This week's releases include the first short story collection from award-winning author, Zadie Smith; Megan Phelps-Roper reflects on her extreme upbringing; and Leigh Bardugo spins a tale of dark intrigue amongst the Ivy League elite in her enthralling adult debut.
Learn more about these and all of our picks for the Best Books of the Month.
Grand Union: Stories by Zadie Smith
Although she has had a nearly twenty-year career, this is Zadie Smith’s first short story collection. One of the things readers will notice about it is the impressive scope of Smith’s writing. There is a broad and diverse cast of characters in these stories. There is urban realism, speculative fiction, and many degrees between. There is playfulness and precision. Of the nineteen stories in Grand Union, eleven are new; the majority of the others appeared in The New Yorker. And despite the range, Zadie Smith’s voice—the intelligence and insight, the control of language—are always evident. This is a satisfying, memorable collection by a talented author teeming with ideas. —Chris Schluep
Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church by Megan Phelps-Roper
Megan Phelps-Roper grew up in the church founded by her grandfather. The Westboro Baptist Church gained global notoriety for its in-your-face gospel of righteousness and hatred emblazoned on picket signs and shouted by protestors. Targets of Westboro Baptist included the LGBTQ community and even deceased American soldiers as church members picketed, taunted, and generally stoked the flames of outrage wherever they showed up. Unfollow is the unflinching memoir of a young woman who grew up in the teachings and activities of this church, but as a young adult, she started to see things differently, and ultimately made the decision to leave the church. It’s hard to look at the cruel, shameless actions church members—including the author—took in the name of their beliefs and to attract attention, but the raw candor with which Phelps-Roper shares her account is nothing short of remarkable. Twitter was the unexpected source that led to Phelps-Roper’s awakening to the cracks in her church’s ideology, and when she began to seek answers to questions she had never wanted to ask, there were many—including the man she would eventually marry, and those she had condemned—who treated her kindness and empathy. Unfollow is an inspiring account of a woman who had the courage to untangle the beliefs her life was based on, choose differently, and share her story with the rest of us. —Seira Wilson
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Leigh Bardugo made her mark writing bestselling young adult fantasy, but now she’s doing something a little different with Ninth House, her first adult novel. Bardugo uses Yale’s secret societies—their hidden rituals and the power of membership—to create the perfect setting for a story where elitism and the occult are intertwined. In Ninth House we meet Alex Stern, a young woman with nothing left to lose, who is given a strange second chance at a different life—as a freshman at Yale. Alex has been selected to attend not for her academic achievement, but rather to perform a dangerous task for which she is uniquely qualified: finding out who among the secret societies is resurrecting ancient dark magic. Ninth House is an epic read--sharp, dark, and incredibly atmospheric, with a gutsy protagonist and a conclusion that leaves the reader eager for more. —Seira Wilson
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