From Our Store
During times like these we're grateful for the solace and escape of a great book. We're grateful also for your support. We hope you and yours are all safe and sound, and we hope you love these books as much as we do.
During times like these we're grateful for the solace and escape of a great book. We're grateful also for your support. We hope you and yours are all safe and sound, and we hope you love these books as much as we do.
(Riverhead Books, 9780593189481, $24)"When we all started our own 'winters' in March, some of us were more prepared than others. May writes delicately of the struggles of life and the ways we may be able to prepare ourselves for such times, something I feel we all need to learn in order to survive the emotional winter that is a worldwide pandemic. Grab a cup of tea, find a cozy blanket, and burrow into this book of thoughtfulness and comfort."
|(photo: Sara Norling)|
Independent booksellers across the country have chosen Wintering by Katherine May (Riverhead Books) as their number-one pick for the December 2020 Indie Next List.
Drawing on solstice celebrations and dormice hibernation, beloved literary figures, and her own personal experiences with what she called "wintering," May's book offers a guiding philosophy for transforming the hardships that arise before the ushering in of a new season.
May is a writer of both fiction and nonfiction. Her journalism and essays have appeared in a range of publications, including The Times (London), Good Housekeeping, and Cosmopolitan. She lives by the sea in Whitstable, England, and is an avid lover of the outdoors.
Here, May talks about the inspiration behind writing this book.
Where did the idea for this book come from?
It came into my head all at once while I was talking to a friend who was going through a tough time--I suddenly realized how well I knew her state of mind. It struck me that this was an almost animal experience, something innate to us as humans, but which we can hardly bear to look at. I found myself saying "you're wintering!" and then I had to go home and spend some time writing in my notebook to understand what I meant by that. It felt urgent to share this idea that there's commonality in our suffering.
Can you define what "wintering" means to you?
Wintering is a time when life is frozen, when everything stops and you feel as though the world is carrying on without you. It might come from an illness or a life event like bereavement or divorce, but it can also just land for seemingly no reason. I think it's a universal experience, and it's cyclical: We winter again and again across our lifetimes, for many different reasons. It's unavoidable, and yet we tend to blame ourselves and think we've failed somehow. I don't think we should ever shrink from acknowledging that it's deeply painful, but we do gain in wisdom each time it happens, and find new reserves of compassion.
You weave a lot of your personal experiences in with your research. What was the process of writing the book like?
Fairly chaotic! I never meant to write a memoir when I first planned Wintering. I'd just published a deeply personal book, and I didn't feel I could go through that again. But as I was writing, so many things were happening in my life that spoke to the themes I was dealing with. The text wasn't really working until I inserted that first chapter on my husband's sudden illness, and then began to own up to my own health problems, too. I felt almost ashamed to do so--I wanted to finally be the expert and keep my distance! But then my son started struggling in school, and so I finished the book in cafés while he played, and at strange hours of the morning while he was asleep. I'm still now sure how I actually managed it.
Throughout your times of wintering, you return to reading as a comfort. Can you talk about your relationship with reading, in particular rereading childhood favorites?
I rarely re-read adult books, but I take huge comfort in children's books. Maybe it's the familiarity, or maybe it's the simple moral world they create, but I always feel that they're absolutely what I need in times of crisis. I also think that children's authors are in the business of showing us a wise route through life, and I need that now as much as I ever needed it as a child. They take me back to a moment when the world still felt newly-made and possible, before I became cynical. I'm currently itching to pick up The Children of Green Knowe again!
In addition to thinking about the active things people can do to get through their own periods of wintering, a good portion of this book discusses sleep, including a pre-industrial sleeping process in which the night was divided into a "first sleep" and a "morning" sleep. Can you talk more about why you included this?
Our sleep often becomes disrupted in times of crisis: we can't get to sleep, or we wake in the night, and spend all day feeling exhausted. While I was researching the book, I was thinking about what a natural winter sleep might look like, and I remembered reading about the first and second sleep years ago in A. Roger Ekirch's At Day's Close. I realized that our current attitude to sleep is a crisis in itself--we're so busy trying to make sleep fit a very specific pattern that we've become anxious about it. I wanted to reimagine what sleep might look like before electric light, fitness apps, and even clocks. It would have been very different to today, and it would open up calm, contemplative space in the quietest hours of the night.
Another point of focus in this book were pagan ceremonies and festivals. What drew you to these events?
As a starting point, I noticed how many festivals of light cluster in winter--it's clear that we've long tried to find a way to break up the gloom. After I attended the Midwinter festivities at Stonehenge, I interviewed Philip Carr-Gomm, who at the time was the Chief Druid, to ask what attracted people to celebrating that moment. He convinced me that the festivals were (and are) a wise way of marking time through the year, helping us to get the measure of the most difficult moments in the calendar. We've let go of so many of them, which is why that time between January and April feels so endless. I've started to mark the pagan festivals in my own life, even if that just means lighting a fire in my backyard. It helps me to notice how time is passing--how I'm changing across the year, and how the natural world is changing around me. Ultimately, it's a mindful process of tuning in to the progress of the seasons.
What did your research process look like?
Fairly random! Initially, I contacted everyone I could think of who had lived in a cold country, and asked them how they felt about winter. Then I did a lot of reading. I absolutely love camping out in the British Library to read into every corner of my topic. And I also I booked myself in to wintery experiences, like visiting Iceland, attending the Santa Lucia service in London's Swedish Church, and meeting hibernating dormice. I tried to live winter as much as I possibly could. But most of all, I started writing a reflective diary about my own feelings and experiences as soon I realized I was going through a personal winter.
You also wrote about helping your son through his own bout of wintering. As many around the world head into a long winter--both literally and figuratively--do you have any advice? How can we help each other?
I think the most important thing we can do for each other as we winter is to learn to hold space for negative emotions. Our culture so often flinches away from admissions of sadness or hopelessness, and we try to hide behind a brand of fake positivity that I find frankly cruel. The time has come for us to acknowledge that life can be awful sometimes. We can't skip wintering. Those darkest moments are where the true learning of winter happens, and they're often where we can begin to imagine our next steps. We're all going to need to dig deep to find our reserves of empathy and compassion, so that we can accept our loved ones' winters, and listen to them. That can only start by finding compassion for ourselves.
Is there any one thing you'd hope readers take away from this book?
That life happens in cycles. We don't tread a straight path from knowing nothing to being perfect. We meander between sunny seasons and freezing ones. This is not a failure. It's a fundamental part of being human.
(Celadon Books, 9781250262899, $28)"In this hot mess of a year, what we really needed was a bit of Steve Martin's humor. I'm not saying that sarcastically at all: A good laugh cures a lot of ills, and this is full of good laughs. Sharp wit, silly observations, clever art--Martin and Bliss offer up not just the perfect holiday gift, but perhaps the perfect antidote to 2020."
(Harper Voyager, 9780062662620, $26.99)"I knew I was going to be blown away by this book, but I had no idea I was going to be sent into the stratosphere. The Poppy War was already a phenomenal debut, but its successors somehow managed to claw themselves to new heights. The Burning God is no exception. As usual, Kuang holds no punches when it comes to describing the raw horror and consequences of war, drawing her characters to impossibly dark corners where their only escape is through catastrophic decisions. The ending ripped my heart from my chest, but I can't imagine a more satisfying conclusion for this phenomenal trilogy. A perfect triad of books."
(Hanover Square Press, 9781335430991, $19.99)"This was the most interesting and wholesome take on time travel I have ever read. Everything in the world is totally normal, but if you sit in a specific seat in a specific cafe in Tokyo, you can travel back in time. There are some rules in order to time travel, but my favorite one? You can only stay in the past for as long as your coffee is warm. This charming and emotional story of four different women teaches about the importance of making the most with the time you're given."
(Berkley, 9781984803160, $16, trade paper)"Three second-born daughters take a life-changing trip to Italy in hopes of breaking the family curse dooming all second-born daughters in their family to never find love. You will just adore these three main characters, who spend this journey celebrating love and family, and you will become fully invested in their stories. I just loved the wisdom of Aunt Poppy, the beautiful setting of Italy, and the family tales. Just wonderful!"
(Algonquin Books, 9781643750897, $16.95, trade paper)"You might fall in love with this rough, bawdy, funny, and heart-wrenching novel because of the skill with which Michelle Gallen gives you the cadences and nuances of English as spoken in small-town Northern Ireland. You might fall in love because Gallen is showing you a working-class setting seldom depicted on either side of the pond, an atmosphere of sweat, grease, and labor, of Friday night pubs and Saturday hangovers, of people bursting with shattered dreams and electric intelligence. But you'll most fall in love with Majella O'Neill, the narrator. She is unapologetically and completely herself, and unlike anyone I've met in fiction before. Through O'Neill, Gallen offers an outlook and experience that I'd happily share with other readers."
(Random House, 9780399589720, $30)"Oak Flat is simultaneously an object of mesmerizing beauty and an urgent book of complete necessity. Lauren Redniss tells the tale of the struggle to preserve a site sacred to the Apache people from a copper mining project that would destroy it. Her vibrant illustrations and careful curation of competing voices convey the high stakes while honoring the dignity of the people on both sides, and the dignity of the natural world. This book is an astonishing achievement."
(HarperVia, 9780062987730, $24.99)"This an example of a beautifully translated work with a gripping concept. The main character's compulsion to eat earth felt visceral, the writing enigmatically lyrical. I couldn't put it down, yet I had to force myself to absorb this book painfully slowly, so as to not let it pass me by."
(Berkley, 9780593101902, $16, trade paper)"A sweet romance about a professor who decides to take a chance when she finds herself out at a bar by herself seated next to an attractive man in town on business. Naya never would have imagined that their one-night stand would turn into a week-long fling with the potential for even more. And because of her toxic past relationships, she is hesitant to trust Jake. I loved reading about a professor as a romance leading lady!"
(Atria Books, 9781982121495, $27)"An affecting, multigenerational coming-of-age story about a young Syrian American artist's discovery of self and the truth behind his mother's mysterious passing. Featuring alternating perspectives that weave the past into the present, this novel embodies the epistolary not just in form and address, but in the way it reads like a love letter to New York City, especially the immigrant, working-class, and LGBTQ underground of New York. A book with a heartbeat, despite all its ghosts."
(The Unnamed Press, 9781951213145, $26)"A surprising novel that will lure you in with its delicious writing and leave you hungry (in more ways than one). Food critic Dorothy Daniels wants good food and good sex, and she will go to whatever lengths she needs in order to get them. At once a critique of the food industry and a criminal's account, A Certain Hunger is a stunning feminist page-turner. With its devious protagonist and delectable prose, you will devour this novel."
(William Morrow, 9780063019560, $26.99)"I loved everything about this book, including the compact size and especially the cover. In this 50-year love story, the two main characters, Elizabeth Davenport and Tom Hale, are apart for almost all of that time period. But every year on the anniversary of their first kiss, Tom leaves a gift for Elizabeth on her doorstep. When his gift fails to arrive in the 50th year, Elizabeth decides that she must find Tom before it is too late."
(Avon, 9780062933966, $7.99)"In a time when Black kings and queens are a much-need balm to a seeming overflow of anti-Black sentiment, I fell in love with Shanti and Sanyu. Bogged down by tradition, ritual, and grief, Sanyu is trapped in a well of unrealistic expectations. Shanti, a queen searching for her kingdom, is the self-assured heroine we all look for and want to be. This story of their partnership turned love affair is filled with forbidden heat and flames, as well as the promise of a better tomorrow. Complex characters for complex times. I loved it."
(Harper, 9780062979858, $26.99)"Caz Frear's third installment of Cat Kinsella mysteries doesn't disappoint! Kinsella is whip smart, takes no nonsense, and is a wry-one-liner machine. In their newest case, Kinsella and her partner, Luigi Parnell, find a connection to a serial killer. Christopher Masters was arrested for the kidnapping and murder of four women six years ago. His final victim wasn't found until now, so Kinsella may finally have the evidence to close the case once and for all. But as they dive back into a cold case, they find some troubling issues. As they dig deeper, they head into a rabbit hole they may never be able to get out of. Wonderfully twisty and satisfyingly puzzling, the newest mystery by Frear is a must for all thriller fans."
(G.P. Putnam's Sons, 9780593085141, $16, trade paper)"I am charmed by The Chicken Sisters! Family fights, fried chicken, a dog and her puppies, mental illness, a shaky marriage, a potential romance, and a reality show taping all combine for a great small-town story. Generations of feuding sisters with competing chicken shack restaurants hash it out for the cameras, their loved ones, and themselves. The Chicken Sisters is a delightful read."
(Ecco, 9780062974747, $27.99)
"Evocative of both Donna Tartt and Chaim Potok, The Orchard boldly dives into the depth of teen drama and Jewish philosophy and emerges with a heartfelt story of transformation. Ari is entering his senior year when his parents decide to move from their Orthodox Brooklyn community to a more modern enclave in suburban Miami. His surprising acceptance into an elite clique at his new school has him grappling with questions regarding pleasure and spirituality as he attempts to find his way with his new peers. Straying from the teachings of his youth, he is drawn to investigate his religion in increasingly surprising ways, with unforeseen consequences. An impressive debut!"
(Riverhead Books, 9780593086056, $26)"Most anyone who grows up in a suburb knows these neighborhoods are not always what they purport to be. Simon Han, in his dazzling debut, blows the curtains wide open on the actual lives a onetime model home might conceal. Deftly shifting time frames and points of view, he gives a piercing, often funny, and deeply moving account of a Chinese family's struggle to settle into the lives they think they should be living. It's a coming of age for all of them, each in their own way and time. Far from nothing happening, so much does."
(Sourcebooks Landmark, 9781728215693, $16.99, trade paper)
"Greer Macallister has a proven track record for writing excellent historical fiction. She is at the top of her game in The Arctic Fury, in which a dozen women are recruited to journey to the frozen tundra in hopes of finding a lost expedition. Facing a brutal climate, clashing wills, misogyny, and death, these women rise to accept a challenge that no male explorer has been able to accomplish. Macallister has created strong, memorable characters facing unfathomable conditions and choices. Alternating between the arctic journey and a riveting courtroom drama, The Arctic Fury is a non-stop thrill."
(Harper, 9780062970312, $26.99)"This was a very touching, unique read. It's incredible that this story is true, and reading it reminded me of how vastly different my life is from those of women raised in Afghanistan. I feel so privileged to have been given such a great education and to have been allowed and encouraged to educate myself. I am very appreciative of Homeira Qaderi for having the courage and motivation to persist in publishing her work so that we may be graced with it. Very inspiring."
(Harper Perennial, 9780062945594, $17.99)"In Barely Functional Adult, Meichi Ng seamlessly combines cartoon illustrations with prose to create graphic essays that are hilariously relatable. From moving to a new city to realizing one is enjoying things they previously mocked as old, the character of Barely Functional Adult experiences the changes and terrors of growing up. Ng crafts stories that make the reader feel seen and understood, from imposter syndrome to the nervous stress of starting therapy to an older sister who just doesn't understand why one wouldn't pack for a major move until the day before. I laughed until I cried and then I laughed some more."
(Harper Perennial, 9780062890641, $16.99)
"In Anyone, Charles Soule takes what was so fun about his novel The Oracle Year and perfects it. This takes the high-paced adventure of a spy novel or an action film and pairs it with the thoughtfulness that is found in really good science fiction. Soule puts his characters through unimaginable stressors to make us evaluate our views on race, identity, humanity, and the very existence of the self."
(Picador, 9781250758217, $17)
"Set in the same world as his excellent 2017 novel Borne, Dead Astronauts finds VanderMeer again at the top of his game exploring a universe destroyed by the nefarious Company. Delightful strangeness abounds: a man disintegrating into hundreds of salamanders, an ancient giant fish called Leviathan, a large blue fox with a message to deliver across time--all these and more make Dead Astronauts one of VanderMeer's most engagingly strange and beguiling novels. As he continues to explore deeply environmental themes, his unique lens makes the reader ponder our current climate crisis in a new way. A wonderfully weird, nature-driven science fiction odyssey through time and space."
(HarperVia, 9780062910301, $16.99)"The German House captured my imagination. The author expertly unfolds the story of Eva Bruhns, a translator for the 1963 Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials, with such believability that the reader feels complicit in the denial of the past. As she hears testimonies, Eva discovers that anyone can be guilty of some horrific role in the war, however unaware they were of inhumane acts, or however prey to propaganda. The reader's nausea will build as Eva gets closer to the truth. This historical novel seethes with life and feels authentic at every turn."
(Berkley, 9781984805188, $16)"How Quickly She Disappears is a Thriller with a capital T!! Set in Alaska with flashbacks to a childhood in Pennsylvania, the story follows Elisabeth, who is still haunted by and feeling partially responsible for the disappearance of her twin sister, Jacqueline, when they were 11. It's been 20 years, but when a stranger, Alfred, shows up claiming to have proof Jacqueline is still alive, Elisabeth sets out to assuage her guilty conscience. Alfred is demanding. Alfred demands frightening things of her. And as he teases her with more and more information, the stakes and demands escalate. How far will she go? Author Raymond Fleischmann will put you to the test. Your heart will race. Your breathing will become shallow. The pages will fly. This thriller is unlike any you've ever read!"
(Anchor, 9781984898234, $16.95)"Michael Crummey is a master chronicler of isolation, and The Innocents is a perfect example. Following an orphaned brother and sister trying to survive on the coast of Newfoundland, this is a spare and elemental novel about the power of family and the act of survival, even in the harshest circumstances."
(Riverhead Books, 9780525540687, $17)
"This story's power comes not just from its beautiful writing but the reality of its characters and the incisive nature of its setting. Liz Moore has created a masterpiece that exposes the opioid epidemic in Philadelphia, highlighting the vulnerability of its victims and the sheer scope of suffering it causes. From the first page, when the murder mystery begins, readers will suffer and rejoice with the novel's oh-so-human characters. The power of this story is a fire that will linger for a long time."
(Random House Trade Paperbacks, 9780812986471, $18)"Thank goodness Elizabeth Strout decided to return for another round with one of the most beloved, maddening, confounding, and compelling characters I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Readers will delight in the fact that Olive, while forging new relationships and puzzling over long-existing ones, remains the crazy, complicated family member you just can't quit. Add in spare yet beautifully rendered prose about the rugged, breathtaking state of Maine and you've got a gem of a book, one that leaves you rooting for Olive, despite her numerous shortcomings, as she stumbles through love, friendship, loss, and what it means to grow old. Strout, through Olive, reminds us that it's a messy business being human, but it's a privilege to be along for the ride."
(Riverhead Books, 9780525538127, $17)
"This densely atmospheric debut sinks its hooks deep into post-war America's tender underbelly, exposing the homophobia and bigotry beneath a nation's renewed spirit of hope and opportunity. Muriel and Julius are restless outsiders, siblings-in-law who share a passion for gambling as well as their more furtive passion. Both are trying to make their own opportunities to find love and happiness--a gamble that one will unexpectedly win and one will just as unexpectedly lose. An immersive and rewarding first novel."
(Ecco, 9780062909084, $16.99)"Told with humor, wit, and wisdom, Laura Zigman's novel explores the unexpected trials of middle age. We follow Judy Vogel, who is rebounding from the recent deaths of her parents, struggling with writer's block, juggling financial issues, coping with a failing marriage, and raising an adolescent son. When she comes across her son's old baby sling, she starts to wear the family dog as a unique form of support. This thought-provoking novel is full of heart, hope, and the strength to move forward."
(Atria, 9781501176739, $18)"The Ship of Dreams recounts the Titanic epic largely from the perspective of six of her first-class passengers, including the naval architect who designed the ship; a movie star; a vice president of the Pennsylvania Railroad and his 17-year-old son, Isidor Strauss, who founded Macy's Department Store; and Lucy Noël Martha Leslie, the Countess of Rothes. This incisive and engrossing account of the ship's evolution and tragic loss injects an intelligent light into an event that is as much enshrouded in legend as the Titanic's remains are in the deep, dark ocean. This story is both a paean to the genius of the age that gave birth to the Titanic and a eulogy for the hubris that doomed her."
(One World, 9780399590610, $18)
"Ta-Nehisi Coates understands something big and he understands it better than anyone else right now. The Water Dancer led me on a journey up and down the landscape of American slavery with a narrative that feels like The Book of Exodus meets, well, Ta-Nehisi Coates. Over 400 pages I have cried, I have laughed, I have been educated, and I have been enlightened. Coates writes with an honesty that can only come from a sublime, even spiritual, understanding of the souls of the white man and the black man in America. Written with poignancy and humanity, The Water Dancer left me stunned but clear-headed, like I had just been woken up from a deep, dream-filled sleep."
(Scribner, 9781982106386, $18)"This book is beautiful, intimate, breathtaking, and heartbreaking. It reads like a novel and yet gives a better sense of what was happening to Jewish families during the Holocaust than any history book I've read. I feel so invested in the Neumann family and their friends, as if I know them personally. More than anything, my takeaway from this book is the love and hope that was so clearly poured into it."