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Summer 2012 Reading List

THE HOTTEST BOOK CLUB BOOKS OF THE YEAR

Heft by Liz Moore

Arthur Opp weighs 550 pounds and hasn’t left his rambling Brooklyn home in a decade. Twenty miles away, in Yonkers, seventeen-year-old Kel Keller navigates life as the poor kid in a rich school and pins his hopes on what seems like a promising baseball career ― if he can untangle himself from his difficult family life. The link between this unlikely pair is Kel’s mother, Charlene, a former student of Arthur’s. After nearly two decades of silence, it is Charlene’s unexpected phone call to Arthur ― a plea for help ― that shatters their isolation. Told with warmth and intelligence through Arthur and Kel’s own quirky and lovable voices, Heft is the story of two improbable heroes whose connection transforms both their lives. It is a memorable, heartbreaking, and ultimately redemptive novel about finding sustenance and friendship in the most surprising places.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

Jeanette Winterson’s bold and revelatory novels have earned her widespread acclaim, establishing her as a major figure in world literature. She has written some of the most admired books of the past few decades, including her internationally best-selling first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the story of a young girl adopted by Pentecostal parents, that is now often required reading in contemporary fiction classes.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a memoir about a life’s work to find happiness. It is a book full of stories: about a girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night; about a religious zealot disguised as a mother who has two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the dresser, waiting for Armageddon; about growing up in a north England industrial town now changed beyond recognition; about the universe as a cosmic dustbin. It is the story of how a painful past, which Winterson thought she had written over and repainted, rose to haunt her later in life, sending her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her biological mother. It is also a book about other people’s literature, one that shows how fiction and poetry can form a string of guiding lights, a life raft that supports us when we are sinking.

Witty, acute, fierce, and celebratory, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? is a tough-minded search for belonging—for love, identity, home, and a mother.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

By an acclaimed writer at the height of his powers, The Sense of an Ending extends a streak of extraordinary books that began with the best-selling Arthur & George and continued with Nothing to Be Frightened Of and, most recently, Pulse.

This intense new novel follows a middle-aged man as he contends with a past he has never much thought about—until his closest childhood friends return with a vengeance, one of them from the grave, another maddeningly present. Tony Webster thought he’d left all this behind as he built a life for himself, and by now his marriage and family and career have fallen into an amicable divorce and retirement. But he is then presented with a mysterious legacy that obliges him to reconsider a variety of things he thought he’d understood all along, and to revise his estimation of his own nature and place in the world. 

A novel so compelling that it begs to be read in a single sitting, with stunning psychological and emotional depth and sophistication, The Sense of an Ending is a brilliant new chapter in Julian Barnes’s oeuvre.

The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje

In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy in Colombo boards a ship bound for England. At mealtimes he is seated at the “cat’s table” — as far from the Captain’s Table as can be — with a ragtag group of “insignificant” adults and two other boys, Cassius and Ramadhin. As the ship makes its way across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, into the Mediterranean, the boys tumble from one adventure to another, bursting all over the place like freed mercury. But there are other diversions as well: one man talks with them about jazz and women, another opens the door to the world of literature. The narrator’s elusive, beautiful cousin Emily becomes his confidante, allowing him to see himself “with a distant eye” for the first time, and to feel the first stirring of desire. Another Cat’s Table denizen, the shadowy Miss Lasqueti, is perhaps more than what she seems. And very late every night, the boys spy on a shackled prisoner, his crime and his fate a galvanizing mystery that will haunt them forever.

As the narrative moves between the decks and holds of the ship and the boy’s adult years, it tells a spellbinding story — by turns poignant and electrifying — about the magical, often forbidden, discoveries of childhood and a lifelong journey that begins unexpectedly with a spectacular sea voyage.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

From the New York Times-bestselling author of A Gentleman in Moscow, a “sharply stylish” (Boston Globe) novel of a young woman in post-Depression era New York who suddenly finds herself thrust into high society.

On the last night of 1937, twenty-five-year-old Katey Kontent is in a second-rate Greenwich Village jazz bar when Tinker Grey, a handsome banker, happens to sit down at the neighboring table. This chance encounter and its startling consequences propel Katey on a year-long journey into the upper echelons of New York society — where she will have little to rely upon other than a bracing wit and her own brand of cool nerve.

With its sparkling depiction of New York’s social strata, its intricate imagery and themes, and its immensely appealing characters, Rules of Civility won the hearts of readers and critics alike.

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

A gorgeous novel by the celebrated author of When the Emperor Was Divine that tells the story of a group of young women brought from Japan to San Francisco as “picture brides” nearly a century ago. In eight unforgettable sections, The Buddha in the Attic traces the extraordinary lives of these women, from their arduous journeys by boat, to their arrival in San Francisco and their tremulous first nights as new wives; from their experiences raising children who would later reject their culture and language, to the deracinating arrival of war. Once again, Julie Otsuka has written a spellbinding novel about identity and loyalty, and what it means to be an American in uncertain times.

CURRENT FICTION

Canada by Richard Ford

The only writer ever to win both the Pulitzer Prize and Pen/Faulkner Award for a single novel (Independence Day) Richard Ford follows the completion of his acclaimed Bascombe trilogy with Canada. After a five-year hiatus, an undisputed American master delivers a haunting and elemental novel about the cataclysm that undoes one teenage boy’s family, and the stark and unforgiving landscape in which he attempts to find grace.

A powerful and unforgettable tale of the violence lurking at the heart of the world, Richard Ford’s Canada will resonate long and loud for readers of stark and sweeping novels of American life, from the novels of Cheever and Carver to the works of Philip Roth, Charles Frazier, Richard Russo, and Jonathan Franzen.

Home by Toni Morrison

An angry and self-loathing veteran of the Korean War, Frank Money finds himself back in racist America after enduring trauma on the front lines that left him with more than just physical scars. His home — and himself in it — may no longer be as he remembers it, but Frank is shocked out of his crippling apathy by the need to rescue his medically abused younger sister and take her back to the small Georgia town they come from, which he’s hated all his life. As Frank revisits the memories from childhood and the war that leave him questioning his sense of self, he discovers a profound courage he thought he could never possess again. A deeply moving novel about an apparently defeated man finding his manhood — and his home.

The World Without You by Joshua Henkin

From the author of the New York Times Notable Book Matrimony, a moving, mesmerizing new novel about love, loss, and the aftermath of a family tragedy…

It’s July 4, 2005, and the Frankel family is descending upon their beloved summer home in the Berkshires. But this is no ordinary holiday. The family has gathered to memorialize Leo, the youngest of the four siblings, an intrepid journalist and adventurer who was killed on that day in 2004, while on assignment in Iraq.

The parents, Marilyn and David, are adrift in grief. Their forty-year marriage is falling apart. Clarissa, the eldest sibling and a former cello prodigy, has settled into an ambivalent domesticity and is struggling at age thirty-nine to become pregnant. Lily, a fiery-tempered lawyer and the family contrarian, is angry at everyone. And Noelle, whose teenage years were shadowed by promiscuity and school expulsions, has moved to Jerusalem and become a born-again Orthodox Jew. The last person to see Leo alive, Noelle has flown back for the memorial with her husband and four children, but she feels entirely out of place. And Thisbe  — Leo’s widow and mother of their three-year-old son — has come from California bearing her own secret.

Set against the backdrop of Independence Day and the Iraq War, The World Without You is a novel about sibling rivalries and marital feuds, about volatile women and silent men, and, ultimately, about the true meaning of family.

Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta

In the sibling relationship, “there are no first impressions, no seductions, no getting to know each other,” says Denise Kranis. For Denise and her brother, Nik, now in their forties, no relationship is more significant. They grew up in Los Angeles in the late seventies and early eighties. Nik was always the artist, always wrote music, always had a band. Now he makes his art in private, obsessively documenting the work but never testing it in the world. Denise remains Nik’s most passionate and acute audience; she is also the crucial support for Nik and for their aging mother, whose dementia seems to threaten her own memory. When Denise’s daughter, Ada, decides to make a film about Nik, everyone’s vulnerabilities escalate.

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel

The sequel to Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel’s 2009 Man Booker Prize winner and New York Times bestseller, Bring Up the Bodies delves into the heart of Tudor history with the downfall of Anne Boleyn.

Though he battled for seven years to marry her, Henry is disenchanted with Anne Boleyn. She has failed to give him a son and her sharp intelligence and audacious will alienate his old friends and the noble families of England. When the discarded Katherine dies in exile from the court, Anne stands starkly exposed, the focus of gossip and malice.

At a word from Henry, Thomas Cromwell is ready to bring her down. Over three terrifying weeks, Anne is ensnared in a web of conspiracy, while the demure Jane Seymour stands waiting her turn for the poisoned wedding ring. But Anne and her powerful family will not yield without a ferocious struggle. Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies follows the dramatic trial of the queen and her suitors for adultery and treason. To defeat the Boleyns, Cromwell must ally with his natural enemies, the papist aristocracy. What price will he pay for Anne’s head?

Enchantments: A Novel of Rasputin’s Daughter and the Romanovs by Kathryn Morris

St. Petersburg, 1917. After Rasputin’s body is pulled from the icy waters of the Neva River, his eighteen-year-old daughter, Masha, is sent to live at the imperial palace with Tsar Nikolay and his family. Desperately hoping that Masha has inherited Rasputin’s healing powers, Tsarina Alexandra asks her to tend to her son, the headstrong prince Alyosha, who suffers from hemophilia. Soon after Masha arrives at the palace, the tsar is forced to abdicate, and the Bolsheviks place the royal family under house arrest. As Russia descends into civil war, Masha and Alyosha find solace in each other’s company. To escape the confinement of the palace, and to distract the prince from the pain she cannot heal, Masha tells him stories — some embellished and others entirely imagined — about Nikolay and Alexandra’s courtship, Rasputin’s exploits, and their wild and wonderful country, now on the brink of an irrevocable transformation. In the worlds of their imagination, the weak become strong, legend becomes fact, and a future that will never come to pass feels close at hand.

Arcadia by Lauren Groff

In the fields of western New York State in the 1970s, a few dozen idealists set out to live off the land, founding a commune centered on the grounds of a decaying mansion called Arcadia House. Arcadia follows this romantic utopian dream from its hopeful start through its heyday. Arcadia’s inhabitants include Handy, the charismatic leader; his wife, Astrid, a midwife; Abe, a master carpenter; Hannah, a baker and historian; and Abe and Hannah’s only child, Bit. While Arcadia rises and falls, Bit, too, ages and changes. He falls in love with Helle, Handy’s lovely, troubled daughter. And eventually he must face the world beyond Arcadia.

The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright

A haunting story of desire: a recollection of the bewildering speed of attraction, the irreparable slip into longing…

In Terenure, a pleasant suburb of Dublin, it has snowed. Gina Moynihan, girl about town, recalls the trail of lust and happenstance that brought her to fall for “the love of her life,” Seán Vallely. As the city outside comes to a halt, Gina remembers their affair: long afternoons made blank by bliss and denial. Now, as the silent streets and falling snow make the day luminous and full of possibility, Gina awaits the arrival of Seán’s fragile, twelve-year-old daughter, Evie-the complication, and gravity, of this second life.

In this extraordinary novel, Anne Enright speaks directly to the readers she won with The Gathering. Here again is the momentous drama of everyday life; the volatile connections between people; the wry, accurate take on families, marriage, and brittle middle age. With The Forgotten Waltz Enright turns her attention to love, following another unforgettable heroine on a journey of the heart. Writing at the height of her powers, this is Enright’s tour de force, a novel of intelligence, passion, and distinction.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

In this striking literary debut, Carol Rifka Brunt unfolds a moving story of love, grief, and renewal as two lonely people become the unlikeliest of friends and find that sometimes you don’t know you’ve lost someone until you’ve found them.

1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life — someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.

At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.

An emotionally charged coming-of-age novel, Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a tender story of love lost and found, an unforgettable portrait of the way compassion can make us whole again.

Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick

“Let me tell you something, son. When you’re young, and you head out to wonderful, everything is fresh and bright as a brand-new penny, but before you get to wonderful you’re going to have to pass through all right. And when you get to all right, stop and take a good, long look, because that may be as far as you’re ever going to go.”

It is the summer of 1948 when a handsome, charismatic stranger, Charlie Beale, recently back from the war in Europe, shows up in the town of Brownsburg, a sleepy village of a few hundred people, nestled in the Valley of Virginia. All he has with him are two suitcases: one contains his few possessions, including a fine set of butcher knives; the other is full of money. A lot of money.

Finding work at the local butcher shop, Charlie befriends the owner and his family, including the owner’s son, Sam, who he is soon treating as though he were his own flesh and blood. And it is through the shop that Charlie gradually meets all the townsfolk, including Boaty Glass, Brownsburg’s wealthiest citizen, and most significantly, Boaty’s beautiful teenage bride, Sylvan.

This last encounter sets in motion the events that give Goolrick’s powerful tale the stark, emotional impact that thrilled fans of his previous novel, A Reliable Wife. Charlie’s attraction to Sylvan Glass turns first to lust and then to a need to possess her, a need so basic it becomes an all-consuming passion that threatens to destroy everything and everyone in its path.

Told through the eyes of Sam, now an old man looking back on the events that changed his world forever, Heading Out to Wonderful is a suspenseful masterpiece, a haunting, heart-stopping novel of obsession and love gone terribly wrong in a place where once upon a time such things could happen.

The Lost Prince by Selden Edwards

From the author of the beloved New York Times bestselling novel The Little Book, comes a novel about a love that is capable of bridging unfathomable distances…

Recently returned from the experience of a lifetime in fin de siècle Vienna, where she met and tragically lost the first great love of her life, Eleanor Burden has no choice but to settle into her expected place in society, marry the man she is supposed to marry, and wait for life to come to her. As the twentieth century approaches, hers is a story not unlike that of the other young women she grew up with in 1890s Boston — a privileged upbringing punctuated by a period of youthful adventure and followed by the inevitable acknowledgment of real life — except for one small difference: Eleanor possesses an unshakable belief that she has advance knowledge of every major historical event to come during her lifetime. 

But soon the script of events she has written in her mind — a script described by no less than Sigmund Freud as the invented delusions of a hysteric — begins to unravel. Eleanor Burden, at once fragile and powerful, must find the courage of her deepest convictions, discover the difference between predetermination and free will, secure her belief in her own sanity, and decide whether she will allow history to unfold come what may — or use her extraordinary gifts to bend history to her will and deliver for her the life she knows she is meant to have.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Aleppo, Syria she has a diploma from Mount Holyoke, a crash course in nursing,  and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language.  The year is 1915 and she has volunteered on behalf of the Boston-based Friends of Armenia to help deliver food and medical aid to refugees of the Armenian genocide.  There Elizabeth becomes friendly with Armen, a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter.  When Armen leaves Aleppo and travels south into Egypt to join the British army, he begins to write Elizabeth letters, and comes to realize that he has fallen in love with the wealthy, young American woman who is so different from the wife he lost.

Fast forward to the present day, where we meet Laura Petrosian, a novelist living in suburban New York.  Although her grandparents’ ornate Pelham home was affectionately nicknamed “The Ottoman Annex,” Laura has never really given her Armenian heritage much thought. But when an old friend calls, claiming to have seen a newspaper photo of Laura’s grandmother promoting an exhibit at a Boston museum, Laura embarks on a journey back through her family’s history that reveals love, loss – and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations.

The Inquisitor by Mark Allen Smith

A spectacularly original thriller about a professional torturer who has a strict code, a mysterious past, and a dangerous conviction that he can save the life of an innocent child…

Geiger has a gift: he knows a lie the instant he hears it. And in his business — called “information retrieval” by its practitioners — that gift is invaluable, because truth is the hottest thing on the market.

Geiger’s clients count on him to extract the truth from even the most reluctant subjects. Unlike most of his competitors, Geiger rarely sheds blood, but he does use a variety of techniques — some physical, many psychological — to push his subjects to a point where pain takes a backseat to fear. Because only then will they finally stop lying.

One of Geiger’s rules is that he never works with children. So when his partner, former journalist Harry Boddicker, unwittingly brings in a client who demands that Geiger interrogate a twelve-year-old boy, Geiger responds instinctively. He rescues the boy from his captor, removes him to the safety of his New York City loft, and promises to protect him from further harm. But if Geiger and Harry cannot quickly discover why the client is so desperate to learn the boy’s secret, they themselves will become the victims of an utterly ruthless adversary.

Mesmerizing and heart-in-your-throat compelling, The Inquisitor is a completely unique thriller that introduces both an unforgettable protagonist and a major new talent in Mark Allen Smith.

Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd

From one of our most celebrated and imaginative writers comes a spellbinding novel about deception, betrayal, psychoanalysis, and the mysteries of the human heart. William Boyd follows his critically acclaimed novels A Good Man in AfricaBrazzaville Beach, and Ordinary Thunderstorms with a razor-sharp, incandescent thriller in Waiting for Sunrise. A provocative exploration of the line between consciousness and reality is nested within a tense, rollercoaster plotline following as a young English actor ensnared in a bewildering scandal with an enigmatic woman in early twentieth-century Vienna. Sophisticated, page-turning, and unforgettable, Boyd’s Waiting for Sunrise is a triumph of literary fiction from one of the most powerful, thought-provoking writers working today.

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

Bellwether Prize winner Hillary Jordan’s provocative new novel, When She Woke, tells the story of a stigmatized woman struggling to navigate an America of a not-too-distant future, where the line between church and state has been eradicated and convicted felons are no longer imprisoned and rehabilitated but chromed―their skin color is genetically altered to match the class of their crimes ― and then released back into the population to survive as best they can. Hannah is a Red; her crime is murder.

In seeking a path to safety in an alien and hostile world, Hannah unknowingly embarks on a path of self-discovery that forces her to question the values she once held true and the righteousness of a country that politicizes faith.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

“It’s never the disasters you see coming that finally come to pass — it’s the ones you don’t expect at all,” says Julia, in this spellbinding novel of catastrophe and survival by a superb new writer. Luminous, suspenseful, unforgettable, The Age of Miracles tells the haunting and beautiful story of Julia and her family as they struggle to live in a time of extraordinary change.

On an ordinary Saturday in a California suburb, Julia awakes to discover that something has happened to the rotation of the earth. The days and nights are growing longer and longer; gravity is affected; the birds, the tides, human behavior, and cosmic rhythms are thrown into disarray. In a world that seems filled with danger and loss, Julia also must face surprising developments in herself, and in her personal world — divisions widening between her parents, strange behavior by her friends, the pain and vulnerability of first love, a growing sense of isolation, and a surprising, rebellious new strength. With crystalline prose and the indelible magic of a born storyteller, Karen Thompson Walker gives us a breathtaking portrait of people finding ways to go on in an ever-evolving world.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus.

Over the next four years, as she endures the deaths of family members, starvation, and brutal forced labor, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of childhood — the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. In a climate of systematic violence where memory is sickness and justification for execution, Raami fights for her improbable survival. Displaying the author’s extraordinary gift for language, In the Shadow of the Banyan is testament to the transcendent power of narrative and a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience.

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Andy Barber has been an assistant district attorney for two decades. He is respected. Admired in the courtroom. Happy at home with the loves of his life, his wife, Laurie, and teenage son, Jacob.

Then Andy’s quiet suburb is stunned by a shocking crime: a young boy stabbed to death in a leafy park. And an even greater shock: The accused is Andy’s own son — shy, awkward, mysterious Jacob.

Andy believes in Jacob’s innocence. Any parent would. But the pressure mounts. Damning evidence. Doubt. A faltering marriage. The neighbors’ contempt. A murder trial that threatens to obliterate Andy’s family.

It is the ultimate test for any parent: How far would you go to protect your child? It is a test of devotion. A test of how well a parent can know a child. For Andy Barber, a man with an iron will and a dark secret, it is a test of guilt and innocence in the deepest sense.

How far would you go?

From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant by Alex Gilvarry

Boyet Hernandez is a small man with a big American dream when he arrives in New York in 2002, fresh out of fashion school in the Philippines. But on the brink of fame and fortune, there comes instead a knock on the door in the middle of the night: the flamboyant ex-Catholic is swept to America’s most notorious prison, administered a Qur’an and locked away indefinitely to discover his link to a terrorist plot.

Now, in his six-by-eight-foot cell, Boy prepares for the tribunal of his life with this intimate confession. From borrowed mattress to converted toothpick factory loft, from custom suit commissions to high-end retail, we are immersed in a wonderland of soirees, runways, and hipster romance in twenty-first-century Gotham.  Boy is equally at home (if sometimes comically misinformed) invoking Dostoevsky and Diane von Furstenberg, the Marcos tyranny and Marc Jacobs, the vicissitudes of memory and the indignity of the walking sandwich board. But behind the scrim of his wit and chutzpah is his present nightmare of detainment in the sun-baked place he calls No Man’s Land. The more Boy’s faith in American justice is usurped by the Kafkaesque demands of his interrogator, the more ardently he clings to the chimerical hope and humanity of his adoptive country.

Funny, wise and beguiling, From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant gives us a tale so eerily evocative that it, and its hero, are poised to become an indelible part of the reader’s imagination and the literature of our strange times.

BOOKS FOR THE BEACH

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Achilles, “the best of all the Greeks,” son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods’ wrath.

They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media — as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents — the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter — but is he really a killer?    As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet? With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

The #1 New York Times bestseller: the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962 and resurfaces fifty years later in contemporary Hollywood.

The acclaimed, award-winning author of the national bestseller The Financial Lives of the Poets returns with his funniest, most romantic, and most purely enjoyable novel yet. Hailed by critics and loved by readers of literary and historical fiction, Beautiful Ruins is the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962…and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later.

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

Soon to be a feature film from the creators of Downton Abbey starring Elizabeth McGovern, The Chaperone is a New York Times-bestselling novel about the woman who chaperoned an irreverent Louise Brooks to New York City in the 1920s and the summer that would change them both.

Only a few years before becoming a famous silent-film star and an icon of her generation, a fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita, Kansas, to study with the prestigious Denishawn School of Dancing in New York. Much to her annoyance, she is accompanied by a thirty-six-year-old chaperone, who is neither mother nor friend. Cora Carlisle, a complicated but traditional woman with her own reasons for making the trip, has no idea what she’s in for. Young Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her famous black bob with blunt bangs, is known for her arrogance and her lack of respect for convention. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will transform their lives forever.

For Cora, the city holds the promise of discovery that might answer the question at the core of her being, and even as she does her best to watch over Louise in this strange and bustling place she embarks on a mission of her own. And while what she finds isn’t what she anticipated, she is liberated in a way she could not have imagined. Over the course of Cora’s relationship with Louise, her eyes are opened to the promise of the twentieth century and a new understanding of the possibilities for being fully alive.

Drawing on the rich history of the 1920s, ’30s, and beyond — from the orphan trains to Prohibition, flappers,  and the onset of the Great Depression to the burgeoning movement for equal rights and new opportunities for women — Laura Moriarty’s The Chaperone illustrates how rapidly everything, from fashion and hemlines to values and attitudes, was changing at this time and what a vast difference it all made for Louise Brooks, Cora Carlisle, and others like them.

The Innocents by Francesca Segal

A smart and slyly funny tale of love, temptation, confusion, and commitment; a triumphant and beautifully executed recasting of Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence.

Newly engaged and unthinkingly self-satisfied, twenty-eight-year-old Adam Newman is the prize catch of Temple Fortune, a small, tight-knit Jewish suburb of London. He has been dating Rachel Gilbert since they were both sixteen and now, to the relief and happiness of the entire Gilbert family, they are finally to marry. To Adam, Rachel embodies the highest values of Temple Fortune; she is innocent, conventional, and entirely secure in her community — a place in which everyone still knows the whereabouts of their nursery school classmates. Marrying Rachel will cement Adam’s role in a warm, inclusive family he loves.

But as the vast machinery of the wedding gathers momentum, Adam feels the first faint touches of claustrophobia, and when Rachel’s younger cousin Ellie Schneider moves home from New York, she unsettles Adam more than he’d care to admit. Ellie — beautiful, vulnerable, and fiercely independent — offers a liberation that he hadn’t known existed: a freedom from the loving interference and frustrating parochialism of North West London. Adam finds himself questioning everything, suddenly torn between security and exhilaration, tradition and independence. What might he be missing by staying close to home?.

Ghost Light by Joseph O’Connor

1907 Edwardian Dublin, a city of whispers and rumors. At the Abbey Theatre W. B. Yeats is working with the talented John Synge, his resident playwright. It is here that Synge, the author of The Playboy of the Western World and The Tinker’s Wedding, will meet an actress still in her teens named Molly Allgood. Rebellious, irreverent, beautiful, flirtatious, Molly is a girl of the inner-city tenements, dreaming of stardom in America. Witty and watchful, she has dozens of admirers, but it is the damaged older playwright who is her secret passion despite the barriers of age, class, education, and religion.

Synge is a troubled, reticent genius, the son of a once prosperous landowning family, a poet of fiery language and tempestuous passions. Yet his life is hampered by conventions and by the austere and God-fearing mother with whom he lives. Scarred by a childhood of immense loneliness and severity, he has long been ill, but he loves to walk the wild places of Ireland. The affair, sternly opposed by friends and family, is turbulent, sometimes cruel, and often tender.

1950s postwar London, an old woman walks across the city in the wake of a hurricane. As she wanders past bomb sites and through the forlorn beauty of wrecked terraces and wintry parks, her mind drifts in and out of the present as she remembers her life’s great love, her once dazzling career, and her travels in America. Vivid and beautifully written, Molly’s swirling, fractured narrative moves from Dublin to London via New York with luminous language and raw feeling. Ghost Light is a story of great sadness and joy — a tour de force from the widely acclaimed and bestselling author of Star of the Sea.

Come to the Edge: A Love Story by Christina Haag

When Christina Haag was growing up on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, John F. Kennedy, Jr., was just one of the boys in her circle of prep school friends, a skinny kid who lived with his mother and sister on Fifth Avenue and who happened to have a Secret Service detail following him discreetly at all times. A decade later, after they had both graduated from Brown University, Christina and John were cast in an off-Broadway play together. It was then that John confessed his long-standing crush on her, and they embarked on a five-year love affair. Glamorous and often in the public eye, but also passionate and deeply intimate, their relationship was transformative for both of them. Exquisitely written, Come to the Edge is an elegy to first love, a lost New York, and a young man with an enormous capacity for tenderness, and an adventurous spirit, who led his life with surprising and abundant grace.

Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady by Kate Summerscale

Headstrong, high-spirited, and already widowed, Isabella Walker became Mrs. Henry Robinson at age 31 in 1844. Her first husband had died suddenly, leaving his estate to a son from a previous marriage, so she inherited nothing. A successful civil engineer, Henry moved them, by then with two sons, to Edinburgh’s elegant society in 1850. But Henry traveled often and was cold and remote when home, leaving Isabella to her fantasies.

No doubt thousands of Victorian women faced the same circumstances, but Isabella chose to record her innermost thoughts-and especially her infatuation with a married Dr. Edward Lane-in her diary. Over five years the entries mounted-passionate, sensual, suggestive. One fateful day in 1858 Henry chanced on the diary and, broaching its privacy, read Isabella’s intimate entries. Aghast at his wife’s perceived infidelity, Henry petitioned for divorce on the grounds of adultery. Until that year, divorce had been illegal in England, the marital bond being a cornerstone of English life. Their trial would be a cause celebre, threatening the foundations of Victorian society with the specter of “a new and disturbing figure: a middle class wife who was restless, unhappy, avid for arousal.” Her diary, read in court, was as explosive as Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, just published in France but considered too scandalous to be translated into English until the 1880s.

As she accomplished in her award-winning and bestselling The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, Kate Summerscale brilliantly recreates the Victorian world, chronicling in exquisite and compelling detail the life of Isabella Robinson, wherein the longings of a frustrated wife collided with a society clinging to rigid ideas about sanity, the boundaries of privacy, the institution of marriage, and female sexuality.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle — and people in general — has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence–creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

The Receptionist: An Education at ‘The New Yorker’ by Janet Groth

In 1957, when a young Midwestern woman landed a job at The New Yorker, she didn’t expect to stay long at the reception desk. But stay she did, and for twenty-one years she had the best seat in the house. In addition to taking messages, she ran interference for jealous wives checking on adulterous husbands, drank with famous writers at famous watering holes throughout bohemian Greenwich Village, and was seduced, two-timed, and proposed to by a few of the magazine’s eccentric luminaries. This memoir of a particular time and place is an enchanting tale of a woman in search of herself.

IF YOU HAVEN’T READ IT YET

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams is an epic in miniature, one of his most evocative and poignant fictions. It is the story of Robert Grainier, a day laborer in the American West at the start of the twentieth century — an ordinary man in extraordinary times. Buffeted by the loss of his family, Grainer struggles to make sense of this strange new world. As his story unfolds, we witness both his shocking personal defeats and the radical changes that transform America in his lifetime. Suffused with the history and landscapes of the American West, this novella by the National Book Award — winning author of Tree of Smoke captures the disappearance of a distinctly American way of life.

The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard

The Transit of Venus is considered Shirley Hazzard’s most brilliant novel. It tells the story of two orphan sisters, Caroline and Grace Bell, as they leave Australia to start a new life in post-war England. What happens to these young women — seduction and abandonment, marriage and widowhood, love and betrayal — becomes as moving and wonderful and yet as predestined as the transits of the planets themselves. Gorgeously written and intricately constructed, Hazzard’s novel is a story of place: Sydney, London, New York, Stockholm; of time: from the fifties to the eighties; and above all, of women and men in their passage through the displacements and absurdities of modern life.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable.

Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now….

Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, The Handmaid’s Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and literary tour de force.

Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Begun as a “joke,” Orlando is Virginia Woolf’s fantastical biography of a poet who first appears as a sixteen-year-old boy at the court of Elizabeth I, and is left at the novel’s end a married woman in the year 1928. Part love letter to Vita Sackville-West, part exploration of the art of biography, Orlando is one of Woolf’s most popular and entertaining works.

Main Street by Sinclair Lewis

The first of Sinclair Lewis’s great successes, Main Street shattered the sentimental American myth of happy small-town life with its satire of narrow-minded provincialism. Reflecting his own unhappy childhood in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, Lewis’s sixth novel attacked the conformity and dullness he saw in midwestern village life. Young college graduate Carol Milford moves from the city to tiny Gopher Prairie after marrying the local doctor, and tries to bring culture to the small town. But her efforts to reform the prairie village are met by a wall of gossip, greed, conventionality, pitifully unambitious cultural endeavors, and — worst of all — the pettiness and bigotry of small-town minds.

Lewis’s portrayal of a marriage torn by disillusionment and a woman forced into compromises is at once devastating social satire and persuasive realism. His subtle characterizations and intimate details of small-town America make Main Street a complex and compelling work and established Lewis as an important figure in twentieth-century American literature.

The Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by Anne Rice

A spell has been cast upon a lovely young princess who sleeps, waiting for someone to save her. The Prince awakens Beauty, not with a kiss, but with sexual initiation. His reward for ending the hundred years of enchantment is Beauty’s complete and total enslavement to him…

In 1983, Anne Rice, writing as A.N. Roquelaure, began the first installment of a series that is now considered a forerunner of erotic literature.  This collection — containing The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, Beauty’s Punishment, and Beauty’s Release — is a testament to Anne Rice’s irresistible talent, exploring the world of erotic yearning and fantasy in a classic trilogy that makes the forbidden side of passion a doorway into the hidden regions of the psyche and the heart.

Wingshooters by Nina Revoyr

Michelle LeBeau, the child of a white American father and a Japanese mother, lives with her grandparents in Deerhorn, Wisconsin — a small town that had been entirely white before her arrival. Rejected and bullied, Michelle spends her time reading, avoiding fights, and roaming the countryside with her dog Brett. She idolizes her grandfather, Charlie LeBeau, an expert hunter and former minor league baseball player who is one of the town’s most respected men. Charlie strongly disapproves of his son’s marriage to Michelle’s mother but dotes on his only grandchild.

This fragile peace is threatened when the expansion of the local clinic leads to the arrival of the Garretts, a young black couple from Chicago. The Garretts’ presence deeply upsets most of the residents of Deerhorn — when Mr. Garrett makes a controversial accusation against one of the town leaders, who is also Charlie LeBeau’s best friend.

In the tradition of To Kill a Mockingbird, A River Runs Through It, and Snow Falling on Cedars, Revoyr’s new novel examines the effects of change on a small, isolated town, the strengths and limits of community, and the sometimes conflicting loyalties of family and justice. Set in the expansive countryside of Central Wisconsin, against the backdrop of Vietnam and the post-civil rights era, Wingshooters explores both connection and loss as well as the complex but enduring bonds of family.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.

Tom, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Victorian language of flowers was used to express emotions: honeysuckle for devotion, azaleas for passion, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it has been more useful in communicating feelings like grief, mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen, Victoria has nowhere to go, and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. When her talent is discovered by a local florist, she discovers her gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But it takes meeting a mysterious vendor at the flower market for her to realize what’s been missing in her own life, and as she starts to fall for him, she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, and decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness. The Language of Flowers is a heartbreaking and redemptive novel about the meaning of flowers, the meaning of family, and the meaning of love.

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Winner of the Whitbread Prize for best first fiction, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a coming-out novel from Winterson, the acclaimed author of The Passion and Sexing the Cherry. The narrator, Jeanette, cuts her teeth on the knowledge that she is one of God’s elect, but as this budding evangelical comes of age, and comes to terms with her preference for her own sex, the peculiar balance of her God-fearing household crumbles.