Spring Booknotes 2021

Handpicked new releases, brought to you by the staff of Elliott Bay.
 

Audiobooks available for select titles through our friends at LIBRO.FM

 

Spring 2020

 

 

 

 

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The Arsonists' City Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780358126553
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt - March 9th, 2021

Hala Alyan—who has written four books of poems and one ‘smaller’ earlier novel, all excellent—moves to a larger stage with this epic story of a family, spread all over the world, drawn back to their ancestral home in Beirut. They arrive to determine the fate of that house and to come to terms with who they are as individuals and as family members, where they are in the world, and what—given the complicated histories of Lebanon, Syria, and other countries—has propelled them there. This deeply human book gives us family and life in full measure: sorrow, humor, death, all of it. -Rick


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Detransition, Baby: A Novel Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780593133378
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: One World - January 12th, 2021

Torrey Peters has written the kind of juicy, gossipy relationship drama that makes me want to cozy up with a bowl of popcorn and a glass of red wine to watch the beautiful mess unfold. It's playful, well-plotted, and so relentlessly witty. But it's her sharp observations about gender and relationships; her fresh and irreverent perspectives on big, life-rearranging decisions like transition and parenting and divorce; and the way that, for all her jaded humor, Peters won't let go of hope and love that make Detransition, Baby a novel that I will be talking about for a long time. -Callie


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The Duke Undone Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780593198285
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Berkley - April 6th, 2021

With their guaranteed happy endings, it's hard to find a romance that keeps you guessing, but Joanna Lowell pulls it off. Lucy—a painting student at the Royal Academy—and Anthony—a duke fighting for his inheritance—band together to save Lucy from eviction, find Anthony's missing sister, foster Lucy's art career, and wrest control of Anthony's life away from his late father's best friend. And surely they can do it all without falling in love. The Duke Undone is a lively historical romance that offers up both sex and suffrage, with a dash of social mores. -Emma
 


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Fake Accounts Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781948226929
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Catapult - February 2nd, 2021

Fake Accounts feels so eerily and uncannily immediate it’s as though the novel is happening in real time. It is a book that simultaneously mimics and mocks the flattening effect of the internet, and the self-conscious, archly self-aware posturing of social media; reading it has the furtive pleasure of gorging on something you know is bad for you. It is not redemptive—there will be no absolution here—instead it offers the damning clarity of rightful judgment. It’s slippery, cutting, despairing, and bitterly funny—the perfect read to wallow in! -Lauren


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The Five Wounds: A Novel Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9780393242836
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - March 30th, 2021

In the run-down New Mexico town of Las Penas, where conquistadors once rained blood on cracked earth, the desert sky aches above a raging opioid crisis, kids who have kids while parenting their parents, and old men in abandoned gas stations seeking violent redemption. Valdez-Quade crafts an exquisite patchwork of perspectives, rendering a beloved and indelible portrait of the Padilla family as they wrestle with life, death, passion, shame, and hope. Walking wounds themselves, the Padillas must reach for each other, past craters of grief and petty pockmarks of indignity, if they are to survive. -Lara


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Hot Stew Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9781643751559
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order: Scroll Down to Product Details for Release Date
Published: Algonquin Books - April 20th, 2021

Leaving the rural setting of her first novel Elmet, Ms. Mozley goes to present-day London, where a building in fashionable Soho is to be demolished. Far from empty, it contains a restaurant, a thriving brothel—with its endearing community of sex workers—and a secret basement housing an array of colorful characters. Eviction looms and—from the young heiress selling her property to its frequent visitors—the explosive culmination of this urban drama identifies what each character values most in life with empathy and charm. A delightful, poignant tale of gentrification versus tenacity. -Erica


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The House on Vesper Sands Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9781951142247
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Tin House Books - January 12th, 2021

Calling all crime junkies and fans of Midsomer Murders: if you’re in the market for a new read, I have the one for you. The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O’Donnell is a Victorian murder mystery involving a young journalist and a Cambridge dropout turned police assistant, both investigating a suspicious series of deaths of young women. This book has a cozy mystery quality on par with Agatha Christie and is loaded with British wit. There is a slight element of the occult and paranormal, which juxtaposes nicely with the religious components in the case. This is a vivid and intriguing tale that fans of historic mysteries will love. -Rachael
 


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How Beautiful We Were: A Novel Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780593132425
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House - March 9th, 2021

Set to be published a year ago, but delayed by the pandemic, this literally long-awaited novel by the author of Behold the Dreamers is worth the wait. Imbolo Mbue makes present and palpable the age-old story of colonial greed, here in the form of a U.S. oil company come to wreak environmental and social devastation on a small, fictional African community. How the people respond and resist—as individuals but also as family and community members united against corruptive forces—is depicted masterfully, memorably, movingly, by a writer whose every book we now will surely want to read—and heed—down the road. -Rick


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Klara and the Sun: A novel Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780593318171
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf - March 2nd, 2021

Klara and the Sun is classic Ishiguro: a subtle and melancholy meditation on what it means to be human. As with Never Let Me Go, the horror dawns gradually. We know there is a realization on the horizon, a devastating comprehension, but the mildness of the narrator’s thoughts don’t prepare us for it—reading it starts to feel like peeking through your fingers at a scary movie, even though there is nothing conspicuously frightening about it. Ishiguro is a master at literary suspense and he is at his best with his latest book. It will haunt me for the foreseeable future! -Lauren


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Remote Control Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9781250772800
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Tordotcom - January 19th, 2021

At the age of five, Fatima witnesses a strange meteor shower, and the stars give her the gift of a seed in a box. The gift changes Fatima, bestowing upon her the power of death, which is accidentally wrought on her whole family and her hometown. With this devastation, Fatima forgets her name and becomes known as Sankofa. Both feared and revered for her powers, she travels throughout the Ghanaian countryside, at first spurred on to reunite with the seed, but then rejecting its pull to be again with humanity. Okorafor’s brilliant blend of fairytale magic and futuristic technology set against the African landscape and culture is utterly compelling. -Holly


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The Removed: A Novel Cover Image
$26.99
ISBN: 9780062997548
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Ecco - February 2nd, 2021

The fifteenth anniversary of the death of teenaged Ray-Ray approaches, and a young man who just might be Ray-Ray’s returned spirit comes to stay with his still grieving family. Ray-Ray’s death by police shooting is far from the first such removal, or the last, and this novel takes us deep into these stories, including that of the Trail of Tears. Partly drawn from Cherokee mythology, partly inspired by more contemporary concerns, this immersive and surprisingly humorous novel helps us understand the importance of agency over one’s community’s and one’s own stories. -Karen


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Aftershocks: A Memoir Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781982111229
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster - January 12th, 2021

Nadia Owusu has a whole life going, with non-profit community work focused on economic and racial justice. But the life she writes in her memoir is what’s brought her to that work, a life singular in its particulars but with common ties to those whose families and backgrounds span continents. Her father—descended from Ashanti royalty—worked for the United Nations, which brought them to many places. Her Armenian American mother left her, to be ‘succeeded’ by a Tanzanian stepmother. Growing and schooling with a shifting sense of family and home became the basis of Owusu’s coming to know herself and her place in life—one she chronicles beautifully and is now living with impact and presence. -Rick


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The Book of Difficult Fruit: Arguments for the Tart, Tender, and Unruly (with recipes) Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780374110321
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - April 6th, 2021

Yuzu and durian, two of Kate Lebo’s “difficult fruits,” are praised by some and reviled by others. “Difficult fruit” are so named because they might be considered rare or ubiquitous, powerful or potentially toxic, tasteless or sublime. Bringing her sensibilities as a poet and an expert baker, Lebo weaves a story in which the ethnobotanical, cultural, and familial all play a part; and, with her included recipes, she invites readers into the transformational experiences that she illuminates. -Karen


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Broken (in the best possible way) Cover Image
$27.99
ISBN: 9781250077035
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Henry Holt and Co. - April 6th, 2021

Reading Jenny Lawson is like visiting with your best friend and having a hilarious or heartfelt conversation. Her very distinct voice is heard loud and clear in this newest collection. No topic is sacred: from her long-suffering husband and their comical arguments, to conversation starters that will prevent you from ever getting invited to parties, to the most instructional and hysterical essay on working with an editor. Her writing is both pointed and poignant such as in a letter to her insurance company chronicling her struggles with depression and the promising, experimental treatment to combat it. Prepare to laugh out loud, but have some tissues handy too. -Holly


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Crying in H Mart: A Memoir Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9780525657743
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order: Scroll Down to Product Details for Release Date
Published: Knopf - April 20th, 2021

When we lose someone we love, it is so hard to articulate and convey the breadth of our loss. Michelle Zauner (also known as indie pop artist Japanese Breakfast) didn’t just lose her mother, she lost the woman with “a salty hand,” the person who introduced her to all her favorite foods, the one who advised her to take care of her skin and to never give all of herself to anyone. Zauner writes so movingly of learning to recognize the ways her mother expressed love that by the end of the book, I felt like I knew my own mama better. Reading Crying in H Mart feels like coming home, even if home is just a memory. -Lauren 


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Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9780393652666
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - February 2nd, 2021

Annalee Newitz takes us on a journey to explore four cities that ceased to be: Çatalhöyük in Turkey, Pompeii in Italy, Angkor in Cambodia, and Cahokia along the Mississippi River. The book is a mix of archaeological examination and social, political, and environmental exploration of why the cities vanished—leaving behind only the remains of these once vibrant cultural hubs. Is it just the natural order of the world that cities flourish, evolve, decay, and disappear? Newitz believes climate change and political instability lead to the abandonment of cities but is convinced many urban age cities will rise again. -Greg
 


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Girlhood Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9781635572520
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Bloomsbury Publishing - March 30th, 2021

In this collection of searing personal essays, covering topics such as stalking, consent, and slut-shaming, Melissa Febos charts her painful journey from an adolescent who didn’t believe in her own worth to a self-actualized adult who looks back on that time with immense insight and clarity. Febos has a distinct talent for taking the darkest, most inexpressible parts of human existence in general, and girlhood in particular, and putting them so succinctly and beautifully into words that it feels as though you have just watched her perform a particularly breathtaking piece of magic. -Laura
 


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Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World Cover Image
$29.99
ISBN: 9780062938336
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper - January 19th, 2021

The topic is nearly as immense as the globe itself, and who better to explore it than acclaimed author Simon Winchester. Starting from a delightfully personal perspective (his own purchase of acreage), he meanders through the supercontinents and the geological history of Earth, then strolls through human history and our desire to assign and parse boundaries—and the dauntless pursuit to document them in maps and charts. He strides boldly into the debate on indigenous land rights, examining economics and ecology along the way. This is a marvelously readable and far-ranging book that gives the reader the dirt on land. -Holly
 


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A Little Devil in America: Notes in Praise of Black Performance Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9781984801197
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House - March 30th, 2021

One of our generation's greatest cultural essayists takes us whirling through a century of Black performance and the waves it creates in the world around us. Abdurraqib often tells of his own encounters with these performances; in his writing, the personal and the universal are always taken in light of each other, and one of his many gifts is the ability to shake out what's hiding in the relationship between the two. From the Grammys to space, from the Manhattan dance halls of the 1920s to the basements of Columbus, Ohio in the 1990s, this book is a monument to the power of art to both shape and be shaped by Black experience in America. -Tony


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Tom Stoppard: A Life Cover Image
$37.50
ISBN: 9780451493224
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf - February 23rd, 2021

Theatre artist biographies are among my favorite books. Hermione Lee has written a voluminous biography of one of the great British playwrights of the last fifty years: Tom Stoppard. To many, he is the quintessential Englishman; yet Stoppard's real story is more interesting. Lee covers his life and writing in intimate detail, chronicling his meteoric rise. His plays are witty, entertaining, linguistically and intellectually stimulating, and emotionally impacting; in other words, they are without comparison. Stoppard is a man and artist I hold in high esteem. This is a book to treasure. -Greg


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Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780593136270
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Crown - February 9th, 2021

Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Kolbert has written extensively about the environment and climate emergency. In her new book, Under a White Sky, she continues to report on the looming climate disaster. In the Anthropocene, we employ methods such as geo-engineering and other technologies to attempt to head-off or slow human-made disaster, which Kolbert characterizes as “people trying to solve problems created by people trying to solve problems.” Sound familiar? One wonders about the limits of human interference and ingenuity—and if it makes a difference. This is a fascinating and disturbing book. -Greg


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Who Will Pay Reparations on My Soul?: Essays Cover Image
$27.95
ISBN: 9781631496486
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Liveright - March 30th, 2021

Though I was initially attracted by an essay on the lodestar that is Fred Moten, I soon found myself drawn into each of the powerhouse pieces in Jesse McCarthy's debut collection on arts and culture. McCarthy (whose day job is teaching in the Department of African and African American Studies at Harvard) writes with finesse and panache, and these essays land in the sweet spot where incisive critical analysis overlaps with poignant personal response. Check him out now (especially “Notes On Trap”), before he becomes a household name. -John


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The Capybaras Cover Image
$18.95
ISBN: 9781771647823
Availability: Backordered
Published: Greystone Kids - April 13th, 2021

These semiaquatic cavies will nose their way into your heart as they escape hunting season and stumble into a flock of very suspicious chickens with problems of their own. For lovers of Doreen Cronin's Click, Clack, Moo, comes this sweet parable about community, immigration, and the freedom available to us when we join together in the face of oppression. Check out this charming, tot-ready tale of friendship and acceptance; it's never too early to get those protest babies flipping pages! -Lara


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Shy Willow Cover Image
By Cat Min
$17.99
ISBN: 9781646140350
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Levine Querido - February 16th, 2021

Willow is a shy rabbit. She much prefers staying in her abandoned mailbox home and drawing to being outside, where things are scary. But when a boy with a special birthday wish mistakenly drops a letter in her box, Willow knows she has to make sure the letter gets delivered, even if it means being extremely brave. Cat Min’s illustrations, filled with bright colors and wonderful texture, are perfectly paired with this story of new friendship, adventure, and what you can find when you step outside of your comfort zone. -Laura


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The Rock from the Sky Cover Image
By Jon Klassen, Jon Klassen (Illustrator)
$18.99
ISBN: 9781536215625
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Candlewick - April 13th, 2021

Told in five chapters, this lengthy picture book comprises only dialogue between a turtle, an armadillo, and a snake (all jauntily sporting hats). In the first adventure, turtle declares to be standing in its favorite spot and invites armadillo to join. But armadillo has a bad feeling, which the reader will understand upon turning to the picture of a giant rock charging at the spot. In a later exploit, while turtle and armadillo are considering the future on the giant rock, turtle considers the possibility of aliens living in the forest. With his characteristic deadpan, Jon Klassen delivers another genuine delight.  -Holly


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The Sea in Winter Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062872043
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Heartdrum - January 5th, 2021

What do you do when you can’t do the thing that makes you feel like yourself? Maisie is a Makah and Piscataway ballerina with a knee injury. Frustrated by the slow recovery process and missing her ballet friends, Maisie lashes out against her mom, step-dad, and little brother while on their road trip from Seattle to the Olympic Peninsula. Local author Christine Day explores themes of Indigenous resistance and resilience as well as grief, mental health, and growth in her stunning story of a middle schooler finding her way back to joy. -Ellis
 


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The Project: A Novel Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781250105738
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Wednesday Books - February 2nd, 2021

If you like watching documentaries, reading books, or listening to podcasts on cults, I guarantee you’ll also like this book. The Project is an exploration of grief, familial bonds, and how far someone will go to find themselves. As a reader, you may be manipulated along with the main character, becoming entrapped with The Unity Project—who swear they aren’t a cult. The more sinister aspects start to seep through as you read, making you question what you know about humanity just as much as the main character does. Anyone who enjoys thrilling, dark, and gritty novels will find all of that and more in this book. -Rachael


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Victories Greater Than Death (Unstoppable #1) Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781250317315
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Tor Teen - April 13th, 2021

Tina has been waiting her whole life to claim her destiny as the clone heir to maybe the greatest star fleet captain ever, Thaoh Argentian, who fought tirelessly for justice across the galaxies. But destiny looks a lot more deadly up close. Luckily, Tina doesn't have to face it alone. Her best friend from earth and her brand new crew have her back, and together they just might survive saving the universe. Charlie Jane Anders's YA debut is a non-stop, planet-hopping romp, packed full of tender friendship and nail-biting space action. Maybe the real space destiny was the friends we made along the way! -Callie