New Releases

April 16, 2024

April 16, 2024


Discovering your next great read just got easier with our weekly selection of four new releases.

Finding the right book at the right time can transform your life or your organization. We help you discover your next great read by showcasing four recently released titles each week.

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: Mastery: How Learning Transforms Our Brains, Minds, and Bodies by Arturo E. Hernandez, Ph.D., Prometheus

To the outsider, an expert seems as if they are doing everything effortlessly. A master chess player, an expert golfer, and a prolific writer seem to be able to quickly hone in on what needs to be done and execute flawlessly over and over again. How do we master new skills? How do our brains and bodies transform performance from novice to expert? In Mastery, Arturo E. Hernandez shows that new skills are not built but rather bloom from the combination and recombination of small parts that come to represent a new whole.

The process by which smaller things are blended over and over again is one that is not just restricted to high-level experts. Uniting the latest research findings from a cross-section of disciplines and case studies with compelling storytelling, Mastery shows readers how the blooming of abilities can work in their favor and lead them to achieve much more than they thought was possible. Whether mastering a new language, learning to play a musical instrument, improving your tennis serve, or sharpening your memory, Hernandez teaches readers how to take advantage of our adaptability and open our minds to their fullest potential. Rather than hyperfocus and overspecialization, moving our focus from rigid perfection to a form of flexible adaptation can lead to unexpected improvement. This approach to skill sheds light on how to better harness our talents so that we can accomplish things that are seemingly out of reach. 

For anyone looking to learn a new skill, teach someone else to do the same, or to better understand how our brains evolve and excel, this fascinating tour of cognition will reveal the path to surprising potential.


Gabbi’s pick: The Mother Artist: Portraits of Ambition, Limitation, and Creativity by Catherine Ricketts, Broadleaf Books

Few women artists feature prominently in the history of art, and even fewer who are mothers. How are motherhood and artmaking at play and at odds in the lives of women? What can we learn about ambition, limitation, and creativity from women who persist in doing both?

Forged in the stress of early motherhood, The Mother Artist explores the fraught yet generative ties between caregiving and creative practice. As a young mother working at a museum, essayist Catherine Ricketts began asking questions about the making of motherhood and the making of art. Now, with incantatory prose and an intuitive gaze, she twines intimate meditations on parenthood with studies of the work and lives of painters, writers, dancers, musicians, and other creatives. Ricketts takes readers through the studios of mother artists, placing us in the company of women from the past and the present who persevere in both art and caregiving. We encounter Senga Nengudi's sculptures, which celebrate the pregnant body, and Toni Morrison's powerful writing on childbirth. We behold Joan Didion's meditations on maternal grief and Alice Neel's arresting portraits of mothers and babies. And we observe the ambition of sculptor Ruth Asawa, the activism of printmaker Elizabeth Catlett, and the constancy of writer Madeleine L'Engle. The Mother Artist welcomes us into a community of creatives and includes full-color images of their work.

Part memoir, part biography, and part inquiry into the visual, literary, and performing arts, The Mother Artist contends that a brutal world needs art made by those who have cared for the vulnerable. This book isfor mothers who aspire to make art, anyone eager to discover the stories of visionary women, and all who long for a revolution of tenderness.


Dylan’s pick: Other People’s Words: Friendship, Loss, and the Conversations That Never End by Lissa Soep, Spiegel & Grau 

In their twenties, Lissa Soep and her boyfriend forged deep friendships with two other couples—Mercy and Christine; and Emily and Jonnie—until, decades later, Jonnie died suddenly, in an accident, and Christine passed away after a mysterious illness. Christine had been a writer, Jonnie a storyteller. Lissa couldn’t imagine a world without their letters, postcards, texts—a world without their voices. Then she found comfort in a surprising place. As a graduate student, she had studied the philosophy of the Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin, who wrote about the many voices that can echo through a single person’s speech. Suddenly, Bakhtin’s theory that our language is “filled to overflowing with other people’s words” came to life.  Lissa began hearing Jonnie and Christine when least expected. In a conversation with Emily, a familiar phrase was spoken, and suddenly, there was Jonnie, with his riotous laugh, vibrant in her mind. Mercy recited an Adrienne Rich poem in just the way Christine used to and, for a moment, Christine was with them in the room.

Other People’s Words shows us how we carry within us the language of loved ones who are gone, and how their words can be portals to other times and places. Language—as with love—is boundless, and Other People’s Words is an intimate, original, and profoundly generous look at its power to nurture life amid the wreckage of grief. Dialogues do not end when a friendship or person is gone; instead, they accrue new layers of meaning, showing how the conversations we share with those we love continue after them, and will continue after us.

Sally’s pick: Unrooted: Botany, Motherhood, and the Fight to Save an Old Science by Erin Zimmerman, Melville House

Growing up in rural Ontario, Erin Zimmerman became fascinated with plants—an obsession that led to a life in academia as a professional botanist. But as her career choices narrowed in the face of failing institutions and subtle, but ubiquitous, sexism, Zimmerman began to doubt herself.

Unrooted: Botany, Motherhood, and the Fight to Save an Old Science is a scientist’s memoir, a glimpse into the ordinary life of someone in a fascinating field. This is a memoir about plants, about looking at the world with wonder, and about what it means to be a woman in academia—an environment that pushes out mothers and those with any outside responsibilities. Zimmerman delves into her experiences as a new mom, her decision to leave her position in post-graduate research, and how she found a new way to stay in the field she loves.

She also explores botany as a “dying science” worth fighting for. While still an undergrad, Zimmerman’s university started the process of closing the Botany Department, a sign of waning funding for her beloved science. Still, she argues for its continuation, not only because we have at least 100,000 plant species yet to be discovered, but because an understanding of botany is crucial in the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss.

Zimmerman is also a botanical illustrator and will provide 8 original illustrations for the book.


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