Jane Dystel recommends:
I have never read anything by Beatriz Williams but when I picked up A HUNDRED SUMMERS, I was seduced immediately. The main characters, Lily, Budgie and Nick are all very human and real and the story unwinds in a number of surprising directions (I hate it when I can predict what is going to happen in a novel and although some of this is predictable, a lot of it isn’t). The author does a superb job of capturing time and place. The romance is wonderful and the tension between many of the main characters palpable.
A HUNDRED SUMMERS is a superb example of good commercial women’s fiction.
Miriam Goderich recommends:
Maybe, it’s the fall season with its sudden onset of afterschool activities, homework, kiddie birthday parties, and parent-teacher conferences as well as an uptick in business, but lately I’ve been drawn to novels about women who find themselves precariously juggling lots of balls—as in, motherhood, marital and other romantic relationships, work obligations…those kinds of balls. The best of these novels reveal the strain of keeping everything elegantly aloft and take us inside the complicated layers of their protagonists’ lives, showing us the compromises and heartbreaks, as well as the moments of grace, and the carefully guarded secrets that power our everyday interactions. Liane Moriarty’s THE HUSBAND’S SECRET is such a novel. It is a mystery, a suspense thriller, a domestic drama and a beautifully crafted work of women’s fiction.
When Cecilia Fitzpatrick finds an old letter from her husband that instructs her to open it only after he’s dead, her curiosity is inevitably and fatally pricked. Her husband is very much alive, but the fact that he’s kept something from her so big that he feels she can only know about it after he’s gone begins to gnaw at Cecilia’s carefully crafted veneer of perfection. But, Cecilia is not the only one affected by this secret and Moriarty skillfully takes seemingly disparate story threads and weaves a story of passion, revenge, and the random acts that define not just individuals but a whole community. In the process, she shows just how precarious the arc of those balls in the air is and how impossible it sometimes is to plaster over the cracks in the façade of a marriage.
Michael Bourret recommends:
Human sexuality is one of the most interesting topics, yet it’s rarely discussed honestly and publicly. That’s why I pre-ordered PERV by Jesse Bering when I read about it in PW months ago. A book about sexual deviancy? Yes, please. And I must say, it did not disappoint. It’s a breath of fresh air to read about the broad spectrum of human sexuality in a frank, judgment-free context. Bering’s basic rule is do no harm–as long as you’re not hurting someone else, what the problem? An atheist, Bering is able to strip the religious and moral judgment from the usual discussion of sexuality, and though I consider myself pretty open-minded, even I had to confront some of my own prudish tendencies. What Bering does most effectively is communicate the pain that shame brings to those whose sexual appetites don’t conform to the norm, and how destructive that pain can be. It’s a book that I hope many people will read, as I believe it has the potential to change not just our dialogue about sex, but the lives of those who suffer because of their innate desires.
Stacey Glick recommends:
Every now and again (and probably more often than I’d like) I see a book and think “Why didn’t I sell that?” I guess it’s a good thing to keep me excited and motivated to find new projects I love. It happened recently with a new nonfiction title SOME NERVE: LESSONS LEARNED BY BECOMING BRAVE by blogger and journalist Patty Chang Anker which describes her journey to overcome many of her lifelong fears as she approaches the age of 40 and aspires to be a positive role model for her two girls. I so relate to this personally having grown up with a great deal of anxiety and unrealistic fears of so many things that followed me into adulthood. I wouldn’t say I overcame my fear of roller coasters, but my 8-year-old did convince me to go on Space Mountain last year at Disney! This is the kind of narrative with a self-help bend that really speaks to me. It’s a hard market for it, but if this project had come across my desk, I would have jumped on it (and probably not, literally for fear of falling).
Jim McCarthy recommends:
I don’t read a ton of epic fantasy—not because I don’t like it, but because the books tend to be so long, and it’s all the more frustrating to dislike a book if you’ve invested yourself in it through 700+ pages. I need to receive a hearty recommendation before I’ll dive into the category. That’s exactly how I ended up grabbing Scott Lynch’s THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA. I couldn’t be more thrilled that I did. Lynch’s world-building is perfect. There are no information dumps, no pages filled just with explanations of local life. Instead, he weaves the scene setting through the entire novel effortlessly. His pacing is also brilliant. He knows not only how to build tension, but when to subvert expectations, when to leave readers hanging, and when to give them exactly what they want. Set in a world of blood-drinking glass roses, bondsmagi, and fighting sharks, the most unbelievable thing about the novel is that it’s his debut.
Jessica Papin recommends:
I just began Donna Tartt’s long awaited new novel THE GOLDFINCH, and while I am being careful not to drop it on my foot, I am thrilled that I have an excuse to immerse myself in terrific fiction without having to come up for air for a good long while. On the nonfiction side, I recommend Scott Anderson’s gorgeously-researched LAWRENCE IN ARABIA: WAR, DECEIT, IMPERIAL FOLLY AND THE MAKING OF THE MODERN MIDDLE EAST.
Lauren Abramo recommends:
When my friend Rebecca picked Ernest Cline’s READY PLAYER ONE for our book club, I wasn’t entirely sure if it was going to be my cup of tea. It takes place in 2044, for starters, which is fine, but it’s not typically what captures my attention in fiction. Everything I’d heard about it was that it was deeply invested in video game culture as well. Don’t get me wrong, as a child of the ‘80s I grew up with Atari and Nintendo, so I see some of the appeal. But my understanding of MMOs only goes as far as wondering how “massively multiplayer” even became a phrase, and I don’t think I’ve played a video game that wasn’t on my phone in a couple years. No judgment on gaming culture, but I assumed I wouldn’t get the references enough to care. The thing about great fiction, though, is that you really don’t have to. I still don’t know which of the games referenced in READY PLAYER ONE are real, I’m sure I missed 75% of the jokes, and somehow it didn’t matter. I was fully invested in Wade’s mission and in the book and several months later I still sort of miss it. It pops into my head all the time, and it already feels like a classic. It’s also probably the most universally liked book that my book club has actually read, which I think would have surprised us all if you’d told us. I don’t feel like we were the target demo, whereas we clearly were on so many other books we’ve picked, but READY PLAYER ONE is just the kind of novel that anyone who likes a good story can get behind. And for all that it’s got a pretty commercial edge to it, it also inspired one of our best conversations. Well played, Mr. Cline.
John Rudolph recommends:
Full disclosure: I’ve known Helen Wan since college, so yes, this is a shameless plug for her debut novel THE PARTNER TRACK. However, in all the years we’ve been friends, I’ve never read even a sample of her work. So when the book came out, I was naturally eager to see what she’d come up with—and needless to say, she did not disappoint. What I found most fascinating about THE PARTNER TRACK is its deceptiveness. On first glance, it’s the simple story of Ingrid Yung, an attractive, Asian-American female attorney navigating office and romantic politics to make partner at a prestigious New York law firm. And with its breezy prose style, glamorous scenes of fancy parties, and some steamy office canoodling, I’m not surprised that THE PARTNER TRACK is getting tagged as chick-lit. Yet Ingrid’s position as both a woman and a person of color in the old boys’ club of the firm makes for a thoughtful, tricky narrative, one that peels back layers of prejudice and assumptions that might seem trivial on first glance but cut much, much deeper. And without giving too much away, I will say that the ending completely turns things around in a way I did not see coming—hey, Helen, maybe your next book should be a thriller!
Michael Hoogland recommends:
I strongly recommend FROZEN IN TIME by Mitchell Zuckoff. It’s a true story about lost airmen who crash-landed somewhere on the massive Greenland ice cap during World War II and the heroic men who risked everything trying to rescue them. Zuckoff is a talented writer who produces a very engaging read—and I do mean very engaging. While the book has its slow moments, these were far outweighed by the mesmerizing narrative, one that seems so implausible that it almost reads like fiction. As the story unfolds, you find yourself in disbelief over the misfortune that befalls the stranded men. Rescue attempt after rescue attempt sees them nearly saved, until would-be rescuers die or become stranded on the ice cap themselves. You can’t help but think what they did at times: that they were fated to die on the glacier.
Rachel Stout recommends:
I’m clearly on a kick with these old New York sagas following gaggles of interesting ladies, because the next book I’d love to recommend is THE BEST OF EVERYTHING by Rona Jaffe. I adored this book, based on the author’s real experiences, following the lives of four young women trying to make it in New York City in the late 1950s. Of course, the primary focus for most of them, as was expected for girls of the time, was marriage, but Jaffe’s characters are so much more than that. There’s the ice queen Caroline who’s really quite compassionate, but doesn’t know what she wants in the way of romance, still pining after the college boy who broke her heart. April’s the wide-eyed farm girl who transforms herself into a sophisticated cosmopolitan in the eyes of society, yet still sleeps on a lumpy Pullman bed in her shabby apartment. Far from the bohemian ingénue actress Gregg portrays herself to be, the waiflike beauty may be the most troubled of them all. What I loved most about Jaffe’s delectably salacious account is how relatable it still is today. While describing how he and his wife met years before, an older companion of one of the girls is recounting their eclectic group of friends (paraphrased): “and there was some guy with a guitar. There’s always a guy with a guitar.” Sixty-five years after the line was written, it still rings true and made me giggle—‘cause she’s right—there is always a guy with a guitar.
Sharon Pelletier recommends:
I’m always hungry for thoughtful, well-written books that are funny. Who says great literature has to be so serious all the time? One such book is THE ROSIE PROJECT by Graeme Simsion. It’s the first-person narrative of Don Tillman, a –ahem– socially challenged scientist in search of a suitable mate. Think The Big Bang Theory meets Bridget Jones’ Diary. No romance allowed, just pure research and laboratory-level evaluations. Well, as you can imagine, nothing goes according to plan. Don’s struggles are absolutely hilarious, and the lessons he slowly learns about accepting the unexpected are authentically moving. The author is completely inside Don’s voice, yet you, the reader, can see the pitfalls of his quixotic efforts in plenty of time to chuckle at them. (Don’t read this one in public if you don’t like to laugh or cry in front of strangers.)