2014 Fall Reading:
A Girl is A Half–Formed Thing by Eimear McBride
Eimear McBride’s acclaimed debut tells the story of a young woman’s relationship with her brother, and the long shadow cast by his childhood brain tumor, touching on everything from family violence to sexuality and the personal struggle to remain intact in times of intense trauma. Took the author 9 years to get this debut novel published. Book Browse
A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman
In this bestselling and delightfully quirky debut novel from Sweden, a grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door. Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?
Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations. Amazon
Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn
Two years ago, sixteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else. But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie. Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know this one simple truth: She’s not the crazy one and never has been. When reading Complicit, trust nothing and no one as you race toward the explosive conclusion of this gripping psychological thriller from the William C. Morris Award – winning author of Charm & Strange. Book Browse
Confessions by Kanae Minato
After calling off her engagement in the wake of a tragic revelation, Yuko Moriguchi had nothing to live for except her only child, four-year-old child, Manami. Now, following an accident on the grounds of the middle school where she teaches, Yuko has given up and tendered her resignation. But first she has one last lecture to deliver. She tells a story that upends everything her students ever thought they knew about two of their peers, and sets in motion a diabolical plot for revenge. Narrated in alternating voices, with twists you’ll never see coming, Confessions probes the limits of punishment, despair, and tragic love, culminating in a harrowing confrontation between teacher and student that will place the occupants of an entire school in danger. You’ll never look at a classroom the same way again. Book Browse
The Frozen Dead by B Minier
Saint-Martin-de-Comminges is a small town nestled in the French Pyrenees. The kind of place where winters are harsh and unforgiving and where nothing ever happens. Until the winter morning when a group of workers discover the headless, flayed body of a horse, hanging suspended from the edge of a frozen cliff. On the same day the gruesome discovery takes place, Diane Berg, a young psychiatrist starts her first job at a high-security asylum for the criminally insane, just a few miles away. She is baffled by the slightly unorthodox methods the asylum’s director uses, and then greatly alarmed when she realizes that drugs are disappearing from within the fortified institution while someone seems to be slipping out at night. Commandant Martin Servaz, a charismatic city cop from nearby Toulouse fond of quoting Latin, can’t believe he has been called out over the death of an animal. But there’s something disturbing about this crime that he can’t ignore. Then DNA from one of the most notorious inmates of the asylum, a highly intelligent former prosecutor, accused of killing and raping several women, is found on the horse carcass… and a few days later the first human murder takes place. A dark story of madness and revenge seems to be unfolding. Servaz and his colleague, the mysterious Irene Ziegler, must use all their skill to solve the terrifying mystery and best one of the most fiendish and clever opponents they could ever imagine. Book Browse
The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
“I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don’t know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she’s scared. But I will.”
Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia Dennett moves against the grain as a young inner-city art teacher. One night, Mia enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn’t show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. With his smooth moves and modest wit, at first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia’s life.
Colin’s job was to abduct Mia as part of a wild extortion plot and deliver her to his employers. But the plan takes an unexpected turn when Colin suddenly decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota, evading the police and his deadly superiors. Mia’s mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them, but no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family’s world to shatter. An addictively suspenseful and tautly written thriller, The Good Girl is a propulsive debut that reveals how even in the perfect family, nothing is as it seems….Amazon review
Life Drawing by Robin Black
Debut novel that begins with the death of Owen as told by his wife: “Gus” for Augustus. Remember the old term: “ A stranger comes to town” and so it begins when Alison, the stranger arrives at this rural area where Gus & Own have retreated to heal their relationship in solitude.
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam – a city ruled by glittering wealth and oppressive religion – a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant. “There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed…” On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office – leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin. But Nella’s world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist – an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways… Johannes’ gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand – and fear – the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation… or the architect of their destruction? Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth. Book Browse
One Kick by Chelsea Cain
Famously kidnapped at age six, Kick captured America’s hearts when she was rescued five years later. Now, twenty-one, she finds herself unexpectedly entangled in a missing child case that will put her talents to the test. Trained as a marksman, lock picker, escape artist and bomb maker by her abductor, Kick could not return to the life of the average young girl after her release. So, in lieu of therapy, she mastered martial arts, boxing, and knife throwing; learned how to escape from the trunk of a car, jimmy a pair of handcuffs, and walk without making a sound – all before she was thirteen. Kick has trained herself to be safe. But then two children go missing in three weeks, and an enigmatic and wealthy former weapons dealer approaches her with a proposition. John Bishop uses his fortune and contacts to track down missing children. Not only is he convinced Kick can help recover the two children—he won’t take no for an answer. With lives hanging in the balance, Kick is set to be the crusader she has always imagined herself. Little does she know that the answers she and Bishop seek are hidden in one of the few places she doesn’t want to navigate – the dark corners of her own mind. A heart-stopping, entertaining thrill ride, One Kick announces the arrival of a blistering new series by a stunning talent in the thriller realm. Amazon & Book Browse
The Secret Place by Tana French
Another thriller by Dublin writer, Tana French. A popular boy is found murdered at a “posh” girls school. One year later a photo of him appears with the caption of “ I know who killed him”. Thus the cold case is now being investigated again with tensions high with students, parents, school administrators and the police. People & Amazon reviews
The Secret Sky by Atia Abawi
Fatima is a Hazara girl, raised to be obedient and dutiful. Samiullah is a Pashtun boy raised to defend the traditions of his tribe. They were not meant to fall in love. But they do. And the story that follows shows both the beauty and the violence in current-day Afghanistan as Fatima and Samiullah fight their families, their cultures and the Taliban to stay together. Based on the people Atia Abawi met and the events she covered during her nearly five years in Afghanistan, this stunning novel is a must-read for anyone who has lived during America’s War in Afghanistan. Perfect for fans of Patricia McCormick, Linda Sue Park, and Khaled Hosseini, this story will stay with readers for a long time to come. Book Browse Review)
The Story Hour by Thrity Umrigar
An experienced psychologist, Maggie carefully maintains emotional distance from her patients. But when she meets a young Indian woman who tried to kill herself, her professional detachment disintegrates. Cut off from her family in India, Lakshmi is desperately lonely and trapped in a loveless marriage to a domineering man who limits her world to their small restaurant and grocery store. Moved by her plight, Maggie treats Lakshmi in her home office for free, quickly realizing that the despondent woman doesn’t need a shrink; she needs a friend. Determined to empower Lakshmi as a woman who feels valued in her own right, Maggie abandons protocol, and soon doctor and patient have become close friends. But while their relationship is deeply affectionate, it is also warped by conflicting expectations. When Maggie and Lakshmi open up and share long-buried secrets, the revelations will jeopardize their close bond, shake their faith in each other, and force them to confront painful choices.
We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride
Beyond Las Vegas’s casinos lies a boomtown where four lives can be brought together by one split-second choice. In the predawn hours, a woman’s marriage crumbles with a single confession. Across town, an immigrant family struggles to fit in and get by in the land of opportunity. Three thousand miles away, a soldier wakes up in Walter Reed hospital with the vague feeling that he’s done something awful. In a single moment, these disparate lives intersect. Faced with seemingly insurmountable loss, each person must decide whether to give in to despair, or to find the courage and resilience to rise. We Are Called to Rise is a story about a child’s fate. It is a story about families—the ones we have and the ones we make. It challenges us to think about our responsibilities to each other and reminds us that compassion and charity can rescue us, even in our darkest moment. It is a book that will break your heart and then put it back together. Book Browse, Book Passage & Amazon
We are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
Born in 1941, Eileen Tumulty is raised by her Irish immigrant parents in Woodside, Queens, in an apartment where the mood swings between heartbreak and hilarity, depending on whether guests are over and how much alcohol has been consumed. When Eileen meets Ed Leary, a scientist whose bearing is nothing like those of the men she grew up with, she thinks she’s found the perfect partner to deliver her to the cosmopolitan world she longs to inhabit. They marry, and Eileen quickly discovers Ed doesn’t aspire to the same, ever bigger, stakes in the American Dream. Eileen encourages her husband to want more: a better job, better friends, a better house, but as years pass it becomes clear that his growing reluctance is part of a deeper psychological shift. An inescapable darkness enters their lives, and Eileen and Ed and their son Connell try desperately to hold together a semblance of the reality they have known, and to preserve, against long odds, an idea they have cherished of the future. Through the Learys, novelist Matthew Thomas charts the story of the American Century, particularly the promise of domestic bliss and economic prosperity that captured hearts and minds after WWII. The result is a riveting and affecting work of art; one that reminds us that life is more than a tally of victories and defeats, that we live to love and be loved, and that we should tell each other so before the moment slips away. Epic in scope, heroic in character, masterful in prose, We Are Not Ourselves heralds the arrival of a major new talent in contemporary fiction. Book Browse.
Your Face on Mine by Jess Row
An award-winning writer delivers a poignant and provocative novel of identity, race and the search for belonging in the age of globalization. One afternoon, not long after Kelly Thorndike has moved back to his hometown of Baltimore, an African American man he doesn’t recognize calls out to him. To Kelly’s shock, the man identifies himself as Martin, who was one of Kelly’s closest friends in high school and, before his disappearance nearly twenty years before, skinny, white, and Jewish. Martin then tells an astonishing story: After years of immersing himself in black culture, he’s had a plastic surgeon perform – “racial reassignment surgery” – altering his hair, skin, and physiognomy to allow him to pass as African American. Unknown to his family or childhood friends, Martin has been living a new life ever since. Now, however, Martin feels he can no longer keep his new identity a secret; he wants Kelly to help him ignite a controversy that will help sell racial reassignment surgery to the world. Kelly, still recovering from the death of his wife and child and looking for a way to begin anew, agrees, and things quickly begin to spiral out of control. Inventive and thought provoking, Your Face in Mine is a brilliant novel about cultural and racial alienation and the nature of belonging in a world where identity can be a stigma or a lucrative brand. Book Browse
Blue Eyed Boy by Robert Timber
A Vietnam soldier recovery from horrific burns and recovers his life…from Amazon: In January 1967, Robert Timberg was a short-timer, counting down the days until his combat tour ended. He had thirteen days to go before he got to go back home to his wife in Southern California. That homecoming would eventually happen, but not in thirteen days, and not as the person he once was. The moment his vehicle struck a Vietcong land mine divided his life into before and after. He survived, barely, with third-degree burns over his face and much of his body. It would have been easy to give up. Instead, Robert Timberg began an arduous and uncertain struggle back—not just to physical recovery, but to a life of meaning. Remarkable as his return to health was—he endured thirty-five operations, one without anesthesia—just as remarkable was his decision to reinvent himself as a journalist and enter one of the most public of professions. Blue-Eyed Boy is a gripping, occasionally comic account of what it took for an ambitious man, aware of his frightful appearance but hungry for meaning and accomplishment, to master a new craft amid the pitying stares and shocked reactions of many he encountered on a daily basis.
By the 1980s, Timberg had moved into the upper ranks of his profession, having secured a prestigious Nieman Fellowship at Harvard and a job as White House correspondent for The Baltimore Sun. Suddenly his work brought his life full circle: the Iran-Contra scandal broke. At its heart were three fellow NavalAcademy graduates and Vietnam-era veterans, Oliver North, Bud McFarlane, and John Poindexter. Timberg’s coverage of that story resulted in his first book, The Nightingale’s Song, a powerful work of narrative nonfiction that follows these three academy graduates and two others—John McCain and Jim Webb—from Annapolis through Vietnam and into the Reagan years. In Blue-Eyed Boy, Timberg relates how he came to know and develop a deep understanding of these five men, and how their stories helped him understand the ways the Vietnam War and the furor that swirled around it continued to haunt him, and the nation as a whole, as they still do even now, nearly four decades after its dismal conclusion. Amazon
Blood Feud by Edward Klein
The feud between the Obamas & Clintons and the book gives us a better understanding of why the Obamas & Clintons have taken certain political positions….normally don’t list a political book but given the 2016 elections and present scandals it was interesting.
The Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II by Vicki Croke
The remarkable story of James Howard “Billy” Williams, whose uncanny rapport with the world’s largest land animals transformed him from a carefree young man into the charismatic war hero known as Elephant Bill. Fascinating.
Excellent Sheep by William Deresiewicz
An ex- Yale professor examines elite colleges and the “sheep” they produce. He argues that schools should teach students to think and not just scoring “lucrative “ jobs.
Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer
Mara Nichols is a successful lawyer, devoted wife, and adoptive mother who have received a life-shattering diagnosis. Scott Coffman, a middle school teacher, has been fostering an eight-year-old boy while the boy’s mother serves a jail sentence. Scott and Mara both have five days left until they must say good-bye to the ones they love the most. Through their stories, Julie Lawson Timmer explores the individual limits of human endurance and the power of relationships, and shows that sometimes loving someone means holding on, and sometimes it means letting go. Amazon
In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides
In the late nineteenth century, people were obsessed by one of the last unmapped areas of the globe: the North Pole. No one knew what existed beyond the fortress of ice rimming the northern oceans, although theories abounded. The foremost cartographer in the world, a German named August Petermann, believed that warm currents sustained a verdant island at the top of the world. National glory would fall to whoever could plant his flag upon its shores. James Gordon Bennett, the eccentric and stupendously wealthy owner of The New York Herald, had recently captured the world’s attention by dispatching Stanley to Africa to find Dr. Livingstone. Now he was keen to re-create that sensation on an even more epic scale. So he funded an official U.S. naval expedition to reach the Pole, choosing as its captain a young officer named George Washington De Long, who had gained fame for a rescue operation off the coast of Greenland. De Long led a team of 32 men deep into uncharted Arctic waters, carrying the aspirations of a young country burning to become a world power. On July 8, 1879, the USS Jeannette set sail from San Francisco to cheering crowds in the grip of “Arctic Fever.” The ship sailed into uncharted seas, but soon was trapped in pack ice. Two years into the harrowing voyage, the hull was breached. Amid the rush of water and the shrieks of breaking wooden boards, the crew abandoned the ship. Less than an hour later, the Jeannette sank to the bottom, and the men found themselves marooned a thousand miles north of Siberia with only the barest supplies. Thus began their long march across the endless ice – a frozen hell in the most lonesome corner of the world. Facing everything from snow blindness and polar bears to ferocious storms and frosty labyrinths, the expedition battled madness and starvation as they desperately strove for survival. With twists and turns worthy of a thriller; In The Kingdom of Ice is a spellbinding tale of heroism and determination in the most unforgiving territory, Book Browse.
Michelangelo: A Life in Six Masterpieces by Miles J Unger
The life of one of the most revolutionary artists in history, told through the story of six of his greatest masterpieces. Among the immortals – Leonardo, Rembrandt, Picasso – Michelangelo stands alone as a master of painting, sculpture, and architecture. He was not only the greatest artist in an age of giants, but a man who reinvented the practice of art itself. Throughout his long career he clashed with patrons by insisting that he had no master but his own demanding muse and promoting the novel idea that it was the artist, rather than the lord who paid for it, who was creative force behind the work. Miles Unger narrates the astonishing life of this driven and difficult man through six of his greatest masterpieces. Each work expanded the expressive range of the medium, from the Pietà Michelangelo carved as a brash young man, to the apocalyptic Last Judgment, the work of an old man tested by personal trials. Throughout the course of his career he explored the full range of human possibility. In the gargantuan David he depicts Man in the glory of his youth, while in the tombs he carved for the Medici he offers a sustained meditation on death and the afterlife. In the Sistine Chapel ceiling he tells the epic story of Creation, from the perfection of God’s initial procreative act to the corruption introduced by His imperfect children. In the final decades of his life, his hands too unsteady to wield the brush and chisel, he exercised his mind by raising the soaring vaults and dome of St. Peter’s in a final tribute to his God. A work of deep artistic understanding, Miles Unger’s Michelangelo brings to life the irascible, egotistical, and undeniably brilliant man whose artistry continues to amaze and inspire us after 500 years. Book Browse
Mr Mutter’s Marvels: A True Tale of Intrigue and Innovation at the Dawn of Modern Medicine by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz
A mesmerizing biography of the brilliant and eccentric medical innovator who revolutionized American surgery and founded the country’s most famous museum of medical oddities Imagine undergoing an operation without anesthesia performed by a surgeon who refuses to sterilize his tools or even wash his hands. This was the world of medicine when Thomas Dent Mütter began his trailblazing career as a plastic surgeon in Philadelphia during the middle of the nineteenth century. Although he died at just forty-eight, Mütter was an audacious medical innovator who pioneered the use of ether as anesthesia, the sterilization of surgical tools, and a compassion-based vision for helping the severely deformed, which clashed spectacularly with the sentiments of his time. Brilliant, outspoken, and brazenly handsome, Mütter was flamboyant in every aspect of his life. He wore pink silk suits to perform surgery, added an umlaut to his last name just because he could, and amassed an immense collection of medical oddities that would later form the basis of Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum. Award-winning writer Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz vividly chronicles how Mütter’s efforts helped establish Philadelphia as a global mecca for medical innovation, despite intense resistance from his numerous rivals. (Foremost among them: Charles D. Meigs, an influential obstetrician who loathed Mütter’s “overly” modern medical opinions.) In the narrative spirit of The Devil in the White City, Dr. Mütter’s Marvels interweaves an eye-opening portrait of nineteenth-century medicine with the riveting biography of a man once described as the “P. T. Barnum of the surgery room.” Amazon & Book Browse
Take this Man: A Memoir by Brando Skyhorse
From PEN/Hemingway award winner Brando Skyhorse comes this stunning, heartfelt memoir in the vein of The Glass Castle or The Tender Bar, the true story of a boy’s turbulent childhood growing up with five stepfathers and the mother who was determined to give her son everything but the truth. When he was three years old, his Mexican father abandoned Brando Kelly Ulloa. His mother, Maria, dreaming of a more exciting life, saw no reason for her son to live his life as a Mexican just because he started out as one. The life of “Brando Skyhorse,” the American Indian son of an incarcerated political activist, was about to begin.
Through a series of letters to Paul Skyhorse Johnson, a stranger in prison for armed robbery, Maria reinvents herself and her young son as American Indians in the colorful Mexican-American neighborhood of Echo Park, California. There Brando and his mother live with his acerbic grandmother and a rotating cast of surrogate fathers. It will be over thirty years before Brando begins to untangle the truth of his own past, when a surprise discovery online leads him to his biological father at last. “ Amazon
Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek, MD
The fearless memoir of a young forensic pathologist’s “rookie season” as a NYC medical examiner, and the cases—hair-raising and heartbreaking and impossibly complex—that shaped her as both a physician and a mother. Just two months before the September 11 terrorist attacks, Dr. Judy Melinek began her training as a New York City forensic pathologist. With her husband T.J. and their toddler Daniel holding down the home front, Judy threw herself into the fascinating world of death investigation—performing autopsies, investigating death scenes, counseling grieving relatives. Working Stiff chronicles Judy’s two years of training, taking readers behind the police tape of some of the most harrowing deaths in the Big Apple, including a firsthand account of the events of September 11, the subsequent anthrax bio-terrorism attack, and the disastrous crash of American Airlines flight 587.
Lively, action-packed, and loaded with mordant wit, Working Stiff offers a firsthand account of daily life in one of America’s most arduous professions, and the unexpected challenges of shuttling between the domains of the living and the dead. The body never lies—and through the murders, accidents, and suicides that land on her table, Dr. Melinek lays bare the truth behind the glamorized depictions of autopsy work on shows like CSI and Law & Order to reveal the secret story of the real morgue. Amazon
Blind by Rachel Dewoskin
Emma is a high school sophomore who has to relearn how to navigate her small town world after an accident permanently blinds her. There are many challenges and self-pity is just one.
Like No Other by Una LaMarche
Refreshing tale of forbidden love…a Hasidic girl and a nerdy West Indian boy Get stuck in an elevator together and “fall for each other” People Review.9/114
The Young World by Chris Weitz
A viral plague has killed everyone in the world except teenagers. The story focuses on a group of kids trying to find a cure