St. Martin's Press: Tears We Cannot Stop by Michael Eric Dyson

Garden District Book Shop Issue for Friday, January 13, 2017

From the Shelf

Subterranean Press Gems

Specialty science fiction and fantasy publisher Subterranean Press regularly presents limited-edition works from blockbuster names. Shelf Awareness reviewer Rob LeFebvre recommends a few:

Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi by John Scalzi, illus. by Natalie Metzger ($40)
John Scalzi writes in only two speeds: novel-length fiction or "really short" stories. These brief science fiction tales are, however, long on charm and intelligence. "When the Yogurt Took Over" packs a ton of plausible speculation into a 1,000-word essay about what happens when a batch of yogurt becomes sentient. "The Other Large Thing," written in 140-character Tweets, explores the relationship between Sanchez, the family canine, and a new household robotic assistant. Smart, funny, short: Miniatures does well with all three.

Resume Speed by Lawrence Block, illus. by Ken Laager ($25)
A man named Bill shows up in the small Montana town of Cross Creek, fresh off a Trailways bus, toting a small duffel bag. He applies for the short-order cook job at the diner, and proceeds to build a small, satisfying life. It seems like everything is going Bill's way--until it doesn't. Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Lawrence Block delivers an eminently pleasing and bittersweet novella about a man trying to outrun his mysterious past.

The Four Thousand, The Eight Hundred by Greg Egan, illus. by Dominic Harman ($40)
Greg Egan brings his formidable talent to a short, punchy novella about future humans living on the two largest asteroids between Mars and Jupiter. Vesta society is falling apart as its inhabitants become deeply divided over the importance of contributing intellectual property to a colony that values tangible goods. This causes many to stow away on export pods, risking the harrowing space journey to reach the colony on nearby Ceres, which must weigh the consequences of harboring refugees against its import needs. This tightly plotted story from a master of the SF genre is tense and poignant. --Rob LeFebvre, freelance writer and editor

Workman Publishing: Parentspeak by Jennifer Lehr

Algonquin Books: The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

Harper Perennial: Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor

In this Issue...

Reviews

A List of Cages

by Robin Roe

Robin Roe's extraordinary debut YA novel is as much about love and compassion as it is about grief and abuse.

Read this review >>

Myra MacDonald argues that Pakistan has lost its decades-long rivalry with India thanks in large part to its shortsighted embrace of militant groups.

Read this review >>

Books for Living

by Will Schwalbe

Will Schwalbe, book editor and voracious reader, shares witty, warm, insightful essays on books that have resonated throughout his life.

Read this review >>

Review by Subjects:

Fiction Mystery & Thriller Biography & Memoir History Business & Economics Social Science Psychology & Self-Help Health & Medicine Children's & Young Adult

Thomas Nelson: Because You're Mine by Colleen Coble

Book Candy

'The Ultimate Book-Lover Bucket List'

"The ultimate book-lover bucket list" was offered by PopSugar.

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TypeTatts: "Classic tattoos with a typography twist honor beloved typeface designs," My Modern Met reported.

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"From a 17th-century sci-fi utopia to an autobiographical vampire novel," author Danielle Dutton chose her "top 10 books about wild women" for the Guardian.

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"A travel guide to literary woods" was featured by Quirk Books, which noted that fantasy novels are "home to some of the world's most magnificent natural arboretums."

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Buzzfeed found "25 amazingly clever ways to display books in your home."

Great Reads

Rediscover: The Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale is set in a near-future New England ruled by the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian theocracy in which women are severely subjugated. Offred is a handmaiden, a class of women owned by powerful men solely for reproductive purposes (her name literally means Of-Fred). The novel follows Offred's harrowing experiences as property of The Commander and his wife, interspersed with flashbacks from before the revolution and her failed attempt to escape Gilead.

The Handmaid's Tale, first published in 1985, won the 1987 Arthur C. Clarke Award, was a finalist for the 1986 Booker Prize, and cemented Atwood's reputation as a master of literary speculative fiction. The book satirizes current social and religious trends in the United States, using an historical basis in 17th-century Puritan communities, to create a compelling work that is often taught in high school and college courses. On April 26, streaming service Hulu will premiere a series based on The Handmaid's Tale starring Elisabeth Moss as Offred and Joseph Fiennes as The Commander. It was last published by Anchor Books in 1998 ($15.95, 9780385490818). --Tobias Mutter

The Writer's Life

Carol D. Marsh: From Judgment to Compassion

Carol D. Marsh is a writer, blogger, social justice advocate and founder of Miriam's House, a residential program for homeless women with AIDS. Marsh earned her MFA from the creative nonfiction program at Goucher College in 2014. In May 2016, her essay "Pictures in Leaves" was chosen for the 2016 New Millennium Writings Nonfiction Award. Nowhere Else I Want to Be: A Memoir (Inkshares) is her thesis and first published work. Our review is below.

What made you decide to tell the story of Miriam's House in book form?

It wasn't a decision so much as a process. After I had to resign from Miriam's House (due to chronic migraine disease) at the end of 2009, I began writing about the women out of the grief of leaving a job I loved. It was both catharsis and an effort not to forget them. After several months, I had 30,000 words and began to think I might have a book. So I queried a few agents and found out that a loose grouping of stories doesn't make a book, at least not the way I'd done it. Around this time, I learned about low-residency writing programs, looked into them and decided the schedule--two weeks a year on campus, otherwise at home--fit the life I'd developed to manage my migraine pain. I was accepted into the MFA program in creative nonfiction at Goucher College. My thesis became this memoir.

You interweave the story of the women of Miriam's House with your own journey as a caregiver: exploring your own need to be liked and validated, while struggling to be truly present to the residents.

I went into my work at Miriam's House little knowing what a personal challenge it would be. I think I was prepared for the business aspect, and had a pretty good sense of what it would be like to live and work with women who were ill, but I was shocked at how much my own ego and neediness were tangled up into it all. I thought I'd worked through all that in a previous job (at Samaritan Inns, about which I write in the book).

I found out that if I wanted to be open, fair and compassionate in the work, which I truly did, I needed first to confront the things in me that were keeping me from being that way: the neediness, judgment, assumptions and bias. So an interweaving of the stories of the women with my own journey was the only way to write the memoir with integrity. It's the inward glance at myself, my motives and needs, juxtaposed with my relationship with the women. And I think that also ended up being the best way to show how much I learned from them.

The stories in the book are only a handful of those that happened at Miriam's House during your time there. How did you decide which and whose stories to share?

At first, I simply wrote what I remembered most vividly. I took those stories to Goucher and was taught how to write a book: structure, narrative arc, character, etc. As the initial 30,000 words expanded to more than 90,000, I was also developing the book's themes, so I chose stories that illustrated my themes: transformation, the overarching theme of the book; social justice, which I think may be the most relevant theme for today; addictions and recovery, my own as well as the residents'; and death and dying.

Then there's the consideration of balance. I didn't want the book to be story after story about dying, or to pretend the experience was one happy party. I chose a few deaths that had the most impact on me. Muriel's death was at the top of that list, because of the spirituality of it.

Also, I didn't want it to be romanticized or sentimental. For the sake of honesty, I had to write about all the mistakes I made, but I also wanted to show how gloriously human the women were.

The other big balance decision was about the number of characters. Over the years I worked there, we were a home for more than 150 women and 30 children and we employed more than 40 people. I ended up focusing the narrative on a couple of long-term residents like Kimberly and long-term staff like Faye, with a sprinkling of other residents and staff important for certain stories or themes.

What did you find challenging and/or surprising about the process of writing the book?

When I first started the MFA program, it surprised me that my mentors and classmates wanted me to write in depth about how and why I started Miriam's House. I'd been focusing on the stories of the women, which were most interesting to me, and they liked those, but they wanted more about me than I was then prepared to give. But in the end, that gave me a better platform from which to engage the major theme of the book--transformation--and the most prominent sub-theme, social justice. It also made for a more well-rounded and more honest memoir.

Inkshares is a "crowd-driven" publisher; can you talk about your decision to go that route?

Two reasons for the decision to go with Inkshares, a decision I'm very happy I made. The first was that I got impatient with the process of finding an agent. I'd done everything I was told to do--like have a website, get excerpts published and learn how to write a good query--yet it felt like it was happening on glacial time.

In the past, I'd started Miriam's House and worked hard to make it a viable business. Sitting back and waiting for someone to pick up the book felt so passive--exactly the opposite of my spirit and energy at Miriam's House. So I investigated self-publishing, but had to rule that out because of my constant migraines, which wouldn't allow me the amount of work and promotion required to promote a self-published book.

Around this time, a fellow graduate of the Goucher program told me about publishing her book through Inkshares. I looked at it and liked that they bring the author into all aspects of publication, and pay 35% of net sales. It was a way to be proactive in my publishing effort and also dredge up business skills unused since I'd left Miriam's House.

I took over the business of getting my book published. Though it felt great, it wasn't easy, as there were plenty of days when I just wanted to retreat to a dark room with my painful head, but instead had to spend a couple of hours on the phone or the computer. But it was well worth it. I'm proud of this book in a way I might not be had it been published in a more traditional way. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Book Reviews

Fiction

House of Silence

by Sarah Barthel

Celebrating her engagement should be a joyful occasion for Isabelle Larkin. Her fiancé, Gregory Gallagher, is among Chicago's most attractive, ambitious political hopefuls of 1875. But when Isabelle witnesses Gregory committing a horrific crime, nobody believes her, and she feigns a nervous breakdown and mutism to escape her circumstances. Shortly after being admitted to Bellevue Place, Isabelle befriends none other than Mary Todd Lincoln, a fellow patient, who becomes a co-conspirator in helping Isabelle seek a life free from her overbearing mother.

With House of Silence, Sarah Barthel (Mackenzie's Cross) has crafted an engaging, fast-paced blend of historical fiction and suspense. Barthel gives her reader a glimpse into the conditions surrounding the real-life hospitalization of Mary Todd Lincoln, whose son Robert committed her to Bellevue 10 years after President Lincoln's assassination, due to her reportedly eccentric behavior.

House of Silence reflects the reality of women in an era when social class was paramount, marriages were arranged for mercenary reasons and women like Isabelle and Mary were discredited, their independence and choices silenced. Together, the women rebel against convention by forming a strong bond. Through their friendship, Isabelle begins to find her voice again and in doing so, must decide whether to conform to societal norms and a predetermined fate or use her newfound strength to take control of her life, moving forward on a path of her choosing. --Melissa Firman, writer, editor and blogger at melissafirman.com

Discover: House of Silence invites the reader into a suspenseful tale involving Mary Todd Lincoln's hospitalization in a sanatorium.

Kensington, $15, paperback, 300p., 9781496706089

Mystery & Thriller

The Marriage Lie

by Kimberly Belle

Iris Griffith, a school psychologist, thinks she has the perfect marriage. She and her husband, Will, are each other's favorite person, they adore their downtown Atlanta home, they both like their jobs and they've recently started trying for a baby.

But then, the day after their seventh anniversary, Will, a software engineer, purportedly leaves for a business trip to Orlando. A few hours later, a flight from Atlanta to Seattle crashes, killing everyone on board, and it turns out Will was on that flight instead. Iris is shocked and grieved, confused and increasingly furious. Simultaneously mourning Will, and angry that he lied about going to Orlando, she decides to use her psychology training to dig into Will's past--only to uncover darker secrets than she ever expected.

Kimberly Belle (The Ones We Trust, The Last Breath) has created an engrossing story with an engaging heroine. As the story deepens and Iris's emotions shift from grief to bewilderment to anger and beyond, the novel moves from romance into mystery, and becomes completely addicting. Twisting and suspenseful, reminiscent of several recently popular thrillers, like Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train, The Marriage Lie is a fast-paced journey that will keep the reader guessing, including a few genuinely shocking instances. With lots of sweet moments between Iris and her friends and family as well, The Marriage Lie is perfect for staying up way too late reading. --Jessica Howard, blogger at Quirky Bookworm

Discover: Iris is blindsided when her husband dies on a flight to Seattle--because he was supposed to fly to Orlando that day.

Mira, $15.99, paperback, 352p., 9780778319764

The Hollow Men

by Rob McCarthy

When textbooks start blurring one's vision, what should a medical student do? In Rob McCarthy's case, he chose to write his first thriller. The Hollow Men puts McCarthy's studies into practice through his tormented police surgeon/anesthetist protagonist, Dr. Harry Kent.

Kent is called to a hostage situation when Solomon Idris, a teenage gunman demanding a lawyer and a BBC reporter, needs medical attention. Before Kent can treat the patient for his respiratory distress, a gun is fired and police sharpshooters descend on the building. No one knows who pulled the trigger on that first shot, but Idris is left fighting for his life, and Kent is determined to find out what drove the youth to take such extreme measures. When Idris's life is threatened again in the hospital, the stakes rise even higher and Kent suspects a fellow doctor is hiding skeletons unfit for anatomy class in his closet.

The Hollow Men is gritty and intense; it's complex and explosive. McCarthy's expertise provides dramatic authenticity in the hospital. The pacing is swift, engaging readers in McCarthy's London. Kent is a deliciously troubled hero, and in an effort to fill the hollow inside himself, he's fighting for the folks who've been forgotten. Seasoned mystery buffs may not be overly surprised by the outcome, and the denouement could have been tighter, but the characters in this debut are exemplary and McCarthy is unquestioningly a writer to watch. --Jen Forbus, freelancer

Discover: A London police surgeon takes on the role of investigator when his teenage patient's life hangs in the balance.

Pegasus, $25.95, hardcover, 368p., 9781681772493

Biography & Memoir

Books for Living

by Will Schwalbe

In his second memoir, Books for Living, Will Schwalbe (The End of Your Life Book Club) presents a collection of brief, insightful essays on the titles that have transformed his life: classic novels and children's stories, esoteric volumes of Chinese philosophy and practical writing advice. He begins with an unusual but aptly titled choice: The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang, a text of idiosyncratic philosophy and advice for living, published in the 1930s by a Chinese man who later lived in the U.S. and Europe. Lin's work reappears several times throughout Schwalbe's narrative, as he describes his library and the memories associated with each book in loving detail.

Schwalbe considers the titles through the lens of a particular topic: Searching (Stuart Little), Remembering (David Copperfield), Being Sensitive (Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird). Reading The Gifts of the Body, Rebecca Brown's novel of a home health-care worker tending to AIDS patients, sparks Schwalbe's own painful memories of the AIDS epidemic as a young gay man living in Manhattan and volunteering for Gay Men's Health Crisis. Every book gives Schwalbe a way to make meaning of what has happened to him, or to appreciate profound truths.

"Has any book saved my life?" Schwalbe wonders during his chapter on Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran. "I think it would be more accurate to say that books... helped me choose my life.... Books saved the life I have." For readers who understand this sentiment, Books for Living is a field guide to a handful of titles that might entertain, stir up trouble, or--yes--even save the life a reader already has. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Will Schwalbe, book editor and voracious reader, shares witty, warm, insightful essays on books that have resonated throughout his life.

Knopf, $25.95, hardcover, 288p., 9780385353540

History

Defeat Is an Orphan: How Pakistan Lost the Great South Asian War

by Myra MacDonald

In Defeat Is an Orphan: How Pakistan Lost the Great South Asian War, Myra MacDonald quickly covers the milestones of the Indo-Pakistani conflict, fought on and off since 1947, without lingering on episodes that have already been written about at length. Instead, MacDonald focuses on the period from 1998--when India and Pakistan held nuclear tests--to the present day, putting an emphasis on the strategic missteps that allowed India to overtake Pakistan in the two countries' long, bitter rivalry.

Nuclear tests in 1998 were an ecstatic moment for Pakistan, promising strategic parity with its much larger neighbor for the first time. Emboldened by its newfound nuclear umbrella, however, Pakistan increased its sponsorship of militant, terrorist groups, a policy that would eventually alienate the international community and undermine the country's domestic security. Indian interests, on the other hand, lay in improving relations with the international community (including a much warmer relationship with the U.S.) and in expanding its economy. To some degree, MacDonald explains, the rivalry became one-sided: "India had no need to win a war against Pakistan--Pakistan was doing enough damage to itself to lose the competition with its bigger neighbour it had once hoped to win."

MacDonald's history is primarily a work of argumentation, but it is supported by vivid, terrifying accounts of attacks carried out by Pakistan's proxies. According to MacDonald, Pakistan's ideological blindness and short-sighted strategies led to it "fighting a war it did not itself understand" and helping to inflict the current scourge of terrorism on the wider world and on itself. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books

Discover: Myra MacDonald argues that Pakistan has lost its decades-long rivalry with India thanks in large part to its shortsighted embrace of militant groups.

Oxford University Press, $34.95, hardcover, 320p., 9781849046411

Business & Economics

Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace

by Christine Porath

In Mastering Civility: A Manifesto for the Workplace, business school professor and consultant Christine Porath considers how pervasive incivility is and how damaging such a culture--or even one uncivil employee--can be to businesses. She provides examples from many fields--including medicine, technology, food service and sports--and backs them up with scientific research. The strong influence of civility on employee productivity, contentment and profit becomes abundantly clear. Simple company policies requiring employees to know everyone else's names, for example, have an impact far greater than increased pleasantries.

Porath offers a four-step plan for employers and managers to encourage and maintain a culture that lifts others up, values positive participation and will ultimately be more profitable. Though geared toward supervisors, Mastering Civility can benefit anyone who wants to feel happier and be more effective at work. Readers will be able to identify instances of discourteousness in their own lives, and Porath offers helpful ways of framing these experiences to encourage future success. Activities like self-tests to measure one's incivility level are eye opening, and a resources section points to next steps for teams committing to fostering a more respectful environment.

Porath advocates effectively for why individuals and organizations should pursue more civil behaviors and policies, and offers ideas and strategic planning advice for how to do so. Mastering Civility is a valuable resource for professionals who want to enjoy their jobs more, see their teams thrive and have more pleasant, productive interactions with subordinates and supervisors alike. --Richael Best, bookseller, Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, Wash.

Discover: Case studies on civility in the workplace argue for kindness as a business booster.

Grand Central, $25, hardcover, 240p., 9781455568987

Social Science

Nowhere Else I Want to Be: A Memoir

by Carol D. Marsh

Arriving at Miriam's House, the Washington, D.C., nonprofit founded by Carol Marsh in 1993 to care for homeless women with AIDS, residents brought "bags and spirits stuffed to bursting with the detritus of lives lived in defiance of the odds." Sharing personal stories of those suffering from the severe, stigmatizing effects of addiction and disease, Nowhere Else I Want to Be is Marsh's memoir of creating a home for women forgotten by their families and neglected by society.

A native Delawarean raised in a white, middle-class household, Marsh's life was starkly different from the primarily black, impoverished, drug- and alcohol-addicted women she felt called to work with and live among during her 14 years as Miriam House's executive director. (She and her husband, Tim, resided in an apartment on the premises.) In an occasionally fragmented narrative that sometimes resembles a collection of essays more than memoir, Marsh lays bare the cultural naiveté, personality clashes and false assumptions made by her, the residents, staff and board members, alongside the tender moments spent by a dying woman's bedside while telling her she is beautiful and loved.

Nowhere Else I Want to Be is a heartfelt, candid story of finding peace with one's place in the world, whether as a woman unable to care for one's children because of the ravages of AIDS or as a struggling nonprofit leader confronting new truths, and the growth that happens within the circle of compassion. --Melissa Firman, writer, editor and blogger at melissafirman.com

Discover: This memoir of caring for and living among women fighting addiction and AIDS relates the personal experiences inherent to building a community of respect, dignity and love.

Inkshares, $14.99, paperback, 325p., 9781942645061

Psychology & Self-Help

Win at Losing: How Our Biggest Setbacks Can Lead to Our Greatest Gains

by Sam Weinman

"Learning to lose is an acquired skill, like juggling or parallel parking," says Sam Weinman in Win at Losing: How Our Biggest Setbacks Can Lead to Our Greatest Gains. A sports journalist and digital editor at Golf Digest, he writes with energy and wit in his book debut, explaining his impetus right off the bat: one of his young sons lost a tennis match and threw a tantrum, leading Weinman's wife to lament, "He's turning into you." Inspired to consider how to communicate with his kids about losing, and to reconsider losing itself, Weinman digs in.

He tackles different losses--failure, disappointment, setbacks--and delves into the emotional and mental repercussions of each, analyzing how seemingly negative events can still yield tremendous opportunity. Weinman then interviews a slew of professional athletes, celebrities and friends, reflecting on their failures and what they've learned from defeat. Among the most memorable are Greg Norman, a golfer as famous for his losses as his wins; Michael Dukakis, a Massachusetts governor who lost the 1988 presidential race spectacularly; and Susan Lucci, a soap opera star whose very name became synonymous with failure after losing out on 18 Daytime Emmys in a row before winning one.

Weinman incorporates concepts from a collection of psychologists, authors and professors, but the best moments of Win at Losing are in his interviews, which elicit moments of true candor. Especially in these rich interactions, Weinman's book wins. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: Laugh in the face of failure, or at least learn from it, this author advises.

TarcherPerigee, $26, hardcover, 256p., 9780143109587

The Hot Topic: A Life-Changing Look at the Change of Life

by Christa D'Souza

Killer whales go through menopause. So do certain aphids. And as journalist and contributing editor to British Vogue Christa D'Souza points out in The Hot Topic: A Life-Changing Look at the Change of Life, after the year 2030, 1.2 billion women will have gone through or will be going through menopause.

Whether addressing newsflashes or hot flashes, D'Souza offers a primer on menopause that maps the mental and emotional landscape of this phase of life, explores science, medicine, her own experiences and those of family and friends. D'Souza scouts sources across the globe, interviewing menopausal nuns in Silicon Valley and hunter-gatherer members of the Hadza tribe in Tanzania, whose older women are crucial to the tribe's existence. She culls much of her research from modern science but looks to history as well, citing a variety of 20th-century scientists in addition to wisdom and customs as ancient as Aristotle. She quotes cultural icons like Gloria Steinem and Simone de Beauvoir, and tackles wide-ranging issues of mid-to-late life as a woman, such as sex, hormone replacement therapy, sexism and back fat.

The Hot Topic is a fun read. D'Souza's tone is candid, as if chatting with old friends after a few glasses of wine--which, as D'Souza laments, exacerbate the symptoms of menopause. The book will especially appeal to women undergoing the change or wanting to be informed of what's to come, as well as curious partners or spouses. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

Discover: A journalist explores menopause from every angle.

Atria, $16, paperback, 192p., 9781501136344

Health & Medicine

The Case Against Sugar

by Gary Taubes

In recent years conventional wisdom on obesity and diabetes has shifted. Carbs have replaced fat as the new villain; new fad diets urge drastic reductions in carbohydrate intake and add consumption of fats to combat weight gain.

But laying blame on carbs misses the point, according to Gary Taubes (Good Calories, Bad Calories). There hasn't been enough public discourse on sugar as a primary cause of diabetes, heaviness, and obesity, he argues. Taubes says sugar destroys the body's ability to regulate fat and he suggests that, like tobacco, sugar is a drug; in fact, it's a key ingredient in cigarettes, increasing their addictiveness. The Case Against Sugar reckons with an inconvenient truth: Western civilization's centuries-old sweet tooth is a devastating addiction that kills.

With clear language and a skeptical eye, Taubes--a physicist and award-winning science and health journalist--lays out the causes for alarm (epidemic rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes) and the history of sugar production and consumption (which reinforced colonialism). He explains the science and the context of scientific thinking on the subject. "If this were a criminal case," reads his author's note, "The Case Against Sugar would be the argument for the prosecution." Taubes makes an unacknowledged pivot from the thesis of his last book (Why We Get Fat), which argued for low-carb diets. Now it's specifically sugar he's after, not just for its "empty calories" (a framing he dislikes), but for its long-term effects on our endocrine system. --Zak Nelson, writer and bookseller

Discover: Like Michael Pollan, Taubes crafts a compelling argument about Western eating habits, refining our understanding of sugar's responsibility for obesity and diabetes.

Knopf, $26.95, hardcover, 384p., 9780307701640

Children's & Young Adult

A List of Cages

by Robin Roe

Fourteen-year-old Julian Harlow looks "like an anime character," with shiny black hair almost falling into his "enormous round eyes." He is shy, sweet, and secretly good at singing and storytelling, but his uncle is beating the light, and life, out of him. Adam Blake, a high school senior, knows and loves Julian because the boy came to live with him and his mother as a foster child after his parents were killed. But it's been five years since Julian's abusive uncle took him in, and the boy, young-seeming for 14, is decidedly worse for wear.

This is not a story to turn away from. Readers will fall in love with Julian. He's unassuming, creative, dyslexic--and terrified. The story alternates between Julian's and Adam's perspectives, and as readers start to see how much Adam--popular, cheerful, "ADHD-fidgety" and compassionate--truly cares for Julian, their hearts will grow three sizes larger. Debut author Robin Roe's writing is extraordinary, clear, funny and insightful. Her sentences pack a wallop: "It's strange how many ways there are to miss someone. You miss the things they did and who they were, but you also miss who you were to them." And, "Maybe instead of accelerating your age, pain won't let you grow." And, "I see everything you do" as a profession of love.

However brutal his particular story, Julian's trials as he lurches awkwardly into teendom are universal--feeling alone, keeping dangerous secrets, feeling timid and inadequate, needing love. A List of Cages is painful, devastating, beautiful and brilliant. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: Robin Roe's extraordinary debut YA novel is as much about love and compassion as it is about grief and abuse.

Hyperion/Disney, $17.99, hardcover, 320p., ages 14-up, 9781484763803

Nobody Is Perfick

by Bernard Waber

This quirky little gem by the beloved Bernard Waber (Lyle, Lyle Crocodile; Lyle Walks the Dogs; Ask Me) was first published in 1971 and has lingered long in the hearts of its fans.

Waber imagines and sketches eight scenarios where children are interacting--including "Say Something Nice," "No Rain Again Today" and "My Diary"--to shine a light on the absurdity of human behavior, from contagious laughter to wishing away a perfectly beautiful day just to wear a new raincoat. In "Say Something Nice," a boy torments a girl by bringing up all sorts of "crawly, creepy things." "Lizards!" Arthur exclaims, with a mad gleam in his eye. "That's not nice," retorts Harriet. It escalates: "Spiders!" "Now you stop it!" When Harriet is called inside, she says, "This was fun. Let's do it again tomorrow," deflating and infuriating Arthur. In "My Diary," a girl tells her friend she never shows her diary to anyone. "Not even your mother?" "Not even my mother." "Not even your father?" "Not even my father." Then the inevitable: "May I look at it?" A comically elaborate bartering exchange ensues in which the friend gets to read the first word, "I," then the second, "think," until the diarist's juiciest secret is out. Her friend runs out the door to tell everybody. "COME BACK HERE!" 

In this warm, funny and insightful collection of comedy sketches, nobody, not even Peter Perfect, is "perfick." Waber's realistically silly dialogue (in cartoon bubbles) and rough, inky drawings are just right for readers who are more in the mood for a flip-through than a dive-in book. --Karin Snelson, children's & YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Discover: This 1971 illustrated classic from Bernard Waber, author of Lyle, Lyle Crocodile, reminds readers that "nobody is perfick" and that we really just have to laugh at ourselves.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $9.99, hardcover, 144p., ages 7-10, 9780544842144

Let's Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin & Turn It Out!

by Patricia C. McKissack , illust. by Brian Pinkney

As early as infancy, children start using their fingers, feet and voices to entertain themselves. As they grow, their games become more elaborate, until playgrounds are lively with jump ropers hopping to the rhythm of "Hot, Hot Pepper," hand clappers chanting "Miss Mary Mack" and dancers choreographing complicated moves.

Teaming up again after their Newbery Honor and Coretta Scott King Award-winning The Dark-Thirty, beloved author Patricia McKissack (Ol' Clip Clop) and two-time Caldecott Honor-winning illustrator Brian Pinkney (Martin and Mahalia; Duke Ellington) showcase an exuberant collection of circle games, jump rope rhymes, hand claps, folktales, superstitions, "mama sayings," hymns, spirituals and performance pieces rooted in African American culture. McKissack shares the lyrics--and their historical context--for her own 1950s childhood favorites in Missouri and Tennessee, as well as those she collected by extensively researching other cultures around the world. Today's youngsters will meet folk characters and historical figures through songs and games--new ones as well as variations on old standbys like "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" and "This Glory Train." Older readers will marvel at the history lessons--often grim--embedded in familiar rhymes and stories. In a section on the Underground Railroad, for example, McKissack includes a list of coded words slaves used in songs to share messages about their dangerous escapes.

Pinkney's swirly illustrations in both color and black and white positively dance off the pages, evoking the shaking, shimmying and swinging rampant in these pages. --Emilie Coulter, freelance writer and editor

Discover: Patricia McKissack and Brian Pinkney team up to present a rich treasury of games, songs and stories from "an African American childhood."

Schwartz & Wade/Random House, $24.99, hardcover, 184p., ages all ages, 9780375870880

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