The Naming of the Birds

Paraic O’Donnell

Something is troubling Inspector Henry Cutter. Sergeant Gideon Bliss is accustomed to his ill-tempered outbursts, but lately the inspector has grown silent and withdrawn.

Then, the murders begin. The first to die is the elderly Sir Aneurin Considine, a decorated but obscure civil servant who long ago retired to tend his orchids. If the motive for his killing is a mystery, the manner of his death is more bewildering still. The victims that follow suffer similar fates, their deaths gruesome but immaculately orchestrated. The murderer comes and goes like a ghost, leaving only carefully considered traces. As the hunt for this implacable adversary mounts, the inspector’s gloom deepens, and to Sergeant Bliss, his methods seem as mystifying as the crimes themselves. 

Why is he digging through dusty archives while the murderer stalks further victims? And as hints of past wrongdoing emerge—and with them the faint promise of a motivewhy does Cutter seem haunted by some long-ago failing of his own?

To find the answers, the meek and hapless sergeant must step out of the inspector’s shadow. Aided by Octavia Hillingdon, a steely and resourceful journalist, Bliss will uncover truths that test his deepest beliefs.

Hypnotic and twisty, Paraic O’Donnell’s The Naming of the Birds will ensnare you until the final pages and leave you questioning what matters most—solving a case or serving justice.

The Flitting

Ben Masters

Flitting also means transformation from one state of being to another. It evokes in my mind a butterfly, whose movement is of course a flitting—flittering and fluttering—and whose very condition is a flitting, programmed to fundamental change.

 The Flitting: A Memoir of Fathers, Sons, and Butterflies is a masterful and touching memoir blending natural history, pop culture, and literary biography—delivering a richly layered and nuanced portrait of a son’s attempt, after years of stubborn resistance, to take on his dying father’s love of the natural world. With his father unable to leave the house and follow the butterfly cycle for the first time since he was a child, Masters endeavors to become his connection to the outdoors and his treasured butterflies, reporting back with stories of beloved species—Purple Emperors, Lulworth Skippers, Wood Whites and Silver-studded Blues—and with stories of the woods and meadows that are their habitats and once were his. Structured around a series of exchanges and remembrances, butterflies become a way of talking about masculinity, memory, generational differences, and ultimately loss and continuation. Masters takes readers on an unlikely journey where Luther Vandross and The Sopranos rub shoulders with the likes of Angela Carter and Virginia Woolf on butterflies and gender; the metamorphoses of Prince; Zadie Smith on Joni Mitchell and how sensibilities evolve; and the lives and works of Vladimir Nabokov and other literary lepidopterists. 

 In this beautiful debut memoir, Ben Masters offers an intensely authentic, unforgettable portrait of a father and son sharing passions, lessons, and regrets before they run out of time.  

 

The World With Its Mouth Open

Zahid Rafiq

In eleven stories, The World With Its Mouth Open follows the inner lives of people in Kashmir as they walk the uncertain terrain of their days, fractured from years of war. From a shopkeeper’s encounter with a mannequin, to an expectant mother walking on a precarious road, to a young boy wavering between dreams and reality, to two dogs wandering the city, these stories weave in larger, devastating themes of loss, grief, violence, longing, and injustice with the threads of smaller, everyday realities that confront the characters’ lives in profound ways. Although the stories circle the darker aspects of life, they are—at the same time—an attempt to run into life, into humor, into beauty, into another person who can offer refuge, if momentarily.

Zahid Rafiq’s The World With Its Mouth Open is an original and powerful debut collection announcing the arrival of a new voice that bears witness to the human condition with nuance, heart, humor, and incredible insight.

The Burrow

Melanie Cheng

Big-hearted and moving, Melanie Cheng’s The Burrow brings together a family trying to find their way forward in the wake of a devastating loss. Parents Jin and Amy Lee adopt a rabbit for their daughter Lucie in the hopes of restoring a bit of joy to their home in the Australian suburbs, and at first, each family member benefits from the distraction of a new creature in need of care. Things are upended when the arrival of Amy’s estranged mother breaks their fragile sense of peace, and the family is forced to confront the terrible circumstances surrounding their tragedy and to ask themselves whether opening their hearts to the rabbit will help them to heal, or only invite further sorrow.

With compassion and a keen eye for detail, Cheng tenderly reveals the lives of others—even a small rabbit—in an unforgettable novel about grief, hope, and forgiveness.

Good Dress

Brittany Rogers

In her debut poetry collection, Brittany Rogers explores the audacity of Black Detroit, Black womanhood, class, luxury and materialism, and matrilineage. A nontraditional coming-of-age, Good Dress witnesses a speaker coming into her own autonomy and selfhood as a young adult, reflecting on formative experiences.

With care and incandescent energy, the poems engage with memory, time, interiority, and community. The collection also nudges tenderly toward curiosity: What does it mean to belong to a person, to a city? Can intimacy and romance be found outside the heteronormative confines of partnership? And in what ways can the pursuit of pleasure be an anchor that returns us to ourselves?

Signs, Music

Raymond Antrobus

Structured as a two-part sequence poem, Signs, Music explores the before and after of becoming a father with tenderness and care—the cognitive and emotional dissonances between the “hypothetical” and the “real” of fatherhood, the ways our own parents shape the parents we become, and how fraught with emotion, curiosity, and recollection this irreversible transition to fatherhood makes one’s inner landscape. 

At once searching and bright, deeply rooted and buoyant, Raymond Antrobus’s Signs, Music is a moving record of  the changes and challenges encompassing new parenthood and the inevitable cycles of life, death, birth, renewal and legacy—a testament to the joy, uncertainty, and incredible love that come with bringing new life into the world.

Misinterpretation

Ledia Xhoga

In present-day New York City, an Albanian interpreter reluctantly agrees to work with Alfred, a Kosovar torture survivor, during his therapy sessions. Despite her husband’s cautions, she soon becomes entangled in her clients’ struggles: Alfred’s nightmares stir up her own buried memories, and an impulsive attempt to help a Kurdish poet leads to a risky encounter and a reckless plan. 

 As ill-fated decisions stack up, jeopardizing the nameless narrator’s marriage and mental health, she takes a spontaneous trip to reunite with her mother in Albania, where her life in the United States is put into stark relief. When she returns to face the consequences of her actions, she must question what is real and what is not. Ruminative and propulsive, Ledia Xhoga’s debut novel Misinterpretation interrogates the darker legacies of family and country, and the boundary between compassion and self-preservation.

Masquerade

Mike Fu

Set between New York and Shanghai, Masquerade is a queer coming-of-age mystery about a lovelorn bartender and his complex friendship with a volatile artist.

Newly single Meadow Liu is house-sitting for his friend, artist Selma Shimizu, when he stumbles upon The Masquerade, a translated novel about a masked ball in 1930s Shanghai. The author’s name is the same as Meadow’s own in Chinese, Liu Tiana coincidence that proves to be the first of many strange happenings. Over the course of a single summer, Meadow must contend with a possibly haunted apartment, a mirror that plays tricks, a stranger speaking in riddles at the bar where he works, as well as a startling revelation about a former lover. And when Selma vanishes from her artist residency, Meadow is forced to question everything he knows as the boundaries between real and imagined begin to blur.

Exploring social, cultural, and sexual identities in New York, Shanghai, and beyond, Mike Fu’s Masquerade is a skillfully layered, brilliantly interwoven debut novel of friendship, queer longing, and worlds on the brink, asking how we can find ourselves among ghosts of all kinds, and who we can trust when nothing—and no one—is as it seems.

Smothermoss

Alisa Alering

In 1980s Appalachia, sisters Sheila and Angie couldn’t be more different. While their mother works long shifts at the nearby asylum, Sheila cares for their home and keeps to herself, even when enduring relentless bullying. Her fearless younger sister, Angie, is more focused on fighting imaginary zombies and creating tarot-like cards that seem to have minds of their own. When the brutal murder of two female hikers on the nearby Appalachian Trail stuns their small community, the sisters find themselves tangled in a dangerous game of cat and mouse. Angie discovers a ripped, blood-soaked shirt; money Sheila’s been stashing away disappears; and a strange man tries to barter with a woman’s watch at a local store. As the threat of violence looms larger, the mysterious, ancient mountain they live on—and their willingness to trust each other—might be the only things that can save these sisters from the darkness consuming their home.

In turns both terrifying and otherworldly, author Alisa Alering opens the door to the hidden world of Smothermoss—a mountain that sighs, monsters made of ink, rabbits dead and alive, and ropes that won’t come undone. Unsettling, propulsive, and wonderfully atmospheric, Alering’s stunning debut novel renegotiates what is seen and unseen, what is real and what is haunted.

The Skunks

Fiona Warnick

Dear Skunks, I wrote. Then I got stuck. What was there to say about the skunks? Of course there was the smell—the spraying. Everyone’s mind jumped to the spraying. I often forgot about the spraying entirely, which was nice because it made me feel that I wasn’t like other people.

From the outside, Isabel doesn’t seem to have much going on. It’s the summer after college graduation and she’s moved back to her hometown, where she spends her days house-sitting, babysitting, working the front desk at a yoga studio, and hanging out with her childhood friend Ellie. But on the inside, Isabel’s mind is always running, always analyzing, and right now, she’s trying hard to not let her thoughts give weight to boys. So when Isabel spots three baby skunks in the yard, their presence is not only a strangely thrilling break from the expected, it feels like a fortuitous sign from the universe. Skunks. That’s what she should be thinking about.

As the summer unfolds, Isabel becomes increasingly preoccupied with the skunks, while also navigating her various jobs and an ambiguous relationship with Eli, the son of the couple she’s house-sitting for. In her own life and in the imagined inner lives of the skunks, Isabel ponders the nature of existence, love vs. infatuation, and the many small moments that make us animal, make us human. The Skunks is an unforgettable coming-of-age story about the complexities of crushes, desire, friendship, and modern life.

Six Walks

Ben Shattuck

On an autumn morning in 1849, Henry David Thoreau stepped out his front door to walk the beaches of Cape Cod. Over a century and a half later, Ben Shattuck does the same. With little more than a loaf of bread, brick of cheese, and a notebook, Shattuck sets out to retrace Thoreau’s path through the Cape’s outer beaches, from the elbow to Provincetown’s fingertip.

This is the first of six journeys taken by Shattuck, each one inspired by a walk once taken by Henry David Thoreau. After the Cape, Shattuck goes up Mount Katahdin and Mount Wachusett, down the coastline of his hometown, and then through the Allagash. Along the way, Shattuck encounters unexpected characters, landscapes, and stories, seeing for himself the restorative effects that walking can have on a dampened spirit. Over years of following Thoreau, Shattuck finds himself uncovering new insights about family, love, friendship, and fatherhood, and understanding more deeply the lessons walking can offer through life’s changing seasons.

Intimate, entertaining, and beautifully crafted, Six Walks is a resounding tribute to the ways walking in nature can inspire us all.

 

Possum Living: How to Live Well Without a Job and With (Almost) No Money

Dolly Freed

“A back-to-the-land classic” (Garden & Gun) that will “inspire you to embrace a simpler life” (O, The Oprah Magazine).

In the late seventies, at the age of eighteen and with a seventh-grade education, Dolly Freed wrote Possum Living about the five years she and her father lived off the land on a half-acre lot outside of Philadelphia. At the time of its publication in 1978, Possum Living became an instant classic, known for its plucky narration and no-nonsense practical advice on how to quit the rat race and live frugally. In her delightful, straightforward, and irreverent style, Freed guides readers on how to buy and maintain a home, raise and grow their own food, cope with the law, stay healthy, save money, and more, all in the name of self-reliant, independent living. 

Forty years later, Possum Living remains an essential guide to going off the grid. This updated edition includes an introduction by Novella Carpenter, and new wisdom from Freed on aging, used cars, emergency funds, and how to get back in touch with yourself. Possum Living, says Freed, is about how to cook; to go fishing; to be with family, friends, and neighbors; to forage for wild berries; to enjoy a hobby; to relax; or, even better, to do nothing at all. Some of the best living, she reminds us, happens in possum time.

Shake ‘Em Up

Virginia Elliott and Phil D. Stong

An essential addition to the library of any cocktailian, entertainer, nostalgic, or anyone who just likes to relax with a cold beverage, Shake ‘Em Up! delivers all the joy of a Jazz Age cocktail party, without the fear of temperance officers knocking down your door.

As the authors say: Shake ’Em Up! is “for People Who Fling Parties, People Who Go to Parties . . . People Who Don’t Really Drink but Feel That a Cocktail or Two Enlivens Conversation―in short, for the American People,” and that’s as true today as it was upon the book’s original publication in 1930. Virginia Elliott and Phil D. Stong created a handbook for polite―if not entirely legal―drinking during the height of Prohibition, and the advice remains sound, the voice charming, and the cocktails strong. Need ideas as to how to catch up with your already inebriated guests, or guidance on what to do when said guests end up a little too inebriated? Shake ’Em Up! will point you in the right direction. Whether you’re looking for the proper way to mix a Brandy Punch, what you ought to serve alongside a Bijou Cocktail, or a dependable hangover cure, Elliott and Stong have you covered. With a lively introduction from bestselling author Amy Stewart (The Drunken Botanist), this fully illustrated time capsule will inspire with buzzy cocktails and recipes from another era, making it the perfect gift for the hosts and entertainers of today.