Our staff reads and recommends a diverse world of books. Here are some of our recent favorites - not necessarily new books, but ones that grabbed us. And if there's a certain staff member whose selections dovetail with your interests, you can discover more of our staff's individual favorites here.
For children's and teen picks, click here.
I was a young adult in the early years of the AIDS epidemic. Friends and a family member died terrible, humiliating deaths. My gay friends, only tentatively “out” and navigating a still unwelcoming environment, watched their circle of friends ravaged by the illness. Rebecca Makkai has captured the horror and fear of that time perfectly in her novel, The Great Believers. Alternating between the ‘80s and the present, Makkai shows how AIDS altered the gay population in ways that reverberate even today. I saw my fear about visiting my sick friends—a fear borne of ignorance because there were so many untruths circulating at that time—reflected in some of the characters in the novel. Makkai’s book will stand with the great writing about the AIDS epidemic, including Abraham Verghese’s memoir, My Own Country, and And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Schilts. --Mamie
Sharon Blackie explores the philosophical and psychological history of disenchantment, and how Western society came to be so thoroughly and determinedly disenchanted with the world. In the face of the trauma this has caused (in the form of increasing rates of depression, anxiety, and physical manifestations of stress), she offers up an alternative: enchantment, or falling in love with the world and all its complexities. Don't underestimate this work. Blackie has a strong background in neuroscience and doesn't hesitate to dive into academic texts spanning psychology, philosophy, and folklore. --Kaley
Obvious comparisons will be made between Waiting for Eden and Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo, but aside from the fact that they are about soldiers severely incapacitated by their war injuries, they are very different. The narrator is a soldier friend who died when Eden was injured. His omniscient point of view brings us deep into the psyche of all the characters. A great deal of the conflict in the novel is experienced by Eden’s wife, Mary. Difficulty in conceiving a child was a source of great bitterness in the marriage, and once the child is born, Mary must make decisions about how to involve the child in her father’s horrible situation. Mary is also tasked with making end-of-life decisions for Eden, a decision made more burdensome by his ability to communicate with the people in the hospital room. I read this book in one day, overtaken by a morbid fascination. It reinforces my feelings that wars are about people, not principles. --Mamie
I met Patrice Gopo at a writing retreat in the North Carolina mountains. She had just sent her husband home to Charlotte, and she read her essay "For My Husband Driving Down a Mountain," about her fear for him as he did so. Her calm and melodic reading voice was a sharp contrast to the words. Her new essay collection ncludes this one about her husband. Her beautiful writing serves to underscore the import of her subject matter: her childhood in Alaska, her culture shock as a newcomer to the south, and being a Jamaican-American married to a Zimbabwean man, living together in South Africa, among other things. More than ever we need to read books by people like Gopo, who writes in a way that feels honest but hopeful. --Mamie
A series of letters provides an exploration of daily life--all the ups and downs of a well-established path, the mid-life reflections, and the self-examination that comes from holding up a mirror as you attempt to explain your life to someone else. It is slow-paced but quietly intriguing, as if you could feel the seasons unfolding in real time, yet somehow only an hour had passed while reading. The hopeful ending mirrors the unfinished story of the very museum exhibit that brought these two strangers together. A lovely debut for fans of epistolary novels who enjoy finding the beauty in everyday things. --Broche
My favorite book of this year so far. I've read critiques calling this book "fun". I can't roll with that, exactly--I certainly grasp the anxiety-raising roller coaster feel, but this coaster wants to jump the tracks. It's terrifying! Even the simplest stories here start from a place of fundamental altered reality, throwing me seriously off balance. Given limited space, I simply must praise psychopharmacological first-person nightmare "The Trees of Sawtooth Park" to the highest; it's vivid and deeply upsetting. I bet the adventurous among you can handle it. --Matt
If you’re a reader this is a book you will keep handy and pick up when you have a few minutes to spare and then end up missing appointments, skipping meals, not hearing your phone, and scribbling lists on whatever scraps of paper you have at hand. Richard Mustich has put together a collection of must-read books, both whimsical and serious, and written a charming description about each book and author. He writes with so much respect, appreciation, and humor that this should be the 1001st title to add to the list. His selections include fiction (from classics to contemporary genre), nonfiction, and children’s books and are accompanied by delightful illustrations. No surprise that Mustich is a bookseller: 1000 Books is like the best of bookstores where discovery lies on every page. --Sarah
Once again, I found myself reading something while at the Wildacres Retreat Center in the NC mountains that became a part of the experience. Mesha Maren’s book, Sugar Run, has Appalachia written all over it. The main character Jodi, newly released from prison, and the rag-tag assortment of characters she accumulates as the story progresses are defined by the past they want to leave behind and their present struggles to make a go of it in rural West Virginia. There’s hard drinking and a lot of drugging, loving and leaving, and a good bit of frustrated anger thrown in for some nail-biting tension. If you like Ron Rash, you’re going to love Sugar Run. Maren’s writing is so gorgeous and precise that I know whatever she writes, I’m going to want to read it. --Mamie
I love to post great lines from books I’m reading on Facebook. And that’s what I started doing as I read the opening pages of Ohio. It wasn’t long before I realized that my friends would soon tire of my posts, because almost every line of this book is quotable! Markley can write! And the story, of friends returning as adults to the town of New Canaan, Ohio, where they grew up, is a gut-clenching, fast-paced one. These men and women are the same age as my daughters, products of 9/11, the senseless wars in the Middle East, and the deteriorating foundation of many industrial centers in our country. Markley looks on their challenges with an unflinching eye. This book is gritty and hard to digest, but it has given me a deeper understanding of my children’s generation. --Mamie
Raw, unflinching and at times graphic, The Line That Held Us is a riveting story that held me spellbound knowing that hope rarely prevails over mistakes, no matter how unintentional. But maybe this time . . . . A terrible mistake that he cannot undo sends Darl Moody to Calvin Hooper, his best friend since childhood, for help. The two men devise a plan they hope will minimize the fall-out to themselves and those closest to them. But consequences soon manifest and threaten not only the two men but a widening circle of unsuspecting family, friends and their North Carolina mountain community. The characters in this gripping story are forced to ask themselves how far they will go to protect those they care about most; and if they fail, what effect will that have on them? The author's talent for vivid descriptions and his precisely effective prose pulled me into the characters' desperate circumstances, as they yearned for relief from their fear and pain. --Belinda
An achingly beautiful novel, Where the Crawdads Sing tells how Kya Clark was abandoned by her family and shunned by townspeople yet has managed to survive, and even thrive. Against all odds she finds beauty and comfort among the wildlife of the North Carolina coastal marshlands and, with help from the kind owner of a bait shop and the sporadic instruction of a boy from town, flourishes among the flora and fauna. She is content until the outside world crashes into her wildlife haven and she is arrested for murder. A beautiful story of an indomitable spirit, I was enchanted by Kya’s optimism and resilience to overcome the cruelties that life waged and to seek out and celebrate beauty in her harsh world. --Belinda
Kill the Farm Boy was pretty much everything I was promised and hoping for: Princess Bride meets Monty Python with all the crudeness and social commentary. If you enjoy picking out the pop culture and fairy tale trope references, this will be a ton of fun for you. Even though this could definitely be a standalone, I'm excited to hear that there will be more tales in Pell! --Amber
In her new nover, author Claudia Dey took me to “the territory,” a retro community stuck in the eighties. A young girl, Pony Darlene Fontaine, is dealing with the disappearance of her mother, a difficult father, her first crush—a guy named Supernatural—and the quirky cult she lives in with a few hundred other people. She’s the wisest person around (along with her dog, who has his own section of the book). Where this territory is in relation to real time and space, I'm not sure, but "out there" holds a special attraction for Pony. I will not reveal what exactly happens at the end, but I will say that those of you who like a novel with substance and a happy outcome will be perfectly delighted with this one! --Mamie
Loosely based on the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, Spinning Silver (Del Rey $28), joins Miryem, the daughter of a Jewish moneylender, and her allies: Wanda, the poor eldest daughter of an abusive farmer, and Irina, the plain child of an ambitious duke. Mythical creatures of both fire and ice battle for supremacy, unconcerned with the suffering they inflict upon human society along the way. This story is so rich that it could easily have spanned a trilogy. It's amazing how, all in one novel, Novik can build a whole world, really build it convincingly, flesh out so many characters, and pack in so much story with no filler at all. --Kaley
I have heard Lee Zacharias read many times from this novel. Each time, I felt a sense of anticipation. I was, however, in no way prepared for the power of the finished product. This book is a bookseller’s dream: one that will appeal to every person who asks for a recommendation. It is historical, and the main character will win your heart from the first page. Even the curmudgeonly characters have something to love about them. After her mother becomes incapacitated by the loss of another child, the five-year-old Fern goes with her father on his ship, which transports rail cars across the Great Lakes. Fern has a way of telling the story that is both naïve and wise at the same time; and her companion on the ship, Alv, is one of the most endearing souls I’ve encountered in a book. The lake scenes are action-packed and full of details about the life on board these vessels. The book has one of the most beautiful endings I’ve ever read, heartbreaking, but perfect for this flawless novel. --Mamie
VOX, flash-fiction writer Christina Dalcher's debut novel, is a stand-out in the recent wave of feminist dystopia literature. It takes place in a horrific near-future where women are restricted from speaking more than 100 words a day, with the added risk of being electrocuted or hauled away if there is no compliance. More terrifying than The Handmaid's Tale (though in the same league to be sure), because it feels so much closer, so much more imminent. I hope it energizes women the way Jean was energized, wishing she had voted, wishing she had marched, wishing she had fought harder for women everywhere. --Amber
Get ready for a gripping journey through the 1870's American West as Michael Crichton takes you on a search for "fossil bones." Crichton will have you wondering what is fact and what is fiction as he takes you through twists and turns involving outlaws, gunfights, Indians, and of course, fossil hunts. You'll expect to see tumbleweed when you finally manage to put it down! -Cam
Next Line, Please: Prompts to Inspire Poets and Writers edited by David Lehman, with Angela Ball (Cornell $18.95). Editor and poet David Lehman invited online readers of his American Scholarcolumn to submit a line each week to produce together a sonnet, a haiku, a tanka, and other poetic works. The poems collected in Next Line, Please are collaborations the better for the many hands involved. Lehman, series editor of Best American Poetry, delivers generous and insightful critiques for each week's entries while teaching the mechanics and history of poetry. The reader is given a graduate-level class with an open invitation to join in. Pick up your pencil! -Susan
It's 1970. A pregnant Carly grieves for her husband, killed in Viet Nam. Now she learns that her unborn daughter has a heart condition that will be fatal upon birth. If only it were a few decades later, the concept of fetal surgery might be a reality that could save her baby. Upon that premise, Diane Chamberlain will take you on the ride of your life! She weaves a complex, totally believable plot made spell binding by her ability to create vivid characters and to communicate the depths of human emotion. I began reading Dream Daughter late one night. I finished it at 5 a.m. the next morning. When I say I couldn't put it down, it's no cliché. Literally, I could not put it down. --Samantha
From the 70s on through the 80s, California found itself terrorized by a mysterious criminal who struck randomly but with grim precision. The chief hallmarks were: Burglary, Rape, & Murder. Decades passed with law enforcement seemingly unable to crack the case.
Investigative journalist, Michelle McNamara developed a strong interest in this case. Meticulous research assembled a wealth of information around these crimes. Eventually, as her work progressed, she came to refer to the mystery criminal as “The Golden State Killer.” McNamara’s sudden death in 2016 temporarily halted work on this book. Fellow investigative journalist, Billy Jensen stepped In to finalize the remaining strands of McNamara’s investigation. Nearly two years later in February of 2018, her book was finally published. Then, two months later, the investigation was suddenly re-opened when law enforcement officials announced that they had finally arrested a suspect. Just how much influence did McNamara’s work have on bringing a suspect to justice? Read this book and judge for yourself. One thing is certain: The case is no longer sitting in the unsolved pile. -Bud
In his latest book,Tyrant, foremost Shakespeare scholar Stephan Greenblatt examines the Bard's treatment of tyrants in his plays. He first points out that becauseTudor England was a police state, Shakespeare had to address the topic of tyranny with care and obfustication. Greenblatt then goes on to dissect tyrants, most notably in Richard III, Macbeth. King Lear, Julius Caesar and Corialanus and shows that despite individual issues, they all have traits in common. Moreover, he also hits an uplifting note with the obsevation that the end of tyranny usually come at the hands of the people, something that should hearten all in these modern times. - Ken
Reasons to Stay Alive is told in lists and vignettes, where Matt Haig not only discusses his own experience with mental illness, but gives thoughtful, practical advice to others in a similar situation. He tackles issues of panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, and the double standard of thinking many have with mental illness versus physical illness. Haig also delves into what depression is, both personally and scientifically, but without any confusing psychobabble. He shares his reasons for living, encourages depressives to read, to challenge themselves, and to cling to the love in their lives without ever giving up. I’m thankful to be in an upswing from my own depression, but reading this book was still a great comfort, and I hope it can bring others that same comfort. Poignant and incredibly important – If you feel the need to seek reasons to stay alive, please please pick up this book. --Amber
Reading Leif Erickson's Virgil Wander was pure pleasure for me. I loved his debut, Peace Like a River, and am happy to say that 17 years later he still has the same touch: humorous, yet also poignant and complex, with a memorable cast of characters in a richly detailed Minnesota setting. Virgil is a low-achiever who runs the local old-time movie house in a small declining city on the banks of Lake Superior. Rune Arledge, a kite-flying transplant from Norway, and Galen Pea, a 10-year-old obsessed with catching the 200-pound sturgeon he blames for his father's death, are two more resilient characters in a marvelous cast I quickly grew to love. Classic and modern movies are a recurring theme, along with a robust plot involving a local hero, a malevolent movie maker, and an upcoming town festival. Virgil Wander is one of those novels you are eager to return to, are loathe to finish, and keep thinking about long after the last page is turned --Sarah
Though I grew up loving sci-fi and fantasy, as an adult, I think it can be hard to find books that avoid the outdated, exclusionary pitfalls common to the genre. It's also unusual to pick up one of these books and realize it's completely different from anything else you've ever read. Remarkably, Senlin Ascends is able to do both--without tooting its own horn. The settings leap off the page, and each character, no matter how minor, has the depth and complexity of a real person. I can't wait to jump into the next installment in this 4-book series. -Kaley
In THE SOUL OF AMERICA: The Battle for our Better Angels, Pulitzer prize winner Jon Meacham stops you in your tracks on page after page! He quotes past presidents, politicians and authors saying things about racism, immigration, and inequality that sound like the news today! Strom Thurmond, yelling against integration, in Charlottesville in 1948 sounds like the protestors there last year. Georgia governor Clifford Walker at a Klan rally in 1924 calls for building "a wall of steel as high as Heaven" to keep out immigrants. But in a powerful, optimistic conclusion, Meacham gives 5 ways to win the battle for our better angels and proves how relevant and useful history is! -Helen
I've been harping on this for a long time now, and finally there's a text ...to accompany me on the harp. What happens now that "classic radio" has practically ceased to exist and the valued artists of the 60s,70s and 80s are on their final tours? Do we reassess their work and decide it wasn't that classic? Without radio to decide for all of us what classic rock is - sales, artistic endeavor, live performance quality - is there even a way to decide what "classic" will be in the future? Have we been duped? A funny, insightful, well-researched, modest book that exceeds on every level, go for it. -Matt
The urban Native American experience is laid bare in There There, the debut novel by Tommy Orange, a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma who lives in Oakland, California. Told from twelve different points of view, the story highlights the many difficulties encountered by these fictional Oakland families and individuals. The characters represent those who tentatively or actively want to embrace their Native American heritage, and those who would deny it. Conducting seemingly disparate lives in the beginning of the book, their lives are wound tighter and tighter together by the upcoming Big Oakland Powwow celebration. Beautiful language, fascinating and complex characters, and a run-away-train plot kept me engrossed until the last page. We are delighted to have this book for our Signed First Editions Club. I look forward to what Tommy Orange comes up with next. -Mamie
Jason Mott's The Crossing (Park Row $26.99, May 15, event May 22) is a book that begs to be discussed! As a reviewer said, it is "Beautifully written and touching on some fascinating ideas.... [Mott] brings his lyrical writing and soulful insight to an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it storyline." The story is about twins who are trying to find some meaning in their degenerating world and on their journey learn the positives and negatives of their devotion to each other. They discover "beauty, betrayal, danger, goodwill". Mott earned two MFA's at UNC-W and lives in North Carolina. He is the author of The Returned which airs on TV under the title Resurrection. -Rene
The supernatural is full of ghosts, goblins, monsters, and other things that go bump in the night. The stuff of campfire tales, myths and legends, and ghost stories. Sometimes, they scare you for a moment but, then, you might laugh. Because … well, everybody knows they’re not real.
But, what if they were real? Not laughing so much now, are we? Getting nervous? Welcome to the world of LORE.
The World of LORE: Wicked Mortals is Aaron Mahnke’s second volume of the LORE trilogy. Here are a number of stories throughout history of people who were quite ~ wicked. Alternately, eye-opening and unsettling at times, this collection of stories is nonetheless a page-turner. If you like history and true crime, with a dash of the supernatural mixed in for good measure ~ I recommend reading this book! -Bud
Katie Sinclair finds herself up a tree, literally, without a plan, supplies or a clear notion of why she’s there. Author Lynne Hinton introduces Katie in The View From Here a few days after she stepped from the forest floor in the White Oak bottomland and shimmied up the loblolly pine’s trunk. A Forest Service employee, Katie is at home in the woods but impulsively takes that comfort 35 feet straight up into the tree’s branches and with certainty that, “. . . it just seems like the right way to go.” Between visits from curious onlookers, friends with provisions and dangerous foes, she finds that the problems she struggled with when her feet were flat on the ground now perch with her high up in the tree. The loblolly’s branches provide the unlikely setting for her to confront nature’s ferocity and her own painful past. A skilled storyteller, the author had me up in the tree with Kate, vulnerable and frightened against nature’s fury, and experiencing the horror, rage and grief brought about by reckless cruelty. A story both tender and harsh, painful and redemptive, The View From Here pushed Katie to confront life’s overwhelming cruelties and sorrows, and endeavor to find the strength to forge a better path forward. I found The View From Here to be a compelling, heart-wrenching, infuriating and ultimately deeply satisfying read. -Belinda
What. A. Ride.
How is it even possible for one human being to have so many ideas in their brain?
This book will have you laughing, astounded, confused, and enjoying every single syllable.
You'll want to share entire passages with everyone you know. If you read no other sci-fi this year, READ THIS ONE.
Anatomy of a Miracle: A Novel* by Jonathan Miles (Hogarth $27, QRB event March 29). I consumed this tale of the impossible miracle that strikes Army veteran Cameron Harris in the parking lot of the Biz-E-Bee convenience store in Biloxi, Mississippi on a hot August afternoon. Impossible, but there he is--jerking up out of the wheelchair, his conveyance since a land mine exploded near him in Afghanistan four years ago. The lurching steps that Cameron takes set off ripples that wash over him, his family, his community, medical science, the church, Hollywood, and strangers who are drawn to the story of the seeming miracle. Or is it really a miracle? This is a superbly written novel of something that could not happen, but does anyway, and deftly compels contemplation of facts, faith and the inexplicable. -Belinda
For me, a mother with three daughters, the current political climate already feels ominous. Enter Leni Zumas’s book Red Clocks (Little Brown and Company $26), and I’m shivering in my boots. The characters in this book face adversity in ways all too familiar to women: unfulfilling marriages, unwanted pregnancies, the ticking of our biological clocks paired with a desire to have children, the prejudice against alternative forms of medicine. Severely limited by new government regulations, they must contend with their problems using desperate means. The way that Zumas has linked these women is masterful, and her beautiful writing is the garnish. I will forever think about reading this book while on a weekend with high school friends, remembering times when we faced similar problems and obstacles in dealing with them. -Mamie
Brendan Francis Newnam and Rico GaglianoIf you have any interest in living in a kinder and saner world, consider taking the advice presented in this book. Suggesting that many of society's ills stem from people's reluctance to break bread together, Gagliano and Newman (hosts of the excellent podcast, The Dinner Party Download) present a guide to uniting friends and strangers for intelligent discourse in your own dining room. Chock-full of laugh-out-loud wit and sagely wisdom. -Jon
The Cloister is as consuming for its story as it is for the writing. Carroll transports us from the twelfth century, to occupied France, to 1950s New York. In breathtaking prose, Carroll recounts the forbidden love between the philosopher-monk Peter Abelard and his devoted pupil, Heloise. He explains how Abelard's controversial effort to contextualize, if not justify, the Jews persecution of Christ was a source of further outrage among the Catholic hierarchy. Fast forward to occupied France where an esteemed Jewish scholar is denigrated for his efforts, aided only by his daughter Rachel, to revive Abelard's writings. Finally, a young cleric in New York, struggling with his place in the priesthood, wanders into the Cloisters in upper Manhattan. From that point, we are in the circle of history; witnesses to the apparently interminable power of bigotry to thwart reason and tolerance, and the countervailing refusal of the human spirit to give up on the possibility of love, empathy and understanding. I hope that many people will read and share this wonderful book. -Samantha
This gloriously varied, studied collection of essays goes a long way toward introducing Amis as an essayist to a whole new crowd. Taken with Zazie Smith’s contemporaneous Feel Free, one has a delicious selection of great subjects with which to spend a new spring. Capable of both drollery and harsh critique (he’s known for his dryness but is rarely so herein), Amis doles ‘em both out on topics broad as Donald Trump/Iris Murdoch/"Get Shorty"/Philip Larkin/Porno (I’d say his porno essay is every bit the equal of David Foster Wallace’s). In short: pick it up and start reading anywhere. Insight abounds. -Matt
When his family moves from America to Israel, Jonathan embarks on a passionate love affair with his new country. But in the year before he joins the Israeli army he meets Palestinian twins Nimreen and Laith, with whom he forms an intimate bond of love and friendship. The beautifully wrought story of Jonathan’s conflicted beliefs and passions reminds us that the mentality of Us vs Them can only end badly for both. And that a love story isn’t any good unless it breaks your heart. -Tony
I love everything Amy Bloom writes, and White Houses is no exception. This fictional account of the love affair between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickock is fascinating. From Hickock’s point of view we learn about her childhood, growing up in near-poverty, to her rise as a journalist during the Roosevelt presidency. After FDR’s death, the two women reunite, and Bloom illuminates their unique companionship. This is an intimate look at this controversial relationship between the two very different women and the period of history in which they experienced it. It is set in the past, but very much a story for the present. -Mamie
This apocalyptic time-travel noir draws from a very deep and dark well. It is brutal, poetic, and very, very exciting. I particularly enjoyed its strong female characters and the “messiness” of time-travel and alternate realities. Highly recommended for mystery and sci-fi fans. This is Sweterlitsch's second novel and he continues to be an author to watch. -Jon
Charming and informative! After 20 years in NYC, Shoba moves her family back to her native India where she befriends her local milk lady. As Shoba becomes increasingly obsessed with cows, milk, and other cow by-products she takes us on a journey of self-discovery and milk-discovery. Most interesting was Shoba's exploration of her own culture. India is a fascinating mix of urban and rural, where generations, technology, and expectations blend together in a different way for each family. Shoba shares her personal and family story. I will never look at a bottle of milk the same way again! -Broche
Two days before Jane McKeene was born, the dead on the battlefields of the Civil War began to walk the earth. Though she was born to plantation owners, Jane’s mixed-race heritage and dark skin means she is now training at combat school to be an Attendant: a zombie-killer whose job it will be to protect the White woman she iscontracted to. But her tempestuous and curious nature embroil Jane and her friends in the politics and treacherous landscape of post-Reconstruction America in this alternate history. Cinder meets The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue meets Pride & Prejudice and Zombies featuring a new kick-ass heroine whose no-nonsenseapproach to life and zombie killing make for inspired storytelling. -Broche
"A reissue, first published in 1983, this is the surprisingly moving story of an unhappy suburban housewife who harbors, and loves, a six-foot-seven frog-faced creature who has just escaped from a research lab. None other than John Updike had this to say about the novel: “So deft and austere in its prose, so drolly casual in its fantasy, but opening up into a deep female sadness that makes us stare. An impeccable parable, beautifully written from first paragraph to last.” -Tony
This book captures a remarkably innocent time in a remarkably complex America. Tamara Shopsin’s true-life-based novel transported me to a subtly-cultured New York, to a time when not all had been quantified and regimented. The narrative flows around and past simple plotting, rather painting portraits of unusual people of odd moral centering in delightfully short and pithy sentences. I can see how her world was politically shaped in a very organic way, and also shaped by working at her father Kenny’s absurdist restaurant. -Matt
Imagine Snow White, in the Wild West, a mix of White settlers and Native traditions. Now up the ante on the dark fantasy elements in the hands of master storyteller, Valente. The voice of each character – some familiar, some new – shine through the haunting and lyrical narration, the language reminiscent of an oral storytelling tradition. A reimagined classic with a new ending that brings Snow White all the way into the 21st century. --Broche
The book itself is small and brightly colored. On the cover is a popsicle stick with a fragment of frozen purple goodness hanging on. Inside are delightful morsels that are both heart-rending and side-splitting. You'll want to devour them all in one sitting, but try to savor them. Get a little juice on your chin. -- Tony
“Thank you for this rainy day,” is all I could say as I plowed through Jennifer Egan’s new novel, Manhattan Beach (Scribner $28 pub date 10/2/17) . From the first few pages, where Anna Kerrigan goes with her father to meet Dexter Styles for business, I was hooked. With more twists than a mountain road and shocking revelations, the story of the Anna, her father, and Styles sped downhill to an explosive ending. The time period is World War II, but most of the novel takes place state-side where Anna is one of few female divers aiding in the war effort. There’s so much to talk about—Anna’s disabled sister who was such an interesting character, graft and corruption in the thirties and forties, the effect of war on civilians, love, lust…I could go on! Egan, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for A Visit from the Goon Squad, is one of our most versatile and powerful writers. I predict this one will be a winner too. (Manhattan Beach is the November selection of the Signed First Editions Club.) -Mamie
First in a series, this book kept me on the edge of my seat. It was funny and witty, which aren't always the same thing. It was badass while leaving room for emotions, was detailed without boring me, and Bianca St. Ives was fierce, sexy, smart, and alluring. It has the richest of backstories which is developed slowly over the course of this fast-paced thriller, including a shocking reveal at the end, of course, meaning I am counting down the days until book 2 (sometime in 2018). This is the first Karen Robards I've ever read and I am proud to admit I am a new KR/Bianca St. Ives convert.
I find this series both fascinating and frustrating. Impeccably researched and presenting as true a portrait as possible of what life was like for the very real Kopp sisters in the nineteen-tens, this series brings social issues to the forefront in a way few other mystery series do. The writing is sharp and engaging, but I find myself straining to cast off the sexist yoke placed upon these women even as I turn the pages faster to find out what happens next. -Broche
Evil sorcerers, killer cults, and haunted houses aren't quite so scary to the black families that were made to endure institutional racism in “Jim Crow” era America. This novel follows one such family as they encounter both supernatural and real-life horror, while also delivering an entertaining adventure full of unique and likable characters. -Jon
With The Stolen Marriage, Diane Chamberlain has reached a new height in her creative journey. Much of the story is set in Hickory, NC during the mid-1940s. The world is at war; divisions between the races are stark and the polio epidemic is rampant in the U.S. Like many small towns, Hickory was charming but insular and wary of outsiders. Nevertheless, compassion won out as its people helped to build a polio treatment center that accepted victims from near and far. Against a meticulously researched factual backdrop, Diane creates a poignant tale of love and loss that brought me to tears more than once. This is a great book and I could not put it down. -Sam
The kidnapping of Patty Hearst was a cultural touchstone of its era, yet I never felt I truly understood what happened. Toobin's meticulously researched book presents all the facts (and the conflicting stories) in a very easy-to-digest way. Though Toobin seems to have reached his own conclusions about the events of Patty Hearst's kidnapping and life on the lam, it never feels like he is trying to convince you of them. The reader is allowed to decide which side of the argument they fall on. However you interpret the events laid out in this book, it's a very enjoyable read. -Craven
Though by no means professional detectives, Veronica Speedwell, and her partner in crime, Stoker are back in another mystery. An unexpectedly royal familial source asks Veronica to look into the case of a high-society gent who is about to hang for the murder of his mistress. Lots of behind-the-scenes machinations, both helpful and threatening, provide direction and impediments as the lepidopterist and taxidermist use their powers of observation, their fighting skills, and their insatiable curiosity to prove whether this man should swing from the gallows or be rescued from the hangman's noose. - Broche
Hi! It’s the Apocalypse! Yes, the end of the world has finally come after all this time. At long last, Heaven and Hell are preparing for final battle.
That particular bit of news creates a wee problem for a pair of friends who also just so happen to be celestial beings (an angel and a demon) charged with keeping an eye on humanity. The problem? Well, you see, they’re rather fond of Earth and, despite our inherent flaws, they like us as well. Besides, the Apocalypse would just create all sorts of bother that they would rather not have to deal with.
What follows is a comedy of errors as the two combine their efforts to stop things from getting out of hand. Preferably, before afternoon tea if at all possible. Good Omens is delightful read from start to finish!
Maranatha Road is brimming with hushed secrets that will seem familiar if you’ve ever caught wind of the quiet gossip that flows around a small town. Debut author Heather Bell Adams delivers an emotional punch in this moving tale of two strong-on-the-outside-but-tender-within women individually trying to figure out a way forward after tragedy strikes. I fell in love with the deeply-drawn characters and wanted to give their hands a reassuring squeeze. The gorgeous prose and rich description of life in the NC mountains may inspire you to pack your bags for a road trip. -Michelle
Told in vignettes from the perspectives of women who loved a superhero (and lost their lives because of it), The Refrigerator Monologues bring to light the sexism and injustice often portrayed in comic book culture.
Many of the stories are clear homages to popular characters, finally giving them a voice previously stifled by their abruptly ended story lines. The voices were all so unique and stunning, you can barely tell they're written by the same author. -Amber
My weak spots are trains, westerns and mysteries, so I was compelled to pick up The Western Star (Viking $28),
the latest title in the Walt Longmire Mystery
series by Craig Johnson. I flipped through the first few pages and tried to feign disinterest -- as a brooding Western lawman would do -- but I failed spectacularly and found myself riding alongside Walt Longmire, back to his early days as a deputy with the Absaroka County Sheriff's Department. Longmire is transported back to his early law enforcement days by a picture taken then of himself and two dozen sheriffs in front of a locomotive ready to embark on a train journey across Wyoming. His efforts to stay alive then as the adventure unfolded along the rails serves as the backdrop for Longmire's current challenge to confront his darkest enemy. The gun- and book-toting Longmire, and the cast of unique characters on the Western Star were entertaining and intriguing travel companions who kept me guessing as I rode the rails with them for miles through the Wyoming wilderness. -Belinda
Craig Johnson will be at QRB with the book on September 15 at 7:00 p.m.
Sometimes, after I’ve read a great book by an author, I judge! When I picked up a copy of James McBride’s new collection of stories, Five-Carat Soul, I was prepared to be disappointed. How could he top The Good Lord Bird? Was I ever surprised in the best way possible! These stories have all the magnificent qualities of the National Book Award winning novel: quirky and poignant and hilarious characters amid life in myriad situations, humanity at its most human presented in beautiful writing. A couple of multi-story combinations read like novellas, and satisfied my craving to know more about the most interesting of those characters. McBride has set the bar high once again. -Mamie
A dark and engaging fairy tale set in modern New York. It tells the story of Apollo Kagwa, an African American rare book dealer, as he confronts witches, faceless ghosts, trolls (internet and actual trolls) in order to save his family. Draws heavily from modern anxieties about race, parenting, and technology. Exists somewhere between Maurice Sendak's Outside Over There and Rosemary's Baby.
Daniel Kehlmann's novella You Should Have Left (Pantheon $18) sent shivers down my spine and kept me asking, "Just what is happening here?" A screenwriter tries to break through writer's block during a vacation with his family at a house in the German mountains, but soon finds himself confronting sinister and physics-defying phenomena. I picked this up looking for a quick and entertaining read, but the story grabbed my wits and tossed them into its skewed events--and compelled me to read it again. A deliciously frightening tale. -Belinda
Shadow of the Lions is an engrossing, literary thriller that kept me turning pages late into the night. Matthias Glass is haunted by the look of deep betrayal he saw in his best friend's eyes - that was 10 years ago, right before Fritz Davenport vanished from the Blackburne School campus without a trace.
Since then Matthias has tried to out-run the burden of guilt he felt - and still feels - for Fritz's disappearance by hurling himself into the fast and furious life of a writing sensation. The fame flame died as quickly as it sparked, however, and Matthias returns to Blackburne School to teach, only to get caught up in the past and confront unexpected dangers connected with his friend's disappearance. -Belinda