I know I have been delinquent in my book reviews, but I promise I AM reading. So much reading. In fact, this past week was the most crowded publishing day the industry has seen in a long time. So while I work my way through the literal piles of books to review, here’s a few new and upcoming titles to check out this month.
The Unwritten Book by Samantha Hunt
I’ve started (but haven’t yet finished) this book. It’s brilliant in a way that needs to be savored slowly. It’s unusual and meandering, yet somehow hangs together.
From the publisher: A genre-bending work of nonfiction, Samantha Hunt’s The Unwritten Book explores ghosts, ghost stories, and haunting, in the broadest sense of each. What is it to be haunted, to be a ghost, to die, to live, to read? Books are ghosts; reading is communion with the dead. Alcohol is a way of communing, too, as well as a way of dying. Each chapter gathers subjects that haunt: dead people, the forest, the towering library of all those books we’ll never have time to read or write. Hunt, like a mad crossword puzzler, looks for patterns and clues.
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (April 5, 2022)
Hardcover: 384 pages
Pandora’s Jar by Natalie Haynes
from the publisher: Pandora’s Jar brings nuance and care to the millennia-old myths and legends and asks the question: Why are we so quick to villainize these women in the first place—and so eager to accept the stories we’ve been told? With wit, humor, and savvy, Haynes revolutionizes our understanding of epic poems, stories, and plays, resurrecting them from a woman’s perspective and tracing the origins of their mythic female characters.
Publisher: Harper Perennial (March 29, 2022)
Paperback: 320 pages
I am about halfway through this one and, as expected, it’s fascinating. Weinman is a brilliant researcher and even better writer.
From the publisher: In the 1960s, Edgar Smith, in prison and sentenced to death for the murder of teenager Victoria Zielinski, struck up a correspondence with William F. Buckley, the founder of National Review. Buckley, who refused to believe that a man who supported the neoconservative movement could have committed such a heinous crime, began to advocate not only for Smith’s life to be spared but also for his sentence to be overturned. So begins a bizarre and tragic tale of mid-century America.
Publisher: Ecco (February 22, 2022)
Hardcover: 464 pages
Index, A History of by Dennis Duncan
I am about halfway through this one as well, and it is a delight. Full of interesting tidbits and trivia, and it’s not at all precious about its topic. Quite funny and a must for any reader or researcher.
From the publisher: Most of us give little thought to the back of the book—it’s just where you go to look things up. But as Dennis Duncan reveals in this delightful and witty history, hiding in plain sight is an unlikely realm of ambition and obsession, sparring and politicking, pleasure and play. In the pages of the index, we might find Butchers, to be avoided, or Cows that sh-te Fire, or even catch Calvin in his chamber with a Nonne. Here, for the first time, is the secret world of the index: an unsung but extraordinary everyday tool, with an illustrious but little-known past.
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (February 15, 2022)
Hardcover: 352 pages
Astute, funny, and completely original.
From the publisher: Within a decade of the 1818 publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, another Englishwoman invented a foundational work of science fiction. Seventeen-year-old Jane Webb Loudon took up the theme of reanimation, moved it three hundred years into the future, and applied it to Cheops, an ancient Egyptian mummy. Unlike Shelley’s horrifying, death-dealing monster, this revivified creature bears the wisdom of the ages and is eager to share his insights with humanity. Cheops boards a hot-air balloon and travels to 22nd-century England, where he sets about remedying the ills of a corrupt government.
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press (April 5, 2022)
Paperback: 560 pages
The Conjure-Man Dies by Rudolph Fisher
I do not think I shall ever tire of the gems constantly being rediscovered by the Library of Congress Crime Classics publishing team. These mysteries belong with the household names of Christie and Sayers, Chandler and Hammett.
From the publisher: This groundbreaking mystery is the first ever to feature a Black detective and all Black characters, written by Black author Rudolph Fisher, who was a principal writer of the Harlem Renaissance. When the body of N’Gana Frimbo, the African conjure-man, is discovered in his consultation room, Perry Dart, one of Harlem’s ten Black police detectives, is called in to investigate. Together with Dr Archer, a physician from across the street, Dart is determined to solve the baffling mystery, helped and hindered by Bubber Brown and Jinx Jenkins, local boys keen to clear themselves of suspicion of murder and undertake their own investigations.
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press (April 5, 2022)
Paperback: 304 pages
What are you reading this month?