This week, we highlight new books from Thomas Wolf, Sami Tamimi, and Elizabeth Marshall Thomas.

Growing Old: Notes on Aging with Something Like Grace

Elizabeth Marshall Thomas. HarperOne, $24.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-06-295643-9

Octogenarian Thomas (The Hidden Life of Dogs) tackles old age in this clever and astute memoir. From her home in rural New Hampshire, the widowed great-grandmother looks back upon her life and offers advice for readers approaching old age—“a venture to the unknown.” Thomas, who claims to have cheated death four times (once in Namibia when a lion charged at her), isn’t afraid of dying, and she doesn’t mince words when describing funerals, burial procedures, or facilities for the aged. She finds her failing memory fascinating—particularly how she can’t always recall people’s names, but the Finnish word for sugar, which she learned from childhood caregivers, unexpectedly surfaces. Thomas touches on the challenge of technology, losing her hearing, and breaking a hip as she shares some of her unusual experiences, among them living among the San in South Africa and treasuring a tiger turd she keeps in the freezer. She offers practical tips, such as scoping out retirement communities before it’s time to relocate, maintaining social ties, and keeping busy “with something you like.” Marshall is an inspiring example of a life well lived, and her sense of humor, honesty, and curiosity will resonate with aging readers. (Apr.)

Heiress for Hire

Madeline Hunter. Zebra, $7.99 mass market (304p) ISBN 978-1-4201-4997-5

At the heart of this smart, satisfying Regency romance—the first in a new trilogy from Hunter (Never Deny a Duke)—is the mystery of why a duke would bequeath a fortune to a woman he’d never met. Chase Radnor, gentleman investigator and nephew to the late duke, is instantly suspicious upon meeting newly minted heiress Minerva Hepplewhite. His eccentric uncle’s fall from a parapet looks like murder, and Minerva gained a great deal from his death. The self-reliant young widow also has a dark, secretive past that makes her a perfect suspect. To clear her name, Minerva begins her own investigation into the duke’s death, launching Hepplewhite’s Office of Discreet Inquiries, and she and Chase form an uneasy alliance as they first compete for, then begin to share, clues. Hunter gives the well-matched pair plenty of ground to cover with a wide cast of memorable suspects, and their clever detective work is a consistent pleasure. The plot moves apace, but Chase and Minerva’s relationship is treated patiently, with their attraction simmering alongside mutual respect, and their eventual love scenes are sensitively rendered. Romance readers craving substantive mystery and intelligent leads will savor this pitch-perfect love story. Agent: Pamela Hopkins, Hopkins Literary. (May)

All Fires the Fire and Other Stories

Julio Cortázar, trans. from the Spanish by Suzanne Jill Levine. New Directions, $15.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2945-6

In this playful and scintillating set of fabulist tales by Argentine master Cortázar (1914–1984), characters are shuffled through shifting realities. In “The Southern Thruway,” a makeshift community forms among drivers on a highway as a traffic jam outside Paris keeps them stuck on the road for weeks. The characters form relationships and assume leadership positions, but everyone loses track of each other as soon as the traffic begins to move. In “The Other Heaven,” the narrator moves seamlessly between time periods, leaving his humdrum life in 1940s Argentina to roam the Paris arcades of the 19th century, enjoying “grog at the café on the Rue des Jeûneurs,” “the theaters on the boulevard,” and the company of Josiane, a prostitute living in a “dime-novel garret.” The collection’s standout title story juxtaposes a Roman gladiatorial contest with a failing relationship in mid-century France, suggesting echoes and connections between apparently disparate lives. Cortázar’s predilection for patterns is voiced by the narrator of “Meeting,” who compares a Cuban revolutionary comrade to Mozart, both men seeking “an order” that will lead to “a victory that might be like the restoration of a melody.” Cortázar fans will devour these affecting stories. (Apr.)

Promise at Pebble Creek

Lisa Jones Baker. Kensington, $7.99 mass market (288p) ISBN 978-1-4201-4748-3

Baker continues her Hope Chest of Dreams series (after Love at Pebble Creek) with this superb story of young love between Amish and Englisch. In Pebble Creek, Ill., Hannah, the youngest of 10 siblings, works at her family’s bakery and dreams of adventure. Despite her mother’s disapproval, Hannah reads popular suspense novels and secretly writes her own tales of intrigue at night in her bedroom by candlelight. When Marcus Jackson, an Englischer escaping his criminal brothers in Chicago, visits town, a romantic spark is ignited between him and Hannah, and Hannah finds herself caught between two ways of life. Marcus, who lost his parents at a young age, is determined to start a new life after giving himself to Christ. However, the community turns a suspicious eye on the outsider after a store is robbed and things go missing. Both Marcus and Hannah must consider the meaning of faith and sacrificial love as they navigate their relationship. This engrossing romance is filled with tender descriptions of the intensity of new love. The glimpses of Hannah’s outlandish stories, meanwhile, are particularly amusing. Amish fiction fans will enjoy this moving tale. (May)

Zero Days

Ian Williams. RedDoor (IPG, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-913062-02-6

Williams’s excellent sequel to 2017’s Beijing Smog finds computer hacker Chuck Drayton guilt-ridden over his failure to protect patients in an incident in which 14 people were killed by malfunctioning hospital devices infected with a computer virus. Drayton works with Interpol’s multinational Berlin Group to track down and neutralize hackers responsible for “zero days”—times when ransomware cripples worldwide computer systems. As intelligence agencies compete to buy zero days in a new international arms race, Drayton travels to Burma, Berlin, and Ukraine in pursuit of ever-shifting techno-villains. Williams creates vivid action scenes full of local color, and convincingly draws even minor characters in this tale of a privacy-destroying big tech spying empire, where “connected” household devices can become savage weapons. Echoes of the Stasi, the dreaded East German secret police who considered their entire population the enemy, also reverberate through this exposé of the dangerous promise of technology to give people what they want even before they know it themselves. Readily accessible to those with a minimal tech background, this scary cyberthriller deserves a wide readership. (May)

The Rakess

Scarlett Peckham. Avon, $7.99 mass market (400p) ISBN 978-0-06-293561-8

A woman more committed to her ideals than to any of her casual lovers feels her heart begin to thaw in the sexy, tumultuous Regency romance that launches Peckham’s Society of Sirens trilogy. The hedonistic Seraphina Arden is one of a trio of women who capitalize on their notorious reputations to promote gender equality. Upon returning to her childhood home to complete work on her scandalous memoir, Seraphina meets handsome, widowed architect Adam Anderson and wastes little time in propositioning him. Adam initially refuses her offer of a purely physical affair, focused on winning an influential client and securing his children’s futures, but he’s drawn to Seraphina and eventually succumbs to her brazen charms. Adam’s struggle to keep his feelings separate from their relationship and Seraphina’s difficulty accepting Adam’s kindness form the heart of the story. Seraphina’s reluctance to let anyone in stems from her painful past, and her eventual reckoning with her trauma propels this romance into heavy emotional territory. The open, exploratory love scenes sizzle with passion balanced by frank conversations about contraception and the risks of pregnancy. Peckham (The Lord I Left) never shies away from the bleak realities facing women of the era while capably making 19th-century sexual politics feel relevant to today. This rewarding love story is fierce, feminist, and full of feeling. Agent: Sarah Younger, Nancy Yost Literary. (May)

The Called Shot: Babe Ruth, the Chicago Cubs, and the Unforgettable Major League Baseball Season of 1932

Thomas Wolf. Univ. of Nebraska, $36.95 (408p) ISBN 978-0-8032-5524-1

Wolf (coauthor, Midnight Assassin: A Murder in America’s Heartland), delivers a solid and exciting look at the 1932 baseball season, “one of the most remarkable seasons in the history of the sport.” Wolf chronicles the on-field heroics in that season’s tight race that led to the New York Yankees meeting the Chicago Cubs in the World Series, which the Yankees won in a four-game sweep, and whose game three is now legendary for Babe Ruth’s “called shot,” when Ruth “somewhat ambiguously” pointed toward the Cubs players in outfield before hitting a home run over their heads. But the beauty of Wolf’s work is how he seamlessly connects the day-to-day grind of a sport whose teams still “principally traveled from one city to another by train” with the changing, post-Depression world beyond the ballpark (“As the homeless suffered in crudely made shelters... most of America watched to see what would happen in the [presidential] conventions being held in Chicago” in 1932), with cameo appearances by Al Capone, John Dillinger, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Wolf also provides an excellent look at how Ruth transformed from the excellent Yankee pitcher who lost to the Cubs in the 1918 World Series into the legendary slugger of 1932. Baseball fans will delight in this thrillingly told history. (May)

The Human Son

Adrian J. Walker. Solaris, $11.99 trade paper (380p) ISBN 978-1-78108-788-6

This frank, deeply philosophical work of science fiction expertly tackles the idea that the solution to the climate crisis is to remove humans from the equation altogether. Five hundred years after the final human’s death, humanity’s replacements—logical, unflappable humanoids called erta, who were artificially bred to save the planet by one of the last human scientists—are almost done stabilizing Earth’s environment. Ima, an erta atmosphere engineer, is chosen to foster one human child as a test case for the possible restoration of the species as a whole, but the experiment is not without critics and saboteurs who seek to complicate Ima’s “simple” task of becoming a parent. Walker (The End of the World Survivor’s Club) depicts the tasks of child rearing (and the attendant sleep deprivation) with understated comedic glee as Ima morphs from dispassionate clinician to caring mother, learning to love her son and, through him, to understand the beauty in humanity. Walker’s argument is decidedly stacked in favor of human nature, but the novel does not shy away from depicting the greed, cruelty, and lack of forethought that led to the devastated Earth. This impressive, surprisingly hopeful take is as rigorous as a thought experiment as it is delightful as pure entertainment. Agent: Sam Copeland, Rogers, Coleridge & White Ltd. Literary (UK).(May)

Falastin: A Cookbook

Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley. Ten Speed, $35 (352p) ISBN 978-0-399-58173-1

Ottolenghi alums Tamimi (coauthor, Jerusalem and Ottolenghi) and Wigley (coauthor, Ottolenghi Simple) set out on their own with this expert dive into the food of Palestine. The dishes overflow with bold flavors: hummus is layered with toasted pita, drizzled with parsley oil, and sprinkled with sumac in a chapter of hearty breakfast choices; preserved baby eggplants stuffed with walnuts and spicy peppers are ideal appetizers. Signatures such as “upside down” rice—inverted so that the beans, squash, and lamb baked underneath rest on top when served—are represented, and London-dwelling Tamimi also freely pairs nontraditional items like beets and sweet potatoes with pistachio and bulgur. Each recipe features tips for advance preparation (tahini and caramelized onions for a spicy baked cod dish can be made ahead) and suggested variations (for gluten-free chicken meatballs, replace bread crumbs with grated zucchini). The authors acknowledge that discussions about Palestine can be “political and difficult,” and they successfully walk that tightrope with sidebars on Banksy’s Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem and figures such as Islam Abu Aouda, who offers cooking lessons in her refugee camp home. Like the best cookbooks, this one opens a window to expand both palates and minds. (Apr.)