10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in November 2016

The weather is getting cooler, the days are growing shorter. You’re probably ready to curl up with a great book! Here are ten of the best arriving this month.

Swing Time
by Zadie Smith
In 1980s London, two girls form a friendship grounded in mutual experience: they live in the same public housing development, they’re both biracial, and they’re both obsessed with dance. As young adults, only one girl has what it takes to make it as a professional dancer, while the other finds herself crisscrossing the globe as the personal assistant to an international pop star. “With homage to dance as a unifying force, arresting observations…, exceptionally diverse and magnetizing characters, and lashing satire, Swing Time is an acidly funny, fluently global, and head-spinning novel about the quest for meaning, exaltation, and love.” (Booklist) Smith is the acclaimed and multi-award winning author of White Teeth (2000) and On Beauty (2005).

by Michael Chabon
Beloved Pulitzer-winning Berkeley author Chabon returns with a fictional memoir inspired by the life of his grandfather. Under the influence of painkillers, a previously tight-lipped man makes a series of deathbed confessions to his grandson, “Michael Chabon,” exposing their buried family history. “By deftly infusing each spellbinding page with historical facts entertaining and tragic, effervescent imagination, exceptional emotional intricacies, striking social insights, brilliantly modulated drama, canny wit, and profound and uplifting empathy and compassion, Chabon has created a masterful and resounding novel of the dark and blazing forces that forged our tumultuous, confounding, and precious world.” (Booklist) Chabon is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000), The Yiddish Policemen's Union (2007), and Telegraph Avenue (2012).

Thus Bad Begins
by Javier Marías, translated by Margaret Jull Costa
In 1980 Madrid, 23-year-old Juan de Vere lands a job as an assistant to famous film director Eduardo Muriel. When Muriel enlists him to spy on a friend, he uncovers unanticipated secrets and deceptions. “Another challenging, boundary-stretching work from Marías, complete with a jaw-dropping last-chapter revelation.” (Kirkus) Marías is a celebrated Spanish novelist and journalist whose most recent English-language release, The Infatuations, was shortlisted for the 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award.

Memoirs of a Polar Bear
by Yoko Tawada, translation by Susan Bernofsky
Three generations of a polar bear family recount their history, from the Russian circus performer who becomes a literary sensation, to the East German ballet dancer, to the star attraction at the Berlin Zoo. Booklist calls it a “fantastical and entertaining novel that combines a broken family saga, socio-political-environmental enlightenment, a treatise on writing, and bitingly well-placed satire.” The New York Times says that while it “reads like a goofy comedy, it also reads as a profound meditation on alterity, labor conditions, language and love.” Tawada is a Tokyo-born Berliner who has been awarded the top literary prizes in Germany and Japan, including the Goethe Medal and the Kleist and Akutagawa Prizes.

The Gardens of Consolation
by Parisa Reza, translation by Adriana Hunter
In a small village in 1920s Iran, the marriage of teenage Sardar and 9-year-old Talla is arranged and the couple starts a new life on the outskirts of Tehran. They share love, face heartbreak, and raise a son who goes on to college, in the midst of swift and drastic social and political changes. This first effort by Reza (born in Tehran and immigrated to France as a teen in the 1980s) won 2015’s Prix Senghor for a debut novel by a Francophone writer. “This compelling book raises important questions about indulgence, gender, community, and the impact of politics on everyday life.” (Kirkus) “Talla is a formidable, hard-to-forget heroine.” (Publishers Weekly)

by Alice Hoffman
A car accident devastates the lives of two Long Island teens. Helene is left comatose and becomes a subject of devotion by a group of followers who believe they can be healed by touching her hand. Shelby, gripped by remorse and survivors guilt, faces a rocky path to a healthy adulthood. “In a tale at once heartbreaking and uplifting, Hoffman explores a young woman’s recovery from tragedy with sympathy and grace.” (Booklist)

Fish in Exile
by Vi Khi Nao
A couple grieves the death of their two children in this unusual take on grief that is poetic, abstract and laced with mythology. The father, named Ethos, and the mother, named Catholic, cope by having affairs, walking through their New England town, and making aquariums and clothes for fish. “The result is a novel that forges a new vocabulary for the routine of grief, as well as the process of healing.” (Publishers Weekly)

Invisible Planets: An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation
Edited and translated by Ken Liu
Liu, winner of the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy awards, continues his efforts to offer the best of Chinese science fiction to English language readers. “Although greatly varied in theme and approach, all of these stories impress with their visionary sweep and scope.” (Publishers Weekly) “A phenomenal anthology of short speculative fiction.” (Kirkus)

Virgin and Other Stories
by April Ayers Lawson
This debut collection of stories, including one which won the 2011 George Plimpton Award for Fiction, features young Southerners and touches on themes of relationships, sex, and, in some cases, childhood sexual abuse. “Faltering marriages, uneasy connections to fundamentalist religious backgrounds, and the gray areas where powerful teenage sexuality meets adult desire in relationships that may or may not constitute abuse—these are among the recurrent subjects handled frankly yet with a delicate touch.” (Kirkus) “These are stories that dare to tread where they shouldn’t, on uncertain ground that feels, in the hands of this talented young writer, remarkably concrete.” (Publishers Weekly)

To Capture What We Cannot Keep
by Beatrice Colin
In 1887 Paris, 31-year-old Glaswegian widow Caitriona Wallace is employed as the chaperone to two wealthy young Scottish siblings. When she meets Émile Nouguier, a French engineer employed in the construction of the Eiffel Tower, the mutual interest is immediate. But will nationality, class and wealth stand in the way? “This exquisitely written, shadowy historical novel will appeal to a wide variety of readers, including fans of the Belle Époque.” (Library Journal)

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