The TNB Book Club

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“Patricia Engel is a wonder; her novels are marvels of exquisite control and profound and delicately evoked feeling. Infinite Country knocked me out with its elegant and lucid deconstruction of yearning, family, belonging, and sacrifice. This is a book that speaks into the present moment with an oracle’s devastating coolness and clarity.” —Lauren Groff, author of Florida and Fates and Furies

Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2021 from Esquire, O, The Oprah Magazine, Elle, GMA, New York Post, Ms. Magazine, The Millions, Electric Literature, Lit Hub, AARP, Refinery29, BuzzFeed, Autostraddle, She Reads, Alma, and more.

I often wonder if we are living the wrong life in the wrong country.

Talia is being held at a correctional facility for adolescent girls in the forested mountains of Colombia after committing an impulsive act of violence that may or may not have been warranted. She urgently needs to get out and get back home to Bogotá, where her father and a plane ticket to the United States are waiting for her. If she misses her flight, she might also miss her chance to finally be reunited with her family in the north.

How this family came to occupy two different countries, two different worlds, comes into focus like twists of a kaleidoscope. We see Talia’s parents, Mauro and Elena, fall in love in a market stall as teenagers against a backdrop of civil war and social unrest. We see them leave Bogotá with their firstborn, Karina, in pursuit of safety and opportunity in the United States on a temporary visa, and we see the births of two more children, Nando and Talia, on American soil. We witness the decisions and indecisions that lead to Mauro’s deportation and the family’s splintering—the costs they’ve all been living with ever since.

Award-winning, internationally acclaimed author Patricia Engel, herself a dual citizen and the daughter of Colombian immigrants, gives voice to all five family members as they navigate the particulars of their respective circumstances. And all the while, the metronome ticks: Will Talia make it to Bogotá in time? And if she does, can she bring herself to trade the solid facts of her father and life in Colombia for the distant vision of her mother and siblings in America?

Rich with Bogotá urban life, steeped in Andean myth, and tense with the daily reality of the undocumented in America, Infinite Country is the story of two countries and one mixed-status family—for whom every triumph is stitched with regret, and every dream pursued bears the weight of a dream deferred.

Available from Amazon Crossing

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The Ardent Swarm reminded me of my time in Tunisia in the years that followed the Jasmine Revolution in 2011. Drawing on real events that took place in the country, the author constructs a revealing allegory about the opposing political forces at work then. For readers who want to know more about the Arab Spring, The Ardent Swarm is a perfect place to begin their journey” —Jake Walles, former U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia

From an award-winning Tunisian author comes a stirring allegory about a country in the aftermath of revolution and the power of a single quest.

Winner of the Prix Comar d’Or and the Prix des Cinq Continents

Sidi lives a hermetic life as a bee whisperer, tending to his beloved “girls” on the outskirts of the desolate North African village of Nawa. He wakes one morning to find that something has attacked one of his beehives, brutally killing every inhabitant. Heartbroken, he soon learns that a mysterious swarm of vicious hornets committed the mass murder—but where did they come from, and how can he stop them? If he is going to unravel this mystery and save his bees from annihilation, Sidi must venture out into the village and then brave the big city and beyond in search of answers.

Along the way, he discovers a country and a people turned upside down by their new post–Arab Spring reality as Islamic fundamentalists seek to influence votes any way they can on the eve of the country’s first democratic elections. To succeed in his quest, and find a glimmer of hope to protect all that he holds dear, Sidi will have to look further than he ever imagined.

In this brilliantly accessible modern-day parable, Yamen Manai uses a masterful blend of humor and drama to reveal what happens in a country shaken by revolutionary change after the world stops watching.

Available from Dzanc Books

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“An incandescent addition to both Native American letters and the literature of the Iraq and Afghan wars.” —Kirkus (starred review)

A hypnotic, brutal, and unstoppable coming-of-age tale―told from inside the shockwaves set off by the Indian boarding schools, exacerbated by a decade and a half spent inside the Armed Forces―exposing a series of inescapable prisons and invisible scars of attempted erasure.

When he learns his father is dying, David Tromblay ponders what will become of the monster’s legacy and picks up a pen to set the story straight.

In sharp and unflinching prose, he recounts his childhood bouncing between his father, who wrestles with anger, alcoholism, and a traumatic brain injury; his grandmother, who survived Indian boarding schools but mistook the corporal punishment she endured for proper child-rearing; and his mother, a part-time waitress, dancer, and locksmith, who hides from David’s father in church basements and the folded-down back seat of her car until winter forces her to abandon her son on his grandmother’s doorstep.

For twelve years, he is beaten, burned, humiliated, locked in closets, lied to, molested, seen and not heard, until his talent for brutal violence meets and exceeds his father’s, granting him an escape.

Years later, David confronts the compounded traumas of his childhood, searching for the domino that fell and forced his family into the cycle of brutality and denial of their own identity.

*If you’ve missed the sign-up deadline for this title, please support independent booksellers and buy your copy here.

Available from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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“Gripping and illuminating . . . At the heart of Te-Ping Chen’s remarkable debut lies a question all too relevant in 21st Century America: What is freedom?” —Jennifer Egan

Gripping and compassionate, Land of Big Numbers traces the journeys of the diverse and legion Chinese people, their history, their government, and how all of that has tumbled—messily, violently, but still beautifully—into the present.

Cutting between clear-eyed realism and tongue-in-cheek magical realism, Chen’s stories coalesce into a portrait of a people striving for openings where mobility is limited. Twins take radically different paths: one becomes a professional gamer, the other a political activist. A woman moves to the city to work at a government call center and is followed by her violent ex-boyfriend. A man is swept into the high-risk, high-reward temptations of China’s volatile stock exchange. And a group of people sit, trapped for no reason, on a subway platform for months, waiting for official permission to leave.

With acute social insight, Te-Ping Chen layers years of experience reporting on the ground in China with incantatory prose in this taut, surprising debut, proving herself both a remarkable cultural critic and an astonishingly accomplished new literary voice.

Available from Rare Bird Books

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Following the shocking death of a teenage boy, Barrett and Amelia are moved to revisit the passing of their own daughter, Edi, which occurred in the same small town nearly a decade earlier. Amelia finds herself caring for the recently deceased boy’s “sort of” girlfriend, who faces constant harassment and accusations from the townsfolk, while Barrett combs through Edi’s self-published fantasy novels in an effort to connect with her. As he reads, an increasingly bizarre wave of incidents crashes down upon the town involving a talking goat, Bigfoot, and a G-Man with alien thought patterns, to name but a few. As the Missouri River slowly floods, and the thin line between fact and fiction is washed away, Barrett and Amelia struggle against the great unknown and search desperately for inner peace. Blending whimsy and wonder with a mix of mayhem and malevolence, Water, Wasted takes readers on a tour of loss, redemption, and the great unknown.

Available from Ig Publishing

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“What a smart, elegant, emotionally honest way to tell the story of a life – by giving us the stories that spiral from one tragic death. Lord the One You Love is Sick is entirely unafraid in its depiction of our most difficult and profound hurdles. A gripping and gorgeous exploration not only of small town connections, but the kind of loss whose wake refuses to subside.”―Nina de Gramont, author, The Last September

A Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2020 Book Preview selection by The Millions

In the contemporary vein of writers like Emily Ruskovich and Stephen Markley, Lord the One You Love is Sick is an explosive debut collection that reveals the tragedies and unspeakable secrets hidden behind a veneer of normalcy in a small North Carolina town.

Gentry’s death from a heroin overdose sends shock waves through his hometown, affecting everyone in different ways. It triggers a mental breakdown in his best friend, Dale, a police officer, as his wife grapples with the burden of her vows in the face of her husband’s disturbing behavior. Meanwhile, Gentry’s bitter mother discovers an unexpected friendship as she struggles to place blame surrounding the death of her oldest son, while her younger son lives in agoraphobic solitude, cut off from the rest of the world. On the outskirts of town, an eight-year old girl and her older sister cope with horrific abuse from their well-respected father. All the while, the patriarchs of the community sit together gossiping at the local diner, certain that the Lord will heal everyone’s sins.

A novel in stories, Lord the One You Love is Sick is a gorgeously written and heartrending work of fiction from an important new voice in the literature of the American South.

Available from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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“Articulate and persuasive…Petersen delivers a cogent explanation of the millennial landscape, incorporating in-depth research, interviews, and her own experiences to define the problems that millennials face as they attempt to live up to high, occasionally near-impossible expectations.” —Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

A BEST BOOK OF THE FALL AS SEEN IN: Apartment Therapy • Book Riot • Business Insider • BuzzFeed • Daily NebraskanEntertainment WeeklyEsquireFortuneHarper’s Bazaar • HelloGiggles • LinkedIn • O MagazineTime Magazine

“[A] razor sharp book of cultural criticism…With blistering prose and all-too vivid reporting, Petersen lays bare the burnout and despair of millennials, while also charting a path to a world where members of her generation can feel as if the boot has been removed from their necks.” —Esquire

“An analytically precise, deeply empathic book about the psychic toll modern capitalism has taken on those shaped by it. Can’t Even is essential to understanding our age, and ourselves.”—Ezra Klein, Vox co-founder and New York Times bestselling author of Why We’re Polarized

An incendiary examination of burnout in millennials—the cultural shifts that got us here, the pressures that sustain it, and the need for drastic change

Do you feel like your life is an endless to-do list? Do you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through Instagram because you’re too exhausted to pick up a book? Are you mired in debt, or feel like you work all the time, or feel pressure to take whatever gives you joy and turn it into a monetizable hustle? Welcome to burnout culture.

While burnout may seem like the default setting for the modern era, in Can’t Even, BuzzFeed culture writer and former academic Anne Helen Petersen argues that burnout is a definitional condition for the millennial generation, born out of distrust in the institutions that have failed us, the unrealistic expectations of the modern workplace, and a sharp uptick in anxiety and hopelessness exacerbated by the constant pressure to “perform” our lives online. The genesis for the book is Petersen’s viral BuzzFeed article on the topic, which has amassed over seven million reads since its publication in January 2019.

Can’t Even goes beyond the original article, as Petersen examines how millennials have arrived at this point of burnout (think: unchecked capitalism and changing labor laws) and examines the phenomenon through a variety of lenses—including how burnout affects the way we work, parent, and socialize—describing its resonance in alarming familiarity. Utilizing a combination of sociohistorical framework, original interviews, and detailed analysis, Can’t Even offers a galvanizing, intimate, and ultimately redemptive look at the lives of this much-maligned generation, and will be required reading for both millennials and the parents and employers trying to understand them.


Available from Red Hen Press

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“Gripping, moving, and vital, Unseen City asks how human life might defy its lifespan—in the throes of love, the conviction of belief, and each person’s mark upon a city that will survive them. For two days, I laughed at Amy Shearn’s wry humor and gasped at her gorgeous sentences; I couldn’t put this brilliant book down until its perfect final line (and I’m haunted still—which is appropriate, I suppose)!” —Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, bestselling author of June and Bittersweet

A multi-generational portrait of New York and the unexpected connections between a lonely Brooklyn librarian, a widower returning to his roots, and a ghost still lingering in a home that was once part of an activist-founded farming settlement.

In a city teeming with stories, how do lost souls find one another? It’s a question Meg Rhys doesn’t think she’s asking. Meg is a self-identified spinster librarian, satisfied with living with her cat, stacks of books, and her dead sister’s ghost in her New York City apartment. Then she becomes obsessed with an intriguing library patron and the haunted house he’s trying to research. The house has its own story to tell too, of love and war, of racism’s fallout and the ghost story that is gentrification, and of Brooklyn before it was Brooklyn. What follows is an exploration of what home is, how we live with loss, who belongs in the city and to whom the city belongs, and the possibilities and power of love.


Available from W.W. Norton

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“Nick Flynn writes like a wicked angel―heartbreaking and challenging yes, but with an undercurrent of comfort that comes from the fact that you can trust this voice. We need this book, now more than ever.” —Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina

A searing memoir from critically acclaimed author Nick Flynn, on how childhood spills into parenthood.

When Nick Flynn was seven years old, his mother set fire to their house. The event loomed large in his imagination for years, but it’s only after having a child of his own that he understands why. He returns with his young daughter to the landscape of his youth, reflecting on how his feral childhood has him still in its reins, and forms his memories into lyrical bedtime stories populated by the both sinister and wounded Mister Mann.

With the spare lyricism and dark irony of his classic, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, Flynn excavates the terrain of his traumatic upbringing and his mother’s suicide. This Is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire unravels the story of the fire that Flynn had to escape, and the ways in which, as an adult, he has carried that fire with him until it threatens to burn down his own house. Here Nick confronts his failings with fierce candor, even as they threaten to tear his family apart. His marriage in crisis, Flynn seeks answers from his therapist, who tells him he has “the ethics of a drowning man.”

This Is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire takes us on the journey of a man struggling to hold himself together in prose that is raw and moving, sharp-edged and wry. Alternating literary analysis and philosophy with intimate memoir, Flynn probes his deepest ethical dilemmas.


Available from Doubleday

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“[A] playful and unflinching debut…This infectious evocation of a young woman’s slackerdom will appeal to fans of Halle Butler and Ottessa Moshfegh, and will make it difficult not to root for the troubled and spirited pizza girl.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Named a most anticipated book of 2020 by Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Marie Claire, Time, People, BuzzFeed, Travel + Leisure, Good Housekeeping, Refinery29, and more.

In the tradition of audacious and wryly funny novels like The Idiot and Convenience Store Woman comes the wildly original coming-of-age story of a pregnant pizza delivery girl who becomes obsessed with one of her customers.

Eighteen years old, pregnant, and working as a pizza delivery girl in suburban Los Angeles, our charmingly dysfunctional heroine is deeply lost and in complete denial about it all. She’s grieving the death of her father (whom she has more in common with than she’d like to admit), avoiding her supportive mom and loving boyfriend, and flagrantly ignoring her future.

Her world is further upended when she becomes obsessed with Jenny, a stay-at-home mother new to the neighborhood, who comes to depend on weekly deliveries of pickled-covered pizzas for her son’s happiness. As one woman looks toward motherhood and the other toward middle age, the relationship between the two begins to blur in strange, complicated, and ultimately heartbreaking ways.

Bold, tender, propulsive, and unexpected in countless ways, Jean Kyoung Frazier’s Pizza Girl is a moving and funny portrait of a flawed, unforgettable young woman as she tries to find her place in the world.


Available from Graywolf Press

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“Diaz’s collection is no doubt one of the most important poetry releases in years, one to applaud for its considerable demonstration of skill, its resistance to dominant perspectives and its light wrought of desire.” —The New York Times Book Review

Natalie Diaz’s highly anticipated follow-up to When My Brother Was an Aztec, winner of an American Book Award

Postcolonial Love Poem is an anthem of desire against erasure. Natalie Diaz’s brilliant second collection demands that every body carried in its pages―bodies of language, land, rivers, suffering brothers, enemies, and lovers―be touched and held as beloveds. Through these poems, the wounds inflicted by America onto an indigenous people are allowed to bloom pleasure and tenderness: “Let me call my anxiety, desire, then. / Let me call it, a garden.” In this new lyrical landscape, the bodies of indigenous, Latinx, black, and brown women are simultaneously the body politic and the body ecstatic. In claiming this autonomy of desire, language is pushed to its dark edges, the astonishing dunefields and forests where pleasure and love are both grief and joy, violence and sensuality.

Diaz defies the conditions from which she writes, a nation whose creation predicated the diminishment and ultimate erasure of bodies like hers and the people she loves: “I am doing my best to not become a museum / of myself. I am doing my best to breathe in and out. // I am begging: Let me be lonely but not invisible.” Postcolonial Love Poem unravels notions of American goodness and creates something more powerful than hope―in it, a future is built, future being a matrix of the choices we make now, and in these poems, Diaz chooses love.


Available from Rare Bird Books

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The Fitzgeralds are buttressed by wealth and privilege, but they are also buffeted by crisis after crisis, many of their own creation. Even so, they live large, in love and in strife, wielding power, combating adversaries and each other. The Good Family Fitzgerald is a saga of money and ambition, crime and the Catholic Church, a sprawling, passionate story shaped against a background of social discord.

Padraic Fitzgerald is the up-from-nothing, aging patriarch whose considerable business interests appear anything but legitimate, but he has bigger problems than law enforcement. A widower, Paddy becomes enmeshed with a young woman who will force him to re-examine his cardinal assumptions. Meanwhile, he has cultivated thorny relationships with his four children, all of whom struggle over the terms of connection with their father. Anthony―oldest son, principled criminal defense attorney, designated prince of the family―and his cherished Francesca are devastated by tragedy. In the aftermath, Frankie comes to play a vital role in Fitzgerald lore. Philip is a charismatic Catholic priest spectacularly torn between his lofty ideals and aspirations and his all-too-human flaws and longings. Matty has wandered aimlessly, but once he finds his purpose, he precipitates turmoil in all quarters. Colleen, the youngest, is a seeker who styles herself the outsider and the conscience of the clan. Her hands are full, as no Fitzgerald is left untested or unscathed, and by the end the whole family, as well as those venturing into their realm, will be stunned into illumination.


Available from Overlook Press

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Starling Days is an exquisite rendering of love, sadness, and misunderstanding.” —The Paris Review

The moving new novel by the author of Harmless Like You, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and NPR Great Read

On their first date, Mina told Oscar that she was bisexual, vegetarian, and on meds. He married her anyhow. A challenge to be met. She had low days, sure, but manageable. But now, maybe not so much . . . Mina is standing on the George Washington Bridge late at night, staring over the edge, when a patrol car drives up. She tries to convince the policeman she’s not about to jump, but he doesn’t believe her. Oscar is called to pick her up.

With the idea of leaving New York for London—a place for Mina “to learn the floorplan of this sadness”—Oscar arranges a move. In London, Mina, a classicist, tries grappling with her mental health issues by making lists. Of WOMEN WHO SURVIVED—Penelope, Psyche, Leda. Iphigenia, but only in one of the tellings. Of things that make her HAPPY—enamel coffee cups. But what else? She at last finds a beam of light in Phoebe, and friendship and attraction blossom until Oscar and Mina’s complicated love is tested.

A gorgeously wrought novel, variously about love, mythology, mental illness, Japanese beer, and the times we need to seek out milder psychological climates, Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s Starling Days—written in exquisite prose rich with lightly ironic empathy—is a complex and compelling work of fiction by a singularly gifted young writer.

Available from Graywolf Press

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“In this outrageous piece of rural noir and pitch-perfect characterization, Unferth recalls Edward Abbey’s The Monkey Wrench Gang with a dose of vegan-minded quirk. This entertaining, satisfying genre turn shows off Unferth’s range, and readers will be delighted by the characters’ earnest crusade.” —Publishers Weekly (starred)

Two auditors for the US egg industry go rogue and conceive a plot to steal a million chickens in the middle of the night—an entire egg farm’s worth of animals. Janey and Cleveland—a spirited former runaway and the officious head of audits—assemble a precarious, quarrelsome team and descend on the farm on a dark spring evening. A series of catastrophes ensues.

Deb Olin Unferth’s wildly inventive but utterly plausible novel is a heist story of a very unusual sort. Swirling with a rich array of voices, Barn 8 takes readers into the minds of these renegades: a farmer’s daughter, a former director of undercover investigations, hundreds of activists, a forest ranger who suddenly comes upon forty thousand hens, and a security guard who is left on an empty farm for years. There are glimpses twenty thousand years into the future to see what chickens might evolve into on our contaminated planet. We hear what hens think happens when they die. In the end the cracked hearts of these indelible characters, their earnest efforts to heal themselves, and their radical actions will lead them to ruin or revelation.

Funny, whimsical, philosophical, and heartbreaking, Barn 8 ultimately asks: What constitutes meaningful action in a world so in need of change? Unferth comes at this question with striking ingenuity, razor-sharp wit, and ferocious passion. Barn 8 is a rare comic-political drama, a tour de force for our time.

Available from Feminist Press

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“A rich, deeply felt novel about family ties, immigration, sexual longing, faith, and desire. Simultaneously raw and luminous.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)

Uprooted from her comfortable life in Bogotá, Colombia, into an ant-infested Miami townhouse, fifteen-year-old Francisca is miserable and friendless in her strange new city. Her alienation grows when her mother is swept up into an evangelical church, replete with Christian salsa, abstinent young dancers, and baptisms for the dead.

But there, Francisca also meets the magnetic Carmen: opinionated and charismatic, head of the youth group, and the pastor’s daughter. As her mother’s mental health deteriorates and her grandmother descends into alcoholism, Francisca falls more and more intensely in love with Carmen. To get closer to her, Francisca turns to Jesus to be saved, even as their relationship hurtles toward a shattering conclusion.