G. Robert Frazier

Who would have thought a discussion about the intelligence (or lack thereof) of humans and animals could be so fascinating and fun? Such is the case in If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal: What Animal Intelligence Reveals About Human Stupidity (7 hours), thanks to the conversational prowess and keen (I’ll go ahead and say it) intellect of behavioral scientist Justin Gregg.

Gregg excels as both author and narrator, laying out arguments for and against humankind’s intellectual advancements in concise, accessible language. With witty commentary and humorous anecdotes, he draws comparisons to our counterparts in the animal kingdom, who appear to be doing just fine without technology, political discourse or overriding ambitions for power, wealth or popularity. 

Each of the seven chapters starts with a thought-provoking passage from German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche, whose criticisms of the human condition laid the groundwork for modern thinkers. In whimsical fashion, Gregg breaks down Nietzsche’s arguments into easily digestible chunks of information. All in all, it’s a joy for listeners.


Image of author Justin Gregg

Read more: Justin Gregg, author of If Nietzsche Were a Narwhal, extols the virtues of stupid animals.

Behavioral scientist Justin Gregg excels as both author and narrator, laying out arguments for and against humankind’s intellectual advancements in concise, accessible language.
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It’s 1952 in San Francisco, and homosexuality is illegal and largely frowned upon by society—except at Lavender House. The home of soap manufacturing magnate Irene Lamontaine has become a refuge for her extended queer family. But when Irene falls over a staircase railing to her death, her widow (in all but name) hires recently fired gay police detective Evander “Andy” Mills to discern if there is a killer in their midst.

The tone of this book is similar to the pulpy, hard-boiled style of your sci-fi mystery, Depth. Was there anything different about your approach this time around? Was there a particular author or series you drew upon to re-create that style of writing?
It’s funny. With Depth I was trying to bring the flavor of old-school noir to a futuristic world. With Lavender House, the old-school noir is easier because of the setting. But because we’re talking queer history, which is so often erased, there was a lot more research involved and, weirdly, an emphasis on making sure everything felt believable. With sci-fi, people are either going to buy it or they’re not, depending on what they like and read. When talking about a history that keeps being erased, it’s about proving it—proving we existed. 

As for the tone itself, the hard-boiled vibe, I always go back to Chandler. I have his complete works, and I’ve read them several times. There’s just something about the way he cuts a sentence. And, of course, the movies: I was raised on noir of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, so I saw most of the movies before I read the books. The vibe of those movies is what lives in my head when I’m writing, even more so than the books, because the movies sometimes had a bit of hope to them (Laura, The Big Sleep). They’re not happy endings exactly, but there’s a chance for a bright future at the end of them, and I knew I wanted that for this book. I wanted to show that not only did us queer folk exist before Stonewall, but that even though our lives were noir—in the sense that we were sort of trapped and stalked all the time—we still thrived in community. We found each other. We found love. And in that, we found a bit of hope. 

“. . . queer history is always hidden and rewritten . . .”

How much research did you have to do to re-create the feel and culture of 1950s San Francisco? Are Lavender House and its inhabitants based on any real locations or people? 
I owe a huge debt of thanks to Nan Alamilla Boyd and her book, Wide-Open Town, for this one. It’s a book entirely about the queer history of San Francisco. Originally, when I was coming up with this story, my instinct was to put it in NYC (or just outside) because that’s where I’m from. But as I did research on the queer histories of various cities, what I found was that in the ’50s, New York’s queer culture was much more stratified. There wasn’t nearly as much mingling of gay communities of different classes or races as there was in San Francisco. And knowing it was going to be a series, I wanted a community that was more fluid. Luckily, for this first book, so much of it takes place outside the city that I could make stuff up—Lavender House itself is pure fiction, as are the characters in it—but I owe a lot not just to Boyd but to several San Francisco historians, photographers and Facebook groups where older people share stories and pictures of their neighborhoods. I’m sure I still got things wrong, but I hope they’re not too distracting.

Lavender House jacket

What was the biggest challenge this book presented? What was the biggest opportunity?
The research. So much research. And because queer history is always hidden and rewritten, the research often took me down many paths and led to several answers. There’s one sentence in Lavender House about a woman in a suit that’s changed so many times based on what I’ve learned about cross-dressing laws and ordinances at the time at the national, state and city levels—and I’m still not sure it’s accurate! Information is contradictory. California is so interesting in the early ’50s because of this state Supreme Court ruling in ’51 where a judge said it wasn’t illegal for gay people to congregate at a bar. It was a huge victory for the community, but it was also so small, because while being gay was suddenly legal (only in California), acting gay was not—and that could mean a lot of things. Same-sex dancing was still illegal, and so was touching the wrong way, if a cop decided it was the wrong way. So many cases and laws and the constant harassment of queer bars and people were about what the cop on duty was feeling and if he’d been bribed. So the small legal details were killer to figure out. 

The biggest opportunity I’m less sure of! There’s so much I got to do; making a big queer family was such a blessing once I let myself do it. Even those laws being so hard to look up, since they were pretty subjective depending on the police, meant I could have them be as strict or lenient as I wanted (within certain bounds, of course). Sometimes the research being blurry just gives you more room to play. But I think overall the biggest opportunity was to get to the heart of what it means to learn to love yourself in ’52 as a queer man. Because if Andy can do it, I think people today can, too. 

“You can be out and proud but still not quite know how to love your queerness and the queerness of others.”

Who is your first reader? What is most valuable or useful about that initial feedback for you?
It varies, depending on people’s time and schedules. I have a writing group, I have writer friends who will read for me, I have a librarian husband. And I think what feedback is most valuable varies book to book as well. What am I worried about? Should I be, or did I pull it off? With Lavender House, my worry was always that it wouldn’t coast that line between noir and camp noir: the noir that’s a bit bigger and, frankly, a bit more fun. Lauren Bacall asking if you know how to whistle in To Have and Have Not? That’s a little camp at this point, but it’s my favorite thing. Some people see that scene and roll their eyes, but I light up. So did I pull off that tone in a way that feels authentic to a modern reader? Did they get it? 

You’ve explored the idea of a sanctuary for members of the LGBTQ+ community before, in your young adult rom-com, Camp (written under the name L.C. Rosen). Why do you think you keep returning to this theme? How did Lavender House allow you to explore this idea further?
It’s funny, I hadn’t thought of it that way; the word I’ve always used is community. But sanctuary, yeah, I guess I do write about that a lot. And I write about the push and pull between queer community or sanctuary and the outside world, where we may not always be allowed to be ourselves safely. Part of that is just that I like writing about a bunch of queer people: I think just one or two feels unrealistic, because we tend to find one another. I think it’s interesting the way we can sort of form our own community and deal with our own problems when we don’t have to worry about the outside world. Camp was about figuring out what sort of internal prejudices we bring into that sanctuary, because we all come from a world that tells us to hate ourselves or to only be one kind of gay. But Lavender House is about dealing with the fear of the outside knowing about us at all. That’s partially because of the historical element, of course, but I think it’s something we still see today: How much do we let other people in? How dangerous is it?

Read our starred review of ‘Lavender House’ by Lev AC Rosen.

Do you see any parts of yourself in Andy?
Sure. I see parts of myself in every character I write. I think you have to. Even when you’re writing someone bad, you need to understand where they’re coming from—and I don’t mean they need to be sympathetic or understandable. I think we as a society have actually gone too far, as a whole, in that sense. Sometimes bad people are just bad, and they don’t need a tragic backstory to make you feel sorry for them. We shouldn’t lose sight of that. But as writers, you have to understand their outlook, even if you don’t need to justify it to yourself. So why would someone do this? What are their values? How do they see the world?

With Andy specifically, I think certainly there’s a coming-out element to his story. He’s out, but he doesn’t love his queerness much, and over the course of the novel, he learns to do that. He learns to reconcile with what it means to be queer in 1952, and while that might be very, very hard, there’s a lot of benefit to it, too. I think that’s something every queer person should figure out. You can be out and proud but still not quite know how to love your queerness and the queerness of others. I don’t mean you need to want to clack a fan and wear heels, but you have to love that other guys do in order to really love what queerness is. Once you’ve done that, the world just becomes so much brighter. 

What do you hope readers take away from this novel? 
The main thing I always hope a reader takes away is the feeling of having had a good time. I believe first and foremost my job is to entertain. If I can make people think or see things in a new light, that’s even better. And for Lavender House, I hope they take away a stronger understanding of queer history—not just the idea that we’ve always been here but also the idea that we’re still dealing with a lot of the same problems. Across the country, people are trying to ban books about queer teens—and often succeeding. They’re trying to prevent kids from coming out, and they’re firing queer teachers or making it illegal for them to talk about their queerness, even casually. They’re trying to make it now like it was in the ’50s, and I hope people see those parallels and understand that there’s still so much work to do if we want to say we’ve moved on.

What’s next for you? Will Andy Mills return at some point?
It was a two-book deal, so he’s coming back at least one more time, though I’m hoping he’ll be around for a while. The sequel is titled The Bell in the Fog, and it should be out sometime in the fall of 2023. Before that, though, I also have Tennessee Russo coming out in the spring, which is the start to a YA series about a queer teen archeologist digging up ancient queer history to make sure it’s not erased while avoiding traps and pitfalls. More queer history! Just older.

Photo of Lev AC Rosen by Rachael Shane.

In the 1950s-set Lavender House, the titular home is a haven for the queer Lamontaine family—until one of them is murdered.

Banneker Terrace “ain’t pretty, but it’s home,” says Mimi of apartment 14D. In the opening story of Sidik Fofana’s debut collection, Stories From the Tenants Downstairs (6 hours), Mimi describes the Harlem high-rise as “one long gray-ass building” with 300-some apartments across 25 floors. The laundry machines don’t work, and the trash chute smells. But the people of Banneker Terrace are marvelous to behold, brought to memorable life by a talented cast of stage, television and voice actors.

Fofana reads the poetic “Intro,” then Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Nile Bullock, Dominic Hoffman, DePre Owens, André Santana, Bahni Turpin and Jade Wheeler voice the book’s eight stories, weaving together the tenants’ deeply personal tales and highlighting their individual struggles, fears and hopes.

Fofana’s intimate, unfiltered stories are powerful enough on the page, but they’re gloriously amplified by these performers.

Sidik Fofana’s intimate, unfiltered stories are powerful enough on the page, but they’re gloriously amplified by these performers.

When the main characters in these two novels return to their hometowns after long absences, mysteries past and present collide.

Jackal

In Jackal, 30-something Black woman Liz Rocher reluctantly returns to her childhood home for the wedding of her longtime friend Melissa Parker. While she’s overjoyed at Mel’s newfound happiness and upcoming marriage, she’s less than enthusiastic about her return to Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a predominantly white town nestled in the Appalachian Mountains that immediately rekindles haunting memories.

Years ago, Keisha Woodson, one of Liz’s only Black friends, disappeared after a party in the woods. She was discovered dead, her heart ripped from her chest. Police were quick to close the book on the case, concluding that Keisha died from exposure and that her body was ravaged by a bear. But Liz has always had doubts. When Mel’s daughter, Caroline, also goes missing, Liz launches an investigation into the other Black children who have disappeared over the years. As suspicion, racial tension and even irrational fears of a legendary creature in the woods grow, Liz desperately tries to discover the truth and save Caroline before it’s too late.

In her debut novel, Erin E. Adams transcends the typical hometown mystery with an effective blend of social and supernatural terrors that build in intensity and mystique throughout. Liz’s first-person narration accentuates the emotional stakes of what’s happening in Johnstown, drawing readers in as they sympathize with her plight.

The Witch in the Well

Norwegian author Camilla Bruce’s The Witch in the Well revolves around popular spirituality influencer Elena Clover, whose return to her hometown (referred to only as F”) ignites a feud with her former childhood friend Cathy over their town’s local legend, the titular witch.

Cathy had been researching and blogging for years about Ilsbeth Clark, who was accused of being a witch, then arrested and tried for the deaths of numerous children in 1862. Ilsbeth was eventually acquitted, but believing the court made a mistake, the townsfolk threw her in the local well and drowned her.

Elena, who believes that each person has a voice in their head that can converse with their soul, is convinced that Ilsbeth is that voice for her. She returns to F” to write her next book about Ilsbeth, which prompts Cathy to exact a series of petty retaliations.

The book begins with an open letter to the community from Cathy, who contends that she has been wrongly implicated in Elena’s death. Bruce, who earned accolades for her previous thriller You Let Me In, expertly unravels the trio’s stories, jumping back and forth in time via Elena’s journal, Cathy’s blogs and Ilsbeth’s own archived accounts. The Witch in the Well is a compelling, creepy story of angst, obsessions and lost friendship.

In Erin E. Adams' Jackal and Camilla Bruce's The Witch in the Well, the places you know best are the ones that pose the greatest threat.

For his many fans, a new book from John Grisham is always a reason to celebrate, but audiobook listeners are in for a treat thanks to the excellent voice talents of Jeff Daniels, Ethan Hawke and January LaVoy.

Sparring Partners (10 hours) comprises three legal-thriller novellas, including “Homecoming,” a new story starring Grisham’s beloved hero Jake Brigance. Daniels (known for his roles in Dumb & Dumber, “American Rust,” “The Newsroom” and more) brings Jake and his supporting cast of characters to vibrant life. His playful Southern drawl is particularly fun when voicing Jake’s sometime legal partner and rival Harry Rex. 

Actor and novelist Hawke brings a more youthful vibe to Cody Wallace, the narrator of “Strawberry Moon,” with a performance marked by deadpan humor and emotional angst. In his final hours on death row for murder, Cody is both incredulous of and moved by the series of visitors to his cell. Award-winning audio narrator LaVoy capably voices the titular tale about feuding brothers who inherited a law firm from their father, who’s on the verge of a pardon from his prison sentence.

All three narrators highlight Grisham’s storytelling trademark: fascinating characters facing unusual circumstances with wry humor and real emotion.

Actors Jeff Daniels, Ethan Hawke and January LaVoy highlight John Grisham's wry humor and emotion in these three legal-thriller novellas.

No one would expect Chinese Canadian actor Simu Liu’s origin story to be as electrifying and action-packed as that of the iconic superhero he portrays on the big screen, but We Were Dreamers: An Immigrant Superhero Origin Story (8 hours) is still compelling, uplifting and, at times, totally unexpected.

In 2021, Liu became a household name after starring in Marvel’s first superhero movie with an Asian lead character, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. In the audiobook of his memoir, Liu confidently narrates the story of his rise to stardom, from his childhood living with his grandparents in rural China to his reunion with his parents in Canada, from his failed attempts to fit into the corporate business world to his journey to success as a TV actor. As Liu regales listeners with stories about his early fascination with astronauts and science fiction, his calm, laid-back demeanor and passionate voice are a winning combination.

Discover the three best celebrity memoirs of summer 2022, including ‘We Were Dreamers.’

Marvel actor Simu Liu narrates the audiobook for his memoir, and his calm, laid-back demeanor and passionate voice are a winning combination.

Daniel Nieh’s Take No Names is a blast from start to finish, a classic crime thriller that shifts into an over-the-top action romp.

Chinese American Victor Li is keeping a low profile in Seattle after being wrongfully accused of killing his father, who secretly worked for a Chinese criminal syndicate (the plot of Nieh’s 2019 debut, Beijing Payback). Drinking buddy Mark Knox recruits Victor to his security tech business for Victor’s computer skills and ability to speak Chinese and Spanish. But it’s not long before Mark enlists Victor in a lucrative side job: breaking into a government storage yard to steal and then sell unclaimed items seized from deported immigrants. It’s on one of these ventures they discover a painite, a rare gem worth a cool $250,000. The pair smuggle the gem to a buyer south of the border, where they are soon embroiled in a scheme by a U.S. military contractor to derail construction of a new Chinese-built airport in Mexico City.

Along the way, the two men form uneasy alliances with Victor’s estranged sister, Jules, and Sun Jianshui, who once worked for the same criminal syndicate as Victor’s father—and was the person who actually killed him. The interactions among all four main characters lead to both humorous and emotionally charged moments as they try to worm their way out of the mess they’ve gotten themselves into. Victor and Mark are particularly likable, a pair of outcasts who have forged a unique and unexpected friendship.

Nieh, who has lived in the United States, China and Mexico, maintains a steady balance of humor, action and thrills, while also making some barbed commentary on American capitalism and Chinese globalization. The twists and turns come often, keeping the intrepid Victor and Mark on their toes as they run for their lives from one chapter to the next. What starts as a Joe R. Lansdale-esque crime thriller morphs halfway into an espionage caper à la Mission Impossible. If it sounds a bit over the top, it is—but that’s what makes Take No Names such an irrepressibly fun read.

Daniel Nieh's Take No Names is a blast from start to finish, a classic crime thriller that shifts into an over-the-top action romp.

Margaret Atwood, the prolific Booker Prize-winning author best known for her novel The Handmaid’s Tale, was selected in 2014 as the first author to include a piece of fiction in the Future Library Project. This undertaking collects previously unreleased works from 100 authors, one each year until 2114, at which point the pieces will be published.

In one of the 50-plus essays included in Burning Questions: Essays and Occasional Pieces, 2004 to 2021 (19 hours), Atwood writes, “How strange it is to think of my own voice . . . suddenly being awakened after a hundred years.” But Atwood shouldn’t worry about how her voice will be received a century from now. As evidenced by the huge cast for the audiobook of Burning Questions, appreciation for Atwood’s literary contributions is far-reaching. With such support, it’s unlikely her words will ever be silenced.

Atwood narrates the introduction of her audiobook, and 36 other people read her essays, including actor Ann Dowd (who plays Aunt Lydia in the Hulu adaption of “The Handmaid’s Tale”), editor Lee Boudreaux, journalists Robyn Doolittle and Yasmine Hassan, and authors Naomi Alderman, Esi Edugyan and Omar El Akkad. While it is a bit odd to hear the occasional male reader giving voice to one of Atwood’s essays, her thought-provoking observations and sense of humor are unmistakable. Whether she is ruminating on climate change, women’s issues, the zombie apocalypse or Ebenezer Scrooge, or paying tribute to authors such as Ursula K. Le Guin and Alice Munro, her insights will encourage readers to return to these essays again and again. As Atwood writes, “Have a listen. Confront the urgent questions. Feel the chill.”

Read our starred review of the print edition of Burning Questions.

As evidenced by the huge cast for the audiobook of Burning Questions, appreciation for Margaret Atwood’s literary contributions is far-reaching, and with such support, it’s unlikely her words will ever be silenced.
Interview by

The characters in Chris Pavone’s thrillers often find themselves trying to bury the past in an effort to begin anew. In his latest novel, Two Nights in Lisbon, Ariel Price thinks she has successfully left her old life behind. But after she wakes up in their Lisbon hotel room to find that her husband has vanished without a trace, she is confronted with all the secrets he was apparently keeping from her. We talked with Pavone about this ongoing theme, his approach to creating characters and his transformation from book editor to novelist.

What was the initial inspiration for this novel, and why did you choose Lisbon as the setting?
A few years ago my family spent a handful of nights in Lisbon, in a sun-flooded suite facing a charming square, an absolutely beautiful place to start the day, and I thought: This is almost too perfect, something horrible should happen here. I love novels that seem at first like one type of story, then turn out to be something very different, and I developed a vision of this perfect-looking hotel room as the launching pad for characters who seem extremely lucky but aren’t; for a story that looks romantic then isn’t (but then ultimately is); for a narrative that looks like it’s about a missing man but is about something else entirely.

The plot of the book began to develop when the “Access Hollywood” tape revealed that Donald Trump seemed to have committed sexual assault regularly, as a sort of hobby. To me this wasn’t a question of politics. I simply could not understand what it was about these sex crimes that made it so easy for people to excuse them as so-called locker room talk, to dismiss them as partisan attacks. I despaired about what was so broken with our society, and what could be done about it.

“I thought: This is almost too perfect, something horrible should happen here.”

Anyone who reads one of your books knows that you keep chiseling away at your characters over the course of the story. Two Nights in Lisbon’s Ariel is particularly surprising. Did any of her secrets come as a shock to you?
I needed to know all of Ariel’s skeletons from the get-go, because her secrets are the underlying framework of the whole story, and their reveals needed to be organized in a way that supported everything else without being coy or blatantly withholding. I think one of the greatest challenges of writing suspense fiction is to withhold in a way that’s not too obvious. If you’re flagrant, it erodes the reader’s ability to suspend disbelief and makes the whole thing feel contrived and the ultimate revelations unearned.

Ariel often thinks about status signifiers and the way she’s perceived by others. Do you think we worry too much about how people perceive us?
I’m definitely not qualified to be prescriptive about how all of humanity should behave. But I do wish we could somehow reconsider how we value one another. We heap tremendous rewards on dubious achievements, not to mention things that aren’t achievements at all; being young, rich and beautiful is the opposite of an achievement, it’s just luck. It’s probably unavoidable for most people to envy good fortune, but should we admire it?

Our culture increasingly celebrates fame for its own sake, completely divorced from any talent or skill or contribution to anything, while at the same time encouraging women to pursue careers in being beautiful, creating a dangerous dynamic of objectification and self-objectification that to me looks both exhausting and terrifying. Just walking down the street, getting a coffee, browsing in a bookstore—you’re always about to be ogled, accosted, propositioned. And that’s not the worst of it. Not by a long shot.

If you scratch beneath the ticking clock thriller plot of Lisbon, these are some of the themes you’ll find. But you can also just tear through the pages to see what the hell happens. This isn’t homework.

Read our review of ‘Two Nights in Lisbon’ by Chris Pavone.

At one point in the novel, Ariel says she and John don’t participate in social media because it’s ruining the world. Do you share her opinion?
I think social media has made it way too easy—irresistible, for some people—to lie with impunity, to fabricate alternate realities, eroding the very idea of truth. One of the things that seems most broken about America now is that we all exist in hermetically sealed echo chambers, driven largely by social-media feedback loops that reinforce opinions we already have and keep out any evidence to the contrary. A lot of us now refuse to leave our comfort zones altogether, and there are fewer and fewer shared cultural touchstones, less and less agreement on the fundamental facts of the world.

I think every time someone posts a picture of themselves in a fake private jet, they’re contributing to this insidious erosion of truth, one that’s just as dangerous as a disinformation campaign by a hostile foreign power. We’re losing the capacity to distinguish between truth and lies and, even worse, the ability to care.

I don’t participate in social media very assiduously. I’m there mainly for videos of dogs, for photos of my friends’ adorable children and to keep in touch with people. I’m pretty sure that I won’t end up on my deathbed wishing I’d been more self-promotional on Instagram.

“The world doesn’t need more novels. I think what readers truly want are better novels.”

Two Nights in Lisbon

As a former book editor, do you find yourself editing your own drafts? What advice do you have for writers who struggle to prioritize production over perfection?
I edit constantly. I edit every day while I’m writing a first draft; that’s how I start the writing day. After I eventually type “the end,” I spend more time editing and revising subsequent drafts than I did writing the first.

I don’t accept the idea that writers should prioritize production over perfection. The world doesn’t need more novels. I think what readers truly want are better novels. Or at least that’s what I want—not more choices but better choices. This isn’t journalism, and there’s no clock on it. The crucial thing is to write a great novel, not just to write a novel.

People like to throw around the advice that while you can edit a bad page, you can’t edit a blank page. Maybe so. But that philosophy only works if you do the necessary editing of the bad pages. It’s very hard to kill your darlings, especially for writers who don’t have a lot of experience with rigorous, ruthless editing.

With five books under your belt, would you say that your transition from editor to writer is complete, or are you still learning things? What’s something you wish you’d realized earlier on?
I’ve now been a full-time writer for a decade and a half, and it still feels largely new to me. I’ve accepted that imposter syndrome might be permanent. It seems so unlikely that I’m allowed to earn my living by sitting around and writing made-up stories; sometimes it seems impossible that anyone could be this lucky.

I wished I’d realized earlier how much revising I’d do, on everything. For my first couple of books, all this work felt sometimes like failure. Why do I have to keep fixing this goddamned manuscript? I thought I was doing something wrong, and I hoped that next time I’d nail the novel on the first draft, or even second. But revisions are apparently a big part of how I work. I can’t see what’s missing from a manuscript and which aspects could be much better until I get to the end and look back. I no longer think of this as a problem that I need to fix; it’s the way this process works for me, and it’s a luxury that I’m thankful to indulge.

“I’ve accepted that imposter syndrome might be permanent.”

Ariel says she wants to be a person without fear. What are you afraid of, and have you conquered those fears?
A novel is a very personal piece of creativity. It’s your voice, your worldview, your whole personality on the page, and publication is opening up that personality not only to reasonable professional criticism but also to deeply personal and sometimes irrational attacks, even the vitriolic hatred of strangers. (Thanks again, social media!) It’s a little bit like going to a giant party filled with everyone you’ve ever met, then having those people write reviews of you to be posted on the internet for everyone to see.

I used to be afraid of being hated, as both a real person in the real world and also as a writer of made-up stories. But I’ve accepted that there are many people out there with whom I disagree about nearly everything, so it makes sense that I’ll disagree with their judgment of my book, too, not to mention their judgment of me. I still don’t enjoy being hated, and I hope I never do. But I’m not afraid of it anymore.

What’s the next step in the evolution of Chris Pavone? Where do you go from here?
My twins are about to graduate from high school and go off to college, ending this long stage when parenting has been the organizing principle of my life. This makes me both ecstatic and morose, every single day. I have no idea where I go from here.

Picture of Chris Pavone © Sam McIntosh.

Two Nights in Lisbon dives into challenging topics such as the erosion of truth and the ambient misogyny that haunts women's lives, but don't worry, "This isn't homework."

The 1990s may be a decade often lamented for its generation of “slackers” and eternally epitomized in the TV series “Seinfeld” (frequently described as “a show about nothing”), but Chuck Klosterman has found a treasure trove of history, nostalgia and pop culture relics to explore in The Nineties (12.5 hours). Each chapter is devoted to a defining characteristic or experience of Generation X, from VHS tapes and Blockbuster video stores to the strange phenomenon dubbed “the Mandela Effect,” in which whole swaths of people remember things differently than the way they actually happened. Klosterman narrates the audiobook in an almost tongue-in-cheek fashion, with acclaimed voice actor Dion Graham reading the footnotes and quotations.

Klosterman discusses the ’90s with both the intimacy of someone who lived through the decade and the authority of the beloved pop culture commentator that he has established himself as through 12 previous books. The Nineties provides a fascinating, granular look at a defining period of history, and if you’re listening on your smartphone, you’ll connect even stronger with Klosterman’s examination of an era that marked the “end to an age where we controlled technology more than it controlled us.”

The Nineties provides a fascinating, granular look at a defining period of history, and author Chuck Klosterman narrates in an almost tongue-in-cheek fashion.

There comes a point in many people’s lives when they wonder, what if I could start over? What if I could be someone else, free of the baggage and the travails that have accumulated until now? In Chris Pavone’s suspenseful new novel, Two Nights in Lisbon, recently married couple Ariel Price and John Wright have shirked their former identities for new lives unfettered by past encumbrances.

Or so they think.

Only Pavone knows their secrets, and he reveals them slowly and deliberately, expertly seeding the novel with intrigue and suspense, one page at a time.

Chris Pavone on why no one gets a fresh start in his new thriller.

While accompanying John on a business trip to Lisbon, Portugal, Ariel awakes to an empty bed. She immediately reports John’s absence to the police and, when they don’t appear to be overly concerned, the American embassy. The authorities have plenty of questions for which she only has vague answers, because John has his own secrets; decades of his life are unknown to her. Her panic intensifies as his absence lengthens, and then her worst fears are confirmed with the arrival of a ransom note. As Ariel learns more about John, and Pavone reveals more of Ariel’s secrets, the collision of both characters’ pasts and presents fuels the increasingly thrilling tension.

“We tell ourselves stories about each other, about ourselves too, our pasts. We construct our narratives,” Pavone writes. “Maybe she doesn’t know her husband at all.” Pavone himself had to reinvent his life in 2015, when he left a successful career as a book editor to move to Luxembourg with his wife. His Edgar and Anthony Award-winning debut The Expats explored this territory, and Two Nights in Lisbon proves that it’s still fertile ground, packed with stay-awake-all-night thrills for readers.

Chris Pavone's latest novel is packed with stay-awake-all-night thrills as it follows a recently married couple with no shortage of secrets.

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