Our favorite books coming out this week include new titles from Angel Au-Yeung and David Jeans, Emily Henry, and Claire Dederer.

Wonder Boy: Tony Hsieh, Zappos, and the Myth of Happiness in Silicon Valley

Angel Au-Yeung and David Jeans. Holt, $32 (384p) ISBN 978-1-250-82909-2
Journalists Au-Yeung and Jeans debut with a nuanced, sympathetic biography of Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, tracing his life from Silicon Valley wunderkind through his spiraling addiction and death in 2020. Hsieh was raised in Northern California by Taiwanese immigrant parents, and from an early age he showed a penchant for moneymaking schemes that included starting his own newspaper while he was in middle school. After a Harvard career marked by intense study and sobriety, he created LinkExchange, which brokered the sale of advertising space on small businesses’ websites, and began partying. The authors cover Hsieh’s founding of Zappos in 1999 and his decision to move the company to Las Vegas and later sell to Amazon, but the most affecting material covers Hsieh’s worsening addictions and mental illness. They suggest Hsieh’s childlike earnestness and desire to be a “man of the people” disintegrated into grandiosity and delusion as he began using ketamine and became insulated from the interventions of friends and family by yes men on his payroll, until he died in a fire at age 46, when the Connecticut storage shed where he’d holed up burned down. Au-Yeung and Jeans’s empathetic portrait is as enthralling as it is achingly sad, combining rich research with a propulsive novelistic style. Readers will have a hard time putting this down. (Apr.)

Happy Place

Emily Henry. Berkley, $27 (400p) ISBN 978-0-593-44127-5
Exes must pretend they’re still together in this delightful Summery rom-com from bestseller Henry (Book Lovers). Burned out surgical resident Harriet Kilpatrick is eager for a relaxing weeklong getaway with her tight-knit friend group at the remote Maine beach cottage they’ve frequented. Then she arrives and discovers that Wyn Connor will also be there for the week. Wyn and Harriet were the perfect couple in college, and then the perfect fiancés, but they broke up six months ago and have yet to tell their friends. With the cottage up for sale, Harriet is determined not to ruin the gang’s last summer getaway, meaning she and Wyn must pretend to be happily in love. It’s awkward at first—compounded by the fact that, of course, there’s only one bed for the two of them—but soon they fall back into a familiar dynamic and old flames reignite. The chemistry between Wyn and Harriet is addictive, and both display some refreshing vulnerability. The lovable friend group, unusual but welcome in a Henry novel, help push the narrative forward and provide plenty of wit. This has the makings of a rom-com classic. Agent: Taylor Haggerty, Root Literary. (Apr.)

Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma

Claire Dederer. Knopf, $28 (288p) ISBN 978-0-525-65511-4
What’s a fan to do when they love the art, but hate the artist? asks book critic and essayist Dederer (Love and Trouble) in this nuanced and incisive inquiry. She contends that “consuming a piece of art is two biographies meeting,” those of the artist and the audience, and it’s the plight of the latter that these meditations focus on. Dederer reflects on her attempts to reconcile her feminist principles with her admiration for the films of Roman Polanski, pokes holes in the excuses made for composer Richard Wagner’s antisemitism, and suggests that such “geniuses” as Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway received a “special dispensation” from the public to act like monsters: “Maybe we have created the idea of genius to serve our own attraction to badness.” Examining the role of the critic, she pushes back on a male writer who told her to judge Woody Allen’s Manhattan solely on its aesthetic merits and posits that instead “criticism involves trusting our feelings” about both the art and the artists’ crimes. There are no easy answers, but Dederer’s candid appraisal of her own relationship with troubling artists and the lucidity with which she explores what it means to love their work open fresh ways of thinking about problematic artists. Contemplative and willing to tackle the hard questions head on, this pulls no punches. (Apr.)

Zora Books Her Happy Ever After

Taj McCoy. Mira, $16.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-7783-3352-4
McCoy (Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell) doesn’t miss a romantic beat in her swoonworthy sophomore rom-com. Operating the Opus Northeast bookstore in Washington, D.C., is a dream come true for Black curvy bibliophile Zora Dizon—and even more so when she books Lawrence Michaels, her favorite mystery author and fangirl crush, for an in-store reading. He’s exactly as handsome and charming as she expected, but her experience of the event is interrupted by snarky comments from writing teacher Reid Hughes, who, it turns out, is Lawrence’s best friend. When both men pursue her, Zora’s torn between the man she’s always wanted based on his writing and public persona and the brooding yet intelligent Reid, who she suspects harbors a secret. Nicknamed “Zor-lock” by her best friend and roommate, Emma, Zora has an uncanny gift for sniffing out and solving mysteries—but investigating Reid threatens her shot at love, Reid and Lawrence’s friendship, and both men’s careers. McCoy expertly crafts a well-balanced love triangle between empathetic and passionate characters—and delivers plenty of comic relief in the form of Zora’s lovable matchmaking grandmother. Readers will delight in cheering on this strong heroine. (Apr.)

Tasting History: Explore the Past Through 4,000 Years of Recipes

Max Miller. Simon Element, $30 (256p) ISBN 978-1-982-18618-0
YouTuber Miller offers modern recipes inspired by historical fare in his innovative debut. A brief history lesson prefaces each recipe, as with the original instructions for the Egyptian-inspired dessert tiger nut cake, which were drawn on the walls of the tomb of Rekhmire, a chief adviser to pharaohs during the 18th dynasty, or the recipe for mead, which notes that in Norse mythology, the beverage “bestows power” on the consumer. Many of the recipe titles bear entertaining names, as in “Farts of Portingale,” an English dish of minced lamb balls that was served at a feast in 1504 to celebrate the appointment of the new archbishop of Canterbury. Elsewhere, a bread pudding recipe nods to the American Civil War doctor who wrote a nutrition guide for soldiers recovering in the hospital, and a raspberry rhubarb recipe is credited to a formerly enslaved Pullman porter. Throughout, Miller skillfully balances history with tantalizing recipes, and manages to make even ancient fare accessible with suggested ingredient substitions and an inviting tone. The result is a fascinating outing that will entice history buffs and home cooks alike. Agent: Jim Stein, Innovative Artists. (Apr.)

Birth: Three Mothers, Nine Months, and Pregnancy in America

Rebecca Grant. Avid Reader, $28.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-982170-42-4
Journalist Grant’s auspicious debut documents the pregnancy, birth, and initial postpartum experiences of three first-time mothers associated with Portland, Ore.’s Andaluz Waterbirth Center. The story of Jillian, a midwifery student turned birth center office manager, gives Grant the chance to chronicle the history of midwifery and portray a classic birth center experience (“The small building seemed to possess its own sense of time, as if it was a self-contained island floating separately from the rest of the world”), while sections profiling T’Nika, a Black nurse with aspirations of working in labor and delivery, include discussions of racial disparities in healthcare and what happens when circumstances require birth plans to be changed. The difficult pregnancy journey of Alison and her husband Steve touches on infertility, miscarriage, and the anxiety that medicalized birth experiences can produce. Throughout, Grant maintains a sense of intimacy while contextualizing each woman’s experiences with analysis of medical, legal, and cultural matters. Though most U.S. births happen in hospitals with obstetricians rather than midwives, Grant’s focus on one corner of maternity care allows her to show that even best-case scenarios have practical and emotional complexities. It’s an enlightening and accessible portrait of maternal healthcare in America. (Apr.)

The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History

Ned Blackhawk. Yale Univ, $35 (616p) ISBN 978-0-300-24405-2
“American Indians were central to every century of U.S. historical development,” argues Yale historian Blackhawk (Violence over the Land) in this sweeping study. He begins with the arrival of Spanish explorers in Mexico and Florida in the 16th century, before shifting to French and British colonization efforts in the Northeast and the Ohio River Valley. In both instances, Native communities endured extreme violence and devastating epidemics, while employing fluid survival strategies (fighting, relocating, converting to Christianity, trading, intermarrying) that influenced imperial ambitions and behavior. Blackhawk also makes a persuasive case that in the wake of the Seven Years’ War and the expulsion of French forces from the interior of North America, “the growing allegiances between British and Indian leaders became valuable fodder in colonists’ critiques of their monarch,” helping to lead to the Revolutionary War. In Blackhawk’s telling, “Indian affairs” remained a potent political and social issue through the Civil War, Reconstruction, and the New Deal and Cold War eras, as the removal of more than 75,000 Native children to federally funded boarding schools between the 1870s and 1920s and the dispossession of nearly a hundred million acres of reservation land during the same time period gave rise to a new generation of activists whose efforts to regain Native autonomy reshaped U.S. law and culture. Striking a masterful balance between the big picture and crystal-clear snapshots of key people and events, this is a vital new understanding of American history. (Apr.)

Buffalo Flats

Martine Leavitt. Holiday House/Ferguson, $18.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-823-44342-0
A Canadian homesteader’s daughter carves out a place for her feminist dreams within her 1890s Latter-Day Saints community in this enticing historical novel based on the lived histories of the author’s ancestors, as detailed in an end note. Seventeen-year-old Rebecca Leavitt believes that God has sent her a sign when she discovers an unoccupied piece of land overlooking the Rockies. Though homesteading laws forbid her from owning property, she resolves to one day raise enough money so that her father can purchase the plot and sign it over to her. Her timeline is expedited, however, when she learns that, a year from now, the land will be sold to her childhood friend, Coby Webster. This episodic narrative, told over the course of a year, exposes complex layers in Rebecca’s history with Coby and explores women’s agency in their patriarchal community. Through deliberately paced, relationship-driven storytelling overflowing with witty humor and gritty Western imagery, Leavitt (Calvin) presents Rebecca’s faith as a tender, sometimes fraught, ever-evolving dynamic that honors those struggling to define themselves within religious traditions. A plotline detailing a physically abusive relationship is conscientiously handled. All characters read as white. Ages 12–up. Agent: Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown. (Apr.)