Two acclaimed memoirs, a Nick Hornby novel and a sizzling psychological thriller are available in new paperback editions today:
By George Hodgman
Penguin • $17 • ISBN 9780143107880
A publishing industry veteran leaves New York to care for his aging mother in tiny Paris, Missouri, in this warm and wise memoir about family secrets and finding forgiveness.
Publishing: A Writer's Memoir
By Gail Godwin
Bloomsbury • $16 • ISBN 9781620408254
The novelist and three-time finalist for the National Book Award reflects on her 45-year career as a writer, from her early struggles to find her voice to the often frustrating ups-and-downs of the publishing business.
By Nick Hornby
Riverhead • $16 • ISBN 9781101983355
In his engaging seventh novel, the author of High Fidelity and About a Boy chronicles a beauty queen's rise to TV stardom in 1960s London.
By Mary Kubica
Mira • $15.99 • ISBN 9780778318743
When a Chicago woman offers shelter to a homeless teen and her baby, her generous act sets the stage for a tense family drama in this powerful followup to Kubica's bestselling debut, The Good Girl.
Heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and pink stuffed animals are on shelves everywhere, which means Valentine's Day is quickly approaching. Want to get into the lovey-dovey spirit but not a fan of Hallmark variety romance? We've put together a list of our favorite offbeat love stories that will make you feel all of the feelings.
Love in Lowercase by Francesc Miralles
Linguistics professor Samuel is a creature of habit and carefully structured routine. His lone wolf tendencies don't leave him much room for socialization—that is, until a cat wanders into his Barcelona apartment and opens his heart. When he begins taking chances and seeking out a little adventure, he meets a beautiful and mysterious woman named Gabriella who just may be his soulmate.
The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth
An assisted-living facility doesn't exactly stand out as a location that's primed for romance. But Sally Hepworth's surprising and poignant story about 38-year-old Alzheimer patient Anna and her relationship with Luke, a fellow resident at Rosalind House, manages to be heartbreaking and tragic, yet also incredibly romantic and hopeful.
Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
Kent Haruf's final novel may be slim, but it is one of those rare, soul-filling stories that will stay with you long after the final page is turned. Addie and Louis are neighbors, and they have a lot in common: They're both widowed, their children are all grown up and settled far from home, and their days are filled with quiet—often lonely—routine. But when Addie proposes that they start sleeping together—just sleeping, just enjoying the company of another person—an amazing late-life love is forged.
The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie
Veblen is a 30-year-old nonconformist who wears baggy boys' clothing and often chats with a squirrel. She has also fallen in love with Paul, a gifted young neurologist who's busily working on a device used to perform emergency craniotomies. This witty, off-the-wall novel features some of the quirkiest characters in recent memory, along with hilariously placed photographic interludes, and its focus on the importance of love and family makes it one of the most singular reads you'll find this year.
All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani
Bestselling author Trigiani (The Shoemaker's Wife) immerses readers in the lush splendor of Hollywood's Golden Age in her latest novel, All the Stars in the Heavens. This sweeping saga follows famous starlet Loretta Young's secretary Alda as she finds her footing in the industry, and—you guessed it—falls in love with a scenic painter during a film shoot. Clark Gable just happens to be working on the same set, and as soon as the infamous ladies' man sets his eyes on Loretta, sparks fly between them as well, but these relationships don't escape the pitfalls of the era's penchant for excess.
The Lovers by Rod Nordland
New York Times correspondent Rod Nordland's absorbing account of a young, star-crossed couple in the mountains of Afghanistan could be ripped straight from the pages of Shakespeare. Striking Zakia and introverted Ali grew up in neighboring but opposing tribes. After the two defy cultural expectations by falling in love, their families vow to do whatever it takes to restore their honor—even if it means resorting to violence. Nordland takes readers along on a pulse-pounding true-life crusade to find this couple a safe haven, and he weaves in brilliant commentary on the cultural, social and ethical complexities of the region.
Two Across by Jeff Bartsch
For fans of the brainy, hyper-stylized love stories from the minds of Woody Allen and Sofia Coppola, Jeff Bartsch's debut novel is a perfect fit. During the 1960 National Spelling Bee, 15-year-old rivals Vera and Stanley leave the competition in a tie. Each year, they reunite at the competition, and each year, the two grow closer together. In their final year at the competition, Stanley proposes a money-making scheme to Vera: Get married, split the profits from the wedding gifts and pursue their separate paths.
I Take You by Eliza Kennedy
Lily Wilder is about to marry the perfect man, but why does she have cold feet? She loves Will, but she also loves sex outside of the normal monogamous boundaries, and she's not sure if she's prepared, or capable, of giving up on her lifestyle.
Could there be a better group of people to query about love than romance authors? We asked the five authors featured in this month's romance column—and the columnist herself!—to tell us one thing they've learned about love from writing romance novels.
Virginia Kantra, author of our February Top Pick in Romance, Carolina Dreaming
Writing romance forces me to pay attention—to a look, a touch, a moment. It awakens all of my senses, including a sense of appreciation for that one special person in my own life. You know the one, that guy who accepts you at your worst and challenges you to be your best—because the heroines of romance novels don't stumble into perfect relationships. At least mine don't. They have to fight for love. They have to negotiate terms. They have to earn their happy endings. And I think that's a great lesson for all of us.
Eloisa James, author of My American Duchess
Over the years, my characters have taught me a lot about love. One of the secrets to a good romance is coming up with such a profound conflict that the author herself has trouble imagining a happy ending. I’ve begun many novels with that anxious thought . . . and yet by the time I reach the last page, my couple has fought tooth and nail, life and death, to be together. No matter how huge the obstacles, if two people truly love each other, they will make it work!
Jodi Thomas, author of Rustler’s Moon
I discovered that both in life and in fiction, it’s fun to add humor. Funny things happen between couples that bring them closer together. To me there is nothing sexier than a hero who can laugh at himself. So I’m wishing you all much love and laughter this Valentine’s Day.
Dani Pettrey, author of Cold Shot
In writing romantic suspense, I've learned that love is stronger than any opposition. In the midst of the worst circumstances, in the darkest of times, in two weary and heartbroken souls, love can bloom. Love finds a way. It repairs, renews and restores. It brings hope where there was none. It brings happiness despite despair. It overcomes and endures.
Nicole Jordan, author of The Art of Taming a Rake
Boy, an unfair question since there are so many! My top four things I’ve learned:
Christie Ridgway, BookPage's romance columnist and author of the Cabin Fever series
What I've learned from reading, writing and reviewing romance is how much people believe in the enduring power of love. I never grow tired of a story about two people overcoming their flaws and insecurities in order to put their hearts on the table and trust in a bright future together. The popularity of the genre only supports what I know: that the inherent optimism of a romance novel resonates with readers and uplifts and energizes them.
Thank you, authors!
(Virginia Kantra’s author photo by Michael Ritchey, Nicole Jordan's author photo by Debra MacFarlane)
In Charlie Jane Anders' All the Birds in the Sky, a tech whiz and a witch reconnect after a long-ago falling out in order to use their powers for the good of humanity. Our reviewer writes, "Anders adeptly twines magic, surrealism, technological innovation and machinery into a quirky story that, at its base, is about searching for common ground in a world of differences." (Read the review.)
We asked Anders to tell us about a few books she's been reading lately.
Trekonomics by Manu Saadia
“Star Trek” contains many thrilling inventions, from the transporter to the replicator. But Saadia, who works with tech startups in Los Angeles, argues that this series' most important and thrilling innovation is its economic system. Not only does Starfleet exist in a society that has gotten rid of scarcity and deprivation, but it's a future without money and without any economic imperatives as we think of them. But what does that actually mean? Saadia digs into the nitty-gritty of this utopian future, and it's utterly fascinating, as Mr. Spock would say. I went to a panel about the book at New York Comic Con, featuring Saadia alongside Paul Krugman and io9 founder Annalee Newitz, and Saadia asked me to look at an early copy of the book. It's keeping me pretty jazzed so far.
Pretty Much Dead by Daphne Gottlieb
Gottlieb has been one of the most thrilling voices in San Francisco's spoken word and literary scenes over the past dozen years or so, writing poetry and short fiction that burst with emotion along with keen observations about power, self-destruction, sex and salvation. (Full disclosure: She's also a friend of mine.) But her latest collection of stories is a whole new level of indispensible. For the past several years, Gottlieb has also been working as a social worker with various agencies catering to the homeless in San Francisco. She's been right there on the front lines, helping the city's most vulnerable people in the middle of gentrification and displacement. Pretty Much Dead is a collection of incredibly potent stories about poverty, but also about love and desire, drawing on the real-life stories she's encountered. The result feels like a kick in the teeth, but also hits you with incredible moments of beauty and transformation.
Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen
This supernatural Western is just so exciting, on so many levels. The plot moves at a frenetic speed, racing through plot twist after plot twist like Pac-Man eating dots, but meanwhile Bowen somehow packs in a ton of character development and also delves into some incredibly deep themes about identity and personhood. Somehow, she's managed to create a page-turning introspective thriller. Nettie Lonesome is a mixed-race girl who's stuck living on a tiny farm in the middle nowhere where her adoptive parents treat her like a virtual slave—until she meets a vampire, and her world suddenly becomes much bigger and weirder than she could ever have imagined. And that's just the first few pages. You should discover this one for yourself. I told my friend about Wake of Vultures—and the next time I talked to her, a day later, she'd already burned through it and wanted more.
Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson
On the surface, this is sort of a sword-and-sorcery novel in the grand tradition of Fritz Leiber and countless others. A band of mercenaries gets hired to protect a caravan of merchants who are bringing their goods to the far-off city of Olorum, but their route goes through the Wildeeps, a scary, magical place where terrifying monsters lurk. And there's only one safe road through, except that it's not always safe. But once you delve below the surface, this action-packed novella is also about what it's like to be a professional grunt—not a heroic champion, just a workaday soldier—and the relationships that spring up. It's also about one unusual relationship, in particular. And it's about just how far the main character Demane (the titular Sorcerer) will go to save his friends. There's a lot going on here, but there's also awesome swordplay.
Thank you, Charlie Jane!
(Author photo by Tristan Crane)
Quick and easy Lasagna Roll-Ups from Ree Drummond's The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime, our January Top Pick in cookbooks, are perfect for those nights when you want a hearty meal that doesn't require much prep or hassle.
MAKES 20 ROLL-UPS, OR 5 LOAF PANS
Lasagna roll-ups are so perfectly convenient and handy, particularly for smaller households, because they can be easily assembled in small loaf pans and you can just grab the amount you need rather than bake off a huge pan at once. I can never have enough of these in the freezer!
1. Boil the lasagna noodles in a large pot of salted water until al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water to cool and lay flat on a sheet of foil. Set aside.
2. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, mushrooms, bell pepper and garlic and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables are starting to soften.
3. Remove the veggie mixture from the pan. Add the ground beef to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until it’s totally browned. Drain the excess fat and add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, ½ teaspoon of the salt, ½ teaspoon of the pepper and the veggie mixture. Stir to combine. Let the mixture simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.
4. To make the filling, combine the ricotta, ½ cup of the mozzarella, ¾ cup of the Parmesan, the eggs, the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper, 3 tablespoons of the parsley and 3 tablespoons of the basil. Stir to combine.
5. To assemble, spoon a thin layer of sauce into the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan OR five 6-inch disposable foil loaf pans. Spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of the ricotta filling on each noodle and roll them up so that the cheese is on the inside of the roll. Lay them sideways in the pans (four will fit in each loaf pan, or you can fill a 9 x 13-inch pan with the roll-ups). Top evenly with the remaining sauce, mozzarella and Parmesan.
6. Follow the instructions to freeze below. If you’re making the roll-ups right away, preheat the oven to 375°F, place the pan(s) on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until hot and bubbly.
7. Serve with salad and a hunk of bread. Convenient and wonderfully good!
Cover the unbaked pans tightly with heavy foil and freeze for up to 4 months.
To bake the roll-ups, preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the pans on a baking sheet and bake the foil-covered pans for 1 hour 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 30 minutes more, until hot and bubbly.
Thaw the pans in the refrigerator for 24 to 36 hours, until completely thawed.
Bake according to the recipe instructions.
Emma Straub is quickly making a name for herself as an author who can deftly toe the line between literary and popular writing—her books are easy to breeze through, but there's also food for thought for the discerning reader. Her 2014 novel, The Vacationers, was one of the biggest beach reads of the year, and we think the same might be said a few months from now about novel #3, Modern Lovers, which will be published on May 31 by Riverhead Books.
Elizabeth, Andrew and Zoe have been friends ever since college, when they were 3/4 of a moderately successful rock band. Now in their 50s, they've settled in Brooklyn with families and real jobs, but it's not until their own children leave for school (and start sleeping together) that the trio is forced to confront the "shock of middle age"—and the truth about what happened to the fourth member of their group.
Readers looking for a new noir mystery series should definitely pick up a copy of Reed Farrel Coleman's gritty Where It Hurts. They'll meet retired cop Gus Murphy, who has been a barely functioning shell of a man since his son's death two years prior. He's retired and working as a courtesy van driver when ex-con Tonny Delcamino comes to him, pleading for help in his own son's murder case. This new series simply bleeds that noirish atmosphere, from the dusty, grief- striken hero to the no-nonsense dialogue between lowlifes of all types, from cops to gang members.
"Look, Tommy, there's channels for this kind of thing, a chain of command, people to talk to."
"I done that. I talked to them till I'm blue in the face," he said. "I been up one side of that ladder and down the other. Either they don't listen or they don't give a fuck. Who am I, right? I'm a skel, a mutt, a piece of shit. And my kid wasn't no better. None of 'em said it, but they didn't have to. I may be stupid, but I ain't blind neither. Half of 'em thought, with TJ dead that was one less headache for them to deal with down the line."
I wanted to tell him he was wrong, but I didn't because he wasn't. Maybe he was a little harsh about it. Harsh was what he understood. I'd been on the other side of it. Any cop who tells you he doesn't judge some people as better than other is a liar. I did it. We all did. Like the badge and gun, judgments come with the territory. The trick was not treating people differently. The church teaches you that you're judged for your thoughts and deeds, but in the cathedral of the street, thoughts count for little. Deeds talk loudest.
What are you reading today?
Our editors' choice for the top book of 2015 leads the list of new paperbacks on sale today:
A Little Life
By Hanya Yanagihara
Anchor • $17 • ISBN 9780804172707
Ranked #1 on the BookPage list of Best Books of 2015 and a finalist for the National Book Award, this harrowing and unforgettable portrait of childhood trauma and lasting friendship vaulted Yanigihara into the ranks of America’s top novelists.
A Reunion of Ghosts
By Judith Claire Mitchell
Harper Perennial • $15.99 • ISBN 9780062355898
Mitchell’s second novel is the darkly humorous story of three New York City sisters determined to follow their forebears down the path of suicide. Loosely inspired by the real-life experiences of a German chemist and his family, this is a crisply told, compelling tale.
The Brain's Way of Healing
By Norman Doidge, M.D.
Penguin • $18 • ISBN 9780143128373
The doctor who captured the emerging science of neuroplasticity in the 2007 bestseller The Brain That Changes Itself returns to demonstrate the healing power of our adaptable brains. These case studies—of neurological conditions ranging from Parkinson's disease to blindness—offer "tangible treatment ideas for patients who may have thought they were out of options," according to reviewer Sheila Trask.
The Hogarth Shakespeare series continues on June 21, as Pulitzer Prize winner Anne Tyler tackles The Taming of the Shrew. In Vinegar Girl, she brings Kate, Bianca (here called Bunny) and their father into the modern era by casting Kate Battista as a preschool teacher who is popular with her students but occasionally a bit too abrasive when it comes to managing their parents. At home, she's running things for her father, a scientist, and the rather flighty Bunny.
So far, so good, but a forced marriage plot is hard to swing for an adult woman in 2016. Enter the complexities of the U.S. immigration system, which is attempting to deport Dr. Battista's invaluable lab assistant, Pyotr. Can Battista convince Kate to make the ultimate sacrifice?
With more than 20 novels under her belt, Tyler is an accomplished chronicler of family dynamics. It will be interesting to see if she can also capture the comic spirit of her source material. Will you read it?