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.”
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.”
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