The Book of Speculation is Erika Swyler’s gorgeous and moving debut, a wondrous novel about the power of books and family and magic. Simon Watson, a young librarian on the verge of losing his job, lives alone in a house on the Long Island Sound that is slowly crumbling toward the sea. One day in June, he receives a mysterious package from an antiquarian bookseller, containing a journal from the owner of a traveling carnival in the 1700s, who reports many strange and magical things, including the drowning death of a circus mermaid. It is that woman who ties the book to Simon’s family, where generations of “mermaids” have drowned, like Simon’s mother, on July 24, which is just six weeks away. Could there possibly be a curse on his family—and what does he have to do to save his sister, who ran off with the circus six years ago?