You Could Make This Place Beautiful by Maggie Smith
In her memoir, Maggie Smith explores the disintegration of her marriage and her renewed commitment to herself in lyrical vignettes that shine, hard and clear as jewels. The book begins with one woman’s personal, particular heartbreak, but its circles widen into a reckoning with contemporary womanhood, traditional gender roles, and the power dynamics that persist even in many progressive homes. With the spirit of self-inquiry and empathy she’s known for, Smith interweaves snapshots of a life with meditations on secrets, anger, forgiveness, and narrative itself. The power of these pieces is cumulative: page after page, they build into a larger interrogation of family, work, and patriarchy.
Black Girls Must Have It All by Jayne Allen
After a whirlwind year, Tabitha Walker’s carefully organized plan to achieve the life she wanted—perfect job, dream husband, and stylish home—has gone off the rails. Her checklist now consists of diapers changed (infinite), showers taken (zero), tears cried (buckets), and hours of sleep (what’s that?).
Don’t get her wrong, Tabby loves her new bundle of joy and motherhood is perhaps the only thing that’s consistent for her these days. When the news station announces that they will be hiring outside competitors for the new anchor position, Tabby throws herself into her work. But it’s not just maintaining her position as the station’s weekend anchor that has her worried. All of her relationships seem to be shifting out of their regular orbits. Best friend Alexis can’t manage to strike the right balance in her “refurbished” marriage with Rob, and Laila’s gone from being a consistent ride-or-die to a newly minted entrepreneur trying to raise capital for her growing business. And when Marc presents her with an ultimatum about their relationship, coupled with an extended “visit” from his mother, Tabby is forced to take stock of her life and make a new plan for the future.
Koresh: The True Story of David Koresh and the Tragedy at Waco by Stephan Talty
No other event in the last fifty years is shrouded in myth like the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas. Today, we remember this moment for the 76 people, including 20 children, who died in the fire; for its inspiration of the Oklahoma City bombing; and for the wave of anti-government militarism that followed. What we understand far less is what motivated the Davidians’ enigmatic leader, David Koresh.
Drawing on first-time, exclusive interviews with Koresh’s family and survivors of the siege, bestselling author Stephan Talty paints a psychological portrait of this infamous icon of the 1990s. Born Vernon Howell into the hyper-masculine world of central Texas in the 1960s, Koresh experienced a childhood riven with abuse and isolation. He found a new version of himself in the halls of his local church, and love in the fundamentalist sect of the Branch Davidians. Later, with a new name and professed prophetic powers, Koresh ushered in a new era for the Davidians that prized his own sexual conquest as much as his followers’ faith. As one survivor has said, “What better way for a worthless child to feel worth than to become God?”
Chrysalis by Anna Metcalfe
What happens when a woman dares to take up space? An enigmatic young woman drastically transforms her body, working to become bigger, stronger, and stiller in the wake of a trauma. We see her through the eyes of three people, each differently mesmerized by her, as they reckon with the consequences of her bizarre metamorphosis. Each of them leaves us with a puzzle piece of who she was before she became someone else.
Elliot, a recluse who notices her at the gym, witnesses her physical evolution and becomes her first acolyte. Bella, her mother, worries about the intense effect her daughter’s new way of life is beginning to have on others, and she reflects on their relationship, a close cocoon from which her daughter has broken free. Susie, her ex-colleague and best friend, offers her sanctuary and support as she makes the transition to self-created online phenomenon, posting viral meditation videos that encourage her followers to join her in achieving self-sufficiency by isolating themselves from everyone else in their lives.
First Comes Summer by Maria Hesselager
In their remote Viking settlement, Folkvi and her brother, Aslakr, have always been close—unnaturally close. They’ve grown more intimate still as Folkvi learns her shaman mother’s craft, as men regard her with newly devouring eyes. Then illness carries off their parents, and the nest of home is shattered. Áslakr sets off on his first expedition, abandoning Folkvi to the dark of an endless winter. When he returns, he’s done the unthinkable: He’s found someone else to love.
Sick with grief, Folkvi rages to the gods where they sit at the foot of an ancient tree, contemplating the twisted passions of humans that play out in the face of an ever-approaching end of days. Will none of them save her now? Very well, Folkvi will save herself. The wedding date is set. But first comes a fateful summer.
Small Joys by Elvin James Mensah
It’s 2005 and Harley has dropped out of college to move home, back to rural England where he works a dead-end job at a movie theater. Estranged from his father and finding every attempt at happiness futile, he is on the verge of making a devastating final decision. Fortunately for him, things don’t go according to plan, and his attempt on his own life is interrupted by his new roommate, Muddy.
Muddy is everything Harley is not: white, ostensibly heterosexual, freewheeling, confident in his masculinity. Despite their differences, a deep friendship blossoms between them when Muddy takes Harley under his wing and shows him everything that, in his eyes, makes life worth living: birdwatching, karaoke, rugby, and the band Oasis.
But this newfound friendship is complicated. It has enormous repercussions for the pair’s romantically entangled friend group—with Chelsea, an overbearing striver whose generosity they begrudgingly rely on; with Finlay, her raffish and uncouth boyfriend; and with Noria, who despite her simmering confidence is smarting from a series of unreturned affections. And then there’s the violent affair with an older man that Harley finds himself slipping back into.
Some Desperate Glory by Emily Tesh
Since she was born, Kyr has trained for the day she can avenge the murder of planet Earth. Raised in the bowels of Gaea Station alongside the last scraps of humanity, she readies herself to face the Wisdom, the powerful, reality-shaping weapon that gave the majoda their victory over humanity.
They are what’s left. They are what must survive. Kyr is one of the best warriors of her generation, the sword of a dead planet. When Command assigns her brother to certain death and relegates her to Nursery to bear sons until she dies trying, she knows she must take humanity’s revenge into her own hands.
Alongside her brother’s brilliant but seditious friend and a lonely, captive alien, Kyr escapes from everything she’s known into a universe far more complicated than she was taught and far more wondrous than she could have imagined.
The Cuban Heiress by Chanel Cleeton
New York heiress Catherine Dohan seemingly has it all. There’s only one problem. It’s a lie. As soon as the Morro Castle leaves port, Catherine’s past returns with a vengeance and threatens her life. Joining forces with a charismatic jewel thief, Catherine must discover who wants her dead—and why.
Elena Palacio is a dead woman. Or so everyone thinks. After a devastating betrayal left her penniless and on the run, Elena’s journey on the Morro Castle is her last hope. Steeped in secrecy and a burning desire for revenge, her return to Havana is a chance to right the wrong that has been done to her—and her prey is on the ship.
As danger swirls aboard the Morro Castle and their fates intertwine, Elena and Catherine must risk everything to see justice served once and for all.
The Only Survivors by Megan Miranda
From the New York Times bestselling author of All the Missing Girls and master of suspense, Megan Miranda, a thrilling mystery about a group of former classmates who reunite to mark the tenth anniversary of a tragic accident—only to have one of the survivors disappear, casting fear and suspicion on the original tragedy.
The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho by Paterson Joseph
It’s 1746 and Georgian London is not a safe place for a young Black man, especially one who has escaped slavery. After the twinkling lights in the Fleet Street coffee shops are blown out and the great houses have closed their doors for the night, Sancho must dodge slave catchers and worse. The man he hoped would help him—a kindly duke who taught him to write—is dying. Sancho is desperate and utterly alone. So how does the same Charles Ignatius Sancho meet the king, write and play highly acclaimed music, become the first Black person to vote in Britain, and lead the fight to end slavery?
It’s time for him to tell his story, one that begins on a tempestuous Atlantic Ocean and ends at the very center of London life. And through it all, he must ask: Born among death, how much can he achieve in one short life?
The Trackers by Charles Frazier
Hurtling past the downtrodden communities of Depression-era America, painter Val Welch travels westward to the rural town of Dawes, Wyoming. Through a stroke of luck, he’s landed a New Deal assignment to create a mural representing the region for their new Post Office.
A wealthy art lover named John Long and his wife Eve have agreed to host Val at their sprawling ranch. Rumors and intrigue surround the couple: Eve left behind an itinerant life riding the rails and singing in a western swing band. Long holds shady political aspirations, but was once a WWI sniper—and his right hand is a mysterious elder cowboy, a vestige of the violent old west. Val quickly finds himself entranced by their lives.
One day, Eve flees home with a valuable painting in tow, and Long recruits Val to hit the road with a mission of tracking her down. Journeying from ramshackle Hoovervilles to San Francisco nightclubs to the swamps of Florida, Val’s search for Eve narrows, and he soon turns up secrets that could spark formidable changes for all of them.
The Weight by Jeff Boyd
Julian Strickland is seemingly the lone Black man in the hipster dreamland of Portland, Oregon. To his friends, he’s the coolest member of the scene: the soulful drummer from Chicago in an indie rock band that’s just about to break through. But to himself, he’s a sheltered Christian homeschool kid who used to write book reports on Leviticus. A virgin until the night of his marriage, divorced at twenty-four, he’s still in disarray two years later—pretending to fit in, wondering if any of his relationships are real, estranged from his family, and struggling to reconcile his relationship with God.
Then he meets Ida Blair, a Black painter at the start of a promising career. They begin a tentative relationship, and Ida seems to offer Julian relief from his confusion. But suddenly she stops responding to his texts. Things only get worse when Julian’s best friend mysteriously turns on him, his house burns down, and the band considers breaking up on the eve of their most important show yet. It seems the only thing Julian has left—the only thing he’s ever had, really—is the weight he is carrying.
This Isn’t Going to End Well by Daniel Wallace
If we’re lucky, we all encounter at least one person whose life elevates and inspires our own. For acclaimed novelist Daniel Wallace, he had one hero and inspiration for so much of what followed: his longtime friend and brother-in-law William Nealy. Seemingly perfect, impossibly cool, William was James Dean, Clint Eastwood, and MacGyver all rolled into one, an acclaimed outdoorsman, a famous cartoonist, an accomplished author, a master of all he undertook, William was the ideal that Daniel sought to emulate.
But when William took his own life at age 48, Daniel was left first grieving, and then furious with the man who broke his and his sister’s hearts. That anger led him to commit a grievous act of his own, a betrayal that took him down a dark path into the tortured recesses of William’s past. Eventually, a new picture of William emerged, of a man with too many secrets and too much shame to bear.
Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez
Dr. Briana Ortiz’s life is seriously flatlining. Her divorce is just about finalized, her brother’s running out of time to find a kidney donor, and that promotion she wants? Oh, that’s probably going to the new man-doctor who’s already registering eighty-friggin’-seven on Briana’s “pain in my ass” scale. But just when all systems are set to hate, Dr. Jacob Maddox completely flips the game . . . by sending Briana a letter.
And it’s a really good letter. Like the kind that proves that Jacob isn’t actually Satan. Worse, he might be this fantastically funny and subversively likeable guy who’s terrible at first impressions. Because suddenly he and Bri are exchanging letters, sharing lunch dates in her “sob closet,” and discussing the merits of freakishly tiny horses. But when Jacob decides to give Briana the best gift imaginable—a kidney for her brother—she wonders just how she can resist this quietly sexy new doctor . . . especially when he calls in a favor she can’t refuse.