SCORPIONFISH, by Natalie Bakopoulos. (Tin House, paper, $16.95.) Across a balcony in Athens, a grounded sea captain and a grieving academic spend summer nights sharing beers and stories of heartbreak in Bakopoulos’s elegant, atmospheric second novel.
LET THEM EAT PANCAKES: One Man’s Personal Revolution in the City of Light, by Craig Carlson. (Pegasus, $27.95.) Like his first memoir, “Pancakes in Paris,” this charming sequel explores Carlson’s unexpected success operating an American diner in the capital of France, with plenty of colorful anecdotes and personal detours.
SKYLAND, by Andrew Durbin. (Nightboat, paper, $12.95.) Durbin’s loose, impressionistic novella — about a writer who visits the Greek island of Patmos to find a painting of the cult novelist Hervé Guibert — offers many of the sly insights and scabrous pleasures of Guibert’s own work.
SEPARATED: Inside an American Tragedy, by Jacob Soboroff. (Custom House, $29.99.) As a correspondent for NBC News, Soboroff was among the first to report on the Trump administration’s family separation policy; here, he digs deeper into its roots and consequences.
UNION: A Democrat, a Republican, and a Search for Common Ground, by Jordan Blashek and Christopher Haugh. (Little, Brown, $28.) An Obama-era speechwriter and a Republican Marine Corps veteran drive cross-country.
What we’re reading:
The often bleak speculative fiction of Octavia E. Butler might seem an odd escape from the news, but I found most of the vampires in Butler’s final novel, FLEDGLING, somehow reassuring. Butler’s vampires aren’t the average bloodsuckers, snacking on humans and discarding our desiccated corpses like peanut shells, but symbionts who cultivate extended families of willing humans, granting them longer lives and better health. The book begins when Shori, a young vampire with darker skin than her pale compatriots because she was genetically engineered to better withstand the sun, awakens in a cave wounded, amnesic and starving, her human and vampire families murdered. Shori sets out to rediscover who she is, build a new family and bring the murderers to justice, confronting bigotry along the way. Other Butler books, like “Kindred” or the “Parable” novels, might feel more topical, but if you’re intrigued by humanistic, hopeful vampire lore, I can’t recommend “Fledgling” more highly.
— Daniel E. Slotnik, Metro reporting fellow