monthly fiction preview

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in January 2019

An Orchestra of Minorities
by Chigozie Obioma
Following the success of Booker Prize shortlisted novel The Fishermen, Obioma returns with a story narrated by a 700-year-old spirit, featuring the struggles of Nigerian chicken farmer Chinonso and his love Ndali, the daughter of a wealthy family. In an attempt to win her family’s approval, Chinonso sells everything he owns to pay for a University degree in Cyprus. When he arrives he discovers he has been robbed and stranded by a terrible scam. “Obioma’s novel is electrifying, a meticulously crafted character drama told with emotional intensity. His invention, combining Igbo folklore and Greek tragedy in the context of modern Nigeria, makes for a rich, enchanting experience.” (Publishers Weekly)

We Cast a Shadow
by Maurice Carlos Ruffin
In the near future, racism in America is on the rise. The unnamed narrator of this novel endures humiliation and tokenization at his job because he will do anything for his son, Nigel. Wishing to spare Nigel the dangers of being young and Black in America, he becomes obsessed with an experimental surgical procedure that will make Nigel look white. “Set in a disturbingly familiar near future, where entire black neighborhoods are imprisoned in the name of security and “the bad blacks” can be denuded and deported under the “Dreadlock Ordinance,” Ruffin's debut novel is a harsh indictment of a society that views blackness as a disorder and that forces black men to choose between self-respect and survival… Brilliant and devastating.” (Booklist)

The Water Cure
by Sophie Mackintosh
In a dystopian future wracked by environmental disasters, sisters Grace, Lia, and Sky live in seaside isolation with their father and mother. Their only visitors are women seeking cures and feeling violence, until their father disappears and three strange men wash up on shore. “Mackintosh's intense, ambitious debut, longlisted for the Man Booker, evokes a feminist dystopia where three sisters live in isolation meant to protect them from a toxic world that has become particularly dangerous for women… Mackintosh's gripping novel is vicious in its depiction of victimhood, vibrant when victims transform into warriors, and full of outrage at patriarchal power, environmental devastation, and the dehumanization of women.” (Publishers Weekly)

99 Nights in Logar
by Jamil Jan Kochai
After having lived in the U.S. for half of his life, 12-year-old Marwand takes a family summer trip to their native village of Logar near American-occupied Kabul in Afghanistan. An unfriendly encounter with a dog leads to an adventure with relatives as they regale each other with stories. “With beautiful prose that encompasses the brutality of life in Afghanistan without overshadowing the warmth of family, culture, and storytelling… A vivid and moving novel about heritage, history, and the family bonds that transcend culture.” (Kirkus Reviews)  

Sugar Run
by Mesha Maren
Jodi McCarty is 35 when she completes her Georgia prison sentence for shooting her girlfriend Paula when she was a teenager. On a quest to keep a promise she made to Paula, she meets and falls for Miranda, mother of three with serious troubles of her own. “A world of shifting allegiances, small-town bigotry, draining poverty, pervasive substance abuse, and secrets as destructive as the blasts used in fracking on the property down the road from the farm... This impressive first novel combines beautifully crafted language and a steamy Southern noir plot to fine effect.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Here and Now and Then
by Mike Chen
Kin Stewart, a time traveler from the year 2142, finds himself stuck in 1990s San Francisco. His memory compromised, he falls in love, has a daughter and settles into a comfortable life until 18 years later, his best friend arrives to force him back to his former life in the future. Meanwhile, his daughter’s very existence is in danger and Kin must figure out how to save her from another century. “Heartfelt and thrilling... Kin's agony is deeply moving. His choices are often selfish but entirely understandable; he is human, with good intentions and profound flaws. Quick pacing, complex characters, and a fascinating premise make this an unforgettable debut.” (Publishers Weekly)

House of Stone
by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma
In 2007 Zimbabwe, the teenage son of Abednego and Agnes Mlambo goes missing after an anti-Mugabe demonstration. Their lodger Zamani, a 20-year-old orphan desperate for a family of his own, spots an opportunity and embarks on a devious campaign of manipulation and deception in an effort to take their son’s place. “Tshuma delineates a rich and complicated tale about the importance of history… the price of revolution, the pursuit of freedom, and the remaking of one's self. A multilayered, twisting, and surprising whirlwind of a novel that is as impressive as it is heartbreaking.” (Kirkus Reviews)

The Far Field
by Madhuri Vijay
30-year-old Shalini is a privileged and aimless young woman grieving her mother’s death. She decides to leave her home in Bangalore, India and travel to the northern region of Kashmir to find Bashir Ahmed, a former travelling merchant who was a friend to her mother. While her journey leads her to unexpected joys she must also confront volatile political conflicts, class differences and fraught histories. “Vijay intertwines her story's threads with dazzling skill. Dense, layered, impossible to pin—or put—down, her first novel is an engrossing tale of love and grief, politics and morality. Combining up-close character studies with finely plotted drama, this is a triumphant, transporting debut.” (Booklist)

by Sarah Léon, translated by John Cullen
Hermin is a composer who finds wintry solitude in France’s Bourbonnais mountains. His seclusion is interrupted by the surprise visit of an old friend and former student Lenny, a musical prodigy who disappeared suddenly from his life a decade earlier. Secrets from the past and present unfold, punctuated with musical allusion in a book that was nominated for the Prix Goncourt for a first novel. “A brooding tone underlines the pair’s resentment and dependence on each other, which seethes just below the surface during their conversations in the forest and silent moments by the fire. Léon perfectly measures out past and present to reach a satisfying and intimate crescendo.” (Booklist)

by Soniah Kamal
In this modern-day adaptation of Pride and Prejudice set in Pakistan, Alys Binat is an independent woman with a job as an English teacher, and she has no interest in marrying--especially not that proud Mr. Darsee. “The author remains faithful to the original story while giving readers insight into Pakistani culture in a modern retelling both enlightening and entertaining. The dialog sparkles with sharp humor, which will dazzle readers with counterparts of the original.” (Library Journal)

5 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in December 2018

Go figure, this month is turning out to be a slightly slow month for fiction. But if you’re like me, you're still catching up on all of your 2018 reads anyway. Here’s a shorter list of new books so you can join me in a last-ditch effort to catch up with our holds lists. Happy reading!

by Anna Burns
The winner of the 2018 Booker Prize is finally available in the U.S. this month. Set in Ireland during the tumultuous 1970s, an 18-year-old girl is targeted and stalked by an intimidating older man, not a milkman but a local paramilitary. Chair of this year’s Booker judges, writer and philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, had the following to say about Milkman: “The language of Anna Burns’ Milkman is simply marvellous; beginning with the distinctive and consistently realised voice of the funny, resilient, astute, plain-spoken, first-person protagonist. From the opening page her words pull us into the daily violence of her world — threats of murder, people killed by state hit squads — while responding to the everyday realities of her life as a young woman, negotiating a way between the demands of family, friends and lovers in an unsettled time. The novel delineates brilliantly the power of gossip and social pressure in a tight-knit community, and shows how both rumour and political loyalties can be put in the service of a relentless campaign of individual sexual harassment. Burns draws on the experience of Northern Ireland during the Troubles to portray a world that allows individuals to abuse the power granted by a community to those who resist the state on their behalf. Yet this is never a novel about just one place or time. The local is in service to an exploration of the universal experience of societies in crisis.”

North of Dawn
by Nuruddin Farah
Winner of literary prizes from across the globe, celebrated Somali author Farah returns with a novel centered on Gacalo and Mugdi, a Somali-born couple who have lived comfortably in Oslo for decades. They are devastated when their estranged son, who returned to Somalia after years of feeling alienated in Norway, kills himself in a suicide attack. They welcome their daughter-in-law and her teenage children into their home, leading to conflict and chaos. “Farah's insistence on isolating the humanity in even the most difficult characters is a beacon of hope against fear and loathing.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Revolution Sunday
by Wendy Guerra, translated by Achy Obejas
Cleo is a Cuban poet in her 30s who is mourning the sudden loss of her parents when she learns she has won a literary prize in Spain. Soon after she becomes a target of suspicion and surveillance by the government, and then she is approached by a handsome movie star who wants to make a film about her late father. But is he really who he seems? And were her parents harboring secrets? “Arresting, an explosive portrait of loneliness and isolation. Thick with the atmosphere of Cleo's Havana on the cusp of the Cuban thaw, the novel reads like the world's most poetic anxiety dream, vibrant and stifling. Demanding and unforgettable.” (Kirkus Reviews)

The Day the Sun Died
by Yan Lianke, translated by Carlos Rojas
Kafka Prizewinning author Yan, often censored in his native China for his satirical works, won The Dream of the Red Chamber Award for this dark novel, his latest to be translated into English. Fourteen-year-old Li Niannian helps his parents run a funeral parlor in their small village. Trouble begins when Niannian discovers family and neighbors “dreamwalking,” somnambulantly working and carrying out daytime activities, leading to accidental deaths and ultimately spiraling into chaos. “The interweaving of politics and delusion creates a powerful resonance… This is a riveting, powerful reading experience.” (Publishers Weekly)

Radiant Shimmering Light
by Sarah Selecky
Lilian Quick is a single woman in her 40s barely scraping by as a pet portraitist. Eleven Novak is the creator of the Ascendency, a female empowerment program that is also a barely disguised pyramid scheme. When a chance online encounter leads Lilian and Eleven to realize that they are long lost cousins, Lilian is swept up in the Ascendency, with new opportunities for success and self-actualization. “Selecky's biting, tragicomic first novel is an insider look at the intersection between the sincerity of belief and the commodification of aspiration... Selecky's deadpan tone, punchy writing, and vivid characters transport readers to a specific, highly diverting world that hits close to the bone and sparks the self-reflection it's spoofing.” (Booklist)

Keep your eyes peeled for more great reasons to read: Oakland Public Library’s annual list of staff favorite books, coming very soon!

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in November 2018

Evening in Paradise: More Stories
by Lucia Berlin
Berlin, a onetime Oakland & Berkeley resident who passed away in 2004, gained widespread and overdue acclaim with the posthumously published 2015 story collection A Manual for Cleaning Women. Known for tackling subjects of addiction and working class life with dark humor, Berlin has been compared to Alice Munro, Grace Paley, Raymond Carver and Denis Johnson. Evening in Paradise “features more seductive, sparkling autofiction with narrators whose names echo the author's in settings and situations that come from her roller-coaster biography…  No dead author is more alive on the page than Berlin: funny, dark, and so in love with the world.” (Kirkus Reviews) This collection is being released alongside an autobiographical work, Welcome Home: A Memoir with Selected Photographs and Letters.

How Long ’til Black Future Month? 
by N. K. Jemisin
Author N. K. Jemisin is known for award winning speculative fiction novels that deal with themes of oppression and resistance. Her debut novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (2010), won the Locus Award for Best First Novel and was nominated for just about every science fiction award out there. All three books in her Broken Earth series went on to win the Hugo Award for Best Novel. If you’re thinking that you don’t usually read science fiction, her new collection of short stories may be your gateway book. “These stories span Jemisin's career; they demonstrate both the growth and active flourishing of one of speculative fiction's most thoughtful and exciting writers.” (Kirkus Reviews)

by Gina Apostol
Chiara is an American filmmaker who comes to the Philippines in the age of Duterte to make a movie about the Philippine-American War. When Chiara hires writer and translator Magsalin to be her guide, Magsalin takes Chiara’s script and writes her own version of the story. The award winning author of Gun Dealers' Daughter (2012), Apostol “fearlessly probes the long shadow of forgotten American imperialism in the Philippines… This is a complex and aptly vertiginous novel that deconstructs how humans tell stories and decide which versions of events are remembered; names repeat between scripts, and directors suddenly interrupt what feels like historical narration. Apostol’s layers of narrative, pop culture references, and blurring of history and fiction make for a profound and unforgettable journey.” (Publishers Weekly)

The Best Bad Things
by Katrina Carrasco
Alma Rosales is a 19th century detective, trained and fired by the Pinkerton Agency. She goes undercover assuming multiple identities (and genders) trying to track an opium thief while vying for the affections of her boss and sometime lover Delphine Beaumond, leader of a drug smuggling ring. “Carrasco succeeds in coupling a feminist historical that maintains period plausibility with an exploratory queer narrative…  Breath-catching pacing, tantalizingly rough-and-tumble characters who are somehow both distasteful and deeply relatable, palpable erotic energy, and powerful storytelling make this a standout.” (Publishers Weekly)

My Sister, the Serial Killer
by Oyinkan Braithwaite
Ayoola isn’t just a heartbreaker—she’s a sociopath who kills her boyfriends when she’s ready to move on. Her sister, Korede, is always there to (literally) clean up her messes. “From the hospital rooms and living spaces of Lagos, Nigeria, comes a dryly funny and wickedly crafty exercise in psychological suspense...  Even your most extravagant speculations about what's really going on with these wildly contrasting yet oddly simpatico siblings will be trumped in this skillful, sardonic debut.” (Kirkus)

All the Lives We Never Lived
by Anuradha Roy
In the era of India’s fight for independence from Britain and the unfolding of WWII, Gayatri Rozario longs for freedom and art, and ultimately flees her family and her small Indian town. Years later, her adult son Myshkin tries to comprehend her betrayal as he pieces her life together with the help of a new found cache of letters. “A lush and lyrical fusion of history and storytelling... This mesmerizing exploration of the darker consequences of freedom, love, and loyalty is an astonishing display of Roy’s literary prowess.” (Publishers Weekly) Roy's previous novel, Sleeping on Jupiter, was longlisted for the 2015 Man Booker Prize. 

The Kinship of Secrets
by Eugenia Kim
In 1948, Najin and Calvin Cho decide to leave Korea in search of new opportunities in the United States. They can only bring one daughter, so they bring Miran, leaving younger Inja behind with family until they can bring her over. Only the Korean War breaks out, preventing them from reuniting their family, and forcing two sisters to grow up apart and in two very different worlds. Kim, the author of The Calligrapher's Daughter (2009), loosely based this novel on her own family’s story. “A timely and moving historical saga illuminating the repercussions experienced by families separated by war.” (Booklist)

The Lonesome Bodybuilder
by Yukiko Motoya, translated by Asa Yoneda
The Lonesome Bodybuilder is the English-language debut from Montoya, a playwright and novelist who has won some major fiction prizes in Japan. “An unusual but ingenious collection that blends dark humor and bemused first-person narrators suddenly confronted with unhappy relationships and startling realities... Funny without collapsing into wackiness, these eccentric, beguiling stories are reminiscent of Haruki Murakami and Kafka.” (Publishers Weekly)

The New Order: Stories
by Karen E. Bender
Bender follows her last book of stories, the National Book Award finalist Refund (2015), with a new collection that examines some of the mounting threats of our world including bigotry, violence and sexual harassment. “Closed spaces—elevators, offices, an airplane, classrooms—amplify the inner dramas of Bender’s watchful, anxious, feverishly expressive narrators… With literary virtuosity, psychological authenticity, and breath-catching insight, Bender dramatizes gripping personal dilemmas compounded by a new order of social tyranny.” (Booklist)

The Houseguest: And Other Stories
by Amparo Dávila
This debut English language release from Mexican author Dávila takes magical realism into dark, macabre territory. Publishers Weekly praises her “terrifying knack for letting horror seep into the commonplace and the domestic… Dávila’s stories plunge into the nature of fear, proving its force no matter if its origin is physical or psychological, real or imagined.”

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in October 2018

by Kingsolver, Barbara
Award-winning author Kingsolver presents yet another compelling story braced with social commentary and tethered to the natural world. Willa Knox’s family is struggling with debt, disability and unemployment under the roof of a disintegrating inherited house. In a parallel narrative 150 years earlier, science teacher Thatcher Greenwood has been reprimanded for teaching Darwinism to the mortification of his wife and mother-in-law. “Exceptionally involving and rewarding… in this enveloping, tender, witty, and awakening novel of love and trauma, family and survival, moral dilemmas and intellectual challenges, social failings and environmental disaster, Kingsolver insightfully and valiantly celebrates life’s adaptability and resilience, which includes humankind’s capacity for learning, courage, change, and progress.” (Booklist)

Friday Black
by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
A protégé of George Saunders confronts racism, consumerism and violence in stories that are raw, haunting, surreal and satirical in this debut collection. “Edgy humor and fierce imagery coexist in these stories with shrewd characterization and humane intelligence, inspired by volatile material sliced off the front pages… Corrosive dispatches from the divided heart of America.” (Kirkus Reviews)

One Part Woman
by Perumal Murugan
Happily married couple Ponna and Kali experience good fortune in many areas of their lives—but they cannot conceive a child. After years of infertility, their desperation pushes them to take drastic measures. “This beautiful novel from Murugan, winner of the Translation Prize from India’s National Academy of Letters, plunges readers into Tamil culture through a story of love within a caste system undergoing British colonization in the early 19th century… Murugan’s touching, harrowing love story captures the toll that infertility has on a marriage in a world where having a child is the greatest measure of one’s worth.” (Publishers Weekly) One Part Woman is on the longlist for the National Book Award for literature in translation, announced earlier this month.

The Proposal
by Jasmine Guillory
Nikole (Nik) Paterson looks like a jerk in front of a stadium of people when she turns down her boyfriend’s very public proposal at a Dodgers game but fortunately Carlos Ibarra comes to her rescue. When Nik and Carlos start a rebound romance, neither of them expects it to get serious. If The Proposal is anything like its predecessor (The Wedding Date, 2018) expect a fun and sexy multicultural romance. “Delightful. A charming book for the modern romance lover.” (Kirkus) And, you can meet author Jasmine Guillory at our Litquake event on October 19!

Sugar Land
by Tammy Lynne Stoner
In 1923 rural Texas, 19-year-old Dara has fallen for her best friend Rhodie. In order to hide her forbidden love, she flees to a job as a cook at the Sugar Land Prison, where she befriends the incarcerated Blues singer Lead Belly and tries to stay in the closet by marrying the prison warden. “Dara's story is a postcard of small-town Texas life from Prohibition through civil rights, tracing the treatment and awareness of gay people through these decades. The love child of Fannie Flagg and Rita Mae Brown, Stoner is sure to win her own devoted following with this ravishing debut.” (Kirkus)

Useful Phrases for Immigrants
by May-Lee Chai
This slim volume of stories looks at the lives of people in China and the Chinese diaspora around the globe, touching on issues of class, sexuality, identity and relationships. “With her masterful short story collection, Chai proves with exquisite craftsmanship that less can be so much more… The concise tales in this literary gem linger in the mind long after the pages are turned.” (Booklist)

Training School for Negro Girls
by Camille Acker
Acker's debut collection of stories focuses on the lives of black women of varied ages, in different time periods and across the socioeconomic spectrum in Washington D.C. “The women navigate social mores, gentrification, and their own insecurities… Beautifully rendered characters struggle to find a sense of themselves in their complex lives.” (Booklist)

Family Trust
by Kathy Wang
Stanley Huang, a first-generation Taiwanese American immigrant who found success in Silicon Valley, is probably worth millions. Now he is dying from pancreatic cancer, and each of his family members has their own reasons to hope for a windfall inheritance. “While many are comparing this novel to Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians, it's much more about family relationships than about the wealth the Huang family displays. It's also about the machinations of Silicon Valley… Readers who enjoy complicated novels about family issues will find this engrossing work impossible to put down.” (Library Journal)

White Dancing Elephants 
by Chaya Bhuvaneswar
Bhuvaneswar captured the Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Prize for these short stories examining a range of experiences and moods. “The 17 stories in this debut collection take place around the world, exploring queer and interracial love, extramarital affairs, and grief over the disappearances of loved ones. The book provocatively probes the aftermath—the aftermath of death, of grim diagnoses, of abandonment, of monumental errors in judgment. Passages jump back and forth in time to dissect how the consequences of a fraught event shape and unravel the lives of innocent casualties... An exuberant collection.” (Kirkus)

What We Owe 
by Golnaz Hashemzadeh Bonde
50-year-old Nahid made a life in Sweden after fleeing from Iran as a young revolutionary. Now she’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer and she must face her demise, her relationships and her past. “Spare and devastating… Nahid's sentences are short and thrillingly brutal, and the result is exhilarating. Hashemzadeh Bonde, unafraid of ugliness and seemingly unconcerned with likability, has produced a startling meditation on death, national identity, and motherhood. Always arresting, never sentimental; gut-wrenching, though not without hope.” (Kirkus)

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in September 2018

Washington Black
by Esi Edugyan
Washington Black is an enslaved young man on a Barbados sugar plantation who is taken under the wing of the master’s eccentric brother, who becomes his mentor, teaches him to read and flees with him to the north. “Framing the story with rich evocations of the era’s science and the world it studies, Edugyan mines the tensions between individual goodwill and systemic oppression, belonging and exclusion, wonder and terror, and human and natural order… Crafted in supple, nuanced prose, Edugyan’s novel is both searing and beautiful.” (Publishers Weekly) Edugyan’s previous book Half-Blood Blues (2012) won the Giller Prize and was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize; Washington Black is currently on the Booker longlist.

by Kate Atkinson
Triple Whitbread/Costa award winner Atkinson’s latest novel tells the story of Juliet Armstrong, working in British intelligence in 1940, and the grave events that haunt her ten years later when she’s a BBC radio producer. “As in her sublime Life after Life (2013), Atkinson again jumps between different periods in the mid-twentieth century to tell the story of a singular Englishwoman trapped in the vice of history… she is an exquisite writer of prose, using language with startling precision whether she is plumbing an inner life, describing events of appalling violence, or displaying her characters’ wonderfully acerbic wit.” (Booklist)

She Would Be King
by Wayétu Moore
June Dey, a runaway from a Virginia plantation, has superhuman strength. Norman, the son of an enslaved woman from Jamaica and a British scholar, can disappear. Gbessa, cast out from her West African village, can come back from the dead. The stories of these characters from various corners of the African diaspora converge in this imaginative retelling of the 19th century creation of the nation of Liberia. “Moore’s stunning debut novel is a magic-realism tour de force… There is an aching sweetness to Moore’s writing that effectively captures the dichotomous and vulnerable strength of her protagonists and catapults this into the realm of books that cast a long-lingering spell.” (Booklist)

by Sharlene Teo
Singaporean teenager Szu is an awkward outcast, in contrast to her beautiful single mom, who once starred in a trilogy of cult horror movies. Things turn around for Szu when Circe shows up at school, a transfer student, launching an intense friendship that crashes and burns. “On their own, Teo's sharp characterizations and setting—so alive that the book seems to create its own, humid microclimate—would set this book apart. Add to that her imaginative plot, prose that turns from humor to devastation on a dime, and original storytelling, and Ponti is a beyond-promising debut.” (Booklist) Ponti won the 2016 Deborah Rogers Writers Award for a novel in progress. 

Ordinary People
by Diana Evans
Prizewinning author Evans offers intertwined stories of Black love, family, parenthood and friendship in and around London during the Great Recession. Melissa is unsatisfied with her identity as a mom while Michael longs for the passion of their early relationship. Meanwhile, their friend Damian is mourning the loss of his father and longs for city life while his wife Stephanie clings to a suburban ideal that echoes her white middle-class upbringing. “Evans zooms out to build her characters’ culturally rich backstories as they struggle to recognize their older selves and the relationships that have aged along with them. A probing, entertaining, and self-affirming novel of men and women getting relatably lost in the crises and hauntings of early midlife.” (Booklist)

by Samuel Park
In 1970s Rio de Janeiro, eight-year-old Ana is the only child of a struggling single mother whose work as a voice-over actress takes her down a dangerous path. Years later, Ana is an undocumented caregiver in Los Angeles caring for a woman dying of cancer, always haunted by memories of her mother. “Park himself was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2014, in his 30s, and died shortly after finishing this book—making this his final novel. It's a beautiful testament to his extraordinary talents as a storyteller. In prose that rings clear and true, Park shepherds his characters through the streets of Copacabana to the posh hills of Bel Air. This is an elegy that reads, in some moments, like a thriller—and, in others, like a meditation on what it means to be alive… A ferocious page-turner with deep wells of compassion.” (Kirkus Reviews)

The Golden State
by Lydia Kiesling
Thirty-something San Franciscan Daphne is mother to 16-month-old Honey. Besides the intense demands of early motherhood, she’s bored by her University job, her Turkish husband has been illegally denied reentry into the United States, and she’s reeling from the death of a student. Under the weight of these pressures she impulsively decides to flee with Honey to the desert small-town mobile home she inherited from her mother. “Kiesling writes with breathtaking precision and honesty about motherhood; she captures the relentlessness of parenting a toddler down to her very sentence structure… Kiesling is also an astute cultural commentator, shedding light on our current political divide and university politics and Orientalism and the barbarism of America past and present while shedding light on parts of California often ignored by news and literature.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

Juno's Swans
by Tamsen Wolff
In summer 1988, 17-year-old Nina plans to escape her miserable family and spend the months before her senior year on Cape Cod with her best friend Titch. Plans change when Nina falls hard for slightly older college student Sarah, leaving Titch in the lurch. “Wolff’s debut novel is a riveting account of first love… As Nina’s relationship with Sarah unravels, America unravels in the backdrop as well, with the AIDS epidemic and cultural tensions roiling the nation. Although Nina is keenly aware of the political landscape, Wolff’s crushing novel is ultimately a very personal story, vividly rendered in a montage of memories. Considering both romantic and platonic female relationships, Wolff explores the necessity of lived (instead of studied) experience and the lasting importance of loved ones.” (Publishers Weekly

The Parting Gift
by Evan Fallenberg
This erotic epistolary novel traces a series of impulsive decisions that leads the unnamed narrator to a Tel Aviv spice market, where he tumbles into a passionate affair with the market’s owner, Uzi. Uzi takes him into his home, to the surprise of his ex-wife and children next door, but their passion leads to jealousy and devastation. “The story is magnetic, drawing readers in from the first crotch-grab to the last goodbye. But more important, this is a complicated study of the ways in which religious heritage—from codes of honor to familial expectations—interacts with business and acceptance, family and lovers, and self-realization. A beautiful novel whose only fault is ending too soon.” (Kirkus Reviews) Fallenberg’s debut novel, Light Fell (2009), won the 2009 Stonewall Prize and the Edmund White Award. 

Sea Prayer
by Khaled Hosseini
This brief, illustrated book from the author of The Kite Runner (2003) tells the story of a Syrian refugee family in the form of a letter from a father to son. Filed with tenderness and yearning for home, this book is recommended for readers age 10 to 100+. “The book reads like an emotional gut-punch…an excruciating one. It is impossible to read without feeling intense compassion for those—and there are thousands—whose lives resemble those of the characters in the book. Powerful.” (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 August 2018

A River of Stars
by Vanessa Hua
East Bay writer and SF Chronicle columnist Hua follows her story collection Deceit and Other Possibilities (2016) with a novel about immigration, identity and family. Scarlett is a fiercely determined woman from China sent by her lover to Perfume Bay, a scammy Los Angeles birth center for Chinese mothers who want their babies born in the U.S. When she discovers her lover plans to take their child, she flees with the help of equally headstrong teen mother-to-be Daisy, and together they try to carve out a life for themselves and their babies in San Francisco’s Chinatown. “An astute debut novel that confronts identity, privilege, freedom, and a twenty-first-century rendering of the American dream with poignancy, insight, humor, and plenty of savvy charm.” (Booklist)

by Ling Ma
In 2011, the world is struck by Shen Fever, a mysterious illness that compels its victims to repeat mundane tasks over and over until they collapse. Candace Chen, an immune millennial living in Manhattan, documents the plague as anonymous blogger NY Ghost. “A biting indictment of late-stage capitalism and a chilling vision of what comes after… Candace is great, a wonderful mix of vulnerability, wry humor, and steely strength. She's sufficiently self-aware to see the parallels between her life before the End and the pathology of Shen Fever. Ma also offers lovely meditations on memory and the immigrant experience. Smart, funny, humane, and superbly well-written.” (Kirkus Reviews)

If You Leave Me
by Crystal Hana Kim
During the brutal and tumultuous 1950s in Korea, 16-year-old Haemi lives in a refugee camp with her widowed mother and brother. Although she falls in love with Kyunghwan, she decides she must marry his cousin Jisoo in the interests of her family. “Up to the year 1967, the narrative follows these three in alternating chapters as they deal with the trauma of war and mature through life… Filled with brave personalities of all ages and character-driven story lines that are emotionally gripping, this sensitive and hauntingly written novel will easily leave readers wanting more.” (Library Journal)

How Are You Going to Save Yourself
by J. M. Holmes
Pushcart Prize-winner Holmes debuts with a collection of linked short stories following the lives of four young African American men in a working-class corner of Rhode Island. “Holmes’ writing is fresh, and his dialogue rings true. He doesn’t shy away from difficult subject matter or from showing his characters’ flaws, which makes for some incredibly tough scenes to read, but also highlights the everyday travails of black men in America. Readers looking for timely, nuanced fiction about race and masculinity should definitely pick this up.” (Booklist)

Night Soil
by Dale Peck
Teenage Judas lives with his mother Dixie, a renowned potter. He finds some satisfaction in anonymous encounters with men at a roadside rest stop, but longs for his fellow classmates at The Academy, the private school founded by his grandfather with money from an empire built from slavery and coal. “A lush, provocative, and thought-provoking story of queer identity at the intersection of art, family history, capitalism, and the American racial order… Judas is an irreverent, erudite, and deviously funny narrator, and the book reflects his loquacious charm with ornate prose that is downright Nabokov-ian in its exuberance, abounds in clever wordplay, malapropisms, and dense descriptive passages.” (Kirkus)

Poso Wells
by Gabriela Alemán, translated by Dick Cluster
This celebrated Ecuadorian author’s first work published in English is a madcap, feminist mash-up of noir, thriller, Science Fiction and satire. Journalist Gonzalo Varas is trying to get to the bottom of various matters including the freak electrocution of a presidential candidate, alien encounters, the corrupt dealings of some wealthy politicians and tycoons, and multiple instances of women reported missing in Poso Wells. “A wild, successful satire of Ecuadorian politics and supernatural encounters... Alemán’s sleek narrative is bizarre and propulsive, and though the novel’s ramshackle finale may come together a bit fast, Alemán’s singular voice keeps the ride fresh and satisfying.” (Publishers Weekly) Poso Wells is one of the American Booksellers Association’s Independent Booksellers’ 10 Debut Picks of the Season.

We That Are Young
by Preti Taneja
Hotel and entertainment mogul Devraj Bapuji has decided to step down from his sprawling empire. Meanwhile, his youngest daughter Sita has disappeared in advance of her arranged marriage and his illegitimate son Jivan has returned after fifteen years abroad in the United States. When eldest daughters Radha and Gargi assume control of the company a chaotic struggle for power ensues. “Shakespeare's supreme tragedy, King Lear, is transposed to contemporary India and recast as a family drama of financial power-brokering within a transforming, culturally complex nation... Issues of gender and generation spearhead the conflict in this mammoth drama of money, succession, and control, British-born Taneja's impressive first work of fiction... A long, challenging, but inspired modernization of a classic—engaging, relevant, and very dark.” (Kirkus)

by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft
Tokarczuk, one of Poland’s foremost contemporary authors, won the Man Booker International Prize for this novel that tells many stories including that of tourist Kunicki whose wife and son have disappeared during their Croatian vacation, Dr. Blau who visits the home of an adversary who has recently died, and the 17th century tragedy of Angelo Soliman, an Austrian noble of Nigerian ancestry whose dignified life was betrayed after his death. “Written in a cacophony of voices, the book's themes accumulate not from plot, but rather associations and resonances... The novel continues in this vein—dipping in and out of submerged stories, truths, and flights of fantasy stitched together by associations. Punctuated by maps and figures, the discursive novel is reminiscent of the work of Sebald. The threads ultimately converge in a remarkable way, making this an extraordinary accomplishment.” (Publishers Weekly)

A Short Film About Disappointment
by Joshua Mattson
In a dystopian future, movie critic Noah Body posts reviews no one reads. So he uses them as diary entries, describing his failed marriage, alarming new modes of technology, and his dreams of making his own film. “With weapons-grade wit, Mattson satirizes movies, reviewers, and life in the data age... Mattson’s exhilarating novel is rife with ingenious humor and inventiveness.” (Publishers Weekly)

Everyday People: The Color of Life—a Short Story Anthology
edited by Jennifer Baker
Short story lovers will want to reach for this new collection centered on authors of color, with emerging writers alongside superstars including Mia Alvar, Alexander Chee, Yiyun Li, and Jason Reynolds. “Editor Baker has produced a vital anthology whose strength lies in its unwillingness to commit to a single genre or style… This is a vital, riveting anthology that emphasizes the complexity and diversity of minority experience.” (Kirkus)

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in July 2018

The Incendiaries
by R. O. Kwon
“Written in dazzling, spare prose, Kwon’s debut tells the fractured story of three young people looking for something to believe in while attending the prestigious Edwards University. There’s Will Kendall, a one-time “kid evangelist” who transferred from a Bible college after losing his faith in God. He soon meets—and falls in love with—Pheobe Lin, a Korean-American pianist wrestling with the death of her mother in an accident for which she blames herself. And then there’s John Leal, a charismatic cult leader and former Edwards student who claims to have been held captive in North Korea… In this intriguing cult story, Kwon thoroughly explores her characters’ motivations, making for an urgent and disarming debut.” (Publishers Weekly) The New York Times hyped her as one of “4 Writers to Watch This Summer.”

Fruit of the Drunken Tree
by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
“In this incomparable debut novel, Contreras draws on her own experience growing up in turbulent 1990s Bogotá, Colombia, amid the violence and social instability fueled by Pablo Escobar’s narcotics trafficking. In vividly rendered prose, textured with generous Spanish, Contreras tells the story of an unlikely bond between two girls on the verge of womanhood: Chula, the daughter of a middle-class family, and Petrona, the teenager hired to serve as the family’s maid… A riveting, powerful, and fascinating first novel.” (Booklist)

The Occasional Virgin
by Hanan Al-Shaykh
"Novelist and memoirist al-Shaykh (One Thousand and One Nights: A Retelling, 2013, etc.) delivers an elegant story of a friendship that is anything but easy. Huda and Yvonne are both Lebanese with long memories of civil war and oppression but with little else in common: Huda is Muslim, Yvonne Christian; Yvonne is a touch flighty, Huda steadfast... Al-Shaykh's novel is full of quiet regrets as it speaks gracefully to the challenges of friendship, challenges that threaten to drive the two women apart but that, in the end, instead strengthen their bond. Another winning book by one of the most distinguished Arabic-language writers at work today.” (Kirkus Reviews)

How to Love a Jamaican: Stories
by Alexia Arthurs
"Arthurs’s debut collection of short stories is an impressive, fully realized work that grapples with Jamaican womanhood. Her mission is clear from the first story, “Light-Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands,” which looks at two Jamaican-American students from radically different backgrounds who bond over art, family, and their shared heritage. In another, “Island,” a woman finally returns to the island with several other Jamaican-American friends, only to feel isolated from them by her newly found interest in women. While critical, Arthurs never condemns as she explores the nuances in fraught intra-community subjects like depression, assimilation, and ethnic tensions. “Maybe our kind doesn’t have time for soft words,” one narrator wonders in “We Eat Our Daughters,” an exploration of motherhood. Arthurs offers a compassionate response with these tender portraits of hard women, lost girls, and the people who love them.” (Village Voice) You can get an all-too-brief sample from the Paris Review here but only subscribers will get the full story.

If You See Me, Don't Say Hi: Stories
by Neel Patel
“Debut-author Patel’s 10 compact yet meaty stories feature characters—most of them first-generation Indian Americans, as the author is—trying to navigate a world full of expectations (go to college, land a prestigious job, get married, have children) only to find themselves continually thwarted. Like the young man in the story “Just a Friend,” who finds himself in a seemingly perfect, whirlwind relationship with an older man, and soon discovers that nothing is what it seems. Or the woman who is dating the “right” man (one her parents approve of) yet seeks out a one-night stand with the Wi-Fi fix-it guy... Patel explores universal themes in unexpected ways and excels at portraying nuanced characters in even the briefest stories. Readers in search of a fresh new voice should be on the lookout for Patel.” (Booklist)

by David Chariandy
“A novel about the indignities, frustrations, and joy found in a Toronto public housing complex. The Park is a sprawling complex home to thousands of residents struggling to find work, take care of each other, and get through another day. Like so many of the Park's residents, Michael and Francis are the children of an immigrant single mother. Ruth came from Trinidad with dreams of becoming a nurse; instead, she's working multiple jobs, riding buses for hours, and coming home too exhausted to even sleep. Michael and Francis are learning how to survive in the Park as young men. They know how to posture, which guys to avoid, and how to act when the police roll through… An important, riveting novel about dreams, families, and the systems holding them back.” (Kirkus Reviews)

America for Beginners
by Leah Franqui
“When their only child, Rahi, living and working in California, came out to his parents, Pival Sengupta's husband, Ram, forbade any mention of him and furiously blamed Pival for their son's orientation. After a years-long estrangement, Ram takes a call from America and tells Pival that their son is dead. She doesn't believe him, and now that Ram himself is dead, she leaves Kolkata, India, to discover the truth about Rahi. After booking a tour with an American travel company that caters to upper-class Indians, she quickly puts tour guide Satya in his place when he tries to pass himself off as Bengali (he's from Bangladesh) and accepts Rebecca, an unemployed actress, as her companion for propriety's sake. Off this ill-matched trio head on a cross-country road trip to California… Debut author Franqui, an award-winning playwright living in Mumbai, writes a tender, funny, wrenching, beautifully executed tale of three lost souls who traverse the chasms of cultural, generational, and geographical divides to forge some bonds strong and true enough to withstand life's gut punches.” (Library Journal)

What We Were Promised 
by Lucy Tan
“This first novel opens with the mystery of a missing ivory bracelet belonging to Lina, wife of marketing strategist Wei, who lives luxuriously with her husband and daughter in a full-service apartment in Shanghai. Housekeepers Sunny and Rose are the primary suspects, as they have access to the home's private areas. As readers learn about these young women and eventually discover who took the bracelet, the secrets behind Lina and Wei's betrothal and their more humble beginnings are also revealed… Throughout, Tan's talent as a storyteller clearly shines through her strong plot lines and characterization; readers will want to know more about each well-crafted player in the story, rich or poor, young or old.” (Library Journal)

Immigrant, Montana
by Amitava Kumar
“The plot of Kumar’s droll and exhilarating second novel (following Nobody Does the Right Thing) may feel familiar at first, but this coming-of-age-in-the-city story is bolstered by the author’s captivating prose, which keeps it consistently surprising and hilarious. Indian immigrant Kailash arrives in New York in 1990 wide-eyed but also wry, self-aware, and intellectually thirsty. Kailash lives uptown and attends college, and soon has his first sexual experience, with the socially conscious Jennifer, a coworker at the bookstore where he works, who brings him hummus and takes him ice skating. After he and Jennifer break up, he begins to date the mischievous Nina, followed by a series of other young women; the novel’s seven parts are titled after Kailash’s romantic partners, his formal education intertwined with his personal education... Ultimately, his journey is more intellectual than physical, and the book includes a plethora of lively literary and cultural references in footnotes, sidebars, and illustrations. This novel is an inventive delight, perfectly pitched to omnivorous readers.” (Publishers Weekly)

The Wrong Heaven
by Amy Bonnaffons
“At once goofy, poignant, and edged with the fantastic, the stories in Bonnaffons's debut collection initially surprise, then turn into one long, delicious rush—you just have to get into the author's frame of mind… Throughout, Bonnaffons shows us absurdity and carefully managed pain.” (Publishers Weekly)

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in June 2018

There There
by Tommy Orange
Oakland is the setting for this unflinchingly brutal, compassionate, and sometimes humorous debut novel which takes a panoramic look at the lives of urban Native Americans.  The stories of twelve individuals weave together with rage, pain and beauty as their paths converge at the Big Oakland Powwow. “A deep dive into the fractured diaspora of a community that remains, in many ways, invisible to many outside of it… In this vivid and moving book, Orange articulates the challenges and complexities not only of Native Americans, but also of America itself.” (Kirkus Reviews)

A Place for Us
by Fatima Farheen Mirza
Layla and Rafiq are Muslim Indian immigrants raising three children in California whose family is split by the rebellion of their son, Amar. The event of their daughter Hadia’s wedding prompts each character to reflect on memories, bringing forth powerful and painful recollections. “Extraordinary in its depth and diligence… Each complex, surprising character struggles with faith, responsibility, racism, fear, longing, and jealousy, while Mirza conveys with graceful specificity the rhythms of Muslim life, from prayer to wearing hijab, gender etiquette, food, holidays, and values, all of which illuminate universal quandaries about family, self, culture, beliefs, and generational change.” (Booklist)

Small Country
by Gael Faye, translated by Sarah Ardizzone
Gabriel is the son of a French father and a Rwandan mother living a carefree life in the Burundi capital of Bujumbura. His coming of age coincides with the mid-1990s eruption of political chaos in Burundi and Rwanda. “Faye debuts a precise and potent voice in his deeply affecting novel… The juxtaposition of everyday growing pains and the fallout from atrocities is heightened by Faye’s lovely prose, which builds a heartrending portrait of the end of childhood.” (Publishers Weekly) Small Country was originally published in France, where it won multiple awards.

Kiss Quotient
by Helen Hoang
30-year-old econometrician Stella Lane has Asperger's syndrome, and although she is feeling pressure to settle down, she is repelled by the idea of sex and romance. She decides to hire an escort, Michael, to be her fake boyfriend in a practical and unconventional effort to learn about relationships.  “Debut author Hoang, diagnosed with Asperger's herself, portrays Stella with honesty and tenderness. Michael's fraught family history is given lush attention, with a cast of endearing relatives who come together in a delightfully realistic portrayal of an unlikely couple falling in love.” (Library Journal)

by Roxane Gay
Gay’s 2011 collection of short stories is being rereleased in a new edition with several new stories, no doubt prompted by acclaim and popularity generated by her work as a writer of fiction, essays and memoir including Hunger, Bad Feminist, and Difficult Women. “Gay’s parents were born in Haiti, the country that the characters in these 15 stories live in, visit, or leave and consider with the pride that exists especially for one’s homeland… Dismantling the glib misconceptions of her complex ancestral home, Gay cuts and thrills. Readers will find her powerful first book difficult to put down.” (Booklist)

Confessions of the Fox
by Jordy Rosenberg
This 18th century queer love story, present-day Academic satire and epic rollicking swashbuckling adventure rolled into one revolves around the true-life story of legendary British thief and jailbreaker Jack Sheppard. Troubled university professor Dr. Voth discovers a 1724 manuscript that recounts the story of how the notorious Sheppard began life as an orphan girl who was sold into servitude, fell in love with a sex worker named Bess, and together they breathlessly pursued their dream of freedom. “Resonant of George Saunders, of Nikolai Gogol, and of nothing that’s ever been written before, professor of literature and queer/trans theory Rosenberg’s debut is a triumph… Irreverent, erudite, and not to be missed.” (Booklist

by James A. McLaughlin
Violent confrontations loom in this atmospheric and suspenseful thriller featuring Rice Moore, a caretaker on an Appalachian forest preserve. He fled Arizona after he crossed a drug cartel, and now faces conflict with bear poachers and other locals. “Told in spare prose and portraying the authentic mechanics of hunting, combat, and psychological defense, the novel dares the reader to root for this damaged antihero but convinces us that he's worth it. An intense, visceral debut equal to the best that country noir has to offer.” (Kirkus)

Convenience Store Woman
by Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori
Keiko Furukura was a strange child. When she turned 18, she discovered that as a convenience store worker at Smile Mart she could smother her unconventional urges with her employer’s rigid corporate culture. Another 18 years later, adult expectations of who she should be chip away at her efforts at living a “normal life.” “A sly take on modern work culture and social conformism… Murata provides deceptively sharp commentary on the narrow social slots people—particularly women—are expected to occupy and how those who deviate can inspire bafflement, fear, or anger in others… A unique and unexpectedly revealing English language debut.” (Kirkus) Winner of Japan’s prestigious Akutagawa Prize.

Never Anyone but You
by Rupert Thomson
Part historical fiction, part love story, and part thriller, this novel recounts the lives of photographer and illustrator Suzanne Malherbe and writer Lucie Schwob, life-long lovers and eccentrics who were connected with the early 20th century literary salons and avant-garde of Paris and later became anti-Nazi propagandists during the German Occupation. “Readers enamored of Paris in its artistic and literary heyday and curious about overlooked historical women and members of the LGBT community will be moved by Thomson’s lovely, quietly powerful novel of reinvention in many forms.” (Booklist)

The Good Son
by You-jeong Jeong, translated by Chi-Young Kim
Twenty-five-year-old Yu-jin suffers from seizures, and the medicine he takes makes him drowsy and prone to memory loss. When finds his mother’s bloody body at the bottom of the stairs, he can’t clearly remember the night before—and wonders if he might be guilty of her murder. “Jeong has been called ‘Korea’s Stephen King,’ and she lives up to the billing with this taut psychological thriller. Yu-jin is an intriguing protagonist, and the many twists and turns Jeong takes with this story arc set the reader up for quite a thrill ride… Incorporating chilling prose, unpredictable characters, and blood by the gallons, Jeong has crafted an ominous and haunting experience.” (Library Journal)

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in May 2018

The Mars Room
by Rachel Kushner
Single mother Romy Hall was a stripper at a San Francisco bar when she killed her stalker, earning her two life sentences at Stanville Women's Correctional Facility in California's Central Valley. As she lives out her sentence, she reflects on her precarious childhood and wonders what will become of her son. “This is a gorgeously eviscerating novel of incarceration writ large, of people trapped in the wrong body, the wrong family, poverty, addiction, and prejudice… Rooted in deeply inquisitive thinking and executed with artistry and edgy wit, Kushner’s dramatic and disquieting novel investigates with verve and compassion societal strictures and how very difficult it is to understand each other and to be truly free.” (Booklist) Kushner’s previous novels Telex from Cuba (2008) and The Flamethrowers (2013) were both finalists for the National Book Award.

The Ensemble
by Aja Gabel
In 1990’s San Francisco, four talented musicians form a string quartet that will bind them together for the next two decades. “Gabel's first novel explores the ups and downs of their chamber group, the Van Ness Quartet, as their relationships and talents grow and mature. Each character is fully developed, each action and emotion is believable and relatable... Gabel explores friendship and art with great warmth, humanity, and wisdom.” (Library Journal)

A Lucky Man
by Jamel Brinkley
“An assured debut collection of stories about men and women, young and old, living and loving along the margins in Brooklyn and the Bronx... It's difficult to single out any story as most outstanding since they are each distinguished by Brinkley's lyrical invention, precise descriptions of both emotional and physical terrain, and a prevailing compassion toward people as bemused by travail as they are taken aback by whatever epiphanies blossom before them. A major talent.” (Kirkus Reviews)

The Lost Empress
by Sergio De La Pava
Nina Gill helped her father build the Dallas Cowboys into a dynasty and expected she would inherit the team someday. When her brother inherits the Cowboys and she receives the Paterson Pork, New Jersey's only Indoor Football League franchise, she vows to take on the NFL. Meanwhile Nuno DeAngeles is orchestrating a criminal scheme that involves getting thrown into Rikers Island in order to carry out his plan. “A madcap, football-obsessed tale of crossed destinies and criminal plots gone awry... A whirling vortex of a novel, confusing, misdirecting, and surprising—and a lot of fun.” (Kirkus) De La Pava is the author of A Naked Singularity, a self-published sensation that went on to win the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize and was listed as one of the ten best works of fiction of 2012 by The Wall Street Journal.

The Map of Salt and Stars
by Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar
Intertwined stories connect the lives of an 11-year-old girl fleeing present-day war-torn Syria and a 12th century North African girl who disguises herself as a boy and becomes a cartographer’s apprentice. “Both are fatherless girls growing into young womanhood, and they share a similar search for the meaning of home, both physical and spiritual. Joukhadar plunges the Western reader full force into the refugee world with sensual imagery that is immediate, intense, and at times overwhelming.” (Kirkus)

The Storm
by Arif Anwar
In 1970 East Pakistan, young Shahryar is orphaned by the deadly Bhola cyclone. His unlikely journey to America and fatherhood is one of many storylines that converge in this complex novel that encompasses multiple eras and geographies. “With a sprawling cast of vividly drawn characters, most of whom must negotiate a dizzying array of religious, economic, and national boundaries, this powerful and important debut is a story for our time… Essential for fans of literary fiction.” (Library Journal)

Welcome to Lagos
by Chibundu Onuzo
Among the chaos of Nigeria’s capitol, an unlikely crew of Army deserters and runaways encounters an Education Minister in the thick of a Robin Hood-inspired scandal. “A crisp story that uses well-fleshed characters and a razor-tight plot… a tangy Ocean’s Eleven–esque escapade that exposes class and ethnic divides in the country even as it manages to mock the West for its colonial gaze toward the African continent as a whole. Full of nuance, the story spares no one as it careens toward its satisfying finale.” (Booklist)

My Ex-Life
by Stephen McCauley
Times are tough for David Hedges: his partner has left him for a younger man, and he’s about to get evicted from his San Francisco apartment. So, it seems like a good time to come to the rescue of his ex-wife, facing her own crises on the other side of the country. “As always, McCauley's (Insignificant Others, 2010, etc.) effervescent prose is full of wit and wisdom on every topic—college application essays, Airbnb operation, weed addiction, live porn websites, and, most of all, people... A gin and tonic for the soul.” (Kirkus)

Little Fish
by Casey Plett
Wendy Reimer is a thirty-year-old trans woman living in Winnipeg, Canada. She grapples with constant hostility but is buoyed by a supportive community. When her grandmother dies, Wendy must deal with her grief while she discovers evidence that her late grandfather, a Mennonite, may have also been transgender. “A confident, moving work that reports unflinchingly on the lives of trans women in Winnipeg. But more than that, it’s also an honest and heartbreaking, and sometimes funny, look at a group of friends trying to come to terms with themselves and their world… a powerful and important debut.” (National Post)

by Sheila Heti
A woman in her thirties asks herself whether or not she wants to become a mother.  She mulls over this question with her partner, family and friends, consults mystical sources and contemplates her desires. “A book of sex (the real, unsensational kind), mood swings, and deep feminist thought, this volume is essentially a chronicle of vacillating ruminations on this big question. Although readers shouldn’t go in expecting clean-cut epiphanies, this lively, exhilaratingly smart, and deliberately, appropriately frustrating affair asks difficult questions about women’s responsibilities and desires, and society’s expectations.” (Publishers Weekly) Heti is the author of How Should a Person Be? (2012), a New York Times Notable Book.

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in April 2018

The Female Persuasion
by Meg Wolitzer
Greer Kadetsky is a smart but meek college freshman who abandons her fantasies for a conventional life after she has a life-altering encounter with an iconic feminist guest lecturer. “Wolitzer's ambitious and satisfying novel (following The Interestings) charts a Massachusetts girl's coming-of-age and asks pressing questions about what it means to be an empowered modern woman... As in her previous novels, Wolitzer writes with an easy, engrossing style, and her eye for detail seamlessly connects all the dots in the book's four major story lines. This insightful and resonant novel explores what it is to both embrace womanhood and suffer because of it.” (Publishers Weekly)

America Is Not the Heart
by Elaine Castillo
An extended Filipino family finds a new life in the East Bay. Hero leaves behind a painful past and a career as a surgeon to join her uncle and his family in Milpitas, helping with her seven-year-old cousin while seeking her own fulfilling personal life. “My new favorite book, and maybe yours, too… This is Castillo’s first novel, and it is masterful. It has drama and tragedy in spades, but it also has so much love of every kind spilling out of its pages that I closed it each night with a huge, warm smile. I might go home and read it again.” (Paris Review)

by Madeline Miller
After winning the Women's Prize for Fiction for her retelling of Homer in The Song of Achilles (2012), Miller returns with another novel steeped in Greek mythology and feminine power. Circe prefers the company of mortals until she discovers her gift of sorcery, and she is banished to an island where she can learn to sharpen her craft. “Neither the goddess Athena nor the deadliest poison known to man makes Circe flinch. Weaving together Homer’s tale with other sources, Miller crafts a classic story of female empowerment. She paints an uncompromising portrait of a superheroine who learns to wield divine power while coming to understand what it means to be mortal.” (Publishers Weekly)

Heads of the Colored People: Stories
by Nafissa Thompson-Spires
“A bold new voice, at once insolently sardonic and incisively compassionate, asserts itself amid a surging wave of young African-American fiction writers. In her debut story collection, Thompson-Spires flashes fearsome gifts for quirky characterization, irony-laden repartee, and edgy humor... Thompson-Spires' auspicious beginnings auger a bright future in which she could set new standards for the short story.” (Kirkus Reviews)

by Négar Djavadi, translated by Tina Kover
Kimia Sadr is a twenty-five-year-old, irreverent, queer, Iranian exile. While she waits for her appointment at a Parisian fertility clinic, she muses on the future and delves into the past, tracing the history of her birth country, her immediate family, and generations of ancestors. “What is obvious from the beginning of this riveting novel is that Djavadi is an immensely gifted storyteller, and Kimia’s tale is especially compelling. The winner of multiple awards in France, this debut novel in translation follows the fortunes of one Iranian family from the dawn of the twentieth century through the revolution and their Parisian exile… Kimia unthreads the narratives of her family history, and the shaping of her own identity, with the insight and verve of a master storyteller.” (Booklist)

The Oracle Year
by Charles Soule
Will Dando is a struggling New York City musician who has a dream one night that reveals 108 predictions of the future, some trivial and some critically significant. With the help of a friend, Will begins disclosing these predictions online assuming the anonymous identity of “the Oracle”, attracting fame, wealth and danger. “Wildly entertaining… As the world’s population becomes obsessed with the Oracle’s posts—some thinking he’s a savior and others vilifying him—unmasking the Oracle’s identity becomes the prime objective for government agencies, religious groups, and journalists worldwide… Although the premise is a bit shaky, the relentless pacing, richly developed characters, and brilliant ending make this apocalyptic speculative thriller an undeniable page-turner.” (Publishers Weekly) Comic book fans will already be familiar with Soule, the bestselling author of Daredevil, Letter 44, Death of Wolverine, She-Hulk and others.

How to Be Safe
by Tom McAllister
In the chaos following a school shooting, recently fired teacher Anna Crawford is unfairly named as a conspirator. Even once her name is cleared, the consequences are devastating. “Brilliant, tragically timely… This novel is an indictment of gun culture, hot-take journalism, and social media, and if that sounds like a miserable premise for a novel, fear not: McAllister is a brave and stylish writer, and Anna is a singular creation. At first, she seems like a classic unreliable narrator, but it quickly becomes hard to decide which is crazier: Anna or the world she's describing… Intensely smart. Sharply written.” (Kirkus)

You Think It, I’ll Say It
by Curtis Sittenfeld
The bestselling author of Eligible (2016), American Wife (2008) and other novels offers her first story collection, examining the lives of women as they deal with relationships, politics and contemporary life. “Thoroughly satisfying… As in her novels, Sittenfeld’s characters are funny and insightful. Reading these consistently engrossing stories is a pleasure.” (Publishers Weekly)

The Stolen Bicycle
by Wu Ming-Yi, translated by Darryl Sterk
An author’s quest to find his father’s long missing bicycle leads him to unusual encounters and an unexpected exploration of Taiwan’s modern history. Wu Ming-Yi’s latest novel to be translated into English (after The Man with the Compound Eyes, 2014) has won multiple awards in the author’s native Taiwan and is longlisted for this year’s Man Booker International Prize. “Profoundly moving… It’s a novel that confounds conventional expectations of narrative pace and form, even as it burrows deep into the reader’s conscience.” (South China Morning Post)

Though I Get Home
by Y. Z. Chin
“A mosaic of stories about state- and self-imposed silence and what it means to find your voice. The 14 stories in Chin's debut collection are centered around Malaysia: the people, culture, and country. Interconnected (sometimes loosely, sometimes overtly) by characters, the stories also share themes like patriotism, censorship, personhood, and art as protest… A haunting, surprising, and rebellious collection that contains multitudes.” (Kirkus)