An evocative story of a woman making sense of how moving to Brooklyn as a young girl changed her and her sense of family. Angela, Sylvie, and Gigi are more than August's friends: they’re part of her sisterhood. They go through adolescence together and support each other through tragedy. Woodson's lyrical prose brings the story to life.
- by Tayari Jones
From Tayari Jones, author of the New York Times best seller and Oprah’s Book Club pick An American Marriage, comes an intimate, powerful story of two sisters. Identical twins Amelia and Camelia Hall were born with the same face, and that’s about it: By the time the girls were through school, the matching set of names could no longer contain them. Now there’s Cam, whose contrarian streak led her to a career in law, and Lia, who followed more closely in her parents’ footsteps with her dermatology practice and married-with-children lifestyle in Atlanta’s Glenwood Park. But the bond between the sisters is deep and unshakable - Cam serves as the maid of honor on Lia’s wedding day and as her attorney 15 years later, when Lia’s life and the lives of her two teenage daughters are rocked by divorce. And two years after her separation, the dust is finally starting to settle. But in the hazy glow of their first years of marriage, Lia gifted her then-husband a precious, irreplaceable family heirloom, and she decides that now, she must do whatever she can to get it back, starting with breaking and entering. In Half Light, Jones explores the complex, profound bond of family, both the family we’re born with and the family we choose, against the vibrant backdrop of present-day Atlanta.
If you're thinking what I'm thinking, you're picturing Landry and Tim Riggins discussing this novel on the Dillon High School bleachers. This is Steinbeck's story of two friends searching for work and the American Dream, and it's been repeatedly banned and continues to be challenged today for a wide variety of reasons: profanity, vulgarity, sexual themes, racism, an "anti-business attitude," and euthanasia.
Although it takes place in the summertime, this charming Japanese novel in translation makes for a charming, cozy winter listening experience. At a small Tokyo café, patrons sip coffee and travel through time. Yes, this is a time travel book—but not your typical action-packed science fiction. Heartwarming and quirky, the story follows four customers who enter the café in search of time travel. The most important rule they learn: your trip through time only lasts as long as your coffee stays warm. A quick listen, under 7 hours with delightful narration by Arina Ii.
- by C. S. Lewis
From the publisher: "C.S. Lewis' classic Christian allegorical tale about a bus ride from hell to heaven. An extraordinary meditation upon good and evil, grace and judgment, Lewis's revolutionary idea is that the gates of Hell are locked from the inside. Using his extraordinary descriptive powers, Lewis' The Great Divorce will change the way we think about good and evil."
From the publisher: At the turn of the twenty-second century, scientists make a breakthrough in human spaceflight. With the fragility of the body no longer a limiting factor, human beings are at last able to journey to neighboring exoplanets long known to harbor life. A team of these explorers, Ariadne O'Neill and her three crewmates, are hard at work in a planetary system fifteen light-years from Sol, on a mission to ecologically survey four habitable worlds. But as Ariadne shifts through both form and time, the culture back on Earth has also been transformed. Faced with the possibility of returning to a planet that has forgotten those who have left, Ariadne begins to chronicle the story of the wonders and dangers of her mission, in the hope that someone back home might still be listening.
- by Alan Bennett
When an unnamed (but not well-disguised) Queen goes for a walk, her corgis stray into a bookmobile library parked near the Palace, so she feels obligated to take a book to be polite. The Queen finds a newfound obsession with reading—so much so that she begins to neglect her duties as monarch. You can read this one in a few hours, but the power of reading to transform even the most uncommon of lives and the numerous book recommendations (from Jean Genet to Ivy Compton-Burnett to the classics) will stay with you much longer.
- by Jane Austen
A Penguin Classics edition of three lesser-known Austen works, including Lady Susan, the basis for Whit Stillman's feature film Love and Friendship starring Kate Beckinsale and Chlo Sevigny. These three short works show Austen experimenting with a variety of different literary styles, from melodrama to satire, and exploring a range of social classes and settings. The early epistolary novel Lady Susan depicts an unscrupulous coquette, toying with the affections of several men.
- by Kent Haruf
I can't believe I didn't read this book years ago, because now that I've read it, it reminds me so much of my all-time faves Wallace Stegner, Wendell Berry, and Marilynne Robinson. I don't want to say too much, but I found this up-close look at an unlikely relationship between two long-time acquaintances in small-town Colorado completely absorbing, and Haruf hits just the right tone with his light touch. Listen to me recommend this book in Episode 84 of What Should I Read Next? to Shawn Smucker. This is definitely one of those books where the flap copy doesn't do it justice. This was my first Haruf novel, and I'll be reading more.
- by Ted Chiang
From the publisher: Stories of Your Life and Others delivers dual delights of the very, very strange and the heartbreakingly familiar, often presenting characters who must confront sudden change--the inevitable rise of automatons or the appearance of aliens--with some sense of normalcy. With sharp intelligence and humor, Chiang examines what it means to be alive in a world marked by uncertainty, but also by beauty and wonder. An award-winning collection from one of today's most lauded writers, Stories of Your Life and Others is a contemporary classic.
The awards list for this include Winner 2017 Alex Award, 2017 Hugo, 2017 Locus, 2016 Nebula, Nominated 2017 World Fantasy, 2017 British Fantasy, 2016 Tiptree Honor List. NPR calls this "A mini-masterpiece of portal fantasy — a jewel of a book that deserves to be shelved with Lewis Carroll's and C. S. Lewis' classics."
When Beth recommended this in a Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club discussion thread, my husband Will happened to be logged in and added it to his TBR right away. The horror genre isn't my jam, but when Beth compared this to Sarah Gailey and Ralph Ellison, it piqued my interest, too. Described as "dark historical fantasy," this novella takes place in Prohibition Georgia, where the Ku Klux Klan members literally become demons after watching The Birth of a Nation. Bootlegger Maryse Boudreaux and a motley crew of fighters set out to save the world from this hellish nightmare come to life.
- by Jean Rhys
From the publisher: "Wide Sargasso Sea, a masterpiece of modern fiction, was Jean Rhys’s return to the literary center stage. She had a startling early career and was known for her extraordinary prose and haunting women characters. With Wide Sargasso Sea, her last and best-selling novel, she ingeniously brings into light one of fiction’s most fascinating characters: the madwoman in the attic from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. This mesmerizing work introduces us to Antoinette Cosway, a sensual and protected young woman who is sold into marriage to the prideful Mr. Rochester. Rhys portrays Cosway amidst a society so driven by hatred, so skewed in its sexual relations, that it can literally drive a woman out of her mind."
For a short-but-sweeping read, I recommend listening to the audiobook performed by Daveed Diggs. Yetu takes on the role of historian for her people, descendants of pregnant African women who were thrown overboard built a new society underwater. Holding everyone's painful memories is too much for Yetu, so she flees to the world above water where she learns more about the past and the future of her people. Originally inspired by a song from rap group Clipping that aired on This American Life We Are In The Future,” this imaginative fantasy novella presents a powerful allegory.
- by Nella Larsen
From the publisher: "Soon to be a major motion picture starring Tessa Thompson, Ruth Negga and Alexander Skarsgård. Irene Redfield, married to a successful physician, enjoys a comfortable life in Harlem, New York. Reluctantly, she renews her friendship with old school friend, Clare Kendry. Clare, who like Irene is light skinned, 'passes' as white and is married to a racist white man who has no idea about Clare's racial heritage. Even though Irene knows that reigniting her friendship with Clare will lead to trouble, she can't resist allowing Irene into her world. Irene in turn wants to rekindle her bonds with the African American community of her youth. As tensions mount between friends and between couples, this taut and mesmerizing narrative spins towards an unexpected end."
From the publisher: In an Edenic future, a girl and her father live close to the land in the shadow of a lone mountain. They possess a few remnants of civilization: some books, a pane of glass, a set of flint and steel, a comb. The father teaches the girl how to fish and hunt, the secrets of the seasons and the stars. He is preparing her for an adulthood in harmony with nature, for they are the last of humankind. But when the girl finds herself alone in an unknown landscape, it is a bear that will lead her back home through a vast wilderness that offers the greatest lessons of all, if she can only learn to listen.
- by Sarah Gailey
A reading friend passed this my way, describing it as a tale of "outlaw librarian lesbian spies." This genre-bending novella is a little bit fantasy, a little bit dystopia, with a neo-Western vibe. It starts with a woman on the run, fleeing a bad marriage and the law after her partner was hanged for possessing Unapproved Materials that were not government-sanctioned. She takes shelter with a band of traveling librarians—and quickly discovers that these librarians are insurrectionists against the state. I loved how this book was constantly surprising in every way. Gailey made me laugh on every page, even as their characters shoot up gangsters in their quest to dismantle the patriarchy and right society's wrongs.
Helen McGill doesn't realize she's teetering on the verge of a midlife crisis until the professor rolls into town. He wants to sell her brother Parnassus—his traveling bookstore on (wagon) wheels. Helen falls in love with the idea of traveling through upstate New York, matching book-deprived readers with the right books, and she buys Parnassus herself. Adventures ensue. For fans of Miss Pettigrew (another terrific beach read). Essential reading for book lovers, and anyone who believes that when you sell a man a book, you sell him a whole new life.
The Binti trilogy, winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards, sat on my To Be Read list for too long. This novella drops you right into another galaxy where Binti is the first of her people to receive an offer to attend Oomza University, basically an ivy league college. Accepting the offer requires a huge sacrifice and a treacherous journey. I sped through this quick audiobook, thanks to excellent narration and a propulsive plot. Hear my full recommendation in <a href="https://modernmrsdarcy.com/256-episode/">Episode 256: The perks and pitfalls of omnivorous reading</a> with Cliff Cullen.
From Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Strout. This is a short, almost poetic, work—barely more than 200 pages—but Strout covers a lot of ground, from the perspective of a woman who's reflecting back on the time she spent in a NYC hospital in the 1980s: poverty, the AIDS epidemic, art and artists, and especially, the relationship between mothers and daughters. You could read this in an afternoon. Recommended for fans of Marilynne Robinson.
- by Alyssa Cole
Alyssa Cole might be well-known in romance circles for her contemporary Reluctant Royals series, but she's also an incredible historical romance writer—and her novellas pack a lot of story (and steam) into a one-sitting read. Set in Harlem 1917, this novella follows star-crossed lovers Bertha and Amir as they navigate women's rights, immigration, and prejudice in New York City. Cole paints a vivid picture of the time and crafts such incredible characters in just a few pages. Pick this one up for a quick dose of historical detail and a swoony love story, and heads up for a few open door scenes.