Our hearts and minds are being pulled all over the place right now—we hope that you’re taking care of yourself in the best way you know how. If books give you a space to decompress, check out some of the newer ones we’re receiving this week.
Black Lives Matter.
You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat
A “provocative and seductive debut” of desire and doubleness that follows the life of a young Palestinian American woman caught between cultural, religious, and sexual identities as she endeavors to lead an authentic life (O, The Oprah Magazine)
On a hot day in Bethlehem, a 12-year-old Palestinian-American girl is yelled at by a group of men outside the Church of the Nativity. She has exposed her legs in a biblical city, an act they deem forbidden, and their judgement will echo on through her adolescence. When our narrator finally admits to her mother that she is queer, her mother’s response only intensifies a sense of shame: “You exist too much,” she tells her daughter.
Told in vignettes that flash between the U.S. and the Middle East—from New York to Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine—Zaina Arafat’s debut novel traces her protagonist’s progress from blushing teen to sought-after DJ and aspiring writer. In Brooklyn, she moves into an apartment with her first serious girlfriend and tries to content herself with their comfortable relationship. But soon her longings, so closely hidden during her teenage years, explode out into reckless romantic encounters and obsessions with other people. Her desire to thwart her own destructive impulses will eventually lead her to The Ledge, an unconventional treatment center that identifies her affliction as “love addiction.” In this strange, enclosed society she will start to consider the unnerving similarities between her own internal traumas and divisions and those of the places that have formed her.
Opening up the fantasies and desires of one young woman caught between cultural, religious, and sexual identities, You Exist Too Much is a captivating story charting two of our most intense longings—for love, and a place to call home.
The Distant Dead by Heather Young
A body burns in the high desert hills. A young boy walks into a fire station, pale with the shock of a grisly discovery. A middle school teacher worries when her colleague is late for work. By day’s end, when the body is identified as local math teacher Adam Merkel, a small Nevada town will begin its reckoning with a brutal and calculated murder.
Adam Merkel left a university professorship to teach middle school math in Lovelock seven months before he died. A quiet, seemingly unremarkable man, he connected with only one of his students: Sal Prentiss, a lonely sixth grader who lives on a remote ranch in the hills with his uncles. The two outcasts developed a tender, trusting friendship that brought each of them hope in the wake of tragedy. But it is Sal who finds Adam’s body, charred almost beyond recognition, less than two miles from his uncles’ ranch.
Nora Wheaton is the middle school’s social studies teacher. Twelve years ago she returned to the hometown she hates to care for her disabled father, a drunk who crashed his car and killed her brother. As she delves into Adam’s past for clues to who killed him, she confronts difficult truths about her relationship with her father and draws closer to Sal, who not only holds the key to solving Adam’s murder but may offer her a chance at the life she thought she’d lost.
Jake Sanchez is the volunteer on duty at the fire station when Sal reports finding Adam’s body. Jake loved Sal’s mother from a forlorn distance, and since her death he’s tried to keep an eye on Sal. He, too, thinks Sal knows more than he’s telling about the night Adam died, and when Nora shows up asking questions, he becomes her ally in her quest for the truth.
As Nora and Jake piece together Adam Merkel’s final moments, and Sal struggles with the weight of the secrets he carries, all three must reckon with blame and regret, the weight of the past and the promise of the future, and the bitter freedom that forgiveness can bring.
Broken People by Sam Lansky
A groundbreaking, incandescent novel about coming to grips with the past and ourselves, for fans of Sally Rooney, Hanya Yanigahara, and Garth Greenwell
At a dinner party, Sam overhears a snippet of conversation: “He fixes everything that’s wrong with you in three days.”
For Sam, the promise resonates. A recent LA transplant, he has left behind his life in New York City in an attempt to outpace a decade of painful memories. But the phantom limbs of his addiction, the challenges of sobriety and the bone-deep hurt of failed relationships have left him broken. The mere mention of a path to total healing, no matter how radical, captures Sam’s imagination.
That path, Sam learns from the party’s host, involves ayahuasca, an ancient herbal medicine administered by a shaman over the course of three days. The herb is said to have a dramatic psychedelic affect, bringing those who take it to enlightenment. With the blessing of his AA sponsor, Sam agrees to join his friend Buck in the ceremony. The journey will take Sam to the very heart of his brokenness, and to the collective core of our modern dreams and desires.
Groundbreaking and gorgeously written, Broken People explores the challenges of intimacy and sobriety, the intersection of materialism and mysticism, and the ways in which the body stores heartache and trauma.
Tom Clancy’s ‘Firing Point’ by Mike Maden
Jack Ryan, Jr. is out to avenge the murder of an old friend, but the vein of evil he’s tapped into may run too deep for him to handle in the latest electric entry in the #1 New York Times bestselling series.
While on vacation in Barcelona, Jack Ryan, Jr. is surprised to run into an old friend at a small café. A first, Renee Moore seems surprised to see Jack, but then she just seems irritated and distracted. After making plans to meet later, Jack leaves, only to miss the opportunity to ever speak to Renee again, as the café is destroyed minutes later by a suicide bomber. A desperate Jack plunges back into the ruins to save his friend, but it’s too late. As she dies in his arms, she utters one word, “Sammler.”
When the police show up they are initially suspicious of Jack until they are called off by a member of the Spanish Intelligence Service. This mysterious sequence of events sends the young Campus operative on an unrelenting search to find out the reason behind Renee’s death. Along the way, he discovers that his old friend had secrets of her own—and some of them may have gotten her killed.
Jack has never backed down from a challenge, but some prey may be too big for one man.
Pizza Girl by Jean Kyoung Frazier
In the tradition of audacious and wryly funny novels like The Idiot and Convenience Store Woman comes the wildly original coming-of-age story of a pregnant pizza delivery girl who becomes obsessed with one of her customers.
Eighteen years old, pregnant, and working as a pizza delivery girl in suburban Los Angeles, our charmingly dysfunctional heroine is deeply lost and in complete denial about it all. She’s grieving the death of her father (whom she has more in common with than she’d like to admit), avoiding her supportive mom and loving boyfriend, and flagrantly ignoring her future.
Her world is further upended when she becomes obsessed with Jenny, a stay-at-home mother new to the neighborhood, who comes to depend on weekly deliveries of pickled-covered pizzas for her son’s happiness. As one woman looks toward motherhood and the other toward middle age, the relationship between the two begins to blur in strange, complicated, and ultimately heartbreaking ways.
Bold, tender, propulsive, and unexpected in countless ways, Jean Kyoung Frazier’s Pizza Girl is a moving and funny portrait of a flawed, unforgettable young woman as she tries to find her place in the world.
Hood by Jenny Elder Moke
Isabelle of Kirklees has only ever known a quiet life inside the sheltered walls of the convent, where she lives with her mother, Marien. But after she is arrested by royal soldiers for defending innocent villagers, Isabelle becomes the target of the Wolf, King John’s ruthless right hand. Desperate to keep her daughter safe, Marien helps Isabelle escape and sends her on a mission to find the one person who can help: Isabelle’s father, Robin Hood.
Alaric the Goth: An Outsider’s History of the Fall of Rome by Douglas Boin
Denied citizenship by the Roman Empire, a soldier named Alaric changed history by unleashing a surprise attack on the capital city of an unjust empire.
Stigmatized and relegated to the margins of Roman society, the Goths were violent “barbarians” who destroyed “civilization,” at least in the conventional story of Rome’s collapse. But a slight shift of perspective brings their history, and ours, shockingly alive.
Alaric grew up near the river border that separated Gothic territory from Roman. He survived a border policy that separated migrant children from their parents, and he was denied benefits he likely expected from military service. Romans were deeply conflicted over who should enjoy the privileges of citizenship. They wanted to buttress their global power, but were insecure about Roman identity; they depended on foreign goods, but scoffed at and denied foreigners their own voices and humanity. In stark contrast to the rising bigotry, intolerance, and zealotry among Romans during Alaric’s lifetime, the Goths, as practicing Christians, valued religious pluralism and tolerance. The marginalized Goths, marked by history as frightening harbingers of destruction and of the Dark Ages, preserved virtues of the ancient world that we take for granted.
The three nights of riots Alaric and the Goths brought to the capital struck fear into the hearts of the powerful, but the riots were not without cause. Combining vivid storytelling and historical analysis, Douglas Boin reveals the Goths’ complex and fascinating legacy in shaping our world.
These titles and more are available to order from BookPeople today.