monthly fiction preview

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in July 2015

 

Go Set A Watchman
by Harper Lee
The sequel to Harper Lee’s iconic novel To Kill a Mockingbird has been met with excitement, skepticism, controversy and more controversy. The publisher HarperCollins is anticipating a huge demand by printing two million copies, and it is their most preordered book in their history (and the most preordered print book on Amazon this year). No advance copies are being made available before the July 14 release date, so the question remains: will it live up to its predecessor? We’ll have to find out!

Circling the Sun
by Paula McLain
Following the enormous success of The Paris Wife, her debut fictionalizing the relationship between Hadley Richardson and Ernest Hemingway, McLain delivers another juicy historical and biographical novel. Circling the Sun depicts the escapades of Beryl Markham, the daring and fearless woman who was a famed aviator and racehorse trainer. “McLain sustains a momentum as swift and heart-pounding as one of Beryl's prize horses at a gallop as she focuses on the romance, glamour, and drama of Beryl's blazing life, creating a seductive work of popular historical fiction” (Booklist).

Oreo
by Fran Ross
Oreo is a biracial girl who has been raised by her African American grandparents in Philadelphia. A mysterious note from her long gone Jewish father triggers her quest to find him in New York City. On NPR author Mat Johnson called Oreo “one of the funniest books I've ever read” and promises “every turn takes the reader deeper into the satire and into the heart of the absurdities of American identity.” This new edition of the 1974 novel has a forward by novelist Danzy Senna (Caucasia) and an afterward by poet Harryette Mullen.

The Gods of Tango
by Carolina De Robertis
In 1913, Leda Mazzoni, a young Italian woman, plans to join her husband in Argentina to start a new life. But as soon as she arrives in Buenos Aires she learns that her husband has been killed. Seduced by the illicit sounds of tango, she masters the violin and assumes the identity of a man so she can make a living as a musician. Oakland author De Robertis is the author of Perla and The Invisible Mountain, a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2009 and an international bestseller. In The Gods of Tango, she “draws upon her family's Uruguayan heritage and expatriate experiences to paint a rich vision of Leda's world, the layers of Argentine society as encountered by an immigrant, and her inner struggles with gender identity and sexuality” (Library Journal).

Lagoon
by Nnedi Okorafor
What happens when aliens visit Lagos, Nigeria, one of the world’s most populous and chaotic cities, teeming with energy, music, corruption, inequality and superstition? Just ask Okorafor, winner of the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel for her 2010 novel Who Fears Death. The publisher describes Lagoon as a blend of "magical realism with high-stakes action" in which "it's up to a famous rapper, a biologist, and a rogue soldier to handle humanity's first contact with an alien ambassador--and prevent mass extinction." Book Page calls it “a cracking and often surprising story, terrific social commentary and great fun to read” and Locus Magazine says “Okorafor’s impressive inventiveness never flags.”

The Way Things Were
by Aatish Taseer
Four decades of modern Indian history are illuminated by the stories of a father and son, both scholars of the ancient language of Sanskrit. The story begins when Skanda leaves his home in Manhattan to visit his ailing father in Geneva, then after his death accompanies the body home to India to perform the funeral rites. Language plays an essential role in a novel that Publishers Weekly says “will leave readers intoxicated,” adding that “this is a difficult book to put down, and readers will enjoy every minute of it, as well as learning about contemporary Indian culture.”

Mirages of the Mind*
by Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi, translated by Matt Reeck and Aftab Ahmad
Basharat Ali Farooqi can’t catch a break. He’s an Indian Muslim who immigrated to Pakistan after the Partition, and his constant misadventures have him scraping by in a chaotic world. Comedy is the standout feature here: “Yousufi writes of the most serious events with balloon-puncturing good humor” in a novel that is “a pleasure to read and a welcome window on a world we know too little about” (Kirkus). Nonagenarian author Yousufi is well known in his native Pakistan but much less so in the west; only now has this 1990 novel written Urdu been published in the U.S.
*This title will be in the catalog and available for holds after July 9.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest
by J. Ryan Stradal
Abandoned at a tender age by a mother who runs off with a sommelier and a chef father who can’t bear the stress of single fatherhood, Eva Thorvald grows up to be a renowned chef whose pop up dinners cost $5000 per person with a year-long waiting list. Publishers Weekly calls Chef Eva a “compelling, deliciously flawed character” and Booklist calls this debut “the ultimate homage to the merits of the culinary experience, with just a soupçon of überfoodie-culture satire thrown in for a bit of zest.”

Among the Ten Thousand Things
by Julia Pierpont
A New York mother of two and a former ballerina discovers that her sculptor husband is having an affair. Simon, 15, and Kay,11, discover the evidence themselves and must come to grips with their family’s demise while they navigate their own adolescent challenges. “Pierpont's concentrated domestic drama is piquantly distinctive, from its balance of humor and sorrow to its provocatively off-kilter syntax, original and resonant descriptions, bristling dialogue, snaky psychological insights, and escalating tension” (Booklist). “For all the book's sadness, much of its lingering force comes from Pierpont's sharp-witted detailing of human absurdity. A quietly wrenching family portrait” (Kirkus).

Confession of the Lioness
by Mia Couto, translated by David Brookshaw
From an award-winning Mozambican author comes a story set in Kulumani, a remote village where lions have been slaughtering young women. The government hires Archangel Bullseye, a celebrated hunter, to take care of the problem. Mariamar’s sister is the latest victim of the lions, and while she grieves her sister’s death, she wonders if Archangel Bullseye is the same man she fell in love with as a young girl. Couto “crafts a rich tale in which the spirit world is made real, animals are controlled by people, and dead ancestors are feared for their power to destroy cities” and “also manages to explore the clash of disparate belief systems—tribal, Islam, Christian—in postcolonial Africa and deftly weaves in a critique of the embedded patriarchy” (Kirkus).

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in June 2015

 

In the Country
by Mia Alvar
This stunning debut story collection is getting raves. Alvar’s stories “reflect her own peripatetic background (Manila born, Bahrain/New York raised, Harvard/Columbia educated), featuring a cast of immigrants, expats, travelers, runaways, and returnees caught in constant motion—geographically, socioeconomically, politically, emotionally—as  they search for respite and long for an elusive ‘home’” (Library Journal). Kirkus Reviews calls it “a triumphant, singular collection deserving of every accolade it will likely receive.”

The Star Side of Bird Hill
by Naomi Jackson
Brooklyn-born Dionne Braithwaite, 16, and her 10-year-old sister Phaedra have been sent to live with their grandmother in a small village in Barbados while their single mother gets her life together. As their stay becomes unexpectedly longer, generational and cultural conflicts arise, Dionne meets boys and Phaedra embraces her new Caribbean home. “The themes she touches on—mental illness, immigration, motherhood, sexual awakening—are potent and deftly juggled, anchored in the vivid locale of Bird Hill yet universally relatable. Readers will be turning the pages to follow Phaedra and Dionne's memorable journey” (Publisher’s Weekly). Debut novelist Jackson is a Fulbright scholar and winner of the Maytag Fellowship for Excellence in Fiction at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

In the Unlikely Event                                              
by Judy Blume
Beloved author Blume bases her newest novel on three real-life plane crashes that occurred near Newark Airport during the winter of 1951-52. The three crashes have a profound impact on 15-year-old Miri, her family and friends. Publishers Weekly calls it “characteristically accessible, frequently charming, and always deeply human.” This novel will appeal to both teens and adults.

The Meursault Investigation
by Kamel Daoud, translated by John Cullen
Harun mourns the loss of his brother Musa, an Algerian Arab who was killed by Meursault, the protagonist of The Stranger, in this vivid retelling of the novel by Camus. The New York Times calls it “an intricately layered tale that not only makes us reassess Camus’s novel but also nudges us into a contemplation of Algeria’s history and current religious politics; colonialism and postcolonialism; and the ways in which language and perspective can radically alter a seemingly simple story and the social and philosophical shadows it casts backward and forward.” Library Journal calls it “an eye-opening, humbling read, splendid whether or not you know and love the original.” This debut novel earned a Prix Goncourt nomination for the author, an Algerian journalist.

Ghost Summer: Stories
by Tananarive Due
Ghost Summer is the first short story collection from Tannarive Due, an award winning author of speculative fiction and horror. “Due crafts perceptive and realistic accounts of the experiences of African-American families, including racism, familial dysfunction, and traditional religion, but she adds chilling supernatural elements that simultaneously infuse her plots with visceral dread and add immediacy to the social commentary underlying her stories” (Novelist).

The Sunlit Night
by Rebecca Dinerstein
21-year-old Frances flees a broken heart and her splintering family in Manhattan for a tiny village in Norway where she apprentices with an artist who silently paints murals with only the color yellow. Grieving 17-year-old Yasha, a Russian immigrant to the U.S., has come to the same village to bury his father, who wanted to be laid to rest "at the top of the world". An unlikely romance brews between the two in this unique setting accompanied by a “cast of sitcom-ready Norwegian misfits” who are “engaging and sad and quirky” (Kirkus). Publishers Weekly raves, “Dinerstein's novel is a rich reading experience” and “her prose is lyrical and silky, but it's also specific, with acute observations and precise detail, and she evokes the sun-stroked, barren Norwegian landscape with a striking sense of place.”           

The Truth and Other Lies
by Sascha Arango
Rich, bestselling author Henry Hayden has some secrets. For one, his wife is actually the author of the books bearing his name. Also, his agent is also his mistress, and now she’s pregnant. Then, there’s the matter of a series of mysterious deaths. Kirkus Reviews calls it “a cross between James M. Cain and Patricia Highsmith, with a wide streak of sardonic humor” and “German screenwriter Arango's first novel is superior pulp, with schemers all around and plenty to say about fame, identity, and mortality.”

A History of Money
by Alan Pauls, Translated by Ellie Robbins
This is the first US release from an author that Roberto Bolaño called "one of the best living Latin American writers." Set during the financially troubled decades of the 70s and 80s in Argentina, this novel examines a family’s prickly relationship with money and showcases the author’s experimental style. “Pauls dazzles the reader with run-on sentences and page-long paragraphs that generate a linguistically rich, money-hungry momentum” (Booklist).

The Pinch: A History
by Steve Stern
Set in The Pinch, a Jewish neighborhood in Memphis, in the late 60s, Lenny Sklarew works in a bookstore and sells drugs on the side. He discovers a book by Muni Pinsker called The Pinch: A History in which he is a character, arriving in Memphis from Siberia in 1911. “With a motley cast, including blues musicians, a folklorist, an ogre, levitating Hasidim, and a limping tightrope walker, Stern, an ebullient maestro of words and mayhem, wonder and conscience, orchestrates a cacophonous, whirling, gritty, tender, time-warping saga that encompasses a cavalcade of horror, stubborn love, cosmic slapstick, burlesque humor, and a scattering of miracles” (Booklist). Stern’s last book, a story collection called The Book of Mischief, was named a best book of the year by Kirkus Reviews and The New York Times. You can read an excerpt of The Pinch here

I Saw a Man
by Owen Sheers
Michael’s wife Caroline was a TV journalist, accidentally killed by a U.S. drone attack in Pakistan. The grieving widower moves to London, where he is warmly embraced by his next door neighbors, Josh and Samantha Nelson. Tragedy strikes again when Michael is involved in a fatal accident involving one of the Nelson’s daughters. Kirkus calls it a “highly original, engrossing literary thriller” and Booklist praises the way Sheers “indicts not only his characters but also the wider culture for the ways in which we shirk culpability.” Owen Sheers is an award winning Welsh poet, novelist and playwright, and the author of Resistance (2007).

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in May 2015

A God in Ruins
by Kate Atkinson
Atkinson’s last novel, Life After Life (2013), won the Costa Award (and loads of fans) for its unusual tale of the many lives and deaths of Ursula Todd. Her new novel turns to Ursula’s brother Teddy. Atkinson skillfully jumps back and forth in time, portraying Teddy as a World War II pilot, husband, father, teacher and grandfather. Booklist promises, “every one of Atkinson's characters will, at one moment or another, break readers' hearts,” and “Atkinson mixes character, theme, and plot into a rich mix, one that will hold readers in thrall.” Quickly, place your hold now!

Only the Strong
by Jabari Asim
A portrait of African American life in early 1970s St. Louis is rendered by the overlapping stories of four characters: a retired thug turned cab driver, his local crime boss, a prominent physician and a promising college student escaping her troubled childhood. Kirkus Reviews praises Asim’s “sinewy style and elegiac tone” and promises “you will rarely find a historical novel that's as panoramic yet also as lean, mean, and moving as this.”

The Green Road
by Anne Enright
Winner of the Booker Prize for The Gathering (2007) and the Andrew Carnegie Medal for The Forgotten Waltz (2011), Enright is known for her “exacting yet luminous expressions of family dynamics” (Booklist). Her newest family drama starts in 1980s County Claire Ireland, and follows a volatile matriarch and her four far-flung children over the next three decades: Daniel, who finds love and art in New York City’s gay scene, Emmet doing aid work in Mali, struggling actress Hanna, and Constance, who puts down roots close to home. Kirkus praises Enright’s “brilliant ear for dialogue, her soft wit, and piercing, poetic sense of life's larger abstractions” and calls The Green Road “a subtle, mature reflection on the loop of life from a unique writer of deserved international stature.”

Re Jane
by Patricia Park
Jane Re is a recent college graduate whose promising career flopped when the dot-com bubble burst. Now she’s stuck in Queens working for her Aunt and Uncle’s grocery. She doesn’t fit in—she’s an orphan and others don’t think she’s Korean enough for her Korean neighborhood. A job as an au pair plunks her down into an entirely new world in Brooklyn, and next stop is Seoul, where she connects with her complex roots. Publishers Weekly calls this debut novel “a cheeky, clever homage to Jane Eyre” and Kirkus calls the author “a fine writer with an eye for the effects of class and ethnic identity, a sense of humor, and a compassionate view of human weakness.”

Balm
by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Three wounded souls cross paths in post-Civil War Chicago, victims of both personal and national tragedies. Madge is a healer who cannot soothe herself; Sadie is an unhappy widow who is also a medium; Hemp, a former slave, is desperately trying to track down the wife he was separated from before he was freed. “The author deftly weaves her characters' longings with the gritty realities of American life after war's devastations” (Library Journal). Her first novel Wench (2010) won the First Novelist Award from Black Caucus of American Library Association and was a finalist for the Hurston Wright Legacy Award.

Mr. and Mrs. Doctor
by Julie Iromuanya
Ifi is leaving Nigeria for a promising future: an arranged marriage to Job, a Nigerian expat and prominent doctor, and a comfortable new life in the United States where she can study nursing. What will she do when she discovers that Job is not a doctor, his home is run-down, and his promises are all a sham? “This refreshingly well-drawn debut novel is peopled with lively, engrossing characters who reflect a sophisticated understanding of human nature and relationships,” raves Kirkus, “Iromuanya presents a fascinating and often hilarious drama of marriage, highlighting the discrepancies between who we say we are and who we really are.”

Loving Day
by Mat Johnson
Warren Duffy’s marriage failed, his business went bust, and now his father is dead. Warren returns from his ex-pat life in Wales to claim his inheritance: a crumbling mansion in Philadelphia. At a comic book convention he meets the daughter he didn’t know he had—a daughter who had no idea that she has black ancestry. No reviews yet in sight for this one, but I have high hopes for the author of critically acclaimed novels Pym(2011) and Drop (2000) and the graphic novel Incognegro (2008).

Seveneves
by Neal Stephenson
The moon suddenly and mysteriously explodes, triggering an exodus from the earth in which seven women must repopulate the human race. In his latest science fiction epic, Stephenson traces the fate of humanity over the next 5000 years. Publishers Weekly says “Stephenson's remarkable novel is deceptively complex, a disaster story and transhumanism tale that serves as the delivery mechanism for a series of technical and sociological visions” and Kirkus calls it “wise, witty, utterly well-crafted.” Stephenson is the author of many popular and acclaimed novels including Anathem (2008), Reamde (2011), and Cryptonomicon (1999).

War of the Encyclopaedists
by Chris Robinson and Gavin Kovite
Best friends Mickey Montauk and Halifax Corderoy call themselves The Encyclopaedists, throwing parties and art shows in the large house they share in Seattle. They head in different directions when Montauk departs for Iraq with the army and Corderoy leaves for graduate school in Boston, keeping in touch by updating the Wikipedia page they created about themselves. Kirkus calls it “smart and entertaining” and a “likable, highly readable, double-bylined coming-of-age first novel” and Publishers Weekly calls it “moving and memorable”.

The Maintenance of Headway
by Magnus Mills
A Booker Prize finalist (for Restraint of Beasts) and former bus driver offers a hilarious take on the absurdity of bureaucracy in this insider’s view of the inner workings of London’s bus system. Publisher’s Weekly says this short novel “is consistently funny and perceptively portrays the plight of the little guy struggling to find sanity in an incomprehensible bureaucratic rat race” and Kirkus Reviews calls it “nearly flawless.”

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in April 2015

God Help the Child
by Toni Morrison
Nobel winner Morrison introduces us to Lula Ann, born with dark skin that repels her light skinned mother who withholds the affection her child desperately craves. As an adult, Lula Ann reinvents herself, renames herself Bride and becomes a success in the beauty industry. But she cannot escape her painful past, and her path connects with others who bear childhood scars. “The strength of the novel... is that it becomes a swirl of deep emotions, sucking the reader in” (Booklist).

I Refuse
Ashes in My Mouth, Sand in My Shoes
by Per Petterson
The acclaimed Norwegian author’s new novel, I Refuse, is about Tommy and Jim, best friends growing up who haven’t seen each other since a tragic accident 35 years earlier. A chance meeting prompts them to look back on their lives. Publishers Weekly says I Refuse “might be his saddest, most powerful take yet on families torn asunder, missed opportunities, lost friendships, and regrets that span a lifetime.”

Fans can rejoice in the melancholy: a second Petterson book arrives this month. Ashes in My Mouth, Sand in My Shoes is a collection of linked stories featuring Arvid Jansen, a character who has also appeared in I Curse the River of Time and It's Fine by Me. This debut work was originally published in 1987, and is just now available in English. “A bittersweet read that can be fully savored in one sitting” (Publishers Weekly).

The Turner House
by Angela Flournoy
Viola, the matriarchal widow of the Turner family and mother of 13 grown children, is ailing and must move in with her eldest son Cha-Cha. But what will become of the house on Yarrow Street, her home of over 50 years, in a state of decline along with the rest of their Detroit neighborhood and saddled with an underwater mortgage? The sibling squabbles mount as the family saga unfolds. Booklist calls it a “wonderfully lively debut novel” and “a compelling read that is funny and moving in equal measure.”

The Sympathizer
by Viet Thanh Nguyen
A half-Vietnamese, half-French young man looks back at the fall of Saigon, his flight to the United States as a refugee and his new life in Southern California. He’s a double agent: a Communist sympathizer working for the South Vietnamese Army, torn between two loyalties, two cultures and two lands. “Ultimately a meditation on war, political movements, America's imperialist role, the CIA, torture, loyalty, and one's personal identity, this is a powerful, thought-provoking work” (Library Journal). “Both chilling and funny, and a worthy addition to the library of first-rate novels about the Vietnam War” (Kirkus).

The Water Museum: Stories
by Luis Alberto Urrea
Thirteen stories set in the Southwest explore territory such as cross cultural love, racial politics and the effects of interminable drought with language that ranges from “spare eloquence” to “lush, Latin and slangy”(Kirkus). Publishers Weekly calls this book “darkly funny” with stories that are “vibrant, tender, and invoke a strong sense of place.” Urrea is an acclaimed novelist, poet and essayist best known for the 2005 novel The Hummingbird's Daughter and the 2004 nonfiction book The Devil's Highway, a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

The Fishermen
by Chigozie Obioma
Trouble ensues in 1990s Nigeria when Eme, husband and father of six, receives a job transfer, moving him to Yola while his wife and children remain in Akure. In their father’s absence, the four eldest brothers flaunt family rules by fishing at the Omi-Ala, a river that is dangerous, dirty and steeped in superstition. An encounter there with Abulu, a madman and perhaps prophet, launches a series of turbulent and tragic events. “The talented Obioma exhibits a richly nuanced understanding of culture and character. A powerful, haunting tale of grief, healing, and sibling loyalty” (Kirkus). You can read the first chapter of The Fishermen here.

Orhan's Inheritance
by Aline Ohanesian
Orhan has travelled from Istanbul to the small Turkish village of his youth to discover that he has inherited his grandfather’s business, but the family’s ancestral home has been left to a mysterious woman in an Armenian nursing home in Los Angeles. Family secrets unravel as does the history between Turkey and Armenia. Booklist calls it a “heartrending debut” and Kirkus calls it “a novel that delves into the darkest corners of human history and emerges with a tenuous sense of hope.”

The Children's Crusade
by Ann Packer
From the author of The Dive from Clausen's Pier (2002), a family drama set in Silicon Valley unfolds over three decades, featuring a physician and devoted father, an artist and an absent, unhappy mother, and their four children. With the passing of the patriarch comes division and discord as the siblings argue over whether or not to sell the family home. Publishers Weekly raves, “Packer is an accomplished storyteller whose characters are as real as those you might find around your dinner table. Readers will be taken with this vibrant novel.” Packer is also the author of Songs Without Words (2007) and Swim Back to Me (2011).

The Distant Marvels
by Chantel Acevedo
In 1963, as Hurricane Flora approaches Cuba, 82-year-old María Sirena Alonso prefers to stay home, but is compelled to shelter with others in a historic mansion. A former lector in a cigar factory, she passes the storm by regaling her shelter compatriots with astonishing and moving stories from her life and Cuban history. Booklist calls it “a major, uniquely powerful, and startlingly beautiful novel” and Kirkus praises its “irresistible moments of rebellion and bravery.” Acevedo’s first novel, Love and Ghost Letters (2005), won the Latino International Book Award.

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in March 2015

Delicious Foods
by James Hannaham
Gripped by grief after her husband’s death, Darlene turns to drugs, abandons her son, and is duped into taking a job at a farm where she is held captive against her will. Darlene and her son Eddie desperately try to find each other, while Scotty, the personification of crack cocaine (yes, you read that right), narrates much of the story. Publishers Weekly says this “seductive and disturbing second novel grips the reader from page one” and Kirkus Reviews calls it “a poised and nervy study of race in a unique voice.” Hannaham’s 2009 debut God Says No was nominated for a Lambda Award for Best Gay Debut Fiction.

The Sellout
by Paul Beatty
The narrator of this scathing, profound, and foul-mouthed satire is a young African American man called before the Supreme Court after reinstating slavery and segregation in his hometown of Dickens, on the outskirts of Los Angeles. The New York Times raves “The first 100 pages… are the most caustic and the most badass first 100 pages of an American novel I’ve read in at least a decade” and “the riffs don’t stop coming in this landmark and deeply aware comic novel.” NPR says “The Sellout isn't just one of the most hilarious American novels in years, it also might be the first truly great satirical novel of the century.” Beatty is the author of The White Boy Shuffle (1996) and the editor of Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor (2006).  Read an excerpt here and more about the author here.

A Little Life
by Hanya Yanagihara
A Little Life follows the lives of four friends over four decades. Malcolm, JB, Willem, and Jude meet as young men at a small Massachusetts college and then move to New York together to begin their lives. The novel touches on issues of race, class and sexuality as the men face ups and downs in their careers and their friendships. Ultimately the narrative focuses on Jude, a successful lawyer who bears physical and mental scars from a gruesomely tragic past. Kirkus describes it as “an intensely interior look at the friends' psyches and relationships, and it's utterly enthralling.” Publishers Weekly promises: “By the time the characters reach their 50s and the story arrives at its moving conclusion, readers will be attached and find them very hard to forget.” Yanagihara’s debut novel, The People in the Trees, was selected as one of the best books of 2013 by Publishers Weekly and the San Francisco Chronicle.

The Discreet Hero
by Mario Vargas Llosa
The Nobel Prize-winning Peruvian author examines the lives, loves, families and businesses of two men, one the prosperous owner of an insurance company in Lima, and one the struggling owner of a trucking company in a small town. Vargas Llosa “layers disparate, suspenseful, and competing stories into a larger, fuller narrative that seamlessly arrives at its satisfying conclusion” (Publishers Weekly). Booklist calls The Discreet Hero “complicated yet irresistible” and “fabulously arresting” and Vargas Llosa  “a soaring storyteller” who “mixes humor with solemnity, farce with seriousness, to arrive at novels that maintain a perfect balance between rigorous literary standards and free-for-all fun.”

Night at the Fiestas
by Kirstin Valdez Quade
This collection of stories touches on issues of class, race and coming of age against a New Mexico backdrop. Quade “works a kind of magic with her prose” and “draws outsider characters from the periphery” with a “fierce authenticity and gift for crafting character” (Booklist). This debut author already has accolades under her belt; she was recognized by the National Book Foundation as a 5 under 35 honoree and is a former Stegner Fellow.

The Buried Giant
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Among ogres and dragons in medieval rural England, an elderly couple, Axl and Beatrice, live in a village where everyone seems to have trouble remembering anything. In this fog of forgetting, Axl and Beatrice wonder about a son they think they had—when did he leave? And why? They set off on a quest to find answers. Kirkus calls it “lovely: a fairy tale for grown-ups, both partaking in and departing from a rich literary tradition.” In the New York Times, Neil Gaiman called it “an exceptional novel” that “remains in the mind long after it has been read, refusing to leave, forcing one to turn it over and over” (although the NYT’s Michiko Kakutani did not care for it). Ishiguro is the highly acclaimed author of Never Let Me Go (2005) and Booker Prize winner The Remains of the Day (1989), among others.

The Lost Child
by Caryl Phillips
An award winning writer responds to Wuthering Heights with a tragic tale that spans generations. The life of young Heathcliff, son of a slave on a sugar plantation, is blended with the story of the Brontë sisters and their troubled brother, blended with the 20th century story of Monica Johnson, a woman who defies her parents by pursuing a forbidden marriage and later struggles as a single mother. Kirkus calls The Lost Child “gorgeously crafted and emotionally shattering.” Phillips is the author of Booker nominees Crossing the River (1994) and A Distant Shore (2003), and he has been the winner of the Martin Luther King Memorial Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and the Commonwealth Writers Prize, among others.

The Shadow of the Crescent Moon
by Fatima Bhutto
Living with constant threat of violence in Pakistan near the Afghanistan border, three brothers decide not to celebrate Eid at the same mosque because the risk of losing the whole family is too great. The brothers have pursued very different paths in life—the middle brother, Sikander, avoided politics by becoming a doctor. But that didn’t stop the Taliban from killing his son, and now they have taken Sikander and his grieving wife hostage. “This poignant read holds vast contemporary relevance” (Booklist) and “Bhutto's characters and story are compelling and richly drawn” (Publishers Weekly). The author, a member of a politically prominent Bhutto family, wrote the memoir Songs of Blood and Sword (2010). This, her first novel, was longlisted for the UK’s Women’s Prize for Fiction.

A Reunion of Ghosts
by Judith Claire Mitchell
The Alter sisters have decided to commit suicide. In this dark comedy, Lady, Vee, and Delph Alter are the remaining members of the Alter family, long haunted by bad luck and suicides. Lady has already made one attempt, Vee’s cancer has returned, and Delph the spinster has little to live for—so they commence collaboratively writing their family history slash suicide note. Kirkus calls A Reunion of Ghosts a “masterful family saga… as funny as it is aching” and Publishers Weekly calls it “sharply funny, fiercely unsentimental” and “poignant and pulsing with life force.”

The Dream of My Return
by Horacio Castellanos Moya
Erasmo Aragon is a journalist, neurotic and hypochondriac who has fled the political turbulence of his native El Salvador and is living in Mexico City. An intense pain in the stomach brings him to fellow Salvadoran Dr. Chente Alvarado, who suggests hypnosis. New levels of paranoia arise as the very unusual doctor helps him delve into his psyche. Kirkus Reviews calls it “an exquisitely wry novel” and raves, “Moya has written a tight little novel that is wickedly witty and built on the idea of memory as a never-ending cause of inspiration and turmoil.” Moya is a writer and journalist from El Salvador; four of his ten novels have been translated into English including Senselessness (2008).

Are you looking forward to an upcoming new release? Tell us about it!

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in February 2015

 

Disgruntled
by Asali Solomon
Kenya is the daughter of Afrocentric radicals growing up in West Philadelphia in the late 1980’s. Due to her unconventional upbringing, Kenya feels like an outsider whether she’s in her predominately black public school or the suburban white private school she attends after her parents split up. Booklist calls it “A deft, knowing, bold, and witty debut,” saying “Solomon's cultural references resound, her dialogue stings, and the intricate and surprising relationships she choreographs are saturated with racial, sexual, and political quandaries of intimate and epochal repercussions.” In 2007 Solomon was honored as one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35”, and her collection of stories Get Down (2006), won a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and was a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award. Read an excerpt of Disgruntled here.

Welcome to Braggsville
by T. Geronimo Johnson
Welcome to Braggsville is a satirical examination of race, politics and academia, in which a multicultural, bright-eyed foursome of Berkeley students travel to rural Georgia to stage a mock lynching during a Civil War reenactment, a misguided act that has tragic consequences. The author’s “observations about race are both piercing and witty, making this edgy novel so much more complex than a send-up of the South and liberal academe” (Library Journal). Kirkus Reviews calls it “a rambunctious, irreverent yet still serious study of the long reach of American institutional racism.” Johnson’s first novel, Hold It 'til It Hurts, was selected as one of the best books of 2012 by the San Francisco Chronicle.

She Weeps Each Time You're Born
by Quan Barry
Barry’s mystical novel intertwines the tumultuous history of 20th century Vietnam with the story of a young girl named Rabbit who can communicate with the dead. As U.S. forces withdraw in the 1970s, Rabbit and her grandmother flee their destroyed home, join other boat refugees on a treacherous voyage and are sent to a re-education camp. Meanwhile Rabbit hears the voices of the dead share other tales of wartime destruction and dislocation. “Blurring boundaries between history and invention, life and death, even verse and prose, English professor (Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison) and multi-award-winning poet Barry's first novel is fierce, stunning, and devastating” (Library Journal).

Jam on the Vine
by Lashonda Barnett
Pioneering African American journalist and activist Ida B. Wells inspired this historical novel of life in the Jim Crow south. Ivoe Williams, born in east Texas in 1888, grows up obsessed with reading. After college, she tries to find work as a journalist in Texas and Missouri but no one will hire her. Undeterred, she and her lover Ona establish the first female African American newspaper.  Publishers Weekly calls it “a wonderfully vibrant, fully realized vision of the shadowy corners of America's history.”

Prudence
by David Treuer
A heartbreaking event occurs one August night in 1942 at The Pines, a small resort in Northern Minnesota near the Leech Lake Reservation. The son of the white resort owners has come to say farewell to his loved ones before he is shipped overseas, especially forbidden love Billy and father figure Felix, both Native Americans. When a German escapes from a nearby POW camp, a tragic killing occurs that has far reaching consequences. Library Journal calls Prudence a “thoughtful and engaging novel” that “reveals the different worlds inhabited by whites and Native Americans” while Kirkus calls it “a self-assured, absorbing story with a grim arc that moves from bad to worse as Treuer explores the darkness at our cores.” Pushcart Prize-winning Ojibwe writer Treuer hails from Leech Lake Reservation and is the author of Rez Life (2012). Read an excerpt of Prudence here.

A Spool of Blue Thread
by Anne Tyler
Tyler’s 20th novel focuses on the drama of family life, “still a fresh and compelling subject in the hands of this gifted veteran” (Kirkus). Red and Abby Whitshank are the septuagenarian heads of a Baltimore clan which includes four squabbling adult offspring who must come to grips with the physical and mental challenges their parents face as they age. Tyler uses “her signature gifts for brilliant dialog and for intricately framing the complex messiness of parental and spousal relationships” while she “continues to dazzle with this multigenerational saga, which glides back and forth in time with humor and heart and a pragmatic wisdom that comforts and instructs” (Library Journal). Tyler is the winner of numerous awards, including a Pulitzer Prize for Breathing Lessons (1988).

Funny Girl
by Nick Hornby
Bombshell Barbara Parker has no interest in being Miss Blackpool 1964—she wants to be a TV comedienne like her idol, Lucille Ball. She heads to London, changes her name to Sophie Straw and lands her own comedy TV show, gaining a circle of colleagues and friends in the process. Kirkus calls Funny Girl Hornby’s “most ambitious novel to date,” combining “his passion for pop culture and empathy for flawed characters.” “This book takes the pejorative sting out of the words "entertaining" and "heartwarming," and induces binge-reading that's the literary equivalent of polishing off an entire television series in one weekend” (NPR). Read an excerpt here.

The Nightingale
by Kristin Hannah
If All the Light We Cannot See gave you an appetite for more stories of France during the Second World War, The Nightingale might be your next read. Two sisters, Viann and Isabelle, find themselves playing contrasting roles in the Resistance during the German Occupation. Booklist calls it an “engrossing tale” and a “moving, emotional tribute to the brave women who fought behind enemy lines during the war” while Kirkus calls it an “absorbing page-turner.”

This House is Not for Sale
by E. C. Osondu
A man named “Grandpa” is the patriarch of a large house on the outskirts of an African village. Grandpa has taken in many lodgers over time, along with their myriad troubles. Each chapter of this book by Nigerian-born Osondu (Voice of America, 2010) captures the life of one the house’s many inhabitants. “Throughout, a marvelous chorus of community voices chimes in, passionately commenting on the action and swaying from jealousy to awe to amazement, as fates rise and fall” (Publishers Weekly). “Osondu is ceaseless in his willingness to examine the human condition in all its glories and frailties” (Kirkus Reviews). Osondu is the winner of the 2009 Caine Prize for African Writing.

Making Nice
by Matt Sumell
Alby, the star of this debut novel in stories, is a slacker, a loser and a foul-mouthed, lecherous, often inebriated and malevolent bro—so why would you want to read a book about him? Told with a comic voice that squeezes out every drop of absurdity, Sumell manages to expose Alby’s vulnerable side. “Sumell's compulsively readable novel… is humbly macho, provoking outrage, pity, and finally tenderness” (Booklist). “The ugliness in this book is leavened with beauty; every disgusting thing the protagonist does is told with artistic insight in language that's poignant… there's plenty of truly moving storytelling about Alby's life that brings him into focus, transforming his character… into someone sympathetic” (Library Journal).

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in January 2015


 

Frog
by Mo Yan, translated by Howard Goldblatt
Nobel Laureate Yan examines China’s one child policy and the consequences of blind obedience to authority. Gugu is a respected obstetrician in her rural town and a party loyalist who has taken extreme measures to help enforce the regulations of the Family Planning Commission. Gugu spares no one; when her nephew’s wife becomes pregnant with their second child, Gugu’s rigid enforcement of the law results in tragedy. “Heavily laced with ardent social criticism, mystical symbolism, and historical realism, Mo Yan's potent exploration of China's most personal and intrusive social control programs probes the horrors and pain such policies inflict” (Booklist).

The First Bad Man
by Miranda July
Artist, filmmaker and writer July follows her fanciful, funny and moving short story collection (No One Belongs Here More Than You, 2007) with a novel about a neurotic, lonely, middle-aged woman with rampant sexual fantasies. Cheryl works at a women’s self-defense company, where she harbors an obsessive and unrequited longing for board member Phillip. Her orderly life is interrupted when her bosses ask her to allow their unpredictable 20-year-old daughter to move in with her. Kirkus Reviews calls this novel “bizarrely touching” with “humor, frankness and emotional ruthlessness” whose “strange details… deliver an emotional slap made sharper and more fitting by their oddity.”

Driving the King
by Ravi Howard
Driving the King is a fictionalized account of the singer Nat King Cole and his boyhood friend Nat Weary, set against a backdrop of the post-war and Civil Rights era in Los Angeles and Montgomery. After Weary serves ten years in jail for saving Cole from a deadly attacker, Cole asks him to be his driver and bodyguard. Publishers Weekly praises the author’s “velvety smooth” prose that “goes down like the top-shelf whiskey that Weary favors, making for a heady reading experience.” Howard won the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence and was a PEN/Hemingway Award finalist for his previous novel Like Trees, Walking (2007).

Don't Let Him Know
by Sandip Roy
Roy’s debut novel is about the lives of a family split between India and the U.S. and the secrets they hide from each other. Avinash covertly meets men online and in gay clubs; his wife Romola secretly knows about it. When their grown son Amit finds a fragment of an incriminating letter from the past, he mistakenly thinks he has discovered his mother’s lover. “Roy's is a warm, articulate voice speaking authentically about family influence on how we carry out our own lives” in a “quiet but piercing tale of immigrant domestic life” (Library Journal).  Roy is a commentator on NPR and San Francisco’s KALW.

Honeydew: Stories
by Edith Pearlman
Short fiction lovers will not want to miss this new collection of twenty stories from Pearlman, whose last book, Binocular Vision (2011), won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Pearlman’s writing has been compared to the work of Anton Chekhov, John Updike, Alice Munro, Grace Paley, and Frank O'Connor. Publishers Weekly called it an “affecting collection that periscopes into small lives, expanding them with stunning subtlety.” "'Honeydew' should cement [Pearlman's] reputation as one of the most essential short story visionaries of our time" (New York Times).

Harraga
by Boualem Sansal
An unusual bond forms between two women when Lamia, a pediatrician who is considered a spinster at 35, welcomes a pregnant teenager into her home. “Simultaneously humorous and heartbreaking, Sansal expertly describes the crushing weight of social and religious strictures on Algeria's women” (Publishers Weekly). Sansal (The German Mujahid, 2009) has been honored with numerous international book prizes; he continues to live in his native Algeria despite the fact that his books are banned there.

The Seventh Day
by Yu Hua, translated by Allan H. Barr
Yang Fei, 41 years old, is dead and stuck in limbo. In this version of the afterlife, he can interact with both the dead and living, and he revisits the people he knew in life, seeking to reconnect with his beloved adoptive father. “Although the author retains his signature outlook of an absurdist new China with little regard for humanity—27 fetuses floating down a river, iPhones worth more than life, kidney harvesting from willing young bodies—this latest is ultimately less graphic exposé and more poignant fable about family bonds made not of blood ties but unbreakable heartstrings” (Library Journal).

The Book of Negroes
by Lawrence Hill
This is not actually a new book, but a re-release of the award winning 2007 novel Someone Knows My Name (originally published in the author’s native Canada as The Book of Negroes, after a historical document, The Book of Negroes, which recorded the names of slaves who served the British during the Revolutionary War and were later allowed to flee to Canada). The book is getting renewed attention as a result of a television miniseries, which will appear soon on the CBC in Canada and on BET in the U.S. The novel follows the life of West African Aminata Diallo, who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in South Carolina. Fiercely smart Aminata learns how to read and write, seizes her escape when given the opportunity to flee her master and contributes her talents to wrest the freedom of many others. Publishers Weekly called it “stunning, wrenching and inspiring” and “a harrowing, breathtaking tour de force.”

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth
by Christopher Scotton
Following the death of his younger brother, 14-year-old Kevin Gillooly and his mother return to her childhood home in Kentucky’s coal country. Kevin begins to heal with the help of his widowed grandfather, a wise and gentle veterinarian, and new friend Buzzy who is skilled in the ways of rural survival. Meanwhile ecological devastation looms; local environmentalist and hairstylist Paul Pierce is targeted for his activism and for being a gay man; then Kevin, his grandfather and Buzzy are fired upon by an unknown assailant during a camping trip. “The coming-of-age story is enriched by depictions of the earth's healing and redemptive power” (Publishers Weekly). Kirkus calls it a “captivating modern morality tale” and “a powerful epic of people and place, loss and love, reconciliation and redemption.”

The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins
Alcoholic and depressed Rachel Watson pretends to go to work every day even though she was fired for being drunk on the job. On the train, she passes by the house that she used to share with her ex-husband—he still lives there with his new wife and their child. She also spies on former neighbors: a couple that she idealizes, fantasizing about their happy life together. When the woman in this couple shows up in the tabloids as missing, Rachel delves into the investigation, the story unfolding between three very unreliable narrators. Booklist says, “Hawkins makes voyeurs of her readers as she creates one humiliating scene after another with the women's near-feral emotions on full display. A wicked thriller, cleverly done.” Gone Girl fans take note!

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in December 2014

How to Be Both
by Ali Smith
Ali Smith is an award winning author whose latest, How to Be Both, was her third book to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize. This book contains two novellas: one is set in present day London and focuses on George (short for Georgia), a teenager coping with the recent loss of her mother; the other is the story of Francesco, a 15th-century fresco painter and a young woman living as a man, whose spirit observes the mourning young woman in a museum. The book has been playfully printed in two versions, some beginning with George’s story and some beginning with Francesco’s. The Guardian’s review called Smith “dazzling in her daring” and said “the sheer inventive power of her new novel pulls you through, gasping, to the final page.”

The Strange Library
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Ted Goossen
2014 was a good year for Murakami fans in the U.S., with the release of two novels in a span of five months. The Strange Library is short but odd; it features a boy who has been trapped in the library by a Sheep Man who intends to eat the boy’s brain after it has been properly stuffed with knowledge. Publishers Weekly says “this dryly funny, concise fable features all the hallmarks of Murakami's deadpan magic” and Kirkus calls it “beguiling and disquieting—in short, trademark Murakami—a fast read that sticks in the mind.”

Africa39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara
Edited by Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, with an introduction by Wole Soyinka
This anthology celebrates the designation of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, as UNESCO's first World Book Capital and features authors from 16 sub-Saharan countries as well as the African diaspora. Familiar and noteworthy authors include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Dinaw Mengestu in an eclectic collection that is “recommended for all lovers of world literature, especially those who enjoy discovering new talent” (Publishers Weekly).

Skylight
by José Saramago, translated by Margaret Jull Costa
Saramago’s first work, considered a “lost novel”, was written decades before the Portuguese writer won the Nobel Prize. Initially snubbed by publishers, the author later declined to release it and it remained unpublished until after his death. Skylight is a post-World War II story set in Lisbon which connects the lives of six families that live in the same apartment building. Publishers Weekly characterizes it as “a work about the strictures of poverty and domesticity but also about momentary glimpses of beauty and fulfillment” and Kirkus Reviews gushes: “Rarely has a novel with a publication delayed as long as this one's proven such a pleasure.”

Elysium
by Jennifer Marie Brissett
Jamaican-British American author Brissett, a former bookstore owner and web developer, offers a unique and challenging debut novel.  The story takes place against a post-apocalyptic backdrop, and concerns Adrianne/Adrian, friend/sibling/lover Antoine/Antoinette, and a computer code that disrupts their narrative, each time causing the story to refresh itself with changes in gender, relationships, setting and time period. Publishers Weekly calls it a “punch of a debut” and says “Brissett deftly handles the challenge of a multitude of characters all being the same people in a multitude of places that are the same place, while exploring complicated questions about identity.”

The Penguin's Song
by Hassan Daoud, translated by Marilyn Booth
A family struggles with isolation during the Lebanese civil war. The young narrator, homebound due to a physical disfigurement, longs for the teenage girl who lives downstairs while his father’s health rapidly declines and his mother finds any excuse to leave the apartment. Originally published in Arabic in 1998, this novel was hailed as “the best Arabic novel of the year.” Publishers Weekly calls it “haunting” and “an elegiac account of loneliness and separation” and Library Journal says it “deftly explores how people cope with the aftermath of war and the tremendous struggle of rebuilding not only with bricks and concrete but with heart, hopes, and dreams.” You can read an excerpt here

Butterflies in November
by Auour Ava Olafsdottir, translated by Brian Fitzgibbon
The unnamed, 33-year old heroine of this Icelandic novel finds herself at a remarkable crossroads: dumped by her husband and her lover on the same day, she then wins two lottery prizes and agrees to take temporary custody of her pregnant and ailing friend’s four year old son, who is deaf and has poor eyesight. The unlikely pair set off on a wild road trip in “a funny and bizarre travelog of Iceland's unique culture and landscape” (Library Journal). This novel by an award winning author is “thoughtful and fun… a novel of surprising tension and tenderness” (Kirkus Reviews).

The Boston Girl
by Anita Diamant
Diamant, the author of the perennially popular historical novel The Red Tent, has a new novel that spans the life of a Jewish woman in the 20th century. When Eighty-five-year-old Addie Baum’s granddaughter asks her about her life history, she muses over her past, from her tenement upbringing in Boston to her careers as a columnist, social worker and teacher to her happy marriage and family, touching on historical events, feminism, and popular culture along the way. Publishers Weekly calls it “a stunning look into the past with a plucky heroine readers will cheer for” and Booklist calls it “a resonant portrait of a complex woman.”

Vanessa and Her Sister
by Priya Parmar
This fictional biography reconsiders the story of artist Vanessa Bell and writer Virginia Woolf, dear sisters until their relationship is strained and broken over romantic jealousy. The personal and intellectual lives of the sisters and their circle of friends in the Bloomsbury group unfold through entries in Vanessa’s journal, telegrams and postcards. Publishers Weekly calls Parmar’s narrative “riveting” as she “successfully takes on the task of turning larger-than-life figures into real people.” Parmar writes with “passion and precision, delivering a sensitive, superior soap opera of celebrated lives” (Kirkus Reviews).

Last Days in Shanghai
by Casey Walker
Luke Slade has accompanied his boss, a sleazy and abusive Republican Congressman, on a mission to China. Everything spirals out of control after the Congressman, a born-again Christian and recovering alcoholic, goes on a bender and disappears, leaving Luke solo to attend a business meeting where a rural Chinese mayor hands him a briefcase full of cash. Things only get worse from there. “Slimy all-American graft oozes from beneath the economic aspirations of contemporary China in this witty, illuminating thriller” (Kirkus Reviews).

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in November 2014

 

Citizens Creek
by Lalita Tademy
Born into slavery in 1810 Alabama, ten-year-old Cow Tom has a talent for languages which leads to his sale to a Creek Indian chief. Tom survives the American Indian Wars, poverty and forced relocation, and eventually wins his freedom and becomes chief of the African Creeks. His story continues through his granddaughter Rose, who carries on the family struggle for survival and triumph. Booklist calls it a “riveting historical novel” and a “completely engrossing and historically accurate family saga.” Tademy’s 2001 novel Cane River was a bestseller and an Oprah pick.

A Map of Betrayal
by Ha Jin
In a novel that examines notions of family and patriotism, Gary Shang is an infamous Chinese spy who infiltrated the CIA for three decades. Following his death, his daughter Lilian delves into her late father’s personal and professional history when his longtime mistress hands over his journals, and travels to China to meet the other family he left behind.  Kirkus Reviews promises “Subtle, masterful and bittersweet storytelling” that “satisfies like the best of John le Carré, similarly demystifying and deglamorizing the process of gathering information and the ambiguous morality that operates in shades of gray.” Ha Jin is the recipient of multiple awards, including the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award for his 1999 novel Waiting. You can listen to a recent NPR interview with Ha Jin here.

All about Skin: Short Fiction by Women of Color
Edited by Jina Ortiz and Rochelle Spencer
Eager to discover new works by women of color? This anthology includes stories by women who have received John Simon Guggenheim Fellowships, the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, the Flannery O’Connor Award, and inclusion in the Best American Short Stories and O. Henry anthologies. Junot Díaz called this collection “electrifying and absolutely necessary. Within you will find the true heart of a literature.”

Mermaids in Paradise
by Lydia Millet
Deb and Chip are on their honeymoon in the British Virgin Islands when they befriend Nancy, a marine biologist, who takes them along on a dive where they discover real live mermaids living in the reefs. The secret gets out and mayhem ensues among scientists and preservationists, the resorts who want to capitalize on the discovery, and social media. “Millet extends her run of audaciously imaginative and emotionally complex fiction propelled by ecological concerns,” says Booklist, calling her “devilishly funny, unnervingly incisive, and toughly compassionate.”

The Happiest People in the World
by Brock Clarke
A clueless Danish cartoonist must flee his country when he publishes an offensive and controversial drawing of Muhammad. He takes cover as Henry Larsen, a high school guidance counselor in upstate New York, where he and the people around him fall prey to a series of ridiculous miscalculations. Publishers Weekly loved it: “Clarke dazzles with a dizzying study in extremes, cruising at warp speed between bleak and optimistic, laugh-out-loud funny and unbearable sadness. His comedy of errors is impossible to put down.” You can read an excerpt here. Clarke is the author of Exley and An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England.

Limbo
by Melania G. Mazzucco, translated by Virginia Jewiss
Limbo follows the post-Afghanistan civilian life of a female Italian Sergeant. Manuela Paris is her platoon’s sole survivor of an IED attack, and she suffers both physically and mentally as she returns to her hometown and becomes romantically involved with a mysterious stranger. Library Journal writes “Manuela Paris springs off the page of this new novel from Mazzucco... as the reader is drawn into the world of this fierce, determined young woman” and praises both “exceptional writing and a masterly grasp of storytelling.”

The Three-Body Problem
by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu
The Three-Body Problem is an unusual combination of hard Science Fiction, historical primer and bestseller (in the author’s native China). The novel opens in the midst of the Cultural Revolution, as a young physicist is sentenced to forced labor after witnessing the death of her father at the hands of the Red Guard. After four decades of working in a defense facility researching extraterrestrial activity, her work becomes linked to a mysterious string of scientists’ deaths, a virtual reality role-playing video game, and alien contact. Booklist calls this novel “a collection of surreal and hauntingly beautiful scenes that will hook you deep and drag you relentlessly across every page” and promises, “this is a must-read in any language.” Kirkus calls it “strange and fascinating” with “jaw-dropping revelations” and “a stunning conclusion” and “remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.”

All My Puny Sorrows
by Miriam Toews
Elfrieda is a world-class pianist with a loving husband; her sister Yolandi struggles as a single mother of two with a stalled career. Despite her successes Elfrieda struggles with intense depression, and it is Yolandi’s job to try to prevent her suicide. Kirkus calls it a “masterful, original investigation into love, loss and survival” and Booklist says “Toews writes with a sharp and piercing eye, offering characters and descriptions which are so odd and yet so spot-on that the reader has to laugh, albeit reluctantly.”

New York 1, Tel Aviv 0: Stories
by Shelly Oria
Debut author Oria’s collection “tests her characters' definitions of nationality, gender and relationship status, their tenuous senses of belonging to a place and to others” says Kirkus Reviews, which calls the stories “crisply told, biting” and “tense and gripping.” Oria’s work has appeared in publications such as The Paris Review and McSweeney's, and you can read some examples here. Lambda Literary named it one of their “new and noteworthy LGBT books” for November.

The Heart Has Its Reasons
by Maria Dueñas
Professor Blanca Perea is stunned and devastated when her husband leaves her for his pregnant young mistress. When offered a research position in California, she jumps at the chance to get as far away from Spain as possible. Publishers Weekly says “Duenas's novel is brilliantly executed, and it moves expertly between decades as it reveals truths of history and of humanity.” Duenas’s 2011 novel The Time In Between has been a big hit at Oakland Public Library, and was turned into a dramatic TV series that has often been referred to as “the Spanish Downton Abbey.”

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in October

A Brief History of Seven Killings
by Marlon James
Jamaican-born James, winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for The Book of Night Women (2009), has a new novel that revolves around the 1976 attempted assassination of Bob Marley (referred to only as “The Singer”) and a web of rival politicians, gang members and hit men, CIA agents, a journalist from Rolling Stone, and Nina, one of Marley’s ex-girlfriends who changes her identity multiple times through the course of the story and who is “undoubtedly one of this year's great characters” in this “indispensable and essential history of Jamaica's troubled years” (Publishers Weekly).  A Brief History of Seven Killings is “epic in every sense of that word: sweeping, mythic, over-the-top, colossal and dizzyingly complex. It’s also raw, dense, violent, scalding, darkly comic, exhilarating and exhausting — a testament to Mr. James’s vaulting ambition and prodigious talent” (New York Times).

Lila
by Marilynne Robinson
Robinson returns to the small Iowa town that was the setting of her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gilead (2004), and its follow-up Home (2008). This third volume focuses on Lila, the younger second wife of Reverend John Ames who made appearances in Gilead. Lila reveals her painful past as a young orphan who led a tough itinerant life, looked after by a surrogate mother named Doll. Lila finds her way to Gilead, where she falls in love with the Reverend and reflects on her profound personal and spiritual journey. Publishers Weekly calls Lila “a masterpiece of prose in the service of the moral seriousness that distinguishes Robinson's work” and Booklist calls it “a tour de force, an unforgettably dramatic odyssey, a passionate and learned moral and spiritual inquiry, a paean to the earth, and a witty and transcendent love story.” Lila is on the recently announced longlist of nominees for the National Book Award.

Some Luck
by Jane Smiley
Like Lila, Jane Smiley’s latest novel (her fourteenth) is also set in Iowa and also on the National Book Award longlist. Some Luck is the story of a farming family and their fortunes and struggles spanning three decades beginning in 1920. “Told in beautiful, you-are-there language, the narrative lets ordinary events accumulate to give us a significant feel of life at the time, with the importance and dangers of farming particularly well portrayed” (Library Journal). “The saga of an Iowa farm family might not seem like an exciting premise, but Smiley makes it just that, conjuring a world—time, place, people—and an engaging story that makes readers eager to know what happens next” (Publishers Weekly). Readers that embraced her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Thousand Acres (1991) will love this book.

The Lives of Others
by Neel Mukherjee
The Lives of Others is an intricately layered story focused on the well-off Ghosh family household in Kolkata in the 60s and 70s. Three generations and their servants share one residence with their various rivalries and misunderstandings; bonds are ruptured when the youngest grandson becomes obsessed with the plight of the poor and the working class and leaves home to join the Communist party. “In startling imagery that sears itself into the mind, The Lives of Others excellently exposes the gulf between rich and poor, young and old, tradition and modernity, us and them, showing how acts of empathy are urgently needed to bridge the divides” (The Guardian). The Lives of Others is currently on the short list of contenders for the Booker Prize.

Hiding in Plain Sight
by Nuruddin Farah
Farah is a distinguished and award-winning Somali author, perhaps best known for his “Blood in the Sun" trilogy: Maps (1986), Gifts (1993), and Secrets (1998). He returns with Hiding in Plain Sight, featuring Bella, an internationally known photographer leading a glamorous and carefree life in Rome.  Bella’s world is flipped upside down when her half-brother in Mogadishu, with whom she shared her Somali mother, is murdered. She travels to Nairobi to see her niece and nephew, trying to decide if she should assume their care when their long-missing mother appears. Library Journal praises this “study of blended political, social, and personal responsibilities, extending Farah's reach.”

Tehran at Twilight
by Salar Abdoh
Reza and Sina, two Iranian-American young men, meet and become best friends at Berkeley. After graduation, they travel to Iraq and Afghanistan with jobs as interpreters for embedded journalists. Then their paths take different directions: Reza pursues a cushy academic life in the U.S., and Sina returns to Iran and joins up with a dangerous anti-Western political organization. Reza is faced with a double dilemma that draws him back to Tehran when both Sina and his long estranged mother seek out his help. Author Abdoh “gives readers a visceral sense of life in a country where repression is the norm, someone is always watching, and your past is never really past” (Library Journal).

Prince Lestat: The Vampire Chronicles
by Anne Rice
Bloodthirsty Anne Rice fans rejoice: the latest in her Vampire Chronicles is here, the first in eleven years. A mysterious voice is compelling all vampires to wage war against each other, and Lestat must step in to stop it. In the midst of all of the bloodshed (and blood consumption), Rice catches up on all of the series characters as well as peering further into their pasts. “Series fans should not miss this latest foray into Rice's magical world built around the undead, but anyone with an interest in the supernatural and aficionados of richly detailed and lush backdrops will enjoy this epic tale” (Library Journal).

The Disappearance Boy
by Neil Bartlett
Reggie Rainbow, the hero of this novel set in 1950s England, is a penniless and lonely 23-year-old orphan with polio and “a delightfully quirky, eccentric, and lovable character” (Publishers Weekly). Despite his hardships, he finds work as a “disappearance boy” in a vaudevillian magic show, and finds true friendship with the female assistant Pamela while becoming increasingly aware that he’s gay. Booklist calls The Disappearance Boy “haunting in its evocation of a long-gone time” and praises the author’s “unusual gift for showing that ordinary lives are, in their way, extraordinary. You might almost say it's magic.”

Ready to Burst
by Frankétienne, translated by Kaiama L. Glover
The New York Times identifies Frankétienne as “Haiti’s most important writer” with “star status in French- and Creole-speaking countries.” Translated into English for the first time, this novel follows heartbroken Raynand, who finds comfort in a friendship with Paulin. Both men find themselves caught up in art and political activism, taking them into unsafe territory during the dictatorship of François Duvalier. “Frankétienne writes with a savage beauty about politics, art, and the roles of men and women in a turbulent world” (Kirkus Reviews).

Truth Be Told
by Hank Phillippi Ryan
Truth Be Told is the third book in a mystery series that began with The Other Woman(2012), featuring Boston reporter Jane Ryland and police detective Jake Brogan. In this installment, Ryland and Brogan are juggling a string of murders discovered in foreclosed properties and a 20-year-old cold case with a doubtful confession—in addition to their covert love affair. Ryan’s latest “packs a powerful punch, and offers a clever mix of mystery, corruption, and romance,” says Library Journal, adding, “Mystery enthusiasts will want to drop everything and binge-read until the mind-boggling conclusion.” Ryan has won a staggering 32 Emmys as a television investigative reporter and her mystery novels have won three Agatha Awards, the Anthony, Daphne, Macavity, and the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Meet the author in person at the Main Library on October 12!

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