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 Story Game

Shze-Hui Tjoa

In the humid dark of a eucalyptus-scented room, a woman named Hui lies on a mattress telling stories about herself to her listener, a little girl. She talks about her identity as the child of an immigrant, her feelings about being in a mixed-race marriage, her opinions on mental health. But as her stories progress, it becomes clear a volatile secret lurks beneath their surface. There are events in Hui’s past that have great significance for the person she’s become, but that have gone missing from her memory. What is it, exactly, that is haunting Hui? Who is the little girl she talks to? And who is Hui herself?

As the conversation continues, what unfolds is a breathtaking, unexpected journey through layers of story toward truth and recovered identity; a memoir that reenacts, in tautly novelistic fashion, the process of healing that author Shze-Hui Tjoa moved through to recover memories lost to complex PTSD and, eventually, reconstruct her sense of self. Stunning in its originality and intimacy, The Story Game is a piercing tribute to selfhood and sisterhood, a genre-shattering testament to the power of imagination, and a one-of-a-kind work of art.

 

Otter Country

Miriam Darlington

A plan formed in my mind. I would explore the places in this land that hid my grail. I would spend a whole year or longer, if that’s what it took, wading through marshes, hiding between mossy rocks, paddling down rivers and swimming in sea lochs; recording my journey through the seasons as I searched for wild otters.

Mysterious, graceful, and ever-clever, otters have captivated our imaginations, despite the fact that few people have encountered one in the wild. In Otter Country, celebrated nature writer Miriam Darlington captures the fascination she’s had for these playful animals since childhood, and chronicles her immersive journey into their watery world.

Over the course of a single year, Darlington takes readers on a winding expedition in pursuit of these elusive creatures—from her home in Devon, England, and through the wilds of Scotland, Wales, the Lake District, and the countryside of Cornwall. As she’s drawn deeper into wilder habitats, trekking through changing landscapes, seasons, and weather, Darlington meets biologists, conservationists, fishing and hunting enthusiasts, and poets—enriching her understanding, admiration, and awe of the wild otter. With each encounter, she reveals the scientific, environmental, and cultural importance of this creature and the places it calls home.

Full of wonder, hope, and an abiding love for the natural world, Otter Country: An Unexpected Adventure in the Natural World is a beautiful and captivating work of nature writing, pursuing one of nature’s most endearing and endlessly fascinating creatures.

 

Possum Living

John Franc

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.

The Loneliness Files

Athena Dixon

What does it mean to be a body behind a screen, lost in the hustle of an online world? In our age of digital hyper-connection, Athena Dixon invites us to consider this question with depth, heart, and ferocity, investigating the gaps that technology cannot fill and confronting a lifetime of loneliness.

Living alone as a middle-aged woman without children or pets and working forty hours a week from home, more than three hundred fifty miles from her family and friends, Dixon begins watching mystery videos on YouTube, listening to true crime podcasts, and playing video game walk-throughs just to hear another human voice. She discovers the story of Joyce Carol Vincent, a woman who died alone, her body remaining in front of a glowing television set for three years before the world finally noticed. Searching for connection, Dixon plumbs the depths of communal loneliness, asking essential questions of herself and all of us: How have her past decisions left her so alone? Are we, as humans, linked by a shared loneliness? How do we see the world and our place in it? And finally, how do we find our way back to each other?

Searing and searching, The Loneliness Files is a groundbreaking memoir in essays that ultimately brings us together in its piercing, revelatory examination of how and why it is that we break apart.

Move Like Water

Hannah Stowe

As a young girl, Hannah Stowe was raised at the tide’s edge on the Pembrokeshire coast of Wales, falling asleep to the sweep of the lighthouse beam. Now in her midtwenties, working as a marine biologist and sailor, Stowe draws on her professional experiences sailing tens of thousands of miles in the North Sea, North Atlantic, Mediterranean, Celtic Sea, and the Caribbean to explore the human relationship with wild waters. Why is it, she asks, that she and so many others have been drawn to life at sea—and what might the water around us be able to teach us?

Braiding her powerful and deeply personal narrative and illustrations with stories of six keystone marine creatures—the fire crow, sperm whale, wandering albatross, humpback whale, shearwater, and the barnacle—Stowe invites readers to fall in love, as she has, with the sea and those that call it home, and to discover the majesty, wonder, and vulnerability of the underwater world.

For fans of Rachel Carson and Annie Dillard, Move Like Water: My Story of the Sea is an inspiring, heartfelt hymn to the sea, a testament to finding and following a dream, and an unforgettable introduction to a deeply gifted nature writer of a new generation.

A Wild Promise

Allen Crawford

For the past fifty years, this promise, the Endangered Species Act, has ensured that the most threatened and vulnerable species and their habitats are protected. From the Steller sea lion to the ivory-billed woodpecker, from the steelhead trout to the red wolf, this landmark act has worked to preserve the wild beauty that surrounds and sustains us.

In A Wild Promise, acclaimed artist Allen Crawford beautifully illustrates over eighty animals that embody the spirit, legacy, and commitment of the Endangered Species Act. In his trademark inventive style, Crawford’s full-color illustrations and illuminated text create a vibrant tapestry of our nation’s habitats—oceans, mountains, deserts, wetlands, prairies, and forests—and the varied species that call these places home. With a powerful and moving introduction by award-winning writer and conservationist Terry Tempest Williams, A Wild Promise is critically urgent and inspirational, lending voice and spirit to all endangered species. A visually delightful, one-of-a-kind work, A Wild Promise is a celebration of conservation, commitment, and compassion—a clarion call to continue to embrace, engage, and act in ways that preserve and protect our living world.

Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City

Jane Wong

In the late 1980s on the Jersey shore, Jane Wong watches her mother shake ants from an MSG bin behind the family’s Chinese restaurant. She is a hungry daughter frying crab rangoon for lunch, a child sneaking naps on bags of rice, a playful sister scheming to trap her brother in the freezer before he traps her first. Jane is part of a family staking their claim to the American dream, even as this dream crumbles. Beneath Atlantic City’s promise lies her father’s gambling addiction, an addiction that causes him to disappear for days and ultimately leads to the loss of the restaurant.

In her debut memoir, Jane Wong tells a new story about Atlantic City, one that resists a single identity, a single story as she writes about making do with what you have—and what you don’t. What does it mean, she asks, to be both tender and angry? What is strength without vulnerability—and humor? Filled with beauty found in unexpected places, Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City is a resounding love song of the Asian American working class, a portrait of how we become who we are, and a story of lyric wisdom to hold and to share.

The Language of Trees

Katie Holten

Inspired by forests, trees, leaves, roots, and seeds, The Language of Trees: A Rewilding of Literature and Landscape invites readers to discover an unexpected and imaginative language to better read and write the natural world around us and reclaim our relationship with it.

In this gorgeously illustrated and deeply thoughtful collection, Katie Holten gifts readers her tree alphabet and uses it to masterfully translate and illuminate beloved lost and new, original writing in praise of the natural world. With an introduction from Ross Gay, and featuring writings from over fifty contributors including Ursula K. Le Guin, Ada Limón, Robert Macfarlane, Zadie Smith, Radiohead, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, James Gleick, Elizabeth Kolbert, Plato, and Robin Wall Kimmerer, Holten illustrates each selection with an abiding love and reverence for the magic of trees. She guides readers on a journey from creation myths and cave paintings to the death of a 3,500-year-old cypress tree, from Tree Clocks in Mongolia and forest fragments in the Amazon to the language of fossil poetry, unearthing a new way to see the natural beauty all around us and an urgent reminder of what could happen if we allow it to slip away.

The Language of Trees considers our relationship with literature and landscape, resulting in an astonishing fusion of storytelling and art and a deeply beautiful celebration of trees through the ages.

 

The Wise Hours

Miriam Darlington

 

Owls have existed for over sixty million years, and in the relatively short time we have shared the planet with these majestic birds they have ignited the human imagination. But even as owls continue to captivate our collective consciousness, celebrated British nature writer Miriam Darlington finds herself struck by all she doesn’t know about the true nature of these enigmatic creatures.

Darlington begins her fieldwork in the British Isles with her teenage son, Benji. As her avian fascination grows, she travels to France, Serbia, Spain, Finland, and the frosted Lapland borders of the Arctic for rare encounters with the Barn Owl, Tawny Owl, Long-eared Owl, Pygmy Owl, Snowy Owl, and more. But when her son develops a mysterious illness, her quest to understand the elusive nature of owls becomes entangled with her search for finding a cure.

In The Wise Hours, Darlington watches and listens to the natural world and to the rhythms of her home and family, inviting readers to discover the wonders of owls alongside her while rewilding our imagination with the mystery, fragility, and magnificence of all creatures.

 

Wading in Waist-High Water

Robin Pecknold

Since the release of their breakout debut album in 2008, Fleet Foxes and their front man, singer-songwriter Robin Pecknold, have enjoyed international critical and commercial acclaim. Their music has helped reshape the American indie-folk sound through songs that are acoustically and melodically driven, steeped in gospel-like harmonies, and propelled by Pecknold’s resonant, earthy, and timeless lyrics.

Wading in Waist-High Water: The Lyrics of Fleet Foxes
contains Pecknold’s complete lyrics from fifty-five songs, capturing the poetic and inventive storytelling that is a hallmark of the band’s music. These richly layered lyrics explore the complexity, darkness, and beauty of physical and emotional landscapes, both pastoral and modern. Accompanying the lyrics, Pecknold includes notes on his creative processes, inspirations, and motivations.

With an introduction by celebrated novelist Brandon Taylor, and an afterword by Pecknold, Wading in Waist-High Water is a moving and intimate look at the art of songwriting, the joy of music-making, and what it means to produce meaningful and memorable sound.

A Pros and Cons List for Strong Feelings

Will Betke-Brunswick

During Will Betke-Brunswick’s sophomore year of college, their beloved mother, Elizabeth, is diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. They only have ten more months together, which Will documents in evocative two-color illustrations. But as we follow Will and their mom through chemo and hospital visits, their time together is buoyed by laughter, jigsaw puzzles, modern art, and vegan BLTs. In a delightful twist, Will portrays their family as penguins, and their friends are cast as a menagerie of birds. In between therapy and bedside chats, they navigate uniquely human challenges, as Will prepares for math exams, comes out as genderqueer, and negotiates familial tension. 

A Pros and Cons List for Strong Feelings is an act of loving others and loving oneself, offering a story of coming-of-age, illness, death, and life that announces the arrival of a talented storyteller in Will Betke-Brunswick. At its heart, Will’s story is a celebration of a mother-child relationship filled with unconditional devotion, humor, care, and openness.

When They Tell You To Be Good

Prince Shakur

After immigrating from Jamaica to the United States, Prince Shakur’s family is rocked by the murder of Prince’s biological father in 1995. Behind the murder is a sordid family truth, scripted in the lines of a diary by an outlawed uncle hell-bent on avenging the murder of Prince’s father. As Shakur begins to unravel his family’s secrets, he must navigate the strenuous terrain of coming to terms with one’s inner self while confronting the steeped complexities of the Afro-diaspora.

When They Tell You to Be Good charts Shakur’s political coming of age from closeted queer kid in a Jamaican family to radicalized adult traveler, writer, and anarchist in Obama and Trump’s America. Shakur journeys from France to the Philippines, South Korea, and elsewhere to discover the depths of the Black experience, and engages in deep political questions while participating in movements like Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock. By the end, Shakur reckons with his identity, his family’s immigration, and the intergenerational impacts of patriarchal and colonial violence.

Examining a tangled web of race, trauma, and memory, When They Tell You to Be Good shines a light on what we all must ask of ourselves?to be more than what America envisions for the oppressed?as Shakur compels readers to take a closer, deeper look at the political world of young, Black, queer, and radical millennials today.

We Did Porn

Zak Smith

Blending memoir with Smith’s own drawings and paintings, We Did Porn will do for alt porn what Hunter S. Thompson did for motorcycle gangs and Tom Wolfe for psychedelica.

Punk artist and icon Zak Smith made a name for himself by visually interpreting Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow and drawing pictures of girls in the “naked girl business.” His artistic pedigree and acute observation landed him in high-profile shows from the Whitney to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Somewhere along the line, Smith went from the observer to the observed, from the guy in the corner with a sketchpad to the guy on-screen doing the unnamable for anyone eighteen or older to see. We Did Porn follows Zak Smith (or Zak Sabbath) from the New York art scene to Los Angeles’s seedy, yet colorful, underbelly—the world of alt porn. Smith narrates his own foray into pornography and gives his readers a new understanding of the industry, its players, and its audience.

How to Do Nothing with Nobody All Alone by Yourself

Robert Paul Smith

Promoting free-range imagination, hands-on ingenuity, and independent play, Robert Smith’s timeless activity guide reminds parents and children alike that making one’s own fun is the best way to avoid boredom. With easy-to-follow, illustrated directions to hacking household objects into toys and using nature to invent mischievous contraptions, this is a handbook that inspires creative play. From indoor boomerangs, pin pianos, umbrella bow and arrows, peach pit turtles, and clamshell bracelets to quirky, prank-ready contraptions, the wide array of engaging activities provides a great alternative to screen time, fostering independent thinking and joyful curiosity, and a greater appreciation for the simple things in life—both indoor and outdoor. Charming, inspiring, and loads of fun, this spirited book will provide endless enjoyment for children and parents alike.

Mentor

Tom Grimes

A chance encounter between two writers, one young, one older, develops into a wonderful friendship neither expected. Frank Conroy, author of the classic memoir Stop-Time, meets Tom Grimes, an aspiring writer and an applicant to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, which Conroy directs. First as teacher and student–and gradually as friends—their lives become entwined, and through both successes and disappointments, their bond deepens.

Exquisitely written, Mentor is an honest and heartbreaking exploration of the writing life and the role of a very important teacher.