A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James – submitted by Valerie Z. – has not read the book
A Brief History of Seven Killings just won the Man Booker Prize and is 680 pp, but don’t hold that against it. The book explores the attempted assassination of Bob Marley in 1976, but contains a whole universe of ideas beyond Jamaican history. The story is told from many points of view, and, according to many reviews, the characters become real to the reader—to me, the true test of a great book. In addition to the many reviews with high praise, I read an excerpt and got hooked
A cool dimension added to the book is the playlist James assembled of music important to him and to the era—reaching much farther out than just reggae—which you can access free on Spotify Excerpt
Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi – submitted by Jamie K. – has not read the book
One of the 100 Notable Books of 2011 by the NYT Book Review; Mr. Fox, the lead character, is a celebrated writer who kills off the heroines in all of his novels, until his muse, Mary, comes to life… and everything changes.
The World is On Fire by Joni Tevis – submitted by Michelle V. – has not read the book
Joni Tevis wanders the American landscape like an explorer: jotting down everything she sees, questioning everything around her: beginning with the haunting of the Sarah Winchester house, Tevis’s essays investigate nuclear tourism in the southwestern desert framed against the tragic plane ride of Buddy Holly and the piano trills of Liberace. Like travelers we wonder the countryside with a door-to-door scissor sharpener, we sit and listen to an auctioneer, we pay homage to the heavy industry of the South, and we learn about marble King, Berry Pink, self-made millionaire. Tevis’ essays of motherhood are like a sermon, wondrously devastating, and filled with imagery of a desolate Alaskan refuge, of the cave of an apostle in Greece, and the gospel of Freddy Mercury. The essays in The World is On Firereconcile the detritus and fallout of our present age with the wonder of a lost one, bringing a kaleidoscopic wonder to the essay form––never losing sight of the pain of the past or the loneliness of the now. These are the sorts of essays that make you sit up straight and wonder aloud, to feel the knots in your body, to look at the world through prismatic glass in sparkling wonder. Politics and Prose Staff Pick Amazon 4 Reviews
This is How You Lose Her – submitted by Elle E. – has read the book
Now Díaz turns his remarkable talent to the haunting, impossible power of love – obsessive love, illicit love, fading love, maternal love. On a beach in the Dominican Republic, a doomed relationship flounders. In the heat of a hospital laundry room in New Jersey, a woman does her lover’s washing and thinks about his wife. In Boston, a man buys his love child, his only son, a first baseball bat and glove. At the heart of these stories is the irrepressible, irresistible Yunior, a young hardhead whose longing for love is equaled only by his recklessness–and by the extraordinary women he loves and loses: artistic Alma; the aging Miss Lora; Magdalena, who thinks all Dominican men are cheaters; and the love of his life, whose heartbreak ultimately becomes his own. In prose that is endlessly energetic, inventive, tender, and funny, the stories in the New York Times-Bestselling This Is How You Lose Her lay bare the infinite longing and inevitable weakness of the human heart. They remind us that passion always triumphs over experience, and that “the half-life of love is forever.” Abstract Amazon 729 Reviews
The Husband’s Secret – submitted by Elle E. – has not read the book
At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read… My Darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died… Imagine your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret – something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others too. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive . . .Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all – she’s an incredibly successful business woman, a pillar of her small community and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia – or each other – but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret. Abstract Amazon 16, 474 Reviews
The Killer Next Door – submitted by Jamie K. – has not read the book
The House at Riverton – submitted by Jamie K. – has read the book
I could not put this book down: The book is set in present day, but much of the book is comprised of flashbacks from the 1920s, as an elderly woman recounts a story of her youth to be portrayed in a documentary. Barnes and Noble 870 Reviews
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – submitted by Joan B. – has read the book
On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. Sadly, she dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual.
For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Clearly history (and Kate Atkinson) have plans for her: In Ursula rests nothing less than the fate of civilization. Wildly inventive, darkly comic, startlingly poignant — this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best, playing with time and history, telling a story that is breathtaking for both its audacity and its endless satisfactions. NY Times review
Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner – submitted by Joan B. – has read the book
Called a “magnificently crafted story . . . brimming with wisdom” by Howard Frank Mosher in The Washington Post Book World, Crossing to Safety has, since its publication in 1987, established itself as one of the greatest and most cherished American novels of the twentieth century. Tracing the lives, loves, and aspirations of two couples who move between Vermont and Wisconsin, it is a work of quiet majesty, deep compassion, and powerful insight into the alchemy of friendship and marriage. NY Times review
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante – submitted by Diane S. – has not read the book
From Vogue: Italian author Elena Ferrante’s gutsy and compulsively readable new novel, the first of a trilogy, is a terrific entry point for Americans unfamiliar with the famously reclusive writer, whose go-for-broke tales of women’s shadow selves—those ambivalent mothers and seething divorcées too complex or unseemly for polite society… shimmer with Balzacian human detail and subtle psychological suspense. Her talents are in full force in My Brilliant Friend …which follows the relationship between two women: studious, quietly determined Elena, who narrates, and the canny, enigmatic Lila, beginning with their girlhood outside Naples in the aftermath of World War II. The novel is told in retrospect: In the brief prologue, Elena is in her sixties, living in Turin, when Lila’s son calls to inform her that his mother has disappeared along with her belongings. Even her face has been cut out of family photographs. “Lila is overdoing it as usual,” Elena thinks to herself, more exasperated than alarmed.
And so Elena decides to write Lila’s story, thus thwarting her friend’s effort to erase herself—and, by extension, Elena. Their stories, we understand, are irrevocably intertwined, as are their certain-to-be-divergent paths; the mystery of their fates is precisely what will drive the narrative. AmazonNY TimesVogue reviewNPR Fresh Air
The Greater Journey by David McCullough – submitted by Theresa P. – has not read the book
It is non-fiction but about diverse and fascinating people living in Paris during an especially interesting era. It is more about what they brought back to the US as a result rather than the later 1920s’ frivolous era when American lived in France — mostly to party. Also, McCullough is a fine writer. NYT Review