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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in July 2016


Here Comes the Sun
by Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn
In Montego Bay, Jamaica, thirty-year-old Margot has put all of her hopes on her teenage sister Thandi. Margot saves all of her money for Thandi’s education, working for a hotel and participating in the island’s sex tourism trade on the side. But Thandi is not interested in becoming a doctor; she dreams about art school and dating, and aspires to a higher social status by using skin-bleaching creams. Meanwhile Margo pines for another woman while the threat of anti-gay violence looms. “This debut novel from Dennis-Benn is an astute social commentary on the intricacies of race, gender, wealth inequality, colorism, and tourism,” raves Kirkus Reviews, praising the “visceral, profound writing and invigorating characters,” and concluding: “Haunting and superbly crafted, this is a magical book from a writer of immense talent and intelligence.”

Multiple Choice
by Alejandro Zambra, translated by Megan McDowell
Chilean author Zambra plays with form in this experimental story collection, in which test questions provide an unexpected framework for his short fiction. Booklist calls it “An ambitious, hilarious, provocative work” and Publishers Weekly calls it “repeatedly engaging, smart, funny, and sad.” Zambra is one of Granta's Best Young Spanish-Language Novelists and the author of Ways of Going Home (2013) and My Documents (2015).

Everything I Don't Remember
by Jonas Hassen Khemiri, translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles
In Stockholm, a young man of North African descent named Samuel is dead after crashing his car into a tree. Was it an accident or suicide? An unnamed novelist tries to piece together the details of Samuel’s life to solve this mystery. Winner of Sweden's prestigious August Prize, Everything I Don't Remember is an experimental thriller that pieces together fragments of the story through flashbacks and flash-forwards, while highlighting issues facing immigrants in Sweden. Kirkus calls it “moving and grimly funny.” Khemiri is an acclaimed Tunisian-Swedish novelist and playwright whose works include Montecore (2011).

by Jade Sharma
Maya has serious problems. Her husband is an alcoholic, her mother is dying, she doesn’t care about her job, she’s having an affair with a professor, she can’t get pregnant, and she has an eating disorder. Also, she uses heroin on a regular basis. When her husband and her lover both leave her, she plunges into a full time, full blown heroin addiction. “The novel is written so well that the relentless and destructive rhythm of heroin abuse seems calming, metaphysical, and occasionally even funny.” (Kirkus Reviews) “Some readers may find the subject matter too difficult, but in Maya's voice, Sharma has crafted a momentous force that never flags and feels painfully honest.” (Publishers Weekly)

Sarong Party Girls
by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
Jazzy’s 27th birthday is coming up, so it’s time to stop partying and find her dream husband—an ang moh, a rich white Western expat. Cheeky, clever and determined, not to mention brand-obsessed, Jazzy pursues her marital goal in the often shocking after-hours clubs of Singapore. Her story is punctuated with Singlish—a patois derived from a mix of English, Malay, Mandarin, Hokkien, Teochew, Indian and Cantonese. “A rowdy tale, memorable language, and a very distinctive protagonist.” (Kirkus Reviews) Tan is also the author of the memoir A Tiger in the Kitchen (2011).

Unseen World
by Liz Moore
Ada Sibelius has an unusual childhood. Homeschooled by her father David, a single parent and genius computer scientist, she spends much of her time helping in his lab. When David sinks into Alzheimers, Ada’s life is torn apart. As the matter of her custody arises, so do questions about David’s true identity, leaving Ada to puzzle out who he really is when he can no longer give her answers. Publishers Weekly calls it a “a striking examination of family, memory, and technology” and “a smart, emotionally powerful literary page-turner.” Moore is the author of Heft (2012).

An Innocent Fashion
by R. J. Hernandez
A full scholarship to Yale is Elián San Jamar’s ticket out of working-class Corpus Christi, Texas. He changes his name to Ethan St. James, pairs up with rich friend Madelyn who has money to spare and falls in love with her boyfriend. Post-graduate reality hits with a smack as his internship at fashion magazine Régine doesn’t live up to his dreams. “Hernández is a diamond-sharp satirist and a bracingly fresh chronicler of the heartbreak of trying to grow up. Honest and absurd, funny and tragic, wild and lovely, this novel describes modern coming-of-age with poetic precision.” (Kirkus Reviews)

The House at the Edge of Night
by Catherine Banner
On a small island off the coast of Sicily, four generations of an Italian family operate a popular neighborhood café. Peppered with local lore and legend, the lives of the Esposito family unfold against the span of the 20th century, in partnership with a vast and colorful community of characters. “Guaranteed to draw comparisons to Beautiful Ruins, Cutting for Stone, and The House of the Spirits.” (Kirkus Reviews) “Banner's superbly written drama is rich in engaging characters and the mystical island stories passed on from one generation to the next.” (Booklist)

Night of the Animals
by Bill Broun
It’s 2052: life in the UK is marked by extreme poverty, scarcity and pervasive surveillance. King Harry9, controls the news through WikiNous, the internet consumed through body implants. To top it off, a resurgence of the suicidal, comet-loving Heaven’s Gate cult is wiping out most life forms on the planet. The only animals left live in the London Zoo and drug-addicted 90-year-old Cuthbert Handley has the ability to communicate with the them and decides to set them free. “Imaginative, fast-paced, thoughtful, and awash in laser-like imagery, debut novelist Broun's phantasmagorical fable vibrantly blends myth and satire to paint both a cautionary warning about present behavior and a futuristic vision of what the unbridled abuse of nature might unveil.” (Booklist)

The Inseparables
by Stuart Nadler
The Inseparables is a book within a book—a famously trashy one that Henrietta Olyphant wrote in her 20s. Now in her 70s and freshly widowed, she agrees to publish a new edition because she needs the money. While she struggles financially and emotionally, her daughter is going through a divorce and her granddaughter is in trouble for a nude selfie that made the rounds at her school. “Throughout each scene, Nadler captures the awkwardness of growing older during all phases of life… This novel contains plenty of romance, tension, and tenderness to make for a rich and compelling read.” (Publishers Weekly) Nadler is the author of Wise Men (2013).

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in June 2016

by Yaa Gyasi
Effia and Esi are half-sisters raised in different villages in Africa’s Gold Coast in the 18th century. One sister is married off to an English colonizer; the other is sold into slavery. The beautiful and gut wrenching stories of their descendants illuminate three centuries of history on both sides of the Atlantic. “Gyasi writes each narrative with remarkable freshness and subtlety,” raves Publishers Weekly, calling it “a marvelous novel.” This debut is already getting a lot of hype, and it deserves every bit!

The Girls
by Emma Cline
The Girls is another debut getting tons of praise. During the summer of 1969 in Northern California, neglected and bored 14-year-old Evie Boyd longs for attention and acceptance, and becomes fascinated with a cult reminiscent of the Mansons. “Cline's impressive debut is more a harrowing coming-of-age exploration of how far a young girl will go (and how much she will give up of herself) in her desperate quest to belong. Beautifully written and unforgettable.” (Library Journal)

Modern Lovers
by Emma Straub
Elizabeth, Andrew, Zoe and Lydia were in a band together in college. Lydia made it big and died young, but the rest of the band are still close—Andrew and Elizabeth are married, and live just down the street from Zoe and her wife in Brooklyn. When a Hollywood filmmaker wants to make a biopic about Lydia, the news rattles the aging hipsters who are already grappling with mid-life crises and hormone-crazed teenagers. Publishers Weekly says “Readers will devour this witty and warmly satisfying novel.” Straub’s 2014 novel The Vacationers was a New York Times bestseller and a big hit with Oakland readers.

by Natashia Deón
In 1840’s Alabama, teenaged Naomi is shot and killed for a murder she didn’t commit, just moments after giving birth to her light-haired daughter Josie. Naomi’s ghost looks back on her tragic life under slavery as she tries to protect her daughter in the violent times before, during and after Emancipation. “Deón's vivid imagery, deft characterization, and spellbinding language carry the reader through this suspenseful tale. A haunting, visceral novel that heralds the birth of a powerful new voice in American fiction.” (Kirkus Reviews)

Grief Is the Thing With Feathers
by Max Porter
Porter’s protagonist is a man who must carry on in the face of the sudden death of his wife. He has two young sons to care for and a manuscript due on the poetry of Ted Hughes. Now a talking crow has come to live with him, a surreal and living embodiment of his grief. “As resonant, elliptical and distilled as a poem, Grief Is the Thing With Feathers is one of the most moving, wildly inventive first novels you're likely to encounter this year. It's funny — in a jet-black way — yet also fiercely emotional, capturing the painful sucker-punch of loss with a fresh immediacy that rivals Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking.” (NPR)

The Bones of Grace
by Tahmima Anam
Anam, a Granta Best Young British Novelist, completes her trilogy begun with A Golden Age (2007, winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book) and The Good Muslim (2011, a New Yorker Best Book of the Year). Zubaida (Zee) Haque is a Harvard-educated Bangladeshi-born paleontologist who is torn between tradition and her own desires, with an American lover, an arranged marriage to a childhood friend in Dhaka, and a longing to know more about her birth parents. “Anam captures two very different cultures in an introspective character study that will mesmerize readers from the very first page.” (Publishers Weekly)

by Gina Wohlsdorf
This blood-spattered nail-biter plays inventively with form. On the eve of the glitzy opening of the opulent Manderley Resort, hotel manager Tessa is trying to keep things running smoothly but a murderer is on the loose. Meanwhile, someone at a bank of security cameras is peering into every room, and on some pages the action is split into columns as the scenes in front of multiple lenses unfold simultaneously. Booklist calls it “scary, gory, kinky, and experimental enough to push readers' envelopes without going so far as to lose mainstream appeal.” “This horror story with a humorous edge casts video surveillance as both hero and villain and raises plentiful goose bumps as a result.” (Kirkus)

The Mexican Flyboy
by Alfredo Véa
Simon Vegas is an English professor and Vietnam Vet who managed to steal an ancient time machine from the U.S. Army. Calling himself the Mexican Flyboy, he travels through time to commit acts of social justice, spiriting historical figures such as Emmett Till and Joan of Arc away to safety in Boca Raton, Florida. Kirkus calls it a “hallucinatory fantasy that reads like a blend of John Steinbeck and Robert A. Heinlein” and “a dizzying novel that combines Véa's solid prose style with a vivid imagination and an authentic cultural brio.”

The Queue
by Basma Abdel Aziz
In an unnamed Middle Eastern city, a failed uprising has made way for a new authority called the Gate. Everyone now needs permission from the Gate to do just about anything, and the line for requesting permission is growing longer and longer. Among the people waiting is Yehya, who needs a permit allowing him to have surgery to remove the bullet that struck him in the belly during the failed uprising. The Queue “represents a new wave of dystopian and surrealist fiction from Middle Eastern writers who are grappling with the chaotic aftermath and stinging disappointments of the Arab Spring.” (New York Times)

A House for Happy Mothers
by Amulya Malladi
Priya has a satisfying life in Silicon Valley with a happy marriage and a great job, but she keeps having miscarriages. On the other side of the globe, Asha is her surrogate, reluctant but hopeful that she can help her family with the proceeds. These two women are brought together by their deepest longings. “Malladi (The Mango Season, 2003) examines India's surrogacy industry with honesty and grace” (Booklist). Also out this month is The House of Hidden Mothers by Meera Syal (Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee, 2000), about a 48-year-old British Indian divorcée struggling to have a second child with her younger boyfriend. They also turn to a surrogate in India. “The many themes of this novel, including generational conflicts, cultural myopia, economic privilege, and gender politics, give readers plenty to think about…  a well-paced, enjoyable read.” (Kirkus)

OK, so, technically that’s 11 reasons to read fiction in June. Happy reading!

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in May 2016


by Louise Erdrich
In a terrible hunting accident, Landreaux Iron kills young Dusty, the son of his best friend and his wife’s half-sister. In an act of retribution, Landreaux and his wife offer the grieving couple their own son, LaRose. “LaRose is the fifteenth novel in Erdrich's magnificent North Dakota cycle about the painful and proud legacy and intricately entangled relationships among Native Americans, whites, and people of mixed heritage, a brilliantly imagined and constructed saga of empathy, elegy, spirituality, resilience, wit, wonder, and hope that will stand as a defining master work of American literature for generations to come” (Booklist). Erdrich is the recipient of multiple awards including the 2012 National Book Award for Fiction for The Round House.


The Sky Over Lima  
by Juan Gómez Bárcena, translation by Andrea Rosenberg
Two privileged young Peruvians, José Gálvez and Carlos Rodriguez, are obsessed with Spanish Nobel laureate Juan Ramón Jiménez but they can’t find his latest volume of poetry anywhere in Lima. They invent a young fan named Georgiana and compose a letter from her requesting a copy from the author, commencing a correspondence that takes a romantic turn. This historical novel, based on a real-life literary hoax, “is both a love letter to the creative process and a contemplation on the sometimes-blurred line between life and art” (Kirkus Reviews). Library Journal promises, “Readers will be unable to put down this gem.”


Book of Harlan
by Bernice McFadden
Born in Macon, Georgia, Harlan is a young musician coming of age in Jazz Age Harlem who receives an invitation to perform in Paris with his friend Lizard. His fortune turns to tragedy as Paris falls under Nazi occupation and the two men are sent to a concentration camp. “McFadden has constructed a vivid, compelling narrative that makes historical fiction an accessible, literary window into the African-American past and some of the contemporary dilemmas of the present” (Kirkus). McFadden is the author of nine novels including Gathering of Waters, a New York Times Editors’ Choice and one of their 100 Notable Books of 2012.


Zero K
by Don DeLillo
Jeffrey Lockhart has been summoned by his billionaire father Ross to a remote compound in a former Soviet republic where a cult-like scientific organization provides cryogenic preservation. Jeffrey believes that the purpose of his visit is to say farewell to his dying stepmother Artis until his father informs him that he plans to join her. “In this magnificently edgy and profoundly inquisitive tale, DeLillo reflects on what we remember and forget, what we treasure and destroy, and what we fail to do for each other and for life itself” (Booklist). Acclaimed author DeLillo is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction and the National Book Awards Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In the New York Times, author Joshua Ferris called it “one of the most mysterious, emotionally moving and formally rewarding books of DeLillo’s long career.”


Desert Boys
by Chris McCormick
A collection of linked stories revolve around a young man growing up in a small desert town in California’s Antelope Valley. Multiple perspectives and voices illuminate Daley Kushner’s life as he  comes of age, comes out of the closet, and moves on to San Francisco to become a writer as an adult. Kirkus loves this “stunningly good debut,” calling it “achingly good” and “beautifully conceived.”


The Mother
Yvvette Edwards
Marcia’s sixteen-year-old son, Ryan, has been violently murdered. Still gripped with sorrow, she must attend the trial of his killer, another teenage boy. Booklist praises the book’s “delicate, lyrical prose” and calls it “a serious examination of how the social contract is failing a large portion of Britain’s urban population without moralizing in what is, ultimately, the story of one family’s road to acceptance and healing in the wake of a tragic loss.” Edwards’ debut novel, A Cupboard Full of Coats (2011), was nominated for the Booker Prize, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and the NAACP Image Award and won the Kirkus Best Book of the Year Award.


Imagine Me Gone
by Adam Haslett
Critics are loving this intimate look at depression and anxiety and its repercussions in a close-knit family. Matriarch Margaret, husband John and children Michael, Celia, and Alec take turns narrating as they love and care for each other in the face of mental health challenges and ensuing tragic consequences. Publishers Weekly calls this book “hypnotic and haunting,” saying it “tenderly and luminously deals with mental illness and with the life of the mind.” Haslett’s story collection You Are Not a Stranger Here (2002) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award and his novel Union Atlantic (2010) won the Lambda Literary Award.


Born on a Tuesday
by Elnathan John
A teenage boy named Dantala is homeless until he is taken in by a mosque, where the imam becomes his mentor. Escalating conflicts within the Muslim community culminate in the murder of the imam, leaving Dantala’s life shattered. Dantala is a clever, curious and thoughtful narrator who offers a glimpse of contemporary Muslim life in Nigeria. Kirkus calls it “An action-packed, heartbreaking, and eye-opening debut from a great new talent” and Publishers Weekly calls it “poignant and compelling” and “a stunning, important coming-of-age story.”


by Kalisha Buckhanon
One night in a trailer park in rural Mississippi, young Solemn Redvine sees a man throw a baby in a well but doesn’t tell anyone. She thinks her dad may have been the baby’s father, but she keeps that a secret, too. Then the baby’s mother vanishes, Solemn starts seeing ghosts, and her father makes a terrible choice that sends her to a group home. Library Journal says, “Buckhanon's outstanding writing fills this work with wonderfully evocative phrasing that will linger with readers,” and Publishers Weekly calls it “a heartbreaking story of broken promises.” Buckhanon is also the author of Upstate (2005) and Conception (2008).


The Assistants
by Camille Perri
Tina’s job as an executive assistant for a multibillionaire corporate CEO leaves her underpaid, overworked and uninspired. Due to a clerical error, she receives a huge check—enough to pay off her school loans but peanuts as far as the company is concerned. She decides to cash it, but it doesn’t take long for her colleague to catch her and blackmail her into paying her loans as well. Publishers Weekly calls it “smart and fresh” and Library Journal calls it “a fun, modern twist on a Robin Hood story.”


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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in April 2016

Before We Visit the Goddess  
by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Sabitri once dreamt of a college education. Her daughter, Bela, who left India years ago, contacts her desperate for help: Sabitri’s U.S. born grandchild, Tara, wants to drop out of college. Sabitri must write the grandchild she’s never met and convince her to pursue her education. Sabitri’s letter launches a reflection on her life as the stories of the three generations across the world unfold. “Divakaruni's gracefully insightful, dazzlingly descriptive, and covertly stinging tale illuminates the opposition women must confront, generation by generation, as they seek both independence and connection” (Booklist). Divakaruni is probably best known to local readers for her Oakland-set novel The Mistress of Spices (1997), winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Award.

by Diane McKinney-Whetstone
McKinney-Whetstone returns with a intricately woven tale of African American lives in post-Civil War Philadelphia. Midwife Sylvia delivers Meda’s baby, but the father (her white employer) insists she be told that the child has died. Orphans Linc and Bram are raised as brothers and led to believe they are white boys. Their paths all fatefully converge at Lazaretto, a quarantine hospital where immigrants make their first stop in the new world. “Language sings throughout,” says Kirkus Reviews, which calls this book “A sophisticated and compelling novel that comes alive through a rich cavalcade of vibrant characters and a suspenseful plot.” McKinney-Whetstone is a two time winner of the American Library Association Black Caucus Literary Award for Fiction and is best known for her novel Tumbling (1996).

by Marie Ndiaye
Clarisse Rivière left her impoverished youth behind by reinventing herself and keeping some major secrets. Her husband and daughter have no idea that her real name is Malinka. Nor do they know about her mother, Ladivine, a poor African cleaning woman she furtively visits once a month. Furthermore, she has not told Ladivine about her husband or daughter, also named Ladivine. With a dash of magical realism, this novel captures the secrets and yearnings of three lonely women. “Sadness, regret, and insidious dread permeate every page of this beautifully crafted, relentless novel” (Publishers Weekly). Ndiaye is the author of numerous novels and plays in her native French, including Three Strong Women (Trois femmes puissantes) which won the 2009 Prix Goncourt, France’s most prestigious literary award.

The Translation of Love  
by Lynne Kutsukake
Intertwining stories set the stage for this historical debut set in post-World War II U.S. occupied Tokyo. After their internment in a Canadian camp, twelve-year-old Aya and her dad were forced to move to Japan. Aya’s a misfit who barely speaks Japanese, but is befriended by Fumi, who needs help writing a letter to General MacArthur asking for help finding her missing sister. Their teacher, Sensei Kondo, moonlights as a translator of letters for women desperately trying to contact their American GI sweethearts, while U.S. born Cpl. "Matt" Matsumoto is assigned to the job of translating the letters sent to the occupying forces.  Kirkus calls it “A vivid delight,” and “Emotionally rich without turning saccharine, twisting without losing its grounding in reality, Kutsukake's novel is classic historical fiction at its best.”

Tuesday Nights in 1980
by Molly Prentiss
This debut captures a swiftly shifting SoHo art scene through the prism of a love triangle. Raul, a painter and an exile of Argentina’s Dirty War, is on the cusp of success; James is an art critic on the rise whose synesthesia gives him an extraordinary point of view; Lucy is an ingénue from Idaho looking for a New York adventure. “An agile, imaginative, knowledgeable, and seductive writer, Prentiss combines exquisite sensitivity with unabashed melodrama to create an operatic tale of ambition and delusion, success and loss, mystery and crassness” (Booklist).

Even in Paradise
by Elizabeth Nunez
In this Caribbean take on Shakespeare, our King Lear is Peter Ducksworth, a wealthy Trinidadian landowner of English ancestry. He decides to give his three daughters their inheritance in advance of his death, a plan which leads to family discord and deceit. The narrator, Émile, is a college student of partial African descent who has a romantic eye on Corinne, the youngest Ducksworth daughter and whose best friend Albert is engaged to the eldest Ducksworth. Kirkus calls it “an epic tale of family betrayal and manipulation couched in superbly engaging prose and peopled with deftly drawn characters,” “a subtle, organic exploration of politics, class, race, and privilege,” and “a dazzling, epic triumph.” Elizabeth Nunez is a Trinidadian-American novelist who has won many awards including the American Book Award, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, the NAACP Image Award and the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award.

Our Young Man
by Edmund White
Award winning author White introduces us to Guy, a young man from rural France. On a visit to Paris, he is discovered by a modeling agent, launching a career that takes him to New York City. We get a glimpse of gay life through the eyes of a naïve and magnetic man in the era of AIDS and disco, as he pursues sex, money and love. Kirkus calls it “a playful yet searching novel” “with wit and gently arch humor” and “a closely written, multidimensional coming-of-age novel that captures a time of whispers, elaborate codes, and not inconsiderable danger.”

by David Means
Hystopia is an off-the-rails alternate imagining of the 1960s in which the theme of memory looms large. JFK has survived multiple assassination attempts and 3 terms of office, meanwhile suicidal Vietnam vet Eugene Allen pens a novel-within-the-novel in which a governmental organization called the Psych Corps scrubs the minds of vets clean with mandatory therapy and drug use. Crooked Psych Corps agents are on the trail of a murderous vet who is evading the treatment and leaving a bloody trail. “By turns disturbing, hilarious, and absurd, Means' novel is also sharply penetrating in its depiction of an America all too willing to bury its past” (Booklist). The author’s last story collection, The Spot (2010) was the recipient of multiple honors, including the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

Mount Pleasant  
by Patrice Nganang, translation by Amy Reid
Cameroonian author Nganang offers a genre-bending critique of colonialism that blends history with magical realism. 9-year-old Sara is given to the exiled Sultan Njoya for his harem. Bertha, teacher and caretaker for the wives, believes Sara is the reincarnation of her late son and transforms her into the tragically lost boy. “Readers will slowly uncover a history of Cameroon that parallels, mirrors, and subverts history in service of Nganang's brilliant mythmaking” (Publishers Weekly).

Arab Jazz
by Karim Miské, translation by Sam Gordon
Ahmed Taroundat lives in Paris’s bustling and diverse 19th Arrondissement. After his neighbor Laura is brutally killed, he becomes a suspect. Once cleared, Ahmed begins his own investigation into her killing, discovering the dark side of his neighborhood and a dangerous new drug. Miské, an Arab-French documentary film maker and writer, won an English PEN Award for this novel that Library Journal calls an “amazing page-turner” that “redefines noir at its darkest.”

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in March 2016


The Year of the Runaways 
by Sunjeev Sahota 
Oakland readers have been clamoring for this book ever since it was shortlisted for the 2015 Booker Prize six months ago, and it will finally be released in the United States this month. The Year of the Runaways follows four Indian immigrants to England, their individual stories and their shared difficulties and setbacks. “Sahota's characters are drawn, and imbued with depth and feeling. Their struggles to survive will remain vividly imprinted on the reader's mind” (Publishers Weekly). Besides the Booker recognition, Sahota was named one of Granta's Best Young British Novelists in 2013.

An Unrestored Woman  
by Shobha Rao
India-born, San Francisco-based author Rao debuts with a collection of stories set during the chaotic time of the partition between India and Pakistan and the ensuing mass migration of Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. Six pairs of linked stories examine the resilience of women and the toll their choices make on them while they also struggle under circumstances totally beyond their control. Kirkus Reviews calls it “Stunning and relentless,” and Booklist says, “Exquisite turns of phrase and editing with a fine-edged scalpel only add to an outstanding and memorable debut.”

A Life Apart
by Neel Mukherjee
In a short span of time, Ritwik Ghosh, 22, loses his parents and leaves Calcutta for England on a two-year student visa. Although England is an inhospitable place, he stays on after his visa runs out, joining the underground illegal economy. He finds brief moments of release though risky trysts with strange men and by writing a historical novel about an Englishwoman living in early 20th century India. “Mukherjee's tale is deeply layered, offering a rich exploration into the ambiguity of belonging” (Booklist). Mukherjee’s novel The Lives of Others was shortlisted for the 2014 Booker Prize and the Costa Award.

Innocents and Others
by Dana Spiotta
Childhood friends Meadow and Carrie both grew up to be filmmakers. Avant-garde loner Meadow makes arthouse documentaries and Carrie directs covertly feminist commercial comedy films with and is also a wife and mother. Their paths converge with Jelly, a woman who has managed to become the confidante of many Hollywood power players though they know her only by phone conversations.  Booklist says Spiotta “brings to new levels of feverish intensity her signature dissection of obsession, the trends and ironies of the zeitgeist, how we document our lives, and the consequences of resistance to social imperatives in this ensnaring, sly, and fiercely intelligent novel.” Spiotta was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist for Stone Arabia (2011) and a National Book Award finalist for Eat the Document (2006).

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours
by Helen Oyeyemi
Oyeyemi’s first collection of short stories is set in present day Europe with a surreal, fairy tale edge. Publishers Weekly promises, “Readers will be drawn to Oyeyemi's contagious enthusiasm for her characters and deep sympathy for their unrequited or thwarted loves.” Oyeyemi is one of Granta's Best Young British Novelists and was a 2014 Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist for Boy, Snow, Bird.

We Love You, Charlie Freeman
by Kaitlyn Greenidge
The Freemans leave their home in Boston's South Side when hired by a private research institute to “adopt” a chimpanzee and teach him sign language. As they find themselves isolated as the only African American family in the community, they uncover the brutal history of the Toneybee Institute, and its legacy of racist and misogynist research. Kirkus calls Greenridge “a master of dialogue, which helps her craft engaging, well-drawn characters,” and Publishers Weekly calls her debut “deftly constructed, encompassing weighty issues such as race, language, sexuality, and the intersections of religion and science, arriving finally at a heartbreaking confrontation. The end result is a sobering look at how we communicate with one another and what inevitably gets lost in translation.”

by Jung Yun
South Korea-born and North Dakota-bred professor Kyung Cho is struggling under the pressure of job and family strain, financial difficulties and the consequences of the domestic abuse he experienced as a child. When his parents become victims of a shocking crime, Kyung must face the violent conflicts of his past and present. Booklist calls this intense debut “A work of relentless psychological sleuthing and sensitive insight.” Kirkus calls it “fluidly written… layered, sometimes surprising… a sophisticated story that maintains its narrative momentum right to the end.”

The Summer Before the War
by Helen Simonson
Summertime, 1914: as World War I looms, spinsterish Beatrice Nash has just lost her father and moves to a small village in East Sussex to teach Latin at the local school. What starts as a comedy of manners with romance, snobbery and sexism veers into wartime tragedy. Booklist promises, “this novel is just the ticket for fans of Simonson's debut, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand (2010), and for any reader who enjoys leisurely fiction steeped in the British past.”

by Saleem Haddad
Rasa is a young gay translator with an American education living in an unnamed Middle Eastern country. In the last 24 hours his grandmother has walked in on him in bed with his lover, and his best friend was arrested in a gay movie theater. At least there’s Guapa, the underground bar where he can be himself. “Haddad presents a striking look at gay life, the psychological cost of conformity, and what it means to be true to yourself from a Middle Eastern perspective” (Booklist).

The Nest
by Cynthia D'aprix Sweeney
The Plumb siblings, four middle aged middle-class New Yorkers, have been financially irresponsible while waiting to receive their trust fund. On the cusp of receiving their inheritance, they find that it’s largely been spent—bailing out brother Leo who caused a cocaine-fueled car accident while trying to romance a nineteen year old. Now Leo’s promising to fix everything. “Sweeney spins a fast-moving, often-humorous narrative, and her portrait of each sibling is compassionate even as she reveals their foibles with emotional clarity… Her writing is assured, energetic, and adroitly plotted, sweeping the reader along through an engrossing narrative that endears readers to the Plumb family for their essential humanity” (Publishers Weekly).

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in February


The Queen of the Night
by Alexander Chee
In 19th Century Paris, renowned soprano Lilliet Berne is offered the role of her life. But as she learns the opera’s story, she realizes that it reveals the details of her own life, sparing no secrets or scandals. Her story is entwined with historical events and people, fashion, and of course, music. NPR says, “The Queen of the Night is sprawling, soaring, bawdy and plotted like a fine embroidery.” Library Journal calls it, “A completely engrossing work that should appeal to the widest range of readers, especially those with a taste for historical fiction.” Chee received multiple honors for his debut novel Edinburgh (2000). You can read an excerpt here.

What Lies Between Us  
by Nayomi Munaweera
Sri Lanka-born Oakland author Munaweera follows her award-winning debut Island of a Thousand Mirrors with another immigration tale steeped in tragedy. A terrible event causes a young girl and her mother to flee their Sri Lankan home for the United States. As the girl matures and becomes more settled in her new surroundings, nostalgia for her homeland mingles with anxiety and despair, and she commits an unforgivable crime. Munaweera “masterfully and compassionately delves into the murky depths of survival and its particular impact after the trauma of loss and immigration” and her “prose is visceral and indelible, devastatingly beautiful” (Huffington Post). Munaweera will be at the Main Library for an author event later this year, so stay tuned.

The Vegetarian
by Han Kang
A disturbing dream prompts Yeong-hye to stop eating meat. No one in her multigenerational Seoul household can accept this decision as she gradually loses her grip on reality. “An unusual and mesmerizing novel, gracefully written and deeply disturbing” (Kirkus); “This is an ingenious, upsetting, and unforgettable novel” (Publishers Weekly). This is the first novel to be translated into English from this award-winning Korean poet and novelist.

And After Many Days  
by Jowhor Ile
In 1990’s Port Harcourt, Nigeria, the beloved and dependable eldest son of the Utu family suddenly and mysteriously vanishes. As the parents and siblings grapple with their loss, their histories unfold. Meanwhile, in their ancestral village, a dispute ripens between the community and an encroaching oil company. Kirkus calls it, “A deeply rewarding novel that heralds the birth of a major new literary talent,” and Library Journal promises, “Equal parts family mystery, government critique, and meditation on love and loss, Ile's telling words will appeal to anyone who enjoys a story well told.”

Ways to Disappear
by Idra Novey
Famous Brazilian author Beatriz Yagoda has disappeared, last seen climbing into a tree with a suitcase and a cigar. Her American translator Emma leaves her fiancé in Pittsburgh behind and embarks on a quest to find her, along with Yagoda’s resentful daughter and her alluring son. Turns out Yagoda has an online poker problem and owes quite a bit of money. Publishers Weekly says, “Underlying these comic noir elements is an eloquent meditation on the art and anxiety of translation, as well as a story about literature as a means of revelation and concealment.” Kirkus calls it, “Stylish, absurd, sometimes romantic, and often very funny” and “Delightful and original.”

Private Citizens  
by Tony Tulathimutte
Four millennials pursue post-Stanford life in the Bay Area, to various degrees of success. Linda is a struggling writer and apartment crasher, Cory finds herself running a failing non-profit, Henrik has been kicked out of grad school, and Will is a techie struggling with his cultural identity while he tries to help his girlfriend land a reality TV show. From Kirkus: “Witty, unsparing, and unsettlingly precise, Tulathimutte empathizes with his subjects even as he (brilliantly) skewers them. A satirical portrait of privilege and disappointment with striking emotional depth.”

by Matthew Griffin
Wendell, a taxidermist, met veteran Frank just after World War II. They live a long life together, but their relationship remains a closely guarded secret in their small North Carolina town until ultimately they must pretend to be brothers so that Wendell can visit Frank in the hospital. Booklist calls it “a touching tale” and “a bittersweet portrait of love in the shadows.”

Green Island  
by Shawna Yang Ryan
During the political upheaval of World War II-era Taiwan, a family welcomes their newest daughter. Within weeks, her father is imprisoned along with thousands of others; he returns 10 years later, life shattered. As an adult, she starts a new life for herself in Berkeley, but she cannot shake the grip of the past as her political actions reverberate throughout her family. “Absorbing and affecting, this powerful tale explores the bond between a father and daughter, the compromises they are forced to make, and the prices they pay in their quest for freedom” (Booklist).

Black Deutschland
by Darryl Pinckney
Jed is a young, gay, African American Chicagoan who is in love with West Berlin in the last days of the wall. After spending a few summers there, he scores a job with a prominent architect while he tries to enjoy a permanent vacation in search of sex and love, recovery from substance abuse and personal reinvention. The New Yorker says, “The book’s tone is comic, pleasingly spry, and the prose breaks naturally into witty one-liners,” and Publishers Weekly says, “Pinckney's novel is a lively, inviting, and beautifully written story of survival by intellect.” Award-winner Pinckney is also the author of High Cotton (1992).

Piece of Mind
by Michelle Adelman
Twenty-seven-year-old Lucy lacks independence due to a childhood brain injury. She lives with her dad and is baffled by daily routines, but finds refuge in her sketchbook and a deep connection with animals. When her father suddenly dies, her younger brother invites her to live with him in his New York City apartment, opening up new worlds and challenges. Publishers Weekly calls this debut novel “a moving story of grief, resilience, and self-actualization” and “as realistic as it is uplifting.” From Library Journal: “Lucy's narrative is sensitive, witty, and illuminating.” Piece of Mind is this Bay Area author’s first novel.

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in January 2016

Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist
by Sunil Yapa
Debut novelist Yapa tells the gripping story of the 1999 World Trade Organization riots in Seattle through the eyes of a varied cast of characters: organizers, activists and cops, a police chief and his estranged stepson, and a WTO delegate from Sri Lanka. This novel has been hyped by reviewers since the summer—will it live up to expectations? Publishers Weekly calls it “a memorable, pulse-pounding literary experience” and Booklist says, “Yapa ties together seemingly disparate characters and narratives through a charged moment in history, showing how it still affects us all in different ways” (Booklist).

My Name Is Lucy Barton
by Elizabeth Strout
Lucy has an extended stay in the hospital after an appendectomy gets complicated. During her convalescence, her husband manages the family and work while Lucy receives a visit from her estranged mother, opening the door to their brutally painful past. Publishers Weekly calls this short novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Olive Kitteridge “tender and moving” and “masterly.” “Brimming with insight and emotion, Strout relays with great tenderness and sadness the way family relationships can both make and break us” (Booklist).

The Kindness of Enemies   
by Leila Aboulela
Natasha is a history professor in Scotland with Russian and Sudanese roots researching Imam Shamil, a 19th century Muslim leader who defended the Caucasus against the Russians. She is stunned when she discovers a direct link between the Imam and her favorite student. The Kindness of Enemies    “challenges readers with thought-provoking ideas about the meaning of jihad, then and now, and demonstrates how ignorance of another's beliefs prohibits us from embracing our common humanity” (Library Journal). “Aboulela is a great storyteller, and she writes with clarity and elegance. A pleasurable and engaging read for fans of both contemporary and historical fiction” (Kirkus). Aboulela is the Sudanese-born, Scotland-based author of Lyrics Alley (2011) and winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing.

The Illegal
by Lawrence Hill
Hill’s newest novel is a socially conscious thriller that examines the issues of illegal immigration and refugees. Following the politically motivated murder of his father, gifted runner Keita Ali flees his homeland of Zantoroland for the wealthy island nation of Freedom State, where he faces fear of deportation, exploitation, and alienation. Things get even more complicated when his Harvard-educated sister is kidnapped. Hill is the Commonwealth Award-winning author of Someone Knows My Name (2007; also published as The Book of Negroes). Booklist calls it “a deeply satisfying story shot through with humor and humanity.”

What Belongs to You
by Garth Greenwell
In present day Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, a gay American professor finds an intense connection with a male prostitute. Their failed relationship prompts him to look deeply into his past. “This is a project of rare discernment and beauty, and it is not to be missed. A luminous, searing exploration of desire, alienation, and the powerful tattoo of the past.” (Kirkus)

Mr. Splitfoot
by Samantha Hunt
Raised in a cult-like orphanage in rural New York, Nat and Ruth are scam artists with a talent for communicating with the dead (or perhaps they pretend to). Years later, Ruth wordlessly leads her pregnant niece Cora across the state in an unexplained quest. The two tales converge in a tale that is both dark and humorous, part mystery, part ghost tale and part coming-of-age story. “This spellbinder is storytelling at its best” (Publishers Weekly).  “A truly fantastic novel in which the blurring of natural and supernatural creates a stirring, visceral conclusion” (Kirkus). Hunt is a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 author and her novel The Invention of Everything Else (2008) was a finalist for the Orange Prize (now known as the Women’s Prize for Fiction).

The Portable Veblen
by Elizabeth McKenzie
A whirlwind romance leads to an unlikely engagement between Veblen Amundsen-Hovda, a free spirited and cheerful translator of Norwegian literature with a deep connection with a squirrel, and Paul Vreeland, a more conventional but charming and brilliant neuroscientist and inventor. Their romance is challenged by clashes over their dysfunctional families, conspicuous consumption , and interpretations of squirrel behavior. Publishers Weekly calls Veblen “one of the best characters of the year,” and raves, “McKenzie's funny, lively, addictive novel is sure to be a standout.”

The Expatriates
by Janice Y. K. Lee
Three American women in Hong Kong find commonality in grief. Mercy, a young Columbia grad with Korean roots, and Margaret, a wealthy stay-at-home mother of three, are connected by a tragic incident. Meanwhile Hillary struggles with her inability to have a child. Publishers Weekly calls it “captivating,” saying “Lee's women are complex and often flawed, which makes the stories of their strength all the more compelling in this tale of family, motherhood, and attempts at moving on.” Lee is also the bestselling author of The Piano Teacher (2008).

Good People
by Robert Lopez
Readers who like it dark will want to check out this short story collection. There are few “good people” to be found here among the neurotic, the abusive, the suicidal, and a cast of other misanthropes. Publishers Weekly praises Lopez’s   “uncommon skill at evoking both laughs and shudders, sometimes in the same story,” and Kirkus calls it “depressing, inventive, and marvelous—a thought-provoking path to feeling awful.”

The Lightkeepers
by Abby Geni
Nature photographer Miranda has been granted a year-long stay at the Farallon Islands, joining a small crew of scientists at this isolated outpost that teems with wildlife. One night Miranda is violently assaulted and soon after her assailant is found dead. Miranda recounts her story through letters to her long-dead mother as she becomes increasingly unreliable as a narrator. The SF Chronicle calls it “dazzlingly unsettling” and “an intoxicating blend of unimaginable beauty and devastating horror” with “a breathtakingly shocking climax” and language “as startlingly rich as the terrain.”

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10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in November 2015

The Japanese Lover  
by Isabel Allende
In 1939, 8-year-old Alma Belasco is sent from Poland to live with relatives in California, where she meets Ichimei Fukuda. The two are inseparable playmates until Ichimei is forced into internment after Pearl Harbor. Despite many obstacles, their friendship grows into a passionate love that perseveres over seven decades. Library Journal calls it “a beautiful tribute to devotion” and praises “Allende's literary artistry.”

Twain and Stanley Enter Paradise
by Oscar Hijuelos
Before his death in 2013, Hijuelos worked for more than a decade on this vivid portrait of Welsh-born explorer Henry Morton Stanley, his friendship with Mark Twain and his marriage to wealthy artist Dorothy Tennant. Hijuelos enlivens the story with fabricated diary entries, letters and autobiography, in what Booklist calls “an extraordinary feat of imaginative historical re-creation.” The late author is best known for his Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1989).

The Mare
by Mary Gaitskill
Disadvantaged Dominican American teenager Velveteen "Velvet" Vargas spends summers away from her home and family in Brooklyn through the Fresh Air Fund, staying at Paul and Ginger’s place in upstate New York. While Velvet discovers new skills and a new understanding of self through a connection with a neglected horse, Paul, a professor, harbors huge misgivings about this social experiment and Ginger, a troubled artist, becomes increasingly obsessive about Velvet’s home life. Kirkus calls The Mare “candid and emotionally complex, spare, real, and deeply affecting.” Gaitskill is the author of short stories, essays and novels including the National Book Award nominee Veronica (2005).

The Big Green Tent
by Ludmila Ulitskaya
In Cold War-era Soviet Union, a love of literature takes three brilliant and creative childhood friends down an inevitable path of dissident activity, in an examination of the power of books, art and music under the forces of anti-Semitism, censorship and oppression. Publishers Weekly calls it “enthralling,” promising “readers will come away wholly satisfied.” Kirkus laments, “The greatest tragedy of Ulitskaya's story is that it comes to an end.”

Numero Zero
by Umberto Eco, translated by Richard Dixon
Colonna, a struggling writer, is hired by a shady hotel magnate to ghostwrite a book about the newspaper he’s founding, which will focus on gossip, conspiracies and scandals. It also might be the perfect tool for blackmail. Now Colonna’s falling for a celebrity columnist and fearing for his life. “Eco's caustically clever, darkly hilarious, dagger-quick tale of lies, crimes, and collusions condemns the shameless corruption and greed undermining journalism and governments everywhere” (Booklist). Philosopher Eco’s best known novel is The Name of the Rose (1994).

The Improbability of Love
by Hannah Rothschild
When young, broke chef Annie McDee impulsively purchases a painting from a junk shop, she unwittingly upends the art world. The lost work by master painter Watteau has touched many lives, and their connected histories unfurl, highlighted with sumptuous depictions of art and food. Kirkus calls it “smart, well-written, and thoroughly gripping” and Library Journal touts it as “the next irresistible blend of art, mystery, and intrigue along the lines of Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch.”

One Out of Two
by Daniel Sada
A comic novella about identical twins Constitución and Gloria Gamal, who are practically the same person and have been since they were orphaned at age 13. Now in their forties, they dress alike, they wear the same hairstyle, and sometimes they switch identities. When Constitución meets Oscar Segura, she wonders: why not share the romance with her sister? The late Mexican author Sada was “known for his playfully extravagant style, a mix of earthy colloquialisms and fancy syntax” (Kirkus). “For fans of succinct, clever fiction” (Booklist).

The Boys
by Toni Sala, translated by Mara Faye Lethem
A mysterious car accident leaves two teenage boys dead, an event that reverberates in a small Catalonian town near the Pyrenees in Spain. At the heart of this haunting and contemplative novel are four people who are deeply struck by this event whether they knew the boys or not. Kirkus calls it “a compelling existential mystery” and “altogether brilliant.” The Boys received Catalonia’s highest literary honor.

Lifelines: New Writing from Bangladesh
edited by Farah Ghuznavi
This groundbreaking anthology features women writers from Bangladesh, examining many facets of their lives and cultural identity. Author Elif Shafak calls the collection “engaging and rich,” saying “Rarely, an anthology manages to capture our hearts and challenge our minds at the same time and with equal fervor. This book does precisely that.”

The Lost Garden  
by Ang Li, translated by Sylvia Li-chun Lin and Howard Goldblatt
Yinghong, a Taiwanese woman, looks back on her tender relationship with her father, a wealthy, genteel man who was imprisoned for his political beliefs. Meanwhile, she is caught up in an intensely passionate relationship with a materialistic and stylish young businessman who loves the nightlife of Taipei. “An exploration of contemporary Taiwan through the lens of the past, this novel hits many poignant notes as it threads its way” (Kirkus). Li is the author of The Butcher's Wife (1983).

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

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in October 2015

A Strangeness in My Mind
by Orhan Pamuk, translated by Ekin Oklap
The latest novel from Nobel laureate Pamuk (My Name is Red,2001; Snow, 2004) offers the tale of Mevlut, a young man who leaves his small village for Istanbul, where he spends many years walking the streets of the city as a door-to-door vendor. He is tricked into marrying the sister of the girl he pines for, an act of treachery that reverberates throughout the novel. He nonetheless embraces his fate and happily pursues a living for his family as the decades unfold and the city drastically changes around them. Kirkus calls it “Rich, complex, and pulsing with urban life: one of this gifted writer's best.”

Death by Water
by Kenzaburo Oe, translated by Deborah Boliver Boehm
Another Nobel Prize winner, Oe returns to his recurring autobiographical character Kogito Choko (The Changeling, 2010). Choko struggles with a failure to understand and novelize his father’s death which happened decades earlier during World War II. His frustrations lead to an intense dispute with his mentally-ill adult son. Things turn around for Choko when he pursues a partnership with an experimental theater troupe. Kirkus calls it a “pensive novel, at once autobiographical and philosophical… provocative, doubtful without being cynical, elegant without being precious” and Booklist calls it “enchanting.”

The Tsar of Love and Techno: Stories
by Anthony Marra
Award winning Oakland author Marra follows his debut, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (2013) with a story collection set in the Soviet Union and Russia spanning a century. In one story, a Soviet censor tasked with erasing shunned and executed individuals from photos and paintings inserts images of his disappeared brother—just one example of storytelling that Kirkus calls “powerful and melancholy” and Publishers Weekly calls “uniquely funny, tragic, bizarre, and memorable”. You can read an excerpt here.

Mothers, Tell Your Daughters: Stories
by Bonnie Jo Campbell
Cambell, a National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist for her 2009 story collection American Salvage, once again focuses her keen and compassionate eye on the lives of working-class women. Booklist calls these stories “commanding, piquant, and reverberating,” saying “In each subsequent, visceral, surprising, pitch-perfect tale, Campbell strides further into the swamp of sexual conflicts and trauma, from routine contempt to rape, telling tales not of good and evil, but rather of soul-wringing emotional complexity and epic grit.” Campbell is also the author of novel Once Upon a River (2011).

City on Fire
by Garth Risk Hallberg
Gritty New York City in the days leading up to the July 13, 1977 blackout is the setting for this debut novel in which the disparate lives of musicians, journalists, punks and the rich and powerful intersect in stunning and surprising ways. Publishers Weekly calls it “maniacally detailed, exhaustingly clever… packed with urban angst, intellectual energy, and sinister pitfalls.” Booklist raves, “This magnificent first novel is full to bursting with plot, character, and emotion” and calls it a “completely engrossing novel.”

Grant Park
by Leonard Pitts, Jr.
On the brink of the 2008 presidential election, syndicated African-American columnist Malcolm Toussaint writes an explosive piece in response to a recent police killing of an unarmed black man, but his white editor Bob Carson refuses to print it. Toussaint uses Carson’s computer password to publish it anyway, and both journalists lose their jobs. Then Toussaint is kidnapped by white supremacists intent on terrorizing the Obama victory celebration. Publishers Weekly calls Grant Park a “high-stakes, hard-charging political thriller” with “sharply etched characters, careful attention to detail, and rich newspaper lore” and Library Journal calls it “darkly humorous and deeply engaging.” Pitts is a Pulitzer-Prizewinning journalist and the author of Before I Forget (2009) and Freeman (2012).

The Secret Chord
by Geraldine Brooks
Brooks is a Pulitzer Prizewinning novelist (for March, 2005) with a devoted readership. Her newest novel takes a look at the life of the biblical King David—a complex and often bloody story that takes David from shepherd to king during the second Iron Age in Israel. Booklist says “the novel feels simultaneously ancient, accessible, and timeless” and Publishers Weekly calls it an “ambitious and psychologically astute novel” in which Brooks “evokes time and place with keenly drawn detail… with the verve of an adroit storyteller.” Brooks is also the author of novels Year of Wonders (2001), People of the Book (2008), and Caleb's Crossing (2011).

Ghostly: A Collection of Ghost Stories
Edited by Audrey Niffenegger
If the longer nights of the looming season have you craving darker fare, this collection of stories may suit you. Stories of ghosts and hauntings by both classic and contemporary authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Saki, Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link and A.S. Byatt “do an excellent job of evoking that crucial frisson of dread” (Publishers Weekly).

by Lalo Eduardo, translated by David Frye
In San Juan, Puerto Rico, an unhappy professor falls in love with a mysterious stalker who leaves him a trail of notes signed Simone. His admirer turns out to be a lesbian immigrant from China named Li with a tragic past—and he pursues a doomed love affair. Kirkus says, “It's a bleak but emotionally resonant work that finds weighty things to say about writing, culture, Puerto Rican identity, and the dangers of projecting one's desire upon another.” Simone won the prestigious 2013 Rómulo Gallegos prize and is the first of Eduardo’s works to be translated into English.

Cleopatra's Shadows
by Emily Holleman
This intriguing and intricately detailed novel sheds light on a lesser-known chapter in ancient Hellenistic Egypt by telling the stories of Cleopatra’s sisters, Berenice and Arsinoe. At 21, eldest sister Berenice seizes the throne in a coup against her father, the pharaoh Ptolemy. Ptolemy, Cleopatra and others flee to Rome to rally support for their side, leaving eight-year-old Arsinoe behind. First time novelist Holleman effectively brings this dramatic and often bloody story to life by alternating the viewpoints of Berenice and Arsinoe. “Holleman's imaginative, textured portraits of the lives and ambitions of these little-known heroines will appeal to readers of historical and literary fiction alike” (Publishers Weekly).

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

10 Great Reasons to Read Fiction in September 2015


by Jonathan Franzen
Pip is a young woman living in a squat in Oakland and struggling with student debt, a dead-end job, a complicated relationship with her mother. She’s never known who her father is, and her mother’s not telling. Pip gets a big break when she gets recruited by a Wikileaks-type organization headquartered in the Bolivian jungle led by a charismatic leader with a shady past. This is just one strand of a multilayered story with a grand ensemble of characters .Tough-to-please New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani praises its “gripping, foot-on-the-gas plot” and Booklist says Franzen’s “signature qualities converge in a new, commanding fluidity, from his inquiry into damaged families to his awed respect for nature, brainy drollery, and precise, resonant detail.” Franzen’s books (The Corrections, Freedom) are always popular with Oakland readers, so place your hold now! But don’t get discouraged if the hold list is long—as always, we buy more copies as the list grows to minimize the wait.

The Girl in the Spider's Web
by David Lagercrantz
The incredibly popular Swedish crime series featuring idealistic journalist Mikael Blomkvist and the punked-out, computer-hacking, ass-kicking antihero Lisbeth Salander is back, in a twisty tale that incorporates national security, government surveillance, corporate misdeeds and personal vengeance. The estate of the late author Stieg Larsson chose Lagercrantz to continue the series (though not without controversy) and The New York Times’ Kakutani says “Salander and Blomkvist have survived the authorship transition intact and are just as compelling as ever.” This book will have a big wait list too, so put your name in now!

Under the Udala Trees
by Chinelo Okparanta
11-year-old Ijeoma, life shattered by the Nigerian Civil War, is sent to live with family friends where she meets Amina, another refugee. The two girls fall in love, but when their relationship is discovered, Ijeoma is sent back to her mother. As Ijeoma becomes a woman, she must face her feelings and sexuality in a repressive and homophobic society. Publishers Weekly says “Okparanta's characters are just as compelling as teenagers as they are as adults and readers will be swept up in this tale of the power of love.” Okparanta is the author of the story collection Happiness, Like Water (2013) and was a New York Public Library Young Lions finalist and one of Granta's six New Voices for 2012.

The Story of the Lost Child
by Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein
Elena returns to her childhood town to live in an apartment above her longtime friend and rival Lila as the two face motherhood and ageing together against the backdrop of corrupt and impoverished Naples. Booklist raves, “A friendship so reflective and yet so repellent, so truthfully plumbed, is a rare thing written.” This is the fourth installment in a saga that takes a deep look at women’s lives, friendships and motherhood, written by a celebrated and famously mysterious Italian author whose true identity has never been revealed. Readers unfamiliar with this series should begin with My Brilliant Friend (2012).

Gold, Fame, Citrus
by Claire Vaye Watkins
In the near future, Southern California is out of water, and most residents have been evacuated but for a few resisters, including Luz, the former poster child for the California Bureau of Conservation, and Ray, a U.S. solider who’s gone AWOL. They’re squatting the abandoned Hollywood mansion of a starlet when they find an abandoned toddler, and decide to head east in the direction of a fabled desert commune. Kirkus calls it “magnificently original” and Publishers Weekly says that it’s “packed with persuasive detail, luminous writing, and a grasp of the history (popular, political, natural, and imagined) needed to tell a story that is original yet familiar, strange yet all too believable.” Watkins won the Story Prize plus a fistful of other awards for her 2012 collection Battleborn.

(And if drought-inspired ecodystopias are up your alley and you’re looking for more, check out a recent blogpost here.)

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights
by Salman Rushdie
In the 12th century, the jinn Lightening Princess fell in love with a mortal, a Spanish-Arab philosopher who endorsed reason and rationality in the face of religious intolerance. In present day New York, their descendants are tangled in a supernatural struggle between good and evil that lasts for 1001 days. Booklist calls it a “rambunctious, satirical, and bewitching metaphysical fable” that delivers “swiftly flowing, incisive, piercingly funny commentary on everything from religious extremists to reality TV, anti-Semitism and racism, and economic injustice.” Kirkus calls it “beguiling and astonishing, wonderful and wondrous. Rushdie at his best.”

Love Love 
by Sung J. Woo
Kevin and Judy Lee are siblings in their late 30s struggling with divorce, go-nowhere careers, and a father who is dying of kidney failure. Kevin was planning to donate a kidney until medical tests revealed that he’s not a match—and he was adopted. Judy won’t even consider donating due to the grudge she holds against her father. “Woo's observations about aging, loss, and disillusionment are so smart, so sharp and astute that they'll haunt readers long after the final page has been turned. That he manages to find the beauty, humor, and even optimism in the struggle makes this glorious, at times painful, but always rewarding novel a stunning achievement” (Booklist). Woo is the author of Everything Asian (2009).

After the Parade
by Lori Ostlund
40-year-old Aaron is no longer in love with Walter, his partner for the past two decades. He leaves Walter and their home in Albuquerque, and starts a new life in San Francisco—prompting him to look back on his lonely and melancholy life. “Everything here aches, from the lucid prose to the sensitively treated characters to their beautiful and heartbreaking stories” (Kirkus). Ostlund’s 2009 short story collection The Bigness of the World was the winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award, the Edmund White Award and the California Book Award.

by Nikesh Shukla
Brothers Kitab and Aziz live in London but spend too much of their time in the online world, on every social media site you can think of. Kitab encounters his online doppelgänger on Facebook—but is he a friend, a stalker or an identity thief? Aziz also finds an online doppelgänger and heads off to New York City to find him, blogging all the way. “Shukla's novel is a charming, sometimes-satirical take on the narratives we create about ourselves and those around us,” says Kirkus, and Booklist calls it “amusing and engaging.”

The Story of My Teeth
by Valeria Luiselli, translated by Christina MacSweeney
Gustavo "Highway" Sánchez is the world’s best auctioneer, and the proud owner of Marilyn Monroe’s teeth, which he installed in his mouth after purchasing them at an "auction of contraband memorabilia in a karaoke bar in Little Havana." This is the jumping off point for an unusual and clever novel written by a Mexican-born author recognized as a "5 Under 35" by the National Book Foundation. Kirkus calls it “a lively, loopy experimental novel, rich with musings on language, art, and, yes, teeth” and “a kind of extended commentary on how possessions acquire value largely through the stories we tell about them.”

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