In the vein of her much lauded memoir, H Is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald returns with a magical collection of essays that uncovers the poetry and power of the natural world, David Heska Wanbli Weiden has penned an impressive thriller set on a Native American reservation, and Amanda McCrina offers a novel about WWII which will please teen and adult audiences alike.
Learn more about these and all of our picks for the Best Books of the Month.
Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald
It was Helen Macdonald’s unusual way of processing grief that put her on the literary map. In H Is for Hawk we met Mabel, a rancorous raptor Macdonald adopted and trained, and in doing so, wrenched herself free from despair. The book was an award-winning best-seller that captured countless hearts, and not just ones belonging to ornithologists. The why of that is the reason readers will also fall in love with Vesper Flights. More meandering than her memoir, this collection of essays waxes poetic on things ranging from lunar eclipses, to nocturnal bird-watching in Manhattan, to mushroom hunting, and even migraines. Before reading Vesper Flights the only swift I knew about was Taylor, and she’s pretty good at drawing attention to herself. But that is one of Ms. Macdonald’s gifts. She notices things—the magic and the wonder and the consolation of nature—and she mines what those things have to teach us about being better humans and stewards of this planet. Her exquisite prose will get you to pay attention too. Macdonald writes: “Someone once told me that every writer has a subject that underlies everything they write. It can be love or death, betrayal or belonging, home or hope or exile. I choose to think that my subject is love…” That is evident on every page of Vesper Flights. —Erin Kodicek
Winter Counts by David Heska Wanbli Weiden
Virgil Wounded Horse has lost many things: his parents, his sobriety, his dignity, his beloved sister, and Marie, the woman he loves. Sober again, living on the Rosebud Reservation, he lives among his people but turns his back on their traditions. He’s raising his teenage nephew Nathan, eking out a less than family-friendly living by charging money to rough up tribespeople whose crimes have been ignored by the federal government. So when Marie’s dad, a tribal councilman, offers him a big payday to go to Colorado and deliver justice to a fellow Lakota who’s bringing heroin back to the “rez,” Virgil can’t turn his back on that kind of money. But then Nathan overdoses on heroin, and is later arrested, and Virgil suddenly has more skin in the game than he ever wanted. He will need to fight for stakes way higher than the next payday, and he can’t do it alone. Thought-provoking and suspenseful, uplifting and heartbreaking, moving and brutal, Winter Counts is a thriller that delivers so much more than the word 'thriller' promises. —Vannessa Cronin
Traitor by Amanda McCrina
Traitor is being published as a young adult novel, but really, let's just call it a novel for anyone who enjoys fast-paced World War II fiction. In Poland in 1944, 17-year-old Tolya Korolenko doesn't fit in on either side of the war. He's half Ukrainian and half Polish, which translates to prejudice and persecution from both the Soviets and the Poles. Tolya joins the Soviet Red Army in order to stay alive and to try to protect his younger brother, but soon ends up on the run, not knowing who to trust. This is a book for anyone who enjoyed Elizabeth Wein's Code Name Verity or Girl in the Blue Coat. —Seira Wilson
Helen Macdonald returns with a collection of essays that uncovers the poetry and power of the natural world, David Heska Wanbli Weiden has penned an impressive thriller set on a Native American reservation, and Amanda McCrina offers a novel about WWII which will please teen and adult audiences alike.