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Readers, get ready.
Another year chock-full of absorbing nonfiction, captivating fiction, and arresting poetry is before us, according to local booksellers.
To get the scoop on the titles that shouldn’t be missed among the abundance of new reads, we asked staff members at Harvard Book Store, Brookline Booksmith, Frugal Bookstore, Trident Booksellers & Café, and Porter Square Books to share the books they are most looking forward to in 2022.
Ahead, the 23 reads the booksellers say not to sleep on as the new year kicks off.
Rachel Cass, a book buyer at Harvard Book Store, recommends picking up this “fun” debut novel, which follows Olga, a wedding planner for the elite families of Manhattan. While the story touches on the feelings of a modern society novel, it also delves into her relationship with her family; she is the daughter of Puerto Rican revolutionaries and her brother is a congressman. “The book becomes about family and community and career and love and politics, and the way that all of those things are tied up together and intertwined in real people’s lives,” Cass said.
This memoir by the Pulitzer Prize-winning New Yorker writer about finding and losing things in life is one that several staff members at Harvard Book Store, including Cass, are excited to pick up in the new year. The book is told in three sections. One focuses on the death of Schulz’s father, another speaks to her meeting and falling in love with the woman she eventually marries, and the third part examines living in the space between those life events. “I love her writing because it’s really personal and intimate … and she’s also just one of the smartest writers that I have read,” Cass said. “She’s just incredibly erudite and can pull in lots of different kinds of text, so it’s a really unusual and really beautiful memoir.”
The new novel from the author of “A Little Life” is also causing a lot of excitement, according to Alie Hess, head buyer at Brookline Booksmith. The story is divided into three sections, following characters in an alternate version of 1893 America, 1993, and 2093. Hess said the novel examines loneliness, family, and what power does to people. “She weaves these three stories together in just an amazing way,” Hess said.
Clarrissa Cropper Egerton, co-owner of Frugal Bookstore, is looking forward to the release of this novel. The story follows 30-something Yinka, an Oxford-educated, British Nigerian woman, whose Nigerian aunties are constantly asking her when she will be married. It’s not quite a romance novel, according to Cropper Egerton, but it follows Yinka as she searches for a date to her cousin’s wedding and balances traditional expectations and her modern beliefs about love. “She’s in the middle of these two different cultures, of being Nigerian, but also British,” Cropper Egerton said.
Hess said not to miss this memoir by the author whose novel “Girl, Woman, Other” won the 2019 Booker Prize. In it, Evaristo delves into her life and work and being the daughter of a Nigerian father and a white Catholic mother. “She’s really just literally writing about how she didn’t see any books that told her story or in her world, and she wanted books like that,” Hess said. “So she started writing … And of course she’s just an incredible writer. So I think [this] is going to be amazing.”
Courtney Flynn, manager of Trident Booksellers & Café, recommends picking up this novel, told through connected stories about an ancient plague that is dug up during an excavation in the Arctic Circle. The stories follow all the ways the pestilence has affected different parts of the world, families, and culture. “The book is beautifully written,” Flynn said. “It talks about society as a whole [and] society within our units of our families. It’s really tender and heartbreaking and beautiful.”
This novel is one that Ellen Jarrett, a book buyer and an employee-owner at Porter Square Books, is anticipating. The story explores the lives that intersect at a women’s clinic in Boston, where the heroine, Claudia, counsels patients. Jarrett said the clinic, Mercy Street, offers many of its patients a second chance in life. “[Haigh] hasn’t had a novel in quite a while, so it will be good to see something from her,” Jarrett said.
One of the books Cropper Egerton suggests adding to your “to be read” pile is this work of historical fiction. The narrative follows what happens to two siblings after their mother dies and leaves them, as their inheritance, a traditional Caribbean black cake made from a family recipe. The siblings begin an exploration of their mother’s history, piecing together her life in a journey that brings them closer. “They find out so much about their mother, their family, and they are at odds against each other so it brings them back together,” Cropper Egerton said.
If you’re looking for some perceptive nonfiction composed with fun and wit, Flynn recommends this new book. In it, Klosterman turns his attention to the 90s, examining the era with a bird’s eye view. “He talks about TV and music and film and sports, politics,” Flynn said. “And I’m sure he does it in his clever, witty way, with an eye for humor and irony as well. So that one is going to be really fun.”
The sequel to “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” isn’t to be missed, according to Cropper Egerton. Often described as an African “Game of Thrones,” the latest installment of James’s Dark Star trilogy is told from the perspective of Sogolon the Moon Witch, who refuses to bow to any man across a century-long feud. “It talks about power, personality,” Cropper Egerton said. “It talks about sexism. There’s just so many different layers.”
The new work of fiction by the author of “The Buddha in the Attic” and “When the Emperor Was Divine” is another example of Otsuka’s ability to write short, beautifully spare novels, Hess said. The story follows a group of people whose lives intersect at the public pool where they swim laps and what happens when a crack in the pool forces the facility’s closure. One of the swimmers is a woman who is on the verge of dementia and becomes lost with the pool’s closure. “Her daughter comes in sort of too late and they have a very hard relationship … So it’s painful, but spare … It’s really beautifully done,” Hess said.
Cass said this novel is another that several staff members at Harvard Book Store are excited about, since it’s been several years since the author’s debut work, “Pond.” The new story follows a young woman, who has a job as a checkout clerk and is learning to write. “[She] is sort of learning how to turn her life, turn her observations about life into stories, while also sort of figuring out how to live in the world,” Cass said.
Jarrett said this novel is another to add to the list in 2022. The story, inspired by the 2017 fall of Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe, is about the demise of an oppressive regime and the chaos of revolution, presented in an “uncannily recognizable anthropomorphic allegory,” Jarrett said. “In her bold, vividly imagined novel, animal voices call out the dangerous absurdity of contemporary global politics,” Jarrett said. “So it’s a totally original rendering of the illusory and transient character of power.”
If nonfiction is more your tempo, Jarrett said to consider this new book by Kayyem, a local author who is a frequent commentator in the media due to her expertise organizing governmental responses to crises and disasters. She served as assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs at the Department of Homeland Security in the Obama administration and currently is a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. “In this new [book], she lays the groundwork for a new approach to dealing with an inevitable disaster before it hits, using anecdotal and real life examples she applies her seven steps for getting ahead of catastrophe,” Jarrett said.
In Cain’s last book, “Quiet,” she examined the idea that introverts may have more to say than society gives them credit for. In her new work of nonfiction, the author turns her attention to talking about grief and sorrow and how those experiences are useful to our lives, Flynn said. “She does a great job of turning her eye to something and flipping on its head … how those terrible times of grief can end up opening up our worlds to something more,” she said.
Fans of “A Visit from the Goon Squad” will not want to miss this new novel, Hess said. In the new book, Egan has taken a few of the minor character’s from her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and made them into the main characters. The story centers around a tech tycoon who creates a new technology “Own Your Unconscious,” which gives people access to every memory they’ve ever had and the ability to share their memories in exchange for those belonging to others. “Everyone, ironically, is looking for and desperately longing for real connection but using this fake way of doing it,” Hess said. The story delves into the ramifications and “how, as we know, certain tech giants or certain people can become so all-empowered, so just all powerful,” Hess said.
Cass said this heist novel, based on the true story of Chinese artwork that was disappearing from Western art museums, is a fun read to look forward to. “It’s about colonization of art and repatriation of art and all of those issues, but it also sounds like it’s just going to be a really fun heist novel,” she said. “And a lot of it is also set in Boston and Cambridge, so I think that will have a lot of local interest, too.”
Readers of St. John Mandel’s previous books will find this new novel of “light dystopia” a delight and those who haven’t read her work before will also “highly enjoy it,” Flynn said. The story is set in the past, the present, future, and further future, and includes some Easter eggs from “The Glass Hotel” and “Station Eleven.” “Her writing is amazing; it’s quietly devastating,” Flynn said. “This book does include a pandemic, so there’s this visceral reaction to that since we’re experiencing that ourselves. But she processes it in such an interesting way, and it was such a delight to read, even while being slightly sad and depressing. But the writing is just exquisite.”
Both Jarrett and Hess say this poetry collection, Vuong’s second, should be on your radar in 2022. In it, Vuong grapples with his grief following his mother’s death and shifts through themes similar to those captured in his bestselling novel “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.” “Personal loss, the meaning of family, and the cost of being the product of an American war in America,” Jarrett said. “The poetry is just incredible and so moving,” Hess said. “Anyone can read it and cull from it what they need from it at that time, which I love because it really speaks to so many people across many aspects of life.”
If you’re looking for an uplifting read, Jarret recommends this forthcoming memoir. In it, Ephron, a bestselling novelist and screenwriter, delves into losing her sister, Nora Ephron, and husband, Jerry, in the space of a few years. In her grieving process, she wrote an op-ed for The New York Times, which caught the eye of a man named Peter, who was recently widowed himself. Now both in their 70s, he and Ephron had dated 50 years earlier. “When she wrote this op-ed it precipitated them exchanging emails and then they finally met and a whirlwind romance ensued and they ended up getting married,” Jarrett said. “It was Ephron’s second chance at love. It is a fun and rewarding read.”
This novel is “pure delight” and quirky fun, according to Flynn. The narrative follows a young woman who returns to her small New Hampshire town from California. The “golden child” in her family, she returns to a family in disarray and as a medical school dropout. Her father has a degenerative disease that is causing him cognitive and physical issues, her brother is in recovery for addiction, and her mother is “kind of checking out,” Flynn said. “She’s coming back to this crazy scenario and trying to put the pieces together,” she said. “Meanwhile, she needs her own pieces put together. It’s a bit of a mystery as well. Her best friend has gone missing. So there’s this thread of mystery that you’re trying to figure out where she went.”
Griffith is a beloved author by staff at Harvard Book Store, and Cass said everyone is excited about her new novella, a queer fantasy retelling of the legend of King Arthur. “It sits in this space that’s really popular right now of retelling ancient stories, ancient tales, ancient myths for modern audiences,” Cass said. “But Nicola Griffith is a really singular writer … and she also is sort of a pioneer of crip lit. So she’s sort of got all these unique takes on the world. So I think that’s going to be a really interesting book.”
Cropper Egerton said this memoir by the award-winning actress is one she can’t wait for. In it, Davis delves into her life and career starting with her childhood in Rhode Island to the barriers she’s broken in Hollywood. “She’s very honest, she’s very open … So it just chronicles her journey and talks about her story at the beginning, where she started and where she’s at now,” Cropper Egerton said. “And I think it’s a phenomenal story of her.”
Editor’s note: John Henry, who owns Boston Globe Media Partners, is also a part-owner of Harvard Book Store.
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