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1974: A Personal History

Francine Prose (Harper)

San Francisco. The 1970s. The Vietnam War. On the Venn diagram of subjects I can’t resist, Prose’s first memoir is as dead center as dead center gets. In it, she recounts her brief yet intense relationship with Pentagon Papers leaker Tony Russo, who spent nearly 50 days in jail for refusing to testify against his friend and collaborator, Daniel Ellsberg. It promises to be just the kind of paranoid trip into the dark underbelly of the American experiment I love to take. —David Adams, adult reviews director


Craft: Stories I Wrote for the Devil

Ananda Lima (Tor)

These ambitious interconnected stories create a consistently surprising portrait of a Brazilian American woman who is inspired to become a writer by a sexual encounter with the devil. Formally playful, whimsically supernatural, and darkly witty, poet Lima’s prose debut sucked me in from the first page. —Phoebe Cramer, reviews editor


Fake Piñata

Ashleah Gonzales (Rose Books)

This is the debut poetry collection from a modeling agent billed by W Magazine as “Kendall Jenner’s unofficial literary consultant.” It’s published by a hot new small press founded by a longtime collaborator of the late great Tyrant Books publisher Giancarlo DiTrapano, and when it’s not distributing its own books, it disseminates only through up-and-coming indie “decentralized distributor” Asterism Books. This book is at the center of a complicated confluence of several different sorts of lit kid cool. Color me painfully curious. —John Maher, senior news and digital editor



Joseph O’Neill (Pantheon)

Just like the best writing about drugs isn’t about the drugs, the best books about sports aren’t about sports, and that’s certainly the case here. Yes, the Godwin of the title is a promising soccer prospect, but he’s barely on the page. Instead O’Neill delivers a blazing story of ambition, both misguided and not, and where that goes to die or to fly, whether in a Pittsburgh freelance writing co-op or the backwaters of Benin. —Jonathan Segura, editorial director


Hip-Hop Is History

Questlove (AUWA)

I caught a Roots concert a few years ago in which the band barreled through a medley of rap classics by Biz Markie, Biggie, and DMX, among others, riffing on the sample sources and creating a kind of hip-hop syllabus tracing the evolution of the genre. If this is half as fun as that set, it’ll be a blast. —Marc Greenawalt, reviews editor


A Last Supper of Queer Apostles

Pedro Lemebel, trans. from the Spanish by Gwendolyn Harper (Penguin Classics)

Penguin Classics continues its welcome run of fresh translations of Latin American literature (including breathtaking works from Alejo Carpentier and Miguel Ángel Asturias) with this first-time-in-English collection of Chilean essayist, memoirist, reporter, poet, and troublemaker Lemebel’s celebrated crónicas of queer life in Santiago during dueling tragedies: the AIDS epidemic and the Pinochet dictatorship. What a joy for English readers to at last meet this humanist provocateur who celebrates and memorializes queer lives in a fascist state with fire, love, and a tireless spirit of play. —Alan Scherstuhl, BookLife reviews editor


Mark Twain’s “War Prayer”

Illus. by Seymour Chwast (Fantagraphics)

Mark Twain wrote this brief screed against warmongering and hawkish patriotism in 1910. He refused to allow it to be published until he was dead. Now, in an era blighted by numerous ghastly wars, we get a graphic novelization of his cautionary tale, powerfully rendered by Chwast, a legendary graphic designer, who is himself 92. Like Twain’s best work, it is clever and true, and like the best polemics, it is pointed and to-the-point. —Ed Nawotka, senior bookselling and international editor


Mina’s Matchbox

Yoko Ogawa, trans. from the Japanese by Stephen B. Snyder (Pantheon)

Ogawa’s The Memory Police quietly broke me, and I may or may not have audibly squealed when I saw she had a newly translated novel on the way. The previous book was a dystopian allegory on grief and loss; this one’s set in early 1970s Japan, with WWII in living memory. Its description includes the narrator’s extended childhood stay with wealthy relatives, their complicated family history, and a domesticated pygmy hippo. I’m in. —Carolyn Juris, features editor


The Ministry of Time

Kaliane Bradley (Avid Reader)

This debut novel set in the near future checks off all the boxes for me: it’s a clever tale about the U.K. government’s secret experimentations with time travel, pulling a group of long-dead Brits through the space-time continuum into modern-day, multicultural London, where they must navigate their new world with the assistance of people hired by a mysterious ministry. While it’s often hilarious, Bradley’s commentary on Britain’s imperial legacy propels the narrative to another level. —Claire Kirch, Midwest correspondent


The Miracle of the Black Leg: Notes on Race, Human Bodies, and the Spirit of the Law

Patricia J. Williams (New Press)

Don’t be fooled by the serious subject matter; this whip-smart collection is the perfect beach read for readers getting a little fed up with current affairs. Writing in high literary style, Williams pokes at the tender spots in America’s psyche where law, science, and race intersect, arching a skeptical eyebrow throughout rigorous dissections of current events ranging from the cult of AI to book banning to Covid denialism. Absurdities and insights abound. —Dana Snitzky, reviews editor



Rachel Cusk (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Cusk is one of my favorite writers to read during the summer. Her spare and seemingly effortless prose operates like a mind-clearing tonic, just the thing for a day when one has nothing to do. Her latest novel once again shows what she can do within that space of refreshment, as she develops complex ideas about art and gender and offers a deep view into her characters’ consciousnesses. —David Varno, reviews editor


The Puerto Rican War: A Graphic History

John Vasquez Mejias (Union Square)

Each page of this elegant, agit-prop stylized, confrontational yet nuanced account of the 1950s Puerto Rican independence movement is printed from painstakingly hand-carved woodblocks. It took Mejias a decade to create this art object—cutting into the negative space to reveal history more often swept away. I’ve been a fan of Mejias’s since I first (many years ago) picked up his zine Paping. It’s cheering to see the dedication he puts to his craft respected in such a high-quality hardcover release. —Meg Lemke, reviews editor


Rebel Girl: My Life as a Feminist Punk

Kathleen Hanna (Ecco)

Bikini Kill lead singer Hanna holds nothing back in a debut that traces her chaotic childhood through to founding the riot grrrl punk feminist movement and her time in such bands as Viva Knievel and Le Tigre. Visceral prose is undergirded by clear-eyed insight into the flaws of early punk feminist activism—including its overwhelming whiteness—making this a memoir with depth and edge to spare. —Miriam Grossman, associate reviews editor


Traveling: On the Path of Joni Mitchell

Ann Powers (Dey Street)

The moment I saw this book’s title—which comes from the opening (and, as it happens, my favorite) track on Mitchell’s 1971 masterpiece Blue—I knew it would be one of my favorite reads of the year. Powers, one of the very best music critics we’ve got, masterfully guides readers through Mitchell’s life and work at a fascinating slant, her approach both sweeping and intimate as she occupies the dual roles of biographer and fan. —Sophia Stewart, associate news editor


The Uptown Local: Joy, Death, and Joan Didion

Cory Leadbeater (Ecco)

Like many journalists, readers of memoir, and/or publishing employees, I spend roughly two months per year thinking about the life and work of Joan Didion. This debut memoir from her former assistant, who recounts his experiences living with and being mentored by Didion during the final years of her life, promises that rarest of treats: a close observation of a great observer. I can’t wait to dive in. —Conner Reed, reviews editor


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