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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in March 2018

The Sparsholt Affair
by Alan Hollinghurst
Beginning in 1940s England, this novel traces the lives of a family in the midst of a changing society, beginning with David Sparsholt, an engineering student at Oxford who has a fling with the son of a famous author before he heads off to war, and continuing with his son Johnny, an artist and openly gay man thriving in 1970s London. “Superlatives are made to describe this extraordinary work of fiction; characterization, style, mood, tone, setting—all are equally distinguished. Hollinghurst is especially good at evoking yearning, and, indeed, his novel will inarguably leave his readers yearning for more.” (Booklist) Hollinghurst’s previous novels include The Swimming Pool Library (1988, Somerset Maugham Award), The Folding Star (1994, James Tait Black Memorial Prize) and The Line of Beauty (2004, Booker Prize).

Speak No Evil
by Uzodinma Iweala
Niru is a Harvard-bound student and star athlete at a prestigious high school in Washington DC. When his parents discover gay dating apps on his phone, they respond with explosive anger, and his father decides to take him to their native Nigeria to seek a spiritual “cure”. “Throughout a narrative spiraling toward tragedy, Niru's pain is so palpable it will make you gasp… Highly recommended.” (Library Journal) Following his multi-award-winning debut novel Beasts of No Nation (2005), Iweala received a Granta Best of Young American Novelists award and the New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award.

The House of Broken Angels
by Luis Alberto Urrea
70-year-old patriarch Miguel Angel de la Cruz, or Big Angel, has just buried his mother and is about to celebrate his last birthday. He’s dying of cancer, and he takes this occasion to tell his story in a celebration of life, death and his wonderfully big family that spans both sides of the border. “A family saga that asks what it means to be American… a novel that is knowing and intimate, funny and tragic at once… Even in death, Urrea shows, we never lose our connection to one another, which is the point of this deft and moving book.” (Kirkus) Urrea is an American Book Award winner, New York Times Notable Book honoree, and Pulitzer Prize finalist best known for his novel The Hummingbird's Daughter (2005) and the nonfiction book The Devil’s Highway (2004).

by Aminatta Forna
Attila Asare, a prominent Ghanaian psychiatrist specializing in PTSD, is in London for a conference when he literally bumps into American biologist Jean Turane. Repeat chance meetings lead Jean to help Attila with the other reason for his visit: to search for the missing child of a friend who may have been swept up in an immigration raid. “Forna's sensitive novel is nonostentatious yet compelling, and whether writing of Attila's victims of conflict and terror or Jean's birds and mammals, she offers wisdom and perspective, which is further extended to the possibility of romance between two questing strangers. Low-key yet piercingly empathetic, Forna's latest explores instinct, resilience, and the complexity of human coexistence, reaffirming her reputation for exceptional ability and perspective.” (Kirkus) Forna is a multi-award winning author from Scotland and Sierra Leone whose works include The Memory of Love (2011) which won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize Best Book Award and was shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Orange Prize for Fiction.

American Histories: Stories
by John Edgar Wideman
Recognized as a MacArthur Fellow, two-time PEN/Faulkner Award winner, and two-time finalist for the National Book Award, a literary legend returns with a short story collection. “The author returns to the streets of Pittsburgh and his childhood memories, envisions a conversation between John Brown and Frederick Douglass, and probes the popular culture we use to escape, forget, and grieve... Wideman elucidates loneliness and helplessness with lyrical economy and rhythmic sadness... A deeply personal collection of stories illuminating the thinning and cyclical threads of history that both sustain us and tear us apart. Highly recommended.” (Library Journal)

Girls Burn Brighter
by Shobha Rao
In 21st century South India, 16-year-old Poornima’s father hires 17-year-old Savitha to help her weave saris, launching a deep and lasting friendship between the two women. But when a tragic event splits them apart, they will face cruelty, poverty and exploitation before they are reunited halfway around the world. “This powerful, heart-wrenching novel and its two unforgettable heroines offer an extraordinary example of the strength that can be summoned in even the most terrible situations… Despite everything they go through, their spirits continue to burn brightly, building to an ending that takes your breath away in its magnificence and beauty.” (Booklist) Rao is an Indian-born writer who lives in San Francisco,  winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Fiction, and author of the short story collection An Unrestored Woman (2016).

The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror
by Mallory Ortberg
Dark, satirical, and gender-bending retellings of folk tales and fairy tales from the co-creator of the late great website The Toast and author of Texts from Jane Eyre (2014). “Delightfully disturbing… There is plenty of humor to be had here, with Ortberg's signature biting wit and nerdy whimsy out in full force… Ortberg doesn't twist the stories so much as illuminate how layered and complicated they really are. A wholly satisfying blend of silliness, feminist critique, and deft prose makes this a collection of bedtime stories that will keep you up at night for all the right reasons.” (Kirkus)

Stray City
by Chelsey Johnson
When Andy’s small-town, Midwestern parents find out she has a girlfriend, they stop financing her education at Reed College. She drops out but finds a nurturing and stimulating community in Portland’s queer underground scene. Following a series of romantic disappointments, she has a fling with a man that results in a pregnancy and an unexpected, unconventional family. “This is a coming-out and coming-of-age story; a surprise-I’m-pregnant story; a will-they-or-won’t-they love story; and an ode to a time and place we think we’ve heard everything about—and it’s all utterly fresh. Portraying Portland and Andy’s chosen family with feeling and immense charm, Johnson paints Andy’s love—for her kid, her city, herself, and others—in all its thorny nuance and surprising glory.” (Booklist)

The Parking Lot Attendant
by Nafkote Tamirat
A fifteen-year-old and her father, an Ethiopian immigrant, are living on a mysterious island commune. But their story begins in Boston, where the young girl falls under the spell of Ayale, a parking lot attendant, leader in the Ethiopian community, and shady businessman—and soon she becomes entangled in his schemes. “Tamirat’s wonderful debut novel weaves growing pains, immigrant troubles, and moments of biting humor… The unsettling conclusion serves as a perfect ending for this riveting coming-of-age story full of murky motives, deep emotion, and memorable characters.” (Publishers Weekly)

My Old Faithful
by Yang Huang
Oakland author Yang Huang (Living Treasures, 2014) won the Juniper Prize for Fiction for this collection of ten linked stories that depict the lives of one family over thirty years in China and the United States. One of the Juniper judges said of this book: “My Old Faithful establishes Yang Huang as one of our most provocative writers on contemporary China... Here you find a debut writer adept at sidestepping the timeworn: she gives us a story so real it bursts the bounds of the form, becoming an autofiction which, in its humanity, quickly becomes yours as well.”

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in February 2018

An American Marriage
by Tayari Jones
Newlyweds Roy and Celestial have a bright future ahead of them; he’s a rising corporate executive and she is an up-and-coming artist. Their lives are shattered when, in a case of mistaken identity, Roy is wrongly convicted of rape and sentenced to twelve years in prison. “This novel is peopled by vividly realized, individual characters and driven by interpersonal drama, but it is also very much about being black in contemporary America… This is, at its heart, a love story, but a love story warped by racial injustice. And, in it, Jones suggests that racial injustice haunts the African-American story. Subtle, well-crafted, and powerful.” (Kirkus Reviews) Jones is the author of Silver Sparrow (2011) and a recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award.

White Houses
by Amy Bloom
National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award nominee Bloom returns with a biographical novel looking at the life of journalist Lorena Hickok and her love affair with Eleanor Roosevelt. “‘Hick’ narrates this empathic story of true and besieged love—and what a discerning, courageous, and mordantly witty observer she is... Through Hick’s loving eyes, we witness Eleanor’s complex struggles, unwavering discipline, and fierce passion, while Hick’s take on FDR and the rest of the Roosevelts is deftly lacerating. Hick’s outrage over the trauma inflicted on gays and lesbians, the class divide, the beauty quotient, and the gender double standard fuels this socially incisive, psychologically saturated, funny, and erotic fictionalization of legendary figures; this novel of extraordinary magnetism and insight; this keen celebration of love, loyalty, and sacrifice.” (Booklist)

The Friend
by Sigrid Nunez
When a writing professor loses her mentor and close friend to suicide, she is startled by both the shocking loss and the surprising inheritance of his aging Great Dane. The woman and her new canine companion become unlikely and unexpected partners in grief. “Quietly brilliant and darkly funny… It is a lonely novel: rigorous and stark, so elegant—so dismissive of conventional notions of plot—it hardly feels like fiction. Breathtaking both in pain and in beauty; a singular book.” (Kirkus)

Call Me Zebra
by Azareen Van Der Vliet Oloomi
Zebra lost her mother when her family fled Iran in the early 90s. Now twenty-two and living in New York, Zebra has lost her father. Unmoored by his death, she launches a quest to retrace the path that got her from Iran to New York. Her plans are interrupted in Barcelona when she meets Ludo Bembo and they start an affair she finds both frustrating and irresistible. “Rich and delightful novel… Zebra’s perception of the world (and herself) is not as it appears to others, and her narration crackles throughout with wit and absurdity… This is a sharp and genuinely fun picaresque, employing humor and poignancy side-by-side to tell an original and memorable story.” (Publishers Weekly)

by Lisa Halliday
In New York, Alice is an editor in a relationship with much older Ezra, a famous author. Amar is an Iraqi American travelling to Kurdistan to visit his brother when he is detained at Heathrow Airport. The two stories seem unrelated, so what’s the connection?  “Halliday, recipient of a 2017 Whiting Award, crafts a stellar and inventive debut, a puzzle of seemingly incongruous pieces that, in the end, fit together perfectly… A singular collision of forms, tones, and arguments, the novel provides frequent delights and never explains too much. Any reader who values innovative fiction should treasure this.” (Publishers Weekly)

The House of Impossible Beauties
by Joseph Cassara
In 1980’s New York, 16-year-old Angel escapes her boy body and finds a new family of trans outsiders. Inspired by the true stories of Angel Xtragveganza and her chosen family in the House of Xtravaganza, the original Latinx house in the Harlem ball scene, this novel is equal parts glitter and heartbreak, . “Deft dialog, affecting characters, unsettling social truth, and language both gritty and luscious.” (Library Journal)

by Akwaeke Emezi
Ada is a young Nigerian woman tormented by ogbanje--spirits that manifest as voices in her head--in this unusual fictional exploration of mental illness. As Ada travels to America for college and faces traumatic experiences, the voices only get louder and more controlling. “In her mind-blowing debut, Emezi weaves a traditional Igbo myth that turns the well-worn narrative of mental illness on its head, and in doing so she has ensured a place on the literary-fiction landscape as a writer to watch... Complex and dark, this novel will simultaneously challenge and reward lovers of literary fiction. A must-read.” (Booklist)

Song of a Captive Bird
by Jasmin Darznik
Bay Area author follows her best-selling memoir The Good Daughter (2011) with a fictional biography of feminist, poet and filmmaker Forugh Farrokhzad, a brilliant and daring woman who is often described as the Sylvia Plath of Iran. “Darznik’s knowledgeably invented characters and compellingly imagined scenarios, both of which are sensuous and harrowing, are deftly set within Iran’s violent, oil-fueled, mid-twentieth-century political and social upheavals, and stay true to the essence of Farrokhzad’s audacious, dramatic, and creative life and courageous commitment to writing revolutionary poems about being female in a tyrannically sexist society. Darznik even includes her own stunning translations of Farrokhzad’s incandescent poetry… enthralling and illuminating.” (Booklist)

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore
by Kim Fu
It’s 1994 in the Pacific Northwest, where Camp Forevermore promises a character-building wilderness experience for young girls. An overnight canoe trip turns unexpectedly tragic for a group of five campers, becoming a life changing event that reverberates far into their adulthoods. “In addition to recounting the nightmarish debacle, Fu’s sharp book is a study of the five girls later in life…  Readers will delight in the complicated, brash, ugly, and sincere presentation of Fu’s characters.” (Booklist)

Some Hell
by Patrick Nathan
Fourteen-year-old Colin is deeply unhappy. While he’s trying to come to grips with his father’s suicide, the boy he loves betrays him, his family is falling apart, and a relationship with a supportive teacher veers into inappropriateness. Meanwhile, his mother is profoundly depressed and making terrible choices. “If all this sounds melodramatic, in Nathan’s skillful, beautifully written telling, it isn’t. He selects his incidents artfully and—in part by shifting the point of view between Colin and his mother—does a masterful job of creating believable, multidimensional characters about whom the reader cares desperately. And if their ending is heartbreaking, it is artistically inevitable. Nathan’s first novel is beautifully done and promises to linger in the reader’s memory.” (Kirkus)


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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in January 2018

Cover of Halsey StreetCover of The Wedding DateCover of WinterCover of A State of FreedomCover of Everything Here is BeautifulCover of Mouths Don't SpeakCover of Frankenstein in BaghdadCover of The Music ShopCover of The Red ClocksCover of The Perfect Nanny

Halsey Street 
by Naima Coster
Penelope Grand is a failed artist in her twenties who spent the last five years living in Philly. When she returns home to Brooklyn to take care of her ailing father, she can hardly recognize the neighborhood. Her family is unrecognizable too, her mother having abandoned her father to return to her native Dominican Republic.  While she’s trying to find her footing in her new/old neighborhood and her evolving role in her family, she receives a surprise invitation to visit her mother. “Gorgeous and painfully unsentimental, the book resists easy moralizing: everyone is wonderful and terrible, equal parts disappointed and disappointing. The plot is simple, relatively speaking, but Coster is a masterful observer of family dynamics: her characters, to a one, are wonderfully complex and consistently surprising. Absorbing and alive, the kind of novel that swallows you whole.” (Kirkus Reviews)

The Wedding Date
by Jasmine Guillory
Alexa, the Chief of Staff for the mayor of Berkeley, meets Los Angeles-based pediatric surgeon Drew when they get stuck in an elevator together. Drew asks Alexa to be his date to a wedding and their chance meeting leads to a fling which leads to something increasingly serious. Will their long-distance, interracial romance work out? Guillory is an Oakland author whose debut novel is being called “effervescent, witty, and sexy” (Nylon) and “a mix of romance and raunch that will charm rom-com fans.” (Kirkus)

by Ali Smith
Autumn, the first entry in the acclaimed author’s current quintet of novels was her third book to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Now follows Winter, in which heartbroken Art is reeling from a recent breakup. He invites a stranger to impersonate his ex and join him, his mother and his activist aunt for a Christmas dinner in the English countryside, where conversation touches on Brexit, fake news, environmentalism, and family secrets. “Combines captivating storytelling with a timely focus on social issues. Enthusiastically recommended.” (Library Journal)

A State of Freedom
by Neel Mukherjee
Following his Man Booker-short-listed debut The Lives of Others, Mukherjee depicts five very different but loosely connected lives in modern day India, using a mix of narrative styles. “Particle physicists, Maoist terrorists, punitive employers, servants, and émigrés all have roles… His characters' life journeys are often painful while his descriptions of their circumstances are unsentimental, vivid, unsparing. Above all there is compassion here, alongside a focus that depicts gross inequities with a grim tenderness. A calm, compelling, unshrinking portrait of humanity in transition; both disturbing and dazzling.” (Kirkus)

Everything Here is Beautiful 
by Mira T. Lee
Miranda often looks after her sister Lucia, who started hearing voices when their mother died. Determined and impulsive, Lucia pursues the life she longs for in the face of her mental illness. Just when Lucia needs Miranda the most, the sisters find themselves on the opposite sides of the globe. “Lee handles a sensitive subject with empathy and courage. Readers will find much to admire and ponder throughout… a writer of considerable talent and power.” (Publishers Weekly)

Mouths Don't Speak 
by Katia D. Ulysse
Jacqueline left her native Haiti over two decades ago and built a family in the United States with a former US marine husband and their young daughter. She is devastated by the news of the 2010 earthquake and cannot confirm whether her parents are alive or dead. “As Ulysse (Drifting) explores grief, she moves beyond her protagonist to consider the murky motivations and emotions of other characters. This is a harrowing, thoughtful dive into the aftermath of national and personal tragedies filtered through diasporic life.” (Publishers Weekly)

Frankenstein in Baghdad
by Ahmed Saadawi
It’s 2005 Baghdad, and Hadi the junk dealer has been collecting the body parts of suicide bombing fatalities and other victims of violence. He sews the parts together, intending to give them a proper burial when his creation becomes animated by the soul of a dead soldier and goes on a grisly and vengeful killing spree. “In graceful, economical prose, Saadawi places us in a city of ghosts, where missing people return all the time, justice is fleeting, and even good intentions rot… A haunting and startling mix of horror, mystery, and tragedy.” (Booklist) Winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

The Music Shop
by Rachel Joyce
In late eighties London, Frank is more than a vinyl enthusiast record shop owner, he’s practically a music therapist, with a unique and profound talent for intuiting the exact music for each customer to ease their troubles. He falls for Ilsa even though she’s unavailable—and she doesn’t listen to music. “Joyce, a British actress and playwright, whose first novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, was longlisted for the Man Booker, continues to enchant and break hearts with her lovable misfits trying to survive in a modern world determined to pass them by. Irresistible.” (Library Journal)

Red Clocks
by Leni Zumas
In near-future coastal Oregon, four women struggle against misogyny when a new law outlaws abortion and makes single parenthood and in vitro fertilization illegal. “Inevitably, there will be comparisons to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, but Zumas's work is not nearly as dystopic or futuristic, only serving to make it that much more believable. Highly recommended.” (Library Journal)

The Perfect Nanny
by Leila Slimani
Author and journalist Slimani became the first Moroccan woman to win France’s most prestigious literary award, the Prix Goncourt, for this bestselling psychological thriller that looks at class, race and motherhood. In a posh Parisian neighborhood, a professional couple hires nanny Louise to look after their children. She seems perfect but the façade gradually crumbles, leading to fatal consequences. “As Louise’s dark past, emotional stuntedness, and heinous volatility emerge through cracks in her meticulous, porcelain exterior, readers won’t be able to look away.” (Booklist)

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in December 2017

Three Daughters of Eve
by Elif Shafak
In present-day Istanbul, 35-year-old Peri is a sophisticated and wealthy woman attending a dinner party while her thoughts drift to her days as a student at Oxford University, her closest friends and classmates, and a scandal that she has yet to resolve. Shafak “meshes many of the themes she has explored separately in her previous novels: Turkish politics, spiritualism, and the uneasy relationship between East and West... her portrait of a woman in existential crisis feels universal, shining clarifying light on Islam—and religious spirituality in general—within the frame of today's world.” (Kirkus Reviews) Shafak is known for her internationally best-selling novels including The Bastard of Istanbul (2007), and has received nominations for the Women’s Prize and the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

by Fiona Mozley
John Smythe is a bare-knuckle fighter and who builds a self-sufficient existence for himself and his two children in the Yorkshire woods. Narrated by 13-year-old Daniel, the family lives in mostly peaceful isolation until they become involved in a local dispute. “Ecological messages, class and gender conflict, and England's long history of struggle—all are mingled with Daniel's sexual awakening and a surreal, or superhuman, or quasi-spiritual, gothic and gory final reckoning. Mozley's instantaneous success—this debut landed straight on the 2017 Man Booker Prize shortlist—is a response to the stylish intensity of her work, which boldly winds multiple genres into a rich spinning top of a tale.” (Kirkus)

Spy of the First Person
by Sam Shepard
This perhaps final work from the Pulitzer Prize–winning writer and performer no doubt springs from his final days and experiences as he battled with the degenerative disease A.L.S., which ended his life earlier this year. “Told in short takes pulsing with life and rueful wit, it portrays one man spying on another from across the street, raising binoculars to better watch his subject struggling to make the simplest motions and family members appearing from within the house to offer help and company. As for the nearly immobilized man, he is remembering his immigrant mother, a troubling night in New York City, and visits to a famous Arizona clinic in pursuit of a “magic cure”… A gorgeously courageous and sagacious coda to Shepard’s innovative and soulful body of work.” (Booklist)

A Distant Heart
Sonali Dev
The latest book from an author whose books depict modern life in India. A Distant Heart examines the unlikely bond between a sheltered, privileged and ailing young girl and the orphan son of a policeman. “A narrative that deftly jumps from past to present as it explores family dynamics, class issues, and many layers of guilt, hope, and determination in ways that are both distinctly Indian and universally luminous. Another beautiful, breathtaking novel from a not-to-be-missed author.” (Kirkus) Dev’s books have landed on the Best Books lists from Library Journal, NPR, Washington Post, and Kirkus.

The World Goes On
by László Krasznahorkai, translated by John Batki with Ottilie Mulzet and George Szirtes
Krasznahorkai is not much of a household name in the US, but he’s one of Hungary’s most acclaimed contemporary authors and the winner of the Man Booker International Prize. His newest work to be released in English features eleven stories told by the same narrator, crisscrossing the globe with lengthy meditations and melancholic philosophical musings. “This book breaks all conventions and tests the very limits of language, resulting in a transcendent, astounding experience.” (Publishers Weekly) For lovers of experimental, postmodern and difficult fiction.

The Goddess of Mtwara and Other Stories: The Caine Prize for African Writing 2017
edited by Lizzy Attree
“Since 2000, the annual Caine Prize in African Writing has celebrated some of the most innovative and evocative English-language short fiction by African writers... A wonderful set of 16 stories that covers a lot of ground and features many genres—from myth and folklore to the postmodern and experimental—in a way that will surely satisfy readers.” (Kirkus)

Immortal Life: A Soon to Be True Story
by Stanley Bing
A struggle for autonomy erupts between Arthur Vogel, an aging trillionaire tech magnate yearning for immortality and Gene, the artificial human body he creates to host his consciousness. “Business writer Bing (The Curriculum: Everything You Need to Know to Be a Master of Business Arts) makes his first foray into speculative fiction with a clever and sly satire of a future that feels like it’s lurking just around the corner, shot through with dry humor and stark hopes in a conflict-blasted digital world… Bing’s optimistic nightmare will appeal to any reader wanting a glimpse down the slippery slope of technological domination.” (Publishers Weekly)

The Years, Months, Days: Two Novellas
by Yan Lianke, translated by Carlos Rojas
Prizewinning author Yan offers two dark fables set in his native Henan province China. In one, an elderly man and his blind dog stay behind when everyone else in their village flees to evade a drought. In the second tale, a desperate woman will do anything to secure happiness for her disabled children. “Lianke’s talent for the fantastical shines… Though they contain dark subject matter, Lianke’s fables of personal sacrifice are also sharply observed and funny. Lianke’s narratives feel much larger than their page count suggest, almost epic.” (Publishers Weekly) Yan is the author of Dream of Ding Village (2011) and Lenin’s Kisses (2012), and and his awards include the Franz Kafka Prize.

The Vanishing Princess: Stories
by Jenny Diski
A posthumous collection of stories from a beloved British author. “Although Diski is renowned across the pond, her defiant treatise against her terminal cancer, In Gratitude, published just before her 2016 death is, ironically, what earned her substantial stateside acclaim. Now available posthumously to U.S. readers is her spectacular 1995 collection of bizarre-to-rueful-to-stunning stories, bookended by two princesses living (and reading) in towers… Memorable girls and women—damaged, truculent, curious, stalwart—occupy Diski’s pages, claiming space, agency, and well-deserved attention.” (Booklist)

Record of a Night Too Brief
by Hiromi Kawakami, translated by Lucy North
“A supersurreal triad of stories from Japanese novelist Kawakami (The Nakano Thrift Shop, 2017, etc.). Kawakami, winner of the Akutagawa Prize, delivers three evocative tales that, as if from the notebooks of Kafka, concern strange transformations that happen to perfectly ordinary people going about their lives… Astonishing, strange, and wonderful.” (Kirkus)

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in November 2017

Future Home of the Living God 
by Louise Erdrich
Multi-award winning author Erdrich goes dystopian. Human evolution is running in reverse, and the fascist evangelical government is imprisoning pregnant women. So when Cedar Hawk Songmaker discovers she is pregnant she goes into hiding and heads to her birth mother’s Ojibwe reservation. A “masterful, full-tilt dystopian novel with stinging insights into the endless repercussions of the Native American genocide, hijacked spirituality, and the ongoing war against women’s rights. A tornadic, suspenseful, profoundly provoking novel of life’s vulnerability and insistence.” (Booklist)

by Myriam Gurba
Gurba’s sharply smart and wry “nonfiction novel” looks back at her coming-of-age in California’s central coast, recounts her experiences as a sexual assault survivor, and takes a close look at personal identity from the viewpoint of a queer, biracial Chicana woman. “With its icy wit, edgy wedding of lyricism and prose, and unflinching look at personal and public demons, Gurba's introspective memoir is brave and significant.” (Kirkus) Gurba's debut novel Dahlia Season (2007) won The Edmund White Award and was a Lambda Literary Award finalist.

Mrs. Osmond
by John Banville
Banville has won the Booker Prize (The Sea, 2005), writes marvelous mysteries under the penname Benjamin Black, and now he’s taking on the legacy of Henry James. Banville continues the story of Isabel Archer Osmond that began in James’ The Portrait of a Lady. “A delightful tour de force that channels James with ease. The rich and measured prose style is quintessentially Jamesian: the long interior monologues perfectly capture the hum of human consciousness, and the characters are alive with psychological nuance... a novel that succeeds both as an unofficial sequel and as a bold, thoroughly satisfying standalone.” (Publishers Weekly)

Madonna in a Fur Coat
by Sabahattin Ali, translated by Maureen Freely and Alexander Dawe
Originally written in the 1940s by a Turkish leftist dissident, this book recently became a sensation in Turkey and is now available to US readers. In the 1930s, Raif Efendi is a young man from rural Turkey who travels to Berlin, where he meets and falls in love with a bold, complex and modern woman in a story that rejected the conventional gender roles of its time. “Ali's affecting story of love and loss is both timeless and grounded in its distinctive setting, with sometimes old-fashioned charm that will appeal to many readers.” (Library Journal)

The City of Brass
by S. A. Chakraborty
On the streets of 18th century Cairo, Nahri is a swindler who cons people by pretending to have supernatural powers. She doesn’t actually believe in magic though, at least until she accidentally summons a djinn during a staged exorcist. Whisked away to Daevabad, the City of Brass, Nahri discovers her noble lineage and becomes embroiled in courtly politics. “Chakraborty has constructed a compelling yarn of personal ambition, power politics, racial and religious tensions, strange magics, and terrifying creatures, culminating in a cataclysmic showdown that few readers will anticipate... Highly impressive and exceptionally promising.” (Kirkus)

Last Man in Europe
by Dennis Glover
First-time novelist Glover offers a fictionalized take on the life of George Orwell, from his beginnings as a struggling writer to his final days when he was suffering from tuberculosis and struggling to finish his enduring novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. “One of the strengths of this book is nonfiction author Glover's (Orwell's Australia) ability to transport readers to 1940s Europe, proving the author has a great eye for detail… This engrossing, timely, and finely detailed first novel about the creation of a 20th-century literary masterpiece is a must-read for lovers of history, literature, or politics.” (Library Journal)

Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl
by Andrea Lawlor
It’s the 1990s, and Paul Polydoris is a bartender at a gay club in a college town with secret special abilities: he’s a shape-shifter. This talent allows Paul to explore different gender roles, academic venues, social scenes and queer communities while seeking romantic conquests and self-exploration. “A magical, sexual, and hopeful debut novel… This is groundbreaking, shape- and genre-shifting work from a daring writer; a fresh novel that elevates questions of sexual identity and intimacy.” (Kirkus)

Radio Free Vermont: A Fable of Resistance
by Bill McKibben
When a political stunt at a Wal-Mart goes awry, 72-year old Vermont resident and underground radio personality Vern Barclay inadvertently launches a statewide secessionist movement. Non-fiction author and environmentalist McKibben (The End of Nature, 1989) “orchestrates wildly imaginative dissent, crazy escapes, risky rescues, and rousing paeans to nature and homegrown democracy. In a time when smart comedy is essential to survival, McKibben’s shrewdly uproarious and provocative fable of resistance is exhilarating.” (Booklist)

The Night Language
by David Rocklin
In 1868, recently orphaned Prince Alamayou of Abyssinia (present-day Ethiopia) is taken as a war prisoner to London. On his voyage, he meets Philip Layard who becomes his translator, lover and defender in Queen Victoria’s court. “A historical novel wedged tightly at the center of a grave political uproar and an unlikely relationship... A moving and inspiring novel that shows what happens when those in power listen to foreign visitors.” (Kirkus) Rocklin is the author of The Luminist (2011).

Someone You Love Is Gone
by Gurjinder Basran
Simran, an Indian woman living in Canada, is struggling with grief after losing her mother, prompting her to ask questions about her family’s past and examine her strained family relationships. “A heartfelt story of family and self-exploration to which Basran (Everything Was Good-Bye, 2013) adds depth with scattered cultural and historical references and a touch of mysticism.” (Booklist)


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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in October 2017

Manhattan Beach
by Jennifer Egan
Egan follows Pulitzer Prize-winner A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010) with a World War II era historical novel. Anna supports her mother and sister by working at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, assuming dangerous employment as a diver who performs underwater repair on ships. A chance encounter with nightclub owner Dexter Styles leads Anna to piece together the reasons behind her father’s mysterious disappearance. “A more traditional novel than the raucous and inventive Goon Squad, although the two books offer many of the same pleasures, including fine turns of phrase, a richly imagined environs and a restless investigation into human nature… This is a novel that deserves to join the canon of New York stories.” (New York Times)

Her Body and Other Parties: Stories
by Carmen Maria Machado
Machado’s debut collection of eight genrebending stories is a contender for both the National Book Award and the Kirkus Prize. “It’s a wild thing, this book, covered in sequins and scales, blazing with the influence of fabulists from Angela Carter to Kelly Link and Helen Oyeyemi, and borrowing from science fiction, queer theory and horror.” (New York Times) “The writing is always lyrical, the narration refreshingly direct, and the sex abundant, and although the supernatural elements are not overt, every story is terrifying.” (Booklist)

The King Is Always Above the People: Stories
by Daniel Alarcón
Alarcón, author of award-winning books Lost City Radio (2007) and At Night We Walk in Circles (2013) returns with a short story collection that earned a spot on the National Book Award longlist. “A superb collection of 10 stories about wanderers, lovers, and fractured families... Throughout the collection, Alarcón writes with a spellbinding voice and creates a striking cast of characters. Each narrative lands masterfully and memorably, showcasing Alarcón’s immense talent.” (Publisher’s Weekly)

The Power
by Naomi Alderman
In the 21st century, women around the world discover they have the ability to emit an electrical charge with their fingertips—they can stun, shock or even kill. This power leads to a new cultural order in which women wield political, religious, and cultural sovereignty. “A big, brash, page-turning, drug-running, globetrotting thriller… But it’s also endlessly nuanced and thought-provoking, combining elegantly efficient prose with beautiful meditations on the metaphysics of power, possibility and change… The Power is an instant classic of speculative fiction.” (The Guardian) The Power received the United Kingdom’s 2017 Women’s Prize for Fiction.

Unkindness of Ghosts
by Rivers Solomon
Three centuries ago, the spaceship Matilda departed the destroyed planet earth. The colonists of Matilda are brutally divided among racial lines, but Aster, a skilled healer raised as a slave, may have discovered the key to liberation. “In this debut, Solomon uses the generation ship as a setting to explore race, disability, family, sexuality, and the way humans are haunted by the ghosts of the past... Infused with the spirit of Octavia Butler and loaded with meaning for the present day.” (Booklist)

by Nicola Lagioia, translated by Antony Shugaar
Clara Salvemini, daughter of a corrupt construction magnate, dies a violent death that is ruled a suicide. Her suspicious demise compels her estranged half-brother Michele to return home to investigate, exposing dark family secrets. “A complex novel, intricately orchestrated and, above all, inventively composed… Not recommended for the casual reader (or easily scandalized), but those who persevere will be swept up in a rich and rewarding literary experience. A mesmerizing exploration of failure, resilience, and profound, multifaceted loss.” (Kirkus Reviews) Ferocity won Italy’s Strega Prize and is Lagioia’s first work to be published in English.

As Lie Is to Grin
by Simeon Marsalis
David is a freshman struggling as a Black student at a predominately white New England college. He feels isolated and he misses his ex-girlfriend. Sometimes he lies that he’s from Harlem and his mother’s a drug addict, but neither of these things are true. And now he’s having visions of a young man in a gray suit who may or may not be real. “Marsalis’ deep and creative coming-of-age tale confronts race and omitted history. An exciting, thought-provoking debut.” (Booklist) As Lie Is to Grin is a finalist for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize.

Dogs at the Perimeter
by Madeleine Thien
Janie was a child in Phnom Penh when she suffered at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. As an adult living in Montreal, she is haunted by the scars of her past. “First published in Canada in 2011 and released here after the success of Do Not Say We Have Nothing, which was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, this second novel by Thien is a moving, powerful, beautifully written study that illuminates Janie's reality. An important addition to the canon of diaspora and refugee literature.” (Library Journal)

by Emily Fridlund
Fridlund’s story collection follows her debut novel History of Wolves (2017), shortlisted for this year’s Booker Prize. “Fridlund tells stories of an eccentric family seeking to survive, a teenage couple endeavoring to veil their raw desires with words, two siblings who have completely different perceptions of the same reality, and the loneliness within the friendship of two women, among others. She unpacks these situations with thoughtful diction and complex characters, and her subdued and controlled language sets what is unsaid at the fore, unveiling hope, despair, and the paradoxes that are often ignored in such close relationships. Fridlund’s intelligent and conversational voice impressively manipulates the emotional atmosphere of her stories and will draw readers deep into exploring these seemingly commonplace topics even after they’ve put the book down.” (Booklist)

Uncommon Type
by Tom Hanks
Yes, that Tom Hanks! The Oscar-winner offers 17 stories in his fiction debut, and although every story mentions a typewriter, only one of them features an actor. “Thoroughly engaging… The stories are brief and sometimes seem abbreviated, but they possess a real feel for character and a slice-of-life realism that combine to deliver considerable depth beneath the surface. A surprising and satisfying book from a first-time fiction writer.” (Booklist) You can get a taste from one story published in The New Yorker a few years ago. And, did you know that Tom Hanks grew up in Oakland and graduated from Skyline High School?

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in September 2017

Sing, Unburied, Sing
by Jesmyn Ward
The author of National Book Award-winning Salvage the Bones (2011) offers a brutal story of poverty and racism in the American South cut with moments of hope, tenderness, resilience and mystical power. Thirteen-year-old Jojo and his sister Kayla have been brought up mostly by their loving maternal grandparents. Their mother Leonie is a drug abuser who lacks any maternal instincts, their father Michael is incarcerated, and they’ve never even met their white paternal grandparents. When they learn that Michael is being released, Leonie piles the kids and best friend in her car to pick him up from prison, anticipating a joyous family reunion instead of the traumatic journey that unfolds. “The terrible beauty of life along the nation's lower margins is summoned in this bold, bright, and sharp-eyed road novel... As with the best and most meaningful American fiction these days, old truths are recast here in new realities rife with both peril and promise.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Little Fires Everywhere
by Celeste Ng
In the affluent suburb of Shaker Heights, Ohio, unconventional artist Mia Warren and her teenage daughter Pearl rent a house from the picture-perfect Richardson family. Despite their differences, the two families become far more connected than anyone would have imagined. Then they find themselves on opposing sides of a local controversy, creating a rift that leads to devastating consequences. “This novel from Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) is both an intricate and captivating portrait of an eerily perfect suburban town with its dark undertones not-quite-hidden from view and a powerful and suspenseful novel about motherhood… Ng explores the complexities of adoption, surrogacy, abortion, privacy, and class, questioning all the while who earns, who claims, and who loses the right to be called a mother. This is an impressive accomplishment.” (Publishers Weekly)

Five-Carat Soul 
by James McBride
The beloved author of the bestselling memoir The Color of Water (1996) and the National Book Award-winning novel The Good Lord Bird (2013) offers his first short story collection. “There’s a good amount of humor here, but most of these pieces are deeply emotional. This is McBride at his A-list best… Realism with a touch of magical realism for readers who enjoy page-turners that don’t happen to be thrillers.” (Library Journal)

Golden House
by Salman Rushdie
Here’s the newest novel from the author of Midnight’s Children (1981) and winner of some of the most prestigious awards for fiction. A foreign real estate developer and his three adult sons move to New York City, where a filmmaker and neighbor wishes to turn his camera on them. Rushdie is “a canny observer whose imagination is fueled by anger, bemusement, and wonder over humankind’s delusions and destructiveness… There is a scorching immediacy and provocation to Rushdie’s commanding tragedy of the self-destruction of a family of ill-gotten wealth and sinister power, of ambition and revenge, and the rise of a mad, vulgar, avaricious demigod hawking “radical untruth” and seeding chaos. The Golden House is a headlines-stoked novel-on-fire sure to incite discussion. But it is also a ravishingly well-told, deeply knowledgeable, magnificently insightful, and righteously outraged epic that poses timeless questions about the human condition.” (Booklist)

Forest Dark
by Nicole Krauss
Retired Manhattan attorney Jules Epstein decides to give away his possessions and travel to Israel, where he meets a charismatic rabbi who believes Jules is one of King David’s descendants. Meanwhile, a successful Brooklyn author travels to the same part of the world, where she meets a retired literature professor who draws her into a mysterious project. Author of The History of Love (2005) and Great House (2010), Krauss is a National Book Award and Orange Prize finalist, Granta Best Young American Novelist, New Yorker Twenty Under Forty, and New York Times best-selling author. “Krauss’s elegant, provocative, and mesmerizing novel is her best yet. Rich in profound insights and emotional resonance, it follows two characters on their paths to self-realization… Vivid, intelligent, and often humorous, this novel is a fascinating tour de force.” (Publishers Weekly)

The World of Tomorrow
by Brendan Mathews
In Ireland in June 1939, Francis Dempsey is on leave from prison to attend his father’s funeral when he seizes an opportunity to steal a small fortune from the IRA and hatches a scheme to take a ship to New York with his brother, seminarian Michael. In New York they reunite with their eldest brother, aspiring jazz musician Martin, while an IRA assassin is dispatched to deal with them. “Despite its length, this novel is a remarkably fast and exhilarating read… Like a juggler keeping multiple balls in the air, Mathews regularly adds new characters and their complicated stories to the volatile mix, without losing track of the original ones. With the wit of a ’30s screwball comedy and the depth of a thoroughly researched historical novel, this one grabs the reader from the beginning to its suspenseful climax.” (Publishers Weekly)

Swallowing Mercury
by Wioletta Greg, translated by Eliza Marciniak
Longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize, this autobiographical novel depicts the coming of age of a young woman in rural Poland during the final years of Communism. “It is composed of short, vivid chapters that glisten and gleam, clicking one behind the other like pearls on a string… Greg's ability to describe moments of great historical, political, and cultural importance through the eyes of a child is wonderful… Greg's masterful first novel is charming, seductive, and sinister by turns.” (Kirkus)

by Robin Sloan
Lois is a San Francisco techie who’s working too hard to care about food--with the exception of the delicious take-out she gets from Clement Street Soup and Sourdough. Lois is dismayed when the proprietors are forced to close up shop and flee due to visa problems. On their way out of town, they offer her comfort in the form of a precious sourdough starter, which propels Lois into to the world of extreme foodie culture. Author of the acclaimed and extremely popular Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore (2012), Sloan offers “buoyant, touch-of-magic prose… A delightful and heartfelt read.” (Library Journal)

by Rodrigo Hasbún
One of Granta's Best of Young Spanish-Language Novelists, Bolivian author Hasbún fictionalizes the true story of the Ertl family in his English-language debut. Patriarch Hans Ertl was a prominent cinematographer for the Nazi party who fled Germany for Bolivia, where he became obsessed with the lost Inca city of Paitití and whose daughter grew up to be a Marxist guerilla. “Moody and spare… This is an inventive, powerful novel.” (Publishers Weekly)

Unforgivable Love
by Sophfronia Scott
Wealthy heiress Mae Malveaux and nightclub owner Valiant "Val" Jackson are allies in romantic conquests and schemes in this retelling of Les Liaisons Dangereuses set in 1940s Harlem. “A dazzlingly dark and engaging tale full of heartbreak, treachery, and surprise.” (Publishers Weekly)


10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in August 2017

New People
by Danzy Senna
Khalil and Maria are biracial Stanford graduates living a privileged boho life in Brooklyn, complete with a Martha's Vineyard wedding featured in the New York Times. Things go awry when Maria becomes disillusioned with their fairytale lifestyle and starts having feelings about another man. Senna is the author of Caucasia (1998) and You Are Free (2011). Her “fearless novel is equal parts beguiling and disturbing… A great book about race and a great book all around.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Sour Heart
by Jenny Zhang
“The first collection of short stories by poet and essayist Zhang (Dear Jenny, We Are All Find, 2012) highlights the intersections between several Chinese and Taiwanese immigrant families living in and around New York City, all of whom are trying to bridge the gap between the old world they’ve left behind—forever altered by the Cultural Revolution—and the new lives that they are now trying to build for themselves in the United States… Taken as a whole, these linked stories illuminate the complexities and contradictions of first-generation life in America. Zhang has a gift for sharp, impactful endings, and a poet’s ear for memorable detail.” (Publishers Weekly)

The Heart's Invisible Furies
by John Boyne
Boyne (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, 2007, A History of Loneliness, 2015) tells the story of Cyril Avery, born in post-World War II Dublin to an unmarried teenager and adopted by well-off but inattentive parents. Cyril comes of age and comes to terms with being gay in an extremely repressive society, moving on to Amsterdam and later New York City during the height of the AIDS era. “Often quite funny, the story nevertheless has its sadness, sometimes approaching tragedy. Utterly captivating and not to be missed.” (Booklist)

Stay With Me
by Ayobami Adebayo
“A couple struggles with fertility—and fidelity—as Nigeria falls apart around them. Yejide is furious when her husband, Akin, brings Funmi, a second wife, home to their house in Ilesa. Pressured by his mother, and by the constraints of Nigerian masculinity, to conceive a son, Akin seeks a solution to their marriage's childlessness—even if it means hurting Yejide in the process… Set against a backdrop of student protests, a presidential assassination, and a military coup, Adebayo's novel captures how the turmoil of Nigerian life in the 1980s and '90s seeps into the most personal of decisions—to fight for, and protect, one's family. Adebayo's debut marks the emergence of a fine young writer.” (Kirkus)

A Kind of Freedom
by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
“Set in Sexton’s native New Orleans, this emotionally wrenching, character-rich debut spans three generations in a city deeply impacted by segregation, economic inequality, and racial tensions. It begins with a 1940s romance between Evelyn, the eldest daughter in a relatively well-off Creole family, and Renard, the son of a janitor, whose dreams are bigger than his station in life can hold. Their daughter, Jackie, becomes a mother in the Reagan-era 1980s, struggling through the economic downturn that derails her husband’s promising career and starts him on a tumultuous path of addiction and empty promises. Their grandson, T.C., lives through the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, watching it transform his city—and himself—into something unfamiliar.” (Publishers Weekly)

Home Fire
by Kamila Shamsie
“Gut-wrenching and undeniably relevant to today’s world, Shamsie’s (A God in Every Stone, 2014) newest literary accomplishment focuses on members of two British families of Pakistani heritage and their life-changing decisions and entanglements. Isma Pasha had essentially raised her orphaned younger siblings, twins Aneeka and Parvaiz, although their closeness ended after Parvaiz left for Syria to follow in his absentee father’s footsteps as a jihadi. With the beautiful, enigmatic Aneeka in college in London, Isma enrolls in a long-awaited doctoral program in Massachusetts, where she befriends Eamonn, son of rising MP Karamat Lone, a man who built his political career partly on renouncing the Muslim faith of his birth… In accessible, unwavering prose and without any heavy-handedness, Shamsie addresses an impressive mix of contemporary issues, from Muslim profiling to cultural assimilation and identity to the nuances of international relations. This shattering work leaves a lasting emotional impression.” (Booklist)

Young Jane Young
by Gabrielle Zevin
From the author of the best-selling The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, the story of a political scandal that erupts when a young ambitious intern in D.C. has an affair with her boss, a married man and popular congressman, and decides to blog about it. “This book will not only thoroughly entertain everyone who reads it; it is the most immaculate takedown of slut-shaming in literature or anywhere else. Cheers, and gratitude, to the author.” (Kirkus)

The Locals
by Jonathan Dee
Struggling contractor Mark Firth lives in a small New England town that is being turned upside-down by its new mayor, a Billionaire New York hedge fund manager that fled for the country after 9/11. “This is a novel with political motives, so much so that it recalls The Fountainhead, except Dee (A Thousand Pardons, 2013, etc.) is a better writer than Ayn Rand by several orders of magnitude, and his point seems to be virtually the opposite of hers… An absorbing panorama of small-town life and a study of democracy in miniature, with both the people and their polity facing real and particular contemporary pressures.” (Kirkus)

The Talented Ribkins
by Ladee Hubbard
72-year-old African-American antiques dealer Johnny Ribkins and his niece Eloise both have very special gifts--perhaps they’re even superheroes. They’re on a journey across the state of Florida to find Johnny’s buried loot so he can pay off his debts to a local crime boss. “Hubbard shrewdly molds the pop-culture mythology of the comic-book superhero team into a magical-realist metaphor for African-American struggles… crafty and wistful… Hubbard weaves this narrative with prodigious skill and compelling warmth.” (Kirkus)

by Felicia Yap
“In a world where people are divided by how much they can remember, a single day's worth of memories separates the classes. The ruling Duos can retain two days' worth of memories at a time, while the Monos keep just one. Claire is a Mono married to Mark, a Duo author with political aspirations... When the body of Mark's mistress is pulled from the river near their home, the police must work quickly to catch the killer before important memories are lost… It soon becomes clear that no one is to be trusted, not even oneself. First novelist Yap has built an immersive, compelling, and terrifying world where the only truth people know is what they choose to tell themselves.” (Library Journal)

Are you looking forward to any new releases? Read anything wonderful lately? We'd love to hear from you in the comments!


10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in July 2017

What We Lose
by Zinzi Clemmons
Thandi, the daughter of a Black South African mother and a white American father, is a college student struggling to find her place in the world. When she loses her mother to cancer, her grief is compounded by the loss of the closest link to her African family. “Written in compact episodes that collage autofiction with '90 s rap lyrics, hand-drawn graphs, blog entries, and photographs, the novel pushes restlessly against its own boundaries—like Thandi herself. Clemmons manages to write with economy without ever making her book feel small, and with humor and frankness, so the novel is not overly steeped in grief. This is a big, brainy drama told by a fearless, funny young woman—part philosophy, part sociology, and part ghost story.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Goodbye Vitamin
by Rachel Khong
San Franciscan Ruth Young is still hurting from a bad breakup when she decides to move home to be with her father Howard, a history professor falling under the grip of Alzheimer’s disease. “A heartfelt family dramedy in a debut novel that ruminates on love, loss, and memory… Ruth and Howard are a hilarious father-daughter duo, at turns destructive and endearing… Khong's pithy observations and cynical humor round out a moving story that sparks empathy where you'd least expect it.” (Kirkus) Khong is the former executive editor of Lucky Peach

by Andrew Sean Greer
Author Arthur Less is in crisis: he’s turning 50, his publisher has rejected his latest book, and his former boyfriend is getting married. He’s no literary big shot, but he does get invitations to speak here and there, so he organizes himself a global speaking tour that will help him avoid his ex’s wedding. “Of course, anything that can go wrong does—from falling out a window to having his favorite suit eaten by a stray dog, and as far as Less runs, he will not escape the fact that he really did lose the love of his life... Seasoned novelist Greer (The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, 2013, etc.) clearly knows whereof he speaks and has lived to joke about it. Nonstop puns on the character's surname aside, this is a very funny and occasionally wise book.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Made for Love
by Alissa Nutting
“Hazel is on the run from the one person she might not be able to escape: her tech-mogul husband, Byron, whose company, Gogol, is far-reaching and powerful. Hazel flees the pristine Gogol complex for her 76-year-old father's trailer, where she is shocked to find that her father is shacking up with a sex doll he has christened Diane… Just as she did in her first novel, Tampa (2013), Nutting pushes boundaries--this time via a subplot with a charming con man who finds himself attracted to dolphins--and though it's not as grounded as her debut, Nutting's second outing offers up a sly satire of our tech- and prosperity-obsessed society.” (Booklist)

A Life of Adventure and Delight
by Akhil Sharma
Sharma, author of New York Times Best Book and International Dublin Literary Award-winning Family Life, is also known for his short stories, which have been included in the Best American and O. Henry Award anthologies. He presents eight stories here, all examining the lives of Indian people in their home country and around the world. “Neither adventure nor delight await the characters of this ironically titled collection... Filled with a strong sense of the odds against any kind of happiness, these stories have a psychological acuity that redeems their dark worldview.” (Kirkus Reviews) You can read or listen to the title story at The New Yorker website here

The Tower of the Antilles
by Achy Obejas
“By turns searing and subtly magical, the stories in Obejas’ vividly imagined collection are propelled by her characters’ contradictory feelings about and unnerving experiences in Cuba... Obejas’ plots are ambushing, her characters startling, her metaphors fresh, her humor caustic, and her compassion potent in these intricate and haunting stories of displacement, loss, stoicism, and realization.” (Booklist) Obejas is the author of multiple acclaimed works including Ruins and Days of Awe and is the Director of the MFA in Translation program at Mills College.

by Dina Nayeri
Niloo Hamadi left Iran as an eight-year-old, grew up in Oklahoma, and now is building a career as an anthropologist in Amsterdam. Her Father stayed behind in Iran, and Niloo has only seen him four times since, harboring feelings of disapproval toward him while she longs for connection. “Nayari uses gentle humor and evocative prose to illuminate the power of familial bonds and to bestow individuality on those anonymous people caught between love of country and need for refuge. A beautiful addition to the burgeoning literature of exile.” (Library Journal)

Live from Cairo
by Ian Bassingthwaighte
“When Iraqi American Hana lands in 2011 Cairo, Egypt, to work for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, she is pointedly told that the desperate Arabs and Africans flooding its offices mostly don't get approved and remain trapped in the teeming city. That looks to be true for Dalia, whose husband disappeared in Baghdad after being attacked for his work with the U.S. Army; though he managed to make it to America, her visa is not forthcoming. Hana is clearly unsettled, as are readers, as Brassingthwaighte draws on his own legal aid work in Cairo to give us an intimate look at the refugee experience in language that's urgent, informed, and richly detailed... Absorbing and important reading.” (Library Journal)

Moving Kings
by Joshua Cohen
David King is the owner of New York-based Moving Kings, a successful moving business that specializes in evictions. His Israeli cousin Yoav and Yoav’s friend Uri, fresh from completing their compulsory military service, come to visit him in New York and find their military experience has prepared them well for the eviction moving business. “Their job storming the homes of New York’s dispossessed is uncomfortably reminiscent of their wartime experiences in Gaza, drawing parallels between race and class struggles in the Middle East and urban America. While Cohen’s comparison risks being heavy-handed, he pulls it off with lovingly personal character studies, an outrageous sense of humor, and a voice both stylish and astute.” (Booklist)

Pages for Her
by Sylvia Brownrigg
Flannery and Anne had an affair as students at Yale but went their separate ways. Twenty years later they cross paths at a writer’s conference and rekindle their relationship. Brownrigg continues the story that began in her 2001 novel Pages for You although you needn’t have read it to enjoy this one. “Brownrigg (The Delivery Room, 2008, etc.) approaches her characters with clarity and sensitivity, capturing the nuances in the women's relationships to the people they love—as mother, daughter, sister, friend, wife, or lover—and the power they give those people to define and inspire them... Brownrigg considers motherhood, romance, identity, and the changes brought by time in this tender, insightful novel.” (Kirkus Reviews)


10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in June 2017

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
by Arundhati Roy
“Twenty years after the publication of her beloved Booker Prize-winning first novel, The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy’s The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is infused with so much passion — political, social, emotional — that it vibrates. It may leave you shaking, too.” (San Francisco Chronicle

Black Moses 
by Alain Mabanckou, translated by Helen Stevenson
Mabanckou was the winner of the 2012 Académie Française’s grand prix for lifetime achievement and his latest novel has been longlisted for this year’s Man Booker International Prize. “It’s the dark but entertaining story of a boy in the Congo Republic who escapes a harrowing orphanage and ends up coming of age among a group of thieves in Pointe-Noire in the 1970s and ’80s.” (New York Times“This ribald, acerbic, and poignant coming-of-age story throws open a window to an African nation’s struggle for maturity.” (Kirkus Reviews

The Answers 
by Catherine Lacey
“While searching for a second job to pay for the treatment (“neuro-physio-chi bodywork” is pricey), Mary stumbles upon a mysterious ad for a high-paying, low-time-commitment “income-generating experience.” After several increasingly bizarre interviews, she finds herself embroiled in narcissistic actor Kurt Sky’s “Girlfriend Experiment”—a supposedly scientific inquiry designed to uncover and perfect the mechanisms of romantic love… With otherworldly precision and subtle wit, Lacey creates a gently surreal dreamscape that’s both intoxicating and profound.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Since I Laid My Burden Down 
by Brontez Purnell
“When DeShawn takes leave of his fast life in San Francisco and returns to his rural Alabama hometown, he finds time to slow down and contemplate his past and the many men—fathers, lovers, and friends—who have made him who he is… A complex, sometimes overly frenetic, look at one man’s experience of being black, queer, smart, soft, tough, artistic, and constantly in motion between rural and urban cultures.” (Kirkus Reviews) Oakland’s own Purnell is a celebrated filmmaker, musician, dancer, and writer.

Kingdom Cons
by Yuri Herrera
“The relationship between art and violence is at the core of Herrera’s (The Transmigration of Bodies) slim yet powerful novel about the various members of a drug-trafficking ring in an unnamed territory allegorically aligned with northern Mexico. A young man named Lobo, having become a street performer after being abandoned by his parents, impresses a local narco boss—a man known to him only as the King—while singing at a cantina, and he subsequently stumbles into a life of danger and excess that he never before could have imagined for himself.” (Publishers Weekly)

The Windfall
by Diksha Basu
“Culture and capital clash in Basu's charming, funny debut, which finds middle-aged Anil and Bindu Jha flush with new money after Anil sells his phone directory website for a small fortune… the novel addresses a rapidly changing India from a plethora of perspectives, and the result leaves readers laughing and engrossed.” (Publishers Weekly)

The Clothesline Swing
by Ahmad Danny Ramadan
“Nearly four decades after they fled Syria in 2012, an old man feeds his dying lover nightly stories in their creaking house in Vancouver’s West End… By turns sombre, fantastical, violent and tender, Ahmad Danny Ramadan’s English-language debut is a gay son’s conflicted love letter to Syria – a look on the present from a possible future.” (The Globe and Mail

Do Not Become Alarmed
by Maile Meloy
“Three families on a cruise are separated from their children during a shore excursion in Central America… a tautly plotted and culturally savvy emotional thriller. Do not start this book after dinner or you will almost certainly be up all night.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Lonesome Lies Before Us 
by Don Lee
“Yadin Park, a former alt-country singer/songwriter cobbles together a meagre existence in a down-on-its-heels Northern Californian beach town... a tale of heartbreak, love, and failure that will keep sounding in your head long after final page.” (Interview Magazine)

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows
by Balli Kaur Jaswal 
“Nikki has pretty much disgraced herself and her family—British, Punjabi, Sikh—several times over… Nikki begins teaching a group of Punjabi widows, who quickly hijack her lesson plans… By turns erotic, romantic, and mysterious, this tale of women defying patriarchal strictures enchants.” (Kirkus Reviews)


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