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All Down Darkness Wide: A Memoir

Seán Hewitt (Penguin Press)

Despite its heart-wrenching premise, Laurel Prize–winning poet Hewitt’s chronicle of loving and living with a partner succumbing to depression overflows with a staggering sense of beauty and compassion. Already a rising literary star in Ireland, the 32-year-old writer’s transportive lyricisms and lush meditations on queerness promise to put him on the map here in the U.S., alongside Garth Greenwell and André Aciman.


The Colony: Faith and Blood in a Promised Land

Sally Denton (Liveright)

This fascinating tale of religion, violence, and family secrets recounts the 2019 massacre of six women and three children with ties to a fundamentalist Mormon community in northern Mexico. Behind that shocking crime lies another: in 1972, the son of the community’s founder had his brother killed, setting off a wave of “blood atonement” murders that killed dozens of people over the following 20 years. Denton, a descendant of polygamist Mormons, relates this sordid saga with empathy and precision.


Dirtbag, Massachusetts: A Confessional

Isaac Fitzgerald (Bloomsbury)

In this mesmerizing memoir, former BuzzFeed books editor Fitzgerald recounts his unlikely life, from growing up in a rural Massachusetts homeless shelter to trying on multiple identities around the world as a bartender, biker, and BDSM porn star. As he cavorts through homegrown fight clubs, Catholic shame, and ritzy boarding schools, he reckons with fraught ideas of masculinity and belonging, emerging with a nuanced story of self-acceptance that’s impossible to look away from.


Geography Is Destiny: Britain and the World: A 10,000 Year History

Ian Morris (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

A sweeping history of Britain from the ice ages to Brexit may not sound like a beach read, but Morris renders clashes with Roman centurions, Norman invaders, Spanish armadas, fascist dictators, and European Union technocrats in effervescent prose, illuminating essential characteristics of British politics and culture. Packed with intriguing arcana and astute big-picture analysis, this is history at its most erudite and compulsively readable.


A History of Delusions: The Glass King, a Substitute Husband and a Walking Corpse

Victoria Shepherd (Oneworld)

Shepherd explores 10 delusions dating from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, including a king who thought he was made of glass, a woman who believed an imposter had replaced her husband, and a man who claimed his head had been lopped off. Fascinating and bizarre, these thoughtful case studies serve as escape hatches into the past, revealing the historical preoccupations that may have given rise to these delusions.


Inventing the It Girl: How Elinor Glyn Created the Modern Romance and Conquered Early Hollywood

Hilary A. Hallett (Liveright)

This marvelous biography recounts the life and career of Elinor Glyn, a novelist who “midwifed much of the sexual ethos of Anglo-American popular culture.” After taking her steamy romance novels mainstream in the early 1900s, Glyn moved to Hollywood and birthed the idea of an “It Girl.” Hallett covers all the glitz with great detail, making for a page-turning account of the art of celebrity.


River of the Gods: Genius, Courage, and Betrayal in the Search for the Source of the Nile

Candace Millard (Doubleday)

Bestseller Millard unearths the captivating story of 19th-century explorer Sidi Mubarak Bombay, who spent decades enslaved in India before returning to his native Africa, where he became a key player in many British expeditions, including Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke’s tumultuous quest to find the source of the Nile River. Full of monumental ego clashes, white-knuckle escapes, and the thrill of discovery, this adventure saga soars.


This Is Not a Book About Benedict Cumberbatch: The Joy of Loving Something—Anything—Like Your Life Depends on It

Tabitha Carvan (Putnam)

After watching the Victorian special episode of BBC’s Sherlock, essayist Carvan developed an all-consuming obsession with the show’s star, Benedict Cumberbatch. Through interviews with fellow superfans, Carvan uses her fixation to unpack how motherhood can scramble a mother’s sense of identity and how societal expectations of domestic responsibility discourage adult women from nurturing their passions. Hilarious and heartfelt, this self-help guide finds profound insights in some unexpected places.


Tree Thieves: Crime and Survival in North America’s Woods

Lyndsie Bourgon (Little, Brown Spark)

True crime meets climate crisis in this propulsive look at the tree poaching scene in California. Historian Bourgon paints brilliant portraits of the local “tree thieves” and the rangers attempting to stop them. It’s an intricate tale of competing priorities in Redwood National Park, full of page-turning reporting and fascinating history, plus some vivid nature writing, to boot.


The Year of the Horses: A Memoir

Courtney Maum (Tin House)

With her signature wit and razor-sharp intellect, novelist Maum offers a spirited riposte to the tired midlife crisis narrative with an account of overcoming depression via horseback riding. It’s a captivating dual narrative that celebrates the independence, freedom, and joy found in getting back in the saddle (literally and figuratively), and a thrilling ride through horse history as both a sport and thriving culture.


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