The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books by Edward Wilson-Lee: Despite the dark legacy of colonialism, it’s unquestionable that Christopher Columbus was a master mariner, explorer and promoter. He also had apocalyptic beliefs about the end of days that were either visionary or bizarre, depending on your point of view. His admiring son Hernando Colon, educated in Renaissance humanism, downplayed his father’s millenarian ideas when he wrote his biography of Columbus. But Colon had the same wide-ranging imagination as his father, no matter how different their beliefs. Born out of wedlock in 1488 but acknowledged by Columbus, Colon was a brilliant man whose intellectual ambitions directly provided the seed for modern libraries and whose sorting system indirectly anticipated internet search engines. Edward Wilson-Lee’s engaging new biography of Colon is at once an adventure tale and a history of ideas that continue to resonate. As a teenager, Colon accompanied Columbus on his fourth voyage to the Caribbean. But as an adult, his own ambitions led him to the great European book marts, where he conceived his dream of a universal library that would include every book ever printed. He collected thousands of books, pamphlets and prints–the “shipwrecked books” of Wilson-Lee’s title were some 1,700 from Venice lost on a voyage back to Spain. As he assembled his vast library in Seville, Colon led a project to describe all of Spain in a gazetteer, created a pioneering botanical garden and was the top Spanish negotiator (and probably spy) in a dispute with Portugal. But his greatest legacy was his series of book catalogs that attempted to categorize all human knowledge, a pre-digital Google. After Colon’s death in 1539, his library ended up at Seville Cathedral, where it remains, sadly reduced in size by theft, mold and the Inquisition. Happily, Wilson-Lee’s insightful and entertaining work refreshes the memory of Colon’s sweeping vision.
SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson: Laurie Halse Anderson’s groundbreaking 1999 novel, Speak, drastically changed the ways in which authors wrote about teenage characters, helping to usher in the modern young adult genre as we know it today. After Anderson’s story of a high school student reckoning with the rage and pain of her rape became a bestseller, the dark and painful parts of adolescent life were up for exploring, and the coming-of-age experience was worth writing about. Now, Anderson is breaking ground again with a memoir-in-verse that challenges categorization and the ways we’ve thought about the YA genre for the past 20 years. Anderson, now 57, begins with short glimpses into her tumultuous early childhood in upstate New York, and we quickly learn about her veteran father’s PTSD and ensuing domestic violence, which informed her 2014 novel, The Impossible Knife of Memory. But the ferociously raw, burning heart of this memoir is the recounting of her rape at the age of 13. In searing free verse, Anderson unloads decades of trauma on these pages. Although younger teens will benefit from being able to unpack and discuss many passages with a parent or other adult, there’s good reason to believe that this book will become popular assigned reading in classrooms around the country.
Fall Back Down When I Die by Joe Wilkins: Twenty-four-year-old Wendell Newman is having a rough go of things when we first meet him in this heart-wrenching debut novel from Pushcart Prize winner Joe Wilkins. Wendell lost his father at an early age, his mother has just died after a long illness that’s left him with overdue medical bills, he owes back taxes on his parents’ property, and he has less than $100 in his bank account. His life is as bleak as the “bruised and dark” mountains of Montana in which he lives. When a social worker unexpectedly places Wendell’s 7-year-old nephew into his care after the boy’s mother is incarcerated on drug charges, Wendell has good reason to fall further into despair. The boy, Rowdy Burns, is traumatized himself. He won’t speak, is “developmentally delayed,” and he has uncontrollable fits. But Wendell, who remains haunted by his father’s violent death years ago, sees something of himself in his young charge and a chance, perhaps, to give Rowdy the life he couldn’t have. He enrolls Rowdy in school, takes the boy to work with him and shares lessons learned from the land and wilderness. Wilkins, who grew up in rural Montana where this story is set, details the pair’s growing bond and sense of hope with vivid, heartfelt strokes–before, just as powerfully, pulling the rug out from under them. On one front, an overprotective teacher threatens to separate them in the mistaken belief that Wendell may be abusing the boy. And on another, neighboring ranchers opposed to government overreach onto their properties bring their conflicts to Wendell’s doorstep. Chaos and tragedy ensue, placing Wendell and Rowdy in a desperate bid for survival, while ultimately asking if it’s possible to escape the fate–and the land–they were born into.
The Parade by Dave Eggers: This is a short book but not at the expense of anything it needs to function as a taut, direct and lean narrative. There’s not an ounce of fat on this book, and that makes it both inviting and the kind of novel that will linger in your brain for hours, even days, after you’ve read it. Eggers sets his tale in a nameless country just coming out of a painful civil war. Two men, who refer to themselves by numbers rather than names to simplify their relationship, have been hired to pave a road that serves as both a symbolic and literal unifier of the country. It’s a simple job, largely automated thanks to sophisticated machinery, but the two men approach it very differently. One is businesslike, Spartan and committed to keeping to his schedule without any complications, while the other is carefree and eager to take in the culture. As the road project marches along and their journey becomes complicated by their conflicting personalities, the novel asks us to ponder the dueling ideas of isolation and immersion in a foreign land, and how much is too much of either. The novel is sparse, free of proper names and major geographic and political details because it doesn’t need them. In deliberate, measured prose, Eggers marches his characters down the road toward uncertainty, building tension and conflict until the novel’s complex and thoughtful climax. The purposeful vagueness makes the novel feel timeless and universal, while Eggers’ way of pouring on the emotional details when it really counts makes it haunting. This is a tight, thrilling brisk read that will make you ponder your place in the world.
The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley: “Let me tell you how they break you,” says Dietz, a young soldier with a number of regrets, describing the grim reality behind a dream of military glory. “From the minute you step off the transport at the training base…you aren’t doing anything right. You don’t walk right, look right, talk right…No one likes you, let alone loves you. In great shape? It’s not enough. Smart? That’s worse.” Within a week, the victim of this treatment is fundamentally changed: “You yearn to kill, because it’s the only thing that gets your DI to love you. When you withhold all praise, people will do anything to get it. They’ll eat each other, if they need to.” For you English majors out there, the thrum of Alfred, Lord Tennyson in the title of Kameron Hurley’s latest is as intentional as you’d expect, but you may be more immediately reminded of his embittered successors Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. The characters, no older than the youths of WWI’s trenches, have ample material for a lifetime of shellshock before they’re out of basic training. Within three chapters they’re bonding over a bout of deadly illness caused by the medical treatments that the battlefield of the future demands. This book has the kind of gimmick memorable enough to stick in the mind after a glance at the jacket flap–at war with a terrorist colony on Mars, Earth has solved the problem of interstellar travel by transforming its soldiers into light, enabling them to “drop” from Earth to a distant planet at light speed. It would be easy to hang an entire novel on the strength of this conceit, with its blazing metaphorical resonances (“Nobody ever thinks they chose the wrong side,” says Dietz, on whom these are not lost. “We all think we’re made of light.”) and its attendant drawbacks, which would do Cronenberg proud (the human components sometimes reconfigure in the wrong order, and a dropper who remains intact still runs the risk of materializing underground or inside a solid structure). Instead, Hurley uses it as the starting point for an old-fashioned tale of time displacement. It becomes quickly apparent that for Dietz, the “drops” are happening in the wrong order, shuffling the young recruit all over the longer timeline of the war from one drop to the next. As complicated as this device may seem, it works because it remains fully in service to a story about war and its human cost. Dietz’s disorientation (how much time has really passed?) feels as much a reaction to the routine horror of combat as the confusion of an accidental time-traveler. The wider cast, though intriguing and full of individual quirks, never come through for the reader in the way Dietz does, with good reason. The isolation inherent to living out events in the wrong sequence forcibly evokes the isolation of active duty. While Hurley leaves several character elements to be unwound with the story–blink and you’ll miss the fleeting mention of the protagonist’s gender–there is nothing coy about this book. It definitely deserves a reread.
The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray (e-book): This book follows a family of three grown sisters after Althea, the oldest sister and the family matriarch, is sent to jail along with her husband. Her sisters, Viola and Lillian, must rise to the occasion to care for Althea’s twin daughters. While each woman battles demons of her own, they take turns carrying the story, each adding a beautiful and vivid layer to the plot as the narrative torch is passed. Viola, the middle sister, struggles with the eating disorder that has plagued her for years. As she contemplates whether or not she has what it takes to raise her teenage nieces, she’s also trying to reconcile her own marriage. Lillian, the youngest, has tenaciously held onto and restored her family’s old house, a place where she experienced profound pain and loneliness during her adolescence. She has a history of taking on the responsibilities of other people’s families: Along with Althea’s twin daughters, Lillian cares for her late ex-husband’s grandmother, Nai Nai. Althea’s twins are as different as sisters can be and have dealt with the fallout of their parents’ incarceration in vastly different ways. When Kim, the more headstrong of the twins, goes missing, Lillian and Violet must band together to bring her home. The fourth narrator is Proctor, Althea’s husband, whose capacity for love is apparent in his letters to his wife. Through these letters, Proctor offers a subtle but brilliant contrast to the women’s internal monologues. Through these intimate perspectives, the family becomes a breathing entity, giving space to peripheral characters such as the parents (both deceased) and the brother, a troubled teen turned preacher. This book has an unforgettable force. Gray possesses the ability to avoid judging her flawed, utterly human characters, who are without exception crafted from the heart.
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams: At the start of Candice Carty-Williams’ debut novel, Queenie Jenkins has just endured a messy breakup with her longtime boyfriend. A 25-year-old Jamaican-British woman living in London, Queenie is funny, clever and curvaceous. First to finish college in her family, she has landed a respected job with the local newspaper, where she hopes to do big things. But when her white boyfriend, Tom, unexpectedly ends their relationship, Queenie spirals through a series of self-destructive decisions until her self-worth is down in the dumps. Helping her navigate the doldrums–as well as a series of terrible choices in men from online dating apps–are perhaps some of the best girlfriends a person could ask for. Queenie is lucky to be surrounded by caring friends, family and boss. But that doesn’t stop her from constantly questioning how her race, the color of her skin and the size of her body will ever be good enough. Queenie, in essence, is every modern black woman who has ever questioned her abilities and her place in this world. With resonant reflections on race, relationships, sex and friendships, this book is a terrific debut that’s delivered with a touch of British humor and plenty of feel-good moments.
The Other Americans by Laila Lalami: When Driss Guerraoui, the owner of a diner near Joshua Tree National Park, leaves his restaurant one night, he’s killed in a mysterious hit-and-run while crossing the street. But this wasn’t an accident; it was murder, concludes his daughter Nora, as a variety of surprising details about her father’s life emerge. He was, after all, feuding with Anderson Baker, the owner of the bowling alley next door. As aspiring composer Nora returns to her hometown to help run the family diner and grieve with her mother and sister, she encounters a variety of ghosts from her childhood, including Baker’s son, A.J., who in high school wrote “raghead” on her locker, bullying her because her parents emigrated from Morocco out of fear of political unrest. Moroccan-born Laila Lalami was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for The Moor’s Account, and her much-anticipated fourth book, The Other Americans, doesn’t disappoint. The story carefully unfolds from multiple viewpoints, including that of Nora’s immigrant mother, Maryam; her jealous and seemingly highly successful sister, Salma; and even her dead father. There’s also Detective Coleman, an African-American woman investigating the case, as well as a Mexican immigrant who witnessed Driss’ death and remains haunted by his ghost but is afraid to come forward and risk deportation. Nora also reconnects with her high school friend Jeremy, now an Iraq War veteran and sheriff’s deputy. Lalami’s crisp, straightforward prose offers the perfect counterpoint to the complexity of her plot, which artfully interweaves past and present. Reminiscent of Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth in its depiction of the enduring effects of family secrets and betrayals, The Other Americans also addresses a multitude of other issues–immigration, prejudice, post-traumatic stress, love and murder–with what can only be described as magical finesse.
In a Badger Way by Shelly Laurenston (e-book): Shelly Laurenston returns to the uproarious, madcap adventures of her Honey Badger Chronicles with In a Badger Way. Hybrid shifter Stevie MacKilligan has met the one bear shifter who doesn’t make her fearful–Shen Li, bodyguard and Giant Panda. Stevie is a powerhouse due to the honey badger and tiger shifter abilities she shares. Unfortunately, she’s also a genius, highly sought after for her scientific insights, and prone to anxiety-induced panic attacks. It’s a deadly combination, especially as Stevie’s shifting becomes unpredictable when she’s riled up, anxious or off her much-needed medication. One of the few things that soothes her is Shen Li. Stevie thinks he’s adorable, given that he can shift into a Giant Panda instead of a terrifying bear that’ll send her blood pressure surging. When Shen is tasked with protecting and keeping the troublesome prodigy out of danger, he soon realizes this assignment should have come with a significant amount of hazard pay. A scientist is doing experiments on shifters and the MacKilligan sisters have their hands full with finding their evil cousins, who are just coming into their own powers. The combination of both plots make this an action-packed paranormal romance and for those new to Laurenston, the best advice is to strap in for the rollercoaster ride of brash heroines, snarky side characters and over-the-top fight scenes. Laurenston really is one of a kind when it comes to rip-roaring shifter shenanigans.
The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell: Early in Namwali Serpell’s brilliant and many-layered debut novel, a turn-of-the-century British colonialist named Percy Clark wanders through the corner of what was then called Northwest Rhodesia (and is now the nation of Zambia) and complains: “I do seem plagued by the unpunishable crimes of others.” It is, in a sense, a fitting slogan for the many ruinous aftereffects of colonialism, except here it is spoken by an agent and beneficiary of the colonizer. So begins The Old Drift, an expansive yet intricate novel that bends, inverts and at times ignores conventions of time and place. Part historical fiction, part futurism, part fantasy, Serpell’s hundred-year saga of three families and their intertwined fortunes is as unique as it is ambitious. And in just about every way, it succeeds. The story begins in 1904, when an unlikely incident (Percy accidentally rips a patch of hair off another man’s head) sets off a chain of events that reverberates through the decades. From there, Serpell introduces a cast of characters that ranges from the everyday to the fantastical. The book chronicles the interwoven lives of three families, cast against the creation of Zambia itself. There is a timeless quality to Serpell’s storytelling–or perhaps a sense that her novel moves almost independent of time. What starts as a story steeped in real colonial history eventually moves into the present and beyond–an invented near-future. In clumsier hands this complex, sprawling, century-spanning book might have easily folded in on itself, a victim of its scale and scope. Instead, The Old Drift holds together, its many strands diverging and converging in strange but undeniable rhythm.
Murder by the Book by Claire Harman: Claire Harman, previously a biographer of literary legends like Charlotte Bronte and Robert Louis Stevenson, has now set her sights on true crime with an intriguing, entertaining and occasionally gruesome mashup of mystery, biography, history and literary intrigue. Readers who delight in the likes of Jack the Ripper, Sherlock Holmes and the dark side of 19th-century London will find a haven here. Harman takes a storytelling approach to a crime that was the talk of 1840s London: the murder of Lord William Russell. She sets the stage with a bloody, strange murder scene; unrest between servants and employers; and a conviction and punishment that don’t completely answer all the questions swirling around the tragic events. Woven throughout is the rising tide of blame aimed at violent novels. The wealthy became increasingly concerned that such novels were giving unsavory folk all kinds of ideas–after all, look at what happened to Lord Russell. It he wasn’t safe, who was? Armchair detectives will enjoy following along as Harman chronicles the investigation and its suspects, as well as the ways in which authors like Charles Dickens and William Thackeray were influenced by the goings-on (and, in Dickens’ care, later spurred to social activism). In two latter sections, Harman shares further fruits of her intensive research, offering a nice differentiation from present-day true crime books that cannot yet offer historical perspective. A fascinating, exhaustively researched exploration into how art can influence society and vice versa, Murder by the Book: The Crime That Shocked Dickens’s London turns an unflinching eye to the ways in which biases born of economic inequality affect the way crimes are investigates and prosecuted. It’s a true crime devotee’s delight.
A Wonderful Stroke of Luck by Ann Beattie: For young Ben and his posse at Bailey Academy, most of the grown-ups in their lives are either dead, dying or dysfunctional. But despite the bleak subject matter of Ann Beattie’s latest novel, A Wonderful Stroke of Luck, Ben’s adolescent angst and ensuing quarter-life crisis is riven with hope and humor. The story begins when the bucolic bubble encompassing Ben’s posh New Hampshire boarding school is burst by news of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, propelling the students further into the thrall of their Svengali-like teacher Pierre LaVerdere, whose role as their charismatic mentor and in loco parentis is solidified. Beattie’s novel moves from the abrupt conclusion of Ben and his friends’ boarding school days straight into young adulthood, giving only a cursory mention of their college days. Wealthy and smart, Ben and company were admitted to the likes of Cornell and Stanford, but their elite pedigrees have not prepared them for the indignities of the early aughts. Struggling to hold a steady job and even harder to maintain a relationship, Ben pivots between his devotion to a sex-crazed narcissist and his obsession with an old boarding school crush. When Ben escapes Manhattan and buys a house in the Hudson Valley’s idyllic Rhinebeck, he finds a kind of family in the warm embrace of his new neighbors, Steve, Ginny and their young daughter, Maude. Beattie’s belief in Ben’s inherent decency is most evident in these passages, as our brooding antihero discovers friendship, camaraderie and a sense of belonging. Alas, without spoiling the ending, LaVerdere arrives back on the scene, delivering a shocking revelation that brings Ben–and readers–into the heart of Beattie’s postmodernist Greek tragedy, where the luck of these self-absorbed scions of the so-called “1 percent” is not nearly as wonderful as one might think. Beattie serves up an unflinchingly bleak–albeit sometimes laugh-out-loud humorous–serving of millennial malaise. It’s almost entirely character-driven, with plot far less important than dialogue, reflecting Beattie’s keen ear for not only what is said but also what is left unsaid, often with tragic consequences.
Never Tell by Lisa Gardner: A man is dead, shot three times in his home office. But his computer has been shot twelve times, and when the cops arrive, his pregnant wife is holding the gun. D.D. Warren arrives on the scene and recognizes the woman – Evie Carter. Evie’s father was killed in a shooting that was ruled an accident. But for D.D., two coincidental murders is too many. Flora Dane sees the murder of Conrad Carter on the TV news and immediately knows his face. But D.D. and Flora are about to discover that in this case the truth is a devilishly elusive thing. As layer by layer they peel away the half-truths and outright lies, they wonder: How many secrets can one family have?
Savage Feast by Boris Fishman: This memoir opens in the middle of the night, on a train at the border of Czechoslovakia, as Fishman, then 9 years old, and his parents and grandparents attempt to make their way from Soviet Belarus to a new life in the United States. The story then drops back to the lives of Fishman’s Jewish grandparents, detailing how they survived in Stalin-era Belarus in Eastern Europe. The author of two novels, Fishman lets his narrative move novelistically back and forth in time through key moments like his family’s emigration, their early days in Brooklyn and the recent past, when Fishman is uneasily tethered to his family’s foreignness. Fishman’s writing is brisk and vivid, and despite generations’ worth of trauma the family suffered, from pervasive anti-Semitism to the brutalities of World War II, his memoir is often funny. This book is mostly a coming-of-age story, as the young adult Fishman tries to find his place–and love–in his adopted country. Throughout, we see him visiting his grandfather’s Brooklyn apartment, where he’s fed an array of traditional Russian dishes prepared by his grandfather’s home-health aide, Oksana. As his grandfather grows sicker, and as Fishman suffers through a protracted depression and failed relationships, these traditional dishes–borscht, cabbage dumplings, latkes, rabbit braised in sour cream, ukha (salmon soup)–remain a comforting constant, and Fishman learns from Oksana how to cook them. That’s where this book departs from other memoirs: Most chapters end with detailed recipes, adding a lovely, homey dimension.
I.M. by Isaac Mizrahi: Isaac Mizrahi is sui generis: designer, cabaret performer, talk-show host, TV celebrity. Yet ever since he shot to fame in the late 1980s, the private Isaac Mizrahi has remained under wraps. Until now. In this book, Isaac Mizrahi offers a poignant, candid, and touching look back on his life so far. Growing up gay in a sheltered Syrian Jewish Orthodox family, Isaac had unique talents that ultimately drew him into fashion and late into celebrity circles that read like a who’s who of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries: Richard Avedon, Audrey Hepburn, Anna Wintour, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Meryl Streep, and Oprah Winfrey, to name only a few. In his elegant memoir, Isaac delves into his lifelong battles with weight, insomnia, and depression. He tells what it was like to be an out gay man in a homophobic age and to witness the ravaging effects of the AIDS epidemic. Brimming with intimate details and inimitable wit, Isaac’s narrative reveals not just the glamour of his years, but the grit beneath the glitz. Rich with memorable stories from in and out of the spotlight, this book illuminates deep emotional truths.
How to Be Well by Dr. Frank Lipman: This is a manual of essential skills that anyone can use to navigate safely and smoothly through the wild terrain of wellness today. Lipman’s advice covers everything from bone broth to foam rollers to electromagnetic frequencies. Some of the interesting things that are covered include a list of healthy fats (think smoothies, tahini, brussels sprouts with bacon), eight ways to “harness the power of dark to improve your sleep,” 10 baking-soda cleaning hacks and more. An index of basic protocols for common complaints and goals–brain fog, acne, weight loss, anxiety–is an especially nice way to close out this book.
Devil’s Daughter by Lisa Kleypas: When Phoebe, Lady Clare, travels to her brother’s wedding at the beginning of this book, she’s a reluctant guest. Phoebe knows she’ll meet West Ravenel, who bullied her sickly late husband at boarding school. But the old stories don’t do the mature West justice, even through he doesn’t deny the ugliness of his past. Phoebe sees the good man that West has become, and the only bad left in him is precisely the kind that a woman like herself finds oh-so-tempting. The romance is interesting as West’s best intentions to stay clear of Phoebe battle her resolve to get what she wants, and that push-pull drives the narrative. The reformed bad boy is a staple of the genre, and West is just the sort that readers adore. His regrets and overwhelming feelings for the heroine make him an unforgettable hero. There are even some cameos from Kleypas’ Wallflowers making this a must read.
Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe: Jean McConville was 38 years old in December 1972 when a masked man kidnapped her from her flat in a bleak housing project in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her 10 children, some of whom were clinging to her legs as she was dragged from her home, never saw her again. It was soon rumored that McConville, a Protestant once married to a Catholic, had been snatched–and probably executed–by the outlawed provisional wing of the Irish Republican Army because she was an informer. So begins this gripping, revelatory and unsettling account of McConville’s murder and its reverberations throughout the 30-year spasm of violence known as the “troubles,” which left 3,500 dead in its wake. To tell the story, Keefe delves into a long and devastating history of open and hidden conflict, parts of which remain entombed within the IRA’s code of silence. With visceral detail, he describes life in the embattled neighborhoods, where suspicion and betrayal festered on all sides. Keefe also offers compelling portraits of some of the leading figures in the conflict, among them Gerry Adams, who helped broker the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought an end to armed conflict. He went on to preside over Sinn Fein, sometimes called the political arm of the IRA. But the most riveting figure in this narrative is Dolours Price. She and her younger sister, Marian, were radicalized as students after a peaceful march for union with Ireland was violently attacked. Described as having a quick tongue, flaming red hair and a peacock personality, she was chosen by Adams for an elite squad. She played a part in McConville’s abduction, organized a car bombing attack on London and, when imprisoned, led a hunger strike that inflamed the romantic revolutionary imagination. But as a true believer, she, along with others, was devastated when Adams first denied that he was ever in the IRA and then brokered a peace agreement that did not include the unification of Ireland. She was, allegedly, not an inherently violent person, and she was left wondering what it was all for. Which is one of the most profound and unanswerable questions this searing book will leave in a reader’s mind.
Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner: Every Friday night, best friends Delia and Josie become Rayne Ravenscroft and Delilah Darkwood, hosts of the campy creature feature show Midnite Matinee on the local cable station TV Six. But with the end of senior year quickly approaching, the girls face touch decisions about their futures. Josie has been dreading graduation, as she tries to decide whether to leave for a big university and chase her dream career in mainstream TV. And Lawson, one of the show’s guest performers, a talented MMA fighter with weaknesses for pancakes, fantasy novels, and Josie, is making her touch decision even harder. Scary movies are the last connection Delia has to her dad, who abandoned the family years ago. If Midnite Matinee becomes a hit, maybe he’ll see it and want to be a part of her life again. And maybe Josie will stay with the show instead of leaving her behind, too. As the tug-of-war between growing up and growing apart tests the bond of their friendship, Josie and Delia start to realize that an uncertain future can be both monstrous—and momentous.
Never Enough by Judith Grisel: This book is a timely, educational blend of neuroscience and memoir. It tackles the devastating problem of addiction. Current statistics speak to a dire state of affiars: Nearly 16% of the U.S. population over the age of 12 fits the criteria for substance abuse disorder. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has declared our current opioid epidemic to be a public health emergency. Drawing from her own experience as a recovering drug addict, Grisel in uniquely positioned to study the neuroscience of addiction. She understands both the allure of drugs and the devastation they leave in their wake. Indeed, it seems that the way she has managed to stay sober for over 25 years is to make the study of addiction her life’s work. Now a professor and scientist, Grisel is a compassionate and empathetic guide to the hard science behind drug use.
Bangkok Wakes to Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad: Krungthep, Bangkok, New Krungthep–the Thai capital city goes by many names and assumes many, ever-changing facades in this book. Past and future intermingle like the waters that converge in the Chao Phraya river running through the heart of the city. Pitchaya Sudbanthad’s first novel ranges wide in time and scope, and the author masterfully captures dozens of different voices and thoughts in his vast cast: the vagabond photographer who avoids returning to his ancestral home; a 19th-century missionary doctor who wants nothing more than a transfer to another posting when he first arrives in Siam; studious young swimmer Mai who achieves success in business that is the stuff of sci-fi dreams; a wandering jazz pianist who goes by “Crazy Legs” and plays for hours in the nightclubs; sisters Nee and Nok, who find themselves forever affected by the student political protests of the 1970s. Teenage girls obsessed with their looks grow into mothers, spouses cheat, parents age and die, and sons and daughters are born. This ambitious novel’s many overlapping stories chart a fast pace, and at times, the connective thread between them gets muddled. Sudbanthad’s narrative flits around and back and forth, much like the colorful parrots that inhabit the old colonial house at the epicenter of the novel and, later, the animatronic birds used to scan the infrastructure of the city in a technologically advanced future. The lives of the people who call, or once called, Krungthep home are inextricably tied to this place. In this city prone to flooding, rain is a constant, continually washing away what once was. And yet, in the words of a mother, “truth lingers, unseen like phantoms but there to rattle and scream wherever people try hardest to forget.”
The River by Peter Heller: Dartmouth classmates Jack and Wynn have cleared a few weeks for fly-fishing and whitewater canoeing in northern Canada. Raised on a ranch in Colorado, Jack finds camping and hunting to be as natural as breathing. Wynn is a gentle soul from rural Vermont whose random trailside installations of stones, twigs and flowers do not take away from his acumen out of doors. The young men share a love of literature and outdoor sport, and imagine their two-week trek to be one of leisurely paddling, blueberry picking and reading around the campfire. This idyll is abruptly shattered when they sniff out the fumes of a swiftly approaching forest fire. Wynn and Jack agree to turn back and warn a couple they heard arguing the day before. This proves to be a fateful decision, as the woman, Maia, is found injured and bloody, and her husband, Pierre, no longer on the scene. The two men, with the badly shocked Maia in tow, are now on the run from the fire and, equally threatening, from a possibly homicidal husband. As if this weren’t bad enough, the crises put a strain on the two men, and an element of mistrust creeps into their friendship. Masterfully paced and artfully told, this book is a page turner that demands the reader slow down and relish the sheer poetry of the language.
The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie: The ruler of Vastai is bound to the Raven, a god who watches over the city. If the god dies, so does the ruler. Mawat, the heir to the throne, returns to Vastai to find his uncle sitting in his father’s seat. Eolo, Mawat’s attendant, captures the attention of another god, who needs a physical vessel to carry out his will. What is uncovered is a lifetime of conspiracy and agendas that threaten the lives of everyone in the kingdom. In a characteristically ambitious move by Leckie, first-and-second-person perspectives alternate, mixing palace intrigue with the new god’s mythical backstory. Eolo’s sections are narrated by this god, who may or may not be reliable, lending the entire tale a voyeuristic, ephemeral quality. Leckie’s confidence pays off here, establishing her unique perspective in an entirely new genre.
The Wolf and the Watchman by Niklas Natt och Dag: When you’re dead drunk, the last thing you want to deal with is a dead man. Yet duty calls for Swedish night watchman Mickel Cardell, who laboriously hauls his war-wounded body off to retrieve a drowned carcass. But the cause of death is no ordinary drowning: The corpse’s eyes have been gouged out, his teeth removed and his limbs severed. Accordingly, Cardell finds himself paired with special investigator Cecil Winge, a man so wracked with consumption and close to death that he has earned the nickname “Ghost of the Indebetou.” This unlikely couple is tasked with solving the unidentified man’s murder, but it’s unclear whether they’ll be able to do so before the coffin lid slides over Winge himself. But that’s just one obstacle they’ll have to overcome. The year is 1793, just one removed from the regicide of Swedish King Gustav III, mere months after French King Louis XVI had a date with a guillotine, soon to be followed by his queen consort Marie Antoinette. Swedish adventurism has left the national treasury in shambles, and the stark divide between the ruling classes and the peasantry has left the masses in a state of agitated discontent. The sense of a ticking clock pervades Niklas Natt och Dag’s swift-paced, cinematic first novel, which was named Best Debut by the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers last year. Though they seem to be the oddest of couples–one a man of action, the other a man of deliberation–Cardell and Winge prove to be an effective team as they crisscross political, cultural and economic strata to establish the dead man’s identity, and ultimately try to effect some rough form of justice.
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid: Daisy, a talented singer and a gorgeous, drug-addled train wreck, falls in with a band called The Six at a critical juncture. The group’s fame and fortune blow up, and Daisy rides the rocket with them thanks to her passionate duets with their founder and leader, Billy Dunne. Inevitably, Daisy and the married Billy fall in love. They also hate each other’s guts. It’s beautiful. Readers will feel for Billy though. A recovering druggie and alcoholic, he’s saved from dissipation by his wife, Camila, and their kids. His integrity and lack of cynicism keep the reader from resenting him the way his bandmates sometimes do. At the same time, Reid is adroit enough to make us understand why his white-knuckled virtue gets on people’s nerves. A multinarrative interview style of storytelling allows Daisy, Billy, the members of The Six and others in their orbit, such as managers, producers, rock critics and loved ones, to recall their memories. They’re being interviewed around 2012 or so, and everyone is now of a certain age, so some of those memories contradict, and many are funny or sorrowful and startlingly candid. Their confessions become even more surprising when we learn the identity of the interviewer.
The Altruists by Andrew Ridker: Like Barbara Kingsolver’s Unsheltered, the central storyline of Ridker’s often darkly funny, heartfelt tale concerns an untenured professor in late middle age, without any money and not much chance of earning any. The professor in question is Arthur Alter. He has dragged his wife, Francine, and two children–the introverted Ethan (who soon comes out as gay) and idealistic Maggie–from Boston to St. Louis with the hope of getting tenure at Danforth University. When it doesn’t happen, he becomes disgruntled, increasingly desperate and miserable. We learn early in the novel that Francine, who is a family and couples’ therapist, will die from cancer. But as the novel skips back and forth in time, we get to see a family evolving, as well as young Francine and Arthur in love and filled with hope and ambition. We also know that Arthur, 63 by the story’s end, cheated on his wife when she was gravely ill, with a German history professor half his age. In the fallout from that affair, Francine removes Arthur from her will and cuts him out of her secret nest egg. By halfway through the novel, the reader is unlikely to have mustered much sympathy for Arthur. When the novel backtracks to the younger and far more idealistic protagonist’s trip to Zimbabwe, where he hopes to provide solutions to sanitation problems, readers will connect with him more deeply. When his project fails, Arthur is crushed, and his life’s trajectory is set. Later in his life, when he is broke and barely working, Arthur hopes his children might be able to part with some of their inheritance so he can avoid foreclosure. However, the lesson Arthur and his children learn by the novel’s end is not financial in nature but moral. It proves to be priceless.
Unto Us a Son Is Given by Donna Leon: Guido Brunetti’s 29th adventure starts when a wealthy, elderly man adopts a younger man as his son, causing some consternation among the rich man’s intimates, as the adopted son now stands to inherit the entire estate. Naturally, the old man dies shortly thereafter, and tongues start wagging. Then, when one of his closest confidantes is found strangled to death in her hotel room, the plot begins to thicken like roux over a blue flame. Leon is a multifaceted, effortlessly assured writer. Her plots are innovative and layered, her characters have developed and matured over the course of a lengthy series, and her prose is imbued with wit and compassion on virtually every page. If you are a fan of Louise Penny (and who isn’t), Leon should be on your short list.
The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson: This book is a weird, surreal ride–one that might be bumpy in the hands of a less adept writer. But Hutchinson has become known for his unique and offbeat takes on the young adult experience, and in his latest, he pairs a quirky premise with vitally alive–or, in one case, half-alive–teen characters. Dino’s parents own a funeral home, so he’s no stranger to death. But he’s not expecting his best friend, July, to die suddenly. Their relationship was, like many teen friendships, challenged when Dino started dating. It’s clear the two had unfinished business, so it’s lucky that just days before her funeral, July comes back to life–as an animated corpse. July and Dino try to come to terms with this supernatural occurrence while revisiting their friendship and trying to find out how Dino’s relationship with his new boyfriend will be impacted. Could Dino and July really have done things differently to stay friends while July was alive? And what does this mean for the future? Does July even have a future? This quirky novel has just enough surrealism to keep teens wanting more.
The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon: In the kingdom of Virtudom, one of many territories featured in this new high fantasy novel, a monarchy is necessary to keep evil at bay. According to the local faith, Sabran the Ninth–the latest in a long line of queens descended from a heroic figure called “The Saint”–is by her mere existence preventing a being called the Nameless One from reemerging. Sabran’s status among her people is goddess-like, but it comes at a price. With the Nameless One’s followers prophesying his return, she cannot waste a moment in finding a husband to conceive an heir. Into the closed-off recesses of her court drifts Ead Duryan, an enigmatic figure with forbidden magic up her sleeves. Ead is no friend of Sabran, but she has taken it upon herself to protect the queen at all costs. For enthusiasts of the high fantasy epic, this book is the real deal–large enough to draw its own gravity, with maps in the front and a glossary at the back. But it ultimately derives most of its heft from the crossed motivations of its range of characters, from Sabran’s old friend Loth, caught in a deadly quest of his own, to Tane, an ambitious and obsessive would-be dragon-rider from the Eastern end of the world, which revers the creatures that the West fears. Shannon frequents well-loved fantasy concepts but rarely leaves a familiar trope untampered with. Her dragons, honed to the setting they inhabit, are so specific in their biological quirks that it’s hard not to feel that you could do further research into your favorite species if you could only find the right field guide. Her prose is self-assured and light on its feet, maintaining a tightrope height without sacrificing the tension of its narrative or descending into the overwrought.
The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg: High school students Jordan and Max couldn’t be more different. Jordan writes poetry and hangs out with his two female best friends while Max chills with the jocks on the baseball team. When Max stumbles into a summer job helping out at Jordan’s late father’s food truck, the boys are awkward coworkers at first and the truck is looking like it’s a miserable failure. Max isn’t getting paid and Jordan isn’t earning the money he needs to help his mother pay the mortgage. But once the boys redesign the truck and its menu (nevermind some bumpy false starts), their unique spicy chicken and frozen lemonade recipes start attracting customers. As sales begin to boom and the hot Phoenix summer blazes around them, the two boys begin to bond and share their vulnerabilities: Jordan is scared by his mother’s mental illness, and Max is dealing with the trauma of being assaulted by an older boy at a party. Before long, they’ve moved from being friendly coworkers to being boyfriends. But will their feelings for each other be enough to sustain them as things begin to turn sour?
Mama’s Last Hug by Frans de Waal: In 2016, the 80-year-old biologist Jan van Hooff visited his old friend Mama, a dying 59-year-old chimpanzee matriarch. Their videotaped emotional reunion was seen around the world. In this book, the author begins with that endearing goodbye, then dives into his decades of experience studying our fellow hominids. With wit and scholarly perspicacity, the renowned primatologist and ethologist offers an abundant study of animal and human emotions, urging a kinder, gentler approach to those with whom we share out planet, from apes and rats to plants and single-cell organisms. Citing a wealth of experiments and studies, the genial scientist raises new awareness of our shared evolutionary history and suggests that a strictly behavioral model is no longer accurate or adequate. In fact, de Waal writes, previous theoretical constructs were largely based on assumptions (made by men) about male dominance. The matriarchal society of bonobos offers a conflicting example. These primate hippies make more love than war and are pros at peacemaking. Perhaps we humans are more like them–or should be. Chief among de Waal’s studies are animal emotions: who has them, how they work and why humans should care. De Waal provides examples of a full range of emotions experiences by our fellow hominids like empathy, sympathy, disgust, shame, guilt, fear and forgiveness. He proves that rats enjoy being tickled; chimps and elephants can console, conspire and retaliate; and plants release toxic scents to protect against predatory insects. We are all animals, de Waal reminds us, and he has provided a rich perspective on–and an argent invitation to reconsider–every aspect of life around us.
How I Became a Spy by Deborah Hopkinson: Bertie Bradshaw never set out to become a spy. He never imagined traipsing around war-torn London, solving ciphers, practicing surveillance, and searching for a traitor to the Allied forces. He certainly never expected that a strong-willed American girl named Eleanor would play Watson to his Holmes (or Holmes to his Watson, depending on who you ask). A coded notebook is left behind and Bertie is determined to solve the mystery. With the help of Eleanor and his friend David, a Jewish refugee–and, of course, his trusty pup, Little Roo–Bertie must decipher the notebook in time to stop a double agent from spilling the biggest secret of all to the Nazis.
Right as Rain by Lindsey Stoddard: In this brimming-with-life novel, sixth-grader Rain Andrews’ mother is a neuroscientist who studies the brain, but she can’t fix her family’s broken hearts after Rain’s beloved older brother, Guthrie, is killed in a car accident. Stoddard tackles grief head-on in her moving, uplifting portrayal of learning to live and embrace life amid loss. Determined to make a fresh start, Rain’s mom takes a new research job at Columbia University, moving the family to an apartment in Hamilton Heights and leaving behind virtually all of their belongings in the Vermont town that Rain adores. Rain’s grief-stricken dad is seriously depressed and stays in bed for much of the day, while Rain feels responsible for Guthrie’s death because she helped him sneak out of the house on that fateful night–the details of which are gradually revealed in short chapters intertwined with the main narrative. But Rain’s dad, who works in construction, has taught her that “If you take down a weight-bearing wall without setting up a system of support beams, the whole weight of the house will collapse down on you. But if you build up a strong system of support beams, you can take the weight right off.”
This Promise of Change by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy: In 1956, one year before federal troops escorted the Little Rock 9 into Central High School, fourteen-year-old Jo Ann Allen was one of twelve African-American students who broke the color barrier and integrated Clinton High School in Tennessee. At first, things went smoothly for the Clinton 12, but then outside agitators interfered, pitting the townspeople against one another. Uneasiness turned into anger, and even the Clinton Twelve themselves wondered if the easier thing to do would be to go back to their old school. Jo Ann–clear-eyed, practical, tolerant, and popular among both black and white students–found herself called on as the spokesperson of the group. But what about just being a regular teen? This is the heartbreaking and relatable story of her four months thrust into the national spotlight and as a trailblazer in history. Based on original research and interviews and featuring backmatter with archival materials and notes from the authors on the co-writing process.
Spin by Lamar Giles: When DJ ParSec (Paris Secord), rising star of the local music scene, is found dead over her turntables, the two girls who found her, Kya (her pre-fame best friend) and Fuse (her current chief groupie) are torn between grief for Paris and hatred for each other–but when the lack of obvious suspects stalls the investigation, and the police seem to lose interest, despite pressure from social media and ParSec’s loyal fans, the two girls unite, determined to find out who murdered their friend.
Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham: Early in the morning of April 26, 1986, Reactor Number Four of the Chernobyl Atomic Energy Station exploded, triggering history’s worst nuclear disaster. In the thirty years since then, Chernobyl has become lodged in the collective nightmares of the world: shorthand for the spectral horrors of radiation poisoning, for a dangerous technology slipping its leash, for ecological fragility, and for what can happen when a dishonest and careless state endangers its citizens and the entire world. But the real story of the accident, clouded from the beginning by secrecy, propaganda, and misinformation, has long remained in dispute. Drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews conducted over the course of more than ten years, as well as letters, unpublished memoirs, and documents from recently-declassified archives, Adam Higginbotham has written a harrowing and compelling narrative which brings the disaster to life through the eyes of the men and women who witnessed it firsthand. The result is a masterful nonfiction thriller, and the definitive account of an event that changed history: a story that is more complex, more human, and more terrifying than the Soviet myth.
The Pianist from Syria by Aeham Ahmad: In many ways, Aeham Ahmad is an ordinary man. The son of Palestinian refugees, he grew up in Yarmouk, home to 160,000 other Palestinians in Damascus. His father, a musician blind since childhood, bribed and wheedled young Ahmad into practicing the piano for hours at a time. His talent grew steadily, but only later did he develop a profound love for music. Ahmad achieved his dreams at a young age. Still in his 20s, he and his father built a thriving business selling musical instruments and giving lessons. He married a strong, intelligent woman, and together they brought a sweet boy into the world. But in June of 2012, the Syrian civil war made its way to Yarmouk, and all those dreams crumbled beneath the weight of the bombs, mortars and bullets fired by both the Syrian Army and the different militias fighting against them. In this book, Ahmad tells the story of his family’s terrible deprivations during the civil war. His losses are profound, and it was truly miraculous that he and his family were finally able to escape to safety in Germany. Yet the true hero of this story is Ahmad’s music. Pushing his piano into the bomb-ruined streets of Yarmouk, Ahmad and his impromptu choirs sang out songs of protest, mourning and hope. He rejected the jingoism of both the Syrian government and the militias. Instead, his music illuminated the horrors of war, while celebrating the simple dreams of ordinary people caught up in a nightmare. His songs were truly subversive, because they served no faction. Soon a YouTube and Facebook phenomenon, Ahmad became an increasingly marked man.
Early Riser by Jasper Fforde: Every winter, the human population hibernates. During those bitterly cold four months, the nation is a snow-draped landscape of desolate loneliness, devoid of human activity. Well, not quite. Your name is Charlie Worthing and it’s your first season with the Winter Consuls, the committed but mildly unhinged group of misfits who are responsible for ensuring the hibernatory safe passage of the sleeping masses. You are investigating an outbreak of viral dreams which you dismiss as nonsense; nothing more than a quirky artefact borne of the sleeping mind. When the dreams start to kill people, it’s unsettling. When you get the dreams too, it’s weird. When they start to come true, you begin to doubt your sanity. But teasing the truth from the Winter is never easy: You have to avoid the Villains and their penchant for murder, kidnapping, and stamp collecting, ensure you aren’t eaten by Nightwalkers, whose thirst for human flesh can only be satisfied by comfort food, and sidestep the increasingly less-than-mythical WinterVolk. But so long as you remember to wrap up warmly, you’ll be fine.
The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders: “If you control our sleep, then you can own our dreams…And from there, it’s easy to control our entire lives.” January is a dying planet–divided between a permanently frozen darkness on one side, and blazing endless sunshine on the other. Humanity clings to life, spread across two archaic cities built in the sliver of habitable dusk. But life inside the cities is just as dangerous as the uninhabitable wastelands outside. Sophie, a student and reluctant revolutionary, is supposed to be dead, after being exiled into the night. Saved only by forming an unusual bond with the enigmatic beasts who roam the ice, Sophie vows to stay hidden from the world, hoping she can heal. But fate has other plans–and Sophie’s ensuing odyssey and the ragtag family she finds will change the entire world.
American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson: After a break-in at her home in which she is forced to defend herself from an assassin, Marie Mitchell decides to document her life for the benefit of her children in case she is one day killed. So begins Lauren Wilkinson’s debut novel, American Spy, which chronicles the life of a black woman recruited to the CIA during the height of the Cold War. In the ensuing pages, Marie recounts her early childhood infatuation with spies, such as James Bond in Goldfinger, and her own family’s role in law enforcement, from her father’s position in the Harlem police department to her sister Helene’s work as an Army intelligence officer. Even though she proves more than adept at both physical combat techniques and mental manipulation of her own “recruits”–the kind of stuff that only the best spies are capable of–Marie is consigned to being a paper pusher for much of her career in the FBI. So she is more than surprised when she is approached to work undercover for the CIA in a high-profile case. The CIA needs Marie to get close to and undermine Robert Sankara, the revolutionary president of the tiny West African nation of Burkina Faso. At first, Marie is reluctant to accept the job, but her desire to make something more of her life–and perhaps her despair over the mysterious death of her sister–convinces her otherwise. Taking on the task becomes more than complicated, however, when she develops a real affection for Sankara, who will eventually father her two boys, thereby causing her to question her loyalty to the U.S. and its policies.
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli: A mother and father set out with their two children, a boy and a girl, driving from New York to Arizona in the heat of summer. Their destination: Apacheria, the place the Apaches once called home. Why Apaches? asks the ten-year-old son. Because they were the last of something, answers his father. In their car, they play games and sing along to music. But on the radio, there is news about an “immigration crisis”: thousands of kids trying to cross the southwestern border into the United States, but getting detained–or lost in the desert along the way. As the family drives–through Virginia to Tennessee, across Oklahoma and Texas–we sense they are on the brink of a crisis of their own. A fissure is growing between the parents, one the children can almost feel beneath their feet. They are led, inexorably, to a grand, harrowing adventure–both in the desert landscape and within the chambers of their own imaginations. Told through several compelling voices, blending texts, sounds, and images, this book is an astonishing feat of literary virtuosity. It is a richly engaging story of how we document our experiences, and how we remember the things that matter to us the most. With urgency and empathy, it takes us deep into the lives of one remarkable family as it probes the nature of justice and equality today.
Crab Cake by Andrea Tsurumi: Under the sea, fish do what fish do: Seahorse hides, Pufferfish puffs up, Parrotfish crunches coral, and Crab…bakes cakes? Scallop swims, Dolphin blows bubbles, and…Crab bakes cakes. And so life goes on, until one night when everything changes with a splash! In the face of total disaster, can Crab’s small, brave act help the community come together and carry on?
Figuring by Maria Popova: This book explores the complexities of love and the human search for truth and meaning through the interconnected lives of several historical figures across four centuries–beginning with the astronomer Johannes Kepler, who discovered the laws of planetary motion, and ending with the marine biologist and author Rachel Carson, who catalyzed the environmental movement. Stretching between these figures is a cast of artists, writers, and scientists–mostly women, mostly queer–whose public contribution have risen out of their unclassifiable and often heartbreaking private relationships to change the way we understand, experience, and appreciate the universe. Among them are the astronomer Maria Mitchell, who paved the way for women in science; the sculptor Harriet Hosmer, who did the same in art; the journalist and literary critic Margaret Fuller, who sparked the feminist movement; and the poet Emily Dickinson. Emanating from these lives are larger questions about the measure of a good life and what it means to leave a lasting mark of betterment on an imperfect world: Are achievement and acclaim enough for happiness? Is genius? Is love? Weaving through the narrative is a set of peripheral figures–Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Darwin, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Herman Melville, Frederick Douglass, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Walt Whitman–and a tapestry of themes spanning music, feminism, the history of science, the rise and decline of religion, and how the intersection of astronomy, poetry, and Transcendentalist philosophy fomented the environmental movement.
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas: This is the highly anticipated second novel by Angie Thomas, the author of the award-winning book The Hate u Give. Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least win her first battle. As the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill. But it’s hard to get your come up when you’re labeled a hoodlum at school, and your fridge at home is empty after your mom loses her job. So Bri pours her anger and frustration into her first song, which goes viral…for all the wrong reasons. Bri soon finds herself at the center of a controversy, portrayed by the media as more menace than MC. But with an eviction notice staring her family down, Bri doesn’t just want to make it–she has to. Even if it means becoming the very thing the public has made her out to be. Insightful, unflinching, and full of heart, this book is an ode to hip hop from one of the most influential literary voices of a generation.
The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer: She went to Paris to start over, to make art instead of being made into it. This book tells the story of Vogue model turned renowned photographer Lee Miller, and her search to forge a new identity as an artist after a life spent as a muse. “I’d rather take a photograph than be one,” she declares after she arrives in Paris in 1929, where she soon catches the eye of the famous Surrealist Man Ray. Though he wants to use her only as a model, Lee convinces him to to take her on as his assistant and teach her everything he knows. But Man Ray turns out to be an egotistical, charismatic force, and as they work together in the darkroom, their personal and professional lives become intimately entwined, changing the course of Lee’s life forever.
The Lost Man by Jane Harper: Brothers Nathan and Bub Bright meet for the first time in months at the remote fence line separating their cattle ranches in the lonely outback. Their third brother, Cameron, lies dead at their feet. In an isolated belt of Australia, their homes a three-hour drive apart, the brothers were one another’s nearest neighbors. Cameron was the middle child, the one who ran the family homestead. But something made him head out alone under the unrelenting sun. Nathan, Bub and Nathan’s son return to Cameron’s ranch and to those left behind by his passing: his wife, his daughters, and his mother, as well as their long-time employee and two recently hired seasonal workers. While they grieve Cameron’s loss, suspicion starts to take hold, and Nathan is forced to examine secrets the family would rather leave in the past. Because if someone forced Cameron to his death, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects.
Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken: From the day she is discovered unconscious in a New England cemetery at the turn of the twentieth century–nothing but a bowling ball, a candlepin, and fifteen pounds of gold on her person–Bertha Truitt is an enigma to everyone in Salford, Massachusetts. She has no past to speak of, or at least none she is willing to reveal, and her mysterious origin scandalizes and intrigues the townspeople, as does her choice to marry and start a family with Leviticus Sprague, the doctor who revived her. But Bertha is plucky, tenacious, and entrepreneurial, and the bowling alley she opens quickly becomes Salford’s most defining landmark–with Bertha its most notable resident. When Bertha dies in a freak accident, her past resurfaces in the form of a heretofore-unheard-of son, who arrives in Salford claiming he is heir apparent to Truitt Alleys. Soon it becomes clear that, even in her death, Bertha’s defining spirit and the implications of her obfuscations live on, infecting and affecting future generations through inheritance battles, murky paternities, and hidden walls.
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James: Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: ‘He has a nose,’ people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard. As Tracker follows the boy’s scent–from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers–he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them. As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder: Who, really, is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And perhaps the most important question of all: Who is telling the truth, and who is lying?
Maid by Stephanie Land: At 28, Stephanie Land’s plans of breaking free from the roots of her hometown in the Pacific Northwest to chase her dreams of attending a university and becoming a writer, were cut short when a summer fling turned into an unexpected pregnancy. She turned to housekeeping to make ends meet, and with a tenacious grip on her dream to provide her daughter the very best life possible, Stephanie worked days and took classes online to earn a college degree, and began to write relentlessly. She wrote the true stories that weren’t being told: the stories of overworked and underpaid Americans. Of living on food stamps and WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) coupons to eat. Of the government programs that provided her housing, but that doubled as halfway houses. The aloof government employees who called her lucky for receiving assistance while she didn’t feel lucky at all. She wrote to remember the fight, to eventually cut through the deep-rooted stigmas of the working poor. This book explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America and the reality of what it’s like to be in service to them. “I’d become a nameless ghost,” Stephanie writes about her relationship with her clients, many of whom do not know her from any other cleaner, but who she learns plenty about. As she begins to discover more about her clients’ lives–their sadness and love, too–she begins to find hope in her own path.
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Treuer: Beginning with the tribes’ devastating loss of land and the forced assimilation of their children at government-run boarding schools, he shows how the period of greatest adversity also helped to incubate a unifying Native identity. He traces how conscription in the US military and the pull of urban life brought Indians into the mainstream and modern times, even as it steered the emerging shape of their self-rule and spawned a new generation of resistance. This book is an essential, intimate history–and counter-narrative–of a resilient people in a transformative era.
The Weight of a Piano by Chris Cander: In 1962, in the Soviet Union, eight-year-old Katya is bequeathed what will become the love of her life: a Bluthner piano, built at the turn of the century in Germany, on which she discovers everything that she herself can do with music and what music, in turn, does for her. Yet after marrying, she emigrates with her young family from Russia to America, at her husband’s frantic insistence, and her piano is lost in the shuffle. In 2012, in Bakersfield, California, twenty-six-year-old Clara Lundy loses another boyfriend and again has to find a new apartment, which is complicated by the gift her father had given her for her twelfth birthday, shortly before he and her mother died in a fire that burned their house down: a Bluthner upright she has never learned to play. Orphaned, she was raised by her aunt and uncle, who in his car-repair shop trained her to become a first-rate mechanic, much to the surprise of her subsequent customers. But this work, her true mainstay in a scattered life, is put on hold when her hand gets broken while the piano’s being moved–and it sudden frustration she chooses to sell it. And what becomes crucial is who the most interested party turns out to be…
The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani: Twelve-year-old Nisha and her twin, Amil, know little about their mother, who died while giving birth. But Nisha yearns for her nonetheless, and at night, Nisha pours her feelings into her diary entries, which are written as letters to her mother. At first, she writes of daily events such as Amil’s etchings and their father’s long days working as a doctor. But it’s 1947, and India has just won its independence from Britain, and soon Nisha’s life will change in ways she never could have imagined.
The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty: Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad–and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there. Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of a devastating battle, Nahri must forge a new path for herself. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family–and one misstep will doom her tribe… Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid–the unpredictable water spirits–have gifted him. But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried. And as a new century approaches and the djinn gather within Daevabad’s towering brass walls for celebrations, a threat brews unseen in the desolate north. It’s a force that would bring a storm of fire straight to the city’s gates…and one that seeks the aid of a warrior trapped between worlds, torn between a violent duty he can never escape and a peace he fears he will never deserve.
The Unteachables by Gordon Korman: After 30 years as a teacher, Zachary Kermit is burned out and ready for retirement. But the superintendent, Dr. Thaddeus, wants him out before he can draw a full pension, so he assigns Mr. Kermit the class called SCS-8, or the Self-Contained Special 8th-grade class. Known as the “Unteachables,” Dr. Thaddeus hopes they drive Mr. Kermit to quit before the year’s end. Mr. Kermit knows it’s going to be rough, but he figures he’ll just keep his head down and coast until May. He is not surprised by the students. There is the slow worker, Parker Elias, social dweeb Mateo Hendrickson, anger-management challenged Aldo Braff, ex-athlete “Barnstorm” Armstrong, potential bully Elaine Okafor, sleep-deprived Rahim Barclay, and new student Kiana Roubini. Through many hilarious and touching escapades, Mr. Kermit figures out that what he really has is a group that just needs help, patience and the recognition that, really, they may be the most teachable of any class. This is a heartwarming story about not giving up on yourself or others.
Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer: Echo Alkaev’s safe and carefully structured world fall apart when her father leaves for the city and mysteriously disappears. Believing he is lost forever, Echo is shocked to find him half-frozen in the winter forest six months later, guarded by a strange talking wolf–the same creature who attacked her as a child. The wolf presents Echo with an ultimatum: if she lives with him for one year, he will ensure her father makes it home safely. But there is more to the wolf than Echo realizes. In his enchanted house beneath a mountain, each room must be sewn together to keep the home from unraveling, and something new and dark and strange lies behind ever door. When centuries-old secrets unfold, Echo discovers a magical library full of books-turned-mirrors, and a young man named Hal who is trapped inside of them. As the year ticks by, the rooms begin to disappear and Echo must solve the mystery of the wolf’s enchantment before her time is up. Otherwise, Echo, the wolf, and Hal will be lost forever.
The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi: In this wonderful book, a crew of young people in an alternate version of belle epoque Paris use their wits and daring to restore their leader to his rightful place. In this world, some have “Forging” power–creative and metamorphic power over matter or minds–which is made possible through fragments of the Tower of Babel. These broken pieces are scattered across the world and safeguarded by the mysterious Order of Babel, which is organized in national factions and then further divided into Houses. Severin Montagnet-Alarie is the heir to France’s House Vanth, but he was denied his Order inheritance years ago and now watches the two remaining French Houses–Nyx and Kore–with envy. But Severin has a plan to claim his right, and a crew of various talents who live with him at his glamorous hotel will help him pull it off. They plot to steal an ancient artifact that will help Severin buy his way back into the good graces of the Order, but the artifact and its owner turn out to be more than they bargained for.
Talk to Me by John Kenney: After news anchor Ted Grayson’s profanity-laced tirade is caught on camera, his reputation and career are destroyed, leaving him without a script for the first time in years. At the time of his meltdown, Ted is estranged from his wife, Claire, and his adult daughter, Franny, a writer for a popular website. Franny views her father’s disgrace with curiosity and perhaps a bit of smug satisfaction, but when her boss suggests that she confront Ted in an interview, she has to decide whether to use his loss as her career gain. And for Ted, this may be a chance to try to find his way back before it’s too late.
No Sunscreen for the Dead by Tim Dorsey: Serge and Coleman are back on the road, ready to hit the next stop on their list of obscure and wacky points of interest in the Sunshine State. This time, Serge’s interest is drawn to one of the largest retirement villages in the world–also known as the site of an infamous sex scandal between a retiree and her younger beau that rocked the community. What starts out as an innocent quest to observe elders in their natural habitats, sample the local cuisine, and scope out a condo to live out the rest of their golden years, soon becomes a Robin Hood-like crusade to recover the funds of swindled residents. After all, our seniors should be revered and respected–they’ve heroically fought in wars, garnered priceless wisdom, and they have the best first-hand accounts of bizarre Floridian occurrences only Serge would know about. But as the resident’s rally for Serge to seek justice on their behalves, two detectives are hot on the heels of Serge and Coleman’s murderous trail.
Late in the Day by Tessa Hadley: Alexandr and Christine and Zachary and Lydia have been friends since they first met in their twenties. Thirty years later, Alex and Christine are spending a leisurely summer’s evening at home when they receive a call from a distraught Lydia: she is at the hospital. Zach is dead. In the wake of this profound loss, the three friends find themselves unmoored; all agree that Zach, with his generous, grounded spirit, was the irreplaceable one they couldn’t afford to lose. Inconsolable, Lydia moves in with Alex and Christine. But instead of loss bringing them closer, the three of them find over the following months that it warps their relationships, as old entanglements and grievances rise from the past, and love and sorrow give way to anger and bitterness. This book explores the complex webs at the center of our most intimate relationships, to expose how, beneath the seemingly dependable arrangements we make for our lives, lie infinite alternate configurations.
The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker: One night in an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a first-year student stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep, and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. When a second girl falls asleep, and then a third, Mei finds herself thrust together with an eccentric classmate as panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. A young couple tries to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. Two sisters turn to each other for comfort as their survivalist father prepares for disaster. Those affected by the illness, doctors discover, are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, higher than has ever been recorded before. They are dreaming heightened dreams, but of what?
The Neighbors by Einat Tsarfati: As a young girl climbs the seven stories to her own (very boring!) apartment, she imagines what’s behind each of the doors she passes. Does the door with all the locks belong to a family of thieves? Might the doorway with muddy footprints conceal a pet tiger? Each spread reveals–in lush detail–the wilds of the girl’s imagination, from a high-flying circus to an underwater world and everything in between. When the girl finally reaches her own apartment, she is greeted by her parents, who might have a secret even wilder than anything she could have imagined!
The Au Pair by Emma Rous: Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother, Danny, were born in the middle of summer at their family’s estate on the Norfolk coast. Within hours of their birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs, the au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of dark cloaks, changelings, and the aloof couple who drew a young nanny into their inner circle. Now an adult, Seraphine mourns the recent death of her father. While going through is belongings, she uncovers a family photograph that raises dangerous questions. It was taken on the day the twins were born, and in the photo, their mother, surrounded by her husband and her young son, is smiling serenely and holding just one baby. Who is the child, and what really happened that day?
An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen: Seeking women ages 18-32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed. When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave. Question #1: Could you tell a lie without feeling guilt? But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding. Question #2: Have you ever deeply hurt someone you care about? As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly. Question #3: Should a punishment always fit the crime?
The Perilous Adventures of the Cowboy King: A Novel of Teddy Roosevelt and His Times by Jerome Charyn: Raising the literary bar to a new level, Jerome Charyn re-creates the voice of Theodore Roosevelt, the New York City police commissioner, Rough Rider, and soon-to-be twenty-sixth president through his derring-do adventures, effortlessly combining superhero dialogue with haunting pathos. Beginning with his sickly childhood and concluding with McKinley’s assassination, the novel positions Roosevelt as a “perfect bull in a china shop,” a fearless crime fighter and pioneering environmentalist who would grow up to be our greatest peacetime president. With an operative cast, including “Bamie,” his handicapped older sister; Eleanor, his gawky little niece; as well as the devoted Rough Riders, the novel memorably features the lovable mountain lion Josephine, who helped train Roosevelt for his “crowded hour,” the charge up San Juan Hill.
An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma: A contemporary twist on The Odyssey, this book is narrated by the chi, or spirit of a young poultry farmer named Chinonso. His life is set off course when he sees a woman who is about to jump off a bridge. Horrified by her recklessness, he hurls two of his prized chickens off the bridge. The woman, Ndali, is stopped in her tracks. Chinonso and Ndali fall in love but she is from an educated and wealthy family. When her family objects to the union on the grounds that he is not her social equal, he sells most of his possessions to attend college in Cyprus. But when he arrives in Cyprus, he discovers that he has been utterly duped by the young Nigerian who has made the arrangements for him. Penniless, homeless, we watch as he gets further and further away from his dream and from home.
The New Iberia Blues by James Lee Burke: Detective Dave Robicheaux’s world isn’t filled with too many happy stories, but Desmond Cormier’s rags-to-riches tale is certainly one of them. Robicheaux first met Cormier on the streets of New Orleans, when the young, undersized boy had foolish dreams of becoming a Hollywood director. Twenty-five years later, when Robicheaux knocks on Cormier’s door, it isn’t to congratulate him on his Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. Robicheaux has discovered the body of a young woman who’s been crucified, wearing only a small chain on her ankle. She disappeared near Cormier’s Cyrpemort Point estate, and Robicheaux, along with young deputy, Sean McClain, are looking for answers. Neither Cormier nor his enigmatic actor friend Antoine Butterworth are saying much, but Robicheaux knows better. As always, Clete Purcel and Davie’s daughter, Alafair, have Robicheaux’s back. Clete witnesses the escape of Texas inmate, Hugo Tillinger, who may hold the key to Robicheaux’s case. As they wade further into the investigation, they end up in the crosshairs of the mob, the deranged Chester Wimple, and the dark ghosts Robicheaux has been running from for years. Ultimately, it’s up to Robicheaux to stop them all, but he’ll have to summon a light he’s never seen or felt to save himself, and those he loves.
The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden: Now, in the conclusion to this powerful trilogy, Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers-and someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever, determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of this conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of both worlds resting on her shoulders. With her destiny uncertain, Vasya must uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.
The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe: Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical, and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A Black French Canadian, he knows from watching American sitcoms that those three things don’t bode well when you are moving to Austin, Texas.Plunked into a new high school and sweating a ridiculous amount from the oppressive Texas heat, Norris finds himself cataloging everyone he meets: the Cheerleaders, the Jocks, the Loners, and even the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Making a ton of friends has never been a priority for him, and this way he can at least amuse himself until it’s time to go back to Canada, where he belongs. Yet against all odds, those labels soon become actual people to Norris…like loner Liam, who makes it his mission to befriend Norris, or Madison the beta cheerleader, who is so nice that it has to be a trap. Not to mention Aarti the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who might, in fact, be a real love interest in the making. But the night of the prom, Norris screws everything up royally. As he tries to pick up the pieces, he realizes it might be time to stop hiding behind his snarky opinions and start living his life–along with the people who have found their way into his heart.
She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge: On a scorching July night in 1983, a group of teenagers goes camping in the forest. Bright and brilliant, they are destined for great things, and the youngest of the group–Aurora Jackson–is delighted to be allowed to tag along. The evening starts like any other–they drink, they dance, they fight, they kiss. Some of them slip off into the woods in pairs, others are left jealous and heartbroken. But by morning, Aurora has disappeared. Her friends claim that she was safe the last time they saw her, right before she went to sleep. An exhaustive investigation is launched, but no trace of the teenager is ever found. Thirty years later, Aurora’s body is unearthed in a hideaway that only the six friends knew about, and Jonah Sheens is put in charge of solving the long-cold case. Back in 1983, as a young cop in their small town, he had known the teenagers–including Aurora–personally, even before taking part in the search. Now he’s determined to finally get to the truth of what happened that night. Sheens’s investigation brings the members of the camping party back to the forest, where they will be confronted once again with the events that left one of them dead, and all of them profoundly changed forever. This searing, psychologically captivating novel marks the arrival of a dazzling new talent, and the start of a new series featuring Detective Chief Inspector Jonah Sheens.
The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh: Determined to protect his wife and daughters from the chaos and violence of men on the mainland, King moves them to an isolated island, lays out barbed wire, and anchored buoys with a clear message: Do not enter. He institutes cult-like rituals and therapies to fortify them from the spreading toxicity of a degrading world. When King disappears, they retreat further inward… until the day two men and a boy wash ashore. Sexual tensions and sibling rivalries flare as the sisters confront the amorphous threat the strangers represent.
The Wicked King by Holly Black: When this book opens, it’s been five months since 17-year-old human Jude planted Faerie Prince Cardan on the Elfhame throne. Now, she’s struggling to maintain her behind-the-scenes power, and it doesn’t help that Cardan is trying to undermine their deal or that her twin sister’s marriage to the duplicitous Locke comes with its own set of challenges. On top of all that, Jude’s stepfather is strategizing behind her back. But when the Queen of the Undersea threatens the Faerie kingdom and Cardan’s rule, Jude must spy and scheme to protect her family and her hold on the throne. But Jude can’t foresee everything, and someone is out to betray her. Despite growing up in a Faerie world, Jude is not one of them. And there’s only so much power a mortal girl can wield when fighting monsters.
Watching You by Lisa Jewell: Melville Heights is one of the nicest neighborhoods in Bristol, England; home to doctors and lawyers and old-money academics. It’s not the sort of place where people are brutally murdered in their own kitchens. But is is the sort of place where everyone has a secret. And everyone is watching you. As the headmaster credited with turning around the local school, Tom Fitzwilliam is beloved by one and all–including Joey Mullen, his new neighbor, who quickly develops an intense infatuation with this thoroughly charming yet unavailable man. Joey thinks her crush is a secret, but Tom’s teenaged son Freddie–a prodigy with aspirations of becoming a spy for MI5–excels in observing people and has witnessed Joey behaving strangely around his father. One of Tom’s students, Jenna Tripp, also lives on the same street, and she’s not convinced her teacher is as squeaky clean as he seems. For one thing, he has taken a particular liking to her best friend and fellow classmate, and Jenna’s mother–whose mental health has admittedly been deteriorating in recent years–is convinced that Mr. Fitzwilliam is stalking her. Meanwhile, twenty years earlier, a schoolgirl writes in her diary, charting her doomed obsession with a handsome young English teacher named Mr. Fitzwilliam…
Death Comes to Bath by Catherine Lloyd: After Sir Robert’s injury from the battle of Waterloo begins troubling him again, his wife Lucy insists they relocate from the village of Kurland St. Mary to bath, along with her sister Anna, so that Robert can take the waters and recover. At the Roman baths, Robert befriends an elderly and pugnacious businessman, Sir William Benson, ennobled by the Crown for his service to industry. Their acquaintance is short-lived, however, when the man is found drowned in the baths. Robert vows to find his killer, with Lucy’s aid. The members of Sir William’s family seem the most obvious suspects to benefit from the wealthy man’s death, but his will has gone missing. To deduce who sent Sir William to a watery grave, Robert and Lucy must investigate with the utmost discretion–before they too find themselves in over their heads…
Broken Ground by Val McDermid: Internationally bestselling author Val McDermid is one of our finest crime writers, and her gripping, masterfully plotted novels have garnered millions of readers from around the globe. In Broken Ground, cold case detective Karen Pirie faces her hardest challenge yet. Six feet under in a Highland peat bog lies Alice Somerville’s inheritance, buried by her grandfather at the end of World War II. But when Alice finally uncovers it, she finds an unwanted surprise–a body with a bullet hole between the eyes. Meanwhile, DCI Pirie is called in to unravel a case where nothing is quite as it seems. And as she gets closer to the truth, it becomes clear that not everyone shares her desire for justice. Or even the idea of what justice is.
Bryant & May: Hall of Mirrors by Christopher Fowler: As the Swinging Sixties paint dreary London a DayGlo rainbow, detectives Arthur Bryant and John May find themselves caught in the middle of a good old-fashioned manor house mystery. Hard to believe, but even positively ancient sleuths like Bryant and May of the Peculiar Crimes Unit were young once, or at least younger. Flashback to London 1969: mods and dolly birds, sunburst minidresses–but how long would the party last? After accidentally sinking a barge painted like the Yellow Submarine, Bryant and May are relegated to babysitting one Monty Hatton-Jones, the star prosecution witness in the trial of a disreputable developer whose prefabs are prone to collapse. The job for the demoted detectives? Keep the whistle-blower safe for one weekend. The task proves unexpectedly challenging when their unruly charge insists on attending a party at the vast estate Tavistock Hall. With falling stone gryphons, secret passageways, rumors of a mythical beast, and an all-too-real dismembered corpse, the bedeviled policemen soon find themselves with “a proper country house murder” on their hands. Trapped for the weekend, Bryant and May must sort the victims from the suspects, including a hippie heir, a missing millionaire, a blond nightclub singer, and a mystery writer–not to mention Monty himself–and nobody is quite who he or she seems to be.
The Dakota Winters by Tom Barbash: Returning to his childhood home in 1979, New York’s famed Dakota apartments, former Peace Corps volunteer Anton Winter is swept up in a raucous celebrity effort to reignite his late-night host father’s stalled career. As Anton becomes enmeshed in his father’s professional and spiritual reinvention, he begins to question his own path in life.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo: Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking. But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers–especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny: When a peculiar letter arrives inviting Armand Gamache to an abandoned farmhouse, the former head of the Sûreté du Québec discovers that a complete stranger has named him one of the executors of her will. Still on suspension, and frankly curious, Gamache accepts and soon learns that the other two executors are Myrna Landers, the bookseller from Three Pines, and a young builder. None of them had ever met the elderly woman. The will is so odd and includes bequests that are so wildly unlikely that Gamache and the others suspect the woman must have been delusional. But what if, Gamache begins to ask himself, she was perfectly sane?When a body is found, the terms of the bizarre will suddenly seem less peculiar and far more menacing. But it isn’t the only menace Gamache is facing. The investigation into what happened six months ago–the events that led to his suspension–has dragged on, into the dead of winter. And while most of the opioids he allowed to slip through his hands, in order to bring down the cartels, have been retrieved, there is one devastating exception. Enough narcotic to kill thousands has disappeared into inner city Montreal. With the deadly drug about to hit the streets, Gamache races for answers. As he uses increasingly audacious, even desperate, measures to retrieve the drug, Armand Gamache begins to see his own blind spots. And the terrible things hiding there.
Someone to Trust by Mary Balogh: During a rare white Christmas at Brambledean Court, the widow Elizabeth, Lady Overfield, defies convention by falling in love with a younger man in the latest novel in the Westcott series. After her husband’s passing, Elizabeth Overfield decides that she must enter into another suitable marriage. That, however, is the last thing on her mind when she meets Colin Handrich, Lord Hodges, at the Westcott Christmas house party. She simply enjoys his company as they listen to carolers on Christmas Eve, walk home from church together on Christmas morning, and engage in a spirited snowball fight in the afternoon. Both are surprised when their sled topples them into a snowbank and they end up sharing an unexpected kiss. They know there is no question of any relationship between them, for she is nine years older than he. They return to London the following Season, both committed to finding other, more suitable matches. Still they agree to share one waltz at each ball they attend. This innocuous agreement proves to be one that will topple their worlds, as each dance steadily ensnares them in a romance that forces the two to question what they are willing to sacrifice for love.
All the Lives We Never Lived by Anuradha Roy: In my childhood, I was known as the boy whose mother had run off with an Englishman. The man was in factGerman, but in small‑town India in those days, all white foreigners were largely thought of as British. So begins the story of Myshkin and his mother, Gayatri, a rebellious, alluring artist who abandons parenthood and marriage to follow her primal desire for freedom. Though freedom may be stirring in the air of India, across the world the Nazis have risen to power in Germany. At this point of crisis, a German artist from Gayatri’s past seeks her out. His arrival ignites passions she has long been forced to suppress. What follows is her life as pieced together by her son, a journey that takes him through India and Dutch‑held Bali. Excavating the roots of the world in which he was abandoned, he comes to understand his long‑lost mother, and the connections between strife at home and a war‑torn universe overtaken by patriotism.
The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman: In the latest novel in Genevieve Cogman’s historical fantasy series, the fate of worlds lies in the balance. When a dragon is murdered at a peace conference, time-travelling Librarian spy Irene must solve the case to keep the balance between order, chaos…and the Library. When Irene returns to London after a relatively straightforward book theft in Germany, Bradamant informs her that there is a top secret dragon-Fae peace conference in progress that the Library is mediating, and that the second-in-command dragon has been stabbed to death. Tasked with solving the case, Vale and Irene immediately go to 1890s Paris to start their investigation. Once they arrive, they find evidence suggesting that the murder victim might have uncovered proof of treachery by one or more Librarians. But to ensure the peace of the conference, some Librarians are being held as hostages in the dragon and Fae courts. To save the captives, including her parents, Irene must get to the bottom of this murder–but was it a dragon, a Fae, or even a Librarian who committed the crime?
How Long ’til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin: N. K. Jemisin is one of the most powerful and acclaimed authors of our time. In the first collection of her evocative short fiction, which includes never-before-seen stories, Jemisin equally challenges and delights readers with thought-provoking narratives of destruction, rebirth, and redemption. Spirits haunt the flooded streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow South must save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story “The City Born Great,” a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis’s soul.
Newcomer by Keigo Higashino: Detective Kyochiro Kaga of the Tokyo Police Department has just been transferred to a new precinct in the Nihonbashi area of Tokyo. Newly arrived, but with a great deal of experience, Kaga is promptly assigned to the team investigating the murder of a woman. But the more he investigates, the greater number of potential suspects emerges. It isn’t long before it seems nearly all the people living and working in the business district of Nihonbashi have a motive for murder. To prevent the murderer from eluding justice, Kaga must unravel all the secrets surrounding a complicated life. Buried somewhere in the woman’s past, in her family history, and the last few days of her life is the clue that will lead to the murderer.
The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory: When someone asks you to spend your life with him, it shouldn’t come as a surprise–or happen in front of 45,000 people. When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Saying no isn’t the hard part–they’ve only been dating for five months, and he can’t even spell her name correctly. The hard part is having to face a stadium full of disappointed fans… At the game with his sister, Carlos Ibarra comes to Nik’s rescue and rushes her away from a camera crew. He’s even there for her when the video goes viral and Nik’s social media blows up–in a bad way. Nik knows that in the wilds of LA, a handsome doctor like Carlos can’t be looking for anything serious, so she embarks on an epic rebound with him, filled with food, fun, and lots of intimacy. But when their glorified hookups start breaking the rules, one of them has to be smart enough to put on the brakes…
Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore: The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know. The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan. But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.
Your Own Worst Enemy by Gordon Jack: Stacey Wynn was the clear front-runner for Lincoln High student council president. But then French-Canadian transfer student Julia Romero entered the race…and put the moves on Stacey’s best friend/campaign adviser, Brian. Stacey also didn’t count on Tony Guo, resident stoner, whose sole focus is on removing the school’s ban of his favorite chocolate milk, becoming the voice of the little guy, thanks to a freshman political “mastermind” with a blue Mohawk. Three candidates, three platforms, and a whirlwind of social media, gaffes, high school drama, and protests make for a ridiculously hilarious political circus that just may hold some poignant truth somewhere in the mix.
Mousie, I Will Read to You by Rachael Cole: Long before the words make sense, Mousie, I will read to you The simplest story, about an acorn that drops to the ground.So begins this warm and poignant picture book that follows a mama mouse and her baby mouse on the little mouse’s journey to becoming a reader–from infancy, to toddlerhood, to elementary school, and beyond. When Mousie is little, Mama sings him lullabies about the sky, repeats back his DA DA DEES and BA BA BEES, and reads him poems and stories about wonderful things like forests and bears. Then one day, on a playground next to the library, Mousie sounds out a word, then two, then three . . . and a reader is born!
Queer Eye by Antoni Porowski, Jonathan Van Ness, Tan France, Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown: From the Fab Five–the beloved hosts of Netflix’s viral hit Queer Eye–comes a book that is at once a behind-the-scenes exclusive, a practical guide to living and celebrating your best life, and a symbol of hope. Feeling your best is about far more than deciding what color to paint your accent wall or how to apply nightly moisturizer. It’s also about creating a life that’s well-rounded, filled with humor and understanding–and most importantly, that suits you. At a cultural moment when we are all craving people to admire, Queer Eye offers hope and acceptance. After you get to know the Fab Five, together they will guide you through five practical chapters that go beyond their designated areas of expertise (food & wine, fashion, grooming, home decor, and culture), touching on topics like wellness, entertaining, and defining your personal brand, and complete with bite-sized Hip Tips for your everyday quandaries. Above all else, Queer Eye aims to help you create a happy and healthy life, rooted in self-love and authenticity.
Pulp by Robin Talley: In 1955, eighteen-year-old Janet Jones keeps the love she shares with her best friend Marie a secret. It’s not easy being gay in Washington, DC, in the age of McCarthyism, but when she discovers a series of books about women falling in love with other women, it awakens something in Janet. As she juggles a romance she must keep hidden and a newfound ambition to write and publish her own story, she risks exposing herself–and Marie–to a danger all too real. Sixty-two years later, Abby Zimet can’t stop thinking about her senior project and its subject–classic 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. Between the pages of her favorite book, the stresses of Abby’s own life are lost to the fictional hopes, desires and tragedies of the characters she’s reading about. She feels especially connected to one author, a woman who wrote under the pseudonym “Marian Love,” and becomes determined to track her down and discover her true identity. In this novel told in dual narratives, New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley weaves together the lives of two young women connected across generations through the power of words. A stunning story of bravery, love, how far we’ve come and how much farther we have to go.
A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne: Maurice Swift is handsome, charming, and hungry for fame. The one thing he doesn’t have is talent–but he’s not about to let a detail like that stand in his way. After all, a would-be writer can find stories anywhere. They don’t need to be his own. Working as a waiter in a West Berlin hotel in 1988, Maurice engineers the perfect opportunity: a chance encounter with celebrate novelist Erich Ackermann. He quickly ingratiates himself with the powerful–but desperately lonely–older man, teasing out of Erich a terrible, long-held secret about his activities during the war. Perfect material for Maurice’s first novel. Once Maurice has had a taste of literary fame, he knows he can stop at nothing in pursuit of that high. Moving from the Amalfi Coast, where he matches wits with Gore Vidal, to Manhattan and London, Maurice hones his talent for deceit and manipulation, preying on the talented and vulnerable in his cold-blooded climb to the top. But the higher he climbs, the further he has to fall… Sweeping across the late twentieth century, A Ladder to the Sky is a fascinating portrait of a relentlessly immoral man, a tour de force of storytelling, and the next great novel from an acclaimed literary virtuoso.
Forever and a Day by Anthony Horowitz: Occasionally an author’s estate or a publisher gets the idea to craft a prequel to a popular series, and Anthony Horowitz performs this duty for ace British spy James Bond in Forever and a Day. As the book opens, M (the big boss of MI6) is discussing the death of agent 007, which initially seems odd, as this is at the inception of Bond’s illustrious career. But it turns out that the 007 under discussion is the previous holder of that particular license-to-kill number, and Bond is quickly promoted to take on his predecessor’s responsibilities. His mission takes him to the south of France, where he engages the first of the legendary villains that will characterize the adventures of Bond’s later life. The book uses some source material from original Bond author Ian Fleming, and of all the Bond books that have come out since Fleming’s death, this one may hew closest to the originals.
The Kinship of Secrets by Eugenia Kim: In 1948 Najin and Calvin Cho, with their young daughter Miran, travel from South Korea to the United States in search of new opportunities. Wary of the challenges they know will face them, Najin and Calvin make the difficult decision to leave their infant daughter, Inja, behind with their extended family; soon, they hope, they will return to her. But then war breaks out in Korea, and there is no end in sight to the separation. Miran grows up in prosperous American suburbia, under the shadow of the daughter left behind, as Inja grapples in her war-torn land with ties to a family she doesn’t remember, Najin and Calvin desperately seek a reunion with Inja, but are the bonds of love strong enough to reconnect their family over distance, time, and war? And as deep family secrets are revealed, will everything they long for be upended? Told through the alternating perspectives of the distanced sisters, and inspired by a true story, The Kinship of Secrets explores the cruelty of war, the power of hope, and what it means to be a sister.
Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty: Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be. Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer–or should she run while she still can? It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question. Combining all the hallmarks that have made her writing a go-to for anyone looking for wickedly smart, page-turning fiction that will make you laugh and gasp, Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers once again shows why she is a master of her craft.
Family Trust by Kathy Wang: Meet Stanley Huang: father, husband, ex-husband, man of unpredictable tastes and temper, aficionado of all-inclusive vacations and bargain luxury goods, newly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Meet Stanley’s family: son Fred, who feels that he should be making a lot more money; daughter Kate, managing a capricious boss, a distracted husband, and two small children; ex-wife Linda, familiar with and suspicious of Stanley’s grandiose ways; and second wife Mary, giver of foot rubs and ego massages. For years, Stanley has insistently claimed that he’s worth a small fortune. Now, as the Huangs come to terms with Stanley’s approaching death, they are also starting to fear that Stanley’s “small fortune” may be more “small” than “fortune.” A compelling tale of cultural expectations, career ambitions and our relationships with the people who know us best, Family Trust draws a sharply loving portrait of modern American family life.
Alice Isn’t Dead by Joseph Fink: “This isn’t a story. It’s a road trip.” Keisha Taylor lived a quiet life with her wife, Alice, until the day that Alice disappeared. After months of searching, presuming she was dead, Keisha held a funeral, mourned, and gradually tried to get on with her life. But that was before Keisha started to see her wife, again and again, in the background of news reports from all over America. Alice isn’t dead, and she is showing up at every major tragedy and accident in the country. Following a line of clues, Keisha takes a job as a long-haul truck driver and begins searching for Alice. She eventually stumbles on an otherworldly conflict being waged in the quiet corners of our nation’s highway system–uncovering a conspiracy that goes way beyond one missing woman.
Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know by Colm Tóibín: Colm Tóibín begins his incisive, revelatory Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know with a walk through the Dublin streets where he went to university–a wide-eyed boy from the country–and where three Irish literary giants also came of age. Oscar Wilde, writing about his relationship with his father, William Wilde, stated: “Whenever there is hatred between two people there is bond or brotherhood of some kind…you loathed each other not because you were so different but because you were so alike.” W.B. Yeats wrote of his father, John Butler Yeats, a painter: “It is this infirmity of will which has prevented him from finishing his pictures. The qualities I think necessary to success in art or life seemed to him egotism.” John Stanislaus Joyce, James’s father, was perhaps the most quintessentially Irish, widely loved, garrulous, a singer, and drinker with a volatile temper, who drove his son from Ireland. Elegant, profound, and riveting, Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know illuminates not only the complex relationships between three of the greatest writers in the English language and their fathers, but also illustrates the surprising ways these men surface in their work. Through these stories of fathers and sons, Tóibín recounts the resistance to English cultural domination, the birth of modern Irish cultural identity, and the extraordinary contributions of these complex and masterful authors.
Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly: Teaming up with Harry Bosch to reopen a cold case, LAPD detective Renee Ballard navigates interpersonal differences to pursue justice for a murdered runaway in Hollywood. Renee Ballard returns to Hollywood Station from working the night beat. She finds a stranger rifling through old file cabinets–retired detective Harry Bosch, working a cold case that has gotten under his skin. Ballard kicks him out, but then checks into the case herself. Bosch is investigating the death of fifteen-year-old Daisy Clayton, a runaway on the streets of Hollywood who was brutally murdered and her body left in a dumpster like so much trash. Now, Ballard joins forces with Bosch to find out what happened to Daisy and finally bring her killer to justice.
Nine Pints by Rose George: The sight of blood makes some people faint; for others, it’s just creepy. Yet it is essential–each adult human contains approximately nine pints of it. In this new book, Rose George discusses this life-giving substance in intricate detail. George describes the busy, unrelenting job of this essential human body part that is “a tissue and an organ at once, and probably our most important organ.” She travels around the world, interviewing people whose lives have been impacted by blood in one way or another. She reports on a clinic in South Africa where residents can get tested and treated for HIV, a village in western Nepal where menstruating girls are shunned and must sleep in outdoor shacks, and a London trauma center that regularly treats code red (open chest) and code black (people with severe brain injury) patients. George tackles a squeamish subject in a manner that is eloquent and witty, making Nine Pints a factual, scientific book that reads like a novel with a colorful cast of characters ranging from medicinal leeches to groundbreaking scientists and innovative inventors.
The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth: What happens when you return to the real world after being in a fantastical one like Narnia? Six years ago, sisters Evelyn and Philippa Hapwell were swept away to a strange and beautiful kingdom called the Woodlands, where they lived for years. But ever since they returned to their lives in post-WWII England, they have struggled to adjust. Ev desperately wants to return to the Woodlands, and Philippa just wants to move on. When Ev goes missing, Philippa must confront the depth of her sister’s despair and the painful truths they’ve been running from. As the weeks unfold, Philippa wonders if Ev truly did find a way home, or if the weight of their worlds pulled her under. Walking the line between where fantasy and reality meet, this lyrical and magical novel is, above all else, an exploration of loss and healing, and what it means to find where you belong.
The Christmas Key by Lori Wilde: There’s a legend in Twilight, Texas. If you sleep with a kismet cookie under your pillow on Christmas Eve, you will dream of your one true love. She saw him in her dreams… It’s impossible! Naomi Luther was standing face-to-face with the man she’d dreamed about over a year ago. Was it the magic of kismet Christmas cookies that brought him to her? Or is there an even greater force at work? All Naomi knows is she is falling, hard and fast, for the one man all good sense says she should not have. She was his buddy’s sister…Rebellious Mark Shepherd found order in the Marines but chaos on the battlefield. In a mission gone wrong, Mark is injured and one of his fellow soldiers loses his life. Haunted by guilt, he arrives in Twilight to keep a solemn promise. But when the Luthers mistake him for their handyman, he’s swept up in playing Santa to his buddy’s orphan son…and falling hard for Naomi’s irresistible bright spirit and sweet smile. But what will happen when she learns the truth?
Counting to Perfect by Suzanne LeFleur: Rising seventh-grader Cassie is looking forward to a summer of competitive swimming and hanging by the pool with her best friends–away from her 17-year-old sister, Julia, who’s a new mom to 6-month-old Addie. Ever since Addie arrived, Cassie’s life has been put on the back burner, and she longs for the closeness she and Julia shared before Addie was born. So when Julia confides in Cassie that she and Addie are leaving without telling their parents, Cassie takes the chance to potentially rekindle their relationship and joins them on a road trip with no planned destination. This is a gorgeous novel that illustrates the enduring bond of sisterhood.
Little by Edward Carey: In 1761, a tiny, odd-looking girl named Marie is born in a village in Switzerland. After the death of her parents, she is apprenticed to an eccentric wax sculptor and whisked off to the seamy streets of Paris, where they meet a domineering widow and her quiet, pale son. Together, they convert an abandoned monkey house into an exhibition hall for wax heads, and the spectacle becomes a sensation. As word of her artistic talent spreads, Marie is called to Versailles, where she tutors a princess and saves Marie Antoinette in childbirth. But outside the palace walls, Paris is roiling: The revolutionary mob is demanding heads, and…at the wax museum, heads are what they do. This is a darkly endearing cavalcade of a novel–a story of art, class, determination, and how we hold on to what we love.
A Parade of Elephants by Kevin Henkes: From the very beginning, the energy of this book is infectious as readers turn the page to see a parade of pastel-colored elephants. There are five, to be exact, but on this first full spread, they are laid out in five rows in which we see them incrementally (one in one row, two in the next, and so on). For the most part, the elephants march from left to right on an uncluttered, squiggly-lined landscape, trimmed with heavy-lined borders that often form a stripe on top of the purple pages. But, delightfully, Henkes mixes up the compositions. Sometimes, for instance, there is a stripe of purple at the top with the elephants jubilantly marching below, and sometimes all the borders fall away while the elephants determinedly march on. As we follow their march, Henkes sprinkles the text with prepositions for those children still learning the ways of grammar. Up, down, over, under, in and out march the single-minded elephants. In a moment of creative wordplay, we read that they are “big and round and round they go.” The short phrases and short sentences are laid out in a large, bold font. Closing with a happy surprise as it does—when they tire, the elephants scatter stars in the sky via their long, upturned trunks—young readers won’t want to see this story end.
Imagine! by Raúl Colón: While skateboarding through New York City, a boy pauses at the Museum of Modern Art and decides to head inside. Suddenly, his imagination kicks into gear: Figures from three legendary paintings step through their canvases to join him—the cubist figures from Picasso’s “Three Musicians,” the woman and lion from Rousseau’s “The Sleeping Gypsy,” and the abstract expressionistic body from Matisse’s “Icarus.” As a group, they leave the museum and roam the streets of the city, making memories at iconic stops like the Statue of Liberty’s crown. After the boy returns to the museum to say goodbye to his new friends, he stops to paint his own memories of the day on a building wall. This book is a reverent, playful tribute to the power of imagination and art.
Shell Game by Sara Paretsky: V.I. Warshawski, like all of us, is not getting any younger. She is well past the age of dangling upside down in search of clues or doing fishtail burnouts in her V-8 Mustang to avoid getting shot, and certainly past the years when she should be treading across thin ice floes to keep a priceless artifact out of the hands of a ruthless billionaire. In this latest thriller by Paretsky, age seems a nonissue, as V.I.’s latest crusade leads her to engage in all these dangerous activities and more. Two cases weave in and out of the narrative: the first, a murder charge hanging over the beloved nephew of V.I.’s godmother, surgeon Lotty Herschel, involving a Syrian archaeological dig and a dissident immigrant poet on the lam from ICE; the second, the mysterious disappearance of V.I.’s niece following a Caribbean junket that turned sinister in ways that no travel brochure would suggest. Readers will revel in the superb pacing, the well-developed characters and the crisp dialogue from one of the most consistently excellent writers in the genre.
Milk Street by Christopher Kimball: This is a wonderful collection of quick recipes for weeknight dining, inspired by the Milk Street television show. This cookbook includes such dishes as yakiudon with pickled ginger, pork schnitzel, kale and white bean soup, Indonesian fried tofu salad, and three-cheese pizza. Weeknights call for techniques that deliver dinners in less time. Every recipe in the book delivers big, bold flavors, but the cooking is quick and easy–simple enough for the middle of the week. The team at Milk Street shows you how to make simple, healthy, delicious meals using pantry staples and just a few other ingredients. And each two page spread features the recipe complete on one page, opposite a full-color photograph of the finished dish, for those who need the visual stimulation of knowing what dining pleasures lie ahead!
Virgil Wander by Leif Enger: Midwestern movie house owner Virgil Wander is “cruising along at medium altitude” when his car flies off the road into icy Lake Superior. Virgil survives but his language and memory are altered and he emerges into a world no longer familiar to him. Awakening in this new life, Virgil begins to piece together his personal history and the lore of his broken town, with the help of a cast of affable and curious locals–from Rune, a twinkling, pipe-smoking, kite-flying stranger investigating the mystery of his disappeared son; to Nadine, the reserved, enchanting wife of the vanished man, to Tom, a journalist and Virgil’s oldest friend; and various members of the Pea family who must confront tragedies of their own. Into this community returns a shimmering prodigal son who may hold the key to reviving their town. With intelligent humor and captivating whimsy, Leif Enger conjures a remarkable portrait of a region and its residents, who, for reasons of choice or circumstance, never made it out of their defunct industrial district. Carried aloft by quotidian pleasures including movies, fishing, necking in parked cars, playing baseball and falling in love, Virgil Wander is a swift, full journey into the heart and heartache of an often overlooked American Upper Midwest by a “formidably gifted” (Chicago Tribune) master storyteller.
An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris: Set in a fractured United States, in the southwestern country now known as Texoma. A world where magic is acknowledged but mistrusted, especially by a young gunslinger named Lizbeth Rose. Battered by a run across the border to Mexico, Lizbeth Rose takes a job offer from a pair of Russian wizards to be their local guide and gunnie. For the wizards, Gunnie Rose has already acquired a fearsome reputation and they’re at a desperate crossroad, even if they won’t admit it. They’re searching through the small border towns near Mexico, trying to locate a low-level magic practitioner, Oleg Karkarov. The wizards believe Oleg is a direct descendant of Grigori Rasputin, and that Oleg’s blood can save the young tsar’s life. As the trio journey through an altered America, shattered into several countries by the assassination of Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Depression, they’re set on by enemies. It’s clear that a powerful force does not want them to succeed in their mission. Lizbeth Rose is a gunnie who has never failed a client, but her oath will test all of her skills and resolve to get them all out alive.
Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo: When Louisiana Elefante’s granny wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they have to leave home immediately, Louisiana isn’t overly worried. After all, Granny has many middle-of-the-night ideas. But this time, things are different. This time, Granny intends for them never to return. Separated from her best friends, Raymie and Beverly, Louisiana struggles to oppose the winds of fate (and Granny) and find a way home. But as Louisiana’s life becomes entwined with the lives of the people of a small Georgia town–including a surly motel owner, a walrus-like minister, and a mysterious boy with a crow on his shoulder–she starts to worry that she is destined only for good-byes. (Which could be due to the curse on Louisiana’s and Granny’s heads. But that is a story for another time.) Called “one of DiCamillo’s most singular and arresting creations” by The New York Times Book Review, the heartbreakingly irresistible Louisiana Elefante was introduced to readers in Raymie Nightingale–and now, with humor and tenderness, Kate DiCamillo returns to tell her story.
Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan: When poet and writer Joy Davidman began writing letters to C.S. Lewis–known as Jack–she was looking for spiritual answers, not love. Love, after all, wasn’t holding together her crumbling marriage. Everything about New Yorker Joy seemed ill-matched for an Oxford don and the beloved writer of Narnia, yet their minds bonded over their letters. Embarking on the adventure of her life, Joy traveled from America to England and back again, facing heartbreak and poverty, discovering friendship and faith, and against all odds, finding a love that even the threat of death couldn’t destroy. In this masterful exploration of one of the greatest love stories of modern times, we meet a brilliant writer, a fiercely independent mother, and a passionate woman who changed the life of this respected author and inspired books that still enchant us and change us. Joy lived at a time when women weren’t meant to have a voice–and yet her love for Jack gave them both voices they didn’t know they had. At once a fascinating historical novel and a glimpse into a writer’s life, Becoming Mrs. Lewis is above all a love story–a love of literature and ideas and a love between a husband and wife that, in the end, was not impossible at all.
A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult: The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center–a women’s reproductive health services clinic–its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage. After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages, he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic. But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order to save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester, disguised as a patient, who now stands in the crosshairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard. Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day. One of the most fearless writers of our time, Jodi Picoult tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation…and, hopefully, understanding.
The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin: Uptight elfin historian Brangwain Spurge is on a mission: survive being catapulted across the mountains into goblin territory, deliver a priceless peace offering to their mysterious dark lord, and spy on the goblin kingdom–from which no elf has returned alive in more than a hundred years. Brangwain’s host, the goblin archivist Werfel, is delighted to show Brangwain around. They should be the best of friends, but a series of extraordinary double crosses, blunders, and cultural misunderstandings throws these two bumbling scholars into the middle of an international crisis that may spell death for them–and war for their nations. Witty mixed media illustrations show Brangwain’s furtive missives back to the elf kingdom, while Werfel’s determinedly unbiased narrative tells an entirely different story. A hilarious and biting social commentary that could only come from the likes of National Book Award winner M.T. Anderson and Newbery Honoree Eugene Yelchin, this tale is rife with thrilling action and visual humor…and a comic disparity that suggests the ultimate victor in a war is perhaps not who won the battles, but who gets to write the history.
Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman: Eden Malcom lies in a bed, unable to move or to speak, imprisoned in his own mind. His wife Mary spends every day on the sofa in his hospital room. He has never even met their young daughter. And he will never again see the friend and fellow soldier who didn’t make it back home–and who narrates the novel. But on Christmas, the one day Mary is not at his bedside, Eden’s re-ordered consciousness comes flickering alive. As he begins to find a way to communicate, some troubling truths about his marriage–and about his life before he went to war–come to the surface. Is Eden the same man he once was: a husband, a friend, a father-to-be? What makes a life worth living? A piercingly insightful, deeply felt meditation on loyalty and betrayal, love and fear, Waiting for Eden is a tour de force of profound humanity.
A Notorious Vow by Joanna Shupe: Joanna Shupe returns to New York City’s Gilded Age, where fortunes and reputations are gained and lost with ease–and love can blossom from the most unlikely charade. With the fate of her disgraced family resting on her shoulders, Lady Christina Barclay has arrived in New York City from London to quickly secure a wealthy husband. But when her parents settle on an intolerable suitor, Christina turns to her reclusive neighbor, a darkly handsome and utterly compelling inventor, for help. Oliver Hawkes reluctantly agrees to a platonic marriage…with his own condition: The marriage must end after one year. Not only does Oliver face challenges that are certain to make life as his wife difficult, but more importantly, he refuses to be distracted from his life’s work–the development of a revolutionary device that could transform thousands of lives, including his own. Much to his surprise, his bride is more beguiling than he imagined. When temptation burns hot between them, they realize they must overcome their own secrets and doubts, and every effort to undermine their marriage, because one year can never be enough.
King Alice by Matthew Cordell: It’s a snow day, and Alice’s father wakes to find her dressed in royal garb, declaring she is “KING Alice! The first!” King Alice is full of creative ideas for how to spend the unexpected day off, and whatever she says goes. While her mother tends to the baby, King Alice and her drowsy but willing father write and illustrate a story. Even though King Alice is bursting with ideas and hops from one game to another, she faithfully returns to their story–the one where, just like in real life, she calls the shots. After a well-earned timeout breaks King Alice’s stride, father and daughter make amends and return to their bustling, chaotic story featuring pirates, unicorns and fairies. Though most of King Alice is filled with the lively pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations that won Cordell a Caldecott Medal for Wolf in the Snow, the story within the story is rendered via Cordell’s children’s stash of art supplies, and his fluid, humorous dialogue keeps things moving at a brisk pace. The bond between father and daughter is the heart of this sweet but never saccharine story. King Alice’s father goes all in, never turning down a game in the name of traditional gender roles–he spends most of the book in a tiara and toy earrings–which is refreshing to see. Long may King Alice reign.
Transcription by Kate Atkinson: A novel from the multiple award-winning author Kate Atkinson is always cause for celebration. Transcription, based on the life of a former Secret Service worker during World War II, is no exception. A hallmark of Atkinson’s work is her playful use of time. Transcription starts at the end of a life when, at 60, Juliet Armstrong is hit by a car in a London street. Readers are then plunged back to the 1940s, when 18-year-old Juliet finds herself at loose ends after the death of her mother. Eager to assist in the war effort, she join MI5. Quickly plucked from the initial tasks of departmental filing and collating, she is placed in an agency-owned apartment, where she transcribes recordings of the secret comings and goings of a group of fascist sympathizers. Juliet is eventually given a nom de guerre and sent to infiltrate a group of wealthy appeasers. The work is mostly dull (transcribing) and occasionally terrifying (shimmying down drainpipes). When the war ends, she presumes her role with the agency is finished as well. A decade later, Juliet is producing children’s radio dramas, and the personnel overlap between MI5 and the BBC is unusually high. When she is confronted by persons she thought were long gone, she realizes that not everything was tied up as neatly as she was led to believe. Though the war is over, it turns out there are still enemies that must be reckoned with.
Rising Out of Hatred by Eli Saslow: Barely a year has passed since violence incited by white nationalists led to tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the death of Heather Heyer. That anniversary makes Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Eli Saslow’s Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist all the more timely and important. With the skill of a novelist, Saslow tells the extraordinary story of how the “rightful heir to America’s white nationalist movement” came to repudiate his racist heritage. If anyone could lay claim to an impeccable pedigree in prejudice, it would be Derek Black, the son of the former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard who founded Stormfront, a vicious internet hate site, and the godson of white supremacist David Duke. Starting as a teenager, Black shared a microphone with his father on a radio talk show that relentlessly spewed venom against black people, Jews and other minorities. But Black’s life began its radical transformation when he enrolled at New College of Florida, a small liberal arts institution in Sarasota, in 2010. Not long after his arrival, he befriended Matthew Stevenson, an Orthodox Jewish student who invited him to Friday night Shabbat dinners to observe the Jewish Sabbath. On one of those occasions, Black met Stevenson’s roommate, Allison Gornik, who became the principal agent for upending Black’s worldview. Drawing upon hundreds of hours of interviews with Black, his family and friends, Saslow describes how Gornik methodically engaged Black, who proved to be a bright, intellectually curious young man, in conversations. These discussions exposed the flawed sources and logic of the information and fallacious thinking that fueled Black’s bigotry and his fears of a white genocide. Even more significantly, she patiently persuaded him to make amends for his racist past and the harm he’d inflicted.
Leadership by Doris Kearns Goodwin: With Leadership: In Turbulent Times, pre-eminent presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin turns her perceptive lens to a question on the minds of many Americans these days: What is leadership? But the “turbulent times” of the title are not, in fact, our own. Instead, Goodwin examines the leadership styles and challenges facing four previous United States presidents: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson. Goodwin has written about these men in previous works, but her approach here uncovers new insights and understanding–both for readers and for herself. “After five decades of studying presidential history, examining these four men through the lens of leadership allowed me to discover so many new things about them that I felt as if I was meeting them for the first time,” Goodwin reflects. Readers will share that sense of discovery. Goodwin divides her study into three thematic areas: Ambition and the Recognition of Leadership; Adversity and Growth; and The Leader and the Times: How They Led. Within these sections, she devotes a chapter to each president. These chapters are chronological, allowing the reader to better appreciate and understand the historical forces that shaped the four presidents’ growth and decisions. In the final section, Goodwin examines different kinds of leadership: transformational, crisis management, turnaround and visionary. Readers follow Lincoln as he grapples with the Emancipation Proclamation, Teddy Roosevelt as he deals with the coal strike of 1902, FDR through the first hundred days of his presidency in 1933 and Johnson as he approaches civil rights. In an epilogue titled “On Death and Remembrance,” Goodwin reflects on the final days of each president and their legacies for us today.
The Visitor by Antje Damm: In this German import, originally published in 2015 by Antje Damm and translated by Sally-Ann Spencer, young readers meet the reclusive Elise. Likely agoraphobic, she is scared of many things, including people, and she doesn’t leave her compulsively-cleaned home. One day, when her open window allows for the entry of a paper airplane, it frightens her. With broom in hand, she sweeps the paper airplane into the fire. The next morning, a young boy named Emil arrives to retrieve his plane, and the spark of a friendship is ignited. The boy stays to play, to hear a story (“It was a long time since Elise had read to anyone”), and to have a snack. “It’s fun at your house,” he tells Elise before exiting. After his visit, Elise is a changed person, and she even sits down to make her own paper airplane–one sure to serve as an invitation to her new friend.
Accessory to War by Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Avis Lang: There seems to be no scientific advancement–regardless of how pure and benign its origin–that doesn’t wind up in military use. And vice versa. That’s basically the theme that ties together Neil deGrasse Tyson and Avis Lang’s Accessory to War, an engaging and well-documented survey of the instruments and organizations that have led human civilization into its current battle for supremacy in space. Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium and ubiquitous explainer of all things cosmic, clearly wishes that war would go away and that space would become a wellspring of common benefit. But he is far too much a rationalist to confuse wishes with reality. He concedes that, to the military mind, space is the ultimate “high ground” that confers battlefield advantage. That being said, military spending on communications, travel and weapon systems does lead routinely to peaceful civilian applications. Think of where we’d be without the constant data that flows from the same satellites that made America’s invasion of Iraq so effective and devastating. Although space is the ultimate focus of this book, Tyson and Lang, his longtime researcher and editor, first take the reader on a tour through history with chapters on early celestial discoveries, the development of ocean navigation, refinements of the telescope and advancements in communications. These accounts are accompanied by chronicles of what was going on concurrently in the world. With a worried eye on the catastrophic consequences of space war, Tyson proposes a more pleasing alternative: “[A]strophysics, a historical handmaiden to human conflict, now offers a way to redirect our species’ urge to kill into collaborative urges to explore, to uncover alien civilizations, to link Earth to the rest of the cosmos . . . and protect our home planet until the Sun’s furnace burns itself out five billion years hence.”
21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari: If there were such a thing as a required instruction manual for politicians and thought leaders, Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Lessons for the 21st Century would deserve serious consideration. In this collection of provocative essays, Harari, author of the critically praised Sapiens and Homo Deus, tackles a daunting array of issues, endeavoring to answer a persistent question: “What is happening in the world today, and what is the deep meaning of these events?” For all the breadth of his concerns, Harari is able to distill the most pressing challenges facing our world down to three: nuclear war, ecological collapse and technological disruption, all of which together “add up to an unprecedented existential crisis.” He explains, for example, how this century will see the development of evermore sophisticated algorithms that will alter everything from the way we work (or don’t, in complex future economies that won’t require many people’s labor) to the way we organize and conduct our political lives. These trends will unfold in a world that clings to what are, in Harari’s opinion, already outdated notions of nationalism and religious belief, which will inevitably create tension and conflict. But Harari doesn’t ignore our current controversies. His concise essays on terrorism and immigration are examples of the fresh thinking he brings to any subject. Harari makes a passionate argument for reshaping our educational systems and replacing our current emphasis on quickly outdated substantive knowledge with the “four Cs”—critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. In the book’s final piece, Harari argues that the practice of meditation, something he does for two hours daily, offers a productive tool for understanding the human mind.
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker: The classics are experiencing a feminist revolution. Emily Wilson’s new translation of the Odyssey–the first to be written by a woman–was published to great acclaim at the end of 2016. Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire, a contemporary reworking of Antigone, won the 2017 Women’s Prize. And American author Madeline Miller has just published Circe, her second novel based on classical characters. Joining this group is the award-winning British novelist Pat Barker, whose 14th novel, The Silence of the Girls, is a reimagining of one of the key episodes in the Iliad, told from the perspective of a captured queen living in the Greek army camp during the final weeks of the Trojan War. Briseis was the queen of one of Troy’s neighboring kingdoms when her city was sacked and her husband and brothers were killed. A prize of battle, she becomes the property of Achilles, and she lives in the women’s quarters but is available to him as his concubine and slave. When King Agamemnon demands Briseis for his own, Achilles relinquishes her but, as a show of resistance, refuses to fight the Trojans any longer. In Barker’s retelling, Briseis finds herself torn between the two men, helpless but also uniquely positioned to observe the power struggle whose outcome will decide the fate of the ancient world. The Iliad concerns a war fought over a woman, and women play a major role in the epic poem as nurses, wives and, of course, unwilling sex slaves. Yet the lack of women’s voices in the original text is deafening. In The Silence of the Girls, Briseis is the master of the narrative, telling her story in counterpoint to Achilles, becoming her own subject rather than his object. Her voice is wryly observant and wholly cognizant of the cost that she and other women have paid for the violence and abuses of war perpetrated by men.
John Woman by Walter Mosley: To start a Walter Mosley novel is like sitting down to a feast. In this case, the tastiest dish is not the protagonist who gives the book its name, but his mother. Lucia Napoli-Jones is such a vivid, vibrant presence in John Woman that when she leaves early in the book, the reader may spend the rest of it, like her son, longing for her return. Earthy, deeply imperfect, possessed of a rollicking Lower East Side way of speaking and living, she is easily Mosley’s best secondary character since Mouse Alexander. But enough about flamboyant Lucia. John Woman is all about history: its slipperiness, its unknowability and maybe even its ultimate uselessness. John Woman’s autodidactic father teaches him about this, which John in turn teaches to his students after he becomes a college professor. This is all ironic, for John is trying to outrun his history. First, there’s the uneasy relationship between his parents, both of whom he loves with the helpless passion of a young child even into his 30s. John’s real childhood ended abruptly when he was forced to kill someone in defense of himself and his father. Soon after, he’s raped. He then flees, changing identities until he settles on his unusual moniker, which is in part a reference to his rapist. As usual, Mosley’s superpower lies in his slantwise take on the world and his characters, of whom there are dozens, and every one is memorable, even if they speak only a line or two.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris: Perhaps the three scariest words in the history of human imagination were cast in iron atop a gate leading directly into the closest approximation of hell ever erected on earth: Arbeit Macht Frei. “Work sets you free.” The banal words that were nothing more than a cruel and tragic joke for thousands turned out to have a deeper meaning for Lale Sokolov, an Auschwitz survivor and the real-life hero of Heather Morris’ extraordinary debut novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Like the Nobel Prize-winning author Elie Wiesel’s Night, Morris’ work takes us inside the day-to-day workings of the most notorious German death camp. Over the course of three years, Morris interviewed Lale, teasing out his memories and weaving them into her heart-rending narrative of a Jew whose unlikely forced occupation as a tattooist put him in a position to act with kindness and humanity in a place where both were nearly extinct. While Lale’s story is told at one remove–he held his recollections inside for more than half a century, fearing he might be branded as a collaborator–it is no less moving, no less horrifying, no less true. Just as a flower can grow through a sidewalk’s crack, so too can love spring and flourish in the midst of unspeakable horror, and so it is that Lale meets his lifelong love, Gita, when he inscribes the number 34902 on her arm. With the same level of inventiveness, dedication and adoration displayed by Roberto Benigni in Life is Beautiful, Lale endeavors to preserve their love (and safety) amid the horrors. Make no mistake—horrors abound. At one point, Lale is called to identify two corpses seemingly marked with the same number, which is anathema to the camp’s meticulous record keepers. Upon emerging from the crematorium, Lale is greeted by his Nazi handler, Baretski: “You know something, Tätowierer? I bet you are the only Jew who ever walked into an oven and then walked back out of it.” For decade upon decade, Lale’s story was one that desperately needed to be told. And now, as the number of those who witnessed the terror that was Nazi Germany dwindles, it is a story that desperately needs to be read. The disgraceful words that once stood over Auschwitz must be replaced with others: Never forget. Never again.
The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King: Not only is 2018 the 50th anniversary of the national premiere of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” but–as two feature films and this full-length biography attest–it is also a moment when our culture is feeling particularly nostalgic for the Presbyterian minister in his cardigan sweater and sneakers. Maxwell King, former director of the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media, prepared to write this biography of Fred Rogers by interviewing many people who knew Rogers best–from Rogers’ wife, Joanne, to the attendant who saw him every morning at the gym before his swim and Rogers’ many friends and co-workers. King offers a comprehensive look at Rogers’ life in The Good Neighbor, from his privileged childhood in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, through is difficult college experiences (dropping out of Dartmouth College to pursue a music degree from Rollins College) to his early days in broadcasting and his meticulous work on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” The show was unique in the landscape of children’s television, and Rogers’ fingerprints were on every element. The opening credits feature his hometown of Latrobe; the songs, which he wrote, reflect his deep commitment to social and emotional education; and the puppets embodied characters Rogers first imagined when he was a child. His passions for puppetry, childhood development, faith and music come through clearly. Rogers’ ideas will make readers want to cheer. “There are many people in the world who want to make children into performing seals,” he once said. “And as long as children can perform well, those adults will applaud. But I would much rather help a child to be able to say who he or she is.”
Pandemic 1918 by Catharine Arnold: We are living in a world of technological marvels, with each decade bringing increased numbers of medical breakthroughs. However, one disease that has been very tough for scientists to track and understand is the ever-mutating influenza virus. In Pandemic 1918, historian Catharine Arnold provides a detailed and chilling look at the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak, explaining what has been learned in the 100 years since this deadly epidemic, which killed more than 50 million people. Arnold gives firsthand accounts from those who witnessed and survived the Spanish flu’s deadly grip while examining its impact. By exploring family memories, journals and medical documents, she is able to focus on these personal stories that have been preserved and handed down over the years. One of the most terrifying aspects of the Spanish flu was that it often struck the healthiest rather than the elderly, young or weak. Victims included farm boys who were going off to fight in World War I. Arnold notes, “By the end of the war, more Americans died from Spanish flu than perished in the war.” The war also aided the flu’s spread, with soldiers coming from around the globe to fight. As described by one health officer at the time, Spanish flu “came like a thief in the night, its onset rapid, and insidious.” Arnold also provides a touchstone to more recent flu epidemics, such as the Hong Kong bird flu in the late 1990s. She explains how scientists have been able to exhume and examine tissue samples from those who succumbed to Spanish flu to learn more about its causes and the virus’s ability to jump from animals to humans. As she cautions, “The threat of pandemic flu is as severe as that of a terrorist attack.”
French Exit by Patrick deWitt: Whatever you do, don’t mess with Frances Price. If you’re a waiter, and the “moneyed, striking woman of sixty-five” who is the protagonist of French Exit enters your restaurant, make sure you’re polite to her, or she just might take out her perfume, spritz the centerpiece and set it on fire. She has nice qualities, too–she gives money to charities and the homeless–but she’s also likely to leave for a ski holiday in Vail rather than contact the authorities when she discovers that her husband, a ruthless litigator, has died of cardiac arrest. The tabloid scandal caused by her indifference hasn’t stopped her from living an extravagant Manhattan lifestyle since her husband’s death 20 years ago. But enforced austerity is about to begin. Her financial adviser tells her that the money she inherited has run out. Sell everything that isn’t nailed down, he tells her, and begin again. When an old friend offers her the use of a Paris apartment, Frances reluctantly accepts. Soon, she’s sailing across the Atlantic with Malcolm, her 32-year-old kleptomaniacal “lugubrious toddler” of a son, and Small Frank, an elderly cat she is convinced houses the spirit of her late husband.
Our House by Louise Candlish: In Our House, Fiona Lawson returns home from a long weekend, only to discover movers unloading a van full of another family’s belongings into her tony Trinity Avenue home. Stranger still, her belongings and those of her two sons have vanished, and this new family insists they own the house, although Fiona never put it on the market. From this unsettling scenario, British author Louise Candlish proceeds to masterfully spool out the complicated series of events that led Fiona and Bram, her estranged husband with whom she shares the home in a “bird’s nest” co-parenting arrangement, to reach this shocking moment. Candlish tells a large part of the story through a podcast called “The Victim,” which Fiona narrates, and through a Word document written by Bram, both in retrospect. The podcast and Word document give the reader the opportunity to hear Fiona’s and Bram’s differing perceptions of the events as they unfold. This narrative structure also allows the reader to feel the full weight of the characters’ emotions, from Fiona’s initial utter perplexity to Bram’s almost fatalistic resignation, and to discover the deep-rooted origins of their relationship’s complexities. Allowing the reader to plumb these depths gives the plot real plausibility. What seems outlandishly far-fetched at first slowly becomes uncomfortably conceivable and makes this novel nearly impossible to put aside.
We Regret to Inform You by Ariel Kaplan: Ariel Kaplan’s We Regret to Inform You is a compelling novel about every highly motivated college applicant’s worst nightmare. High school senior Mischa Abramavicius should have had it made. She goes to a tony prep school on scholarship where she’s a star student. But when college acceptances start rolling in and her classmates are accepted to places like Harvard and Princeton, Mischa gets nothing but rejections. She doesn’t even get into her safety school, Paul Revere University. Shocked and ashamed to tell her single mother, Mischa visits Revere’s admissions office and discovers that her transcript has been altered. But her original transcript is in order, leading Mischa to realize that something fishy is going on. With help from her best friend, Nate, and a group of hacker girls who call themselves the Ophelia Syndicate, Mischa begins to dig deeper.
Ohio by Stephen Markley: From its opening pages, in which an empty casket is paraded through the streets of a small town in Ohio so that its townspeople may pay tribute to one of their golden boys who has died fighting overseas, debut novelist Stephen Markley makes his intentions clear: Ohio is a eulogy to middle America and its flyover states. It is a battle cry for the forgotten pockets of the country and the tired, poor and dispossessed whose voices we do not care to hear. Bookended by death and spanning nearly 500 pages, Ohio interweaves the stories of four former classmates, all of whom have left New Canaan, Ohio, only to return home on the same fateful night. We meet Bill Ashcroft, an outspoken activist who has come to deliver a dubious package that is strapped to the underside of his truck; Stacey Moore, a grad student whose love life has plagued her since her school days, who has returned to make peace with the mother of an old flame; Dan Eaton, a history-loving bookworm-turned-veteran who lost his eye in the war and is back for dinner with his high school sweetheart; and Tina Ross, former town beauty who now lives one town over, works at Walmart and needs to get over her football star ex-boyfriend once and for all. Each character returns haunted by the ghosts of New Canaan’s past, unaware of how their past and present actions will converge with destructive and terrifying consequences.
Whiskey When We’re Dry by John Larison: Set in 1885 in the heart of the Midwest, the novel shirks the traditional white-hat-versus-black-hat shtick for a more grounded, emotional view of life on the range. In this instance, we experience the wild country’s hardships through the eyes of 17-year-old Jessilyn Harney as she wrestles to find her place in a man’s world. The only woman in the Harney household after her mother dies while giving birth to her, Jess does “the woman work” of “washings and stewings and mendings and tendings,” while Pa and her older brother, Noah, labor in the fields. Pa’s overbearing demeanor ultimately drives Noah away, leaving Jess to care for her father as the farm suffers. After her father is killed in a fall from his horse, Jess attempts to carry on by herself before ultimately realizing she needs help; she needs Noah. Disguising herself as a man by cutting her hair short and binding her chest, Jess sets off on her faithful mare, Ingrid, with a meager supply of rations, her pa’s fiddle and the deed to the Harney land. “I was a Harney, dammit, and my destiny was to find my brother and bring him home and thereby save our family land.” Carrying out the feat is easier said than done. Noah, for starters, has become the outlaw leader of a wild gang with a $10,000 bounty on his head, while Jess, who takes on the manlier moniker of Jesse Montclair, discovers the harsh brutality of life in the West. Even after she is beaten and robbed, Jess’ determination—and skill as a sharpshooter—pushes her onward.
The Air You Breathe by Frances de Pontes Peebles: Two girls—beautiful and privileged Graça, who has a captivating singing voice, and orphan Dores, nicknamed “Jega,” which means “donkey” in Portuguese—grow up in the early 20th century on the same sugar plantation in Brazil, which Graça’s family owns. Dores is the more levelheaded and intelligent of the two, and Graça is an impetuous risk-taker. When they first hear music on the radio, their lives are forever changed. As teens, Graça’s rebellious nature wins over her friend, who harbors an unrequited love for her, and they escape via a boarding school trip to Rio de Janeiro’s gritty Lapa neighborhood, with the aim of pursuing their dreams. Though the girls are originally a musical duo, it’s clear that Graça is the star. She is renamed Sofia Salvador after finding success in a nightclub owned by a local gangster, and Dores cedes the spotlight to write her friend’s songs. Amid a colorful canvas of sex, corruption, drugs and violence, the history of samba unfolds. The young women’s relationship is often strained, but they remain united through ambition. When Hollywood calls, Sofia Salvador becomes an international star during World War II, a pin-up for the troops à la Carmen Miranda. But there is a price to pay.
Flights by Olga Tokarczuk and Jennifer Croft: Flights combines intriguing stories of historical figures with more prosaic accounts of overbooked flights and missed trains. The unnamed peripatetic narrator proves a good-natured companion whose childhood vacations extended no further than locales easily reached by the family car. But if her timid parents traveled mostly for the pleasure of returning home, her passion is to stay moving. Drawn to maps and atlases, she is also a frequent visitor to museums that feature taxidermist and anatomical exhibits. Her stories pull the reader deep into the minds and bodies of her subjects, such as a 17th-century Flemish anatomist who discovered the Achilles tendon, and the posthumous return of Chopin’s heart from Paris to his beloved Warsaw home. The contemporary tale of an environmental biologist called to assist a terminally ill friend bears the weight of how much a single journey can change us.
Bad Reputation by Stefanie London: Remi Drysdale has given up on dancing. She had a promising career in the Melbourne Ballet Company that ended in scandal and a heartbreaking miscarriage. After getting involved with a fellow dancer and getting pregnant, she was ousted from the company while her lover chose his career over whatever feelings he had for Remi. Now, she lives in New York, teaching barre classes. Ballet is a thing of the past until Wes Evans walks into the studio with his niece. Wes is the son of dancing royalty, and his parents currently own one of the most prestigious ballet schools in the country. But he wants to do more than just get by on his family’s name and influence. He wants something for himself. Wes has lofty ideas for a show that combines modern ballet, audience participation and other forms of dance. There’s just one thing he’s missing: his lead ballerina. To complicate matters, the money his investors are willing to provide is jeopardized when a dating app begins publicizing his . . . gifts in the bedroom, granting him the nickname “Anaconda.” It takes some convincing for Remi to partner with Wes, and she makes it clear that she won’t be mixing business with pleasure. She made that mistake before and refuses to make it again, though it’s clear that Wes and Remi’s chemistry transcends more than just a working relationship. Remi is a woman whose experiences have left her broken. She hasn’t danced professionally in years, and it’s incredibly sad to see her be so hard on herself. Meanwhile, Wes is just doing his best to get out from his parents’ thumb. His mother, in particular, isn’t too fond of his idea to strike out on his own and do something in opposition to her traditional ballet teaching. But it is because he grew up in a family that puts such a focus on dance that he knows a good performer when he sees one. Wes is able to recognize Remi’s fear, hesitancy and the slew of complicated emotions that prevent her from being the magnificent dancer he knows she is. With each page and each practice, Remi gets better and more confident, building herself back into the beautiful, confident dancer she once was. It’s a Cinderella story in pointe shoes.
Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood: All Sally Horner wanted was to fit in with the cool girls at school. What she got instead was two years of harrowing captivity at the hands of a sexual predator. Author T. Greenwood recounts Sally’s real-life plight in Rust & Stardust, a shocking crime novel about the famous real-life 1948 abduction that inspired Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita and the film that followed. Eleven-year-old Sally’s effort to make friends goes awry when the other girls tell her she must steal something from a local pharmacy. When she does, she’s immediately caught by Frank LaSalle, a man who purports to be an FBI agent and threatens to arrest her if she doesn’t do as he says. Sally believes LaSalle intends to take her before a judge, and LaSalle in turn poses as the father of one of the other girls and convinces Sally’s mother to allow her to accompany his family to Atlantic City for a weeklong vacation. So begins nearly two years of lies and torment as LaSalle absconds with Sally, traveling from state to state in an effort to elude the law. As the novel is told in large part through Sally’s youthful perspective, it is easy to see how she is so easily duped by an adult who professes to be first an officer of the law and later her long-lost father. Readers will sympathize with Sally’s tragic plight while being revolted by LaSalle’s predatory instinct as he sexually exploits her. Greenwood reportedly spent more than two years researching Sally’s abduction and years drafting Rust & Stardust. The result is an unflinching portrait of a vile criminal and his helpless victim. What is perhaps just as vivid is how sexual predators today continue to mirror the exact methods LaSalle used to usurp Sally’s will–and body–with empty promises, gifts and eventually threats.
The Third Hotel by Laura van den Berg: How well can one know oneself? Laura van den Berg’s eerie yet compelling second novel, The Third Hotel, explores this question with a clanging loneliness, like a wrench falling down an elevator shaft. Clare, troubled and newly widowed, travels to Havana, Cuba, for a horror film festival that her late husband had planned to attend. From the onset, everything is strange, creating a bleak space between Clare and the reader. Just when the reader starts to question Clare’s reliability as a narrator, Clare spots Richard, her dead husband, in the streets of Havana. She follows him and spies on him for several days, but she’s less like a devastated lover who can’t believe her eyes and more like a cool and distant voyeur. She follows him to a resort (or is it a mental health facility?), where they have a literal post-mortem on their relationship that leaves Clare grappling with the reality of her role in their marriage. A major theme of this slim novel is mystery: the nature of Richard’s hit-and-run death; the contents of a simple package he left behind; the actuality of the man Clare is following in Havana. Did she find Richard, or someone who looks like Richard, or is she just imagining him altogether? All the alternatives seem equally plausible through van den Berg’s adeptly disorienting storytelling. An equally important theme is the undead, whether it be Richard, zombies in the festival’s films or inescapable memories that dig their way to the surface. The Third Hotel is a chilly, thought-provoking study of loss, loneliness and life after death.
The Shakespeare Requirement by Julie Schumacher: Poor Jason Fitger. In Dear Committee Members, Julie Schumacher’s hilarious 2014 novel, Fitger is a tenured professor of English at the second-rate Payne University, where he has a dingy office by the bathroom, writes sardonic letters of recommendation and gripes about the school’s political in-fighting. Life isn’t much better in The Shakespeare Requirement, Schumacher’s entertaining follow-up. Fitger is now the department chair, to the faculty’s dismay. That’s not his only problem: The university has renovated Willard Hall, but only for the Economics department, which now enjoys hot-and-cold water fountains and an espresso bar. English is stuck in the dilapidated lower floors, where Fitger has a “barbarically hot” office with “fossilized apple cores” under his desk and wasps in the windows. That isn’t indignity enough for Roland Gladwell, the Economics chair. He wants to get rid of the English department entirely, so he convinces Phil Hinckler, dean of the university and Fitger’s ex-wife’s boyfriend, to let him chair a quality-assessment program that he hopes will help achieve his goal. One of the ways English can survive is by submitting an acceptable Statement of Vision. This, too, poses problems, as the proposed statement eliminates the requirement that all students take a Shakespeare course, a change that infuriates the department’s Shakespeare scholar and becomes a cause célèbre among the student body. The novel includes many colorful characters, among them Fitger’s assistant, Fran, who’d much rather be an animal behavior consultant, and Angela Vackray, a freshman who gets into trouble with a boy from her Bible study.
The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis: Fiona Davis has established herself as a master of historical settings and fictional recollections of those worlds. Her debut, The Dollhouse, pulled readers into a long-kept secret at New York City’s Barbizon Hotel for Women. Davis’ sophomore effort, The Address, explored Manhattan’s Dakota apartment building and the lives lived there, separated by a century. And with The Masterpiece, Davis shows yet again that New York’s historic structures are apt settings for intrigue. Grand Central Terminal once served not only as a temple of travel but also as the home for the Grand Central School of Art, where (mostly male) artists lived bohemian lives with the prestigious school at their center. In Davis’ story, a sole female teacher, Clara Darden, struggles to make her way as an artist in a decisively male-dominated world. She sees some success as an illustrator, but there’s no trace of Clara after 1931. Some 35 years later, the terminal is no longer the architectural masterpiece it once was. After her divorce, single mother Virginia Clay finds temporary work at Grand Central’s information booth. The job begins as a way to stay afloat, but when Virginia stumbles upon the art school, abandoned in 1944, she becomes obsessed with both learning its history and saving the transportation hub in which it resides. Davis expertly switches between the lives of Clara and Virginia, weaving their struggles for independence and security with Grand Central’s history. Readers will be drawn into the lives of these remarkable women—and, alongside Virginia, into the mystery of what happened to Clara.
Fly Girls by Keith O’Brien: The thrills of air racing, so popular in the 1920s and ’30s, are now mostly forgotten, along with the names of the aviators who risked their lives for huge crowds, three-foot trophies and, of course, the cash prizes. Lost with them was the story of the “Powder Puffs,” women who defied the time’s rampant gender discrimination and triumphed in (or plummeted from) the sky. Of these pioneer breakers of the ultimate glass ceiling, perhaps only one name has stayed familiar: the beloved and doomed Amelia Earhart. Keith O’Brien’s spectacularly detailed Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History changes all that, re-creating a world that can still inspire us today. Meet Louise Thaden, a married mother of two; Ruth Elder, a beautiful Alabama divorcée; Ruth Nichols, a woman unhappily born into wealth; and Florence Klingensmith, whose promising aviation career ended in tragedy. True resisters, they were empowered by their recently gained right to vote and inspired by aviation’s rising popularity. Charles Lindbergh’s recent solo trans-Atlantic flight in 1927 was an achievement that begged for a female challenger, and it had one soon enough. O’Brien keeps a sharp eye on the planes as well. The flimsily built early aircraft regularly lost their wings, shed their wheels and exploded in flames, sometimes miraculously leaving their pilots alive and eager to fly again. Men found financial support—and better planes—much easier to come by than women, who routinely faced reporters asking why they weren’t at home cooking dinner. Elder and Klingensmith tried to dodge the husband question, while Earhart allowed her husband, prominent New York publisher George P. Putnam, to be her relentless PR man who “probably saved her from becoming a nice old maid.” The women of aviation were “friendly enemies,” competing for speed and distance records while supporting each other on the ground and in the air. Known collectively as the Ninety Nines, they encouraged young women to aim high. As Earhart said, a woman’s place “is wherever her individual aptitude places her.”
Scarface and the Untouchable by Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz: The collision of celebrated mobster Al “Scarface” Capone and his larger-than-life nemesis, Prohibition agent Eliot “The Untouchable” Ness, has become an American myth. In Scarface and the Untouchable, the latest narrative of their convergence–which played out primarily on the streets of Prohibition-era Chicago–Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz go into great detail to present the day-to-day realities that made this law-versus-lawless conflict so colorful, violent and headline-grabbing. Both Capone and Ness were the sons of immigrants, and both were equally animated by ambition. Capone showed his viciousness and enterprise early, while Ness was a late bloomer who took time out for college before drifting into law enforcement. But Ness’ childhood fascination with Sherlock Holmes foretold an enthusiasm for evidence gathering and “the chase.” After he became famous, Ness assumed Sherlockian importance of his own by serving as the model for the cartoon crime buster Dick Tracy. In spite of creating a bootlegging empire and ordering a string of murders, Capone was finally convicted and jailed for mere tax evasion. Ness did his part to bring down Capone by relentlessly raiding his breweries, thus eroding his economic base. Although the two never had a face-to-face confrontation, Ness was on hand to help escort Capone to prison. The repeal of Prohibition did little to dismantle the criminal organizations like Capone’s that it brought into being. It did, however, coincide with the end of Capone’s career. Straight-shooter Ness would move on to clean up the Cleveland, Ohio, police department and, two years after his death, come to life again as the central figure in the television crime series “The Untouchables.” The scholarship displayed in Scarface and the Untouchable is extraordinary, probing deeply into the activities, interrelationships and mindsets of the many principal characters. Publicity-seeking Capone is especially well-drawn.
Dopesick by Beth Macy: Dopesick is no doubt the hardest book that award-winning journalist Beth Macy has written. Macy spent six years following families affected by the opioid epidemic in and around her adopted hometown of Roanoke, Virginia, and she begins by noting that several interviewees died before she had time to transcribe her interview notes. It’s a heart-wrenching and thorough treatise on the national crisis that everyone knows about, but few deeply understand. Macy addresses a wealth of complex issues in her engaging, spitfire prose, such as the difficulties of rehab and disagreements about the benefits of 12-step programs versus medication-assisted treatment. Macy is a masterful storyteller, and Dopesick is full of unforgettable stories, including those of policemen, caregivers, prosecutors and a dope dealer named Ronnie Jones. Macy traces the origins of the crisis, which was perpetuated by Purdue Pharma, a company owned by one of the richest families in America. Purdue went from “selling earwax remover and laxatives to the most lucrative drug in the world”—prescription opioids they claimed were not addictive. As one Virginia lawyer aptly notes, “the victims were getting jail time instead of the people who caused it.” Dopesick is dedicated to the memory of 10 opioid victims. Their stories and those of their surviving families form the heart of this book. There’s Jesse Bolstridge, a 19-year-old high school football star, and “blond and breezy” 21-year-old Scott Roth, who “looked like one of the Backstreet Boys.” Macy herself wasn’t immune to the heartache, admitting that there “were times that journalistic boundaries blurred,” especially when it came to the lively and likable young mother Tess Henry, whom Macy interviewed during drives to Henry’s Narcotics Anonymous meetings for several months. There are no easy fixes, of course. Macy writes, “America’s approach to its opioid problem is to rely on Battle of Dunkirk strategies–leaving the fight to well-meaning citizens, in their fishing vessels and private boats–when what’s really needed to win the war is a full-on Normandy Invasion.” It’s indeed time to storm the beaches, and Dopesick is a moving, must-read analysis of a national crisis.
Illegal by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin and Giovanni Rigano: We’ve all heard news reports about refugees fleeing their homes for any number of reasons in search of a better life. And for most of us, once the news report ends, so do our thoughts about their lives. But Illegal does something special–it forces readers to stop and consider the humanity of the people who are so often portrayed as mere statistics. Twelve-year-old Ebo is determined to make it out of his poor village in Ghana. His older sister and brother have already fled, so Ebo decides to slip away and risk everything to cross the Sahara Desert and the unforgiving sea in hopes of making it to Europe. More of Ebo’s history is revealed through flashbacks as the narrative jumps between his current situation—floating helplessly on a slowly deflating life raft—and the pivotal moments of his life in Ghana. With Illegal, writers Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin–along with award-winning illustrator Giovanni Rigano–have created a gripping account of a 21st-century refugee’s experience. This vivid, powerful graphic novel, drawn from original interviews with undocumented immigrants, asks the reader to take in someone else’s plight, and then leaves them with a new sense of empathy, understanding and compassion.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras: “Life is a space full of agreeable and disagreeable surprises.” Pablo Escobar said in an interview in the late 1990s. In Fruit of the Drunken Tree, Chula Santiago and her family’s maid, Petrona, slowly build a friendship fraught with both types of surprises. Told with suspense and mystical lyricism in the vein of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende, this debut novel by Ingrid Rojas Contreras stings and heals, like salt on a wound. To support her large family, teenage Petrona is sent by her mother from the Hills into Bogota, Colombia. Meanwhile, feeling guilty over her own wealth and desperate for a confidante, young Chula obsesses over the mysterious Petrona. Each girl must make a choice: Lured by money and first love, Petrona must decide between the Santiagos and the guerillas; Chula must decide between her family and Petrona. Chapters narrated by Chula are full of sensations. Imbued with a mix of Catholicism and her mother’s indigenous beliefs, the plot moves along dreamily as Chula witnesses traumatic events through a child’s lens. She calls on the cows in her courtyard to protect her. She calms herself by counting fly parts and the syllables Petrona speaks. She searches for the Blessed Souls of Purgatory, of whom she believes Petrona is a representative. Alternative chapters narrated by Petrona are more straightforward and action-based, giving the novel a robust balance of fantasy and realism.
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage: It seems that more and more books, films and TV shows feature relationships between mothers and children who despise each other and seek each other’s slow death. In Zoje Stage’s debut novel, you can’t blame put-upon Suzette Jensen for wanting to be free from her monstrous daughter, Hanna. Indeed, by page five you’re praying for the little horror to eat it in the worst way possible. What’s less clear is why Hanna hates her mother so much. What could Suzette have possibly done to Hanna, 7 years old when our tale opens, to fill her with such psychotic rage? On top of this, Hanna’s dad, Alex, is so love-blinded that he refuses to see how utterly atrocious Hanna is. Soon enough, it becomes clear there is no answer, for Stage’s real subject is the conundrum of evil itself. Find out what happens by checking this book out from the library and make sure to keep your eyes open for a sequel!
Ghosted by Rosie Walsh: With nearly 40 years under her belt and a recently failed marriage to her name, Sarah Mackey has finally found the love of her life. During her annual pilgrimage home to England to visit her parents, Sarah meets Eddie, who is chatting with an escaped sheep on the village green. Although Sarah is definitely on the rebound–or so says an app on her phone, downloaded by a friend with the best of intentions–and in no fit state to start a relationship, the chemistry between the two is instantaneous and undeniable. Sarah falls hard, and after a week holed up together in Eddie’s cottage, she’s sure he has, too. So when Eddie leaves for his previously planned holiday in Spain and she doesn’t immediately hear from him, she is puzzled but not overly concerned. However, with every unanswered text and voicemail, Sarah’s unease mounts until she becomes convinced that a great catastrophe has befallen Eddie. Her best friends counsel her to let it go and accept that she’s been ghosted, but Sarah is haunted by Eddie and the promise of what their week together signified. Despite her friends’ warnings, Sarah begins an obsessive search for her one-that-got-away, determined to uncover what went awry, even if it means finally facing her painful past and her family’s trauma, which she’s been running from for nearly two decades.
Nightbooks by J.A. White: Late one night, a boy named Alex heads out into the darkened hallways of his apartment building. His objective is to get to the basement and destroy his “nightbooks” in the furnace. He calls them this because he has spent countless hours recording his scariest nightmares and spooky stories in their pages. Alex prizes his imagination, but it’s also the thing that sets him apart from his peers. And when you’re a kid, being different isn’t always a good thing. Alex hopes that destroying his stories will help him fit in, but what he doesn’t expect is a detour that will lead him into the heart of the scariest story he’s ever faced!
The Late Bloomers’ Club by Louise Miller: The heroine of Miller’s second novel, Nora, the owner of the Miss Guthrie Diner, makes her living serving up comfort food to locals and visitors alike in a small town in rural Vermont that finds itself at the crossroads of preserving tradition and embracing economic development. Peppered with a cast of characters that includes Nora’s younger sister Kit, Kit’s significant other (both aspiring filmmakers) and an assortment of working-class heroes, the novel unfolds after the town’s beloved “cake lady,” Peggy Johnson, dies in a car crash. Peggy, whose property is targeted for a big-box development, has left behind a will designating Nora as the beneficiary of her estate–a gesture that proves both a boon and a burden to the cash-strapped Nora, who soon finds herself torn between loyalty to the residents of Guthrie and the prospect of financial freedom. As Nora navigates between searching for Peggy’s lost dog, Freckles, who fled after the crash, and sidestepping her ex-husband’s overtures and dalliances, she finds herself alternately attracted to and angered by none other than the big-box developer, Elliot. Readers with a sweet tooth and a passion for dogs are sure to enjoy this book!