This week, dismantling psychiatry, gaming in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and a "mojo bag." Plus: this year's biggest book about werewolves.
The Exchange by Sophie Cabot Black (Graywolf) - “You must write as if all along a flaw /Was on the bone, one place not quite right” writes Black in her third collection. These meditative, aphoristic poems deal with paying witness to illness, questioning both the future and the afterlife. In these poems Black weaves sheer elegance and devastating knowing.
Adulting: How to Become a Grown-Up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps by Kelly Williams Brown (Grand Central) - A young journo mines a brief life and years of advice from friends and professionals—counselors, social workers, her car mechanic Shane—in order to create this how-to guide to becoming (or simply being) a “grown-up.” Fun, chatty, and surprisingly informative, and perfect for wayward young people. Check out 10 of Brown’s tips here.
Southern Cross the Dog by Bill Cheng (Ecco) - Charged with a swampy sense of foreboding, Cheng’s debut novel is set in the early 20th century, in a mythic South populated by leather-clad backwoodsmen, a kind madam, and a barrelhouse piano player with a “mojo bag.” With its evocative settings and rich McCarthyesque language, this Southern gothic packs a punch like a mean drunk.
The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer (Hyperion) - Readers mourning the end of the Artemis Fowl series can take heart: this first book in the time-bending W.A.R.P. series is an all-out blast. And its stars—17-year-old Chevie Savano, a quasi-disgraced FBI agent (of sorts), and Riley, the reluctant young assassin of the title—are every bit as dynamic as Artemis and Holly.
The Book of Woe: The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry by Gary Greenberg (Penguin/Blue Rider) - The rewriting of the bible of psychiatry shakes the field to its foundations in this savvy, searching exposé. The result is a compelling insider’s challenge to psychiatry’s scientific pretensions—and a plea to return it to its humanistic roots.
Hard Ground: Woods Cop Stories by Joseph Heywood (Globe Pequot/Lyons) - Heywood displays uncommon storytelling versatility in this brilliant collection of 27 tales about the game wardens who patrol Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland (Hyperion) - Cricket Thompson is inseparable from her best friend Jules Clayton, so much so that she’s practically a member of the Clayton family. When Jules’s mother, Nina, dies unexpectedly, everything changes. This is a natural beach read, but will easily win Howland year-round fans, too.
Dossier K. by Imre Kertész, trans. from Hungarian by Tim Wilkinson (Melville House) - Hungarian author Kertész, winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize for Literature, pens an unflinching memoir in the form of a Socratic dialogue with himself about his extraordinary life. Noting that “a good autobiography is like a document: a mirror of the age on which people can ‘depend,’ ” Kertész unearths memories of his childhood in Budapest, his adolescent imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps, his pursuit of journalism in Communist-dominated Hungary, his two marriages, the eventual publication of his novels, and the relation between his life and literary career.
The Real North Korea: Life and Politics in the Failed Stalinist Utopia by Andrei Lankov (Oxford Univ.) - Not crazy, but crafty and cornered is the verdict of this probing, clear-eyed study of the world’s most irascible dictatorship. Lankov a historian at Seoul’s Koomkin University, traces the entrenchment of North Korea’s uniquely totalitarian brand of communism, with its backward and inefficient state-run economy, all-encompassing police state, hostility to outside influences, and hysterical worship of despot Kim Il-Sung and his descendants.
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (Hogarth) - Marra’s sobering, complex debut intertwines the stories of a handful of characters at the end of the second war in bleak, apocalyptic Chechnya. Though the novel spans 11 years, the story traces five days in 2004 following the arrest of Dokka, a villager from the small Muslim village of Eldar. Read Marra’s thoughts on Chechnya’s literary history.
Red Moon by Benjamin Percy (Grand Central) - Benjamin Percy’s extraordinary new supernatural thriller is a blend of alternate history and weird fiction that holds a mirror up to contemporary America to reflect its fears and biases. The novel opens with a father saying goodbye to his son before the father, a military reservist, deploys to a remote country where a fanatical sect holds sway. The antagonists are not jihadists, but lycans.
The Peripatetic Coffin by Ethan Rutherford (Ecco) - Rutherford’s sharp, inspired debut collection runs the gamut of emotion and genre, blending laughter and misery, reality and fantasy, in eight tales that ponder the methods in which humans achieve isolation.
Coda by Emma Trevayne (Running Press Teens) - Music provides both damnation and freedom in this gripping futuristic fable, first in a two-book series from newcomer Trevayne. The Corp maintains a crushing grip on the population through addictive, mood-influencing music that takes a heavy toll on its users. Anthem, 18, sells his body’s energy to fuel the city’s grid and rebels at night as part of an illegal underground band.