Here are some great books that should be on our reading lists for this month!

Cherry, by Nico Walker

Writing from prison, where the former Iraq War medic was sent for a robbery he committed to feed his heroin habit, Walker connects the dots of Macy’s social disasters through fiction, complementing the work of reporters with a ground-level sense of how life can seem to fall apart by accident. One of the story’s many heartbreaks is the sense that the narrator, like Walker, was a man of great potential whose weaknesses overwhelmed him in a country where institutions — the armed forces, the VA, the education system — enabled or even accelerated his downfall.

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The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life, by David Quammen 

The most powerful scientific theories have a way fossilizing in the public imagination — like those scaly dinosaurs in the Jurassic franchise,  unaware that we’ve learned they had feathers. Or Darwin’s idea of evolution as a neatly branching tree, which Quammen debunks in a detailed but never-boring genetic tour, uncovering something more like a knotty web. In patient storytelling peppered with vivid profiles, he explains how genes can cross between unrelated organisms that barely interact, much less mate. It turns out we have more parents than mom and dad.

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Severance, by Ling Ma 

It’s a zombie novel with a message, guys!

The dilemma of a corporate drone dreaming of a better life is familiar raw material for fiction. Throw in a plague that turns residents of Manhattan into a new kind of zombie — drones forever repeating a rote task from their previous lives — and things get interesting. Candace Chen, an aspiring photographer who works for a Bible-packaging publisher, hits the road with some still-human but troublesome survivors, in a suspenseful adventure that doubles as a sly critique of late capitalism.

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Before She Sleeps, by Bina Shah

In the future, Earth has been devastated by nuclear war and epidemics that have left the human population at low levels. Women have become a commodity to help repopulate society, forced to take multiple husbands and have as many children as possible. In Green City, the capital of the Sub-West Asia Region (formerly Pakistan and Iran), a group of women form their own rebelling collective — the Panah — where they avoid sex and offer up something different: comfort and intimacy to the high-ranking men of society. But when one of the rebels winds up in a hospital, both the Panah and the elites of Green City will find themselves in peril.

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My Absolute Darling, by Gabriel Tallent

In his ferocious, heart-breaking first novel, Tallent deciphers the twisted relationship between Turtle Alveston and her rugged loner father, Martin. The universe the two have shared on California’s Mendocino coast since her mother died grows increasingly claustrophobic as Turtle reaches her early teens and finds herself attracted to Jacob, a local boy. She’s been trained by her dad to hunt, fish, handle weapons and protect herself during catastrophic circumstances. She uses these talents to save herself (and Jacob) when they are carried away by an undertow and stranded on a coastal island, and later, when she realises the father she has always loved will never let her go.

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Akhil was raised by movies, television, and the internet. A never-ending source of absolutely useless information. He would tell you more, but he was distracted by something shiny