Friday Fiction May book list

It’s outdoor reading season again and we have a great list of books for you this round. No royal romances, but I am certain we have had enough of that for a while anyway. Instead, we have a great list of fiction and nonfiction covering a diverse list of topics: novels as pleas for environmental conservation from Richard Powers and Johanna Drucker; the-Odyssey-you-thought-you-knew in Madeleine Miller’s magical novel Circe; another take on the Anastasia Romanov mystery in I was Anastasia; a story of love and money set in post-war New England from Beatriz Williams; and World War II – because we will never finish being fascinated by that era – in Michael Ondaatje’s new novel Warlight. For when you only have a brief chance to chill, we have some great new short story collections from Lauren Groff (Fates and Furies) and Curtis Sittenfeld (Prep, Eligible).

But overall, my favorite on this list is The Mars Room from Rachel Kushner (The Flamethrowers.) Kushner pens a dark and poignant novel about an unjustly imprisoned young woman, who must use the limited resources she has to fight a system seemingly bent on keeping her from her home and son. Kushner’s heavy research into the world of women behind bars in California creates an atmosphere that cuts through any hesitation on the part of the reader. It’s a thrilling book.

There are many more on the list, so read through below. As always, if you need any more recommendations, please don’t hesitate to contact our librarians through the BookWise service, or just stop in to chat sometime.

Stay tuned for CPL’s annual Adult Summer Reading Challenge starting in June, and happy reading!

Jess’s Picks:

Circe, by Madeline Miller:
A highly anticipated follow-up to the award-winning The Song of Achilles follows the banished witch daughter of Titans as she hones her powers and interacts with famous mythological beings before a conflict with one of the most vengeful Olympians forces her to choose between the worlds of the gods and mortals.
 Florida, by Lauren Groff: A collection of short stories by the bestselling author of Fates and Furies and Arcadia.
 The Girl Who Smiled Beads, by Clemantine Wamariya: Traces the author’s harrowing experiences as a young child during the Rwanda massacres and displacements, which separated her from her parents and forced the author and her older sister to endure six years as refugees in seven countries, foraging for survival and encountering unexpected acts of cruelty and kindness before she was granted asylum in a profoundly different America.
 I Was Anastasia, by Ariel Lawhon: An evocative retelling of the Anastasia survival myth follows the appearance of a traumatized, badly scarred young woman who claims to be the youngest Romanov daughter, launching a half-century of questions, accusations and changing perspectives on identity as conveyed by her supporters and detractors. By the author of Flight of Dreams
 The Mars Room, by Rachel Kushner: It’s 2003 and Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences at Stanville Women’s Correctional Facility, deep in California’s Central Valley. Outside is the world from which she has been severed: the San Francisco of her youth and her young son, Jackson. Inside is a new reality: thousands of women hustling for the bare essentials needed to survive; the bluffing and pageantry and casual acts of violence by guards and prisoners alike; and the deadpan absurdities of institutional living, which Kushner evokes with great humor and precision.
 Motherhood, by Sheila Heti: “Sheila Heti has a way of tapping into the throes of consciousness and coming out with a precisely articulated version of how we think. Her new book, Motherhood, delves deep into the decision of whether or not to have children, while simultaneously exploring femininity, identity, and self purpose. Even if motherhood is not pertinent to your life, this book will shed light on our culture and the expectations that are bound to affect everyone at some point.” — Courtney Flynn, Trident Booksellers & Cafe, Boston, MA
 The Only Story, by Julian Barnes: A man who ran away as a teen university student with a married woman more than twice his age reflects on how they fell in love, how he freed her from a sterile marriage and how their relationship fell apart as she succumbed to depression. By the award-winning author of The Sense of an Ending
  The Overstory, by Richard Powers: A National Book Award-winning author presents an impassioned novel of activism and natural-world power that is comprised of interlocking fables about nine remarkable strangers who are summoned in different ways by trees for an ultimate, brutal stand to save the continent’s few remaining acres of virgin forest.
  The Summer Wives, by Beatriz Williams: Secrets and lies hold the island together. But this summer, everything will fall apart…It’s 1951 and Miranda’s mother has just married in to one of the wealthiest families on Winthrop Island, a glamorous haven set off the New England coast.But beneath the surface, the island is a delicate balance of tension between the wealthy summer families who holiday there and the Portuguese fishermen and domestic workers who keep the island going.As Miranda begins to fall for Joseph, the lighthouse keeper’s handsome son, the tension rises inexorably to the surface and an explosive end to the summer will change everyone, forever…
 Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje: In a narrative as beguiling and mysterious as memory itself – shadowed and luminous at once – we read the story of fourteen-year-old Nathaniel, and his older sister, Rachel. In 1945, just after World War II, they stay behind in London when their parents move to Singapore, leaving them in the care of a mysterious figure named The Moth. They suspect he might be a criminal, and they grow both more convinced and less concerned as they come to know his eccentric crew of friends: men and women joined by a shared history of unspecified service during the war, all of whom seem, in some way, determined now to protect, and educate (in rather unusual ways) Rachel and Nathaniel. But are they really what and who they claim to be? And what does it mean when the siblings’ mother returns after months of silence without their father, explaining nothing, excusing nothing? A dozen years later, Nathaniel begins to uncover all that he didn’t know and understand in that time, and it is this journey -through facts, recollection, and imagination – that he narrates in this masterwork from one of the great writers of our time.
 You Think it, I’ll Say It, by Curtis Sittenfeld: The best-selling author of Eligible presents a collection of 10 short stories that features both original pieces and two previously published in the New Yorker, including “The World Has Many Butterflies,” in which married acquaintances play a strangely intimate game, with devastating consequences
Lisa’s Picks:
 Beautiful Music, by Michael Zadoorian:  A funny, poignant, thoughtfully rendered novel about love, fear, death, race, music, and the intense passions of youth.  Danny Yzemski is a husky, pop radio-loving loner balancing a dysfunctional homelife with the sudden harsh realities of freshman year at a high school marked by racial turbulence.
Big Guns, by Steve Israel: In response to efforts to ban handguns in America’s cities, the CEO of an arms company, worried about his bottom line, introduces federal legislation that would require every American own a gun.
 The Death of Mrs. Westaway: After erroneously receiving a mysterious letter about a large inheritance, Hal attends the deceased’s funeral and realizes that something is very, very wrong.
 Down Drift: An eco-fiction, by Johanna Drucker: Slowly at first, then with increasing speed, animals worldwide develop and surpass human skills in every field, from manual labor to theoretical thinking, with earth-shattering consequences for the future of humanity.
My Ex-Life, by Stephen McCauley: With My Ex-Life, a heartwarming comedy of manners about second chances and starting afresh, he has pretty much outdone himself…McCauley fires off witticisms like a tennis ace practicing serves…In the vein of inveterate beguilers like Laurie Colwin, Elinor Lipman, and Maria Semple, McCauley is warm but snappy, light but smart—and just plain enjoyable.
My Mother’s Son, by David Hirshberg: My Mother’s Son is a riveting coming-of-age story that plays out against the backdrop of the Korean War, the aftermath of the Holocaust, the polio epidemic, the relocation of a baseball team, and the shenanigans of politicians and businessmen.
No Ashes in the Fire, by Darnell L. Moore: The editor-at-large of CASSIUS and original Black Lives Matter organizer describes his own direct experiences with prejudice, violence and repression; his search for intimacy in the gay neighborhoods of his youth and his participation in key civil movements where he found his calling as an advocate on behalf of society’s marginalized people.
No One Ever Asked, by Katie Ganshert: The absorbtion of an impoverished school district by the affluent community of Crystal Ridge brings three women together as tensions rise, leading to an unforeseen event that impacts them all.
On Brassard’s Farm, by Daniel Hecht: In a radical departure from her urban life, Ann Turner buys a piece of remote Vermont land and sets up a tent home in deep forest. She’s trying to escape an unending string of personal disasters in Boston; more, she desperately wants to leave behind a world she sees as increasingly defined by consumerism, hypocrisy, and division.As she writes in her journal, “There’s got to be a more honest, less divided way to live.”She soon learns she was mistaken in thinking a kindly Mother Earth would grant her wisdom and serenity in her new home
 The Optimistic Decade, by Heather Abel: This novel about a utopian camp and its charismatic leader takes us into the lives of five unforgettable characters, and is a sweeping saga of idealism, love, class, and a piece of land that changes everyone who lives on it.
 The Oracle Year, by Charles Soule: Awakening from a dream with 108 predictions about the future in his head, an unassuming Manhattan bassist catapults to one of the world’s most powerful men and hides his identity behind an online persona that is targeted by greedy corporations and dangerous enemies who would change the playing field by recruiting or eliminating him.
 Our Story: A memoir of love and life in China, by Rao Pingru: An elderly Chinese man recounts his life and marriage in text and art, from meeting the woman his father had arranged for him to wed, through their time together and the twenty-two years they were kept apart while he was a prisoner, to her death.
 The Storm, by Anif Anwar: From an immensely talented new voice in international fiction, a sweeping tour de force that seamlessly interweaves five love stories that, together, chronicle sixty years of Bangladeshi history.
 That Kind of Mother, by Rumaan Alam: Overwhelmed by new motherhood in spite of her love for her infant son, Rebecca, a white woman, asks a kind black woman, Priscilla, to become her family’s nanny, only to have her perspectives changed about her own life of privilege, a situation that compels her to take on unanticipated challenges in the aftermath of a tragedy.
 Tin Man, by Sarah Winman: Shortlisted for the Costa Novel of the Year Award, a heartbreaking celebration of love in all its forms gradually reveals a fallout between two longtime friends and Oxford students over the course of a decade marked by the marriage of one and the disappearance of the other.