It’s harder these days to do so many of the things we all normally do, but if that gives you more time to read, here’s the lowdown on some of the best new and recent book releases:
William Morrow, fiction, $27.99
What it’s about: A collection of six remarkable novellas (each about 50 pages long) from Don Winslow, whose work includes a dozen of the finest crime novels written in the past 20 years. These stories show a broad range. “The San Diego Zoo,” for instance, relies on a touch of humor from its opening line: “No one knows how the chimp got the revolver.” Another, “The Last Ride,” goes for righteous anger, as a Donald Trump supporter, horrified by the sight of a little girl in a cage, sets out to reunite her with her mother in defiance of his Border Patrol bosses. Fans of Winslow’s novels will find familiar characters here including drug dealers Ben, Chon and O from “Savages” and the surfing detectives from “Dawn Patrol.”
The buzz: “Propulsive narration, compelling characters and a tight, staccato writing style,” author Bruce DaSilva says in a review for The Associated Press. Each of the stories “conveys the sense that the people and/or American institutions he portrays are broken . . . . The tales, three of them appropriately dedicated to Elmore Leonard, Steve McQueen, and Raymond Chandler, all unfold at a torrid pace that will leave readers satisfied and wishing for more.”
Harper, fiction, $26.99
What it’s about: Chicago writer Elizabeth Wetmore’s debut novel is not a gentle narrative that begets sweet memories of romance. In its first section, the life of 14-year-old Gloria Ramirez hangs in the balance in the windswept flatlands of West Texas after she’s beaten and raped. In the second, Mary Rose Whitehead, a pregnant woman with a grade-school daughter, is confronted on at her isolated ranch house by Gloria’s rapist in a scene that unfolds with growing dread. In ensuing sections, the story calms as the lives of other women around Odessa, Texas — Corrine, Ginny, Suzanne, Karla — are told with less menace. Each touches on the rape and its consequences, with Wetmore deftly depicting this oil patch region, circa 1976, and its many echoes in the lives of women and immigrants today.
The buzz: “Achingly powerful,” Booklist says. Publishers Weekly says, “This moving portrait of West Texas oil country evokes the work of Larry McMurtry and John Sayles with strong, memorable female voices.”
Ballantine Books, fiction, $28
What it’s about: When a sudden loss upends Loretha Curry’s full and happy life, she and her loyal friends band together to figure out how to keep thriving in the latest story of strong women who know what they want in life from Terry McMillan, the bestselling author of “How Stella Got Her Groove Back” and “Waiting to Exhale.”
The buzz: “McMillan proves once again that she is a skilled master at writing dialog for strong, intelligent women who know how to laugh in the face of tragedy instead of being consumed by it,” the AP writes. From Publishers Weekly: “This delightful novel balances inspiration for renewal with the hard facts of aging.”
Algonquin, fiction, $25.95
What it’s about: Antonia Vega is left reeling after her husband’s sudden death — and then finds a pregnant, undocumented teenager from Mexico in her garage.
The buzz: “In this bighearted novel, family bonds heal a woman’s grief,” Kirkus Reviews says.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, fiction, $26.99
What it’s about: Fifteen years ago, five teenagers singled out by a prophecy banded together to take down the Dark One in this latest offering from Chicago writer Veronica Roth. They saved the world, and everything went back to normal … for everyone except them. What becomes of heroes after they save the world? And what if it was never actually saved?
The buzz: “Roth makes a bold entrance to adult fantasy,” Kirkus Reviews says.
Flatiron Books, nonfiction, $29.99
What it’s about: In an intimate book that’s part autobiography, part narrative documentary, singer/songwriter Keys charts her growth as a woman and an artist, touching on private heartache, her complex relationship with her father and her journey of self-discovery.
The buzz: “You will learn where the name ‘Keys’ actually came from, grow jealous of her friendship with Oprah and Michelle Obama and hear about her transformational trips to Egypt,” USA Today writes.
Putnam, fiction, $27
What it’s about: A reality show set in outer space, as a crew of research scientists makes first contact with an alien species of creatures that look like salamanders, and it all goes horribly wrong. Seven years into the battle, four people train to be chosen as the crew of the Providence Five, a warship designed for long-term travel. They’re chosen for their knowledge of weaponry, engineering talents, ability to not panic — and how they appear on camera back home.
The buzz: “Barry mixes the classic sci-fi novels of Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke and updates them for the Internet age,” the AP writes. “At times, the story is reminiscent of Mary Doria Russell’s ‘The Sparrow’ and Heinlein’s ‘Starship Troopers,’ but Barry makes the story compelling and innovative. In unpredictable ways, he uses his flawed characters to comment on artificial intelligence, propaganda in a social media landscape and how isolation affects people differently. Barry takes a story that has been done countless times before and makes it seem original.”
Riverhead Books, fiction, $26
What it’s about: Two orphaned immigrant siblings set off to bury their father during the twilight of the gold rush in a haunting adventure that blends Chinese symbolism with the American West.
The buzz: “An aching book,” The New York Times writes. “It’s violent and surprising and musical. . . . By journey’s end, you’re enriched and enlightened by the lives you have witnessed.”
Random House, fiction, $27
What it’s about: This haunting story spans generations, before and after the Civil War, exploring the legacy of one Southern plantation and three women it spawned: Miss May Belle, a “conjure woman” renowned for her healing spells, her daughter and student Rue and their master’s daughter Varina.
The buzz: “Life in the immediate aftermath of slavery is powerfully rendered in this impressive first novel,” Kirkus Reviews says.
Ecco, fiction, $26.99
What it’s about: In Alexandra Chang’s tender coming-of-age story, a young Chinese American woman in an interracial relationship follows her boyfriend across the country when he goes to graduate school.
The buzz: “Chang shows the challenge of trying to raise issues about racism that even those closest to her wish to avoid,” USA Today writes.
Vintage, nonfiction, $15.95
What it’s about: In her third volume of essays, Samantha Irby (“We Are Never Meeting in Real Life”) shares more humorous and biting life reflections, mining some of life’s most embarrassing moments for insights and chuckles.
The buzz: “There’s lots to chuckle at here, as Irby remains a winning, personality-driven, self-deprecating essayist,” Kirkus Reviews says.