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    Sally Wen Mao! Emma Copley Eisenberg! A critical history of swole-ness (yes)! 19 new books out today.

    Gabrielle Bellot

    May 28, 2024, 4:16am

    The last days of May are flitting away, with (one hopes) a glorious summer ahead. A new season is an excellent opportunity to reflect on all that has been, all that is, and what you hope the time to come will bring. And what better companion for such reflecting than a charming new book?

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    Below, you’ll find nineteen new ones to consider, including stories from the acclaimed poet Sally Wen Mao; an apparently sexy and soulful queer roadtrip of a novel from Emma Copley Eisenberg; a collection of essays from the brilliant-yet-little-known Chilean writer Pedro Lemebel; a look at the wide influence of Judith Jones; a blend of memoir and critique by Michael Andor Brodeur that explores muscle culture, gender, and, yes, the complications of swole-ness; Michael Bérubé on sci-fi; wide-roving poems from John Balaban; and more.

    I hope you’ll find much to delight in, mull, and marvel at below. Let those to-be-read piles grow!


    Ninetails: Nine Tales - Mao, Sally Wen

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    Sally Wen Mao, Ninetails: Nine Tales

    “From acclaimed poet Sally Wen Mao comes her first collection of short stories Ninetails, a fabulist retelling of the nine-tailed foAdd Meetingx spirit of Asian folklore. From a fox spirit avenging a teen girl by seducing her abuser to an assassination plot against the Queen of Korea known as Operation Fox Hunt, each story glimmers with captivating premises and glistens with undeniable lyricism. Sally Wen Mao has built entire worlds in each short entry, making this a prose debut that you don’t want to miss.”
    Chicago Review of Books

    Housemates - Eisenberg, Emma Copley

    Emma Copley Eisenberg, Housemates
    (Hogarth Press)

    “The brilliant, queer, abundant, art-drunk, soulful, sexy American road-trip novel we’ve needed for so long.”
    –Stacey D’Erasmo

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    The Safekeep - Van Der Wouden, Yael

    Yael van der Wouden, The Safekeep
    (Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster)

    “A beautifully realized book, nearly perfect, as van der Wouden quietly explores the intricate nuances of resentment-hued sibling dynamics, the discovery of desire (and the simultaneous discovery of self), queer relationships at a time when they went unspoken, and the legacy of war and what it might mean to have been complicit in its horrors….A brilliant debut, as multifaceted as a gem.”
    Kirkus Reviews

    A Last Supper of Queer Apostles: Selected Essays - Lemebel, Pedro

    Pedro Lemebel, Gwendolyn Harper (editor), A Last Supper of Queer Apostles: Selected Essays

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    A Last Supper of Queer Apostles cements [Lemebel’s] place in the canon—the literary one, the queer one, the Chilean one, the Latin American one, the human one. This collection of devastatingly gay and unabashedly political essays is, in fact, a quiver of exquisite arrows…electrifying and gorgeously written…brilliantly translated by Gwendolyn Harper….Lemebel spills anti-fascist tea in dizzying prose that spins us ever closer to the collective liberation he was seeking.”
    –Alejandro Varela

    Accordion Eulogies: A Memoir of Music, Migration, and Mexico - Álvarez, Noé

    Noé Álvarez, Accordion Eulogies: A Memoir of Music, Migration, and Mexico

    “In a follow-up to his award-winning debut memoir, Spirit Run (2020), Álvarez embarks on another journey of self-discovery….A lasting theme of the book is that amid life’s disappointments, music offers a healing balm, as do the people who show unflinching generosity. Once again, this gifted writer proves to be an essential contemporary voice.”

    The Editor: How Publishing Legend Judith Jones Shaped Culture in America - Franklin, Sara B.

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    Sara B. Franklin, The Editor: How Publishing Legend Judith Jones Shaped Culture in America
    (Atria Books)

    “Through her editorial work, Judith Jones changed the perception of what it meant to be a woman who cooks. Through The Editor, Sara B. Franklin gives shape and weight to a career that could have continued on as a footnote; in doing so, she proves Jones was too good and influential to live on like that.”
    –Alicia Kennedy

    Passing Through a Gate: Poems, Essays, and Translations - Balaban, John

    John Balaban, Passing Through a Gate: Poems, Essays, and Translations
    (Copper Canyon Press)

    “In a way that few poets do, John Balaban truly roams the globe—and the centuries. He has his eye on empires, yes, but also on moments when different slices of history collide….His capacious poems enlarge our eyes on the world.”
    –Adam Hochschild

    The Winner - Wayne, Teddy

    Teddy Wayne, The Winner

    The Winner is a lean, careening thrill of a book….Conor O’Toole’s steady embroilment with the wealthy people he teaches tennis to is drawn with exquisite dread. Wayne has a genius for brief observations that reveal whole reams of truth about class, poverty and competition, while also never allowing the hideously compelling story to let up for a moment. Exhilarating, cutting, and funny, The Winner is already one of my favorite books of the year.”
    –Megan Nolan

    The Second Coming - Hallberg, Garth Risk

    Garth Risk Hallberg, The Second Coming

    “Reading Garth Risk Hallberg is a constant delightful surprise–you never know what’s coming next: a gorgeous turn of phrase, a perfect pop culture reference, a brilliant new observation, a jaw-dropping plot twist. And all of these gifts are on full display in The Second Coming, a story about a father bound up by his mistakes, a daughter bound up in her silence, and a family in need of saving. It’s a beautiful and daring novel, as inventive as it is breathtaking.”
    –Nathan Hill

    A Good Life - Grimaldi, Virginie

    Virginie Grimaldi, A Good Life (trans. Hildegarde Serle)
    (Europa Editions)

    “Grimaldi is a best-selling author in France, and her bittersweet English-language debut is sure to tug at the heartstrings of readers who appreciate moving novels which explore the complexities of sisterly love and mental illness, such as All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews (2014), or Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee (2018).”

    The Book-Makers: A History of the Book in Eighteen Lives - Smyth, Adam

    Adam Smyth, The Book-Makers: A History of the Book in Eighteen Lives
    (Basic Books)

    “Erudite, insightful and hugely enjoyable, The Book-Makers features an eclectic cast of oddballs, eccentrics and visionaries who have shaped the printed book. A fabulous, first-class read.”
    –Giles Milton

    Swole: The Making of Men and the Meaning of Muscle - Brodeur, Michael Andor

    Michael Andor Brodeur, Swole: The Making of Men and the Meaning of Muscle
    (Beacon Press)

    “A timely, unprecedented survey of an unexpected, often overlooked figure in body politics: the meathead….Necessary….Crucial….For anyone engaged in the Sisyphean pursuit of muscle and bulk–and to anyone interested in engaging with a critical examination of masculinity–Swole is an invitation to broaden our view on what it means to want to get big.”
    –Colin Self

    The Ex-Human: Science Fiction and the Fate of Our Species - Bérubé, Michael

    Michael Bérubé, The Ex-Human: Science Fiction and the Fate of Our Species
    (Columbia University Press)

    “Are human beings worth saving? Viewing that question through the lens of science fiction, The Ex-Human is one of those rare and wonderful books that will engage aficionados and general readers together. Bérubé writes with conviction, clarity, and warmth–this is literary and cinematic analysis of the highest order, presented in a personal voice that always keeps you in the story.”
    –Leonard Cassuto

    Sex Goblin - Cook, Lauren

    Lauren Cook, Sex Goblin
    (Nightboat Books)

    “Oftentimes, Sex Goblin feels like a lustrous alternative to the doomscroll. Non-narrative vignettes—which all utilize an ‘I’ that assumes different lives and situations in each ‘story’—are transitioned between with short lines that read both like brilliant tweets (‘We don’t have to ride or die we can just chill’) and like aphorisms….A handful of the vignettes tell stories of outcasts….These are some of the moments in which Sex Goblin beautifully narrates the experience of being queer…dazzling.”
    Heavy Feather Review

    Written in Water: The Ephemeral Life of the Classic in Art - Gurstein, Rochelle

    Rochelle Gurstein, Written in Water: The Ephemeral Life of the Classic in Art
    (Yale University Press)

    “Rochelle Gurstein’s sensitive reconsideration of what we mean by a classic is a deeply personal and broadly relevant reflection on what we want from the concept when we wield it. This compellingly written study should be of interest to anyone who cares about beauty, the history of admiration, or about how cultural values change over time. It is bound to make an impact.”
    –Jonah Siegel

    Cunning Folk: Life in the Era of Practical Magic - Stanmore, Tabitha

    Tabitha Stanmore, Cunning Folk: Life in the Era of Practical Magic

    “A significant follow-up to Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English’s seminal Witches, Midwives & NursesCunning Folk offers a nuanced view into pre-modern spirituality….Deeply researched, Cunning Folk is rich with primary source accounts that elucidate how service magic was used to treat the ills of everyday life in pre-modern and medieval Europe…a welcome addition to any history-buff’s bookshelf….Connecting past to present, Stanmore proves that magic-seeking is deeply human.”
    –Frances F. Denny

    Heart of American Darkness: Bewilderment and Horror on the Early Frontier - Parkinson, Robert G.

    Robert G. Parkinson, Heart of American Darkness: Bewilderment and Horror on the Early Frontier

    “The Heart of American Darkness traces the struggle to control the trans-Appalachian west, as European empires and later the American Republic fought to wrest control of this region from its Indigenous inhabitants. Chronicling the violence and chaos that defined this contest over the ‘back country, ‘ Robert Parkinson provides a bold new interpretation of the founding history of the United States.”
    –Michael Jay Witgen

    The Playbook: A Story of Theater, Democracy, and the Making of a Culture War - Shapiro, James

    James Shapiro, The Playbook: A Story of Theater, Democracy, and the Making of a Culture War
    (Penguin Press)

    “A vibrant history both of the astonishingly successful Federal Theatre Project and the culture wars that succeeded in quashing it….Its demise still resonates, Shapiro warns, with the Dies playbook revived by culture warriors noisily censoring the arts. Sharp history as cautionary tale.”
    Kirkus Reviews

    Poverty for Profit: How Corporations Get Rich Off America's Poor - Kim, Anne

    Anne Kim, Poverty for Profit: How Corporations Get Rich Off America’s Poor
    (New Press)

    “Anne Kim’s book is a tour de force, showing in painstaking detail the myriad ways that corporations—many of them ostensibly with a mission to tackle poverty and to manage state and federal antipoverty efforts—exploit America’s poor. Read this book and weep, and then demand action from legislators to end the systemic incentives for legalized highway robbery against individuals and families already living on—or in many cases beyond—the economic margins.”
    –Sasha Abramsky

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