A host of good reads hit our shelves this week! Master storytellers George Saunders and Kevin Barry return in celebration of the short story, while new titles in the history section revisit 1960s-era tensions and look back even further to a 16th-century Arctic exploration. And taking the top spot in our highlights is Alexi Pappas’ new memoir, Bravey! The Olympian and filmmaker will be joining us for a book launch event tomorrow you won’t want to miss!
Explore more of the titles we’re excited for below and check out the full rundown of new books on our website now!
Bravey by Alexi Pappas
run like a bravey
sleep like a baby
dream like a crazy
replace can’t with maybe
When “Renaissance runner” (New York Times) Alexi Pappas—Olympic athlete, actress, filmmaker, and writer—was four years old, her mother died by suicide, drastically altering the course of Pappas’s life and setting her on a search for female role models. When her father signed his bereaved daughter up for sports teams as a way to keep her busy, female athletes became the first women Pappas looked up to, and her Olympic dream was born. At the same time, Pappas had big creative dreams, too: She wanted to make movies, write, and act. Despite setbacks and hardships, Pappas refused to pick just one lane. She put in a tremendous amount of hard work and wouldn’t let anything stand in her way until she achieved all of her dreams, however unrelated they may seem to outsiders. In a single year, 2016, she made her Olympic debut as a distance runner and wrote, directed, and starred in her first feature film.
But great highs are often accompanied by deep lows; with joy comes sorrow. In Bravey, Pappas fearlessly and honestly shares her battle with post-Olympic depression and describes how she emerged on the other side as a thriving and self-actualized woman. Unflinching, exuberant, and always entertaining, Bravey showcases Pappas’s signature, charming voice as she reflects upon the touchstone moments in her life and the lessons that have powered her career as both an athlete and an artist—foremost among them, how to be brave.
Pappas’s experiences reveal how we can all overcome hardship, befriend pain, celebrate victory, relish the loyalty found in teammates, and claim joy. In short: how every one of us can become a bravey.
Registration to our virtual event with Alexi Pappas on January 13th at 7PM CDT is completely free! Register today and receive a signed bookplate from Alexi when you order Bravey from BookPeople (while supplies last).
A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life by George Saunders
From the New York Times bestselling, Booker Prize–winning author of Lincoln in the Bardo and Tenth of December comes a literary master class on what makes great stories work and what they can tell us about ourselves—and our world today.
For the last twenty years, George Saunders has been teaching a class on the Russian short story to his MFA students at Syracuse University. In A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, he shares a version of that class with us, offering some of what he and his students have discovered together over the years. Paired with iconic short stories by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol, the seven essays in this book are intended for anyone interested in how fiction works and why it’s more relevant than ever in these turbulent times.
In his introduction, Saunders writes, “We’re going to enter seven fastidiously constructed scale models of the world, made for a specific purpose that our time maybe doesn’t fully endorse but that these writers accepted implicitly as the aim of art—namely, to ask the big questions, questions like, How are we supposed to be living down here? What were we put here to accomplish? What should we value? What is truth, anyway, and how might we recognize it?” He approaches the stories technically yet accessibly, and through them explains how narrative functions; why we stay immersed in a story and why we resist it; and the bedrock virtues a writer must foster. The process of writing, Saunders reminds us, is a technical craft, but also a way of training oneself to see the world with new openness and curiosity.
A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is a deep exploration not just of how great writing works but of how the mind itself works while reading, and of how the reading and writing of stories make genuine connection possible.
Aftershocks: A Memoir by Nadia Owusu
In the tradition of The Glass Castle, a deeply felt memoir from Whiting Award–winner Nadia Owusu about the push and pull of belonging, the seismic emotional toll of family secrets, and the heart it takes to pull through.
Young Nadia Owusu followed her father, a United Nations official, from Europe to Africa and back again. Just as she and her family settled into a new home, her father would tell them it was time to say their goodbyes. The instability wrought by Nadia’s nomadic childhood was deepened by family secrets and fractures, both lived and inherited. Her Armenian American mother, who abandoned Nadia when she was two, would periodically reappear, only to vanish again. Her father, a Ghanaian, the great hero of her life, died when she was thirteen. After his passing, Nadia’s stepmother weighed her down with a revelation that was either a bombshell secret or a lie, rife with shaming innuendo.
With these and other ruptures, Nadia arrived in New York as a young woman feeling stateless, motherless, and uncertain about her future, yet eager to find her own identity. What followed, however, were periods of depression in which she struggled to hold herself and her siblings together.
Aftershocks is the way she hauled herself from the wreckage of her life’s perpetual quaking, the means by which she has finally come to understand that the only ground firm enough to count on is the one written into existence by her own hand.
Heralding a dazzling new writer, Aftershocks joins the likes of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight and William Styron’s Darkness Visible, and does for race identity what Maggie Nelson does for gender identity in The Argonauts.
Sleep Well, My Lady by Kwei Quartey
In the follow-up to the acclaimed series debut The Missing American, PI Emma Djan investigates the death of a Ghanaian fashion icon and social media celebrity, Lady Araba.
Hard-hitting talk show host Augustus Seeza has become a household name in Ghana, though notorious for his lavish overspending, alcoholism, and womanizing. He’s dating the imposing, beautiful Lady Araba, who leads a selfmade fashion empire. Fearing Augustus is only after her money, Araba’s religious family intervenes to break them up. A few days later, just before a major runway show, Araba is found murdered in her bed. Her driver is arrested after a hasty investigation, but Araba’s favorite aunt, Dele, suspects Augustus Seeza was the real killer.
Almost a year later, Dele approaches Emma Djan, who has finally started to settle in as the only female PI at her agency. To solve Lady Araba’s murder, Emma must not only go on an undercover mission that dredges up trauma from her past, but navigate a long list of suspects with strong motives. Emma quickly discovers that they are all willing to lie for each other—and that one may still be willing to kill.
That Old Country Music by Kevin Barry
Nine Days: The Race to Save Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Life and Win the 1960 Election by Stephen Kendrick, Paul Kendrick
The authors of Douglass and Lincoln present fully for the first time the story of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s imprisonment in the days leading up to the 1960 presidential election and the efforts of three of John F. Kennedy’s civil rights staffers who went rogue to free him—a move that changed the face of the Democratic Party and propelled Kennedy to the White House.
Less than three weeks before the 1960 presidential election, thirty-one-year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested at a sit-in at Rich’s Department Store in Atlanta. That day would lead to the first night King had ever spent in jail—and the time that King’s family most feared for his life.
An earlier, minor traffic ticket served as a pretext for keeping King locked up, and later for a harrowing nighttime transfer to Reidsville, the notorious Georgia state prison where Black inmates worked on chain gangs overseen by violent white guards. While King’s imprisonment was decried as a moral scandal in some quarters and celebrated in others, for the two presidential candidates—John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon—it was the ultimate October surprise: an emerging and controversial civil rights leader was languishing behind bars, and the two campaigns raced to decide whether, and how, to respond.
Stephen and Paul Kendrick’s Nine Days tells the incredible story of what happened next. In 1960, the Civil Rights Movement was growing increasingly inventive and energized while white politicians favored the corrosive tactics of silence and stalling—but an audacious team in the Kennedy campaign’s Civil Rights Section (CRS) decided to act. In an election when Black voters seemed poised to split their votes between the candidates, the CRS convinced Kennedy to agitate for King’s release, sometimes even going behind his back in their quest to secure his freedom. Over the course of nine extraordinary October days, the leaders of the CRS—pioneering Black journalist Louis Martin, future Pennsylvania senator Harris Wofford, and Sargent Shriver, the founder of the Peace Corps—worked to tilt a tight election in Kennedy’s favor and bring about a revolution in party affiliation whose consequences are still integral to the practice of politics today.
Based on fresh interviews, newspaper accounts, and extensive archival research, Nine Days is the first full recounting of an event that changed the course of one of the closest elections in American history. Much more than a political thriller, it is also the story of the first time King refused bail and came to terms with the dangerous course of his mission to change a nation. At once a story of electoral machinations, moral courage, and, ultimately, the triumph of a future president’s better angels, Nine Days is a gripping tale with important lessons for our own time.
Icebound: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World by Andrea Pitzer
In the bestselling tradition of Hampton Sides’s In the Kingdom of Ice, a riveting and cinematic tale of Dutch polar explorer William Barents and his three harrowing Arctic expeditions—the last of which resulted in a relentlessly challenging year-long fight for survival.
The human story has always been one of perseverance—often against remarkable odds. The most astonishing survival tale of all might be that of 16th-century Dutch explorer William Barents and his crew of sixteen, who ventured farther north than any Europeans before and, on their third polar exploration, lost their ship off the frozen coast of Nova Zembla to unforgiving ice. The men would spend the next year fighting off ravenous polar bears, gnawing hunger, and endless winter.
In Icebound, Andrea Pitzer masterfully combines a gripping tale of survival with a sweeping history of the great Age of Exploration—a time of hope, adventure, and seemingly unlimited geographic frontiers. At the story’s center is William Barents, one of the 16th century’s greatest navigators whose larger-than-life ambitions and obsessive quest to chart a path through the deepest, most remote regions of the Arctic ended in both tragedy and glory. Journalist Pitzer did extensive research, learning how to use four-hundred-year-old navigation equipment, setting out on three Arctic expeditions to retrace Barents’s steps, and visiting replicas of Barents’s ship and cabin.
“A visceral, thrilling account full of tantalizing surprises” (Andrea Barrett, author of The Voyage of the Narwhal ), Pitzer’s reenactment of Barents’s ill-fated journey shows us how the human body can function at twenty degrees below, the history of mutiny, the art of celestial navigation, and the intricacies of building shelters. But above all, it gives us a first-hand glimpse into the true nature of human courage.
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn’t hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.
Ames isn’t happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese—and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames’s boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she’s pregnant with his baby—and that she’s not sure whether she wants to keep it—Ames wonders if this is the chance he’s been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family—and raise the baby together?
This provocative debut is about what happens at the emotional, messy, vulnerable corners of womanhood that platitudes and good intentions can’t reach. Torrey Peters brilliantly and fearlessly navigates the most dangerous taboos around gender, sex, and relationships, gifting us a thrillingly original, witty, and deeply moving novel.
Now in Paperback
The Resisters by Gish Jen
Quit Like A Woman by Holly Whitaker
Cleanness by Garth Greenwell
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