“Anna was a good wife, mostly.” So opens Jill Alexander Essbaum’s remarkable debut novel, the mesmerizing story of Anna Benz, an American expatriate who has lived in Zurich for nine years with her husband, Bruno—a Swiss banker—and their three children.
A dose of dark humor, a captivating historical novel and the 2014 National Book Award winner for fiction make great selections for reading groups this month.
Kelly Link tends to inspire a range of comparisons to other authors—usually, some blend of Angela Carter and Haruki Murakami—but, in fact, nobody writes stories like hers. Link’s fantastical worlds feel utterly real, partly because they’re intensely matter-of-fact. Her characters are sassy, moody and cool, and they never, ever make any big deal out of the fact that there are monsters, aliens, vampires or ghosts hanging around, or that they might stumble into a pocket universe or some alternate dimension. Mostly they’re concerned with cute guys and flirting and drinks, plus occasionally needing to save the world.
Finding the Worm is Mark Goldblatt’s second book about Julian Twerski and his 34th Avenue gang, based on the author’s childhood experiences in Queens, New York. The sequel to Twerp continues with language that is simple and accessible but packs a punch, especially when dealing with the sensitive topic of cancer.
Slinking through the grass with panache, Duck believes he is a cat, just like his friend Cat. Or, at the very least, he will be when he grows up. But when Duck tries to follow Cat up a tree, his lack of claws (and general lack of catness) becomes sadly apparent.
O. Henry Prize winner Jan Ellison’s debut novel is a puzzle with the outside pieces finished. Reading it is like compulsively fitting all those revealing middle pieces together. Annie Black, a happily married 40-something San Francisco businesswoman, delves into her careless youth after her 21-year-old son is injured in a car accident. Spinning a tale of the three drunken months she spent in Europe in 1989, she demonstrates how the past can shape the future.
The indefatigable Mary Pope Osborne returns with a new title in her popular Magic Tree House series. Set in occupied France during World War II, Danger in the Darkest Hour, the first Magic Tree House Super Edition, provides the same reading level as the Merlin Missions (books 29 through 52) but with a longer story and more complex plot.
If your holiday hit list includes cookbooks, you’re in luck. Pick the right book for the lucky cook and serve it up!
Though it evolves constantly, fashion would grow stagnant without personal flourishes like a favorite pair of lived-in jeans. “The best things in life are free,” Chanel famously said. “The second best are very expensive.”
Three novels exploring the confines of art and artistry make great picks for reading groups this month.