This May, as you welcome the truly warm weather and hopefully begin to see loved ones again slowly and cautiously, we want to thank you for being the readers you are and share our favorite reads of the month with you. From heartbreaking and utterly essential memoirs like My Time Will Come by Ian Manuel to gripping science fiction thrillers from Andy Weir (of The Martian fame) to romances and family stories and YA in verse, we’ve got a wonderfully eclectic collection of faves for you to check out. Read on, friends, and disappear in the magic of literature.
Project Hail Mary
Earth is facing a certain ice age in Andy Weir’s newest novel. Something, or someone, seems to be sucking power from our sun, as well as stars in other nearby solar systems. Ryland Grace, a molecular biologist turned middle school science teacher after he was ousted from academia due to a controversial paper, has been recruited on a three-person mission to go investigate the nearest star unaffected by the issue. He wakes up onboard a ship with his two crewmates dead and no idea where he is. As his memories slowly return, he discovers he may not be entirely alone out there.
Marian and her twin brother, Jamie, are raised by their uncle in Montana after their mother drowns at sea in 1914. Marian is fascinated by airplanes from the time she’s young and is determined to fly them. She does—in fact, she fulfills her dream of circumnavigating the globe before she disappears in Antarctica. A century later, Hadley Baxter, a film star recovering from a scandal and trying to make her comeback as a serious actor is cast in a biopic based on Marian’s log, the only thing discovered when she disappeared. Exploring both plotlines thoroughly, Shipstead’s newest is enthralling.
The Bookshop of Second Chances
Thea Mottram’s life is turned upside down when first, she’s unexpectedly fired from her job, and second, is informed by her husband of 15 years that he’s leaving her for one of her friends. The third piece of bad news? Her great uncle Andrew has died. But here’s where her luck starts to turn: Andrew has left her his cottage in Scotland and antique book collection, and Thea heads there to sort things out. She decides to stay for a while and starts working at the second-hand bookshop, with Edward, the grumpy owner. Will Thea cheer him a bit?
Some people don’t need to get their kicks watching celebrities live out their messy dramas in the public eye—usually when there’s drama closer to home that’s just as entertaining and juicy. The Briscoes are the drama-filled family of Olympus, Texas. Everyone knows Peter has various illegitimate children scattered about town alongside the kids he’s had with his wife, June, and everyone knows that one of those kids, March, had an affair with his brother’s wife and was run out of town. But March is back now, and soon there’s a dead body in the river, and more drama ensues.
While Justice Sleeps
When Supreme Court Justice Howard Wynn falls into a coma, his law clerk Avery Keene finds herself being made his legal guardian and given power of attorney. This is not a role she asked for or expected, but it’s the one Justice Wynn chose for her. Soon, she discovers that the judge was researching a case coming up before the court, one involving a merger between an American biotech company and an Indian genetics firm. As she follows the clues in Wynn’s research, she begins to see a conspiracy at work—and the danger she’s in trying to unravel it.
The Anthropocene Reviewed (Signed Edition)
You may know John Green from his bestselling YA novels like Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, but you may not know he’s also a podcaster. In this book, he’s adapted and expanded some of his best episodes into essays reviewing the various facets of our extremely strange and human-centric world. As a species, we’ve had a profound effect on this planet during the current geological era, making us clearly extremely powerful. Yet at the same time, we aren’t powerful enough to fix our mistakes. Green’s reviews live in that paradox, finding wonder in our wretched humanity.
Where the Grass Is Green and the Girls Are Pretty
Peyton Marcus is a news anchor on the most-watched morning show around. She loves her husband, Isaac, and her daughter, Max, who’s Princeton-bound. Everything is just perfect! Until everything blows up in her face. Even as she’s reporting about the college admissions scandal, her husband is arrested for…participating in said college admissions scandal. Princeton rescinds their acceptance of Max, and with Isaac charged, Peyton feels it’s time to retreat from the public eye. She and Max head to Paradise, a glitzy suburb where her sister, Skye, is dealing with her own set of issues. Will Peyton figure her life out?
Friends from Home
In this heartwarming debut, Lauryn Chamberlain takes on the fraught topic of old friendships and shared history. Jules and Michelle became best friends in third grade when Jules and her single mom were new in the small Alabama town that Michelle’s family has lived in for what feels like forever. They spent their formative years together until Jules moved away eventually. Now in their mid-twenties, Michelle is getting married and wants Jules to be her maid of honor. Jules agrees, naturally, but their politics and lifestyles have diverged so much. Will their friendship stand the test of time and change?
Madhouse at the End of the Earth
Adrien de Gerlache was a young and rather inexperienced commandant when he set sail with a crew of men—and two cats!—with a long journey in mind, one that would break records by going further into the icy Antarctic than anyone had before. Both man and nature provided a series of setbacks along the way, but when de Gerlache and his remaining crew finally reached the icy arctic, they got stuck. Hunkering down to try to survive the long night of arctic winter, mysterious illnesses began to plague the crew, and madness soon followed. Did they survive? Read and discover.
The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba
In this historical novel, we follow three strong women’s struggles for different, but interlocking, kinds of independence. Evangelina Cisneros (a real historical figure) is imprisoned in Spanish-occupied Cuba for not sleeping with a Spanish soldier. Newspaper mogul Hearst puts her picture on the cover of his newspaper, invoking many Americans to support Cuban independence. Grace Harrington is a rare woman journalist covering Cisneros’s story for Hearst, hoping that her worthy reporting will show she’s earned her place as a reporter. Grace works with Marina, a laundress and courier for the Cuban revolutionaries, to try to free Cisneros. Will they succeed?
Seth Rogan’s mom, Sandy Rogan, provided some praise for his first book, Yearbook; she, like moms everywhere, was worried when she heard her son was writing a nonfiction book and was scared to read it. She’s glad she did, though, and said that “It’s not really a memoir, like I thought it might be.” She adds, “I guess it’s more of a bunch of funny true stories? Does that make sense?” Yes, it does indeed. Rogan’s collection of funny essays run the gamut from the expected drug use to weird famous people in LA to Jewish summer camp and beyond.
Things We Lost to the Water
Hương arrives in New Orleans from Vietnam in 1978 with a little boy, another on the way, and without a home, a job, or her husband, Công. Soon, it becomes clear that Công won’t be joining them, so she tells the boys he’s dead. As the years pass, the boys find their own ways of coping: Tuấn, the elder, who remembers Vietnam, tries to connect to his roots by joining a Vietnamese gang; Bình, the younger, insists on being called Ben and realizes he’s gay. When disaster strikes their American hometown, the things ripping the family apart must be reconciled.
Notes on Grief
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Death has been all around us for nearly a year and a half now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but, of course, death is always all around us, to one extent or another. Award-winning author Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s newest book is about the death of her father of kidney disease during the summer of 2020 when she couldn’t go back home to be with family or arrange a funeral. Instead, she and her siblings arranged everything through an endless stream of Zoom meetings, while trying to grieve too. Grief is a truly universal human experience, explored deeply here.
The Devil’s Playbook
Adam Bowen and James Monsees founded Juul Labs together, a Silicon Valley startup that hoped to save lives with their product, the e-cigarette. Howard Willard, CEO of Phillip Morris, the tobacco giant, hoped to make it big by acquiring Juul Labs since his own product was falling behind in sales and getting bad press. None of these businesspeople stopped to think about the human lives at stake, the addictive qualities of the e-cig being marketed to young people—at least, not until a string of deaths related to e-cigs began to gain media traction. Lauren Etter reports this story of greed.
My Time Will Come
Ian Manuel was only 14 when he was sentenced to life without parole—a child. A child raised in a Tampa neighborhood where crime was common because other options were scarce, where he was pressured by some older boys into aiding in a robbery. It went wrong, and he shot a woman in the face. He was 14, in a world of hurt himself, and he hurt someone else badly. But how does that justify him spending two-thirds of his life in prison when his own victim forgave him and wanted him out? A vital read about the American injustice system.
Leda and the Swan
Leda is a junior at a big university, a sorority girl, and grieving the death of her mother three years ago. On Halloween, Charlotte, a classmate, disappears; Leda was the last person to see her. Something else happened that night—Leda spent it with Ian, a cute senior, and Charlotte’s ex-boyfriend, although she doesn’t actually remember what they did. The condom in her bag is gone, so she assumes they slept together, and she assumes she probably wanted to but isn’t sure. Just as bad, she has a nagging feeling she knows something about Charlotte’s disappearance. If only she could remember…
Hour of the Witch
Mary Deerfield is 24 and has been married to Thomas for five years, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that she might not survive another five if things keep going this way. It’s 1662, Boston, and while divorce is a legal option, grounds must be proven. Like battered wives everywhere, still, the burden of proof is on Mary, whose claims can easily be explained away with lies and insinuations. If that were the only concern, Mary might live through it, but her life is threatened by other Puritans as well now, who find (or manufacture) reasons to believe she’s a witch.
Angel & Hannah
Ishle Yi Park
Hannah and Angel are apparently very different. She’s Korean and first-generation American, bookish, a good student, and lives in Queens. He’s Puerto Rican, a teenage drug dealer from Bushwick, and a poverty-stricken upbringing. Yet they’re immediately drawn to one another when they meet at a party, and fall head over heels in love. Eventually, Hannah moves in with him to escape her violent and controlling father, but Angel’s developing drug addiction is violent in a different way and as difficult to get a handle on. Even as things get rocky between them, they see each other’s humanity and hurt.
The First Day of Spring
Chrissie has just murdered a little boy with her bare hands and she feels fiercely powerful. Until it becomes clear that she did something very bad. She’s eight years old, her mother neglects her emotionally, doesn’t feed her, and now wants to give her away. Fast forward 20 years and Chrissie is now Julia. She has a daughter of her own whom she’s trying to raise well, by giving her the kind of childhood she never got. But she’s getting threatening phone calls, and the past is rushing back. Alternating between the two periods of her life, this novel will hook you.
When his sister-in-law dies and his brother goes to rehab to get himself together enough to care for their two kids, Patrick finds himself the primary guardian for his “niblings,” six-year-old Grant and nine-year-old Maisie. But Patrick has never parented them—or anyone—full-time and isn’t entirely sure how to. Plus, they disrupt his own routine as a former TV star aging alone in Palm Springs, still heartbroken over the death of his own partner, Joe. But over time, Gay Uncle Patrick, or GUP, as the kids call him, learns some lessons and teaches some too.