Where to start? There are so many great reads coming out in paperback this week that it’s hard to know where to begin. So we’ll kick things off with the lone nonfiction title on our list:
In the Kingdom of Ice
By Hampton Sides
Anchor • $16.95 • ISBN 9780307946911
Coming in at #9 on the BookPage list of Best Books of 2014, Sides' riveting account of a doomed 19th-century expedition to the North Pole is both thrilling and horrific. Trapped in the ice for two years, the crew of the U.S.S. Jeannette found themselves in an even more precarious position when their ship finally broke apart. This masterful true-life tale would make a gripping (and chilling) summer read.
The Book of Life
By Deborah Harkness
Penguin • $17 • ISBN 9780143127529
The USC historian concludes her magical All Souls trilogy with another dazzling time-travel adventure. If the thick, 500-page hardcover was too heavy for your beach bag, this paperback is the solution. Penguin is also releasing a new boxed set of all three books in the series (including A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night).
Etta and Otto and Russell and James
By Emma Hooper
Simon & Schuster • $15.99 • ISBN 9781476755687
Canadian writer Emma Hooper crafts a quietly powerful story about an octogenarian who sets off on foot from her home in Saskatchewan to see the ocean for the first time—a trek of more than 3,000 kilometers. Along the way, Etta travels through the past and present, as well as the loves and tragedies of her long life.
The Hundred-Year House
By Rebecca Makkai
Penguin • $16 • ISBN 9780143127444
Though this story features a Marxist scholar, an unemployed academic, an annoying mother-in-law and a ghost, the real star of the show is Laurelfield, the Chicago estate where 100 years of family history unfolds. This smart and surprising novel was #14 on our Best Books of 2014 list. The paperback also includes a story from Makkai's forthcoming collection, Music for Wartime.
By René Steinke
Riverhead • $16 • ISBN 9781594633836
The bonds among neighbors in the small Texas town of Friendswood are strained to the breaking point by two controversies: a toxic waste dispute and a rape investigation. Steinke, a 2005 National Book Award finalist (for Holy Skirts), drew her inspiration for the story in part from her own hometown.
Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands
By Chris Bohjalian
Vintage • $15.95 • ISBN 9780307743930
Something entirely different from the talented Bohjalian in his 16th novel: a dystopian tale about the aftermath of a nuclear meltdown. The focus here is on Emily, a Vermont teenager who is left homeless and orphaned by the disaster. As she takes in 9-year-old Cameron and struggles to keep herself and the boy alive, Bohjalian portrays their plight with skill and sensitivity.
Thrills, enlightenment and gripping historical fiction await readers of this week's paperback releases:
Hope to Die
By James Patterson
Grand Central • $16 • ISBN 9781455515820
When five members of the Cross family are kidnapped by an obsessed genius, Alex must play the madman's game to get them back alive.
The Angel in My Pocket
By Sukey Forbes
Penguin • $16 • ISBN 9780143127574
In a profoundly moving meditation on grief and the path to healing, Forbes recounts her struggle to rediscover joy and meaning in life after enduring the death of her 6-year-old daughter, Charlotte. Descended from a long line of New England Brahmins and spiritual seekers (including Ralph Waldo Emerson), Forbes writes about her own dark night of the soul with grace and hard-earned wisdom.
By Laird Hunt
Little, Brown • $16 • ISBN 9780316370165
Narrated by a Civil War soldier who calls herself "Ash Thompson" to disguise her true identity, Hunt's widely praised novel gives palpable life to historical accounts of women on both sides who risked everything to take up arms. Readers will find themselves transfixed by Ash's unique voice and her struggle to survive the war and make it back home to her gentle husband Bartholomew and their Indiana farm. The paperback includes a reader's guide.
It's another big week for new paperback releases, with a strong roster of titles for both fiction and nonfiction readers:
My Salinger Year
By Joanna Rakoff
Vintage • $15.95 • ISBN 9780307947987
Rakoff's compelling recollections of her first job—working in the New York City literary agency that represented, among others, reclusive writer J.D. Salinger—was one of our favorite memoirs of 2014.
By Ruth Reichl
Random House • $16 • ISBN 9780812982022
In her delightful first novel, the former editor of Gourmet and author of the best-selling memoirs Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples combines a young food writer's coming-of-age story with an alluring World War II mystery. The paperback edition includes a reader's guide.
The Shell Seekers
By Rosamunde Pilcher
St. Martin's Griffin • $15.99 • ISBN 9781250063786
It's hard to believe, but this 1987 bestseller from the beloved British writer has never previously been released in an American trade paperback edition. Why now? This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Pilcher novel September and the 15th anniversary of The Winter Solstice. So her U.S. publisher is releasing new editions of all three books. Adapted for both film and television, The Shell Seekers is the kind of engrossing family saga that makes it an ideal beach read.
Everything I Never Told You
By Celeste Ng
Penguin • $16 • ISBN 9781594632921
Ng's moving debut novel, which landed on many best of the year lists and was selected by Amazon as the top book of 2014, opens with a stunning relevation: "Lydia is dead." In meticulously constructed layers, the novel reveals the repercussions of the teen's disappearance and death on her Chinese-American family in small-town Ohio. The paperback includes a Q&A with the author.
A Spy Among Friends
By Ben MacIntyre
Broadway • $16 • ISBN 9780804136655
When it comes to treachery, it's hard to top the story of Kim Philby, who headed Britain's spying efforts against the Soviet Union while secretly working for the enemy. In this masterful biography, which has been optioned for TV by Lionsgate, MacIntyre focuses on Philby's close friends Nicholas Elliott, of Britain's MI6, and James Angleton, of the CIA, both of whom were blindsided by Philby's betrayal.
By Laline Paull
Ecco • $15.99 • ISBN 9780062331175
The heroine of Paull's fascinating novel is an unlikely character: Flora 717 is a worker bee with lowly status in her hive. But when environmental issues put the hive under stress, Flora takes on new roles and begins a climb to power. Based in fact but keenly imagined, this is the ultimate in "buzz" books.
Two mega-best-selling novels lead the roster of paperbacks released this week:
The Invention of Wings
By Sue Monk Kidd
Penguin • $17 • ISBN 9780143121701
With more than a million copies sold since its hardcover publication in January 2014, Kidd's captivating historical novel is already a runaway hit with readers, and this new paperback edition should move it to the top of the list for reading groups everywhere. A book club kit from the publisher is available online.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
By Haruki Murakami
Vintage • $15.95 • ISBN 9780804170123
Another million-seller comes to paperback with this edition of the latest book from international literary star Murakami. A #1 bestseller in hardcover, the novel follows the “colorless” Tsukuru when his four best friends inexplicably shun him after college.
A Man Called Ove
By Fredrik Backman
Atria • $16 • ISBN 9781476738024
This quiet and thoroughly charming novel from one of Sweden's most popular writers has struck a chord with American readers. Ove, who has lost both his beloved wife Sonja and his job, is ready to throw in the towel, but his boisterous new neighbors, his mailman and even his newly adopted cat help to change his plans.
The Mockingbird Next Door
By Marja Mills
Penguin • $17 • ISBN 9780143127666
With the publication of Harper Lee’s newly discovered novel, Go Set a Watchman, just two months away, this controversial portrait of the author and her sister, Alice, at home in Monroeville, Alabama, is especially timely.
Out in paperback this week: a journalist's exposé, novels by two best-selling authors and a book of advice for new graduates. Cue "Pomp and Circumstance."
No Place to Hide
By Glenn Greenwald
Picador • $16 • ISBN 9781250062581
Two years after he broke the story of Edward Snowden and NSA spying, Greenwald's account of the scoop that shook the world is now available in paperback. The relentless investigative reporter details his earliest contacts and first meetings with Snowden, his clashes with authorities and his disdain for mainstream media outlets that, in his view, failed to question government surveillance programs.
The Children Act
By Ian McEwan
Anchor • $15 • ISBN 9781101872871
In the latest novel from the author of Atonement, a judge in London's High Court finds that difficulties in her marriage coincide with one of the most difficult cases of her career: the plight of a teenage boy whose parents refuse to allow a lifesaving blood transfusion.
By Jodi Picoult
Ballantine • $16 • ISBN 9780345544940
The 13-year-old daughter of an elephant researcher investigates the mystery of her mother's disappearance in Picoult's captivating and suspenseful novel. The paperback edition includes a reader's guide and an intriguing prequel: a 50-page story featuring the characters from the novel.
You Are Not Special
By David McCullough Jr.
Ecco • $16.99 • ISBN 9780062393340
Despite the somewhat disparaging tone of the title, McCullough's graduation book is anything but a downer. The high school English teacher (and son of the noted historian) expands on his viral commencement address with words of encouragement: Do what you love, don't be afraid to make mistakes and remember—we're all in the same boat.
Two prize-winning novels and a pair of distinctive memoirs top the list of new paperbacks available this week:
By Lily King
Grove • $16 • ISBN 9780802123701
With a richness of themes that is likely to make it a book club favorite, King's dazzling fourth novel fictionalizes the real-life love triangle of three prominent anthropologists in 1930s New Guinea: Margaret Mead, her then-husband Reo Fortune and her future husband, Gregory Bateson. The paperback edition includes a list of discussion questions.
The Narrow Road to the Deep North
By Richard Flanagan
Vintage • $15.95 • ISBN 9780804171472
Winner of the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2014, Flanagan's powerful novel tells the story of the WWII "bridge over the River Kwai" through the eyes of an Australian surgeon. The story was inspired in part by the experiences of Flanagan's father, an Australian POW forced to work on the notorious Death Railway.
An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth
By Col. Chris Hadfield
Back Bay • $17 • ISBN 9780316253031
Best known to many for his entertaining YouTube videos (including a haunting David Bowie cover recorded in space), the first Canadian to command the International Space Station offers an inside look at what really goes on in an orbiting spacecraft. For those of us stuck firmly on the ground, Hadfield also explains how the lessons he learned in space—on things like leadership and perseverance—can apply to our everyday lives on Earth.
Tibetan Peach Pie
By Tom Robbins
Ecco • $15.99 • ISBN 9780062267412
In this long-awaited collection of "absolutely true stories," the author of Another Roadside Attraction and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues traces his unlikely path from small-town North Carolina boy to West Coast chronicler of the 1970s counterculture.
With Valentine's Day right around the corner, we thought it would be fun to share some of our favorite recent literary love stories—and our thoughts on what makes them memorable.
Of course, our compilation of five books is hardly comprehensive, considering the countless options to choose from. So, we're hoping you'll help us expand the list by voting for your favorite love story in our poll. Voting will be open through Valentine's Day, and we'll share the results the following week. Without further adieu, our favorite recent literary love stories:
Lynn, BookPage Editor
Helen Simonson's debut novel, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, proves that a love story about an older couple can be just as enchanting—and just as appealing to readers—as the connection between two freewheeling 20-somethings. Pettigrew, a retired (and very reserved) British military man, is irresistibly attracted to Mrs. Ali, the Pakistani woman who runs a shop in his village. But with Pettigrew’s son and the narrow-minded ladies of the village standing in their way, can the major and Mrs. Ali build a life together? Simonson shows a wonderfully deft hand in exploring the personal and cultural issues that frame this touching story.
Read our review>>
Trisha, BookPage Managing Editor
Samuel Park’s moving first novel features a strong, memorable heroine torn between love and duty in Korea during the 1960s and 1970s. When Soo-Ja meets Yul, she immediately feels a connection. Unfortunately, she has just agreed to marry another man. Since going back on her promise would mean disgrace for her family, Soo-Ja rejects Yul to marry Min, a decision that haunts her for 20 years. Though Soo-Ja and Yul see each other only periodically, and usually by chance, their fraught encounters are tense with the passion of unrequited love. Fans of grown-up, realistic love stories like Ha Jin’s Waiting or Austen’s Persuasion will devour this debut.
Louisa Clark and Will Traynor: The fact these two are such an unlikely pair makes their love story all the more moving. Freshly laid off and desperate for work, “ordinary girl” Lou takes a job as a companion to Will, an acerbic quadriplegic, former adrenaline junkie who’s understandably despondent due to his predicament. Lou speaks her mind, has a razor-sharp wit and is self-deprecating in a way that dares readers not to succumb to her charms, as Will himself eventually does. Yes, Me Before You is a multiple-hankie novel, but the end brims with such hope and promise that readers will find themselves smiling despite their tears.
Cat, BookPage Associate Editor
We often think of brilliant writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda as a fast-burning, glitzy mess at the heart of Jazz-Age NYC. Therese Anne Fowler’s novel Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald promises a beautiful and damned love story, but also something more. Fowler peels back the layers of history to reveal the unglamorous and rather normal story of their love. It’s the perfect book for readers who like a little dark truth with their romance.
Read our interview with Fowler>>
Hilli, BookPage Editorial Assistant
Eleanor & Park begins when two misfit teens meet on a school bus in 1986. There are no vampires and they don’t live in a dystopian society (depending on your view of suburban Omaha). Rainbow Rowell painstakingly captures the experience of young love—the bliss of holding hands, the shaking fits of glee after a first kiss, the mixtapes—but refuses to shy away from the confusing, untidy aspects that come with the territory. Eleanor and Park are real people with real complexities and a real, grown-up story that will break your heart in the best possible way.
Read our interview with Rowell>>
What do you think, readers? Chime in with your comments, below, and be sure to vote for your favorite literary love story—stay tuned for the results!
Kelly Parsons is a board-certified urologist with degrees from UPenn, Stanford University and Johns Hopkins, and he takes all that surgeon's knowledge and puts it to better use (in my opinion, but I'm biased) with his debut medical thriller, Doing Harm.
We meet chief resident Steve Mitchell, a rising star with a bright surgical future who our reviewer calls "engagingly flawed." But then a patient dies of mysterious circumstances, and the killer starts toying with Steve, threatening his career, his marriage and even his life. And with an actual surgeon behind it, Doing Harm is the perfect blend of authentic hospital atmosphere and tense life-and-death moments.
To find out more about the high-stakes hospital world, we chatted with Kelly Parsons in a Q&A about patients, medical school and the fascinating character of Steve Mitchell—who we're reluctant to trust, or even like. And Parsons agrees:
"Readers shouldn’t necessarily trust Steve. They certainly don’t have to like him. But what I hope they do, on some level, is relate to his dilemma. I want readers to understand why he makes the choices he makes, however flawed those choices may be. The story is essentially about Steve’s moral journey. With some help along the way, Steve finishes the book a much different individual than when he began it."
Doing Harm is out today! Will you check it out?
They don't call Linda Lael Miller the "First Lady of the West" for nothing. The beloved author of more than 100 romance novels—most of them set in the West—knows of which she writes: She grew up on a ranch in Washington state, her father the town marshall who also competed in rodeos.
Miller's authenticity has certainly struck a chord with readers, with all five of the books in her wildly successful Big Sky series landing on the New York Times bestseller list. The just-published sixth—and final—book in the series, Big Sky Secrets, returns to Parable, Montana, to share the passionate love story that unfolds between Landry Sutton, a self-made tycoon, and Ria Manning, the new owner of a flower farm neighboring the Sutton ranch.
In this guest post, Miller reflects upon the ways that her childhood has influenced her career as an author.
My life certainly has influenced my writing in the past, and it continues to do so, I’m glad to say.
I like to say I grew up in the Old West. I rode my first horse before I was two—sharing the saddle with my cowboy dad, of course—and even then, I reportedly loved “cutting the brush,” which is country-speak for chasing stray cattle out of the bushes, etc., on horseback.
I heard a lot of great stories as a child, and some of them later turned up in books, slightly altered. My father and uncle both followed the rodeo circuit back in the day—Dad rode bulls and Uncle Jack rode broncs. Dad gave it up after he drew a particularly bad bull and got himself banged up, but Uncle Jack continued to compete for a long time.
Naturally, tales of the rodeo—and attending a number of them myself—sparked a lot of ideas that came in handy later.
As kids, my brother and I (we have two sisters, but they’re a lot younger) spent a lot of time on the Wiley ranch, outside of our old hometown, Northport, Washington, where Dad later became the town marshal. He had the star-shaped badge and the whole shebang.
Our honorary grandmother, Florence Wiley, grew up on a farm outside of Coffeyville, Kansas, and she told some great stories while cooking many a meal on the old cast-iron woodstove she refused to give up, even after the ranch got electricity.
My favorites were 1) an account of the night Jessie James slept in the Heritage family barn and 2) the day the Dalton brothers tried to rob the bank in Coffeyville. It seems the townspeople got wind of the plan ahead of time, and when the Daltons rode in, the local men were waiting with rifles and pistols. The whole motley bunch was shot to death in the space of a few minutes, and later, their bodies were strapped to old doors and boards and propped up against the wall of a building on the main street as an object lesson to anybody who might be considering a life of crime.
Gramma heard the shots from the farm, but though folks came from far and wide to view the spectacle, her father was ahead of his time and refused to parade his children past a row of dead outlaws, thank you very much.
Television was a big influence on my writing style, too, I must admit. I LOVED “Bonanza,” or more properly Little Joe Cartwright, as played by Michael Landon, and I’m pretty sure I learned the concept of scenes by noticing how they began and ended on the show. Obviously, something had to be happening before the commercial break to bring the viewers back after Dinah Shore sang, “See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet…”
Today, I’m living in the country again, just as I did in the early days. Guess you could say I’ve come full circle!
Thank you so much, Linda! Big Sky Secrets is available now. Will you be checking it out, readers?
(Author photo: John Hall Photography)
The Son, Philipp Meyer's epic, time-sprawling Western novel, landed in the #5 spot of our Best Books of 2013. Our reviewer called the family saga "a shining second step in a promising career." (Read the full review here and our interview with Meyer about the book here.)
We were curious about the books Meyer has enjoyed reading lately, so we asked him to recommend three recent favorites, which he graciously agreed to share:
By Karl Ove Knausgaard
This was recommended to me by Cressida Leyshon, the New Yorker editor, at a recent holiday party. By some miracle, despite being drunk on gallons of free champagne, I managed to remember the title. Turns out everyone in New York is reading this book. Often that’s reason enough to avoid something, but this book is actually brilliant. It’s being billed as the new version of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, but it’s not. It’s better. It is a goddamn excellent book.
Life After Life
By Kate Atkinson
I have been beating the drum on this one for a while. Before this book, Atkinson was known mostly as a crime novelist, but this is an absolutely brilliant work of literature. This is not the same as saying there are no differences between literature and entertainment, because those differences are real. But Atkinson is one of those rare writers who will be master of whatever she sets her mind to. It made me furious when this book was passed over for the Man Booker prize. But now it’s popping up on every best book of the year list for 2013, for very, very good reason.
Kafka on the Shore
By Haruki Murakami
I went through a huge postmodernist phase in university, but I thought it had been flushed from my system along with all the dope I smoked back then. I grew up into a fairly modernist writer, and the fact that every hipster wanna-be loves Murakami was enough to make me give him a wide berth for years. But Murakami actually belongs in his own category. Unlike a lot of other postmodern writers, his writing has real emotional depth. He doesn’t do anything just to be clever. There is always a point to his twists and turns. And the fact that this guy didn’t even start writing until he was nearly 30 years old . . . you’ve got to love a person like that, who in his late 20s picks up a pen for the first time and by his 40s is one of the modern masters. I think Kafka on the Shore is the one for everyone to start with.
What do you think, readers? Did you enjoy The Son, or do you plan on checking out any of Meyer's recommended books?