George Eliot’s Middlemarch is a crowning achievement among Victorian novels—a canon with its fair share of weighty masterworks. Admired by generations of writers, including Virginia Woolf, who called it “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people,” it holds primacy of place on many readers’ “to be read” lists, though many probably never get to the somewhat daunting task. Not so Rebecca Mead, a staff writer for The New Yorker, who first read the novel when she was 17 and has re-read it many times since.
The most exciting part of Carson Fender’s day was supposed to be his role in the fourth-biggest prank in Erik Hill Middle School history (it involved fainting goats). That all changed when a mysterious man pressed a mysterious package into Carson’s hands and ran away, only to be abducted by two men with painted white faces. In Codename Zero, by Chris Rylander, Carson learns quickly that crazy, frightening and awesome things can happen anywhere. Even in North Dakota.
Remembering the sacrifices and successes of African Americans—from unexpected champions of civil rights to talented performers who dreamed big—is one of the most inspiring ways to celebrate Black History Month. If we keep teaching our children well, racism just may someday be a thing of the past.
In the winter of 2001, the tragedy of 9/11 is still fresh, especially for 16-year-old Aidan Donovan. There’s something to fear everywhere, and with this fear comes isolation. Only charismatic and vibrant Father Greg offers certainty, and maybe even love, in a world that seems to be falling apart. As Aidan turns to drugs, alcohol and a new set of friends, he begins to question his relationship with Father Greg. Faced with the possibility of a girlfriend for the first time and a classmate who may share Father Greg’s dirty secrets, Aidan has more to ponder, including his own sexuality and his belief system.
African Americans have been struggling for independence, equality and respect from the moment they were brought to the New World in chains. As that struggle continues today, it’s instructive to look back on our turbulent history to learn from the past and hopefully improve on the future. The five books featured here can help us to do just that, examining historical themes that serve as milestones on the journey of progress.
Taking a page straight out of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Margaret Hawkins begins her third novel with the preparation for a dinner party. Each year, Lydia invites a group of friends over for a midwinter meal, where they devour food, sip wine and share secrets. Except this year, Lydia has the biggest secret of all. She has just been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and with only a few weeks to live, she has to share the devastating news so that she can properly say goodbye.
Leah Vincent is a good girl who loves her rabbi father. In her Yeshivish community—a sect within ultra-Orthodox Judaism—she’s a girl “who would never sneak a kosher candy bar that did not carry the extra strict cholov Yisroel certification.”
Vicki Robin transformed our relationship with money in her bestseller Your Money or Your Life, and now she’s set to do likewise regarding our relationship with food. Don’t be misled into thinking her new book belongs in the religion section, though, because Blessing the Hands That Feed Us is all about food systems: how they work, how they don’t and how they can be healed.
Bake It, Don’t Fake It! is a great and wonderfully descriptive title for this straightforward seminar on baking from scratch. Heather Bertinetti, a super-talented pastry pro who has worked in some of the best restaurants in New York City, has made it her mission to dispel the fear of baking that lurks in so many home kitchens and keeps otherwise competent cooks from making pies, pastries, party cakes and beyond.
Jenny Hubbard’s outstanding debut novel, 2011’s Paper Covers Rock, was set at a boys’ boarding school in the 1980s, where a young man struggled to find his poetic voice while overcoming a personal tragedy. Hubbard’s second novel, And We Stay, explores many of the same themes from a female perspective.