THIS IS YOUR MIND ON PLANTS, by Michael Pollan. (Penguin Press, $28.) To understand three mind-altering substances — opium, caffeine and mescaline — Pollan turns to his own narratives of gardening and self-experimentation. As he does, he also masterfully elevates a series of big questions about drugs, plants and humans that will leave readers thinking in new ways. The book is “likely to trigger new debates and discussions as well as, no doubt, a fair amount of illicit gardening,” our reviewer Rob Dunn writes.
THE HOWE DYNASTY: The Untold Story of a Military Family and the Women Behind Britain’s Wars for America, by Julie Flavell. (Liveright, $35.) Two Howe brothers led — and lost — Britain’s military campaign to retain its American colonies. Drawing on records left by female Howes of the period, including the eldest sister, Caroline, Flavell has written a detailed history of a family whose reputation has languished in opaque ignominy. It’s a “vibrant” book, our reviewer Rick Atkinson writes, in which “Flavell’s scholarship and deft storytelling add nuance, sympathy and granularity to the family portrait.”
PERIOD. END OF SENTENCE: A New Chapter in the Fight for Menstrual Justice, by Anita Diamant. (Scribner, $26.) Inspired by the Oscar-winning short documentary of the same title, this book takes a historical approach to cultural and religious attitudes about menstruation, and humanitarian efforts to make menstrual products accessible to anyone who needs them. “This hopeful celebration of menstruation will be a useful tool for raising awareness,” Ayobami Adebayo writes in her review.
WALKING ON COWRIE SHELLS: Stories, by Nana Nkweti. (Graywolf, paper, $16.) In her raucous and impressive debut, Nkweti writes across multiple genres including science fiction, Y.A., literary fiction and suspense, showcasing a host of voices from the United States and Africa. These “utterly original stories range from laugh-out-loud funny to heartbreaking, and are often both,” Deesha Philyaw writes in her review. “Sensitivity, nuance and keen attention to history shine through on every page of the collection.”
THE VERY NICE BOX, by Laura Blackett and Eve Gleichman. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25.) This sparkling debut novel, about the recently orphaned star engineer at an Ikea-like furniture company, manages to expose the hollowness of corporate jargon while exploring how we move on after unspeakable loss. “The authors meld multiple styles and tones — incisive sendup, murky suspense, sexy rom-com — which, in less capable hands, could have yielded a novel with a Frankenstein vibe,” says our reviewer Jillian Medoff. “Instead, they’ve constructed a mirrored fun house, one that leads us down different paths, each masterfully tied up at the end.”
A PASSAGE NORTH, by Anuk Arudpragasam. (Hogarth, $27.) Arudpragasam’s second novel follows a young man on a journey to a region of Sri Lanka still reeling from a decades-long civil war. “Arudpragasam is equally gifted at atmospheric, sensory description that transports the reader to Sri Lanka and India and at examining the emotions — elation, fear, impatience, satisfaction, shame — that simmer below the surface of our everyday lives,” Tara K. Menon writes in her review. The novel is “full of melancholy, but because it takes love and desire as seriously as it does grief and loss, it avoids despair.”