Recommended

 

The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai

Screen Shot 2018-07-12 at 8.16.34 AMAdding my voice to the chorus of cheers for Rebecca Makkai’s THE GREAT BELIEVERS. The book is beautiful and moving and broke my heart, as great fiction does. It is such an accomplished work, spanning decades, tracing the impact of the AIDS epidemic with its devastation and losses on compelling characters, telling a great story at the same time. A+ without a curve.


The Unmade World by Steve Yarbrough

Screen Shot 2018-06-12 at 7.18.11 PMI can’t recommend Steve Yarbrough’s new novel, THE UNMADE WORLD, highly enough. I was already a fan of his novels before I read this one. He writes the best kind of literary fiction, with gorgeous sentences and surprising insights to savor on every page. The Unmade World is riveting–part crime novel, part mystery, and a heartbreaking love story. It’s a deeply compassionate book that moved me enormously. Read it and then, if you haven’t, read his others.

 


Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail by Kelly Luce

Sat down in my airplane seat with Kelly Luce’s fantastic collection, THREE SCENARIOS IN WHICH HANA SASAKI GROWS A TAIL, and Screen Shot 2018-04-30 at 10.17.17 AMdidn’t look up for three and a half hours until the plane landed. The work is that entertaining, that imaginative, that moving. Luce’s style is unique. Her stories ask big questions. Immediately lent this book to a friend when I was finished because everyone should read it.

 

 

 


Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires

In HEADS OF THE COLORED PEOPLE, Nafissa Thompson-Spires has Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 5.28.24 PMwritten a powerful short story collection that entertains as it illuminates. The stories are set against a backdrop of police brutality and micro-aggressions, and feature characters who lack the freedom to speak their minds to colleagues or therapists, friends or family. Their inner lives roil with all that is unsaid until, as it must, it finds a release. By turns funny and tragic, and always thoughtful, the collection is a must read for anyone who wants to better understand the toll racial injustice exacts.


Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

In Mohsin Hamid’s stunning novel EXIT WEST, a couple find each other just as their

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country falls apart. Following their journey, the reader discovers a world that is changing and becoming porous. A place where refugees struggle against nativism to find new homes. Hamid’s novel is deeply imagined and thoroughly compassionate; the language is breathtaking. Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, it is a novel not to be missed.


The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

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Four siblings meet a fortune teller, and it changes their lives forever. They scatter, to San Francisco and Vegas and upstate New York. One becomes a magician another a doctor still another a dancer, but the visit to the seer continues to link them. Chloe Benjamin’s THE IMMORTALISTS is about family bonds, about destiny and what control we exercise over it. A riveting story, beautifully told.

 


Paper Is White by Hilary Zaid

Screen Shot 2018-03-31 at 3.52.52 PMHilary Zaid’s PAPER IS WHITE is a beautiful, lyrical novel that examines silence: the silence of Holocaust survivors who will soon disappear and the silence of mourners whose losses are too difficult to speak. Set in dotcom era San Francisco and the Kovno ghetto in Lithuania, the novel has at its heart two relationships. One couple plans a not-yet-legal lesbian marriage; the other two women friends fight to survive the Nazi occupation. Their stories are intertwined by a mystery and by the women’s longings for what they’ve lost. Zaid’s language is gorgeous. Her heart burns a fire on the page.


What Counts as Love by Marion Crotty

Screen Shot 2018-03-31 at 4.11.20 PMIn Marian Crotty’s WHAT COUNTS AS LOVE (Winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award), young women struggle with their emerging sexuality and with what the world has in store for them as women. Beautifully written, harsh at times, Crotty elevates subject matter others have at times ignored. A girl witnesses a rape; failing in college, a woman marries a man she hardly knows; a wife accompanies her husband to a foreign country, where as a man he moves about easily, but she is subject to scrutinizing gazes. Crotty forces us to take these women and their distress seriously.


George and Lizzie by Nancy Pearl

Screen Shot 2018-03-31 at 4.13.54 PMThe characters in Nancy Pearl’s debut novel, GEORGE AND LIZZIE, are one of a kind. A poetry lover to whom lying is second nature, Lizzie refuses to get a real job or to give up on a past love. Her struggle is so large we pull for her even as we pull our hair out over her. George is a philosophical dentist whose life would be perfect if only he didn’t love Lizzie. Funny and wise, the book will keep you up past your bedtime. It will make you wonder whether you really know the people you love. 

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel 

Screen Shot 2018-04-01 at 11.42.10 AMThe novel THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS by Laurie Frankel is moving and beautiful and funny. Writing about social issues is so tricky, yet Frankel does it in a way that grows out of who her characters are without being didactic. I don’t have kids and greatly enjoyed the exploration of parenthood in the book. This is the first novel of hers I’ve read, but I’ll definitely be back for more.


Outside Is the Ocean by Matthew Lansburgh

Screen Shot 2018-04-01 at 11.43.45 AMThis stirring collection is not for the faint of heart. Lansburgh doesn’t spare his characters or his readers when it comes to the challenges of family, particularly this family with its narcissistic matriarch. The writing is economical and beautiful. A masterful collection I won’t soon forget. Winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award.


Safekeeping by Jessamyn Hope

Safekeeping by Jessamyn Hope is a literary page turner. Her complex characters will have you rooting for them even as they undermine themselves and others, committing crimes, large and small. Set on a kibbutz, the main events of the novel span a single summer but are put in motion much earlier. The story travels to the four corners of the globe, and to decades and centuries past, to deftly provide the backdrop. A wonderful debut and a marvelous read.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Highly recommend Celeste Ng’s new novel, LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE. The book is a page turner that tackles issues of race and class in a way that is sure to get the reader thinking. Ng shows compassion for all her characters, while letting none of them off the hook. Warning: If you pick it up before bed, you may not be able to put it down.


The Virginity of Famous Men by Christine Sneed

Christine Sneed’s THE VIRGINITY OF FAMOUS MEN is a fantastic story collection, highly relevant to our times, each story more thoughtful than the next. It doesn’t hurt that it made me laugh out loud and interrupt my husband’s reading to share sentences and paragraphs with him. Pick this up if you haven’t already!


Kiss Me Someone by Karen Shepard

I can’t recommend Karen Shepard’s powerful new collection of stories KISS ME SOMEONE highly enough. Whether she’s writing about college friends, 9/11 victims, or aging alcoholics, Shepard tells truths we rarely have the courage to face in literature or in life. The writing is gorgeous and full of insight. If you’re a writer, these stories will give you something to aspire to. Readers will be reminded of why they read.


Life With Envy: Ego Management for Creative People by Camille DeAngelis

A book full of wisdom and practical strategies for freeing up energy wasted on envy. DeAngelis is a marvelous writer and she has put together a book that is both moving and useful. It is the kind of book I will go back to again and again, turning to its advice whenever I feel jealous or entitled, whenever I forget that fulfillment is not found in external recognition.


We Show What We Have Learned by Clare Beams

Clare Beams’ debut collection is a joy to read. The stories are surprising and original. Ms. Beams shapes unusual landscapes and unforgettable characters to illuminate ideas and reveal human nature. These are stories that will stay with you long after you have read them.


The Evil B.B. Chow and Other Stories by Steve Almond

A collection of stories that are funny and deep, surprising and inevitable. Almond’s writing is full of heart. The stories will make you think about what it means to be human.


Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett

Haslett has written a gorgeous book, a complex, beautiful portrait of a family dealing with mental illness.


No One Is Here Except All of Us by Ramona Ausubel 

Ramona Ausubel’s remarkable prose and keen imagination are on display in this beautiful book. Don’t miss it.


The Wrong Sister by Caroline Leavitt

Loved these stories of family dynamics, and the turns the stories take. The Shebooks format allows us to read stories that might not otherwise be accessible absent a full collection. The stories have only whet my appetite for more of Leavitt’s work.


The Ascent of Eli Israel and Other Stories by Jonathan Papernick

Gorgeous stories that capture the dilemma of modern Israel in a way that only literary fiction can. The stories are moving and disturbing and I couldn’t put them down. If you haven’t read Papernick’s work, you’re missing out on an important voice.


The Bigness of the World by Lori Ostlund

Beautiful stories. Ostlund lures you in with humor, but keeps you reading with her big heart. The book won the Flannery O’Connor Award and it’s easy to see why.


Refund by Karen Bender

Gorgeous writing, fantastic characters. The stories are funny and moving and will stay with you for a long time, even longer if like me you enjoy them so much you read them more than once. National Book Award Finalist.


Three for the Road by Molly Giles

These three gems were my introduction to Molly Giles. What a treat!


Music for Wartime by Rebecca Makkai 

The stories are courageous, quirky, and full of heart. Read them!


There Is No Other by Jonathan Papernick

This is a marvelous collection of stories. Jonathan Papernick’s voice is unique and the stories are funny and thought-provoking. I really enjoyed it.