Essays & Memoir
Autobiographical self-reflection and astute cultural analysis make for rewarding reading.
Father and Son
Jonathan Raban (Knopf) $28
This exceptional posthumous memoir from National Book Critics Circle Award winner Raban recounts his six-week stay at a rehabilitation facility following a stroke. While there, he delves into his parents’ WWII-era correspondence, soothed by their fortitude in the face of adversity; he also draws strength from the autobiographical writings of historian Tony Judt. Like Judt before him, Raban catalogs “the catastrophic progress of one’s own deterioration” with warmth, candor, and intellectual rigor, effortlessly weaving together personal history and literary critique.
How to Stay Married
Harrison Scott Key (Avid Reader) $27.99
A fierce, outstanding chronicle of the near-end of humorist Key’s marriage recounts the circumstances before, during, and after his wife Lauren’s affair with their neighbor. The narrative primarily focuses on Key’s struggles to forgive, a process rooted in his Christian faith. This memorable account of devotion despite all odds intertwines comedy with heart-wrenching musings, folding in a chapter narrated by Lauren herself.
Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City
Jane Wong (Tin House) $27.95
Chinese American poet Wong reflects on her experiences growing up on the Jersey Shore as the child of immigrants and later life as an English professor in this memoir-in-essays. Pieces range over her father’s gambling addiction and alcoholism, her entry into a preteen beauty competition, and more. Wong’s writing is sharp and hilarious; possessed of a poet’s ear and a satirist’s eye, she cannily addresses racism in academia and the long arc of finding her identity as a poet.
A Memoir of My Former Self
Hilary Mantel (Holt) $40
This collection of journalism and other writing by two-time Booker Prize winner Mantel, who passed away in 2022, reveals the Wolf Hall writer’s powerful and wide-ranging intellect. From the 1980s on, Mantel applied her mind and pen to her early life, feminism, film, history, and literature itself. The result is a sensitive and probing book that stands as a testament to a renowned writer’s memory.
My Name is Barbra
Barbra Streisand (Viking) $47
The EGOT winner’s highly anticipated memoir weighs in at nearly 1,000 pages. (The audiobook, read by the author, lasts 47 hours—good thing La Streisand is known for her ability to hold a note.) She leads fans through her Brooklyn childhood, early professional struggles, and pioneering career—with 1983’s Yentl, she became the first woman to write, direct, produce, and star in a major motion picture. This evergreen tale will show how a star is born.
Jena Friedman (One Signal) $27.99
Oscar-nominated screenwriter and comedian Freidman reflects on her career in this entertaining, soulful debut. Several essays probe the misogyny faced by women comedians, who are “encouraged to talk about our sex lives onstage,” while others address jokes Friedman has written for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and meditate on comedy’s ability to distract, disarm, and unite us.
Samantha Irby (Vintage) $17 paper
Essayist Irby demonstrates her wit, empathy, and self-deprecating humor in this animated collection. Bouncing between irreverence and poignancy, these essays cover the hysteria of the early days of Covid and Irby’s relationship with her estranged half brother, discuss peeing oneself in middle age, and suggest outrageous plot twists she’d like to have seen on Sex and the City. Irby’s fans will find her in top form.
Jenn Shapland (Pantheon) $26
National Book Award finalist Shapland explores the borders between the individual and the wider world in these marvelous essays. After being diagnosed with “thin skin,” making her hypersensitive to pollutants, Shapland interviews Indigenous environmental activists in Los Alamos, N.Mex., ruminates on the capitalist practices that keep Anthropologie’s shelves stocked, meditates on the individual’s “physical enmeshment with every other being,” and ultimately draws unexpected conclusions from a diverse array of anecdotes.
The Ugly History of Beautiful Things
Katy Kelleher (Simon & Schuster) $27.99
Science writer Kelleher delivers thoughtful, grimly illuminating essays about the unseemly processes behind luxury goods. (Books, ahem, are a necessity, not a luxury.) She examines what’s required to bring products including gems, make-up, mirrors, perfume, and silk to market, contemplating their allure while remaining clear-eyed about the damaging social expectations behind our desires. This collection raises intriguing questions about consumerism, aesthetics, and gendered conceptions of beauty.
Aisha Harris (HarperOne) $29.99
Harris, an astute observer of the artist-audience relationship, hosts NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, and her refreshing debut essay collection weighs in on the music, movies, and TV shows that have had an impact on her life. She explores the racist pushback against the casting of a Black actor as the lead in The Little Mermaid and the lack of narrative closure promoted by Hollywood’s endless parade of reboots, remakes, and prequels, serving up insightful perspectives in animated prose.
Food & Drink
A recipe book is a gift for the recipient and for the lucky giver who gets invited back.
Comfort & Joy
Ravinder Bhogal (Bloomsbury) $35
“Vegetables are the soul of the kitchen,” restaurateur Bhogal writes in this scrumptious collection of recipes inspired by her grandfather’s Kenyan farm and British Indian mother’s English kitchen. Indulgent dishes elevating vegetables to star status include rich breads, heartening pasta courses, cozy curries, plus salads and desserts. Bhogal’s meticulous, beautifully written recipe notes bring childhood memories of family meals to life.
Love Is a Pink Cake
Claire Ptak (Norton) $35
Ptak baked the wedding cake for Prince Harry and Megan Markle’s nuptials, and now the royal share of her delectable baked goods is available in this collection of stunning yet perfectly achievable treats. Recipes from Ptak’s native California and her adopted home in the U.K. are studded with wise tips that home bakers will treasure, and the focus on seasonal bounty—bee pollen, apples, biodynamic berries—adds a sweet localized touch.
Muy Bueno: Fiestas
Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack (Weldon Owen) $39.99
This collection of colorful, festive party recipes is organized by occasion, suggesting beer-battered shrimp tacos and tres leches bread pudding for Lent, ranchero burgers for the Fourth of July, and crispy pork carnitas for Father’s Day. The dishes appeal to a broad range of palates, and instructions are complemented by full-color photos and crafty decorating suggestions—tissue-paper flowers, mini piñatas, and clothespin crosses—for readers looking to enhance their holiday tables.
Pomegranates and Artichokes
Saghar Setareh (Interlink) $35
At age 22, Iranian-born Setareh moved to Rome and became interested in migration’s impact on cuisine. In this elegant debut recipe collection, she spins a web of connections between Italy, Iran, and the Levant, showing the shared roots of golden-crusted Neapolitan rice timbale, Palestinian maqluba, and Iranian rice cake with eggplant—all “triumphs of rice.” Many recipes, such as a trio of Italian apertivo cocktails, appear in multiple versions, and all are spiced with Setareh’s thoughtfulness and generosity.
Amanda Schuster (Phaidon) $39.95
Defining a signature cocktail as one that “expresses the nature of the time, person, venue, city, or country for which it was created,” drinks writer Schuster shares the recipes for and histories behind 200 such beverages. Elegant photography enhances entries for longtime standards like Ti’ Punch (1840s Marie-Galante, Guadeloupe) and the Pegu Club (1910s Rangoon, Burma), and modern staples including the Oaxaca Old Fashioned, which Phil Ward put on the menu at New York City’s Death & Company in 2008.
A Splash of Soy
Lara Lee (Bloomsbury) $35
Indonesian and Thai cuisines are especially well represented in this bold guide to Asian classics. Japanese, Korean, and Philippine dishes also appear, alongside hybrid adaptations including steak with Asian chimichurri and sambal patatas bravas. Lee’s casual approach encourages simple substitutes and playful experimentation, and a useful shopping and cooking guide to sauces, chilies, and other essentials makes this a fun, practical companion for home cooks looking to expand their Asian repertoire.
Tin to Table
Anna Hezel (Chronicle) $24.95
Asserting that “there’s never been a more exciting or auspicious time to eat tinned seafood,” Epicurious editor Hazel sets out to prove it in this inspired collection. In addition to more involved recipes—spicy sardine toasts with caramelized shallot and fennel jam; marinated French lentil and smoked trout salad— she provides plenty of quick and no-cook ideas, such as sprinkling parsley and paprika directly into a tin of octopus. Novices and aficionados alike will appreciate the guidance.
Y’All Eat Yet?
Miranda Lambert, with Holly Gleason (Dey Street) $35
Country music superstar Lambert brings fans into her kitchen in this down-home recipe collection. Lambert admits she “love(s) eating way more than cooking,” sourcing recipes from family, friends, and fellow singer Trisha Yearwood. Largely a gathering of home cooking’s greatest hits, including a heavy helping of desserts, the stories around the food are the real treat here, celebrating friendship, kinship, and good times.
Food & Drink-Culinary Narratives
The Lost Supper
Taras Grescoe (Greystone) $29.95
This illuminating analysis of “dwindling nutritional diversity” ponders what a sustainable future might look like. Grescoe contends that pollution and habitat destruction have decimated essential micronutrients and led to a spike in disease. Seeking to discover “what our ancestors ate,” he noshes on bugs, hunts wild pigs, and samples the “oldest named cheese.” This worthwhile book draws on the agricultural traditions of the Indigenous peoples of the Americas to offer practical advice for consumers and persuasive solutions for agriculture.
Anya von Bremzen (Penguin Press) $30
James Beard Award–winning food writer von Bremzen explores the cosmopolitanism of modern cooking in this richly detailed tour through six national cuisines. Taking in Istanbul, Naples, Oaxaca, Paris, Seville, and Tokyo, and concluding with a moving epilogue about borscht—a dish with Ukrainian roots that Russia has claimed as its own—von Bremzen vividly illustrates how food “carries the emotional charge of a flag.” This is a toothsome treat for readers of food and travel writing.
If the past is a foreign country, then these books are a reader’s passport.
Michael Willrich (Basic) $35
Willrich examines late 19th- and early 20th-century anarchism through a legal lens in this innovative account, which focuses on Emma Goldman, her romantic and ideological partner Alexander Berkman, and the clever machinations of their longtime legal defender Harry Weinberger. Drawing heavily on primary sources, including court records and correspondence, this is a riveting look into an overlooked foundation of American notions of liberty.
The Dictionary People
Sarah Ogilvie (Knopf) $30
Who actually wrote all those definitions in the Oxford English Dictionary? The answer lies in the biggest and most groundbreaking crowdsourcing effort in history, involving 3,000 “dictionary people” from every corner of society, among them three murderers, Karl Marx’s daughter, and a president of Yale. This whimsical outing from linguist Ogilvie peers into Victorian society while providing extensive insight into the process used to trace the origins of words.
Roger Moorhouse (Basic) $32
This immersive chronicle relates the story of Polish diplomat Aleksander Lados and his colleagues in Bern, Switzerland, who provided fake travel documents to more than 8,000 Jewish people attempting to escape Nazi-occupied Europe during WWII. Moorhouse expertly places the exploits of the Lados Group in the context of horrific Nazi violence and foreign governments’ callous indifference. It’s a captivating narrative of heroism and an illuminating account of the international diplomatic response to the Holocaust.
How to Be
Adam Nicolson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) $32
Nicolson delves into the vital influence geography had on Greek philosophy from the 11th to the fifth centuries BCE. He asserts that places gave rise to frames of mind that served as wellsprings of new ideas, positing, for instance, that the poet Sappho was inspired by the long absences of a maritime world to develop the idea of a distinct, isolated self that longs for connection. This graceful analysis is lyrical and perceptive.
The Lincoln Miracle
Edward Achorn (Atlantic Monthly) $30
Achorn’s well-informed study of political sausage making reveals what it took for Abraham Lincoln to claim victory at the 1860 Republican National Convention. Incorporating sharp assessments of Lincoln’s rivals for the nomination, dramatic set pieces, and details about the backroom deals made by his supporters, this comprehensive and often enthralling account brings to life the intrigue behind a pivotal moment in U.S. history.
The Mysterious Case of Rudolf Diesel
Douglas Brunt (Atria) $28.99
Novelist Brunt’s first work of nonfiction details his audacious theory about the man who invented the diesel engine—a revolution-
arily efficient improvement over earlier internal combustion engines—then disappeared on Sept. 29, 1913, during an overnight crossing of the English Channel. The author considers various possibilities, including that he was assassinated by government powers or industrial competitors, before reaching his own surprisingly tenable conclusion. It makes for a wildly enjoyable outing.
Our Secret Society
Tanisha Ford (Amistad) $32.99
Mollie Lewis Moon (1912–1990), an African American social worker turned “doyenne of Harlem society,” is the star of this captivating portrait. Ford details Moon’s impoverished childhood, her brief stints as a pharmacist and an actor, and her nearly 50-year career as a leading fundraiser in mid-20th-century Harlem, reveling in the bohemian partying, high-class social connections, and far-left politics of the early civil rights movement.
Sleeping with the Ancestors
Joseph McGill Jr. and Herb Frazier (Hachette) $29
As the founder of the Slave Dwelling Project, historic preservationist McGill has not only raised funds and awareness in support of the preservation of enslaved people’s dwellings but has stayed overnight in more than 200 of these structures across 25 states. He relates these visits in a vibrant account, coauthored with journalist Frazier, that effortlessly shifts between personal recollections and the intimate stories of the enslaved people who lived in these dwellings.
The War of Words
Molly Guptill Manning (Blackstone) $25.99
This eye-opening examination of the key role amateur U.S. troop newspapers played in keeping soldiers well-informed during WWII—a time of heavy censorship, including in American papers—will intrigue even the best-read armchair historians. Based on letters and newspaper extracts, Manning’s essential study draws liberally and poignantly on soldiers’ own words to show how Army soldier journalists, “dazed by the horror of combat and the prospect of death,” documented critical moments in history.
Tiya Miles (Norton) $22
National Book Award–winning historian Miles explores the ways in which the natural environment presented “new possibilities” for 19th-century women and girls expected to acquiesce to the confines of a “restrictive domestic sphere.” She shows how the outdoors influenced abolitionist Harriet Tubman, Indigenous activist Gertrude Simmons Bonnin (who wrote under the name Zitkala-Sa), and others, presenting an inventive take on what inspired them to challenge norms and agitate for change.
Religion & Spirituality
The faithful and the faith-curious will find much to pore over in these frequently intimate considerations of belief.
The Caliph and the Imam
Toby Matthiesen (Oxford Univ.) $34.95
Matthiesen, a Marie Curie Global Fellow at Stanford University, delivers a monumental review of Sunnism and Shiism’s complicated relationship over nearly 1,400 years. Sunnis and Shiites are not “hermetically sealed” opposites, he explains, and took centuries to become distinct groups with cohesive identities. Balancing thoughtful analysis of broad religious shifts with rigorous detail, this comprehensive yet readable resource is destined to become a standard text in the field.
God Speaks Science
John Van Sloten (Moody) $15.99 paper
Examining a vast array of subjects through a biblical lens—supernovae, fossils, radiation therapy, and more—this theologically sophisticated work contends that science is a series of phenomena attesting to the divine. For instance, pastor Van Sloten writes, a skilled knee surgeon harnesses knowledge of God’s infinitely complex design when she operates, while a giant squid serves as a parable about God’s mystery. This is sure to open the minds and eyes of the faithful.
Hijab Butch Blues
Lamya H (Dial) $27
In this thoughtful, emotional narrative, the author reflects on connecting with the Quran’s Maryam as a teenager—they both were “uninterested in men”—and the rampant Islamophobia she encountered after moving to the U.S. from the Middle East for university, most painfully in queer circles that didn’t believe a gay person could be Muslim. Eventually, she finds a welcoming community of queer Muslims and the joy in embracing and sharing her whole self.
How Far to the Promised Land
Esau McCaulley (Convergent) $27
After injury nixed McCaulley’s football scholarship plans, he was eager to prove himself as “more than a Black body, useful only when I collided with other desperate boys wrestling for control of the football.” He negotiated pressures in college to conform to the often-narrow expectations of a progressive Black intellectual, struggled with faith and purpose, and later found his calling: “to put into words and on paper the varied experiences of God in the souls of Black folks.”
How the Talmud Can Change Your Life
Liel Liebovitz (Norton) $30
This accessible work elucidates how ancient rabbinic debates remain relevant to modern meaning-seekers. Journalist Leibovitz, who brings in contemporary anecdotes to broach big-picture talmudic themes, contends that the Talmud interrogates many of life’s complex questions without moralizing or leaning on cut-and-dried answers; its inclusion of vigorous dissents and willingness to leave certain questions unresolved, she writes, illustrates that no one has a monopoly on wisdom.
Lyvonne Briggs (Convergent) $17 paper
Pastor Briggs draws on a womanist perspective to outline a blueprint for Black women to surmount religious shame and love their bodies. Central to her program is recognizing that capitalism does harm by positioning the body as an instrument of productivity, as do outdated forms of Christianity that view female sexuality as “evil.” Her upbeat approach to bodily acceptance emphasizes the importance of healthy sexual relationships and the idea that physical urges are “divinely designed.”
Rainn Wilson (Hachette Go) $28
In this heartfelt work, Wilson, known for his role as Dwight on The Office, offers an assortment of ideas for finding hope in a cynical world. Discussions of his big spiritual preoccupations lead toward a lighthearted proposal of a new “religion,” Soul Boom, whose guiding principles include the “centrality of justice” and an emphasis on the arts. Deceptively simple musings animated by self-aware humor will help readers embark on a quest of spiritual self-awareness.
Take Back the Magic
Perdita Finn (Running Press) $28
Finn, cofounder of the Way of the Rose ecofeminist community, explains in this fine-grained account her quest to understand her brilliant and sullen father after his death. Weaving together vivid memories of her spiritual journey, open letters to her father, and advice to help readers commune with their ancestors’ spirits, Finn delivers, in enchanting prose, a spellbinding meditation on how time never runs out for the deceased.
Tell Me the Dream Again
Tasha Jun (Tyndale Momentum) $22.99
“I’ve always been caught between worlds... struggling to find a firm place to land,” writes Jun of negotiating her Korean-white biracial identity in this stirring debut. She recalls her long struggle to accept her identity, including a trip to Korea, where she was seen as an outsider, and the devotion to Jesus she built in high school, which helped her find wholeness. Jun writes in lyrical prose, with longing simmering below the surface on almost every page
This Wheel of Rocks
Marya Grathwohl (Riverhead) $29
Franciscan nun Grathwohl traces the genesis of her nature-centered spiritual outlook in this nuanced exploration of a deep-rooted faith and well-lived life. She takes readers from her childhood spent “mesmerized by the Earth’s mysteries” to her time teaching and living with Crow and Northern Cheyenne peoples in Montana as a young nun, to her studies at the Institute of Creation-Centered Spirituality in Chicago. Catholic readers will especially appreciate this sensitive memoir.
Science & Nature
Books on animals, outer space, and other subjects are food for curious minds.
Keggie Carew (Abrams) $28
Memoirist Carew illuminates the varied ways humans have related to animals throughout 40,000 years of history, both cruelly—at the Roman Coliseum; in the 19th-century zoo trade—and kindly. The author casts doubt on scientists who dismiss animals’ apparent displays of emotion as anthropomorphism and shares anecdotes that persuasively attest to the complexity of animals’ interior lives. Impassioned and entertaining, this is a no-brainer for animal lovers.
The Cat’s Meow
Jonathan B. Losos, illus. by David Truss (Viking) $28
This splendid survey by evolutionary biologist Losos covers studies on felines of all sizes, chronicles the history of cat domestication, and illuminates the purpose of familiar house cat habits—a raised tail signals friendliness, while “kneading” is a vestigial practice from kittenhood aimed at promoting milk production in a mother cat. Surprising trivia and stimulating scientific background make this catnip for the feline inclined.
Gloria Dickie (Norton) $30
Journalist Dickie recounts her travels in search of the eight surviving bear species, detailing the threats faced by each and profiling the conservationists who protect them. Though many of the stories are somber—describing, for instance, how deforestation in Southeast Asia threatens sloth bears’ long-term survival—others are heartwarming, like that of the Chinese scientist nicknamed Papa Panda who teaches captive pandas how to breed. The result is a winning combination of travel writing and environmental reporting.
Rebecca Heisman (Harper) $30
This one’s a treat for birdwatchers: science writer Heisman chronicles how scientific understanding of bird migration has evolved and details the technologies that ornithologists use to study the patterns today. She contrasts the improbable theories of the past—birds hibernate at the bottom of a lake or winter on the moon—with contemporary scientists’ use of genome sequencing and isotope analysis to track flocks and their origins, pulling off the impressive feat of making heady technical discussions accessible.
The Milky Way Smells of Rum and Raspberries
Jillian Scudder (Icon) $22.95
Armchair astronomers will reinvigorate their sense of wonder with this entertaining romp. Astrophysicist Scudder discusses an array of bizarre cosmic phenomena, such as dense clouds of gas that act as lasers, black holes that “sing” and “blow bubbles” of hot gas, and the gas clouds at the center of our galaxy containing the same chemical compound that, she writes, “helps give raspberries their flavor, and rum its taste.”
Camille T. Dungy (Simon & Schuster) $28.99
In this meditative outing, Orion magazine poetry editor Dungy uses the garden she maintains outside her Colorado home as a metaphor to explore the complex historical relationship between Black Americans and the land. Poems inspired by nature appear throughout, serving as connective tissue for sparkling prose ruminations on the garden of Harlem Renaissance poet Anne Spencer, 19th-century naturalist John Muir’s racism and sexism, and the overlap between environmental and racial justice.
The Things We Make
Bill Hammack (Sourcebooks) $26.99
Hammack, a chemical engineer, makes a fascinating case that engineering isn’t the same as science, presenting a knockout argument that a perfect understanding of the world is not a prerequisite to innovation. He uses examples from multiple time periods—medieval cathedrals, the advent of the microwave oven—in a clever and curious account that brilliantly delineates the role of trial and error in human progress.
To Infinity and Beyond
Neil deGrasse Tyson and Lindsey Nyx Walker (National Geographic) $30
Astrophysicist Tyson and Walker, senior producer of Tyson’s StarTalk podcast, provide a vivid look at the universe and the scientists who’ve changed how humans understand it, emphasizing the contributions of lesser-known scientists (though Galileo and Isaac Newton receive their expected mentions). This is as entertaining as it is informative, filled with abundant trivia, amusing corrections to what the authors call “Hollywood science,” and stunning photos of supernovae and distant galaxies.
What an Owl Knows
Jennifer Ackerman (Penguin) $30
This masterful survey explores the physiology and behavior of owls, providing an overview of their intelligence, evolution, mating strategies, nest-building abilities, and communication skills. Nature writer Ackerman synthesizes academic research with observations she made while accompanying scientists in the field, making for a revelatory glimpse into the lives of the nocturnal predators found on every continent but Antarctica.
Where We Meet the World
Ashley Ward (Basic) $30
Drawing on evolutionary theory, neurology, and psychology, biologist Ward explains the development and functioning of senses in humans, animals, and even plants, illuminating with stylish, evocative prose the complex processes through which creatures make sense of their surroundings. Fascinating stories abound—a Scottish nurse could detect undiagnosed Parkinson’s disease by smell; goats can sense impending volcanic eruptions hours ahead of time—in this eye-opening work of pop science.
Self-Help & Inspiration
Empathetic titles encourage creativity, spark enthusiasm, and lend support.
The Book of Charlie
David Von Drehle (Simon & Schuster) $26
Von Drehle, opinion editor at the Washington Post, found a role model in his next-door neighbor, retired doctor Charlie White, who “balanced optimism and realism” and lived to 109. A “true surfer on the sea of change,” White train-hopped across the U.S. as a teen, left his medical practice to serve in WWII, and helped develop cutting-edge anesthesia techniques in the 1940s. The men’s friendship is the affecting heart of this feel-good offering.
Collisions of Earth and Sky
Heidi Barr (Broadleaf) $25.99
Reconnecting with nature, writes health and wellness coach Barr, helps people tap into their inner “humanness” and become “better planetary citizens.” She guides readers in appreciating the Indigenous roots of the land they inhabit, unlearning harmful thought patterns, and drawing strength from the Earth’s stories. Inspired by the landscapes of her childhood in South Dakota and adulthood in the Midwest, Barr imbues her account with a sense of awe.
The Creative Act
Rick Rubin (Penguin Press) $32
Grammy-winning music producer Rubin struck a popular chord with this bestselling manual for boosting creativity, applying lessons from the recording studio to everyday life. His Zen-like dispatches read like spiritual texts: “Ideas that least match our expectations are the most innovative,” he suggests, urging readers to seek feedback from others and to experiment with incorporating generative habits into their routines—exercise, meditation, or “looking at sunlight before screenlight.”
Falling Back in Love with Being Human
Kai Cheng Thom (Dial) $17 paper
This collection of earnest, touching prose poems from hypnotherapist Thom explores hope, forgiveness, and love. Growing up as a Chinese Canadian trans girl, Thom saw the “harsher side of human nature” but maintained a faith in the power of human bonds. Interleaved with the poems are suggestions for readers, like dropping stones into water to release burdens and making a “list of five good things you frequently do for other people” and doing “them all, at least once, for yourself.”
Heart to Heart
Dalai Lama and Patrick McDonnell (Harper One) $24.99
A world-renowned religious leader and an American cartoonist join forces in this whimsical, life-affirming volume, in which a panda visits the Dalai Lama at his residence in Dharamsala, India. “Peace and survival of life on earth as we know it are threatened by human activities,” the Lama tells the panda, but change is possible, since each individual can contribute their personal power to the effort to save the planet.
The Key to Creativity
Hilde Østby, trans. from the Norwegian by Matt Bagguley (Greystone) $27.95
After a mild concussion, novelist Østby experienced a surprising symptom: a flood of new ideas. Eager to understand the cause, she dove deep into the science of the creative brain, emerging with this accessible, delightfully enlightening account, in which she recommends nurturing creativity through daydreaming, meditation, or even being bored. The research is supported by fascinating anecdotes from Østby’s own life and the lives of artists, inventors, and thinkers ranging from physician Alexander Fleming to Dr. Seuss.
Living the Vanlife
Noami J. Grevemberg (Simon Element) $24.99
Grevemberg recounts how burnout and frustration with her unfulfilling day-to-day spurred her and her husband to embark on an adventure across America in 2016. Shifting away from traditional markers of social success, such as career and family, Grevemberg found a path rooted in joy and connection to nature. A self-described “Black-identifying, mixed-race, queer immigrant,” she offers counsel to underrepresented individuals within a largely “whitewashed” vanlife culture, and while she doesn’t sugarcoat the lifestyle’s challenges, her passion for it shines through.
Gavin Francis (Penguin Life) $24
Convalescence is “anything but a passive process,” writes Francis, drawing on three decades as a general practice physician to advise that patients devote “adequate time, energy, and respect” to healing. Each chapter explores a different facet of convalescence, including nature as a curative force, the role of caretakers, how social inequities shape recovery, and the occasional gifts of illness, which include the discovery of inner strength. Readers on the mend have much to gain from this succinct and perceptive book.
The Way of the Fearless Writer
Beth Kempton (St. Martin’s) $19 paper
Buddhist philosophy is the inspiration for this wise guide to establishing a creative practice. Kempton, a writing instructor, contends that becoming a fearless writer requires embracing three principles—desirelessness, formlessness, and emptiness—in order to write without fear of critique. Innovative prompts combined with refreshingly down-to-earth writing tips will encourage readers looking for a freeing approach to their craft.
Your Trip Starts Here
(Lonely Planet) $35
This colorful volume rounds up more than 50 meaningful journeys across Africa and the Middle East, the Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania, with themed itineraries for culture vultures, history lovers, pilgrimage makers, and others. The practicalities of each trip are covered, and sumptuous photographs invite potential wayfarers to dream themselves into the picture.