In her deeply personal new book, In Other Words, acclaimed novelist Jhumpa Lahiri notes that “writing in another language represents an act of demolition, a new beginning.” It’s a neat summing-up of what takes place in this brief, meditative memoir—Lahiri’s first work of nonfiction—as she shares the story of her passion for Italian and how she set out to master it.
Henry Cole’s Brambleheart is an enchanting coming-of-age adventure with an unlikely hero: a chipmunk named Twig who just can’t seem to find his place in the world. Twig lives in the Hill—a towering heap of metal, glass and plastic bric-a-brac discarded by humans—and, like the other animals there, he’s expected to find a trade. At school, each of his fellow students seems to already have a niche: Lily the rabbit is a whiz at twisting grass into sturdy rope, and Basil the weasel is a pro at metal craft. When it’s Twig’s turn to weave or weld in front of the class, he never fails to get flustered.
Refreshingly old-fashioned: There’s no better way to describe When Mischief Came to Town. Standing in contrast to the futuristic sagas and sci-fi series that abound nowadays, Katrina Nannestad’s richly detailed story of an orphan named Inge, set in 1911 in Denmark, has an antique air that’s irresistible.
Subversive historian Sarah Vowell offers another idiosyncratic chronicle of our nation’s coming-of-age with Lafayette in the Somewhat United States. This lively account of the Marquis de Lafayette and the American Revolution is of a piece with Vowell’s previous books, which include Assassination Vacation (2005), a tour of sites dedicated to murdered American presidents, and The Wordy Shipmates (2008), a raucous look at the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. These seem like sober subjects, but Vowell enlivens the proceedings with her prickly persona, her thing for slang and her taste for recondite factoids of Americana.
In 2010, musician Patti Smith published Just Kids, a radiant memoir about her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and their lives as bohemian babes-in-the-woods in New York City. Set in the 1960s and ’70s, the story of their coming-of-age as artists—Smith’s first full-length work of prose—won the National Book Award. In her new memoir, M Train, Smith trades the circus atmosphere of the psychedelic era for the here and now, offering readers a remarkably intimate look at her life in New York City.
Parents and children alike will cherish Carolyn Beck’s That Squeak, a sensitively rendered, accessible story about grief and friendship.
August 29 marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history and the storm that delivered a near-mortal blow to the city of New Orleans. An estimated 250 billion gallons of water inundated the Big Easy when its levee system failed, damaging four out of every five homes in the city.
It’s a match made in heaven: Aziz Ansari, one of America’s top comics, and the subject of love. In Modern Romance, Ansari delivers dispatches from the front lines of dating in the digital age and proves to be as befuddled by love as the rest of us.
Welcome to the Neighborwood by master paper craftsman Shawn Sheehy is at once a breathtaking work of interactive art and a fact-filled exploration of the great outdoors. Young readers learn about the habits and survival skills of seven different creatures through pop-up models of the places they call home. Each burrow and nest bursts from the page in 3-D form, and Sheehy complements these visual astonishments with information about each animal. In easy-to-absorb prose, he explains the ways in which they adapt to the wild, construct homes and flourish.
As host of “The Thistle & Shamrock” on National Public Radio (NPR), Fiona Ritchie has bewitched many a listener with carefully curated playlists of traditional Celtic tunes, stories of her native Scotland, and, of course, that accent—mellifluous with a bit of a burr. No one is better qualified to take stock of Scots-Irish music than the NPR host, and in Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia, she does just that.