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    “Mean Girls!” Life lessons from Hannah Arendt! 23 new books out today.

    Gabrielle Bellot

    January 16, 2024, 4:44am

    It’s the middle of January already, and, depending where you are, that can mean a lot of things: snowstorms (or yearning for snow if you’re in certain Northeast cities), a chill in otherwise balmy temperatures, thoughts of fleeing to somewhere with those balmy temperatures. No matter which of these describes you, they all go better with a book in hand, and I’ve got twenty-three new ones to recommend below.

    You’ll find new Palestinian fiction from Susan Muaddi Darraj and a queer Jewish novel from Temim Fruchter; nonfiction about polyamory and intimacy after brain injuries; life and love lessons from Hannah Arendt; a look behind the curtain at all things Mean Girls; a history of witchcraft in thirteen witch trials; poetry from Caroline Harper New, Irma Peneda, and Liliane Giraudon; and much, much.

    I hope you’ll curl up this January, wherever you may be, with one (or ideally many) of these exciting new options.


    Behind You Is the Sea - Muaddi Darraj, Susan

    Susan Muaddi Darraj, Behind You Is the Sea

    “[Behind You Is the Sea] fearlessly confronts stereotypes about Palestinian culture, weaving a remarkable portrait of life’s intricate moments….This is a story that challenges perceptions, offering a heartfelt glimpse into the interior lives of those who call this community home. A must read novel with unforgettable characters and an unwavering, fresh voice—I couldn’t put it down until the very last page! Darraj delivers an instant, necessary, and authentic classic to the cannon of Arab-American literature.”
    –Etaf Rum

    Beautyland - Bertino, Marie-Helene

    Marie-Helene Bertino, Beautyland

    “In Beautyland, Marie-Helene Bertino’s Adina (maybe an alien, maybe a troubled human, always both) takes the tired old world and describes it so perfectly that we see it as if for the first time. Sparkling and alive, funny and magnificently true, this book woke me up. It made me weep with appreciation for the hard, strange, small-but-huge lives we lead. It made me fall back in love with this universe.”
    –Ramona Ausubel

    City of Laughter - Fruchter, Temim

    Temim Fruchter, City of Laughter
    (Grove Press)

    “A wondrous intergenerational story of queerness and Jewish folklore….Fruchter draws on folk tales both real and imagined to create a tender and unforgettable portrait of Jewish culture, faith, and community. This dazzling and hopeful novel is not to be missed.”
    Publishers Weekly

    More: A Memoir of Open Marriage - Roden Winter, Molly

    Molly Roden Winter, More: A Memoir of Open Marriage

    “An intimate portrait of a woman on an earnest search to reclaim her passion and her body from the quotidian obligations of her various roles. This story is a balm for those with unmet yearnings and a triumph for those who have made their own first steps toward getting more out of life.”
    –Christie Tate

    We Are Free to Change the World: Hannah Arendt's Lessons in Love and Disobedience - Stonebridge, Lyndsey

    Lyndsey Stonebridge, We Are Free to Change the World: Hannah Arendt’s Lessons in Love and Disobedience
    (Hogarth Press)

    “In this extraordinary book, Lyndsey Stonebridge details the life and thought of Hannah Arendt in ways that speak to our troublesome times. We get a sense of the expansiveness of Arendt’s thought—her vulnerabilities and her complexity—with stories and intimate details that reveal Stonebridge’s love of her. Beautifully written, this is biography at its best.”
    –Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.

    Black Boys Like Me: Confrontations with Race, Identity, and Belonging - Morris, Matthew R.

    Matthew R. Morris, Black Boys Like Me: Confrontations with Race, Identity, and Belonging

    Black Boys Like Me is a wonder. It manages to evoke the realness of growing up Black and male in Toronto while stoking a profound discussion of the ways in which we Black boys ‘perform’ our Blackness to navigate an often hostile society. It is by turns insightful, revealing, and funny, but its greatest strength is that it is always real—authentic, brave, and vulnerable….This is a book with powerful ramifications that go beyond race and masculinity and touch the humanity of all our becomings.”
    –Antonio Michael Downing

    A History of Half-Birds: Poems - New, Caroline Harper

    Caroline Harper New, A History of Half-Birds: Poems
    (Milkweed Editions)

    A History of Half-Birds, an inventive and impressively wide-ranging collection, has me considering…the connections between…poetry and science…[and] between history and myth, precision and ambiguity, the known and the unknown. In the Anthropocene, we may be tempted to ask what poetry can do for us when what we need are tools for survival. I’d argue that these poems are just that—expertly crafted, satisfying to hold and behold, and sharp enough to dissect what needs dissecting.”
    –Maggie Smith

    Nostalgia Doesn't Flow Away Like Riverwater - Pineda, Irma

    Irma Pineda, Nostalgia Doesn’t Flow Away Like Riverwater (trans. Wendy Call)
    (Deep Vellum)

    “Poetry is what cannot be silenced. Irma Pineda’s extraordinary collection—in resonant Isthmus Zapotec and Spanish, lucidly translated into precise English by Wendy Call—surveys the echoes of a universal journey across space, time, and language. We are in the hands of a consummate poet through whose vision an entire civilization comes alive. Her protagonists follow the path of Homer, Virgil, Dante, and Neruda. An artistic triumph!”
    –Ilan Stavans

    Love Is Colder Than the Lake - Giraudon, Liliane

    Liliane Giraudon, Love Is Colder Than the Lake (trans. Sarah Riggs and Lindsay Turner)
    (Nightboat Books)

    “For half a century, Giraudon’s incisive brilliance has driven French poetry forward. Here, she investigates the work of art in an age of global deperdition. Banalities stumble into horror. Text, collage, and film bottom out into their constitutive unknowns. And ghosts including Fassbinder, Niedecker, and Maier compel us to look the Real in the eye. Riggs and Turner match Giraudon’s pace and polyphony and affirm that poetry is the mode of perception we need now.”
    –Teresa Villa-Ignacio

    Beautiful Maria of My Soul - Hijuelos, Oscar

    Oscar Hijuelos, Beautiful Maria of My Soul (foreword by Lori Marie Carlson-Hijuelos)
    (Grand Central Publishing)

    “An affecting portrait of broken dreams and regret, hope and despair, rediscovery and renewal, Beautiful María ties up the loose ends of a love story that died with Nestor in The Mambo Kings, but is still very much alive in the heart and soul of his song, Beautiful María.”

    The Best That You Can Do: Stories - Gautier, Amina

    Amina Gautier, The Best That You Can Do: Stories
    (Soft Skull)

    “Amina Gautier’s The Best That You Can Do adds even more luster to her award-winning artistry. Sharp emotional focus offsets the blur afflicting people who ‘wisp into memory’ and jump from Puerto Rico to Bed Stuy to Lisbon to Chicago. The threat to Black lives staggers the souls of characters—and of readers. ‘Tears on Tap’ is a masterpiece, and the touching final stories blend with kaleidoscopic power, where intense love can rupture by the next page.”
    –Katherine Vaz

    Where You End - Kahler, Abbott

    Abbott Kahler, Where You End

    Where You End is haunting, suspenseful and beautifully written—a modern-day gothic that explores the peculiar bond between twin sisters and the twisted power of cults; the mysteries of memory and the ineluctable pull of the past. It unnerves and beguiles in ways reminiscent of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History and David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks”—but it’s a true original.”
    –Margaret Talbot

    So Fetch: The Making of Mean Girls (and Why We're Still So Obsessed with It) - Armstrong, Jennifer Keishin

    Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, So Fetch: The Making of Mean Girls (and Why We’re Still So Obsessed with It)
    (Dey Street Books)

    “Get in, loser. On Wednesdays, we read Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s So Fetch, which tells the story of the making of Mean Girls, one of the last great big-screen comedies, while offering so much more. Touching on everything from Y2K-era misogyny to meme culture to the long tail of Mean Girls‘ impact, Armstrong’s book is funny, clear-eyed, full of unexpected insights and superb reporting, and a must for any comedy fan.”
    –Saul Austerlitz

    Witchcraft: A History in Thirteen Trials - Gibson, Marion

    Marion Gibson, Witchcraft: A History in Thirteen Trials

    “These stories of witchcraft, true and vividly told, demonstrate the potent reality of belief in evil and how in any era or place fear can be weaponised and marginal people, mostly women, labelled as wicked and dangerous. Together they comprise not just a history of witchcraft but a cautionary tale of the uncomfortably human habits of paranoia and persecution.”
    –Malcolm Gaskill

    Sex with a Brain Injury: On Concussion and Recovery - Liontas, Annie

    Annie Liontas, Sex with a Brain Injury: On Concussion and Recovery

    “A riveting book about embodiment, pain, identity, and intimacy. Sex with a Brain Injury rings with the honesty, humor, and intelligence of all my favorite books and is among the best examples of ethical personal writing that I’ve ever encountered. Annie Liontas is a treasure and this book is a stunning achievement.”
    –Melissa Febos

    Library for the War-Wounded - Helfer, Monika

    Monika Helfer, Library for the War-Wounded

    “Beautifully rendered in English by Davidson, Helfer’s novel stirringly blurs the line between memoir and fiction, concluding with painful honesty, confiding her doubts about how well she knew her father. Fans of family sagas will appreciate Helfer’s multifaceted tribute to the father who inspired her love of reading.”

    The Maga Diaries: My Surreal Adventures Inside the Right-Wing (and How I Got Out) - Nguyen, Tina

    Tina Nguyen, The Maga Diaries: My Surreal Adventures Inside the Right-Wing (and How I Got Out)
    (Atria / One Signal)

    “Delightfully witty, self-deprecating, and deeply perceptive, Tina Nguyen provides an expertly guided tour through the dark corners of the young far right movement that has shaped much of the last decade of American politics. The MAGA Diaries is a necessary read for anyone hoping to understand the insanity that we’ve spent the last decade living through, the depravity of many of the characters who’ve thrust themselves upon our politics, and the…stakes of our coming presidential contest.”
    –Wesley Lowery

    Our Hidden Conversations: What Americans Really Think about Race and Identity - Norris, Michele

    Michele Norris, Our Hidden Conversations: What Americans Really Think About Race and Identity
    (Simon & Schuster)

    “When ordinary people, talk, extraordinary truths are revealed. Michele Norris has an extraordinary gift – she is able to coax people into revealing their profound beliefs about race. This book is a safe space where difficult conversations become healing exchanges.”
    –Tayari Jones

    Filterworld: How Algorithms Flattened Culture - Chayka, Kyle

    Kyle Chayka, Filterworld: How Algorithms Flattened Culture

    “Necessary reading for anyone who has wondered just how, in expanding our world, the internet has ended up emptying our experience of it. Chayka’s wide-ranging anatomy of algorithmic curation—which, he argues, is increasingly the cultural substitute for human choice itself—makes a bracing case not only for creativity exercised beyond the confines of digital constriction, but also against the dehumanizing sameness algorithms have introduced into our societies and lives. Timely, erudite, important.”
    –Ayad Akhtar

    The Last Fire Season: A Personal and Pyronatural History - Martin, Manjula

    Manjula Martin, The Last Fire Season: A Personal and Pyronatural History

    The Last Fire Season is a gorgeous, soulfully written, intricately layered meditation on a region, a state, a body and a planet. Manjula Martin brings deep research, love, and attention to her exploration of northern California in polycrisis and weaves her findings with profound personal reflections on chronic pain and bodily harm. This is a work of memoir, ecology, physiology, political economy, horticulture, and history, and a profoundly moving work about humanity and home.”
    –Lydia Kiesling

    Our Moon: How Earth's Celestial Companion Transformed the Planet, Guided Evolution, and Made Us Who We Are - Boyle, Rebecca

    Rebecca Boyle, Our Moon: How Earth’s Celestial Companion Transformed the Planet, Guided Evolution, and Made Us Who We Are
    (Random House)

    “An excellent exploration of how the moon has shaped life on Earth….[Rebecca] Boyle’s dexterous blend of science and cultural history is elevated by her spry prose. This illuminates.”
    Publishers Weekly

    Tripping on Utopia: Margaret Mead, the Cold War, and the Troubled Birth of Psychedelic Science - Breen, Benjamin

    Benjamin Breen, Tripping on Utopia: Margaret Mead, the Cold War, and the Troubled Birth of Psychedelic Science
    (Grand Central Publishing)

    “Historian Breen…blends fleet-footed biography with an accessible analysis of mid-twentieth-century research into ‘psychedelic’ experiences as pioneered by anthropologist Margaret Mead, her husband and fellow anthropologist Gregory Bateson, and the Macy Foundation, a scientific group that became a CIA clearinghouse during the Cold War….Breen artfully weaves Mead’s biography with fascinating details….The result is a riveting exploration of a shadowy episode in twentieth-century history.”
    Publishers Weekly

    Sheridan's Secret Mission: How the South Won the War After the Civil War - Cwiklik, Robert

    Robert Cwiklik, Sheridan’s Secret Mission: How the South Won the War After the Civil War

    “In Sheridan’s Secret Mission Robert Cwiklik describes in often chilling detail how the South may have lost the Civil War, but it won the next one, a guerrilla war to derail Reconstruction and hold blacks back another hundred years. It’s as enlightening as it is appalling.”
    –John Strausbaugh

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