The Only Good Indians - Stephen Graham Jones
Horror with a conscience. This is incredibly well written, keep-you-up-all-night frightening and somehow tender with a great deal of heart. Never make the mistakes of blindly messing with cultural traditions.
Black Swan Green - David Mitchell
In this, one of David Mitchell's early novels, Jason Taylor is a thirteen-year-old in a quiet town in England filled with memorable and sometimes disturbing characters. Jason is dealing with all the usual adolescent issues - firsts in kisses, crushes, cigarettes - and a few odder and possibly more dangerous ones.
This is a great place to begin Mitchell's works. Or a place to return to after you've been to Cloud Atlas or Bone Clocks.
Interior Chinatown - Charles Yu
This has deservedly won many recent awards. It is an uncanny feat to pack so much anger, humor, and love into one short piece. Written as a faux-screenplay it depicts the anger of the treatment of Asian Americans, the humor of the main character's attempt to subvert genres and expectations and the obvious love for his family, his culture and his world. A great read for our times and any.
Klara and the Sun - Kazuo Ishiguro
A novel told from the point of view of a robot may sound limited - this isn't.
Klara is an AF - artificial friend - to a young girl who is not well but struggling to be. The world they inhabit is very much like ours, but a bit more difficult to understand. Which is what Klara is trying to do - in order to better serve her girl and to satisfy her curiosity. There is so much in this novel - friendship, privilege, faith, innocence, familial love and loss - that we and Klara need to consider. A moving tale told by a master.
Foe - Iain Reid
In the near-future on an isolated farm, Junior has been randomly selected for a space experiment the details of which are not divulged to Henrietta, his wife. But the organizers have made sure that she will have a companion while Junior is away. A companion she will feel comfortably (?) familiar with.
This is not quite science fiction, suspense, nor horror but has elements of all three. It is a well-crafted novel dealing with issues of feminism, independence and what it means to be a person. And what it doesn’t mean.
Creepy enough that you might want to keep the lights on long after you’ve finished.
Neverworld Wake - Marisha Pessl
This is catalogued as young adult, probably because of the age of the characters, but reminds me a great deal of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, without quite as much landscape.
It is a tale of five deeply flawed friends who get together a year after high school graduation for a reunion of sorts. It is a psychological and philosophical thriller; Neverworld Wake is a place between life and death where consciousness exists and choices have to be made.
It’s also in Rhode Island.
The Authenticity Project - Clare Pooley
Maybe, for these times, this is just what a lot of us need. With a wonderful group of odd characters, this is a rom/com of the highest order. It does touch on a few more weighty subjects – self-esteem, addiction, ageing - but is primarily a tale of people getting together to help each other become their best selves.
A warm cup of tea of a novel.
Say Nothing - Patrick Radden Keefe
This is an incredibly moving and thought-provoking book - through the story of many friends, families and enemies it illustrates the blurred lines between war and murder. Morality is of prime concern to most, but not all (Gerry Adams), of the people involved in what may be the never-ending “troubles” in Northern Ireland. You won’t be able to stop thinking about this important book.
Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction
NYTimes and Washington Post Top 10 of the year 2019.
News of the World - Paulette Jiles
The West shortly after the Civil War is a lawless place and a news-less one as well. Jefferson Kyle Kidd is an older ex- military gentleman who makes his living by reading newspapers to audiences in towns starving for word from the places they’ve left and those they’ve only imagined. Kidd’s kindness compels him to accept the mission of delivering to relatives a young girl who had been living with the Kiowa who had killed her parents. The long, dangerous trek creates for the two a bond they desperately need.
Spoonbenders - Daryl Gregory
The Amazing Telemachus Family had become word famous for their magical powers but an unfortunate event ended all that. Now they’re trying to be just the family next door, but that’s like the Addams family attempting it. While not so distinctive looking, the Telemachus family still has idiosyncrasies that will never allow them to be “normal”.
There is a great deal of humor as well as a love story compounded by the CIA, mafia and other, odder family members.
The initial chapter will cast its spell – but it is not for the prudish.
Machines Like Me - Ian McEwan
In a 1982 which isn’t entirely the one we know, Charlie comes into some money and buys Adam one of a first group of synthetic people. Charlie is in love with Miranda, his upstairs neighbor and together they complete the program of Adam’s personality.
There is a romance, suspense and intrigue. But mostly this is a novel of ideas - Can a machine have emotions? Can a human program something that’s growth can’t be controlled?
And mainly what makes a human?
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: The Illustrated Edition - J.K. Rowling and Jim Kay
Even if you’ve read all the Harry Potter books, the illustrated editions are a great joy. Jim Kay’s illustrations are delightful and all the text is here. These illustrated volumes are a great way to bring Harry’s world to younger people and encourage them to begin.
The owls might be my favorite of the beautiful pictures.
Girl in Landscape - Jonathan Lethem
Pella Marsh is a human coming of age on the Planet of the Archbuilders - a mysterious "people" with a very different and more than slightly frightening civilization.
This is one of Lethem's early novels; it is original, warm and delightfully odd. It has been called a cross between Science Fiction and Western but it is much more.
American War - Omar El Akkad
That the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074 may be overly optimistic. This is a frighteningly realistic portrait of the chaos that Sarat Chestnut is coming of age in.
The turmoil is between what hasn't been swept to sea in the North where fossil fuels are forbidden and in the South which has held onto the older ways. And then there's the West which is mostly completely lawless. Sarat gives the tale its necessary and believable human center.
Utopia Avenue - David Mitchell
You don't need to read any of David Mitchell's other books to appreciate this romp into the British Rock and Roll scene of the late 60s, complete with cameos by several beloved rockers and song lyrics that you really want to hear. If you have read his earlier workers you'll be glad to recognize themes and people you have met before.
An engaging, thoughtful and wonderfully distracting read.