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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in September 2018

Washington Black
by Esi Edugyan
Washington Black is an enslaved young man on a Barbados sugar plantation who is taken under the wing of the master’s eccentric brother, who becomes his mentor, teaches him to read and flees with him to the north. “Framing the story with rich evocations of the era’s science and the world it studies, Edugyan mines the tensions between individual goodwill and systemic oppression, belonging and exclusion, wonder and terror, and human and natural order… Crafted in supple, nuanced prose, Edugyan’s novel is both searing and beautiful.” (Publishers Weekly) Edugyan’s previous book Half-Blood Blues (2012) won the Giller Prize and was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize; Washington Black is currently on the Booker longlist.

Transcription
by Kate Atkinson
Triple Whitbread/Costa award winner Atkinson’s latest novel tells the story of Juliet Armstrong, working in British intelligence in 1940, and the grave events that haunt her ten years later when she’s a BBC radio producer. “As in her sublime Life after Life (2013), Atkinson again jumps between different periods in the mid-twentieth century to tell the story of a singular Englishwoman trapped in the vice of history… she is an exquisite writer of prose, using language with startling precision whether she is plumbing an inner life, describing events of appalling violence, or displaying her characters’ wonderfully acerbic wit.” (Booklist)

She Would Be King
by Wayétu Moore
June Dey, a runaway from a Virginia plantation, has superhuman strength. Norman, the son of an enslaved woman from Jamaica and a British scholar, can disappear. Gbessa, cast out from her West African village, can come back from the dead. The stories of these characters from various corners of the African diaspora converge in this imaginative retelling of the 19th century creation of the nation of Liberia. “Moore’s stunning debut novel is a magic-realism tour de force… There is an aching sweetness to Moore’s writing that effectively captures the dichotomous and vulnerable strength of her protagonists and catapults this into the realm of books that cast a long-lingering spell.” (Booklist)

Ponti
by Sharlene Teo
Singaporean teenager Szu is an awkward outcast, in contrast to her beautiful single mom, who once starred in a trilogy of cult horror movies. Things turn around for Szu when Circe shows up at school, a transfer student, launching an intense friendship that crashes and burns. “On their own, Teo's sharp characterizations and setting—so alive that the book seems to create its own, humid microclimate—would set this book apart. Add to that her imaginative plot, prose that turns from humor to devastation on a dime, and original storytelling, and Ponti is a beyond-promising debut.” (Booklist) Ponti won the 2016 Deborah Rogers Writers Award for a novel in progress. 

Ordinary People
by Diana Evans
Prizewinning author Evans offers intertwined stories of Black love, family, parenthood and friendship in and around London during the Great Recession. Melissa is unsatisfied with her identity as a mom while Michael longs for the passion of their early relationship. Meanwhile, their friend Damian is mourning the loss of his father and longs for city life while his wife Stephanie clings to a suburban ideal that echoes her white middle-class upbringing. “Evans zooms out to build her characters’ culturally rich backstories as they struggle to recognize their older selves and the relationships that have aged along with them. A probing, entertaining, and self-affirming novel of men and women getting relatably lost in the crises and hauntings of early midlife.” (Booklist)

Caregiver
by Samuel Park
In 1970s Rio de Janeiro, eight-year-old Ana is the only child of a struggling single mother whose work as a voice-over actress takes her down a dangerous path. Years later, Ana is an undocumented caregiver in Los Angeles caring for a woman dying of cancer, always haunted by memories of her mother. “Park himself was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2014, in his 30s, and died shortly after finishing this book—making this his final novel. It's a beautiful testament to his extraordinary talents as a storyteller. In prose that rings clear and true, Park shepherds his characters through the streets of Copacabana to the posh hills of Bel Air. This is an elegy that reads, in some moments, like a thriller—and, in others, like a meditation on what it means to be alive… A ferocious page-turner with deep wells of compassion.” (Kirkus Reviews)

The Golden State
by Lydia Kiesling
Thirty-something San Franciscan Daphne is mother to 16-month-old Honey. Besides the intense demands of early motherhood, she’s bored by her University job, her Turkish husband has been illegally denied reentry into the United States, and she’s reeling from the death of a student. Under the weight of these pressures she impulsively decides to flee with Honey to the desert small-town mobile home she inherited from her mother. “Kiesling writes with breathtaking precision and honesty about motherhood; she captures the relentlessness of parenting a toddler down to her very sentence structure… Kiesling is also an astute cultural commentator, shedding light on our current political divide and university politics and Orientalism and the barbarism of America past and present while shedding light on parts of California often ignored by news and literature.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

Juno's Swans
by Tamsen Wolff
In summer 1988, 17-year-old Nina plans to escape her miserable family and spend the months before her senior year on Cape Cod with her best friend Titch. Plans change when Nina falls hard for slightly older college student Sarah, leaving Titch in the lurch. “Wolff’s debut novel is a riveting account of first love… As Nina’s relationship with Sarah unravels, America unravels in the backdrop as well, with the AIDS epidemic and cultural tensions roiling the nation. Although Nina is keenly aware of the political landscape, Wolff’s crushing novel is ultimately a very personal story, vividly rendered in a montage of memories. Considering both romantic and platonic female relationships, Wolff explores the necessity of lived (instead of studied) experience and the lasting importance of loved ones.” (Publishers Weekly

The Parting Gift
by Evan Fallenberg
This erotic epistolary novel traces a series of impulsive decisions that leads the unnamed narrator to a Tel Aviv spice market, where he tumbles into a passionate affair with the market’s owner, Uzi. Uzi takes him into his home, to the surprise of his ex-wife and children next door, but their passion leads to jealousy and devastation. “The story is magnetic, drawing readers in from the first crotch-grab to the last goodbye. But more important, this is a complicated study of the ways in which religious heritage—from codes of honor to familial expectations—interacts with business and acceptance, family and lovers, and self-realization. A beautiful novel whose only fault is ending too soon.” (Kirkus Reviews) Fallenberg’s debut novel, Light Fell (2009), won the 2009 Stonewall Prize and the Edmund White Award. 

Sea Prayer
by Khaled Hosseini
This brief, illustrated book from the author of The Kite Runner (2003) tells the story of a Syrian refugee family in the form of a letter from a father to son. Filed with tenderness and yearning for home, this book is recommended for readers age 10 to 100+. “The book reads like an emotional gut-punch…an excruciating one. It is impossible to read without feeling intense compassion for those—and there are thousands—whose lives resemble those of the characters in the book. Powerful.” (Kirkus Reviews)

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in August 2018

A River of Stars
by Vanessa Hua
East Bay writer and SF Chronicle columnist Hua follows her story collection Deceit and Other Possibilities (2016) with a novel about immigration, identity and family. Scarlett is a fiercely determined woman from China sent by her lover to Perfume Bay, a scammy Los Angeles birth center for Chinese mothers who want their babies born in the U.S. When she discovers her lover plans to take their child, she flees with the help of equally headstrong teen mother-to-be Daisy, and together they try to carve out a life for themselves and their babies in San Francisco’s Chinatown. “An astute debut novel that confronts identity, privilege, freedom, and a twenty-first-century rendering of the American dream with poignancy, insight, humor, and plenty of savvy charm.” (Booklist)

Severance
by Ling Ma
In 2011, the world is struck by Shen Fever, a mysterious illness that compels its victims to repeat mundane tasks over and over until they collapse. Candace Chen, an immune millennial living in Manhattan, documents the plague as anonymous blogger NY Ghost. “A biting indictment of late-stage capitalism and a chilling vision of what comes after… Candace is great, a wonderful mix of vulnerability, wry humor, and steely strength. She's sufficiently self-aware to see the parallels between her life before the End and the pathology of Shen Fever. Ma also offers lovely meditations on memory and the immigrant experience. Smart, funny, humane, and superbly well-written.” (Kirkus Reviews)

If You Leave Me
by Crystal Hana Kim
During the brutal and tumultuous 1950s in Korea, 16-year-old Haemi lives in a refugee camp with her widowed mother and brother. Although she falls in love with Kyunghwan, she decides she must marry his cousin Jisoo in the interests of her family. “Up to the year 1967, the narrative follows these three in alternating chapters as they deal with the trauma of war and mature through life… Filled with brave personalities of all ages and character-driven story lines that are emotionally gripping, this sensitive and hauntingly written novel will easily leave readers wanting more.” (Library Journal)

How Are You Going to Save Yourself
by J. M. Holmes
Pushcart Prize-winner Holmes debuts with a collection of linked short stories following the lives of four young African American men in a working-class corner of Rhode Island. “Holmes’ writing is fresh, and his dialogue rings true. He doesn’t shy away from difficult subject matter or from showing his characters’ flaws, which makes for some incredibly tough scenes to read, but also highlights the everyday travails of black men in America. Readers looking for timely, nuanced fiction about race and masculinity should definitely pick this up.” (Booklist)

Night Soil
by Dale Peck
Teenage Judas lives with his mother Dixie, a renowned potter. He finds some satisfaction in anonymous encounters with men at a roadside rest stop, but longs for his fellow classmates at The Academy, the private school founded by his grandfather with money from an empire built from slavery and coal. “A lush, provocative, and thought-provoking story of queer identity at the intersection of art, family history, capitalism, and the American racial order… Judas is an irreverent, erudite, and deviously funny narrator, and the book reflects his loquacious charm with ornate prose that is downright Nabokov-ian in its exuberance, abounds in clever wordplay, malapropisms, and dense descriptive passages.” (Kirkus)

Poso Wells
by Gabriela Alemán, translated by Dick Cluster
This celebrated Ecuadorian author’s first work published in English is a madcap, feminist mash-up of noir, thriller, Science Fiction and satire. Journalist Gonzalo Varas is trying to get to the bottom of various matters including the freak electrocution of a presidential candidate, alien encounters, the corrupt dealings of some wealthy politicians and tycoons, and multiple instances of women reported missing in Poso Wells. “A wild, successful satire of Ecuadorian politics and supernatural encounters... Alemán’s sleek narrative is bizarre and propulsive, and though the novel’s ramshackle finale may come together a bit fast, Alemán’s singular voice keeps the ride fresh and satisfying.” (Publishers Weekly) Poso Wells is one of the American Booksellers Association’s Independent Booksellers’ 10 Debut Picks of the Season.

We That Are Young
by Preti Taneja
Hotel and entertainment mogul Devraj Bapuji has decided to step down from his sprawling empire. Meanwhile, his youngest daughter Sita has disappeared in advance of her arranged marriage and his illegitimate son Jivan has returned after fifteen years abroad in the United States. When eldest daughters Radha and Gargi assume control of the company a chaotic struggle for power ensues. “Shakespeare's supreme tragedy, King Lear, is transposed to contemporary India and recast as a family drama of financial power-brokering within a transforming, culturally complex nation... Issues of gender and generation spearhead the conflict in this mammoth drama of money, succession, and control, British-born Taneja's impressive first work of fiction... A long, challenging, but inspired modernization of a classic—engaging, relevant, and very dark.” (Kirkus)

Flights
by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft
Tokarczuk, one of Poland’s foremost contemporary authors, won the Man Booker International Prize for this novel that tells many stories including that of tourist Kunicki whose wife and son have disappeared during their Croatian vacation, Dr. Blau who visits the home of an adversary who has recently died, and the 17th century tragedy of Angelo Soliman, an Austrian noble of Nigerian ancestry whose dignified life was betrayed after his death. “Written in a cacophony of voices, the book's themes accumulate not from plot, but rather associations and resonances... The novel continues in this vein—dipping in and out of submerged stories, truths, and flights of fantasy stitched together by associations. Punctuated by maps and figures, the discursive novel is reminiscent of the work of Sebald. The threads ultimately converge in a remarkable way, making this an extraordinary accomplishment.” (Publishers Weekly)

A Short Film About Disappointment
by Joshua Mattson
In a dystopian future, movie critic Noah Body posts reviews no one reads. So he uses them as diary entries, describing his failed marriage, alarming new modes of technology, and his dreams of making his own film. “With weapons-grade wit, Mattson satirizes movies, reviewers, and life in the data age... Mattson’s exhilarating novel is rife with ingenious humor and inventiveness.” (Publishers Weekly)

Everyday People: The Color of Life—a Short Story Anthology
edited by Jennifer Baker
Short story lovers will want to reach for this new collection centered on authors of color, with emerging writers alongside superstars including Mia Alvar, Alexander Chee, Yiyun Li, and Jason Reynolds. “Editor Baker has produced a vital anthology whose strength lies in its unwillingness to commit to a single genre or style… This is a vital, riveting anthology that emphasizes the complexity and diversity of minority experience.” (Kirkus)

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in July 2018

The Incendiaries
by R. O. Kwon
“Written in dazzling, spare prose, Kwon’s debut tells the fractured story of three young people looking for something to believe in while attending the prestigious Edwards University. There’s Will Kendall, a one-time “kid evangelist” who transferred from a Bible college after losing his faith in God. He soon meets—and falls in love with—Pheobe Lin, a Korean-American pianist wrestling with the death of her mother in an accident for which she blames herself. And then there’s John Leal, a charismatic cult leader and former Edwards student who claims to have been held captive in North Korea… In this intriguing cult story, Kwon thoroughly explores her characters’ motivations, making for an urgent and disarming debut.” (Publishers Weekly) The New York Times hyped her as one of “4 Writers to Watch This Summer.”

Fruit of the Drunken Tree
by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
“In this incomparable debut novel, Contreras draws on her own experience growing up in turbulent 1990s Bogotá, Colombia, amid the violence and social instability fueled by Pablo Escobar’s narcotics trafficking. In vividly rendered prose, textured with generous Spanish, Contreras tells the story of an unlikely bond between two girls on the verge of womanhood: Chula, the daughter of a middle-class family, and Petrona, the teenager hired to serve as the family’s maid… A riveting, powerful, and fascinating first novel.” (Booklist)

The Occasional Virgin
by Hanan Al-Shaykh
"Novelist and memoirist al-Shaykh (One Thousand and One Nights: A Retelling, 2013, etc.) delivers an elegant story of a friendship that is anything but easy. Huda and Yvonne are both Lebanese with long memories of civil war and oppression but with little else in common: Huda is Muslim, Yvonne Christian; Yvonne is a touch flighty, Huda steadfast... Al-Shaykh's novel is full of quiet regrets as it speaks gracefully to the challenges of friendship, challenges that threaten to drive the two women apart but that, in the end, instead strengthen their bond. Another winning book by one of the most distinguished Arabic-language writers at work today.” (Kirkus Reviews)

How to Love a Jamaican: Stories
by Alexia Arthurs
"Arthurs’s debut collection of short stories is an impressive, fully realized work that grapples with Jamaican womanhood. Her mission is clear from the first story, “Light-Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands,” which looks at two Jamaican-American students from radically different backgrounds who bond over art, family, and their shared heritage. In another, “Island,” a woman finally returns to the island with several other Jamaican-American friends, only to feel isolated from them by her newly found interest in women. While critical, Arthurs never condemns as she explores the nuances in fraught intra-community subjects like depression, assimilation, and ethnic tensions. “Maybe our kind doesn’t have time for soft words,” one narrator wonders in “We Eat Our Daughters,” an exploration of motherhood. Arthurs offers a compassionate response with these tender portraits of hard women, lost girls, and the people who love them.” (Village Voice) You can get an all-too-brief sample from the Paris Review here but only subscribers will get the full story.

If You See Me, Don't Say Hi: Stories
by Neel Patel
“Debut-author Patel’s 10 compact yet meaty stories feature characters—most of them first-generation Indian Americans, as the author is—trying to navigate a world full of expectations (go to college, land a prestigious job, get married, have children) only to find themselves continually thwarted. Like the young man in the story “Just a Friend,” who finds himself in a seemingly perfect, whirlwind relationship with an older man, and soon discovers that nothing is what it seems. Or the woman who is dating the “right” man (one her parents approve of) yet seeks out a one-night stand with the Wi-Fi fix-it guy... Patel explores universal themes in unexpected ways and excels at portraying nuanced characters in even the briefest stories. Readers in search of a fresh new voice should be on the lookout for Patel.” (Booklist)

Brother
by David Chariandy
“A novel about the indignities, frustrations, and joy found in a Toronto public housing complex. The Park is a sprawling complex home to thousands of residents struggling to find work, take care of each other, and get through another day. Like so many of the Park's residents, Michael and Francis are the children of an immigrant single mother. Ruth came from Trinidad with dreams of becoming a nurse; instead, she's working multiple jobs, riding buses for hours, and coming home too exhausted to even sleep. Michael and Francis are learning how to survive in the Park as young men. They know how to posture, which guys to avoid, and how to act when the police roll through… An important, riveting novel about dreams, families, and the systems holding them back.” (Kirkus Reviews)

America for Beginners
by Leah Franqui
“When their only child, Rahi, living and working in California, came out to his parents, Pival Sengupta's husband, Ram, forbade any mention of him and furiously blamed Pival for their son's orientation. After a years-long estrangement, Ram takes a call from America and tells Pival that their son is dead. She doesn't believe him, and now that Ram himself is dead, she leaves Kolkata, India, to discover the truth about Rahi. After booking a tour with an American travel company that caters to upper-class Indians, she quickly puts tour guide Satya in his place when he tries to pass himself off as Bengali (he's from Bangladesh) and accepts Rebecca, an unemployed actress, as her companion for propriety's sake. Off this ill-matched trio head on a cross-country road trip to California… Debut author Franqui, an award-winning playwright living in Mumbai, writes a tender, funny, wrenching, beautifully executed tale of three lost souls who traverse the chasms of cultural, generational, and geographical divides to forge some bonds strong and true enough to withstand life's gut punches.” (Library Journal)

What We Were Promised 
by Lucy Tan
“This first novel opens with the mystery of a missing ivory bracelet belonging to Lina, wife of marketing strategist Wei, who lives luxuriously with her husband and daughter in a full-service apartment in Shanghai. Housekeepers Sunny and Rose are the primary suspects, as they have access to the home's private areas. As readers learn about these young women and eventually discover who took the bracelet, the secrets behind Lina and Wei's betrothal and their more humble beginnings are also revealed… Throughout, Tan's talent as a storyteller clearly shines through her strong plot lines and characterization; readers will want to know more about each well-crafted player in the story, rich or poor, young or old.” (Library Journal)

Immigrant, Montana
by Amitava Kumar
“The plot of Kumar’s droll and exhilarating second novel (following Nobody Does the Right Thing) may feel familiar at first, but this coming-of-age-in-the-city story is bolstered by the author’s captivating prose, which keeps it consistently surprising and hilarious. Indian immigrant Kailash arrives in New York in 1990 wide-eyed but also wry, self-aware, and intellectually thirsty. Kailash lives uptown and attends college, and soon has his first sexual experience, with the socially conscious Jennifer, a coworker at the bookstore where he works, who brings him hummus and takes him ice skating. After he and Jennifer break up, he begins to date the mischievous Nina, followed by a series of other young women; the novel’s seven parts are titled after Kailash’s romantic partners, his formal education intertwined with his personal education... Ultimately, his journey is more intellectual than physical, and the book includes a plethora of lively literary and cultural references in footnotes, sidebars, and illustrations. This novel is an inventive delight, perfectly pitched to omnivorous readers.” (Publishers Weekly)

The Wrong Heaven
by Amy Bonnaffons
“At once goofy, poignant, and edged with the fantastic, the stories in Bonnaffons's debut collection initially surprise, then turn into one long, delicious rush—you just have to get into the author's frame of mind… Throughout, Bonnaffons shows us absurdity and carefully managed pain.” (Publishers Weekly)

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in June 2018

There There
by Tommy Orange
Oakland is the setting for this unflinchingly brutal, compassionate, and sometimes humorous debut novel which takes a panoramic look at the lives of urban Native Americans.  The stories of twelve individuals weave together with rage, pain and beauty as their paths converge at the Big Oakland Powwow. “A deep dive into the fractured diaspora of a community that remains, in many ways, invisible to many outside of it… In this vivid and moving book, Orange articulates the challenges and complexities not only of Native Americans, but also of America itself.” (Kirkus Reviews)

A Place for Us
by Fatima Farheen Mirza
Layla and Rafiq are Muslim Indian immigrants raising three children in California whose family is split by the rebellion of their son, Amar. The event of their daughter Hadia’s wedding prompts each character to reflect on memories, bringing forth powerful and painful recollections. “Extraordinary in its depth and diligence… Each complex, surprising character struggles with faith, responsibility, racism, fear, longing, and jealousy, while Mirza conveys with graceful specificity the rhythms of Muslim life, from prayer to wearing hijab, gender etiquette, food, holidays, and values, all of which illuminate universal quandaries about family, self, culture, beliefs, and generational change.” (Booklist)

Small Country
by Gael Faye, translated by Sarah Ardizzone
Gabriel is the son of a French father and a Rwandan mother living a carefree life in the Burundi capital of Bujumbura. His coming of age coincides with the mid-1990s eruption of political chaos in Burundi and Rwanda. “Faye debuts a precise and potent voice in his deeply affecting novel… The juxtaposition of everyday growing pains and the fallout from atrocities is heightened by Faye’s lovely prose, which builds a heartrending portrait of the end of childhood.” (Publishers Weekly) Small Country was originally published in France, where it won multiple awards.

Kiss Quotient
by Helen Hoang
30-year-old econometrician Stella Lane has Asperger's syndrome, and although she is feeling pressure to settle down, she is repelled by the idea of sex and romance. She decides to hire an escort, Michael, to be her fake boyfriend in a practical and unconventional effort to learn about relationships.  “Debut author Hoang, diagnosed with Asperger's herself, portrays Stella with honesty and tenderness. Michael's fraught family history is given lush attention, with a cast of endearing relatives who come together in a delightfully realistic portrayal of an unlikely couple falling in love.” (Library Journal)

Ayiti
by Roxane Gay
Gay’s 2011 collection of short stories is being rereleased in a new edition with several new stories, no doubt prompted by acclaim and popularity generated by her work as a writer of fiction, essays and memoir including Hunger, Bad Feminist, and Difficult Women. “Gay’s parents were born in Haiti, the country that the characters in these 15 stories live in, visit, or leave and consider with the pride that exists especially for one’s homeland… Dismantling the glib misconceptions of her complex ancestral home, Gay cuts and thrills. Readers will find her powerful first book difficult to put down.” (Booklist)

Confessions of the Fox
by Jordy Rosenberg
This 18th century queer love story, present-day Academic satire and epic rollicking swashbuckling adventure rolled into one revolves around the true-life story of legendary British thief and jailbreaker Jack Sheppard. Troubled university professor Dr. Voth discovers a 1724 manuscript that recounts the story of how the notorious Sheppard began life as an orphan girl who was sold into servitude, fell in love with a sex worker named Bess, and together they breathlessly pursued their dream of freedom. “Resonant of George Saunders, of Nikolai Gogol, and of nothing that’s ever been written before, professor of literature and queer/trans theory Rosenberg’s debut is a triumph… Irreverent, erudite, and not to be missed.” (Booklist

Bearskin
by James A. McLaughlin
Violent confrontations loom in this atmospheric and suspenseful thriller featuring Rice Moore, a caretaker on an Appalachian forest preserve. He fled Arizona after he crossed a drug cartel, and now faces conflict with bear poachers and other locals. “Told in spare prose and portraying the authentic mechanics of hunting, combat, and psychological defense, the novel dares the reader to root for this damaged antihero but convinces us that he's worth it. An intense, visceral debut equal to the best that country noir has to offer.” (Kirkus)

Convenience Store Woman
by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori
Keiko Furukura was a strange child. When she turned 18, she discovered that as a convenience store worker at Smile Mart she could smother her unconventional urges with her employer’s rigid corporate culture. Another 18 years later, adult expectations of who she should be chip away at her efforts at living a “normal life.” “A sly take on modern work culture and social conformism… Murata provides deceptively sharp commentary on the narrow social slots people—particularly women—are expected to occupy and how those who deviate can inspire bafflement, fear, or anger in others… A unique and unexpectedly revealing English language debut.” (Kirkus) Winner of Japan’s prestigious Akutagawa Prize.

Never Anyone but You
by Rupert Thomson
Part historical fiction, part love story, and part thriller, this novel recounts the lives of photographer and illustrator Suzanne Malherbe and writer Lucie Schwob, life-long lovers and eccentrics who were connected with the early 20th century literary salons and avant-garde of Paris and later became anti-Nazi propagandists during the German Occupation. “Readers enamored of Paris in its artistic and literary heyday and curious about overlooked historical women and members of the LGBT community will be moved by Thomson’s lovely, quietly powerful novel of reinvention in many forms.” (Booklist)

The Good Son
by You-jeong Jeong, translated by Chi-Young Kim
Twenty-five-year-old Yu-jin suffers from seizures, and the medicine he takes makes him drowsy and prone to memory loss. When finds his mother’s bloody body at the bottom of the stairs, he can’t clearly remember the night before—and wonders if he might be guilty of her murder. “Jeong has been called ‘Korea’s Stephen King,’ and she lives up to the billing with this taut psychological thriller. Yu-jin is an intriguing protagonist, and the many twists and turns Jeong takes with this story arc set the reader up for quite a thrill ride… Incorporating chilling prose, unpredictable characters, and blood by the gallons, Jeong has crafted an ominous and haunting experience.” (Library Journal)

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in May 2018

The Mars Room
by Rachel Kushner
Single mother Romy Hall was a stripper at a San Francisco bar when she killed her stalker, earning her two life sentences at Stanville Women's Correctional Facility in California's Central Valley. As she lives out her sentence, she reflects on her precarious childhood and wonders what will become of her son. “This is a gorgeously eviscerating novel of incarceration writ large, of people trapped in the wrong body, the wrong family, poverty, addiction, and prejudice… Rooted in deeply inquisitive thinking and executed with artistry and edgy wit, Kushner’s dramatic and disquieting novel investigates with verve and compassion societal strictures and how very difficult it is to understand each other and to be truly free.” (Booklist) Kushner’s previous novels Telex from Cuba (2008) and The Flamethrowers (2013) were both finalists for the National Book Award.

The Ensemble
by Aja Gabel
In 1990’s San Francisco, four talented musicians form a string quartet that will bind them together for the next two decades. “Gabel's first novel explores the ups and downs of their chamber group, the Van Ness Quartet, as their relationships and talents grow and mature. Each character is fully developed, each action and emotion is believable and relatable... Gabel explores friendship and art with great warmth, humanity, and wisdom.” (Library Journal)

A Lucky Man
by Jamel Brinkley
“An assured debut collection of stories about men and women, young and old, living and loving along the margins in Brooklyn and the Bronx... It's difficult to single out any story as most outstanding since they are each distinguished by Brinkley's lyrical invention, precise descriptions of both emotional and physical terrain, and a prevailing compassion toward people as bemused by travail as they are taken aback by whatever epiphanies blossom before them. A major talent.” (Kirkus Reviews)

The Lost Empress
by Sergio De La Pava
Nina Gill helped her father build the Dallas Cowboys into a dynasty and expected she would inherit the team someday. When her brother inherits the Cowboys and she receives the Paterson Pork, New Jersey's only Indoor Football League franchise, she vows to take on the NFL. Meanwhile Nuno DeAngeles is orchestrating a criminal scheme that involves getting thrown into Rikers Island in order to carry out his plan. “A madcap, football-obsessed tale of crossed destinies and criminal plots gone awry... A whirling vortex of a novel, confusing, misdirecting, and surprising—and a lot of fun.” (Kirkus) De La Pava is the author of A Naked Singularity, a self-published sensation that went on to win the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize and was listed as one of the ten best works of fiction of 2012 by The Wall Street Journal.

The Map of Salt and Stars
by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar
Intertwined stories connect the lives of an 11-year-old girl fleeing present-day war-torn Syria and a 12th century North African girl who disguises herself as a boy and becomes a cartographer’s apprentice. “Both are fatherless girls growing into young womanhood, and they share a similar search for the meaning of home, both physical and spiritual. Joukhadar plunges the Western reader full force into the refugee world with sensual imagery that is immediate, intense, and at times overwhelming.” (Kirkus)

The Storm
by Arif Anwar
In 1970 East Pakistan, young Shahryar is orphaned by the deadly Bhola cyclone. His unlikely journey to America and fatherhood is one of many storylines that converge in this complex novel that encompasses multiple eras and geographies. “With a sprawling cast of vividly drawn characters, most of whom must negotiate a dizzying array of religious, economic, and national boundaries, this powerful and important debut is a story for our time… Essential for fans of literary fiction.” (Library Journal)

Welcome to Lagos
by Chibundu Onuzo
Among the chaos of Nigeria’s capitol, an unlikely crew of Army deserters and runaways encounters an Education Minister in the thick of a Robin Hood-inspired scandal. “A crisp story that uses well-fleshed characters and a razor-tight plot… a tangy Ocean’s Eleven–esque escapade that exposes class and ethnic divides in the country even as it manages to mock the West for its colonial gaze toward the African continent as a whole. Full of nuance, the story spares no one as it careens toward its satisfying finale.” (Booklist)

My Ex-Life
by Stephen McCauley
Times are tough for David Hedges: his partner has left him for a younger man, and he’s about to get evicted from his San Francisco apartment. So, it seems like a good time to come to the rescue of his ex-wife, facing her own crises on the other side of the country. “As always, McCauley's (Insignificant Others, 2010, etc.) effervescent prose is full of wit and wisdom on every topic—college application essays, Airbnb operation, weed addiction, live porn websites, and, most of all, people... A gin and tonic for the soul.” (Kirkus)

Little Fish
by Casey Plett
Wendy Reimer is a thirty-year-old trans woman living in Winnipeg, Canada. She grapples with constant hostility but is buoyed by a supportive community. When her grandmother dies, Wendy must deal with her grief while she discovers evidence that her late grandfather, a Mennonite, may have also been transgender. “A confident, moving work that reports unflinchingly on the lives of trans women in Winnipeg. But more than that, it’s also an honest and heartbreaking, and sometimes funny, look at a group of friends trying to come to terms with themselves and their world… a powerful and important debut.” (National Post)

Motherhood
by Sheila Heti
A woman in her thirties asks herself whether or not she wants to become a mother.  She mulls over this question with her partner, family and friends, consults mystical sources and contemplates her desires. “A book of sex (the real, unsensational kind), mood swings, and deep feminist thought, this volume is essentially a chronicle of vacillating ruminations on this big question. Although readers shouldn’t go in expecting clean-cut epiphanies, this lively, exhilaratingly smart, and deliberately, appropriately frustrating affair asks difficult questions about women’s responsibilities and desires, and society’s expectations.” (Publishers Weekly) Heti is the author of How Should a Person Be? (2012), a New York Times Notable Book.

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in April 2018

The Female Persuasion
by Meg Wolitzer
Greer Kadetsky is a smart but meek college freshman who abandons her fantasies for a conventional life after she has a life-altering encounter with an iconic feminist guest lecturer. “Wolitzer's ambitious and satisfying novel (following The Interestings) charts a Massachusetts girl's coming-of-age and asks pressing questions about what it means to be an empowered modern woman... As in her previous novels, Wolitzer writes with an easy, engrossing style, and her eye for detail seamlessly connects all the dots in the book's four major story lines. This insightful and resonant novel explores what it is to both embrace womanhood and suffer because of it.” (Publishers Weekly)

America Is Not the Heart
by Elaine Castillo
An extended Filipino family finds a new life in the East Bay. Hero leaves behind a painful past and a career as a surgeon to join her uncle and his family in Milpitas, helping with her seven-year-old cousin while seeking her own fulfilling personal life. “My new favorite book, and maybe yours, too… This is Castillo’s first novel, and it is masterful. It has drama and tragedy in spades, but it also has so much love of every kind spilling out of its pages that I closed it each night with a huge, warm smile. I might go home and read it again.” (Paris Review)

Circe
by Madeline Miller
After winning the Women's Prize for Fiction for her retelling of Homer in The Song of Achilles (2012), Miller returns with another novel steeped in Greek mythology and feminine power. Circe prefers the company of mortals until she discovers her gift of sorcery, and she is banished to an island where she can learn to sharpen her craft. “Neither the goddess Athena nor the deadliest poison known to man makes Circe flinch. Weaving together Homer’s tale with other sources, Miller crafts a classic story of female empowerment. She paints an uncompromising portrait of a superheroine who learns to wield divine power while coming to understand what it means to be mortal.” (Publishers Weekly)

Heads of the Colored People: Stories
by Nafissa Thompson-Spires
“A bold new voice, at once insolently sardonic and incisively compassionate, asserts itself amid a surging wave of young African-American fiction writers. In her debut story collection, Thompson-Spires flashes fearsome gifts for quirky characterization, irony-laden repartee, and edgy humor... Thompson-Spires' auspicious beginnings auger a bright future in which she could set new standards for the short story.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Disoriental
by Négar Djavadi, translated by Tina Kover
Kimia Sadr is a twenty-five-year-old, irreverent, queer, Iranian exile. While she waits for her appointment at a Parisian fertility clinic, she muses on the future and delves into the past, tracing the history of her birth country, her immediate family, and generations of ancestors. “What is obvious from the beginning of this riveting novel is that Djavadi is an immensely gifted storyteller, and Kimia’s tale is especially compelling. The winner of multiple awards in France, this debut novel in translation follows the fortunes of one Iranian family from the dawn of the twentieth century through the revolution and their Parisian exile… Kimia unthreads the narratives of her family history, and the shaping of her own identity, with the insight and verve of a master storyteller.” (Booklist)

The Oracle Year
by Charles Soule
Will Dando is a struggling New York City musician who has a dream one night that reveals 108 predictions of the future, some trivial and some critically significant. With the help of a friend, Will begins disclosing these predictions online assuming the anonymous identity of “the Oracle”, attracting fame, wealth and danger. “Wildly entertaining… As the world’s population becomes obsessed with the Oracle’s posts—some thinking he’s a savior and others vilifying him—unmasking the Oracle’s identity becomes the prime objective for government agencies, religious groups, and journalists worldwide… Although the premise is a bit shaky, the relentless pacing, richly developed characters, and brilliant ending make this apocalyptic speculative thriller an undeniable page-turner.” (Publishers Weekly) Comic book fans will already be familiar with Soule, the bestselling author of Daredevil, Letter 44, Death of Wolverine, She-Hulk and others.

How to Be Safe
by Tom McAllister
In the chaos following a school shooting, recently fired teacher Anna Crawford is unfairly named as a conspirator. Even once her name is cleared, the consequences are devastating. “Brilliant, tragically timely… This novel is an indictment of gun culture, hot-take journalism, and social media, and if that sounds like a miserable premise for a novel, fear not: McAllister is a brave and stylish writer, and Anna is a singular creation. At first, she seems like a classic unreliable narrator, but it quickly becomes hard to decide which is crazier: Anna or the world she's describing… Intensely smart. Sharply written.” (Kirkus)

You Think It, I’ll Say It
by Curtis Sittenfeld
The bestselling author of Eligible (2016), American Wife (2008) and other novels offers her first story collection, examining the lives of women as they deal with relationships, politics and contemporary life. “Thoroughly satisfying… As in her novels, Sittenfeld’s characters are funny and insightful. Reading these consistently engrossing stories is a pleasure.” (Publishers Weekly)

The Stolen Bicycle
by Wu Ming-Yi, translated by Darryl Sterk
An author’s quest to find his father’s long missing bicycle leads him to unusual encounters and an unexpected exploration of Taiwan’s modern history. Wu Ming-Yi’s latest novel to be translated into English (after The Man with the Compound Eyes, 2014) has won multiple awards in the author’s native Taiwan and is longlisted for this year’s Man Booker International Prize. “Profoundly moving… It’s a novel that confounds conventional expectations of narrative pace and form, even as it burrows deep into the reader’s conscience.” (South China Morning Post)

Though I Get Home
by Y. Z. Chin
“A mosaic of stories about state- and self-imposed silence and what it means to find your voice. The 14 stories in Chin's debut collection are centered around Malaysia: the people, culture, and country. Interconnected (sometimes loosely, sometimes overtly) by characters, the stories also share themes like patriotism, censorship, personhood, and art as protest… A haunting, surprising, and rebellious collection that contains multitudes.” (Kirkus)

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in March 2018

The Sparsholt Affair
by Alan Hollinghurst
Beginning in 1940s England, this novel traces the lives of a family in the midst of a changing society, beginning with David Sparsholt, an engineering student at Oxford who has a fling with the son of a famous author before he heads off to war, and continuing with his son Johnny, an artist and openly gay man thriving in 1970s London. “Superlatives are made to describe this extraordinary work of fiction; characterization, style, mood, tone, setting—all are equally distinguished. Hollinghurst is especially good at evoking yearning, and, indeed, his novel will inarguably leave his readers yearning for more.” (Booklist) Hollinghurst’s previous novels include The Swimming Pool Library (1988, Somerset Maugham Award), The Folding Star (1994, James Tait Black Memorial Prize) and The Line of Beauty (2004, Booker Prize).

Speak No Evil
by Uzodinma Iweala
Niru is a Harvard-bound student and star athlete at a prestigious high school in Washington DC. When his parents discover gay dating apps on his phone, they respond with explosive anger, and his father decides to take him to their native Nigeria to seek a spiritual “cure”. “Throughout a narrative spiraling toward tragedy, Niru's pain is so palpable it will make you gasp… Highly recommended.” (Library Journal) Following his multi-award-winning debut novel Beasts of No Nation (2005), Iweala received a Granta Best of Young American Novelists award and the New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award.

The House of Broken Angels
by Luis Alberto Urrea
70-year-old patriarch Miguel Angel de la Cruz, or Big Angel, has just buried his mother and is about to celebrate his last birthday. He’s dying of cancer, and he takes this occasion to tell his story in a celebration of life, death and his wonderfully big family that spans both sides of the border. “A family saga that asks what it means to be American… a novel that is knowing and intimate, funny and tragic at once… Even in death, Urrea shows, we never lose our connection to one another, which is the point of this deft and moving book.” (Kirkus) Urrea is an American Book Award winner, New York Times Notable Book honoree, and Pulitzer Prize finalist best known for his novel The Hummingbird's Daughter (2005) and the nonfiction book The Devil’s Highway (2004).

Happiness
by Aminatta Forna
Attila Asare, a prominent Ghanaian psychiatrist specializing in PTSD, is in London for a conference when he literally bumps into American biologist Jean Turane. Repeat chance meetings lead Jean to help Attila with the other reason for his visit: to search for the missing child of a friend who may have been swept up in an immigration raid. “Forna's sensitive novel is nonostentatious yet compelling, and whether writing of Attila's victims of conflict and terror or Jean's birds and mammals, she offers wisdom and perspective, which is further extended to the possibility of romance between two questing strangers. Low-key yet piercingly empathetic, Forna's latest explores instinct, resilience, and the complexity of human coexistence, reaffirming her reputation for exceptional ability and perspective.” (Kirkus) Forna is a multi-award winning author from Scotland and Sierra Leone whose works include The Memory of Love (2011) which won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize Best Book Award and was shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Orange Prize for Fiction.

American Histories: Stories
by John Edgar Wideman
Recognized as a MacArthur Fellow, two-time PEN/Faulkner Award winner, and two-time finalist for the National Book Award, a literary legend returns with a short story collection. “The author returns to the streets of Pittsburgh and his childhood memories, envisions a conversation between John Brown and Frederick Douglass, and probes the popular culture we use to escape, forget, and grieve... Wideman elucidates loneliness and helplessness with lyrical economy and rhythmic sadness... A deeply personal collection of stories illuminating the thinning and cyclical threads of history that both sustain us and tear us apart. Highly recommended.” (Library Journal)

Girls Burn Brighter
by Shobha Rao
In 21st century South India, 16-year-old Poornima’s father hires 17-year-old Savitha to help her weave saris, launching a deep and lasting friendship between the two women. But when a tragic event splits them apart, they will face cruelty, poverty and exploitation before they are reunited halfway around the world. “This powerful, heart-wrenching novel and its two unforgettable heroines offer an extraordinary example of the strength that can be summoned in even the most terrible situations… Despite everything they go through, their spirits continue to burn brightly, building to an ending that takes your breath away in its magnificence and beauty.” (Booklist) Rao is an Indian-born writer who lives in San Francisco,  winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Fiction, and author of the short story collection An Unrestored Woman (2016).

The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror
by Mallory Ortberg
Dark, satirical, and gender-bending retellings of folk tales and fairy tales from the co-creator of the late great website The Toast and author of Texts from Jane Eyre (2014). “Delightfully disturbing… There is plenty of humor to be had here, with Ortberg's signature biting wit and nerdy whimsy out in full force… Ortberg doesn't twist the stories so much as illuminate how layered and complicated they really are. A wholly satisfying blend of silliness, feminist critique, and deft prose makes this a collection of bedtime stories that will keep you up at night for all the right reasons.” (Kirkus)

Stray City
by Chelsey Johnson
When Andy’s small-town, Midwestern parents find out she has a girlfriend, they stop financing her education at Reed College. She drops out but finds a nurturing and stimulating community in Portland’s queer underground scene. Following a series of romantic disappointments, she has a fling with a man that results in a pregnancy and an unexpected, unconventional family. “This is a coming-out and coming-of-age story; a surprise-I’m-pregnant story; a will-they-or-won’t-they love story; and an ode to a time and place we think we’ve heard everything about—and it’s all utterly fresh. Portraying Portland and Andy’s chosen family with feeling and immense charm, Johnson paints Andy’s love—for her kid, her city, herself, and others—in all its thorny nuance and surprising glory.” (Booklist)

The Parking Lot Attendant
by Nafkote Tamirat
A fifteen-year-old and her father, an Ethiopian immigrant, are living on a mysterious island commune. But their story begins in Boston, where the young girl falls under the spell of Ayale, a parking lot attendant, leader in the Ethiopian community, and shady businessman—and soon she becomes entangled in his schemes. “Tamirat’s wonderful debut novel weaves growing pains, immigrant troubles, and moments of biting humor… The unsettling conclusion serves as a perfect ending for this riveting coming-of-age story full of murky motives, deep emotion, and memorable characters.” (Publishers Weekly)

My Old Faithful
by Yang Huang
Oakland author Yang Huang (Living Treasures, 2014) won the Juniper Prize for Fiction for this collection of ten linked stories that depict the lives of one family over thirty years in China and the United States. One of the Juniper judges said of this book: “My Old Faithful establishes Yang Huang as one of our most provocative writers on contemporary China... Here you find a debut writer adept at sidestepping the timeworn: she gives us a story so real it bursts the bounds of the form, becoming an autofiction which, in its humanity, quickly becomes yours as well.”

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in February 2018

An American Marriage
by Tayari Jones
Newlyweds Roy and Celestial have a bright future ahead of them; he’s a rising corporate executive and she is an up-and-coming artist. Their lives are shattered when, in a case of mistaken identity, Roy is wrongly convicted of rape and sentenced to twelve years in prison. “This novel is peopled by vividly realized, individual characters and driven by interpersonal drama, but it is also very much about being black in contemporary America… This is, at its heart, a love story, but a love story warped by racial injustice. And, in it, Jones suggests that racial injustice haunts the African-American story. Subtle, well-crafted, and powerful.” (Kirkus Reviews) Jones is the author of Silver Sparrow (2011) and a recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award.

White Houses
by Amy Bloom
National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award nominee Bloom returns with a biographical novel looking at the life of journalist Lorena Hickok and her love affair with Eleanor Roosevelt. “‘Hick’ narrates this empathic story of true and besieged love—and what a discerning, courageous, and mordantly witty observer she is... Through Hick’s loving eyes, we witness Eleanor’s complex struggles, unwavering discipline, and fierce passion, while Hick’s take on FDR and the rest of the Roosevelts is deftly lacerating. Hick’s outrage over the trauma inflicted on gays and lesbians, the class divide, the beauty quotient, and the gender double standard fuels this socially incisive, psychologically saturated, funny, and erotic fictionalization of legendary figures; this novel of extraordinary magnetism and insight; this keen celebration of love, loyalty, and sacrifice.” (Booklist)

The Friend
by Sigrid Nunez
When a writing professor loses her mentor and close friend to suicide, she is startled by both the shocking loss and the surprising inheritance of his aging Great Dane. The woman and her new canine companion become unlikely and unexpected partners in grief. “Quietly brilliant and darkly funny… It is a lonely novel: rigorous and stark, so elegant—so dismissive of conventional notions of plot—it hardly feels like fiction. Breathtaking both in pain and in beauty; a singular book.” (Kirkus)

Call Me Zebra
by Azareen Van Der Vliet Oloomi
Zebra lost her mother when her family fled Iran in the early 90s. Now twenty-two and living in New York, Zebra has lost her father. Unmoored by his death, she launches a quest to retrace the path that got her from Iran to New York. Her plans are interrupted in Barcelona when she meets Ludo Bembo and they start an affair she finds both frustrating and irresistible. “Rich and delightful novel… Zebra’s perception of the world (and herself) is not as it appears to others, and her narration crackles throughout with wit and absurdity… This is a sharp and genuinely fun picaresque, employing humor and poignancy side-by-side to tell an original and memorable story.” (Publishers Weekly)

Asymmetry
by Lisa Halliday
In New York, Alice is an editor in a relationship with much older Ezra, a famous author. Amar is an Iraqi American travelling to Kurdistan to visit his brother when he is detained at Heathrow Airport. The two stories seem unrelated, so what’s the connection?  “Halliday, recipient of a 2017 Whiting Award, crafts a stellar and inventive debut, a puzzle of seemingly incongruous pieces that, in the end, fit together perfectly… A singular collision of forms, tones, and arguments, the novel provides frequent delights and never explains too much. Any reader who values innovative fiction should treasure this.” (Publishers Weekly)

The House of Impossible Beauties
by Joseph Cassara
In 1980’s New York, 16-year-old Angel escapes her boy body and finds a new family of trans outsiders. Inspired by the true stories of Angel Xtragveganza and her chosen family in the House of Xtravaganza, the original Latinx house in the Harlem ball scene, this novel is equal parts glitter and heartbreak, . “Deft dialog, affecting characters, unsettling social truth, and language both gritty and luscious.” (Library Journal)

Freshwater
by Akwaeke Emezi
Ada is a young Nigerian woman tormented by ogbanje--spirits that manifest as voices in her head--in this unusual fictional exploration of mental illness. As Ada travels to America for college and faces traumatic experiences, the voices only get louder and more controlling. “In her mind-blowing debut, Emezi weaves a traditional Igbo myth that turns the well-worn narrative of mental illness on its head, and in doing so she has ensured a place on the literary-fiction landscape as a writer to watch... Complex and dark, this novel will simultaneously challenge and reward lovers of literary fiction. A must-read.” (Booklist)

Song of a Captive Bird
by Jasmin Darznik
Bay Area author follows her best-selling memoir The Good Daughter (2011) with a fictional biography of feminist, poet and filmmaker Forugh Farrokhzad, a brilliant and daring woman who is often described as the Sylvia Plath of Iran. “Darznik’s knowledgeably invented characters and compellingly imagined scenarios, both of which are sensuous and harrowing, are deftly set within Iran’s violent, oil-fueled, mid-twentieth-century political and social upheavals, and stay true to the essence of Farrokhzad’s audacious, dramatic, and creative life and courageous commitment to writing revolutionary poems about being female in a tyrannically sexist society. Darznik even includes her own stunning translations of Farrokhzad’s incandescent poetry… enthralling and illuminating.” (Booklist)

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore
by Kim Fu
It’s 1994 in the Pacific Northwest, where Camp Forevermore promises a character-building wilderness experience for young girls. An overnight canoe trip turns unexpectedly tragic for a group of five campers, becoming a life changing event that reverberates far into their adulthoods. “In addition to recounting the nightmarish debacle, Fu’s sharp book is a study of the five girls later in life…  Readers will delight in the complicated, brash, ugly, and sincere presentation of Fu’s characters.” (Booklist)

Some Hell
by Patrick Nathan
Fourteen-year-old Colin is deeply unhappy. While he’s trying to come to grips with his father’s suicide, the boy he loves betrays him, his family is falling apart, and a relationship with a supportive teacher veers into inappropriateness. Meanwhile, his mother is profoundly depressed and making terrible choices. “If all this sounds melodramatic, in Nathan’s skillful, beautifully written telling, it isn’t. He selects his incidents artfully and—in part by shifting the point of view between Colin and his mother—does a masterful job of creating believable, multidimensional characters about whom the reader cares desperately. And if their ending is heartbreaking, it is artistically inevitable. Nathan’s first novel is beautifully done and promises to linger in the reader’s memory.” (Kirkus)

 

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in January 2018

Cover of Halsey StreetCover of The Wedding DateCover of WinterCover of A State of FreedomCover of Everything Here is BeautifulCover of Mouths Don't SpeakCover of Frankenstein in BaghdadCover of The Music ShopCover of The Red ClocksCover of The Perfect Nanny

Halsey Street 
by Naima Coster
Penelope Grand is a failed artist in her twenties who spent the last five years living in Philly. When she returns home to Brooklyn to take care of her ailing father, she can hardly recognize the neighborhood. Her family is unrecognizable too, her mother having abandoned her father to return to her native Dominican Republic.  While she’s trying to find her footing in her new/old neighborhood and her evolving role in her family, she receives a surprise invitation to visit her mother. “Gorgeous and painfully unsentimental, the book resists easy moralizing: everyone is wonderful and terrible, equal parts disappointed and disappointing. The plot is simple, relatively speaking, but Coster is a masterful observer of family dynamics: her characters, to a one, are wonderfully complex and consistently surprising. Absorbing and alive, the kind of novel that swallows you whole.” (Kirkus Reviews)

The Wedding Date
by Jasmine Guillory
Alexa, the Chief of Staff for the mayor of Berkeley, meets Los Angeles-based pediatric surgeon Drew when they get stuck in an elevator together. Drew asks Alexa to be his date to a wedding and their chance meeting leads to a fling which leads to something increasingly serious. Will their long-distance, interracial romance work out? Guillory is an Oakland author whose debut novel is being called “effervescent, witty, and sexy” (Nylon) and “a mix of romance and raunch that will charm rom-com fans.” (Kirkus)

Winter
by Ali Smith
Autumn, the first entry in the acclaimed author’s current quintet of novels was her third book to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Now follows Winter, in which heartbroken Art is reeling from a recent breakup. He invites a stranger to impersonate his ex and join him, his mother and his activist aunt for a Christmas dinner in the English countryside, where conversation touches on Brexit, fake news, environmentalism, and family secrets. “Combines captivating storytelling with a timely focus on social issues. Enthusiastically recommended.” (Library Journal)

A State of Freedom
by Neel Mukherjee
Following his Man Booker-short-listed debut The Lives of Others, Mukherjee depicts five very different but loosely connected lives in modern day India, using a mix of narrative styles. “Particle physicists, Maoist terrorists, punitive employers, servants, and émigrés all have roles… His characters' life journeys are often painful while his descriptions of their circumstances are unsentimental, vivid, unsparing. Above all there is compassion here, alongside a focus that depicts gross inequities with a grim tenderness. A calm, compelling, unshrinking portrait of humanity in transition; both disturbing and dazzling.” (Kirkus)

Everything Here is Beautiful 
by Mira T. Lee
Miranda often looks after her sister Lucia, who started hearing voices when their mother died. Determined and impulsive, Lucia pursues the life she longs for in the face of her mental illness. Just when Lucia needs Miranda the most, the sisters find themselves on the opposite sides of the globe. “Lee handles a sensitive subject with empathy and courage. Readers will find much to admire and ponder throughout… a writer of considerable talent and power.” (Publishers Weekly)

Mouths Don't Speak 
by Katia D. Ulysse
Jacqueline left her native Haiti over two decades ago and built a family in the United States with a former US marine husband and their young daughter. She is devastated by the news of the 2010 earthquake and cannot confirm whether her parents are alive or dead. “As Ulysse (Drifting) explores grief, she moves beyond her protagonist to consider the murky motivations and emotions of other characters. This is a harrowing, thoughtful dive into the aftermath of national and personal tragedies filtered through diasporic life.” (Publishers Weekly)

Frankenstein in Baghdad
by Ahmed Saadawi
It’s 2005 Baghdad, and Hadi the junk dealer has been collecting the body parts of suicide bombing fatalities and other victims of violence. He sews the parts together, intending to give them a proper burial when his creation becomes animated by the soul of a dead soldier and goes on a grisly and vengeful killing spree. “In graceful, economical prose, Saadawi places us in a city of ghosts, where missing people return all the time, justice is fleeting, and even good intentions rot… A haunting and startling mix of horror, mystery, and tragedy.” (Booklist) Winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

The Music Shop
by Rachel Joyce
In late eighties London, Frank is more than a vinyl enthusiast record shop owner, he’s practically a music therapist, with a unique and profound talent for intuiting the exact music for each customer to ease their troubles. He falls for Ilsa even though she’s unavailable—and she doesn’t listen to music. “Joyce, a British actress and playwright, whose first novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, was longlisted for the Man Booker, continues to enchant and break hearts with her lovable misfits trying to survive in a modern world determined to pass them by. Irresistible.” (Library Journal)

Red Clocks
by Leni Zumas
In near-future coastal Oregon, four women struggle against misogyny when a new law outlaws abortion and makes single parenthood and in vitro fertilization illegal. “Inevitably, there will be comparisons to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, but Zumas's work is not nearly as dystopic or futuristic, only serving to make it that much more believable. Highly recommended.” (Library Journal)

The Perfect Nanny
by Leila Slimani
Author and journalist Slimani became the first Moroccan woman to win France’s most prestigious literary award, the Prix Goncourt, for this bestselling psychological thriller that looks at class, race and motherhood. In a posh Parisian neighborhood, a professional couple hires nanny Louise to look after their children. She seems perfect but the façade gradually crumbles, leading to fatal consequences. “As Louise’s dark past, emotional stuntedness, and heinous volatility emerge through cracks in her meticulous, porcelain exterior, readers won’t be able to look away.” (Booklist)

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in December 2017

Three Daughters of Eve
by Elif Shafak
In present-day Istanbul, 35-year-old Peri is a sophisticated and wealthy woman attending a dinner party while her thoughts drift to her days as a student at Oxford University, her closest friends and classmates, and a scandal that she has yet to resolve. Shafak “meshes many of the themes she has explored separately in her previous novels: Turkish politics, spiritualism, and the uneasy relationship between East and West... her portrait of a woman in existential crisis feels universal, shining clarifying light on Islam—and religious spirituality in general—within the frame of today's world.” (Kirkus Reviews) Shafak is known for her internationally best-selling novels including The Bastard of Istanbul (2007), and has received nominations for the Women’s Prize and the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

Elmet
by Fiona Mozley
John Smythe is a bare-knuckle fighter and who builds a self-sufficient existence for himself and his two children in the Yorkshire woods. Narrated by 13-year-old Daniel, the family lives in mostly peaceful isolation until they become involved in a local dispute. “Ecological messages, class and gender conflict, and England's long history of struggle—all are mingled with Daniel's sexual awakening and a surreal, or superhuman, or quasi-spiritual, gothic and gory final reckoning. Mozley's instantaneous success—this debut landed straight on the 2017 Man Booker Prize shortlist—is a response to the stylish intensity of her work, which boldly winds multiple genres into a rich spinning top of a tale.” (Kirkus)

Spy of the First Person
by Sam Shepard
This perhaps final work from the Pulitzer Prize–winning writer and performer no doubt springs from his final days and experiences as he battled with the degenerative disease A.L.S., which ended his life earlier this year. “Told in short takes pulsing with life and rueful wit, it portrays one man spying on another from across the street, raising binoculars to better watch his subject struggling to make the simplest motions and family members appearing from within the house to offer help and company. As for the nearly immobilized man, he is remembering his immigrant mother, a troubling night in New York City, and visits to a famous Arizona clinic in pursuit of a “magic cure”… A gorgeously courageous and sagacious coda to Shepard’s innovative and soulful body of work.” (Booklist)

A Distant Heart
Sonali Dev
The latest book from an author whose books depict modern life in India. A Distant Heart examines the unlikely bond between a sheltered, privileged and ailing young girl and the orphan son of a policeman. “A narrative that deftly jumps from past to present as it explores family dynamics, class issues, and many layers of guilt, hope, and determination in ways that are both distinctly Indian and universally luminous. Another beautiful, breathtaking novel from a not-to-be-missed author.” (Kirkus) Dev’s books have landed on the Best Books lists from Library Journal, NPR, Washington Post, and Kirkus.

The World Goes On
by László Krasznahorkai, translated by John Batki with Ottilie Mulzet and George Szirtes
Krasznahorkai is not much of a household name in the US, but he’s one of Hungary’s most acclaimed contemporary authors and the winner of the Man Booker International Prize. His newest work to be released in English features eleven stories told by the same narrator, crisscrossing the globe with lengthy meditations and melancholic philosophical musings. “This book breaks all conventions and tests the very limits of language, resulting in a transcendent, astounding experience.” (Publishers Weekly) For lovers of experimental, postmodern and difficult fiction.

The Goddess of Mtwara and Other Stories: The Caine Prize for African Writing 2017
edited by Lizzy Attree
“Since 2000, the annual Caine Prize in African Writing has celebrated some of the most innovative and evocative English-language short fiction by African writers... A wonderful set of 16 stories that covers a lot of ground and features many genres—from myth and folklore to the postmodern and experimental—in a way that will surely satisfy readers.” (Kirkus)

Immortal Life: A Soon to Be True Story
by Stanley Bing
A struggle for autonomy erupts between Arthur Vogel, an aging trillionaire tech magnate yearning for immortality and Gene, the artificial human body he creates to host his consciousness. “Business writer Bing (The Curriculum: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Master of Business Arts) makes his first foray into speculative fiction with a clever and sly satire of a future that feels like it’s lurking just around the corner, shot through with dry humor and stark hopes in a conflict-blasted digital world… Bing’s optimistic nightmare will appeal to any reader wanting a glimpse down the slippery slope of technological domination.” (Publishers Weekly)

The Years, Months, Days: Two Novellas
by Yan Lianke, translated by Carlos Rojas
Prizewinning author Yan offers two dark fables set in his native Henan province China. In one, an elderly man and his blind dog stay behind when everyone else in their village flees to evade a drought. In the second tale, a desperate woman will do anything to secure happiness for her disabled children. “Lianke’s talent for the fantastical shines… Though they contain dark subject matter, Lianke’s fables of personal sacrifice are also sharply observed and funny. Lianke’s narratives feel much larger than their page count suggest, almost epic.” (Publishers Weekly) Yan is the author of Dream of Ding Village (2011) and Lenin’s Kisses (2012), and and his awards include the Franz Kafka Prize.

The Vanishing Princess: Stories
by Jenny Diski
A posthumous collection of stories from a beloved British author. “Although Diski is renowned across the pond, her defiant treatise against her terminal cancer, In Gratitude, published just before her 2016 death is, ironically, what earned her substantial stateside acclaim. Now available posthumously to U.S. readers is her spectacular 1995 collection of bizarre-to-rueful-to-stunning stories, bookended by two princesses living (and reading) in towers… Memorable girls and women—damaged, truculent, curious, stalwart—occupy Diski’s pages, claiming space, agency, and well-deserved attention.” (Booklist)

Record of a Night Too Brief
by Hiromi Kawakami, translated by Lucy North
“A supersurreal triad of stories from Japanese novelist Kawakami (The Nakano Thrift Shop, 2017, etc.). Kawakami, winner of the Akutagawa Prize, delivers three evocative tales that, as if from the notebooks of Kafka, concern strange transformations that happen to perfectly ordinary people going about their lives… Astonishing, strange, and wonderful.” (Kirkus)

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