22 novels in, Lippman keeps reaching and goes wide angle in her latest, a standalone 'more than just a mystery' set in 1960's Baltimore. After abruptly ending her dully traditional marriage, a middle aged white woman becomes a cub reporter obsessed with getting the story of a murdered black woman found in a fountain. Told from the point of view of everyone from a Baltimore Oriole, a local gangster, to the dead woman herself, this is a period story that feels modern with its concerns about race, power, privilege and who gets to tell the story.
Languid summer days are just made for sprawling sagas and you could do no better than The Guest Book. This novel of braided timelines moves fluidly through three generations of the first world problems of the Miltons and their island in Maine. Racism, classism, anti-Semitism, the struggle with the ties that bind and the toll of modernity on tradition are all adeptly examined through a familial lens. Best read on a porch swing or by an oscillating fan!
SPOILER ALERT: Women Talking could have been subtitled Canadian Mennonite Women Break Down the Patriarchy for You. Both angering and funny, this wise novel (sadly based on a true story) takes on heavy questions-'What is faith and a faith community?' 'What would you do for love?' and 'Is there a God and what does God expect from us?'-with a lightness to admire.
If history belongs to the victors, true crime belongs to the perpetrators. When it comes to Jack the Ripper more people can name the suspects-the prince, the artist, the Polish barber-than the victims killed. In an effort to rectify this, historian Hallie Rubenheld not only brings the women fully to life (or as fully as possible given the sketchy records of the poor in Victorian England) and in doing so, sheds some new light on the long cold case.
For example, despite the story that everyone thinks they know, the women were not all prostitutes, most were destitute women ‘sleeping rough’. Detailed explanation of the welfare at the time (basically Scrooge’s ‘prisons and workhouses’) help the modern reader comprehend the women’s plight. Rebenheld also points out that Jack must have killed as they slept, explaining how he could murder so viciously without attention being drawn by struggle or screaming (hence his many close escapes).
Most reviews will surely say this book is a must for Ripperologists, and it is, but it is also a compelling and necessary history which restores personhood to victims formerly seen as the least interesting part of the story.
After a well publicized time of personal upheaval and loss, Elizabeth Gilbert's new novel is just what she and worn out readers everywhere need-a frothy lark. This 'small town girl takes a bite out of the Big Apple' story is full of hijinks, sex, history and fashion-all in equal measure. Vivian's account of her big juicy 20th century life will absorb and delight.
Provocative essayist Solnit disassembles the beloved fairy tale and rebuilds a Cinderella for 2019. Illustrated with the original Arthur Rackham papercuts, this retelling offers choices for all (including the animals!) and an ending set firmly in the here and now. Perfect for feminists of any age or gender.
The podcast superstars have written a no BS, straight-to-the-bone self help guide ideal for everyone, including self help scoffers. Think of it as the literary equivalent of a wise older sister who can be trusted to give you the straight dope, it's equally great for those looking for a course correction or just an 'atta girl'.
It’s 1928 and middle aged militant suffragette Mattie Simpson fears her excitement is over forever until she starts a girl’s club that brings both joy and heartbreak, proving you’re never too old to have your life upended. Filled with righteous indignation and irrepressible good cheer, Old Baggage soars.
Plucky Emmeline Lake just wants to do her part for the war effort. When she lands a job at the London Evening Chronicle she pictures herself as FEMALE WAR CORROSPONDENT. Alas, the job is actually assisting the formidible Henrietta Bird, the maddening advice columnist who refuses to actually offer any. So softhearted Emmy decides to answer a few letters on the sly because what could go wrong? How she copes with real life in wartorn London with her vibrant spirit intact makes for a delicious and uplifting treat for readers.
A black widow Reverend who kills for the insurance money, the dynamic lawyer who defends him and the Pulitzer Prize winning author battling writer's block to get it all captured on paper all come together in this triptyph of true stories so wild they could only happen in the South. Casey Cep is a vibrant and important new voice in nonfiction.
When done right there's something magical about books told from the point of view of an animal. With this sensitive and lovely story Pennypacker carries the torch passed down from Felix Salten (Bambi) and Sterling North (Rascal). When Peter and his fox Pax are seperated by an impending war to be reunited both must face an epic journey that will test and ultimately redeem them. A great read for children of all ages.
A poetic memoir about a literal wild ride-the 1000 km Mongol Derby-written by the first woman to win (who was only 19 at the time). A perfect read for horse lovers, armchair travelers or anyone who remembers well their pentup, wild, youthful yearning.
A deft debut about finding your footing after loss, this middle grade novel features a perfectly lived in friendship (that might be something more) and a completely believable portrait of small town life. Its tender but matter of fact tone and lovely pencil illustrations only add to its appeal.
Readers who struggle with what the Buddhists call 'monkey mind' and with the inability to do it all, much less do it all perfectly, will welcome this collection of upbeat essays. Philpott's candid account of fertility woes, depression and the writing life offers the most convincing encouragement-knowing you are not alone.
Another love letter to his momma (the inimitable Margaret Marie Bundrum Bragg) this time to her hard earned culinary skills, Rick Bragg captures the food histories of generations by writing down her recipes for the first time. And, because good food always has a good story, and a recipe, writes Bragg, is a story like anything else, the food cannot be shared without the story. A book for young locavore foodies and their elders who remember 'the old days'. Bittersweet and full of affection.
For longtime fans like myself describing the plot of an Elizabeth McCracken novel is almost beside the point (Bowlaway is about 3 generations of a New England family that own a candlepin bowling alley, BTW). If you are dazzled by her skill and moved by her matter of fact authorly love for her idiosyncratic characters, as I am, you are pretty much down for whatever. I find her work just the right amount of quirky and her discerning word choices make me want to read as slowly as possible to savor them.
Josie has always wanted to be on TV. Delia loves all things horror. Together they are Midnite Matinee, a public access show with more heart than craft. (Think Svengoolie with hashtags.) With whipsmart dialogue and smartassery for days, the journey these best friends take to reach their dreams (or some approximation of it) makes for a terrific read.
The noir picture book we've been waiting for! Mitten's classic hardboiled narration amply demonstrates a cat's usual level of dedication and healthy respect for the rules. Chuckleworthy and ripe for rereading!
Ever seen the picture of the woman taking a bath in Hitler's bathtub? If not, treat yourself. That's Lee Miller. Vogue model, muse and lover of the photographer Man Ray, Surrealist artist in her own right, combat journalist (that dirt on the bathmat was from Dachau) Miller led a big, juicy 20th century life and this debut novel introduces the reader to all of it. Far more than your average 'woman behind the man' story this is recommended for anyone who loves a ballsy badass heroine.
The latest from the producer of "The Wire" and "The Deuce" is both a crime novel about a con deciding whether to go straight or stay crooked and a love letter to the redemptive power of reading. While languishing in prison Michael Hudson, with the guidence of the prison librarian, takes up books with a voracious enthusiasm as he discovers worlds outside the walls and his former life on the street. When he is inexplicably released-the explanantion why involves some strings-he gets a library card and a straight job but still struggles with what he owes to others and to himself. A compelling crime novel yes, but most of all this book is about the transformative power of friendship and books.
A secret kept by an Irish immigrant maid in 1908 flows through the veins of a wealthy American family like polluted blood until it's exposed in a tramatized post 9/11 New York. This novel of braided timelines is about oportunity, the ties that bind and what a mother truly is.
In her first stand alone French portrays the havoc that ensues when a family's literal skeletons are revealed. Both empathetic and damning, The Witch Elm is also a complete and authentic description of victimhood-the powerlessness and desolation that result when all your safe places are ruined, including your own life narrative.
What happens when you do everything 'right' but security disappears anyway? That terrible angering feeling shared by so many right now is at the heart of these twinned stories, one set in the 1870's, one in the present. Both take place in a dilapidated house in Vineland, NJ and both speak to the many ways one can be unsheltered.
When Jessilyn Harney, a protaganist True Grit's Maddie Ross would call kin, is orphaned in the post Civil War West she disguises herself as a boy and sets out to find her outlaw brother, who's become something of a folk hero. Told in a wry and weary voice, in this debut Western, as in all the classic ones, the journey takes the measure of and makes the man.
Though we all know better, it seems that history happens in black and white. When we see a color photo of a Nazi or the Korean War it's so unexpected and startling it just looks wrong. Black and white also allows us to hold history, especially the painful parts, at some remove. In an effort to bring it closer, authors Wolfgang Wild and Jordan Lloyd have painstakingly colorized some iconic moments from the past so vividly the viewer feels like they are watching the moment unfold. A great gift for the history or photography buff or anyone who enjoys an eyeopener.
The latest novel from Bloom is a tender and loving picture of tough talking reporter, Lorena Hickok, "First Friend" (and true love) of Eleanor Roosevelt. Her hardscrabble early life and later years are all artfully detailed by Bloom, who once again brings her psychological training to bear to create characters who leap off the page.
This arresting graphic novel casts Frida Kahlo's life as one long conversation with Death appropriate, if you think, due to her poor health and tempestous love life, it really was her most constant companion. Works as both a primer for the Kahlo novice and a must have for fans.
This unrelenting portrait of the greedy squandering of our precious natural resources is both a beautiful excursion into the heart of human darkness and a brutal story that squarely combats the myth of the West. A forerunner of Cormac McCarthy, this is an underappreciated great that clamors for a wider audience.