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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in November 2019

Girl, Woman, Other
by Bernardine Evaristo
Last month Evaristo became the first Black woman to win the Booker Prize (sharing it with Margaret Atwood) for her novel that uses artful prose in an exploration of race, sexuality, gender, age and Black British womanhood through the interconnected lives of twelve women and femmes who take turns sharing the narrative spotlight. “The prose may be experimental, but the readerly pleasures of character and plot are very traditional. It is a life-enhancing, horizon-expanding novel: funny, inventive and fizzing with vitality.” (The Guardian)

On Swift Horses
by Shannon Pufahl
In 1956 San Diego, 21-year-old Muriel is indifferent to the suburban domestic life her husband Lee aspires to, finding satisfaction at the racetrack. Her brother-in-law Julius also finds refuge in the gambling world—in Vegas, where he falls hard for Henry, a card cheat who lures him away to Tijuana’s treacherous underworld. “Pufahl presents a vision of the 1950s that is distinctly at odds with the idea that this decade was an American golden age... More than that, though, Pufahl offers exquisite prose. Her style is slow and deliberate but also compelling because her language is so lyrical and specific… filled with such rhythmically lovely, splendidly evocative, and masterfully precise descriptions… Fiction to linger over.” (Kirkus Reviews)

The Revisioners
by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
As a child in 1855, Josephine escaped slavery and by 1925 she owned her own farm, but her family and fortune were jeopardized by her willingness to befriend a white neighbor. In a parallel story almost a century later, Josephine’s descendant Ava has lost her job and reluctantly moves into her white grandmother’s house with her son King. “It's rare for dual narratives to be equally compelling, and Sexton achieves this while illustrating the impact of slavery long after its formal end… Readers will engage fully in this compelling story of African American women who have power in a culture that attempts to dismantle it.” (Booklist) Sexton currently lives in Oakland and her debut novel, A Kind of Freedom (2017), was long-listed for the National Book Award, won the First Novelist Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, and was a New York Times Notable Book.

The Starless Sea
by Erin Morgenstern
Grad student Zachary Ezra Rawlins is baffled when he finds a story from his own childhood in a book from his university’s library, a discovery that leads him to a magical underground library. “A puzzlebox of a book, full of meta-narratives and small folkloric tales that will delight readers… Morgenstern (The Night Circus, 2011) uses poetic, honey-like prose to tell a story that plays with the very concept of what we expect and want from our stories; she also asks questions about accessibility, and what it truly means to guard something as precious as the library. She trusts her readers to follow along and speculate, wonder, and make leaps themselves as she dives into tales of pirates, book burnings, and men lost in time, giving the book a mythic quality that will stick with readers long after they put it down.” (Booklist)

The Book of Lost Saints
by Daniel José Older
Marisol Aragones was a casualty of the Cuban Revolution. Now decades later she haunts her nephew in New Jersey—visiting his dreams and prompting him to investigate long-held family secrets. “Vivid and emotional… Older’s descriptions of Cuba, both past and present, are thoroughly transportive. This moving story of family and freedom is sure to captivate readers.” (Publishers Weekly)

Big Familia
by Tomas Moniz
Local author Moniz (Rad Dad, 2011) offers a deeply relatable fiction debut featuring Juan Gutiérrez, a Berkeley single dad who is dating a great guy, has an amicable relationship with his ex-wife, and who is about to send his daughter off to college. His comfortable life veers into tumult as he faces challenges big and small. “A quiet, thoughtful story about coming-of-age at middle age... Diverse characters and a deeply likable protagonist make this a standout debut.” (Kirkus)

Mary Toft, Or, the Rabbit Queen
by Dexter Palmer
Inspired by a true story, in 1726 in a small town in England, a woman gives birth to a dead rabbit. As she continues to birth rabbits, it confounds and captivates the local surgeon and his apprentice, the most preeminent surgeons from London, and eventually draws the attention of King George. “Palmer evocatively depicts the dramatic changes witnessed during this period in race relations, industrialization, and the birth of the modern novel... Expertly utilizing an actual bizarre historical event to explore faith, reason, and the foundations of our current economic system, this exhaustively researched and dexterously constructed novel is another triumph to add to Palmer's incredibly diverse corpus of works.” (Booklist)

The Deep
by Rivers Solomon
Inspired by a song by hip-hop performers Clipping (featuring Oakland’s own Daveed Diggs), Solomon’s novella (following An Unkindness of Ghosts, 2017) imagines an underwater world populated with the descendants of African women thrown overboard from Atlantic slaver ships. Their traumatic past has been forgotten, except by the historian Yetu, who carries the burden of painful memories on behalf of the community. “Solomon's beautiful novella weaves together a moving and evocative narrative that imagines a future created from the scars of the past. Highly recommended for those interested in sf or fantasy that draws upon the legacies of colonialism and racism to imagine different, exciting types of futures.” (Booklist)

Get a Life, Chloe Brown
by Talia Hibbert
Chloe is a computer nerd and control freak who is sick of letting her chronic illness wreck her life. She creates and starts checking off a to-do list of tasks to turn things around, prompting repeated encounters with grumpy handyman and artist Red in this enemies-to-lovers interracial rom-com. “An incredibly funny, romantic, and uplifting book.” (Kirkus Reviews)

The Innocents
by Michael Crummey
In 1800s rural Newfoundland, Evered and Ada, ages 12 and 10, are orphaned and left totally alone when their parents and baby sister die from illness. Together they face the challenges of survival and the hazards of their isolated coastal home. “In his fifth novel, Crummey (Sweetland) imparts another heartfelt, extraordinary perspective on survival in the rugged isolation of his homeland… Crummey delivers profound insight into how individuals grapple with the forces of nature, not only in the unpredictable environment, but in the mystifying interior of their temperaments, drives, and character. This story of how two guileless youngsters navigate life will have a deep emotional impact on its readers.” (Publishers Weekly)

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in October 2019


by Jeanette Winterson
Winterson—winner of numerous awards including a Whitbread Prize for Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985) and two Lambda Literary awards for Written on the Body (1992) and Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (2011)—ingeniously connects the 19th century story of Mary Shelley as she concocts her enduring novel Frankenstein with the present-day antics of transgender doctor Ry Shelley and his romantic interest Victor Stein, a scientist exploring AI, human consciousness, cryogenics and the singularity. “Magnificent… This vividly imagined and gorgeously constructed novel will have readers laughing out loud—and then pondering their personhood and mortality on the next page.” (Publishers Weekly)

Grand Union: Stories
by Zadie Smith
From an iconic and multi-award winning writer known for acclaimed novels such as White Teeth (2000) and On Beauty (2005), her first story collection features new works alongside pieces previously published in The New Yorker and The Paris Review. “Smith, an empathic and sardonic global writer, inhabits the psyches of radically different characters in varied settings as she orchestrates stealthily cutting dramas of generational and societal power struggles complicated by gender and race... Fury, heartbreak, and drollery collide in masterfully crafted prose.” (Booklist)

Find Me
by Andre Aciman
A sequel to Aciman's beloved novel Call Me by Your Name (2007) returns to its characters 20 years later: Oliver is a married professor with a family and Elio is a professional pianist with an enduring bond with his father Samuel. While the novel explores new relationships, a connection still looms between Oliver and Elio. “Core themes—including fatherhood, music, the nature of time and fate, the weight and promise of the past—are infused with eroticism, nostalgia and tenderness in fluid prose. The novel again demonstrates Aciman’s capacity to fuse the sensual and the cerebral in stories that touch the heart.” (Publishers Weekly)

It Would Be Night in Caracas
by Karina Sainz Borgo, translated by Elizabeth Bryer
A debut novel from a former Venezuelan journalist depicts the chaos, brutality and terror of a country under siege through the eyes of Adelaida, a woman experiencing the grief of losing her mother as she fights to survive day by day. The discovery of her neighbor’s dead body strangely becomes the first step toward her pursuit of a new life. “Sainz Borgo renders the psychological and emotional toll of government collapse with both nuance and authority, thrusting the reader into Adelaida's struggle for existence and the stark choices before her… A propulsively written, harrowing story, as desperate as it is timely.” (Kirkus Reviews)

A Tall History of Sugar
by Curdella Forbes
In the years right before Jamaica's independence from Britain, a childless fisherman’s wife finds and adopts an abandoned baby with extraordinary features: skin so translucent it appears blue, two different colored eyes, with white hair in front and black hair in back. He is treated as an outsider until he meets Arrienne, who becomes his friend and eventually his love as they come of age and find their way, she as an activist and he as an artist. “In some ways this book tells a story of a love too deep to become romantic. In other ways it's a novel of colonialism and its tragic aftermath of racism and economic despair… The characters so vivid, their depictions so intimate, that the skin of the pages themselves almost pulse beneath the reader's fingers. A powerful journey into the souls of two lovers, two countries, and the people caught in the wakes of empires.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Celestial Bodies
by Jokha Alharthi, translated by Marilyn Booth
Winner of the 2019 Man Booker International Prize, this novel sets an intergenerational story against the backdrop of complicated cultural change in Oman in the 20th century, told through the perspectives of multiple individuals and their intertwined families. “The narrative jumps among a large and clamorous cast of characters as well as back and forth in time, a technique that reinforces the sense of past and present overlapping… A richly layered, ambitious work that teems with human struggles and contradictions, providing fascinating insight into Omani history and society.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Your House Will Pay
by Steph Cha
Teenagers Shawn and Grace are connected by a tragic crime: in 1992 South Central Los Angeles, Grace’s shopkeeper mother Jung-Ja shoots and kills Shawn’s sister when she suspects the child of stealing. Almost 30 years later, Jung-Ja’s death in a drive-by shooting forces Shawn and Grace to confront painful memories. “A real-life racial incident is transfigured into a riveting thriller about two families' heartbreaking struggles to confront and transcend rage and loss… Cha's storytelling shows how fiction can delicately extract deeper revelations from daily headlines.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Homesick: Stories
by Nino Cipri
This collection of nine stories, recipient of the Dzanc Short Story Collection Prize, delves into speculative territory while centering queer, trans and nonbinary characters. “An organic and refreshing take on the paranormal… they'll all haunt readers long after the book is closed. A beautiful, sometimes haunting, always inviting and inclusive collection about life, love, and the paranormal.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Trinity Sight
by Jennifer Givhan
Anthropologist Calliope Santiago wakes from a mysterious car crash to find all other cars on the road have been abandoned. When she returns home, virtually everyone in the neighborhood has vanished including her husband and young son. Heavily pregnant with twins, she joins a ragtag party of the remaining to confront an alarming wasteland. “Poet Givhan blends Puebloan, Zuni, and Mexican American cultures in this searing postapocalyptic rumination on motherhood, genocide, and environmentalism… Poetry imbues every page with power and truth, and the intense plot is propelled by fully realized characters and a majestically primal setting.” (Library Journal)

by Beth Piatote
Nez Perce writer, scholar and UC Berkeley associate professor Beth Piatote offers a collection of stories set in the Pacific Northwest that explore Native American lives while drawing on politics, history and culture. “Piatote balances the emotional complexities of her characters' lives with the political complexity of their relationship with an America all too eager to look away. A poignant and challenging look at the way the past and present collide.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Looking for more reading recommendations? Try our service for readers, Book Me! Fill out an online form and a librarian will send you a personalized list of reading suggestions.

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in September 2019

The Testaments
by Margaret Atwood
Find out what happened to Offred after the end of The Handmaid’s Tale. This sequel to Atwood’s iconic, influential, feminist dystopian classic novel revisits Gilead fifteen years later. "Dear Readers,” writes Atwood, “Everything you've ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we've been living in."

The Water Dancer
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Hiram Walker is born into slavery and loses his mother at a young age, but he has a mysterious gift that will save his life, enable his escape from the plantation, and empower him as he joins the underground war on slavery. “In prose that sings and imagination that soars, Coates further cements himself as one of this generation’s most important writers, tackling one of America’s oldest and darkest periods with grace and inventiveness. This is bold, dazzling, and not to be missed.” (Publishers Weekly) This is the first published novel from Coates, who won the 2015 National Book Award for Nonfiction and other awards for Between the World and Me.

by Carolina de Robertis
In 1970s Uruguay under a vicious dictatorship, five queer women share a secret sanctuary in a small fishing village. “Bold and unapologetic, a challenge to the notion of “normalcy” and a tribute to the power of love, friendship and political resistance. It’s a revolutionary fable, ideal for this moment, offered with wisdom and care. De Robertis takes us inside a repressive regime during a time of global revolution and social discord much like our own.” (New York Times)

Red at the Bone
by Jacqueline Woodson
16-year-old Melody is the same age her mother was when she was born. As Melody celebrates the coming-of-age party her mother never had, a torrent of family memories is unleashed. “Beautifully imagined… Woodson’s nuanced voice evokes the complexities of race, class, religion, and sexuality in fluid prose and a series of telling details. This is a wise, powerful, and compassionate novel.” (Publishers Weekly)

The Shadow King
by Maaza Mengiste
In 1935 Ethiopia, Hirut is an orphan and a servant who becomes a warrior in the fight against Fascist Italy in a tale that unfolds from multiple points of view. “Mengiste breaks new ground in this evocative, mesmerizing account of the role of women during wartime—not just as caregivers, but as bold warriors defending their country.” (Publishers Weekly) Ethiopian-American writer Mengiste is the author of Beneath the Lion's Gaze (2010), finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and named as one of the 10 best contemporary African books by The Guardian.

Out of Darkness, Shining Light
by Petina Gappah
In 1873, upon the death of explorer and missionary Dr. David Livingstone, his African assistants carried his body on a 285-day journey to the coast so that his body could be taken back to England. This epic expedition is recounted in the words of Halima, a cook, and Jacob, a pious apprentice and translator. “A rollicking novel that retells the history of British colonial exploration in Africa from the perspective of historical figures who have otherwise been silenced… a rich, vivid, and addictive book filled with memorably drawn characters. This is a humane, riveting, epic novel that spotlights marginalized historical voices.” (Kirkus) Zimbabwean writer Gappah is the award-author of The Book of Memory (2016) and An Elegy for Easterly (2009).

A Song for a New Day
by Sarah Pinsker
Rock musician Luce Cannon was on the verge of superstardom when terror attacks and deadly viruses forced widespread retreat into a virtual world where public gatherings, including concerts, were banned. Rosemary Laws grew up in isolation but her new career—recruiting underground artists for virtual concerts—will bring the two women together. “A riveting and plausible look into what our world could be if we become consumed with fear and dependent on social media... a love letter to live music and underground shows, imagining futuristic musical innovations and the punk rebel scene that could emerge in response to a closed-off world. Pinsker tells her story through the eyes of two complex queer women who ground this fascinating, emotional narrative.” (Booklist)

by Angie Cruz
Ana Cancion is fifteen when her parents pressure her into marriage with 32-year-old Juan Ruiz, who takes her from the Dominican Republic to New York City. Amidst the 1960s—years that were turbulent in the U.S. as well as the D.R.—Ana discovers she has both a terrible husband and a ticket to a life of opportunity. “In this coming-to-America story, the harsh realities of immigration are laid bare, but equally clear are the resilience and resourcefulness of the people who choose to make a new life far from home… A moving, sad, and sometimes disarmingly funny take on migration and the forces that propel us into the world.” (Kirkus)

The Secrets We Kept
by Lara Prescott
In the 1950s, experienced agent Sally prepares Russian American Irina for their upcoming CIA duties. Their mission? Smuggle chapters of Boris Pasternak’s novel Doctor Zhivago out of the USSR and into the hands of an Italian publisher. Meanwhile, Sally falls for Irina. “Through lucid images and vibrant storytelling, Prescott creates an edgy postfeminist vision of the Cold War, encompassing Sputnik to glasnost, typing pool to gulag, for a smart, lively page-turner. This debut shines as spy story, publication thriller, and historical romance with a twist.” (Publishers Weekly)

by Anita Felicelli
Maya Ramesh is an Oakland-based Tamil-American lawyer who’s just lost her job and her family, and now a talking lemur is asking her for help. “A zany, often disjointed mashup of courtroom thriller, artistic discourse and magical realism run amok, with some wine-guzzling and relationship drama thrown in for good measure.” (San Francisco Chronicle) Bay Area writer Felicelli is the author of the award-winning story collection debut short story collection Love Songs for a Lost Continent (2018).


10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in August 2019

Everything Inside
by Edwidge Danticat
Haitian-American author Danticat, winner of multiple prizes including the inaugural Story Prize for her 2004 collection The Dew Breaker, returns with another remarkable story collection. "This collection draws on Danticat's exceptional strengths as a storyteller to examine how migration to and from the Caribbean shapes her characters, whether they're scrounging up savings to pay ransom for a kidnapping, navigating youthful idealism and the pull of international aid work, or trying to erase the horrors of immigrating to the United States by sea... An extraordinary career milestone: spare, evocative, and moving." (Kirkus Reviews)

The Memory Police
by Yoko Ogawa
Things start disappearing, then people start disappearing, and those who retain their memories of the disappeared are in danger of retribution from the Memory Police. An author helps her editor hide under her floorboards as the two hope to use books to preserve the forgotten in this Orwellian tale. “Dark and ambitious… This is a searing, vividly imagined novel by a wildly talented writer.” (Publishers Weekly) Ogawa’s previous books include The Diving Pool (2008) and The Housekeeper and the Professor (2009).

The Ventriloquists
by E. R. Ramzipoor
First-time Oakland novelist Ramzipoor writes about Nazi occupied Belgium in 1943, where a group of resisters risk their lives for the ultimate joke: to publish a satirical newspaper that humiliates their oppressors. A "magnetic debut... Sprawling and ambitious, with crisp pacing and fully realized characters, this will fascinate anyone looking for an unusual, enthralling war story." (Publishers Weekly) Don't miss this: E.R. Ramzipoor will read from her novel at the Main Library on September 24.

Going Dutch
by James Gregor
Richard is a graduate student with writer’s block. When brilliant colleague Anne saves his career, their relationship takes a romantic turn—even though he’s gay. Then an old internet love interest resurfaces, making an already complicated situation even more volatile. “This marvelously witty take on dating in New York City and the blurry nature of desire announces Gregor as a fresh, electric new voice.” (Publishers Weekly)

The World Doesn't Require You
by Rion Amilcar Scott
The author of the prize-winning novel Insurrections (2016) returns with eleven linked stories and a novella set in the same fictional town, Cross River, Maryland, an all-Black town that was once the site of America's only successful slave rebellion. "Mischievous, relentlessly inventive stories whose interweaving content swerves from down-home grit to dreamlike grotesque... Mordantly bizarre and trenchantly observant, these stories stake out fresh territory in the nation's literary landscape." (Kirkus)

A Particular Kind of Black Man
by Tope Folarin
In the 1980s in small-town Utah, Tunde, the elder child of Nigerian immigrants, experiences life as an outsider on multiple levels while his mother struggles with her mental health and his father endlessly frustrates himself with the pursuit of the American dream. "Nigerian American Rhodes Scholar and Caine Prize-winning first novelist Folarin delivers a remarkably mature narrator, who must make peace with his past and navigate racial realities in the U.S. He wrestles with the shadows cast by both home-brewed racism and vestiges of colonialism imported from Nigeria." (Booklist)

A Pure Heart
by Rajia Hassib
Rose escaped the tumult of the Arab Spring when she left her home country of Egypt for the United States with her American husband.The death of her sister Gameela in a suicide bombing draws her back to Cairo. "A multifaceted look at the complicated legacies of identity, religion, and politics in Egypt after the Arab Spring... Even the story of the suicide bomber is given careful consideration in this enlightening, heartrending novel." (Booklist)

Valerie, or, The Faculty of Dreams
by Sara Stridsberg, translated by Deborah Bragan-Turner
An experimental novel takes liberties retelling the life of radical feminist Valerie Solanas, famous for the SCUM Manifesto and infamous for shooting Andy Warhol. This translation of a 2006 Swedish novel was longlisted for the 2019 Man Booker Prize. "Inventive and stimulating... Stridsberg entertainingly casts new light on both Solanas and on how society views pop culture." (Publishers Weekly)

The Remainder
by Alia Trabucco Zerán, translated by Sophie Hughes with an introduction by Lina Meruane
In Santiago, Chile, Iquela, Felipe and Paloma are the adult children of former anti-Pinochet militants on a journey to retrieve the missing body of Paloma's late mother while they try to find a way to move forward from their country's painful past. "Zerán’s lyrical, surrealistic debut, shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize, explores the long shadows of Chile’s brutal Pinochet dictatorship...  This novel is vividly rooted in Chile, yet the quests at its heart—to witness and survive suffering, to put an intractable past to rest—are universally resonant." (Publishers Weekly)

They Could Have Named Her Anything
by Stephanie Jimenez
Maria is a 17-year-old latinx girl from Queens with college dreams and a scholarship to an elite private school on the Upper East Side. Her newfound friendship with rich white girl Rocky turns her world inside out. “Bristling with adolescent insecurities, sexual tension, and status consciousness, Jimenez’s debut is a natural for both adult and teen readers.” (Kirkus Reviews)

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in July 2019

The Nickel Boys
by Colson Whitehead
In the late years of Jim Crow, Elwood Curtis is a college-bound youth who is wrongly accused of a crime and sent to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy in Jackson County, Fla, an institution steeped in sadistic abuse and corruption where troublemakers disappear forever. “Inspired by horrific events that transpired at the real-life Dozier School for Boys, Whitehead’s brilliant examination of America’s history of violence is a stunning novel of impeccable language and startling insight.” (Publishers Weekly) The Nickel Boys is Whitehead’s first book following the Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novel The Underground Railroad.

Beirut Hellfire Society
by Rawi Hage    
Episodes in a year in the life of Pavlov, a second-generation Beirut undertaker who inherits his father’s role in the Hellfire Society, a clandestine association that cares for the bodies of outcasts and so-called degenerates. Meanwhile, Pavlov witnesses the collapse of his war-ravaged environment. “Despite the mordant mood, there's something vivifying for both the reader and Pavlov alike in these vignettes, a sense that our thoughts about death are the true crucible for our lives, even if our hero is left unimpressed with humanity by the experience...  A well-turned seriocomic tale about death in a place where it's become inescapable.” (Kirkus Reviews) Hage is a Lebanese-Canadian writer, journalist, photographer and winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Award for his debut novel, De Niro's Game (2006).

Delayed Rays of a Star
by Amanda Lee Koe
A 1928 photograph of Marlene Dietrich, Anna May Wong, and Leni Riefenstahl together at a Berlin party becomes the starting point for a tale that follows these three women as their lives intersect (through film projects and a brief affair between Anna May and Marlene) and diverge, spanning multiple continents and decades. “Ambitious and well-researched… successfully melds historical fact with expansive and generous storytelling… Throughout, their stories contend with the notion of authenticity in life and art—of how performers define themselves in the public sphere and behind closed doors. Readers will find much to ponder in these vivid, fictionalized deep dives into three women who changed cinema.” (Publishers Weekly)

Gods of Jade and Shadow
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Casiopea Tun has accidentally revived the Mayan death god Hun-Kamé, leading her to join his quest to reclaim power over the underworld. “A stirring historical fantasy set in the Roaring Twenties and steeped in Mayan mythology... Lavish clothes; jazzy music; and ruminations on life, death, fate, and the cosmos combine with blood-drenched nightmares, grisly religious rituals, and road-trip high jinks... Snappy dialog, stellar worldbuilding, lyrical prose, and a slow-burn romance make this a standout.” (Library Journal)

Stay and Fight
by Madeline Ffitch
Lily and Karen’s are expecting a baby boy, so they face imminent eviction from their women-only community on the Appalachian Women's Land Trust. Helen is a recent Seattle transplant who moved to 20 acres of wilderness with a boyfriend who decided that he wasn’t cut out for that life and split. Helen invites Lily, Karen and baby Perley to join her homestead and an unusual family is born. “Remarkable and gripping… a messy, real depiction of people who fully embody the imperative of the novel's title. This is a stellar novel.” (Publishers Weekly)

Very Nice
by Marcy Dermansky
Told in vignettes, this literary soap opera involves a love triangle between a recent graduate of a liberal arts college, her writing professor, and her wealthy and recently divorced mother, also starring a poodle named Princess and twins Khloe, a financial analyst and Kristi, a writer at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. “Sly, deceptively simple and thoroughly seductive… Her sharp satire spares none of the characters and teeters brilliantly on the edge of comedy and tragedy.” (Publishers Weekly) Very Nice follows her 2016 novel The Red Car, which was named a Best Book of the Year by the San Francisco Chronicle among others. 

Supper Club
by Lara Williams
Roberta is depressed, lonely, and bored with her too-conventional life until she meets Stevie, and they create a women-only supper club where the appetites of women are celebrated and indulged. “Mixing together insights about food and friendship, hunger and happiness, and the space women allot themselves in the world today, Williams writes with warmth, wit, and wisdom, serving up distinctive characters and a delectably unusual story. Williams' debut novel will satisfy your craving for terrific writing and leave you hungry for more from this talented writer.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Stubborn Archivist
by Yara Rodrigues Fowler
A bicultural, bilingual unnamed young woman, born in London to an English father and Brazilian mother, moves through adolescence and young adulthood while coming to terms with her identity in this mix of autofiction and poetry. “Captivating, unconventional… This novel seeps with the sweet satisfaction of staking a place in the world.” (Kirkus Reviews)

The Wedding Party
by Jasmine Guillory
Rounding out a trilogy that began with The Wedding Date and continued with The Proposal, The Wedding Party features an unlikely fling between Maddie and Theo, who agree to overlook their differences in order to help their best friend Alexa plan her wedding. Booklist calls it a “hilarious, satisfying romantic comedy.” Readers who are new to the series will have three fun, smart and sexy summer reads to enjoy!

The Wind That Lays Waste
by Selva Almada
In rural Argentina, unexpected car trouble prompts an encounter between evangelical preacher  Reverend Pearson, his skeptical teenage daughter Leni, mechanic and atheist Gringo Brauer, and his assistant Tapioca. “Drawing language from each character's worldview, and interspersing short sermons, Almada weaves together a quick and tightly told novel that includes smart glimpses into the past, which reveal odd parallels among the four and force each to question the roles of fate, providence, and agency in his or her life... She's been billed as a promising voice in Latin American literature, and this tale delivers readily on that promise.” (Booklist)

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in June 2019

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
by Ocean Vuong
Poet Vuong’s collection Night Sky with Exit Wounds (2016) won the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Whiting Award, the Thom Gunn Award, was selected as a best book by the New York Times, The New Yorker, NPR, and on and on and on. His first novel is a coming of age story in the form of a letter written by a man to his mother, who can’t read. Called Little Dog, he retraces his upbringing as a Vietnamese refugee being raised in working-class Connecticut by his traumatized and abusive single mom and grandmother, and his tender teenage first love with Trevor. “Poetic in the deepest sense—not merely on the level of language, but in its structure and its intelligence… an uncategorizable hybrid of what reads like memoir, bildungsroman, and book-length poem. More important than labels, though, is the novel's earnest and open-hearted belief in the necessity of stories and language for our survival. A raw and incandescently written foray into fiction by one of our most gifted poets.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Mostly Dead Things
by Kristen Arnett
In this dark and quirky novel set in Florida, Jessa inherits her father’s failing taxidermy business following his suicide. She’s also dousing her broken heart in beer since her lover (and former sister-in-law) has split, leaving Jessa to shoulder the burden of caring for her family alone. Meanwhile, Jessa’s mother starts posing taxidermied animals in racy vignettes in the shop window—which opens a surprising door. “Set in a richly rendered Florida and filled with delightfully wry prose and bracing honesty, Arnett’s novel introduces a keenly skillful author with imagination and insight to spare.” (Publishers Weekly)

by Nicole Dennis-Benn
Patsy doesn’t feel cut out for motherhood, so she decides to leave her six-year-old daughter Tru with her grandmother in Jamaica and reunite with her old lover Cicely in Brooklyn. But her old romance and New York life don’t turn out as expected, not to mention the stress of living as an undocumented person. Meanwhile, Tru’s story unfolds as she grapples with abandonment and sexuality. Patsy is the latest novel from the author of Here Comes the Sun (2016), winner of multiple honors including a Lambda Literary award. “It's a marker of Dennis-Benn's masterful prowess at characterization and her elegant, nuanced writing that the people here—even when they're flawed or unlikable—inspire sympathy and respect. Dennis-Benn has written a profound book about sexuality, gender, race, and immigration that speaks to the contemporary moment through the figure of a woman alive with passion and regret.” (Kirkus Reviews)

In West Mills
by De'shawn Charles Winslow
Azalea "Knot" Centre is a fiercely independent schoolteacher in rural West Mills, North Carolina who loves moonshine, literature and unattached romantic flings—but the most important men in her life are friends: Valley, a Gay bartender and steadfast neighbor Otis Lee (and his wife Pep). “This tender, exuberant, and impressively crafted debut novel spans decades of family upheaval and painful secrets… Through more than 40 years of ups and downs, Knot and Otis Lee's story makes you feel the enduring grace and potential redemption to be found in even the unlikeliest of extended families. Winslow's heroine isn't easy to like. But over time, she reaches into your heart and touches it deeply. So does this book.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Searching for Sylvie Lee
by Jean Kwok
As a child, Sylvie Lee was raised by her grandmother in Amsterdam because her immigrant parents in the U.S. were too poor to raise her. As an adult, Sylvie returns to Amsterdam to care for her dying grandmother, but sometime after her death, Sylvie disappears. Her sister Amy makes the voyage to Amsterdam in search of her sister, uncovering long held family secrets in the process. Kwok is the award-winning author of Girl in Translation (2010) and Mambo in Chinatown (2014). “Her sharp and surprising language transports readers across the globe on a breathless and emotionally complex journey. Excellent from every angle, this is a can’t-miss novel for lovers of poignant and propulsive fiction.” (Booklist)

Ayesha At Last
by Uzma Jalaluddin
Ayesha is an independent feminist, aspiring poet and school teacher in this Indian-Muslim retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in current day Toronto. Khalid disapproves of Ayesha’s modern style and her family, yet he can’t stop thinking about her or running into her, especially when they both join a committee for planning a Muslim Youth Conference at their mosque. “With humor and abundant cultural references, both manifest in the all-seeing all-criticizing aunty brigade, Jalaluddin cleverly illustrates the social pressures facing young Indian-Muslim adults. Jalaluddin stays true to the original Austen while tackling meatier issues likes workplace discrimination, alcoholism, and abortion. Even readers unfamiliar with Austen’s work will find this a highly entertaining tale of family, community, and romance.” (Publishers Weekly)

The Travelers
by Regina Porter
A terrible event involving two white police officers on a rural road in Georgia in 1966 changes Agnes Miller’s life forever, and looms large over the experiences of many others into the 21st century in this nonlinear, sprawling story of connected lives. “The intersections of history, race, place, and related ways of thinking play out in the characters’ lives and have consequences that may not be obvious for decades... readers will certainly be drawn in by Porter’s sharp writing and kept hooked by the black-and-white photographs interspersed throughout the book, which give faces to the evocative voices.” (Booklist)

The Gone Dead
by Chanelle Benz
From the author of the story collection The Man Who Shot Out My Eye Is Dead (named a Best Book of 2017 by The San Francisco Chronicle) a novel about Billie James, a 34-year-old woman who exhumes the past after she inherits the shack in the Mississippi Delta where her late father, a renowned but underrated poet, died under mysterious circumstances decades earlier. “A rich, arresting exploration of racial injustice and the long shadows cast by family legacy… Populated by a cast of delightfully untrustworthy characters, and told from multiple points of view, Billie’s quest to discover what really happened one night 30 years earlier is propulsive from the outset, culminating in a wrenching final scene… A beautiful and devastating portrait of the modern South, this book will linger in the minds of readers.” (Publishers Weekly)

Among the Lost
by Emiliano Monge, translated by Frank Wynne
An award-winning Mexican writer whose honors include the Bogotá39 list of the best fiction writers under 40 from across Latin America, Monge’s latest novel to be translated into English is describes 24 hours in the lives of lovers and human traffickers Estela and Epitafio, quoting both Dante’s Inferno and real life migrants. “Monge realistically describes the horrors facing the men, women, and children making the journey, though there’s also a surreal quality to the landscape the star-crossed lovers and those depending on them traverse. Monge shows how the corruption of the soul afflicts young and old alike when the powerful prey on the vulnerable, yet he also creates nuanced villains grappling with self-doubt and fear. In a remarkable literary feat, this tale of the dire events of one day illuminates the past, the present, and the future.” (Booklist)

The Tenth Muse
by Catherine Chung
Katherine is a brilliant Mathematician who was the only woman in her graduate program at MIT in the 1960s. After a distinguished career, she persists in her quests to solve the Riemann hypothesis and discover the truth about her identity and long-held family secrets. “A powerful and virtuosically researched story about the mysteries of the head and the heart.” (Kirkus Reviews) Her previous novel Forgotten Country was named a Best Book of 2012 by The San Francisco Chronicle.

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in May 2019

The Farm
by Joanne Ramos
Jane, an out-of-work Filipina immigrant, is forced by financial desperation into work as a high-end surrogate at a secretive and luxurious facility in the Hudson Valley. It is the nicest place she’s ever lived, but she’s not allowed to leave, she’s under constant surveillance and she’s separated from her six-month-old daughter, in service to an Orwellian operation that exploits mostly poor women of color. “Throughout, questions of money, ethics, privilege, and ambition arise as each character makes compromises—or straight-up lies to herself... An alarmingly realistic look at the power of wealth and access buoyed by clear, compelling storytelling and appealing, if not always likable, characters.” (Booklist)

The Confessions of Frannie Langton
by Sara Collins
In the early 19th century, Frannie Langton is an enslaved woman from a Jamaican plantation who ends up in London in service to the Benham household, where she falls into a forbidden affair with Marguerite Benham. When the Benhams are found murdered, Frannie is accused of the crime and her trial becomes a sensational scandal. “There's betrayal, depravity, pseudoscience, forbidden love, drug addiction, white supremacy, and, oh yes, a murder mystery with tightly wound knots to unravel... Collins' debut novel administers a bold and vibrant jolt to both the gothic and historical fiction genres, embracing racial and sexual subtexts that couldn't or wouldn't have been imagined by its long-ago practitioners. Her evocations of early-19th-century London and antebellum Jamaica are vivid and, at times, sensuously graphic. Most of all, she has created in her title character a complex, melancholy, and trenchantly observant protagonist… [a] gripping, groundbreaking debut.” (Kirkus Reviews)

The Flight Portfolio
by Julie Orringer
Varian Fry is an American journalist embroiled in an operation to help artists and intellectuals escape Nazi-occupied France, when he crosses paths with Elliott Schiffman Grant, a former Harvard classmate and object of an intense mutual attraction. “Orringer seamlessly combines compelling inventions with complex fact: figures including Marc Chagall and Andre Breton make vivid appearances, while Skiff and his relationship with Fry are unforgettable fictional creations. Brilliantly conceived, impeccably crafted, and showcasing Orringer’s extraordinary gifts, this is destined to become a classic.” (Publishers Weekly)

Red, White & Royal Blue
by Casey McQuiston
This fun, queer romantic comedy with a political twist imagines what happens when Alex Claremont-Diaz, the son of the first woman President of the United States, falls in love with Prince Henry of England. “The impossible relationship between Alex and Henry is portrayed with quick wit and clever plotting. The drama, which involves political rivals, possible betrayals, and even a meeting with the queen, is both irresistible and delicious.” (Publishers Weekly)

New Daughters of Africa
Edited by Margaret Busby           
Publishing legend Busby edited the groundbreaking anthology Daughters of Africa in 1992, celebrating an international collection of writings by women of African descent. She returns with a focus on today’s generation of writers, featuring many of the authors you would expect—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Edwidge Danticat, Roxane Gay, Nnedi Okorafor and Zadie Smith among them—plus many new names, perfect for readers who love to encounter new writers.

Red Birds
by Mohammed Hanif
After his plane crashes in a Middle Eastern desert, Major Ellie is taken to the very refugee camp he was sent to bomb. His rescuer, clever 15-year-old refugee Momo, is scheming ways to find his recently disappeared brother. “Hanif’s superb novel, with its elements of magic realism, is told from multiple points of view, principally those of Momo, Ellie, and—in a whimsical touch—Momo’s dog, Mutt, who may be wiser than the humans… Hanif has written a splendidly satirical novel that beautifully captures the absurdity and folly of war and its ineluctable impact on its survivors. At turns funny and heartbreaking, it is a memorable contribution to the literature of conflict.” (Booklist) Hanif’s 2008 novel A Case of Exploding Mangoes was longlisted for the Booker Prize.

Where We Come from
by Oscar Cásares
12-year-old Orly’s mom recently died, and his dad has sent him to stay with his godmother Nina on the Texas border for a few weeks over the summer. But Nina has a secret—she’s been helping undocumented immigrants and coyotes—and 12-year-old Daniel is currently hiding out in the backyard casita. “As Nina, Orly, and Daniel learn each other's secrets, the reader is treated to a novel that addresses the complexity of immigration, identity, and assimilation while telling close, intimate stories... this quiet, delicate book delivers a truly timeless emotional punch.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Disappearing Earth
by Julia Phillips
On a remote peninsula in eastern Russia, in a city ripe with cultural and ethnic tensions, two young sisters go missing. Over the next twelve months, women across the region feel the impact of the girls’ disappearance as the stories of the survivors intertwine with a gripping mystery. “Dazzlingly original… Phillips, a Fulbright fellow whose work has appeared in Slate and the Atlantic, has written a knock-out novel that combines literary heft with a propulsive plot.” (Library Journal)

Home Remedies: Stories
by Xuan Juliana Wang
A debut collection of 12 stories imagine the lives of millennials of Chinese descent around the globe. “Wang’s formidable imagination is on full display… Wang proves herself a promising writer with a delightfully playful voice and an uncanny ability to evoke empathy, nostalgia, and wonder.” (Publishers Weekly)

China Dream
by Ma Jian, translated by Flora Drew
Director of the China Dream Bureau Ma Daode has influence, wealth, attentive mistresses, and a scheme to control the dreams of his fellow citizens, yet he is haunted by the nightmares of his own past. “Ma (The Dark Road, 2013) has forged an impressive literary career by criticizing the government of the country of his birth, from which his work has been banned for 25 years… In his startling and irreverent parody, Ma finds compassion amid the sex and violence that shape a history of injustice and a nation's vulnerability.” (Booklist)

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in April 2019

Normal People 
by Sally Rooney
Connell is a popular athlete and son of a single, working class mom and Marianne is an antisocial loner from a wealthy family. The two brainy teens form an unlikely secret relationship, and their on-again, off-again status follows them into their college years. “In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy… Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become. Absolutely enthralling. Read it.” (Kirkus ReviewsOakland readers have been clamoring for this book ever since it was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize last July, even before it won "Irish Novel of the Year" at the Irish Book Awards, the Costa Book Award, and a nomination for the Women’s Prize. It will finally arrive stateside mid-April, after months of being in hot demand in the British Isles (where The Guardian called it “the literary phenomenon of the year”).

Trust Exercise 
by Susan Choi
David and Sarah, freshmen at a competitive suburban performing arts high school in the 1980s, fall in love but their intense relationship is short lived.  As their stories unfold, the narrative reveals its own unreliability in bold twists. Choi is the author of My Education (2013) and the Pulitzer prize finalist American Woman (2003). “Choi’s new novel, her fifth, is titled “Trust Exercise,” and it burns more brightly than anything she’s yet written. This psychologically acute novel enlists your heart as well as your mind. Zing will go certain taut strings in your chest.” (New York Times

Women Talking
by Miriam Toews
For two years, the women and girls of a South American Mennonite enclave have been sexually assaulted in their sleep. They were told it was the work of demons, but now they know they’ve been drugged and raped by men in their own community. Now eight women are meeting in secret to decide whether or not to flee, with minutes of their meetings kept by a trusted male school teacher since the women are illiterate. “An exquisite critique of patriarchal culture from the author of All My Puny Sorrows (2014)… Stunningly original and altogether arresting.” (Kirkus Reviews)

The Parisian
by Isabella Hammad
In 1914, 19-year-old Midhat Kamal leaves his Palestinian home for Montpelier, France in pursuit of a medical degree. He finds a welcoming home with his mentor Dr. Frederic Molineu, and falls hard for the professor’s daughter, Jeannette. When he discovers he has been betrayed by Dr. Molineu, he abruptly leaves for Paris, but his heart will not forget his love for Jeannette. When Midhat ultimately returns to his Palestine, both his homeland and his heart are irreversibly changed. “By 1936, Midhat has witnessed a number of historical regional changes, including British rule and the Arab fight for independence. Richly textured prose drives the novel’s spellbinding themes of the ebb and flow of cultural connections and people who struggle with love, familial responsibilities, and personal identity. This is an immensely rewarding novel that readers will sink into and savor.” (Publishers Weekly)

The Editor
by Rowley, Steven
James Smale is a young gay author whose autobiographical debut novel captures his problematic relationship with his mother. He catches the interest of a major publishing house where his new editor is none other than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. As the relationship between the writer and the editor deepens, she encourages him to confront his family in order to finish his book. “While diving deeply into questions of identity, loyalty, and absolution within the bonds of family, Rowley, author of the beloved Lily and the Octopus (2016), soars to satisfying heights in this deeply sensitive depiction of the symbiotic relationships at the heart of every good professional, and personal, partnership.” (Booklist)

The Affairs of the Falcons
by Melissa Rivero
Ana Falcón and her family fled Peru for New York in the 1990s. As they struggle to build a new life, undocumented Ana and her husband Lucho work themselves to the bone while indebting themselves to a loan shark. “The pressures—personal, financial—that Ana faces will be recognizable to most readers, but the fact that the Falcóns are undocumented immigrants adds a layer of complexity and peril to every choice they make… Ana is a very well-crafted protagonist, sympathetic but not perfect. Her situation is circumscribed, but Rivero gives her considerable agency—including the freedom to make dubious choices… Thoughtful and eye-opening, this is an admirable debut.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Sabrina & Corina 
by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
Fajardo-Anstine makes her debut with a collection of eleven stories set in Colorado that feature the lives of Latina women of Indigenous descent, including teen mothers, victims of violence and crime, and the dead and dying. “Achingly realistic… Fajardo-Anstine takes aim at our country's social injustices and ills without succumbing to pessimism. The result is a nearly perfect collection of stories that is emotionally wrenching but never without glimmers of resistance and hope.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Prince of Monkeys 
by Nnamdi Ehirim
Ihechi is a young man with a tight knit group of friends coming of age in Lagos, Nigeria in the late 20th century. Their lives are somewhat carefree until tragedy strikes at an anti-government rally and Ihechi’s life takes a surprising direction. “Nigerian writer Ehirim's audacious debut novel follows a teenager's quest for self-definition in a country in search of itself... Told in beautifully evocative prose, a panoramic novel showing that the price of growing beyond one's origins might be steeper than anticipated.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Optic Nerve 
by María Gainza, translated by Thomas Bunstead
This first novel and first work in translation by an Argentinian journalist and art critic is sure to please fans of fiction and art. The narrator of this autofictional work muses on her life in Buenos Aires and constantly finds connection between her life and art as she looks back on her past, her city, culture, motherhood and womanhood. “Phenomenal… With playfulness and startling psychological acuity, Gainza explores the spaces between others, art, and the self, and how what one sees and knows form the ineffable hodgepodge of the human soul. The result is a transcendent work.” (Publishers Weekly)

Springtime in a Broken Mirror 
by Mario Benedetti, translated by Nick Caistor
Santiago is a political prisoner in an Uruguayan prison in the 1970s, connected to his family only through letters. Meanwhile, exiled in Buenos Aires, his wife Graciela struggles with guilt and her newfound love for another, and daughter Beatriz no longer remembers her native country.  Available for the first time in English, this novel was originally published in 1982 by one of Uruguay’s most renowned authors of the 20th century, often compared to Gabriel García Márquez and Carlos Fuentes. “Rich, heartbreaking… Benedetti’s tender yet unflinching portrait of a family in the crushing straits of history is a welcome addition to the small (and hopefully growing) catalogue of his work that has been translated into English.” (Publishers Weekly)

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in March 2019

The Old Drift 
by Namwali Serpell
A chance encounter between an English colonist, an Italian hotel manager and an African busboy launches a series of events linking the fates of their descendants, in a complex plot set against the backdrop of the past, present and future of the nation of Zambia. “Serpell expertly weaves in a preponderance of themes, issues, and history, including Zambia’s independence, the AIDS epidemic, white supremacy, patriarchy, familial legacy, and the infinite variations of lust and love… Intricately imagined, brilliantly constructed, and staggering in its scope, this is an astonishing novel.” (Publishers Weekly)

by Helen Oyeyemi
Winner of the 2010 Somerset Maugham Award (White is for Witching) and a 2012 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award (Mr. Fox) Oyeyemi returns with another novel inspired by classic children’s tales. Harriet Lee is famous for her gingerbread, but when her daughter Perdita bakes up her own confection it leads her into danger. “Oyeyemi takes the familiar contours of a children's tale and twists it into something completely new, unsettling, and uncanny. There are changelings, mysterious rich benefactors, a country that might not exist, corrupt, capitalist factory owners, and living dolls with forthright opinions... A strange, shape-shifting novel about the power of making your own family.” (Kirkus Reviews)

A Woman is No Man
by Etaf Rum
 In 1990, an arranged marriage takes 17-year-old Isra from her home in Palestine to a Palestinian enclave in Brooklyn, where she begins a life of subservience and abuse. As Isra gives birth to four daughters and no sons, the tension intensifies and continues to impact the next generation of young women. “Through well-developed characters and a wonderfully paced narrative, she exposes the impact that the embedded patriarchy of some cultures can have on women while showing more broadly how years of shame, secrets, and betrayal can burden families across generations… Highly recommended.” (Library Journal)

by Bryan Washington
A collection of stories depict the coming of age of a gay Afro-Latinx young man who is losing his family bit by bit: his often absent father finally leaves, his brother enlists, his sister starts a family, until finally he is left with his mother and their struggling Houston restaurant. “Washington is a dynamic writer with a sharp eye for character, voice, and setting. This is a remarkable collection from a writer to watch.” (Publishers Weekly) You can get a preview of his work in The New Yorker here.

by Candice Carty-Williams
25-year-old Jamaican British Londoner Queenie Jenkins is having a terrible year. She’s still reeling from a bad breakup, her dating life is terrible, and she’s moved in with her traditional and judgmental grandparents. “Fast moving and with a strong sense of Queenie’s London, this entertains while tackling topics like mental health and stigma, racism and tokenism, gentrification, and the isolation of social-media and dating-app culture. This smart, funny, and tender debut embraces a modern woman’s messiness.” (Booklist)

The Other Americans
by Laila Lalami
When Moroccan-born restauranteur Driss Guerraoui is killed in a hit and run, a multitude of lives are shaken, including family members, the undocumented man who witnessed the accident, and the detective trying to solve the crime. “Powerful… In a narrative that succeeds as mystery and love story, family and character study, Lalami captures the complex ways humans can be strangers not just outside their “tribes” but within them, as well as to themselves.” (Publishers Weekly) Lalami’s previous novel, The Moor’s Account (2014) won multiple awards and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

The Bird King
by G. Willow Wilson
Known for her graphic novels and the World Fantasy Award-winning debut novel Alif the Unseen (2012), Willow takes readers to a fantastical version of Muslim Spain in the era of the Inquisition. Fatima, a concubine of the Sultan, dearly loves her friend Hassam, a mapmaker with mysterious powers. When she inadvertently exposes Hassam to grave danger, Fatima must help him find an escape in this swashbuckling adventure. “This is a novel that thoughtfully contemplates the meaning of love, power, religion, and freedom. But even while exploring all of these heavy issues, this is a fun, immersive adventure that moves at a brisk pace through lush settings, across dangerous terrain, and eventually out to the open sea.” (Booklist)

The Parting Glass
by Gina Marie Guadagnino
After fleeing their native Ireland in 1837, Maire O'Farren and her twin brother Seanin arrive in New York City. Assuming new identities as Mary Ballard and Johnny Prior, they secure work in the tony Walden household where they both fall for the beautiful and rich Charlotte. “Debut author Guadagnino explores love and passion, family and loyalty, and class and gender… Well-researched historical details lend authenticity to Guadagnino's captivating work, right down to the diction of the dialog. The limited opportunities afforded to women and immigrants by society colors this tale of passion and lies.” (Library Journal)

New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color
edited by Nisi Shawl
Lovers of speculative fiction will want to get their hands on this anthology featuring authors of color including Andrea Hairston, Steven Barnes and Rebecca Roanhorse. “This book’s wide range of stories is its greatest strength… every reader will find something worth rereading.” (Publishers Weekly)

Sing to It: New Stories
by Amy Hempel
Hempel, a master of the short story form and winner of multiple awards including the PEN/Malamud Award for Short Fiction, returns with her first collection in over a decade. “Bold, disconcerting, knockout stories… In stories that can be funny, brutal, poetic, blunt, elusive, or all of the above, this accomplished collection highlights Hempel's signature style with its condensed prose, quirky narrators, and touching, disturbing, transcendent moments.” (Publishers Weekly)

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in February 2019

Black Leopard, Red Wolf
by Marlon James
Multi-award-winning Jamaican author Marlon James follows up his Booker Prizewinning novel A Brief History of Seven Killings (2014) with the first of a series of fantasy novels the New Yorker calls “an African Game of Thrones.” "Readers will discover mermaids, vampires, zombies, and witches, along with edge-of-your-seat chills and cheeky humor... James’ world building weaves in cultural references from Sudan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Mali, Congo, Burkina Faso, and Senegal as he spins his griot’s tale of love, revolutions, murder, and magic. Gender-bending romance, fantastical adventure, and an Afrocentric setting make for an inventive and engaging read. ” (Booklist)

Lost Children Archive
by Valeria Luiselli
A husband, wife, and two young kids from New York on a road trip to Arizona find themselves plummeting into the immigration crisis in the latest novel from the winner of two Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, two National Book Critics Circle nominations, and a National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" award. “Juxtaposing rich poetic prose with direct storytelling and brutal reality and alternating narratives with photos, documents, poems, maps, and music, Luiselli explores what holds a family and society together and what pulls them apart… Her superb novel makes a devastating case for compassion by documenting the tragic shortcomings of the immigration process.” (Publishers Weekly)

American Spy
by Lauren Wilkinson
At the height of the Cold War in the mid-1980s, Marie Mitchell’s stalled FBI career takes a turn when she’s suddenly tapped to join a task force targeting the Marxist and pan-Africanist president of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara. “Written as a confession addressed to her twin sons following an assassination attempt on her life, the novel is a thrilling, razor-sharp examination of race, nationalism, and U.S. foreign policy that is certain to make Wilkinson’s name as one of the most engaging and perceptive young writers working today. Marie is a brilliant narrator who is forthright, direct, and impervious to deception—traits that endow the story with an honesty that is as refreshing as it is revelatory. This urgent and adventurous novel will delight fans of literary fiction and spy novels alike.” (Publishers Weekly)

by Elizabeth McCracken
No one knows in Salford, Massachusetts knows where Bertha Truitt came from, but when she opens a bowling alley in the early 1900s, it becomes the center of town and she it’s most notable resident. A quirky family saga with heart featuring love, loss, and bowling from the author of six books including The Giant’s House (1996) and Story Prize winner Thunderstruck & Other Stories (2014). “Mysteries human and supernatural percolate, punctuated by unlikely passions, crimes, and bizarre deaths as scoundrels, godsends, lost souls, and screw-ups converge at the bowling alley... McCracken writes with exuberant precision, ingenious lyricism, satirical humor, and warmhearted mischief and delight.” (Booklist)

The Night Tiger
by Yangsze Choo
In 1930s colonial Malaysia, 11-year-old Ren has been tasked with a mission to find his late employer’s dismembered finger, so that he may reunite it with the corpse and allow the dead’s soul to rest. As Ren pursues the man’s dying wish, Ji Lin finds a mysterious digit while she works a second job at a dance hall. “Choo [author of The Ghost Bride, 2013] weaves her research in with a feather-light touch, and readers will be so caught up in the natural and supernatural intrigue that the serious themes here about colonialism and power dynamics, about gender and class, are absorbed with equal delicacy. Choo has written a sumptuous garden maze of a novel that immerses readers in a complex, vanished world.” (Publishers Weekly)

Leading Men
by Christopher Castellani
Castellani combines fact with fiction to imagine the lives of Tennessee Williams, his longtime lover Frank Merlo, and Swedish ingenue and future film star Anja Blomgren. When the three meet in 1953 at a party thrown by Truman Capote in Portofino, Italy, Williams and Merlo decide to take the young woman under their wing. “Spectacular… Castellani’s novel hits the trifecta of being moving, beautifully written, and a bona fide page-turner. This is a wonderful examination of artists and the people who love them and change their work in large and imperceptible ways.” (Publishers Weekly)

The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls
by Anissa Gray
Three adult sisters face devastating challenges in this debut novel. Althea, once the family matriarch and a community leader, may be heading to prison with her husband for fraud. Youngest sister Lillian, who cares for her ailing mother-in-law while struggling with the memory of abuse at the hands of her brother, steps up to take care of Althea’s teenage children. Meanwhile, middle sister Viola is grappling with a separation from her wife and a history of bulimia. “Gray’s engrossing and moving debut novel considers secrets and lies and their effect on the families of three sisters... Alternating among each sister’s perspective, the story unravels at a measured pace, deliciously feeding the reader surprises about the past and present throughout.” (Booklist)

The Hundred Wells of Salaga
by Ayesha Harruna Attah
In late-19th-century Ghana, Aminah’s life is devastated when she is abducted, enslaved and eventually purchased by Wurche, the ambitious daughter of a chief. Ghanaian author Attah “is adept at leading readers across the varied terrain of 19th-century Ghana and handles heavy subjects with aplomb. Two memorable women anchor this pleasingly complicated take on slavery, power, and freedom.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Willa & Hesper
by Amy Feltman
Willa and Hesper are MFA students at Columbia who share a short-lived but passionate romance. Their break up prompts both women to pursue personal journeys around the globe.  “Thoughtful and fascinating… Feltman stays away from happy ending conventions and skillfully weaves glimmers of hope and healing throughout, making for a keenly perceptive novel.” (Publishers Weekly)

Sea Monsters
by Chloe Aridjis
Seventeen-year-old Luisa impulsively runs away from her Mexico City home with a boy she barely knows. They land at a beach on the Pacific Coast, where Luisa becomes obsessed with a band of escaped Soviet circus performers. Aridjis, a Mexican author who lives in London, is best known for her debut novel Book of Clouds (2009), which won the French Prix du Premier Roman Etranger. “This work deftly communicates the wonder and amazement of discovery characterizing Luisa's inner and outer worlds. Aridjis is an accomplished wordsmith, and readers will find themselves rereading many passages in this wise, marvelous novel.” (Library Journal)

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