The Dakota Winters by Tom BarbashWhat happens: 23-year-old Anton Winter comes of age, with a little help from his friends.
What it includes: father-son dynamics, television talk shows, John Lennon, Manhattan in the 1980s, and Ted Kennedy's presidential campaign.
Why you might like it: Chock-full of '80s culture and sprinkled with celebrities (both real and imagined), this engaging and imaginative novel casts a nostalgic spell.
The adults by Caroline HulseStarring: Matt (and his girlfriend, Alex), Claire (and her boyfriend, Patrick), and Matt and Claire's seven-year-old daughter, Scarlett, all of whom are spending Christmas together at a family amusement park.
What happens: As the cover image suggests, it doesn't go well. Someone is shot with a bow and arrow, but before we get to that point in this entertaining debut, tension and jealousy abound.
Read it for: the police interviews and fun-park brochures that are interspersed with scenes of the quickly deteriorating situation; the astringent, dry wit; plenty of British slang; and a giant invisible rabbit named Posey.
Outside looking in
by T. Coraghessan Boyle
In this stirring and insightful novel, T.C. Boyle takes us back to the 1960s and to the early days of a drug whose effects have reverberated widely throughout our culture: LSD. In 1943, LSD is synthesized in Basel. Two decades later, a coterie of grad students at Harvard are gradually drawn into the inner circle of renowned psychologist and psychedelic drug enthusiast Timothy Leary. Fitzhugh Loney, a psychology Ph.D. student and his wife, Joanie, become entranced by the drug's possibilities such that their "research" becomes less a matter of clinical trials and academic papers and instead turns into a free-wheeling exploration of mind expansion, group dynamics, and communal living.
The museum of modern love by Heather RoseWhat it's about: the many people who find themselves drawn to performance artist Marina Abramovic, who stages herself at Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art for hours, waiting to gaze into the eyes of anyone who chooses to seat themselves at her table.
Why you might like it: Abramovic's performance (which actually did take place in 2010) elicits strong responses in the audience, as returning observers connect with each other, reflect on their losses, and interact with the artist. The result is a thought-provoking exploration not just of art but of love and desire as well.
The Tristan chord
by Glenn Skwerer
An upholstery apprentice by day and fledgling violist by night, Eugen meets the fifteen-year-old Adolf Hitler at the local opera house in Linz in 1905, and for the next four years they see each other almost daily. Eugen is captivated but also troubled by Hitler- his almost complete isolation; his strange hours and feverish routines; his refusal to work; his unusual and profound attachment to his mother; and his obsession with a young woman to whom he has never said a word. They move together to Vienna - Adolf to study art, Eugen to study music - but as Adolf's money runs low, he becomes intensely irritable and increasingly drawn to the racist gutter press of Vienna; he has become a hater of women, of sex, of all things sensual. When Eugen begins a relationship with the Jewish mother of one of his piano students, it is only a matter of time before their suppressed conflict ignites. Now, with the Third Reich in ashes, Eugen sits in a barren room in an American internment camp writing his memoir. In a voice by turns intelligent, sceptical, pained, nostalgic and appalled, he tries to come to terms with the course of his own life and with the unfathomable criminality of his boyhood friend.
Machines like me: A novel
by Ian McEwan
"Machines Like Me occurs in an alternative 1980s London. Britain has lost the Falklands War, Margaret Thatcher battles Tony Benn for power, and Alan Turing achieves a breakthrough in artificial intelligence. In a world not quite like this one, two lovers will be tested beyond their understanding. Charlie, drifting through life and dodging full-time employment, is in love with Miranda, a bright student who lives with a terrible secret. When Charlie comes into money, he buys Adam, one of the first batch of synthetic humans. With Miranda's assistance, he co-designs Adam's personality. This near-perfect human is beautiful, strong, and clever--a love triangle soon forms. These three beings will confront a profound moral dilemma. Ian McEwan's subversive and entertaining new novel poses fundamental questions: What makes us human? Our outward deeds or our inner lives? Could a machine understand the human heart? This provocative and thrilling tale warns against the power to invent things beyond our control"
The summer list by Amy Mason DoanThen: Laura and Casey were inseparable as teenagers, spending their time following elaborate scavenger hunts that Casey's young, free-spirited mother created for them.
Now: As adults, Laura and Casey are estranged, but they can't resist one last scavenger hunt. As they slowly rekindle their friendship, not only will misunderstandings be cleared up, but secrets long kept hidden will be revealed.
Read it for: themes of motherhood, acceptance, and first loves.
Everything here is beautiful by Mira T. LeeWhat it's about: the relationship between responsible Miranda and her irrepressible younger sister Lucia, which is severely tested by Lucia's wild behavioral swings and cycles of depression and delusion.
Read if for: an astute, compassionate picture of what it's like to struggle with mental illness or to love someone who does; vividly described settings, including New York City in the 1990s and several locations in Ecuador; the complex intermingling of cultures.
Reviewers say: "powerfully hopeful" (Bust Magazine).
Severance by Ling MaWhat it is: a mixture of apocalyptic world-building (a plague has ravaged New York and the rest of the world), anti-capitalist satire, and...the coming-of-age of a millennial blogger?
What happens: Shen Fever hits, turning regular people into routine-driven automatons; at first, professionally unfulfilled Candace doesn't notice, but soon she's one of the few survivors of this curious pandemic, and joins an odd little band headed west.
Read if for: an engaging and entertaining story that illuminates the hypocrisy and flaws of capitalism.
Fruit of the drunken tree by Ingrid Rojas ContrerasWhat it's about: In Pablo Escobar's unstable, violent Colombia, two very different girls form a bond that ultimately threatens to be their undoing.
Featuring: seven-year-old Chula, precocious and sheltered by her family's money; 13-year-old Petrona, who works as a maid after her family is destroyed by guerrillas.
Reviewers say: "dazzling and devastating" (San Francisco Chronicle).
Cherry by Nico WalkerStarring: an unnamed Army medic who turns to heroin to cope with PTSD, and takes to robbing banks to support his addiction.
Is it for you? Raw, brutal writing depicts the horrors of war and the harrowing traumas of addiction.
About the author: Like his main character, debut author Nico Walker is an Army veteran, recovering heroin addict, and is currently in prison for bank robbery.
Meet me at the museum by Anne YoungsonFeaturing: a disenchanted farmer's wife in England and a widowed museum curator in Denmark.
What's inside: a series of thoughtful, reflective letters, through which the lonely pair begins to build an unexpected yet meaningful connection.
Why you might like it: This leisurely paced debut is both hopeful and calming, and may best be enjoyed in a cozy spot on a rainy afternoon.
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