Every month, we select a book that we love so much that we feel confident guaranteeing that you'll love it too, so much so that we'll give you your money back if you don't. Peruse this list if you're trying to remember one you missed or are looking for more recommendations like it. You can also see previous months by clicking here.
Jia Tolentino's first book of essays takes on topics from her fundamentalist upbringing and her teenage stint on an early aughts reality show (Boys vs. Girls) to 21st Century capitalism's push to make us all productive -- and all of us products-- in every spare moment. At the heart of the book is always our idea of the self, and our current misunderstanding of it. Am I my Instagram selfies? Are we the spandex in our athleisure? Even as she takes down mainstream feminism's acceptance of hours-long skincare regimes and barre exercise classes (not for a man, for 'me'), she allows for empathy and understanding for each of us, how we're all coping with what sometimes feels like the end of the world. Economic precarity, political unpredictability and impossible standards of beauty notwithstanding, Tolentino is still finding moments like church, moments of wonder, in everything from bio luminescence to the chopped and screwed Houston sound. And she's writing the hell out of all of it.--Leigh
Like Marilynne Robinson or Alice Munro, San Francisco writer Lila Savage's first novel is a tender, generous sliver of compassion about the difficulties in caring for ourselves and for others. Ella is a home care worker who floats between other people's tragedies, hired to join a family just long enough to witness her clients' decline. Ella has a girlfriend but there’s an immediate attraction between her and a new client's husband. While that fraught relationship is the center of this novel, the real excitement here is the language, which recasts the steady and familiar (our bodies, our hopes) as quivering ephemera. Seriously, read the first page and you’ll feel sad about jellybeans. An exquisite, heartbreaking novel that dwells in the quiet moments when people know they are falling short of their best selves. —Benjy
Incredibly well-written & totally engaging, it would be an understatement to say this book covers a broad territory. Landscape, travelogue, memoir & literary criticism... But also science & history. Each section could be a brilliant short book. Together they form something grounded & sublime. I particularly enjoyed the underlands of Paris. To encounter Macfarlane running with a pack of subterranean guerilla explorers while at the same time meditating on Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project...What could be better?—E.H.
Black Death at the Golden Gate is a fast-paced, fascinating narrative of local history. Centering on cases of The Plague in early San Francisco, it's a story about epidemiology, racism, public health versus individual rights, a burgeoning California, and bacteriology. Don't let the "ologies" turn you off, though. This is not too technical. More just a lively history. —Pete
If you are a fan of Amy Hempel, then we have some good news for you: she is still writing distilled, wry, tragicomic stories. If you haven’t had a chance to read her work, this new collection is an excellent introduction to one of the best short fiction writers working today. —Andrew
So, let's say we build a wall. A great big beautiful wall all around the country. What then? A wall without soldiers is just a physical barrier, not very hard to cross. So we staff the wall with an appropriate amount of soldiers. And to make the soldiers effective, they'll need ammunition, and a clearly defined set of orders to defend the homeland at all costs. What does that say about a country, that it is so afraid of 'the other' that it is willing to kill to defend what it sees as its rightful way of life? And what does one do with the 'others' who make it across the border? Sometimes the only difference between "us" and "them" is pure chance and luck. John Lanchester writes a tale eerily appropriate for our not so distant future.
-Martin & Jessica
Samanta Schweblin's short story collection brings the same, stunning strangeness we came to expect of her in Fever Dream. Arresting and peculiar, these tories will engross you in their brutal irony, restored hope, and magical logic. Schweblin's work carries the deftness and surrealist satisfaction of writers like Julio Cortazar and Kelly Link. Eerie and enticing, you might need to close this book, if only for a moment, before reaching for it hungrily. --Kar
This wonderful story of a cat and the person he allowed to adopt him will leave you with a bittersweet happiness and an aching heart long after you turn the last page. --Amber
Lydia Kiesling’s Golden State asks the question: what if I just left this all behind? With her husband stuck in Turkey, his immigration status stuck in limbo due to a computer glitch, Daphne abandons her job at a prominent university and hits the road with her infant daughter to head for the fictional town of Altavista in the northern corner of California, but instead of finding the solace she hoped for Daphne is confronted with the reality of life in an isolated, small town, with residents that can just as easily spout islamophobic remarks or coo over her young child. At times a road novel, a campus novel and a classic California novel, Golden State is a nuanced and finely tuned look into our failings and blind spots as a culture as well as that ever elusive quest for a place to call home.
Spare in language but expansive in scope, The Incendiaries explores fanaticism, faith, and fellowship. It's a page-turner of intrigue and character, but also leaves much left unsaid. The intersection of loss and love provides all the kindling Kwon needs for this explosive debut.
An odd child finds her place in the world as a teenager: a part-time job at a convenience store provides the structure and rules she craves. But almost twenty years later, change--and her questioning of her place in the world--threatens stasis. This is an irresistible, quirky, layered novel that examines conformity, loneliness, and what's "normal."
All the hype surrounding Tommy Orange is beyond well-deserved. A debut like this is one in a million. A multitude of characters, all for one reason or another on their way to one big Oakland powwow, fill these pages with stories of rage, beauty and despair. Orange Truly has a gift for voice and the characters in There There are destined to stay with you. — Emily
Reading Disoriental is a bit like having a fever dream of a family you once had, but can only catch snippets of memories here and there. Nègar Djavadi's non-linear style kept leading me back into the dream, into the folklore of Kimiâ Sadr's family. Great-grandfathers with harems of wives, grandmothers with vivid blue eyes, and 7 uncles to name and hold close. It's the story of how a family can bind you to a place even when coups and revolutions exile you physically. Kimiâ of present day, sits in a French clinic waiting to be artificially inseminated, while past Kimiâ grows up amid the turmoil of 1970s Iran. I really can't recommend this book enough. It's got a bunch of my favorite things: queerness, epic family stories, strong women, political dissent, history, postcolonial themes, and amazing characters. — Sara