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Our Paperback Picks

A handpicked selection of our favourite recent paperback books.


The Sweetness of Water (Oprah's Book Club)

- by Nathan Harris

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An Instant New York Times bestseller / An Oprah's Book Club Pick
 
In the spirit of The Known World and The Underground Railroad, an award-winning "miraculous debut" (Washington Post) about the unlikely bond between two freedmen who are brothers and the Georgia farmer whose alliance will alter their lives, and his, forever

In the waning days of the Civil War, brothers Prentiss and Landry--freed by the Emancipation Proclamation--seek refuge on the homestead of George Walker and his wife, Isabelle. The Walkers, wracked by the loss of their only son to the war, hire the brothers to work their farm, hoping through an unexpected friendship to stanch their grief. Prentiss and Landry, meanwhile, plan to save money for the journey north and a chance to reunite with their mother, who was sold away when they were boys.

Parallel to their story runs a forbidden romance between two Confederate soldiers. The young men, recently returned from the war to the town of Old Ox, hold their trysts in the woods. But when their secret is discovered, the resulting chaos, including a murder, unleashes convulsive repercussions on the entire community. In the aftermath of so much turmoil, it is Isabelle who emerges as an unlikely leader, proffering a healing vision for the land and for the newly free citizens of Old Ox.

With candor and sympathy, debut novelist Nathan Harris creates an unforgettable cast of characters, depicting Georgia in the violent crucible of Reconstruction. Equal parts beauty and terror, as gripping as it is moving, The Sweetness of Water is an epic whose grandeur locates humanity and love amid the most harrowing circumstances.

One of President Obama's Favorite Books of 2021

Winner of the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize

Longlisted for the 2022 Carnegie Medal for Excellence

Longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

A Best Book of the Year: Oprah Daily, NPR, Washington Post, Time, Boston Globe, Smithsonian, Chicago Public Library, BookBrowse, and the Oregonian

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

A July Indie Next Pick

The Great Mistake

- by Jonathan Lee

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An exultant novel of New York City at the turn of the twentieth century, about one man's rise to fame and fortune, and his mysterious murder--"engrossing" (Wall Street Journal), "immersive" (The New Yorker), and "seriously entertaining" (The Sunday Times, London).

Andrew Haswell Green is dead, shot at the venerable age of eighty-three, when he thought life could hold no more surprises. The killing--on Park Avenue in broad daylight, on Friday the thirteenth--shook the city.

Born to a struggling farmer, Green was a self-made man without whom there would be no Central Park, no Metropolitan Museum of Art, no Museum of Natural History, no New York Public Library. But Green had a secret, a life locked within him that now, in the hour of his death, may finally break free.

A work of tremendous depth and piercing emotion, The Great Mistake is the story of a city transformed, a murder that made a private man infamous, and a portrait of a singular individual who found the world closed off to him--yet enlarged it.

Helgoland

- by Carlo Rovelli

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Named a Best Book of 2021 by the Financial Times and a Best Science Book of 2021 by The Guardian

"Rovelli is a genius and an amazing communicator... This is the place where science comes to life." -Neil Gaiman

"One of the warmest, most elegant and most lucid interpreters to the laity of the dazzling enigmas of his discipline...[a] momentous book" -John Banville, The Wall Street Journal


A startling new look at quantum theory, from the New York Times bestselling author of Seven Brief Lessons on Physics and The Order of Time.

One of the world's most renowned theoretical physicists, Carlo Rovelli has entranced millions of readers with his singular perspective on the cosmos. In Helgoland, he examines the enduring enigma of quantum theory. The quantum world Rovelli describes is as beautiful as it is unnerving.

Helgoland is a treeless island in the North Sea where the twenty-three-year-old Werner Heisenberg made the crucial breakthrough for the creation of quantum mechanics, setting off a century of scientific revolution. Full of alarming ideas (ghost waves, distant objects that seem to be magically connected, cats that appear both dead and alive), quantum physics has led to countless discoveries and technological advancements. Today our understanding of the world is based on this theory, yet it is still profoundly mysterious.

As scientists and philosophers continue to fiercely debate the meaning of the theory, Rovelli argues that its most unsettling contradictions can be explained by seeing the world as fundamentally made of relationships rather than substances. We and everything around us exist only in our interactions with one another. This bold idea suggests new directions for thinking about the structure of reality and even the nature of consciousness.

Rovelli makes learning about quantum mechanics an almost psychedelic experience. Shifting our perspective once again, he takes us on a riveting journey through the universe so we can better comprehend our place in it.

Animal

- by Lisa Taddeo

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From Lisa Taddeo, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller and global phenomenon Three Women, comes an "intoxicating" (Entertainment Weekly), "fearless" (Los Angeles Times), and "explosive" (People) novel about "what happens when women are pushed beyond the brink, and what comes after the reckoning" (Esquire).

Joan has spent a lifetime enduring the cruelties of men. But when one of them commits a shocking act of violence in front of her, she flees New York City in search of Alice, the only person alive who can help her make sense of her past. In the sweltering hills above Los Angeles, Joan unravels the horrific event she witnessed as a child--that has haunted her every waking moment--while forging the power to finally strike back.

Animal is a depiction of female rage at its rawest, and a visceral exploration of the fallout from a male-dominated society.

Mayflies

- by Andrew O'hagan

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Winner of the Los Angeles Times Christopher Isherwood Book Prize
 
An unforgettable coming-of-age novel that becomes a profound mediation on life, death, and lifelong friendship.


Everyone has a Tully Dawson: the friend who defines your life.

In the summer of 1986, in a small Scottish town, James and Tully ignite a brilliant friendship based on music, films and the rebel spirit. With school over and the locked world of their fathers before them, they rush towards the climax of their youth: a magical weekend in Manchester, the epicentre of everything that inspires them in working-class Britain. There, against the greatest soundtrack ever recorded, a vow is made: to go at life differently.

Thirty years on, half a life away, the phone rings. Tully has news--news that forces the life-long friends to confront their own mortality head-on. What follows is an incredibly moving examination of the responsibilities and obligations we have to those we love. Mayflies is at once a finely-tuned drama about the delicacy and impermanence of human connection and an urgent inquiry into some of the most important questions of all: Who are we? What do we owe to our friends? And what does it mean to love another person amidst tragedy?

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois

- by Honoree F. Jeffers

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INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

ONE OF BARACK OBAMA'S FAVORITE BOOKS OF 2021

AN OPRAH BOOK CLUB SELECTION

WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD FOR FICTION

FINALIST FOR THE PEN/HEMINGWAY AWARD FOR DEBUT NOVEL o LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION o A FINALIST FOR THE KIRKUS PRIZE FOR FICTION o SHORTLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE o LONGLISTED FOR THE ASPEN WORDS LITERARY PRIZE o A NOMINEE FOR THE NAACP IMAGE AWARD

A New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year o A Time Must-Read Book of the Year o A Washington Post 10 Best Books of the Year o A Oprah Daily Top 20 Books of the Year o A People 10 Best Books of the Year o A Boston Globe Best Book of the Year o A BookPage Best Fiction Book of the Year o A Booklist 10 Best First Novels of the Year o A Kirkus 100 Best Novels of the Year o An Atlanta Journal-Constitution 10 Best Southern Books of the Year o A Parade Pick o A Chicago Public Library Top 10 Best Books of the Year o A KCRW Top 10 Books of the Year

An Instant Washington Post, USA Today, and Indie Bestseller

"Epic.... I was just enraptured by the lineage and the story of this modern African-American family.... A combination of historical and modern story--I've never read anything quite like it. It just consumed me." --Oprah Winfrey, Oprah Book Club Pick

An Indie Next Pick o A New York Times Book Everyone Will Be Talking About o A People 5 Best Books of the Summer o A Good Morning America 15 Summer Book Club Picks o An Essence Best Book of the Summer o A Washington Post 10 Books of the Month o A CNN Best Book of the Month o A Time 11 Best Books of the Month o A Ms. Most Anticipated Book of the Year o A Goodreads Most Anticipated Book of the Year o A BookPage Writer to Watch o A USA Today Book Not to Miss o A Chicago Tribune Summer Must-Read o An Observer Best Summer Book o A Millions Most Anticipated Book o A Ms. Book of the Month o A Well-Read Black Girl Book Club Pick o A BiblioLifestyle Most Anticipated Literary Book of the Summer o A Deep South Best Book of the Summer o Winner of an AudioFile Earphones Award 

The 2020 NAACP Image Award-winning poet makes her fiction debut with this National Book Award-longlisted, magisterial epic--an intimate yet sweeping novel with all the luminescence and force of Homegoing; Sing, Unburied, Sing; and The Water Dancer--that chronicles the journey of one American family, from the centuries of the colonial slave trade through the Civil War to our own tumultuous era. 

The great scholar, W. E. B. Du Bois, once wrote about the Problem of race in America, and what he called "Double Consciousness," a sensitivity that every African American possesses in order to survive. Since childhood, Ailey Pearl Garfield has understood Du Bois's words all too well. Bearing the names of two formidable Black Americans--the revered choreographer Alvin Ailey and her great grandmother Pearl, the descendant of enslaved Georgians and tenant farmers--Ailey carries Du Bois's Problem on her shoulders.

Ailey is reared in the north in the City but spends summers in the small Georgia town of Chicasetta, where her mother's family has lived since their ancestors arrived from Africa in bondage. From an early age, Ailey fights a battle for belonging that's made all the more difficult by a hovering trauma, as well as the whispers of women--her mother, Belle, her sister, Lydia, and a maternal line reaching back two centuries--that urge Ailey to succeed in their stead.

To come to terms with her own identity, Ailey embarks on a journey through her family's past, uncovering the shocking tales of generations of ancestors--Indigenous, Black, and white--in the deep South. In doing so Ailey must learn to embrace her full heritage, a legacy of oppression and resistance, bondage and independence, cruelty and resilience that is the story--and the song--of America itself.

Light Perpetual

- by Francis Spufford

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Named a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times, NPR, Slate, Lit Hub, Fresh Air, and more

From the critically acclaimed and award-winning author of Golden Hill, an "extraordinary...symphonic...casually stunning" (The Wall Street Journal) novel tracing the infinite possibilities of five lives in the bustling neighborhoods of 20th-century London.

Lunchtime on a Saturday, 1944: the Woolworths on Bexford High Street in South London receives a delivery of aluminum saucepans. A crowd gathers to see the first new metal in ages--after all, everything's been melted down for the war effort. An instant later, the crowd is gone; incinerated. Among the shoppers were five young children.

Who were they? What futures did they lose? This brilliantly constructed novel, inspired by real events, lets an alternative reel of time run, imagining the lives of these five souls as they live through the extraordinary, unimaginable changes of the bustling immensity of twentieth-century London. Their intimate everyday dramas, as sons and daughters, spouses, parents, grandparents; as the separated, the remarried, the bereaved. Through decades of social, sexual, and technological transformation, as bus conductors and landlords, as swindlers and teachers, patients and inmates. Days of personal triumphs and disasters; of second chances and redemption.

Ingenious and profound, full of warmth and beauty, Light Perpetual "offers a moving view of how people confront the gap between their expectations and their reality" (The New Yorker) and illuminates the shapes of experience, the extraordinariness of the ordinary, the mysteries of memory, and the preciousness of life.

The Dictionary of Lost Words

- by Pip Williams

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER o REESE'S BOOK CLUB PICK FOR MAY '22! o "Delightful . . . [a] captivating and slyly subversive fictional paean to the real women whose work on the Oxford English Dictionary went largely unheralded."--The New York Times Book Review

"A marvelous fiction about the power of language to elevate or repress."--Geraldine Brooks, New York Times bestselling author of People of the Book


Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, she spends her childhood in the Scriptorium, an Oxford garden shed in which her father and a team of dedicated lexicographers are collecting words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Young Esme's place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day a slip of paper containing the word bondmaid flutters beneath the table. She rescues the slip and, learning that the word means "slave girl," begins to collect other words that have been discarded or neglected by the dictionary men.

As she grows up, Esme realizes that words and meanings relating to women's and common folks' experiences often go unrecorded. And so she begins in earnest to search out words for her own dictionary: the Dictionary of Lost Words. To do so she must leave the sheltered world of the university and venture out to meet the people whose words will fill those pages.

Set during the height of the women's suffrage movement and with the Great War looming, The Dictionary of Lost Words reveals a lost narrative, hidden between the lines of a history written by men. Inspired by actual events, author Pip Williams has delved into the archives of the Oxford English Dictionary to tell this highly original story. The Dictionary of Lost Words is a delightful, lyrical, and deeply thought-provoking celebration of words and the power of language to shape the world.

WINNER OF THE AUSTRALIAN BOOK INDUSTRY AWARD

Burnt Sugar

- by Avni Doshi

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Shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize, a searing literary debut novel set in India about mothers and daughters, obsession and betrayal"I would be lying if I say my mother's misery has never given me pleasure," says Antara, Tara's now-adult daughter.

This is a love story and a story about betrayal--not between lovers but between a mother and a daughter. . . . In her youth, Tara was wild. She abandoned her arranged marriage to join an ashram, embarked on a stint as a beggar (mostly to spite her affluent parents), and spent years chasing a disheveled, homeless "artist," all with little Antara in tow.

But now Tara is forgetting things, and Antara is an adult--an artist and married--and must search for a way to make peace with a past that haunts her as she confronts the task of caring for a woman who never cared for her.

Sharp as a blade and laced with caustic wit, Burnt Sugar unpicks the slippery, choking cord of memory and myth that binds mother and daughter: Is Tara's memory loss real? Are Antara's memories fair? In vivid and visceral prose, Avni Doshi tells a story at once shocking and empathetic of a mother-daughter relationship and a daughter's search for self. A journey into shifting memories, altering identities, and the subjective nature of truth, Burnt Sugar is the stunning and unforgettable debut of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.

The Promise

- by Damon Galgut

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WINNER OF THE 2021 BOOKER PRIZE
A NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS' CHOICE On her deathbed, Rachel Swart makes a promise to Salome, the family's Black maid. This promise will divide the family--especially her children: Anton, the golden boy; Astrid, whose beauty is her power; and the youngest, Amor, whose life is shaped by feelings of guilt. Reunited by four funerals over thirty years, the dwindling Swart family remains haunted by the unmet promise, just as their country is haunted by its own failures. The Promise is an epic South African drama that unfurls against the unrelenting march of history, sure to leave its readers transformed. "Simply: you must read it."--Claire Messud, Harper's Magazine ? "This tour-de-force unleashes a searing portrait of a damaged family and a troubled country in need of healing."--Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

The Committed

- by Viet Thanh Nguyen

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The sequel to The Sympathizer, which won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction and went on to sell over a million copies worldwide, The Committed tells the story of "the man of two minds" as he comes as a refugee to France and turns his hand to capitalismThe long-awaited follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Sympathizer, which has sold more than one million copies worldwide, The Committed follows the man of two minds as he arrives in Paris in the early 1980s with his blood brother Bon. The pair try to overcome their pasts and ensure their futures by engaging in capitalism in one of its purest forms: drug dealing.Traumatized by his reeducation at the hands of his former best friend, Man, and struggling to assimilate into French culture, the Sympathizer finds Paris both seductive and disturbing. As he falls in with a group of left-wing intellectuals whom he meets at dinner parties given by his French Vietnamese "aunt," he finds stimulation for his mind but also customers for his narcotic merchandise. But the new life he is making has perils he has not foreseen, whether the self-torture of addiction, the authoritarianism of a state locked in a colonial mindset, or the seeming paradox of how to reunite his two closest friends whose worldviews put them in absolute opposition. The Sympathizer will need all his wits, resourcefulness, and moral flexibility if he is to prevail.

Both highly suspenseful and existential, The Committed is a blistering portrayal of commitment and betrayal that will cement Viet Thanh Nguyen's position in the firmament of American letters.

Trio

- by William Boyd

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It's summer 1968, and the world is reeling from war and assassinations, protests and riots. In a sunny British seaside town, a producer, a novelist, and an actress are enduring their own more private crises on the set of a disaster-plagued movie. All are leading secret lives--one is in the closet; another is an alcoholic; and the third is sleeping with her costar--and as the shoot zigs and zags, these layers of secrets become increasingly more untenable. Pressures build inexorably--and that's before the FBI and CIA get involved. Someone is going to crack--or maybe they all will. By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Trio is an enthralling novel that asks the vital questions: What makes life worth living? And what do you do if you find it isn't?

A Most Remarkable Creature

- by Jonathan Meiburg

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An enthralling account of a modern voyage of discovery as we meet the clever, social birds of prey called caracaras, which puzzled Darwin, fascinate modern-day falconers, and carry secrets of our planet's deep past in their family history.

"Deftly intertwine[s] natural history and human history, with insights and lessons that go far beyond the subject birds."--David Sibley, author of What It's Like to Be a Bird

"Utterly captivating and beautifully written, this book is a hugely entertaining and enlightening exploration of a bird so wickedly smart, curious, and social, it boggles the mind."--Jennifer Ackerman, author of The Bird Way

In 1833, Charles Darwin was astonished by an animal he met in the Falkland Islands: handsome, social, and oddly crow-like falcons that were "tame and inquisitive . . . quarrelsome and passionate," and so insatiably curious that they stole hats, compasses, and other valuables from the crew of the Beagle. Darwin wondered why these birds were confined to remote islands at the tip of South America, sensing a larger story, but he set this mystery aside and never returned to it.
 
Almost two hundred years later, Jonathan Meiburg takes up this chase. He takes us through South America, from the fog-bound coasts of Tierra del Fuego to the tropical forests of Guyana, in search of these birds: striated caracaras, which still exist, though they're very rare. He reveals the wild, fascinating story of their history, origins, and possible futures. And along the way, he draws us into the life and work of William Henry Hudson, the Victorian writer and naturalist who championed caracaras as an unsung wonder of the natural world, and to falconry parks in the English countryside, where captive caracaras perform incredible feats of memory and problem-solving. A Most Remarkable Creature is a hybrid of science writing, travelogue, and biography, as generous and accessible as it is sophisticated, and absolutely riveting.

The Data Detective

- by Tim Harford

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From "one of the great (greatest?) contemporary popular writers on economics" (Tyler Cowen) comes a smart, lively, and encouraging rethinking of how to use statistics.

Today we think statistics are the enemy, numbers used to mislead and confuse us. That's a mistake, Tim Harford says in The Data Detective. We shouldn't be suspicious of statistics--we need to understand what they mean and how they can improve our lives: they are, at heart, human behavior seen through the prism of numbers and are often "the only way of grasping much of what is going on around us." If we can toss aside our fears and learn to approach them clearly--understanding how our own preconceptions lead us astray--statistics can point to ways we can live better and work smarter.

As "perhaps the best popular economics writer in the world" (New Statesman), Tim Harford is an expert at taking complicated ideas and untangling them for millions of readers. In The Data Detective, he uses new research in science and psychology to set out ten strategies for using statistics to erase our biases and replace them with new ideas that use virtues like patience, curiosity, and good sense to better understand ourselves and the world. As a result, The Data Detective is a big-idea book about statistics and human behavior that is fresh, unexpected, and insightful.