Best New Books: Week of 1/15/2019

We’re only a few short weeks into the new year, and already we’re awash in great books. Some of the years most buzzed about titles are arriving at the library today. Karen Thompson Walker’s unique and intriguing The Dreamers is available, as is Kristen Roupenian’s short story collection You Know You Want This, which features her viral New Yorker short story “Cat Person.” Both books are likely to keep people talking for some time to come. Of course, there are several other literary fiction titles to choose from, along with some mystery and suspense, an early favorite for one of the year’s best nonfiction books, a very well-received children’s title, and the start of a promising new YA book series. So what are we waiting for? Let’s get to the week’s best new books!



FICTION



The Dreamers by  Karen Thompson Walker

dreamers

In an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a freshman girl stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics who carry her away, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. Then a second girl falls asleep, and then another, and panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. As the number of cases multiplies, classes are canceled, and stores begin to run out of supplies. A quarantine is established. The National Guard is summoned.

Mei, an outsider in the cliquish hierarchy of dorm life, finds herself thrust together with an eccentric, idealistic classmate. Two visiting professors try to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. A father succumbs to the illness, leaving his daughters to fend for themselves. And at the hospital, a new life grows within a college girl, unbeknownst to her—even as she sleeps. A psychiatrist, summoned from Los Angeles, attempts to make sense of the illness as it spreads through the town. Those infected are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, more than has ever been recorded. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what?

Description from Goodreads.

“[An] imaginative, disturbing, and ultimately spellbinding narrative, which asks provocative questions about our concepts of time and connection, and the bounds of possibility for life on earth.” – Vogue

The Dreamers is a beautifully written novel that is powerful, thoughtful, and entirely original.” – PopSugar

“Richly imaginative and quietly devastating . . . Walker jolts the narrative with surprising twists, ensuring it keeps its energy until the end. This is a skillful, complex, and thoroughly satisfying novel about a community in peril.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Within the spellbindingly measured narrative of the public health crisis are woven emotionally charged individual stories. . . . What is the nature of an epidemic? What is the nature of consciousness? What mix of loyalty and love binds individuals together? These are a few of the questions Walker raises in her provocative, hypnotic tale.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | Audiobook | eBook


You Know You Want This by  Kristen Roupenian

you know you want this

You Know You Want This brilliantly explores the ways in which women are horrifying as much as it captures the horrors that are done to them. Among its pages are a couple who becomes obsessed with their friend hearing them have sex, then seeing them have sex…until they can’t have sex without him; a ten-year-old whose birthday party takes a sinister turn when she wishes for “something mean”; a woman who finds a book of spells half hidden at the library and summons her heart’s desire: a nameless, naked man; and a self-proclaimed “biter” who dreams of sneaking up behind and sinking her teeth into a green-eyed, long-haired, pink-cheeked coworker.

Spanning a range of genres and topics—from the mundane to the murderous and supernatural—these are stories about sex and punishment, guilt and anger, the pleasure and terror of inflicting and experiencing pain. These stories fascinate and repel, revolt and arouse, scare and delight in equal measure. And, as a collection, they point a finger at you, daring you to feel uncomfortable—or worse, understood—as if to say, “You want this, right? You know you want this.”

Description from Goodreads.

“It’s unheard of for a short story to go viral, but ‘Cat Person’—through a combination of impossibly sharp writing and impossibly good timing—had done it. A year later, Roupenian’s debut collection proves that success wasn’t a fluke. The 12 visceral stories here range from uncomfortable to truly horrifying and are often—though not always—focused on the vicious contradictions of being female… Unsettling, memorable, and—maybe perversely—very, very fun.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“There is always some anxiety following such a short, steep rise to recognition, but in this collection Roupenian lives up to those high expectations. The stories are wonderfully varied in execution, from realist to surreal, staying fresh while circling one primary concern: how men and women relate to one another, and how often that relationship can go wrong.” – Vanity Fair

“Readers who are looking for more uncomfortably realistic renderings of awkward romantic encounters won’t be disappointed, but this collection is so much more than that, offering an array of biting (sometimes literally!) looks at the ways our most hidden perversions manifest in our lives. It’s a razor-sharp, often ruthless, never less than relentless examination of the way we are now. Scary, right? But you know you want it.” – NYLON

Available Formats:

Print Book


Adèle by  Leila Slimani

adele

She wants only one thing: to be wanted. 

Adèle appears to have the perfect life: She is a successful journalist in Paris who lives in a beautiful apartment with her surgeon husband and their young son. But underneath the surface, she is bored–and consumed by an insatiable need for sex.

Driven less by pleasure than compulsion, Adèle organizes her day around her extramarital affairs, arriving late to work and lying to her husband about where she’s been, until she becomes ensnared in a trap of her own making. Suspenseful, erotic, and electrically charged, Adèle is a captivating exploration of addiction, sexuality, and one woman’s quest to feel alive.

Description from Goodreads.

“[A] fierce, uncanny thunderbolt of a book . . . The feverish spark of obsession licks at the corner of nearly every page.” – Entertainment Weekly

“Exposes the dark desires of a seemingly normal woman . . . Adèle—and the reader—must come to terms with what it is we demand of women in modern times, and how those punishing requirements lead so many of us to crack and try and get autonomy through unorthodox means.” – NYLON

“Cancel your plans, because you’ll finish this addictive novel in one weekend.” – Apartment Therapy

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


To Keep the Sun Alive by  Rabeah Ghaffari

to keep the sun alive

The year is 1979. The Islamic Revolution is just around the corner, as is a massive solar eclipse.

In this epic novel set in the small Iranian city of Naishapur, a retired judge and his wife, Bibi, grow apples, plums, peaches, and sour cherries, as well as manage several generations of family members. The days here are marked by long, elaborate lunches on the terrace and arguments about the corrupt monarchy in Iran and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.

And yet life in the orchard continues. An uncle develops into a powerful cleric. A young nephew goes to university, hoping to lead the fight for a new Iran and marry his childhood sweetheart. Another nephew surrenders to opium, while his widowed father dreams of a life in the West. Told through a host of vivid, unforgettable characters that range from servants to elderly friends of the family, To Keep the Sun Alive is the kind of rich, compelling story that not only informs the past, but raises questions about political and religious extremism today.

Description from Goodreads.

“Told through a host of unique characters, including servants, children, and friends, To Keep the Sun Alive tells the largely untold personal stories behind one of modern world history’s most important political moments.” – Bustle

“From page 1 on, you’ll be deeply invested in the story of a large family affected by the Iranian Revolution in the ’70s . . . Ghaffari’s saga is so evocative you’ll nearly be able to smell the orange trees in the family’s orchard.” – Refinery29

“Ghaffari is an empathetic writer, able to suffuse even the smallest character with a rich inner life. The web she weaves between the personal and political is so intricate, To Keep the Sun Alive warrants more than one read.” – The Rumpus

Available Formats:

Print Book


The Far Field by  Madhuri Vijay

far field

In the wake of her mother’s death, Shalini, a privileged and restless young woman from Bangalore, sets out for a remote Himalayan village in the troubled northern region of Kashmir. Certain that the loss of her mother is somehow connected to the decade-old disappearance of Bashir Ahmed, a charming Kashmiri salesman who frequented her childhood home, she is determined to confront him. But upon her arrival, Shalini is brought face to face with Kashmir’s politics, as well as the tangled history of the local family that takes her in. And when life in the village turns volatile and old hatreds threaten to erupt into violence, Shalini finds herself forced to make a series of choices that could hold dangerous repercussions for the very people she has come to love.

With rare acumen and evocative prose, in The Far Field Madhuri Vijay masterfully examines Indian politics, class prejudice, and sexuality through the lens of an outsider, offering a profound meditation on grief, guilt, and the limits of compassion.

Description from Goodreads.

“For the vast majority of us, who hear of the troubles in Kashmir only as a faint strain in the general din of world tragedies, The Far Field offers something essential: a chance to glimpse the lives of distant people captured in prose gorgeous enough to make them indelible — and honest enough to make them real.” – Washington Post

“A ghastly secret lies at the heart of Madhuri Vijay’s stunning debut, The Far Field, and every chapter beckons us closer to discovering it….The Far Field chafes against the useless pity of outsiders and instead encourages a much more difficult solution: cross-cultural empathy.” – Paris Review

“Vijay intertwines her story’s threads with dazzling skill. Dense, layered, impossible to pin—or put—down…an engrossing tale of love and grief, politics and morality. Combining up-close character studies with finely plotted drama, this is a triumphant, transporting debut.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book


Late in the Day by  Tessa Hadley

late in the day

Alexandr and Christine and Zachary and Lydia have been friends since they first met in their twenties. Thirty years later, Alex and Christine are spending a leisurely summer’s evening at home when they receive a call from a distraught Lydia: she is at the hospital. Zach is dead.

In the wake of this profound loss, the three friends find themselves unmoored; all agree that Zach, with his generous, grounded spirit, was the irreplaceable one they couldn’t afford to lose. Inconsolable, Lydia moves in with Alex and Christine. But instead of loss bringing them closer, the three of them find over the following months that it warps their relationships, as old entanglements and grievances rise from the past, and love and sorrow give way to anger and bitterness.

Late in the Day explores the complex webs at the center of our most intimate relationships, to expose how, beneath the seemingly dependable arrangements we make for our lives, lie infinite alternate configurations. Ingeniously moving between past and present and through the intricacies of her characters’ thoughts and interactions, Tessa Hadley once again “crystallizes the atmosphere of ordinary life in prose somehow miraculous and natural” (Washington Post).

Description from Goodreads.

“Tessa Hadley is well-known for her inimitable portrayal of character and her latest effort, Late in the Day, is no disappointment…. A smart exploration of human nature, desire, and friendship.” – Vanity Fair

“Gorgeous, utterly absorbing…. More than many of her contemporaries, the British writer Tessa Hadley understands that life is full of moments when the past presses up against the present, and when the present transforms the past. Her brilliant new novel, Late in the Day, explores both with equal urgency.” – Boston Globe

“Perceptive, finely wrought…. Hadley is a writer of the first order, and this novel gives her the opportunity to explore, with profound incisiveness and depth, the inevitable changes inherent to long-lasting marriages.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


The Perfect Liar by  Thomas Christopher Greene

Susannah, a young widow and single mother, has remarried well: to Max, a charismatic artist and popular speaker whose career took her and her fifteen-year-old son out of New York City and to a quiet Vermont university town. Strong-willed and attractive, Susannah expects that her life is perfectly in place again. Then one quiet morning she finds a note on her door: I KNOW WHO YOU ARE. 

Max dismisses the note as a prank. But days after a neighborhood couple comes to dinner, the husband mysteriously dies in a tragic accident while on a run with Max. Soon thereafter, a second note appears on their door: DID YOU GET AWAY WITH IT?

Both Susannah and Max are keeping secrets from the world and from each other —secrets that could destroy their family and everything they have built. The Perfect Liar is a thrilling novel told through the alternating perspectives of Susannah and Max with a shocking climax that no one will expect, from the bestselling author of The Headmaster’s Wife.

Description from Goodreads.

“Keeps readers riveted. . .This novel creates a slow burn with not one but two shocking climaxes.” – Library Journal

“Riveting…fans of domestic suspense will be well satisfied.” – Publishers Weekly

“A taut, well-written thriller…The pace is crisp, the surprises keep coming, and there are two big ones that readers are unlikely to see coming.” – Associated Press

Available Formats:

Print Book



MYSTERY



Last Woman Standing by  Amy Gentry

last woman standing

Dana Diaz is an aspiring stand‑up comedian—a woman in a man’s world. When she meets a tough computer programmer named Amanda Dorn, the two bond over their struggles in boys’ club professions. Dana confides that she’s recently been harassed and assaulted while in L.A., and Amanda comes up with a plan: they should go after each other’s assailants, Strangers on a Train–style. But Dana finds that revenge, however sweet, draws her into a more complicated series of betrayals. Soon her distrust turns to paranoia, encompassing strangers, friends—and even herself. At what cost will she get her vengeance? Who will end up getting hurt? And when it’s all over, will there be anyone left to trust?

Description from Goodreads.

“The writing here is sharp, with contemporary social issues and moral twists that turn on a dime. Last Woman Standing unfolds like a master class in improvisational tragedy.” – The Wall Street Journal

“The gripping novel sparkles with psychological realism and complicated moral questions that resonate deeply in the wake of the #MeToo movement.” – The Dallas Morning News

“Cutting…feels a bit like They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, but for the Austin comedy scene [with] a well-thought-out nod to Strangers on a Train…we won’t say anything more, lest we spoil the fun.” – CrimeReads

Available Formats:

Print Book


As Long as We Both Shall Live by  JoAnn Chaney

as long as we both shall live

“My wife! I think she’s dead!”

Matt frantically tells park rangers that he and his wife, Marie, were hiking when she fell off a cliff into the raging river below. They start a search, but they aren’t hopeful: no one could have survived that fall. It was a tragic accident.

But Matt’s first wife also died in suspicious circumstances. And when the police pull a body out of the river, they have a lot more questions for Matt.

Detectives Loren and Spengler want to know if Matt is a grieving, twice-unlucky husband or a cold-blooded murderer. They dig into the couple’s lives to see what they can unearth. And they find that love’s got teeth, it’s got claws, and once it hitches you to a person, it’s tough to rip yourself free.

So what happens when you’re done making it work?

Description from Goodreads.

“Chaney grabs readers with her opening line: ‘If you try to kill your wife without a plan, you will fail.’…Marriage laid bare, with a riveting account of evasion and pursuit―and a zinger of a coda.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Chaney alternates past and present, creating an unbearably urgent narrative, and she has a shockingly firm grasp on the barbs and ennui of long-term marriage. A perfectly paced, shock-studded chiller from an author to watch.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“Preorder, be first on your library hold list, mark your calendar. I absolutely adore JoAnn Chaney’s wicked brain. Her writing is sharp, insightful, and darkly funny. And wow can she write a deliciously evil and giddy page-turner!” – BookRiot

Available Formats:

Print Book



SUSPENSE



No Exit by  Taylor Adams

no exit

On her way to Utah to see her dying mother, college student Darby Thorne gets caught in a fierce blizzard in the mountains of Colorado. With the roads impassable, she’s forced to wait out the storm at a remote highway rest stop. Inside, are some vending machines, a coffee maker, and four complete strangers.

Desperate to find a signal to call home, Darby goes back out into the storm . . . and makes a horrifying discovery. In the back of the van parked next to her car, a little girl is locked in an animal crate.

Who is the child? Why has she been taken? And how can Darby save her?

There is no cell phone reception, no telephone, and no way out. One of her fellow travelers is a kidnapper. But which one?

Trapped in an increasingly dangerous situation, with a child’s life and her own on the line, Darby must find a way to break the girl out of the van and escape.

But who can she trust?

With exquisitely controlled pacing, Taylor Adams diabolically ratchets up the tension with every page. Full of terrifying twists and hairpin turns, No Exit will have you on the edge of your seat and leave you breathless.

Description from Goodreads.

“The carefully layered drawing-room psychology of Agatha Christie cross-pollinated with the pure squishy terror of Stephen King . . . . [Taylor Adams] nails his setup and builds some truly distinctive characters.” – Entertainment Weekly

“[A] nail-biting thriller. . . . The action drives to a climactic and emotionally charged ending.” – Publishers Weekly

“This well-written, fast-paced thriller . . . has enough twists to ensure an enjoyable read for even the most seasoned suspense fans.” – Library Journal

Available Formats:

Print Book


The Night Agent by  Matthew Quirk

No one was more surprised than FBI Agent Peter Sutherland when he’s tapped to work in the White House Situation Room. From his earliest days as a surveillance specialist, Peter has scrupulously done everything by the book, hoping his record will help him escape the taint of his past. When Peter was a boy, his father, a section chief in FBI counterintelligence, was suspected of selling secrets to the Russians—a catastrophic breach that had cost him his career, his reputation, and eventually his life.

Peter knows intimately how one broken rule can cost lives. Nowhere is he more vigilant than in this room, the sanctum of America’s secrets. Staffing the night action desk, his job is monitoring an emergency line for a call that has not—and might never—come.

Until tonight.

At 1:05 a.m. the phone rings. A terrified young woman named Rose tells Peter that her aunt and uncle have just been murdered and that the killer is still in the house with her. Before their deaths, they gave her this phone number with urgent instructions: “Tell them OSPREY was right. It’s happening. . . “

The call thrusts Peter into the heart of a conspiracy years in the making, involving a Russian mole at the highest levels of the government. Anyone in the White House could be the traitor. Anyone could be corrupted. To save the nation, Peter must take the rules into his own hands and do the right thing, no matter the cost. He plunges into a desperate hunt for the traitor—a treacherous odyssey that pits him and Rose against some of Russia’s most skilled and ruthless operatives and the full force of the FBI itself.

Peter knows that the wider a secret is broadcast, the more dangerous it gets for the people at the center. With the fate of the country on the line, he and Rose must evade seasoned assassins and maneuver past jolting betrayals to find the shocking truth—and stop the threat from inside before it’s too late.

Description from Goodreads.

“Quirk’s chilling and modern scenario of foreign influence reaching into the highest reaches of government will be thoroughly enjoyed by political thriller junkies.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“Quirk returns to the thriller scene with a thundering bang… Quirk’s latest feels like he’s been churning out political thrillers for decades, hitting on a timely plot that starts out fast and only speeds up as the story unfolds… [A] high-stakes, nail-biting political thriller.” – The Real Book Spy

“Lots of good, tense plotting… A real pleasure of espionage fiction is tradecraft secrets, and Quirk doesn’t disappoint.” – Booklist

Available Formats:

Print Book



NONFICTION



Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by  Dani Shapiro

inheritance

What makes us who we are? What combination of memory, history, biology, experience, and that ineffable thing called the soul defines us?

In the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had whimsically submitted her DNA for analysis, Dani Shapiro received the stunning news that her father was not her biological father. She woke up one morning and her entire history—the life she had lived—crumbled beneath her.

Inheritance is a book about secrets—secrets within families, kept out of shame or self-protectiveness; secrets we keep from one another in the name of love. It is the story of a woman’s urgent quest to unlock the story of her own identity, a story that has been scrupulously hidden from her for more than fifty years, years she had spent writing brilliantly, and compulsively, on themes of identity and family history. It is a book about the extraordinary moment we live in—a moment in which science and technology have outpaced not only medical ethics but also the capacities of the human heart to contend with the consequences of what we discover.

Timely and unforgettable, Dani Shapiro’s memoir is a gripping, gut-wrenching exploration of genealogy, paternity, and love.

Description from Goodreads.

“Fascinating… With thoughtful candor, [Shapiro] explores the ethical questions surrounding sperm donation, the consequences of DNA testing, and the emotional impact of having an uprooted religious and ethnic identity. This beautifully written, thought-provoking genealogical mystery will captivate readers from the very first pages.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“A fascinating and pertinent look into the murky world of medical ethics, as well as the kind of profound, insightful look into the meaning of love and connection that we’ve come to expect from Shapiro.” – Nylon

“Poignant…Origin stories are among the most powerful that exist because they shape people’s identities and anchor them—to a culture, a place and other people. When stories about the past change, Ms. Shapiro argues, so does the future…In losing the genetic connection to the man who raised her, Ms. Shapiro gained new insight into their enduring bond.” – The Wall Street Journal

Available Formats:

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YOUNG ADULT



The Gilded Wolves by  Roshani Chokshi

Paris, 1889: The world is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. In this city, no one keeps tabs on secrets better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier, Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. But when the all-powerful society, the Order of Babel, seeks him out for help, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To find the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin will need help from a band of experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian who can’t yet go home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in all but blood, who might care too much.

Together, they’ll have to use their wits and knowledge to hunt the artifact through the dark and glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the world, but only if they can stay alive.

Description from Goodreads.

“Chokshi has ­created an inclusive and authentic cast with obvious chemistry and affection for one another and infuses the tale with witty banter and twists. … A ­delectably intriguing adventure for all teen shelves.” – School Library Journal

“Evocative writing, sumptuous set pieces, and vividly sketched, authentically flawed characters distinguish this immersive tale of found family and star-crossed romance. Kaleidoscopic narration complements the intricate, high-stakes plot and allows Chokshi to showcase numerous aspects of her richly imagined universe all the way to the closing cliff-hanger.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Chokshi delivers a thrilling, gritty new fantasy set in an alternate nineteenth century Paris… Chokshi shines as a master storyteller in her newest novel; the setting, world building, plot, and conflict are all staggering. However, the elements that perhaps shine the most are the history, riddles, mysteries, and science, woven together in a world brimming with power and magic.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book



CHILDREN’S



The Whispers by  Greg Howard

Eleven-year-old Riley believes in the whispers, magical fairies that will grant you wishes if you leave them tributes.

Riley has a lot of wishes. He wishes bullies at school would stop picking on him. He wishes Dylan, his 8th grade crush, liked him, and Riley wishes he would stop wetting the bed. But most of all, Riley wishes for his mom to come back home. She disappeared a few months ago, and Riley is determined to crack the case. He even meets with a detective, Frank, to go over his witness statement time and time again.

Frustrated with the lack of progress in the investigation, Riley decides to take matters into his own hands. So he goes on a camping trip with his friend Gary to find the whispers and ask them to bring his mom back home. But Riley doesn’t realize the trip will shake the foundation of everything that he believes in forever.

Description from Goodreads.

“A realistic tale of coming to terms and coming-of-age, of friendship and loss, with a touch of magic and humor.” – Kirkus Reviews

“We’re predicting this emotional story will be an award winner.” – Parents

“[Riley’s] a thoroughly sympathetic [narrator], and it’s easy to root for his eventual understanding of the truth—and of his own blamelessness.” – Horn Book Magazine

Available Formats:

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