Eugenia Kim’s The Kinship of Secrets chronicles the complex and moving story of the Chos, a South Korean family who emigrate to the United States in 1948. Deeming their infant daughter too young for journey, they leave her in the care of family members. Yet when the Korean War breaks out, what was supposed to be a temporary separation unexpectedly stretches into one of many years. Kim traces the journey of the two Cho sisters—Miran in the United States and Inja in South Korea—through the years, gracefully exploring the intricate ties of family and culture. The Kinship of Secrets has been widely praised by critics, with the The Washington Post hailing the book as one that “beautifully illuminate[s] Korea’s past in ways that inform our present.”
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Elizabeth Emens’ Life Admin exposes the hidden administrative tasks that consume our daily lives and offers strategies to complete them effectively. Emens interviewed hundreds of people and conducted strategy sessions to probe our relationship to these tasks: who does (or doesn’t) do them, why we rarely talk about them, and how they affect our lives. Her resulting book is a lively exploration on this often stressful topic, providing insight into how we handle these tasks and how best to implement them into our lives.
Sy Montgomery’s books crack open the interior lives of animals and provoke readers to look at their world from a new perspective, whether it’s The Good, Good Pig, a loving tribute to her pet pig Christopher Harwood, or The Soul of an Octopus, where she immersed herself into the world of octopi to explore their emotional intelligence. With her latest book, How to Be a Good Creature: A Memoir in Thirteen Animals, she turns that remarkable focus onto herself. In wide-ranging essays marked by her matter-of-fact candor, she examines her relationship with thirteen very different animals and the myriad lessons they taught her. Publishers Weekly praised the book, stating, “Montgomery’s lyrical storytelling and resonant lessons on how animals can enhance our humanity result in a tender, intelligent literary memoir,” while Nick Jans raved that it “stands as a vivid reminder of the deep and necessary connection we share with all living things.”
Lynne Truss on Not Giving Everything Away, Big Characters, and Being the Cleverest Person in the Room
Lynne Truss is perhaps best known in the U.S. for her lauded book on grammar, Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, but with A Shot in the Dark she establishes herself as a gifted comic mystery writer, mixing equal parts Christie with Wodehouse. Based on characters Truss originally created for a series of successful radio dramas, A Shot in the Dark takes place in the seemingly idyllic resort town of Brighton. When a fatuous theater critic is murdered on opening night of a touring theatrical troupe’s play, the idealistic Constable Twitten finds himself embroiled in a crime that stretches back to an infamous bank robbery decades prior. Joined by his lovestruck colleague, Sergeant Brunswick, and the station’s sagacious charlady, Mrs. Groynes, Twitten uses his wits to solve not only the murder, but also ferret out a criminal mastermind who has been hiding in plain sight for years. A darkly comic romp, A Shot in the Dark has been widely met with praise. The Guardian raved, “with plenty of brightly coloured bucket-and-spadery, including ghost trains and Punch and Judy and variety acts, this clever, tongue-in-cheek escapade is a perfect summer read.”
Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s Friday Black is sure to be one of 2018’s most significant books. This stunning collection of short stories thrusts the reader into bizarre and frightening territories, from an all-too-real theme park that commercializes racism to a big box superstore in the throes of Black Friday madness. In each story, Adjei-Brenyah compassionately examines his characters’ plights, fully exploring their humanity with wit and precision. Friday Black has already been longlisted for the Carnegie Medal of Excellence in Fiction, and The New York Times Book Review hailed it as “an unbelievable debut, one that announces a new and necessary American voice.”
Candace Chen is a dedicated office drone in the publicity department of a big-time publishing house, deftly negotiating contracts for the novelty Bibles her company churns out year after year. Only when a society-erasing plague, a mysterious fever that rends its victims into a zombie-like existence, wipes out most of her co-workers does Candace reluctantly […]
Neal Bascomb brings the harrowing escape from Holzminden prison to thrilling life in The Escape Artists: A Band of Daredevil Pilots and the Greatest Prison Break of the Great War. Holzminden prison was Gemany’s seemingly inescapable POW prison, run by the tyrannical commandant Karl Niemeyer. Yet through meticulous planning and ingenious subterfuge, nearly a dozen […]
Andrea Kleine on Epic Quests, Coping Strategies, and Dismantling the Traditional Narrative of the Artist
When Hope and Eden’s father forgets to pick them up for one of their weekend custody visits, the two teenagers accept a ride from a stranger who soon proves to be far more dangerous than he appears. Twenty years later, Hope is an adrift playwright in New York when she finds out that her abductor is up for parole. Hope sets off to find the now estranged Eden in hopes of convincing her to testify against him, and the resulting quest not only exposes painful truths from her past, but also uncovers insights into her present. Andrea Kleine’s Eden is a riveting character study that has been met with rave reviews. Vanity Fair stated “the mystery of Eden unfolds across America with humor and some clever detective work, combining a page-turner with a moving meditation on the limitations of family amidst trauma” and NYLON hailed it as “a devastating, revelatory examination of trauma, memory, creation, and the ways in which we define ourselves according to our experiences.”
Keith O’Brien’s Fly Girls uncovers an overlooked period of aviation, exploring the lives of five disparate female pilots from the 1920s and 30s. Through exhaustive research and sweeping prose, O’Brien brings these remarkable stories to life, recounting the risks these women faced on and off the airfield. Critics have heaped praise upon the book, with The New York Times noting that “O’Brien’s prose reverberates with fiery crashes, then stings with the tragedy of lives lost in the cockpit and sometimes, equally heartbreaking, on the ground” and The Wall Street Journal stating that “O’Brien has recovered a fascinating chapter not just in feminism and aviation but in 20th-century American history.”
Melissa Stephenson’s powerful memoir, Driven: A White-Knuckled Ride To Heartbreak and Back, traces her relationship with her beloved brother, who died by suicide, by cataloging the various cars from her life. With extreme compassion and biting humor, Stephenson recounts her various relationships with family members, as well as the wanderlust that launched her from her small hometown in Indiana.
John Lingan on Patsy Cline, Her Hometown, and the Groundbreaking Generation of Country Music Entrepreneurs
When John Lingan was sent to Winchester, Virginia, to write an article about Patsy Cline’s hometown, a quick visit turned into multiple return trips. The resulting book, Homeplace, is an exhaustively researched and compassionate account of Winchester and the nearby resort town, Berkeley Spring, West Virginia. The reader’s tour guide through the area is Jim McCoy, a former radio DJ famous for discovering Patsy Cline when she was a teenager, who later owned and operated a local honkytonk, The Troubador, that serves as a place for the community to drink, listen to music, and have a good time.
Jessica Long was born in Siberia with fibular hemimelia, a medical condition that required the amputation of both legs below the knee. She was adopted by a family in Maryland, and quickly developed her spectacular gift for swimming. At age twelve, she was the youngest member of the U.S. Paralympic team, winning three gold medals. Over the past four Paralympic games, she’s won twenty-three medals, and is currently training to compete in her fifth games in Tokyo in 2020. With her sister Hannah, Long has written a photo-illustrated memoir, Unsinkable, which details not only her triumphs in the pool, but also the more personal moments of her journey, such as reconnecting with her birth family in 2012. Booklist gave Unsinkable a starred review, calling it “inspirational on so many levels, . . .a great addition for middle school collections.”
Megan Flaherty’s heartfelt Tango Lessons details how a passing interest in tango turned into a full-fledged passion for the author when she was in her early twenties. With levity and grace, Flaherty guides the reader through the history of the dance, as well as the world of nightly prácticas and ballroom dance competitions. Flaherty also writes candidly about how the dance helped her confront face traumatic events from her childhood and issues in her relationships. Tango Lessons has been highly praised by the literary community, with Kirkus Reviews calling it “a vibrantly intelligent reading pleasure” and Pulitzer Prize-winner Margo Jefferson hailing Flaherty as “entertaining, thoughtful, and trustworthy because her self-examination—doubts, insecurities, grief—is never self-indulgent.”
Hannah Pittard’s sweeping Visible Empire focuses on the aftermath of a real-life plane crash in 1961, which claimed the lives of over 100 Atlantans traveling home after an extended art tour of Paris. Pittard employs her formidable skills to focus on how the crash affects four Atlantans: Robert Tucker, a middle-aged newspaper editor whose mistress was on the plane; his wife, Lily, who is eight months pregnant with their first child; Piedmont Dobbs, a teenager who was recently denied the chance of being one of the first African-American students to integrate Atlanta’s Public Schools; and Anastasia Rivers, a calculating grifter who uses the crash as a springboard to a better life.
Kenneth Bonert’s The Mandela Plot is a propulsive literary thriller set in late 80’s Johannesburg, when eighteen year-old Martin Helger’s life is upended upon the arrival of Annie, an intriguing American college student. Annie quickly proves to have a bevy of secrets, and Martin is soon exposed to a world far different than his sheltered working class […]