Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Strout returns in January with a new novel, My Name Is Lucy Barton.
Strout explored the complicated relationships of three brothers in her last book, The Burgess Boys, but in her new novel, she once again explores the mother-daughter bond—the relationship that powered her knockout 1999 debut, Amy & Isabelle.
Lucy Barton and her mother are long-estranged, but when Lucy needs help after surgery, her mother comes for a visit. Their reunion brings years of tension and longing to the surface, as Lucy reflects on her difficult childhood and her relationship with her own two daughters.
Will you read it?
Few books can transport you to an entirely different world like a finely-tuned sci-fi or fantasy can. From adventures in distant futures on distant planets to tongue-in-cheek satires and magical fairy tales to all-too-possible dystopian thrillers, we've rounded up some of the best offerings from 2015.
It’s hard to follow a debut novel like Ready Player One: It immediately became an international phenomenon, was published in 40 countries and is in the works to become a movie, but Ernest Cline's winning formula that blends Gen-X nostalgia, pop-culture references and high-stakes adventure is once again executed to a T in his second novel, Armada. High school student Zack Lightman finds himself in the middle of a government conspiracy and on the frontlines of an alien invasion that only the best gamers are unwittingly prepared for. And yes, it's supposed to remind you of Ender's Game and The Last Starfighter.
Dennis Mahoney reimagines the colonial era of the 1700s, when European empires were sending explorers to the New World, in his latest novel. But the familiarity ends there, as the Old World is called Heraldia and the New World is known as Floria. The natural world is home to fantastical wonders and meteorological phenomena, seasons can change in a matter of hours and unpredictable "colorwashes" often transform the landscape. If you're looking to get lost in a magical wilderness, then Bell Weather is the historical fantasy for you.
Grossman's wickedly witty alternative history stars one of our most (in)famous and parodied presidents, Richard Nixon. In Crooked, everything you know about Nixon's politics, the Watergate scandal and the Cold War is wrong. Narrated by Grossman's own version of Nixon, we discover a world in which he wasn't a paranoid and conniving president, but a selfless hero battling a supernatural enemy much scarier than the Soviet Union.
Looking to escape Earth? In the compelling Mother of Eden, author Chris Beckett returns readers to the alien world of his award-winning novel Dark Eden. The characters are familiar, as they are descendants of the first novel's original castaways, yet instead of a struggle for survival, this story deals with humans navigating now thriving communities on the planet Eden. The reader quickly learns that Eden's alien flora and fauna aren't nearly as threatening as other humans on their worst behaviors.
Neal Stephenson, one of the most popular science-fiction writers in America, imagines Earth’s impending doom and its aftermath in his latest gripping novel. After the moon explodes, it becomes apparent that Earth isn’t long for this universe. National divisions dissolve as the human race bands together to give humanity a chance at survival in outer space. And—despite quite a few setbacks—it works! Humanity survives and thrives—for 5,000 years, at that—on another planet. But after five millennia, people become curious about returning to the legendary planet known as Earth. Filled with detail and technical minutiae, this novel is a sci-fi space odyssey with a giant, mesmerizing scope.
Are you ready to dive into a vast world of magic and adventure a lá George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, but a bit hesitant to pick up an 800-page doorstopper with a hefty roster of characters to keep track of? Then Naomi Novik has the perfect entry-level fantasy for you with her spellbinding novel Uprooted. This fairy-tale influenced story follows 17-year-old Agnieszka as she leaves her sleepy, vaguely Eastern European village for an apprenticeship with a gruff master wizard known as the Dragon. A classic and inspiring good-versus-evil story with plenty of magic, monsters and romance, this fantasy is easily one of the year's most accessible.
After a year of ravaging, headline-grabbing drought in California and incredibly deadly wildfires eating up swaths of the American West, The Water Knife is about as timely as a sci-fi novel can be. Bacigalupi envisions an eerie, not-so-distant future where climate change has caused another dust bowl and California, Nevada and Arizona are willing to wage war over water rights. Bacigalupi's dystopian novel is a thriller that will keep you turning the pages, but it doesn't shy away from exploring the politics of greed, bureaucracy and environmental regulation. Similar to Margaret Atwood's stories, The Water Knife is a frightening vision of an all-too-plausible future.
English professor and YA author Joseph Monninger (Finding Somewhere) dedicated his new book, Whippoorwill, to his late dog, Laika: "Last of the sled dogs. No truer heart ever lived." Whippoorwill drives straight to the heart of dog- and animal-lovers everwhere, with the story of a 16-year-old girl who takes it upon herself to save a dog named Wally.
In a guest post, Monninger shares another story—a myth that captures the "essence of dog."
Here is a myth about a dog. Whippoorwill is about a dog, and this myth gets to the essence of dog. I could tell you about writing Whippoorwill, where I got the idea and so on, but wouldn’t we all prefer a story? I think so.
The Ponte della Maddalena, a bridge in Italy’s Tuscany province, is also known as the Devil’s Bridge. It is a beautiful bridge, and legend holds that the builder, seeing its potential beauty but unable to complete it, invoked the devil to help him. The devil consulted with the builder and promised to help finish the work, but the price would be the first soul to pass over the bridge. The builder consented and the work went along rapidly. The builder, tremendously pleased with himself and with his expanding reputation as a designer and architect, had forgotten about the devil’s bargain until the day before the bridge opened.
“I have come for my soul,” the devil told the builder. “Tomorrow, when the bridge opens, I will take the first soul that crosses.”
The builder, so filled with dread he could not sleep, came to his morning coffee not knowing what to do. He asked God for a sign, though he did not believe God would interfere with the devil’s work. He spoke softly to his wife. He had not told her what Satan required, but he could not be certain he would see her again. He kissed his boy on the forehead, ruffled the youngster’s hair and walked slowly toward the bridge.
He made one stop to buy bread. As he tucked the bread inside his shirt, a dog began to follow him. Many dogs roamed the street in Lucca, and at first the builder took little notice. But then, as he neared the bridge, an idea came to him.
“I am ready to pay my debt,” he announced to the devil.
“Very well,” said the devil, “give me my soul.”
With that, the builder drew the bread and waved it in front of the dog. When the dog could hardly contain itself, the builder threw the loaf across the bridge. The dog sprinted after the bread and the devil, bested by a mere builder who had remembered at the last moment that a human soul had never been stipulated, accepted the dog’s soul and disappeared. The dog, too, vanished, but the bridge remained and may be crossed today without fear and with much admiration for its lovely shape. The dog’s name was not known and therefore could not be forgotten.
If you know a dog, if you’ve ever been in the presence of a fine, true dog, then you know how gladly a dog would give itself to protect its human guardian. I wrote this novel with all the dogs I have ever loved in mind. If someday I should die and go to heaven, and if my dogs are not there to greet me, I’ll ask to go where they are, because dogs—for me, anyway—are the measure of my happiness.
Our September Nonfiction Top Pick, Once in a Great City by Pulitzer Prize-winner David Maraniss, is a fascinating look at Detroit in its golden days. Our reviewer writes, "David Maraniss didn’t set out to write a ghost story, but Once in a Great City, his glimmering portrait of Detroit, has a lingering, melancholy quality that will leave the reader thoroughly haunted." (Read the review.)
We asked Maraniss to tell us about three books he's enjoyed reading lately.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This was a book that reached me on many levels. First, the young blind girl was one of the most touching and unforgettable characters I've encountered in fiction in many years. Second, the way the stories were fitted together stunned me. And third, I was overwhelmed by the beautiful and precise use of language.
I Will Have Vengeance and other Commissario Ricciardi detective novels by Maurizio de Giovanni
No book seemed more relevant to the issues of this year than this illuminating biography of one of America's forgotten heroes, the Jackie Robinson of the Southeastern Conference, a brilliant student and quietly powerful force who endured the worst of human indignities and paved the way for thousands of African American athletes to follow.
Thank you, David!
(Author photo by Lucian Perkins)
Every month, we review the hottest new romance releases in our Romance column. But why let the print books have all the fun? In Digital Dalliances, we highlight digital-only releases guaranteed to heat up your eReader.
A supermodel throwing a tantrum in her dressing room is nothing new to Simone, the owner of Irresistible, a very high-end lingerie shop that caters to the elite. And that an obviously wealthy man is accompanying the petulant supermodel is nothing new, either. However, the pull she feels toward Mr. Money Bags is new to Simone—she never crushes on clientele. But she senses something unusual about Ryan, and when he begins showing up at her shop after hours, she can’t help try to unravel his mysteries.
Even without makeup, Jade was stunningly beautiful in a way that women had been conditioned to not only accept, but to try to emulate. She was tall, rail thin, and putting on a very good show of being comfortable in her body, even though Simone had spent enough time around runway models to know better.
But Ryan, while not classically handsome, was more compelling. He was shorter than Jade, even when she wasn’t wearing the four-inch heels, but when they were standing side-by-side Simone wouldn’t have guessed that. He radiated a Wall Street wolf’s power, a confidence that came from success . . . But as she watched Ryan with Jade, she got the sense that he was on edge, a certain tightness around his eyes and jaw.
Do you think you'll be picking up this romance novel for your eReader?
Our cooking columnist Sybil Pratt has deemed Alice Waters "one of our national culinary treasures." Her new cookbook, My Pantry, is filled with the recipes for the staples she stocks her own pantry with, such as this simple and nourishing Superfood Granola.
Fanny’s Superfood Granola
Makes about 7 cups (1¾ pounds)
Part of what encouraged my transition to whole grains was having my daughter, Fanny, a whole-grain and superfood enthusiast, back home from time to time. When Fanny was in college, she came up with the recipe for this granola, which she claims gave her the long-lasting energy she needed to get through a morning of classes. Making granola is not at all complicated and you can easily customize the recipe. The only time-consuming part is stirring it while it bakes to ensure it doesn’t burn around the edges. Serve it with homemade yogurt for a delicious and healthy start to the day, or eat it by itself as an afternoon snack.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl, mix together the oats, buckwheat, quinoa, almonds, chopped nuts, sesame seeds, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla and salt.
Measure the coconut oil and honey into a heavy-bottomed saucepan.
Warm over low heat, stirring until combined. Pour half the mixture into the dry ingredients and toss to distribute. Add the remaining oil and honey mixture and toss again until the granola is evenly moistened. Spread the mixture evenly on a rimmed baking sheet or jelly-roll pan. Bake for 10 minutes, then take the pan out of the oven and toss the granola with a spatula. Return to the oven, removing the pan and stirring every 5 minutes to ensure even toasting, until lightly browned, about 30 minutes in total. Add the raisins and coconut and bake for a final 5 minutes to lightly toast the coconut. The mixture should be golden.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
Canadian writer Yann Martel hit a home run with Life of Pi, an international bestseller and Man Booker Prize winner—even the film ended up with a handful of Academy Awards. His second novel, Beatrice & Virgil, was a bestseller but didn't quite reach the same level as his debut (allegories about the Holocaust are not necessarily an easy sell).
Will his third novel be more successful in capturing readers' imaginations? We will find out in February, when The High Mountains of Portugal is published by Spiegel & Grau. As with his previous work, the premise is anything but usual: Blending three storylines that cover most of the 20th century, the novel is set both in Lisbon and the mythical mountains of the title, which just might contain an artifact that will change the way the world thinks about religion. Oh, and there's also a chimpanzee involved. We have to admit, we're curious! How about you?
You may recognize Jesse Eisenberg as an Academy Award-nominated actor from films such as The Social Network, but he is also an established playwright and author who has been featured in publications including the New Yorker and McSweeney's. In his first collection of short stories, Bream Gives Me Hiccups, Eisenberg's sharp comic timing lends plenty of laugh-out-loud moments to stories that span a wide variety of subjects from arguments between college roommates to reimagined historical scenes, but there are also an astonishing amount of introspective moments and tender displays of human vulnerability. The first grouping of stories, which lend the book its title, are told from a 9-year-old restaurant critic's point of view and are simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking. This collection is a wonderful fall read for those looking for some brainy humor, emotional depth and a few lovely lines of prose that are sure to get under your skin.
Sushi Nozawa does not have any menus, which Mom said made it fancy. The Sushi chef is very serious and he stands behind a counter and serves the people whatever he wants. He is also mean.
The first thing they brought us was a rolled up wet washcloth, which I unrolled and put on my lap because Mom always said that the first thing I have to do in a nice restaurant is put the napkin in my lap. But this napkin was hot and wet and made me feel like I peed my pants. Mom got angry and asked me if I was stupid.
The mean woman then brought a little bowl of mashed up red fish bodies in a brown sauce and said that it was tuna fish, which I guess was a lie because it didn’t taste like tuna and made me want to puke right there at the table. But Mom said that I have to eat it because Sushi Nozawa was “famous for their tuna.” At school, there is a kid named Billy who everyone secretly calls Billy the Bully and who puts toothpaste on the teacher’s chair before she comes into the classroom. He is also famous.
What are you reading?
I love the classic historical romance time periods like Regency England, but I also love unexpected settings, like World War I or, as is the case with Marissa Campbell's print debut, the year 869. Avelynn is the story of the forbidden love between a Saxon noblewoman and a Viking warrior.
In this guest post, Campbell tells us how she landed on Anglo-Saxon England as the setting for Avelynn and reveals the real events that helped inspired her.
I’m often asked what inspired Avelynn, and in all honesty, it was the cold dark nights between Outlander novels. I had just finished reading my hot-off-the-shelf hardcover copy of Diana Gabaldon’s An Echo in the Bone and was waiting longingly for the next installment, when I decided I would write a novel to help other lost and bookless readers like myself.
Avelynn popped onto the page all spit and vinegar—I loved her immediately—but I needed a time period that would allow me to play with her tenacious personality. I picked the Anglo-Saxon era because, well, men and swords, but also because women had a modicum of power. They could lead men in battle, as the real historical figure Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, does some 20 years after Avelynn is set. They could own land and chattel and bequeath them onto their children, and they had an influential voice in Council, the chief court of the time. Avelynn even had a fantastic role model in England’s very first queen, the historical Queen Judith, daughter of Charles the Bald of Francia. Judith rebelled against social norms and her father’s reach and power, eloping with her true love, Count Baldwin of Flanders. Women were making things happen during this time period, and I knew Avelynn would fit in wonderfully.
I was diligent in my study and research of the world, but I didn’t want a historical bogged down in political machinations and minutiae. What I wanted was an escape—a romance with strong historical details that would transport readers to the land of Vikings and Anglo-Saxons. The thing that always made me return to Gabaldon’s novels was the connection between Jamie and Claire. I wanted to create two characters with a deep love built of respect and equality. I wanted a love story that would resonate with readers. Which led me to my favourite movie of all time: Grease. One year alone, I’m pretty sure I watched it 365 times! The story of Danny and Sandy always stuck with me. With Avelynn and Alrik, I wanted just that, a summer love that was (sing it with me) ripped at the seams . . . but ah/oh those summer nights!
I’m also a huge fan of “Game of Thrones” and the Mists of Avalon, so a straight-up historical wouldn’t do. I wanted an element of the mystical and otherworldly. In a time when elves caused disease and witches uttered hexes and curses, there was plenty of magic to be found in 869 Anglo-Saxon England, and Avelynn wanted to play her part in that.
Looking for more romance? Sign up for our monthly romance newsletter, Smitten!