This week, Maurice Sendak's final book, body snatchers, and two books of poetry. Plus: a Woody Guthrie novel edited by Johnny Depp.
A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan (Tor) – Complete with gorgeous illustrations, this novel takes the form of protagonist Isabella’s memoir of her youthful adventures, in a world where fantastical creatures roam. A rich and absorbing tale of discovery. Check out Brennan’s exploration of the novel’s dragons.
City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster (HarperTeen) - Forster makes a strong debut with a fresh South Asian–inspired fantasy/mystery crossover. Abandoned as a child, 16-year-old Nisha Arvi has grown up within the private walled estate known as the City of a Thousand Dolls. There, orphaned or unwanted girls are raised in six specialized houses, and when they start to go missing, Nisha tries to get to the bottom of it.
Schroder by Amity Gaige (Hachette/Twelve) - Written as an apology (in both the Socratic and emotional sense) to the narrator’s ex-wife as he awaits trial for taking his six-year-old daughter on an unsanctioned road trip, this novel is quiet and deeply introspective.
Out of the Black Land by Kerry Greenwood (Poisoned Pen) – In this gripping thriller set in ancient Egypt, the new pharaoh, Akhnaten, holds the heretical religious view that there’s only one god, and acts to spread this idea by banning the worship of the traditional deities. Two charismatic figures—Ptah-hotep, plucked from obscurity to become the Great Royal Scribe and Mutnodjme, Akhnaten’s sister-in-law—display a gift for surviving palace intrigue.
House of Earth by Woody Guthrie (Harper) - Guthrie’s multifaceted legacy lives on (and combines beautifully with his affecting 1930 autobiography Bound for Glory) with this posthumous Texas plains novel set during the Dust Bowl era. Includes a preface by Johnny Depp, who polished the rough manuscript.
The Lady and Her Monsters: A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley’s Masterpiece by Roseanne Montillo (Morrow) - A macabre romp through 18th and 19th century Europe, Montillo’s debut illuminates the circumstances and inspiration behind one of gothic literature’s most notorious tales. Grim body snatchers, cadaver-carving surgeons, and nefarious alchemists litter the pages.
Wise Men by Stuart Nadler (Little, Brown/Reagan Arthur) - Nadler’s portrait of doomed romance, along with dissections of wealth and success worthy of John Cheever, are brilliantly related in this epic account of lawyer Arthur Wise’s ascent in the post-WWII era through the eyes of his son, Hilly.
Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition by David Nirenberg (Norton) - Based on a decade of exhaustive research, this book explores “anti-Judaism” as an intellectual current (as opposed to its overtly political and social analogue, anti-Semitism) from ancient Egypt through to the Frankfurt School and just after the Holocaust. Nirenberg contends that anti-Judaism is “one of the basic tools with which [Western thought] was constructed.”
Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry edited by Charles Henry Rowell (Norton) - This important if sprawling collection might be the first to give such a full and various account of its subject: African-American poets since the 1960s, and especially since the 1980s, in much of their ambitiously pluralist, confident, and energetic variety.
My Brother’s Book by Maurice Sendak (HarperCollins/di Capua) – In Sendak’s final work, a series of small, jewel-like watercolors shows two brothers, lithe as acrobats, floating through a desolate world of murky forests and starry skies. The brothers' names are Jack and Guy. Sendak's beloved older brother, Jack, the brother of the title, died in 1995.
Incarnadine by Mary Szybist (Graywolf) - In this highly anticipated second book from Szybist, love poetry and poetry of religious faith blend and blur into one transcendent, humbled substance, in which a beloved is asked, “Just for this evening, won’t you put me before you/ until I’m far enough away you can/ believe in me?” This is essential poetry.
Wash by Margaret Wrinkle (Atlantic Monthly) - In this deeply researched, deeply felt debut novel, Wrinkle aims a sure pen at a crucial moment following America’s War of Independence when the founding fathers yearned to free the country from the tyranny of slavery. At the center of this story stands Revolutionary War veteran Gen. James Richardson and his slave, Wash.