The last new release Tuesday of July bookends a month of standout releases with a few more you won’t want to miss out on. We’re talking new essays by Zadie Smith, stories by Laura van den Berg, and a chilling new novel by Lauren Beukes that lets us know…it could be worse (?!). Read on for more!
Intimations by Zadie Smith
Deeply personal and powerfully moving, a short and timely series of reflective essays by one of the most clear-sighted and essential writers of our time
Written during the early months of lockdown, Intimations explores ideas and questions prompted by an unprecedented situation. What does it mean to submit to a new reality—or to resist it? How do we compare relative sufferings? What is the relationship between time and work? In our isolation, what do other people mean to us? How do we think about them? What is the ratio of contempt to compassion in a crisis? When an unfamiliar world arrives, what does it reveal about the world that came before it?
Suffused with a profound intimacy and tenderness in response to these extraordinary times, Intimations is a slim, suggestive volume with a wide scope, in which Zadie Smith clears a generous space for thought, open enough for each reader to reflect on what has happened—and what should come next.
The author will donate her royalties from the sale of Intimations to charity.
I Hold a Wolf By the Ears by Laura van den Berg
An urgent and unsettling collection of women on the verge from Laura van den Berg, author of The Third Hotel
I Hold a Wolf by the Ears, Laura van den Berg’s first story collection since her acclaimed and prizewinning Isle of Youth, draws readers into a world of wholly original, sideways ghost stories that linger in the mouth and mind like rotten, fragrant fruit. Both timeless and urgent, these eleven stories confront misogyny, violence, and the impossible economics of America with van den Berg’s trademark spiky humor and surreal eye. Moving from the peculiarities of Florida to liminal spaces of travel in Mexico City, Sicily, and Spain, I Hold a Wolf by the Ears is uncannily attuned to our current moment, and to the thoughts we reveal to no one but ourselves.
In “Lizards,” a man mutes his wife’s anxieties by giving her a La Croix–like seltzer laced with sedatives. In the title story, a woman poses as her more successful sister during a botched Italian holiday, a choice that brings about strange and violent consequences, while in “Karolina,” a woman discovers her prickly ex-sister-in-law in the aftermath of an earthquake and is forced to face the truth about her violent brother.
I Hold a Wolf by the Ears presents a collection of women on the verge, trying to grasp what’s left of life: grieving, divorced, and hyperaware, searching, vulnerable, and unhinged, they exist in a world that deviates from our own only when you look too close. With remarkable control and transcendent talent, van den Berg dissolves, in the words of the narrator of “Slumberland,” “that border between magic and annihilation,” and further establishes herself as a defining fiction writer of our time.
Afterland by Lauren Beukes
Twelve-year-old Miles is one of the last boys alive, and his mother, Cole, will protect him at all costs. On the run after a horrific act of violence-and pursued by Cole’s own ruthless sister, Billie — all Cole wants is to raise her kid somewhere he won’t be preyed on as a reproductive resource or a sex object or a stand-in son. Someplace like home.
To get there, Cole and Miles must journey across a changed America in disguise as mother and daughter. From a military base in Seattle to a luxury bunker, from an anarchist commune in Salt Lake City to a roaming cult that’s all too ready to see Miles as the answer to their prayers, the two race to stay ahead at every step . . . even as Billie and her sinister crew draw closer.
A sharply feminist, high-stakes thriller from award-winning author Lauren Beukes, Afterland brilliantly blends psychological suspense, American noir, and science fiction into an adventure all its own — and perfect for our times.
To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq by Robert Draper
From the author of the New York Times bestseller Dead Certain comes the definitive, revelatory reckoning with arguably the most consequential decision in the history of American foreign policy—the decision to invade Iraq.
Even now, after more than fifteen years, it is hard to see the invasion of Iraq through the cool, considered gaze of history. For too many people, the damage is still too palpable, and still unfolding. Most of the major players in that decision are still with us, and few of them are not haunted by it, in one way or another. Perhaps it’s that combination, the passage of the years and the still unresolved trauma, that explains why so many protagonists opened up so fully for the first time to Robert Draper.
Draper’s prodigious reporting has yielded scores of consequential new revelations, from the important to the merely absurd. As a whole, the book paints a vivid and indelible picture of a decision-making process that was fatally compromised by a combination of post-9/11 fear and paranoia, rank naïveté, craven groupthink, and a set of actors with idées fixes who gamed the process relentlessly. Everything was believed; nothing was true. The intelligence failure was comprehensive. Draper’s fair-mindedness and deep understanding of the principal actors suffuse his account, as does a storytelling genius that is close to sorcery. There are no cheap shots here, which makes the ultimate conclusion all the more damning. In the spirit of Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August and Marc Bloch’s Strange Defeat, To Start A War will stand as the definitive account of a collective process that arrived at evidence that would prove to be not just dubious but entirely false, driven by imagination rather than a quest for truth—evidence that was then used to justify a verdict that led to hundreds of thousands of deaths and a flood tide of chaos in the Middle East that shows no signs of ebbing.
Florida Man by Tom Cooper
A masterfully written, darkly hilarious novel that shows how one small decision can have big consequences in the swamplands of Florida.
Florida, circa 1980. Reed Crowe, the eponymous Florida Man, is a middle-aged beach bum, beleaguered and disenfranchised, living on ill-gotten gains deep in the jungly heart of Florida. When sinkholes start opening on Emerald Island, not only are Reed Crowe’s seedy businesses—a moribund motel and a shabby amusement park—endangered, but so are his secrets. Crowe, amateur spelunker, begins uncovering artifacts that change his understanding of the island’s history, as well as his understanding of his family’s birthright as pioneering homesteaders.
Meanwhile, there are other Florida men with whom Crowe must contend. Hector “Catface” Morales, a Cuban refugee, trained assassin, and crack-addicted Marielito, is seeking revenge on Reed for stealing his stash of drugs and leaving him for dead (unbeknownst to Reed) in the wreckage of a plane crash in the Everglades decades ago. Loner and misanthrope Henry Yahchilane, a Seminole Native, has something to hide on the island. So does irascible and pervy Wayne Wade, Reed Crowe’s childhood friend turned bad penny. Then there are the Florida women, including Heidi Karavas, Reed Crowe’s ex-wife, now a globe-trekking art curator, and Nina Arango, a Cuban refugee and fiercely protective woman with whom Reed Crowe falls in love. There are curses. There are sea monsters. There are biblical storms. There’s something called the Jupiter Effect.
Ultimately, Florida Man is a generation-spanning story about how a man decides to live his life, and how despite staying landlocked and stubbornly in one place, the world nevertheless comes to him.
Unspeakable Acts: True Tales of Crime, Murder, Deceit, and Obsession, edited by Sarah Weinman
Scott says: “This collection of non-fiction crime writing celebrates the innovation of the genre. These writers find the human element of the crimes, often using it to look at them in the larger aspects to our culture, and all report true stories that would be difficult to make up. If you wonder why so many readers are turning to true crime, this excellent collection explains why.”
Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Trethewey
A chillingly personal and exquisitely wrought memoir of a daughter reckoning with the brutal murder of her mother at the hands of her former stepfather, and the moving, intimate story of a poet coming into her own in the wake of a tragedy
At age nineteen, Natasha Trethewey had her world turned upside down when her former stepfather shot and killed her mother. Grieving and still new to adulthood, she confronted the twin pulls of life and death in the aftermath of unimaginable trauma and now explores the way this experience lastingly shaped the artist she became.
With penetrating insight and a searing voice that moves from the wrenching to the elegiac, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Natasha Trethewey investigates this profound experience of pain, loss, and grief as an entry point into understanding the tragic course of her mother’s life and the way her own life has been shaped by a legacy of fierce love and resilience. Moving through her mother’s history in the deeply segregated South and through her own girlhood as a “child of miscegenation” in Mississippi, Trethewey plumbs her sense of dislocation and displacement in the lead-up to the harrowing crime that took place on Memorial Drive in Atlanta in 1985.
Memorial Drive is a compelling and searching look at a shared human experience of sudden loss and absence but also a piercing glimpse at the enduring ripple effects of white racism and domestic abuse. Animated by unforgettable prose and inflected by a poet’s attention to language, this is a luminous, urgent, and visceral memoir from one of our most important contemporary writers and thinkers.
A Royal Affair: A Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery by Allison Montclair
Meike says: “This is the second book in Montclair’s series, set in 1946 London and featuring Iris Sparks and Gwendolyn Bainbridge of the Right Sort Marriage Bureau. The ladies’ fledgling business is starting to take off so they need both a bigger office and a secretary, but don’t yet have the financial means to handle the increased demand for their services. Salvation arrives in the form of Gwen’s cousin, Lady Matheson, who works for the Crown “in some capacity” and who needs help with a discreet investigation. Fans of Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs and Alexander McCall Smith’s No. One Ladies Detective Agency should definitely check this one out.”
Crossings by Alex Landragin
Crossings is an unforgettable and explosive genre-bending debut—a novel in three parts, designed to be read in two different directions, spanning a hundred and fifty years and seven lifetimes.
On the brink of the Nazi occupation of Paris, a German-Jewish bookbinder stumbles across a manuscript called Crossings. It has three narratives, each as unlikely as the next. And the narratives can be read one of two ways: either straight through or according to an alternate chapter sequence. The first story in Crossings is a never-before-seen ghost story by the poet Charles Baudelaire, penned for an illiterate girl. Next is a noir romance about an exiled man, modeled on Walter Benjamin, whose recurring nightmares are cured when he falls in love with a storyteller who draws him into a dangerous intrigue of rare manuscripts, police corruption, and literary societies. Finally, there are the fantastical memoirs of a woman-turned-monarch whose singular life has spanned seven generations. With each new chapter, the stunning connections between these seemingly disparate people grow clearer and more extraordinary. Crossings is an unforgettable adventure full of love, longing and empathy.
The End of Her by Shari Lapena
Stephanie and Patrick are still adjusting to life with their colicky newborn twin girls when the mysterious Erica appears to shake things up. Patrick has always told Stephanie his first wife died in a car accident, but now Erica claims it was murder—and wants a lot of money to keep that information away from the police. Patrick insists this is just a blackmail scheme and Stephanie believes him—until Erica reveals things that make Stephanie question her husband and wonder what he might be capable of.
A Star is Bored by Byron Lane
A hilariously heartfelt novel influenced in part by the author’s time assisting Carrie Fisher.
Charlie Besson is tense and sweating as he prepares for a wild job interview. His car is idling, like his life, outside the Hollywood mansion of Kathi Kannon, star of stage and screen and People magazine’s Worst Dressed list. She’s an actress in need of assistance, and he’s adrift and in need of a lifeline.
Kathi is an icon, bestselling author, and award-winning movie star, most known for her role as Priestess Talara in a blockbuster sci-fi film. She’s also known in another role: Outrageous Hollywood royalty. Admittedly so. Famously so. Chaotically so, as Charlie quickly discovers.
Charlie gets the job, and his three-year odyssey is filled with late-night shopping sprees, last-minute trips to see the aurora borealis, and an initiation to that most sacred of Hollywood tribes: the personal assistant. But Kathi becomes much more than a boss, and as their friendship grows Charlie must make a choice. Will he always be on the sidelines of life, assisting the great forces that be, or can he step into his own life’s leading role?
Laugh-out-loud funny, and searingly poignant, Byron Lane’s A Star is Bored is a novel that, like the star at its center, is enchanting and joyous, heartbreaking and hopeful.
The Geometry of Holding Hands by Alexander McCall Smith
Meike says: “Philosopher Isabel Dalhousie must once again balance the demands of her busy life—her husband, two small children, and of course her impetuous niece Cat—with the unraveling of a mysterious set of problems.”
Now in Paperback
The Memory Police by Yōko Ogawa
Running with Sherman by Christopher McDougall
The Complete Works of Alberto Caeiro by Fernando Pessoa
These titles and more are available to order from BookPeople today.