New books to read in January


December 30, 2022

Notable new releases

compiled by Sally Brewster

Vintage Contemporaries by Dan Kois

It’s 1991. Em moved to New York City for excitement and possibility, but the big city isn’t quite what she thought it would be. Working as a literary agent’s assistant, she’s down to her last $19 but has made two close friends: Emily, a firebrand theater director living in a Lower East Side squat, and Lucy, a middle-aged novelist and single mom. Em’s life revolves around these two wildly different women and their vividly disparate yet equally assured views of art and the world. But who is Em, and what does she want to become?

It’s 2004. Em is now Emily, a successful book editor, happily married and barely coping with the challenges of a new baby. And suddenly Lucy and Emily return to her life: Her old friend Lucy’s posthumous book needs a publisher, and her ex-friend Emily wants to rekindle their relationship. As they did once before, these two women — one dead, one very alive — force Emily to reckon with her decisions, her failures and what kind of creative life she wants to lead.

Decent People by De’Shawn Charles Winslow

In the still segregated town of West Mills, N.C., in 1976, three enigmatic siblings are found shot to death in their home. The people of West Mills — on both sides of the canal that serves as the town’s color line — are in a frenzy of finger-pointing, gossip and wonder. The crime is the first reported murder in the area in decades, but the white authorities don’t seem to have any interest in solving the case. Fortunately, one person is determined to do more than talk. Miss Josephine Wright has just moved back to West Mills from New York City to retire and marry a childhood sweetheart, Olympus “Lymp” Seymore. When she discovers the murder victims are Lymp’s half-siblings, and that Lymp is one of West Mills’ leading suspects, she sets out to prove his innocence. But as Jo investigates those who might know the most about the deaths, she discovers more secrets than she’d ever imagined, and a host of cover-ups — from medical misuse to illicit affairs — that could upend the reputations of many.

Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia by David Graeber

Pirates have long lived in the realm of romance and fantasy, symbolizing risk, lawlessness and radical visions of freedom. But at the root of this mythology is a rich history of pirate societies — vibrant, imaginative experiments in self-governance and alternative social formations at the edges of the European empire. In graduate school, David Graeber conducted ethnographic field research in Madagascar for his doctoral thesis on the island’s politics and history of slavery and magic. During this time, he encountered the Zana-Malata, an ethnic group of mixed descendants of the many pirates who settled on the island at the beginning of the 18th century. In this book, Graeber considers how the proto-democratic, even libertarian, practices of the Zana-Malata came to shape the Enlightenment project defined for too long as distinctly European. He illuminates the non-European origins of what we consider to be “Western” thought and endeavors to recover forgotten forms of social and political order that gesture toward new, hopeful possibilities for the future.

Hidden Mountains: Survival and Reckoning After a Climb Gone Wrong by Michael Wejchert

In 2018, two couples set out on a climbing expedition to Alaska’s Hidden Mountains, one of the last wild ranges in North America. A rarity in modern climbing, the peaks were nearly unexplored and untouched, a place where few people had ever visited and granite spires still awaited first ascents. Inspired by generations of daring alpinists before them, the four climbers were compelled to strike out into uncharted territory themselves. This trip would be the culmination of years of climbing together, promising to test the foursome’s skill and dedication to the sport. But as the climbers would soon discover, no amount of preparation can account for the unknowns of true wilderness. As they neared the top of an unclimbed peak, a rockfall grievously injured one of the climbers, leaving him stranded and in critical condition. Over the course of the next nine hours, the other three climbers worked to reach their companion. What followed was a pulse-pounding rescue attempt by Alaska’s elite Pararescue team in one of the most remote regions in the country — raising difficult questions about wilderness accessibility, technology’s role in outdoor adventure, and what it means to weigh risk against the siren song of the mountains.  SP

Sally Brewster is the proprietor of Park Road Books. 4139 Park Rd.,

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