I remember reading The Song of Achilles and loving it. Madeline Miller is back with another Greek retelling with Circe. Circe is the lesser daughter of Helios, the god of the sun, and her mother is an Oceanid naiad named Perse. After angering Zeus (plus she is not really liked but tolerated by her family), she is cast out to live on an island all alone. Even though she is a god, her powers have never really presented themselves until she comes to the island. Here she meets all manners of famous names from the myths: from Hermes, the Minotaur, Athena, Daedalus and his son Icarus, to Odysseus. Circe comes into her own on this island, defying the Gods by not remaining quiet and confined. This brilliant book is so well written and researched that I may just have to read it again for the fun of it.--Jason
Cathleen Schine’s latest plays on the themes of earlier books - like The Three Weissmanns of Westport, it’s a sister story, and like Fin and Lady, it’s steeped in a nostalgic New York of a slightly earlier time. And it’s filled with the sparkling writing that we’ve come to know in her previous novels, but this time she takes it to another level, even opening each chapter with a definition from Samuel Johnson’s dictionary, the very same Johnson who is the subject of our store’s namesake biography. Daphne and Laurel Wolfe, in a way, represent two versions of the dictionary itself, one the descriptive poet and the other the prescriptive columnist, and it’s a mark of nurture over nature that Schine chronicles what led to this uncrossable divide, like Manhattan and Brooklyn when the subways are down. So many authors of late are fascinated by what drives sisters apart – if you interpreted life by reading novels, you’d think that by adulthood, it was rare to find two siblings in communication. And yet, as this is clearly a parlor comedy with definite Laurie Colwin-esque vibes, we know that there will one day be a bridge. But even if there wasn’t one, I’d just as soon be stranded in the East River, as long as I had The Grammarians to keep me company.
— Daniel Goldin
A hauntingly beautiful memoir of one woman's struggle in the face of (often-invisible) Queer domestic abuse. Machado's writing is eloquent, metaphorical, and informative, flowing seamlessly from educational prose to heartbreaking exposition. Her use of narrative tropes as chapters is brilliant, and the sincerity of her voice hits you like a tidal wave. This is the type of memoir that leaves you raw and aching but feeling incredibly lucky that the author allowed you a peek into their life.
— Kelli O'Malley
Willis Wu has aspirations to become Kung-Fu Guy on a cop show called Black and White. He's not Kung-Fu Guy yet, but maybe someday, if he can move up the ranks of bit Asian roles given to him. Willis wants this so bad that reality has blurred a bit for him and his real life shows signs of being a scripted as well. I started to question whether Willis really knew what he wanted or if he was presetting himself a path that would be difficult for him to veer away from. Charles Yu made this book look so easy, smooth and fun to read, which he's demonstrated in all his past works as well. This book is dripping with pop culture references, stereotypes and lots of lots of humor. Interior Chinatown delivers several knock out punches at our culture and society.
While many people now know Quindlen best through her beloved novels, she first made her mark as an essayist, first at The New York Times, and then for Newsweek. She last wrote about parenting in Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, and now that she’s a grandparent, she’s back with astute observations of how her life has changed with the arrival of Arthur. She notes that while there are all different ways to be a nana – to Quindlen, the job is to make the not the cake or the frosting, but the sugar flowers at the corners. Always think, did they ask you? Quindlen alternates personal stories with essays that step back and look at grandparenting in general. The results are a wise and warm collection to be savored, no matter the makeup of your family.
— Daniel Goldin
Whether living in anticipation of becoming grandmother, experiencing it for the first time, or surviving as a veteran grandmother multiple times over, readers will be amused by the wit and insightful wisdom that prevails throughout this gem of a book. Quindlen shares her experiences since grand-baby Arthur arrived and expands beyond that moment to reflectively look at how grandparenting has changed over the years. Well done Nana Quindlen!
— Jane Glaser
Perfect for readers of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, The Ninth House is set in our world but positively crackles with dark magic! Many readers know Leigh Bardugo’s talent for creating nuanced characters with their own set of questionable ethics from her wildly popular YA fantasies including Six of Crows (and if you don’t know that book, please find a copy right now because it’s one of the best books EVER). Bardugo wrote her latest for adults and will no doubt expand her crowd of devoted fans. Main character Galaxy “Alex” Stern had been tormented by ghosts interfering with her life for as long as she can remember. Her ability to see the dead catches the attention of a dean at Yale University, who offers twenty-year-old Alex a full ride. Surprising since she never even graduated from high school, and the too-good-to-be-true offer does come with a catch. Alex is required to become a watchdog, keeping an eye on Yale’s eight secret societies whose practice of magic to manipulate politics, the stock market, and more is both chilling and dangerous. And they don’t appreciate being scrutinized. After years submerged in LA’s drug culture, always on the verge of homelessness, Alex’s hope that if she could just somehow make this chance work out is really poignant. Then a town girl turns up dead. When the easy answers don’t satisfy Alex, she realizes how seriously she takes her new job. I liked how the author juxtaposes a tough and street-smart character against the privileged prep school crowd at Yale, giving her exactly the qualities that just might help her survive freshman year. Bardugo’s plot is clever and her writing as mesmerizing as always. All I could think as I turned the last page was “how long until the sequel?”
There was a lot of buzz about Sally Rooney’s first novel, Conversations with Friends, but it seems like her second, already winner of the Costa Prize for fiction and long-listed for the Booker, will be greeted at stateside publication with a deafening roar. Marianne is a wealthy but emotionally isolated high school student, while Connell is relatively popular, but bares the shame that his mom is Marianne’s amily’s maid. The attraction is immediate, but something’s always getting in the way of them being together - from Connell’s desire for respectability to Marianne’s legacy of abuse. I love the structure of the book, from the way story is a series of moments with time lapses laid out to the delicate way the no-quotation-marks dialogue is integrated into the exposition. I’m drawn to the tone, which is a mix of sad and awkward. But mostly I love Marianne and Connell, an unforgettable couple star-crossed not by outside forces but by their own demons. --Daniel
As most folks know, The Office started as an American remake of Ricky Gervais’s short-run British comedy. The pilot was almost a word-for-word transcription, and the critics were not thrilled. But the show soon found its voice, especially when they realized a key difference between David Brent and Michael Scott; Brent wanted to be famous, but Scott just wanted to be loved. Andy Greene, longtime Rolling Stone writer, has an unusually large number of primary sources for a book like this, and he organizes it like an oral history. There’s so much packed in that even diehards will likely learn something. For us Office amateurs, a key thing to note is the Greg Daniels mantra when writing the show: Never forget that Michael was good at being a salesman. Was the show in fact a literary adaptation of The Peter Principle? The book never veers into gossip; we never actually learn which stars came in late and refused to be in the background shots of other principals, as was once the norm. If there is a villain in the book, it’s NBC programming exec Bob Greenblatt, who wasn’t a particularly big fan of the show and didn’t give Steve Carrell an offer to come back for season seven. Yikes.
— Daniel Goldin
Overstory will challenge if not entirely change the way you view trees—and perhaps all plant life. Powers does this seamlessly while telling wonderful stories of eight very different individuals/couples whose lives eventually merge around the subject of trees. Brilliant and uplifting. My favorite book of 2018.--Kay
his utterly heart-warming story allows you to vicariously join four of the primary wolf packs formed during the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone starting in 1994. The stories of original alpha males and females and their offspring are stunning in their detail. Without anthropomorphizing, McIntyre observes markedly unique personalities, a genuinely amazing variety of games that teach life-long skills and build bonds among individuals both young and old, fascinating family dynamics, and fierce loyalty and bravery on the hunt and against threats from outside such as grizzlies and other wolf packs. This is the loveliest and most vibrant wild animal story I’ve ever read.
— From Kay's Staff Recommendations
“It’s the late ’90s in Topeka, and high school senior Adam Gordon is partying, going to school, and preparing for a national speech and debate competition—living a life he expects to reflect back upon with irony and detachment in some urbane, imaginary future. Lerner shifts between perspectives, stealing stylistic bits from autofiction and documentary; he reinvents the way narrative can place the moments of our lives in the context of history, both global and hyper-local, exploring how history inflicts trauma onto us and how we, in turn, inflict that trauma back onto history. And he does all this while toying with language and the spaces where it breaks down as we attempt to self-define. Simply put, The Topeka School is a work of genius.”
— Chris Lee
Coates has become an essential voice on race in America. His non-fiction writing, such as We Were Eight Years in Power, and his public speaking, such as his testimony on reparations before Congress, have given him a reputation for true brilliance. My sense is that this first Coates novel, The Water Dancer, will immediately add "great American novelist" to his resume. The depth of this book is astounding, and its narrator, Hiram Walker, I believe will soon be considered one of American literature's most important characters. Walker is one of the "Tasked," a slave on a Virginia tobacco plantation, whose mother is also Tasked and whose father is the plantation owner, a leader among Virginia's "Quality." Hiram Walker knows he's different from others. He has a capacity to remember all that he hears or sees, which amazes the "Quality," and a certain ability to "Conduct" himself, which he struggles to understand. It's a power derived from remembering the stories of so many people who are lost, sold away, taken down. Coates shows us with intricate and haunting detail the human cost of slavery to everyone involved, and his writing is rock steady but bold. Walker's voice is smart and strong, and Coates successfully makes the one they called Moses, Harriet Tubman, a pivotal character. At once magical and profoundly real, this novel has a rare feeling of both completeness and greatness.
— From Tim's Staff Recommendations
It starts off with an awkward blind date gone terribly wrong, between studious and somewhat uptight Darcy Lowell and head in the clouds astrologer Elle Jones. However, there's no denying that the spark between the two women. Still, Elle is astounded to learn from her new business partner (who happens to be Darcy's brother and the reason for said awful date) that Darcy had a great time; so much so that Darcy is “smitten." What?! Confused to say the least, Elle arrives on Darcy's doorstep to confront her about this obvious lie and somehow winds up agreeing to pretend that she is dating Darcy in order to keep the meddling brother at bay. As they continue this fake dating, the spark between them gets harder to ignore. Written in the Stars is a whimsical, funny, and amorous novel. Whatever your astrological sign, it's in your future to read this holiday rom-com!
— Jen Steele
"How could you let people exist, how could you permit them all this dangerous freedom to decide? What might they decide?" Beetle just wants to make life easier for people; their products gently nudge you to treat yourself better while logging your every moment, emotion, action, and decision. You can even be prevented from future illegal activity! So when, unpredictably, George Mann goes home and murders his entire family, surely technology is not to blame. Surely human irrationality, or Zed, must be the culprit! Honestly, this book really freaked me out. As I was reading, my smart watch gently nudged me to take another fifty steps or so. Life is so close to being like Zed, and like many great dystopian novels, Zed asks the question we should all be asking constantly: who watches the watchmen?
— Rachel Copeland