monthly fiction preview

Ten Great Reasons to Read Fiction in November

Place your holds now on these upcoming hits:

  • Oakland readers are lining up for bestselling author Barbara Kingsolver's newest novel, Flight Behavior. Following her 2009 Orange Prize-winning novel The Lacuna, Kingsolver “performs literary magic, generously illuminating both sides of the culture wars, from the global-warming debate to public education in America” (Library Journal). Read or listen to a preview of Flight Behavior here.
  • The holds list is also mounting for Ian McEwan’s latest, Sweet Tooth. The author of acclaimed novels such as Atonement (2002) has received numerous awards, including the six nominations for the Booker Prize, which he won in 1998 for AmsterdamSweet Tooth has been described as “multilayered and labyrinthine” and “masterful” by Kirkus Reviews.  You can get a preview of Sweet Tooth here.
  • Colm Tóibín, celebrated Irish author of The Master and Brooklyn, has a new novella that tells an unorthodox account of the life of Mary, adapted from a 2011 play written for the Dublin stage. The Testament of Mary is being called “A work suffused with mystery and wonder” (Kirkus) and “a moving and thought-­provoking take on the life of a religious icon” (Library Journal).
  • Alice Munro, frequent contender for the Nobel Prize and “arguably the best short-story writer in English today” (Booklist) has a new story collection called Dear Life. “It's no surprise that every story in the latest collection by Canada's Munro is rewarding and that the best are stunning” (Kirkus Reviews).
  • Philip Pullman is best known for His Dark Materials, a trilogy of fantasy novels beginning with The Golden Compass beloved by both young readers and adults. On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Grimm’s fairy tales, Pullman has written Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version,in which Pullman has selected and revised 50 tales. Pullman is a “master storyteller” who is “perfectly suited to the task” (Library Journal).
  • In 1994, Caleb Carr wrote a mystery steeped in history and psychology about a hunt for a gruesome serial killer in 1895 New York City. The Alienist became a bestseller, won an Anthony Award for Best First Novel, eventually sold two million copies, and years later the book still has a steady stream of readers at the Oakland Public Library. So even though it hasn’t received reviews yet, it’s probably worth keeping an eye out for The Legend of Broken,Carr’s medieval era adventure which rolls out at the end of the month.
  • Lydia Millet concludes the trilogy that began with How the Dead Dream (2008) and Ghost Lights (2011) with MagnificencePublishers Weekly calls Millet “a dazzling prose stylist” and Booklist calls her trilogy “searching, bitterly funny, ecologically attuned”.
  • Another posthumous novel is due out this month from the late, much admired Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño, author of 2666 and The Savage DetectivesWoes of the True Policeman might be Bolaño's final novel—he started writing it in the 1980s and revisited it later in life, but it remained unfinished at the time of his death in 2003. Kirkus Reviews calls it “a seductive grab bag filled with the mysteries of sexuality and literature”.
  • Ru is a semi-autobiographical novel by Vietnamese-Canadian author Kim Thuy. The novel, originally written in French, debuted in Canada and won their Governor General’s Award for 2010.  Tracing her family’s refugee journey in the late 1970s from Vietnam to Malaysia to Canada, this is a “luminous first novel of memories strung together with concise yet lyrical and sensuous prose” (Booklist).
  • Eduardo Halfon is a Guatemalan-born writer who has spent much of his life in the United States. He currently splits his time between his native country and Nebraska. Although he is bilingual, he writes in Spanish, and has already won prizes in the Spanish language literary world. A Guggenheim Fellowship helped him to finish The Polish Boxer, and it is his first work to be translated into English. A Booklist reviewer raved: “The Polish Boxer is sublime and arresting, and will linger with readers, who will be sure to revisit it again and again”.

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


Flight Behavior

by Barbara Kingsolver
Tired of living on a failing farm and suffering oppressive poverty, bored housewife Dellarobia Turnbow, on the way to meet a potential lover, is detoured by a miraculous event on the Appalachian mountainside that ignites a media and religious firestorm that changes her life forever.

Sweet Tooth
by Ian McEwan
Summary: Recruited into MI5 against a backdrop of the Cold War in 1972, Cambridge student Serena Frome, a compulsive reader, is assigned to infiltrate the literary circle of a promising young writer whose politics align with those of the government.

The Testament of Mary 
by Colm Tóibín
A provocative imagining of the later years of the mother of Jesus finds her living a solitary existence in Ephesus years after her son's crucifixion and struggling with guilt, anger, and feelings that her son is not the son of God and that His sacrifice was not for a worthy cause.

Dear Life 
by Alice Munro
 A collection of stories illuminates moments that shape a life, from a dream or a sexual act to simple twists of fate, and is set in the countryside and towns of Lake Huron.

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version 
by Philip Pullman 
 Presents mature and scholarly retellings of fifty favorite and lesser-known fairy tales on the two hundredth anniversary of the Grimm brothers' "Children's and Household Tales," in a volume that includes such stories as "Cinderella," "Rapunzel," and "Briar-Rose." 

The Legend of Broken
by Caleb Carr
An epic account about the kingdom of Broken follows the efforts of a solitary noble soldier to confront legendary medieval adversaries to save a fortress city from internal and external dangers.

Magnificence 
by Lydia Millet
After her husband's death, Susan Lindley moves into her late great-uncle's Pasadena mansion and restores his taxidermy collection while being joined in the residence by an equally strange human menagerie.

Woes of the True Policeman 
by Roberto Bolaño
After his political disillusionment and love of poetry leads to a scandal that forces him to flee from Barcelona, Amalfitano, an exiled Chilean university professor and widower, arrives in Santa Teresa, Mexico where he meets a magician and writer whose work highlights the fragile nature of literature and life.

Ru 
by Kim Thuy
An award-winning autobiographical novel follows the immigration experience of a young Vietnamese girl who came of age in a hardscrabble Quebec community before earning an education and pursuing a career and her literary ambitions, in a story imparted as a sensuous array of memories

The Polish Boxer 
by Eduardo Halfon 
The narrator, a Guatemalan literature professor, encounters a number of interesting characters, including a Serbian classical pianist, a young Israeli woman, and a Mayan poet, before pursuing his most enigmatic subject--himself.

Coming in October: Five Hit Novels & Story Collections and Five More to Look Out For

Place your holds now on these upcoming hits:

  • Set in a North Dakota Ojibwe community, Louise Erdrich’s The Round House is the second installment in a planned trilogy that started with 2008’s Pulitzer finalist The Plague of Doves.
  • Best-selling mystery author Donna Leon takes a break from her Commissiario Guido Brunetti series, but still features the Venetian setting she’s famous for in her newest, The Jewels of Paradise.
  • Dennis Lehane’s newest thriller Live by Night is being described as “an utterly magnetic novel on every level, a reimagining of the great themes of popular fiction--crime, family, passion, betrayal--set against an exquisitely rendered historical backdrop” (Booklist).
  • New story collections from beloved award-winning authors: Sherman Alexie’s newest is Blasphemy; Emma Donoghue’s Astray follows her very popular 2010 novel Room.
  • It’s going to be a busy month: there are many more notable October releases from hailed authors, such as House on Mango Street author Sandra Cisneros; popular and versatile writer Walter Mosley; Booker winner John Banville; Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk; literary icon Tom Wolfe and worldwide bestselling crime novelist Jo Nesbo.

Now for a few books you might not hear so much about but are definitely worth checking out:

  • The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg has been receiving glowing advance reviews. It’s being called the “sleeper hit of the fall” (CBS This Morning), and “a sharp-tongued, sweet-natured masterpiece of Jewish family life” (Kirkus).
  • Fans of the cult favorite House of Leaves will be excited to hear that there’s a new book from Mark Z. Danielewski, The Fifty Year Sword. He’s known for his playfully experimental and postmodern use of text—not everyone’s cup of tea, but he does seem to have a devoted following.
  • Life Goes On is Hans Keilson’s 1933 autobiographical first novel, in English for the first time. Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review, calling the book “a wonderful achievement”. Keilson received a good deal of attention in 2010 for The Death of the Adversary and Comedy in a Minor Key. At the time he was 100 years old (he died the following year); Francine Prose called him a “genius” and one of “the world’s very greatest writers” in the New York Times.
  • Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles sounds intriguing: a darkly comic and Kafkaesque story of one man’s disastrous housesitting gig for an obsessive compulsive friend. Booklist says “readers who enjoy stories that make them simultaneously cringe and howl with laughter will not want to miss this book.”
  • T. Geronimo Johnson’s debut Hold It ‘Til It Hurts is about two African American brothers who have just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. They have been welcomed by two surprises from their adoptive white parents: their father has just died, and their mother is offering the information they need to find their biological parents. Chitra Divakaruni writes in the San Francisco Chronicle: “this masterfully written book, filled with trenchant observations and unafraid of tenderness, marks Johnson as a writer to watch”.

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

The Round House
By Louise Erdrich
When his mother, a tribal enrollment specialist living on a reservation in North Dakota, slips into an abyss of depression after being brutally attacked, 14-year-old Joe Coutz sets out with his three friends to find the person that destroyed his family.

The Jewels of Paradise 
by Donna Leon
Caterina Pellegrini, a native Venetian with a doctorate in baroque opera, must determine the rightful ownership of two locked trunks belonging to a famous composer who has been dead for centuries.

Live by Night 
by Dennis Lehane
In 1926, during Prohibition, Joe Coughlin defies his strict law-and-order upbringing by climbing a ladder of organized crime that takes him from Boston to Cuba, where he encounters a dangerous cast of characters who are all fighting for their piece of the American dream.

Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories 
by Sherman Alexie
Combines fifteen of the author's classic short stories with fifteen new stories in an anthology that features tales involving donkey basketball leagues, lethal wind turbines, and marriage.

Astray 
by Emma Donoghue
A collection of short stories featuring a cross-section of society including runaways, drifters, gold miners, counterfeiters, attorneys, and slaves from Puritan Massachusetts and revolutionary New Jersey to antebellum Louisiana.

The Middlesteins 
by Jami Attenberg 
Two siblings with very different personalities attempt to take control of their mother's food obsession and massive weight gain to save her life after their father walks out and leaves her reeling in the Chicago suburbs.

The Fifty Year Sword
by Mark Z. Danielewski
Late one evening at a party at an East Texas ranch house, five orphans gather to hear a story about a quest for a terrible weapon. Before them lies a long black box with five latches. As the owner of the box settles into a curious tale of revenge, the children grow more and more captivated, even as we grow more and more afraid that a new crime may await them all, especially as clocks in Upshur County approach midnight.

Life Goes On
by Hans Keilson
Published when the author was just twenty-three, Life Goes On was Hans Keilson's literary debut, an extraordinary autobiographical novel that paints a dark yet illuminating portrait of Germany between the world wars. It is the story of Herr Seldersen--a Jewish storeowner modeled on Keilson's father, a textile merchant and decorated World War I veteran--along with his wife and son, Albrecht, and the troubles they encounter as the German economy collapses and politics turn rancid. The book was banned by the Nazis in 1934. Shortly afterward, following his editor's advice, Keilson emigrated to the Netherlands, where he would spend the rest of his life. Life Goes On is an essential volume for readers of Keilson's later work.

Care of Wooden Floors 
by Will Wiles
A British copywriter house-sits at his composer friend Oskar’s ultra-modern apartment in a glum Eastern European city. The instructions are simple: Feed the cats, don’t touch the piano, and make sure nothing damages the priceless wooden floors. Content for the first time in ages, he accidentally spills some wine. The apartment and the narrator’s sanity gradually fall apart in this unusual and satisfying novel.

Hold It ‘Til It Hurts
by T. Geronimo Johnson
by When Achilles Conroy and his brother Troy return from a tour of duty in Afghanistan, their white mother presents them with the key to their past: envelopes containing details about their respective birth parents. After Troy disappears, Achilles-always his brother's keeper-embarks on a harrowing journey in search of Troy, an experience that will change him forever. Heartbreaking, intimate, and at times disturbing, Hold It 'Til It Hurts is a modern-day odyssey through war, adventure, disaster, and love, and explores how people who do not define themselves by race make sense of a world that does.

Posted on 10/01/12 by Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library.

Coming in September: Five Hit Novels and Five More to Look Out For

Place your holds now for these upcoming hits:

  • The Bay Area’s own Michael Chabon has a new book out in September, and his Oakland fans will be especially interested in the local focus. It’s called Telegraph Avenue, and features two down-and-out record store owners battling the encroachment of an entertainment megastore. You can get a preview from NPR here.
  • Pulitzer prizewinner Junot Díaz (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) and Orange Prize winner Zadie Smith (White Teeth) also have new books out next month that are sure to garner lots of attention. 
  • In September we’ll also see a new novel from Lee Child, the seventeenth thrilling novel featuring the mysterious drifter Jack Reacher. If you’ve never heard of this award winning and extremely popular series, you will soon: Tom Cruise will play Reacher in a feature film this December.
  • Readers are already placing holds for The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults coming out in a few weeks. Just don’t expect wizards or magic!
  • Keep in mind that as the hold lists grow longer, we'll order more copies.

Now for a few books you might not hear so much about but are definitely worth checking out:

  • Attica Locke’s second mystery, The Cutting Season, takes place in post-Katrina Louisiana where a murder investigation exposes new evidence in a crime against a former slave more than a century earlier. Her first novel, Black Water Rising, was a nominee for a fistful of awards including the Orange Prize, the Edgar Award, the NAACP Image Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award.
  • Victor LaValle also has a number of awards under his belt, plus a new novel, The Devil in Silver, which is being described as a cross between One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and a Stephen King tale (Library Journal). If that isn’t enough comparisons for you, his work has been likened to the writing of Ralph Ellison and Thomas Pynchon (Wall Street Journal).
  • Tatjana Soli is receiving praise for her follow-up to 2010 debut The Lotus Eaters, which was a New York Times bestseller and James Tait Black prize winner. Her new novel, The Forgetting Tree, is a tale of grief and struggle on a citrus farm in Southern California.
  • Two of September’s most well-reviewed debut novels tell Iraq War stories. Fobbit, by David Abrams, is a satire of the Iraq War that “nails the comedy and the pathos, the boredom and the dread, crafting the Iraq War's answer to Catch-22” (Publishers Weekly). In The Yellow Birds, debut author Kevin Powers “writes with a rawness that brings the sights and smells as well as the trauma and decay of war home to the reader” (Kirkus).

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

Telegraph Avenue
By Michael Chabon
When ex-NFL quarterback Gibson Goode, the fifth richest black man in America, decides to open his newest Dogpile megastore on Telegraph Avenue, Nat and Archy, the owners of Brokeland Records, fear for their business until Gibson's endeavor exposes a decades-old secret history.

This is How You Lose Her
By Junot Díaz
Presents a collection of stories that explores the heartbreak and radiance of love as it is shaped by passion, betrayal, and the echoes of intimacy.

NW
by Zadie Smith
Growing up in the same 1970s urban planning development in Northwest London, four young people pursue independent and reasonably successful lives until one of them is abruptly drawn out of her isolation by a stranger who is seeking her help.

A Wanted Man: A Reacher Novel
By Lee Child
Hitching a ride to Virginia in a car with three strangers, Jack Reacher finds himself unwittingly involved in a massive conspiracy that makes him a threat.

The Casual Vacancy
By J.K. Rowling
A long-anticipated first adult novel by the award-winning author of the Harry Potter series follows the early death of a small town councilman whose demise reveals deep-rooted conflicts in his seemingly idyllic community, which rapidly deteriorates in the face of cultural disputes, generation clashes and a volatile election.

The Cutting Season
By Attica Locke
When the dead body of a young woman is found on the grounds of Belle Vie, the estate's manager, Caren Gray, launches her own investigation into Belle Vie's history, which leads her to a centuries old mystery involving the plantation's slave quarters--and her own past.

The Devil in Silver
By Victor LaValle
Landing in a budget-strapped mental institution after being accused of a crime he does not remember, Pepper is assaulted by a monstrous creature that has been attacking patients but that the hospital staff does not believe exists.

The Forgetting Tree
By Tatjana Soli
Abandoning the world of her literary education to move to her husband's California citrus ranch, Claire Nagy forges an all-consuming bond with her family's land that eventually supersedes her relationships with her husband and children. 

Fobbit
By David Adams
At Foreward Operating Base Triumph, a combat-avoiding staff sergeant named Chance Gooding spends his time composing press releases that spin grim events into statements more palatable to the public. 

The Yellow Birds
By Kevin Powers
In the midst of a bloody battle in the Iraq War, two soldiers, bound together since basic training, do everything to protect each other from both outside enemies and the internal struggles that come from constant danger.