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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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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in January 2015


by Mo Yan, translated by Howard Goldblatt
Nobel Laureate Yan examines China’s one child policy and the consequences of blind obedience to authority. Gugu is a respected obstetrician in her rural town and a party loyalist who has taken extreme measures to help enforce the regulations of the Family Planning Commission. Gugu spares no one; when her nephew’s wife becomes pregnant with their second child, Gugu’s rigid enforcement of the law results in tragedy. “Heavily laced with ardent social criticism, mystical symbolism, and historical realism, Mo Yan's potent exploration of China's most personal and intrusive social control programs probes the horrors and pain such policies inflict” (Booklist).

The First Bad Man
by Miranda July
Artist, filmmaker and writer July follows her fanciful, funny and moving short story collection (No One Belongs Here More Than You, 2007) with a novel about a neurotic, lonely, middle-aged woman with rampant sexual fantasies. Cheryl works at a women’s self-defense company, where she harbors an obsessive and unrequited longing for board member Phillip. Her orderly life is interrupted when her bosses ask her to allow their unpredictable 20-year-old daughter to move in with her. Kirkus Reviews calls this novel “bizarrely touching” with “humor, frankness and emotional ruthlessness” whose “strange details… deliver an emotional slap made sharper and more fitting by their oddity.”

Driving the King
by Ravi Howard
Driving the King is a fictionalized account of the singer Nat King Cole and his boyhood friend Nat Weary, set against a backdrop of the post-war and Civil Rights era in Los Angeles and Montgomery. After Weary serves ten years in jail for saving Cole from a deadly attacker, Cole asks him to be his driver and bodyguard. Publishers Weekly praises the author’s “velvety smooth” prose that “goes down like the top-shelf whiskey that Weary favors, making for a heady reading experience.” Howard won the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence and was a PEN/Hemingway Award finalist for his previous novel Like Trees, Walking (2007).

Don't Let Him Know
by Sandip Roy
Roy’s debut novel is about the lives of a family split between India and the U.S. and the secrets they hide from each other. Avinash covertly meets men online and in gay clubs; his wife Romola secretly knows about it. When their grown son Amit finds a fragment of an incriminating letter from the past, he mistakenly thinks he has discovered his mother’s lover. “Roy's is a warm, articulate voice speaking authentically about family influence on how we carry out our own lives” in a “quiet but piercing tale of immigrant domestic life” (Library Journal).  Roy is a commentator on NPR and San Francisco’s KALW.

Honeydew: Stories
by Edith Pearlman
Short fiction lovers will not want to miss this new collection of twenty stories from Pearlman, whose last book, Binocular Vision (2011), won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Pearlman’s writing has been compared to the work of Anton Chekhov, John Updike, Alice Munro, Grace Paley, and Frank O'Connor. Publishers Weekly called it an “affecting collection that periscopes into small lives, expanding them with stunning subtlety.” "'Honeydew' should cement [Pearlman's] reputation as one of the most essential short story visionaries of our time" (New York Times).

by Boualem Sansal
An unusual bond forms between two women when Lamia, a pediatrician who is considered a spinster at 35, welcomes a pregnant teenager into her home. “Simultaneously humorous and heartbreaking, Sansal expertly describes the crushing weight of social and religious strictures on Algeria's women” (Publishers Weekly). Sansal (The German Mujahid, 2009) has been honored with numerous international book prizes; he continues to live in his native Algeria despite the fact that his books are banned there.

The Seventh Day
by Yu Hua, translated by Allan H. Barr
Yang Fei, 41 years old, is dead and stuck in limbo. In this version of the afterlife, he can interact with both the dead and living, and he revisits the people he knew in life, seeking to reconnect with his beloved adoptive father. “Although the author retains his signature outlook of an absurdist new China with little regard for humanity—27 fetuses floating down a river, iPhones worth more than life, kidney harvesting from willing young bodies—this latest is ultimately less graphic exposé and more poignant fable about family bonds made not of blood ties but unbreakable heartstrings” (Library Journal).

The Book of Negroes
by Lawrence Hill
This is not actually a new book, but a re-release of the award winning 2007 novel Someone Knows My Name (originally published in the author’s native Canada as The Book of Negroes, after a historical document, The Book of Negroes, which recorded the names of slaves who served the British during the Revolutionary War and were later allowed to flee to Canada). The book is getting renewed attention as a result of a television miniseries, which will appear soon on the CBC in Canada and on BET in the U.S. The novel follows the life of West African Aminata Diallo, who is kidnapped and sold into slavery in South Carolina. Fiercely smart Aminata learns how to read and write, seizes her escape when given the opportunity to flee her master and contributes her talents to wrest the freedom of many others. Publishers Weekly called it “stunning, wrenching and inspiring” and “a harrowing, breathtaking tour de force.”

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth
by Christopher Scotton
Following the death of his younger brother, 14-year-old Kevin Gillooly and his mother return to her childhood home in Kentucky’s coal country. Kevin begins to heal with the help of his widowed grandfather, a wise and gentle veterinarian, and new friend Buzzy who is skilled in the ways of rural survival. Meanwhile ecological devastation looms; local environmentalist and hairstylist Paul Pierce is targeted for his activism and for being a gay man; then Kevin, his grandfather and Buzzy are fired upon by an unknown assailant during a camping trip. “The coming-of-age story is enriched by depictions of the earth's healing and redemptive power” (Publishers Weekly). Kirkus calls it a “captivating modern morality tale” and “a powerful epic of people and place, loss and love, reconciliation and redemption.”

The Girl on the Train
by Paula Hawkins
Alcoholic and depressed Rachel Watson pretends to go to work every day even though she was fired for being drunk on the job. On the train, she passes by the house that she used to share with her ex-husband—he still lives there with his new wife and their child. She also spies on former neighbors: a couple that she idealizes, fantasizing about their happy life together. When the woman in this couple shows up in the tabloids as missing, Rachel delves into the investigation, the story unfolding between three very unreliable narrators. Booklist says, “Hawkins makes voyeurs of her readers as she creates one humiliating scene after another with the women's near-feral emotions on full display. A wicked thriller, cleverly done.” Gone Girl fans take note!

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in December 2014

How to Be Both
by Ali Smith
Ali Smith is an award winning author whose latest, How to Be Both, was her third book to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize. This book contains two novellas: one is set in present day London and focuses on George (short for Georgia), a teenager coping with the recent loss of her mother; the other is the story of Francesco, a 15th-century fresco painter and a young woman living as a man, whose spirit observes the mourning young woman in a museum. The book has been playfully printed in two versions, some beginning with George’s story and some beginning with Francesco’s. The Guardian’s review called Smith “dazzling in her daring” and said “the sheer inventive power of her new novel pulls you through, gasping, to the final page.”

The Strange Library
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Ted Goossen
2014 was a good year for Murakami fans in the U.S., with the release of two novels in a span of five months. The Strange Library is short but odd; it features a boy who has been trapped in the library by a Sheep Man who intends to eat the boy’s brain after it has been properly stuffed with knowledge. Publishers Weekly says “this dryly funny, concise fable features all the hallmarks of Murakami's deadpan magic” and Kirkus calls it “beguiling and disquieting—in short, trademark Murakami—a fast read that sticks in the mind.”

Africa39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara
Edited by Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, with an introduction by Wole Soyinka
This anthology celebrates the designation of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, as UNESCO's first World Book Capital and features authors from 16 sub-Saharan countries as well as the African diaspora. Familiar and noteworthy authors include Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Dinaw Mengestu in an eclectic collection that is “recommended for all lovers of world literature, especially those who enjoy discovering new talent” (Publishers Weekly).

by José Saramago, translated by Margaret Jull Costa
Saramago’s first work, considered a “lost novel”, was written decades before the Portuguese writer won the Nobel Prize. Initially snubbed by publishers, the author later declined to release it and it remained unpublished until after his death. Skylight is a post-World War II story set in Lisbon which connects the lives of six families that live in the same apartment building. Publishers Weekly characterizes it as “a work about the strictures of poverty and domesticity but also about momentary glimpses of beauty and fulfillment” and Kirkus Reviews gushes: “Rarely has a novel with a publication delayed as long as this one's proven such a pleasure.”

by Jennifer Marie Brissett
Jamaican-British American author Brissett, a former bookstore owner and web developer, offers a unique and challenging debut novel.  The story takes place against a post-apocalyptic backdrop, and concerns Adrianne/Adrian, friend/sibling/lover Antoine/Antoinette, and a computer code that disrupts their narrative, each time causing the story to refresh itself with changes in gender, relationships, setting and time period. Publishers Weekly calls it a “punch of a debut” and says “Brissett deftly handles the challenge of a multitude of characters all being the same people in a multitude of places that are the same place, while exploring complicated questions about identity.”

The Penguin's Song
by Hassan Daoud, translated by Marilyn Booth
A family struggles with isolation during the Lebanese civil war. The young narrator, homebound due to a physical disfigurement, longs for the teenage girl who lives downstairs while his father’s health rapidly declines and his mother finds any excuse to leave the apartment. Originally published in Arabic in 1998, this novel was hailed as “the best Arabic novel of the year.” Publishers Weekly calls it “haunting” and “an elegiac account of loneliness and separation” and Library Journal says it “deftly explores how people cope with the aftermath of war and the tremendous struggle of rebuilding not only with bricks and concrete but with heart, hopes, and dreams.” You can read an excerpt here

Butterflies in November
by Auour Ava Olafsdottir, translated by Brian Fitzgibbon
The unnamed, 33-year old heroine of this Icelandic novel finds herself at a remarkable crossroads: dumped by her husband and her lover on the same day, she then wins two lottery prizes and agrees to take temporary custody of her pregnant and ailing friend’s four year old son, who is deaf and has poor eyesight. The unlikely pair set off on a wild road trip in “a funny and bizarre travelog of Iceland's unique culture and landscape” (Library Journal). This novel by an award winning author is “thoughtful and fun… a novel of surprising tension and tenderness” (Kirkus Reviews).

The Boston Girl
by Anita Diamant
Diamant, the author of the perennially popular historical novel The Red Tent, has a new novel that spans the life of a Jewish woman in the 20th century. When Eighty-five-year-old Addie Baum’s granddaughter asks her about her life history, she muses over her past, from her tenement upbringing in Boston to her careers as a columnist, social worker and teacher to her happy marriage and family, touching on historical events, feminism, and popular culture along the way. Publishers Weekly calls it “a stunning look into the past with a plucky heroine readers will cheer for” and Booklist calls it “a resonant portrait of a complex woman.”

Vanessa and Her Sister
by Priya Parmar
This fictional biography reconsiders the story of artist Vanessa Bell and writer Virginia Woolf, dear sisters until their relationship is strained and broken over romantic jealousy. The personal and intellectual lives of the sisters and their circle of friends in the Bloomsbury group unfold through entries in Vanessa’s journal, telegrams and postcards. Publishers Weekly calls Parmar’s narrative “riveting” as she “successfully takes on the task of turning larger-than-life figures into real people.” Parmar writes with “passion and precision, delivering a sensitive, superior soap opera of celebrated lives” (Kirkus Reviews).

Last Days in Shanghai
by Casey Walker
Luke Slade has accompanied his boss, a sleazy and abusive Republican Congressman, on a mission to China. Everything spirals out of control after the Congressman, a born-again Christian and recovering alcoholic, goes on a bender and disappears, leaving Luke solo to attend a business meeting where a rural Chinese mayor hands him a briefcase full of cash. Things only get worse from there. “Slimy all-American graft oozes from beneath the economic aspirations of contemporary China in this witty, illuminating thriller” (Kirkus Reviews).

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in November 2014


Citizens Creek
by Lalita Tademy
Born into slavery in 1810 Alabama, ten-year-old Cow Tom has a talent for languages which leads to his sale to a Creek Indian chief. Tom survives the American Indian Wars, poverty and forced relocation, and eventually wins his freedom and becomes chief of the African Creeks. His story continues through his granddaughter Rose, who carries on the family struggle for survival and triumph. Booklist calls it a “riveting historical novel” and a “completely engrossing and historically accurate family saga.” Tademy’s 2001 novel Cane River was a bestseller and an Oprah pick.

A Map of Betrayal
by Ha Jin
In a novel that examines notions of family and patriotism, Gary Shang is an infamous Chinese spy who infiltrated the CIA for three decades. Following his death, his daughter Lilian delves into her late father’s personal and professional history when his longtime mistress hands over his journals, and travels to China to meet the other family he left behind.  Kirkus Reviews promises “Subtle, masterful and bittersweet storytelling” that “satisfies like the best of John le Carré, similarly demystifying and deglamorizing the process of gathering information and the ambiguous morality that operates in shades of gray.” Ha Jin is the recipient of multiple awards, including the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award for his 1999 novel Waiting. You can listen to a recent NPR interview with Ha Jin here.

All about Skin: Short Fiction by Women of Color
Edited by Jina Ortiz and Rochelle Spencer
Eager to discover new works by women of color? This anthology includes stories by women who have received John Simon Guggenheim Fellowships, the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, the Flannery O’Connor Award, and inclusion in the Best American Short Stories and O. Henry anthologies. Junot Díaz called this collection “electrifying and absolutely necessary. Within you will find the true heart of a literature.”

Mermaids in Paradise
by Lydia Millet
Deb and Chip are on their honeymoon in the British Virgin Islands when they befriend Nancy, a marine biologist, who takes them along on a dive where they discover real live mermaids living in the reefs. The secret gets out and mayhem ensues among scientists and preservationists, the resorts who want to capitalize on the discovery, and social media. “Millet extends her run of audaciously imaginative and emotionally complex fiction propelled by ecological concerns,” says Booklist, calling her “devilishly funny, unnervingly incisive, and toughly compassionate.”

The Happiest People in the World
by Brock Clarke
A clueless Danish cartoonist must flee his country when he publishes an offensive and controversial drawing of Muhammad. He takes cover as Henry Larsen, a high school guidance counselor in upstate New York, where he and the people around him fall prey to a series of ridiculous miscalculations. Publishers Weekly loved it: “Clarke dazzles with a dizzying study in extremes, cruising at warp speed between bleak and optimistic, laugh-out-loud funny and unbearable sadness. His comedy of errors is impossible to put down.” You can read an excerpt here. Clarke is the author of Exley and An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England.

by Melania G. Mazzucco, translated by Virginia Jewiss
Limbo follows the post-Afghanistan civilian life of a female Italian Sergeant. Manuela Paris is her platoon’s sole survivor of an IED attack, and she suffers both physically and mentally as she returns to her hometown and becomes romantically involved with a mysterious stranger. Library Journal writes “Manuela Paris springs off the page of this new novel from Mazzucco... as the reader is drawn into the world of this fierce, determined young woman” and praises both “exceptional writing and a masterly grasp of storytelling.”

The Three-Body Problem
by Cixin Liu, translated by Ken Liu
The Three-Body Problem is an unusual combination of hard Science Fiction, historical primer and bestseller (in the author’s native China). The novel opens in the midst of the Cultural Revolution, as a young physicist is sentenced to forced labor after witnessing the death of her father at the hands of the Red Guard. After four decades of working in a defense facility researching extraterrestrial activity, her work becomes linked to a mysterious string of scientists’ deaths, a virtual reality role-playing video game, and alien contact. Booklist calls this novel “a collection of surreal and hauntingly beautiful scenes that will hook you deep and drag you relentlessly across every page” and promises, “this is a must-read in any language.” Kirkus calls it “strange and fascinating” with “jaw-dropping revelations” and “a stunning conclusion” and “remarkable, revelatory and not to be missed.”

All My Puny Sorrows
by Miriam Toews
Elfrieda is a world-class pianist with a loving husband; her sister Yolandi struggles as a single mother of two with a stalled career. Despite her successes Elfrieda struggles with intense depression, and it is Yolandi’s job to try to prevent her suicide. Kirkus calls it a “masterful, original investigation into love, loss and survival” and Booklist says “Toews writes with a sharp and piercing eye, offering characters and descriptions which are so odd and yet so spot-on that the reader has to laugh, albeit reluctantly.”

New York 1, Tel Aviv 0: Stories
by Shelly Oria
Debut author Oria’s collection “tests her characters' definitions of nationality, gender and relationship status, their tenuous senses of belonging to a place and to others” says Kirkus Reviews, which calls the stories “crisply told, biting” and “tense and gripping.” Oria’s work has appeared in publications such as The Paris Review and McSweeney's, and you can read some examples here. Lambda Literary named it one of their “new and noteworthy LGBT books” for November.

The Heart Has Its Reasons
by Maria Dueñas
Professor Blanca Perea is stunned and devastated when her husband leaves her for his pregnant young mistress. When offered a research position in California, she jumps at the chance to get as far away from Spain as possible. Publishers Weekly says “Duenas's novel is brilliantly executed, and it moves expertly between decades as it reveals truths of history and of humanity.” Duenas’s 2011 novel The Time In Between has been a big hit at Oakland Public Library, and was turned into a dramatic TV series that has often been referred to as “the Spanish Downton Abbey.”

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in October

A Brief History of Seven Killings
by Marlon James
Jamaican-born James, winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for The Book of Night Women (2009), has a new novel that revolves around the 1976 attempted assassination of Bob Marley (referred to only as “The Singer”) and a web of rival politicians, gang members and hit men, CIA agents, a journalist from Rolling Stone, and Nina, one of Marley’s ex-girlfriends who changes her identity multiple times through the course of the story and who is “undoubtedly one of this year's great characters” in this “indispensable and essential history of Jamaica's troubled years” (Publishers Weekly).  A Brief History of Seven Killings is “epic in every sense of that word: sweeping, mythic, over-the-top, colossal and dizzyingly complex. It’s also raw, dense, violent, scalding, darkly comic, exhilarating and exhausting — a testament to Mr. James’s vaulting ambition and prodigious talent” (New York Times).

by Marilynne Robinson
Robinson returns to the small Iowa town that was the setting of her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gilead (2004), and its follow-up Home (2008). This third volume focuses on Lila, the younger second wife of Reverend John Ames who made appearances in Gilead. Lila reveals her painful past as a young orphan who led a tough itinerant life, looked after by a surrogate mother named Doll. Lila finds her way to Gilead, where she falls in love with the Reverend and reflects on her profound personal and spiritual journey. Publishers Weekly calls Lila “a masterpiece of prose in the service of the moral seriousness that distinguishes Robinson's work” and Booklist calls it “a tour de force, an unforgettably dramatic odyssey, a passionate and learned moral and spiritual inquiry, a paean to the earth, and a witty and transcendent love story.” Lila is on the recently announced longlist of nominees for the National Book Award.

Some Luck
by Jane Smiley
Like Lila, Jane Smiley’s latest novel (her fourteenth) is also set in Iowa and also on the National Book Award longlist. Some Luck is the story of a farming family and their fortunes and struggles spanning three decades beginning in 1920. “Told in beautiful, you-are-there language, the narrative lets ordinary events accumulate to give us a significant feel of life at the time, with the importance and dangers of farming particularly well portrayed” (Library Journal). “The saga of an Iowa farm family might not seem like an exciting premise, but Smiley makes it just that, conjuring a world—time, place, people—and an engaging story that makes readers eager to know what happens next” (Publishers Weekly). Readers that embraced her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Thousand Acres (1991) will love this book.

The Lives of Others
by Neel Mukherjee
The Lives of Others is an intricately layered story focused on the well-off Ghosh family household in Kolkata in the 60s and 70s. Three generations and their servants share one residence with their various rivalries and misunderstandings; bonds are ruptured when the youngest grandson becomes obsessed with the plight of the poor and the working class and leaves home to join the Communist party. “In startling imagery that sears itself into the mind, The Lives of Others excellently exposes the gulf between rich and poor, young and old, tradition and modernity, us and them, showing how acts of empathy are urgently needed to bridge the divides” (The Guardian). The Lives of Others is currently on the short list of contenders for the Booker Prize.

Hiding in Plain Sight
by Nuruddin Farah
Farah is a distinguished and award-winning Somali author, perhaps best known for his “Blood in the Sun" trilogy: Maps (1986), Gifts (1993), and Secrets (1998). He returns with Hiding in Plain Sight, featuring Bella, an internationally known photographer leading a glamorous and carefree life in Rome.  Bella’s world is flipped upside down when her half-brother in Mogadishu, with whom she shared her Somali mother, is murdered. She travels to Nairobi to see her niece and nephew, trying to decide if she should assume their care when their long-missing mother appears. Library Journal praises this “study of blended political, social, and personal responsibilities, extending Farah's reach.”

Tehran at Twilight
by Salar Abdoh
Reza and Sina, two Iranian-American young men, meet and become best friends at Berkeley. After graduation, they travel to Iraq and Afghanistan with jobs as interpreters for embedded journalists. Then their paths take different directions: Reza pursues a cushy academic life in the U.S., and Sina returns to Iran and joins up with a dangerous anti-Western political organization. Reza is faced with a double dilemma that draws him back to Tehran when both Sina and his long estranged mother seek out his help. Author Abdoh “gives readers a visceral sense of life in a country where repression is the norm, someone is always watching, and your past is never really past” (Library Journal).

Prince Lestat: The Vampire Chronicles
by Anne Rice
Bloodthirsty Anne Rice fans rejoice: the latest in her Vampire Chronicles is here, the first in eleven years. A mysterious voice is compelling all vampires to wage war against each other, and Lestat must step in to stop it. In the midst of all of the bloodshed (and blood consumption), Rice catches up on all of the series characters as well as peering further into their pasts. “Series fans should not miss this latest foray into Rice's magical world built around the undead, but anyone with an interest in the supernatural and aficionados of richly detailed and lush backdrops will enjoy this epic tale” (Library Journal).

The Disappearance Boy
by Neil Bartlett
Reggie Rainbow, the hero of this novel set in 1950s England, is a penniless and lonely 23-year-old orphan with polio and “a delightfully quirky, eccentric, and lovable character” (Publishers Weekly). Despite his hardships, he finds work as a “disappearance boy” in a vaudevillian magic show, and finds true friendship with the female assistant Pamela while becoming increasingly aware that he’s gay. Booklist calls The Disappearance Boy “haunting in its evocation of a long-gone time” and praises the author’s “unusual gift for showing that ordinary lives are, in their way, extraordinary. You might almost say it's magic.”

Ready to Burst
by Frankétienne, translated by Kaiama L. Glover
The New York Times identifies Frankétienne as “Haiti’s most important writer” with “star status in French- and Creole-speaking countries.” Translated into English for the first time, this novel follows heartbroken Raynand, who finds comfort in a friendship with Paulin. Both men find themselves caught up in art and political activism, taking them into unsafe territory during the dictatorship of François Duvalier. “Frankétienne writes with a savage beauty about politics, art, and the roles of men and women in a turbulent world” (Kirkus Reviews).

Truth Be Told
by Hank Phillippi Ryan
Truth Be Told is the third book in a mystery series that began with The Other Woman(2012), featuring Boston reporter Jane Ryland and police detective Jake Brogan. In this installment, Ryland and Brogan are juggling a string of murders discovered in foreclosed properties and a 20-year-old cold case with a doubtful confession—in addition to their covert love affair. Ryan’s latest “packs a powerful punch, and offers a clever mix of mystery, corruption, and romance,” says Library Journal, adding, “Mystery enthusiasts will want to drop everything and binge-read until the mind-boggling conclusion.” Ryan has won a staggering 32 Emmys as a television investigative reporter and her mystery novels have won three Agatha Awards, the Anthony, Daphne, Macavity, and the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Meet the author in person at the Main Library on October 12!

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in September


The Bone Clocks
by David Mitchell
Mitchell’s latest novel, already nominated for Britain’s Booker Prize, revolves around the life of Holly Sykes, from her teenage years as a runaway to six decades later, when Holly is struggling to survive on an island in a post-apocalyptic world.  In between, the story jumps through time, recounted by various narrators who all connect back to Holly. Characters from Mitchell’s other novels such as Cloud Atlas and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet make appearances, as do recurring themes such as reincarnation and the supernatural. “Rich in detail and incident, funny, rueful and terrifying by turns, ‘The Bone Clocks’ is a tour de force, deeply enjoyable as both a literary puzzle and the story of one remarkable woman across nearly six tempestuous decades. It’s an easy book to get lost in, the plot dense but not difficult to track” (The San Francisco Chronicle). You can read a preview here.

Island of a Thousand Mirrors
by Nayomi Munaweera
Island of a Thousand Mirrors tells the story of people who find themselves on opposite sides of Sri Lanka’s decades-long civil war while their lives unexpectedly intertwine amidst the chaos. This debut won the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize for the Asian Region and was longlisted for the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize and the Dublin IMPAC Prize. It arrives in the U.S. this month to great fanfare, including recognition as a Good Housekeeping pick and as an Indie Next List pick for September. “Munaweera's first novel is a breathtaking work of lyrical prose and vivid, transporting imagery” (Booklist). You can meet the author at OPL’s Main Library on October 11! 

The Paying Guests
by Sarah Waters
Struggling with their bills in post-World War I England, Frances Wray and her widowed mother have made the less-than-ideal decision to rent half of their house to lower-class Leonard and Lilian Barber. In spite of the awkwardness of the arrangement, Frances and Lilian fall for each other and begin a passionate affair that has fatal consequences. “Tension is high from the first paragraph,” says Kirkus; Library Journal recommends it “for fans of complex historical crime fiction with a strong sense of dread.” Waters is best known for her novel Tipping the Velvet and is a three-time Booker Prize finalist, two-time Orange Prize finalist, and one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists.

The Moor's Account
by Laila Lalami
Lalami imagines the tale of the forgotten first Black explorer of the West, a Moroccan slave who was one of only four survivors of a doomed expedition from Spain to Florida in 1527. Mustafa al-Zamori, called Estebanico, is on a journey of survival with the three others in “a totally engrossing and captivating novel that reconsiders the overlooked roles of Africans in New World exploration” (Booklist) that is “meticulously researched yet extraordinarily readable” (Library Journal). The Moroccan-born author is also the author of the novel Secret Son.

Rose Gold: An Easy Rawlins Mystery
by Walter Mosley
In 1960s Los Angeles, Private Investigator Easy Rawlins has no trust for the LAPD, but takes an offer he can’t refuse—good pay for finding the missing daughter of a weapons dealer who may have been kidnapped by Uhuru Nolica, a political revolutionary and former boxer.  “Mosley has few peers when it comes to crafting sentences, and he's woven some beauties into this swift-moving yet philosophical story” (Booklist). If you’ve never read this beloved and iconic series, start with Devil in a Blue Dress (1990).

The Children Act
by Ian McEwan
As Family Court Judge Fiona Maye approaches 60, she must grapple with her crumbling marriage while faced with a complicated legal case, in which a hospital wants her to compel a young boy to receive medical treatment that he and his family are refusing on religious grounds. Her decisions result in surprising consequences. “In spare prose, he examines cases, people, and situations, to reveal anger, sorrow, shame, impulse, and yearning… few will deny McEwan his place among the best of Britain's living novelists” (Publishers Weekly). McEwan is perhaps best known for his novels Atonement and Amsterdam, and has won multiple awards including the Booker Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

The Wonder of All Things
by Jason Mott
Mott’s 2013 novel The Returned received numerous rave reviews and inspired the TV Show Resurrection starring Omar Epps. His new novel, arriving at the end of the month, tells the story of 13-year-old Ava. Ava has the power to heal others’ physical wounds and illnesses, but at her own physical expense. When her secret power is exposed and her fame as a “miracle child” spreads, people begin seeking her out from all over the globe. The book has already been optioned for film adaptation by a major studio; no wonder Mott was named by Entertainment Weekly as one of their 10 “New Hollywood: Next Wave” people to watch—besides being nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2009. “Lyrically written, thought-provoking and emotionally searing, the book asks some unsettling questions about love, death, responsibility and sacrifice” (Kirkus Reviews).

Into the Go-Slow
by Bridgett Davis
In the mid-1980s, Angie has just graduated from Wayne State University with no clear plans. When she crosses paths with a Nigerian man who knew her late sister Ella, an activist and journalist who died an untimely death in her adopted home of Nigeria, Angie is inspired to make her own voyage to the African country. “The difficult intellectual questions Davis raises about personal identity and an African-American's relation to contemporary Africa are particularly resonant” (Kirkus Reviews). Davis’s debut novel, Shifting through Neutral, was a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award finalist.

How to Build a Girl
by Caitlin Moran
British humorist and critic Moran had a breakout hit with her bestselling memoir/feminist manifesto How to Be a Woman. She’s back with a semi-autobiographical novel that tells the story of 14-year-old Johanna Morrigan, who is reeling from a mortifying appearance on a local TV show. She decides to cope by drastically reinventing herself with an edgy new persona, complete with a new name, new appearance, a new job writing scathing reviews for a rock magazine, and a fast new lifestyle. Kirkus calls it “hilarious” and Booklist says the “characters are huggable and aggressively real” and the “depiction of growing up well worth reading”.

Five Days Left
by Julie Lawson Timmer
Mara Nichols is planning her suicide as an alternative to a slow demise from Huntington’s disease. Scott Coffman is dreading the loss of his eight-year-old foster child Curtis, who will return to his mother when she is released from jail. Get your tissues ready for this heart-wrenching debut novel which binds the grief of two people who have met through an online support group. Kirkus Reviews gushes: “The characters are so affecting it's tough to make it to Day 5. An authentic and powerful story.”

If that’s not enough, how about a few short stories?
New collections out this month from back-to-back Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel, Margaret Atwood, who also counts a Booker among her prizes, the insanely prolific Joyce Carol Oates, celebrated novelist and travel writer Paul Theroux, New Yorker contributor and MacArthur Award winner Donald Antrim and notable Oakland author Kim Addonizio.

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in August

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
by Haruki Murakami, translated by Philip Gabriel
As a young man, Tsukuru Tazaki was mysteriously shunned by his four best friends. Two decades later, this rejection haunts him still and sends him on a journey through Japan and Europe to make sense of the past. “The result is a vintage Murakami struggle of coming to terms with buried emotions and missed opportunities, in which intentions and pent up desires can seemingly transcend time and space to bring both solace and desolation” (Publishers Weekly); “Another tour de force from Japan’s greatest living novelist” (Kirkus Reviews).

Three Bargains
by Tania Malik
This debut novel tells the rags-to-riches story of Madan, a young boy growing up in Northern India, who learns a vast number of life lessons from Avtaar Singh, a mentor and surrogate father who eventually becomes Madan’s adversary. Publishers Weekly calls this novel “stunning”, saying “Malik's novel boasts masterful storytelling, with mesmerizing prose, heart-stopping action, and startling turns of events that feel both honest and astounding.”

The Magician's Land
by Lev Grossman
The Magician's Land is the concluding volume of Grossman’s outstanding fantasy trilogy, in which Quentin Coldwater returns to teach at Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic. Kirkus Reviews calls it a “deeply satisfying finale” and Booklist promises “an absolutely brilliant fantasy filled with memorable character—old and new—and prodigious feats of imagination.” Fans of Narnia and Harry Potter who haven’t already devoured this series will want to start with The Magicians.

The Story Hour
by Thrity Umrigar
Despite their vast differences, an unusual bond grows between Indian immigrant Lakshmi and her African American therapist, Maggie. Their friendship is threatened when they discover each other’s most shocking secrets. Kirkus Reviews calls it “a forceful examination of identity, cultural isolation and the power of storytelling” and a “smart, compulsively readable work.”

The Miniaturist
by Jessie Burton
In 17th century Amsterdam, 18-year-old Nella Oortman is puzzled by her new life as a married woman—especially the detachment of her merchant husband and the wedding gift he gives her: an intricate dollhouse that is a perfect replica of their house. When she commissions furniture for the dollhouse from a miniaturist, she receives tiny furniture and dolls accompanied with cryptic notes that chillingly reveal more about her household than they should. Readers who love historical fiction with strong women characters will also find fine writing and a unique premise here. “With its oblique storytelling, crescendo of female empowerment and wrenching ending, this novel establishes Burton as a fresh and impressive voice” (Kirkus Reviews).

The Kills: Sutler, the Massive, the Kill, and the Hit
by Richard House
In post-war Iraq, a Halliburton-style contractor is told to take the fall for embezzlement in an epic story of crime and espionage with metafictional twists. This thousand-page tome was originally published in the UK as four novels and was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2013. Reviewers are comparing The Kills to the works of Bolaño and DeLillo fused with le Carré and Olen Steinhauer. “The Kills is a work of intense artistic conviction and demands a serious commitment from its readers. They'll be rewarded, even if the center of this dazzlingly large picture is elusive” (Booklist).

The Narrow Road to the Deep North
by Richard Flanagan
Renowned Australian author Flanagan has won awards for fiction and nonfiction writing, and this newest novel is on the just-announced 2014 Booker Prize Longlist. Dorrigo Evans, a septuagenarian surgeon raised in Tasmania, looks back on two major events that shaped his life: a forbidden affair and his experience in a Japanese POW camp. “A supple meditation on memory, trauma, and empathy that is also a sublime war novel” (Publishers Weekly).

Fives and Twenty-Fives
by Michael Pitre
Pitre, a marine who served two tours in Iraq, has written a debut novel that Booklist calls “a thrilling, defining novel of the Iraq War.” Fives and Twenty-Fives is about soldiers with the deadly task of searching for hidden IEDs and their return to civilian life, including an asylum-seeking Iraqi interpreter who is obsessed with American pop culture. Kirkus Reviews promises: “A war novel with a voice all its own, this will stand as one of the definitive renderings of the Iraq experience.”

The Lotus and the Storm
by Lan Cao
The Lotus and the Storm tells a story of the Vietnam War from the perspective of a Vietnamese family. In 2006, Minh and his youngest daughter Mai are living in Virginia, looking back on the previous decades and the conflict in Vietnam which they barely escaped. “Cao succeeds in making the story both epic and intimate, offering an important and necessary contribution to the literature of the war” (Library Journal). Cao is also the author of Monkey Bridge.

by Kanae Minato, translated by Stephen Snyder
Confessions is a debut thriller that won awards in Japan and was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film. Yuko Moriguchi is a middle school teacher and single mom to four-year-old daughter Manami. When Manami is murdered by two of Yuko’s students and the justice system rules the death accidental, Yuko seeks her own twisted revenge. “A creepy and mesmerizing psychological thriller… There are no happy endings here, but Minato has pieced together an intriguing puzzle that will keep readers glued to their seats” (Library Journal).

What is on your hold list right now?


10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in July

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Lucky Us
by Amy Bloom
Teenage Eva accompanies her talented and glamorous half-sister Iris on a quest to find fame in World War II era Hollywood. Iris’s star is rising until she is outed as a lesbian and blacklisted, sending Eva and Iris back on the road with a zany cast of characters from all walks of life. “Full of intriguing characters and lots of surprises… readers of literary fiction and 20th-century historicals, as well as fans of wacky humor, will find it an excellent choice” (Library Journal). Bloom, the author of three story collections and two novels including Away (2007), has been a nominee for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. 

Land of Love and Drowning
by Tiphanie Yanique
Land of Love and Drowning is a family epic reflecting the folklore and history of the Virgin Islands through the stories of the descendants of Owen Arthur Bradshaw, troubled captain of West African heritage whose bad fortune reverberates for generations. Yanique, a native of St. Thomas, was recognized by the National Book Foundation as a “5 Under 35” author for her short story collection How to Escape from a Leper Colony (2010). “Bubbling with talent and ambition, this novel is a head-spinning Caribbean cocktail” (Kirkus Reviews).

The Hundred-Year House
by Rebecca Makkai
Zee and her husband are living in the carriage house of her parents’ Chicago estate, a former artists’ colony when her mother’s current husband invites his children to move into the carriage house as well. Meanwhile, workplace schemes are going awry and family secrets are being discovered and again concealed. Booklist gushes over “a dazzling plot spiked with secrets and betrayals hilarious and dire” and praises author Makkai “as she stealthily investigates the complexities of ambition, sexism, violence, creativity, and love in this diverting yet richly dimensional novel.” Makkai is also the author of the highly praised debut The Borrower (2011).

Angels Make Their Hope Here
by Breena Clarke
Set in 1860s, Clarke’s third novel tells the coming-of-age story of Dossie, who escapes slavery via the Underground Railroad and settles in the mixed-race New Jersey community of Russell's Knob. Clarke is best known for her popular novel River, Cross My Heart (1999), which was an Oprah Book Club Selection.

The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing
by Mira Jacob
30-year-old photographer Amina traces the history of her Indian American family over three decades, two continents, and two major tragedies. First-time novelist Jacob balances grief and tension with humor and romance. Publishers Weekly calls it an “emotionally bountiful debut” that “through its lovingly created and keenly observed characters, makes something new of the Indian immigrant experience in America.”

Last Stories and Other Stories
by William T. Vollmann
The raves are rolling in for Vollmann’s Last Stories, his first fiction offering since he won the National Book Award in 2005 for Europe CentralKirkus declares this collection “Exquisite: beautifully, perfectly imagined and written. Weird, too.” and Library Journal calls it “an excellent introduction to Vollmann that should appeal not only to literary types but also to readers either unfamiliar with his work or intimidated by his reputation.”

by Jean Love Cush
Malik Williams, 15, has been charged with the murder of his friend Troy Barnes in this courtroom drama. His mother Janae cannot afford representation but nationally renowned attorneys from The Center for the Protection of Human Rights take the case, and defending Malik on the argument that  "African-American boys ought to be deemed legally endangered." Kirkus calls it “a frightening and realistic story about the realities of racism, poverty and injustice in the Obama era” and Publishers Weekly adds “Cush has crafted a compassionate story that commands the reader's attention.”

Forty Acres
by Dwayne Alexander Smith
In this debut thriller, Martin Grey is a promising young attorney who makes a fortuitous connection with a group of some of the most influential and wealthy black men in America. When he is invited to a weekend retreat at a former plantation, he is welcomed into their secret society—one in which the descendants of slave masters are now enslaved. Martin then realizes that his life is in danger unless he pretends to participate in their deadly vengeance. Booklist calls it “top-grade suspense” and a “disturbingly powerful, well-wrought story.”

All I Love and Know
by Judith Frank
Matthew Greene and Daniel Rosen may be an odd couple, but they’ve enjoyed a quiet life together for years. When Daniel’s twin brother and sister-in-law are killed in a terrorist attack in Jerusalem, he has to grapple with his grief in addition to the discovery that he will become the guardian of his niece and nephew—and Matthew has to face his role as an instant parent as well. Booklist calls it “a tender love story between two flawed, good-hearted people” and “a compassionate, utterly compelling story of how family members, torn apart by tragedy, must reach deep within themselves to meet their greatest challenge.” Judith Frank is also the author of Crybaby Butch (2004).

Back Channel
by Stephen L. Carter
Margo Jensen, a 19-year old African American undergraduate at Cornell becomes an unlikely intermediary between Kennedy and Khrushchev during the Cuban missile crisis. Publishers Weekly calls it an “intriguing what-if thriller” and says Carter “makes this audacious premise convincing and manages to build suspense around a historical event with a known outcome.” Carter is a professor of law at Yale and the author of several best-selling thrillers.

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