January closes on a high note. This week’s new releases offer startling, sometimes fantastic, looks at the stories that we tell ourselves, each one surprising and profound in its own way. And then there’s a real funny book about Podcasting. Scroll down for more and see which author’s we’ve got dropping by for virtual events on their new books!
Let the Lord Sort Them by Maurice Chammah
A deeply reported, searingly honest portrait of the death penalty in Texas—and what it tells us about crime and punishment in America
In 1972, the United States Supreme Court made a surprising ruling: the country’s death penalty system violated the Constitution. The backlash was swift, especially in Texas, where executions were considered part of the cultural fabric, and a dark history of lynching was masked by gauzy visions of a tough-on-crime frontier. When executions resumed, Texas quickly became the nationwide leader in carrying out the punishment. Then, amid a larger wave of criminal justice reform, came the death penalty’s decline, a trend so durable that even in Texas the punishment appears again close to extinction.
In Let the Lord Sort Them, Maurice Chammah charts the rise and fall of capital punishment through the eyes of those it touched. We meet Elsa Alcala, the orphaned daughter of a Mexican American family who found her calling as a prosecutor in the nation’s death penalty capital, before becoming a judge on the state’s highest court. We meet Danalynn Recer, a lawyer who became obsessively devoted to unearthing the life stories of men who committed terrible crimes, and fought for mercy in courtrooms across the state. We meet death row prisoners—many of them once-famous figures like Henry Lee Lucas, Gary Graham, and Karla Faye Tucker—along with their families and the families of their victims. And we meet the executioners, who struggle openly with what society has asked them to do. In tracing these interconnected lives against the rise of mass incarceration in Texas and the country as a whole, Chammah explores what the persistence of the death penalty tells us about forgiveness and retribution, fairness and justice, history and myth.
Written with intimacy and grace, Let the Lord Sort Them is the definitive portrait of a particularly American institution.
The Swallowed Man by Edward Carey
The ingenious storyteller Edward Carey returns to reimagine a time-honored fable: the story of an impatient father, a rebellious son, and a watery path to forgiveness for the young man known as Pinocchio
In the small Tuscan town of Collodi, a lonely woodcarver longs for the companionship of a son. One day, “as if the wood commanded me,” Giuseppe—better known as Geppetto—carves for himself a pinewood boy, a marionette he hopes to take on tour worldwide. But when his handsome new creation comes magically to life, Geppetto screams . . . and the boy, Pinocchio, leaps from his arms and escapes into the night. Though he returns the next day, the wily boy torments his father, challenging his authority and making up stories—whereupon his nose, the very nose his father carved, grows before his eyes like an antler. When the boy disappears after one last fight, the father follows a rumor to the coast and out into the sea, where he is swallowed by a great fish—and consumed by guilt. He hunkers in the creature’s belly awaiting the day when he will reconcile with the son he drove away.
With all the charm, atmosphere, and emotional depth for which Edward Carey is known—and featuring his trademark fantastical illustrations—The Swallowed Man is a parable of parenthood, loss, and letting go, from a creative mind on a par with Gregory Maguire, Neil Gaiman, and Tim Burton.
Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman elected to Congress in 1968 after campaigning under the slogan, “Unbought and Unbossed,” and her political career never swerved from that principle–she was fearless, undaunted, brilliant, and always first and foremost a servant to nobody but the people.
When Shirley Chisholm announced her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972, she became the first black candidate for a major party’s nomination just four years after she had become the first ever black woman in Congress. In typical fashion, she acknowledged the landmark but knew it was beside the point: “I am not the candidate of black America, although I am black and proud. I am not the candidate of the women’s movement of this country, although I am a woman and I’m equally proud of that.” What she emphasized was: “I am the candidate of the people of America.”
Her legacy has only further demonstrated her profoundly humane politics and her undaunted and tireless work ethic. In a set of interviews that extend from the first major profile by Susan Brownmiller to her final interview documenting her life and reflecting on her legacy, Shirley Chisholm reveals her disciplined and demanding childhood, the expectations on her placed by her family and the public, her tireless advocacy for the poorest and most disadvantaged in the halls of government, and the darkening course of American history. But on her legacy, Chisholm had one priority: “I’d like them to say that Shirley Chisholm had guts. That’s how I’d like to be remembered.”
Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion
From one of our most iconic and influential writers: a timeless collection of mostly early pieces that reveal what would become Joan Didion’s subjects, including the press, politics, California robber barons, women, and her own self-doubt.
These twelve pieces from 1968 to 2000, never before gathered together, offer an illuminating glimpse into the mind and process of a legendary figure. They showcase Joan Didion’s incisive reporting, her empathetic gaze, and her role as “an articulate witness to the most stubborn and intractable truths of our time” (The New York Times Book Review).
Here, Didion touches on topics ranging from newspapers (“the problem is not so much whether one trusts the news as to whether one finds it”), to the fantasy of San Simeon, to not getting into Stanford. In “Why I Write,” Didion ponders the act of writing: “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.” From her admiration for Hemingway’s sentences to her acknowledgment that Martha Stewart’s story is one “that has historically encouraged women in this country, even as it has threatened men,” these essays are acutely and brilliantly observed. Each piece is classic Didion: incisive, bemused, and stunningly prescient.
Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi
Shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, a searing literary debut novel set in India about mothers and daughters, obsession and betrayal
NPR Best Book of 2020
“I would be lying if I say my mother’s misery has never given me pleasure,” says Antara, Tara’s now-adult daughter.
In her youth, Tara was wild. She abandoned her marriage to join an ashram, and while Tara is busy as a partner to the ashram’s spiritual leader, Baba, little Antara is cared for by an older devotee, Kali Mata, an American who came to the ashram after a devastating loss. Tara also embarks on a stint as a beggar (mostly to spite her affluent parents) and spends years chasing a disheveled, homeless artist, all with young Antara in tow. But now Tara is forgetting things, and Antara is an adult––an artist and married––and must search for a way to make peace with a past that haunts her as she confronts the task of caring for a woman who never cared for her.
Sharp as a blade and laced with caustic wit, Burnt Sugar unpicks the slippery, choking cord of memory and myth that binds mother and daughter. Is Tara’s memory loss real? Are Antara’s memories fair? In vivid and visceral prose, Tibor Jones South Asia Prize–winning writer Avni Doshi tells a story, at once shocking and empathetic, about love and betrayal between a mother and a daughter. A journey into shifting memories, altering identities, and the subjective nature of truth, Burnt Sugar is a stunning and unforgettable debut.
The Mask Falling by Samantha Shannon
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Bone Season and The Priory of the Orange Tree, the stunning fourth novel set in the world of Scion.
Dreamwalker Paige Mahoney has eluded death again. Snatched from the jaws of captivity and consigned to a safe house in the Scion Citadel of Paris, she finds herself caught between those factions that seek Scion’s downfall and those who would kill to protect the Rephaim’s puppet empire.
The mysterious Domino Program has plans for Paige, but she has ambitions of her own in this new citadel. With Arcturus Mesarthim-her former enemy-at her side, she embarks on an adventure that will lead her from the catacombs of Paris to the glittering hallways of Versailles. Her risks promise high reward: the Parisian underworld could yield the means to escalate her rebellion to outright war.
As Scion widens its bounds and the free world trembles in its shadow, Paige must fight her own memories after her ordeal at the hands of Scion. Meanwhile, she strives to understand her bond with Arcturus, which grows stronger by the day. But there are those who know the revolution began with them-and could end with them . . .
The Mask Falling is a gripping, fantastical new addition to this “intoxicating urban-fantasy series” (NPR.org) that will leave readers begging for more.
The Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen
Called “a masterpiece” by The Guardian, this courageous and honest trilogy from Tove Ditlevsen, a pioneer in the field of genre-bending confessional writing, explores themes of family, sex, motherhood, abortion, addiction, and being an artist. This single-volume hardcover contains all three volumes of her memoirs
Tove Ditlevsen is today celebrated as one of the most important and unique voices in twentieth-century Danish literature, and The Copenhagen Trilogy (1969–71) is her acknowledged masterpiece. Childhood tells the story of a misfit child’s single-minded determination to become a poet; Youth describes her early experiences of sex, work, and independence. Dependency picks up the story as the narrator embarks on the first of her four marriages and goes on to describe her horrible descent into drug addiction, enabled by her sinister, gaslighting doctor-husband.
Throughout, the narrator grapples with the tension between her vocation as a writer and her competing roles as daughter, wife, mother, and drug addict, and she writes about female experience and identity in a way that feels very fresh and pertinent to today’s discussions around feminism. Ditlevsen’s trilogy is remarkable for its intensity and its immersive depiction of a world of complex female friendships, family and growing up—in this sense, it’s Copenhagen’s answer to Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels. She can also be seen as a spiritual forerunner of confessional writers like Karl Ove Knausgaard, Annie Ernaux, Rachel Cusk and Deborah Levy. Her trilogy is drawn from her own experiences but reads like the most compelling kind of fiction.
Born in a working-class neighborhood in Copenhagen in 1917, Ditlevsen became famous for her poetry while still a teenager, and went on to write novels, stories and memoirs before committing suicide in 1976. Having been dismissed by the critical establishment in her lifetime as a working-class, female writer, she is now being rediscovered and championed as one of Denmark’s most important modern authors, with “Tove fever” gripping readers.
Everybody Has a Podcast (Except You): A How-to Guide from the First Family of Podcasting by Justin, Travis, & Griffin McElroy
From the #1 New York Times bestselling McElroy Brothers, creators of the hit podcasts My Brother, My Brother and Me and The Adventure Zone, comes a helpful and hilarious how-to podcast guide covering everything you need to know to make, produce, edit, and promote a podcast…and get rich* doing it! (*Results not guaranteed.)
Justin, Travis, and Griffin McElroy made their names as “advice giving brothers who have no business giving advice” (New York Times) on the hit podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me. But while they may not have the best relationship or workplace advice, they certainly make you laugh, and they do know a thing or two about podcasting.
In fact, the McElroy Brothers have spent the last decade making podcasts, including My Brother, My Brother and Me; The Adventure Zone; Sawbones; and more. From their start, independently producing and releasing the early episodes of My Brother, My Brother and Me, to their eleven currently available podcasts, the McElroys have become experts in creating successful podcasts. And now, they want to share what they’ve learned with you.
In Everybody Has a Podcast (Except You), the McElroy Brothers will walk you through the process of turning an idea into ear-candy for legions of fans, sharing their expertise on everything from deciding on an effective name (definitely not something like My Brother, My Brother and Me), what type of microphone to use (definitely not one from the video game Rock Band), to making lots and lots of money (spoiler: you probably won’t).
A must-read for anyone interested in podcasting, Everybody Has a Podcast (Except You) shares the keys to success as well as the mistakes to avoid and draws on the vast experiences of three of the funniest and most successful podcasters working today.
New in Paperback
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
The Hidden Girl and Other Stories by Ken Liu
These titles and more are available for purchase in-store or online from BookPeople today.