The Bone Code by Kathy Reichs
On the way to hurricane-ravaged Isle of Palms, a barrier island off the South Carolina coast, Tempe receives a call from the Charleston coroner. The storm has tossed ashore a medical waste container. Inside are two decomposed bodies wrapped in plastic sheeting and bound with electrical wire. Tempe recognizes many of the details as identical to those of an unsolved case she handled in Quebec years earlier. With a growing sense of foreboding, she travels to Montreal to gather evidence.
Meanwhile, health authorities in South Carolina become increasingly alarmed as a human flesh-eating contagion spreads. So focused is Tempe on identifying the container victims that, initially, she doesn’t register how their murders and the pestilence may be related. But she does recognize one unsettling fact. Someone is protecting a dark secret—and willing to do anything to keep it hidden.
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Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith
In 1986, the teenage daughter of a wealthy family gets lost in an abandoned rubber plantation while fleeing her angry father and is changed forever. In 2009, a woman captures a rare two-headed cobra as part of a dangerous money-making scheme with a former lover. And in 2011, a young, unhappy American living in Saigon with her sort-of boyfriend disappears without a trace.
Over the course of the novel, the fates of these three women will lock together in an exhilarating series of nested narratives. Along the way, we meet a young boy who is sent to a boarding school in the mountains for the métis children of French expatriates, just before Vietnam declares its independence from colonial rule in 1945; two Frenchmen who are trying to start a business with the Vietnam War on the horizon; and the employees of the Saigon Spirit Eradication Co., who find themselves investigating strange occurrences in a farmhouse on the edge of a forest. Each new character and timeline brings us one step closer to understanding what binds them all.
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This Is Your Mind on Plants by Michael Pollan
Of all the things humans rely on plants for—sustenance, beauty, medicine, fragrance, flavor, fiber—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—and throws the fundamental strangeness, and arbitrariness, of our thinking about them into sharp relief. Exploring and participating in the cultures that have grown up around these drugs while consuming (or, in the case of caffeine, trying not to consume) them, Pollan reckons with the powerful human attraction to psychoactive plants. Why do we go to such great lengths to seek these shifts in consciousness, and then why do we fence that universal desire with laws and customs and fraught feelings?
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Couple Found Slain by Mikita Brottman
On February 21, 1992, 22-year-old Brian Bechtold walked into a police station in Port St. Joe, Florida and confessed that he’d shot and killed his parents in their family home in Silver Spring, Maryland. He said he’d been possessed by the devil. He was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia and ruled “not criminally responsible” for the murders on grounds of insanity.
But after the trial, where do the “criminally insane” go? Brottman reveals Brian’s inner life leading up to the murder, as well as his complicated afterlife in a maximum security psychiatric hospital, where he is neither imprisoned nor free. During his 27 years at the hospital, Brian has tried to escape and been shot by police, and has witnessed three patient-on-patient murders. He’s experienced the drugging of patients beyond recognition, a sadistic system of rewards and punishments, and the short-lived reign of a crazed psychiatrist-turned-stalker.
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Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood by Danny Trejo
On screen, Danny Trejo the actor is a baddie who has been killed at least a hundred times. He’s been shot, stabbed, hanged, chopped up, squished by an elevator, and once, was even melted into a bloody goo. Off screen, he’s a hero beloved by recovery communities and obsessed fans alike. But the real Danny Trejo is much more complicated than the legend.
Raised in an abusive home, Danny struggled with heroin addiction and stints in some of the country’s most notorious state prisons, including San Quentin and Folsom, from an early age, before starring in such modern classics as Heat, From Dusk till Dawn, and Machete. Now, in this funny, painful, and suspenseful memoir, Danny takes us through the incredible ups and downs of his life, including meeting one of the world’s most notorious serial killers in prison and working with legends like Charles Bronson and Robert De Niro.
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The Comfort Book by Matt Haig
Years ago, Matt Haig began writing notes to his future self. These notes were meant as gifts to his future self: offerings of hope to help himself through anything from the darkest periods of his life to a not-so-great day. As time went on, he added new thoughts and stories, and he turned them into The Comfort Book so that everyone could draw on this well of reassurance and encouragement. Each of its short meditations gives a new perspective on life and all of its highs and lows–small islands of hope for anyone looking for a more fulfilling, more uplifting way through life. Incorporating a diverse array of sources from across the world, history, science, and his own experiences, Haig offers warmth and reassurance, reminding us to slow down and appreciate the beauty and unpredictability of existence.
Dear Miss Metropolitan by Carolyn Ferrell
Fern seeks refuge from her mother’s pill-popping and boyfriends via Soul Train; Gwin finds salvation in the music of Prince much to her congregation’s dismay and Jesenia, miles ahead of her classmates at her gifted and talented high school, is a brainy and precocious enigma. None of this matters to Boss Man, the monster who abducts them and holds them captive in a dilapidated house in Queens.
On the night they are finally rescued, throngs line the block gawking and claiming ignorance. Among them is lifetime resident Miss Metropolitan, advice columnist for the local weekly, but how could anyone who fancies herself a “newspaperwoman” have missed a horror story unfolding right across the street? And why is it that only two of the three girls―now women―were found? The mystery haunts the two remaining “victim girls” who are subjected to the further trauma of becoming symbols as they continuously adapt to their present and their unrelenting past.
Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily Austin
Gilda, a twenty-something, atheist, animal-loving lesbian, cannot stop ruminating about death. Desperate for relief from her panicky mind and alienated from her repressive family, she responds to a flyer for free therapy at a local Catholic church, and finds herself being greeted by Father Jeff, who assumes she’s there for a job interview. Too embarrassed to correct him, Gilda is abruptly hired to replace the recently deceased receptionist Grace.
In between trying to memorize the lines to Catholic mass, hiding the fact that she has a new girlfriend, and erecting a dirty dish tower in her crumbling apartment, Gilda strikes up an email correspondence with Grace’s old friend. She can’t bear to ignore the kindly old woman, who has been trying to reach her friend through the church inbox, but she also can’t bring herself to break the bad news. Desperate, she begins impersonating Grace via email. But when the police discover suspicious circumstances surrounding Grace’s death, Gilda may have to finally reveal the truth of her mortifying existence.
Falling by T.J. Newman
You just boarded a flight to New York. There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard. What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped. For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die. The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane. Enjoy the flight.
Island Queen by Vanessa Riley
Born into slavery on the tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat, Doll bought her freedom—and that of her sister and her mother—from her Irish planter father and built a legacy of wealth and power as an entrepreneur, merchant, hotelier, and planter that extended from the marketplaces and sugar plantations of Dominica and Barbados to a glittering luxury hotel in Demerara on the South American continent.
Vanessa Riley’s novel brings Doll to vivid life as she rises above the harsh realities of slavery and colonialism by working the system and leveraging the competing attentions of the men in her life: a restless shipping merchant, Joseph Thomas; a wealthy planter hiding a secret, John Coseveldt Cells; and a roguish naval captain who will later become King William IV of England.
Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby
A Black father. A white father. Two murdered sons. A quest for vengeance. Ike Randolph has been out of jail for fifteen years, with not so much as a speeding ticket in all that time. But a Black man with cops at the door knows to be afraid. The last thing he expects to hear is that his son Isiah has been murdered, along with Isiah’s white husband, Derek. Ike had never fully accepted his son but is devastated by his loss. Derek’s father Buddy Lee was almost as ashamed of Derek for being gay as Derek was ashamed his father was a criminal. Buddy Lee still has contacts in the underworld, though, and he wants to know who killed his boy.
Shoulder Season by Christina Clancy
The small town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin is an unlikely location for a Playboy Resort, and nineteen-year old Sherri Taylor is an unlikely bunny. Growing up in neighboring East Troy, Sherri plays the organ at the local church and has never felt comfortable in her own skin. But when her parents die in quick succession, she leaves the only home she’s ever known for the chance to be part of a glamorous slice of history. In the winter of 1981, in a costume two sizes too small, her toes pinched by stilettos, Sherri joins the daughters of dairy farmers and factory workers for the defining experience of her life.
Living in the “bunny hutch”―Playboy’s version of a college dorm―Sherri gets her education in the joys of sisterhood, the thrill of financial independence, the magic of first love, and the heady effects of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. But as spring gives way to summer, Sherri finds herself caught in a romantic triangle―and the tragedy that ensues will haunt her for the next forty years.
The 22 Murders of Madison May by Max Barry
Felicity Staples hates reporting on murders. As a journalist for a midsize New York City paper, she knows she must take on the assignment to research Madison May’s shocking murder, but the crime seems random and the suspect is in the wind. That is, until Felicity spots the killer on the subway, right before he vanishes.
Soon, Felicity senses her entire universe has shifted. No one remembers Madison May, or Felicity’s encounter with the mysterious man. And her cat is missing. Felicity realizes that in her pursuit of Madison’s killer, she followed him into a different dimension–one where everything about her existence is slightly altered. At first, she is determined to return to the reality she knows, but when Madison May–in this world, a struggling actress–is murdered again, Felicity decides she must find the killer–and learns that she is not the only one hunting him.
The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel
After being stolen from her wealthy German parents and raised in the unforgiving wilderness of eastern Europe, a young woman finds herself alone in 1941 after her kidnapper dies. Her solitary existence is interrupted, however, when she happens upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazi terror. Stunned to learn what’s happening in the outside world, she vows to teach the group all she can about surviving in the forest—and in turn, they teach her some surprising lessons about opening her heart after years of isolation. But when she is betrayed and escapes into a German-occupied village, her past and present come together in a shocking collision that could change everything.
The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller
It is a perfect July morning, and Elle, a fifty-year-old happily married mother of three, awakens at “The Paper Palace”—the family summer place which she has visited every summer of her life. But this morning is different: last night Elle and her oldest friend Jonas crept out the back door into the darkness and had sex with each other for the first time, all while their spouses chatted away inside. Now, over the next twenty-four hours, Elle will have to decide between the life she has made with her genuinely beloved husband, Peter, and the life she always imagined she would have had with her childhood love, Jonas, if a tragic event hadn’t forever changed the course of their lives. As Heller colors in the experiences that have led Elle to this day, we arrive at her ultimate decision with all its complexity. Tender yet devastating, The Paper Palace considers the tensions between desire and dignity, the legacies of abuse, and the crimes and misdemeanors of families.
The Stranger in the Mirror by Liv Constantine
Addison’s about to get married, but she’s not looking forward to the big day. It’s not her fiancé; he’s a wonderful man. It’s because Addison doesn’t know who she really is. A few years ago, a kind driver found her bleeding next to a New Jersey highway and rescued her. While her physical wounds healed, Addison’s memory never returned. She doesn’t know her real name. Or how she ended up injured on the side of a road. Or why she can’t shake the notion that she may have done something very, very bad . . .
In a posh home in the Boston suburbs, Julian tries to figure out what happened to his loving, caring wife, Cassandra, who disappeared without a trace two years ago. She would never have left him and their seven-year-old daughter Valentina of her own free will—or would she?
The Very Nice Box by Eve Gleichman and Laura Blackett
Ava Simon designs storage boxes for STÄDA, a slick Brooklyn-based furniture company. She’s hard-working, obsessive, and heartbroken from a tragedy that killed her girlfriend and upended her life. It’s been years since she’s let anyone in.
But when Ava’s new boss—the young and magnetic Mat Putnam—offers Ava a ride home one afternoon, an unlikely relationship blossoms. Ava remembers how rewarding it can be to open up—and, despite her instincts, she becomes enamored. But Mat isn’t who he claims to be, and the romance takes a sharp turn.
The Woman from Uruguay by Pedro Mairal
Lucas Pereyra, an unemployed writer in his forties, embarks on a day trip from Buenos Aires to Montevideo to pick up fifteen thousand dollars in cash. An advance due to him on his upcoming novel, the small fortune might mean the solution to his problems, most importantly the tension he has with his wife. While she spends her days at work and her nights out on the town-with a lover, perhaps, he doesn’t know for sure-Lucas is stuck at home all day staring at the blank page, caring for his son Maiko and fantasizing about the one thing that keeps him going: the woman from Uruguay whom he met at a conference and has been longing to see ever since.
But that woman, Magalí Guerra Zabala, is a free spirit with her own relationship troubles, and the day they spend together in this beautiful city on the beach winds up being nothing like Lucas predicted.
Wayward by Dana Spiotta
On the heels of the election of 2016, Samantha Raymond’s life begins to come apart: her mother is ill, her teenage daughter is increasingly remote, and at fifty-two she finds herself staring into “the Mids”–that hour of supreme wakefulness between three and four in the morning in which women of a certain age suddenly find themselves contemplating motherhood, mortality, and, in this case, the state of our unraveling nation.
When she falls in love with a beautiful, decrepit house in a hardscrabble neighborhood in Syracuse, she buys it on a whim and flees her suburban life–and her family–as she grapples with how to be a wife, a mother, and a daughter, in a country that is coming apart at the seams.
We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen
Misanthropic psychologist Dr. Grace Park is placed on the Deucalion, a survey ship headed to an icy planet in an unexplored galaxy. Her purpose is to observe the thirteen human crew members aboard the ship—all specialists in their own fields—as they assess the colonization potential of the planet, Eos. But frictions develop as Park befriends the androids of the ship, preferring their company over the baffling complexity of humans, while the rest of the crew treats them with suspicion and even outright hostility.
Shortly after landing, the crew finds themselves trapped on the ship by a radiation storm, with no means of communication or escape until it passes—and that’s when things begin to fall apart. Park’s patients are falling prey to waking nightmares of helpless, tongueless insanity. The androids are behaving strangely. There are no windows aboard the ship. Paranoia is closing in, and soon Park is forced to confront the fact that nothing—neither her crew, nor their mission, nor the mysterious Eos itself—is as it seems.