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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in April

Maya’s Notebook
by Isabel Allende 
In Allende’s latest, 19-year-old Berkeley native Maya moves to the Chilean island of Chiloé, sent by her grandmother to escape a recent descent into drugs and crime. Although Allende sets this novel in the present day, she manages to weave Chile’s dark political history into the story. Booklist raves, Maya’s Notebook “is a boldly plotted, sharply funny, and purposefully bone-shaking novel of sexual violence, political terror, "collective shame," and dark family secrets, all transcended by courage and love.”

Life After Life
by Kate Atkinson
Popular mystery writer Atkinson takes a break from her Jackson Brodie series for a historical and speculative novel with an unusual premise that Booklist calls “wildly inventive.” Life After Life follows Ursula Todd from her birth in 1910 England through World War II as she relives her life in numerous ways, experiencing death and rebirth multiple times, while world history is rewritten over and over. Atkinson plays with the idea that life could take any direction in a novel that is “provocative, entertaining and beautifully written” (Kirkus Reviews).

Life After Life
by Jill McCorkle
Coincidentally, author Jill McCorkle has a new novel with the exact same name that is also receiving early praise. Her Life After Life follows the people who cross paths at a retirement center in small-town North Carolina. Kirkus says “McCorkle's masterful microcosm invokes profound sadness, harsh insight and guffaws, often on the same page.”

Last Friends
by Gardam, Jane 
Last Friends concludes the trilogy British author Gardam began with Old Filth (2006) and The Man in the Wooden Hat (2011), known for its “witty style, insatiable readability, and cast of strange and amazing characters” (Booklist). While the two earlier books concentrated on Sir Edward "Old Filth" Feathers and his wife, Betty, this new volume turns to Sir Edward’s longtime rival, Sir Terence Veneering, and his rise from poverty in an era when class meant everything. In a starred review, Kirkus calls it “exquisitely expressive” and “impeccably written.”

Harvard Square 
by Andre Aciman
Harvard Square takes place in 1970’s Boston, where an Egyptian Jewish Harvard student befriends a Tunisian Muslim cab driver. United by a common language (French) and shared immigrant experiences, they spend the summer chasing women until circumstances create a wedge between them. Publishers Weekly gives Harvard Square a starred review, and Booklist says it “provides an interesting look at the dilemmas of identity, the concept of home, and our enduring need to belong.” Egyptian-born Aciman is the author of an acclaimed memoir and several novels, including Call Me By Your Name (2007), a New York Times Notable Book and Lambda Literary Award winner.

The Hope Factory
by Lavanya Sankaran
The Hope Factory is “a vivid exposé of modern India's growing pains” (Kirkus), in which the owner of an auto parts manufacturer tries to expand his business without the help of his father-in-law. Meanwhile, his family’s household help are struggling, like the maid who is trying to provide for her family while fighting eviction from a rental that has been targeted by developers. Publishers Weekly offers high praise to Sankaran, saying The Hope Factory “firmly establishes her talent through the nuances of her characters and a striking exploration of culture.”

Snapper
by Brian Kimberling
Nathan Lochmueller is an aimless college graduate whose talent for tracking birds lands him a job as a researcher despite his usual poor luck. As he wanders through the forests of southern Indiana, he encounters a number of curious folks. At home he struggles with his complicated romantic relationship and doomed capers with his immature friends. Kirkus calls Snapper “a well-turned debut that airdrops its characters into an appealingly offbeat milieu” told with a “wry, self-deprecating wit.”

The Morels
by Christopher Hacker
In this metafictional drama, Arthur Morel has just finished a loosely autobiographical novel called The Morels, in which he has described a shocking and criminal family secret. He claims it is fiction, but his family no longer believes him, causing an avalanche of personal and legal troubles. Morel runs into the novel’s narrator, a filmmaker, who decides to make a documentary that will separate the family’s truth from fiction. Library Journal calls it “entertaining,” “audacious,” “thought-provoking” and “one of the top first novels of the year.”

The Carrion Birds
by Urban Waite
The hero of this dark thriller is a widower, father of a son with a disability, Vietnam veteran, and a drug smuggler. He’s ready to retire from the cartel and start a new life with his son, but he has one last score to settle. Kirkus Reviews calls The Carrion Birds “fierce and lyrical”, saying “Waite's narrative rages as a perfect torrent of violence flooding toward its inevitable conclusion.” Library Journal recommends it for fans of Cormac McCarthy and “readers who like their crime fiction on the dark side.”

The Humanity Project
by Jean Thompson
The Humanity Project is a compassionate look at people struggling with bad circumstances and bad choices. Sean is a handyman, low on work and about to lose his house, while his teenage son, Conner, makes a series of disastrous decisions. Art is a pot-smoking divorcee who is suddenly a father again when his estranged 15-year-old daughter is sent to live with him after a tragedy and a string of dangerous behavior. The lives of these characters intersect when a wealthy widow decides to establish a nonprofit with a vague mission: The Humanity Project. Booklist calls The Humanity Project “instantly addictive,” saying “Thompson is at her tender and scathing best in this tale of yearning, paradox, and hope.” Thompson’s books have earned high praise; her novel The Year We Left Home was selected by Kirkus as one of the best books of the year in 2011, her 2009 story collection Do Not Deny Me was a New York Times Notable Book, and Who Do You Love: Stories was a 1999 National Book Award finalist for fiction.

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

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in March

The Burgess Boys
by Elizabeth Strout
Oakland readers are already joining the hold list for Elizabeth Strout’s new novel, her first since 2008’s Pulitzer Prize winning Olive KitteridgeThe Burgess Boys is about three estranged siblings brought back together by a family crisis, and a community fractured by a hate crime against Somali immigrants in small-town Maine. “Strout's tremendous talent at creating a compelling interest in what seems on the surface to be the barest of actions gives her latest work an almost meditative state, in which the fabric of family, loyalty, and difficult choices is revealed in layer after artful layer” (Booklist).

Oleander Girl
by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Korobi Roy, orphaned at birth, has been raised by protective grandparents in Kolkata (Calcutta, India). Plain and unsophisticated Korobi makes a strange match for her wealthy and dashing fiancé Rajat, much to others’ surprise and disapproval. Soon after their formal engagement, Korobi learns that her father is indeed alive; he lives in the United States, he was never married to her mother, and he is an African-American man. With this news, she leaves for the U.S. to find him. Booklist calls Oleander Girl “utterly transfixing” and “a superbly well-plotted, charming, yet hard-hitting novel of family, marriage, and class.” Divakaruni may be best known for her 1997 novel set in Oakland, The Mistress of Spices, which was named one of the top 100 books of the 20th Century by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Murder Below Montparnasse
by Cara Black
San Francisco’s own Cara Black continues her popular Aimée Leduc mysteries set in present day Paris. An elderly Russian art collector may have clues to the whereabouts of private detective Leduc’s long lost mother. This is the thirteenth installment (following 2012’s Murder at the Lantern Rouge) in a series that has been called “taut, well-observed, and thoroughly entertaining” (Library Journal). If you’re new to this atmospheric series, start with number one, Murder in the Marais.

The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat
by Edward Kelsey Moore
Moore’s debut novel follows the trajectory of the lives and friendship of three women from high school through middle age. The Supremes are an inseparable trio—Odette, Clarice and Barbara—and Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat is their regular hangout for forty years, as well as the first Black-owned business in Plainview, Indiana. Library Journal predicts it will be a best seller, and praises Moore’s use of “warmhearted humor and salty language to bring to life a tight-knit African-American community that's complete with competing churches, wacky relations, a fortune-telling fraud, and the ghost of a drunken Eleanor Roosevelt.”

The Fun Parts: Stories
by Sam Lipsyte
Lipsyte is known as the satirical author of Home Land and The Ask, both New York Times Notable Books. His new collection sounds caustic, witty, offbeat and sometimes violent. The Fun Parts includes stories published in The Paris Review and The New Yorker; you can read a sample herePublishers Weekly gives it a starred review, noting “Lipsyte's biting humor suffuses the collection, but it's his ability to control the relative darkness of each moment that makes the stories so engrossing.”

Sister Mine
by Nalo Hopkinson
Hopkinson is a Jamaican-Canadian science fiction and fantasy writer who has been recognized as a World Fantasy Award winner and Nebula Award nominee. In Sister Mine, Hopkinson tells the story of the conjoined offspring of a deity and a human woman turned sea creature. Their surgical separation leads to the loss of power by one sister, and the gain of supernatural power by the other. Hopkinson’s many fans will look forward to this release.

A Thousand Pardons
by Jonathan Dee
In A Thousand Pardons, successful lawyer Ben Armstead’s poor behavior ends in spectacular disaster, ruining his career and his marriage. His ex-wife Helen successfully emerges from this crisis by starting  a career as a PR maven who, in a departure from the prevailing wisdom of the public relations field, rescues her clients from their own catastrophes by convincing them to apologize and ask for forgiveness. In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews calls it a “triumph”, saying “Dee has written a page turner without sacrificing a smidgen of psychological insight”. Dee’s 2010 novel, The Privileges, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

A Tale for the Time Being
by Ruth Ozeki
A writer struggling with writer’s block on the coast of British Columbia is connected to a lonely and suicidal teen in Tokyo by means of a lunchbox that washes up on the beach after the 2011 tsunami carries it across the ocean. A Tale for the Time Being intertwines the stories of these two strangers with an account of the life of the teen’s great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun, in a “beautiful narrative remarkable for its unusual but attentively structured plot” (Booklist). Kirkus raves: “The novel's seamless web of language, metaphor and meaning can't be disentangled from its powerful emotional impact: These are characters we care for deeply, imparting vital life lessons through the magic of storytelling. A masterpiece, pure and simple.” Ozeki is the author of the best-selling novel My Year of Meats (1998).

Ghana Must Go 
by Taiye Selasi 
A Ghanaian man achieves the American Dream: he is a successful doctor in Boston with a wife and four children. But when he leaves his family for another woman, the family splits apart. Sixteen years later they travel from the United States to Accra, reunited by the patriarch’s funeral. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly calls it “gorgeous” and “driven by eloquent prose.” Debut novelist Selasi is a protégée of Toni Morrison and has a story included in The Best American Short Stories 2012.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia
by Mohsin Hamid
If this sounds like a business self-help book, it is because the author inventively evokes that genre to tell the rags-to-riches story of an unnamed narrator in an unidentified developing nation. The New York Times calls this novel a “a compelling story that works on two levels — in this case as a deeply moving and highly specific tale of love and ambition, and as a larger, metaphorical look at the mind-boggling social and economic changes sweeping ‘rising Asia.’” Moreover, “Mr. Hamid reaffirms his place as one of his generation’s most inventive and gifted writers.” Among other commendations, Hamid’s novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist was shortlisted for the Man Booker Award and Moth Smoke was a PEN/Hemingway Award finalist. You can read an excerpt of How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia here.

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

Posted on 3/1/2013 by Christy Thomas, Librarian, Main Library.

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in February

See Now Then
by Jamaica Kincaid
See Now Then is the first novel in over a decade from acclaimed Caribbean author Jamaica Kincaid, making its release a highly anticipated event! Kincaid tells the story of a family in small town Vermont, focusing on a marriage that is falling apart. In a starred review, Booklist raves: “Kincaid has created a measured, bewitching, and metaphysical fable, as well as a venomous, acidly comic, and plangent tale of love, betrayal, and loss that is at once slashingly personal and radiantly universal in its mystery, passion, and catharsis.” Fans may also want to catch her City Arts & Lectures appearance on Wednesday, February 13.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove: Stories
by Karen Russell
Karen Russell has received some remarkable honors in her short career: her novel Swamplandia! was a finalist for the Pulitzer in 2011; plus she was listed in The New Yorker's 20 Under 40 in 2010, in The National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35 in 2009, and in Granta's Best Young American Novelists in 2007. Her new collection of stories is being called “consistently arresting, frequently stunning” by Kirkus Reviews and “mind-blowing, mythic, macabre, hilarious, and tender” by Booklist. If you love the short story format, also check out her first book, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.

The Dinner
by Herman Koch; translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett. 
The Dinner is already a best seller in Europe, and the winner of a prestigious book prize in the Netherlands. The story begins when two brothers and their wives meet for dinner in an extravagant restaurant. What begins as a “witty look at contemporary manners” turns into “a take-no-prisoners psychological thriller” (Publishers Weekly) as the two couples turn their attention to a gruesome and criminal family secret. Library Journal calls it “a shocking, humorous, and entertaining novel that effectively uses a misanthropic narrator in leading us through a fancy dinner, with morally savage undertones.” The Wall Street Journal compares it to last summer’s hit thriller Gone Girl.  Read or listen to a preview here.

Benediction 
Kent Haruf
Haruf is best known for his 1999 best seller Plainsong, a finalist for both the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the National Book Award. In Benediction, the author returns to the same setting—Holt, in the high plains of Colorado. In this small town, families grapple with numerous forms of difficulty, such as death and loss and estrangement from loved ones. Booklist gives it a starred review, praising Haruf, who “again draws a story elegant in its simple telling and remarkable in its authentic capture of universal human emotions”.

The Love Song of Jonny Valentine
by Teddy Wayne
The Love Song of Jonny Valentine is a bittersweet satire dissecting the life of an eleven-year-old pop star. Jonny is on tour, coping with his manager mom, and grappling with the burdens of celebrity life, while secretly searching for his long lost dad. Publishers Weekly gives it a starred review and the New York Times says the book is “more than a scabrous sendup of American celebrity culture; it’s also a poignant portrait of one young artist’s coming of age.” Love Song is a follow up to Wayne’s debut novel Kapitoil, about a young, self-taught Qatari programmer who comes to New York City to work in finance. Kapitoil received great reviews but largely flew under the radar.

House of Earth 
by Woody Guthrie
House of Earth is the only completed novel by iconic folk singer Guthrie (1912-1967). He wrote it in the 1940s, and it is being published now for the first time. The novel is being described as folksy, political and erotic; it tells a Depression Era story of impoverished West Texas farmers struggling against dust storms that threaten their home. The resurrection of House of Earth is due to a perhaps unlikely duo of historian Douglas Brinkley and actor Johnny Depp, who co-edited this edition. Brinkley and Depp wrote about it last year in the New York TimesKirkus Reviews calls it “an entertainment--and an achievement even more than a curiosity, yet another facet of Guthrie's multiplex talents.” Publishers Weekly says Guthrie’s “heritage as folksinger, artist, and observer of West Texas strife lives on through these distinct pages infused with the author's wit, personality, and dedication to Americana.”

As Sweet as Honey
by Indira Ganesan 
Set on a small island in the Indian Ocean, As Sweet as Honey begins with a wedding in which the groom dies, leaving a new widow—who is also pregnant. The story continues with a large extended family of cousins, aunts and uncles, straddling the worlds of the East and West as their members connect with England and America. In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews says “the novel is masterful at exploring the difficulty of cultural identity and integration” and “the characters' genuine charm and the girlish, witty energy of the storytelling are irresistible.”

Percival Everett by Virgil Russell
by Percival Everett
Percival Everett is a Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California, prolific author and multiple prize winner, including two Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards. Everett’s newest novel, Percival Everett by Virgil Russell (it’s not a typo) sounds inventive, meta-fictional and at times downright baffling.  According to the publisher, it may be about a father who is writing “the novel he imagines his son would write” or perhaps “the novel that the son imagines his father would imagine, if he were to imagine the kind of novel the son would write”. Sounds confusing, but reviewers promise that the book is an “intriguing and intricate puzzle of a novel” (Booklist) which is “humanely adept at getting to the heart of the human condition” (Publishers Weekly).

Bear is Broken
by Lachlan Smith
Bear is Broken is Lachlan Smith’s first novel, a legal thriller –slash–murder mystery set in San Francisco. The protagonist is a new lawyer trying to follow in his older brother’s footsteps, a criminal defense attorney with a lot of enemies. While the brothers eat lunch in their usual hangout, the elder is suddenly shot in the head. Unfortunately, the local police aren’t very invested in solving the murder of an attorney that was seen as an adversary. Bear is Broken has received multiple starred reviews. Publishers Weekly praises its “assured prose and taut plotting” while Kirkus Reviews calls it “sensitive, ingenious and suspenseful.”

Indiscretion 
by Charles Dubow
Debut novel Indiscretion tells the story of a happy marriage between an award winning author and a financially independent woman. They lead a charmed life split between Manhattan and the Hamptons, until an affair breaks their family apart. This premise might not sound earthshattering, but reviewers are unanimously raving about this book. Booklist calls it “a totally addictive read”, Library Journal pronounces it a “deliciously absorbing page-turner”, Publishers Weekly declares it “smart and observant” and Kirkus Reviews calls it “outstanding”, saying it “skillfully tugs at the heartstrings”.

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

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in January

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
by Ayana Mathis
This debut novel chronicles the life of Hattie Shepherd, a young woman who migrates from the South to Philadelphia, and the lives of her children. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie was originally scheduled for release this month, but when the book was selected for Oprah’s Book Club the publisher moved the date up to early December. The novel is receiving rave reviews, even from the hard-to-please New York Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani, who compared Mathis’ work to that of Toni Morrison and Louise Erdrich.

Tenth of December: Stories
by George Saunders 
George Saunders is a writer of satirical fiction and essays who is perennially compared to Kurt Vonnegut and Mark Twain. Six of the stories in this collection have appeared in The New Yorker, and the title story was included in The Best American Short Stories 2012 and The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012Booklist calls the stories in Tenth of December “unpredictable, stealthily funny, and complexly affecting” and Publishers Weekly posits that “behind Saunders's comic talents, he might be the most compassionate writer working today.”

Habits of the House
by Fay Weldon 
Habits of the House is aimed squarely at Downton Abbey fans. The novel is the first in a planned trilogy following the domestic dramas of a titled family and their household in Edwardian England. Weldon wrote the pilot for the original Upstairs Downstairs series, so she is uniquely qualified to tell this type of story.

Truth in Advertising
by John Kenney
This debut by New Yorker contributor Kenney centers around a disillusioned ad writer who learns that his abusive father is dying; he decides to reconnect with his estranged family while juggling the daunting work assignment of creating a smash Super Bowl commercial for a brand of eco-friendly diapers. Booklist calls it a “masterful blend of wit and seriousness, stunning in its honesty” and reviewers recommend it for fans of Nick Hornby and Jonathan Tropper.

A Deeper Love Inside
by Sister Souljah
A Deeper Love Inside is a raw, gritty tale that continues the story that began with The Coldest Winter Ever. The novel follows the trials of the Winter’s younger sister, Porsche Santiaga. Following the incarceration of her parents, Porsche lands in a group home and is ultimately incarcerated herself. Readers of urban fiction have been waiting for this one for years. (Unfamiliar with urban fiction? Read this.)

Umbrella 
by Will Self
The U.S. release of this novel has been anticipated by American readers since it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in September. Self’s latest takes place in a mental institution in 1970’s England, where a doctor tries to revive a catatonic patient whose life story unfolds in the process. Kirkus Reviews calls Umbrella “brainy and outlandish” and says it is “uncompromising and relentless in the demands it makes upon the reader, yet there's a lyrical, rhapsodic element that continually pulls one into and through the narrative.”

A Memory of Light
by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
A Memory of Light is the concluding 14th volume in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time epic fantasy series, famous for complex plots and numerous characters. The Wheel of Time books have achieved both popular and critical success: many volumes have reached number one on the New York Times Bestseller List, and the series has been compared to the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. Jordan passed away in 2007, and the final volumes have resulted from a collaborative effort by Brandon Sanderson and the late author’s widow, using material Jordan left for that purpose. Fans will be thrilled that the wait for the final volume is over! If you’re new to this series, it starts with 1990’s The Eye of the World (although there is also a prequel, New Spring, from 2004).

The Last Runaway
by Tracy Chevalier
Historical Novelist Chevalier, best known for The Girl with the Pearl Earring, has a new novel that follows the mid-19th century life of an English Quaker girl who escapes a broken engagement by fleeing to Ohio, where she becomes involved with the Underground Railroad. Publishers Weekly calls it a “thought-provoking, lyrical novel” and Library Journal gives it a starred review.

The Illicit Happiness of Other People
by Manu Joseph
Set in early 1990s Madras, India, a reporter obsessively investigates the suicidal death of his teenage son, searching for clues among his child’s unfinished artworks and comics and interrogating his friends. Kirkus Reviews praises Joseph’s “extraordinary wit, cunning and sympathy about both family relationships and ultimate mysteries.” His debut novel, Serious Men, was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Award and was on the Huffington Post’s list of 10 Best Books of 2010.

The Miniature Wife: And Other Stories 
by Gonzales, Manuel
Gonzales offers a debut collection of short stories that infuse the mundane with fantastic and bizarre elements that are “rife with ingenuity and beholden to few rules” (Kirkus Reviews). Publishers Weekly gave the collection a starred review, saying that “with commendable skill, Gonzales seamlessly blends the real and the fantastic, resulting in a fun and provocative collection that readers will want to devour.” Read or listen to a preview here.

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in December

  • December’s most high-profile debut novel comes from Dick Wolf, creator and executive producer of TV’s Law and Order series. The Intercept sounds like a nail-biter. So far this thriller about a NYPD Intelligence officer trying to thwart a terrorist plot is receiving enthusiastic praise from reviewers and will probably continue to get lots of media attention.
  • Me Before You is the second novel from British author Jojo Moyes, in which a young caretaker attempts to quash the suicidal plans of her quadriplegic patient, a former playboy, adventurer and business tycoon. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly called it “a lovely novel, both nontraditional and enthralling.”
  • Sebastian Faulks, bestselling author of Birdsong and Charlotte Gray, has a new collection of five linked novellas called A Possible LifeLibrary Journal gushes, “Faulks's literary artistry is on gorgeous display.”  Publishers Weekly calls it “intensely absorbing.”
  • Mo Yan, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize for Literature, has a new book for English language readers: Pow!, originally published in his native China in 2003. Pre-publication reviews in the U.S. have yet to materialize, but an excerpt was published in the November 26 issue of the New Yorker for those looking for a preview.
  • Chris Ewan, popular author of the “Good Thief” series, comic mysteries featuring professional burglar and mystery writer Charlie Howard in various global hotspots (such as 2012’s The Good Thief’s Guide to Venice), has a new stand-alone mystery called Safe House. This book’s tone sounds much less lighthearted than Ewan’s usual: a man who has just experienced a motorcycle crash tries to piece together a knotty mystery that clashes with his personal memory. “With its well-structured plot, crisp dialogue, and moral ambiguities, this is a compelling mystery that could win him new fans.” (Booklist)
  • A Hollywood studio executive plunges into depression and claws his way out of it by leaving his life and family behind and travelling the globe in Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See, a fiction debut from screenwriter and journalist Juliann Garey. Library Journal calls it “A compelling read” and Kirkus Reviews declares “Garey breathes life into an uncomfortable and often misunderstood subject and creates a riveting experience.”
  • Jose Saramago’s Raised from the Ground was first published in 1980 and is only now available in English. This mid-career work by the late Nobel Prize winning author, a story of feudal life on farms in Southern Portugal, is considered both deeply personal and stylistically significant.
  • Another work posthumously published in translation comes from renowned Mexican author Carlos Fuentes: a clever satire called Adam in Eden. Although it is not one of his major works, “Fuentes's humor and keen eye make it quite rewarding,” according to Publishers Weekly.
  • New Yorker contributor Tessa Hadley has a new collection of fiction called Married Love and Other Stories. Her last novel, The London Train, was selected as one of the San Francisco Chronicle’s best books of 2011—now Married Love is on the just-released New York Times list of Notable Books for 2012.
  • Canadian writer Zsuzsi Gartner’s latest collection of satirical stories, Better Living Through Plastic Explosives, was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2011, and is now available in the U.S. According to Publisher’s Weekly, these stories “rollick into the depths of dark humor and absurdity.”  Booklist calls it “saturated with pop-culture references and intellectually hilarious.”

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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”.

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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.