by Agatha Christie, 1939
Way back when I was in high school, I went through a period where I didn’t read. Well, it’s not that I didn’t read at all, because I read for school, but I didn’t know what to read for fun. This is ironic because I discovered some of my most favorite books when I was in high school, yet no one told me that contemporary or classic fiction were actual genres that one could pursue. Both of my parents tend toward genres that I do not – my father toward the political/military fiction or nonfiction and my mother toward easy romances or giant historical fictions along the lines of James Michener – so, try as they might, they weren’t much help in recommending books to me at that age. I remember one of them suggested that I try Agatha Christie’s books, but after reading one and finding it boring, I relegated her, and the entire mystery genre – to the pile of disliked authors. Lo these many years later, I’ve decided to give her another chance.
by Seanan McGuire, 2017
Oh, I adore this series. If Every Heart a Doorway is noteworthy for its inclusion of transgender and asexual characters, Down Among the Sticks and Bones is equally noteworthy for its strong message regarding the dangers of forcing children to adhere to strict gender roles. Focusing entirely on Jacqueline and Jillian Wolcott, this is not so much a sequel as it is a sideways step into this world. We were introduced to the twin girls and their journey to the moors in Every Heart, and here we learn more about how Jack became a doctor’s apprentice, how Jill came under the care of a vampire master, and how their parents did everything wrong.
by George Saunders, 2017
narrated by the author, Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, and 163 others*
I don’t say this lightly, but Lincoln in the Bardo is unlike any book I’ve ever read. Turning the notion of the historical novel on its head, Saunders builds on the recorded fact of the death of Abraham Lincoln’s son Willie and the bereaved father’s visit to his son’s tomb. It is this unique combination of fact and fiction that makes this story so different from any other musings on not just life after death, but that space in between life and death. It is impossible to not have heard about this book, as it has won much praise and is this year’s Booker Prize winner, yet I was not at all prepared for what I encountered in these pages.
by Maria Semple, 2012
narrated by Kathleen Wilhoite*
The adage of a fine line separating genius from madness is most appropriate here. Where’d You Go, Bernadette introduces us to a small family in Seattle – mother Bernadette Fox, father Elgin Branch, and daughter Bee. When Bee gets accepted to a prestigious boarding school, Bernadette and Elgin agree to grant her most desired wish: a trip to Antarctica. The only problem is that Bernadette practically refuses to leave the house and interact with other human beings. Intent on pleasing her daughter as best as she can, Bernadette musters up her strength and makes plans for the trip, only to be deterred by the private school mothers she refers to as “gnats” and a virtual assistant in India named Manjula. Hijinks ensue, and Bernadette disappears.
by Lisa McInerney, 2015
I can sum up this book in exactly three words: sex, drugs, and lots of violence.
by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, & Nate Powell, 2016
It has been some time since I finished the second installment in the March series. At first I wondered why I had put off completing it for so long – I did, after all, rush out and buy all three at full price immediately after borrowing the first one from the library. But, after starting in again, I remembered why: this read was going to be a difficult one.
by Ali Smith, 2016
I typically don’t pay attention to long lists for book awards. If a book I’m already interested in gets nominated, this might spur me to pick up sooner than I otherwise might, but they don’t ultimately affect what I choose to read. The case with Autumn, however, was different. I can completely credit my reading of this novel to the panelists at The Reader’s Room, all of whom, in their annual Man Booker Long List read, heaped high praise upon the book. I honestly don’t think it would have crossed my radar had it not been for their glowing reviews, but I’m so glad that it did.