A listing of all adult Book Clubs-in-Bags throughout Delaware County Libraries
Please Note: Contact your local library to check the availability of each bag and to reserve them for your book club. These bags cannot be put “on hold” from your home computer, so you must contact your local library to “book” them. Bags can be checked out for up to eight weeks, and can be reserved up to eleven months in advance. Bags cannot be renewed.
HA Haverford Township Free Library
MA Marple Public Library
PP Prospect Park Free Library
RK Rachel Kohl Community Library
DE DCL Administrative Headquarters
UP Upper Darby Library—Primos Branch
CR J. Lewis Crozer Library
No need to call these libraries directly—your local library can help you!
· All bags owned by DCLS Administrative Headquarters contain: 8 regular print books, 3 large print books, 1 book on CD
· Most bags owned by the Haverford Township Free Library and the Rachel Kohl Community Library contain: 8 regular print books, 1 large print book, 1 book on CD
· Most bags owned by the J. Lewis Crozer Library and the Prospect Free Library contain: 10 regular print books
· Most bags owned by the Marple Public Library contain: 8 regular print books, 2 large print books
· Most bags owned by the Upper Darby Library Primos Branch contain: 12 regular print books
All bags contain group discussion guides and author biographies.
The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
It is 1875 in Utah, and Ann Eliza Young has just left her powerful husband Brigham Young, the leader and prophet of the Mormon Church. Expelled from the religion and an outcast, Ann Eliza crusades against polygamy in the United States. In the present day, a murder involving a polygamist family unfolds as Jordan Scott, a young man cast out of his fundamentalist sect years ago, must reenter the world that cast him aside in order to determine the truth behind his father’s death. And as Ann Eliza’s narrative intertwines with Jordan’s search, readers are pulled deeper into the mysteries of love and faith.
(DE) HISTORICAL MYSTERY; PARALLEL NARRATIVES
22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson
At the end of World War II, Silvana and her near-feral eight-year-old son Aurek board the ship that will take them from Poland to England. After living wild in the forests for years, carrying a terrible secret, all Silvana knows is that she and Aurek are survivors. Everything else is lost. Waiting for them in England is her husband Janusz, who has not seen his wife or son in six years. He has reinvented himself as an Englishman in hopes of forgetting the past. But the six years spent apart have changed them all. To make a real home, Silvana and Janusz will have to come to terms with what happened during the war, accept that each is different, and allow their beloved but wild son to be who he truly is.
(MA) HISTORICAL FICTION; ENGAGING
The Accidental by Ali Smith
Amber, thirty-something and barefoot, shows up at the door of the Norfolk cottage that the Smarts have rented for the summer. She talks her way in. She tells nothing but lies. She stays for dinner. As she insinuates herself into the family, the questions of who she is and how she’s come to be there drop away. Instead, dazzled by her seeming exoticism, the Smarts begin to examine the accidents of their lives through the searing lens of Amber’s perceptions. When Eve Smart finally banishes her from the cottage, Amber disappears from their sight, but not—they discover when they return home—from their profoundly altered lives.
(MA) LITERARY FICTION; EXPERIMENTAL; FAMILY LIFE
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
On the banks of the Mississippi River, Tom Sawyer and his friends seek out adventure at every turn. Then one fateful night in the graveyard, they witness a murder. The boys make an oath to never reveal the secret, and they run away to be pirates in search of treasure. But when Tom gets trapped in a cave with scary Injun Joe, can he escape unharmed?
(UP) CLASSIC FICTION; HUMOROUS; CHARMING
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
In the aftermath of World War II, unwed American college girl Charlie St. Clair is pregnant. She’s also nursing a desperate hope that her beloved cousin Rose, who disappeared in France during the war, might still be alive. When Charlie’s parents banish her to Europe to have her “little problem” taken care of, she flees to London, determined to find out what happened to Rose. There, she finds Eve Gardiner, a woman who worked as a spy for the Alice Network during World War I. Their chance meeting launches them both on a mission for the truth, no matter where it leads.
(HA, MA) HISTORICAL FICTION; PARALLEL NARRATIVES; GRIPPING
The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg
Mrs. Sookie Earle has just married off the last of her daughters and is looking forward to putting her feet up. But then one day, a package arrives. Its contents knock Sookie sideways, propelling her back to the 1940s, and to four irrepressible sisters whose wartime adventures force them to reimagine who they are and what they are capable of, running the All-Girl Filling Station in 1941 Wisconsin while all the men are off to war.
(DE) FUNNY; HEARTWARMING; UPBEAT
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is 12, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel. In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. As he becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, he is enlisted to use this talent to track down the resistance, bringing him into Marie-Laure’s life.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; COMPELLING; LYRICAL
All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung
Nicole Chung was born severely premature, placed for adoption by her Korean parents and raised by a white family. From her early childhood, she heard the story of her adoption as a comforting, prepackaged myth. She believed that her biological parents had made the ultimate sacrifice in hopes of giving her a better life; that forever feeling slightly out of place was simply her fate as a transracial adoptee. But as she grew up—facing prejudice her adoptive family couldn’t see, becoming ever more curious about where she came from—she wondered if the story she’d been told was the whole truth.
(HA) MEMOIR; CULTURAL DIFFERENCES; INSIGHTFUL
America for Beginners by Leah Franqui
Pival Sengupta has done something she never expected to do: she has booked a trip to America. Recently widowed, she is traveling thousands of miles from Kolkata to New York to begin a cross-country journey to California, where she hopes to uncover the truth about her beloved son, Rahi. Slowly making her way from coast to coast, along with some unlikely traveling companions, Pival finds that her understanding of her son and her hopes of a reunion with him are challenged by her new knowledge of his adoptive country.
(HA) LITERARY FICTION; BITTERSWEET; UNLIKELY FRIENDSHIPS
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Newlyweds Roy and Celestial are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined: Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years in prison for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood best friend and the best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold onto the love that has been her center. Then, after five years, Roy’s conviction is overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.
(HA, DE) LITERARY FICTION; HEART-WRENCHING; BITTERSWEET
Annie Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral by Kris Radish
For Katherine Givens and the four women about to become her best friends, the adventure begins with a UPS package. Inside is a pair of red sneakers filled with ashes and a note that will forever change their lives. Katherine’s oldest and dearest friend, the irrepressible Annie Freeman, left one final request—a traveling funeral—and she wants the most important women in her life to serve as her “pallbearers.” From Sonoma to Manhattan, Katherine, Laura, Rebecca, Jill, and Marie will carry Annie’s ashes to the special places in her life, with a surprise encounter and a small miracle waiting at every stop.
(PP) CONTEMPORARY FICTION; MOVING; WOMEN’S LIVES & RELATIONSHIPS
An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Fields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave. But as the questions grow more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields might know what she’s thinking…and what she has been hiding. As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.
(HA) PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER; INTRICATELY PLOTTED
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
Running into a long-ago friend sparks memories of the 1970s for August, transporting her to a time and place where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t. For August and her friends, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed they were beautiful, talented, brilliant—part of a future that belonged to them. But beneath the hopeful veneer was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where precious innocence meets the all-too-real perils of growing up.
(HA) LITERARY FICTION; LYRICAL; SPARE; FRIENDSHIPS
The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn’t simply about going fast. On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through.
(RK) LITERARY FICTION; MOVING; THOUGHT-PROVOKING
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope are two NYPD rookies assigned to the same precinct in 1973. They aren’t close on the job but find themselves living next door outside the city. What goes on in both houses—the loneliness of Francis’s wife Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife Anne—sets the stage for the events to come, brought on by the friendship and love that blossoms between Francis’s daughter, Kate, and Brian’s son Peter. In Kate and Peter’s eighth grade year, a violent event divides the neighbors, the Stanhopes are forced to move, and the kids are forbidden any contact. But Kate and Peter find a way back to each other, and their relationship is tested by echoes of the past.
(HA) FAMILY SAGA; LOVE STORY; MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES
The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel
As America’s Mercury Seven astronauts were launched on death-defying missions, TV cameras focused on the brave smiles of their young wives. Overnight, these women were transformed from military wives into American royalty. They had tea with Jackie Kennedy, appeared on the cover of magazines, and became fashion icons. As their celebrity rose and divorce and tragedy touched their lives, the women formed bonds that would withstand the tests of time.
(RK) NON-FICTION; WOMEN IN HISTORY; FRIENDSHIPS
The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin
When Anne Morrow travels to Mexico City, she meets Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’s assurance and fame, Anne is certain he has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong: Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit and a fellow adventurer. In the years that follow, Anne becomes the first female glider pilot in the U.S. But despite her achievements, she is viewed merely as the aviator’s wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence.
(MA) BIOGRAPHICAL NOVEL; LOVE STORY
Beartown by Fredrik Backman
Beartown is a tiny, struggling community nestled deep in the forest of Sweden. If their junior hockey team, still playing in the old ice rink built generations ago by the working men who founded the town, can win the national semi-final, they might just attract a new ice rink and revitalize the town’s economy. But being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden for a group of boys to bear, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that leaves a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.
(HA) COMING OF AGE; LYRICAL; HAUNTING
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper looks out over the waters of the Ligurian Sea and sees a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he learns, an American starlet, and she is dying. And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio’s back lot—searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier. What unfolds is a dazzling but deeply human roller coaster of a story, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives.
(RK) ROMANTIC; PARALLEL NARRATIVES; LOVE STORY
Becoming by Michelle Obama
In this memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm and wise, this is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations.
(HA, YE) MEMOIR; WOMEN’S LIVES & RELATIONSHIPS
Bee Season by Myla Goldberg
Eliza Naumann, a seemingly unremarkable 9-year-old, expects never to fit into her gifted family: her autodidact father, Saul, absorbed in his study of Jewish mysticism; her brother, Aaron, the vessel of her father’s spiritual ambitions; and her brilliant but distant lawyer mother, Miriam. But when she sweeps her school and district spelling bees in quick succession, Saul, takes it as a sign that she is destined for greatness. In this altered reality, Saul inducts her into his study and lavishes upon her attention previously reserved for her brother. But when her mother’s secret life triggers a familial explosion, it is Eliza who must order the chaos.
(PP) COMING OF AGE; FAMILY LIFE
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King
Long retired, Sherlock Holmes quietly pursues his study of honeybee behavior on the Sussex Downs. He never imagined he would encounter anyone whose intellect matched his own, much less a teenage girl with a penchant for both detection and beekeeping. Miss Mary Russell becomes Holmes’ pupil and quickly hones her talent for deduction, disguises, and danger. But when an elusive villain enters the picture, their partnership is put to a real test.
(HA) HISTORICAL MYSTERY; LYRICAL; COMPELLING
Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
In 1939, 12-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life on their family’s Mississippi River shanty-boat—until things suddenly go very wrong and the children are taken to a shady orphanage. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty. In the present day, Avery Stafford lives a life of privilege that is shattered when a visit home forces her to examine questions about her family’s history and sets her on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or redemption.
(HA, UP) HISTORICAL FICTION; PARALLEL NARRATIVES; FAMILY SAGA
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. But this world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers facades. When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart.
(HA) LITERARY FICTION; FAMILY LIFE; CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and disease from harrowing to manageable. But the goals of medicine seem too often to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Doctors, committed to extending life and uncomfortable discussing patients’ anxieties about death, fall back on false hopes and treatments that are actually shortening lives instead of improving them. Through eye-opening research and gripping stories of his own patients and family, Atul Gawande, himself a practicing surgeon, reveals the suffering this dynamic has produced.
(HA) NON-FICTION; HEALTH & MEDICINE; THOUGHT-PROVOKING
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later, she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. Her new home is haunted by the vengeful, enraged ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, this is towering, spellbinding novel that stares unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery.
(CR) HISTORICAL FICTION; MAGICAL REALISM; DARK
Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan
Italian teenager Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager, but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps and falls for Anna, a beautiful widow. Then, in an attempt to protect him, Pino’s parents force him to enlist as a German soldier—a move they think will keep him out of combat. But after he is injured, Pino, only 18, is recruited to be the personal driver for Hitler’s left hand in Italy.
(RK) HISTORICAL FICTION; SPY STORIES; WAR
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Written as an open letter to his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates poignantly asks difficult questions about the role of race in our history and our nation today, told through a series of revelatory experiences, from his myth-busting professors at Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken. Coates provides readers a thrillingly illuminating new framework for understanding race: its history, our contemporary dilemma, and where we go from here.
(HA) MEMOIR; THOUGHT-PROVOKING
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Three women in a seaside town, each at a crossroads. There’s Madeline, a force to be reckoned with, dealing with the arrival in town of her ex-husband and his new wife; beautiful, remote Celeste, who is grappling with an unbearable situation at home and paying the price for the illusion of perfection; and Jane, a new-to-town single mom so young she is often mistaken for a nanny, and who harbors secret doubts about her son and a sadness beyond her years. When Madeline and Celeste take Jane under their wing, none of them realize how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.
(RK) WOMEN’S LIVES & RELATIONSHIPS; SUSPENSEFUL
The Blessings by Elise Juska
When John Blessing dies and leaves behind two children, the loss reverberates across his extended family for years to come. His young widow finds solace in her large clan of in-laws, while his brother’s wife pursues motherhood at the expense of her marriage. John’s teenage nephew finds himself involved in an act of petty theft that takes a surprising turn, while another considers the world beyond his family’s Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood. Through departures and arrivals, weddings and reunions, this novel reveals the world of a close-knit Irish-Catholic family and the rituals that unite them.
(HA) DOMESTIC FICTION; CHARACTER-DRIVEN; MOVING
Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall
Arrested and convicted of madness for seeking justice for her plantation-owning husband’s slaves at the height of the Civil War, Iris Dunleavy is sent away to Sanibel Asylum on a remote Florida island to be restored as a good, compliant woman. Iris knows, though, that her husband is the true criminal; she is no lunatic, only guilty of disagreeing with him on notions of justice, cruelty, and property. On this island, Iris meets the residents—some seemingly sane, some wrongly convinced they’re crazy, some charmingly odd, some dangerously unstable. But which of these is Ambrose Weller, the war-haunted Confederate soldier?
(RK) HISTORICAL FICTION; LOVE STORY
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
A personified Death tells the story of a German girl recently placed in a foster family. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself when by stealing when she finds something she can’t resist—books. Soon, she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, and wherever else there are books to be found. With the help of her foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids, as well as the Jewish man hidden in her basement, which both opens up and closes down Liesel’s world.
(DE, RK) HISTORICAL FICTION; COMING OF AGE; MOVING
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
Trevor Noah’s path from South Africa to The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. He was born to a white father and a black mother at a time when such a union was punishable by 5 years in prison. Finally liberated at the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, he and his mother could live freely. This is the story of a young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist.
(HA) MEMOIR; FUNNY; COMING OF AGE
The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant
Addie Baum is born in 1900 to immigrant parents unprepared for and suspicious of America’s influence on their three daughters. Growing up in Boston’s North End, then a teeming multicultural neighborhood, Addie’s intelligence and curiosity take her to a world her parents can’t imagine. At 85, she recounts the story of her life to her 22-year-old granddaughter, who has asked her, “How did you get to be the woman you are today?” Addie begins her story when she is 15 and first finds her voice and the friends who will shape her, providing a fascinating look at a generation of women finding their place in a changing world.
(RK) HISTORICAL FICTION; COMING OF AGE
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
This is the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew, a team with wild goals of Olympic gold that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals on the East Coast and at British universities, and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The crew is assembled by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is the boys’ trust in each other that makes them a victorious team.
(HA) NON-FICTION; RESILIENCE
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the nation that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In this book, she brings these lenses of knowledge together to show that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings are we capable of understanding the generosity of the earth.
(DE) NON-FICTION; SCIENCE
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick, Dominican ghetto nerd. From his home in New Jersey where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, he dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien, and most of all, of finding love. But he may never get want he wants, thanks to the Fukœ—the curse that has haunted his family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-fated love. Oscar, still waiting for his first kiss, is just its most recent victim.
(MA) LITERARY FICTION; MAGICAL REALISM
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
In eight incantatory sections, this novel tells the story of a group of young women brought from Japan to San Francisco as “picture brides” nearly a century ago. It traces the extraordinary lives of the picture brides’ extraordinary lives—from their arduous journey by boat, where they exchange photos of their husbands, imagining uncertain futures in an unknown land to their arrival in San Francisco where they faced back-breaking migrant work, children who will ultimately reject their heritage, and the prospect of wartime internment and the deracinating arrival of war.
(HA) LITERARY FICTION; POETIC; EXPERIMENTAL
Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
Growing up in the tiny settlement of Great Harbor, Bethia Mayfield yearns for an education that is closed to her due to her gender. At age twelve, she encounters Caleb, the young son of a chieftain, and the two forge a secret friendship that draws each into the world of the other. Bethia’s minister father tries to convert the Wampanoag, awakening the wrath of the tribe’s shaman, against whose magic he must test his own beliefs. One of his projects becomes the education of Caleb, and a year later, Caleb is at Cambridge, studying among the colonial elite. There, Bethia finds herself reluctantly indentured as a housekeeper and can closely observe Caleb’s crossing of cultures.
(DE) HISTORICAL FICTION; LYRICAL; LUSH
Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
In the 1950s, 22-year-old Jenny Lee leaves her comfortable home to move into a convent and become a midwife in London’s East End slums. While delivering babies across the city, she encounters a colorful cast of women, from the plucky, warm-hearted nuns with who she lived to the woman with 24 children who can’t speak English, to the prostitutes of the city’s seedier side. An unforgettable story of motherhood, the bravery of a community, and the strength of remarkable and inspiring women.
(RK) MEMOIR; WOMEN’S LIVES & RELATIONSHIPS
Cane River by Lalita Tademy
Beginning with her own great-great-great-great grandmother, Lalita Tademy chronicles four generations of strong, determined black women as they battle injustice to unite their family and forge success on their own terms. These are women whose lives began in slavery, who weather the Civil War, and who grapple with the contradictions of emancipation, Jim Crow, and the pre-Civil Rights South. As she peels back layers of racial and cultural attitudes, Tademy paints a picture of rural Louisiana and the spirit of an unforgettable family.
(CR) FAMILY SAGA; HISTORICAL FICTION; BIOGRAPHICAL NOVEL
The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray
The Butler family has had their share of trials, as sisters Althea, Viola, and Lillian can attest. But nothing prepared them for the literal trial that will upend their lives. Althea, the eldest and substitute matriarch, is a force to be reckoned with and her younger sisters have alternately appreciated and chafed at her strong will. They are as stunned as the rest of their small community when Althea and her husband Proctor are arrested, and in a heartbeat, the family goes from one of the most respected in town to utter disgrace. As Althea awaits her fate, Lillian and Viola must come together to care for their sister’s teenage daughters, who have just lost both parents at once.
(HA) FAMILY DYSFUNCTION; MOVING; MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES
Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict
In the 1860s at the dawn of the Carnegie empire, Irish immigrant Clara Kelly finds herself in desperate circumstances. Looking for a way out, she seeks employment as a lady’s maid in the home of businessman Andrew Carnegie. Soon, the bond between employee and employer deepens into love. But when Clara goes missing, Carnegie’s search for her unearths secrets and revelations that lay the foundation for his lasting legacy. With captivating insight and heart, this is the story of one lost woman who may have transformed Carnegie from ruthless industrialist into the world’s first true philanthropist.
(MA) HISTORICAL FICTION; BIOGRAPHICAL NOVEL; LOVE STORY
A Change in Altitude by Anita Shreve
Margaret and Patrick have been married just a few months when they set off on what they hope will be a great adventure—a year living in Kenya. Margaret quickly realizes there is a great deal she doesn’t know about her new home, and about her own husband. When a British couple invites them to join on a climbing expedition to Mount Kenya, they eagerly agree. But during their ascent, a horrific accident occurs, and Margaret struggles to understand what happened on the mountain and how these events have transformed her and her marriage, perhaps forever.
(DE) REFLECTIVE; LEISURELY PACED
Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult
One moment June Nealon was happily looking forward to years full of laughter and adventure with her family; the next, she was staring into a future that was as empty as her heart. For Shay Bourne, life holds no more surprises. The world has given him nothing, and he has nothing to offer the world. Now, he has one last chance for salvation, and it lies with June’s 11-year-old daughter, Claire. But between Shay and Claire stretches an ocean of bitter regrets, past crimes, and the rage of a mother who has lost her child. But can you give up vengeance against someone you hate if it meant saving someone you love?
(DE) PSYCHOLOGICAL FICTION; INTRICATELY PLOTTED
The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
A few years before she would become a silent film star and an icon of her generation, 15-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita, for a prestigious New York dance school. Much to her annoyance, she is accompanied by complicated but traditional Cora Carlisle, a 36-year-old chaperone who is neither her mother nor her friend. Cora has her own reasons for making the trip, but has no idea what she’s in for. Young Louise, already stunningly beautiful, is known for her arrogance and her lack of respect for convention. Ultimately, the weeks they spend together will transform their lives forever.
(RK) BIOGRAPHICAL NOVEL; ENGAGING; HISTORICAL FICTION
Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
MGB officer Leo never questions the Party Line. He arrests who he is told to arrest. He dismisses the horrific death of a young boy, because he believes the party stance that there can be no murder in Communist Russia. Leo is the perfect soldier of the regime. But suddenly his confidence that everything he does serves a greater good is shaken when he is forced to watch a man he knows to be innocent be brutally tortured, then given a start choice: his wife or his life. And still the killings of children continue…
(RK) HISTORICAL FICTION; THRILLER; SHOCKING
China Dolls by Lisa See
Ruby, Helen, and Grace, three girls from very different backgrounds, find themselves competing at the same audition for showgirl roles at an exclusive “Oriental” nightclub. Despite their differences, the girls grow to depend on each other. Then, everything changes with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Suddenly, the government is sending innocent Japanese people to internment camps under suspicion—including Ruby, who is Japanese but has been passing as Chinese, something only Helen and Grace know. But which of her friends betrayed her?
(DE) HISTORICAL FICTION; FRIENDSHIPS; CHARACTER-DRIVEN
Circe by Madeline Miller
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft. Threatened, Zeus banishes her to an island where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts, and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology. But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians.
(HA) MYTHOLOGY; REIMAGININGS
Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman. But even the wild child must grow up sometime, and when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships, and it’s the ruggedly charismatic Denys Finch Hatton who ultimately helps Beryl navigate the uncharted territory of her own heart. The intensity of their love reveals Beryl’s truest self and her fate: to fly.
(HA) WOMEN IN HISTORY; CULTURE CLASH
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
In 1940, 19-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There, Vivian is introduced to an entire cosmos of unconventional and charismatic characters. But when she makes a personal mistake that turns into a professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to understand. Ultimately, though, it leads her to a new understanding of the kind of life she craves—and the kind of freedom it takes to pursue it.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; STRONG SENSE OF PLACE; SWEEPING
City of Thieves by David Benioff
During the Nazis’ brutal siege of Leningrad, Lev Beniov is arrested for looting and thrown into the same cell as a handsome deserter named Kolya. Instead of being executed, Lev and Kolya are given a shot at saving their own lives by complying with an outrageous directive: secure a dozen eggs for a powerful Soviet colonel to use in his daughter’s wedding cake. In a city cut off from all supplies and suffering unbelievable deprivation, Lev and Kolya embark on a hunt through the dire lawlessness of Leningrad and behind enemy lines to find the impossible.
(DE) FUNNY; SUSPENSEFUL; HISTORICAL FICTION
Clock Dance by Anne Tyler
Willa Drake can count on one hand the defining moments in her life. At each of them, she ended up on a path laid out for her by others. So when she gets a call telling her that her son’s ex-girlfriend has been shot and needs help, she drops everything and flies across the country. The decision to help this woman—plus her dog and her 9-year-old daughter—will lead Willa into uncharted territory. Surrounded by new and surprising neighbors, she is plunged into the rituals that make a community.
(HA) LIGHTHEARTED; WOMEN’S LIVES & RELATIONSHIPS
The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton
Summer, 1862: a group of young artists descends on Birchwood Manor, looking forward to a haze of creativity and inspiration. But by the end of summer, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared, a priceless heirloom is missing, and the life of the group’s leader is in ruins. In the present day, a young archivist in London named Elodie Winslow uncovers a satchel containing a photo of a Victorian woman and an artist’s sketchbook. But why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to her? And who is the woman in the photograph?
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; PARALLEL NARRATIVES; MYSTERY
The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah
Ghetto-born Winter is the young, wealthy daughter of a prominent Brooklyn drug-dealing family. Quick-witted, sexy, and business-minded, she knows and loves the streets like the curves of her own body. When the unthinkable happens and her father is sent to prison, her street smarts and seductive skill set is put to the test like never before. Unwilling to lose, this ghetto girl will do anything to stay on top.
(CR) URBAN FICTION; GRITTY
Come Home by Lisa Scottoline
Jill Farrow is a typical suburban mom who has finally gotten her and her daughter’s lives back on track after a divorce. But her life is turned upside down when her ex-stepdaughter Abby shows up on her doorstep one night and delivers shocking news: Jill’s ex-husband is dead. Abby insists that he was murdered and pleads with Jill to help find his killer. Jill reluctantly agrees to make a few inquiries and discovers that things don’t add up. As she digs deeper, her actions threaten to rip apart her new family and even endanger her life. But how can Jill turn her back on a child she once called her own?
(DE) INTRICATELY PLOTTED; SUSPENSEFUL
Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert
While traveling the world following her divorce, as chronicled in Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert fell in love with Felipe, a Brazilian living in Indonesia. Resettling in America, the couple swore eternal love but also vowed never to marry, since both were survivors of previous bad divorces. Then the US government gave them an ultimatum: get married, or Felipe could never enter America again. Having been effectively sentenced to wed, Gilbert tackled her fear of marriage by delving into the topic completely, trying through historical research, interviews, and much personal reflection to discover what this stubbornly enduring old institution actually is.
(DE) MEMOIR; WITTY
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting into motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families. Spanning five decades, this novel explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows between them.
(HA) LITERARY FICTION; FAMILY SAGA; COMING OF AGE
The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer
Born in 1871 with the physical appearance of an elderly man, Max Tivoli grows mentally like any other child, but his body appears to age backwards, growing younger each year. And yet, his physical curse proves to be a blessing, especially when it comes to love, as he is able to win the same woman in three consecutive encounters, years apart, when she fails to recognize him, so giving Max another chance at love. Over Max’s narration of the preceding decades of his life, he offers outsider’s snapshots of San Francisco and all of America across the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
(PP) FANTASY; MAGICAL REALISM; LOVE STORY
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer with her boyfriend, Nick Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back. This is an insider’s look at the Asian Jet-Set; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, fabulously, crazily rich.
(HA) HUMOROUS; OUTRAGEOUS; FAMILY DYSFUNCTION
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Marion and Shiva Stone are twin brothers born of a secret union between an Indian nun and a British surgeon in Ethiopia. Orphaned by their mother’s death in childbirth and their father’s disappearance, the twins come of age as Ethiopia hovers on the brink of revolution. When their love for the same woman drives them apart, Marion, fresh out of medical school, flees to America, where his past soon catches up with him.
(RK) FAMILY SAGA; LITERARY FICTION; INTRICATELY PLOTTED
Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind the band’s split at the absolute height of their popularity…until now. Daisy is a girl coming of age in Los Angeles in the late 60s, sneaking into clubs and dreaming of singing at the Whisky A Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock & roll she loves most. By the time she’s 20, her voice and her beauty are getting noticed. Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that they key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; LOVE STORY; UNIQUE STRUCTURE
Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce
Emmy Lake is doing her bit for the World War II war effort, volunteering as a phone operator. When she sees an ad for a job working at the local newspaper, her dream of becoming a war correspondent suddenly seems achievable. But the job turns out to typist to the renowned advice columnist Mrs. Henrietta Bird, who is very clear that any letters containing “unpleasantness” are to go straight in the bin. But as Emmy reads poignant letters from woman spilling out their troubles, she can’t resist responding.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; HEARTWARMING; BITTERSWEET; CHARMING
The Dearly Beloved by Cara Wall
Charles is destined to succeed his father as an esteemed professor at Harvard, until an unorthodox lecture about faith leads him to ministry. How then can he fall in love with Lily—fiercely intelligent, elegantly stern—when she tells him with certainty that she will never believe in God? And yet, how can he not? James, the youngest son of a hardscrabble family, spent much of his youth angry at his alcoholic father. Nan grew up the devout daughter of a minister and a debutante. James’s escape from his circumstances lead him to Nan and, despite his skepticism, her gentle, constant faith changes the course of his life. When the two men are hired to steward the historic Third Presbyterian Church through turbulent times, personal differences threaten to tear them apart.
(HA) FAMILY DYSFUNCTION; MOVING; MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES
Defending Jacob by William Landay
Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney in his suburban county in Massachusetts for over 20 years. He is respected in his community, tenacious in the courtroom, and happy at home with his wife, Laurie, and son, Jacob. But when a shocking crime shakes their quiet New England town, Andy is blindsided by what happens next: 14-year-old Jacob is charged with the murder of a fellow student.
(RK) LEGAL THRILLER; CHARACTER-DRIVEN; HAUNTING
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
In 1893 Chicago, during the World’s Fair, two men used the festivity, celebration, and optimism about a changing world to reach the top of their professions. Daniel Hudson Burnham, an architect and the fair’s director of works, soon became the master builder of the country’s most important structures. Meanwhile, H.H. Holmes used the fair as a way to lure victims into his “World’s Fair Hotel,” which was, in reality, a torture palace he had designed in which to murder people, complete with dissection table, gas chamber, and a 3,000-degree crematorium.
(PP) NON-FICTION; TRUE CRIME; INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
Andrea Sachs, a small-town girl fresh out of college, lands “the job that a million girls would die for,” working as the assistant to Miranda Priestly, editor-in-chief of Runway Magazine. She hopes the experience she gains putting up with ridiculous tasks and an abusive boss will someday land her a job at the magazine of her choosing. But Andrea soon begins to realize that the job girls would die for might kill her. And even if she survives, she has to decide whether or not the job is worth the price of her soul.
(PP) FUNNY; ENGAGING; CHARACTER-DRIVEN
The Dinner by Herman Koch
It’s a summer evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet for dinner. Between bites of food, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are sharpened. Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. The two boys are united by their accountability for a horrific act, which has triggered a police investigation and shattered the comfortable world of their families. As civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple shows how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.
(MA) INTRICATELY PLOTTED; DARKLY HUMOROUS
The Dinner List by Rebecca Serl
At one point or another, everyone has been asked to name five people, living or dead, with whom they’d like to have dinner. Why do we choose the people we choose? And what if that dinner was to actually happen? When Sabrina arrives at her thirtieth birthday dinner, she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also three significant people from her past…and Audrey Hepburn. As the appetizers are served, wine poured, and dinner table conversation begins, it becomes clear that there is a reason that these six people have been gathered together.
(HA) ROMANTIC FICTION; MAGICAL REALISM; LIGHTHEARTED
Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy
When cousins Liv and Nora decide to take their families on a holiday cruise, everyone is thrilled. The ship’s comforts and possibilities seem infinite. But when they all go ashore in beautiful Central America, a series of minor misfortunes leads the families farther and farther from the ship’s safety. One minute the six young children are there. The next, they’re gone, and the parents have now turned to blaming each other and themselves to try to recover their children and their lives.
(HA) SUSPENSEFUL; PARALLEL NARRATIVES; FAMILY DRAMA
The Doctor’s Daughter by Hilma Wolitzer
One morning, Alice Brill awakes with an awareness that something is wrong. There’s a hollowness in her chest, and a sensation of dread that she can’t shake. As she searches for the source of her unease, she confronts an array of possibilities: her once-vibrant marriage, now languishing; her misdirected son; the loss of her career as an editor at a publishing house. But Alice is buoyed by her discovery of a talented new writer, a man who works by day as a machinist in Michigan. Soon their feelings intensify, and Alice realizes that the mystery she’s been trying to solve lies not in the future but in the past.
(MA) CHARACTER-DRIVEN; REFLECTIVE
Dominicana by Angie Cruz
15-year-old Ana Cancion never dreamed of America the way girls she grew up with in the Dominican did. But when Juan Ruiz proposes and promises to take her to New York City, she has to say yes. Although he is twice her age, it is an opportunity for her entire family to eventually immigrate. So Ana leaves behind all she knows and becomes Ana Ruiz, confined to a cold walk-up in Washington Heights. Lonely and miserable, Ana hatches a plan to escape. But at a bus terminal, she is stopped by Juan’s brother, Cesar, who convinces her to stay. As the Dominican Republic slides into political turmoil, Juan returns to protect his assets, leaving Cesar to take care of Ana. When he comes home, Ana must once again decide between her heart and her duty to her family.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; CULTURAL DIFFERENCES; WOMEN’S LIVES
Down River by John Hart
Adam Chase has a violent streak, and not without reason. As a boy, he saw things no child should see, suffered wounds that cut to the core and scarred. The trauma left him passionate and misunderstood. After being acquitted of a murder charge, Adam is hounded out of the only home he’s ever known, exiled for a sin he didn’t commit. For five years, he disappears. Now he’s back and nobody knows why. When bodies start turning up again, the small town rises against him and Adam again finds himself embroiled in the fight of his life.
(DE) MYSTERY; MOODY; SUSPENSEFUL
Dr. Mütter’s Marvels by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz
Dr. Thomas Dent Mütter, a trailblazing Philadelphia surgeon, was an audacious innovator who pioneered the use of ether as anesthesia, the sterilization of surgical tools, and a compassion-based vision for helping the severely deformed, which clashed spectacularly with the sentiments of his time. This book vividly chronicles how Mütter’s efforts helped establish Philadelphia as a global mecca for medical innovation, despite intense resistance from numerous rivals.
(HA) BIOGRAPHY; SCIENCE; THOUGHT-PROVOKING
The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott
Tess, a spirited young woman and aspiring seamstress, is over the moon. She has just been hired by the famous designer Lady Lucille Duff Gordon to be her personal maid on board the Titanic. Once on board, Tess catches the eye of two men, one a roughly-hewn but kind sailor, and the other an enigmatic Chicago millionaire. But soon, disaster strikes and Tess barely escapes with her life. Once back on land, rumors begin to circulate about Lady Duff Gordon’s questionable on-board actions as she becomes the subject of media scorn and, later, the hearings on the Titanic.
(DE) HISTORICAL FICTION; SURVIVAL STORY
The Dry by Jane Harper
Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades after he receives a note demanding that he attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. 20 years ago, when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi. But now, more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead. In the midst of the worst drought in a century, Falk investigates whether there’s more to Luke’s death than meets the eye, long-buried mysteries resurface, and Falk discovers that small towns have big secrets.
(HA) MYSTERY; SUSPENSEFUL; ATMOSPHERIC
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
At the end of World War II, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves. The story is told by Cyril’s son Danny, as he and his older sister Maeve are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. The two wealthy siblings are thrown back into the poverty their parents had escaped from, and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this bond between them that both saves their lives and thwarts their futures.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; FAMILY DYSFUNCTION
Educated by Tara Westover
Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she spent her days preparing for the end of the world with a ready-made “head-for-the-hills” bag. The family was so isolated from society that there was no one to ensure the children got an education, and no one to intervene when Tara’s older brother became violent. Then, Tara began to educate herself. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her across the world—and away from her family. Only then would she come to wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.
(HA) MEMOIR; COMING OF AGE; SHOCKING; COMPELLING
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Meet Eleanor Oliphant: she struggles with social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully planned life of avoiding social interactions. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.
(HA) CONTEMPORARY FICTION; QUIRKY; UNLIKELY FRIENDSHIPS
Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee
Two sisters: Miranda, the older, responsible one, always her younger sister’s protector; Lucia, the vibrant, headstrong, unconventional one, whose impulses are huge and often life-changing. When Lucia starts hearing voices, it is Miranda who must find a way to reach her sister. Lucia impetuously plows ahead, but that bitter constant is that she is, in fact, mentally ill, though she refuses to let any diagnosis define her. Miranda leaves her own self-contained life in Switzerland to rescue her sister again…but only Lucia can decide whether she wants to be saved.
(HA) FAMILY DRAMA; BITTERSWEET; MENTAL ILLNESS
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed meet and embark on a furtive love affair. They’re soon forced into premature intimacy by the unrest. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and at a price. As the violence escalates, the two decide that they have no choice: leaving their homeland and old lives behind, they find a door and step through.
(MA) LITERARY FICTION; LOVE STORY; MAGICAL REALISM
Family Trust by Kathy Wang
For years, Stanley Huang has claimed he’s worth a small fortune. But now, newly diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the time is coming when the details of his estate will finally be revealed and the family is nervous. His son Fred hopes the inheritance will soothe the pain caused by years of professional disappointment. Meanwhile, daughter Kate, managing a Silicon Valley tech giant and the needs of her two children, begins to sense that just because you say you have it all doesn’t mean you actually do. And Stanley’s second wife Mary, twenty-eight years his junior, finds that caring for a dying old man is harder than expected.
(HA) LITERARY FICTION; FAMILY DRAMA; WITTY
A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny
No one in Three Pines liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter, and certainly none of the residents. CC managed to alienate everyone, right up to the moment of her death. When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is called to investigate, he quickly realizes the situation is quite extraordinary: CC was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, and yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a method—or brilliant enough to succeed?
(UP) MYSTERY; SUSPENSEFUL; EERIE
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that bought her a few years, sixteen-year-old Hazel Lancaster has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.
(DE) BITTERSWEET; EMOTIONALLY INTENSE; COMING OF AGE
The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll
Brett and Kelly have always toed the line between supportive sisters and bitter rivals. Growing up, Brett was the problem child, in the shadow of brilliant and beautiful Kelly. In adulthood, all that has changed. Kelly is a struggling single mother and Brett has skyrocketed to meteoric success, which has been chronicled on the reality show Goal Diggers. When Kelly manipulates herself onto the show and into Brett’s world, Brett is right to be threatened. Kelly, and only Kelly, knows her younger sister’s appalling secret, and it could ruin her. Still, when the truth comes out in the final weekend of filming, neither of them ever expected that the season would end in murder.
(HA) PSYCHOLOGICAL FICTION; SUSPENSEFUL; WOMEN’S LIVES
Five Miles South of Peculiar by Angela Hunt
Darlene Caldwell is a pillar of her community, where she has spent her life tending Sycamores, an estate located five miles south of a town called Peculiar. It is the kingdom where she reigns as queen—until her limelight-stealing twin, Broadway stage veteran Carlene, returns. Their younger sister Magnolia, haunted by a tragic romance, has never wanted to live anywhere but Sycamores, but must make a choice when she meets a man haunted by tragedy.
(PP) LIGHTHEARTED; WOMEN’S LIVES & RELATIONSHIPS
Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley
In February 1945, American Marines plunged into the surf at Iwo Jima and into history. Through a hail of machine-gun and mortar fire that left the beaches strewn with comrades, they battled to the island’s highest peak. And after climbing through a landscape of hell itself, they raised a flag. Now, James D. Bradley, the son of one of the flag raisers, has written a powerful account of six very different young men who came together in a moment that will live forever. Perhaps the most interesting part of that story is what happened after the victory. The men in that famous photograph—three of whom were killed during battle—were proclaimed heroes and flown home, to become reluctant symbols. For two of them, that adulation was shattering.
(PP) NON-FICTION; BIOGRAPHY
Fly Away Home by Jennifer Weiner
After decades of marriage and reinventing herself as the perfect politician’s wife, Sylvie Serfer finds herself on the wrong end of a heartbreaking betrayal by her senator husband. Together with her two daughters—Lizzie, a 24-year-old recovering addict, and her older sister Diana, an ER physician trapped in a loveless marriage—Sylvie retreats to a beach house for an escape and the possibility of new beginnings. Each of the three women is forced to reconsider her life, who she is, and who she is meant to be.
(RK) MOVING; WOMEN’S LIVES & RELATIONSHIPS
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Patty and Walter Berglund were the pioneers of old St. Paul—the gentrifiers, the hands-on parents, the avant-garde of the Whole Foods generation. But now, in the new millennium, the Berglunds have become a mystery. Why has their teenage son moved in with the aggressively Republican family next door? Why has Walter taken a job working for Big Coal? Most of all, what’s happened to Patty, once an enviably perfect mother and the wife of Walter’s dreams, who is becoming unhinged, an “implacable Fury” right before the street’s attentive eyes?
(UP) LITERARY FICTION; SNARKY; INTRICATELY PLOTTED
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Whether they like it or not, the Waverley women are heirs to an unusual legacy that grows behind their home in North Carolina, where an apple tree bears magical fruit. For nearly a decade, 34-year-old Claire Waverley has been at peace with this inheritance, living alone in the house and building a successful catering business using the family’s peculiar gift for making life-altering delicacies. Then her younger sister Sydney and Sydney’s young daughter Bay return, turning Claire’s routine existence upside down.
(DE) LIGHTHEARTED; MAGICAL REALISM
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal and is sentenced to house arrest in a luxury hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and now must live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history unfold outside of the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.
(HA, DE) HISTORICAL FICTION; CHARACTER-DRIVEN; LUSH
The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger
Set in the fictional town of Crystal, Colorado, this story observes the drama within a community of friends and parents as good intentions and high ambitions collide in a pile-up with long-held secrets and lies. Seen through the lens of four families who have been a part of one another’s lives since their kids were born over a decade ago, it reveals not only the lengths that some adults are willing to go to get ahead, but the effects on the group’s children, sibling relationships, marriages, and careers, as simmering resentments come to a boil and long-buried, explosive secrets surface and detonate.
(HA) LITERARY FICTION; FAMILY DRAMA; JUICY
The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya
Clemantine Wamariya was six years old when her mother and father began to speak in whispers, when neighbors began to disappear, and when she heard the loud, ugly sounds her brothers said were “thunder.” In 1994, she and her 15-year-old sister Claire fled the Rwandan massacre and spent the next six years wandering through seven African countries, searching for safety. They did not know whether their parents were dead or alive. When Clemantine was twelve, she and her sister were granted asylum in the United States, where she embarked on another journey—to excavate her past and, after years of being made to feel less than human, claim her individuality.
(HA) MEMOIR; LYRICAL; SHOCKING
The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow
The Ames girls are eleven childhood friends who formed a special bond growing up in Ames, Iowa. As young women, they moved to different states, yet managed to maintain a friendship that would carry them through life’s college and careers, marriage and motherhood, dating and divorce, a child’s illness and the mysterious death of one member of their group. The girls, now grown up and in their forties, have a lifetime of memories in common, some unique to their generation, and some that will resonate with anyone who’s ever had a friend. This is a testament to the deep bonds of women as they experience life’s joys and challenges—and the power of friendship to triumph over heartbreak and unexpected tragedy.
(MA) BIOGRAPHY; WOMEN’S LIVES & RELATIONSHIPS
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
Alice Wright marries American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new travelling library, Alice signs on. The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Horseback Librarians of Kentucky.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; BOOKS ABOUT BOOKS; WOMEN’S LIVES
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
26-year-old Jean Louise “Scout” Finch returns home to Maycomb, Alabama, from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town, and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt.
(HA) LITERARY FICTION; BITTERSWEET; FAMILY SAGA
Gold by Chris Cleave
World-class athletes Kate and Zoe have been friends and rivals since they met at Elite training for track cycling at the age of nineteen. They’ve loved, fought, betrayed, forgiven, consoled, gloried, and grown up together. Now, at 32, they are facing their last and biggest race: the 2012 London Olympics, where both women will be tested to their physical and emotional limits. Kate is the more naturally gifted, but Zoe has a compulsive need to win at any cost, and her obsession may threaten her relationship with Kate.
(DE) MOVING; WOMEN’S LIVES & RELATIONSHIPS
The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
Twelve-year-old Ren is missing his left hand. How it was lost is a mystery that Ren has been trying to solve his entire life, as well as who his parents are, and why he was abandoned as an infant at St. Anthony’s Orphanage for boys. He longs for a family to call his own and is terrified of the day he will be sent alone into the world. Then a young man named Benjamin Nab appears, claiming to be brother and to have all the answers he longs for. But is Benjamin really who he says he is? As Ren begins to find clues to his hidden parentage, he comes to suspect that Benjamin holds the key to both his past and future.
(DE) COMING OF AGE; HISTORICAL FICTION
Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery
Emma Gatewood told her family that she was going for a walk and left her small Ohio hometown with a change of clothes and less than $200. The next anybody heard from her, this genteel, farm-reared, 67-year-old grandmother had walked 800 miles along the 2,050-mile Appalachian Trail. And in September of 1955, having survived a rattlesnake strike, two hurricanes, and a run-in with gangsters from Harlem, she stood atop Maine’s Mount Katahdin.
(DE) BIOGRAPHY; INSPIRING
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
Ernt Albright comes home from Vietnam a changed man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family to Alaska, where they will live in America’s last frontier. 13-year-old Leni dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future and a place for her to belong, while her mother will do anything for the man she loves. At first, Alaska seems like an answer to their prayers. But as winter approaches and darkness descends, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; FAMILY SAGA; VIVID
The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director at an art gallery in Chicago, is about to pull of an amazing coup, bringing in an extraordinary collection of 1920s art as a gift to the gallery. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDS epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying, and after his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister. 30 years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter, Claire, who has disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago crisis, she finds herself grappling with the ways that AIDS affected her life and her relationship with her daughter.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; SWEEPING; PARALLEL NARRATIVES
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Humble, orphaned Pip is apprenticed to the dirty work of the forge but dares to dream of becoming a gentleman. One day, receives a sudden and mysterious summons to the house of Miss Havisham and her haughty, beautiful ward, Estella, forming the prelude to his “great expectations.” How Pip comes into his fortune, what he does with it, and what he discovers through his secret benefactor are the ingredients of his struggle for moral redemption in this gripping tale of crime and guilt, revenge and reward.
(UP) CLASSIC FICTION; COMING OF AGE
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Jay Gatsby is the man who has everything. But one thing will always be out of his reach. Everybody who’s anybody is seen at his glittering parties. Day and night at his Long Island mansion buzzes with bright young things drinking, dancing, and debating his mysterious character. For Gatsby—young, handsome, and fabulously rich—always seems alone in the crowd, watching and waiting, though no one knows what for. Beneath the shimmering surface of his life he is hiding a secret: a silent longing for his lost love, Daisy Buchanan, one which can never be fulfilled. And soon this destructive obsession will force his world to unravel.
(MA) CLASSIC FICTION; LYRICAL; ALLEGORICAL
A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson
15-year-old Mosey Slocumb—spirited, sassy, and on the cusp of womanhood—is shaken when a small grave is unearthed in her backyard and is determined to figure out why it’s there. Liza, her stroke-ravaged mother, is haunted by choices she made as a teenager. But it’s Jenny, Mosey’s strong and big-hearted grandmother, whose maternal love braids together the strands of the women’s shared past and who will stop at nothing to defend their future.
(DE) BITTERSWEET; COMING OF AGE; WOMEN’S LIVES & RELATIONSHIPS
The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer
It is 1946: London is emerging from the shadows of World War II and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she’d find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book? As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, she is drawn into the world of this man and his friends. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming cast of characters who will change Juliet forever.
(RK) HISTORICAL FICTION; BITTERSWEET; INTRICATELY PLOTTED
Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
A novel based on the life of the author’s grandmother, Lily Casey Smith, a no-nonsense, resourceful, hard-working, and spectacularly compelling woman who learned to break horses in childhood, then journeyed 500 miles as a teen—alone, on a pony—to become a teacher. Lily survived tornadoes, droughts, floods, the Great Depression, and the most heartbreaking personal tragedy. She bristled at prejudice of all kinds, and, with her husband Jim, ran a vast ranch in Arizona.
(DE) ENGAGING; FAMILY DRAMA; BIOGRAPHICAL NOVEL
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. She can remember the time before, when she had a life and love with her husband and daughter, access to knowledge…but all of that is gone now.
(HA) DYSTOPIAN FICTION; HAUNTING
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. She realized that time was passing in her life, and she wasn’t focusing enough on the things that really mattered. In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project. In this lively and compelling account, Rubin chronicles the twelve months she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Among other things, she found that novelty and challenge are powerful sources of happiness; that money can buy happiness, when spent wisely; that outer order contributes to inner calm; and that the smallest changes can make the biggest difference.
(RK) NON-FICTION; MEMOIR; QUIRKY
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
16-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these two is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person who can answer that is Starr. But what she does—or does not—say could upend her community
(HA) THOUGHT-PROVOKING; HEART-WRENCHING
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Four strangers arrive at a notoriously unfriendly home called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a haunting; Theodora, his assistant; Eleanor, a fragile, friendless young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its own powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.
(PP) ATMOSPHERIC; CREEPY; MENACING
Heft by Liz Moore
Former academic Arthur Opp weighs 550 pounds and hasn’t left his rambling Brooklyn home in a decade. In Yonkers, Kel navigates life as a poor kid in a rich school and pins his hopes on a promising baseball career—if he can untangle himself from his family drama. The link between this unlikely pair is Kel’s mother, Charlene, a former student of Arthur. After nearly two decades of silence, it is Charlene’s unexpected phone call to Arthur—a plea for help—that jostles them into action.
(MA) CHARACTER-DRIVEN; MOVING; REFLECTIVE
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
22-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, and her mother won’t be happy until Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Normally, she would take comfort in Constantine, the beloved maid who raised her, but she has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone. Aibileen is a black maid raising her 17th white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, can cook like no one else, but she can’t hold her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Seemingly as different as can be, these three women will come together for a project that will put them all at risk.
(MA) HISTORICAL FICTION; BITTERSWEET
Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance
The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. J.D.’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love,” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachian region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the dreadful poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (the author) would graduate from Yale Law School. But as the family saga of this book plays out, we learn that this is only the short, superficial version. Vance’s family struggled profoundly with the demands of their new life and were never fully able to escape the legacy of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, and trauma so characteristic of their part of America.
(HA) MEMOIR; SOCIAL HISTORY; CULTURE CLASH
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born in different villages in 18th century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman who lives in the comfort of the Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, Esi is imprisoned below her in the castle’s dungeons, sold into the booming slave trade and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of the novel follows Effia’s descendants in Ghana; the other follows Esi’s in America. Both provide a searing look at the long legacy of the slave trade, and how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed on the soul of a nation.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; FAMILY SAGA; AFFECTING
Homer and Langley by E.L. Doctorow
Homer and Langley Collyer are brothers—one blind and deeply intuitive, the other damaged into madness, or perhaps greatness, by gas in World War I. They live as recluses in their once-grand Fifth Avenue mansion, scavenging the city streets for things they think they can use, hoarding the daily newspapers as research for Langley’s proposed dateless newspaper whose reportage will be as prophecy. Yet the epic events of the century play out in the lives of the brothers, who want nothing more than to shut out the world.
(DE) BIOGRAPHICAL NOVEL; LYRICAL; HISTORICAL FICTION
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
In 1986, Henry Lee joins a crowd outside the Panama Hotel, once the gateway to Seattle’s Japantown. It has been boarded up for decades, but the new owner has discovered the belongings of Japanese families who were sent to internment camps during World War II. As the owner displays and unfurls a Japanese parasol, Henry, a Chinese-American, remembers a young Japanese-American girl from his childhood in the 1940s—Keiko Okabe, with whom he forged a bond of friendship and innocent love that transcended the prejudices of their Old World ancestors.
(RK) HISTORICAL FICTION; LOVE STORY
A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout
As a child, Amanda Lindhout escaped a violent household by paging through issues of National Geographic and imagining herself in its exotic locales. At the age of 19, working as a cocktail waitress in Calgary, she began saving her tips so she could travel the globe. In war-ridden Afghanistan and Iraq she carved out a fledgling career as a TV reporter. And then, in August 2008, she traveled to Somalia where, on her fourth day, she was abducted by a group of masked men. Held hostage for 460 days, Amanda converts to Islam as a survival tactic, receives “wife lessons” from one of her captors, and risks a daring escape
(DE) MEMOIR; SURVIVAL STORY
How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper
Andrew’s life is a little grim, searching for next of kin for those who die alone. Thankfully, he has a loving family waiting for him when he gets home, to help wash the day’s cares away. At least, that’s what his co-workers believe. Andrew didn’t mean for the misunderstanding to happen, but he’s become trapped in his own white lie. The fantasy of his wife and two kids has become a pleasant escape from his lonely real life. But when new employee Peggy breezes into his life like a breath of fresh air, Andrew is shaken out of his routine and must choose: does he tell the truth and start really living his life, but risk losing his friendship with Peggy? Or will he stay safe behind the façade?
(HA) CONTEMPROARY FICTION; FUNNY; BITTERSWEET
How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan
When LSD was first discovered in the 1940s, it seemed to researchers, scientists, and doctors as if the world might be on the cusp of psychological revolution. It promised to shed light on the deep mysteries of consciousness, as well as offer relief to addicts and the mentally ill. But in the 1960s, with the vicious backlash against counter-culture, all further research was banned. In recent years, though, work has begun again on the drug’s amazing potential.
(HA) NON-FICTION; PSYCHOLOGY; HEALTH & MEDIC
A Hundred Flowers by Gail Tsukiyama
China, 1957. Chairman Mao has declared a new openness in society. Many intellectuals fear it is only a trick, and Kai Ying’s husband, Sheng, a teacher, has promised not to jeopardize their safety or that of their young son, Tao. But one July morning, just before his sixth birthday, Tao watches helplessly as his father is dragged away for writing a letter criticizing the Communist Party and sent to a labor camp for “reeducation.” A year later, Kai Ying struggles to hold her small family together in the face of her husband’s shattering absence and other members of the household must face their own guilty secrets.
(DE) HISTORICAL FICTION; MOVING; CHARACTER-DRIVEN
Hunger by Roxane Gay
Roxane Gay writes with sensitivity about food and body, using her own emotional and psychological struggles as a means of exploring our anxieties over pleasure, consumption, appearance, and health. As a woman who describes her own body as “wildly undisciplined,” Roxane understands the tension between denial and desire, between self-comfort and self-love. Here, she explores her own past, including the devastating act of violent that acted as a turning point in her life, and examines the tension between desire and denial, between self-care and self-comfort, and brings readers along on her journey to understand and save herself.
(HA) MEMOIR; WOMEN’S LIVES; BODY IMAGE
The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all: she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But when she stumbles across a letter written by her very much still alive husband to be read only after his death, everything is about to change, and not only for her and her family. Rachel and Tess, women in the community barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the repercussions of her husband’s secret.
(HA, UP) CONTEMPORARY FICTION; WITTY; MOVING; SUSPENSEFUL
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silence and fought for her right to an education. At just fifteen years old, she almost paid the ultimate price when she was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school. Few expected her to survive. Instead, Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At 16, she has become a symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
(DE) MEMOIR; SURVIVAL STORY; INSPIRING
I Dare Me by Lu Ann Cahn
Veteran journalist and cancer survivor Lu Ann Cahn was feeling angry and frustrated. The economy was tanking. Her job was changing. In a word, she felt stuck. Something had to change. So her daughter helped convince her to start a “Year of Firsts.” For the next 365 days, Cahn made a point of doing something she had never done before, every day. Before she knew it, her whole perspective on life had changed. In this inspiring book, Lu Ann recounts how a new “first” every day brought excitement and wonder back into her world and helps readers see how they can do it too.
(MA) MEMOIR; WITTY; SELF-HELP
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor black woman from the South but her cells—taken without her knowledge or consent—became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though Henrietta has been dead for over sixty years. Yet Henrietta Lacks herself remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave. Her family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than 20 years after her death when scientists investigating HeLa, as her cells are known, began using her husband and children in research without informed consent.
(RK) BIOGRAPHY; THOUGHT-PROVOKING; SCIENCE
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
It’s 1969 in New York City, and word has spread of the arrival of a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four teens on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes. The prophecies they are given inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast; dreamy Klara becomes a Vegas magician; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research. Their fortunes also ask readers the question: would you want to know they date of your death? And if you knew it, how would you live your life?
(HA) FAMILY SAGA; BITTERSWEET; MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES
In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende
Professor Richard Bowmaster hits the car of Evelyn Ortega, a young, undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn. What seems at first like a small inconvenience takes an unforeseen and far more serious turn when Evelyn turns up at the professor’s house seeking help. At a loss, he asks his tenant Lucia, a lecturer from Chile, for advice. The three very different people are brought together in a mesmerizing story, sparking the start of a long-overdue love story.
(MA, RK) LITERARY FICTION; IMMIGRANTS’ LIVES; LOVE STORY
In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume
In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life. 35 years earlier, when Miri was 15 and in love for the first time, a series of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. The story unfolds against the backdrop of the actual 1950s, when air travel was new and exciting, and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, weaving together a haunting tale of three generations of families, friends, and strangers whose lives are profoundly changed by these disasters.
(UP) COMING OF AGE; ENGAGING
Ines of My Soul by Isabel Allende
Ines Suarez, a seamstress born into a poor family in 16th century Spain, flees Spain to seek a life in the New World. As she makes her way to Chile, she begins a fiery romance with Pedro de Valdivia, war hero and field marshal to Francisco Pizarro. His dream is to succeed where other Spaniards have failed: to become the conqueror of Chile. Together, the lovers will build the city of Santiago—and wage a bloody, ruthless war against the native Chileans. The horrific struggle will change them forever, pulling each of them toward their separate destinies.
(DE) HISTORICAL FICTION; LYRICAL; BIOGRAPHICAL NOVEL
Inferno by Dan Brown
Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon awakens in an Italian hospital, disoriented and with no recollection of the past 36 hours. With a relentless assassin trailing them through Florence, he and his resourceful doctor, Sienna Brooks, are forced to flee. Embarking on a harrowing journey, they must unravel a series of codes, which are the work of a brilliant scientist whose obsession with the end of the world is matched only by his passion for one of the most influential works ever written, Dante’s Inferno.
(DE) SUSPENSEFUL; FAST-PACED
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
In a crumbling house in the remote northeastern Himalayas, an embittered, elderly judge finds his peaceful retirement turned upside down by the arrival of his orphaned granddaughter, Sai. The judge’s cook watches over her distractedly, for his thoughts are often on his son, Biju, who is hopscotching from one gritty New York restaurant to another, trying to stay one step ahead of the INS, forced to consider his country’s place in the world. When a Nepalese insurgency in the mountains threatens Sai’s new-sprung romance with her handsome Nepali tutor and causes their lives to descend into chaos, they, too are forced to confront their colliding interests.
(MA) LITERARY FICTION; MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES; FAST-PACED
The Intelligencer by Leslie Silbert
London, 1593, It is three weeks before the murder of Christopher Marlowe, a playwright and spy in Queen Elizabeth I’s secret service—a crime that remains unsolved to this day. Marlowe is hoping to find his missing muse as he sets off on a new intelligence assignment…and closes in on the secret that will seal his fate. In the present-day, Kate Morgan, a Renaissance scholar-turned-private-eye, investigates a shocking heist and murder involving an antique manuscript recently unearthed in London. What secrets could it hold in its yellowed, ciphered pages? And how, centuries later, could it drive someone to kill?
(PP) MYSTERY; PARALLEL NARRATIVES; SPY STORIES
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
In the 1970s, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later, the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed; the kind of creativity that is rewarded at 15 is not always enough to propel someone at 30. Jules Jacobson, an aspiring actress, eventually resigns herself to a more practical occupation. Her friend Jonah, a gifted musician, stops playing the guitar and becomes an engineer. Meanwhile, her now-married best friends, Ethan and Ash, stay true to their initial artistic dreams and become shockingly successful.
(RK) CHARACTER-DRIVEN; MOVING; FRIENDSHIP
Intuition by Allegra Goodman
Sandy Glass, a charismatic publicity-seeking oncologist, and Marion Mendelssohn, a pure, exacting scientist, are directors of an institute for cancer research in dire need of a grant. When the experiments of one of their mentees, Cliff Bannaker, begin to work, they can hardly believe their luck. But Cliff’s rigorous colleague and girlfriend Robin Decker suspects the unthinkable: that his findings are fraudulent. As Robin makes her doubts public and Cliff maintains his innocence, a life-changing controversy engulfs the lab and everyone in it.
(MA) PSYCHOLOGICAL FICTION; THOUGHT-PROVOKING
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, years for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimkes’ daughter, Sarah, has known from an early she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women. Their story is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten-year-old Handful, who is to be her handmaid. We follow their remarkable journeys over the next 35 years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; MOVING; STRONG SENSE OF PLACE
The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See
Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls living on the Korean island of Jeju, are best friends who come from very different backgrounds. When they are old enough, they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective, led by Young-sook’s mother. As the girls take up their positions as baby divers, they know they are beginning a life of excitement and responsibility, but also danger. Despite their love for each other, Mi-ja and Young-sook’s differences are impossible to ignore.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; WOMEN’S LIVES; FRIENDSHIP
The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
In 1939, as Poland falls under the shadow of Nazis, young Alma Belasco’s parents send her away to live in safety with her aunt and uncle in their opulent mansion in San Francisco. There, as the rest of the world goes to war, she encounters Ichimei Fukuda, the quiet and gentle son of the family’s Japanese gardener. Unnoticed by those around them, a tender love affair begins to bloom. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the two are cruelly pulled apart as Ichimei is forced into an internment camp.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; FAMILY SAGA; LOVE STORY
Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez
Soon after the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Deborah Rodriguez went to Afghanistan as part of a group offering humanitarian aid. Surrounded by men and women whose skills—as doctors, nurses, and therapists—seemed eminently more practical than her own, Rodriguez, a hairdresser and mother of two from Michigan, despaired of being of any real use. Yet she soon found she had a gift for befriending Afghans, and once her profession became known, she was eagerly sought out by Westerners desperate for a good haircut and by Afghan women, who have a long and proud tradition of running their own beauty salons. Thus an idea was born—the Kabul Beauty School.
(HA) NON-FICTION; CULTURE CLASH; INSPIRING
Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma, due to a discovery of oil beneath their land. Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. One Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, watched as her family was murdered. And it was just the beginning, as more Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances. In what was left of the lawless Wild West, virtually anyone who dared to investigate these killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll rose, the newly-created FBI took the case in what became their first major homicide investigation.
(HA) NON-FICTION; TRUE CRIME; SHOCKING
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
When Lavinia violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and the best in the slaves she has come to call her family. Orphaned while onboard a ship from Ireland, 7-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by the color of her skin. Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; THOUGHT-PROVOKING
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling class of Pashtuns. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir’s choice to abandon his friend amid ethnic, political, and racial tensions. But years later. Amir journeys back to a distant world to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had.
(PP) CHARACTER-DRIVEN; DRAMATIC; HAUNTING
The Known World by Edward P. Jones
The story of Henry Townsend, a black farmer and former slave who falls under the tutelage of William Robbins, the most powerful man in Manchester County, VA. Making certain he never circumvents the law, Townsend runs his affairs with unusual discipline. When he dies unexpectedly, his widow Caldonia succumbs to profound grief, and things begin to fall apart at the plantation: slaves take to escaping under the cover of night, and families who had once found love beneath the weight of slavery begin to betray one another. And beyond the Townsend estate, the known world also unravels.
(MA) HISTORICAL FICTION; DARK; DRAMATIC
The Kommandant’s Girl by Pam Jenoff
Nineteen-year-old Emma Bau has been married only three weeks when Nazi tanks thunder into Poland and her husband, Jacob, is forced into hiding underground, leaving Emma in the city’s decrepit Jewish Ghetto. But soon she is rescued by the resistance and taken to live with her husband’s Catholic aunt Krysia, where she assumes a new identity as Anna Lipowski, a gentile. Her precarious situation is complicated when Kommandant Richwalder, a high-ranking Nazi official, hires her as his assistant. Urged by the resistance to use her position to access details of the Nazi occupation, Emma must compromise her safety—and her marriage vows—in order to help Jacob’s cause.
(MA) HISTORICAL FICTION; LOVE STORY
The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry
All of the Whitney women in Salem, Massachusetts, can read futures from a piece of lace. But the last time Towner Whitney, a self-confessed unreliable narrator, read, it killed her twin sister and nearly robbed Towner of her sanity. Vowing never to read lace again, her resolve is tested when she is brought back home to Salem and faced with the mysterious, unsolvable disappearance of two women, one of whom is her beloved great aunt Eva, Salem’s original Lace Reader.
(DE) HISTORICAL MYSTERY; INTRICATELY PLOTTED
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
The language of flowers was used to convey romance. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. Eighteen and newly emancipated from the foster care system, Victoria has nowhere to go. So she sleeps in a park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market has her questioning what’s been missing in her life, and when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a chance at happiness.
(HA) EMOTIONAL; LUSH
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
What wisdom would you impart to the world if you knew it was your last chance? When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie-Mellon, was asked to give a lecture, he didn’t have to imagine it was his last—he had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But his lecture wasn’t about death, but about overcoming obstacles, enabling the dreams of others, and seizing every moment (because time is all you have and you may one day find that you have less than you think). It was about living.
(DE) NON-FICTION; MOVING; INSPIRING
The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin
When the renowned poet Fiona Skinner is asked about the inspiration behind her iconic work The Love Poem, she tells her audience a story about her family and a betrayal that reverberates through time. It begins in a big yellow house with a funeral, an iron poker, and a brief variation known as the Pause: a free and feral summer in a middle-class Connecticut town. Caught between the predictable life they once lived and an uncertain future that stretches before them, the Skinner siblings—fierce Renee, sensitive Caroline, golden boy Joe, and watchful Fiona—emerge from the Pause staunchly loyal and deeply connected. Two decades later, the siblings find themselves once again confronted with a family crisis that tests the strength of these bonds.
(HA) FAMILY DYSFUNCTION; MOVING; MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES
The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier
Ohio, 1850. For a modest English Quaker stranded far from home, life is a trial. Untethered from the moment she leaves England, fleeing personal disappointment, Honor Bright is forced by family tragedy to rely on strangers in an alien, untamed landscape. Drawn into the clandestine activities of the Underground Railroad, a network helping runaway slaves escape to freedom, Honor befriends two exceptional people who embody the startling power of defiance. Eventually, she must decide if she too can act on what she believes in, whatever the personal cost.
(MA) HISTORICAL FICTION; LYRICAL
The Leavers by Lisa Ko
One morning, Deming Guo’s mother goes to her job at a nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her. With his mother gone, 11-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white professors who move him from Brooklyn to a small town in upstate New York. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his memories of his mother and the community he left behind.
(HA) CULTURAL DIFFERENCES; THOUGHT-PROVOKING
Less by Andrew Sean Greer
Who says you can’t run away from your problems? Arthur Less is a failed novelist about to turn 50 when a wedding invitation arrives in the mail…from his boyfriend of the past nine years. He can’t say yes—it would be too awkward—and he can’t say no—it would look like defeat. On his desk are a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world, so Arthur decides that the best way to skip town is to accept them all. What could go wrong?
(HA) ROMANTIC FICTION; QUIRKY; HUMOROUS
Letters from Home by Kristina McMorris
Liz Stephens has no interest in attending a USO dance with her friends Betty and Julia. She doesn’t need to flirt with a lonely serviceman when she’s set to marry her childhood sweetheart. Yet something happens the moment Liz sees Morgan McClain. They share only a brief exchange—cut short by the soldier’s evident interest in Betty—but Liz can’t forget him. When Betty asks her to ghostwrite a letter to Morgan, now stationed overseas, Liz agrees, and becomes torn by her feelings for a man who doesn’t know her true identity. And as the war draws to a close, all three will face heart-wrenching choices, painful losses, and the bittersweet joy of new beginnings.
(MA) HISTORICAL FICTION; BITTERSWEET; LOVE STORY
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had cleared out of the building realized this was not a drill, but a disastrous fire that would burn up to 2,000 degrees for over seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed 400,000 books and damaged 700,000 more. Investigators descended on the scene, but over 30 years later, the mystery remains: did someone set the fire—and if so, who? As she investigates, Susan Orlean introduces readers to an unforgettable cast of characters from libraries past and present.
(HA) NON-FICTION; BOOKS ABOUT BOOKS; TRUE CRIME
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
On a cold, snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be unusual, to say the least. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the century marches on toward its cataclysmic second world war. Does Ursula’s apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its destiny? And if she can—will she?
(MA) HISTORICAL FICTION; STYLISTICALLY COMPLEX
The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
Joe Talbert is a junior at the University of Minnesota who receives a class assignment to write a biography of someone who has lived an interesting life. At a nursing home, he meets Carl Iverson, a dying Vietnam War veteran who has been medically paroled after spending 30 years in prison for the murder of a 14-year-old girl. As Joe writes about Carl’s life, especially his valor in Vietnam, he cannot reconcile the heroism of the soldier with the despicable acts of the convict.
(HA) PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLLER; MYSTERY
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
After four harrowing years on the Western Front of World War I, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on the isolated island of Janus Rock, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, along with his bold, young, and loving wife, Isabel. After two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore with a dead man and a living baby. Isabel insists the baby is a gift from God and, against Tom’s better judgment and moral principles, the couple name the child Lucy and take her in to raise as their own.
(DE, RK) HISTORICAL FICTION; HAUNTING; MELANCHOLY
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
The lives of three women in 1939 Europe—Caroline, a New York socialite working at the French consulate; Kasia a Polish teenager who feels her carefree youth slipping away as she works for the resistance movement; and Herta, an ambitious young German doctor looking for a way out of her desolate life—are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbruck, the infamous concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those history has forgotten.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; EMOTIONAL; POWERFUL
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
This is the story of two women and the tenuous friendship that blooms between strangers—one a 16-year-old illegal Nigerian refugee, the other a recent widow from suburban London. Their lives collide on one fateful day, and one of them has to make a terrible choice, the kind of choice no one should ever have to make. Two years later, they meet again and the story begins. The magic lies in how it unfolds from there.
(MA, RK) MOVING; DARK
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Shaker Heights is a quiet suburb where everything is planned. Nobody embodies its spirit more than Elena Richardson; playing by the rules is her guiding principle. Enter Mia Warren, an enigmatic artist and single mother who arrives in this bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides.
(HA) MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES; FAMILY DRAMA; ENGROSSING
Longbourn by Jo Baker
In this irresistibly imagined belowstairs answer to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the servants take center stage. Sarah, the orphaned housemaid, spends her days scrubbing the laundry, polishing floors, and emptying the chamber pots for the Bennet household. But she is beginning to chafe against the boundaries of her class. But there is just as much romance, heartbreak, and intrigue downstairs at Longbourn as there is upstairs. When a mysterious new footman arrives, both Sarah’s life and the orderly realm of the servants’ hall threaten to be completely, perhaps irrevocably, upended.
(DE) HISTORICAL FICTION; CHARACTER-DRIVEN; ROMANTIC
Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly
It’s 1914 and Eliza Ferriday is thrilled to be traveling to St. Petersburg with Sofya Streshnayva, a cousin of the Romanoffs. The two met years ago over a summer in Paris and became close confidantes. Now Eliza embarks on the trip of a lifetime, home with Sofya to see the splendors of Russia. But when Austria declares war on Serbia and Russia’s imperial dynasty begins to fall, Eliza escapes back to America, while Sofya and her family flee to their country estate. In need of domestic help, they hire the local fortuneteller’s daughter, Varinka, unknowingly bringing intense danger into their household.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; PARALLEL NARRATIVES; MOVING
Love and Ruin by Paula McLain
In 1937, Martha Gellhorn travels alone to Madrid to report on the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War and becomes drawn to the stories of ordinary people caught in devastating conflict. She also finds herself unexpectedly and uncontrollably falling in love with Ernest Hemingway, a man already on his way to becoming a legend. In the shadow of the impending Second World War, their relationship and professional careers ignite. But when Ernest publishes the biggest literary success of his career, they are no longer equals and Martha must make a choice that will break Ernest’s heart and her own.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; WOMEN’S LIVES; LOVE STORY
Maid by Stephanie Land
At 28, Stephanie Land’s plans of breaking free of her hometown in the Pacific Northwest to chase her dreams of attending college and becoming a writer were cut short when a summer fling turned into an unexpected pregnancy. She turned to housekeeping to make ends meet and, with a tenacious grip on her dream of providing her daughter with the best life possible, Stephanie worked days as a maid and began to write relentlessly. She wrote the true stories that weren’t being told: the stories of overworked and underpaid Americans, of living on food stamps and WIC coupons to eat. She wrote to remember the fight, to eventually cut through the deep-rooted stigmas of the working poor.
(HA) MEMOIR; WOMEN’S LIVES & RELATIONSHIPS; CLASS ISSUES
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson
Major Ernest Pettigrew (retired) leads a quiet life valuing the proper things that Englishmen have lived by for generations: honor, duty, decorum, and a properly brewed cup of tea. But then his brother’s death sparks an unexpected friendship with Mrs. Jasmina Ali, a Pakistani shopkeeper from the village. Soon their friendship begins to blossom into something more as they bond over their shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses. But will their relationship survive in a society that considers Mrs. Ali an outsider?
(RK) CONTEMPORARY FICTION; QUIRKY; ROMANTIC
The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
Sam Spade, a slightly shop-worn private eye with his own solitary code of ethics, is hired by a Miss Wonderley to track down her sister, who has eloped with a louse called Floyd Thursby. But Miss Wonderley is actually the beautiful and treacherous Brigid O’Shaughnessy, whose loyalties shift at the drop of a dime, and when Spade’s partner Miles Archer is shot while on Thursby’s trail, Spade finds himself both the hunter and the hunted. Can he track down a treasure worth killing for, before the Fat Man finds him?
(UP) CLASSIC FICTION; MYSTERY; HARD-BOILED
Maman’s Homesick Pie by Donia Bijan
For Donia Bijan’s family, food has been the language they use to tell their stories and communicate their love. In 1978, when the Islamic revolution in Iran threatened their safety, they fled to California’s Bay Area, where familiar flavors of Bijan’s mother’s cooking formed a bridge to the life they left behind. Now, through the prism of food, Bijan, an award-winning chef, unwinds her own story, finding that her mother is at the heart of it all, a woman whose love and support enabled Bijan to realize her dreams.
(PP) MEMOIR; HEARTWARMING; IMMIGRANTS’ LIVES
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon with staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the “bitter neighbor from hell,” but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time? But beneath his cranky exterior, there is a story and a sadness. When one morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the beginning of a comical and heartwarming tale unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, the art of backing up a U-Haul, and the impact one life can have on countless others.
(HA, UP) FUNNY; BITTERSWEET; QUIRKY
Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Anna Kerrigan, nearly eleven years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the men. Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is in the thick of the Second World War. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that once belonged to men. She becomes the first female diver, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. One evening at a night club, she meets Dexter Styles again, and begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life and the reasons he may have vanished.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; VIVID; COMPELLING
March by Geraldine Brooks
An idealistic abolitionist, March—the absent father from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women—has gone to serve the Union cause as a chaplain in the Civil War. But the war tests his faith not only in the Union—which is also capable of barbarism and racism—but in himself, his marriage, and his most ardently-held beliefs. As he recovers from a near-fatal illness, March must reassemble and reconnect with his family, who have no idea what he has endured.
(HA, MA) HISTORICAL FICTION; DRAMATIC; LYRICAL
The Martian by Andy Weir
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, after a dust storm nearly killed him and forced his crew, who assumed him dead, to evacuate, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there. He’s stranded and completely alone with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could, his supplies would be gone long before rescue could arrive. But despite overwhelming odds against him, Mark’s not ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills, and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit, he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
(RK) SCIENCE FICTION; SUSPENSEFUL; SNARKY
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb
One day, Lori Gottlieb is a therapist who helps patients in her L.A. practice. The next, a crisis causes her world to come crashing down. Enter Wendell, the quirky but seasoned therapist in whose office she suddenly lands. With his balding head, cardigan, and khakis, he seems to have come straight from Therapist Central Casting. Yet he will turn out to be anything but. As Gottlieb explores the inner chambers of her patients’ lives, she finds that the questions they are struggling with are the very ones she is now bringing to Wendell.
(HA) LOVE STORY; EMOTIONAL; HEARTWRENCHING
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
Louisa Clark is an ordinary woman living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than her tiny village. She takes a badly-needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair-bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, and worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is. Will is acerbic, moody, and bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to him than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans for himself, she sets out to show him life is still worth living.
(DE, RK) LOVE STORY; EMOTIONAL; HEARTWRENCHING
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
On a winter night in 1964, Dr. David Henry is forced by a blizzard to deliver his own twins. His son, born first, is perfectly healthy. But when his daughter is born, he sees immediately that she has Down’s syndrome. Rationalizing it as a need to protect Norah, his wife, he makes a split-second decision that will alter all of their lives forever: he asks his nurse to take the baby to an institution and never to reveal the secret. But Caroline, the nurse, can’t bring herself to leave the baby. Instead, she disappears into another city to raise the child herself. So begins a story that unfolds over a twenty-five years, in which these two families, ignorant of each other, are yet bound by that fateful decision.
(PP) MOVING; MELANCHOLY
Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen
Not long after Rhoda Janzen turned 40, her world turned upside down. Bad enough that her brilliant husband of fifteen years left her for Bob, a guy he met on Gay.com. But that same week, a car accident left her with serious injuries. So she decided to move back home…with her Mennonite parents. It was in this safe place—which welcomed her back with open arms and offbeat advice—that Rhoda was able to come to terms with her failed marriage; her desire, as a young woman, to leave her sheltered world behind; and the choices that both freed and entrapped her.
(HA) MEMOIR; CULTURE CLASH; QUIRKY
A Mercy by Toni Morrison
Jacob Vaark is an Anglo-Dutch trader and adventurer with a small holding in the harsh North. Despite his distaste for dealing in “flesh,” he takes a small slave girl in part payment for a bad debt from a plantation owner. This is Florens, who can read and write and might be useful on his farm. Rejected by her mother, Florens searches for love, first from Lina, older servant woman at her new master’s home, and then from a handsome African blacksmith, never enslaved, who comes riding into their lives.
(DE) HISTORICAL FICTION; STYLISTICALLY COMPLEX; HAUNTING
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim
In the small town of Miracle Creek, Young and Pak Yoo run an experimental medical device known as the Miracle Submarine—a pressurized oxygen chamber that patients enter for therapeutic “dives” with the hopes of curing issues like autism or infertility. But then Miracle Submarine mysteriously explodes, killing two people. Who or what caused the explosion? Was it the mother of one of the young patients, who claimed to be sick that day but was actually smoking down by the creek? Or was it Young and Pak, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college?
(HA) THRILLER; CULTURAL DIFFERENCES; PLOT TWIST
The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo
When Marilyn Connolly and David Sorenson fall in love in the 1970s, they are blithely ignorant of all that is to come. By 2016, their four radically different daughters are each in a state of unrest. Wendy, widowed young, soothes herself with booze and younger men; Violet, a litigator-turned-stay-at-home-mom, battles anxiety and self-doubt when the darkest part of her past resurfaces; Liza, a neurotic newly tenured professor, finds herself pregnant with a baby she’s not sure she wants by a man she’s not sure she loves; and Grace, the dawdling youngest, begins living a lie no one suspects. Above it all, the daughters share the fear that they will never find a love quite like their parents’.
(HA) SWEEPING; FAMILY DRAMA; MOVING
The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth
From the moment Lucy met her husband’s mother, she knew she wasn’t the wife Diana had pictured for her perfect son. Exquisitely polite, friendly, and always generous, Diana has nonetheless kept Lucy at arm’s length despite her attempts to win her over. Now Diana is dead, a suicide note near her body claiming that she no longer wanted to live because of the cancer wreaking havoc inside her body. But the autopsy finds no cancer. It does find traces of poison and evidence of suffocation. But who could possibly have wanted Diana dead?
(HA) THRILLER; PARALLEL NARRATIVES; PLOT TWIST
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a web-design drone and landed him a new gig working the night at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. After a few days on the job, he discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele’s behavior, seeking help from his friends. When they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond its walls.
(HA) CHARMING; SUSPENSEFUL
Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner
Jo and Bethie Kaufman were born into a world full of promise. Growing up in 1950s Detroit, they live in a perfect “Dick and Jane” house, where their roles are clearly defined. Jo is the tomboy, the bookish rebel with a passion to make the world a fairer place; Bethie is the pretty, feminine good girl, a would-be movie star who enjoys the power her beauty confers and dreams of a traditional life. But the truth ends up looking different from what the girls imagined, as Jo and Bethie survive traumas and tragedies. Neither woman inhabits the world she dreams of, nor has a life that feels authentic or brings her joy. Is it too late for them to finally stake a claim on happily ever after?
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; WOMEN’S LIVES & RELATIONSHIP; MOVING
Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
With her gift for sniffing out the malevolent side of human nature, Miss Jane Marple is led on her first case to a crime scene at the local vicarage. Colonel Protheroe, the magistrate in town whom everyone hates, has been shot through the head. No one heard the shots. There are no leads. Yet everyone in town seems to have a reason to want the Colonel dead. It’s a race against the clock as Miss Marple sets out on the twisted trail of the mysterious killer.
(PP) MYSTERY; INTRICATELY PLOTTED; SUSPENSEFUL
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
The story begins in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples, Italy. Growing up on these tough streets, two girls, Elena and Lila, learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow, as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiment of a nation undergoing momentous change. Their lives tell the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform their relationship.
(HA) LITERARY FICTION; FRIENDSHIP; SAGA
My Dear Hamilton by Laura Dray & Stephanie Kamoie
Coming of age on the frontier of revolutionary New York, Elizabeth Schuyler champions the fight for independence. When she meets Alexander Hamilton, she’s captivated by the young officer’s charisma and brilliance. They fall in love, despite Hamilton’s bastard birth and the uncertainties of war. But they union they create—in their marriage and the new nation—is far from perfect. The Hamiltons are at the center of it all—including the political treachery of America’s first sex scandal which forces Eliza to struggle through heartbreak and betrayal to find forgiveness.
(DE) HISTORICAL FICTION; BIOGRAPHICAL NOVEL; DRAMATIC
My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman
Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is 77 and crazy. She’s also Elsa’s best and only friend. At night, she takes refuge in her grandmother’s stories of the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas, where everybody is different. When her grandmother dies unexpectedly, she leaves a series of letters apologizing to people she’s wronged, and Elsa’s greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother’s letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones, but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.
(RK) FANTASY; QUIRKY; LIGHTHEARTED
My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul
Pamela Paul, editor of The New York Times Book Review, has kept a single book by her side for 28 years, carried throughout high school and college, across continents, and from job to job. This book has a name: Bob. Bob is Paul’s Book of Books, where she has recorded every book she’s ever read, a journey that reflects her own life. Here, she explores the powerful relationship between book and reader and how they provide the perspective, courage, and companionship to forge our own way.
(HA) MEMOIR; BOOKS ABOUT BOOKS
Mystic River by Dennis Lehane
When they were children, Sean Devine, Jimmy Marcus, and Dave Boyle were friends. But then a strange car pulled up to their street. One boy got into the car; two did not, and something terrible happened that ended their friendship and changed their lives forever. 25 years later, Sean is a homicide detective. Jimmy is an ex-con who owns a corner store. And Dave is trying to hold his marriage together and keep his demons at bay—demons that urge him to do terrible things. When Jimmy’s daughter is murdered, Sean is assigned to the case and his investigation brings him into conflict with Jimmy and Dave again.
(PP) PSYCHOLOGICAL FICTION; SUSPENSEFUL
Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain
After the death of her parents, 15-year-old Ivy Hart is left to care for her grandmother, older sister, and nephew as tenants on small tobacco farm. As she struggles with her grandmother’s aging, her sister’s mental illness, and her own epilepsy, she realizes they might need more than she can give. Then she connects with Grace County’s newest social worker, Jane Forrester, who quickly becomes emotionally invested in the lives of the Hart family at the risk of straining her personal and professional relationships. And as she is drawn in, she begins to discover the secrets of the small farm.
(DE) HAUNTING; ISSUE-ORIENTED
News of the World by Paulette Jiles
In the wake of the Civil War, Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a 70-year-old retired Army captain, does live readings to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. Then he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued, she has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; HEARTWARMING; PLOT-DRIVEN
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
In 1958 Havana, Elisa Perez, the daughter of a sugar baron, is part of Cuba’s high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country’s growing political unrest—until she embarks on an affair with a revolutionary. In 2017 Miami, Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa’s last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in her homeland. Now, Marisol will face the contrast of Cuba’s tropical beauty and its perilous political climate.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; FAMILY SAGA; LUSH
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
As the Civil Rights movement begins to reach segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Martin Luther King to heart: he is as good as anyone. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called The Nickel Academy, which claims to shape boys into “honorable and honest men,” but is in reality a chamber of horrors, driven by an abusive staff. Stunned to find himself here, Elwood tries to hold onto the words of Dr. King. His friend Turner thinks he is worse than naïve, that the world is crooked and the only way to survive is to scheme. The tension between Elwood’s ideals and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision with repercussions that will echo for decades.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; DISTURBING
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
In 1939 France, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When the country is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life are at constant risk. Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious 18-year-old, searching for purpose. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets and falls in love with a compelling, mysterious young man.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; FAMILY LIFE; WOMEN’S LIVES
Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
Frances Welty, former best-selling romance novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House, a remote health resort, nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests, but the person that fascinates her the most is the strange and charismatic owner/director. Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer—or should she run while she can?
(HA) PSYCHOLOGICAL FICTION; WITTY; SUSPENSEFUL
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
Alex Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much worse. By 20, she is the sole survivor of an unsolved multiple homicide. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: a full ride to one of the world’s most elite universities. What’s the catch, and why her? Still searching for these answers, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies, known to be the haunts of the future rich and powerful. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and extraordinary than anyone might conceive.
(HA) MYSTERY; GHOST STORY; FAST-PACED; GRITTY
Normal People by Sally Rooney
At school, Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular, a soccer star, while she is lonely and proud. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her job at Marianne’s home, a strange connection grows between the two. A year later, they’re both at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet socially, while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Through their college years, they two circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities, but are always drawn together. As she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.
(HA) MOVING; LOVE STORY; SWEEPING
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home in Sussex, England. Although the house he lived in is gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road where, when he was seven, he encountered a remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother, and her grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond she’d claimed was the ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
(DE) FANTASY; MYSTICAL; EERIE
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Close to aging out of the foster care system, Molly Ayer knows she has one last chance. She takes a position helping a 91-year-old woman named Vivian. Molly soon discovers that they are more alike than they are different as she learns about Vivian’s past as an Irish immigrant put on a train to the Midwest with hundreds of other children whose destinies were determined by luck and fate. The closer Molly, a Penobscot Indian being raised by strangers, grows to Vivian, the more she discovers parallels to her own life.
(HA, DE, MA, PP) MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES; HISTORICAL FICTION
The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore
In 2000, the Baltimore Sun ran a small piece about Wes Moore, a local student who had just received a Rhodes scholarship. The same paper also ran a series of articles about the hunt for two of the suspects in the murder of a police officer. One of them was also named Wes Moore. After following the story in the paper, the first Wes, unable to shake off the unsettling coincidence, wrote to the other Wes in prison, beginning a correspondence and relationship that has lasted years.
(HA) NON-FICTION; SOCIAL HISTORY
The Other’s Gold by Elizabeth Ames
Assigned to the same suite during their first year at Quincy-Hawthorne College, Lainey, Ji Sun, Alice, and Margaret quickly become inseparable against the backdrop of the campus and new independence. But soon they find their bonds—forged in joy and fused by fear—must weather threats that originate from beyond the dark forests of their childhoods, and come at them from institutions, from one another, and ultimately, from themselves. The story follows the friends as each makes a terrible mistake, moving from their college days to their more feral times as new parents, examining the way that growing up forces friendships to evolve, as the women discover what they and their loved ones are capable of, and capable of forgiving.
(HA) WOMEN’S LIVES & RELATIONSHIPS; MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant—and that her lover is married—she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son’s powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; FAMILY SAGA; SWEEPING
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
Quiet 28-year-old Hadley has all but given up on love and happiness—until a mutual friend introduces her to Ernest Hemingway and her life is changed forever. After a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group—the fabled “Lost Generation”—that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Though the two are deeply in love, Hadley is unprepared for the hard-drinking, fast-living life of Jazz Age Paris, which hardly values notions of family and monogamy. She strives to hold onto her sense of self as the demands of life with Ernest grow costly.
(DE, RK) ROMANTIC; BIOGRAPHICAL NOVEL
Peony in Love by Lisa See
For young Peony, betrothed to a suitor she has never met, lyrics from the famed Peony Pavilion—“I finally understand what the poets have written. In spring, moved to passion; in autumn only regret”—mirror her own longings. In the garden of the Chen Family Villa, a small theatrical troupe is performing scenes from this epic opera, a live spectacle few women have ever seen. Like the heroine in the drama, Peony is the cloistered daughter of a wealthy family, trapped like a good-luck cricket in a bamboo-and-lacquer cage. Though raised to be obedient, Peony has dreams of her own.
(DE) HISTORICAL FICTION; INTRICATELY PLOTTED
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
In 1996, Hannah Heath, an Australian rare books expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famous Sarajevo Haggadah, rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. When Hanna, a caustic loner with a passion for her work, discovers a series of tiny artifacts in the book’s ancient binding, she begins to unlock its mysteries. She is ushered into an exquisitely detailed and atmospheric past, tracing the book’s journey from its salvation back to its creation.
(DE) MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES; INTRICATELY PLOTTED
The Piano Lesson by August Wilson
At the heart of this play stands the Charles family’s prized possession, an ornately carved upright piano, which now sits in Berniece Charles’s Pittsburgh home. When Boy Willie, Berniece’s exuberant brother, bursts into her life with his dream of buying the same Mississippi land that their family worked as slaves, he plans to sell their antique piano for the hard cash he needs to stake his future. But Berniece refuses to sell, clinging to the piano as a reminder of the history that is their family legacy. Their dilemma is the real “piano lesson,” reminding readers that black people are often deprived of both the symbols of their past and of opportunity in the present.
(CR) DRAMA; FAMILY LIFE; ALLEGORICAL; HAUNTING
A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and became the subject of one of the best-known paintings of the 20th century: Christina’s World.
(MA) HISTORICAL FICTION; ARTISTS; COMING OF AGE
A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
An Indian-American Muslim family is gathered together in their California hometown to celebrate their eldest daughter Hadia's wedding—a match of love rather than tradition. It is on this momentous day that Amar, the youngest of the siblings, reunites with his family for the first time in three years. Rafiq and Layla must now contend with the choices and betrayals that led to their son’s estrangement—the reckoning of parents who strove to pass their cultures and traditions to their children; and of children who struggle to balance authenticity with loyalty to the home they came from. In a narrative that spans decades, this novel charts the crucial moments in the family’s past, from the bonds that bring them together to the differences that pull them apart.
(HA) LITERARY FICTION; CULTURE CLASH; FAMILY DRAMA
Please Look After Mom by Kyong-Suk Shin
When sixty-nine-year-old So-nyo is separated from her husband among the crowds of the Seoul subway station and vanishes, her children are consumed with loud recriminations and are awash in sorrow and guilt. As they argue over the missing posters they are posting throughout the city—how large of a reward to offer, the best way to phrase the text—they realize that none of them have a recent photograph of Mom. Soon a larger question emerges: do they really know the woman they called Mom?
(RK) PSYCOLOGICAL FICTION; FAMILY LIFE; COMPELLING
Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross
For a thousand years, her existence has been denied—Pope Joan, the 9th-century woman who disguised herself as a man and became the only female ever to sit on St. Peter’s throne. Brilliant and talented, young Joan rebels against medieval social strictures forbidding women to learn. When her brother is brutally killed during a Viking attack, Joan takes up his cloak—and his identity—and enters the monastery of Fulda. As Brother John Anglicus, Joan distinguishes herself as a scholar and healer. Eventually, she is drawn to Rome, where she becomes enmeshed in a dangerous web of love, passion, and politics.
(PP) BIOGRAPHICAL NOVEL; WOMEN IN HISTORY
The Postmistress by Sarah Blake
On the eve of the US entrance into World War II, Iris James, the postmistress in a small Cape Cod town, does the unthinkable: slips a letter into her pocket, reads it, and doesn’t deliver it. Meanwhile, in London, Frankie Bard is working with Edward R. Murrow, reporting on the radio. Her dispatches beg listeners to pay heed as the Nazis bomb London. One night in a shelter, she meets a doctor from Cape Cod with a letter in his pocket, a letter Frankie vows to deliver when she returns home. When Frankie arrives in Iris’s town, their stories collide in a way no one could foresee.
(DE, MA) HISTORICAL FICTION; ROMANTIC; THOUGHT-PROVOKING
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan
Evelyn Ryan, wife of an alcoholic husband and mother of ten children, lived in a time and place where women did not seek jobs outside the home. But as the sole provider for her large family, Evelyn was determined to keep her family afloat and to teach her children that the life of the mind was important. In the early 1950s, she began entering contests, composing her jingles, poems, and essays at the ironing board. She won household appliances, bikes, watches, clocks, and, occasionally, cash.
(PP) MEMOIR; UNCONVENTIONAL; INSPIRATIONAL
The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
The discovery of radium made headlines across America as the fresh face of beauty and the wonder drug of the medical community, shining bright during the otherwise dark years of World War I. Hundreds of girls toiled among the glowing dust of the radium dial factories, lit up like fireflies by the chemical. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” were the luckiest alive—until they began to fall mysteriously ill, while the factories denied all claims of the gruesome effects. As the fatal poison of the radium took hold, the women found themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America’s 20th century.
(HA) NON-FICTION; WOMEN IN HISTORY; SHOCKING
Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
Kate is in the middle of the biggest meeting of her life when she gets a call from her 15-year-old daughter Amelia’s exclusive private school in Brooklyn, telling her she needs to come down there—now. Amelia has been caught cheating and suspended. But by the time Kate gets there, her stress has turned to panic when she sees the school surrounded by police cars. By then, it’s too late: Amelia has jumped to her death—or so the school tells her. When Kate gets an anonymous text message that reads “She didn’t jump,” she must reconstruct the last days in the life of the daughter she couldn’t save.
(MA) SUSPENSEFUL; INTRICATELY PLOTTED
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
Ralph Truitt, a wealthy business man, has advertised for a reliable wife; his ad is answered by Catherine Land, who is not what Ralph was expecting. She is both complex and devious, haunted by a terrible past and motivated by greed. Her plan is simple: she will win his devotion and then slowly poison him and leave a wealthy widow, able to take care of one she truly loves. What Catherine didn’t realize, though, was that the enigmatic, lonely Ralph had a plan of his own. And what neither anticipated was that they would fall completely in love.
(DE) HISTORICAL FICTION; SUSPENSEFUL; ATMOSPHERIC
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
Mary Anning is a woman with a talent for finding fossils, and whose discovery of ancient marine reptiles like the ichthyosaur, discovered by herself and her brother in 1810, shakes the scientific community and leads to new ways of thinking about the creation of the world. In danger of becoming an outcast in her community, dominated by middle-class men, she takes solace in an unexpected friendship with Elizabeth Philpot, a prickly London spinster with her own passion for fossils. Their strong bond sees them through struggles with poverty, rivalry, and ostracism, and reminds readers that friendship can outlast storms and landslides, anger and jealousy.
(RK) HISTORICAL FICTION; DRAMATIC
The Rent Collector by Camron Wright
For Ki Lim and Sang Ly, survival at Stung Meanchey, the largest municipal waste dump in all of Cambodia, is a daily struggle. Life would be hard enough without the worry for their chronically ill child, Nisay, and the added expense of medicines that are not working. Just when things seem at their worst, Sang Ly learns a secret about the bad-tempered rent collector who comes demanding money—a secret that sets in motion a tide that will change the life of everyone it sweeps past.
(HA) MOVING; LYRICAL
The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway
Two hundred years after he was about to die on a Napoleonic battlefield, Lord Nicholas Falcott, soldier and aristocrat, wakes up in a hospital bed in modern London. The Guild, an entity that controls time travel, showers him with life’s advantages. But Nick years for home and for one brown-eyed girl, lost now down the centuries. Then the Guild asks him to break its own rules. It needs Nick to go back to 1815 to fight the Guild’s enemies and to find something called the Talisman.
(UP) FANTASY; HISTORICAL FICTION; LOVE STORY
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a wonderful husband, his first reaction is shocked. Determined to find the perfect partner, he embarks upon the Wife Project. Enter Rosie Jarman, a woman on a quest of her own who meets almost none of his criteria, but who befriends Don, sparking an unlikely relationship and forcing the scientifically-minded Don to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie and the notion that love is not always what looks good on paper.
(DE) FUNNY; HEARTWARMING; LOVE STORY
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
American Rebecca Porter has never been one for fairy tales—that’s her twin sister, Lacey. But it’s Bex who is seeking adventure when she goes to study off at Oxford University. There, she finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, the future king of England. When she can’t resist falling for Nick, the man behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face. Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners with his family at Kensington Palace. But it also comes with unimaginable baggage.
(HA) FUNNY; LIGHTHEARTED; ROMANTIC
The Saffron Kitchen by Yasmin Crowther
The story begins on a blustery day in London, when Maryam Mazar’s dark secrets and troubled past surface violently with tragic consequences for her and her pregnant daughter, Sara, and her newly orphaned nephew. Burdened by guilt, Maryam leaves her comfortable English home for the remote mountain village in Iran where she was raised and disowned by her father. In a quest to piece their life back together, Sara decides to follow her, and finally learns the price that her mother had to pay for her freedom and of the love she left behind.
(MA) COMING OF AGE; LYRICAL; HAUNTING
Saints for All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan
Nora and Theresa Flynn are 21 and 17 when they leave their small village in Ireland and journey to America. Nora is the responsible one—shy, serious, and engaged to a man she’s not sure she loves. Gregarious Theresa is thrilled by her new life in Boston amid the fashionable dresses and dance halls. But when Theresa ends up pregnant, Nora comes up with a plan that will have repercussions both are too young to understand. Fifty years later, Nora is the matriarch of a big Catholic family. Theresa, meanwhile, is estranged from her sister and cut off from the world, a cloistered nun living in an abbey. Then, a sudden death forces the women to confront the choices they made so long ago.
(HA) FAMILY SAGA; WOMEN’S LIVES & RELATIONSHIPS
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
A hurricane is building over the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, and Esch’s father is getting concerned. Esch and her brothers are stocking food, but there isn’t much to save. Lately, Esch can’t keep down what food she gets—she’s fourteen and pregnant. Her brother Skeetah is stealing scraps for his pit bull’s new litter, dying one by one; and Randall and Junior are trying to stake their own claims. Told over the course of the twelve days preceding Hurricane Katrina, the family pulls themselves up to struggle another day.
(UP) LITERARY FICTION; FAMILY LIFE; DARK
Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Paris, 1942. Sarah, a ten-year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup, but not before she locks her brother in a cupboard in the family’s apartment, thinking that she will be back in a few hours. Paris, 2002. On Vel’ d’Hiv’s sixtieth anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France’s past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl’s ordeal, from the Vel d’Hiv, to the camps and beyond.
(RK) HISTORICAL FICTION; MOVING
Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe
In December 1972, Jean McConville, a 38-year-old mother of ten, was dragged from her Belfast home by masked intruders, her children clinging to her legs. They never saw her again. Her abduction was one of the most notorious episodes of the vicious conflict known as The Troubles. Everyone in the neighborhood knew the IRA was responsible. But in a climate of fear and paranoia, no one would dare speak of it. This mesmerizing book uses the McConville case as a starting point for the tale of a society wracked by a guerilla war, a war whose consequences have never been reckoned with.
(HA) NON-FICTION; TRUE CRIME; SHOCKING
Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok
Sylvie, the beautiful, brilliant, successful older daughter of the Lee family, flies to the Netherlands for one final visit with her dying grandmother—and then vanishes. Amy, the sheltered baby of the family, is too young to remember a time when her parents were new immigrants from China and too poor to keep Sylvie. Seven years old, Sylvie was raised by a distant relative in a faraway, foreign place, and didn’t rejoin her family in America until she was nine. Now, terrified but determined, Amy retraces her sister’s movements. But instead of simple answers, she discovers something more valuable: the truth—however painful that may be.
(HA) SUSPENSEFUL; FAMILY SAGA; WOMEN’S LIVES & RELATIONSHIPS
The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott
At the height of the Cold War, two secretaries are pulled out of the typing pool at the CIA and given the assignment of a lifetime. Their mission: to smuggle Doctor Zhivago out of the USSR, where no one dares publish it, and help Boris Pasternak’s magnum opus make its way into print. Sally Forrester is a seasoned spy who has honed her gift for deceit all over the world—using her charm to pry secrets out of powerful men. Irina is a complete novice, but under Sally’s tutelage quickly learns how the ropes of working as a spy. Their story is combined with a legendary literary love story: the decades-long affair between Pasternak and his mistress and muse.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; PARALLEL NARRATIVES; SPY FICTION
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
Tony Webster finds himself contending with a past he never thought much about—until his closest childhood friends returned with a vengeance: one of them from the grave, another maddeningly present. Tony though he had left all this behind as he built a life for himself. But when he is presented with a mysterious legacy, he is forced to revise his estimation of his own nature and his place in the world.
(UP) LITERARY FICTION; HAUNTING; INTENSE
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Legendary Hollywood actress Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous, scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Summoned to Evelyn’s apartment, Monique listens as she tells her story: from making her way to LA by herself in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business, to her great forbidden love, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As the story slowly catches up to the present, it becomes clear that Evelyn’s life intersects with Monique’s in tragic, irreversible ways.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; LOVE STORY; WOMEN’S LIVES
The Shark Club by Ann Kidd Taylor
On a summer day on the beach in Florida, two extraordinary things happen to Maeve Donnelly. First, she is kissed by Daniel, the boy of her dreams. Then, she is bitten by a shark. Years later, Maeve has thrown herself into her work as a marine biologist learning more about the minds of misunderstood sharks. But when she returns home to the eccentric hotel where she was raised, she finds more than just sunsets waiting for her. While Maeve has always been fearless in the water, on land she is indecisive and a chance meeting with a little girl who is just as fascinated by the ocean as Maeve leaves her at a crossroads.
(HA) LIGHTHEARTED; WOMEN’S LIVES; SCIENCE
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Alicia Berenson’s life seems perfect. But then, one evening, her husband Gabriel, a photographer, returns home late from a fashion shoot. Alicia shoots him five times and never speaks another word. Her refusal to talk turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination. Meanwhile, criminal psychotherapist Theo Faber has waited a long time to work with Alicia; his determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of her crime takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him.
(HA) PSYCHOLOGICAL FICTION; SUSPENSEFUL; PARALLEL NARRATIVES
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Jojo is thirteen and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn’t lack in fathers to study, chief among them his black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent white father, Michael; his absent white grandfather who won’t acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his uncle Given who died as a teenager. His mother, Leonie, is an inconsistent presence in his and his toddler sister’s lives. When Michael is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and the State Penitentiary.
(HA) FAMILY SAGA; MAGICAL REALISM; MOVING
Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs
Born on a farm and named in a field by her parents—artist Chrisann Brennan and Steve Jobs—Lisa Brennan-Jobs’s childhood unfolded in a rapidly changing Silicon Valley. When she was young, Lisa’s father was a mythical figure who was rarely present in her life. As she grew older, he took an interest in her, ushering into a world of mansions, vacations, and private schools. His attention was thrilling, but he could also be cold, critical, and unpredictable. When her relationship with her mother grew strained, Lisa decided to move in with her father, hoping he’d become the parent she always wanted him to be.
(HA) MEMOIR; POIGNANT; FAMILY DYSFUNCTION
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene? Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime.
(HA) CONTROVERSIAL; THOUGHT-PROVOKING
The Soldier’s Wife by Margaret Leroy
As World War II draws closer to Guernsey, Vivienne de la Mare knows that sacrifices will have to be made. Not just for herself, but for her two young daughters and her mother-in-law, whom she is caring for while her husband is away fighting. What she doesn’t expect is that she’ll fall in love with one of the enigmatic German soldiers who take up residence in the house next door to her home. As their relationship intensifies, so do the pressures on Vivienne. But as she becomes aware of the brutality of the Occupation, she must decide whether or not she is willing to risk her own happiness for the life of a stranger.
(MA, RK) HISTORICAL FICTION; LOVE STORY
A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult
It’s an average day at the Clinic, a reproductive health center in Mississippi. Then, a desperate, dangerous gunman bursts in and opens fire. After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a hostage negotiator, begins to make a plan to communicate with the gunman when his phone lights up with messages that, to his horror, tell him that his 15-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic. But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters, each of whom has their own reasons for being in the Clinic that day.
(HA) ISSUE-ORIENTED; SUSPENSEFUL; WOMEN’S LIVES & RELATIONSHIPS
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
As Dr. Marina Singh, a research scientist with a pharmaceutical company, is sent to Brazil, she embarks upon an uncertain odyssey into the Amazon. She will be forced to surrender herself to the lush but forbidding world that awaits her within the jungle. She is tasked with finding her former mentor, Dr. Annick Swenson, a researcher who disappeared while working on what is destined to become an extremely valuable new drug. While there, Marina will have to confront her own memories of tragedy and sacrifice as she journeys into the unforgiving heart of darkness.
(DE) PSYCHOLOGICAL FICTION; MOVING; FAST-PACED
Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo
Yejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university in Nigeria. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into marriage, after consulting fertility doctors and healers, Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time, until her family arrives with a young woman they introduce as Akin’s second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant, which comes at a far greater cost than she ever imagined.
(HA, MA) CULTURAL DIFFERENCES; LITERARY FICTION
Stella Bain by Anita Shreve
When an American woman named Stella Bain is found suffering from severe shell shock in an exclusive garden in London, surgeon August Bridge and his wife selflessly agree to take her in. A gesture of goodwill turns into something more as Bridge quickly develops a clinical interest in his guest. Stella had been working as a nurse’s aide near the front, but now she can’t remember anything prior to four months earlier when she was found wounded on a French battlefield
(DE) HISTORICAL FICTION; ENGAGING
The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon
It is 1968. Lynnie, a white woman with a disability, and Homan, a deaf African-American man, are locked in a mental institution. Deep in love, they escape and find refuge in the farmhouse of Martha, a widow and retired schoolteacher. But the couple isn’t alone: Lynnie has just given birth to a baby girl. When the authorities catch up to them, Homan escapes into the darkness and Lynnie is caught. Before she is forced back into the institution, she whispers two words to Martha: “Hide her.” And so begins the forty-year epic journey of Lynnie, Holman, Martha, and baby Julia—lives divided by insurmountable obstacles, drawn together by a secret pact and extraordinary love.
(DE) PSYCHOLOGICAL FICTION; LOVE STORY
The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel
In 1985, a shy and intelligent 20-year-old named Christopher Knight left his home in Massachusetts, drove to Maine, and disappeared into the forest. He would not have a conversation with another human being until nearly three decades later, when he was arrested for stealing food. Living in a tent even through brutal winters, he had survived by his wits and courage. Based on extensive interviews with Knight himself, this is a vividly detailed account of his secluded life as well as the challenges he has faced since returning to the world.
(MA) NON-FICTION; SHOCKING
Stuffed by Patricia Volk
Patricia Volk’s memoir lets readers into her big, crazy, loving, cheerful, infuriating, wonderful family, where you’re never just hungry—you’re starving to death—and you’re never just full—you’re stuffed. Volk’s family fed New York City for one hundred years, from 1888 when her great-grandfather introduced pastrami to America until 1988, when her father closed his garment center restaurant. All along, food and family were the center of their lives.
(PP) MEMOIR; FAMILY LIFE
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Alix Chamberlain gets what she wants, and she’s made a living showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her young daughters’ babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night. Seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, a security guard at a high-end supermarket accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make everything right, but Emira is wary of her desire to help. When the video of that night unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves and each other.
(HA) CONTEMPORARY FICTION; THOUGHT-PROVOKING; WOMEN’S LIVES
The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton
In 1985, Anthony Ray Hinton was arrested and charged with capital murder in Alabama. Stunned and confused, Hinton knew that it was a case of mistaken identity and believed that the truth would prove his innocence and set him free. But with a different system of justice for a poor black man in the South, he was sentenced to death. He spent his first years on Death Row in silence, full of despair and anger. But as he accepted his fate, he resolved not only to survive, but to find a way to truly live on Death Row.
(HA) MEMOIR; INSPIRING; SHOCKING
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
In 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a tattooist, tasked with marking his fellow prisoners. Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his life, he uses his position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive. One day, Lale comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have a number tattooed on her arm. Her name is Gita, and Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; LOVE STORY
The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
When Li-yan, a woman in rural China, has a baby out of wedlock, with a man her parents consider a poor choice, rather than stand by tradition, she gives up her daughter for adoption rather than stand by tradition. At the orphanage, she hands over her daughter, wrapped in a blanket with a tea cake tucked into it. As the years pass, Li-yan slowly comes into herself and ventures into the modern world while daughter Haley grows up privileged and well-loved in California. But she wonders about her origins, whole Li-yan longs for her lost daughter. Both search for and find answers in the study of the tea that has shaped their family’s destiny for years.
(HA) FAMILY SAGA; PARALLEL NARRATIVES
Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith
In Botswana, Precious Ramotswe’s ever-ready tiny white van has recently developed a disturbing noise, and she suspects her estimable husband, Mr. J.L.B Matekoni, one of the country’s most brilliant mechanics, will simply condemn it and replace it with something newer. Can she find a way to save her old friend? Meanwhile Mma. Makutsi has discovered that her old rival has set her sights on her own fiancé, and the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency tries to discover if a member of a local football team’s is throwing the games on purpose.
(DE) COZY MYSTERY; HEARTWARMING
That Bright Land by Terry Roberts
In the summer of 1866, Jacob Ballard, a former Union soldier and spy, is dispatched by the War Department in Washington City to infiltrate the isolated North Carolina mountain community where he was born and find the serial killer responsible for the deaths of Union veterans. Based on true events, this is the story of a violent and fragile nation on the brink of conflict in the wake of the Civil War, and of a man who must exorcise his own savage demons while tracking down another.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; COMPELLING
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
When 16-year-old Janie Crawford—fair-skinned, long-legged, and fiercely independent—is caught kissing shiftless Johnny Taylor, her grandmother swiftly marries her off to an old man with 60 acres of land. Over the years, Janie endures two stifling marriages before meeting the man of her dreams, who offers her not diamonds but a packet of flowering seeds. Janie’s quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots. Told in the voice of a woman who refuses to live in bitterness, fear, or foolish dreams, this is the story of a life marked by poverty, trials, and purpose.
(UP) CLASSIC FICTION; MELANCHOLY
There There by Tommy Orange
The multigenerational story of 12 characters, each of whom have private reasons for traveling to the Big Oakland Powwow. Dene Oxendene is pulling his life back together after his uncle’s death and has come to honor his memory. Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield has come to watch her nephew, Orvil, who has taught himself traditional Indian dance through YouTube and has come to the powwow to dance in public for the very first time. There will be glorious communion, a spectacle of sacred tradition and pageantry; there will also be sacrifice, heroism, and unspeakable loss.
(HA) VIVID; LINKED SHORT STORIES; CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
Meet Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress and dreams of being a princess. When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl. His parents, Rosie and Penn, want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be. They’re just not sure they’re ready to share that. Soon the entire family is keeping the secret…until one day it explodes. This is how a family keeps a secret, and how that secret ends up keeping them. This is how a family lives happily ever after…until happily ever after becomes complicated.
(DE) FAMILY SAGA; EMOTIONAL
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
Desire. It thrills and torments us. It controls our thoughts and destroys our lives. It’s all we live for. Yet we almost never speak of it. And as a buried force in our lives, desire remains largely unexplored—until now. Over the past eight years, journalist Lisa Taddeo has driven across the country and back six times to embed herself with ordinary women from different regions and backgrounds. The result, which focuses on suburban mother Lina; 17-year-old student Maggie; and successful, refined Sloane—is the deepest non-fiction portrait of desire ever written.
(HA) NON-FICTION; WOMEN’S LIVES & RELATIONSHIPS; POWERFUL
The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht
Natalia is a young doctor on a mission of mercy at an orphanage in a Balkan country mending from years of conflict. As she works, she can feel both the gathering of age-old superstitions and secrets and the grief from her own private, hurtful mystery: the inexplicable circumstances surrounding the recent death of her beloved grandfather. After telling her grandmother he was on his way to meet Natalia, he instead set off for a ramshackle settlement none of their family had ever heard of and died there alone. To try to find answers, she turns to the stories he told her when she was a child.
(RK) PARALLEL NARRATIVES; MYSTICAL
The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom
The inventor of the first clock is punished for trying to measure God’s greatest gift. He is banished to a cave for centuries and forced to listen to the voices of all who come after him seeking more days, more years. Eventually, with his soul nearly broken, Father Time is granted freedom, along with a magic hourglass and a mission: a chance to redeem himself by teaching two people the true meaning of time. He returns to our world—now dominated by the hour-counting he so innocently began—and commences a journey with two unlikely people: one a teenage girl about to give up on life, the other a wealthy businessman who wants to live forever.
(DE) INSPIRATIONAL; MOVING; SPARE
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The story of Henry, an adventurous librarian, and Clare, a beautiful art student, who have known each other since Clare was six and Henry thirty-six and who married when Clare was twenty-three and Henry thirty-one. Impossible…but true, because Henry is one of the first known sufferers of Chrono-Displacement Disorder: periodically, his genetic clock resets and he finds himself misplaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity in his life, past and future. In other words…he’s a time traveler. His disappearances are spontaneous, his experiences unpredictable, harrowing and amusing.
(PP) SCIENCE FICTION; LOVE STORY; MOVING
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Set in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the Depression, this novel follows three years in the life of 8-year-old Scout Finch, her brother, Jem, and their father, Atticus—three years punctuated by the arrest and eventual trial of a young black man accused of raping a white woman. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South in the Thirties. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence, and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man’s struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.
(UP) CLASSIC FICTION; BITTERSWEET
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
From the moment she entered the world, Francie Nolan needed to be made of stern stuff, for the often harsh life of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. Often scorned by neighbors for her family’s erratic and eccentric behavior—such as her father Johnny’s taste for alcohol and Aunt Sissy’s habit of marrying serially without the formality of divorce—no one, least of all Francie, could say that the Nolans’ life lacked drama. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, their daily experiences are tenderly threaded with family connectedness and raw with honesty.
(HA) CLASSIC FICTION; COMING OF AGE
Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
Sam and Clementine have a wonderful, if busy life, with two little girls, a new dream job for Sam, and a promising audition for Clementine, a cellist. Clementine and Erika are each other’s oldest friends—one look can communicate an entire relationship. But their relationship is a complicated one. So when Erika mentions a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Sam and Clementine don’t hesitate; having their larger-than-life personalities there will be a welcome respite. But two months later, it won’t stop raining and Sam and Clementine can’t stop asking themselves: what if we hadn’t gone?
(HA) SUSPENSEFUL; MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
In 1923, 15-year-old Hattie Shepherd flees Georgia and settles in Philadelphia, hoping for a better life. Instead, she marries a man who will bring her nothing but disappointment and watches helplessly as her firstborn twins succumb to an illness a few pennies could have prevented. Hattie gives birth to nine more children whom she raises with grit and mettle and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave. She vows to prepare them for the calamitous difficulty she knows awaits them, and for a world she is certain will love them, a world that will not be kind.
(DE) FAMILY SAGA; CHARACTER-DRIVEN
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, appeared. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of World War II. The man’s name was Louis Zamperini. Ahead of him lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, an even greater trial. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer with ingenuity, hope, and humor
(DE) NON-FICTION; SURVIVAL STORY
Under the Wide and Starry Sky by Nancy Horan
Fanny van de Grift Osbourne leaves her philandering husband in San Francisco and sets sail for Belgium to study art, with her three children and nanny in tow. Not long after her arrival, though, tragedy strikes, and Fanny and her brood head to an artists’ colony where she can recuperate. There she meets Robert Louis Stevenson, ten years her junior, who is instantly smitten with the earthy, independent, and opinionated American belle. Fanny does not immediately take to the young lawyer who longs to devote his life to literature. But the two eventually begin a fierce, unconventional love affair.
(HA) BIOGRAPHICAL NOVEL; LOVE STORY
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora: an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood, where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad—which Whitehead reimagines here as a literal railroad system, a secret network of tunnels and trains operated by engineers and conductors beneath Southern soil —they decide to take a risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they find the station and head north, they are being hunted.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; MAGICAL REALISM; DARK
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Meet Harold Fry, recently retired. He lives in a small English village with his wife, who seems irritated by almost everything he does. Little differentiates one day from the next. Then one morning, Harold finds a letter addressed to him in a shaky scrawl from a woman he hasn’t seen or heard from in 20 years. Queenie Hennessy is in hospice and is writing to say goodbye. After a chance encounter on his way to mail his reply, Harold decides he must hand-deliver the letter and sets out to cover the 600 miles on foot. Along the way he meets a series of characters, each of whom unlocks his long-dormant spirit and sense of promise.
(DE) HEARTWARMING; QUIRKY
Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
Willa Knox has always prided herself on being the embodiment of responsibility for her family. Which is why it’s so unnerving that she’s arrived at middle age with nothing to show for all that work and dedication is a stack of unpaid bills and a house that is quite literally falling down around her. Now, it’s also home to her ailing father-in-law and two grown children one of whom comes with an unplanned baby in tow. As she begins to research the history of her home, hoping that the local historic preservation society might take an interest and provide funding for its repairs, she discovers a kindred spirit from the 1880s: a science teacher with a passion for honest investigation.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; PARALLEL NARRATIVES
The View from Garden City by Carolyn Baugh
The moving story of a young American student living in the Garden City district of Cairo. Having come to study Arabic, she learns far more from the Egyptian women, young and old, whom she meets within the swirl and tumult of Garden City. Living, loving, and flourishing amid the fierce inflexibility of tradition, these women reveal a fascinating world of arranged marriages, secret romances, and the turbulent bonds between of mothers and daughters.
(UP) MOVING; WOMEN’S LIVES; CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
Kate Battista is stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and pretty, bratty younger sister Bunny, working at a daycare? Her father is on the verge of a breakthrough that could help millions. There’s just one problem: his brilliant young lab assistant is about to be deported, and without him, all would be lost. When Dr. Battista cooks up a plan, he’s relying, as usual, on Kate to help him. Kate is furious—this time he's really asking too much. But will she be able to resist the two men’s touchingly ludicrous campaign to bring her around?
(UP) LIGHTHEARTED; LOVE STORY; QUIRKY
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Working side-by-side for a record label, former punk rocker Bennie Salazar and the passionate, troubled young Sasha hide secrets from one another. Readers first meet Sasha in her mid-thirties, on her therapist’s couch in New York, confronting her long-standing compulsion to steal. They first encounter Bennie at the melancholy nadir of his adult life—divorced, struggling to connect with his son, listening to a washed-up band in a basement in a suburban—and then revisit him in 1979, at the height of his youth in San Francisco’s punk scene.
(MA, UP) LINKED SHORT STORIES; EXPERIMENTAL
The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang
Charles Wang is mad at America. A brash, lovable immigrant businessman who built a cosmetics empire and made a fortune, he’s just been ruined by the 2008 financial crisis. After pulling his youngest children, Andrew and Grace, out of schools he can no longer afford, Charles, along with his second wife, Barbra, takes them on a cross-country road trip to the upstate New York hideout of his eldest daughter, Saina. But with his son waylaid by a temptress in New Orleans, his wife ready to defect for a set 1,000-thread-count sheets, and an epic smash-up in North Carolina, Charles may have to choose between the old world and the new.
(HA) FUNNY; FAMILY DYSFUNCTION
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her—but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known. So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness. Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram’s resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; MAGICAL REALISM
We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
It’s the spring of 1939 and the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war grows closer. The talk around the family Seder table is of new babies and budding romance, not of the increasing hardships threatening Jews in their hometown of Radom, Poland. But soon the horrors overtaking Europe will become inescapable and the Kurcs will find themselves flung to the far corners of the world, each desperately trying to navigate their own path to safety. As one sibling is forced into exile, another attempts to flee the continent, while others struggle to escape certain death.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; FAMILY SAGA; HEART-WRENCHING
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
The three Andreas sisters grew up in a cloistered household dominated by their Shakespearean professor father, a prominent, eccentric academic whose reverence for the Bard left its imprint on his daughters’ names: Rosalind, Bianca, and Cordelia. The sisters eventually left hope and escaped their ponderous monikers with nicknames, but their mother’s medical maladies bring them back. Before long, their unwelcome reunion reveals that they all have problems: Rose is force-feeding a troubled relationship; Bean is entangled in a big city case of embezzlement; and single Cordy is pregnant.
(DE) DOMESTIC FICTION; WITTY; CHARACTER-DRIVEN
What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross
Lucy Wakefield is a seemingly ordinary woman who does something extraordinary in a desperate moment: she takes a baby girl from a shopping cart and raises her as her own. It’s a secret she manages to hide from everyone in her life for over two decades. But when her grown daughter, Mia, discovers the devastating truth of her origins, she is overwhelmed by confusion and anger; the knowledge causes a ripple effect that alters many lives and challenges the meaning of motherhood.
(HA) PSYCHOLOGICAL FICTION; SUSPENSEFUL
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Rumors of the Marsh Girl have long haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in 1969, when Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sands. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life—until the unthinkable happens.
(HA) HAUNTING; COMING OF AGE
Where the Past Begins by Amy Tan
Amy Tan is at her most intimate in revealing truths and inspirations that underlie her extraordinary fiction. By delving into memories of her traumatic childhood, confessions of self-doubt in her journals, and heartbreaking letters to and from her mother, Tan gives evidence that it was both unlikely and inevitable that she would be a writer. Through spontaneous storytelling, she shows how a fluid fictional state of mind unleashed near-forgotten memories that became the emotional nucleus of her work. She also writes about her complex relationship with her father, who died when she was fifteen.
(MA) MEMOIR; THOUGHT-PROVOKING
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
Bernadette Fox has vanished. When her teenage daughter Bee claims a family trip to Antarctica as a reward for perfect grades, Bernadette, a fiercely intelligent shut-in, throws herself into preparations for the trip. But worn down by years of trying to live the Seattle life she never wanted, she’s now on the brink of a meltdown. And after a school fundraiser goes disastrously awry at her hands, she disappears, leaving her family to pick up the pieces—which is exactly what Bee does, weaving together a web of emails, invoices, and school memos that reveal a secret past Bernadette has been hiding for decades.
(HA) FUNNY; LIGHTHEARTED
While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell
When Elise Dalriss’s great-granddaughter recounts a tale about a beautiful princess awakened by a handsome prince’s kiss, it pushes open a door to the past, a door Elise has kept locked for years. For she was the companion to the real princess who slumbered—and she is the only one left who knows the truth of what happened so many years ago. As the memories start to unfold, Elise is plunged back into the world behind the opulent palace walls. Fleeing a hardscrabble existence and personal tragedy, she builds a life for herself as a servant to the royal family and quickly rises within the castle hierarchy.
(DE) FANTASY; FAIRY TALES
White Houses by Amy Bloom
Lorena Hickok meets Eleanor Roosevelt in 1932 while reporting on Franklin Roosevelt’s first campaign. Having grown up worse than poor in South Dakota and reinvented herself as the most prominent woman reporter in America, Hick is not quite instantly charmed by Eleanor. But then as her connection with the future First Lady deepens into intimacy, what begins as a powerful passion matures into a lasting love and a life that Hick never expected to have. She moves into the White House, where her status as “first friend” is an open secret. After she takes a job in the Roosevelt administration, she comes to know Franklin as not only a great president, but as a complicated rival and friend.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; LOVE STORY; WOMEN’S LIVES
The Widow’s War by Sally Gunning
Married for twenty years to Edward Berry, Lyddie is used to the trials of being a whaler’s wife in the Cape Cod village of Satucket, Massachusetts—running their house during her husband’s long absences at sea, living with the daily uncertainty that Edward will simply not return. And when her worst fear is realized, she is doubly cursed. She is overwhelmed by grief, and her property and rights are now legally in the hands of her nearest male relative: her daughter’s overbearing husband, whom Lyddie cannot abide. Lyddie decides to challenge both law and custom for control of her destiny, but she soon discovers the price of her bold “war” for personal freedom to be heartbreakingly dear.
(MA) HISTORICAL FICTION; WOMEN’S LIVES
The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
The divorce has just been finalized, and Richard is already engaged to someone else. One woman, Richard’s ex-wife, is determined to change that—no matter what it takes. Soon a tangle of lies binds her life to Richard and his new fiancée. A tangle of lies that hide some dangerous truths. No one is who they seem to be in this twisted, deliciously chilling novel, which explores the complexities of marriage and those dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.
(DE, MA) PSYCHOLOGICAL FICTION; PLOT TWISTS
The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon
One summer night in 1930, Judge Joseph Crater steps into a New York City cab and is never heard from again. Behind this great man are three women, each with her own tale to tell: Stella, his fashionable wife, the picture of propriety; Maria, their steadfast maid, indebted to the judge; and Ritzi, his showgirl mistress, willing to seize any chance to break out of their chorus line. Soon, the twisted truth will emerge from among the smoky jazz clubs and seedy dressing rooms.
(DE) ATMOSPHERIC; SUSPENSEFUL; HISTORICAL FICTION
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
At age twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her marriage ended. Four years later, with nothing to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike over one thousand miles of the Pacific Coast Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, this memoir captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
(RK) MEMOIR; GRIEF; NATURE
Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur
On a hot July night on Cape Cod when Adrienne Brodeur was fourteen, her mother, Malabar, woke her at midnight with five words that would set the course of both of their lives for years to come: Ben Souther just kissed me. Adrienne instantly became her mother’s confidante and helpmate, blossoming in the sudden light of her attention. From then on, Malabar came to rely on her daughter to help orchestrate what would become an epic affair with her husband’s closest friend. The affair would have consequences for everyone involved, impacting Adrienne’s life in profound ways, driving her into a precarious marriage, and then into a deep depression. Only years later would she find the strength to embrace her life and her mother on her own terms.
(HA) MEMOIR; MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS; FAMILY DYSFUNCTION
Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman
Luisa “Lu” Brant is the first female state’s attorney in Maryland, a job in which her father famously served. She sees an opportunity to make a name for herself by trying a mentally ill drifter accused of beating a woman to death. As she prepares for the trial, the case dredges up painful memories, reminding her of the night her brother saved his best friend at the cost of another man’s life. Now, Lu wonders if the events happened as she remembers them.
(HA) PSYCHOLOGICAL FICTION; ATMOSPHERIC
Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
Meredith and Nina Whitson are as different as sisters can be. But with their beloved father ill, the two find themselves together again, standing alongside their cold, disapproving mother Anya, who, even now, offers no comfort to her daughters. As children, the only connection between them was the Russian fairy tale Anya sometimes told the girls at night. On his deathbed, their father makes the three women promise him: the fairy tale will be told one last time—all the way to the end.
(RK) HISTORICAL FICTION; EMOTIONAL
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
19-year-old Ruthie lives in a farmhouse with her mother, Alice, and her younger sister. Alice has always insisted that they live off the grid, a decision that has weighty consequences when Ruthie wakes up one morning to find that Alice has vanished. In her search for clues, she is startled to find beneath the floorboards a copy of a diary that belonged to Sara Harrison Shea, a mysterious former inhabitant. As Ruthie gets sucked into the historical mystery, she discovers that she’s not the only person looking for someone they’ve lost—but she may be the only one who can stop history from repeating itself.
(DE) INTRICATELY PLOTTED; ATMOSPHERIC
The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn
Anna Fox lives alone, a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her days drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times…and spying on her neighbors. Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. A perfect family. But when Anna is gazing out her window one night, she sees something she shouldn’t. Her world begins to crumble around her and shocking secrets are laid bare.
(HA) PSYCHOLOGICAL FICTION; SUSPENSEFUL
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband’s ancestors. The widow of a resistor murdered in the failed plot to assassinate Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s conspirators: to find and protect their wives. She makes her way across Europe, rescuing first six-year-old Martin from a Nazi reeducation home, then his mother, the beautiful and naïve Benita, and then Ania, another resistor’s wife and her two boys. As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of the resistance movement, she is certain that their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together.
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; ATMOSPHERIC; WOMEN’S LIVES
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
When an infected bolt of cloth carries plague from London to an isolated village, a housemaid named Anna Frith emerges as an unlikely heroine and healer. The story of 1666 unfolds through Anna’s eyes, as she and her fellow villagers confront the spread of disease and superstition. As death reaches into every household and villagers turn from prayers to murderous witch-hunting, Anna must find the strength to confront the disintegration of her community and the lure of illicit love. As she struggles and grows, a year of catastrophe becomes instead annus mirabilis, a “year of wonders.”
(HA) HISTORICAL FICTION; DRAMATIC; LUSH
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
In Iraq, 21-year-old Private Bartle and 18-year-old Private Murphy cling to life as their platoon launches a bloody battle. In the endless days that follow, the young soldiers do everything to protect each other from the forces that press in from all sides. Bound together since basic training when their Sergeant ordered Bartle to watch over Murphy, the two have been dropped into a war neither is prepared for. As reality blurs into nightmare, Murphy becomes increasingly unmoored from the world around him and Bartle takes impossible actions.
(DE) LYRICAL; REFLECTIVE; DARK
The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey
In 20th century Northern Ireland, Eileen O’Neill’s family is torn apart by religious intolerance and secrets from the past. Determined to reclaim her ancestral home and reunite her family, Eileen begins working at the local mill, saving her money and holding fast to her dream. As war is declared on a local and global scale, she can’t separate the politics from the personal impact the conflict has on her own life. She is torn between two men, each drawing her to an extreme: one is a charismatic, passionate political activist determined to win Irish independence at any cost, while the other is a wealthy and handsome black sheep of his pacifist family who owns the mill where she works.
(UP) HISTORICAL FICTION; LOVE STORY; WOMEN’S LIVES
Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
When beautiful, reckless Southern belle Zelda Sayre meets F. Scott Fitzgerald at a country club dance in 1918, she is 17 years old and he is a young army lieutenant stationed in Alabama. Before long, the “ungettable” Zelda has fallen for him, despite his unsuitability: Scott isn’t wealthy or prominent or even a Southerner, and keeps insisting, absurdly, that his writing will bring him both fortune and fame. Her father is deeply unimpressed. But after Scott sells his first novel, Zelda boards a train north to marry him. What follows is the story of their troubled, passionate marriage in the heart of the Jazz Age.
(HA) BIOGRAPHICAL NOVEL; DRAMATIC; WITTY
The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman
When Germany invaded Poland, Stuka bombers leveled most of Warsaw, including the zoo. With most of their cages empty, zookeepers Jan and Antonina Zabinski began smuggling Jews and Polish resisters into the empty pens. Another dozen “guests” hid inside the couple’s villa, emerging for dinner, socializing, and piano. Jan kept ammunition buried in the elephant enclosure and stashed explosives in the animal hospital. Meanwhile, Antonina kept her unusual household afloat, caring for its human and animal inhabitants.
(HA) NON-FICTION; INSPIRING