In her memoir, Slow Noodles, Cambodian writer Chantha Nguon survives the terror of the Khmer Rouge and keeps her family recipes intact.
In her memoir, Slow Noodles, Cambodian writer Chantha Nguon survives the terror of the Khmer Rouge and keeps her family recipes intact.
Leslie Jamison is back with a memoir about her first years of parenting and the unraveling of her marriage, rendered in her signature elegant, sensuous prose.
Leslie Jamison is back with a memoir about her first years of parenting and the unraveling of her marriage, rendered in her signature elegant, sensuous prose.
Language City reveals the New Yorkers working to save their endangered mother tongues, and offers a new way of viewing language.
Language City reveals the New Yorkers working to save their endangered mother tongues, and offers a new way of viewing language.
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Reporter Marie Arana paints a thoughtful portrait of how Latinos have shaped—and been shaped by—the United States in this punchy cultural history.
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Inexperienced and often impulsive, teenagers can make dumb mistakes that they may spend the rest of their lives trying to rectify. Rene Quiñones was a San Francisco gang member who went to prison, then turned his life around as a violence prevention counselor and business owner. Sadly, his son Luis, nicknamed Sito, didn’t have the time to turn over a new leaf. Because of one poor decision, he was fatally shot in a revenge killing when he was 19 years old.

Author Laurence Ralph, a Princeton University professor who specializes in justice reform issues, is part of Sito’s extended family, and Rene turned to him for counsel after the slaying. Ralph’s moving, thoughtful third book, Sito: An American Teenager and the City That Failed Him, explores the tragedy from Ralph’s dual perspective as a grieving, frustrated relative and a juvenile justice scholar.

Sito’s road was rough from the start: His parents loved him but were so busy staying financially afloat and building new families that he felt abandoned. He turned his fear into acting out, “embracing machismo,” Ralph writes, and “putting himself at risk or pushing away the very people he loved and needed.” At 14 years old, he let an acquaintance talk him into straying onto rival gang turf. There, the acquaintance fatally stabbed another teenager.

Sito was arrested for this murder and incarcerated in a juvenile prison for three months before a private investigator found video footage showing that he was innocent—footage that the police and district attorney’s office had all along. Sito was released, but the victim’s family refused to believe he was innocent, and five years after the stabbing, the victim’s brother killed Sito in revenge.

Ralph blends his knowledge of Sito, his own memories of being a terrified boy from an immigrant family and his research into minority teens caught in an ineffectual justice system to create a harrowing account of Sito’s life. He witnesses the family’s tense interactions with police and prosecutors. He worries for his own children. And he shows how the rituals of the African diaspora religion Santeria helped to bring solace and spiritual understanding to Sito’s family.

Not long after Sito’s killing, Rene, still reeling from his loss, sat down with his son’s friends and persuaded them that retaliation was the wrong answer. Ralph, an advocate of restorative justice, dreams of true reconciliation that ends these cycles of violence. But the challenge remains formidable.

Sito is a harrowing, impactful account of a teenager caught in a cycle of violence and the juvenile justice system that failed him.
Lauren Markham deftly braids reporting on the refugee crisis in Greece with historical research and memoir in A Map of Future Ruins.

If you’ve ever watched TV shows like “The Golden Girls” and “Kate & Allie” or considered super-close friend-duos like J.D. and Turk or Abbi and Ilana and thought, “What a great way to live!” then The Other Significant Others: Reimagining Life With Friendship at the Center is for you. Like her pop-culture compatriots before her, debut author Rhaina Cohen understands the preciousness of a deep and abiding platonic relationship—no romance necessary.

That’s not to say Cohen is anti-romance: The NPR producer and editor is a happily married proponent of wedded bliss. But when it comes to relationships, she’s not in support of treasuring only wedded bliss. Instead, she urges readers to cultivate and celebrate “devoted, life-defining friendships.”

Cohen’s fervor for the topic was ignited by her own life-altering bond with a woman named M, who “stretched my understanding of the role a friendship could play in my life” and “made the world pulse with more possibilities for intimacy and support than before, and I wanted others to feel those possibilities for themselves.”

Over years of research, Cohen conducted 70 in-depth interviews with proponents of platonic life partnerships. And in eight chapters written with empathy, curiosity and a clear knack for storytelling, she shares the fascinating and heartwarming tales of several of those duos. They vary by gender, age, religion and sexuality but share a willingness to defy convention. Readers will meet youth pastors Nick and Art, whose platonic life partnership has confounded potential romantic partners; Inez and Barb, coworkers who became helpmeets in retirement; Lynda and Natasha, who went from colleagues to coparents; and more.

Cohen notes that due to societal factors including increased housing costs, decreased birth rates, evolving views on marriage and a growing willingness to home-share later in life, non-marital partnerships are more common, while not yet commonplace. The Other Significant Others offers readers an insightful and intimate look at what life could be like if we broaden our horizons beyond “compulsory coupledom” and welcome the idea that “romantic relationships are not the only unions that can shape our lives.”

Rhaina Cohen’s The Other Significant Others offers an insightful, intimate look at how deep, abiding platonic relationships shape our lives—no romance necessary.
In House Cat, Paul Barbera makes his second fur-ay into sumptuous interiors and the distinctive felines who dominate them.
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Top 10 books for February 2024

Beloved and buzzy authors such as Tia Williams, Francis Spufford and Katherine Arden took new and exciting directions in February!
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The author of the marvelous Winterlight trilogy makes her grand return to historical fantasy with this haunting tale set during World War I. Former nurse Laura Iven’s parents recently died in an accident, and her brother, Freddie, was declared missing in the trenches. But what actually happened to Freddie is far stranger, involving a mysterious […]

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Book jacket image for A Love Song for Ricki Wilde by Tia Williams

Tia Williams broke out in a big way in 2021 with her emotional second-chance romance, Seven Days in June, and her follow-up novel sounds like a intriguing change of pace. A romantic and exuberant tale set around a flower shop in Harlem, A Love Song for Ricki Wilde follows the titular character as she […]

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Book jacket image for Martyr! by Kaveh Akbar

It’s a special gift when a favorite poet writes a novel. Martyr! is Kaveh Akbar’s fiction debut, after poetry collections Calling a Wolf a Wolf and Pilgrim Bell. It tells the story of Cyrus Shams, a young Iranian American poet recovering from addiction who, following the deaths of his parents, has become fixated on the […]

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In 1911, 12 Black men were delivered to the forest in rural Maryland and began building their new residence, the State Hospital for the Negro Insane. During its near century of existence, the hospital (re-named Crownsville) held patients in prisonlike conditions without offering them adequate medical attention, food, space or safety. In Madness: Race and […]

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Award-winning author Amber McBride teams up with acclaimed poets Taylor Byas and Erica Martin to curate an electric, extraordinary lineup of contemporary and classic Black poetry for young readers.

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Book jacket image for City of Laughter by Temim Fruchter

Temim Fruchter’s remarkable debut novel is a book full of belly laughs, intergenerational wonder, queer beauty, Jewish history and storytelling that reshapes worlds.

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Book jacket image for Cahokia Jazz by Francis Spufford

Visit an alternate America where European colonization never took place in this intricately plotted police procedural from Francis Spufford.

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Book jacket image for The Gardener of Lashkar Gah by Larisa Brown

Larisa Brown’s The Gardener of Lashkar Gah tells the harrowing story of the Afghan aid workers that NATO left to their fates when the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan.

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Book jacket image for The Cancer Factory by Jim Morris

Jim Morris’ urgent, heartbreaking The Cancer Factory traces how a known toxic chemical destroyed the health, happiness and lives of Goodyear factory workers.

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Beloved and buzzy authors such as Tia Williams, Francis Spufford and Katherine Arden took new and exciting directions in February!

Intense and kaleidoscopic, Secrets of the Sun tells the story of author Mako Yoshikawa’s physicist father, Shoichi Yoshikawa. A brilliant researcher into nuclear fusion, a man with bipolar disorder, and a violently abusive father and husband, he does not have a story that can be approached linearly. His daughter’s choice to structure this book as a memoir in essays reflects her fragmentary knowledge of him, as well as her emotionally complex mission to understand the forces that shaped him. 

In the decades after Mako’s mother, an accomplished artist and author, “packed us up and fled his house under police protection,” Shoichi’s adult daughters negotiated partial estrangements from him. Mako learned of his death from natural causes the night before her wedding, to which Shoichi had not been invited. This memoir is particularly brilliant at capturing the grief, guilt and fear adult survivors of childhood abuse face when deciding how or whether to maintain a relationship with their abusive parent. The love beneath these more difficult emotions animated Mako’s pursuit of her father’s mysterious inner world.

The many facets of Shoichi’s personality emerge through these essays: his genius as a Princeton University physicist, his early optimism that he would be able to channel the power of the sun into usable energy here on Earth, his arrogance and resentment as funding for fusion research dried up, his love for cross-dressing, his experiences with racism as a Japanese immigrant living in 1960s Princeton, New Jersey, and his dangerous manic episodes. After his death, his former colleagues praised his brilliance and mourned the mental illness that destroyed his career. 

“My Father’s Women,” Yoshikawa’s award-winning 2012 essay published in The Missouri Review, forms the foundation of Secrets of the Sun. Unwinding her father’s relationships with women is one way that Yoshikawa seeks to understand him. “He’d been adored by wives, lovers, and girlfriends,” she writes. “Had my father ever loved anyone? I doubted it, but the truth was I didn’t know.” Perhaps the most important of these women is Mako herself, whose memoir seeks to understand, with love, a father devoted only to the stars. 

In her kaleidoscopic memoir, Secrets of the Sun, Mako Yoshikawa pursues the mysteries of her brilliant, abusive father’s mind after his death.
Edda L. Fields-Black’s revelatory Combee narrates the 1863 Combahee River Raid, in which Harriet Tubman led Black soldiers to liberate more than 700 enslaved people.
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Winston Churchill’s close ties with the United States began with his mother, Jennie Jerome, who at age 20 married Lord Randolph Churchill. As an author and prominent public figure, Winston developed an extraordinary relationship with the United States, and a keen interest in the Civil War. Over the years he had two basic goals related to the U.S. First, he believed it was in Britain’s national interest for the two countries, with their shared purposes and similar concerns, to stay close. The second was personal. He lived extravagantly and was always looking for ways to expand his resources. His books were published and reviewed in the U.S. and he was paid well for his lectures and magazine and newspaper work. Like his mother, who had used her influence to advance his early career, he became a world-class networker himself as he met American leaders.

How this developed is the subject of Cita Stelzer’s fascinating Churchill’s American Network: Winston Churchill and the Forging of the Special Relationship. In Churchill’s age, the public got the news from newspapers and magazines. Stelzer’s research largely is sourced from “rich and relatively underutilized” local and national press reports of Churchill’s U.S. visits—ranging from where he went and with whom, to local responses at his public lectures, his humorous quips, what he ate for lunch and how he found his accommodations. Stelzer brings to life a cast of characters Churchill brought into his network, among them media giant William Randolph Hearst, actor and director Charlie Chaplin, journalist Edward R. Murrow, steel magnate Charles M. Schwab and socialite and suffragist Daisy Harriman.

While Stelzer does not claim Churchill single-handedly influenced Roosevelt’s decision to come to Britain’s aid during World War II, she makes clear that his relationships with American politicians and leading thinkers “were a helpful offset to the noninterventionist and isolationist, even pro-German background of public opinion.” Churchill’s network “reenforced the favorable view of Britain,” Stelzer writes, “and enlisted others in support of his view that the Anglo-American alliance . . . was key to a stable, prosperous, and peaceful world.”

Stelzer’s scholarship on Churchill has been highly praised: 2019’s Working With Winston explores the world of Churchill’s secretaries, and 2013’s Dinner With Churchill focuses on the prime minister’s dinner table diplomacy. Churchill’s American Network is another enlightening look at the statesman, one with an even broader scope.

Cita Stelzer’s enlightening Churchill’s American Network explores the statesman’s nexus of influencers in a country he loved.
Page by page, Joy-Ann Reid’s Medgar and Myrlie paints unforgettable portraits of Medgar and Myrlie Evers, two American heroes who faced American racism with unimaginable courage.
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After 20 years of trying and failing to rebuild Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11, NATO allies pulled out of the country, promising sanctuary in the United Kingdom to the hundreds of Afghan interpreters, base workers and their families. In The Gardener of Lashkar Gah: The Afghans Who Risked Everything to Fight the Taliban, award-winning British journalist Larisa Brown uses her considerable reporting skills, astute insights and conflict zone experience to uncover the stories of those left behind.

Shaista Gul’s beautiful garden at the British base in the southwestern Afghanistan city of Lashkar Gah served as a place of comfort and respite for Afghan base workers and military personnel, for whom “life outside was an incongruous contrast to the patch of garden paradise inside.” Gul’s earnest teenage son Jamal became an interpreter for the British soldiers there and soon found himself on the front lines. His translating skills often made the difference between life and death for the troops as they moved across roads embedded with bombs, and into villages where he had to discern if people were farmers or insurgents ready to kill. Because interpreters were usually beside commanders, they were frequently targeted. Jamal barely made it out alive, only to return home to death threats from people intent on killing those who cooperated with the allies.

As NATO forces began their 2021 pullout, Afghan workers were hopeful that they’d be resettled in the U.K., instead of being left behind at the mercy of the Taliban as they reclaimed the country with brutal force. NATO broke its promise, and the final days at the Kabul Airport were a living nightmare marked by chaos and despair. Thousands were left behind and still wait to be rescued.

Brown relies on specificity and detail in her storytelling: the terrifying knock on the door when the Taliban came looking for a man accused of working for British troops; the rocky mountain paths where the very old and very young slept while attempting to escape to Pakistan; an entitled British commander who prioritized the escape of his pets over hundreds of Afghans desperate to be rescued. This forthright, unsparing account lays bare the failures of British and American leaders to keep their many promises, and succeeds in honoring the tenacity and courage of Afghans like Shaista Gul and Jamal.

Larisa Brown’s The Gardener of Lashkar Gah tells the harrowing story of the Afghan aid workers that NATO left to their fates when the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan.
Jeff Wilser’s stunning The Explorers Club showcases some of today’s tremendously exciting scientific expeditions.

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