The Women We'd Like to Lunch With Book Club
Selections include fiction (and occasionally non-fiction) by women or with a woman character as the primary protagonist, or representing the concerns of women.
Join us on the first Tuesday of every month at 7:00pm
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June 2019 Selection: Rick Nagano is a graduate student in the history department at USC, struggling to make rent on his South Los Angeles apartment near the neighborhood where his family once lived. When he lands a job as a research assistant for the elderly Mrs. W--, the heir to an oil fortune, he sees it at first simply as a source of extra cash. But as he grows closer to the iconoclastic, charming, and feisty Mrs. W--, he gets drawn into a world of privilege and wealth far different from his racially mixed, blue-collar beginnings.
Putting aside his half-finished dissertation, Rick sets up office in Mrs. W--'s grand Bel Air mansion and begins to transcribe her journals--which document an old Los Angeles not described in his history books. He also accompanies Mrs. W-- to venues frequented by the descendants of the land and oil barons who built the city. One evening, at an event, he meets Fiona Morgan--the elegant scion of an old steel family--who takes an interest in his studies. Irresistibly drawn to Fiona, he agrees to help her with a project of questionable merit in the hopes he'll win her favor.
A Student of History explores both the beginnings of Los Angeles and the present-day dynamics of race and class. It offers a window into the usually hidden world of high society, and the influence of historic families on current events. Like Great Expectations and The Great Gatsby, it features, in Rick Nagano, a young man of modest means who is navigating a world where he doesn't belong.
May 2019 Selection: Rachel's current troubles--a middle-aged son mining digital currency in her basement, a scientist granddaughter trying to peek into her genes--are only the latest in a litany spanning dozens of countries, scores of marriages, hundreds of children, and 2,000 years, going back to Roman-occupied Jerusalem. Only one person shares her immortality: an illicit lover who pursues her through the ages. But when her children develop technologies that could change her fate, Rachel must find a way out. From ancient religion to the scientific frontier, Dara Horn pits our efforts to make life last against the deeper challenge of making life worth living.
April 2019 Selection: London. A fox makes its way across Waterloo Bridge. The distraction causes two pedestrians to collide--Jean, an American studying the habits of urban foxes, and Attila, a Ghanaian psychiatrist there to deliver a keynote speech. From this chance encounter, Aminatta Forna's unerring powers of observation show how in the midst of the rush of a great city lie numerous moments of connection.
Attila has arrived in London with two tasks: to deliver a keynote speech on trauma, as he has done many times before; and to contact the daughter of friends, his "niece" who hasn't called home in a while. Ama has been swept up in an immigration crackdown, and now her young son Tano is missing.
When, by chance, Attila runs into Jean again, she mobilizes the network of rubbish men she uses as volunteer fox spotters. Security guards, hotel doormen, traffic wardens--mainly West African immigrants who work the myriad streets of London--come together to help. As the search for Tano continues, a deepening friendship between Attila and Jean unfolds.
Meanwhile a consulting case causes Attila to question the impact of his own ideas on trauma, the values of the society he finds himself in, and a grief of his own. In this delicate tale of love and loss, of cruelty and kindness, Forna asks us to consider the interconnectedness of lives, our co-existence with one another and all living creatures, and the true nature of happiness.
March 2019 Selection: Told in three distinct and uniquely compelling sections, Asymmetry explores the imbalances that spark and sustain many of our most dramatic human relations: inequities in age, power, talent, wealth, fame, geography, and justice. The first section, "Folly," tells the story of Alice, a young American editor, and her relationship with the famous and much older writer Ezra Blazer. A tender and exquisite account of an unexpected romance that takes place in New York during the early years of the Iraq War, "Folly" also suggests an aspiring novelist's coming-of-age. By contrast, "Madness" is narrated by Amar, an Iraqi-American man who, on his way to visit his brother in Kurdistan, is detained by immigration officers and spends the last weekend of 2008 in a holding room in Heathrow. These two seemingly disparate stories gain resonance as their perspectives interact and overlap, with yet new implications for their relationship revealed in an unexpected coda.
A stunning debut from a rising literary star, Asymmetry is "a transgressive roman a clef, a novel of ideas, and a politically engaged work of metafiction" ( The New York Times Book Review), and a "masterpiece" in the original sense of the word" ( The Atlantic). Lisa Halliday's novel will captivate any reader with while also posing arresting questions about the very nature of fiction itself.
February 2019 Selection: Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Rhodes delivers a remarkable story of science history: how a ravishing film star and an avant-garde composer invented spread-spectrum radio, the technology that made wireless phones, GPS systems, and many other devices possible.
Beginning at a Hollywood dinner table, Hedy's Folly tells a wild story of innovation that culminates in U.S. patent number 2,292,387 for a "secret communication system." Along the way Rhodes weaves together Hollywood's golden era, the history of Vienna, 1920s Paris, weapons design, music, a tutorial on patent law and a brief treatise on transmission technology. Narrated with the rigor and charisma we've come to expect of Rhodes, it is a remarkable narrative adventure about spread-spectrum radio's genesis and unlikely amateur inventors collaborating to change the world.
January 2019 Selection: n such acclaimed novels as The Photograph, Family Album, and How It All Began, Penelope Lively has captivated readers with her singular blend of wisdom, elegance, and humor. Now, in her first story collection in decades, Lively takes up themes of history, family, and relationships across varied and vividly rendered settings.
In the title story, a Mediterranean purple swamp hen chronicles the secrets and scandals of Quintus Pompeius's villa, culminating with his narrow escape from the lava and ash of Vesuvius. "Abroad" captures the low point of an artist couple's tumultuous European road trip, trapped in a remote Spanish farmhouse and forced to paint a family mural and pitch in with chores to pay for repairs to their broken-down car. Other stories reveal friends and lovers in fateful moments of indiscretion, discovery, and even retribution--as in "The Third Wife," when a woman learns her husband is a serial con artist and turns a house-hunting trip into an elaborately staged revenge trap.
Each of these delightful stories is elevated by Lively's signature graceful prose and eye for the subtle yet powerfully evocative detail. Wry, charming, and keenly insightful, The Purple Swamp Hen and Other Stories is a masterful achievement from one of our most beloved writers.
November 2018 Selection: A witty new novel about three self-proclaimed "old bags" who run off to a Greek island
Since their children left home, Ruth, Dania, and Bess have grown used to living wonderfully free lives. Only now they're beset by children again--this time, their grandchildren. In order to escape, they decide to run away to Greece together for a year.
At first, settled on a glorious island, barefoot and contented, they think they've rediscovered the wheel. But then things begin to go awry. Dionysus, a local poet, takes up with Bess, at least until his wife gets wind of things. Dania, a therapist, is being stalked by one of her patients. And Ruth's ex-lover turns up out of the blue, closely followed by the man who lost Bess her fortune. It doesn't help when the children and grandchildren also start turning up whenever they feel like it. As Bess writes in one of Ruth's weekly "Granny à Go Go" columns, this is not an Enchanted April sort of year.
Lynn Freed's previous novels have received rave reviews everywhere from The New York Times Book Review ("Makes us laugh while packing, finally, a punch"), to the Los Angeles Times Book Review ("Deeply absorbing and ambitious . . . Astonishingly vivid"). In The Last Laugh she returns with a beautifully written and funny novel about money, sex, friendship, and the pleasures and perils of children.
October 2018 Selection: Autumn. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Two old friends--Daniel, a centenarian, and Elisabeth, born in 1984--look to both the future and the past as the United Kingdom stands divided by a historic, once-in-a-generation summer. Love is won, love is lost. Hope is hand-in-hand with hopelessness. The seasons roll round, as ever.
A luminous meditation on the meaning of richness and harvest and worth, Autumn is the first installment of Ali Smith's Seasonal quartet, and it casts an eye over our own time: Who are we? What are we made of? Shakespearean jeu d'esprit, Keatsian melancholy, the sheer bright energy of 1960s pop art. Wide-ranging in time-scale and light-footed through histories, Autumn is an unforgettable story about aging and time and love--and stories themselves.
September 2018 Selection: An uproarious novel ("Both heart-piercing and, crucially, very funny." --Louise Erdrich, The New York Times) from the celebrated author of Single, Carefree, Mellow about the challenges of a good marriage, the delight and heartache of raising children, and the irresistible temptation to wonder about the path not taken.
When Graham Cavanaugh divorced his first wife it was to marry his girlfriend, Audra, a woman as irrepressible as she is spontaneous and fun. But, Graham learns, life with Audra can also be exhausting, constantly interrupted by chatty phone calls, picky-eater houseguests, and invitations to weddings of people he's never met. Audra firmly believes that through the sheer force of her personality she can overcome the most socially challenging interactions, shepherding her son through awkward playdates and origami club, and even deciding to establish a friendship with Graham's first wife, Elspeth. Graham isn't sure he understands why Audra longs to be friends with the woman he divorced. After all, former spouses are hard to categorize--are they enemies, old flames, or just people you know really, really well? And as Graham and Audra share dinners, holidays, and late glasses of wine with his first wife he starts to wonder: How can anyone love two such different women? Did I make the right choice? Is there a right choice? A hilarious and rueful debut novel of love, marriage, infidelity, and origami, Standard Deviation never deviates from the superb.
August 2018 Selection: She took 1930s New York by storm, working her way up writing copy for R.H. Macy's to become the highest paid advertising woman in the country. It was a job that, she says, "in some ways saved my life, and in other ways ruined it."
Now it's the last night of 1984 and Lillian, 85 years old but just as sharp and savvy as ever, is on her way to a party. It's chilly enough out for her mink coat and Manhattan is grittier now--her son keeps warning her about a subway vigilante on the prowl--but the quick-tongued poetess has never been one to scare easily. On a walk that takes her over 10 miles around the city, she meets bartenders, bodega clerks, security guards, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be, while reviewing a life of excitement and adversity, passion and heartbreak, illuminating all the ways New York has changed--and has not.
A love letter to city life in all its guts and grandeur, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop.
Lillian figures she might as well take her time. For now, after all, the night is still young.
July 2018 Selection: In her "dry, delightful fairy tale for grown-ups" (People), celebrated novelist Marcy Dermansky offers a biting exploration of a woman's search for self-realization and models of a life well lived. When Leah's former boss and mentor, Judy, dies in an accident and leaves Leah her most prized possession--a flashy red sports car--the shock forces Leah to reevaluate her whole life. Leah is living in Queens with a husband she doesn't love and a list of unfulfilled ambitions. Returning to San Francisco to claim the mysteriously powerful car, she revisits past lives and loves in several sprawling days colored by sex and sorrow.
Dermansky evokes an edgy, capricious, and beautifully haunting heroine--one whose search for realization is as wonderfully unpredictable and hypnotic as the twists and turns of the Pacific Coast Highway. Tautly wound, transgressive, and mordantly funny, The Red Car is an incisive exploration of one woman's unusual route to self-discovery.
June 2018 Selection: An exquisitely talented young British author makes her American debut with this rapturously acclaimed historical novel, set in late nineteenth-century England, about an intellectually minded young widow, a pious vicar, and a rumored mythical serpent that explores questions about science and religion, skepticism, and faith, independence and love.
When Cora Seaborne's brilliant, domineering husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness: her marriage was not a happy one. Wed at nineteen, this woman of exceptional intelligence and curiosity was ill-suited for the role of society wife. Seeking refuge in fresh air and open space in the wake of the funeral, Cora leaves London for a visit to coastal Essex, accompanied by her inquisitive and obsessive eleven-year old son, Francis, and the boy's nanny, Martha, her fiercely protective friend.
While admiring the sites, Cora learns of an intriguing rumor that has arisen further up the estuary, of a fearsome creature said to roam the marshes claiming human lives. After nearly 300 years, the mythical Essex Serpent is said to have returned, taking the life of a young man on New Year's Eve. A keen amateur naturalist with no patience for religion or superstition, Cora is immediately enthralled, and certain that what the local people think is a magical sea beast may be a previously undiscovered species. Eager to investigate, she is introduced to local vicar William Ransome. Will, too, is suspicious of the rumors. But unlike Cora, this man of faith is convinced the rumors are caused by moral panic, a flight from true belief.
These seeming opposites who agree on nothing soon find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart--an intense relationship that will change both of their lives in ways entirely unexpected.
May 2018 Selection: In the aftermath of the Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.
In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.
In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna's parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows.
Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act "civilized." Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.
Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember--strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become--in the eyes of the law--a kidnapper himself.
April 2018 Selection: An ambitious, exuberant new novel moving from North West London to West Africa, from the multi-award-winning author of White Teeth and On Beauty.
Two brown girls dream of being dancers--but only one, Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It's a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revisited, but never quite forgotten, either.
Tracey makes it to the chorus line but struggles with adult life, while her friend leaves the old neighborhood behind, traveling the world as an assistant to a famous singer, Aimee, observing close up how the one percent live.
But when Aimee develops grand philanthropic ambitions, the story moves from London to West Africa, where diaspora tourists travel back in time to find their roots, young men risk their lives to escape into a different future, the women dance just like Tracey--the same twists, the same shakes--and the origins of a profound inequality are not a matter of distant history, but a present dance to the music of time.
March 2018 Selection: Geobiologist Hope Jahren has spent her life studying trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Lab Girl is her revelatory treatise on plant life--but it is also a celebration of the lifelong curiosity, humility, and passion that drive every scientist. In these pages, Hope takes us back to her Minnesota childhood, where she spent hours in unfettered play in her father's college laboratory. She tells us how she found a sanctuary in science, learning to perform lab work "with both the heart and the hands." She introduces us to Bill, her brilliant, eccentric lab manager. And she extends the mantle of scientist to each one of her readers, inviting us to join her in observing and protecting our environment. Warm, luminous, compulsively readable, Lab Girl vividly demonstrates the mountains that we can move when love and work come together.
February 2018 Selection: Within these fourteen hilarious and insightful tales of urban life, you'll meet:
- Raiford Phelps, an ornithologist who discovers new patterns of animal behavior when he meets Mary Leibnitz.
- Benno Morna, a temporary bachelor, free to indulge in TV, junk food, and Greenie Frenzel when his wholesome wife is out of town.
- Vincent Cadworthy and Guido Morris, whose elegant friendship is suddenly disrupted by Misty Berkowitz.
- Elizabeth Bayard, whose passion for order and civility does constant battle with her unruly loves.
- They are buffeted by the pressures of their jobs, imposed upon by their families and their surroundings, and remain ever hopeful of making sense of their lives. With compassion and biting wit, Laurie Colwin has created a new sort of comedy of manners.
January 2018 Selection: Mary Frances "Frankie" Lombard is fiercely in love with her family's sprawling apple orchard and the tangled web of family members who inhabit it. Content to spend her days planning capers with her brother William, competing with her brainy cousin Amanda, and expertly tending the orchard with her father, Frankie desires nothing more than for the rhythm of life to continue undisturbed. But she cannot help being haunted by the historical fact that some family members end up staying on the farm and others must leave. Change is inevitable, and threats of urbanization, disinheritance, and college applications shake the foundation of Frankie's roots. As Frankie is forced to shed her childhood fantasies and face the possibility of losing the idyllic future she had envisioned for her family, she must decide whether loving something means clinging tightly or letting go. A new classic from the author of Oprah's Book Club picks A Map of the World and The Book of Ruth.
November 2017 Selection: Pulitzer Prize winner and American master Anne Tyler brings us an inspired, witty and irresistible contemporary take on one of Shakespeare's most beloved comedies.
Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and uppity, pretty younger sister Bunny? Plus, she's always in trouble at work - her pre-school charges adore her, but their parents don't always appreciate her unusual opinions and forthright manner.
Dr. Battista has other problems. After years out in the academic wilderness, he is on the verge of a breakthrough. His research could help millions. There's only one problem: his brilliant young lab assistant, Pyotr, is about to be deported. And without Pyotr, all would be lost.
When Dr. Battista cooks up an outrageous plan that will enable Pyotr to stay in the country, he's relying - as usual - on Kate to help him. Kate is furious: this time he's really asking too much. But will she be able to resist the two men's touchingly ludicrous campaign to bring her around?
October 2017 Selection: Innocents and Others is about two women who grow up in LA in the 80s and become filmmakers. Meadow and Carrie have everything in common--except their views on sex, power, movie-making, and morality. Their friendship is complicated, but their devotion to each other trumps their wildly different approaches to film and to life. Meadow was always the more idealistic and brainy of the two; Carrie was more pragmatic. Into their lives comes Jelly, a master of seduction who calls powerful men and seduces them not with sex, but by being a superior listener. All of these women grapple with the question of how to be good: a good lover, a good friend, a good mother, a good artist.
September 2017 Selection: Best-selling author Maggie O'Farrell captures a remarkable marriage with insight and laugh-out-loud humor.
Daniel Sullivan leads a complicated life. A New Yorker living in the wilds of Ireland, he has children he never sees in California, a father he loathes in Brooklyn, and his wife, Claudette, is a reclusive ex-film star given to pulling a gun on anyone who ventures up their driveway. Together, they have made an idyllic life in the country, but a secret from Daniel's past threatens to destroy their meticulously constructed and fiercely protected home. Shot through with humor and wisdom, This Must Be the Place is an irresistible love story that crisscrosses continents and time zones as it captures an extraordinary marriage, and an unforgettable family, with wit and deep affection.
August 2017 Selection: From the bestselling author of A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar, an incredible story of colonialism, war, and the power of art in the face of trauma.
It is 1937. Prue, an artist living a reclusive life by the sea, is visited by William Harrington, a British pilot she knew as a child in Jerusalem. Prue remembers an attraction between Harrington and Eleanora, the wife of a famous Jerusalem photographer, and the troubles that arose when Harrington learned Eleanora's husband was part of an underground group intent on removing the British.
During his visit, Harrington reveals the truth behind what happened all those years ago, a truth that unravels Prue's world. Now she must follow the threads that lead her back to secrets long-ago buried in Jerusalem.
The Photographer's Wife is a powerful story of betrayal: between father and daughter, between husband and wife, and between nations and people, set in the complex period between the two world wars.
July 2017 Selection: I have been sleuthing my mother's symptoms for as long as I can remember. If I see myself as an unwilling detective with a desire for justice, is her illness an unsolved crime? If so, who is the villain and who is the victim?
Sofia, a young anthropologist, has spent much of her life trying to solve the mystery of her mother's unexplainable illness. She is frustrated with Rose and her constant complaints, but utterly relieved to be called to abandon her own disappointing fledgling adult life. She and her mother travel to the searing, arid coast of southern Spain to see a famous consultant--their very last chance--in the hope that he might cure her unpredictable limb paralysis.
But Dr. Gomez has strange methods that seem to have little to do with physical medicine, and as the treatment progresses, Sofia's mother's illness becomes increasingly baffling. Sofia's role as detective--tracking her mother's symptoms in an attempt to find the secret motivation for her pain--deepens as she discovers her own desires in this transient desert community.
Hot Milk is a profound exploration of the sting of sexuality, of unspoken female rage, of myth and modernity, the lure of hypochondria and big pharma, and, above all, the value of experimenting with life; of being curious, bewildered, and vitally alive to the world.
June 2017 Selection: Amsterdam, 1631: Sara de Vos becomes the first woman to be admitted as a master painter to the city's Guild of St. Luke. Though women do not paint landscapes (they are generally restricted to indoor subjects), a wintry outdoor scene haunts Sara: She cannot shake the image of a young girl from a nearby village, standing alone beside a silver birch at dusk, staring out at a group of skaters on the frozen river below. Defying the expectations of her time, she decides to paint it.
New York City, 1957: The only known surviving work of Sara de Vos, At the Edge of a Wood, hangs in the bedroom of a wealthy Manhattan lawyer, Marty de Groot, a descendant of the original owner. It is a beautiful but comfortless landscape. The lawyer's marriage is prominent but comfortless, too. When a struggling art history grad student, Ellie Shipley, agrees to forge the painting for a dubious art dealer, she finds herself entangled with its owner in ways no one could predict.
Sydney, 2000: Now a celebrated art historian and curator, Ellie Shipley is mounting an exhibition in her field of specialization: female painters of the Dutch Golden Age. When it becomes apparent that both the original At the Edge of a Wood and her forgery are en route to her museum, the life she has carefully constructed threatens to unravel entirely and irrevocably.
May 2017 Selection: On an unseasonably warm spring day in 1924, twenty-two-year-old Jane Fairchild, a maid at an English country house, meets with her secret lover, the young heir of a neighboring estate. He is about to be married to a woman more befitting his social status, and the time has come to end the affair--but events unfold in ways Jane could never have predicted.
As the narrative moves back and forth across the twentieth century, what we know and understand about Jane--about the way she loves, thinks, feels, sees, and remembers--expands with every page. InMothering Sunday, Booker Prize-winning novelist Graham Swift has crafted an emotionally soaring and profoundly moving work of fiction.
April 2017 Selection: A young woman who has left the South, returns to New Orleans several years later when her father is dying. After his death, she and her young stepmother go back to the small Mississippi town where she grew up. Alone in the old house, Laurel finally comes to an understanding of the past and herself.
March 2017 Selection: The Portable Veblen is a dazzlingly original novel that s as big-hearted as it is laugh-out-loud funny. Set in and around Palo Alto, amid the culture clash of new money and old (antiestablishment) values, and with the specter of our current wars looming across its pages, The Portable Veblen is an unforgettable look at the way we live now. A young couple on the brink of marriage the charming Veblen and her fiance Paul, a brilliant neurologist find their engagement in danger of collapse. Along the way they weather everything from each other s dysfunctional families, to the attentions of a seductive pharmaceutical heiress, to an intimate tete-a-tete with a very charismatic squirrel.
Veblen (named after the iconoclastic economist Thorstein Veblen, who coined the term conspicuous consumption ) is one of the most refreshing heroines in recent fiction. Not quite liberated from the burdens of her hypochondriac, narcissistic mother and her institutionalized father, Veblen is an amateur translator and freelance self; in other words, she s adrift. Meanwhile, Paul the product of good hippies who were bad parents finds his ambition soaring. His medical research has led to the development of a device to help minimize battlefield brain trauma an invention that gets him swept up in a high-stakes deal with the Department of Defense, a Bizarro World that McKenzie satirizes with granular specificity.
As Paul is swept up by the promise of fame and fortune, Veblen heroically keeps the peace between all the damaged parties involved in their upcoming wedding, until she finds herself falling for someone or something else. Throughout, Elizabeth McKenzie asks: Where do our families end and we begin? How do we stay true to our ideals? And what is that squirrelreallythinking? Replete with deadpan photos and sly appendices, The Portable Veblenis at once an honest inquiry into what we look for in love and an electrifying reading experience.
February 2017 Selection: The instant New York Times bestseller and award-winning sensation, Helen Macdonald's story of adopting and raising one of nature's most vicious predators has soared into the hearts of millions of readers worldwide. Fierce and feral, her goshawk Mabel's temperament mirrors Helen's own state of grief after her father's death, and together raptor and human "discover the pain and beauty of being alive" ( People). H Is for Hawk is a genre-defying debut from one of our most unique and transcendent voices.
January 2017 Selection: Why are books so very powerful? What do the books we ve read over our lives our own personal libraries make of us? What does the unraveling of our tradition of public libraries, so hard-won but now in jeopardy, say about us?
The stories in Ali Smith s new collection are about what we do with books and what they do with us: how they travel with us; how they shock us, change us, challenge us, banish time while making us older, wiser and ageless all at once; how they remind us to pay attention to the world we make.
Woven between the stories are conversations with writers and readers reflecting on the essential role that libraries have played in their lives. At a time when public libraries around the world face threats of cuts and closures, this collection stands as a work of literary activism and as a wonderful read from one of our finest authors
November 2016 Selection: "Kitchens of the Great Midwest, "about a young woman with a once-in-a-generation palate who becomes the iconic chef behind the country s most coveted dinner reservation, is the summer s most hotly anticipated debut.
When Lars Thorvald s wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine and a dashing sommelier he s left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He s determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter starting with pureed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva s journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that s a testament to her spirit and resilience.
Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal s startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity. By turns quirky, hilarious, and vividly sensory, "Kitchens of the Great Midwest" is an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises. It marks the entry of a brilliant new talent.
October 2016 Selection: This enthralling novel is based on the life of one of the world's greatest aviators, the glamorous and daring Jean Batten.
After breaking records and becoming an international icon in the 1930s, she suddenly slipped out of view, disappearing to the Caribbean with her mother and eventually dying in obscurity in Majorca, buried in a pauper's grave.
Fiona Kidman is a Dame and an OBE for her services to New Zealand literature."
September 2016 Selection: In "The Summer Book" Tove Jansson distills the essence of the summer its sunlight and storms into twenty-two crystalline vignettes. This brief novel tells the story of Sophia, a six-year-old girl awakening to existence, and Sophia s grandmother, nearing the end of hers, as they spend the summer on a tiny unspoiled island in the Gulf of Finland. The grandmother is unsentimental and wise, if a little cranky; Sophia is impetuous and volatile, but she tends to her grandmother with the care of a new parent. Together they amble over coastline and forest in easy companionship, build boats from bark, create a miniature Venice, write a fanciful study of local bugs. They discuss things that matter to young and old alike: life, death, the nature of God and of love. On an island, thinks the grandmother, everything is complete. In "The Summer Book," Jansson creates her own complete world, full of the varied joys and sorrows of life.
August 2016 Selection: Meet Florence Gordon, a blunt, brilliant feminist. At seventy-five, Florence wants to be left alone to write her memoir and shape her legacy. But when her son and his family come to visit, they embroil Florence in their dramas, threatening her coveted solitude. Marked with searing wit, sophisticated intelligence, and a tender respect for humanity, "Florence Gordon"is cast with a constellation of unforgettable characters.
June 2016 Selection: Hailed as "an utter delight, the most brilliant witty and charming book I have read since I can't remember when" by "The New York Times" when it was originally published in 1956, Rose Macaulay's "The Towers of Trebizond" tells the gleefully absurd story of Aunt Dot, Father Chantry-Pigg, Aunt Dot's deranged camel, and our narrator, Laurie, who are traveling from Istanbul to legendary Trebizond on a convoluted mission. Along the way they will encounter spies, a Greek sorcerer, a precocious ape, and Billy Graham with a busload of evangelists. Part travelogue, part comedy, it is also a meditation on love, faith, doubt, and the difficulties, moral and intellectual, of being a Christian in the modern world.
May 2016 Selection In 1960s Virginia, college freshman and ingenue Peggy falls for professor and poet Lee, and what begins as an ill-advised affair results in an unplanned pregnancy and marriage. Mismatched from the start she s a lesbian; he s gay Peggy eventually finds herself in crisis and runs away with their daughter, leaving their son behind.
Estranged from the rest of the family, Peggy and her daughter adopt African-American identities and live in near poverty to escape detection. Meanwhile, Lee and his son carry on, enjoying all the social privileges their gender, class, and whiteness afford them. Eventually the long-lost siblings meet, setting off a series of misunderstandings that culminate in a darkly comedic finale.
With an arch sense of humor and a witty satirical eye, Nell Zink upends the foundational categories of American life race, class, gender, and sexuality in a novel that is at once daring, envelope-pushing, and utterly hilarious, all the while tracing how a mother, daughter, father, and son figure out what it means to belong.
April 2016 Selection: London, 1905: The city is alight with change, and the Stephen siblings are at the forefront. Vanessa, Virginia, Thoby, and Adrian are leaving behind their childhood home and taking a house in the leafy heart of avant-garde Bloomsbury. There they bring together a glittering circle of bright, outrageous artistic friends who will grow into legend and come to be known as the Bloomsbury Group. And at the center of this charmed circle are the devoted, gifted sisters: Vanessa, the painter, and Virginia, the writer.
Each member of the group will go on to earn fame and success, but so far Vanessa Bell has never sold a painting. Virginia Woolf s book review has just been turned down by "The" "Times." Lytton Strachey has not published anything. E. M. Forster has finished his first novel but does not like the title. Leonard Woolf is still a civil servant in Ceylon, and John Maynard Keynes is looking for a job. Together, this sparkling coterie of artists and intellectuals throw away convention and embrace the wild freedom of being young, single bohemians in London.
But the landscape shifts when Vanessa unexpectedly falls in love and her sister feels dangerously abandoned. Eerily possessive, charismatic, manipulative, and brilliant, Virginia has always lived in the shelter of Vanessa s constant attention and encouragement. Without it, she careens toward self-destruction and madness. As tragedy and betrayal threaten to destroy the family, Vanessa must decide if it is finally time to protect her own happiness above all else.
March 2016 Selection: A highly praised debut novel of psychological suspense about a daring art heist, a cat-and-mouse waiting game, and a small-town girl's mesmerizing transformation.
On the grubby outskirts of Paris, Grace restores bric-a-brac, mends teapots, and resets gems. She calls herself Julie, says she's from California, and slips back to a rented room at night. In truth, home is Garland, Tennessee, where two young men have just been paroled. Both were jailed for a crime that Grace planned.The heist went bad but not before she was on a plane to Prague, contraband in her bag. As Grace's web of deception unravels, she begins a cat-and-mouse game that echoes the best of Alfred Hitchcock and Patricia Highsmith and is sure to appeal to fans of "The Girl on the Train.""
February 2016 Selection: Diana Athill is one of the great editors in British publishing. For more than five decades she edited the likes of V. S. Naipaul and Jean Rhys, for whom she was a confidante and caretaker. As a writer, Athill has made her reputation for the frankness and precisely expressed wisdom of her memoirs. Now in her ninety-first year, "entirely untamed about both old and new conventions"(Literary Review) and freed from any of the inhibitions that even she may have once had, Athill reflects candidly, and sometimes with great humor, on the condition of being old the losses and occasionally the gains that age brings, the wisdom and fortitude required to face death. Distinguished by "remarkable intelligence...[and the] easy elegance of her prose" (Daily Telegraph), this short, well-crafted book, hailed as "a virtuoso exercise" (Sunday Telegraph) presents an inspiring work for those hoping to flourish in their later years. "
January 2016 Selection: A teenage girl encounters the shocks of first love at the height of the summer holidays in Greece. A young filmmaker celebrates her first moment of recognition by impulsively buying a Chanel dress she can barely afford. Both halves of a longstanding couple fall in love with others and shed their marriage in the space of a morning. In all of these sparkling stories, characters take risks, confront fears, and step outside their boundaries into new destinies.
Tracing the contours of the modern Italian diaspora, Francesca Marciano takes us from Venetian film festivals to the islands off Tanzania to a classical dance community in southern India. These stories shine with keen insights and surprising twists. Driven by Marciano s vivid takes on love and betrayal, politics and travel, and the awakenings of childhood, "The Other Language" is a tour de force that illuminates both the joys and ironies of self-reinvention.e talent.
November 2015 Selection: From the prizewinning author of"Mr. Fox," the Snow White fairy tale brilliantly recast as a story of family secrets, race, beauty, and vanity.
In the winter of 1953, Boy Novak arrives by chance in a small town in Massachusetts, looking, she believes, for beauty the opposite of the life she s left behind in New York. She marries a local widower and becomes stepmother to his winsome daughter, Snow Whitman.
A wicked stepmother is a creature Boy never imagined she d become, but elements of the familiar tale of aesthetic obsession begin to play themselves out when the birth of Boy s daughter, Bird, exposes the Whitman family secret. Among them, Boy, Snow, and Bird confront the tyranny of the mirror to ask how much power surfaces really hold.
Dazzlingly inventive and powerfully moving," Boy, Snow, Bird"is an astonishing and enchanting novel. With breathtaking feats of imagination, Helen Oyeyemi confirms her place as one of the most original and dynamic literary voices of our time.
October 2015 Selection:
Luke is a young playwright--intense, magnetic, and eager for life. He escapes a disastrous upbringing in the northeast and, arriving in London, meets Paul Driscoll, an aspiring producer, and the beautiful, fiery Leigh Radley, the woman Paul loves.
The three set up a radical theater company, living and working together, forging a romantic connection in candlelit rehearsal rooms during power cuts and smoky late-night parties in Chelsea's run-down flats. The gritty rebellion of pub theater is fighting for its place against a West End dominated by racy revue shows and the giants of twentieth-century drama.
Nina Jacobs is a fragile actress, bullied by her mother and in thrall to a controlling producer. When Luke meets Nina, he recognizes a soul in danger--but how much must he risk to save her?
Everything he has fought for--loyalty, friendship, art--is drawn into the heat of their collision. Now everything Luke values, even the promise of the future, is in danger. Suddenly the fallout threatens to be immense.
September 2015 Selection: ONE OF THE10 BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR - "THE""NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
"A Best Book of the Year: "The New Yorker," "The Boston Globe," "Minneapolis Star Tribun"e, "Vogue."com, "Electric Literature," "Buzzfeed"
In the beginning, it was easy to imagine their future. They were young and giddy, sure of themselves and of their love for each other. Dept. of Speculation was their code name for all the thrilling uncertainties that lay ahead. Then they got married, had a child and navigated the familiar calamities of family life a colicky baby, a faltering relationship, stalled ambitions.
When their marriage reaches a sudden breaking point, the wife tries to retrace the steps that have led them to this place, invoking everything from Kafka to the Stoics to doomed Russian cosmonauts as she analyzes what is lost and what remains. In language that shimmers with rage and longing and wit, Offill has created a brilliantly suspenseful love story a novel to read in one sitting, even as its piercing meditations linger long after the last page."
August 2015 Selection: After fifteen years working in East Africa, Frankie Rowley returns to the New Hampshire village where her family has always spent their summers. But the tranquility she s expecting proves short lived when, on the very night she arrives, a mysterious arsonist begins targeting the homes of other summer residents. As this seemingly idyllic community becomes increasingly on edge, Frankie also has to deal with her father s declining health and begins a passionate affair with the editor of a local paper that will yield its own remarkable risks and revelations. Suspenseful, sophisticated, and finely wrought, "The Arsonist" is an artfully nuanced and deeply emotional novel about a family and a community tested, about how and where one ought to live, and about what it means to lead a fulfilling life."
July 2015 Selection: A New York Times Bestseller
Winner of the 2014 Kirkus Prize
Winner of the 2014 New England Book Award for Fiction
A Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award
A Best Book of the Year for:
"New York Times Book Review," "Time," NPR, "Washington Post," "Entertainment Weekly," "Newsday," "Vogue," "New York Magazine," "Seattle Times," "San Francisco Chronicle," "Wall Street Journal," "Boston Globe," "The Guardian," "Kirkus Reviews," Amazon, "Publishers Weekly," Our Man in Boston, Oprah.com, Salon
"Euphoria" is Lily King's nationally bestselling breakout novel of three young, gifted anthropologists of the 30's caught in a passionate love triangle that threatens their bonds, their careers, and, ultimately, their lives. Inspired by events in the life of revolutionary anthropologist Margaret Mead, "Euphoria" is "dazzling ... suspenseful ... brilliant...an exhilarating novel. "Boston Globe"
June 2015 Selection: Winner of the Booker Prize
On the Battersea Reach of the Thames, a mixed bag of the slightly disreputable, the temporarily lost, and the patently eccentric live on houseboats, rising and falling with the great river s tides. Belonging to neither land nor sea, they cling to one another in a motley yet kindly society. There is Maurice, by occupation a male prostitute, by happenstance a receiver of stolen goods. And Richard, a buttoned-up ex-navy man whose boat dominates the Reach. Then there is Nenna, a faithful but abandoned wife, the diffident mother of two young girls running wild on the waterfront streets.
It is Nenna s domestic predicament that, as it deepens, draws the relations among this scrubby community together into ever more complex and comic patterns. The result is one of Fitzgerald s greatest triumphs, a novel the Booker judges deemed flawless.
A marvelous achievement: strong, supple, humane, ripe, generous, and graceful. "Sunday Times"
May 2015 Selection: For years Joan has been trying to forget her past, to find peace and satisfaction in her role as wife and mother. Few in her drowsy California suburb know her thrilling history: as a young American ballerina in Paris, she fell into a doomed, passionate romance with Soviet dance superstar Arslan Rusakov. After playing a leading role in his celebrated defection, Joan bowed out of the spotlight for good, heartbroken by Arslan and humbled by her own modest career.
But when her son turns out to be a ballet prodigy, Joan is pulled back into a world she thought she'd left behind--a world of dangerous secrets, of Arslan, and of longing for what will always be just out of reach.
March 2015 Selection:
One of "The""New York Times"'s Ten Best Books of the Year
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction
An NPR "Great Reads" Book, a "Chicago Tribune" Best Book, a "Washington Post "Notable Book, a "Seattle Times "Best Book, an "Entertainment Weekly" Top Fiction Book, a "Newsday "Top 10 Book, and a "Goodreads "Best of the Year pick.
A powerful, tender story of race and identity by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of "Half of a Yellow Sun."
Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion--for each other and for their homeland.
February 2015 Selection: Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014
Winner of the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award
One of the "New York Times Book Review's "100 Notable Books of 2013 and named by "The Christian Science Monitor "as one of the top 15 works of fiction
The "New York Times" bestselling author of "The Jane Austen Book Club" introduces a middle-class American family, ordinary in every way but one.
Meet the Cooke family: Mother and Dad, brother Lowell, sister Fern, and Rosemary, who begins her story in the middle. She has her reasons. "I was raised with a chimpanzee," she explains. "I tell you Fern was a chimp and already you aren't thinking of her as my sister. But until Fern's expulsion ... she was my twin, my funhouse mirror, my whirlwind other half and I loved her as a sister." As a child, Rosemary never stopped talking. Then, something happened, and Rosemary wrapped herself in silence.
In "We Are All Completely beside Ourselves, " Karen Joy Fowler weaves her most accomplished work to date--a tale of loving but fallible people whose well-intentioned actions lead to heartbreaking consequences.
January 2015 Selection: From one of our most accomplished and widely admired historians--a revelatory portrait of Benjamin Franklin's youngest sister, Jane, whose obscurity and poverty were matched only by her brother's fame and wealth but who, like him, was a passionate reader, a gifted writer, and an astonishingly shrewd political commentator.