SINGAPORE - In this new monthly feature, we pick out 10 books from around the world that have just hit shelves to add to next month's reading pile.
Top Of The Stack
A BRIGHT RAY OF DARKNESS
By Ethan Hawke
Alfred A. Knopf/Paperback/237 pages/$27.95/Available here
"People think unrequited love is heartbreak, but it isn't," says a man in Hollywood actor Ethan Hawke's latest novel. "Unrequited love is a blissful state of melancholy. Watching love die: that's an ornery armour-piercing bullet."
Divorce, despair and longing rear their heads in A Bright Ray Of Darkness, a story of a film actor making his Broadway debut as his marriage collapses.
It is funny, witty and deeply human. Hawke, known for films such as Dead Poets Society (1989), Gattaca (1997) and the Before Sunrise trilogy (1995 to 2013), is also a highly competent writer.
The protagonist of his fifth book is William Harding, who has landed a role as Hotspur in Shakespeare's Henry IV. As he finds his feet on stage, he grapples with his separation from his rock star wife, who left him after he slept with another woman.
HOW TO AVOID A CLIMATE DISASTER
By Bill Gates
Allen Lane/Hardcover/257 pages/$42.80/Available here
The Microsoft co-founder has spent a decade researching climate change and seeking the help of experts in fields from physics to political science.
Here, he sets out what has been touted as a wide-ranging and practical plan for how the world can work towards net zero greenhouse gas emissions in time to avoid total environmental disaster.
By Priyanka Chopra Jonas
Michael Joseph/Paperback/241 pages/$32.10/Available here
The Bollywood star opens up about her childhood in India, her teenage years in the United States and how she skyrocketed to stardom by winning the Miss World beauty pageant in 2000, which became the springboard to her acting career.
NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT THIS
By Patricia Lockwood
Bloomsbury/Paperback/210 pages/$26.95/Available here
A woman known for her viral social media posts opens what she calls "the portal", where people ask each other: "Are we all just going to keep doing this till we die? Are we in hell?"
Lockwood, the author of the acclaimed memoir Priestdaddy (2017), meditates in her debut novel on social media addiction and "the infinite scroll".
By Michael Farris Smith
No Exit Press/Hardcover/320 pages/$24.95/Available here
F. Scott Fitzgerald's beloved classic novel The Great Gatsby (1925) entered the public domain on Jan 1 this year, and straight out of the gate with the spinoffs is Nick, which centres on the original novel's narrator.
Before his fateful move to West Egg, where he meets the magnetic Gatsby, Nick Carraway endures the trenches of World War I, embarks on a doomed Parisian romance and winds up in New Orleans.
THE FOUR WINDS
By Kristin Hannah
Macmillan/Paperback/464 pages/$29.95/Available here
Hannah, the bestselling novelist of historical tearjerkers like The Nightingale (2015), turns her attention to the Dust Bowl, during which the southern plains of the United States were stricken by dust storms and severe drought.
In 1930s Texas, Elsa Martinelli's peaceful farming existence is turned upside down by the drought. When her husband abandons their family overnight, she decides to take her children and work her way west to California.
MY YEAR ABROAD
By Chang-Rae Lee
Riverhead Books/Paperback/478 pages/$29.96/Available here
In his sixth novel, Korean-American author Lee tells the tale of Tiller, a 20-year-old college student from New Jersey, who falls in with larger-than-life Chinese-American entrepreneur Pong Lou and accompanies him on a China junket to peddle a "miracle drink".
He later shacks up with Val, a single mother in a witness protection programme, and helps her son, eight, start a pop-up restaurant.
MY BRILLIANT LIFE
By Kim Ae-ran, translated by Kim Chi-young
Forge/Paperback/203 pages/$21.95/Available here
Kim's 2011 Korean novel about "the youngest parents with the oldest child", which was adapted for film in 2014, gets an English translation.
Areum is 16 years old - the same age his parents were when they had him. He himself has progeria, a disease that has caused him to age rapidly such that his body is that of an 80-year-old's. He has been working on a manuscript of his family's story, which he hopes to present to his parents on his birthday.
THE PLAGUE CYCLE
By Charles Kenny
Scribner/Paperback/320 pages/$25.95/Available here
Kenny, a former World Bank senior economist, reframes human history as a 5,000-year battle against infectious diseases.
He argues that though humanity has extricated itself from the grip of epidemic cycles thanks to technological and medical advancements in the past two centuries, the globalised world is more susceptible than ever to newly emerging plagues, such as the Covid-19 pandemic.
A NET FOR SMALL FISHES
By Lucy Jago
Bloomsbury/Paperback/210 pages/$27.95/Available here
In 1615 Jacobean England, a doctor's widow and the wife of an earl were arrested for their parts in the poisoning of a poet in the Tower of London. This sensational murder trial forms the basis of British biographer Jago's adult fiction debut, which has been pitched as "the Thelma And Louise of the 17th century".
Anne Turner is sent to dress Frances Howard, a distressed teenage countess trapped in an abusive marriage. Their friendship evolves over the years, even as they are forced to take ever greater risks to secure their precarious safety and happiness.