Literary Fiction
Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You

$11.99$1.99Audiobook: 7.49 (Whispersync)

“Lydia is dead, but they don’t know this yet.” That’s not a spoiler, that’s the opening line of Ng’s stunning debut. When this unexpected loss is discovered, the family begins to fall apart, and as they struggle to understand why it happened, they realize they don’t know their daughter at all. Ng’s use of the omniscient narrator is brilliant: she reveals what’s going on in her characters hearts and minds, allowing the reader to learn the truth of the tragedy, even if the family never does. An exploration of love and belonging, fraught with racial and gender issues. This is one that will stay with you long after you turn the last page. Powerful, believable, utterly absorbing.

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Prodigal Summer

Prodigal Summer

In this evocative follow-up to the masterful The Poisonwood Bible, Kingsolver returns to her native southern Appalachia. She follows three stories of human love as they unfold over the course of one life-changing summer: a wildlife biologist who returns to her home county to work, a widowed farmer’s wife at odds with her husband’s family, and a pair of feuding neighbors. Her emphasis on the natural world will feel familiar to lovers of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Verdant, lush, and vivid: this novel oozes sensuality.

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Crossing to Safety

Crossing to Safety

$12.99$5.99Audiobook: 7.49 (Audible)

This novel asks, "How do you make a book that anyone will read out of lives as quiet as these?" The answer: just like this. Stegner weaves a compelling story out of four ordinary lives and their extraordinary, life-changing friendship as it spans across forty years, tackling themes of love and marriage, calling and duty. One of the best explorations of friendship in literature. This gorgeous, graceful novel will appeal to fans of Wendell Berry and Marilynne Robinson. Finish the book and go right back to the beginning—so much becomes clear on a re-read. With a deliberately paced, steady feel. in good hands.

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The Buried Giant

The Buried Giant

Coming March 3. Readers with great taste are raving fans of Ishiguro's work. I'm looking forward to reading his new one, even though I still haven't read his best-known work The Remains of the Day.

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Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

A widower who was raised to believe in propriety above all falls hopelessly in love with someone who is completely wrong for him—at least by the standards of his small English village. A winsome story with an unlikely hero.

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Cutting for Stone

Cutting for Stone

I've heard to start this book with no preconceptions because the description doesn't do it justice. Suffice it to say that this novel has been recommended by fellow readers with great taste who describe it using my favorite adjectives: haunting, sweeping, gorgeous.

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The Brothers K

The Brothers K

This one spent years on my TBR list, because so many friends with great taste called it THE best book they ever read. I'm so glad I finally read it. I don't remember what my expectations were about this book, but whatever they were, they were wrong. Duncan combines the Vietnam War, bush league baseball, Seventh Day Adventism, and family ties into an incredible, heart-wrenching story. The book is truly remarkable for the times when it reveals the deep joy present in a family's lowest moments.

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Ursula, Under

Ursula, Under

Katherine Willis Pershey raved about this book, calling it "one of the best, most memorable novels she has ever read." She has terrific taste (meaning: taste like mine) and that's enough for me.

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A God in Ruins

A God in Ruins

I loved this one. Named one of the Best Books of 2015 by TIME, NPR, Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Christian Science Monitor, The Seattle Times, The Kansas City Star, Kirkus, Bookpage, Hudson Booksellers, AARP. Add Audible narration for $12.99.

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Lila

Lila

The much-anticipated prequel to Robinson's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gilead. You'll hang on to every word of this gorgeous novel—and you'll want to read everything else Robinson ever wrote when you're finished. Stunning. (Note: you can read these in any order.)

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A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

I’ve heard my mom gush about this book for pretty much my whole life, and finally read it in January explicitly for this category in the Reading Challenge. Of course, my only regret was that I’d waited so long: I loved this story from page 1. No description I ever heard before made me want to read it, so I'll spare you the plot synopsis. I'll just say: read it. Wistful, haunting, satisfying. I listened to the audio version, which—barring some infrequent random jazz music—was quite good.

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Hannah Coulter

Hannah Coulter

I've talked about Hannah Coulter several times: the books I can't stop recommending, a book I've read more than once, what to read when you feel like the world is falling apart. Hannah's second husband Nathan Coulter (her first died in the war) was reticent to talk about his experience in the Battle of Okinawa. "Ignorant boys, killing each other," is all he would say. In this atmospheric novel, an older Hannah looks back on her life and reflects on what she has lost, and those whom she has loved. I adore Berry, who writes gorgeous, thoughtful, piercing novels, and this is one of his finest. Contemplative, wistful, and moving.

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The Poisonwood Bible

The Poisonwood Bible

Southern Baptist Missionary Nathan Price heads off to the African Congo with his wife and 4 daughters in 1959, and nothing goes as planned. Though they bring with them everything they think they will need from their home in Bethlehem, Georgia--right down to the Betty Crocker cake mixes--the Prices are woefully unprepared for their new life among the Congolese, and they all pay the price.

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Rules of Civility

Rules of Civility

This gorgeous novel can almost be categorized as literary fiction, which too many readers dismiss as inaccessible. Don't make that mistake. This Gatsby-esque novel pulls several shocking plot twists, and I definitely didn’t see that ending coming.

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Jayber Crow

Jayber Crow

Jayber Crow returns to his native Port William, Kentucky after the 1937 flood to become the town’s barber. There he learns about the deep meaning of community, the discipline of place, and what it truly means to love. This is a gorgeous novel.

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Gilead

Gilead

Robinson’s story of the dying Iowa minister John Ames is one of the most beautiful books you’ll ever read, containing some of the most beautiful sentences ever put to paper. Read it. Read it slow. Wistful, reflective, and wise, this is a book you can read over and over again.

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Things Fall Apart

Things Fall Apart

Amazon's review calls this "a gripping study of the problem of European colonialism in Africa. The story relates the cultural collision that occurs when Christian English missionaries arrive among the Ibos of Nigeria, bringing along their European ways of life and religion. In the novel, the Nigerian Okonkwo recognizes the cultural imperialism of the white men and tries to show his own people how their own society will fall apart if they exchange their own cultural core for that of the English."

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The One-in-a-Million Boy

The One-in-a-Million Boy

I NEVER would have read this if a trusted bookseller hadn't pressed it into my hands and said READ IT: the plot summary would have made me put it right down. But it's one of my favorites of the year. I went into this novel knowing nothing and I liked it that way, so I'll just say Wood explores themes of love, loss, and identity through a quirky 11-year-old boy who loves making lists, a wily 104-year-old woman, an absentee father, a Boy Scout project, and the Guiness Book of World Records. Perfect for fans of The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and A Man Called Ove.

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Celestial Bodies

Celestial Bodies

Set in the village of al-Awafi in Oman, this prize-winning family saga is the first book by a female Omani author to be translated into English. The story follows three sisters who take different paths, marrying in heartbreak, marrying for duty, and refusing to marry. Through their stories, every part of Oman society is revealed along with family histories. Told in alternating perspectives with a wide array of characters, the finely-woven stories require attentive reading.

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Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman

As a standalone book, this was far from amazing, but serious students of writing or literature will be enthralled by the ties between Watchman and Lee's beloved classic To Kill a Mockingbird. The comparisons are rich, and many. I had complicated feelings about reading this one but I'm so glad I did. (Here's how I approached this controversial work.)

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​The Madwoman Upstairs

​The Madwoman Upstairs

$11.99$0.99

Part campus novel, part literary treasure hunt. A mysterious development sets an Oxford student on the chase to unraveling the mysteries of the Brontë family, as well as the heroine's own. If you like your heroines quick-witted and cantankerous, and if you're fascinated by the story behind the story, this is for you. Reminiscent of A. S. Byatt's Possession. Required reading for fans of Charlie Lovett's 2014 literary escapadeThe Bookman's Tale. It also has echoes of A. S. Byatt's Possession. Pair with Jane Steele, of course, and if your book club wants to revisit Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights while you're at it, so much the better. Publication date March 1 2016.

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Jack

Jack

Robinson returns to the world she created in Gilead—a world I can happily spend time in. Her books contain some of the most beautiful sentences ever put to paper. In this, the fourth novel, Robinson tells the story of John Ames Boughton and his romance with Della Miles. A prodigal son and a brilliant teacher, John and Della face struggles as an interracial couple in segregated St. Louis. I'm thrilled to listen to Verner narrate what is sure to be another stunning work in this series.

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Breath, Eyes, Memory

Breath, Eyes, Memory

$10.99$1.99

An Oprah Book Club selection. Publishers Weekly says: "A distinctive new voice with a sensitive insight into Haitian culture distinguishes this graceful debut novel about a young girl's coming of age under difficult circumstances." From the author of Claire of the Sea Light.

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Keep Me Posted

Keep Me Posted

This epistolary novel centers around two sister who have fallen out of touch, somewhat predictably, as their lives have sharply diverged. Sid is a Luddite living in Singapore because of her husband's high-powered job; Cassie's made a life with her own family in New York City and is addicted to watching her friends' lives unfold on facebook. When Sid issues a challenge that they'll start communicating with real, old-fashioned letters, Cassie reluctantly agrees ... and they're both surprised at the world-rocking revelations they read on the page. This was a sweet and entertaining debut (although not G-rated for sure). If you enjoyed Janice Lee's recent release The Expatriates, definitely add this one to your list.

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Hamnet

Hamnet

In her sweeping new novel, Maggie O’Farrell takes a few historically known facts about Shakespeare’s wife and family and, from this spare skeleton, builds out a lush, vivid world. You should know this book is devastating, and I consumed the better part of a box of Kleenex while reading it. Yet with its captivating central character and evocative storytelling, I didn’t want to leave Shakespeare’s world—or put down O’Farrell’s writing. The story centers on Agnes, Shakespeare’s wife, who is torn apart by grief when their son Hamnet dies at age 11. Soon after, Shakespeare writes Hamlet—and O’Farrell convincingly posits that the two events are closely tied. In her distinctive style, O’FarrellI takes you to the heart of what really matters in life, making you feel such a deep sense of loss for Hamnet that you won’t look at your own life the same way.

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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

The titular hotel is a real place: it's Seattle's Panama Hotel. In the story, an old man looks back to his 1940s childhood and remembers with fondness his friendship—and maybe something more—with his young Japanese friend Keiko. They lose touch when Keiko and her family are evacuated during the Japanese internment. (I learned so little about this in my U.S. history classes that when I first read the book I kept googling Ford's historical references to see if they really happened. They did.)

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The Nest

The Nest

This is that rare bird: a literary page-turner. In this wonderfully written, multi-layered, fast-moving novel, Sweeney tells the story of the dysfunctional Plumb family. When the eldest blows their collective inheritance (by crashing someone else's Porsche, while drunk and high, direly injuring the 19-year-old waitress who was not his wife), the four Plumb siblings are forced to actually communicate for the first time in ages. They're also forced to grow up, and watching that painful process unfold on the page is highly entertaining (and a little cringe-worthy). I loved this for its depth, complexity, and supremely satisfying ending, but if you need characters you can root for, this isn't the book for you. Strongly reminiscent of Rules of Civility. For what it's worth, Amy Poehler and Ellie Kemper loved it. Heads up for language and racy content: I'd like to give this novel an 8-line edit.

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The Queen of the Night

The Queen of the Night

A sweeping, glittering novel of the Paris Opera. Lilliet Berne is the leading soprano, the best of the best and a shining star. She craves an original role, but when one is offered to her, she's shocked to find that it's based on a secret from her past. Seeking the truth in her memories, she recalls her life as an orphan and countless transformations along the way to her opera career. Full of drama, intrigue, and secrets, and a memorable main character.

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The Secret History

The Secret History

$11.99$2.99Audiobook: 12.99 (Whispersync)

The story begins with a murder, and the lonely, introspective narrator devotes the rest of the novel to telling the reader about his role in it, and how he seemingly got away with it. The setting is a small Vermont college, the characters members of an isolated, eccentric circle of classics majors, who murder one of their own. Strongly reminiscent of The Likeness in setting, Crime and Punishment in plot, and Brideshead Revisited in tone. I finally read this recently, and now I understand why opinions differ widely on Tartt's debut novel: it's a compelling—and chilling—tale, but there's not a single likable character.

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Before We Visit the Goddess

Before We Visit the Goddess

I loved this book, which was nothing at all what I expected. The novel tracks three generations of Indian women and their fraught relationships. The title comes from a chance encounter one of these women has with a stranger, which is fitting because my favorite parts of the story deal with the small moments that change the course of a person's life, and the unlikely friendships that do the same. This is a wonderful, beautiful, and sad book, and I've been recommending it like crazy. Published April 19 2016.

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