The Bedlam Stacks
by Natasha Pulley
In 1859, ex-East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is trapped at home in Cornwall after sustaining an injury that almost cost him his leg and something is wrong; a statue moves, his grandfather’s pines explode, and his brother accuses him of madness. When the India Office recruits Merrick for an expedition to fetch quinine—essential for the treatment of malaria—from deep within Peru, he knows it’s a terrible idea. Nearly every able-bodied expeditionary who’s made the attempt has died, and he can barely walk. But Merrick is desperate to escape everything at home, so he sets off. Surrounded by local stories of lost time, cursed woods, and living rock, Merrick must separate truth from fairy-tale and find out what befell the last expeditions.
Genre: Historical Fiction; Magical Realism
Similar: The Time Traveler's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
Sing, Unburied, Sing
by Jessmyn Ward
Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. His mother, Leonie, is in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is black and her children’s father is white. Embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances, she wants to be a better mother, but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.
Genre: Literary Fiction; Magical Realism
Similar: Love Medicine (Louise Erdrich)
by Jennifer Mathieu
Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes and hallway harassment. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules. Viv’s mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, so now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. Pretty soon Viv is forging friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, and she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.
Genre: Young Adult
Similar: The Nowhere Girls (Amy Reed)
Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches
by John Hodgman
Mild departures from the routine inspire neurotic palpitations in these dourly funny essays by humorist Hodgman, who pegs his shaggy-dog stories to several unnerving locales. Though wildly funny, it is also a poignant and sincere account of one human facing his forties, those years when men in particular must stop pretending to be the children of bright potential they were and settle into the failing bodies of the wiser, weird dads that they are.
Genre: Memoir; Humor
Similar: Sh*t My Dad Says (Justin Halpern)
Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America
by Michael Eric Dyson
Short, emotional, literary, powerful―Tears We Cannot Stop is the book that all Americans who care about the current and long-burning crisis in race relations will want to read. As the country grapples with racist division at a level not seen since the 1960s, one man's voice soars above the rest with conviction and compassion. In his 2016 New York Times op-ed piece "Death in Black and White," Michael Eric Dyson moved a nation. Now he continues to speak out in Tears We Cannot Stop―a provocative and deeply personal call for change. Dyson argues that if we are to make real racial progress we must face difficult truths, including being honest about how black grievance has been ignored, dismissed, or discounted.
Genre: Nonfiction; Politics
Similar: Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates)
The Only Girl in the World
by Maude Julien
Maude Julien’s childhood was defined by the iron grip of her father, who was convinced his daughter was destined for great deeds. His plan began when he adopted Maude’s mother and indoctrinated her with his esoteric ideals. Her mission was to give him a daughter as blonde as she was, and then to take charge of the child’s education. That child was Maude, on whom her father conducted his outrageous experiment—to raise the perfect ‘super-human’ being. How did this girl, with her loveless and lonely childhood, emerge so unscathed, so full of the empathy that was absent in her childhood? How did she manage to escape? She recounts her chilling and deeply moving story in a compelling and compassionate voice.
Similar: The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls)
Harry Potter: A Journey Through a History of Magic
An irresistible romp through the history of magic, from alchemy to unicorns, ancient witchcraft to Harry's Hogwarts – packed with unseen sketches and manuscript pages from J.K. Rowling, magical illustrations from Jim Kay and weird, wonderful and inspiring artifacts that have been magically released from the archives at the British Library. The perfect read for aspiring witches and wizards and any Harry Potter fan.
Genre: Nonfiction; Exhibitions
Similar: The Sorcerer's Companion: A Guide to the Magical World of Harry Potter (Allan Zola Kronzek and Elizabeth Kronzek)
by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Namesake takes the Ganguli family from their tradition-bound life in Calcutta through their fraught transformation into Americans. On the heels of their arranged wedding, Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli settle together in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Their son, named for a Russian writer by his Indian parents in memory of a catastrophe years before, Gogol Ganguli knows only that he suffers the burden of his heritage as well as his odd, antic name. Lahiri brings great empathy to Gogol as he stumbles along the first-generation path, strewn with conflicting loyalties, comic detours, and wrenching love affairs.
Genre: Literary Fiction
Similar: The Joy Luck Club (Amy Tan)
A Piece of the World
by Christina Baker Kline
Andrew Wyeth's painting "Christina's World" would immortalize a young woman. This is the story of Christina and her life. After almost dying as a child of an undiagnosed illness, her legs are twisted, making her stumble as she walks. As she ages, the effects of this illness get much worse leaving her with a shrinking world. This book immerses us in the life on her farm and into the heart of a young woman. A fantastic, and touching story by this author that brings to life the story behind a painting and the life of a young girl who always wanted more than she was given, but accomplished so much despite her handicap. -- Diane Scholl for LibraryReads.
Genre: Historical Fiction; Art
Similar: Lisette's List (Susan Vreeland)
Out Stealing Horses
by Per Petterson
Translated by Anne Borne
Award-winning Norwegian novelist Petterson renders the meditations of Trond Sander, a man nearing 70, dwelling in self-imposed exile at the eastern edge of Norway in a primitive cabin. Trond's peaceful existence is interrupted by a meeting with his only neighbor, who seems familiar. The meeting pries loose a memory from a summer day in 1948 when Trond's friend Jon suggests they go out and steal horses. That distant summer is transformative for Trond as he reflects on the fragility of life while discovering secrets about his father's wartime activities. The past also looms in the present: Trond realizes that his neighbor, Lars, is Jon's younger brother, who "pulls aside the fifty years with a lightness that seems almost indecent." Trond becomes immersed in his memory, recalling that summer that shaped the course of his life while, in the present, Trond and Lars prepare for the winter, allowing Petterson to dabble in parallels both bold and subtle. Petterson coaxes out of Trond's reticent, deliberate narration a story as vast as the Norwegian tundra. -- Publisher's Weekly Staff Review
Genre: Literary Fiction; Fiction in Translation
Similar: The Final Solution (Michael Chabon)
The Elegance of the Hedgehog
by Muriel Barbery
Translated by Alison Anderson
Renée Michel, 54 and widowed, is the stolid concierge in an elegant Paris hôtel particulier . Though “short, ugly, and plump,” Renée has, as she says, “always been poor,” but she has a secret: she's a ferocious autodidact who's better versed in literature and the arts than any of the building's snobby residents. Meanwhile, “supersmart” 12-year-old Paloma Josse, who switches off narration with Renée, lives in the building with her wealthy, liberal family. Having grasped life's futility early on, Paloma plans to commit suicide on her 13th birthday. The arrival of a new tenant, Kakuro Ozu, who befriends both the young pessimist and the concierge alike, sets up their possible transformations. By turns very funny and heartbreaking, Barbery never allows either of her dour narrators to get too cerebral or too sentimental. Her simple plot and sudden denouement add up to a great deal more than the sum of their parts. -- Publisher Weekly's Staff Review
Genre: Literary Fiction; Fiction in Translation
Similar: 44 Scotland Street (Alexander McCall Smith)
Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef
by Gabrielle Hamilton
Before Gabrielle Hamilton opened her acclaimed New York restaurant Prune, she spent twenty hard-living years trying to find purpose and meaning in her life. Blood, Bones & Butter follows an unconventional journey through the many kitchens Hamilton has inhabited through the years: the rural kitchen of her childhood, where her adored mother stood over the six-burner with an oily wooden spoon in hand; the kitchens of France, Greece, and Turkey, where she was often fed by complete strangers and learned the essence of hospitality; Hamilton’s own kitchen at Prune, with its many unexpected challenges; and the kitchen of her Italian mother-in-law, who serves as the link between Hamilton’s idyllic past and her own future family—the result of a prickly marriage that nonetheless yields lasting dividends. By turns epic and intimate, Gabrielle Hamilton’s story is told with uncommon honesty, grit, humor, and passion.
Genre: Nonfiction; Memoir; Food Writing
Similar: Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly (Anthony Bourdain)
You Don't Have to Say You Love Me
by Sherman Alexie
A searing, deeply moving memoir about family, love, and loss from the critically acclaimed, bestselling National Book Award winner. When his mother passed away at the age of 78, Sherman Alexie responded the only way he knew how: he wrote. The result is this stunning memoir. Featuring 78 poems and 78 essays, Alexie shares raw, angry, funny, profane, tender memories of a childhood few can imagine--growing up dirt-poor on an Indian reservation, one of four children raised by alcoholic parents. Throughout, a portrait emerges of his mother as a beautiful, mercurial, abusive, intelligent, complicated woman. You Don't Have To Say You Love Me is a powerful account of a complicated relationship, an unflinching and unforgettable remembrance.
Genre: Nonfiction; Memoir; Poetry
Similar: The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls)
The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great
by Eva Stachniak
A reimagining of the early years of Catherine the Great traces the story of two young women: Barbara, a servant who will become one of Russia's most cunning royal spies, and Sophia, a pretty, naive German duchess who will become Catherine the Great. With dazzling details and intense drama, Eva Stachniak depicts Barbara’s secret alliance with Catherine as the princess grows into a legend—through an enforced marriage, illicit seductions, and, at last, the shocking coup to assume the throne of all of Russia. Impeccably researched and magnificently written, The Winter Palace is an irresistible peek through the keyhole of one of history’s grandest tales.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Similar: The Lady of the Rivers (The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels #1) (Philippa Gregory)
written and illustrated by Tom Gauld
The lunar colony is slowly winding down, like a small town circumvented by a new super highway. As our hero, the Mooncop, makes his daily rounds, his beat grows ever smaller, the population dwindles. A young girl runs away, a dog breaks off his leash, an automaton wanders off from the Museum of the Moon. "Living on the moon . . . Whatever were we thinking? . . . It seems so silly now."
Genre: Graphic Novel; Science Fiction
Similar: Saga (Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples)
The Psychology Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained
Clearly explaining more than 100 groundbreaking ideas in the field, The Psychology Book uses accessible text and easy-to-follow graphics and illustrations to explain the complex theoretical and experimental foundations of psychology. From its philosophical roots through behaviorism, psychotherapy, and developmental psychology, The Psychology Book looks at all the greats from Pavlov and Skinner to Freud and Jung, and is an essential reference for students and anyone with an interest in how the mind works.
Genre: Nonfiction; Psychology
Similar: The Story of Psychology (Morton Hunt)
Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver presents a personal selection of her best work in this definitive collection spanning more than five decades of her esteemed literary career. Carefully curated, these 200 plus poems feature Oliver's work from her very first book of poetry, No Voyage and Other Poems, published in 1963 at the age of 28, through her most recent collection, Felicity, published in 2015. This timeless volume, arranged by Oliver herself, showcases the beloved poet at her edifying best.
Similar: Selected Poems of Anne Sexton
PostSecret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives
by Frank Warren
You are invited to anonymously contribute a secret to a group art project. Your secret can be a regret, fear, betrayal, desire, confession, or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything -- as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before. Be brief. Be legible. Be creative. The response was overwhelming. The secrets were both provocative and profound, and the cards themselves were works of art -- carefully and creatively constructed by hand. This extraordinary collection brings together the most powerful, personal, and beautifully intimate secrets Frank Warren has received -- and brilliantly illuminates that human emotions can be unique and universal at the same time.
Genre: Nonfiction; Art
Similar: PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death, and God (Frank Warren)
Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery
by Scott Kelly
The veteran of four space flights and the American record holder for consecutive days spent in space, Scott Kelly has experienced things very few have. Now, he takes us inside a sphere utterly inimical to human life. Kelly's humanity, compassion, humor, and passion resonate throughout, as he recalls his rough-and-tumble New Jersey childhood and the youthful inspiration that sparked his astounding career, and as he makes clear his belief that Mars will be the next, ultimately challenging step in American spaceflight.
Genre: Nonfiction; Memoir; Science
Similar: First on the Moon (Buzz Aldrin)
Snow & Rose
written and illustrated
by Emily Winfield Martin
Snow and Rose didn't know they were in a fairy tale. People never do.... Once, they lived in a big house with spectacular gardens and an army of servants. Once, they had a father and mother who loved them more than the sun and moon. But that was before their father disappeared into the woods and their mother disappeared into sorrow. This is the story of two sisters and the enchanted woods that have been waiting for them to break a set of terrible spells. Bestselling author-illustrator Emily Winfield Martin has created a world that sits on the border of enchantment, with characters who are grounded in real emotions that readers will recognize in themselves.
Genre: Fantasy; Fairy-tale and Folklore
Similar: The Girl Who Drank the Moon (Kelly Barnhill)
The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency
by Chris Whipple
The first in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the White House Chiefs of Staff, whose actions - and inactions - have defined the course of our country. Through extensive, intimate interviews with all seventeen living chiefs and two former presidents, award-winning journalist and producer Chris Whipple pulls back the curtain on this unique fraternity. In doing so, he revises our understanding of presidential history. Filled with shrewd analysis and never-before-reported details, The Gatekeepers offers an essential portrait of the toughest job in Washington.
Genre: Nonfiction; History
Similar: Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? (Alyssa Mastromonaco)
The Bad Food Bible: How and Why We Eat Sinfully
by Aaron Carroll
Advice about food can be confusing. There's usually only one thing experts can agree on: some ingredients—often the most enjoyable ones—are bad for you, full stop. But as Aaron Carroll explains, these oversimplifications are both wrong and dangerous: if we stop consuming some of our most demonized ingredients altogether, it may actually hurt us. Full of counterintuitive lessons about food we hate to love, The Bad Food Bible is for anyone who wants to forge eating habits that are sensible, sustainable, and occasionally indulgent.
Genre: Nonfiction; Food Writing; Science
Similar: In Defense of Food (Michael Pollan)
We Were Eight Years in Power
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
A compelling portrait of the historic Barack Obama era, combining new and annotated essays from the National Book Award-winning author of Between the World and Me, includes the articles, "Fear of a Black President" and "The Case for Reparations" as well as two new pieces on the Obama administration and what is coming next. The essays are prefaced with new introductions that trace the articles from conception to publication and beyond. With hindsight, Coates examines the roots of his ideas and moments of personal history that relay the influence of hip-hop, the books he read, and the blog he maintained on his writing.
Genre: Non-fiction; Politics
Similar: Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates)
Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History by Katy Tur
One of Donald Trump's favorite media targets tells how she attained that distinction in this spry look at the 2016 campaign. NBC News correspondent Tur covered the presidential campaign from the very start, with Trump in her sights for more than 500 grueling days. Trump managed to tap into a deep well of resentment and anger among disaffected voters who were content to trade in old notions of truth and decency for Trump's wild ride. Trump's own encounters with Tur were just as resentful and angry: he complained that she wouldn't look at him and was distorting words she was quoting verbatim, and she had a special knack for upsetting him. Trump's anger, page after page of it, is discomfiting, and Tur's reactions to it seem to verge on symptoms of PTSD. A thoughtful account of covering what the author rightly calls "the most unlikely, exciting, ugly, trying, and all-around bizarre campaign in American history."
Genre: Non-fiction; Politics; Journalism
Similar: Settle for More (Megyn Kelly)
by Yaa Gyasi
This sweeping family saga encompasses seven generations of descendants of a Fante and his captured Asante house slave. After giving birth to a daughter, Maame manages to escape, making her way alone back to her own village. She is taken in by an Asante warrior, becomes his third wife, and has a second daughter by him. The two sisters, Effia and Esi, will never meet, their lives will follow very different paths, but their descendants will share a legacy of warfare and slavery. Effia will marry an Englishman who oversees the British interest in the Gold Coast slave trade. Esi will be captured by Fante warriors, traded to the Englishmen, and shipped to America to be sold into slavery. Progressing through 300 years of Ghanaian and American history, the narrative unfolds in a series of concise portraits of each sister's progeny that capture pivotal moments in each individual's life. Every portrait reads like a short story unto itself, yet Gyasi imbues the work with a remarkably seamless feel. Through the combined historical perspectives of each descendant, the author reveals that racism is often rooted in tribalism, greed, and the lust for power.
Genre: Historical Fiction; Family Sagas
Similar: The Underground Railroad (Colson Whitehead)
Don't Call Us Dead: Poems
by Danez Smith
Award-winning poet Danez Smith is a groundbreaking force, celebrated for deft lyrics, urgent subjects, and performative power. Don't Call Us Dead opens with a heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police, a place where suspicion, violence, and grief are forgotten and replaced with the safety, love, and longevity they deserved here on earth. Smith turns then to desire, mortality, the dangers experienced in skin and body and blood, and a diagnosis of HIV positive. "Some of us are killed / in pieces," Smith writes, some of us all at once. Don't Call Us Dead is an astonishing and ambitious collection, one that confronts, praises, and rebukes America where every day is too often a funeral and not often enough a miracle.
Similar: Citizen: An American Lyric (Claudia Rankine)
Future Home of the Living God
by Louise Erdrich
Set in Minnesota in a dystopian future in which evolution is going haywire, much of this startling new work of speculative fiction takes the form of a diary by pregnant Cedar Hawk Songmaker addressed to her unborn child. Happily raised and well-educated by her adopted parents Sera and Glen Songmaker, Cedar decides nevertheless to visit her Ojibwe birth family. But times are strange. Flora and fauna are taking on prehistoric characteristics, and there is talk of viruses. It isn’t long before pregnant women are being rounded up. Like some of Erdrich's earlier work, the novel shifts adroitly in time and has a thoughtful, almost mournful insight into life on a Native reservation. If Erdrich hasn't previously ventured into tropes normally employed by sci-fi writers, she doesn't show the inexperience here. There is much to rue in this novel about our world but also hope for salvation. Erdrich has written a cautionary tale for this very moment in time.
Genre: Science Fiction; Dystopian Fiction
Similar: The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood); When She Woke (Hillary Jordan)
by Marjorie Liu
with illustrations by Sana Takeda
Lush, disturbing artwork by Takeda creates an atmosphere of chaos, oppression, magic, and dread in this fantasy tale. Writer Liu spins an interesting yarn about a war between humans and animal-like Arcanics, centering around a young “chosen one”–type Arcanic, Maika Halfwolf. Human witches imprison and chop up the bodies of their Arcanic enemies in secret to eat their life force, an act that includes the dismemberment of Arcanic children. Maika breaks free from her fate, only to find that she’s possessed by a demon hiding within her arm. Takeda’s visuals recall realistic, gritty manga such as Lone Wolf and Cub, with magic and monsters to rival those of Hayao Miyazaki’s films. The bleak worldbuilding will satisfy fans of grim but humanist sci-fi and fantasy.
Genre: Graphic Novel; Science Fiction; Fantasy
Similar: Saga (Brian K. Vaughn)