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by Deborah Harkness
A fun and lusty look at immortality, Time's Convert by Deborah Harkness adds another dimension to her popular All Souls trilogy by focusing on Marcus de Clermont, the "son" of the trilogy's vampiric protagonist, Matthew. Marcus falls in love with a human woman, Phoebe, who agrees to become a vampire to live with him forever. Whisked off to undergo this change, she begins the sometimes terrifying process of becoming immortal.
Marcus, meanwhile, begins bunking with Matthew at the scenic French chateau ... [ Read More » ]
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by Dror Burstein, trans. by Gabriel Levin
In modern-day Jerusalem, an aspiring poet named Jeremiah receives the rudest review any writer can get: a prominent critic smashes a computer keyboard over his head. That violent opening is but a hint of the fireworks to come in Israeli novelist Dror Burstein's Muck, a wildly imaginative retelling of the biblical book of Jeremiah.
In the sixth century BCE, the prophet foretold the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar and the exile of the Jewish people to Babylon, ... [ Read More » ]
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by Ann Hood
The food memoir is a common literary recipe, sating appetites for sustenance as well as story, as reliable a pairing as grilled cheese and tomato soup. Enter a new classic in the larder: Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love and Food by the versatile Ann Hood (The Book That Matters Most).
Like the writing of M.F.K. Fisher, which Hood cites, Hood's prose packs a wallop in these nearly 30 essays. She chronicles her time as a young girl in a large, loving Italian family; a teen model ... [ Read More » ]
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by Jon Agee
Anticipating the reader's perplexity, a diminutive young knight breaks the fourth wall and explains why a red brick barrier bisects almost every spread in this book: "The wall protects this side of the book.../ from the other side of the book." He seems to have lucked out by occupying the left side: the right side hosts a tiger, a rhino, a gorilla and, eventually, an ogre. But as the knight climbs a ladder in order to replace a brick, readers will note his blind spot: he doesn't see that water is ... [ Read More » ]
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by Tomie de Paola
Award-winning author and illustrator Tomie de Paola (Strega Nona) challenges the hustle and bustle of everyday life in his simple, almost lyrical Quiet. A grandfather and his two young grandchildren take a walk outside, noticing the busyness of the world around them. "Everything is in such a hurry," the grandfather remarks at the sight of buzzing bees, flying birds and jumping frogs. But, he tells the children, there is great beauty and wonder in being still and sitting quietly. As the children and ... [ Read More » ]
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by Nadya Okamoto, illus. by Rebecca Elfast
Who knew there was so much to say about menstruation? Harvard sophomore and menstrual rights activist Nadya Okamoto did. Several years ago, the conversations she found herself having with homeless women about how they managed their monthly periods inspired her to look into the politics of menstruation. In 2014, she founded the nonprofit PERIOD, a youth-run engine of what she calls the Menstrual Movement, which seeks to destigmatize the bodily function and ensure that supplies reach those suffering ... [ Read More » ]
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by Lane Moore
... [ Read More » ]
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by Jonathan Lethem
Jonathan Lethem (Lucky Alan; Motherless Brooklyn) turns the traditional private eye novel inside out. Still told in first person, The Feral Detective isn't narrated by the investigator, Charles Heist, but rather by his client, Phoebe Siegler.
After abruptly leaving her job, Phoebe agrees to search for her friend's missing teenage daughter, Arabella. After being referred to Heist, Phoebe isn't quite prepared for what she finds when she meets the detective with the strange nickname. ... [ Read More » ]
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by Paul Dawson, Brian Sheldon
Germaphobes and free spirits alike will delight in Did You Just Eat That?, an entertaining journey into the microbial underworld. Food scientists Paul Dawson and Brian Sheldon, with the help of students from Clemson University, subject popular wisdom to rigorous scientific testing--and present the results in an accessible, introductory format. (The cute illustrations of anthropomorphic bacteria are a bonus.)
Though the title purports to investigate "food myths," that's not quite accurate. Instead, ... [ Read More » ]
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by B.A. Shapiro
Vivienne Gregsby, an art collector's apprentice, is on trial for the murder of her boss at the outset of B.A. Shapiro's eighth novel. Things don't look good for Vivienne, but Shapiro (The Muralist) teases the captivating climax from suspenseful alternating timelines leading to 1928 and the Pennsylvania courtroom.
Bold, duplicitous Vivienne seems an unlikable heroine. At 19, she fled her Brussels home for Paris, adopting a new name and life. She had little choice, since her family disowned her after ... [ Read More » ]
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by Gaston Dorren
If you spoke all of the 20 languages featured in Babel, you could talk with half the world, claims popular linguistics writer Gaston Dorren (Lingo: Around Europe in Sixty Languages). That said, the greatest polyglot in this book is a Cameroonian named Jonas who speaks eight. Dorren offers an intriguing tasting-menu of the major standardized languages, one chapter for each.
Trade and imperialism were the major forces that spread most of these languages among so many people. Some, such as German, ... [ Read More » ]
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by Anuradha Roy
All the Lives We Never Lived by Man Booker nominee Anuradha Roy (Sleeping on Jupiter) centers on the idea that what one values in life may never be truly translatable, even to a loved one. Myshkin, the main narrator, is abandoned by his mother at the age of nine, never understanding why she left or what she gave up by disappearing. The present day of the book takes place in 1992, when Myshkin looks back on his childhood 60 years earlier. With the arrival of lost letters from his mother, he decides ... [ Read More » ]
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by Mark Griffin
Since Rock Hudson's death from AIDS in 1985, there have been numerous books about him published (including his own posthumous as-told-to autobiography). But Mark Griffin's intimate, engaging and superbly researched All That Heaven Allows is by far the definitive biography Rock Hudson and his fans deserve.
After a stint in the navy, the Illinois-born aspiring actor moved to Los Angeles. Talent scout Henry Wilson seduced him, added him as a client and changed his name from Roy Fitzgerald to Rock Hudson. ... [ Read More » ]
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by Robert W. Fieseler
Until the 2016 gun slaughter of 49 people at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, a little-discussed arson case in New Orleans was considered the deadliest attack on a gay bar. On June 24, 1973, a fire set at the Up Stairs Lounge caused a harrowing inferno, taking 32 lives. From its outset, journalist Robert W. Fieseler's Tinderbox distinguishes the Up Stairs fire from other galvanizing incidents in the fight for gay rights. For starters, there is no evidence that this was a hate crime. ... [ Read More » ]
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by David Quammen
In The Tangled Tree, popular science writer and author David Quammen describes recent revolutionary discoveries about the nature of life, evolution and the human race. For context, Quammen begins in 1837 with Charles Darwin's familiar tree of life. He summarizes the theory of evolution, and discoveries leading up to the relatively recent field called molecular phylogenetics, "the study of evolutionary relatedness using molecules as evidence." Genes don't just flow from parent to child, he writes, ... [ Read More » ]
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by Leslie Jamison
While Leslie Jamison (The Empathy Exams) follows the recovery memoir's common arc in The Recovering, her scope is significantly broader. She draws on the stories of several others and their contributing social forces. The result is a staggering investigation into cultural assumptions about addicts, and a necessary critique of a literary scene that idolizes the drunken genius.
At the Iowa Writers' Workshop, Jamison contends with the legacies of literary lushes like Charles Jackson (The Lost Weekend ... [ Read More » ]
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by Ijeoma Oluo
If you want to understand and discuss race and racism, particularly in the U.S., this could be the how-to manual you've wished for. Ijeoma Oluo is a writer, editor and public speaker with years of experience in such conversations. She's persuasive, sympathetic, funny and very direct: "We have a real problem of racial inequity and injustice in our society, and we cannot wish it away. We have to tackle this problem with real action, and we will not know what needs to be done if we are not willing ... [ Read More » ]
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by Alexander Chee
How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, an essay collection by novelist Alexander Chee, bears all the hallmarks of the writer's intelligence, curiosity and precision with language. In these 16 essays, Chee (Queen of the Night) delineates the creative and emotional journey of a half-Korean gay kid from conservative small-town Maine, who emerges as an important voice in American literature. Chee maps the relationship between identity, activism, writing and literary prestige. In a spirit of playful ... [ Read More » ]
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by Sarah Smarsh
The election of Donald Trump helped expose the fault lines separating Americans who inhabit different regions and economic strata. But long before class was a subject of newspaper columns, it was fundamental to Sarah Smarsh's life. Smarsh, a fifth-generation Kansas farm girl who comes from a long line of teenage moms, explores her family's experience and her struggle both to honor and escape her roots in her first memoir, Heartland.
Now a journalist, Smarsh delves into the many factors affecting ... [ Read More » ]
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by Keith O'Brien
More than 80 years after Amelia Earhart's mysterious disappearance, she continues to hold a place among the world's most famous women. What isn't as well known is that Earhart was part of a group of brave, high-achieving and largely forgotten female pilots--fly girls.
A fly girl is "a term used in the 1920s to describe female pilots and, more broadly, young women who refused to live by the old rules, appearing bold and almost dangerous as a result." These fearless women, who came from vastly different ... [ Read More » ]
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by Tara Westover
Raised by deeply religious and survivalist parents on an Idaho mountain, Tara Westover's life was vastly different from other children's. At age seven, she was laboring in her father's junkyard, salvaging scrap metal and operating dangerous machinery. Nobody in the Westover family visited a doctor, relying instead on prayer and herbal concoctions to remedy even the most horrific and life-threatening injuries. Instead of attending elementary school, Westover was "educated in the rhythms of the mountain," ... [ Read More » ]
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by Ben Fountain
A former attorney and author of the novel Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, Ben Fountain dissects the 2016 United States presidential campaign in a series of passionate essays. Coupling historical context with current events, Fountain argues that the country is facing a deep existential crisis. He believes that only twice before in U.S. history--the Civil War and the Great Depression--has a crisis of this level occurred. And each time, "the United States has had to reinvent itself to ... [ Read More » ]
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by Nicole Chung
Nicole Chung's All You Can Ever Know is a memoir of her experiences as a transracial adoptee and her development of a mature understanding of herself and of her adoptive and birth families.
Chung had loving adoptive parents who never discussed race with her, because they believed that was the right thing to do. As she grew older, the love and loyalty she felt for her parents coexisted with new realizations of what she had missed. Her childhood fantasies of her biological family were mingled with ... [ Read More » ]
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by Deborah Eisenberg
Deborah Eisenberg (Twilight of the Superheroes) pushes the short story to new heights in this weirdly affecting collection. Your Duck Is My Duck begins with the titular story, in which a young painter is whisked off to an exotic island retreat, courtesy of a wealthy patron couple. Once there, she meets a genius puppeteer who stages revolution in his productions, not unlike the political tumult consuming the real-life island. In this way, the reader enters Eisenberg's quasi-farcical worlds, ... [ Read More » ]
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by Tommy Orange
In Tommy Orange's brilliant debut novel, There There, 12 people, primarily urban Cheyenne, move toward convergence to attend a big powwow in Oakland--most eagerly, some warily. "We made powwows because we needed a place to be together. We all came... for different reasons. The messy, dangling strands of our lives got pulled into a braid... layered in prayer and hand woven regalia, beaded and sewn together, feathered, braided, blessed and cursed."
Tony Loneman begins the interwoven stories. He ... [ Read More » ]
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by Stephen McCauley
My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley (The Object of My Affection) explores the relationship between a gay man and his ex-wife with wit and wisdom. David rents a carriage house with amazing views in San Francisco and enjoys his career, helping teens apply to colleges. But his partners has left him and his landlord is selling the house, which means David has to move.
In a seaside town on the East Coast, David's ex-wife, Julie, is in the midst of a messy divorce, her second husband threatening custody ... [ Read More » ]
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by Rachel Kushner
Rachel Kushner (The Flamethrowers) paints a dark and gritty picture of the U.S. prison system and the larger, contemporary world in her provocative novel The Mars Room. The action is set at the fictional Stanville Women's Correctional Facility, in the remote Central Valley of California. A diverse cast of inmates--hardscrabble women who formerly lived on the margins of society, suffering poverty, abuse, neglect, drug addiction and sex exploitation--are forced to adapt and make a life inside ... [ Read More » ]
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by Rebecca Makkai
After her beloved brother Nico dies of AIDS in 1985, Fiona Marcus copes with her grief by becoming closer to his many friends in Chicago. Shell-shocked by the rapid progression of a new and mysterious virus that changes vibrant, young gay men into ghosts, the friends live in fear of their future while remembering those they loved in the past.
Fast-forward 30 years. By 2015, Fiona is divorced and managing a nonprofit store that benefits AIDS charities. Her estranged daughter, Claire, has gone ... [ Read More » ]
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by Shobha Rao
A devastating debut, Girls Burn Brighter is a testament to the strength of female friendship in the face of unimaginable trauma. The small Indian village of Indravalli has offered few comforts to young Poornima, who's been left under the command of her abusive father after the death of her mother. Her friendship with the brilliant, resilient Savitha is the only hope Poornima has for happiness in the future, particularly after she is betrothed to marry a man with a grudge against the world. But ... [ Read More » ]
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by Akwaeke Emezi
Akwaeke Emezi's standout first novel, Freshwater, is a riveting and peculiar variation on coming of age. Ada is a Nigerian girl born into great power. Her name invokes the serpent deity of an ancient pantheon, and beckons an Igbo god collective to inhabit her form. These ogbanje are the voices that narrate Ada's youth and blooming adulthood, holding their vessel captive to their whims and assuming control when necessary to protect her.
The girl's childhood is marked by an unstable ... [ Read More » ]
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by Daisy Johnson
Shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize, Everything Under, Daisy Johnson's first novel (following the story collection Fen), is a dreamy, twisty-turning tale set in modern Oxford but calling on mythology and upturning societal norms.
At the novel's opening, Gretel is a lexicographer who mostly keeps to herself, caught up in her mysterious past. She lives in a remote cottage with her mother, Sarah, whom she has recently found and brought home. Then time shifts, and for much of the book ... [ Read More » ]
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by Sayaka Murata, trans. by Ginny Tapley Takemori
In the opening pages of Convenience Store Woman, Keiko Furukura is in her element, at work in the Hiiromachi Station Smile Mart. She knows what the displays need, how properly to promote the day's featured item, when the cold drinks need replenishing. She reads her customers expertly. She is a valued employee and good at her job.
Few situations in Keiko's life have been so easy. In primary school, she often responded to the world in ways others thought wrong: offering to cook and eat a dead ... [ Read More » ]
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by Lisa Halliday
From the get-go, Whiting Award-winner Lisa Halliday signals that the world of her first novel, Asymmetry, will be more like that found behind Lewis Carroll's looking glass than the more prosaic one in front of it. Young editor Alice Dodge is sitting on a New York City park bench trying to read a dense book when Ezra, a famous novelist 50 years her senior, sits down beside her. She is drawn by his fame and conversational flair. From there, the novel takes off into a literary love affair. ... [ Read More » ]