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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in November 2015

The Japanese Lover  
by Isabel Allende
In 1939, 8-year-old Alma Belasco is sent from Poland to live with relatives in California, where she meets Ichimei Fukuda. The two are inseparable playmates until Ichimei is forced into internment after Pearl Harbor. Despite many obstacles, their friendship grows into a passionate love that perseveres over seven decades. Library Journal calls it “a beautiful tribute to devotion” and praises “Allende's literary artistry.”

Twain and Stanley Enter Paradise
by Oscar Hijuelos
Before his death in 2013, Hijuelos worked for more than a decade on this vivid portrait of Welsh-born explorer Henry Morton Stanley, his friendship with Mark Twain and his marriage to wealthy artist Dorothy Tennant. Hijuelos enlivens the story with fabricated diary entries, letters and autobiography, in what Booklist calls “an extraordinary feat of imaginative historical re-creation.” The late author is best known for his Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1989).

The Mare
by Mary Gaitskill
Disadvantaged Dominican American teenager Velveteen "Velvet" Vargas spends summers away from her home and family in Brooklyn through the Fresh Air Fund, staying at Paul and Ginger’s place in upstate New York. While Velvet discovers new skills and a new understanding of self through a connection with a neglected horse, Paul, a professor, harbors huge misgivings about this social experiment and Ginger, a troubled artist, becomes increasingly obsessive about Velvet’s home life. Kirkus calls The Mare “candid and emotionally complex, spare, real, and deeply affecting.” Gaitskill is the author of short stories, essays and novels including the National Book Award nominee Veronica (2005).

The Big Green Tent
by Ludmila Ulitskaya
In Cold War-era Soviet Union, a love of literature takes three brilliant and creative childhood friends down an inevitable path of dissident activity, in an examination of the power of books, art and music under the forces of anti-Semitism, censorship and oppression. Publishers Weekly calls it “enthralling,” promising “readers will come away wholly satisfied.” Kirkus laments, “The greatest tragedy of Ulitskaya's story is that it comes to an end.”

Numero Zero
by Umberto Eco, translated by Richard Dixon
Colonna, a struggling writer, is hired by a shady hotel magnate to ghostwrite a book about the newspaper he’s founding, which will focus on gossip, conspiracies and scandals. It also might be the perfect tool for blackmail. Now Colonna’s falling for a celebrity columnist and fearing for his life. “Eco's caustically clever, darkly hilarious, dagger-quick tale of lies, crimes, and collusions condemns the shameless corruption and greed undermining journalism and governments everywhere” (Booklist). Philosopher Eco’s best known novel is The Name of the Rose (1994).

The Improbability of Love
by Hannah Rothschild
When young, broke chef Annie McDee impulsively purchases a painting from a junk shop, she unwittingly upends the art world. The lost work by master painter Watteau has touched many lives, and their connected histories unfurl, highlighted with sumptuous depictions of art and food. Kirkus calls it “smart, well-written, and thoroughly gripping” and Library Journal touts it as “the next irresistible blend of art, mystery, and intrigue along the lines of Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch.”

One Out of Two
by Daniel Sada
A comic novella about identical twins Constitución and Gloria Gamal, who are practically the same person and have been since they were orphaned at age 13. Now in their forties, they dress alike, they wear the same hairstyle, and sometimes they switch identities. When Constitución meets Oscar Segura, she wonders: why not share the romance with her sister? The late Mexican author Sada was “known for his playfully extravagant style, a mix of earthy colloquialisms and fancy syntax” (Kirkus). “For fans of succinct, clever fiction” (Booklist).

The Boys
by Toni Sala, translated by Mara Faye Lethem
A mysterious car accident leaves two teenage boys dead, an event that reverberates in a small Catalonian town near the Pyrenees in Spain. At the heart of this haunting and contemplative novel are four people who are deeply struck by this event whether they knew the boys or not. Kirkus calls it “a compelling existential mystery” and “altogether brilliant.” The Boys received Catalonia’s highest literary honor.

Lifelines: New Writing from Bangladesh
edited by Farah Ghuznavi
This groundbreaking anthology features women writers from Bangladesh, examining many facets of their lives and cultural identity. Author Elif Shafak calls the collection “engaging and rich,” saying “Rarely, an anthology manages to capture our hearts and challenge our minds at the same time and with equal fervor. This book does precisely that.”

The Lost Garden  
by Ang Li, translated by Sylvia Li-chun Lin and Howard Goldblatt
Yinghong, a Taiwanese woman, looks back on her tender relationship with her father, a wealthy, genteel man who was imprisoned for his political beliefs. Meanwhile, she is caught up in an intensely passionate relationship with a materialistic and stylish young businessman who loves the nightlife of Taipei. “An exploration of contemporary Taiwan through the lens of the past, this novel hits many poignant notes as it threads its way” (Kirkus). Li is the author of The Butcher's Wife (1983).

Looking for more reading recommendations? Try our service for readers,Book Me! Fill out the online form and a librarian will send you a personalized list of reading suggestions.

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in October 2015

A Strangeness in My Mind
by Orhan Pamuk, translated by Ekin Oklap
The latest novel from Nobel laureate Pamuk (My Name is Red,2001; Snow, 2004) offers the tale of Mevlut, a young man who leaves his small village for Istanbul, where he spends many years walking the streets of the city as a door-to-door vendor. He is tricked into marrying the sister of the girl he pines for, an act of treachery that reverberates throughout the novel. He nonetheless embraces his fate and happily pursues a living for his family as the decades unfold and the city drastically changes around them. Kirkus calls it “Rich, complex, and pulsing with urban life: one of this gifted writer's best.”

Death by Water
by Kenzaburo Oe, translated by Deborah Boliver Boehm
Another Nobel Prize winner, Oe returns to his recurring autobiographical character Kogito Choko (The Changeling, 2010). Choko struggles with a failure to understand and novelize his father’s death which happened decades earlier during World War II. His frustrations lead to an intense dispute with his mentally-ill adult son. Things turn around for Choko when he pursues a partnership with an experimental theater troupe. Kirkus calls it a “pensive novel, at once autobiographical and philosophical… provocative, doubtful without being cynical, elegant without being precious” and Booklist calls it “enchanting.”

The Tsar of Love and Techno: Stories
by Anthony Marra
Award winning Oakland author Marra follows his debut, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (2013) with a story collection set in the Soviet Union and Russia spanning a century. In one story, a Soviet censor tasked with erasing shunned and executed individuals from photos and paintings inserts images of his disappeared brother—just one example of storytelling that Kirkus calls “powerful and melancholy” and Publishers Weekly calls “uniquely funny, tragic, bizarre, and memorable”. You can read an excerpt here.

Mothers, Tell Your Daughters: Stories
by Bonnie Jo Campbell
Cambell, a National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist for her 2009 story collection American Salvage, once again focuses her keen and compassionate eye on the lives of working-class women. Booklist calls these stories “commanding, piquant, and reverberating,” saying “In each subsequent, visceral, surprising, pitch-perfect tale, Campbell strides further into the swamp of sexual conflicts and trauma, from routine contempt to rape, telling tales not of good and evil, but rather of soul-wringing emotional complexity and epic grit.” Campbell is also the author of novel Once Upon a River (2011).

City on Fire
by Garth Risk Hallberg
Gritty New York City in the days leading up to the July 13, 1977 blackout is the setting for this debut novel in which the disparate lives of musicians, journalists, punks and the rich and powerful intersect in stunning and surprising ways. Publishers Weekly calls it “maniacally detailed, exhaustingly clever… packed with urban angst, intellectual energy, and sinister pitfalls.” Booklist raves, “This magnificent first novel is full to bursting with plot, character, and emotion” and calls it a “completely engrossing novel.”

Grant Park
by Leonard Pitts, Jr.
On the brink of the 2008 presidential election, syndicated African-American columnist Malcolm Toussaint writes an explosive piece in response to a recent police killing of an unarmed black man, but his white editor Bob Carson refuses to print it. Toussaint uses Carson’s computer password to publish it anyway, and both journalists lose their jobs. Then Toussaint is kidnapped by white supremacists intent on terrorizing the Obama victory celebration. Publishers Weekly calls Grant Park a “high-stakes, hard-charging political thriller” with “sharply etched characters, careful attention to detail, and rich newspaper lore” and Library Journal calls it “darkly humorous and deeply engaging.” Pitts is a Pulitzer-Prizewinning journalist and the author of Before I Forget (2009) and Freeman (2012).

The Secret Chord
by Geraldine Brooks
Brooks is a Pulitzer Prizewinning novelist (for March, 2005) with a devoted readership. Her newest novel takes a look at the life of the biblical King David—a complex and often bloody story that takes David from shepherd to king during the second Iron Age in Israel. Booklist says “the novel feels simultaneously ancient, accessible, and timeless” and Publishers Weekly calls it an “ambitious and psychologically astute novel” in which Brooks “evokes time and place with keenly drawn detail… with the verve of an adroit storyteller.” Brooks is also the author of novels Year of Wonders (2001), People of the Book (2008), and Caleb's Crossing (2011).

Ghostly: A Collection of Ghost Stories
Edited by Audrey Niffenegger
If the longer nights of the looming season have you craving darker fare, this collection of stories may suit you. Stories of ghosts and hauntings by both classic and contemporary authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Saki, Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link and A.S. Byatt “do an excellent job of evoking that crucial frisson of dread” (Publishers Weekly).

by Lalo Eduardo, translated by David Frye
In San Juan, Puerto Rico, an unhappy professor falls in love with a mysterious stalker who leaves him a trail of notes signed Simone. His admirer turns out to be a lesbian immigrant from China named Li with a tragic past—and he pursues a doomed love affair. Kirkus says, “It's a bleak but emotionally resonant work that finds weighty things to say about writing, culture, Puerto Rican identity, and the dangers of projecting one's desire upon another.” Simone won the prestigious 2013 Rómulo Gallegos prize and is the first of Eduardo’s works to be translated into English.

Cleopatra's Shadows
by Emily Holleman
This intriguing and intricately detailed novel sheds light on a lesser-known chapter in ancient Hellenistic Egypt by telling the stories of Cleopatra’s sisters, Berenice and Arsinoe. At 21, eldest sister Berenice seizes the throne in a coup against her father, the pharaoh Ptolemy. Ptolemy, Cleopatra and others flee to Rome to rally support for their side, leaving eight-year-old Arsinoe behind. First time novelist Holleman effectively brings this dramatic and often bloody story to life by alternating the viewpoints of Berenice and Arsinoe. “Holleman's imaginative, textured portraits of the lives and ambitions of these little-known heroines will appeal to readers of historical and literary fiction alike” (Publishers Weekly).

Looking for more reading recommendations? Try our service for readers,Book Me! Fill out the online form and a librarian will send you a personalized list of reading suggestions.

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in September 2015


by Jonathan Franzen
Pip is a young woman living in a squat in Oakland and struggling with student debt, a dead-end job, a complicated relationship with her mother. She’s never known who her father is, and her mother’s not telling. Pip gets a big break when she gets recruited by a Wikileaks-type organization headquartered in the Bolivian jungle led by a charismatic leader with a shady past. This is just one strand of a multilayered story with a grand ensemble of characters .Tough-to-please New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani praises its “gripping, foot-on-the-gas plot” and Booklist says Franzen’s “signature qualities converge in a new, commanding fluidity, from his inquiry into damaged families to his awed respect for nature, brainy drollery, and precise, resonant detail.” Franzen’s books (The Corrections, Freedom) are always popular with Oakland readers, so place your hold now! But don’t get discouraged if the hold list is long—as always, we buy more copies as the list grows to minimize the wait.

The Girl in the Spider's Web
by David Lagercrantz
The incredibly popular Swedish crime series featuring idealistic journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the punked-out, computer-hacking, ass-kicking antihero Lisbeth Salander is back, in a twisty tale that incorporates national security, government surveillance, corporate misdeeds and personal vengeance. The estate of the late author Stieg Larsson chose Lagercrantz to continue the series (though not without controversy) and The New York Times’ Kakutani says “Salander and Blomkvist have survived the authorship transition intact and are just as compelling as ever.” This book will have a big wait list too, so put your name in now!

Under the Udala Trees
by Chinelo Okparanta
11-year-old Ijeoma, life shattered by the Nigerian Civil War, is sent to live with family friends where she meets Amina, another refugee. The two girls fall in love, but when their relationship is discovered, Ijeoma is sent back to her mother. As Ijeoma becomes a woman, she must face her feelings and sexuality in a repressive and homophobic society. Publishers Weekly says “Okparanta's characters are just as compelling as teenagers as they are as adults and readers will be swept up in this tale of the power of love.” Okparanta is the author of the story collection Happiness, Like Water (2013) and was a New York Public Library Young Lions finalist and one of Granta's six New Voices for 2012.

The Story of the Lost Child
by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein
Elena returns to her childhood town to live in an apartment above her longtime friend and rival Lila as the two face motherhood and ageing together against the backdrop of corrupt and impoverished Naples. Booklist raves, “A friendship so reflective and yet so repellent, so truthfully plumbed, is a rare thing written.” This is the fourth installment in a saga that takes a deep look at women’s lives, friendships and motherhood, written by a celebrated and famously mysterious Italian author whose true identity has never been revealed. Readers unfamiliar with this series should begin with My Brilliant Friend (2012).

Gold, Fame, Citrus
by Claire Vaye Watkins
In the near future, Southern California is out of water, and most residents have been evacuated but for a few resisters, including Luz, the former poster child for the California Bureau of Conservation, and Ray, a U.S. solider who’s gone AWOL. They’re squatting the abandoned Hollywood mansion of a starlet when they find an abandoned toddler, and decide to head east in the direction of a fabled desert commune. Kirkus calls it “magnificently original” and Publishers Weekly says that it’s “packed with persuasive detail, luminous writing, and a grasp of the history (popular, political, natural, and imagined) needed to tell a story that is original yet familiar, strange yet all too believable.” Watkins won the Story Prize plus a fistful of other awards for her 2012 collection Battleborn.

(And if drought-inspired ecodystopias are up your alley and you’re looking for more, check out a recent blogpost here.)

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights
by Salman Rushdie
In the 12th century, the jinn Lightening Princess fell in love with a mortal, a Spanish-Arab philosopher who endorsed reason and rationality in the face of religious intolerance. In present day New York, their descendants are tangled in a supernatural struggle between good and evil that lasts for 1001 days. Booklist calls it a “rambunctious, satirical, and bewitching metaphysical fable” that delivers “swiftly flowing, incisive, piercingly funny commentary on everything from religious extremists to reality TV, anti-Semitism and racism, and economic injustice.” Kirkus calls it “beguiling and astonishing, wonderful and wondrous. Rushdie at his best.”

Love Love 
by Sung J. Woo
Kevin and Judy Lee are siblings in their late 30s struggling with divorce, go-nowhere careers, and a father who is dying of kidney failure. Kevin was planning to donate a kidney until medical tests revealed that he’s not a match—and he was adopted. Judy won’t even consider donating due to the grudge she holds against her father. “Woo's observations about aging, loss, and disillusionment are so smart, so sharp and astute that they'll haunt readers long after the final page has been turned. That he manages to find the beauty, humor, and even optimism in the struggle makes this glorious, at times painful, but always rewarding novel a stunning achievement” (Booklist). Woo is the author of Everything Asian (2009).

After the Parade
by Lori Ostlund
40-year-old Aaron is no longer in love with Walter, his partner for the past two decades. He leaves Walter and their home in Albuquerque, and starts a new life in San Francisco—prompting him to look back on his lonely and melancholy life. “Everything here aches, from the lucid prose to the sensitively treated characters to their beautiful and heartbreaking stories” (Kirkus). Ostlund’s 2009 short story collection The Bigness of the World was the winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award, the Edmund White Award and the California Book Award.

by Nikesh Shukla
Brothers Kitab and Aziz live in London but spend too much of their time in the online world, on every social media site you can think of. Kitab encounters his online doppelgänger on Facebook—but is he a friend, a stalker or an identity thief? Aziz also finds an online doppelgänger and heads off to New York City to find him, blogging all the way. “Shukla's novel is a charming, sometimes-satirical take on the narratives we create about ourselves and those around us,” says Kirkus, and Booklist calls it “amusing and engaging.”

The Story of My Teeth
by Valeria Luiselli, translated by Christina MacSweeney
Gustavo "Highway" Sánchez is the world’s best auctioneer, and the proud owner of Marilyn Monroe’s teeth, which he installed in his mouth after purchasing them at an "auction of contraband memorabilia in a karaoke bar in Little Havana." This is the jumping off point for an unusual and clever novel written by a Mexican-born author recognized as a "5 Under 35" by the National Book Foundation. Kirkus calls it “a lively, loopy experimental novel, rich with musings on language, art, and, yes, teeth” and “a kind of extended commentary on how possessions acquire value largely through the stories we tell about them.”

Looking for more reading recommendations? Try our service for readers, Book Me! Fill out the online form and a librarian will send you a personalized list of reading suggestions.

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in August 2015


A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories
by Lucia Berlin, edited by Stephen Emerson with a forward by Lydia Davis
Berlin, a onetime Oakland & Berkeley resident who passed away in 2004, wrote stories about the difficulties of addiction and working class life in a conversational tone. Despite her often dark subject matter, “the prevailing sensibility of this book…is cleareyed and even comic in the face of life hitting the skids” (Kirkus Reviews). In her forward, Lydia Davis compares Berlin to Alice Munro, Grace Paley and Tillie Olsen. Reviewers predict that this collection will bring her some long-deserved acclaim, since Berlin “may just be the best writer you've never heard of” (Publishers Weekly).

Make Your Home Among Strangers
by Jennine Capo Crucet
Lizet is not like her sister Leidy, who aspires to marriage and motherhood. She has different, secret dreams, so she applies to a posh New England college and gets a scholarship—without telling anyone in her Cuban American family. When she reveals her plans to become the first in her family to attend college, her parents are furious. Later, when Lizet returns to Miami for Thanksgiving after her first months away, her visit coincides with the arrival of a 5-year-old Cuban refugee who has washed ashore on a raft, working the Cuban ex-pat community into a frenzy. Debut novelist and winner of a PEN/O. Henry and Iowa Short Fiction award, “Crucet depicts with insight and subtlety the culture shock, confusion, guilt, and humiliations of the first-generation college student surrounded by privilege” (Library Journal).

by Vu Tran
Robert, an Oakland cop, finds himself embroiled in a search for his ex-wife in the grittiest and sleaziest parts of Las Vegas. His ex, Hong (known to Robert as Suzy) is missing after being badly beaten by her current husband Sonny. Hong’s tragic past, as a victim of war in Vietnam and as a refugee in Malaysia, unfolds as Robert hunts for her and plans to even the score on her behalf. “This haunting and mesmerizing debut is filled with all the noir elements—a dark and seedy underworld, damsels in distress, tarnished heroes, and a blurring of moral boundaries” while “it examines such themes as culture, desperation, memory, mental illness, love, loss, and redemption” (Booklist).

Flood of Fire
by Amitav Ghosh
An accomplished Bengali author concludes his historical fiction trilogy that began with Sea of Poppies (2008, shortlisted for the 2008 Booker Prize) and continued with River of Smoke (2011, shortlisted for the Asian Literary Prize). Flood of Fire revolves around India’s involvement in the First Opium War of 1839 to '41 between China and England. It follows a large cast of characters with shifting relationships to the drug trade and each other, and the military actions that amounted to a “nineteenth-century war on drugs.” “This feverishly detailed, vividly panoramic, tumultuous, funny, and heartbreaking tale offers a vigorous conclusion to Ghosh's astutely complex and profoundly resonant geopolitical saga” (Booklist).

Bright Lines
by Tanwi Nandini Islam
The Saleems are a Bangladeshi family raising their daughter in post-9/11 Brooklyn, along with orphaned niece Ella, who harbors a secret romantic love for her beautiful cousin. The Saleems later take in Maya, the runaway daughter of a Muslim cleric. In this coming-of-age story, the three girls confront their roots, forbidden loves and difficult family secrets. “The novel is a sensitive and subtle exploration of the experience of gender nonconformity across cultures” and “a transcontinental, transgenerational tale of a family and its secrets” (Kirkus Reviews).

by Ottessa Moshfegh
It’s Christmastime in the 1960s, but things are bleak in this creepy tale from an Oakland author. Eileen is lonely and miserable, living with her alcoholic, abusive father in a filthy and run-down house in New England, where she is a secretary at a boys’ prison. When the beautiful and mysterious Rebecca joins the prison staff, Eileen is smitten and determined to be her friend at all costs—which leads to a shocking crime. Booklist calls it “literary psychological suspense at its best” and Kirkus calls it “a shadowy and superbly told story of how inner turmoil morphs into outer chaos.”

Best Boy
by Eli Gottlieb
Todd Aaron is a middle aged man with Autism who has been thriving at the Payton Living Center for four decades. His routines are suddenly disrupted by the arrivals of a disturbing new roommate, an untrustworthy staff aide, and an intriguing new female resident. Suddenly Todd’s usual longing for home become unbearable and he attempts an escape. Kirkus calls it an “eloquent, sensitive rendering of a marginalized life” and Publishers Weekly says that Todd’s “voice is spectacular” and the story is “never less than captivating.”

Infinite Home
by Kathleen Alcott
Edith is an aging widow with fading memory and a rambling Brooklyn Brownstone. Her ragtag group of tenants keeps an eye out for her, but Edith’s son Owen only has eyes for the building’s potential profit. When Owen serves everyone with eviction papers, the tenants join forces to protect both Edith and their homes. “Ensemble novels often strain to stay true to all their voices, especially when those voices range across genders, ages, ethnicities, and mental capacities” but “Alcott (The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets, 2012) displays a deft hand with every one of her odd and startlingly real characters… A luminous second novel from a first-class storyteller” (Kirkus Reviews).

In the Language of Miracles
by Rajia Hassib
The lives of an affluent family of Egyptian Americans are shattered when the eldest son commits a murder-suicide. Hosaam, having long struggled with depression, kills himself and his ex-girlfriend Natalie, the daughter of the family next door in their affluent New Jersey suburb. What follows is an account of the myriad ways family members cope with their personal grief, as well as the public suspicion, prejudice and judgment leveled at them. Kirkus calls it a “sensitive, finely wrought debut” and Library Journal says “this rich novel offers complex characters, beautiful writing, and astute observations.”

The Girl from the Garden
by Parnaz Foroutan
An elderly woman looks back on her family’s tragic history in a Jewish community in Iran in the early 20th century. At the story’s center is Rakhel, who has failed to produce an heir for her wealthy husband, leaving her desperate and bitter, and prompting her husband to make decisions that will cause great sorrow among their household. The Girl from the Garden is “an immersive tale of the inner strength of women living in a time and within a culture when their personal thoughts and opinions were unwelcomed by men” (Library Journal). “Suspenseful and haunting, this riveting story of jealousy, sacrifice, and betrayal and the intimately drawn characters within will not be easily forgotten” (Booklist).

Looking for more reading recommendations? Try our new service, Book Me! Fill out the online form and a librarian will send you a personalized list of reading suggestions.  

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in July 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in June 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in May 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in April 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in March 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in February 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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