you, your memories, the moments you spent working, your hopes, energies, and neuroses, the times you live in, and your ambitions. Of the things that are engaging, mysterious, meaningful, resistant over time.” In this slim guide, the art critic outlines sixty-three tips and prompts for aspiring creatives—and reminds us of other reasons why art matters.



We hope you enjoy the books recommended here. Our goal is to suggest only things we love and think you might, as well. We also like transparency, so, full disclosure: We may collect a share of sales or other compensation if you purchase through the external links on this page.

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