The Wright Sister by Patty DannWhat it's about: Katherine Wright Haskell, the remarkable yet overlooked younger sister of the famous Wright Brothers, who tells the story of her education, teaching career, and sometimes turbulent relationship with her brother Orville through a series of diary entries.
Did you know? Katherine was the only member of her family to earn a college degree, and the financial support she provided her brothers was crucial to their aviation efforts.
The Abstainer by Ian McGuireWhat it is: the compelling and intricately plotted story of an Irish American Civil War veteran’s 1867 arrival in Manchester, England, where he gets involved with an underground Irish independence organization that puts him on the radar of a troubled local constable determined to take the movement down.
Reviewers say: "This well-told, suspenseful tale will appeal to fans of Deadwood and Cormac McCarthy" (Kirkus Reviews).
Black Bottom Saints by Alice RandallWhat it's about: the heyday of Black arts and culture in 1950s Detroit, as narrated by real-life local legend Joseph “Ziggy” Johnson, who rubbed elbows with big names like Dinah Washington, Sammy Davis Jr., and artists signed with the upstart record label that would later be called Motown.
About the author: Vanderbilt professor Alice Randall is a songwriter, novelist, and essayist known for her novel The Wind Done Gone, a retelling of Gone with the Wind from a slave’s perspective.
The Last Great Road Bum by Héctor TobarInspired by: the true story of Joe Sanderson, an Illinois teenager who left a comfortable life to hitchhike around the world and witnessed key 20th-century moments such as the Tet Offensive, Nigeria’s Biafra crisis, and most important for his own fate, the 1980s civil war in El Salvador.
Don't miss: the sardonic footnotes in which “Joe” argues with author Héctor Tobar’s version of his life story.
The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart TurtonWhat it is: a dramatic and intricately plotted historical mystery set during the 17th century, on a long sea voyage from the Dutch East Indies back to Amsterdam.
All aboard! Just before the ship sets sail, a man ravaged by leprosy tries to warn the passengers and crew that the voyage is doomed -- moments before he spontaneously combusts.
Passengers include: Imprisoned British spy Samuel Phipps; colonial Governor General Jan Haan, on his way to a cushy promotion; and if sailor superstitions are to be believed, a demon named Old Tom on whom they blame a series of violent deaths.
The Adventures of John Carson in Several Quarters of the World by Brian DoyleWhat it's about: the parallel narratives of author Robert Louis Stevenson as he tries to get his writing career off the ground and John Carson, the globe-trotting husband of Stevenson’s landlady who recounts his remarkable life story to the author as the two stroll around San Francisco.
Reviewers say: This “irresistible” novel “practically begs to be read aloud” (Booklist).
Gun Island by Amitav GhoshWhat it is: Steeped in Bengali folklore, this is a thought-provoking and stylistically complex story of displacement, identity, and the life of the mind.
Starring: Dinanath 'Deen" Datta, a rare book dealer whose trip to Calcutta gets derailed after he learns of a local legend involving a gun merchant, a mangrove jungle, and the Hindu goddess Manasa Devi.
Why you might like it: Deen’s curiosity and deep knowledge of literature and mythology help to ground some of the novel’s more mystical elements and lend it a contemplative tone.
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes GowarWhat it's about: When London merchant Jonah Hancock becomes the owner of a mummified "mermaid" specimen, his decision to display it publicly results in some colorful new acquaintances, including brothel madam Mrs. Chappell and beguiling courtesan Angelica Neal.
Read it for: well-developed characters; witty, period-appropriate dialogue; and a vividly drawn setting that captures the sights, sounds, and smells of 18th-century London.
For fans of: the panoramic view of British society in Michel Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White.
Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of a Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator by Homer HickamStarring: Homer Hickam Sr. (the man), a coal miner based on the author’s father; Elsie Lavender (the woman), an aspiring writer based on the author’s mother; and Albert (the alligator), their pet whose dislike of West Virginia sends the couple on an unforgettable road trip to return him to Florida.
About the author: Former NASA engineer Homer Hickam writes fiction and nonfiction, and his memoir Rocket Boys was the basis for the film October Sky.
Graffiti Palace by A.G. LombardoWhat it is: a dramatic and character-driven reimagining of The Odyssey, set in Los Angeles during the 1965 Watts Riots.
Read it for: main character Americo Monk’s anthropologist-like insights into the complexities and contradictions that make up the city.
You might also like: Windward Heights by Maryse Condé, another classic literature adaptation set in a Black community being pushed to the brink.
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