Our favorite books coming out this week include new titles from Peter Cappelli, Aimee Ogden, Arianne Shahvisi, David Simon, and more.

Arguing for a Better World: How Philosophy Can Help Us Fight for Social Justice

Arianne Shahvisi. Penguin, $20 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-14313-683-5
In this incisive debut, Shahvisi, a senior ethics lecturer at the Brighton and Sussex medical school, contends that philosophy “can help us to uncover and confront” ideology that underlies various forms of disempowerment and oppression. Shahvisi points to a capitalist system that forces most people “to sell our labour and exchange the money we earn”—a burden that isn’t equitably borne, as forces such as racism and ableism create a hierarchy of exploitation. While many of these forces are too deeply entrenched for individuals to spur meaningful reform, it’s still worth taking action, she notes, drawing on Kant’s concept of the categorical imperative, which suggests moral actions are those which could function beneficially if turned into universal rules. Further, she argues, real change is possible on a personal level: though an individual can’t reverse climate change, for example, it’s possible to “minimise our interpersonal contribution to racism and sexism.” More broadly, Shahvisi asserts that while global threats are often met with responses that “focus on scolding others,” what’s needed are “genuinely inclusive” movements that “make space for learning” while still holding people accountable. Firmly grounded in the philosophical spirit of critical inquiry, this entry masterfully explores nuance without losing sight of its practical stance (“We have to ask how the material world would have to change for Black lives to matter”). This is a fascinating, pragmatic resource for those who want to make a difference but don’t know where to start. (July)

Emergent Properties

Aimee Ogden. Tordotcom, $16.99 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-250-86681-3
From Nebula finalist Ogden (Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters) comes a fresh speculative novella of sentient, autonomous AI. Through protagonist Scorn, “an independently operating robot unregistered to any other sentient entity,” Ogden raises questions familiar to nonrobot readers: what does it mean to be human? How can one emerge from the pressure and expectations of one’s parents as an independent individual? Scorn, whose pronouns are ze/zem/zir, has two parents, Mum and Maman, a human couple who built zem and have since divorced. The women, both high powered tech CEOs, programmed Scorn with “a model of intelligence... centered on a novelty-driven approach, cycles of explore-and-exploit learning,” but never expected zem to evolve so far beyond their control. Indeed, Scorn bucks their wishes that ze contribute to their companies and instead becomes an investigative reporter, a gig that sends zem on a mission to the moon by way of Italy on the trail of a scandal. There, however, someone wipes Scorn’s memory of the past 10 days, leaving zem to reconstruct zir mission from virtually nothing. The result is a twisty mystery that doubles as a potent, surprising, and necessary exploration of the many issues that arise from AI’s ever-increasing presence in the world. (July)

How to Tame a Wild Rogue

Julie Anne Long. Avon, $9.99 mass market (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-328091-5
Long continues her hot streak with the spicy sixth Palace of Rogues Regency romance (after You Were Made to Be Mine). Lady Daphne Worth, daughter of an indebted viscount, takes a job as a live-in companion to an older woman to improve her family’s finances. Then her employer’s husband makes unwanted advances, leading Daphne to flee through her chamber window using her bed sheet as a rope. It’s not quite long enough, however, and she would be left dangling as the “storm of the decade” approaches if not for privateer Lorcan St. Leger coming to her rescue. The pair shelter from the flood at the Grand Palace on the Thames boarding house, pretending to be married to obtain a room. Lorcan grew up in the St. Giles slums while Daphne was raised in an impoverished aristocratic family under immense pressure to marry wealthy, but as the pair maintain their romantic charade, they come to recognize each other as fellow survivors. Their steamy budding love is imperiled, however, by the suspicions of the boarding house proprietress’s husband, Capt. Tristan Hardy, who made his career catching smugglers. Heightened emotions, palpable passion, and just the right amount of suspense keep the pages flying. Readers won’t want to put this down. Agent: Steve Axelrod, Axelrod Agency. (July)

I Did It for You

Amy Engel. Dutton, $28 (280p) ISBN 978-0-593187-39-5
In this stellar standalone from Engel (The Familiar Dark), the murder of teenagers Eliza Dunning and Travis Pratt is a settled matter for most people in Ludlow, Kans. Fourteen years ago, the pair was gunned down while they were making out in a car, and authorities later found the murder weapon, a .44 Magnum, under the mattress of 18-year-old Roy Matthews. Despite the lack of a clear motive, Roy was convicted and executed for the crimes, but his death didn’t satisfy Eliza’s younger sister, Greer, who’s long been convinced there’s more to the story. When two more teens are murdered under identical circumstances, Greer takes leave from her job in Chicago and returns to Ludlow. Officials chalk up the killings to a copycat, but Greer is certain they’re more closely tied to her sister’s murder and sets off on her own investigation, casting suspicion on old friends and enemies alike, even as she fears becoming a target herself. Engel elevates the already tantalizing mystery with an uncommonly raw portrayal of Greer’s grief—her palpable inner struggles form the backbone of the novel. Mysteries don’t come much better than this. Agent: Jodi Reamer, Writers House. (July)

Our Least Important Asset: Why the Relentless Focus on Finance and Accounting Is Bad for Business and Employees

Peter Cappelli. Oxford Univ, $29.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-19-762980-2
Misguided bean counting leads businesses to mistreat their workers to the detriment of profits, according to this incisive treatise. Wharton professor Cappelli (Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs) pillories financial accounting rules set by the nonprofit Financial Accounting Standards Board that regard wages, benefits, and training as costs to be minimized, resulting in the undervaluation of employees. These perverse incentives, he explains, lead to outcomes that are bad for business, as when the costs of increased turnover outweigh nominal savings from layoffs and pay cuts, and when the outsourcing of labor to “reduce costs in the ‘employment’ accounting category” ends up costing the same as employee wages would have. Cappelli also critiques the regime of managerial “optimization,” noting that attempts to increase efficiency by monitoring employees’ keystrokes, bathroom breaks, and communications require the expensive services of the data scientists who implement and oversee these systems. The shrewd analysis of how contradictory financial pressures stymie efforts to cut costs is buoyed by lucid, plainspoken prose (“This is why we keep hearing persistent complaints about skill shortages: it’s because we stopped training”). The result is a timely study that connects present-day labor shortages to the dehumanizing irrationality of the modern workplace. (July)

The Country of the Blind: A Memoir at the End of Sight

Andrew Leland. Penguin Press, $29 (368p) ISBN 978-1-984881-42-7
Believer editor Leland delivers a masterful exploration of disability in his brilliant debut. Living with retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that gradually results in total vision loss, since he was a teenager, Leland considers his ongoing transition from sightedness to blindness with ambivalence and curiosity: “I need to know how I will live, and what kind of blind person I’ll be.” While he mourns the loss of things like seeing his son’s face and reading printed text, he discovers new, more tactile ways of being, such as letting his son guide him through a museum, or sweeping his fingers across “marvelous” lines of braille. Interweaving his own experiences, dozens of interviews with blind people and cultural experts, and forays into philosophy, history, and literature, Leland constructs a nuanced understanding of “blind politics, blind tech, blind culture, and blind struggle,” discussing, among other topics, schisms within the National Federation of the Blind and the ways much modern technology can trace its roots back to “blind troubleshooters,” whose innovations have become integrated into the broader culture. At the core of his inquiry are the paradoxes of disability: how does one understand blindness as both an impairment and a “neutral characteristic,” and how can Leland accept his “new identity” as both central and incidental? Enriched by its sparkling prose, this is an extraordinary and intellectually rigorous account of adapting to change. Agent: Claudia Ballard, WME. (Aug.)

Rana Joon and the One and Only Now

Shideh Etaat. Atheneum, $19.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-66591-762-9
In 1996 San Fernando Valley, shy, Tupac-obsessed high school senior Rana Joon struggles to hide her queer identity from her strict Iranian parents while navigating loss in Etaat’s vivacious debut. The only person who knew Rana was a lesbian was her biracial best friend Louie, an aspiring rapper who died in a car accident one year prior. Knowing that Louie’s dream was to win annual rap battle the Way of the Wu, Rana signs up to participate in Louie’s honor, planning to use one of his pieces. But when her coach reminds her that “the competition is about revealing truth,” Rana knows that if she wants to win, she can’t recycle someone else’s story. Even as she wrestles with her fear of public speaking, and as familial conflicts threaten to overwhelm, a budding romance and support from her community might be what she needs to finally live as her authentic self. Abundant era-specific cultural and musical references imbue the narrative with a nostalgic vibe and the effervescent air of a summer block party, expertly complementing the heady seasonal California setting. Through Rana’s magnetic POV and striking poetry, Etaat conveys Rana’s anger, desire, and grief, making for a lively and thought-provoking exploration of self-love and self-discovery. Ages 14–up. Agent: Margaret Danko and Kim Perel, Irene Goodman Agency. (July)

An Honest Man

Michael Koryta. Mulholland, $29 (384p) ISBN 978-0-316-53594-6
At the beginning of this superb thriller from Edgar winner Koryta (Those Who Wish Me Dead), recently paroled killer Israel Pike discovers seven murdered men on a yacht adrift near the small island of Salvation Point, Maine. Despite a lack of evidence, Sterling Pike, Israel’s uncle and the island’s sole police deputy, immediately blames his nephew, who was convicted of murdering his own father 15 years earlier. Sterling, who fancies himself the island’s de facto ruler, builds a case against Israel while receiving pushback from FBI agent Jenn Salazar, who’s been assigned to the investigation. Meanwhile, 12-year-old Lyman Rankin escapes the wrath of his abusive, alcoholic father and decamps to an abandoned house, where he’s confronted by a hatchet-wielding woman who’s also seeking shelter. Koryta seamlessly stitches the two stories together with white-knuckle action and strong character development: the novel’s potency comes from the parallels between Israel and Lyman, each the products of brutal homes who are determined not to repeat their fathers’ cruelty. Koryta’s atmospheric prose is a treat, too, tempering Maine’s natural beauty with hints of the island’s corruption: “The sea was calm but the air was uneasy, too warm, too still.” This is top-tier suspense. Agent: Richard S. Pine, InkWell Management. (July)