The best new books this month chosen by us and other
independent booksellers across the country.

This Month's #1 Indie Next List Pick...

I Miss You When I Blink: Essays

By Mary Laura Philpott

(Atria Books, 9781982102807, $26)

"Mary Laura Philpott writes about today's American woman in her marvelously frank and witty book of essays, I Miss You When I Blink. Women of all ages will nod their heads when reading about the decision to have babies (or not), the pitfalls of volunteering, the difficulty of getting a cat out from under the bed, the reward of crossing things off 'the list,' the challenge of finding time for relaxation, and, above all, the acceleration of time as we age. Philpott shares pivotal moments from her life in such a relatable way that, through both laughter and tears, readers will exclaim, 'Yes, yes, this is ME!' Don't miss this gem!"
--Nancy Simpson-Brice, Book Vault, Oskaloosa, IA

This Month's #1 Indie Next List Pick Author Interview

photo: Heidi Ross

Booksellers from stores across the country have chosen I Miss You When I Blink: Essays (Atria Books) by Mary Laura Philpott as their number-one pick for the April Indie Next List.

As she writes in this new memoir-in-essays, Philpott thought she had checked off all the boxes of traditional adulthood: a home, a career, a marriage, children. But in the midst of this ostensible success, she found herself awash in anxiety, plagued by the feeling that something was missing. Maybe, she thought, living a model life really doesn't guarantee happiness. In I Miss You When I Blink, Philpott explores everything from the monotony of traffic and small talk, to having a penchant for perfectionism, to her life transition from copywriter in Atlanta to working at Nashville's Parnassus Books. By book's end, Philpott has concluded that it's never too late to start over, multiple times if necessary.

Philpott wrote and illustrated the humor book Penguins with People Problems (TarcherPerigree, 2015), and her writing has appeared in publications including the New York Times, The Paris Review, the Washington Post,and O, The Oprah Magazine, among others. The author, who lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her family, is a bookseller at Parnassus Books and the founding editor of MUSING, the store's digital magazine, as well as the Emmy-award winning co-host of A Word on Words, a literary interview show on Nashville Public Television.

Here, Philpott discusses her journey writing the book and what she hopes readers will take from it.

Some of the essays in I Miss You When I Blink have been published in other publications, so what made you decide to put them all together in one memoir-in-essays?

I had a little pile of published essays going at a certain point a few years ago, and people had said, "Aren't you ever going to put them together?" And I thought, well, there's nothing holding these together, there's no thematic thread, they don't really stick together. But over time as I wrote more, I started to see that there were some thematic threads, there were some commonalities among the essays, and I thought, OK, what if I wrote a few and didn't send them out and just added to this pile to see what comes together. And these themes kind of started to bubble up, the themes of reinvention, and the more I would talk about what I was writing with friends they would go, oh my god, that's what I'm going through, too! Write more about that so we have this as a book! So it was sort of a gradual awareness that there might be enough to put together as a book if I kept writing.

You made the point that many of the memoirs about reinvention currently out there are very dramatic, like Wild by Cheryl Strayed and Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, where the writer goes off on a grand journey to find him or herself. Do you think this kind of narrative is harmful or misleading for regular people? Or did you just feel like the world needed a book that was a little more down to earth?

I don't think it's harmful or misleading at all--I think it can be very inspiring and refreshing if you feel stuck in your life to read about somebody who made some really grand gesture or struck off on a huge journey. But I do think it's worth having some other narratives because if that's the only reinvention narrative you've had, it can make it seem so daunting to change everything in your life. So I thought, you know, I read those books and loved those books when I felt like I needed a change, but it would be wonderful for people to be able to read about things that can happen on a more manageable, smaller, ongoing scale.

Your book explores the nuances of identity and personal fulfillment as we experience them over time, including why nobody feels like they can share any dissatisfaction they may have about their choices in life. Why do you think we're uncomfortable talking about such topics with others?

I hesitate to say that this is just a book for women, because it's not, it's a book for anybody, but I do think women in particular place a little more pressure on themselves to juggle a lot of things perfectly. I do think women sometimes face more of that pressure to do that than men do, and I think social media can make you feel like everybody's got their stuff together but you. When you start to feel like you're the one who's the outlier, who is broken, it's isolating, and once you start to feel sort of isolated and lonely, that can snowball. You start thinking, I'm the different one, something is wrong with me, and it gets harder and harder to talk about it with people.

In everyday life, it's so much easier to talk about surface things, and those small talk conversations become like refrains; it's a song where you can almost say the words without thinking. But I do find that the real conversations are the ones that happen on the periphery of other conversations, like after a dinner party, the friend who lingers afterward doing dishes who's like, hey, I need to talk to you about something, or the friend who pulls you aside and says, have you ever felt like this? And I thought, wouldn't it be wonderful if these conversations that happen along the periphery were brought into the light and were made the main conversation for a little bit? So that we could all know that nobody quite has it together perfectly and therefore we can talk about it? And at least if we don't get our act together perfectly, we can know that nobody has it together perfectly and we're not alone.

What do you hope people who read your book take away from it?

I hope two things: when people read the book and find that they relate to it--and not everyone will because not every book is for every person--I hope that, first off, it will allow them to exhale and feel like they've been seen, and alleviate some of the loneliness that comes along with feeling like you don't fit in your life. So I hope that's the first wave of feeling: relief and companionship in that phase of life. The next thing that I hope happens is that they will pass the book to their friends so that when people have these peripheral conversations and say, hey, I'm not super happy in my life and I don't know what to do about it, they have a tool to hand each other and go, oh wait, you should read this, in much the same way that people have done with the memoirs and essays about the big blow-up-your-life reinventions.

What was it like writing this book while also working at Parnassus Books?

It was wonderful. A lot of people come through Nashville for book tours so we get a lot of really wonderful high-profile authors, so if you concentrate too much on that part of it, it can be a little daunting. You go, oh gosh, am I really going to try to put a book into the world while all these people are also putting books into the world? But being surrounded by readers and booksellers is a very safe-feeling environment for writing because you know there are people out there who are going to read it and you know there are people out there who are going to sell it and take care of it and help it get into the right hands. Whenever I did hit a point in the writing process where I felt like, ugh, I just cannot go on, this is too hard, it's not coming together, it's too difficult, I would remember those conversations with women who would come into the store and go, I need something. They would stand in front of the memoir section and go, where is the book that I need? And I'd be thinking, OK, maybe I'm writing the book that they need, so I've got to get back in my chair and keep going.

You end the book with a message to readers that it's never too late to start over. Can you personally imagine ever making such a big life transition again, like when you moved away from the life you'd established in Atlanta to a new life and career in Nashville?

Totally. Much like anything else that seems daunting, once you do it once it's like, oh, that wasn't that hard. Call a moving truck, call a realtor, you pick where you want to go, and you go, and if you don't like it you can come back. Pretty much anything you do you can change your mind, or go back, or do it differently. So, yes, I can totally see doing it again. Which is not to say I'm ready to do it now or I'm done with Nashville and with this creative job I do and I want to go do something else, but I can see doing it easily. And it's kind of fun to think about, like, oh, I wonder when my kids have left the nest if my husband and I would want to live somewhere else? I wonder if I would want to do a different job? It's actually really a relief to know that that is a doable option. --Liz Button

More Indie Next List Great Reads

Women Talking

By Miriam Toews

(Bloomsbury Publishing, 9781635572582, $24)

"Women Talking is an eloquent exploration of how a group mind coalesces--as a kind of vision that comes in fits and starts, arguments and digression--to finally arrive at a decision. Or, read another way, it's a compelling examination of the opposing voices in our own heads as we wrestle with impossible choices between the known and the unknown. What's most compelling about Toews' novel is its lack of sensationalism and how it shows real people struggling through the aftermath of devastating violence. Grounded in a religious culture where suffering and obedience are an expectation, these women grapple with uneasy answers to what's best for themselves and their children. Women Talking is the quiet, startling story of coming to terms with how, or if, we save ourselves."

--Steve Mitchell, Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC

Greek to Me: Adventures of the Comma Queen

By Mary Norris

(W.W. Norton & Company, 9781324001270, $25.95)

"What a pleasure to again spend a few hours with Mary Norris. The author of Between You & Me is back with a second book, and this time her subject is all things Greek--the language, the people, the mythology, and the culture. Greek to Me recounts Norris' experiences learning Greek and traveling the country while putting her new skills to the test. As in her first book, Norris is excellent company, spinning tales and charming readers. Blending memoir, history, and travel, all topped off with heaps of wordy nerdiness, Greek to Me is a joy to read."

--David Enyeart, Common Good Books, St. Paul, MN

Lot: Stories

By Bryan Washington

(Riverhead Books, 9780525533672, $25)

"This is such a phenomenal book by a writer who should be on everyone's radar for 2019. Washington has a detailed and poignant style that reveals the tender soul within all of his characters. None of the characters that we meet in Lot are strangers--they are our mothers, brothers, lovers, and friends. Washington pulls them all together through interlocking stories, taking us in between the cracks and revealing how these characters feel and what drives them (and what doesn't). This series of stories, told with no agenda, explores sexual awakening and identification, gentrification and its victims, and the power of family to both save us and fail us."
--Allie Bangerter, hello hello books, Rockland, ME

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers

Lights All Night Long

By Lydia Fitzpatrick

(Penguin Press, 9780525558736, $27)

"The courage of youth and the beauty of faith are crystallized in this story of love, loss, and acceptance. Ilya and his older brother, Vladimir, may have been thick as thieves, but while Ilya's high marks in school offered him a way out of their depressing Russian town, Vladimir's path has led to more illicit activities. Now, as Ilya navigates his new life in Louisiana, he is determined to save his brother, who is accused of murder back in Russia. Lydia Fitzpatrick's stunning debut brings these vastly different cultures to life and imbues every scene with empathy and understanding. A brilliant and thrilling novel that shouldn't be missed!"

--Luisa Smith, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers

The Girl He Used to Know

By Tracey Garvis Graves

(St. Martin's Press, 9781250200358, $26.99)

"The Girl He Used to Know is a charming, engaging, and uplifting love story told from the perspective of Annika, who from childhood has struggled to fit in, and Jonathan, who is facing his own life challenges. I found myself rooting for these two characters throughout the novel, from their initial introduction at a college chess club meeting to experiencing the inescapable horror of the 9/11 attacks. This book is a must-read in that it celebrates differences in a realistic and believable way."
--Jann Griffiths, BookSmart, Morgan Hill

The Light Years: A Memoir

By Chris Rush

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 9780374294410, $27)

"Rush's memoir depicts the wild, drug-filled days of his youth with such luminous prose it feels as though we're with him, careening from one adventure to another. That this book exists is proof that Rush makes it through every situation he encounters, and he brings such generosity to those who were alongside him that it's impossible not to care about him or his family and loved ones. The Light Years offers a perfect glimpse into the counterculture of the '60s and '70s, and that time came alive for me through his writing. A perfect pick for those who lived through that time and those who wish they could."

--Katie Orphan, The Last Bookstore, Los Angeles, CA


By Candice Carty-Williams

(Gallery/Scout Press, 9781501196010, $26)

"Positively brilliant. I was completely blown away by this debut, in which 25-year-old Queenie Jenkins is navigating a lot. She recently went on break from a long-term relationship, she can't seem to find her stride at her job with a national newspaper, and she's constantly trying to figure out how to navigate the various components of her identity. The biggest question of all: Can't she be loved just because, without her blackness being seen as exotic or a caveat? Candice Carty-Williams' debut is a completely fresh voice that shines light on a literary perspective frequently overlooked--that of young, black women. An absolute must-read."

--Destinee Hodge, East City Bookshop, Washington, DC

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed

By Lori Gottlieb

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9781328662057, $28)

"I was thinking maybe I should talk to someone, and then there was this book. Gottlieb has written a compassionate and entertaining memoir from both sides of the couch, so to speak. She tells the stories of four patients whose lives the reader comes to care deeply about while she herself goes into therapy. Physician, heal thyself? No. Human being, be honest with thyself and do something really difficult. Gottlieb is as fine a writer as she is a storyteller. I was sad our sessions had to end."
--Stan Hynds, Northshire Bookstore, Saratoga Springs, NY

The Editor

By Steven Rowley

(G.P. Putnam's Sons, 9780525537960, $27)

"Steven Rowley's new novel is exactly the balm I needed in today's climate. Focusing on a young writer who discovers that his editor is none other than Jackie Kennedy Onassis, the book explores both romantic and familial relationships in a humorous and touching manner. Although the writing is wickedly barbed and the zingers fly at the speed of a 1940s rom-com, The Editor is so much more. There is real heart in the writing as well as real love between the characters. It's a true delight and the kind of book people who loved Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine or Less will truly enjoy. Just be prepared with a box of tissues and your favorite cocktail (Jackie would suggest daiquiris)."

--William Carl, Wellesley Books, Wellesley, MA

The Honey Bus: A Memoir of Loss, Courage and a Girl Saved by Bees

By Meredith May

(Park Row, 9780778307785, $24.99)

"I loved this perfect memoir so much that I read it twice and already know that it will be one of my favorites of the year. Meredith May learns to withstand pain, loss, and grief through the lessons her beloved grandfather teaches her. After her mother moves the family away from her father and shuts down emotionally, Grandpa shows May and her brother love, patience, and understanding using honeybees as an example of how to survive and thrive in a confusing world. I cannot wait to put this moving, emotionally compelling memoir into many hands this spring!"

--Diane Grumhaus, Lake Forest Book Store, Lake Forest, IL

The Parisian

By Isabella Hammad

(Grove Press, 9780802129437, $27)

"The Parisian, a captivating novel of cultural assimilation, deprivation, and sacrifice in times of war, is quite simply a beautifully vivid, immersive love story. While these attributes alone would make The Parisian a compelling read, it is Hammad's writing that marks this work as one of the greatest novels I've read in recent years. The descriptions are sharp and lush, and her depictions of her characters feel recognizably familiar yet are expressed with a felicity for language that is altogether exceptional. This is a novel for everyone who craves a timeless love story and admires superb writing."

--Lori Feathers, Interabang Books, Dallas, TX

Brute: Poems

By Emily Skaja

(Graywolf Press, 9781555978358, $16, trade paper)

"How can the end of a relationship feel like anything but a gaping wound? Visceral, angry, and honest, Brute will show you how. This is a journey to the heart of loss and back out again, stronger, fiercer. These highly propulsive poems tell a story, but much more than recalling a simple breakup, Emily Skaja explores gender, sexuality, and the strength and wildness in femininity and womanhood. Her poems will slice you open to your very soul and then stitch you back together, and you will thank her for it."

--Erin Ball, Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, WA

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers

Stay Up With Hugo Best

By Erin Somers

(Scribner, 9781982102357, $26)

"In her sharply imagined, comedic novel, Somers tackles with effortless finesse the #MeToo issue of sexual misconduct in the entertainment industry. When 29-year-old June Bloom accepts an invitation from comedian Hugo Best, her childhood idol (and recent boss), to spend a long holiday weekend at his country mansion, she finds herself privy to the messy complexities of his personal life. Refusing any facile judgements or conclusions, Stay Up With Hugo Best explores the complexities of people and relationships, and the many shades of gray that make us all human. A fantastic, thoroughly enjoyable debut!"

--Michaela Carter, Peregrine Book Company, Prescott, AZ

The Magnetic Girl

By Jessica Handler

(Hub City Press, 9781938235481, $27)

"We've known that Jessica Handler could write the heck out of a sentence since her moving account of surviving the deaths of her sisters in her memoir, Invisible Sisters. What we didn't yet fully understand is the way that her nonfiction would prepare her so uniquely to write this strange and lovely book about a girl coming into her power--a feminist historical novel of grit and mystery. Handler knows from her own life that the flip side of grief and loss can sometimes be wonder and awe. What a pleasure to have her take us by the hand and show us that truth in the life of Lulu Hurst, who becomes a vaudeville star with 'magical' powers but yearns most to heal her little brother back at home."

--Errol Anderson, Charis Books & More, Atlanta, GA

Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir

By Ruth Reichl

(Random House, 9781400069996, $27)

"In her new memoir, trendsetting food writer and editor Ruth Reichl writes lovingly of the full-blast creativity of her 10 years as editor-in-chief of Gourmet. By book's end, you'll miss the storied and groundbreaking magazine, but you'll be grateful she shared the tale of how its outstanding roster of writers, photographers, designers, and cooks transformed how we look at food. Reichl takes readers behind the scenes as chefs became rock stars, as writers like David Foster Wallace reshaped food writing, and as she fought to save the magazine she adored. A beloved writer with an enviable career, Reichl reminds us that although things may change, simple, honest pleasures--like a perfect plum--endure and make life rich."

--Mary Vermillion, Village Books, Bellingham, WA

Trust Exercise

By Susan Choi

(Henry Holt & Co., 9781250309884, $27)

"Set inside the acting program of an elite high school, Choi's novel seems to consider every major preoccupation of our moment--class, gender, sexuality, race, power, predation, authenticity, 'genius'--with language that's both uproarious and frothing with vital rage. To describe the plot in any detail, though, would reveal too much of Trust Exercise's inventive, audacious form. Best let this novel sink into your bones with as few spoilers as possible before its final scene seizes your heart. And it will seize your heart. Trust me."
--Samuel Krowchenko, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI

Lost Roses

By Martha Hall Kelly

(Ballantine Books, 9781524796372, $28)

"Once in a position of power and prestige but now in peril, the White Russians are fleeing the Bolshevik regime by the thousands, many with only the clothes on their backs, including Sofya, friend of the young Eliza Ferriday. In this prequel to The Lilac Girls, set during WWI, socialite Eliza is frantically fighting to find Sofya and her aristocratic family, who were forced from their homes by gunpoint. From the shores of South Hampton to the tumultuous streets of St. Petersburg, Kelly weaves a narrative full of feeling that is fraught with suspense and so very worth the ride. I loved every minute of it!"

--Kristin Bates, McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, MI

My Lovely Wife

By Samantha Downing

(Berkley, 9780451491725, $26)

"It started out as a game, a series of hypothetical questions to liven up their marriage: Who could they hurt? And what could they get away with? With two kids and a mortgage, Millicent and her husband need all the excitement they can find. But soon conversation isn't enough and their dream life turns into a nightmare. Because the thing about games is there's always a winner... and a loser. Downing has written the perfect psychological thriller, a shattered scream of a book. Once I picked it up, I didn't stop reading until I reached the final, stunning sentence. My Lovely Wife is a wholly original and thoroughly terrifying read!"

--Lauren Peugh, Powell's Books, Portland, OR

Lost and Wanted

By Nell Freudenberger

(Knopf, 9780385352680, $26.95)

"Helen is a successful physicist and a single mother, but when her best friend, Charlie, dies, she must confront the limitations of love and science and learn how far each force can be stretched and where they might overlap. As in her previous novel, The Newlyweds, Freudenberger writes with understated authority about grief, motherhood, and coming to terms with the decisions you make throughout your life. Everyone in Helen's orbit is touched by Charlie's death, and their grief is as mysterious as the scientific questions Helen grapples with in her work. This is a powerfully beautiful novel."
--Tyler Goodson, Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA

Country Dark

By Chris Offutt

(Grove Press, 9780802129338, $16)

"Country Dark spans 1954 to 1971, opening with Tucker's return home from the Korean War, to rural Kentucky near the Ohio border, where he takes up a job as a driver in a bootlegging operation. Tucker is devoted to his rural home life and to his young wife and children, and once their way of life is threatened, he understands he may have to employ his wartime skills to keep it together. Chris Offutt's new novel is almost impossible not to race through, should be."
--Richard Howorth, Square Books, Oxford, MS

Heart Berries: A Memoir

By Terese Marie Mailhot

(Counterpoint, 9781640091603, $16.95)

"In a time of memoirs that help a reader understand vulnerability and the experience of facing down fear, Terese Marie Mailhot's cathartic, moving Heart Berries is one of the bravest and most fearless of such books. Her coming-of-age on a First Nation reservation, Seabird Island in Canada, is particular to that vividly evoked place, but also carries larger, universal lessons for the human spirit and its survival. A necessary book."

--Rick Simonson, The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA

Heavy: An American Memoir

By Kiese Laymon

(Scribner, 9781501125669, $16)

"Telling the truth has always been a radical and political act, but Kiese Laymon writes in Heavy with a rare, vulnerable unity of personal urgency and political clarity. This is a story about how our country's lies and thefts weigh heavily on the hearts and souls of its black mothers and sons. About how dishonesty about white supremacy, money, sex, and violence threads through our most intimate relationships and causes us to become strangers to ourselves. If Heavy is about lies, it is also fundamentally about the redemptive power of truth, stories, language, and joy. If there's a way out of the loneliness of being human in a country that does not value or support humanity, Laymon suggests, it is in the connection we find in the words we toss to one another, like lifelines, like laughter."

--E.R. Anderson, Charis Books & More, Atlanta, GA

I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death

By Maggie O'Farrell

(Vintage, 9780525436058, $16)

"Maggie O'Farrell's memoir left me breathless and heart-sore. There were times I literally had a fist to my own heart in sympathy. The encounters told according to each limb or organ is a genius device; it is as though each distinct part of her body had its own voice and wanted my sole attention. Even the spaces of years between each event were full of meaning and nuance. This is one of the most mesmerizing memoirs I have ever read. The breadth and scope of Maggie's 17 brushes with death left me gasping for air, and her strong voice is indelible. There is no victim here, and life is to be treasured but not treated too delicately."

--Maeve Noonan, Northshire Bookstore, Saratoga Springs, NY

Lawn Boy

By Jonathan Evison

(Algonquin Books, 9781616209230, $15.95)

"Mike Muñoz is a broke, unemployed, sexually confused 22-year-old Chicano man living in Washington State, just trying to find the right path to his American dream. One setback after another is laid in front of him, and Mike wonders if he will ever make the leap from survival mode to working toward his goals. I loved this book for the sincere, engaging way the author addresses the issues of class distinction and cultural discrimination, and Mike is such a funny, tenacious, lovable human that you can't help but ache for his disappointments and cheer for his victories. I hope everyone reads this inspiring novel."

--Cassie Clemans, Roundabout Books, Bend, OR


By Christopher Moore

(William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062433992, $16.99)

"Christopher Moore has done it again! Noir is now among my very favorites by this popular novelist. This book is everything it promises: A love letter to hard-boiled detective fiction, a thorough and loving bath in the atmosphere of 1947 San Francisco, and loads of laughs along the way. Aliens? Yes. Romance? Also yes. Add in a cast of characters with heart, moxie, and beguiling banter and you've got Noir, a recipe for pure enjoyment."

--Mary McDonald, Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, MI

The Overstory

By Richard Powers

(W.W. Norton & Company, 9780393356687, $18.95)

"The Overstory, which contains an energy like that of the trees that link its intertwining stories, is nothing short of stunning. Such links between the human and non-human are mostly hidden to us, but only because we tend not to look very closely (or prefer not to see). Powers' most beautiful sentences are also the most devastating, which hints at the novel's hope that death--whether of a person or a plant--is never quite the end that it seems. Until, that is, we look, or prefer, finally, to see. As we are instructed near the novel's end, 'What you make from a tree should be at least as miraculous as what you cut down.' Plainly put: The Overstory is perhaps as close to such a miracle as we currently deserve."

--Brad Johnson, East Bay Booksellers, Oakland, CA


By Minrose Gwin

(William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062471727, $15.99)

"I could not put this book down. I felt like I was trapped in Gwin's tornado, wandering through the devastated streets and blown-apart buildings, feeling the chaos and brokenness. In the midst of it all, I could also feel the strength and determination of Dovey and Jo and experience their humanity, honesty, obstinance, and kindness. With all the fires, hurricanes, and floods we've had around the country recently, along with continuing racial tensions, this story, though set in 1936, speaks loudly to us today."
--Serena Wycoff, Copperfish Books, Punta Gorda, FL

Tin Man

By Sarah Winman

(G.P. Putnam's Sons, 9780735218765, $14)

"Michael loves Ellis, Ellis loves Annie, and Annie loves them both. Yet Sarah Winman's blistering novel Tin Man is anything but the usual love triangle. Instead, Winman asks us to consider what remains of love after its object is gone. She crowds this spare little book, set in London, Oxford, and the south of France, with vivid portraits of loss and mourning. At once terse and expansive, Tin Man is a firework flashing in the night--gone too soon but burned forever into the reader's memory."
--David Enyeart, Common Good Books, St. Paul, MN

Wade in the Water: Poems

By Tracy K. Smith

(Graywolf Press, 9781555978365, $16)

"In Wade in the Water, Smith masterfully makes herself into a medium through which the voices of other (forgotten) people can become poetry. 'I Will Tell You the Truth About This…' is a haunting and beautiful poem written using the letters and statements of African-Americans who enlisted as soldiers in the Civil War. Here, Smith is simultaneously the declarer and the creator of a space wherein others may be given room to declare. It is this balancing act that brings out the heart and beauty of Wade in the Water. The impersonal is made intimate, the world is made individual, and through it all, Smith guides us with true poetic sense. Wade in the Water is a necessary, beautiful book!"

--Eli Sorich, Magers & Quinn Booksellers, Minneapolis, MN


By Michael Ondaatje

(Vintage, 9780525562962, $16.95)

"With his usual virtuosity, master storyteller Michael Ondaatje delivers a mysterious, shimmering new coming-of-age novel. Warlight is the unexpected story of two teenagers abandoned by their enigmatic parents in post-war London. Casually watched over by a dodgy cast of characters--petty criminals, opera singers, and panting greyhounds--Nathaniel and Rachel try to make sense of their new world while struggling to define their parents' shadowy wartime pasts. Years later, Nathaniel embarks on a quest to discover the disturbing truth, and his own unwitting part in it. Balancing poignance with surprising comic touches, Warlight is a stellar addition to the Ondaatje canon."
--Chrysler Szarlan, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA

Washington Black

By Esi Edugyan

(Vintage, 9780525563242, $16.95)

"Epic in scope, ranging from a brutal slave plantation in Barbados to scenes in the Arctic, antebellum America, and London, plus a thoughtful denouement in the Moroccan desert, Edugyan's novel explores the complex relationship between slave and master, the hubris of good intentions, and the tense life of a runaway in constant flight with a Javert on his tail. What results is a compulsive page-turner blessed with effortless prose. Highly recommended."

--Matt Lage, Iowa Book, Iowa City, IA