Weekly Words About New Books in

Independent Bookstores

April 14, 2024

New Bestsellers - Can We Fix the Epidemic of Teen Mental Illness, and a Charming English Cozy Murder Mystery

The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness by Jonathan Haidt. Topping this week's national indie bookstore Nonfiction Bestseller list is an essential (and disturbing) investigation into the collapse of youth mental health--and a plan for a healthier, freer childhood that The New York Times Book Review calls "Erudite, engaging, combative, crusading."

Author and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt is a professor at NYU whose main areas of study are the psychology of morality and moral emotions. In his new book, he looks at the epidemic of teen mental illness that hit many countries at the same time and investigates the nature of childhood, including why children need play and independent exploration to mature into competent, thriving adults. Haidt shows how the "play-based childhood" began to decline in the 1980s, and how it was finally wiped out by the arrival of the "phone-based childhood" in the early 2010s. He argues that this "great rewiring of childhood" has interfered with children's social and neurological development and has contributed to a wide range of issues - from sleep deprivation to addiction, from loneliness to social comparison, and more. He posits that social media damages girls more than boys, although boys have been withdrawing from the real world into the virtual world, with disastrous consequences. Most important, Haidt issues a clear call to action. He diagnoses the "collective action problems" that trap us, and then proposes four simple rules that might set us free and restore a more humane childhood.

New York Times Op-Ed columnist Michelle Goldberg called The Anxious Generation an "important new book...The shift in kids' energy and attention from the physical world to the virtual one, Haidt shows, has been catastrophic, especially for girls."

How To Solve Your Own Murder by Kristin Perrin. Known for her books for teens, Perrin's debut murder mystery for adults is a clever and charming dual narrative set in and around a quaint English country village (always a good setting for murder). The two main characters are Frances Adams, whom we first meet as a teenager in 1965, and Annie Adams, who in present day has been summoned to the sprawling country estate of her wealthy and now-reclusive great-aunt Frances. It turns out that, after a fortune teller predicted that Frances would one day be murdered, the obsessed woman spent her lifetime trying to solve a crime that hadn't yet happened, gathering dirt on every person who crosses her path in an effort to prevent her own demise.

Unfortunately, those efforts do not stave off her death, and Annie arrives on the scene to find that Frances has indeed been killed. The determined Annie sets out to solve the murder, fortified by the victim's storehouse of secrets and lies about the seeming endearing and eccentric villagers who were part of Frances's life. As might be expected, Annie's snooping around and uncovering of past sins does not sit well with several of them, making her sleuthing more dangerous as she seeks the truth. Part of the fun here is that key characters appear in both narratives - in their rambunctious youth as friends with 17-year-old Frances, and in the present as longtime village residents - now successful and respected (or are they?).

In it's review, Publishers Weekly writes,"The pace is quick, the red herrings are plentiful, and Annie's growth from timid wannabe writer to confident sleuth is beautifully rendered. Combining elements of Agatha Christie, Anthony Horowitz, and Midsomer Murders, this is a richly entertaining whodunit from a promising new talent."

Now in Paperback,

A Heartfelt Novel of

Food and Family

Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club by J. Ryan Stradal. As in his prior novels Kitchens of the Great Midwest and The Lager Queen of Minnesota, Stradal writes here about food and family with humor, insight, and pathos. My colleague Carolyn Hutton at Mrs. Dalloway's Bookstore in Berkeley, CA, is a big Stradal fan, and her review of Saturday Night at the Lakeside Supper Club tells you all you need to know: "Humor and heartbreak weave throughout in this fabulous new novel set in fictional Bear Jaw, Minnesota. Two very different restaurant families are blended together when Mariel Stenerud and Ned Prager meet and marry. Her inherited and family-owned local supper club is a world away from the restaurant chain Ned is expected to take over, and each of them must come to terms with their own wishes and desires in the face of family legacies and tragedies. A cast of flawed and lovable characters (including a persnickety parent who's waiting to be picked up at church), hearty food, and delicious drinks leap off the page over the course of 85 years...another winner from a beloved author."

Kirkus also offers praise in its starred review: "Stradal...displays his gift for writing female characters who are fully realized, sometimes unlikable, but always as flawed and compelling as real people. The Midwest setting is written with love and respect, and while the story is often heartbreakingly sad, there's also real warmth and comfort in Stradal's writing. A loving ode to supper clubs, the Midwest, and the people there who try their best to make life worth living."

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Hi, I'm Hut Landon, and I'm a bookseller in an independent bookstore in BerkeIey, CA.

My goal here is to keep readers up to date about new books hitting the shelves, share what indie booksellers are recommending in their stores, and pass on occasional news about the book world. 

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