Reviews of the Week with Emma Straub, David Farrier, and More!

Every weekday, we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

Join us in celebrating the very best in upcoming titles, featured in this week’s #ReviewsOfTheWeek. This week’s focus is inspired by our March 1 issue‘s Spotlight on the Environment & Sustainability. Get the facts and enjoy the reads!

Monday, March 2

All Adults Here, by Emma Straub

The sudden death of a frenemy, hit by a school bus, knocks widowed Strick family matriarch Astrid’s own life slightly off course. Her granddaughter, middle-schooler Cecelia, arrives from Brooklyn, escaping friend drama for a school year in Astrid’s small Hudson Valley town. Just in time, it turns out, for Astrid to announce to the whole family that her best friend, Birdie, is much more than that: she is her lover. Porter, Astrid’s daughter, harbors her own exciting secret. As in Straub’s (Modern Lovers, 2016) other novels, the joy is in the setup, and, in a way, it’s all setup. As Astrid gathers the courage to apologize to her oldest son, Elliott, for a long-ago wrong, Elliott’s concerns are altogether elsewhere. As these and other characters in the multigenerational cast confront milestones of many measures, including a sweet arc for Cecelia’s transgender best friend, Straub etches in the comforting, often funny truths readers love her for.

Tuesday, March 3

Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils, by David Farrier

What traces will modern humans, propelled by fossil fuels, nuclear power, and plastic, leave on our planet? A University of Edinburgh English professor inspired by paleontology and poetry, Farrier anchors his imaginative quest for “future fossils” to two discoveries made in May 2013: 850,000-year-old human fossil footprints on the coast of England, and the highest atmospheric level of carbon dioxide “in all of human history.” In search of our “footprints” as we precipitously warm the planet; change the chemical composition of air, oceans, soil, and microbes; raise sea levels, and catalyze a mass extinction, Farrier travels to the endangered Great Barrier Reef, flood-vulnerable Shanghai, an ice-core laboratory, and the Baltic Sea, learning from scientists and absorbing the scenes. His in-the-moment descriptions are precise and vital, but he renders them uniquely evocative and haunting by paralleling current dilemmas with ancient myths, Greek tragedies, literature, and art.

Wednesday, March 4

Oil, by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Jeanette Winter

On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez ran aground off the coast of Alaska, spilling 11 million gallons of oil across 11,000 square miles of ocean. Jonah Winter recounts this incident in simple, straightforward text: thick, hot oil is pumped from deep underground into gigantic pipelines that cross miles of pristine wilderness to a port where it is transferred onto enormous ships. As one tanker glides past icebergs and sea creatures, it wrecks, causing crude oil to gush into the water, killing wildlife and spreading over miles of ocean and shoreline. Jeanette Winter’s simple, uncluttered art depicts both the machinery of the oil industry and the natural beauty of the Alaskan Arctic and northwest reaches of the Pacific, filled with snow, tundra, wildlife, mountains, and icy ocean vistas. Two wordless spreads pause the narrative and allow young readers to fully absorb the leak’s impact.

Thursday, March 5

Tales of Two Planets: Stories of Climate Change and Inequality in a Divided World, edited by John Freeman

Critic, poet, and editor of conscience Freeman presents his third “Tales of Two” anthology, each a leap up in scale from a focus on New York City to Tales of Two Americas (2017) to this gathering of essays, stories, and poems by 35 writers around the world expressing what it feels like to live with the mounting casualties of pollution, extinction, and climate change. Mariana Enriquez tells the story of Riachuelo, a poisoned river in Argentina. Mohammed Hanif contemplates the millions of overlooked Pakistanis displaced by floods. Eritrean refugee Sulaiman Addonia observes: “Refugees and the earth face the same marginalization, the same neglect, the same abuse.” Andri Snær Magnason charts the disappearance of glaciers in Iceland; Anuradha Roy considers the shrinking ice in the Himalayas, the source of water for millions. Futuristic tales by Pitchaya Sudbanthad and Sayaka Murata envision the elite cocooned from environmental ravages. Lauren Groff’s Florida story reckons with wastefulness and the vulnerability of the wild.

Friday, March 6

One Earth: People of Color Protecting Our Planet, by Anuradha Rao

Rao interviews 20 people of color or Indigenous heritage who are working to protect our little, blue planet. The content is neatly sorted into six sections like community involvement, the defense of ancestral lands, and wildlife conservation. One section even goes, without preaching, into sustainable meat-eating practices. There’s something for everyone, whether you want to be an activist at home or an organizer in the community. Even better, Rao exposes the reader to a variety of cultures and bodies of knowledge, such as New Zealand’s Māori, Iran’s nomadic peoples, and the Arctic Indigenous.

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About the Author:

Michael Ruzicka, Office Manager, was raised in suburban Los Angeles, received a BA in Creative Writing/Poetry at UC Santa Cruz, then moved to Birmingham, AL, where he spent five years owning an independent bookstore and earned an MLIS. He has brought his librarian skills to Vanderbilt’s Television News Archive, Battle Ground Academy, The Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Michael is very excited to be a part of Booklist and call Chicago his home.

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