New Releases | April 11, 2023
April 11, 2023
Excellent new books are brought into the world every single week. Here at Porchlight, we track them all and elevate four new releases we are excited about as they hit bookstore shelves on Tuesday morning.
The books are chosen by Porchlight's Managing Director, Sally Haldorson, and the marketing team: Dylan Schleicher, Gabbi Cisneros, and Jasmine Gonzalez. (Book descriptions are provided by the publisher unless otherwise noted.) This week, our choices are:
Jasmine's pick: Goodbye, Perfect: How to Stop Pleasing, Proving, and Pushing for Others… and Live For Yourself by Homaira Kabir, Simple Truths
Why are so many competent women afraid to take risks or speak up in the workplace?
With expert coach and leader Homaira Kabir’s empathetic voice, Goodbye, Perfect is the must-read book for women who are driven by success but also by their need for approval. The hard-fought battle for women's empowerment has stalled and the solution lies in building optimal confidence. Including several examples of traps women fall into as well as tips and tricks to break free from these toxic mindsets, Goodbye, Perfect smashes fragile confidence and empowers women to embrace their own success.
Gabbi's pick; The Key to Creativity: The Science Behind Ideas and How Daydreaming Can Change the World by Hilde Østby, translated by Matt Bagguley, Greystone Books
Author and journalist Hilde Østby was cycling to work one day when she crashed head-first into a stone bridge. At the hospital, she was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and prescribed rest and relaxation. But her brain was anything but restful: ideas for new writing projects popped into her head at a frenzied pace. Never before had she had so many 'aha' moments. But at the same time, simple tasks like walking through an airport felt impossible. Had the concussion made her—like the stereotype of the tortured artist—more creative but less able to function in society? Or was there something else at play? What makes a person creative, anyway?
In The Key to Creativity, Østby takes readers on a deep-dive into why we are creative and what conditions must be present in order for us to make our best work: whether that be a painting, a piece of writing, or simply a good email. Using characters from Alice in Wonderland for inspiration, Østby investigates why we have ideas that seemingly come out of nowhere, like the Cheshire Cat, and how we can quiet our inner critic, like the rule-obsessed Queen of Hearts. Along the way, she speaks with artists of all stripes and interviews psychiatrists and neurologists who specialize in understanding what happens in the brain when we are at our most creative. She discovers that having a tortured and lonely existence isn't necessarily conducive to producing great art—and that being able to complete a task, on time, and according to your and others' expectations, is as important as being able to think outside the box.
Østby soon learns that she needs to make changes in her own life to recover from her brain injury and to give structure and life to her ideas. This engaging and groundbreaking book debunks the myth that you need to be a genius in order to be an artist or inventor. All you need is an idea and the tools to make your creative dream come true.
Dylan's pick: A Kidnapped West: The Tragedy of Central Europe by Milan Kundera, translated by Linda Asher, Harper
Milan Kundera’s early nonfiction work feels especially resonant in our own time. In these pieces, Kundera pleads the case of the “small nations” of Europe who, by culture, are Western with deep roots in Europe, despite Russia imposing its own Communist political regimes in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Ukraine, and elsewhere. Kundera warns that the real tragedy here is not Russia but Europe, whose own identity and culture are directly challenged and threatened in a way that could lead to their destruction. He is sounding the alarm, which chimes loud and clear in our own twenty-first century.
The 1983 essay translated by Edmund White (“The Tragedy of Central Europe”), and the 1967 lecture delivered to the Czech Writers’ Union in the middle of the Prague Spring by the young Milan Kundera (“Literature and the Small Nations”), translated for the first time by Linda Asher, are both written in a voice that is at once personal, vehement, and anguished. Here, Kundera appears already as one of our great European writers and truly our contemporary. Each piece is prefaced by a short presentation by French historian Pierre Nora and Czech-born French political scientist Jacques Rupnik.
Sally's pick: You Could Make This Place Beautiful: A Memoir by Maggie Smith, Atria/One Signal Publishers
“Life, like a poem, is a series of choices.”
In her memoir You Could Make This Place Beautiful, poet Maggie Smith explores the disintegration of her marriage and her renewed commitment to herself in lyrical vignettes that shine, hard and clear as jewels. The book begins with one woman’s personal, particular heartbreak, but its circles widen into a reckoning with contemporary womanhood, traditional gender roles, and the power dynamics that persist even in many progressive homes. With the spirit of self-inquiry and empathy she’s known for, Smith interweaves snapshots of a life with meditations on secrets, anger, forgiveness, and narrative itself. The power of these pieces is cumulative: page after page, they build into a larger interrogation of family, work, and patriarchy.
You Could Make This Place Beautiful, like the work of Deborah Levy, Rachel Cusk, and Gina Frangello, is an unflinching look at what it means to live and write our own lives. It is a story about a mother’s fierce and constant love for her children, and a woman’s love and regard for herself. Above all, this memoir is an argument for possibility. With a poet’s attention to language and an innovative approach to the genre, Smith reveals how, in the aftermath of loss, we can discover our power and make something new. Something beautiful.
WHAT WE'VE BEEN READING AT HOME
Just read this new book out by Jessa Maxwell. With murderous shenanigans set against a televised baking competition, this one is full of false identities, corrupt colleges, contestants who will stop at nothing to win and a very mysterious and spooky extra floor of the hosting house that holds the secret to everything! —Roy Normington, Senior Customer Service Specialist