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5 books not to miss: Gabriel Byrne memoir ‘Walking with Ghosts,’ ‘The Hate U Give’ prequel

In search of something good to read? USA TODAY's Barbara VanDenburgh scopes out the shelves for this week’s hottest new book releases.

1. “Walking with Ghosts,” by Gabriel Byrne (Grove, nonfiction, on sale Jan. 12)

What it’s about: The award-winning Irish actor (“Miller’s Crossing,” “The Usual Suspects”) reflects on his working-class Dublin childhood and his rise to stardom in Hollywood and on Broadway.

The buzz: “Simultaneously frank and emotionally stirring, this memoir entrances,” says a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

“Walking with Ghosts,” by Gabriel Byrne.

2. “A Swim in a Pond in the Rain: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life,” by George Saunders (Random House, nonfiction, on sale Jan. 12)

What it’s about: The short-story master and Booker Prize-winning author of “Lincoln in the Bardo” has long taught his MFA students at Syracuse University a class on the Russian short story. Now, he brings that class to us, teaching readers how fiction works and why.

The buzz: “A master of contemporary fiction joyously assesses some of the best of the 19th century,” says a starred review from Kirkus Reviews.

3. “Concrete Rose,” by Angie Thomas (Balzer + Bray, fiction, on sale Jan. 12)

What it’s about: Thomas revisits Garden Heights 17 years before the events of “The Hate U Give” in a prequel that explores Maverick Carter’s coming-of-age. When the dope-slinging son of a former gang legend finds out he’s going to be a father, he starts to learn what it means to really be a man.

The buzz: “This literary DeLorean transports readers into the past, where they hope, dream, and struggle alongside beloved characters from Thomas’ ‘The Hate U Give,’” says a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, calling it a “resounding success.”

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4. “Waiting for the Night Song,” by Julie Carrick Dalton (Forge, fiction, on sale Jan. 12)

What it’s about: An urgent message from her long-estranged friend brings forestry researcher Cadie Kessler back to her childhood home, where she’s forced to face a dark secret that ended their childhood bond.

The buzz: “Contemporary ecological and immigration issues compound the well-paced mystery, making for a taut novel that builds suspense to the very end,” says Publishers Weekly.

5. “The Crooked Path To Abolition: Abraham Lincoln and the Antislavery Constitution,” by James Oakes (Norton, nonfiction, on sale Jan. 12)

What it’s about: Scholar and historian Oakes examines the guiding principles of President Abraham Lincoln’s antislavery strategies.

The buzz: “Oakes brings clarity and insight to a political conundrum of bewildering complexity,” says a ★★★ (out of four) review for USA TODAY.

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