Literary Fiction
Everything I Never Told You

Everything I Never Told You

“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 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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The Engagements: A Novel

The Engagements: A Novel

$10.99$2.99Audiobook: 12.99 (Whispersync)

This novel traces the path of a diamond engagement ring from 1901 to 2012, and the four couples it links. The ring is lost, found, and stolen; it becomes a symbol of lasting love, and of betrayal. Woven throughout is the story of Mary Frances Gerety, the copywriter responsible for De Beer’s iconic slogan "a diamond is forever." An easy read with emotional depth.

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Brown Girl Dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming

Forget everything you've heard about this being an "important" book, and if you're not the poetry type, pretend you don't know this is a memoir-in-verse. All you need to know is this story is fantastic. Woodson tells the story of her childhood, moving with her family (or part of it) from South Carolina to New York City and back again, sharing her observations through a young girl's eyes with a writer's sensibility. If you don't think it's for you, read the first two pages—and then decide. National Book Award winner.

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The Governesses

The Governesses

Mel Joulwan convinced me to read this super-short French novel when she described it as a "naughty fairy tale" in WSIRN Episode 219, called "Required reading revisited." This novel was published in France in 1992 but not translated into English until 2018. In this lush story with Gothic vibes, three mysterious sisters dwell in an isolated mansion behind a golden gate, ever-watchful that an unsuspecting man will stumble upon the garden path, that they may first bewitch and then devour him. Smart, magical, playful—and also A LOT darker than I expected; "naughty" doesn't begin to cover it. (Content warnings for sexual assault and other sexual content.)

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The Bean Trees

The Bean Trees

I've loved Kingsolver's novels from the past ten years; I've been meaning to revisit her older work for ages and this month I finally did it. This is her 1987 debut, and it was striking to see so many of the same themes she spent the next 30 years (and counting) exploring: her Kentucky roots, immigration, unlikely families, the American southwest, and young girls with lots of growing up to do. The title of this one never appealed to me, and I was surprised to discover the reference at the same time my own backyard wisteria was coming into bloom. (Not a spoiler, I promise.)

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City on Fire

City on Fire

I had heard good things about this one from a few readers I trust (which surprised me, given the book's solid 3-star rating on Amazon) but was hesitant to invest 944 pages of my reading life in it. But then I interviewed Seth Haines for What Should I Read Next? and he convinced me to give it a try. The novel revolves around a punk-rock band, a wealthy, dysfunctional NYC family, a pyrotechnics expert and his daughter, and the invisible threads that bind them all together in 1976 Manhattan. If you're deciding if this one's for you, you should know that it's being compared to Wallace, Wolfe, Franzen, and DeLillo, and is full of sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

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Disoriental

Disoriental

A National Book Award finalist and Winner of the 2019 Albertine Prize and Lambda Literary Award, and countless other literary awards (this checks a lot of boxes for the <a href="https://modernmrsdarcy.com/reading-challenge-2020/">2020 MMD Reading Challenge</a>). At the age of ten, Kimiâ Sadr fled Iran with her mother and sisters to join their father in France. Now 25, Kimiâ sits in the waiting room of a Paris fertility clinic while generations of Sadr ancestors visit her, flooding her with memories, history, and stories. Merging a sweeping family story with factual Iranian history, this semi-biographical novel explores cultural and sexual identity, family tradition, and storytelling as a means of finding oneself.

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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

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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