Today is a good day. The apparent apocalypse seems to have retreated from the East Coast, and there are new books. I live. And the new releases I have for you today are a pretty good mix — there’s an engaging murder mystery set in ’70s Texas with a queer protagonist, a unique tale of wooden automaton artisans in late 18th century Indian and France, a romantic Greek retelling, and a darkly magical queer tale of two ambitious girls in early 18th century Venice. There is also a memoir by birder Christian Cooper, who details what it’s been like to explore the natural world as a Black queer man; and an insightful and funny look at our relationship to pop culture.
There is a little something here for everyone.
Loot by Tania James
The poor and talented woodcarver Abbas is 17-years-old when he is recruited by Tipu Sultan, a local ruler in Mysore, to help construct a wooden automaton. The creation is to be of a tiger attacking a British soldier — an obvious metaphor for the British invasion Tipu and others are trying to prevent. Abbas apprentices with French clockmaker Lucien Du Leze for the construction of the piece, learns French, and escapes to France when Mysore falls to the British. In France, he connects with Johanna, Lucien’s daughter, and the two of them make plans to regain the stolen automaton, which now sits in the hands of a British soldier’s widow. With Loot, James fires some well-written shots at all the stolen historical artifacts still sitting in their plunderers’ museums.
Better Living Through Birding: Notes from a Black Man in the Natural World by Christian Cooper
Cooper has lived a life! He broke ground at Marvel comics as the writer who introduced the first queer storylines and has long advocated against racism and homophobia. Once he discovered his love for ornithology, it led him to birding expeditions in the Americas, Africa, and beyond. It was an incident that took place in New York City that put him more in the public eye recently, though — he was the Central Park birder who a white woman called the police on during one of his routine birding excursions in 2020. The video went viral, and while Cooper explores that incident here, he also explores the other avenues of his life that have made him who he is — from the relationships with his father, mother, and grandmother, to his experiences as a Black queer, nerdy kid growing up on Long Island.
The Gulf by Rachel Cochran
It’s in ’70s Parson, Texas when the women’s liberation movement is at its zenith that Lou’s surrogate mother Miss Kate is murdered. At the time, Lou, a 29-year-old woman in the closet, is renovating Miss Kate’s old mansion and mourning the loss of her brother to Vietnam. Once the elderly woman is killed and no one tries to figure out who did it, Lou’s search for the truth becomes muddled when Lou’s ex love and Miss Kate’s daughter Joanna arrives with her eyes set on the house. Secrets about the small town are revealed and revelations had.
Wannabe: Reckonings with the Pop Culture That Shapes Me by Aisha Harris
In nine essays, Harris gives funny and interesting takes on how pop culture has both shaped us and been shaped by us. She covers everything from the Spice Girls to New Girl to Clueless, backing her points with studies and essays by other writers. Anti-Blackness, as well as parenthood, stan culture, and more are explored.
Psyche and Eros by Luna McNamara
We are in our Greek retelling era and I love that for us. Psyche is princess of Mycenae and destined to battle and win against a feared monster. She trains under legendary Atalanta, and once she grows up, goes to meet her fate on top a mountain. What she finds is Eros, who was sent by an angered Aphrodite, and who Psyche becomes intertwined with. But the couple is cursed, and Psyche must reevaluate how she’s been taught to view the world if she is to be happy. McNamara writes interesting characters and fleshes this myth out in a way that adds meaningfully to the current trend of exploring the lives of women in antiquity. Jennifer Saint, author of Ariadne and Elektra, said this book is, “A riotous adventure through the ages of Greek mythology, populated by a cast of vivid, glittering characters. Luna McNamara strikes the perfect note of irreverent humor and furious emotion in this fabulous novel. An absolute joy!”
Maddalena and the Dark by Julia Fine
Two girls fight to realize their dreams in 1717 Venice in this lushly dark and musical novel. Maddalena meets Luisa at a prestigious all-girls school for music after having been sent away by her noble family to avoid scandal. The two get close… Like close close, and Maddelena draws Luisa into her plans to get what she wants despite society’s expectations. Luisa agrees, but has some desires of her own, and, like Maddelana, doesn’t have a problem engaging with the mysteries creatures of the sea to get them. To disastrous effect, obviously.
Other Book Riot New Releases Resources:
- All the Books, our weekly new book releases podcast, where Liberty and a cast of co-hosts talk about eight books out that week that we’ve read and loved.
- The New Books Newsletter, where we send you an email of the books out this week that are getting buzz.
- Finally, if you want the real inside scoop on new releases, you have to check out Book Riot’s New Release Index! That’s where I find 90% of new releases, and you can filter by trending books, Rioters’ picks, and even LGBTQ new releases!