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Two-time National Book Award finalist Eliot Schrefer is best known for YA and middle grade novels that depict environmentalist themes and relationships between people and animals. Endangered followed a teen girl and a young bonobo on a trek for survival through the Congolese jungle, and Schrefer was also selected to write an authorized sequel to the classic 1938 novel Mr. Popper’s Penguins. He shifts to nonfiction in Queer Ducks (and Other Animals): The Natural World of Animal Sexuality, a fun, refreshing book that will have dry biology textbooks shaking in their book covers.

Part research-based science writing and part memoir, Queer Ducks unfolds in 10 chapters that each look at a different type of same-sex behavior in the animal kingdom. From the nonreproductive intersex white-tailed deer known as “velvet-horns” to a number of bird species that raise chicks in same-sex pairs or polyamorous trios, Schrefer offers nature-based analogs for many types of human sexual orientation and gender identity. The chapter on doodlebugs investigates homosexual behavior between male animals, while Japanese macaques serve as the launching point for examples of sexual activity between female animals.

Discover why Eliot Schrefer turned to nonfiction to write ‘Queer Ducks (and Other Animals).’

Charming comics-style illustrations by Jules Zuckerberg open every chapter, serving as perfect little amuse-bouches before Schrefer dives into the hard science. Interspersed throughout the book are personal anecdotes from Schrefer that reveal how science saved him when he was a young queer person.

Schrefer gives readers glimpses into the scientific field as well, offering tales of data obscured or observations omitted from final reports and illuminating the closeting of this important knowledge. Q&A-style interviews with contemporary queer scientists provide a hopeful view of the path ahead.

“It’s humbling and freeing to know that humans aren’t the only creatures with complicated sexual feelings,” Schrefer writes, connecting the dots between the human and animal worlds. Readers will finish Queer Ducks having learned much about animals, but even more about humankind.

Read our Q&A with Eliot Schrefer.

A fun exploration of same-sex behavior across the animal kingdom, Queer Ducks (and Other Animals) will have dry biology textbooks shaking in their book covers.

Separated by a sturdy wooden fence, two companions—a little girl and a dog belonging to her neighbors—are drawn together by a shared love of stories. They forge a bond that transcends boundaries and changes their lives forever.

Everywhere With You is uniformly flawless. With a master storyteller’s rhythm, author Carlie Sorosiak (Leonard (My Life as a Cat), I, Cosmo) narrates in present tense, close-third person from the lonely pup’s perspective, and his thoughts and unspoken words propel the story forward. Sorosiak’s writing is heartfelt and brimming with emotion. You’ll be so caught up in the narrative that you may not even notice the artistry beneath the words—poetic turns, perfectly tuned descriptions, the power of a concise, earnest statement—but it’s worth a second read to catch and savor it all.

If Sorosiak’s beautifully told story does not completely capture your heart, the artwork will seal the deal. Illustrator Devon Holzwarth’s vibrant, lush images of jewel-tone flowers and trees are mesmerizing, as botanical wonders in deep, rich colors threaten to overflow the edges of the pages.

The kind-faced girl and her canine companion are utterly charming. When the girl reads aloud to her four-legged friend, Holzwarth’s art blossoms even more as the friends’ imagined worlds come to life, with spectacular kingdoms filled with magical creatures and daring adventures—and no wooden fences.

The book’s heightened emotions walk a tightrope between poignance and heartbreak at a pivotal point toward the end. Sorosiak and Holzwarth give real weight to this moment of yearning, tip-toeing the reader up to the edge of despair before pulling back with a final burst of fantasy and delight. It’s a balancing act impeccably managed.

It will be the rare reader who can finish Everywhere With You without a slight catch in their throat. It rings with tender truth: When you are with the ones you love, everywhere you go is home.

Carlie Sorosiak and Devon Holzwarth's flawless picture book rings with a tender truth: When you are with the ones you love, everywhere you go is home.

Whether finding home or building a home or leaving home, fiction frequently centers on belonging—what it means and how it moves us. In Neruda on the Park, the debut novel from Cleyvis Natera, the Guerrero family struggles with belonging not just in their New York City neighborhood but also to each other.

When a decrepit building in Northar Park is torn down to make way for luxury condos, the Guerreros and their neighbors are forced to confront the realities of the price-raising, whitewashing menace that is gentrification. But for Lux, the daughter of Eusebia and Vladimir Guerrero, the changes are both external and internal: After being fired from her cutthroat legal job, Lux realizes that she has transformed along with the neighborhood, and perhaps not for the better.

The novel is split into three parts—titled Demolition, Excavation and Grounding—and unfolds through the perspectives of Lux and her mother, Eusebia, showing not only how the evolution of Northar Park is linked to the evolution of the Guerreros, but also how the discourse of belonging is fraught with generational conflict. Eusebia and Vladimir left the Dominican Republic to give their children a better life, including law school and high-paying corporate jobs. But Luz falls in love with the man who’s developing Northar Park, which causes a divide between where she comes from and where she’s going, and directly links her choices to the destruction of the home that her parents have created.

Natera’s writing style is detailed and intimate but leaves plenty to the imagination. The mother-daughter dynamic propels the novel and creates its dramatic tension, but Natera also includes interludes from the Tongues, the blabbermouth neighborhood chismosas, or gossips, who hear everything and know everything. Through these voices, Natera’s depiction of Northar Park becomes lively and vibrant, which brings the reader back to the novel’s central focus: home. As the Guerreros’ dreams shift—Lux desires an Upper West Side apartment, and Vladimir hopes for a new house in the Dominican Republic—the reader is encouraged to ask what home really is. Is it a place? A peace? Neruda on the Park doesn’t give answers but rather lets the reader and the Guerrero family decide for themselves.

What is home? Is it a place, or a sense of peace? Cleyvis Natera's debut novel explores the nature of home through the changing dreams of a Dominican American family in a gentrifying neighborhood.

Seven years after her mordant debut novel, Dietland, amassed critical acclaim and a cult following for its no-holds-barred skewering of the diet and beauty industries, Sarai Walker second novel is finally here. With The Cherry Robbers, Walker has concocted another slyly subversive feminist fable, this time in the form of a grief-laced gothic thriller that takes on weighty topics such as marriage, women’s health and generational trauma.

In 2017, Sylvia Wren is a world-renowned, notoriously private painter living in New Mexico. She’s rarely seen in public and turns down virtually all requests for interviews. However, in a moment of errant curiosity, Sylvia reads a letter from a journalist who plans to write an exposé detailing what she has uncovered: that Sylvia Wren is in fact Iris Chapel, the sole surviving heiress of the Chapel Firearms fortune, who disappeared 60 years ago.

Suddenly the secrets that Sylvia has spent decades running from catch up to her, and with nowhere left to hide, she attempts to exorcize the ghosts of her past by chronicling the family curse that claimed the lives of her five sisters, relegated her mother to an asylum and prompted Sylvia to abandon her life as Iris.

Exquisitely tense and satisfyingly spooky,The Cherry Robbers masterfully blends psychological and supernatural horror. In sensual yet spritely prose, Walker conducts a darkly erotic exploration of female desire, duty and destiny via an ensemble of nuanced female characters, each with distinct personalities and rich inner lives. Readers know the grisly fate that awaits the Chapel girls, but Walker still manages to maintain a high degree of suspense and intrigue that will keep readers frantically flipping pages.

For fans of Diane Setterfield and Shirley Jackson, as well as readers who relish multilayered, thought-provoking family sagas, The Cherry Robbers is not to be missed.

In The Cherry Robbers, Sarai Walker maintains a high degree of intrigue that will keep readers frantically flipping pages in this story of a reclusive painter whose grisly family history is suddenly exposed.

Author Mohsin Hamid’s haunting performance of his powerful 2007 novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, leaves listeners with much to ponder about their own visceral reactions to the story’s balancing act between peace and paranoia, pensiveness and fear.

Changez is the charming, mannered yet disquieting Pakistani narrator of this first-person story. He’s dining with an unnamed American at a cafe in Lahore, Pakistan, and over the course of the evening, Changez acknowledges and sympathizes with the American’s discomfort at being in a foreign setting—and at having Changez for an uninvited dinner guest.

Changez tells the American about how he left Lahore for the promises of the United States, graduated from Princeton University, landed a job at a highly respected firm and began to feel like he belonged to his adopted country. But after 9/11, fueled by xenophobic rhetoric and misunderstanding, many Americans began to question Changez’s identity and loyalty.

Hamid’s narration marries a sense of calm with the possibility of ill will that begins to crescendo over the course of the novel. Is Changez a threat to the American? By wondering this, are we, the listener, responding in an unfairly distrustful and shameful manner? What is the danger, and how are we participating in it? Hamid’s enlightening new recording highlights the lasting relevance of this provocative novel.

Read our interview with Mohsin Hamid on his “one-man play.”

Mohsin Hamid’s enlightening new recording of The Reluctant Fundamentalist highlights the lasting relevance of his provocative 2007 novel.

If you’re not familiar with Jon Mooallem’s writing, his new book of essays, Serious Face, is calling your name. Mooallem (This Is Chance!) has been writing for The New York Times Magazine for more than 15 years, and his latest book rounds up 11 of his best pieces from those years, plus one more written in 2022, into a transporting series of deep dives into surprising characters and situations.

Mooallem excels at writing about everything from climate change-fueled natural disasters to eccentric individuals. In “The Precise Center of a Dream,” for example, readers meet a man named Jacques-André Istel, who happens to be the father of modern skydiving and who created his own town (Felicity, California) in the middle of the desert. Mooallem’s observations can be beautifully delicate; about Felicity, he writes, “It was as if the entire town had sprouted from some preverbal place in his imagination—some need for beauty and meaning.” From that quirky end of the spectrum, Mooallem’s range as a writer stretches all the way across to quieter, more poignant essays like “A House at the End of the World,” his portrait of noted hospice worker B.J. Miller of the Zen Hospice Project in San Francisco and of a 27-year-old man who died from mesothelioma under Miller’s care.

Mooallem can also be deeply personal. The title essay describes his uncanny resemblance to the Spanish bullfighter Manolete, who was hugely famous not only for his bullfighting skills but also for being ugly. “Why These Instead of Others?” is his completely captivating, edge-of-your-seat account of a remote kayaking trip he took with two friends at age 23 to Glacier Bay, Alaska—and the life-and-death rescue that ensued. His writing is equally riveting in “We Have Fire Everywhere,” about a group of people’s narrow escape from the Camp Fire in Paradise, California, in 2018. Mooallem typically lets his subjects speak for themselves and isn’t one to make many pronouncements, but here he writes, “It was all more evidence that the natural world was warping, outpacing our capacity to prepare for, or even conceive of, the magnitude of disaster that such a disordered earth can produce.”

Like the very best essay collections, Serious Face takes readers to unexpected places, exploring a meaningful mix of joy, tragedy and downright absurdity. The subjects vary widely, but Mooallem is such a gifted storyteller that it almost doesn’t matter what he’s writing about; readers like myself will be ready to follow.

The subjects in Serious Face vary widely, but Mooallem is such a gifted storyteller that it almost doesn’t matter what he’s writing about. All of it is gripping.

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