News of the World by Paulette Jiles
My favorite book of last year and a finalist for the National Book Award, this little gem tells the story of relationship that develops between two outcasts – an old codger who travels the West reading newspapers to news hungry settlers and a 10-year-old girl who was kidnapped by Indians as a toddler and is now being returned to her remaining family. The book is beautifully written, the story is compelling, and the two main characters will steal your heart.
Underground Airlines by Ben Winters
Edgar Award winner Ben Winters imagines a frightening world in which Lincoln was assassinated before he was inaugurated, the Civil War never took place, and four southern states still practice slavery. This is an excellent mix of speculative, dystopian fiction and fast-paced detective novel that says a lot about the current state of race relations in America today.
A remarkable book about one of nature's most remarkable creations -- Feathers is a scientific look at how feathers keep birds warm in sub-zero temperatures, how they use both light and pigment to create vibrant colors and iridescence and, most incredible of all, how they allow birds to soar, swoop, dive and float like no other creatures on earth. Far from a dry scientific study, Feathers is charming and humorous -- filled with annecdotes from the author's field observations. It's also a cultural history of a man's fascination with feathers from how we've used them for our own adornment throughout history to the multi-billion dollar industry that provides the goose down we use to stay warm.
If you loved Gone Girl, you’ll love this smart thriller. The Expats is a highly readable tale of two American couples living in Europe involving the CIA, the FBI, and $50 million that goes missing. It’s filled with enough suspense and clever plot twists to keep you turning pages right up to the end.
Barbara Kingsolver delivers another great novel reflecting her environmental consciousness and her deep roots in Appalachia. When millions of Monarch butterflies end their migration in the mountains of Tennessee one year, some people consider it a miracle while others see a natural disaster. Kingsolver’s understanding of the reality of life in a hardscrabble small town in Appalachia shines through as brightly as the flame-colored butterflies she uses to tell this story.
Ann Patchett is in top form with this novel about a miracle fertility drug that would allow women to have babies at any age. It's a page-turning adventure story with salient social commentary on the ethics of science, big pharma and native peoples.
This beautifully written debut novel deftly blends magical folktales into stories of village life amid war and ethic strife in the former Yugoslavia. By one of The New Yorker's "20 under 40" best writers.
Robert Darnton is uniquely qualified to present the case for books and he does so eloquently in this collection of essays. It's not a rant against all things digital but a reasoned and passionate call for the long term coexistence of printed books and digital material.
Reminiscent of my favorite novel of last year (Little Bee), this is the story of a young, mixed-race firl searching for her identity as she tries to recover from a violent act that turned her life upside down. Well-written and paced like a mystery.
I loved this book - it's in turns hilarious and horrifying, hard-hitting and heart-warming. Narrated by the Nigerian "little bee" it interweaves her story as a youngster in the midst of war in Nigeria and the breakdown of a marriage between a couple in England and their endearing young son who refuses to take off his Batman costume. Really a wonderfully told and affecting story.
This is an amazing book about an amazing man - a Harvard educated doctor who dedicated his life to serving the poorest of the poor in Haiti. Inspiring! And a good read.
A charming remembrance of a young boy’s summers on Long Island by a great writer. Whitehead takes us deep inside the mind of a teenage boy who spends the school year with prep school white kids and his summers with his African-American pals in the Hamptons.