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    The Cure! A history of anonymous letters! 11 new books out this week.

    Gabrielle Bellot

    December 12, 2023, 4:55am

    We’re nearing the middle of December, a month in which the publishing industry, unlike our frenzied quests to find last-minute gifts, tends to slow down. As a result, though books make quite excellent presents, there aren’t always as many brand-new options to choose from at this time of the year, at least compared to previous months.

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    But fear not, Dear Readers: there’s still much to be excited about if you’re on the search for new tomes (and especially if you’re in the market for nonfiction). Below, you’ll find a small but wide-ranging list of new books out today (with the exception of Penning Poison, which will be out on the 14th, and a new edition of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s long poem Renascence, which will be available on the 15th).

    There’s a comprehensive exploration of The Cure, a history of the anonymous letter, a mystery novel about Alexander Hamilton’s widow, a harrowing memoir about living with mental illnesses in America’s rigid medical system, a travelogue following in the literal footsteps of Caesar, and more. While this list is shorter than normal, I hope you’ll still find something exciting below to add to your lists or to wrap in paper for someone special (unless you mean to send them a pointed message by leaving them a copy of Penning Poison anonymously). Enjoy!


    Penning Poison: A History of Anonymous Letters - Cockayne, Emily

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    Emily Cockayne, Penning Poison: A History of Anonymous Letters
    (Oxford University Press)

    “Emily Cockayne, one of the leading social historians of our times, has written a truly original history of anonymous letter writing. With her unparalleled skills of exploration and empathy, she has provided a brilliant and beautifully written account of neglected phenomenon in all its social complexity.”
    –Emma Griffin

    How to Draw a Novel - Solares, Martin

    Martin Solares, How to Draw a Novel
    (Grove Press)

    “The author’s mercurial focus flows in unexpected directions, mixing literary analysis, biographical tidbits…and punchy aphorisms…in kaleidoscopic fashion, and the line drawings amuse….It adds up to an audacious and unique consideration of the art of the novel.”
    Publishers Weekly

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    Curepedia: An A-Z of the Cure - Price, Simon

    Simon Price, Curepedia: An A-Z of The Cure
    (Dey Street Books)

    “Everything you need to know about the goth-rock pioneers and pop hit-makers. Founded in the late 1970s, the Cure cannily blended gloom and psychedelia—and eventually developed a knack for overtly upbeat tunes like ‘Friday I’m in Love’ and ‘Just Like Heaven.’ British music journalist Price’s comprehensive guide to the band is earthbound, upbeat, well researched, and largely devoid of fanboy chatter….Handy for fans of the band and British rock history in general.”
    Kirkus Reviews

    The Lace Widow - Cox, Mollie Ann

    Mollie Ann Cox, The Lace Widow
    (Crooked Lane Books)

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    “It’s a constant frustration to historians that women’s lives are comparatively absent from the record, but…Mollie Ann Cox has fitted a deft murder mystery into the few weeks following the death of Eliza Hamilton’s famous husband [Alexander]. Delicious historical detail and a heroine of tremendous verve. What a treat.”
    –Catriona McPherson

    Renascence and Other Poems - Millay, Edna St Vincent

    Edna St. Vincent Millay, Renascence
    (Third Man Books)

    “A person stands and looks at mountains, turns to look at a bay, lies down and screams, and gets up. This is nearly all that “happens” in Edna St. Vincent Millay’s ‘Renascence,’ the [long] poem that made her famous at just twenty years of age. But, over twenty stanzas, many more and much stranger events transpire…..[B]uilt into the poem itself is a canny investigation into the uncanny powers of poetry as medium and mediation.”
    Poetry Foundation

    A Heart Afire: Helen Brooke Taussigs Battle Against Heart Defects, Unsafe Drugs, and Injustice in Medicine - Meisol, Patricia

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    Patricia Meisol, A Heart Afire: Helen Brooke Taussig’s Battle Against Heart Defects, Unsafe Drugs, and Injustice in Medicine
    (MIT Press)

    “An enormous work—and, indeed, achievement—covering a life that explores most of the twentieth century. This impressive piece of research is not just about one woman, but also about the health of a nation and global developments in science and medicine.”
    –Claire Brock

    The Complications: On Going Insane in America - Rensin, Emmett

    Emmett Rensin, The Complications: On Going Insane in America

    “A firsthand look at schizoaffective and bipolar disorder. In an absorbing debut memoir, journalist Rensin recounts in chilling detail his ‘superior and specific epistemological access to the lived experience of being mad’….[H]e describes…repeated hospitalizations and often frustrating encounters with ‘nearly two dozen therapists’; the multiple medications…that keep his symptoms in check; and, most emphatically, his ‘particular way of being in the world’….An intimate look at a tormented mind.”
    Kirkus Reviews

    Seeing One Thing Through: The Zen Life and Teachings of Sojun Mel Weitsman - Weitsman, Mel

    Mel Weitsman, Seeing One Thing Through: The Zen Life and Teachings of Sojun Mel Weitsman

    “Sojun’s is a voice of American Zen, inflected with a ferocious wisdom, unafraid to address our weaknesses, our foolishness, and always with gentleness. Intimate memories of Suzuki Roshi blend with the real everyday problems of today’s Zen practitioners and Zen Centers. His teachings of classic Zen stories are made relevant to our lives today.”
    –Enkyo Pat O’Hara

    Following Caesar: From Rome to Constantinople, the Pathways That Planted the Seeds of Empire - Keahey, John

    John Keahey,  Following Caesar: From Rome to Constantinople, the Pathways That Planted the Seeds of Empire
    (St. Martin’s Press)

    “This delightful travelogue from historian Keahey (Seeking Sicily) chronicles his three-month journey to walk the very stones Julius Caesar did some 2,000 years ago….This winsome and deeply researched account will spellbind readers.”
    Publishers Weekly

    The Savage Storm: The Battle for Italy 1943 - Holland, James

    James Holland, The Savage Storm: The Battle for Italy 1943
    (Atlantic Monthly Press)

    “A captivating and dramatic account of the Allied invasion of Italy in September 1943….Drawn from letters and diaries, Holland’s immersive narrative is told through the eye-level perspectives of dozens of subjects. Readers will be enthralled.”
    Publishers Weekly

    Breaking the Gender Code: Women and Urban Public Space in the Twentieth-Century United States - Hickey, Georgina

    Georgina Hickey, Breaking the Gender Code: Women and Urban Public Space in the Twentieth-Century United States
    (University of Texas Press)

    “In charting women’s efforts across the nation to secure inclusion in urban public space over the long twentieth century, Georgina Hickey reveals how fundamental gender segregation was—and remains—to ‘organizing and stratifying’ American society….[G]ender segregation…’justified harassment and violence against other women,’ particularly women of color, immigrant, queer, and working-class women. This is a major contribution to both urban history and women’s, gender and sexuality studies.”
    –Tamar W. Carroll

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