Joan Didion once said something, like, “we tell ourselves stories to live,” and these are exactly the kinds of stories comin’ at you this week. Real life and fictional stories that inspire, subvert, enlighten, shock, delight, and everything in between. It’s also an excellent preview of the stellar virtual events we’re hosting later this month. Scroll down for more!
Early Morning Riser: A Novel by Katherine Heiny
Jane falls in love with Duncan easily. He is charming, good-natured, and handsome but unfortunately, he has also slept with nearly every woman in Boyne City, Michigan. Jane sees Duncan’s old girlfriends everywhere–at restaurants, at the grocery store, even three towns away.
While Jane may be able to come to terms with dating the world’s most prolific seducer of women, she wishes she did not have to share him quite so widely. His ex-wife, Aggie, a woman with shiny hair and pale milkmaid skin, still has Duncan mow her lawn. His coworker, Jimmy, comes and goes from Duncan’s apartment at the most inopportune times. Sometimes Jane wonders if a relationship can even work with three people in it–never mind four. Five if you count Aggie’s eccentric husband, Gary. Not to mention all the other residents of Boyne City, who freely share with Jane their opinions of her choices.
But any notion Jane had of love and marriage changes with one terrible car crash. Soon Jane’s life is permanently intertwined with Duncan’s, Aggie’s, and Jimmy’s, and Jane knows she will never have Duncan to herself. But could it be possible that a deeper kind of happiness is right in front of Jane’s eyes? A novel that is alternately bittersweet and laugh-out-loud funny, Katherine Heiny’s Early Morning Riser is her most astonishingly wonderful work to date.
Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe
A grand, devastating portrait of three generations of the Sackler family, famed for their philanthropy, whose fortune was built by Valium and whose reputation was destroyed by OxyContin, by the prize-winning, bestselling author of Say Nothing
The Sackler name adorns the walls of many storied institutions—Harvard, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oxford, the Louvre. They are one of the richest families in the world, known for their lavish donations to the arts and the sciences. The source of the family fortune was vague, however, until it emerged that the Sacklers were responsible for making and marketing a blockbuster painkiller that was the catalyst for the opioid crisis.
Empire of Pain begins with the story of three doctor brothers, Raymond, Mortimer and the incalculably energetic Arthur, who weathered the poverty of the Great Depression and appalling anti-Semitism. Working at a barbaric mental institution, Arthur saw a better way and conducted groundbreaking research into drug treatments. He also had a genius for marketing, especially for pharmaceuticals, and bought a small ad firm.
Arthur devised the marketing for Valium, and built the first great Sackler fortune. He purchased a drug manufacturer, Purdue Frederick, which would be run by Raymond and Mortimer. The brothers began collecting art, and wives, and grand residences in exotic locales. Their children and grandchildren grew up in luxury.
Forty years later, Raymond’s son Richard ran the family-owned Purdue. The template Arthur Sackler created to sell Valium—co-opting doctors, influencing the FDA, downplaying the drug’s addictiveness—was employed to launch a far more potent product: OxyContin. The drug went on to generate some thirty-five billion dollars in revenue, and to launch a public health crisis in which hundreds of thousands would die.
This is the saga of three generations of a single family and the mark they would leave on the world, a tale that moves from the bustling streets of early twentieth-century Brooklyn to the seaside palaces of Greenwich, Connecticut, and Cap d’Antibes to the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. Empire of Pain chronicles the multiple investigations of the Sacklers and their company, and the scorched-earth legal tactics that the family has used to evade accountability. The history of the Sackler dynasty is rife with drama—baroque personal lives; bitter disputes over estates; fistfights in boardrooms; glittering art collections; Machiavellian courtroom maneuvers; and the calculated use of money to burnish reputations and crush the less powerful.
Empire of Pain is a masterpiece of narrative reporting and writing, exhaustively documented and ferociously compelling. It is a portrait of the excesses of America’s second Gilded Age, a study of impunity among the super elite and a relentless investigation of the naked greed and indifference to human suffering that built one of the world’s great fortunes.
Malice: A Novel by Heather Walter
“Walter’s spellbinding debut is for all the queer girls and women who’ve been told to keep their gifts hidden and for those yearning to defy gravity.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who, in an act of vengeance, cursed a line of princesses to die. A curse that could only be broken by true love’s kiss.
You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily ever after.
Let me tell you, no one in Briar actually cares about what happens to its princesses. Not the way they care about their jewels and elaborate parties and charm-granting elixirs. I thought I didn’t care, either.
Until I met her.
Princess Aurora. The last heir to Briar’s throne. Kind. Gracious. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am Alyce, the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Humiliated and shamed by the same nobles who pay me to bottle hexes and then brand me a monster. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she . . . cares for me. Even though a power like mine was responsible for her curse.
But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating—and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps together we could forge a new world.
Nonsense again. Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I—
I am the villain.
The Hero Code: Lessons Learned from Lives Well Lived by Admiral William McRaven
From the acclaimed, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Make Your Bed—a short, inspirational book about the qualities of true, everyday heroes.
THE HERO CODE is Admiral McRaven’s ringing tribute to the real, everyday heroes he’s met over the years, from battlefields to hospitals to college campuses, who are doing their part to save the world.
When Bill McRaven was a young boy growing up in Texas, he dreamed of being a superhero. He longed to put on a cape and use his superpowers to save the earth from destruction. But as he grew older and traveled the world, he found real heroes everywhere he went — and none of them had superpowers. None of them wore capes or cowls. But they all possessed qualities that gave them the power to help others, to make a difference, to save the world: courage, both physical and moral; humility; a willingness to sacrifice; and a deep sense of integrity.
The Hero Code is not a cypher, a puzzle, or a secret message. It is a code of conduct; lessons in virtues that can become the foundations of our character as we build a life worthy of honor and respect.
The Souvenir Museum: Stories by Elizabeth McCracken
Award-winning author Elizabeth McCracken is an undisputed virtuoso of the short story, and this new collection features her most vibrant and heartrending work to date
In these stories, the mysterious bonds of family are tested, transformed, fractured, and fortified. A recent widower and his adult son ferry to a craggy Scottish island in search of puffins. An actress who plays a children’s game-show villainess ushers in the New Year with her deadbeat half brother. A mother, pining for her children, feasts on loaves of challah to fill the void. A new couple navigates a tightrope walk toward love. And on a trip to a Texas water park with their son, two fathers each confront a personal fear.
With sentences that crackle and spark and showcase her trademark wit, McCracken traces how our closely held desires—for intimacy, atonement, comfort—bloom and wither against the indifferent passing of time. Her characters embark on journeys that leave them indelibly changed—and so do her readers. The Souvenir Museum showcases the talents of one of our finest contemporary writers as she tenderly takes the pulse of our collective and individual lives.
Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing: Essays by Lauren Hough
“This is a memoir in essays about so many things—growing up in an abusive cult, coming of age as a lesbian in the military, forced out by homophobia, living on the margins as a working class woman and what it’s like to grow into the person you are meant to be. Hough’s writing will break your heart.” —Roxanne Gay
Searing and extremely personal essays, shot through with the darkest elements America can manifest, while discovering light and humor in unexpected corners.
As an adult, Lauren Hough has had many identities: an airman in the U.S. Air Force, a cable guy, a bouncer at a gay club. As a child, however, she had none. Growing up as a member of the infamous cult The Children of God, Hough had her own self robbed from her. The cult took her all over the globe–to Germany, Japan, Texas, Chile—but it wasn’t until she finally left for good that Lauren understood she could have a life beyond “The Family.”
Along the way, she’s loaded up her car and started over, trading one life for the next. She’s taken pilgrimages to the sights of her youth, been kept in solitary confinement, dated a lot of women, dabbled in drugs, and eventually found herself as what she always wanted to be: a writer. Here, as she sweeps through the underbelly of America—relying on friends, family, and strangers alike—she begins to excavate a new identity even as her past continues to trail her and color her world, relationships, and perceptions of self.
At once razor-sharp, profoundly brave, and often very, very funny, the essays in Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing interrogate our notions of ecstasy, queerness, and what it means to live freely. Each piece is a reckoning: of survival, identity, and how to reclaim one’s past when carving out a future.
Farthest South & Other Stories by Ethan Rutherford
A baby is born with gills. Foxes raise and then lose a human child. A man, in the final throes of his deathbed fever-dream, experiences a cross-Antarctic voyage. The stories in Farthest South, the second story collection from renowned writer Ethan Rutherford, find characters in the most unexpectedly menacing of circumstances, in which their sanity, happiness, and safety are put to the test. Formally ambitious, with an eye toward the strange, with an inimitable style all Rutherford’s own, each story is nonetheless firmly grounded by a deep, human concern: the anxiety of family connection and humanity.
A group biography of four beloved women who fought sexism, covered decades of American news, and whose voices defined NPR
In the years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, women in the workplace still found themselves relegated to secretarial positions or locked out of jobs entirely. This was especially true in the news business, a backwater of male chauvinism where a woman might be lucky to get a foothold on the “women’s pages.” But when a pioneering nonprofit called National Public Radio came along in the 1970s, and the door to serious journalism opened a crack, four remarkable women came along and blew it off the hinges.
Susan, Linda, Nina, and Cokie is journalist Lisa Napoli’s captivating account of these four women, their deep and enduring friendships, and the trail they blazed to becoming icons. They had radically different stories. Cokie Roberts was born into a political dynasty, roamed the halls of Congress as a child, and felt a tug toward public service. Susan Stamberg, who had lived in India with her husband who worked for the State Department, was the first woman to anchor a nightly news program and pressed for accommodations to balance work and home life. Linda Wertheimer, the daughter of shopkeepers in New Mexico, fought her way to a scholarship and a spot on-air. And Nina Totenberg, the network’s legal affairs correspondent, invented a new way to cover the Supreme Court. Based on extensive interviews and calling on the author’s deep connections in news and public radio, Susan, Linda, Nina, and Cokie will be as beguiling and sharp as its formidable subjects.
New in Paperback
All Adults Here: A Novel by Emma Straub
Hate, Inc. by Matt Taibbi
Becoming Duchess Goldblatt by Anonymous
These titles and more are available for purchase in-store or online from BookPeople today.