11 New Books We Recommend This Week

From Mexico to Colombia to the West Indies to a farm in England’s Lake District, the books we recommend this week largely cast their eyes far from the United States. We like two novels set in Mexico City — one a noir, the other a recursive stream-of-consciousness monologue — along with a look at Osama bin Laden’s life and death, a Colombian story collection, a historical novel about an unlikely entrepreneur in 18th-century Montserrat, and the biography of an American woman who helped organize resistance to Hitler in 1930s Berlin. That English farm? It belongs to the shepherd and author James Rebanks, whose new book is all about the challenges of sustainable agriculture.

Closer to home, there’s a novel about a murder at a Maine commune, a celebration of surfing, a marriage memoir and Alexandra Kleeman’s climate-dystopian Hollywood satire, “Something New Under the Sun.”

Gregory Cowles
Senior Editor, Books

FIERCE LITTLE THING, by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore. (Flatiron, $27.99.) After living in seclusion for more than a decade, the protagonist of Beverly-Whittemore’s novel is drawn reluctantly back to the survivalist commune where she lived as a teenager — and where she, along with four friends, got away with murder. “There are so many lovely moments in the book, beautiful passages of writing that speak to Beverly-Whittemore’s empathy and lyrical powers of description,” our reviewer Sarah Lyall writes. “Responsibility, guilt, hypocrisy, the sins of the past, the innocence or lack thereof of the young, the lies we tell one another and ourselves, the easiest way to make a murder look like an accident, whether character is destiny — the book raises all of these issues and more.”

LOOP, by Brenda Lozano. Translated by Annie McDermott. (Charco, paper, $15.95.) In conventional terms, the plot of this Mexican novel — Lozano’s first to be translated into English — is simply that the unnamed narrator is waiting for her boyfriend to return from a trip abroad. The real action, however, is the narrator’s stream of thought as she ponders subjects from the very small to the very large (including the subject of the relationship between the very small and the very large). “Pulsing beneath the diaristic rhythm of the novel, sometimes erupting to its surface, are the troubles of the narrator’s country,” our reviewer John Williams writes. “In approximate order of size, she is preoccupied with: finding a new notebook to replace the one she’s almost filled, parsing the difference between writing in pen and in pencil, … worrying about when and whether Jonás will return, expressing concern and disgust about the epidemic of femicides in Mexico.”

VELVET WAS THE NIGHT, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. (Del Rey, $28.) Immensely satisfying, refreshingly new and gloriously written, this vibrant noir, set in 1970s Mexico City, traces how a dowdy secretary on the cusp of 30 sparks to life thanks to the disappearance of her beautiful and glamorous neighbor. “Moreno-Garcia mashes up Anglocentric genres with midcentury Mexican history, resulting in a brew flavored with love, heartbreak, violence, music and unsettling dread,” Sarah Weinman writes in her latest crime column. “That matters won’t end well is a foregone conclusion — this is noir, after all. But the gift of this book, and Moreno-Garcia’s storytelling, is how it imbues this well-worn genre with added strength, grace and even musicality.”

ALL THE FREQUENT TROUBLES OF OUR DAYS: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler, by Rebecca Donner. (Little, Brown, $32.) Equal parts biography, history and thriller, this book tells the story of the author’s idealistic but doomed great-great-aunt, Mildred Harnack, who, between 1932 and 1942, helped build a network of objectors in Berlin who hoped to stop the Nazis. “Donner quotes passages from her sources at length, letting the reader dwell on facts rather than galloping through them,” Madeleine Schwartz writes in her review. “The archival quality of the book, its enumeration and cataloging of sources, is both surprising for a biography — too rarely the site of literary innovation — and affecting. It gives a sense of the warped timeline of crisis, how life can shift overnight without moving at all, the way in which change can ricochet from the political sphere to the smallest and most mundane details of a person’s life.”

EVERYTHING I HAVE IS YOURS: A Marriage, by Eleanor Henderson. (Flatiron, $27.99.) “It is a confusing time to be a woman who loves a troubled man,” Henderson writes in this unflinching memoir of her husband’s long and confounding medical conditions. She tells their story with a novelist’s eye for detail and the honesty of a trusted friend. “Yes, ‘Everything I Have Is Yours’ is an up-close look at a grisly, amorphous illness,” Elisabeth Egan writes in her latest Group Text column. “But this is also a love story and a family story, told by an accomplished novelist … who gracefully executes a triple toe loop (as a wife, a mother and a caregiver), then nails the landing with humor and a certain offbeat panache. Even if you are as squeamish and uncharitable as I am, the generosity of Henderson’s memoir will melt your icy heart.”

SOMETHING NEW UNDER THE SUN, by Alexandra Kleeman. (Hogarth, $28.) Kleeman’s novel is an unlikely amalgam of climate horror story, movie-industry satire and made-for-TV mystery, following a flailing writer who has come to Los Angeles for a film adaptation of his novel starring a tabloid-tragic teen star. “Kleeman’s dystopia reveals itself slowly, normalcy curdling in the boil,” Matthew Schneier writes in his review. “The varieties of emergency — ecological, psychological, familial, medical — are the half-hidden subject of Kleeman’s novel, burning at the periphery of what begins as a modishly detached rollick through Hollywood and its empty promises.”

THE RISE AND FALL OF OSAMA BIN LADEN, by Peter Bergen. (Simon & Schuster, $30.) Meticulously documented, fluidly written and replete with riveting detail, Bergen’s book weaves back and forth between the man and the terrorist, providing the fullest picture we have yet of Osama bin Laden. Along the way, it’s equally revealing about the Americans and their pursuit of him. “Thanks to the bravery of the SEAL team that delayed their departure from Abbottabad to retrieve computers and documents from bin Laden’s lair after assassinating him, we now have a vast trove of information not previously available,” Louise Richardson writes in her review. “Along with other primary sources, Bergen had access to the 470,000 files taken during the raid, and he uses this material lightly, writing with the lucidity of an experienced journalist.”

ISLAND QUEEN, by Vanessa Riley. (Morrow, $27.99.) In this riveting and transformative novel, Riley explores the real-life experiences of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas, who was born to an Irish planter and an enslaved woman in 1756 on the island of Montserrat and, against all odds, became a powerful Caribbean entrepreneur. “Riley does a brilliant job of connecting those events to something bigger,” Carole V. Bell writes in her review. The book “provides an incisive interior view of some of the thorniest aspects of West Indian colonial culture: the roots of color and class privilege, the implications of concubinage and common-law marriages, and the participation of some free people of African ancestry in slavery. Evocative and immersive, Riley’s narrative bears that weight with grace.”

PASTORAL SONG: A Farmer’s Journey, by James Rebanks. (Custom House, $28.99.) Rebanks, a third-generation sheep farmer in England’s Lake District, tackles the thorny question at the heart of sustainable agriculture: How do you make money from the land without wrecking it? “Rebanks shows clearly that hope hinges on who exactly is willing to pay the real price of food and good farming,” Kristin Kimball writes in her review. “Creating space for a farm like his, in a world like ours — space for nature, animal welfare, craft and skill — requires buy-in from governments and their taxpayers, philanthropists and enlightened consumers who are willing and able to foot a bigger bill. The stakes couldn’t be higher for the planet, and for agricultural communities worldwide.”

SONGS FOR THE FLAMES, by Juan Gabriel Vásquez. Translated by Anne McLean. (Riverhead, $26.) Steeped in Colombia’s troubled history, the nine stories in this haunting collection are also personal in scope, with a Vásquez-like character narrating the dilemmas and crises of the people he can’t get out of his head. Our reviewer, Justin Taylor, calls it “a book about war and imperialism, which in Vasquez’s view never really end, but rather mutate: devolving here into individual traumas paid out over generations, evolving there into state corruption and endless cycles of violence. … ‘Songs for the Flames’ is finally a book about secrets and lies.”

THE DROP: How the Most Addictive Sport Can Help Us Understand Addiction and Recovery, by Thad Ziolkowski. (Harper Wave, $26.99.) This haunting, beautiful book posits surfing as a way to help drug addicts, in part because the experiences of catching a wave and getting high have much in common. “An addict’s first hit and a surfer’s first wave are neurologically linked,” Tom Bissell writes in his review. “Surfing, like being high, is feeling yourself as pure desire, floating upon a liquid wilderness and waiting for the big wave to bring you home.”

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