Award-winning novels, a dishy Broadway memoir and more new paperbacks

It’s the last Paperback Picks of the summer (which I say with glee, as fall is my favorite season), and there’s plenty to read for those of you not busy rushing around in the sunshine, including some award-winning novels, a dishy Broadway memoir, and the final words of a Hollywood legend — all in brand-new paperback. Happy reading!

“When We Were Sisters” by Fatimah Asghar (Random House, $18). Asghar was longlisted for the National Book Award for this tale of three orphaned Muslim American sisters, described as “grief-soaked and gorgeous” by The Guardian. “A poet first, Asghar picks up on the themes of her debut collection ‘If They Come for Us’ — partition and fragmentation, borders and bodies — and plays with space and silence on the page. Narrated by Kausar in vignettes, often in staccato sentences, and interspersed with poetic flashbacks from the perspective of the father and mother, this fragmentary form has the effect of ephemerality — much like life.”

“Calling for a Blanket Dance” by Oscar Hokeah (Algonquin, $17.99). Winner of the PEN America/Hemingway Award for debut fiction, Hokeah’s novel follows five decades of its main character’s life, set in rural Oklahoma. A New York Times reviewer wrote: “At the heart of the novel lay a profound reflection on the intergenerational nature of cultural trauma. Hokeah’s characters exist at the intersection of Kiowa, Cherokee and Mexican identity, which provides a vital exploration of indigeneity in contemporary American letters.”

“The Book of Goose” by Yiyun Li (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $18). Another major award winner — the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and named among the best books of 2022 by multiple outlets — this novel examines the aftermath of two teen girls who perpetrate a literary hoax in postwar rural France. New York Times reviewer Megan O’Grady wrote: “The most propulsively entertaining of Li’s novels, ‘The Book of Goose’ is an existential fable that illuminates the tangle of motives behind our writing of stories: to apprehend and avenge the truth of our own being, to make people know what it feels like to be us, to memorialize the people we keep alive in the provincial villages of our hearts.”

“The Marriage Portrait” by Maggie O’Farrell (Knopf, $17.99). This bestseller from the author of “Hamnet” (a book I devoured a couple of years back) takes inspiration from the story of Lucrezia de’ Medici, daughter of a 16th-century Italian grand duke, who believes that her noble husband is plotting to kill her. (You may know Lucrezia from the Robert Browning poem “My Last Duchess.”) Calling O’Farrell “one of the most exciting novelists alive,” Washington Post critic Ron Charles notes, “You may know the history, and you may think you know what’s coming, but don’t be so sure. O’Farrell and Lucrezia, with her ‘crystalline, righteous anger,’ will always be one step ahead of you.”

“Paul Newman: The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man,” by Paul Newman (Knopf, $18). This posthumous memoir was assembled from several years’ worth of interviews the actor gave to his close friend Stewart Stern, the transcripts of which were discovered long after Newman’s death in 2008. The book, a New York Times writer wrote, “is surprising for the remarkable candor of its subject, one of the most accomplished and reticent actors from an era when the perpetual documentation of daily life was not a precondition for fame.”

“Shy: The Alarmingly Outspoken Memoirs of Mary Rodgers” by Mary Rodgers and Jesse Green (Picador, $20). If you’re at all interested in musical theater, Broadway history, or just good gossip, “Shy” is a must-read; I idly picked it up months ago and suddenly realized that hours had gone by as I devoured every page. Rodgers, who grew up in musical theater royalty (she’s the daughter of Richard Rodgers, famous collaborator of Hart and Hammerstein), herself wrote “Once Upon a Mattress” and the book “Freaky Friday”; she spent years sharing memories with theater critic Green before her death in 2014. The Washington Post sums it up nicely: “‘Shy’ lives up to its ‘alarmingly outspoken’ subtitle but rarely seems mean-spirited, thanks to Rodgers’s sense of humor, clever way with words and refusal to indulge in self-pity.”

“Crying in the Bathroom: A Memoir” by Erika L. Sánchez (Penguin, $18). Sánchez, author of the bestselling collection “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter,” here creates a “raw and sensuous” memoir in essays, wrote a Publisher’s Weekly reviewer, noting that “even when Sánchez finds happiness and its traditional markers (successful writing career, husband, child, home), her writing shines with a deep humility wrought from the hard-won nature of her personal peace. The result is another satisfying addition to Sánchez’s deeply moving body of works.”

“Now Is Not the Time to Panic” by Kevin Wilson (HarperCollins, $17.99). Wilson, author of the bestselling novel “Nothing to See Here,” returns with a coming-of-age tale of two 1990s Tennessee teens who decide to dabble in public art. A starred review on Kirkus Reviews called it “a warm, witty two-hander that sidesteps the clichés of art school and indie film and treats its free spirits with respect.”