As the days grow shorter there’s a silver lining: More time to cozy up by the fire and read. This month’s best new books harvest includes must-reads from Susan Orlean, Jane Goodall, and the author of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.
My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson
Colson Whitehead calls Johnson’s short story collection “a badass debut by any measure — nimble, knowing, and electrifying.” In the title story, neighbors flee white supremacists and seek shelter on the former Monticello plantation with the help of a descendant of Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson. This stunning collection grapples with the legacy of racism, all while humming with hope and resistance.
What Storm, What Thunder by Myriam J. A. Chancy
An eye-opening fictional account of the 7.0 earthquake that struck Haiti back in 2010 told through the interconnected experiences of 10 people swept up in the disaster. From a young mother searching for her missing family to a businessman who sees an opportunity, this novel is a moving exploration of tragedy and the resiliency of the human spirit.
The Taking of Jemima Boone by Matthew Pearl
Pearl applies his mystery novel writing skills to history in this gripping account of the 1776 kidnapping of Daniel Boone’s teenage daughter. The Taking of Jemima Boone is more than just an action-packed, historical true crime story, as Pearl reveals the complex relationships and interwoven lives of Native Americans and white settlers, adding essential context to the story of western expansion.
World War C by Sanjay Gupta
CNN’s main medical man brings his experience reporting from the frontlines of the unfolding COVID-19 crisis to answer pressing questions about how to protect yourself and others now. Gupta also shares data-backed health tips for a new normal where pandemics could keep popping up.
Black Birds in the Sky by Brandy Colbert
Colbert (The Only Black Girls in Town, The Voting Booth) proves she’s equally masterful at nonfiction storytelling with Black Birds in the Sky an account of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921. While this work relays the details of one of the worst race riots in American history, it tells a typical story of the entire nation, a violent and unjust history that the country still hasn’t sufficiently grappled with. Black Birds in the Sky is a big step in the right direction.
Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson
The dead refuse to stay dead in Rogerson’s latest (and very dark) YA fantasy. Artemisia, an outcast nun who often scares others, makes a deal with a spirit sealed in a saint’s relic so she can stave off the attacking dead. What follows is a story full of lush lore with an unexpected, undying friendship between two lost souls (many readers believe Artemisia is neurodivergent).
The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros
The City Beautiful is a historical fiction work of stunning imagination: Part murder mystery, part queer romance, all infused with Jewish folklore and lots of heart. It follows Alter in 1893 Chicago as he tries to figure out who killed his best friend Yakov, whose dybbuk (a spirit of the dead) possesses Alter. “Although the events in this book are fictionalized, I hope that readers might become more aware of how the Holocaust was not a freak accident — it was the result of centuries of antisemitism,” Polydoros told We Need Diverse Books in response to a question about what he hopes readers will learn from the book.
On Animals by Susan Orlean
Orlean has taken readers on deep dives into the intriguing worlds of everything from orchids to libraries to Saturday nights. Now she turns her curious gaze on animals. As long as we’ve shared the planet with animals, they’ve been our dinner, our companions, our employees, and more. In this fascinating collection, the treasured raconteur travels from backyards to the backcountry uncovering compelling animal-human connections.
When Two Feathers Fell from the Sky by Margaret Verble
Death-defying adventure meets the supernatural in this daring novel about Two Feathers, a young Cherokee woman who performs as a horse-diver at an amusement park in Jim Crow-era Nashville. When strange things start happening around the show, Two Feathers plunges into solving the mystery along with an unforgettable cast of characters.
This Thing Between Us by Gus Moreno
Equally creepy and stirring, unnerving and unputdownable, Moreno’s horror thriller leaves you exhilarated and terrified. It might even transform your Alexa into the stuff of nightmares. Twisty, darkly funny, and with nods to horror movies, this wholly unique novel conjures up the haunting grief of loss and the potential pitfalls of our technology-assisted lives.
Gastro Obscura by Cecily Wong and Dylan Thuras
Let your taste buds be your adventure travel guide as you explore jaw-dropping delicacies around the world. From the Atlas Obscura crew, Gastro Obscura digs into all things daringly delicious, celebrates the cultures that craft them, and spills secret culinary histories. Feast your senses on Chilean beer brewed with fog, Russia’s Soviet-era blood candy bars, a coffee bar in a Victorian-era urinal, and more.
Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
The waters of the world fluctuate between calm and stormy for tender teens in love, Aristotle and Dante, who stole our hearts in the original entry of Sáenz’s series. Ari and Dante are determined to figure out their future and build a relationship together, despite the difficulties inherent in young love, and the added adversity of being gay in the 1980s. This is the rare sequel that challenges genre conventions and still matches (and perhaps even surpasses) its multi-award-winning predecessor.
Jade Fire Gold by June CL Tan
Perfect for fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender, this YA high-fantasy adventure is full of political machinations and heartstopping romance. Author Tan tweeted a list of tropes found in the book, including “100% POC cast,” “a prince who doesn’t want to be emperor,” “an outcast seeking revenge,” and an “adorable lesbian couple” that all sound amazing on their own, and even better together.
The Book of Hope by Jane Goodall
If you’re feeling pessimistic or overwhelmed about our planet’s future, Goodall’s message will inspire you into action. The celebrated primatologist is on a mission to spread hope in this stirring book that’s part-memoir, part-guide to combating climate change. Goodall reveals the role hope played in how she revolutionized our understanding of the relationship between humans and animals and lays out how hope can help us become better advocates for the environment now.
Little Thieves by Margaret Owen
A wickedly charming antiheroine — who also happens to be the goddaughter of two powerful goddesses — steals jewels and a princess’s identity in this delightfully subversive YA fantasy from the author of The Merciful Crow series. Publishers Weekly calls it, “Part heist, part adventure, with a slow-burning romance at its heart … a story to savor.”
The Genome Defense by Jorge L. Contreras
Grab a front-row seat to a momentous court case grappling with the question of who owns human DNA, individuals or corporations? This engrossing work of narrative nonfiction reads like a courtroom thriller as it chronicles how the ACLU took a David versus Goliath case to the Supreme Court to decide if biotech companies can patent, and profit off of, the human genome. An excellent companion piece to The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
We Light Up the Sky by Lilliam Rivera
There’s nothing like an alien invasion to break down barriers and bring humanity together. Three Latinx teens in a Los Angeles suburb run in different crowds at school, but work together to warn their community that the Visitors are walking among them (a la The Fifth Wave). Set post-COVID-19 and pre-apocalypse, Rivera’s work is an intriguing mix of commentary and tropes.
People, Places, Things by Chuck Palahniuk
Palahniuk knows how to tell a story in unexpected, fascinating ways, and this personal essay (a Scribd Original) from the Fight Club author doesn’t disappoint. Palahniuk shares the people, places, and things that shaped his writing while growing up in the Pacific Northwest — from serial killers to secret gardens to Sears catalogs.
About the Author: Katie Winters
Katie is the Senior Editorial Associate at Scribd who digs bikes, beers, baseball, and — surprise, surprise — books! She loves putting her librarian training to work connecting readers with fantastic books.