Staff Pick

“When danger approaches—sing to it,” Hempel advises in the opening story of her virtuoso new collection. In the fourteen startling works that follow, her characters face rising oceans, fracking-induced earthquakes, infanticide, animal abuse, infidelity, and the original evils of snakes and deception. In one piece Hempel shows how we can contain the threats of both a violent history and a frightening future by turning them into museum pieces. In another she focuses on the story—“the one where brutality saves a life”—that a man chooses to tell a woman at a defining point in their relationship. A third uses repetition as a kind of leash on the emotions to recount a heart-wrenching litany of tragedies at a dog shelter. Others trace the emotional fallout of meeting the man responsible for an aunt’s suicide or of learning that the daughter given up for adoption may have suffered an unthinkable fate. Hempel’s work documents the everyday courage of people carrying on their spared lives as best they can before “the proverbial pendulum swings the hell back.” But plot summary can’t convey the true power of this fiction. And Hempel herself isn’t interested in plot; rather, hers is an art of indirection and suggestion, and above all of language so concentrated that she often needs less than a page to convey an entire life.

Sing to It: New Stories Cover Image
ISBN: 9781982109110
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Scribner - March 26th, 2019

Staff Pick

Since discovering in college that “traveling…assuaged something in me,” Lopez has gone all over the world; in his extraordinary memoir he revisits places that have meant the most to him in North and South America, Africa, Australia, and both poles. This is not merely travel writing. As he’s done in previous work, notably his classic Arctic Dreams, Lopez not only writes brilliantly about the natural world, he also reflects on what life really means in particular locales. He considers everything from an anthropological perspective, asking how the earliest native peoples might have experienced their land, sky, and sea, then struggles to do likewise. He combines his insatiable curiosity—which ranges to retracing the paths of Captain Cook and other explorers to joining the Leakeys’ excavations in Africa to helping collect meteorites in Antarctica—with a profoundly moral sensibility, looking to ancient cultures for answers to today’s greatest challenges, especially climate change, violence, and human rights. He deeply believes that the answers are there, and that if we can listen carefully enough to our own and the planet’s past, we can rediscover what the elders of traditional cultures knew: “the wisdom of what works.” If this sounds naïve or superficial, read this book. All Lopez’s ideas are grounded in specific places, and his descriptions of these deserts, seas, jungles, and coasts—and especially his near-mystical experiences while watching flamingos on the Galápagos  and penguins on the Ross Ice Shelf--are heartstoppingly lucid and beautiful, and there’s no better definition of truth than that.

Horizon Cover Image
ISBN: 9780394585826
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Knopf - March 19th, 2019

Staff Pick

The 1986 Chernobyl accident is so far the most serious nuclear disaster in history. Yet more than thirty years later, the extent of its damage isn’t clear: experts disagree about the number of deaths it caused (from thirty-one to hundreds of thousands), about the danger, if any, of low-dose radiation, the extent of the danger zone and need for resettlement, the various vectors through which radiation spreads, and much more. Whatever statements were issued in the early days, Brown shows in her comprehensive study of the incident and its ongoing aftermath, were largely made up for the sake of avoiding panic;  reassuring numbers were not science but “expediency and politics.” Brown, a historian with extensive experience in the former Soviet Union, spent years in archives tracing the complicated chain of official denials and lies. Her report of the massive cover-up is shocking. But it’s her meetings with frustrated doctors, scientists, and especially residents still living in irradiated villages—where the environmental damage is severe and irreversible—that are heartbreaking. And as she did in her excellent Plutopia, she shows that Americans were as invested in defending nuclear power as the Soviets were and used many of the same tactics in downplaying the dangers from atmospheric and underground tests. Few know, for instance, that the radiation released from explosions in Nevada between 1951 and 1992 “dwarfed Chernobyl emissions three times over.” Not just about Chernobyl, this book brings home that since we first split the atom, we’re all living in a contaminated zone.

Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393652512
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - March 12th, 2019