A new year is dawning, full of hope and possibility . . . and, probably, lots of things to catch up on now that the holiday break is behind you. But don't despair! This way lies inspiration and innovation, thanks to a trio of new books that offer fresh approaches to work. Whether you want to rethink your goals, improve your focus or forge a new path, these titles offer strategies, perspective and encouragement.
This month's best new mysteries include a tense psychological thriller set in Tokyo, plenty of high-stakes espionage and a long-awaited Swedish translation.
Writers have been known to embellish facts for dramatic purposes. A possible embellishment provides part of the drama of Twain & Stanley Enter Paradise, the final novel by Oscar Hijuelos. This posthumous work, set in the late 19th and early 20th century, is more restrained than previous Hijuelos books, including the Pulitzer Prize winner The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. And the protagonists are as un-Hijuelos as you can get: Mark Twain and Henry Morton Stanley, the Welsh explorer who achieved fame for his search for David Livingstone.
“I was a stranger,” writes Julie Checkoway in her preamble to this nearly lost story of a remarkable Maui swimming coach, “but it seemed to me that someone ought to try to save it.” Save the story she has, through exhaustive research and sparkling prose.
Stanley and Vera reunite at each year’s National Spelling Bee, forming a bond over their shared victory and their mothers’ quirks and ambitious goals for their lives. They seem destined for success, sure to cross paths again at Harvard—until Stanley proposes a deal.
Canadian author Leah McLaren walks a fine line in A Better Man, and following along as she navigates it is part of what makes her novel worth reading. A Better Man is a deft blend of comedy, wisdom and character, and it’s one of the most entertaining books of its kind you’re likely to find.
In 1993, Mardi Jo Link was a 31-year-old wife and mother of two and a bar waitress with a college degree. Just before sunrise on an October Michigan morning, Link and three friends set off on what would become an annual get-the-hell-out-of-Dodge adventure to the isolated refuge of Drummond Island on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. In 1993, Link was the newest member of the sorority, but she eventually became the chronicler of the highs and lows of the annual island weekend.
In this month's cooking column you'll find new cookbooks featuring everything from classic American fare to meals made for enjoying outdoors to the best in New England home cooking.
Ah, alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems (to misquote “The Simpsons”). In Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget, Sarah Hepola reveals the ugly side of addiction with humor and honesty. She writes gracefully of blackouts, junk food binges and unnerving sexual encounters. Along the way, she touches on loneliness and cats and hangovers and alternative weeklies. Although she claims that alcohol made her fearless, her true bravery emerges in this memoir’s witty candor.
Mazie Phillips-Gordon was a real person. Born in 1897, she ran the ticket booth at New York’s Venice Theater from 1916 to 1938. You may not think that’s such a big achievement, but then you probably haven’t read the Joseph Mitchell New Yorker essay about her that inspired Jami Attenberg’s entertaining new novel, Saint Mazie.