So you sped through All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Marra's riveting second novel set during World War II. Starring two teenagers—a French girl and a German boy—on opposite sides of the war whose lives become intertwined in surprising ways, this magical, almost fable-like story is a sweeping saga. If you're looking for a book worthy of following it, allow us to humbly present the options below.
If you were drawn to Doerr's not-unsympathetic portrait of German life during wartime—and the explanation of how everyday people could be caught up in the Nazi machine—pick up Hummel's realistic story of a German hausfrau on the homefront, which is based on the lives of her grandparents. Full of pitch-perfect details about the hardships faced by families as resources were diverted to the army, this novel "drive[s] home the humanity and suffering of the people who are frequently considered only as the enemy."
This moving debut, set during the Chechen wars, also features a cast of characters whose lives, at first, appear to have little in common, but are eventually shown to be linked in surprising ways. It also possesses the same emotional heft as Doerr's bestseller—and hey, we already know you like books by authors named Anthony!
Was it the peek at a lesser-known side of World War II that drew you to All the Light We Cannot See? Then you should pick up Jamie Ford's accomplished 2009 debut novel, which sheds light on the shameful treatment of Japanese-Americans in their own country during that conflict. "Ford aims to portray the Japanese-American internment with solid historicity, choosing to focus on how the events affected the course of real people’s lives. And he succeeds," according to our review.
If you thought that Doerr's portrayal of life in France during and World War II felt real, don't miss this long-lost masterpiece. Némirovsky's manuscript for Suite Française was written as the Germans rolled into France, and is that rarest of treasures: A fictional account of WWII as it unfolded. And it was only found some 50 years later, long after the author herself (a Jew) was murdered in Auschwitz.
Fans of the fable-like feel of All the Light We Cannot See should consider picking up The Illuminations, which imagines that the physical and psychological pain of others is visible—shining like a beacon. Through this device, Brockemeier explores the links between suffering and beauty, using the stories of six different characters connected by a journal of love notes, with a wisdom and compassion that will be familiar to readers of Doerr's work.
So you loved All the Light but thought that maybe, just maybe, it could use a little more action? An illicit affair or two? Gillham's twisty debut is your best bet. Set in 1943 Berlin, it's the story of an ordinary German woman who somehow finds herself helping Jewish refugees—even as her husband fights for the Third Reich. The fact that her short-lived lover, whom she still longs for, is Jewish might have something to do with it.
What books do you recommend to readers of All the Light We Cannot See? Tell us in the comments!
RELATED CONTENT: Read our previous "Read it Next" posts.
Masterful home cook Katie Workman's new cookbook Dinner Solved! makes it simple and easy to accommodate kids and picky eaters with tweaks to a single meal. Try this super customizable recipe for Simple One-Skillet Chicken Alfredo Pasta, which can be served as-is, or tweaked with add-ins like sun-dried tomatoes or broccoli florets.
Fork in the Road: Slightly decadent, more than a little comforting, and with some great add-in options to elevate it above the usual.
Serves 6 to 8
What the Kids Can Do
Measure ingredients, pick add-ins, stir with supervision.
While it’s certainly reasonable to thrill over a meal of reheated leftover Alfredo pasta, either warmed on the stovetop or in the microwave, this dish is best when it’s made just before serving.
Note: What does rigate mean? Ridges. And those ridges are what lets the pasta grab onto that sauce and hold it tight. Tighter than a preschooler hangs on to his mom who is about leave him at school for the first time, or maybe even a month or so into the school year, even though he knows she is coming back, because when has she ever not? (Can you tell I still have scars?)
One of the reasons I like to cook mostly healthy food is so I can justify the occasional dish like this one. In between an evening featuring Kale and Quinoa Salad (page 78), and another dinner starring Cornmeal-Crusted Tilapia (page 147), I can rationalize this warm hug of a meal. Plus, any one-skillet meal where the pasta cooks right in the sauce is a gift with purchase, in my book.
1. Cut the chicken breasts into 1-inch pieces. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Melt the butter in a very large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, in batches if necessary, and sauté until nicely browned on the outside, but still a bit pink inside, about 4 minutes (the pieces don’t have to be browned on all sides; two sides is fine). Remove the chicken and set aside on a plate.
3. Do not clean the pan! Those brown bits on the bottom of the pan are going to add flavor to the sauce. Add the garlic to the pan and sauté over medium heat until you can smell it, 30 seconds. Turn the heat to high, add the chicken broth, and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen up all of those delicious caramelized bits. Bring to a simmer, lower to medium heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the pasta, stir well and simmer until the pasta starts to soften, about 8 minutes. Stir in the warm cream and the browned chicken with any juices that have accumulated on the plate. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender, most of the liquid has been absorbed, and the chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes more.
4. Stir in the Parmesan until well incorporated, and adjust the seasonings.
5. You can continue with Step 6 or see the Fork in the Road for add-in suggestions.
6. Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the parsley, if desired. Serve hot and pass extra Parmesan at the table.
When you add the Parmesan in Step 4, you can add any of the following to the pot, alone or in combination; stir over medium heat for another minute or two.
Or, you can serve up portions of Chicken Alfredo Pasta for those who like it plain and simple, and add proportionate amounts of any of the add-ins to the pot.
Which debut author from 2015 is destined to be your new favorite author? Let an old favorite lead you to it.
If you liked The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisburger, you'll love Oh You Pretty Things! by Shanna Mahin.
This workplace drama has loads of humor and a touch of romance, all set against a finely drawn LA backdrop that's just as full of crazy as the fashion industry. (read our review)
Set on Staten Island, this family drama follows a close-knit Irish-Italian family whose world changed forever on 9/11. Like Butler's debut, it is especially good at making the relationships between men feel real. (read our review)
Like Messud's Nora Marie Eldridge, the protagonist of Hausfrau is angry (albeit more passive in expressing it) and definitely not a role model (/understatement). Yet somehow, you can't keep from turning the pages to see what she'll do next. And like Messud, Essbaum has some serious literary chops. (read our review)
Like Sebold's modern classic, Walsh's debut traces the effect of a horrible crime on a community. Walsh takes it a step further, though, to provide a thoughtful examination of what these crimes say about society—especially men—adding timely thematic resonance alongside his suspenseful story. (read our review)
Readers who couldn't get enough of the historical detail and chilly Nordic landscapes of Kent's debut will want to pick up Wolf Winter, which also pits outsiders against their community and features a mysterious death. (read our review)
If you liked The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, you'll love The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader.
Like Miller's Orange Prize winner, Cadwallader's debut takes readers to a vanished world in poetic and polished prose. Her heroine, though, is no warrior, but a 17-year-old girl who voluntarily retreats from society to become a holy woman, or Anchoress. (read our feature story)
In his most recent novel, the author of Corelli's Mandolin returns with another gripping tale of love and war. This time, the children of three neighboring families, who grew up in an Edwardian idyll, face love and loss as World War I rages. De Bernières blends global events with personal stories to great effect, putting both into perspective.
King Edward brought his brief and beautiful age to an end on the sixth day of May in 1910. Prostrated by bronchitis but smoking cigars to the very end that they had been hastening, he leanred from the Prince of Wales that his orse Witch of the Air had won at Kempton. 'I am very glad,' he said, and his servants put him to bed. 'I shan't give in,' he said, 'I am going to fight it,' but he fell into a coma and died at the imminence of midnight.
Thus it was left to King George to deal with what his father had foreseen; and to Rosie, Christabel, Ottilie, Sophie, Sidney, Albert, Archie, Daniel and Ashbridge.
What are you reading this week?
If you couldn't tell from her impressive author photo, Cara Nicoletti is a butcher, but she also loves literature. She combines her passion for food with her love of reading in Voracious, a collection of essays inspired by eating, reading and the delightful combination of the two.
Here, Nicoletti tells us about three books she loves.
Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier
I’m a huge fan of Du Maurier’s Rebecca, but for some reason, I had never picked up any of her other novels until this summer, when a friend recommended Jamaica Inn to me. The book has all the creepy intrigue and romance that I crave in a summer read, and the writing is fantastic, which can’t always be said for spooky, romantic thrillers.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
I’ve been unable to put Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan trilogy down since this past spring, when I was given My Brilliant Friend as a gift. The series follows the lives of two women, Elena and Lila, through their childhood in Italy up into adulthood, and is one of the most complicated and realistic portraits of female friendship I have ever encountered.
Can’t and Won’t: Stories by Lydia Davis
I love reading short stories and essays in the summertime—I find that my attention span is much shorter when I’m hot. Lydia Davis has long been one of my favorite short story writers, and I’m really enjoying Can’t and Won’t: Stories, which came out last spring but I’m only just getting to now.
Thank you, Cara! See anything you'd like to pick up, readers?
A heartbroken widower resolves to make the best of the life that remains in this poignant and deeply felt novel, written by a former dean of Columbia College.
In Peter Pouncey's multilayered debut novel, Rules For Old Men Waiting, it's clear from the opening that regulation play for retired professor and former rugby player Robert MacIver ended when his beloved wife, Margaret, died.
Having found himself alone in life's overtime, MacIver initially concedes defeat. Then the Scots warrior gene that served him so well during his college rugby career kicks in, and MacIver sets himself a new path.
Read the rest of our review here.
In lawyer Solange Ritchie's debut thriller, The Burning Man, an investigative powerhouse named Cat confronts the twisted mind of a killer. In a guest blog post, Ritchie explores the perspectives of these two characters.
During the Middle Ages, the discovery of perspective transformed painting from a flat, nuanced medium into a lifelike portrayal of reality. In my first novel, The Burning Man, I wanted to approach the mystery / thriller genre from a different perspective. When I had finished, The Burning Man had two perspectives that I feel give a more lifelike portrayal of reality. The first perspective is from inside the killer’s head, which gives the reader a glimpse into the gyrations of a crazed, murderous mind. The second is a woman trying to navigate a male-dominated profession and balance the ordinary challenges in her family life, all while confronting extraordinary evil. I didn’t want to use the stereotypical male tough-guy protagonist so often found in mysteries.
I am a fan of the genre. I especially like stories with a serial killer component. But while reading them, I always wondered, Why is he doing it? So I set out to create a character of supreme evil and to invite the reader inside the killer’s head as he stalks, seduces, then tortures and kills his victims. The lead investigator, in viewing the Burning Man’s handiwork, worries that he is leaving messages directed at her: “It was like looking at a Picasso or a Van Gogh. One could not begin to understand the artist without first studying the brush strokes . . . the use of color, line, symmetry, light, dark.”
The reader enters the mind and the insanity of the killer as he spins deeper and deeper into depravity and vicious murder, and in doing so learns of the killer’s past and the torture he endured that set him on his course as the Burning Man.
As for my choice in a lead character, I didn’t want to write about another ex-military, hardboiled, testosterone-fueled male homicide detective. I don’t understand that kind of man, and so to be true to myself, I needed a lead character that I and other career women could relate to. Dr. Catherine (Cat) Powers was born.
Cat is the kind of woman I would want as a friend. She is a strong woman, navigating a male-dominated profession. She understands “life balance” in a different way from noir male detectives. While balance to the hardboiled male character may be choosing whether to have another beer at the bar before returning to his messy studio apartment, balance to Cat is figuring out how to do her job while dealing with the challenges of being a divorced mother, whose young son, Joey, has homework and cries as he watches his mother leave to chase yet another serial killer. Through it all, the reader sees that this mother and son share a strong moral core, true grit and an unbreakable bond—even as Joey becomes bait used by the Burning Man to lure Cat into a deadfall trap.
I gravitated to Cat because of my experience in a male-dominated profession. I am a lawyer, and some days when I enter the courtroom, the only women present are the court clerk and the court reporter. I have been subjected to my share of inappropriate “honey” and “sweetheart” comments. I know the “dismissed” feeling of being a woman in a male-dominated arena. I’ve experienced the unspoken rule that a woman must be “more than equal, she must be better,” or she won’t survive. I bring these experiences to Cat’s story to express the challenges that every marginalized group experiences as we strive to succeed in a game with unfair rules.
The Burning Man’s shifts in perspective give a more lifelike feel to my book. Our lives are filled with mundane tasks of seemingly no great consequence that monopolize our attention. The Burning Man is fixated on the extreme and has no room for the mundane. Cat Powers must catch the Burning Man while juggling a world of the mundane. I feel it creates a tantalizing pairing for the reader as they go from inside the killer’s head to inside Cat’s head and back again.
Looking for the perfect side to complement any grilled dish? Try these Grilled Fingerling Potatoes (ready in just 10 minutes!) from Joe Carroll and Nick Fauchald's new cookbook, Feeding the Fire.
Grilled Fingerling Potatoes
Makes 4 servings
This simple side dish can be served alongside any meat or other main course you’re throwing on the grill. A hot grill crisps up the exterior of the fingerlings so they are like fat steak fries, making them the perfect starch accompaniment.
1. Put the potatoes in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover by 2 inches. Add 1 tablespoon salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and let cool slightly, then cut lengthwise in half.
2. Prepare a hot single-level fire in a grill (see page 149).
3. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with olive oil until well coated. Season with salt and pepper and toss again. Grill the potatoes, cut side down, until charred on the first side, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the potatoes over and grill until the skin is crispy, about 2 minutes longer.
4. Transfer the potatoes to a bowl and toss with the garlic butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper, sprinkle with the parsley, and toss again. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve.