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Natalie spends her time debating whether to go outside and do something active, or plant herself on the couch and read. So she compromises and reads outside. Among her favorite authors are Kazuo Ishiguro and Leslie Marmon Silko, but she loves to explore indigenous and nature writing, socially conscious fiction, and sci-fi. As a washed up college athlete, she will say yes to any and all opportunities to play sports, and has an unhealthy need for competition. Having gone to school in Southern California, she likes to pretend she’s part Californian / part Arizonan, but the desert will always be her home. Her hobbies include hiking and backpacking, playing sand volleyball, charcoal sketching, and of course reading. Her life goal is to become a sponsored Spikeball athlete.
Melissa Broder is one of a kind. She draws you into her books with wit, the most absurd humor, and characters you can’t help but love and relate to. In DEATH VALLEY, Broder expertly works through the elements of grief and the complexity of grieving those we loved but may have had a difficult relationship with. Amidst the harsh landscape of the desert, she throws in a bit of magical realism - a very alluring and enormous cactus that seems to have remarkable healing powers. This book is wonderful, and I hope you love it as much as I did.
Reading this book was an unforgettable experience. Kerri ní Dochartaigh has a miraculous way of stringing words together with precision and lyricism, while wrapping you in a comforting cocoon of hope. Kerri kept a daily journal in 2020, noting the crests and valleys of the emotional waves she experienced throughout quarantine. Although we all dealt with isolation in our own ways, reading her perspective was like applying a soothing balm over the memory of that time. She felt fear, loneliness and anxiety like all of us; but she also felt hope, love and wonder in having her world narrowed, realizing there is so much to appreciate about the simplicity of home and the wild spaces around us. Exquisitely done and profoundly moving, this book is everything we need to remember the importance of protecting the natural world.
This beautiful book rings with astounding truth and extraordinary passion for the care and salvation of our planet. An expedition narrative, it follows 57 scientists and crew as they set out on a ship to see the Thwaites Glacier–a natural monument unexplored by humans and rapidly deteriorating. Elizabeth Rush documents the trip and while illustrating the implications of a colossal loss such as this, she also invites us to embrace hope if we wish to imagine a better future. This book defies the typical colonial adventure story and advocates for a new language of community and inclusiveness, of listening to those voices that have been silenced and acknowledging what we can learn from the practice of stewardship, rather than ownership.
I haven’t read many books about Covid; I experienced it and reflecting seems fruitless and painful. Reading van Heemstra’s account however, provided an enlightening perspective and a clearer understanding of our place on this planet. She learns about the overview effect - a shift in consciousness astronauts experience when observing Earth from space - and begins a personal project to experience this on Earth. From her research, she finds it’s possible to extract ourselves from the everyday mire we’re bogged down by and to find the peace many of us sought during quarantine and seek for this troubling future we’re hurtling towards. It’s through a shift in perspective - zooming out and recognizing our value in this universe through our intricate connections to other species. It’s easy to lose sight of meaning amidst the daily barrage of awful news we receive, but her words gave me hope and a stronger tendency to be present in everything I do.
This is by far Lauren Groff’s best novel yet. Set during the Starving Time of 17th century Jamestown, a young girl runs away from the colony, hoping to escape the violent sickness and death that rages throughout. As she makes her way into the wilderness of an America still largely untouched by Europeans, she finds there is more to the world than she could have ever imagined. Written with stark iambic rhythm, Groff doesn’t just explain things; she completely immerses you in the story. You feel the overwhelming panic and tightening lungs as the girl runs for her life; the stinging bite of cold creeping into your bones as she unsuccessfully attempts to start a fire; the ache of longing to be loved by another as she lies in agonizing solitude, wondering what a future in this vast and lonely wilderness will look like. You live this girl’s life, and in the end you learn what she has learned: There is wonder to be found in the unknown and strength to be gained when we embrace the duality of nature, rather than trying to control it. I was devastated by this book and came to love and root for this girl, navigating a world of violence and oppression like countless other unnamed women throughout history.
If you enjoy film, a little bit of drama and a whole lot of celebrity gossip, this is the book for you. Edie O’Dare is an ex-actress turned gossip columnist, and her working experience with former costars grants her unparalleled access to all the dirt; and Edie’s never had any reservations about what she chooses to share. However, when a dark secret about Hollywood’s biggest actor is revealed to her, Edie must decide if money and fame are worth the backlash publishing the story would cause. Set in the Golden Age of Hollywood, this book embodies the glamor and decadence of the elusive California dream; but it also shines a spotlight on the depravity that lies underneath - the ruthless competition and the pathological reverence of power and money. DO TELL is a fun historical novel that asks us to question the lifestyles we idolize and the measures we will take to get there.
This debut novel follows Laura, a woman with a mysterious past who moves to a remote cottage in the Italian Alps. In the mountains, she experiences a newfound sense of freedom, hiking daily and finding communion with nature. But as she grows more wild and carefree, the villagers become suspicious of the “strega” who isn’t like them - she keeps to herself, dresses like a man, and exhibits an unusual bond with animals and plants. This book is a beautiful reflection on the healing powers of nature, as well as an examination of the tensions found at the border between “society” and “wilderness”. It questions if we can truly be a part of both and the societal expectations we will inevitably fall short of if we choose to live outside human boundaries. Laura is the ultimate wild woman and one can only hope to have her courage and strength to defy those boundaries that diminish us.
Brandon Taylor is arguably one of the finest writers of this generation. No matter the story, you will find a part of yourself in one of his characters - in their experiences, relationships, and most intimate thoughts. Taylor has an exceptional ability to capture the minutiae of our everyday interactions with one another, experimenting with the charged undercurrent of truth that courses beneath the artifice of our words and expressions. His writing is timeless; it’s about love, friendship, growing up, and the confrontations that arise from these experiences. If you haven’t read Taylor yet, The Late Americans is a great place to start.
As an Asian American adoptee from a small, overwhelmingly white town in Oregon, Chung was always searching for a sense of belonging and community. After moving to the East Coast for college, she felt she had finally found this; but when her parents are suddenly diagnosed with individual health issues, she’s forced to confront the life she left behind and the reality of a desperate financial situation. This book is not just a reflection on grief and belonging; it is also an outcry against the injustice of a capitalist society in which the “middle class” cannot afford the basic human right to health care. A LIVING REMEDY left me heartbroken but amazed at the resilience that can be found in the most unbearable situations.
I am SO HAPPY I found this book. It’s quirky, unsettling, and darkly imaginative. Ren Yu is every parent’s and coach’s ideal high school athlete - determined to be the best swimmer, graduate with honors, and receive a scholarship to a well-respected college. But she has a secret that clashes with these expectations: she wants to become a mermaid and will do everything in her power to achieve this. As a former athlete, Ren is my role model. She determines who she truly wants to be and becomes this; despite the unrealistic pressures she faces from overbearing and misogynistic coaches, controlling parents and pushy teachers. She accepts the desires and limitations of her body, something many female athletes cannot do if they want to succeed in a male-dominated arena. I’ve read very few books that truly capture these distinct conflicts, and I am so grateful to Jade Song for writing this.
I could not put this book down. Asghar writes with lyricism, precision, and wit in this coming-of-age story about three Muslim American sisters orphaned at a young age. Drawing from personal experience, Asghar examines what it’s like to grow up in America when the ground below one’s feet is never stable; when one’s idea of family, home, and identity is constantly shifting. The non-traditional form of the novel reflects this feeling of instability that is synonymous with displacement and immigration. It's lyrical and broken into short, poem-like reflections that are abruptly cut off just when you start to feel stability in the plot. It’s perfect and earth-shattering and I loved it.
Kimberly Garza’s debut novel is an ode to the city of Galveston, Texas and to the Latinx and Filipino American communities within that city. She writes with a heartfelt love for these two cultures and for the languages that define them. As an island city located on the gulf, Galveston is truly singular; but it is a home for so many different people. This novel explores immigration, mixed race identity, intergenerational trauma, and coming of age in an uncertain time. The characters are real and complex, and their stories are unforgettable.
This is a truly remarkable memoir. Chloé Cooper Jones writes about her disability, life as an academic, a mother, a daughter, and as an individual that has had to contend with our world’s view of beauty her entire life. Drawing from examples in art and literature, she picks apart society’s definition of beauty and questions why we are so obsessed with a singular notion of it. She has always been perceived as “lacking”, and she seeks to understand this and to find self-acceptance in a world that has excluded her from what is “normal”. Jones is brilliant, and her philosophical and critical examination of disability in relation to art and aesthetics is unparalleled.
This was incredible and devastating and revolutionary and nothing like any memoir I’ve ever read. I felt shaken by the pain of what Felix experienced, but also by the sharp emergence of an understanding of my own self. There are two really important topics examined in this book - love and neurodivergence. Our society places significant importance on forming relationships/marriages and cultivating intellect; and yet, when these are compromised, there seems to be no sense of urgency or true desire to help those who experience a tragic loss of love or who are neurodivergent. In this memoir, Felix questions this injustice, as she comes to terms with her own diagnosis and finding a new way forward after a breakup.
Lydia Millet, author of National Book Award finalist A CHILDREN’S BIBLE, comes back with another astounding novel. This one is set in the desert suburbs of Phoenix and tells the story of a man who has lost everything and sets out to walk across the country from New York to Arizona. What he ends up finding in Arizona is not the solitude he thinks he craves, but the family he didn't realize he needed. This book is a reflection on loneliness, grief, connection, and the healing properties of the natural world. It is a feel-good read through and through and demonstrates a way to understand our place in the world during a time of political and social uncertainty.
You will not find another natural history book like this one. WILD NEW WORLD is an epic and comprehensive history of the world, in which Flores recounts the progression of the lives of plants, animals, and humans, demonstrating the symmetry and symbiosis that connects every living organism. This book is an incredible feat and one I highly recommend for any nature or history enthusiast.
This story is a devastating one, but it is also hopeful and full of light and resilience. Mottley writes with uncanny clarity and grace about a topic that not many people can write about. Her main character faces a tough decision and does what she needs to do to support herself and her brother. But while grappling with this, she is forced to take part in an investigation that reveals the brutal failure of her home city Oakland’s justice system. NIGHTCRAWLING is real and raw, and it brings to light an important and timely issue.