BLOOMSBURY PICKS FOR JULY
A PSALM FOR THE WILD BUILT
Hundreds of years ago, when the robots of Panga first gained sentience, they chose to retreat from human society rather than live in it as free citizens–and they haven’t been seen since. When Sibling Dex, a tea monk, leaves The City, Panga’s only metropolis, to travel the countryside offering tea and a listening ear to anyone who needs it, they are forced to acknowledge a deep sense of dissatisfaction with their life. Seeking solitude, they venture into the protected wilderness zone, where no human has set foot in centuries. Their plans quickly go awry when they are approached by Mosscap, an inquisitive robot elected by its fellows to make first contact with humanity and find the answer to the question: what do humans need? Fans of gentle, smart, and hopeful science fiction will delight in this promising series starter.
THIS IS YOUR MIND ON PLANTS
Of all the things humans rely on plants for, surely the most curious is our use of them to change consciousness: to stimulate or calm, fiddle with or completely alter, the qualities of our mental experience. Take coffee and tea: People around the world rely on caffeine to sharpen their minds. But we do not usually think of caffeine as a drug, or our daily use as an addiction, because it is legal and socially acceptable. So, then, what is a “drug”? And why, for example, is making tea from the leaves of a tea plant acceptable, but making tea from a seed head of an opium poppy a federal crime? In This Is Your Mind on Plants, Michael Pollan dives deep into three plant drugs: Opium, caffeine and mescaline. In this unique blend of history, science, and memoir, as well as participatory journalism, Pollan examines and experiences these plants from several very different angles and contexts, and shines a fresh light on a subject that is all too often treated reductively–as a drug, whether licit or illicit. But that is one of the least interesting things you can say about these plants, Pollan shows, for when we take them into our bodies and let them change our minds, we are engaging with nature in one of the most profound ways we can.
SHOULD WE STAY OR SHOULD WE GO
When Kay and her husband, Cyril, are in their 50s, they make a pact to commit suicide together when they turn 80. Kay has watched her elderly father’s demise from Alzheimer’s, and the couple want to determine their own fate. What sounds like a depressing plot turns into a fascinating and clever study of aging and self determination. It raises the question of how much it is possible to control one’s fate. Shriver may have a macabre side to her writing, but she is an extremely creative and talented writer. This novel will continuously turn your head around with its many surprises! – Anita
BLOOMSBURY PICKS FOR JUNE
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.
THE SWEETNESS OF WATER
In the waning days of the Civil War, brothers Prentiss and Landry–freed by the Emancipation Proclamation–seek refuge on the homestead of George Walker and his wife, Isabelle. The Walkers, wracked by the loss of their only son to the war, hire the brothers to work their farm, hoping through an unexpected friendship to stanch their grief. Prentiss and Landry, meanwhile, plan to save money for the journey north and a chance to reunite with their mother, who was sold away when they were boys. Parallel to their story runs a forbidden romance between two Confederate soldiers. The young men, recently returned from the war to the town of Old Ox, hold their trysts in the woods. When their secret is discovered, the resulting chaos unleashes convulsive repercussions on the entire community. Isabelle emerges as an unlikely leader, proffering a healing vision for the land and for the newly free citizens of Old Ox. Debut novelist Nathan Harris creates an unforgettable cast of characters, depicting Georgia in the violent crucible of Reconstruction. Equal parts beauty and terror, The Sweetness of Water is an epic whose grandeur locates humanity and love amid the most harrowing circumstances.
FACING THE MOUNTAIN
Daniel James Brown
They came from across the continent and Hawaii. Their parents taught them to embrace both their Japanese heritage and the ways of America. They faced bigotry, yet they believed in their bright futures as American citizens. But within days of Pearl Harbor, the FBI was ransacking their houses and locking up their fathers. And within months many would themselves be living behind barbed wire. Facing the Mountain is an unforgettable chronicle of war-time America and the battlefields of Europe. Based on Daniel James Brown’s extensive interviews with the families of the protagonists as well as deep archival research, it portrays the kaleidoscopic journey of four Japanese-American families and their sons, who volunteered for 442nd Regimental Combat Team and were deployed to France, Germany, and Italy, where they were asked to do the near impossible.
Michael Lewis’s taut and brilliant nonfiction thriller pits a band of medical visionaries against the wall of ignorance that was the official response of the Trump administration to the outbreak of COVID-19. The characters you will meet in these pages are as fascinating as they are unexpected. A thirteen-year-old girl’s science project on transmission of an airborne pathogen develops into a very grown-up model of disease control. A local public-health officer uses her worm’s-eye view to see what the CDC misses, and reveals great truths about American society. A secret team of dissenting doctors have everything necessary to fight the pandemic: brilliant backgrounds, world-class labs, prior experience with the pandemic scares of bird flu and swine flu…everything, that is, except official permission to implement their work. Michael Lewis is not shy about calling these people heroes for their refusal to follow directives that they know to be based on misinformation and bad science. Even the internet, as crucial as it is to their exchange of ideas, poses a risk to them. They never know for sure who else might be listening in.
The Secret Service was born in 1865, in the wake of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, but its story begins in earnest in 1963, with the death of John F. Kennedy. Shocked into reform by its failure to protect the president on that fateful day in Dallas, this once-sleepy agency was radically transformed into an elite, highly trained unit that would redeem itself several times. But this reputation for courage and excellence would not last forever. By Barack Obama’s presidency, the once-proud Secret Service was running on fumes and beset by mistakes and alarming lapses in judgment. With Donald Trump’s arrival, a series of promised reforms were cast aside, as a president disdainful of public service instead abused the Secret Service to rack up political and personal gains. To explore these problems in the ranks, Leonnig interviewed dozens of current and former agents, government officials, and whistleblowers who put their jobs on the line to speak out about a hobbled agency that’s in desperate need of reform.
BLOOMSBURY PICKS FOR MAY
CRYING IN H MART
In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food. As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band–and meeting the man who would become her husband–her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother’s diagnosis of terminal cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity. Vivacious and plainspoken, lyrical and honest, Zauner’s voice is as radiantly alive on the page as it is onstage. Rich with intimate anecdotes that will resonate widely, and complete with family photos, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread.
SECRETS OF HAPPINESS
In Secrets of Happiness, Joan Silber masterfully tells the stories of seemingly disparate lives, revealing the surprising and subtle connections that link them to each other. Each chapter is narrated by a different character, and as they tell their respective stories, the ways in which their lives have intersected take shape with little shocks as well as touches of humor. Silber’s story ranges wide in setting – from New York to Thailand to Nepal and back – but her precise writing captures each character’s search for joy and contentment in the swirl of the world around them with deep empathy and humanity. – Diana
PROJECT HAIL MARY
Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission–and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish. Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it. All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company. An irresistible interstellar adventure as only Andy Weir could deliver, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian–while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.
FINDING THE MOTHER TREE
Suzanne Simard is a pioneer on the frontier of plant communication and intelligence; she’s been compared to Rachel Carson, hailed as a scientist who conveys complex, technical ideas in a way that is dazzling and profound. Her work has influenced filmmakers (the Tree of Souls of James Cameron’s Avatar) and her TED talks have been viewed by more than 10 million people worldwide. Now, in her first book, Simard brings us into her world, the intimate world of the trees, in which she brilliantly illuminates the fascinating and vital truths–that trees are not simply the source of timber or pulp, but are a complicated, interdependent circle of life; that forests are social, cooperative creatures connected through underground networks by which trees communicate their vitality and vulnerabilities with communal lives not that different from our own.
Jean Hanff Korelitz
Jacob Finch Bonner was once a promising young novelist with a respectably published first book. Today, he’s teaching in a third-rate MFA program; he hasn’t written anything decent in years. When Evan Parker, his most arrogant student, announces he doesn’t need Jake’s help because the plot of his book in progress is a “sure thing,” Jake is prepared to dismiss the boast as typical amateur narcissism. But then he hears the plot. Jake returns to the downward trajectory of his own career and braces himself for the supernova publication of Evan Parker’s first novel. When he discovers that his former student has died, without ever completing his book, Jake does what any self-respecting writer would do with a story like that–a story that absolutely needs to be told. In a few short years, all of Evan Parker’s predictions have come true, but Jake is the author enjoying the wave. But at the height of his glorious new life, an e-mail arrives, the first salvo in a terrifying, anonymous campaign: You are a thief. Who was Evan Parker, and how did he get the idea for his “sure thing” of a novel? What is the real story behind the plot, and who stole it from whom?
BLOOMSBURY PICKS FOR APRIL
SUSAN, LINDA, NINA & COKIE
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.
Gold Diggers is at once a sharply funny coming-of-age story and a brilliant satire on ambition and success and what it takes to “make it” in America. Sathian has written a novel of family, tradition, grief, love and acceptance, infusing her story with sly wit and so much wisdom. Utterly original and completely captivating! – Diana
Tessa Daly is a Belfast-bureau BBC producer, juggling the demands of her career and new motherhood. While the Good Friday Agreement was signed years ago, peace still feels fragile as the threat of violence persists in northern Ireland, leaving its citizens on edge. When Tessa learns that her sister has joined the IRA, she is incredulous. But as she learns more she begins to questions her own loyalties and ideals as she is gradually drawn into the conflict and forced to make a choice. But questions remain: who can she trust? Is she willing to endanger those she loves most? Northern Spy is twisty, page-turning suspense at its best! – Diana
BLOOMSBURY PICKS FOR MARCH
KLARA AND THE SUN
Klara and the Sun, the first novel by Kazuo Ishiguro since he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, tells the story of Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, who, from her place in the store, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her. Klara and the Sun is a thrilling book that offers a look at our changing world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator, and one that explores the fundamental question: what does it mean to love?
FOUR HUNDRED SOULS
Edited by Ibram X. Kendi
The story begins in 1619–a year before the Mayflower–when the White Lion disgorges “some 20-and-odd Negroes” onto the shores of Virginia, inaugurating the African presence in what would become the United States. It takes us to the present, when African Americans, descendants of those on the White Lion and a thousand other routes to this country, continue a journey defined by inhuman oppression, visionary struggles, stunning achievements, and millions of ordinary lives passing through extraordinary history. This collection of diverse pieces from ninety different minds reflecting ninety different perspectives unlocks the startling range of experiences and ideas that have always existed within the community of Blackness.
HOW TO AVOID A CLIMATE DISASTER
Bill Gates has spent a decade investigating the causes and effects of climate change. With the help of experts in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, political science, and finance, he has focused on what must be done in order to stop the planet’s slide to certain environmental disaster. In this book, he not only explains why we need to work toward net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases, but also details what we need to do to achieve this profoundly important goal.
Viet Thanh Nguyen
The long-awaited follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Sympathizer, which has sold more than one million copies worldwide, The Committed follows the man of two minds as he arrives in Paris in the early 1980s with his blood brother Bon. The pair try to overcome their pasts and ensure their futures by engaging in capitalism in one of its purest forms: drug dealing. Both highly suspenseful and existential, The Committed is a blistering portrayal of commitment and betrayal that will cement Viet Thanh Nguyen’s position in the firmament of American letters.