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Noteworthy Fiction 2015       View List as Printable PDF

Not a complete list by any means, but this list offers a starting place for adult reader's advisory. These books are hand picked by reference staff.


All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See
by Doerr, Anthony
Fiction DOE
Shifting among multiple viewpoints but focusing mostly on blind French teenager Marie-Laure and Werner, a brilliant German soldier just a few years older than she, this novel has the physical and emotional heft of a masterpiece. The main protagonists are brave, sensitive, and intellectually curious, and in another time they might have been a couple. But they are on opposite sides of the horrors of World War II, and their fates ultimately collide in connection with the radio-a means of resistance for the Allies and just one more avenue of annihilation for the Nazis. Set mostly in the final year of the war but moving back to the 1930s and forward to the present, the novel presents two characters so interesting and sympathetic that readers will keep turning the pages hoping for an impossibly happy ending. Marie-Laure and Werner both suffer crushing losses and struggle to survive with dignity amid Hitler's swath of cruelty and destruction. VERDICT -Doerr (The Shell Collector) has received multiple honors for his fiction, including four O. Henry Prizes and the New York Public Library's Young Lions Award. His latest is highly recommended for fans of Michael Ondaatje's similarly haunting The English Patient.-Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Between the World and Me

Between the World and Me
by Coates, Ta-Nehisi
Bio Coates
A profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a black father for his son, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward. At every stage of his life, Coates has sought in his explorations of history answers to the mysteries that surrounded him-- most urgently, why he, and other black people he knew, seemed to live in fear. In this book he takes readers through America's history of race and its contemporary resonances through a series of awakenings-- moments when he discovered some new truth about our long, tangled history of race.

Fates and Furies

Fates and Furies
by Groff, Lauren
Fiction GRO
"From the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of The Monsters of Templeton and Arcadia, an exhilarating novel about marriage, creativity, art, and perception. Fates and Furies is a literary masterpiece that defies expectation. A dazzling examination of a marriage, it is also a portrait of creative partnership written by one of the best writers of her generation. Every story has two sides. Every relationship has two perspectives. And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets. At the core of this rich, expansive, layered novel, Lauren Groff presents the story of one such marriage over the course of twenty-four years. At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love, and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but with an electric thrill we understand that things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed. With stunning revelations and multiple threads, and in prose that is vibrantly alive and original, Groff delivers a deeply satisfying novel about love, art, creativity, and power that is unlike anything that has come before it. Profound, surprising, propulsive, and emotionally riveting, it stirs both the mind and the heart"-- Provided by publisher.

The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train
by Hawkins, Paula
Fiction HAW
Rachel Watson, a divorced, miserable alcoholic who's still desperately in love with her ex-husband, Tom, rides the same train every day into London for her dead-end job, one she unsurprisingly loses after one too many drunken outbursts. Continuing her daily commute to keep up appearances with her roommate, Rachel always pays special attention to a couple, whom she dubs "Jess and Jason," who live a seemingly idyllic life in a house near her own former home. When she sees a momentary act of infidelity, followed soon after by news that Jess, whose real name is Megan Hipwell, has disappeared, Rachel is compelled to share her secret knowledge, becoming enmeshed in the police investigation, which centers on Megan's husband, Scott. Further complicating matters is the fact that the night Megan vanished, Rachel has a hazy memory of drunkenly stumbling past the Hipwell home and seeing something she can't quite recall. Hawkins seamlessly moves among Rachel's present-day story as the investigation into Megan's disappearance widens, Megan's own life leading up to her disappearance, and snippets about Anna, the woman for whom Tom left Rachel.

Girl at War

Girl at War
by Novic, Sara
Fiction NOV
In this promising debut, Novic tells the story of 10-year-old Ana, for whom "the war in Zagreb began over a pack of cigarettes": sent to fetch smokes for an indulgent godfather, she returns puzzling over the shopkeeper's query whether she wants Serbian or Croatian. A cigarette is a cigarette is a cigarette, until it's not. Then, like everything else, a packet of Filter 160s takes on the powers of shibboleth, something Ana and her best friend, Luka, have to learn, these distinctions not being inborn no matter what the nationalists insist. And imagine what happens, as Ana does, in neighboring Bosnia, "a confusing third category," where people used both the Latin and Cyrillic alphabets and probably smoked a third kind of tobacco. The war moves from abstraction to bitter reality soon enough, and Ana finds herself in a swirl of rumor ("Have you heard? The president exploded right at his desk!") and motion, whisked across the continent and thence to America, where time passes and Ana finds herself explaining the world to uncomprehending young people: "I told him about Rahela's illness and MediMission and Sarajevo. About the roadblock and the forest and how I'd escaped...When I finished, Brian was still holding my hand, but he didn't say anything." The tutelary spirits of W.G. Sebald (whom the aforementioned Brian deems "a bit of a German apologist") and Rebecca West hover over the proceedings, and just as West once lamented that everyone she knew in the Balkans of the 1930s was dead by the 1950s, Ana assigns herself the scarifying task of sorting through the rubble of her homeland and reclaiming what can be saved of it, and of herself.

Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman
by Lee, Harper
Fiction LEE
From Harper Lee comes a landmark new novel set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird. Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch-"Scout"-returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise's homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town, and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past - a journey that can only be guided by one's own conscience. Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor, and effortless precision - a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context, and new meaning to an American classic.

H is for Hawk

H is for Hawk
by Macdonald, Helen
598.944 MAC
* NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * Winner of the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize * Named the Costa Book of the Year * #1 bestseller in the UK * A Guardian and Economist Best Book of the Year. When Helen Macdonald's father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. An experienced falconer-Helen had been captivated by hawks since childhood-she'd never before been tempted to train one of the most vicious predators, the goshawk. But in her grief, she saw that the goshawk's fierce and feral temperament mirrored her own. Resolving to purchase and raise the deadly creature as a means to cope with her loss, she adopted Mabel, and turned to the guidance of The Once and Future King author T.H. White's chronicle The Goshawk to begin her challenging endeavor. Projecting herself "in the hawk's wild mind to tame her" tested the limits of Macdonald's humanity and changed her life.

Heart-wrenching and humorous, this book is an unflinching account of bereavement and a unique look at the magnetism of an extraordinary beast, with a parallel examination of a legendary writer's eccentric falconry. Obsession, madness, memory, myth, and history combine to achieve a distinctive blend of nature writing and memoir from an outstanding literary innovator.

 A Little Life

A Little Life
by Yanagihara, Hanya
Fiction YAN
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST, SHORT-LISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE. Brace yourself for the most astonishing, challenging, upsetting, and profoundly moving book in many a season. An epic about love and friendship in the twenty-first century that goes into some of the darkest places fiction has ever traveled and yet somehow improbably breaks through into the light. Truly an amazement--and a great gift for its readers. When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they're broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring act? JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he'll not only be unable to overcome--but that will define his life forever. In rich and resplendent prose, Yanagihara has fashioned a tragic and transcendent hymn to brotherly love, a masterful depiction of heartbreak, and a dark examination of the tyranny of memory and the limits of human endurance.

A Manual for Cleaning Women

A Manual for Cleaning Women
by Berlin, Lucia
Fiction BER
Berlin, who may just be the best writer you've never heard of, has a gift for creating stories out of anything, often from events as apparently mundane as a trip to the laundromat. Imagine a less urban Grace Paley, with a similar talent for turning the net of resentments and affections among family members into stories that carry more weight than their casual, conversational tone might initially suggest. Many of the strongest stories here are autobiographical, featuring Berlin's stand-in (sometimes called Lucille, sometimes Carlotta) and her sons, husbands and lovers; a range of jobs, mostly pink collar, but occasionally, as in the title story, blue; a complicated backstory across two continents; and a problem with booze. Berlin's offbeat humor, get-on-with-it realism, and ability to layer details that echo across stories and decades give her book a tremendous staying power. The collection could be tighter (there are over 40 stories, some only minor) and could give readers a better sense of how they're sequenced, but this collection goes a long way toward putting Berlin, who died in 2004, back in the public eye. Agent: Katherine Fausset, Curtis Brown. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry
by Backman, Fredrik
Fiction BAC
A charming, warmhearted novel from the author of the New York Times bestseller A Man Called Ove. Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy--as in standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-strangers crazy. She is also Elsa's best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother's stories, in the Land-of-Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas, where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal. When Elsa's grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa's greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother's instructions lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and old crones but also to the truth about fairy tales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry is told with the same comic accuracy and beating heart as Fredrik Backman's bestselling debut novel, A Man Called Ove . It is a story about life and death and one of the most important human rights: the right to be different. "Firmly in league with Roald Dahl and Neil Gaiman . . . A touching, sometimes funny, often wise portrait of grief." -- Kirkus Reviews "Full of heart, hope, forgiveness, and the embracing of differences, Elsa's story is one that sticks with you long after you've turned the last page."-- Library Journal

Purity

Purity
by Franzen, Jonathan
Fiction FRA
*Starred Review* Franzen follows Freedom (2010) with Purity, a novel in which his signature qualities converge in a new, commanding fluidity, from his inquiry into damaged families to his awed respect for nature, brainy drollery, and precise, resonant detail. Pip is a lonely and floundering young woman burdened with massive student debt and living with odd roommates in a derelict mansion in Oakland, California. She is exceedingly close to her mother, Anabel, a hermit of extreme sensitivity and incendiary secrets who steadfastly refuses to reveal the identity of Pip's father. Her daughter's actual name, Purity, is testament to Anabel's debilitating obsessions. Pip embarks on an internship with the Sunlight Project, a WikiLeaks-like group run by the charismatic Andreas Wolf, an arrogant and opportunistic East German with a shocking past. In this masterfully plotted tale populated by exceptionally complex characters caught in an ever-expanding web of startling connections and consequences, Franzen takes us to the grimly smothering world of the Stasi; franchised, feedlot-poisoned, and fracked Texas; and the Sunlight Project's Bolivian jungle hideout. As the surprising, suspenseful, archly comedic story unspools, Franzen takes measure of secrecy and transparency, altruism and selfishness, boldly paralleling the tyranny of socialism with the intrusions of the digital realm even as he asserts that nature . . . made a mockery of information technology. Franzen has created a spectacularly engrossing and provocative twenty-first-century improvisation on Charles Dickens' masterpiece, Great Expectations. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Purity will be one of the most talked about books of the season, and a national marketing campaign will fuel the buzz.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2015 Booklist

The Sellout

The Sellout
by Beatty, Paul
Fiction BEA
Winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction. Named one of the best books of 2015 by The New York Times Book Review and the Wall Street Journal. A biting satire about a young man's isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, Paul Beatty's The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. It challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and the holy grail of racial equality--the black Chinese restaurant. Born in the "agrarian ghetto" of Dickens--on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles--the narrator of The Sellout resigns himself to the fate of lower-middle-class Californians: "I'd die in the same bedroom I'd grown up in, looking up at the cracks in the stucco ceiling that've been there since '68 quake." Raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist, he spent his childhood as the subject in racially charged psychological studies. He is led to believe that his father's pioneering work will result in a memoir that will solve his family's financial woes. But when his father is killed in a police shoot-out, he realizes there never was a memoir. All that's left is the bill for a drive-thru funeral. Fuelled by this deceit and the general disrepair of his hometown, the narrator sets out to right another wrong: Dickens has literally been removed from the map to save California from further embarrassment. Enlisting the help of the town's most famous resident--the last surviving Little Rascal, Hominy Jenkins--he initiates the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court.

A Spool of Blue Thread

A Spool of Blue Thread
by Tyler, Anne
Fiction TYL
*Starred Review* In her twentieth gleaming novel, Tyler is as fleet and graceful as a skater, her prose as transparent as ice, dazzling qualities that distract us, initially, from just how profoundly dimensional a tale this is. We get swept up in the spin of conversations, the slipstream of consciousness, and the glide and dip of domestic life, then feel the sting of Tyler's quick and cutting insights into unjust assumptions about class, gender, age, and race. Abby and Red Whitshank worry about Denny, their ever-mysterious son. Their other, more accountable grown offspring live nearby with their children, and Jeannie and the son nicknamed Stem work for Red, who carried forward his father Junior's construction company. Retired social worker Abby and Red still live in the handsome, obsessively well-constructed house Junior built for a wealthy client, then slyly managed to make his own. During chaotic family gatherings, disorienting crises, and abrupt domestic reconfigurations (all subtly laced with motifs of blue and Wizard of Oz allusions), simmering resentments and secrets bubble up. Tyler then whirls back in time to tell Abby's story and, most strikingly, that of Linnie Mae, her deceptively serene mother-in-law. Junior's fervent respect for wood and craftsmanship reflects Tyler's long dedication to language and story, an artistic practice made perfect in this charming, funny, and shrewd novel of the paradoxes of self, family, and home. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A substantial first printing, national media appearances, and an expansive online campaign will steer readers to the latest from beloved, best-selling novelist Tyler.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist

The Story of the Lost Child, Book 4

The Story of the Lost Child, Book 4
by Ferrante, Elena
Fiction FER
In Ferrante's fourth and final Neapolitan novel, she reunites Elena, the accomplished writer, with Lila, the indomitable spirit, in their Southern Italian city as they confront maturity and old age, death, and the meaning of life. The two friends face the chaos of a corrupt and decaying Naples while the lives of the people closest to them-plagued by abandonment, imprisonment, murder, and betrayal-spiral out of control. "Where is it written that lives should have a meaning?" Lila asks Elena, disparaging her friend's career choice in the process. Readers will need the accompanying index of characters to keep track as Ferrante resolves the themes and events from earlier titles (My Brilliant Friend; The Story of a New Name; Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay) with a force and ferocity recalling the devastating earthquake of 1980 and Vesuvius's volcanic eruptions, which themselves provide the unsettling background to the narrative. Ferrante's precise foreshadowing is such that an early incident of a lost doll in book one mirrors the lost child in book four right down to their shared first name-and "The Blue Fairy," the story Lila scribbled in a childhood notebook that Elena threw in the Arno, resurfaces in this installment's final pages. Throughout, there's the sense of the circle completing: near the end, Elena pens a short novel entitled "A Friendship" (a metafictional nod to Ferrante's series as a whole), inspired by her half-century relationship with Lila. The novel is Elena's final work and permanently ties Elena and Lila together, for better and worse. This stunning conclusion further solidifies the Neapolitan novels as Ferrante's masterpiece and guarantees that this reclusive author will remain far from obscure for years to come. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Story of My Teeth

The Story of My Teeth
by Luiselli, Valeria
Fiction LUI
The year 2014 was a good one for Mexican-born author Luiselli: her debut novel, Faces in the Crowd, was released to much acclaim, and she was chosen as one of 5 Under 35 by the National Book Foundation. Her second novel, though ingenious and affecting in parts, is more of a metanarrative exercise than a straightforward narrative. Written partly under commission from the Galeria Jumex, a contemporary art gallery funded by a juice factory in Ecatepec, Mexico, it describes the life and exploits of Gustavo "Highway" Sánchez. Highway starts off as a lowly security guard and ends up the world's best auctioneer, traveling the globe to sell things and curate his own collection of unusual objects. One such acquisition is Marilyn Monroe's teeth, which he has implanted to replace his own. Later in life, he ends up trapped in an art installation by his estranged son and takes a neighborhood boy as an apprentice to tell his story. The novel's experimental structure is full of literary allusions and bon mots from across the ages. VERDICT Readers hungry for more from Luiselli will be happy with a clever variation on her style, but its quirkiness may turn off others. Recommended for fans of metafiction and Latin American literature junkies.-Kate Gray, Worcester P.L., MA © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.