Romance Writers on How the Genre Empowers Women

Romance novels get a bad rap. Most people judge them without even reading them, and accuse those who enjoy the genre of not reading “real” books.

We gathered together six well-known romance authors to help dispel stereotypes about the genre, and discuss how their stories are especially meaningful to women. Tune in to the video below to see what they had to say.

Transcription of romance authors discussing the importance of the genre for women.

Chanel Cleeton: You know romance gets a bad rap a lot, and we all know that.

Kate Bateman: I mean, people just think it’s literally trashy novels.

Shayla Black: And I grew up in the era of reading romance when it was his love lance and his man root. Let’s just call it what it is, and move on.

Kate Bateman: But as a genre, it’s literally the most feminist literature you can get. It’s like mainly for women.

Tamsen Parker: By women, about women.

Kate Bateman: The entire purpose is to make women feel empowered and feel good about themselves.

Sarina Bowen: The women are always their own savior, alongside with finding somebody to spend their lives with.

Tamsen Parker: In a lot of popular culture media, it’s harder to find really multi-dimensional characters, where I feel like that’s really common in romance. People have families. They have careers. And they have a love interest.

Kate Bateman: I like the fact that my women are kick-asses in corsets. My girls will have cool jobs. So they’re like thieves or they are counterfeiters.

Milly Taiden: I always felt that curvier women, there weren’t enough of them. So that’s why I started writing them. I loved the stories. They were fantastic and the romance was great. But I was like, well, that’s not like a girl like me.

Sarina Bowen: I have actually a female character in one of my books who comes down with a sexually transmitted infection. And it’s a huge disaster and a blow to her ego and her sense of self. And I did once get a letter from somebody who thanked me for writing that story, because that happened to her and she was horrified and embarrassed and felt a lot of shame. But she really loved the portrayal of that event in this book, and that it’s not the end of the world.

Shayla Black: I think there’s so many facets to women. And I don’t think we should have just any one sort of heroine. I’ve written the really shy, come out of your shell types. I’ve written ones that just kick ass from start to finish. We went through a phase in romance, I feel like, where we had nothing but what everybody said was kick-ass heroines. I’m like, that’s great, but for the girls who are super shy? Sometimes even I couldn’t relate. I want to relate to this girl.

Tamsen Parker: You see it in a lot of mainstream, popular culture that FF or lesbian relationships, it’s like this is for the pleasure of somebody else to watch. When you’re looking at the romance genre, you’re talking about women’s pleasure. And that’s really powerful. You don’t see it a lot.

Sarina Bowen: I grew up in a kind of conservative part of the country, where girls my age didn’t talk about sex or sexuality.

Shayla Black: I get a lot of email about this, too, where people feel as if they didn’t really understand themselves, or they didn’t understand that something was OK.

Sarina Bowen: So it’s been a real journey for me to portray women in a positive sexual light.

Shayla Black: This is a way for them to get information, and see it processed through a character’s eyes, and understand how it functions, and how it might function for them.

 

Check out the books:

The cover of the book Next Year in HavanaNext Year in Havana
Chanel Cleeton
After the death of her beloved grandmother, Marisol Ferrera – a Cuban-American woman – travels to Havana, where she discovers her true identity and family secrets that have been hidden since the revolution. Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast between Cuba’s beauty and its perilous political climate. When Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she’ll need the lessons of her grandmother’s past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.

 

The cover of the book A Counterfeit HeartA Counterfeit Heart
K. C. Bateman
Counterfeiter Sabine de la Tour has decided to bid a reluctant farewell to her double life as a notorious criminal, but leaving won’t be easy – she and her business partner must escape France soon, or face certain death. Her only hope of surviving is to strike a deal with the very spy she’s spent her career outrunning. Now after meeting the arrogant operative in the flesh, Sabine longs to throw herself upon his mercy – and into his arms.

 

The cover of the book Devoted to PleasureDevoted to Pleasure
Shayla Black
When a a blackmailer starts watching her every move, television star Shealyn West hires Cutter to keep her safe, never imagining their attraction will be too powerful to contain. As Shealyn and Cutter navigate the scintillating line between business and pleasure, they unravel a web of secrets that threaten their relationship and their lives. When danger strikes, Cutter must decide whether to follow his heart or lose Shealyn forever.

 

The cover of the book His CustodyHis Custody
Tamsen Parker
Keyne O’Connell leads a good life – she has a great family, a loving boyfriend, and a promising future. But one dark summer night changes everything for Kenye, forcing her into the care of her boyfriend’s intimidating, much older brother, Jasper. Jasper isn’t a good man. He’s a womanizer and a casual drug user with no interest in becoming Keyne’s guardian. But living in close quarters soon stirs up feelings inside them both that are far from platonic. Keyne needs a firm hand to keep her in line, but what she desires could lead Jasper into trouble.

 

The cover of the book Pipe DreamsPipe Dreams
Sarina Bowen
Mike Beacon, a hockey player, widower, and a single father, has never forgotten Lauren Williams, an ex-lover who gave him the best year of his life. When Lauren reappears in the Bruisers’ office during the play-offs, Beacon sees his chance to make things right. But Lauren’s focused on her plans for the future and won’t let a man get in the way of that. Lauren plays her best defensive game, but she’s no match for the dark-eyed goalie.

 

The cover of the book Fearless MatingFearless Mating
Milly Taiden
Sergeant Major Candace Obermier has arrived at Alpha League Federal Agency headquarters to shut it down. Though A.L.F.A. pledged to protect humans from paranormal threats, they’ve caused nothing but mayhem. Candace thinks the problem lies with the agency’s director, Josh Tumbel. But when A.L.F.A. headquarters is taken in a hostage situation, Josh demonstrates the critical nature of the agency’s existence, and proves his worth to Candy as a protector and lover.

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10 GREAT UNDERWATER SCI-FI AND FANTASY WORKS

Star Trek might have told us that space is the final frontier, but the ocean is the frontier that’s right at our doorstep. Largely unexplored, mysterious, and often downright weird (just look at those deep sea volcanic vent biological communities), the ocean has invited storytelling as long as human beings have been dipping our toes into it. Here are some underwater sci-fi and fantasy books that go from the scientific to the fanciful, from shallow water to the deep and cold where you’ll never know what to expect.

cover for The Scar by China MiévilleTHE SCAR BY CHINA MIÉVILLE

The Scar lives in the same universe as Miéville’s Perdido Street Station, but casts off quickly from that weirdly fantastic shore to go to deeper  and even stranger waters. Passengers of a ship are captured by pirates and forced to join the Armada, a floating city of a thousand ships. The strange leaders of the Armada, called the Lovers, are searching for a massive undersea creature called the avanc. But the purpose isn’t just for some kind of great hunt—it’s to harness the massive creature to take the entire floating city to the Scar, a place in the ocean where reality breaks down and everything is possible. The real question is if the Lovers—or anyone—should have that kind of power. But there’s an entire city of ships on a collision course with it anyway.

WHEN WHALES FALL BY DARCIE LITTLE BADGER

When an oceanographer writes undersea tales (and Dr. Darcie Little Badger happens to be one) you know you’re going to get something special and beautiful. When Whales Fall is a short story published in the online magazine The Colored Lens, and it tells of a society of sentient squid sisters who find their way of life threatened by hollow-shelled behemoths on the surface that hunt whales. For other ocean-related goodness, you should check out The Whalebone Parrot, published in The Dark. (And while it isn’t ocean-related at all, you should also read her story Black, Their Regalia in Lightspeed’s People of Color Destroy Fantasy edition.)

A DOOR INTO OCEAN BY JOAN SLONCZEWSKI

Feminist science fiction set on a water-covered moon populated by the all-female Sharers. The Sharer culture is fascinatingly built; it revolves entirely around the concept of nonviolence. Even the language of the Sharers emphasizes that idea, because there is no differentiation between subject and object, meaning that one thing acting upon another can always be linguistically reversed. Of course, an existence of total nonviolence and peace is going to get screwed up somehow; the Sharers encounter people from another planet, who threaten them. They deal with this threat by inviting a man from that planet into their society and teach him their ways; in return he helps defend them from the threatened invasion.

Cover art of Rocheworld by Robert L. ForwardROCHEWORLD BY ROBERT L. FORWARD

It’s an oldie but a goodie, a “hard” sci-fi tale of a spaceship called the Dragonfly (fun fact: the original form of this novel was called Flight of the Dragonfly) traveling to a strange double planet called Rocheworld. One “lobe” of the planet is dry, and the other is covered entirely by an ocean. The ocean world is populated by a water-dwelling species called the Flouwen, who are utterly adorable blobs that also happen to be incredibly good at math. Rocheworld is the opener to a series that goes Robinson Crusoe in a fun way, and ultimately builds a society between humans and the undersea, friendly aliens.

Fantasy Series Comes to an End | Lagoon Nnedi OkoraforLAGOON BY NNEDI OKORAFOR

Aliens have landed in the lagoon that stands next to Lagos, Nigeria, and the city will never be the same. The mixing of land and sea represented by the lagoon morphs into the mixing of alien and human, sometimes harmonious and sometimes very much not. The real question isn’t so much what the aliens want or if they can be trusted, but if the people of Lagos can adjust to this sudden shift in their world, and what they will become on the other side of it. While this first contact story takes place mostly on dry land, the underwater scenes as the aliens arrive are absolutely breathtaking. The sensibility of the lagoon as a liminal space permeate the novel, and at times while the characters are on dry land, they seem to be about to drown. It’s rich, delightful, and beautifully told.

into the drowning deep by mira grant coverINTO THE DROWNING DEEP BY MIRA GRANT

Mermaids like you’ve never seen them before, vicious and bloodthirsty and downright chthonic. Into the Drowning Deep is a sequel to Mira Grant’s standalone novella Rolling in the Deep. In the novella, a ship named the Atargatis, populated with scientists and a reality TV “documentary” crew, goes looking for mermaids and gets more than they bargained for in a messy, bloody, horrifying way. Seven years later in Into the Drowning Deep, the sister of one of the slain passengers of the Atargatis embarks on a new journey funded by the same media company, determined to get revenge and show that the horrifying existence of mermaids isn’t actually a hoax. As you might imagine, the mermaids aren’t a hoax, they’ve been waiting for the humans to return, and things are going to get bloody. It’s a mix of the cut throat horrors of academia, the banal evil of reality TV entertainment, and some excellent B movie monster fun.

The Deep by clipping.THE DEEP BY CLIPPING

The Deep is the story of the society of water-breathing people built by the children of pregnant, enslaved African women who were thrown overboard from slave ships crossing the Atlantic. These people must rise up to fight the violent intrusion of deep sea drilling to their deep, watery home. The Deep is not yet technically a book—it’s a single by clipping.—but if it’s good enough to be nominated for a Hugo Award (which it was, for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form in the 2018 Hugos), it’s good enough for you. And remember how I said not yet? Rivers Solomon, author of the fantastic (but not underwater) Unkindness of Ghosts, is writing the book for The Deep, and it should becoming out from Saga in 2019.

REEFSONG BY CAROL SEVERANCE

After nearly dying in a fire while in pursuit of her duties, Angie Dinsman wakes up to find that her employer, the World Life Company, has altered her body totally without her permission. She’s got gills and tentacles now. World Life Company (which definitely does not sound like an evil corporation, no sir) wants Angie to recover some sensitive research that they will definitely not be using in a bad way on a water planet named Lesaat. Angie agrees while secretly resolving to destroy World Life Company from within, and thus her adventure begins. Reefsong has a strong cast of female characters and deals with resonant issues of exploitation (both of environment and people) and environmental damage that make a book that’s well over twenty years old still relevant today.

MEG: A NOVEL OF DEEP TERROR BY STEVE ALTEN

A diver watches in horror as a megalodon rises from the depths of the Mariana Trench, able to escape their deep prison due to a break in the layer of super cold water that has kept them trapped in the depths for millions of years. It’s only a matter of time until the massive sharks wreak terror on the oceans and eat the food chain from end to end. Someone has to stop them. And if this plot sounds suspiciously similar to a movie that came out in the summer of 2018, starring Jason Statham and Bingbing Li, that would be because The Meg was totally based off this monster book that’s so delightfully pulpy, it’s got a giant shark eating a t-rex on the cover.

THE SEA ETERNAL BY LYNNEA GLASSER

Another unconventional offering from below the waves—this is an interactive epic fantasy novel from Choice of Games, and an award winner at that. In The Sea Eternal, the whales have granted merpeople immortality, and all they want in return is help defending themselves from the giant squid, with whom they’re locked in an endless war. But of course, good things never last, and a rogue mermaid tries to destroy this precious whale gift. There are plenty of secrets, and conflicts, and choices to make during reading, following a merperson that can be almost anything the reader wants.


 

This list of underwater sci-fi and fantasy books is sponsored by Lost Arrow, Book I of The Kalelah Series by Marshall Ross.

Millennia ago, the starship Kalelah buried itself seven miles beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean. We have no idea of its existence. It has no idea of ours. And once that changes, everything does. For the worse. Suddenly, two human civilizations – one alien and one Earth-bound – are forced to come to grips with a future neither had ever imagined. And a war nobody wants. It’s a colonization story turned on its head and crafted with all the intrigue and layers of a nail-biting thriller. Readers say, “Like Dan Brown wrote a Crichton story.”
By , November 

8 Books to Help You Navigate Modern Technology

Photo by Giu Vicente on Unsplash

Do you feel behind on today’s tech? Do you feel lost in our hyper-connected, fast-paced world?

Have no fear, we’re here to help. The eight books below will help you to catch up with everyone around you, utilize technology to get ahead, and achieve your goals in an efficient and timely manner.
The cover of the book Hit MakersHit Makers
Derek Thompson
In this national bestseller, Atlantic senior editor Derek Thompson explains the psychology behind our interests and the economics of the cultural markets that shape our lives. He deconstructs the myths of hit-making that dominate pop culture and business, shows that quality does not equal success, and demonstrates how to appeal to the consumer based on their needs and wants. This book is perfect for anyone who wants to start a business or promote themselves, and stand out from the countless others trying to make it to the top.

 

The cover of the book How to Break Up with Your PhoneHow to Break Up with Your Phone
Catherine Price
This book is essential for everyone that’s addicted to their phone. How do you know if you fall into this category? If you reach for your phone when you first wake up, constantly throughout the day, and then before you sleep, you are guilty of having an addiction to it. Award-winning journalist Catherine Price presents an easy-to-follow guide to breaking up – and making up – with your phone.

 

The cover of the book The Square and the TowerThe Square and the Tower
Niall Ferguson
This instant New York Times bestseller documents the pivotal points in world history, including the one we’re currently living through, where old power is fading and new social networks are dominating everything we do. In The Square and the Tower, Niall Ferguson argues that networks – like the social network we currently have – have always been with us, from the structure of the brain to the food chain, from the family tree to freemasonry. Throughout history, hierarchies housed in high towers have claimed to rule, but often real power has resided in the networks in the town square below.

 

The cover of the book IrresistibleIrresistible
Adam Alter
We live in an age of behavioral addiction. Half of the American population is addicted to at least one behavior – whether it be our phones, our social media, our TV shows, or our work. In this revolutionary book, Adam Alter, a professor of psychology and marketing at NYU, tracks the rise of behavioral addiction, and explains why we can’t help but be addicted to certain things. Adam explains how we can use our addictions to improve ourselves and help others, and minimize the damaging effects on our well-being and our society.

 

The cover of the book Zen CameraZen Camera
David Ulrich
In this beautifully illustrated book, David Ulrich draws on the principles of Zen practice and his forty years of photography experience to offer six life-changing lessons for developing self-expression. Zen Camera is a never-before-seen photography practice that helps artists to channel their inner creativity using nothing more than their vision and a camera – even a phone camera will do. Containing eighty-three photographs, this book will allow readers to achieve clarity in an age of distraction, and create photographs that are breathtaking and unique.

 

The cover of the book Build Your Dream NetworkBuild Your Dream Network
J. Kelly Hoey
One thing that we hear constantly in the workplace today is “networking is very important.” But how do you make valuable connections and stand out from the crowd in our increasingly digital world? Acclaimed business columnist and networking expert J. Kelly Hoey offers advice for mastering this old skill in a world where posting, liking, and friending has taken over the way we do things. J. Kelly shows how making small changes in your daily routine, generosity, and goal-focused efforts are all it takes to set you apart from others and make meaningful connections that will lead to opportunity and success.

 

The cover of the book Blockchain RevolutionBlockchain Revolution
Don Tapscott and Alex Tapscott
Blockchain technology is the revolutionary protocol that allows transactions to be simultaneously anonymous and secure by maintaining a tamperproof public ledger of value, and it’s powering our future (it’s best known as the technology that drives bitcoin and other digital cur­rencies). Don Tapscott, the bestselling author of Wikinomics, and his son, blockchain expert Alex Tapscott, bring us a highly researched and easy-to-understand book about the blockchain technology that is driving our future, and explain where it can lead us in the next decade and beyond.

 

The cover of the book New PowerNew Power
Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms
In this informative guide to navigating the twenty-first century, two visionary thinkers – Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms – reveal that the rules of power have changed in our society, and are reshaping politics, business, and life. They tackle the rise of huge companies like Facebook, Uber, and AirBnB, the unexpected outcomes of our presidential elections, and the emergence of movements like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter. New Power sheds light on the cultural phenomena of our day, revealing the new power that contributed to their success. This groundbreaking book offers us a new way to understand the world around us and our role in it.

Trend Alert: Popular ‘Up-Lit’ Books to Improve Your Mood

Tired of fictional murderers lurking around every page? Fed up with unwelcome apocalypses, unending wars, and miseries that somehow get worse as the chapters fly by? You’re not alone. We love stories, but they can sometimes be dreary things.

Enter “up-lit,” a book trend with modest intentions: It wants to make you feel better.

Of course, books have always improved readers’ lives, but “up-lit” [uplifting literature] seeks to do this by focusing on empathy and optimism. The characters in this wave of literature are everyday heroes dealing with everyday problems, championing human connection over romance, fulfillment over traditional success.

“These feel-good books tap into mental health and loneliness and anxiety and trauma,” editor Sam Eades told The Guardian about the growing trend. “By the end of the book the characters will have formed friendships, and been swept into a community.”

Want to check it out for yourself? We rounded up some of the most popular “up-lit” titles Goodreads members have been shelving below.

The Keeper of Lost Things A Man Called Ove The Lido Three Things About Elsie
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry The Story of Arthur Truluv
The Seven Rules of Elvira Carr The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes The Trouble with Goats and Sheep The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

 

By Hayley, November 08, 2018, first appearing on Goodreads Blog

Unexpected Classics: 10 Overlooked Novels Finding Life in New Editions

Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

Not every novel finds its audience right away; in some cases, the ideal reader for a book may not have been born at the time that said book was first published. And while keeping up-to-date on new books is a good thing, it can also be deeply rewarding to delve into a book published several years – or several decades – ago. Sometimes an author’s style or approach will be ahead of their time; sometimes there may be unexpected resonances with events that have occurred since the book was first published.

What follows is a list of ten novels, released in new editions (or, in some cases, new translations) over the last few years. They range in style from comic to tragic, from realistic to uncanny, and their settings cover everything from the familiar confines of suburbia to a surreal Arctic landscape. Perhaps one of these books will be exactly what you were looking to read at this very moment.

The cover of the book IceIce
Anna Kavan
Classifying Anna Kavan’s Ice isn’t easy. It’s set in a near future where society has taken a turn for the violent and the climate has dropped precipitously; the novel’s narrator is searching for a woman, but his perceptions of the world are not exactly reliable. The result makes for a haunting and unpredictable read. Among the admirers of this novel are Jonathan Lethem and Kate Zambreno, both of whom contribute writings to this new edition.

 

The cover of the book Mrs. CalibanMrs. Caliban
Rachel Ingalls
Rachel Ingalls’s short novel details the unfulfilled life of a suburban woman: her husband is enmeshed in an affair, her ambitions are frustrated, and her friendships are flawed. Then a giant frog-man escapes from a local science facility, takes refuge in her home, and changes the course of her life. The novel shifts from philosophical to tragic to drolly funny at a moment’s notice; between this and the novella collection Three Masquerades, Ingalls’s fiction is getting a newfound appreciation as of late.

 

The cover of the book The GraveyardThe Graveyard
Marek Hlasko
The protagonist of Marek Hłasko’s novel, set in Cold War-era Poland, lives a normal life: a solid job, a family, and memories of his time fighting the Nazis during World War II. A chance encounter causes him to fall out with the Communist Party, which sets his life on a sudden downward trajectory, with horrifying results. The novel is meticulously structured, with a mounting sense of dread that gradually suffuses the entirety of the page.

 

The cover of the book Dark ReflectionsDark Reflections
Samuel R. Delany
Samuel R. Delany is best-known for his visionary, surreal visions of strange landscapes and potential futures. He’s just as talented when it comes to charting the course of the frustrations and compromises of more quotidian existence: Dark Reflections chronicles several decades in the life of a talented but largely obscure poet, a singular voice who never entirely connects with an audience.

 

The cover of the book Appointment in SamarraAppointment in Samarra
John O’Hara
John O’Hara’s first novel is a searing portrait of marital, financial, and spiritual discontent. It begins innocuously enough, with the novel’s protagonist Julian English throwing a drink in the face of another man. The events that arise from that reveal the tensions and anguish found just below the surface in his community, along with the prejudices and isolation of the people around him.

 

The cover of the book After ClaudeAfter Claude
Iris Owens
The narrator of this novel by Iris Owens is acerbic, caustic, and – potentially – not entirely reliable in all matters. Set in early-1970s New York City, After Claude chronicles the end of the narrator’s relationship, and how this causes her to reimagine her life. It’s a bleakly funny look at city life, told through a memorable voice.

 

The cover of the book VolcanoVolcano
Shusaku Endo
Shusaku Endo’s novel Volcano tells two stories that parallel one another: one about a newly-retired man settling into a new phase of life and grappling with health issues, and the other about a defrocked priest pondering his own isolation and questions of corruption. Above the city where they live can be found a seemingly dormant volcano, a potent metaphor for the dangers of the unspoken.

 

The cover of the book The First WifeThe First Wife
Paulina Chiziane
The protagonist of Paulina Chiziane’s novel The First Wifediscovers an unsettling fact about her husband: namely, that he’s married to several women located around the city of Maputo in Mozambique. Her discovery of this, and her subsequent actions, creates a powerful portrait of a nation in the midst of change, and the harrowing legacy of a long civil war.

 

The cover of the book Reasons of StateReasons of State
Alejo Carpentier
At the center of Alejo Carpentier’s Reasons of State is the dictator of a nation in Latin America – an aging man still convinced of the rightness of his cause, and willing to endorse horrible things in order to maintain his power. The gulf between his belief in his own righteousness and how the people around him perceive him sparks one of the many conflicts that propels this novel, a precise case study of the delusions and abuses of power.

 

The cover of the book BlackwaterBlackwater
Michael McDowell
Michael McDowell’s sprawling novel Blackwater is many things: a family saga covering several decades of life in an affluent Southern family; a portrait of the growth of a small town over the course of much of the 20th century; and an exploration of the cost of progress. Threaded through with a substantial dose of the supernatural, McDowell’s novel features nuance and horror in equal measure.

By 

What Should I Read Next? This Year’s Reading Guide

Do you ever catch yourself asking: “What should I read next?” With a seemingly endless supply of books and a limited number of hours in a day, it can be daunting to choose your next great read. We’re here to help. We pulled together a list of exciting new books and made a reading guide to help you figure out what you should read next. Below you’ll find book recommendations for a wide variety of genres, including suspense, historical fiction, romance, young adult, fantasy, science fiction, nonfiction, and humor. Find your favorite genre, and pick from one of the few carefully chosen recommendations, and finally answer the question, “What should I read next?” Publishers’ descriptions included below.

Suspense

Here are a few of the best page-turning, take-your-breath-away suspense novels out this year, including some of the top selections from mystery, thriller, and horror.

book coverDepth of Winter by Craig Johnson
Welcome to Walt Longmire’s worst nightmare. In Craig Johnson’s latest mystery, Depth of Winter, an international hit man and the head of one of the most vicious drug cartels in Mexico has kidnapped Walt’s beloved daughter, Cady, to auction her off to his worst enemies, of which there are many. The American government is of limited help and the Mexican one even less. Walt heads into the one-hundred-and-ten degree heat of the Northern Mexican desert alone, one man against an army.

 

book coverThe Outsider by Stephen King
An unspeakable crime. A confounding investigation. At a time when the King brand has never been stronger, he has delivered one of his most unsettling and compulsively readable stories.

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.

 

book coverA Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee
The fabulously wealthy kingdom of Sambalpore is home to tigers, elephants, diamond mines, and the beautiful Palace of the Sun. But when the heir to the throne is assassinated in the presence of Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant ‘Surrender-Not’ Banerjee, they discover a kingdom riven with suppressed conflict. Prince Adhir was a modernizer whose attitudes–and romantic relationships–may have upset the more religious elements of his country, while his brother–now in line to the throne–appears to be a feckless playboy. As Wyndham and Banerjee desperately try to unravel the mystery behind the assassination, they become entangled in a dangerous world where those in power live by their own rules–and those who cross their paths pay with their lives. They must find a murderer, before the murderer finds them…

 

book coverThe Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay
Seven-year-old Wen and her parents, Eric and Andrew, are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake. Their closest neighbors are more than two miles in either direction along a rutted dirt road.

One afternoon, as Wen catches grasshoppers in the front yard, a stranger unexpectedly appears in the driveway. Leonard is the largest man Wen has ever seen, but he is young, friendly, and he wins her over almost instantly. Leonard and Wen talk and play until Leonard abruptly apologizes and tells Wen, “None of what’s going to happen is your fault”. Three more strangers then arrive at the cabin carrying unidentifiable, menacing objects. As Wen sprints inside to warn her parents, Leonard calls out: “Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world.”

Thus begins an unbearably tense, gripping tale of paranoia, sacrifice, apocalypse, and survival that escalates to a shattering conclusion, one in which the fate of a loving family and quite possibly all of humanity are entwined. The Cabin at the End of the World is a masterpiece of terror and suspense from the fantastically fertile imagination of Paul Tremblay.

 

book coverThe Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn
Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

 

book coverNeed to Know by Karen Cleveland
Vivian Miller. High-powered CIA analyst, happily married to a man she adores, mother of four beautiful children. Until the moment she makes a shocking discovery that makes her question everything she believes.

She thought she knew her husband inside and out. But now she wonders if it was all a lie. How far will she go to learn the truth?  And does she really NEED TO KNOW?

 

Historical Fiction

Slip into the past with one of this year’s biggest historical fiction novels. Whatever your favorite era, you’ll find an exciting new book to read!

book coverNext Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba’s high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country’s growing political unrest–until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary…

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa’s last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba’s tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she’ll need the lessons of her grandmother’s past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.

 

book coverThe Masterpiece by Fiona Davis
For the nearly nine million people who live in New York City, Grand Central Terminal is a crown jewel, a masterpiece of design. But for Clara Darden and Virginia Clay, it represents something quite different.

For Clara, the terminal is the stepping stone to her future, which she is certain will shine as the brightly as the constellations on the main concourse ceiling. It is 1928, and twenty-five-year-old Clara is teaching at the lauded Grand Central School of Art. A talented illustrator, she has dreams of creating cover art for Vogue, but not even the prestige of the school can override the public’s disdain for a “woman artist.” Brash, fiery, confident, and single-minded–even while juggling the affections of two men, a wealthy would-be poet and a brilliant experimental painter–Clara is determined to achieve every creative success. But she and her bohemian friends have no idea that they’ll soon be blindsided by the looming Great Depression, an insatiable monster with the power to destroy the entire art scene. And even poverty and hunger will do little to prepare Clara for the greater tragedy yet to come.

Nearly fifty years later, in 1974, the terminal has declined almost as sharply as Virginia Clay’s life. Full of grime and danger, from the smoke-blackened ceiling to the pickpockets and drug dealers who roam the floor, Grand Central is at the center of a fierce lawsuit: Is the once-grand building a landmark to be preserved, or a cancer to be demolished? For Virginia, it is simply her last resort. Recently divorced, she has just accepted a job in the information booth in order to support herself and her college-age daughter, Ruby. But when Virginia stumbles upon an abandoned art school within the terminal and discovers a striking watercolor hidden under the dust, her eyes are opened to the elegance beneath the decay. She embarks on a quest to find the artist of the unsigned masterpiece–an impassioned chase that draws Virginia not only into the battle to save Grand Central but deep into the mystery of Clara Darden, the famed 1920s illustrator who disappeared from history in 1931.

 

book coverMy Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
A general’s daughter…

Coming of age on the perilous frontier of revolutionary New York, Elizabeth Schuyler champions the fight for independence. And when she meets Alexander Hamilton, Washington’s penniless but passionate aide-de-camp, she’s captivated by the young officer’s charisma and brilliance. They fall in love, despite Hamilton’s bastard birth and the uncertainties of war.

A founding father’s wife…

But the union they create—in their marriage and the new nation—is far from perfect. From glittering inaugural balls to bloody street riots, the Hamiltons are at the center of it all—including the political treachery of America’s first sex scandal, which forces Eliza to struggle through heartbreak and betrayal to find forgiveness.

The last surviving light of the Revolution…

When a duel destroys Eliza’s hard-won peace, the grieving widow fights her husband’s enemies to preserve Alexander’s legacy. But long-buried secrets threaten everything Eliza believes about her marriage and her own legacy. Questioning her tireless devotion to the man and country that have broken her heart, she’s left with one last battle—to understand the flawed man she married and imperfect union he could never have created without her…

 

book coverSong of a Captive Bird by Jasmin Darznik
All through her childhood in Tehran, Forugh Farrokhzad is told that Persian daughters should be quiet and modest. She is taught only to obey, but she always finds ways to rebel—gossiping with her sister among the fragrant roses of her mother’s walled garden, venturing to the forbidden rooftop to roughhouse with her three brothers, writing poems to impress her strict, disapproving father, and sneaking out to flirt with a teenage paramour over café glacé. During the summer of 1950, Forugh’s passion for poetry takes flight—and tradition seeks to clip her wings.

Forced into a suffocating marriage, Forugh runs away and falls into an affair that fuels her desire to write and to achieve freedom and independence. Forugh’s poems are considered both scandalous and brilliant; she is heralded by some as a national treasure, vilified by others as a demon influenced by the West. She perseveres, finding love with a notorious filmmaker and living by her own rules—at enormous cost. But the power of her writing only grows stronger amid the upheaval of the Iranian revolution.

Inspired by Forugh Farrokhzad’s verse, letters, films, and interviews—and including original translations of her poems—this haunting novel uses the lens of fiction to capture the tenacity, spirit, and conflicting desires of a brave woman who represents the birth of feminism in Iran—and who continues to inspire generations of women around the world.

 

Romance

Here are some of the most swoon-worthy romance novels that have hit the shelves so far this year, including contemporary and historical, as well as romantic suspense.

book coverThe Proposal by Jasmine Guillory
When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Saying no isn’t the hard part–they’ve only been dating for five months, and he can’t even spell her name correctly. The hard part is having to face a stadium full of disappointed fans…

At the game with his sister, Carlos Ibarra comes to Nik’s rescue and rushes her away from a camera crew. He’s even there for her when the video goes viral and Nik’s social media blows up–in a bad way. Nik knows that in the wilds of LA, a handsome doctor like Carlos can’t be looking for anything serious, so she embarks on an epic rebound with him, filled with food, fun, and fantastic sex. But when their glorified hookups start breaking the rules, one of them has to be smart enough to put on the brakes…

 

book coverThe Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases–a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice–with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan–from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but crave all of the other things he’s making her feel. Their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…

 

book coverFrom Here to You by Jamie McGuire
As Darby Dixon sits in a tiny Texas church bathroom on her wedding day holding a positive pregnancy test, she realizes that marrying her fiancé would be the worst decision of her life. She’s never been very good at standing up for herself, but she’ll sure as hell stand up for her baby. With very little cash and a ton of courage, she flees town to take a new name and start a new life.

As a Marine, Scott “Trex” Trexler worked in the most treacherous, corrupt, war-torn places on earth. With his new top-secret security job, he finally has a chance to return to the one place he’s felt at peace: Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The moment Trex checks in at the hotel where she’s working, Darby knows he’s dangerous. He may want her to think he’s another hotshot firefighter, along with all the others battling the nearby mountain blaze, but something doesn’t add up. No way will she get involved with another man she can’t fully trust – and Trex clearly isn’t telling her everything. As Darby’s ex gets closer and closer to finding her, both she and Trex will soon find out that what you don’t know really can hurt you.

 

book coverSomeone to Care by Mary Balogh
Two years after the death of the Earl of Riverdale, his family has overcome the shame of being stripped of their titles and fortune–except for his onetime countess, Viola. With her children grown and herself no longer part of the social whirl of the town, she is uncertain where to look for happiness–until quite by accident her path crosses once again with that of the Marquess of Dorchester, Marcel Lamarr.

Marcel Lamarr has been a notorious womanizer since the death of his wife nearly twenty years earlier. Viola caught his eye when she herself was a young mother, but she evaded his seduction at the time. A prize that eluded him before, she is all the more irresistible to him now although he is surprised to discover that she is as eager now for the excitement he offers as he is himself.

When the two defy convention and run away together, they discover that the ties of respectability are not so easily severed, and pleasure can ensnare you when you least expect it….

 

book coverDark in Death by J. D. Robb
It was a stab in the dark.

On a chilly February night, during a screening of Psycho in midtown, someone sunk an ice pick into the back of Chanel Rylan’s neck, then disappeared quietly into the crowds of drunks and tourists in Times Square. To Chanel’s best friend, who had just slipped out of the theater for a moment to take a call, it felt as unreal as the ancient black-and-white movie up on the screen. But Chanel’s blood ran red, and her death was anything but fictional.

Then, as Eve Dallas puzzles over a homicide that seems carefully planned and yet oddly personal, she receives a tip from an unexpected source: an author of police thrillers who recognizes the crime–from the pages of her own book. Dallas doesn’t think it’s coincidence, since a recent strangulation of a sex worker resembles a scene from her writing as well. Cops look for patterns of behavior: similar weapons, similar MOs. But this killer seems to find inspiration in someone else’s imagination, and if the theory holds, this may be only the second of a long-running series.

The good news is that Eve and her billionaire husband Roarke have an excuse to curl up in front of the fireplace with their cat, Galahad, reading mystery stories for research. The bad news is that time is running out before the next victim plays an unwitting role in a murderer’s deranged private drama–and only Eve can put a stop to a creative impulse gone horribly, destructively wrong.

From the author of Echoes in Death, this is the latest of the edgy, phenomenally popular police procedurals that Publishers Weekly calls “inventive, entertaining, and clever.”

 

book coverJosh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren
Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take–and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met–when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes–to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them…right?

 

Young Adult

Young adult isn’t just for teens — this year’s titles have won awards and wowed critics. Take a look at some of 2018’s biggest young adult offerings.

book coverBridge of Clay by Markus Zusak
The breathtaking story of five brothers who bring each other up in a world run by their own rules. As the Dunbar boys love and fight and learn to reckon with the adult world, they discover the moving secret behind their father’s disappearance.

At the center of the Dunbar family is Clay, a boy who will build a bridge—for his family, for his past, for greatness, for his sins, for a miracle.

The question is, how far is Clay willing to go? And how much can he overcome?

Written in powerfully inventive language and bursting with heart, Bridge of Clay is signature Zusak.

 

book coverThe Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan
A stunning, heartbreaking debut novel about grief, love, and family, perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson and Celeste Ng.

Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a stunning and heartbreaking novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.

 

book coverTo Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin
Savannah is dreading being home alone with her overbearing mother after her big sister–and best friend–goes off to college. But if she can just get through senior year, she’ll be able to escape to college, too. What she doesn’t count on is that her mother’s obsession with weight has only grown deeper since her appearance on an extreme weight-loss show, and now Savvy’s mom is pressuring her even harder to be constantly mindful of what she eats.

Between her mom’s diet-helicoptering, missing her sister, and worrying about her collegiate future, Savvy has enough to worry about. And then she meets George, the cute new kid at school who has insecurities of his own. As Savvy and George grow closer, they help each other discover how to live in the moment and enjoy the here and now before it disappears.

To Be Honest is another sharp, witty novel from Maggie Ann Martin about a spunky heroine who is dealing with very real issues–body image, parental pressure, loneliness, first love, and finding your way–with heart and humor.

 

book coverDread Nation by Justina Ireland
Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—derailing the War Between the States and changing the nation forever.

In this new America, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Education Act require certain children to attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead.

But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose.

But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies.

And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

 

Fantasy & Science Fiction

If you love novels built on fantasy worlds or space exploration, here are a few of the most imaginative books to hit the shelves this year.

book coverChildren of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

 

book coverKilling Commendatore by Haruki Murakami
In Killing Commendatore, a thirty-something portrait painter in Tokyo is abandoned by his wife and finds himself holed up in the mountain home of a famous artist, Tomohiko Amada. When he discovers a previously unseen painting in the attic, he unintentionally opens a circle of mysterious circumstances. To close it, he must complete a journey that involves a mysterious ringing bell, a two-foot-high physical manifestation of an Idea, a dapper businessman who lives across the valley, a precocious thirteen-year-old girl, a Nazi assassination attempt during World War II in Vienna, a pit in the woods behind the artist’s home, and an underworld haunted by Double Metaphors. A tour de force of love and loneliness, war and art—as well as a loving homage to The Great Gatsby—Killing Commendatore is a stunning work of imagination from one of our greatest writers.

 

book coverIron Gold by Pierce Brown
They call him father, liberator, warlord, Slave King, Reaper. But he feels like a boy as he falls toward the war-torn planet, his armor red, his army vast, his heart heavy. It is the tenth year of war and the thirty-third of his life.

A decade ago Darrow was the hero of the revolution he believed would break the chains of the Society. But the Rising has shattered everything: Instead of peace and freedom, it has brought endless war. Now he must risk all he has fought for on one last desperate mission. Darrow still believes he can save everyone, but can he save himself?

And throughout the worlds, other destinies entwine with Darrow’s to change his fate forever:

A young Red girl flees tragedy in her refugee camp, and achieves for herself a new life she could never have imagined.

An ex-soldier broken by grief is forced to steal the most valuable thing in the galaxy—or pay with his life.

And Lysander au Lune, the heir in exile to the Sovereign, wanders the stars with his mentor, Cassius, haunted by the loss of the world that Darrow transformed, and dreaming of what will rise from its ashes.

Red Rising was the story of the end of one universe. Iron Gold is the story of the creation of a new one. Witness the beginning of a stunning new saga of tragedy and triumph from masterly New York Times bestselling author Pierce Brown.

 

book coverMarkswoman by Rati Mehrotra
Kyra is the youngest Markswoman in the Order of Kali, one of a handful of sisterhoods of highly trained elite warriors. Armed with blades whose metal is imbued with magic and guided by a strict code of conduct, the Orders are sworn to keep the peace and protect the people of Asiana. Kyra has pledged to do so—yet she secretly harbors a fierce desire to avenge her murdered family.

When Tamsyn, the powerful and dangerous Mistress of Mental Arts, assumes control of the Order, Kyra is forced on the run. She is certain that Tamsyn committed murder in a twisted bid for power, but she has no proof.

Kyra escapes through one of the strange Transport Hubs that are the remnants of Asiana’s long-lost past and finds herself in the unforgiving wilderness of a desert that is home to the Order of Khur, the only Order composed of men. Among them is Rustan, a disillusioned Marksman whose skill with a blade is unmatched. He understands the desperation of Kyra’s quest to prove Tamsyn’s guilt, and as the two grow closer, training daily on the windswept dunes of Khur, both begin to question their commitment to their Orders. But what they don’t yet realize is that the line between justice and vengeance is thin . . . as thin as the blade of a knife.

 

book coverRenegades by Marissa Meyer
The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies–humans with extraordinary abilities–who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone…except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice–and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to the villains who have the power to end them both.

 

Nonfiction

If you’re looking for something new in nonfiction, take a look at our recommendations below, including advice, memoirs, history, and biography.

book coverEducated by Tara Westover
Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills” bag. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged metal in her father’s junkyard.

Her father distrusted the medical establishment, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when an older brother became violent.

When another brother got himself into college and came back with news of the world beyond the mountain, Tara decided to try a new kind of life. She taught herself enough mathematics, grammar, and science to take the ACT and was admitted to Brigham Young University. There, she studied psychology, politics, philosophy, and history, learning for the first time about pivotal world events like the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge University. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty, and of the grief that comes from severing one’s closest ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes, and the will to change it.

 

book coverI’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Utterly original and compelling, it has been hailed as a modern true crime classic—one which fulfilled Michelle’s dream: helping unmask the Golden State Killer.

 

book coverNot That Bad by Roxane Gay
In this valuable and revealing anthology, cultural critic and bestselling author Roxane Gay collects original and previously published pieces that address what it means to live in a world where women have to measure the harassment, violence, and aggression they face, and where they are “routinely second-guessed, blown off, discredited, denigrated, besmirched, belittled, patronized, mocked, shamed, gaslit, insulted, bullied” for speaking out. Contributions include essays from established and up-and-coming writers, performers, and critics, including actors Ally Sheedy and Gabrielle Union and writers Amy Jo Burns, Lyz Lenz, Claire Schwartz, and Bob Shacochis. Covering a wide range of topics and experiences, from an exploration of the rape epidemic embedded in the refugee crisis to first-person accounts of child molestation, this collection is often deeply personal and is always unflinchingly honest. Like Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, Not That Bad will resonate with every reader, saying “something in totality that we cannot say alone.”

Searing and heartbreakingly candid, this provocative collection both reflects the world we live in and offers a call to arms insisting that “not that bad” must no longer be good enough.

 

book coverWhen: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink
Everyone knows that timing is everything. But we don’t know much about timing itself. Our lives are a never-ending stream of “when” decisions: when to start a business, schedule a class, get serious about a person. Yet we make those decisions based on intuition and guesswork.

Timing, it’s often assumed, is an art. In When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Pink shows that timing is really a science.

Drawing on a rich trove of research from psychology, biology, and economics, Pink reveals how best to live, work, and succeed. How can we use the hidden patterns of the day to build the ideal schedule? Why do certain breaks dramatically improve student test scores? How can we turn a stumbling beginning into a fresh start? Why should we avoid going to the hospital in the afternoon? Why is singing in time with other people as good for you as exercise? And what is the ideal time to quit a job, switch careers, or get married?

In When, Pink distills cutting-edge research and data on timing and synthesizes them into a fascinating, readable narrative packed with irresistible stories and practical takeaways that give readers compelling insights into how we can live richer, more engaged lives.

 

book coverThe Year of Less by Cait Flanders
In her late twenties, Cait Flanders found herself stuck in the consumerism cycle that grips so many of us: earn more, buy more, want more, rinse, repeat. Even after she worked her way out of nearly $30,000 of consumer debt, her old habits took hold again. When she realized that nothing she was doing or buying was making her happy —only keeping her from meeting her goals —she decided to set herself a challenge: she would not shop for an entire year.

The Year of Less documents Cait’s life for twelve months during which she bought only consumables: groceries, toiletries, gas for her car. Along the way, she challenged herself to consume less of many other things besides shopping. She decluttered her apartment and got rid of 70 percent of her belongings; learned how to fix things rather than throw them away; researched the zero waste movement; and completed a television ban. At every stage, she learned that the less she consumed, the more fulfilled she felt.

The challenge became a lifeline when, in the course of the year, Cait found herself in situations that turned her life upside down. In the face of hardship, she realized why she had always turned to shopping, alcohol, and food —and what it had cost her. Unable to reach for any of her usual vices, she changed habits she’d spent years perfecting and discovered what truly mattered to her.

Blending Cait’s compelling story with inspiring insight and practical guidance, The Year of Less will leave you questioning what you’re holding on to in your own life —and, quite possibly, lead you to find your own path of less.

 

book coverThe Recovering by Leslie Jamison
With its deeply personal and seamless blend of memoir, cultural history, literary criticism, and reportage, The Recovering turns our understanding of the traditional addiction narrative on its head, demonstrating that the story of recovery can be every bit as electrifying as the train wreck itself. Leslie Jamison deftly excavates the stories we tell about addiction–both her own and others’–and examines what we want these stories to do and what happens when they fail us. All the while, she offers a fascinating look at the larger history of the recovery movement, and at the complicated bearing that race and class have on our understanding of who is criminal and who is ill.

At the heart of the book is Jamison’s ongoing conversation with literary and artistic geniuses whose lives and works were shaped by alcoholism and substance dependence, including John Berryman, Jean Rhys, Billie Holiday, Raymond Carver, Denis Johnson, and David Foster Wallace, as well as brilliant lesser-known figures such as George Cain, lost to obscurity but newly illuminated here. Through its unvarnished relation of Jamison’s own ordeals, The Recovering also becomes a book about a different kind of dependency: the way our desires can make us all, as she puts it, “broken spigots of need.” It’s about the particular loneliness of the human experience-the craving for love that both devours us and shapes who we are.

For her striking language and piercing observations, Jamison has been compared to such iconic writers as Joan Didion and Susan Sontag, yet her utterly singular voice also offers something new. With enormous empathy and wisdom, Jamison has given us nothing less than the story of addiction and recovery in America writ large, a definitive and revelatory account that will resonate for years to come.

 

Humor

You’ll find something funny to read on our humor list, whether you’re looking for an amusing novel or a laugh-out-loud memoir.

book coverSophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen
During the heady years of the tech boom, incorrigibly frank Sophia Young lucks into a job that puts her directly in the path of Scott Kraft, the eccentric CEO of Treehouse, a studio whose animated films are transforming movies forever. Overnight, Sophia becomes an unlikely nerd whisperer. Whether her success is due to dumb luck, savage assertiveness, insightful finesse (learned by dealing with her irrational Chinese immigrant mother), or a combination of all three, in her rarified position she finds she can truly shine.

As Scott Kraft’s right-hand woman, whip-smart Sophia is in the eye of the storm, sometimes floundering, sometimes nearly losing relationships and her health, but ultimately learning what it means to take charge of her own future the way the men around her do. But when engineer/inventor Andre Stark hires her to run his company’s investor relations, Sophia discovers that the big paycheck and high-status career she’s created for herself may not be worth living in the toxic environment of a boys-club gone bad.

 

book coverWhen Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger
Welcome to Greenwich, Connecticut, where the lawns and the women are perfectly manicured, the Tito’s and sodas are extra strong, and everyone has something to say about the infamous new neighbor.

Let’s be clear: Emily Charlton does not do the suburbs. After leaving Miranda Priestly, she’s been working in Hollywood as an image consultant to the stars, but recently, Emily’s lost a few clients. She’s hopeless with social media. The new guard is nipping at her heels. She needs a big opportunity, and she needs it now.

When Karolina Hartwell, a gorgeous former supermodel, is arrested for a DUI, her fall from grace is merciless. Her senator-husband leaves her, her Beltway friends disappear, and the tabloids pounce.

In Karolina, Emily finds her comeback opportunity. But she quickly learns Greenwich is a world apart and that this comeback needs a team approach.

So it is that Emily, the scorned Karolina, and their mutual friend Miriam, a powerful attorney turned stay-at-home suburban mom, band together to not only navigate the social land mines of suburban Greenwich but win back the hearts of the American public. Along the way, an indispensable ally emerges in one Miranda Priestly.

With her signature wit, Lauren Weisberger offers an alluring look into a sexy, over-the-top world–and proves it’s style and substance together that gets the job done.

 

book coverAnd Now We Have Everything by Meaghan O’Connell
When Meaghan O’Connell got accidentally pregnant in her twenties and decided to keep the baby, she realized that the book she needed — a brutally honest, agenda-free reckoning with the emotional and existential impact of motherhood — didn’t exist. So she decided to write it herself.

And Now We Have Everything is O’Connell’s exploration of the cataclysmic, impossible-to-prepare-for experience of becoming a mother. With her dark humor and hair-trigger B.S. detector, O’Connell addresses the pervasive imposter syndrome that comes with unplanned pregnancy, the fantasies of a “natural” birth experience that erode maternal self-esteem, post-partum body and sex issues, and the fascinating strangeness of stepping into a new, not-yet-comfortable identity.

Channeling fears and anxieties that are still taboo and often unspoken, And Now We Have Everything is an unflinchingly frank, funny, and visceral motherhood story for our times, about having a baby and staying, for better or worse, exactly yourself.

 

book coverDead People Suck by Laurie Kilmartin
Death is not for the faint of heart, and sometimes the best way to cope is through humor. No one knows this better than comedian Laurie Kilmartin. She made headlines by live-tweeting her father’s time in hospice and her grieving process after he passed, and channeled her experience into a comedy special, 45 Jokes About My Dead Dad. Dead People Suck is her hilarious guide to surviving (sometimes) death, dying, and grief without losing your mind.

If you are old and about to die, sick and about to die, or with a loved one who is about to pass away or who has passed away, there’s something for you. With chapters like “Are You An Old Man With Daughters? Please Shred Your Porn,” “If Cancer was an STD, It Would Be Cured By Now,” and “Unsubscribing Your Dead Parent from Tea Party Emails,” Laurie Kilmartin guides you through some of life’s most complicated moments with equal parts heart and sarcasm.

 

book coverSo Close to Being the Sh*t, Y’all Don’t Even Know by Retta
In her hilarious book of essays, Parks and Recreation star Retta shares the stories that led to her success in Hollywood.

In So Close to Being the Sh*t, Y’all Don’t Even Know, Parks and Recreation star Retta takes us on her not-so-meteoric rise from roaches to riches (well, rich enough that she can buy $15,000 designer handbags yet scared enough to know she’s always a heartbeat away from ramen with American cheese).

Throwing her hard-working Liberian parents for a loop, Retta abandons her plan to attend med school after graduating from Duke University to move to Hollywood to star in her own sitcom–like her comedy heroes Lucille Ball and Roseanne.

Say what? Word. Turns out Retta might actually be on to something. After winning Comedy Central’s stand-up competition, she should be ready for prime time–but a fear of success derails her biggest dream.

Whether reminiscing about her days as a contract chemist at GlaxoSmithKline, telling “dirty” jokes to Mormons, feeling like the odd man out on Parks, fending off racist trolls on Twitter, flirting with Michael Fassbender, or expertly stalking the cast of Hamilton, Retta’s unique voice and refreshing honesty will make you laugh, cry, and laugh so hard you’ll cry.

Her eponymous sitcom might not have happened yet, but by the end of So Close to Being the Sh*t, you’ll be rooting for Retta to be the next one-named wonder to take over your television. And she just might inspire you to reach for the stars, too.

By Kristina Wright
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