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Caging Curiosity: A song of cages and liberties
Tayo Olajide
Olajide’s complex and sometimes muddled debut tangles the reader in an epic historical tale of war, plague, and the quest for power. As a pandemic ravages the 16th-century West African village of Idumagbo, Adeolu, a studious and scientific medicine man who’s secretly the son of murdered King Oyeade, tries to find both the disease’s cause and its cure. Adherents to various religions argue over which gods should be appeased, and palace intrigue heats up. As King Abiodun bestows favors on his unworthy cronies, his mother, medicine woman Keniola, plots with rebels to depose him, while a movement toward electing kings begins to take shape.

Despite a plot that could rival any epic, this tale of an unlikely prince’s ascent is unfortunately let down by a myriad of missteps. Unclear transitions, awkward exposition (“No one really knew why the animosity between the king and his brother came about,” the narrative states before explaining exactly why), inconsistencies, and dropped side plots present the reader with many challenges. The plot could easily sustain a trilogy; squeezed into only 400 pages, it has little room to breathe, and quick progress through exciting turns of events comes at the expense of setups, payoffs, and detail. The dramatic death of a central character in a battle against an invading army passes almost without notice.

Readers who employ their own imaginations to fill in the gaps will find much to appreciate in the bones of the story, and especially the characters: Keniola becoming a crowd favorite as she reclaims her throne after tragedy, Adeolu demonstrating his single-mindedness and vast intelligence, Abiodun rivaling the great villains of history with his savagery and nepotism. This treacherous and twisty royal family, the appealing setting, and the bold ending hint at Olajide’s potential.

Takeaway: Readers who enjoy royal intrigue where power plays and succession debates outweigh action will most appreciate this 16th-century West African palace drama.

Great for fans of Chinua Achebe’s Arrow of God, Marlon James’s Black Leopard, Red Wolf.

Production grades
Cover: C+
Design and typography: B
Illustrations: -
Editing: C
Marketing copy: C+

When Caregiving Calls: Guidance as You Care for a Parent, Spouse, or Aging Relative
Aaron Blight
With a warm, empathetic tone, home care consultant Blight guides readers down the often-rocky path of caring for a disabled, aging, or dying relative or friend—a road he walked personally after his mother-in-law was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Blight and his wife, Jessica, cared for Jessica’s ailing mother until her death, and then Blight founded his own home care business. In 18 concise chapters, Blight describes how caregiving can gradually take over someone’s life, and he pulls no punches about the increasing emotional turmoil of each increase in responsibility. He views this process as having two possible, equally legitimate outcomes: turning over care to professional caregivers, or “internally resolv[ing] the role identity conflict” that occurs when caregiving occupies the central place in one’s life that used to go to being a spouse, parent, or professional.

Blight wisely takes into account a wide range of family dynamics, including caring for an estranged parent. He also discusses the safety of long-term care facilities in the Covid-19 era. Blight discusses how to balance work, siblings, spouses, and more, and he doesn’t shy away from the uncomfortable issues. In fact, he facilitates such discussions by ending each chapter with open-ended questions. Throughout the book, he counsels readers to explore options and make their own decision.

Blight knows from experience that caregiving often feels overwhelming, and he’s careful to support, encourage, and empower fellow travelers. His repeated reassurance that it’s absolutely fine to hire caregivers or place a loved one in a care facility will soothe those who have been criticized for considering those options. He also points out that being supportively present at the end of another person’s life can bring profound gifts of learning and enlightenment. This outstanding guide will be a lifesaver for anyone saddled with these immense responsibilities and seeking peace of mind.

Takeaway: Members of the “sandwich generation” and others serving as caregivers for loved ones will benefit greatly from this empathetic and informative guide.

Great for fans of Jane Gross’s A Bittersweet Season, Alexis Abramson’s The Caregiver's Survival Handbook, Linda Abbit’s The Conscious Caregiver.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: -
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

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Bishop's Law
Rafael Amadeus Hines
This heart-pounding sequel to Bishop’s War is a wild ride from start to finish. Jamaican-Panamanian American war hero John Bishop, newly retired from the military, is wrestling with the loss of his Uncle Sesa, the betrayal of his Uncle Nestor, and the efforts of his Uncle Gonzalo to turn the Valdez crime family completely legitimate. Bishop finds his retirement short-lived after the president asks him to assemble a team to stop ISIS from attacking New York City. Pivoting between New York’s Lower East Side and the ever-changing location of an ISIS terrorist cell, the novel forces its protagonist to choose among family, love, and duty.

Thrill-seekers will love Hines’s quick-paced dialogue and action scenes, though readers more interested in the relationships and motivations that keep the plot moving may be disappointed. The primary motivation for killing in this book is revenge, and though Hines contextualizes well for readers who missed Bishop’s War, the countless revenge killings in this installment may bewilder new and returning readers alike. Similarly, a major decision made by John’s wife, Maria, doesn’t make sense given what readers know of her character, leading to confusion that undermines the shock of the twist. With six different plot lines, it’s frustrating to have much of the story left to be resolved in a future book.

Where Bishop’s second outing succeeds is in being informative as well as entertaining. Hines breaks down military lingo for the uninitiated and shines a light on bigotry and corruption in both the U.S. Armed Forces and the government. His hero operates under a strict code of honor and sees the potential in all people to help save the day, whether they’re reformed assassins, hardened ex-cons, or simply the newest members of his team. Bishop is a war hero for the 21st century, and thriller fans will enjoy his bloody quest to save the day.

Takeaway: This exhilarating and violent thriller will please readers looking for non-stop action and a tough, honorable protagonist of color.

Great for fans of Walter Mosley, Danny Gardner, Lee Child.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: -
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: B

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The Man on the Rails: An absorbing and contemplative tale about the ravages of war and the need for love.
Rovshan Abdullaoglu
Bringing together history, theology, philosophy, and psychology, Abdullaoglu contemplates the stories of two men attempting suicide on the same train track. Ted, who grew up in New Brunswick, is the product of a less than loving childhood. His life was once idyllic but turned sour with the death of his mother and the remarriage of his father, and another tragedy sealed his fate. Farouk, raised in Saskatchewan, is haunted by events that happened before his birth and his past suicide attempts. As the men await their final moments, they discuss fate, literature, relationships, and the history that led them both to the rails.

Readers interested in exploring religion, notable authors, and the history of the Balkans will find a wealth of information. That knowledge comes at the expense of the dialogue: Ted and Farouk’s discussions feel more like a collection of essays. The philosophy is earnest, but its analysis of free will and predestination is familiar (“No one can ever escape his fate.... We can only act as the universe’s coding instructs us—just like in a computer program”). Scenes showing the men’s individual lives and the lives of their families do more to humanize them, and moments of genuine emotion help to make clichés (the dead mother and the wicked stepmother, the character in a novel who is himself a writer) feel, at times, plausibly real.

The exploration of family dynamics is filled with sincere emotion, specifically during and after the war in Bosnia, from which Farouk’s parents, Serbian journalist Adriana and Bosnian tour guide Amin, flee to Canada. The story of Adriana and her family is truly heartbreaking. Abdullaoglu finds clever and satisfying ways to tie the beginning and the ending together. Readers who persevere through the novel’s more dense sections will find much to appreciate in the historical narrative.

Takeaway: This eclectic mix of philosophical investigation and historical fiction will draw in readers interested in the generational consequences of trauma.

Great for fans of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns.

Production grades
Cover: B-
Design and typography: B
Illustrations: -
Editing: B-
Marketing copy: C

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Betrayal in Blue
C. R. Downing
In this tense, violent series launch set in 1984 Manzanita, Calif., PI Philip “Dancer” Mamba navigates among competing drug gangs and a station full of crooked cops. A pharmaceutical executive who's a secret drug dealer hires Mamba as part of a long-term scheme. The police chief, his volatile mistress, other officers, and a colorful cast of lowlifes have their own hidden motives, and Mamba, a former officer himself, has to tease them out. As he unravels everyone's plots, the criminals attempt to cover their tracks with murder and bribery, and Mamba assembles a team he hopes he can trust to bring justice to Manzanita.

Downing excels at jumping nimbly among multiple points of view, veering between police and criminals as both sides become increasingly desperate to get their way. There are some subplots that don't advance the main plot, leading to confusion and draining some of the tension, but overall, the scenes advance quickly. Downing demonstrates an impressive ability to describe an investigation with enough fascinating detail to satisfy the most obsessive police procedural enthusiast.

The richly developed characters are all stars: sociopathic drug kingpins; a police sergeant with a critically ill wife, whose marriage is described in heartbreaking detail; a former boxer trying to hold on to his dignity as he reaches his emotional and physical end. Downing doesn't deal in stereotypes, and readers will remember and sympathize with both heroes and villains. Even a low-level dealer gets a believable backstory and an emotional end: "The too-short roller coaster life... was over." The swiftly moving plots and indelible characters will keep readers invested in this thriller until the last page.

Takeaway: Meticulously drawn investigations and an unforgettable cast of heroes and villains will keep thriller fans immersed in this 1980s-set crime novel.

Great for fans of Joseph Wambaugh, Ed McBain.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: -
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: C

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Blockbuster
Richard H. Smith
Smith’s languorous debut is a coming-of-age tale set in a busy movie theater run by a capable but doubtful young man at a crossroads in his life. It’s 1975 in the recently desegregated Durham, N.C., and 19-year-old avid reader and movie buff Nate Burton is assistant manager of the Yorktowne Theater. Nate defuses tense situations with unruly theater patrons and employees with compassion, maturity, and efficiency. In direct contrast is theater manager Horace Bullock, a racist, homophobic, misogynistic sexual predator and gambling addict whom everyone despises. When Bullock is found murdered behind the theater, there is no shortage of suspects. Everyone is more excited about the summer’s expected blockbuster movie, Jaws, by some untested director named Steven Spielberg.

The energetic murder mystery takes second billing as Smith emphasizes Nate’s ambitions and his relationships with friends and coworkers. Self-conscious about his Korean heritage, his reading disability, and his postponed dreams of college, Nate confides in Spence Reeves, the theater’s Black custodian, who was once a Buffalo Soldier. Landlady Mrs. Roe, with whom Nate shares a love of literature, becomes a surrogate mother. When Nate is promoted to theater manager, Smith chooses to focus on Nate’s choices for his future and his pursuit of love interest Carrie Jenkins, leaving the investigation in the background.

Though racial tensions are present, Smith indulges in a bit of glossing-over; the descriptions and dialogue are genteel and never distressing. Readers will be enveloped by the warmth of Americana, the soul of Black musicians, and the savor of down-home Southern cooking. Film buffs will relish the movie trivia and film history as the anticipation of Jaws’ release builds. This is a sepia-tinted trip down memory lane that allows a young man of color to be an ordinary American dreamer.

Takeaway: Film buffs will enjoy following a young man’s coming of age in and around a movie theater in 1975 North Carolina.

Great for fans of Delia Owens’s Where the Crawdads Sing, Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, John Green.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: -
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A-

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In This Land of Plenty
Mary Smathers
Smathers’s richly detailed debut explores history and diversity through the family tree of a woman in California. Nicole Sinclair’s mother passed away, and Nicole takes a DNA test in hopes of discovering genetic reasons for her early death. Instead of diseases, she finds diversity: her DNA links her to ancestors originating from the Iberian Peninsula, Mexico, the Western U.S., Africa, Ireland, France, England, and Germany. This goes against the all-white history her father always claimed, forcing Nicole to wonder whether her father really knew his family background or purposefully elected to believe only the parts he desired. The answers Nicole finds on her journey for the truth change her life.

Though slightly overwritten, this is an engaging, painstakingly researched narrative. Once Nicole teams up with her great-grandmother to explore the family’s history and look for related documents, the discoveries blossom. Secrets from the past are revealed, and the settling of California is frankly appraised from the vantage points of its first inhabitants. Nicole eventually learns about her Californio ancestors, who include Diego, a Spanish soldier, and Tar, a captured Ohlone native. Each of the novel’s engrossing, and at times painful, narratives could be a standalone story.

Extensive research and the use of various languages combine to lend a sense of authenticity. The novel visits various time periods to recount chronicles of Nicole’s ancestors, whose lives are well developed. Maps are included to help readers visualize some of the characters' journeys. Different eras are woven together seamlessly, and the powerful history in the novel sets the backdrop for lively and lovable characters. This is an invitation to not just accept but cherish the value and beauty of diversity. In this ambitious work, Smathers imparts the wisdom of studying the past in order to move more fully and sincerely into the future.

Takeaway: This intriguing mix of history with a contemporary story of discovery and acceptance will powerfully move readers looking for narratives of the American melting pot.

Great for fans of James A. Michener, Scott O’Dell.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: B+
Marketing copy: A

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Happy Father's Day: a promise made and a gift received
Virginia Madison
Madison’s emotional memoir eulogizes, honors, and pays homage to her beloved father, who died when she was a young adult. The storytelling is bracketed by scenes of her father’s untimely death after a struggle with lymphoma, but between those bookends of suffering, Madison builds a delicate and affecting portrait of her father, whom she calls Old Bean. The chapters are short and episodic, so readers can turn to essentially any page for a meaningful, self-contained story about a man who always kept ample amounts of tissue paper in his pocket, just in case his family members had a need for it, and made the best milk tea, which Madison eagerly anticipated on her visits from her home in the U.S. to her native Hong Kong.

Writing to her father in the second person, Madison all but erases herself from her own memoir. The reader will sometimes feel the lack of context, background, and character-building around the narrator herself. Readers seeing her only in connection to her father will wonder who she is independent of him; yet she seems almost to resolutely turn the lens away from herself and use her experiences only as a conduit through which to portray a man with whom she had a complex, deeply loving relationship.

Many of the snapshots of Madison’s father show a parent doing unremarkable things: caring for a sick child, arriving to the airport an hour early, helping a little too much with homework, taking a Sunday nap. But Madison writes, “Nothing you did for us was simply ordinary,” and she takes care to show the beauty, fun, and love in these quiet moments and small gestures. The stories read like a catharsis for the author, a final love letter to the man whose indelible presence shaped her upbringing and will surely continue to guide her future.

Takeaway: Readers looking for a touching, tender father-daughter story will gravitate toward this memoir of a charming, attentive, and deeply caring father gone too soon.

Great for fans of Sarah Tomlinson, Jeannette Walls.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: B
Illustrations: -
Editing: B
Marketing copy: C

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Hidden Lessons from History
Peter K. Chronis
Chronis uses rigorous research to give context to these spectacular photographs of notable locations throughout the world. He writes that the history of a famous site is as important as the image of the site itself. Exploring both natural wonders and man-made structures, Chronis provides background for buildings as familiar as the Eiffel Tower as well as more obscure edifices such as Puerto Rico’s Livingston Field.

Some descriptions in Chronis’s work are more relevant than others. Although the Memorial for Peace and Justice is a worthy subject, the text discusses civil rights in general rather than the specifics of the memorial. Similarly, the image of a boat near Costa Rica’s Playa Islita isn’t particularly enhanced by a note on the high life expectancy in that area. The photo of Thingvellir National Park conveys a sense of the majesty of the region that has little to do with Iceland boasting the longest-running legislative assembly in history. However, Chronis dives fearlessly into religious controversy, provocative and potentially contentious historical assertions, and the human cost of constructing magnificent structures. His beautiful shot of the White House is given important perspective when he observes that slave labor helped build it.

Bold photography choices contribute to the artistry of the work. The photo of Canada’s Mount Jimmy Simpson is in black and white, emphasizing the mirror image composition of the mountain on the lake, while Saint Barthélemy’s Anse Du Gouverneur is in color to highlight the brilliance of the sky coupled with the turquoise ocean in the cove. Chronis’s incisive visuals and condensed but fascinating text give readers food for thought as well as a visual feast. This is the epitome of a coffee-table book: lovely to glance at, rewarding to spend time with, and full of good conversation starters.

Takeaway: Readers who value both beauty and history will enjoy this polished book of landmark photographs given historical context.

Great for fans of Publication International’s World Landmarks, Parragon Books’ 100 Landmarks of the World.

Production grades
Cover: B-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: C
Marketing copy: A

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The People We Wanted to Forget
Michael G. Harpold
Harpold’s memoir of his time as a civilian adviser during the Vietnam War, and later working for the Border Management Agency, is sometimes meandering but deeply humane. Embedded with the South Vietnamese National Police Field Force in a militarily strategic province, he was tasked with training the NPPF to root out Viet Cong infiltrators without involving the U.S. military. He encountered atrocities and corruption, drove back the enemy, and developed deep friendships. Several years later, he led efforts to bring war refugees to the United States, beginning with a dramatic incident wherein he saved the lives of several people on a refugee boat. His quick thinking resulted in significant policy change.

Harpold’s extraordinary stories about living in the small town of Tam Ky explore the intersection of his civilian status and military training, and he uses maps and photographs to vividly enhance the narrative and help the reader follow along. His personal accounts of courage, hospitality and corruption are a highlight, but the end of his tour puts an abrupt end to these tales. Mundane stateside notes regarding dealing with bureaucracy and going on family vacations are a stark counterpoint to the memoir’s more dramatic aspects. But when Harpold travels to Thailand in an attempt to save the lives of Vietnamese refugees and begin righting the wrongs of American abandonment, the narrative crackles with tense excitement.

Often enlightening, this account also sometimes veers off into narrative dead ends and irrelevant anecdotes, such as extended meditations on meals. No matter his role, Harpold’s morality and compassion are evident; he has lived by his conscience at every point, even to the point of defying orders. Harpold’s memoir is at its best when he writes about navigating moral hurdles in a setting that defied easy choices. Anyone drawn to unconventional wartime stories will find this a satisfying work from a compassionate civilian perspective.

Takeaway: Readers interested in an American civilian’s firsthand account of the Vietnam War and a compassionate, reasoned take on immigration policy will be drawn to Harpold’s detailed memoir.

Great for fans of Nick Turse’s Kill Anything That Moves, Truong Nhu Tang’s A Viet Cong Memoir, Neil Sheehan’s A Bright Shining Lie.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: B
Illustrations: A
Editing: C
Marketing copy: C

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Queen's Gambit
Bradley Harper
Harper’s riveting second Victorian crime novel follows Margaret Harkness, the cross-dressing, whip-smart novelist introduced in 2018’s A Knife in the Fog, as she chases down Herman Ott, a Russian-turned-German anarchist determined to kill Harkness, whom he mistakenly believes is responsible for his wife’s death. Harkness and her newfound acquaintances, Scotland Yard Inspector James Ethington and his would-be detective daughter, Elizabeth, hunt Ott through the streets of 1897 London after realizing he plans to assassinate Queen Victoria at her upcoming Diamond Jubilee ceremony.

Readers will enjoy following the slow unraveling of the web as Margaret and the Ethingtons circle around Ott. There are many characters—some only gracing one or two chapters—and though the shifts in focus can be confusing, they ultimately help to paint a wide, detailed picture of the setting. Margaret and James’s budding feelings for each other are a delightful escape from the darkness of Ott’s intentions, but the best relationship of all is between Margaret and Elizabeth. The 15-year-old lost her mother two years prior and is clearly searching for a non-male role model, which she finds in Margaret. The two women complement each other, with Margaret’s blunt, no-nonsense attitude and independence inspiring Elizabeth to speak her mind. The dialogue can feel a little clunky, but the language fits with the formalities of Victorian London.

One of the most delightful elements is Harper’s inclusion of colorful people from history, whose lives he outlines in short bios in the back of the book. Margaret liaises with Professor Joseph Bell (the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes), Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mark Twain; she also encounters Archduke Franz Ferdinand and, of course, Queen Victoria. She herself is based on the radical writer Margaret Harkness, who used the pen name John Law. Any crime fan or Victorian era history buff will find this a satisfying saga of female empowerment and adventure.

Takeaway: This suspenseful story will delight Victorian crime readers with strong female leads and a satisfying chase through 1897 London’s foggy streets.

Great for fans of Caleb Carr’s The Alienist, Anne Perry, Arthur Conan Doyle.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: -
Editing: B-
Marketing copy: B

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Zero One
Nicholas Nicolaides
Nicolaides’s timely dystopian tech-noir debut paints a sweeping portrait of a society on the brink. An unnamed virus is bringing devastation around the globe. Law enforcement drones, programmed for public safety, have begun killing people whose elevated temperatures mark them as ill and therefore dangerous. Amid the chaos, the mysterious T.G. management team, whose members are known only by their nationalities, attempts to release the long-awaited next chapter of the VR game called The Game to its fanatical devotees. The Belgian member of T.G. and others are tasked with finding some drones that have gone rogue and learning what happened to them. And ordinary people grieve their losses and struggle to come to terms with the changes in their world.

Readers will be immersed in the setting as they follow a wide variety of characters. Some of them, such as Kimiko Okumura, a young Japanese girl in virus-riddled London, are well crafted; Kimiko’s family tragedy pulls powerfully at the heartstrings. Other characters are lacking that depth, or are only loosely connected to the plot. The Belgian is gratuitously oversexed, and teen gamer Chiaki is a sadly shallow caricature of a child refusing to grow up. As the story shifts from one character and arc to another, momentum frequently stutters, and the abrupt ending leaves many things unresolved.

The novel is overburdened by a staggering amount of detail, but during the times when the narrative is flowing and focused, that detail has the remarkable effect of drawing readers deeply into the story. A fascinating, thought-provoking interplay of various industries and quasifuturistic technologies creates a multidimensional reading experience. The book also has very pleasing aesthetics, with striking illustrations and design elements. Readers looking for a tour of a peculiar future will enjoy falling through Nicolaides’s looking-glass.

Takeaway: This expansive tech-noir novel will reward readers who favor a bird’s-eye view of a dystopian setting and the variety of ordinary lives within it.

Great for fans of Charlie Jane Anders’s The City in the Middle of the Night, Richard Morgan’s Altered Carbon.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: C
Marketing copy: B

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What Is a Green Roof?
Vicki Sando
In this lively and educational debut picture book, New York City schoolteacher Sando familiarizes young readers with the concept of green roofs—rooftops covered with living, growing plants—and their social and ecological benefits. Weaving technical vocabulary into an approachable prose style (aided by a two-page glossary), Sando explains the materials and structures of all kinds of green roofs. Lehar’s clear and colorful digital illustrations provide a lighthearted and contemporary juxtaposition to the sometimes scientifically dense text. Informative inset diagrams further explain scientific concepts such as compression and tension in relatable, easy-to-follow terms.

After a brief digression about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and medieval Scandinavia, present-day New York City’s architecture is the focal point. This would be a limiting choice if it weren’t for the abundance of green roof examples within the city, including post offices, apartment buildings, and schools. Lehar’s illustrations include New Yorkers of many ages, sizes, races, genders, and even species, with cameos from one of Central Park’s red-tailed hawks and a pizza-toting rat. The bold, eye-catching designs both provide visual stimulation and convey a sense of action to underscore the work’s message about the benefits of green roofs.

Though Sando and Lehar collaboratively paint a portrait of a brighter, healthier, happier green-roofed city, the last page of the book, which is meant to be a call to action, comes across more as a wistful hope that someday green roofs might become more widespread. The glossary and three websites are the only pointers to further investigation, and no sources are given for the book’s factual content, leaving curious readers wanting more. Best suited to classroom use, this beautifully illustrated book will encourage children and adults to think about what’s right overhead.

Takeaway: Urban schoolteachers will love using this primer on green roofs to start conversations with young students about built environments and ecosystems.

Great for fans of Peter Brown’s The Curious Garden, Sam Boughton’s The Extraordinary Gardener.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A-

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The Necessity of Finance: An Overview of the Science of Management of Wealth for an Individual, a Group, or an Organization
Dr. Anthony M. Criniti IV
The subtitle of Criniti’s financial primer aptly forecasts the methodology of this precise and steady guide to financial science foundations. The emphasis is on establishing firm, clear definitions of all key terms, upon which it’s possible to build a sound understanding of a science that Criniti posits is “improperly defined from one textbook to the next.” To his credit, Criniti acknowledges that reading this book “may not make you a millionaire.” Instead, it’s intentionally designed to clarify the basics of finance itself.

Criniti persuasively argues that finance has often been ambiguously defined and taught by instructors lacking even a clear and consistent understanding of what their field is, especially in relation to its sister science, economics. The central distinction that Criniti draws is that economics is the science of wealth management for nations, while finance is the science of managing wealth for individuals, groups, or organizations. In lucid, inviting prose, he illuminates this difference, even coining the term financialist for a thinker who (like himself) has been trained in the science of finance.

Criniti’s approach is to guide readers by building up from first principles: introducing each idea, demonstrating its veracity, and drawing vital distinctions between one concept and others. For example, he will not let readers mistake speculation or gambling for investing. He refines his definitions as he goes, honoring readers’ trust and intelligence by showing his work. Lay readers and budding financialists will appreciate the clear and straightforward explanations of saving, risk and return, formulations of the time value of money, and other topics essential for financial literacy. Criniti’s painstaking approach stands as a welcome corrective to the flood of finance self-help books that promise readers shortcuts to wealth, making this an excellent guide for anyone looking to understand the core concepts of personal finance.

Takeaway: This guide illuminates the basics of personal finance for readers who prefer a solid grounding in crisp facts without any self-help hype.

Great for fans of James Gwartney, Richard L. Stroup, and Dwight R. Lee’s Common Sense Economics; Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: -
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A

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The Most Important Lessons in Economics and Finance: A Comprehensive Collection of Time-Tested Principles of Wealth Management
Dr. Anthony M. Criniti IV
Criniti’s incisive, cogently argued, thoroughly researched third book on the science of finance (after The Survival of the Richest) contains 218 precepts about wealth management derived from the author’s experience as a financial planner and professor of finance. This is Criniti’s most accessible title, offering the practical advice about wealth management that readers of financial self-help books crave. True to form, Criniti balances his smart, concrete advice (“If you are a beggar or a thief only one time, then you may be labeled it for life”) with challenging ideas about wealth as a tool of survival and the dangers of allowing a zeal for fiscal acquisition to overshadow all other concerns.

Criniti, as always, thinks deeply. His principles (such as principle 119, “Guarantees do not exist in investing”) are sober and time-tested, selected to guide readers toward long-term security rather than a quick payday. He encourages a mindful approach, warning in principle 61, “The pursuit of making money can become an addiction that generally increases with wealth.” He even encourages skepticism of books like this one: “Never fully trust anything that you read in a financial self-help book without substantial research and/or confirming experience,” says principle 151.

“Substantial research” and “confirming experience” define Criniti’s approach. He eschews the promotion of fads and schemes in favor of helping readers establish a bedrock understanding of the laws of finance. Echoing Criniti’s ambitious The Survival of the Richest, several passages strike notes of social responsibility. “The more you indulge in the luxuries of extreme wealth, the more you risk misunderstanding the reality of the masses,” he writes. Devoid of grand promises but bursting with hard-earned wisdom, Criniti’s essential guide will help any reader—starting with any amount of funds—make more thoughtful, sensible, and ethical financial decisions.

Takeaway: Anyone interested in personal or business finance will benefit from these insightful principles of wealth management and financial planning.

Great for fans of Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez’s Your Money or Your Life, John C. Bogle’s The Little Book of Common Sense Investing.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: -
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

The Survival of the Richest: An Analysis of the Relationship between the Sciences of Biology, Economics, Finance, and Survivalism
Dr. Anthony M. Criniti IV
Criniti’s provocative, multidisciplinary magnum opus, an expansion on ideas introduced in The Necessity of Finance, challenges the ethos of selfish individualism that prevails in the popular business press. As in his previous book, Criniti asserts that the science of finance is the science of survival for an individual or organization. Here he probes and expands that thesis, making the case that the urge he calls “survivalism,” rooted in Darwin’s evolutionary biology and in Herbert Spencer’s concept of “the survival of the fittest,” is intimately bound with finance and economics. Survivalism accounts for the human drive to achieve prosperity, which he defines as “the progressive state after successful survival that occurs through an accumulation of wealth.” He argues that this evolutionary yearning for prosperity carries with it a responsibility to ensure the whole planet enjoys the same.

The wealthy, Criniti notes, enjoy more options for survival, but that means nothing if the planet as a whole fails to survive. He contends that survivalism must not simply be an individual pursuit and calls for readers to “wake up” and recognize humankind’s collective responsibility “to protect our planet and all of its life-forms” and stave off the sixth mass extinction that has already begun. He draws upon the work of philosophers, evolutionary biologists, and even Chris “American Sniper” Kyle to make his pressing case.

Criniti sets himself apart from other personal finance writers with his thorough, rigorous crafting of arguments. He examines each piece of evidence meticulously, guiding readers through his thought process step by step. Criniti will never settle for a received idea or a shorthand definition; he breaks all key terms down to their essence, building his assertions on firm foundations. This honest, challenging book will encourage wealth-focused readers to reexamine the idea that selfish success is possible in a fundamentally interconnected world.

Takeaway: Readers looking for a grand unified theory of personal and collective prosperity will be deeply impressed by this cogently argued thesis.

Great for fans of Arthur E. Gandolfi, Anna Sachko Gandolfi, and David P. Barash’s Economics as an Evolutionary Science: From Utility to Fitness; Jared Diamond.

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