"It is not a spoil heap, careless but discrete, it is a whole landscape of porcelain."
~ from Edmund de Waal's The White Road
Beatlebone: A Novel by Kevin BarryFiction. If you're familiar with author Kevin Barry's previous work (the noirish, near-future City of Bohane, for one), prepare for something a little different. Beatlebone is set in an imaginary past: John Lennon has escaped Beatles-crazed New York and is trying to get to an island off the coast of Ireland in order to regain his creative equilibrium. As the press pursues Lennon, his eccentric driver hides him in various strange locales (a haunted pub, a primal-scream therapy commune). This unusual, philosophical book is reminiscent of a fable.
The Three-Year Swim Club: The Untold Story of Maui's Sugar Ditch Kids... by Julie CheckowayHistory. It was a lofty goal: Japanese-American school teacher Soichi Sakamoto, who knew nothing about swimming or coaching, decided to create an Olympic swimming team from among the poor children of a segregated Hawaiian sugar plantation. Lacking a pool, they had to practice in the plantation's filthy irrigation ditches. But it was 1937, and war intervened: the 1940 Games were canceled. Then so too were the 1944 Games. But finally, in 1948, swimmers from Sakamoto's team were able to compete. Fans of the inspiring story related in Daniel Brown's The Boys in the Boat will likely enjoy this rousing tale of another set of underdogs.
A House of My Own: Stories from My Life by Sandra CisnerosAutobiography: In A House of My Own, award-winning Chicana author Sandra Cisneros compiles essays and lectures to build the story of her life. Some of her vignettes were previously published, but she's reviewed all the pieces and added contextual comments to each. Noting that the presence of a typewriter constitutes "home," she describes places she's lived, considers the meaning of "home" for other writers, and relates the concept to her fiction and poetry. By turns funny, poignant, and contemplative, this memoir brings the author to life, presenting a woman you'll be sure you've met before. She's the perfect narrator for her own book.
The White Road: Journey into an Obsession by Edmund De WaalMemoir. Award-winning author and ceramic artist Edmund de Waal chronicles his longstanding obsession with porcelain and traces its history in this absorbing book -- part memoir, part history, and part travelogue. Through vivid descriptions of his discoveries, accessible explanations of the chemistry of porcelain ceramics, and compelling accounts of porcelain's history, The White Road paints an absorbing word portrait of the substance, the areas that produce it, and de Waal himself. Whether you're curious about the subject of ceramics or interested in travel memoirs, you'll find this book enthralling.
The Mare by Mary GaitskillFiction. Velvet Vargas is 11 years old when she first visits upstate New York, thanks to the Fresh Air Fund. It's very different from her inner-city Brooklyn home, and her host family is very different from her unstable Dominican mother, who resents them and resists their role in Velvet's life. As she continues to visit over the next three years, she builds relationships with her host mom, an artist and former addict, and her host father, a professor, as well as with a mistreated horse nearby. This novel sensitively treats the complexities of her transition into adolescence through multiple perspectives, which are effectively portrayed by the recording's four narrators.
Fast Break by Mike LupicaTweens Fiction. Though he's gotten pretty good at stealing food, Jayson gets collared when he tries to shoplift a new pair of sneakers. A talented middle school basketball player, Jayson needs the shoes to keep playing, but he can't afford them since his mom died and her boyfriend took off. Once it's revealed that he's living on his own, Jayson is taken in by the Lawtons, a wealthy older couple. Though he initially resents attending a fancy private school, he doesn't hesitate to join the basketball team, channeling his grief and anger into the game. On-the-court action and authentic emotions make Fast Break a perfect pick for sports fans, as well as those looking for an upbeat tale.
The Mulberry Bush: A Novel by Charles McCarrySpy Fiction. Author Charles McCarry has created a successful career out of the tales of spooks good and bad, and his latest offering is another stunner. With complex characters, smart dialogue, and treachery aplenty, The Mulberry Bush is intelligent and entertaining. It stars an unnamed narrator who aims to destroy American intelligence HQ from the inside to make them pay for his father's fall from grace. He rises quickly in the "Company," and is soon in a position to cause a lot of damage. As the tale unfolds over several years, don't expect a lot of heart-stopping action -- revenge is, after all, a dish best served cold.
Hostage: A Novel by Kristina Ohlsson; translated by Marlaine DelargySuspense Fiction. This is the 4th book in the Fredrika Bergman series, but it departs from its usual police procedural format. Instead, Fredrika and her colleagues at different Swedish law enforcement institutions face an international crisis: a bomb on a flight from Stockholm to New York will detonate if certain demands are not met by the Swedish and U.S. governments, who must find a way to work together -- before the plane's fuel runs out! This tense, intricately plotted novel was inspired by the 2010 terrorist bombings in Stockholm.
American Blood: A Novel by Ben SandersCrime Fiction. Marshall Grade was once an undercover Brooklyn narcotics officer. Now, he's in witness protection in New Mexico, though he's sublet his safe house to a felon, preferring to provide his own cover. So far so good (if unorthodox), until a missing girl becomes something of an obsession for him, putting him squarely in the path of some nasty individuals. Fortunately, Marshall is just as violent and deadly as his opponents. The dialogue sparkles, the blood flows...and apparently there are already plans to make American Blood into a feature film.
The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy by Rainn WilsonAutobiography. Best known as Dwight Schrute on television's The Office, comedian Rainn Wilson didn't fit in while growing up (and never was a bassoon phenom), and he struggled financially early in his acting career. He also floundered spiritually until he reconnected with Baha'i, the faith of his childhood. In The Bassoon King, Wilson irreverently and movingly details the challenges of his youth, dishes gossip on The Office, and shares the importance of openly embracing Baha'i and living according to its teachings. His voice as narrator on the recording brings his personality out for both fans of his career and those interested in his spiritual life.
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