Unfortunately, your access has now expired. But there’s good news—by subscribing today, you will receive 22 issues of Booklist magazine, 4 issues of Book Links, and single-login access to Booklist Online and over 200,000 reviews.
Your access to Booklist Online has expired. If you still subscribe to the print magazine, please proceed to your profile page and check your subscriber number against a current magazine mailing label. (If your print subscription has lapsed, you will need to renew.)
Free Trial, activate profile, or subscribe
The Booklist Review of the Day, posted to the top of the Booklist Online home page each day of the week, spotlights exceptional upcoming titles that are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.
The Reviews of the Week, posted each Monday, offers a comprehensive look at the previous week’s awardees—while also piquing interest for the week ahead. Catch up on the week of January 3 below, then dive into the week at hand with today’s Review of the Day, Black Ballerinas: My Journey to Our Legacy, by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Salena Barnes. For more Reviews of the Week and other exciting lists check out the always freely available Booklist Blog.
Monday, January 3
★ The Swimmers, by Julie Otsuka
Award-winning, best-selling Otsuka is averaging one book per decade, making each exquisite title exponentially more precious. Here she creates a stupendous collage of small moments that results in an extraordinary examination of the fragility of quotidian human relationships. Initially set in an underground pool, it voices a collective “we” that reports the comings and goings of the titular swimmers, regulars who uphold all regulations, who have established their schedules, lanes, and paces with comforting familiarity. A crack in the pool’s bottom gets noticed, examined, almost forgotten until it causes immutable upheaval. Some never swim again—most notably Alice, for whom the water was an essential haven: “Up there . . . I’m just another little old lady. But down here, at the pool, I’m myself.” Alice, “a retired lab technician now in the early stages of dementia,” is the first of Otsuka’s few characters identified by name.
Tuesday, January 4
★ African Town, by Irene Latham and Charles Waters
Inspired by the true story of the last American slave ship, African Town is an epic novel in verse told from multiple first-person points of view, each one written in a different verse form. The story begins in 1860 when Timothy Meaher, a wealthy Alabama riverboat captain, makes a $1,000 wager that he can illegally smuggle a ship’s worth of enslaved workers back to Mobile without the authorities’ knowledge. The action then moves to the West African kingdom of Dahomey, where readers meet 19-year-old Kossola, the story’s protagonist, who will become one of 110 Africans kidnapped and sold to Meaher’s representative. After a hideously arduous 40-day voyage aboard the ship Clotilda, the Africans arrive clandestinely in Alabama, where they are sold into slavery. The novel then follows the intertwined lives of Kossola and some half-dozen others, all of whom were “passengers” on the Clotilda.
Wednesday, January 5
★ The Paris Bookseller, by Kerri Maher
Anyone fascinated by Paris in the 1920s and Hemingway’s Lost Generation will be familiar with Shakespeare and Company and by extension, its founder, Sylvia Beach. Maher (The Girl in White Gloves, 2020) allows Beach to tell her own story, not only of founding the famous bookstore and lending library but also of publishing the original edition of James Joyce’s controversial novel Ulysses, which was initially banned in the U.S. for obscenity and spurred various legal battles. While Beach’s store and social life were filled with such luminaries as Hemingway, Joyce, and Pound, Maher’s novel puts the spotlight on Beach and her partner in business and in life, Adrienne Monnier, owner of a French-language bookstore that inspired and then became a close counterpart of Shakespeare and Company.
Thursday, January 6
★ In the Serpent’s Wake, by Rachel Hartman
Continuing the heartfelt journey begun in Hartman’s road-trip fantasy Tess of the Road (2018), Tess finds herself traveling by sea. To save her quigutl friend Pathka, Tess needs to find the Polar Serpent, the last of the mythical World Serpents. She has convinced Countess Margarethe, captain of the Avodendren, to take them in the name of scientific discovery. Their ship isn’t the only one looking for the Polar Serpent, though. The other, helmed reluctantly by dragon Spira on behalf of the Mootseye, seeks to kill the serpent, though another passenger has a secret plan for the flammable pyria on board. Their high-seas race runs headlong into the volatile political situation in the Archipelagos, where myriad Indigenous nations have been subjugated by Ninysh colonizers. Each of Hartman’s nuanced characters—Tess, Margarethe, Jacomo, Spira, and more—grapples imperfectly with the injustices they observe, doing the emotionally difficult work to move from ignorance or denial to acknowledgement and action.
Friday, January 7
★ Violeta, by Isabel Allende
Allende has crafted many unique heroines of passionate, resilient spirit in her internationally best-selling historical novels, and Violeta Del Valle is no exception. Born during the Spanish flu outbreak in an unnamed South American country (clearly based on Chile) in 1920, Violeta addresses her memoir to a beloved relative, Camilo, during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. She spins a captivating, cinematic tale of her century-long existence, intertwining large-scale political and social transformations with reflections on her life. The spoiled daughter in a family with five older sons, Violeta watches the Del Valles’ finances tumble into ruin during the Depression. After losing their illustrious home, her family finds refuge in a remote southern farming town with many Indigenous residents and German and French immigrants. This supposed exile becomes an enriching experience for Violeta.
Free Trial, activate profile, or subscribe