May springs with a bounty of good reads. From local author debuts to sci-fi epics, memoirs of motherhood and intimacy to concise histories and conversations about race. Make room on your shelves for these exquisite picks out in the world now.
Olympus, Texas: A Novel by Stacey Swann
“A gripping debut that takes all of the skeletons out of the Briscoe family closet and throws them on the front lawn. The depth of character development extends its hand into my own east Texan family, which feels disconcerting and scandalous at the same time. Highly recommend for a page-turning read that you don’t want end.”
— Charley R.
A bighearted debut with technicolor characters, plenty of Texas swagger, and a powder keg of a plot in which marriages struggle, rivalries flare, and secrets explode, all with a clever wink toward classical mythology.
The Briscoe family is once again the talk of their small town when March returns to East Texas two years after he was caught having an affair with his brother’s wife. His mother, June, hardly welcomes him back with open arms. Her husband’s own past affairs have made her tired of being the long-suffering spouse. Is it, perhaps, time for a change? Within days of March’s arrival, someone is dead, marriages are upended, and even the strongest of alliances are shattered. In the end, the ties that hold them together might be exactly what drag them all down.
An expansive tour de force, Olympus, Texas cleverly weaves elements of classical mythology into a thoroughly modern family saga, rich in drama and psychological complexity. After all, at some point, don’t we all wonder: What good is this destructive force we call love?
Great Circle: A Novel by Maggie Shipstead
“Like so many big, statement-making novels, Maggie Shipstead’s Great Circle is an inviting, ambitious, and commodious work. But unlike so many of them, Great Circle makes the statement without dragging across its page count. It gallops, in fact, in its telling of Marian Graves’s triumphant and ill-fated trek across the globe and of the Hollywood starlet, decades later, charged with playing her on screen. And it does so with verve and an infectious volley of voice that I couldn’t get out of my head. It’s the kind of story you wish would never end. Great Circle is as heart-aching as it is profound in what it says about life’s great journeys, our shared histories, and freedom!”
— Uriel P.
“Sometimes I think we take flying for granted. The idea behind it is just so crazy, flying through the air when we have no business doing so. A quintessentially human thing to do, brazenly looking up at the sky and saying “Yes, we will go there as well!” Marian Graves find solace, freedom, death, and life in the air. This was a really beautiful read. Split between narratives of the past with Jamie and Marian Graves and narratives of the present with Hadley an actor given the unenviable task of bringing Marian to life on the big screen. What follows is a story about a lot of things including love, loss, gender roles of the time, and the powerlessness that society still attempts to force on women. But overall it is about flying, and it is about Marian. From the first time Marian sees a plane buzz over her head while she is out riding she knows that it is her destiny to conquer the sky. She sets out with dogged determination to learn how to fly at a time where every obstacle is placed in her way simply as a matter of her sex. At times exciting, heart breaking, and jubilant I highly recommend this to fans of history as well as to fans of romance. For those that look at the sky and dream of flying.”
— Will B.
Project Hail Mary: A Novel by Andy Weir
“Project Hail Mary is just an honest-to-goodness refreshing read. Andy Weir’s latest novel is the perfect sci-fi buddy road trip–plainspoken with the right blend of humor and drama. The pacing is great, revealing more of the context and the present as the narrator recovers from amnesia after waking from a coma aboard the spaceship the Hail Mary. I don’t want to give any spoilers because one of the pleasures of this book is that of discovery alongside our protagonist. This novel has me about as effusive about a book as I can be (I’m effusive about a lot of books-my Twitter handle is Book Evangelist, borrowed from a Neil Gaiman intro). Weir’s pop culture references are spot on, his prose is engaging, and the two main characters are oh-so memorable and loveable. The science is accessible, even to an English major like me. All-in all, Project Hail Mary is one of those feel-good novels that EVERYONE will want to read. Can’t wait for the movie!”
— Christine H.
“Andy Weir is, I feel, a writer that gets better with each book I read and that hypothesis is very much confirmed by Project Hail Mary. Much to the joy of fans of the Martian, Weir returns to the idea of a singular person in space who must survive by their own wit and intellect, but this time it’s not just one life on the line, the entirety of life on planet Earth hangs in the balance. Stuffed full of science and technology that, again like the Martian, is just on the edge of reality Project Hail Mary delights us with the possibility of extra solar travel and the potential to meet life from other planets! This is Andy Weir’s best novel yet and I can’t wait for number four, which I’m sure will be just as good if not better.”
— Thomas W.
Seeing Sideways: A Memoir of Music and Motherhood by Kristin Hersh
Doony, Ryder, Wyatt, Bodhi. The names of Kristin Hersh’s sons are the only ones included in her new memoir, Seeing Sideways. As the book unfolds and her sons’ voices rise from its pages, it becomes clear why: these names tell the story of her life. This story begins in 1990, when Hersh is the leader of the indie rock group Throwing Muses, touring steadily, and the mother of a young son, Doony. The chapters that follow reveal a woman and mother whose life and career grow and change with each of her sons: the story of a custody battle for Doony is told alongside that of Hersh’s struggles with her record company and the resulting PTSD; the tale of breaking free from her record label stands in counterpoint to her recounting of her pregnancy with Ryder; a period of writer’s block coincides with the development of Wyatt as an artist and the family’s loss of their home; and finally, soon after Bodhi’s arrival, Hersh and her boys face crises from which only strange angels can save them. Punctuated with her own song lyrics, Seeing Sideways is a memoir about a life strange enough to be fiction, but so raw and moving that it can only be real.
Sorrowland: A Novel by Rivers Solomon
A triumphant, genre-bending breakout novel from one of the boldest new voices in contemporary fiction
Vern—seven months pregnant and desperate to escape the strict religious compound where she was raised—flees for the shelter of the woods. There, she gives birth to twins, and plans to raise them far from the influence of the outside world.
But even in the forest, Vern is a hunted woman. Forced to fight back against the community that refuses to let her go, she unleashes incredible brutality far beyond what a person should be capable of, her body wracked by inexplicable and uncanny changes.
To understand her metamorphosis and to protect her small family, Vern has to face the past, and more troublingly, the future—outside the woods. Finding the truth will mean uncovering the secrets of the compound she fled but also the violent history in America that produced it.
Rivers Solomon’s Sorrowland is a genre-bending work of Gothic fiction. Here, monsters aren’t just individuals, but entire nations. It is a searing, seminal book that marks the arrival of a bold, unignorable voice in American fiction.
Pop Song: Adventures in Art & Intimacy by Larissa Pham
“A fresh, energetic voice with a brilliant mind to power it,” brings readers an endlessly inventive, intimate, and provocative memoir-in-essays that celebrates the strange and exquisite state of falling in love–whether with a painting or a person–and interweaves incisive commentary on modern life, feminism, art and sex with the author’s own experiences of obsession, heartbreak, and past trauma (Esmé Weijun Wang, New York Times bestselling author of The Collected Schizophrenias).
Like a song that feels written just for you, Larissa Pham’s debut work of nonfiction captures the imagination and refuses to let go.
Pop Song is a book about love and about falling in love–with a place, or a painting, or a person–and the joy and terror inherent in the experience of that love. Plumbing the well of culture for clues and patterns about love and loss–from Agnes Martin’s abstract paintings to James Turrell’s transcendent light works, and Anne Carson’s Eros the Bittersweet to Frank Ocean’s Blonde–Pham writes of her youthful attempts to find meaning in travel, sex, drugs, and art, before sensing that she might need to turn her gaze upon herself.
Pop Song is also a book about distances, near and far. As she travels from Taos, New Mexico, to Shanghai, China and beyond, Pham meditates on the miles we are willing to cover to get away from ourselves, or those who hurt us, and the impossible gaps that can exist between two people sharing a bed.
Pop Song is a book about all the routes by which we might escape our own needs before finally finding a way home. There is heartache in these pages, but Pham’s electric ways of seeing create a perfectly fractured portrait of modern intimacy that is triumphant in both its vulnerability and restlessness.
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Boy by Emmanuel Acho
Adapted from Emmanuel Acho’s New York Times bestseller Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, comes an essential young readers edition aimed at opening a dialogue about systemic racism with our youngest generation.
Young people have the power to affect sweeping change, and the key to mending the racial divide in America lies in giving them the tools to ask honest questions and take in the difficult answers.
Approaching every awkward, taboo, and uncomfortable question with openness and patience, Emmanuel Acho connects his own experience with race and racism—from attending majority-white prep schools to his time in the NFL playing on majority-black football teams—to insightful lessons in black history and black culture.
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Boy is just one way young readers can begin to short circuit racism within their own lives and communities.
On Juneteenth by Annette Gordon-Reed
The essential, sweeping story of Juneteenth’s integral importance to American history, as told by a Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and Texas native.
Weaving together American history, dramatic family chronicle, and searing episodes of memoir, Annette Gordon-Reed’s On Juneteenth provides a historian’s view of the country’s long road to Juneteenth, recounting both its origins in Texas and the enormous hardships that African-Americans have endured in the century since, from Reconstruction through Jim Crow and beyond. All too aware of the stories of cowboys, ranchers, and oilmen that have long dominated the lore of the Lone Star State, Gordon-Reed—herself a Texas native and the descendant of enslaved people brought to Texas as early as the 1820s—forges a new and profoundly truthful narrative of her home state, with implications for us all.
Combining personal anecdotes with poignant facts gleaned from the annals of American history, Gordon-Reed shows how, from the earliest presence of Black people in Texas to the day in Galveston on June 19, 1865, when Major General Gordon Granger announced the end of legalized slavery in the state, African-Americans played an integral role in the Texas story.
Reworking the traditional “Alamo” framework, she powerfully demonstrates, among other things, that the slave- and race-based economy not only defined the fractious era of Texas independence but precipitated the Mexican-American War and, indeed, the Civil War itself.
In its concision, eloquence, and clear presentation of history, On Juneteenth vitally revises conventional renderings of Texas and national history. As our nation verges on recognizing June 19 as a national holiday, On Juneteenth is both an essential account and a stark reminder that the fight for equality is exigent and ongoing.
New in Paperback
The Mirror and the Light: A Novel by Hilary Mantel
Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation by Anne Helen Petersen
Pizza Girl: A Novel by Jean Kyoung Frazier
These titles and more are available for purchase in-store or online from BookPeople today.