Best New Books: Week of 9/29/2020

“This is an interesting planet. It deserves all the attention you can give it.” – Marilynne Robinson, Gilead


Jack by  Marilynne Robinson ★

Jack tells the story of John Ames Boughton, the beloved, erratic, and grieved-over prodigal son of a Presbyterian minister in Gilead, Iowa. In segregated St. Louis sometime after World War II, Jack falls in love with Della Miles, an African American high school teacher who is also the daughter of a preacher―discerning, generous, and independent. Their fraught, beautiful romance is one of Robinson’s greatest achievements.

The Gilead novels are about the dilemmas and promise of American history―about the ongoing legacy of the Civil War and the enduring impact of both racial inequality and deep-rooted religious belief. They touch the deepest chords in our national character and resonate with our deepest feelings.

Description from Goodreads.

“‘Contemporary classics’ is the oft-used descriptor of Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead series, the correct method of describing these lasting and constant books… [Jack is] a love story with the highest stakes… Jack poignantly shows us the messy, complex, heartbreaking side to getting everything you ever wanted.” – Literary Hub

“Not just a meditation on faith and human suffering but a singular portrait of the divine.” – Entertainment Weekly

“Robinson’s latest glorious work of metaphysical and moral inquiry, nuanced feelings, intricate imagination, and exquisite sensuousness… Myriad manifestations of pain are evoked, but here, too, are beauty, mystery, and joy as Robinson holds us rapt with the exactitude of her perceptions and the exhilaration of her hymnal cadence, and so gracefully elucidates the complex sorrows and wonders of life and spirit.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Marilynne Robinson returns once more to the lovely, soulful world of Gilead, Iowa, for another evocative novel about the questions of religion and how we understand our place in the world. The author’s spare, poetic style has already conjured up her near-mythic setting in previous books Gilead, Home, and Lila, and to this near-unimpeachable trifecta she now adds Jack, which focuses its attention on John Ames Boughton, a supporting player in those previous stories. The son of Gilead’s Presbyterian minister, his interracial romance with high school teacher Della is traced from its awkward beginnings to heartfelt (and heartbreaking) later days, with all of Robinson’s signature explorations of the strange power of belief―and the lack thereof.” – The A.V. Club

Available Formats:

Print Book | Audiobook | eBook

Just Like You by  Nick Hornby ★

Lucy used to handle her adult romantic life according to the script she’d been handed. She met a guy just like herself: same age, same background, same hopes and dreams; they got married and started a family. Too bad he made her miserable. Now, two decades later, she’s a nearly-divorced, forty-one-year-old schoolteacher with two school-aged sons, and there is no script anymore. So when she meets Joseph, she isn’t exactly looking for love–she’s more in the market for a babysitter.

Joseph is twenty-two, living at home with his mother, and working several jobs, including the butcher counter where he and Lucy meet. It’s not a match anyone one could have predicted. He’s of a different class, a different culture, and a different generation. But sometimes it turns out that the person who can make you happiest is the one you least expect, though it can take some maneuvering to see it through.

Just Like You is a brilliantly observed, tender, but also brutally funny new novel that gets to the heart of what it means to fall surprisingly and headlong in love with the best possible person–someone you didn’t see coming.

Description from Goodreads.

“Hornby covers the issues of the day with snappy take-no prisoners commentary… As these scenes build toward a surprising, well-earned ending, Hornby continues to ask: Should we choose someone just like us, or take a risk?” – Boston Globe

“A sweet and funny testament to the wonderful things that happen when you allow yourself to follow your heart.” – Real Simple

“Sparkles with tip-top dialogue and pin-sharp comic timing.” – The Daily Mail

“This is in every regard a Nick Hornby novel—funny, precise, clever, and pointed—but it adds the element of surprise and the great charm of being a love story perfectly attuned to the strange days we’re currently inhabiting.” – Vogue

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

The End of the Day by  Bill Clegg

A retired widow in rural Connecticut wakes to an unexpected visit from her childhood best friend whom she hasn’t seen in forty-nine years.

A man arrives at a Pennsylvania hotel to introduce his estranged father to his newborn daughter and finds him collapsed on the floor of the lobby.

A sixty-seven-year-old taxi driver in Kauai receives a phone call from the mainland that jars her back to a traumatic past.

These seemingly disconnected lives come together as half-century-old secrets begin to surface. It is in this moment that Bill Clegg reminds us how choices—to connect, to betray, to protect—become our legacy.

Deeply observed and beautifully written, this novel is a feat of storytelling, capturing sixty years within the framework of one fateful day.

Description from Goodreads.

“Clegg delivers a thoughtful, well-observed story… The splendid prose and orchestrated maneuvering will keep readers turning the pages and send them back to the beginning, to read it all over again.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Written in lyrical, beautiful prose that makes even waking up seem like a poetic event, The End of the Day makes sense of the events of a single day in a compelling work of fiction.” – Good Morning America

“A declining heiress returns home for the first time in decades, but can’t remember why. Her former maid’s daughter runs a taxi company in Hawaii. Her aunt is left with a baby whose parents have vanished. Leave it to Clegg to brilliantly bind these threads.” – Entertainment Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

The Midnight Library by  Matt Haig

A dazzling novel about all the choices that go into a life well lived, from the internationally bestselling author of Reasons to Stay Alive and How To Stop Time.

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?

In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig’s enchanting new novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

Description from Goodreads.

“Nora’s life is burdened by regrets. Then she stumbles on a library with books that enable her to test out the lives she could have led, including as a glaciologist, Olympic swimmer, rock star, and more. Her discoveries ultimately prove life-affirming in Matt Haig’s dazzling fantasy.” – Christian Science Monitor

“A brilliant premise and great fun.” – The Daily Mail 

“Haig is one of the most inspirational popular writers on mental health of our age and, in his latest novel, he has taken a clever, engaging concept and created a heart-warming story that offers wisdom in the same deceptively simple way as Mitch Albom’s best tales.” – The Independent

Available Formats:

Print Book


The Talented Miss Farwell by  Emily Grey Tedrowe

At the end of the 1990s, with the art market finally recovered from its disastrous collapse, Miss Rebecca Farwell has made a killing at Christie’s in New York City, selling a portion of her extraordinary art collection for a rumored 900 percent profit. Dressed in couture YSL, drinking the finest champagne at trendy Balthazar, Reba, as she’s known, is the picture of a wealthy art collector. To some, the elusive Miss Farwell is a shark with outstanding business acumen. To others, she’s a heartless capitalist whose only interest in art is how much she can make.

But a thousand miles from the Big Apple, in the small town of Pierson, Illinois, Miss Farwell is someone else entirely—a quiet single woman known as Becky who still lives in her family’s farmhouse, wears sensible shoes, and works tirelessly as the town’s treasurer and controller.

No one understands the ins and outs of Pierson’s accounts better than Becky; she’s the last one in the office every night, crunching the numbers. Somehow, her neighbors marvel, she always finds a way to get the struggling town just a little more money. What Pierson doesn’t see—and can never discover—is that much of that money is shifted into a separate account that she controls, “borrowed” funds used to finance her art habit. Though she quietly repays Pierson when she can, the business of art is cutthroat and unpredictable.

But as Reba Farwell’s deals get bigger and bigger, Becky Farwell’s debt to Pierson spirals out of control. How long can the talented Miss Farwell continue to pull off her double life?

Description from Goodreads.

“Perfectly executed… Tedrowe does a spectacular job of demonstrating the mindset of a character who justifies her criminal activity while believing she’s ultimately good.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Both light-hearted and deeply conflicted, Tedrowe’s caper, with its Becky Sharp allusions, raises significant moral issues.”Booklist

“Sharp, darkly comedic, and full of fascinating facts about the art world.” – CrimeReads

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

The Three Mrs. Wrights by  Linda Keir

Mr. Wright has everything. All that’s left to give him is what he deserves.

Lark has good things coming: a career as a board-game designer and a whirlwind romance with a handsome investor. Trip is so compassionate and supportive, he’s almost too good to be true.

Jessica has always been cautious, but she can’t resist Jonathan. The brilliant TED-talking visionary has big plans for his inspiring medical start-up. Now Jessica is invited to be part of the team—and to partner with the founder outside the office.

Holly has settled into a comfortable life with Jack, her husband of nearly twenty years. They’ve raised three children, they own a beautiful home, and they’ve founded a worthy charity. She’s proud of building a marriage that has endured—she just doesn’t want to look too closely at the cracks.

Lark, Jessica, and Holly are three strangers with so much in common it hurts. Their one and only is one and the same.

The charming Mr. Wright’s serial lies are about to catch up with him…

Description from Goodreads.

“Tension is skillfully developed in this third compulsively readable blend of thriller and women’s fiction… Keir delivers a thoroughly satisfying finale.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“This is an outstanding novel!” – Frolic

“Refreshingly, Keir doesn’t depict Holly, Jessica, and Lark as victims. Instead, they’re all smart, well-rounded women who stand up for themselves with resolve and dignity. Readers will cheer them every step of the way…” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book


The Bell in the Lake by  Lars Mytting

As long as people could remember, the stave church’s bells had rung over the isolated village of Butangen, Norway. Cast in memory of conjoined twins, the bells are said to ring on their own in times of danger. In 1879, young pastor Kai Schweigaard moves to the village, where young Astrid Hekne yearns for a modern life. She sees a way out on the arm of the new pastor, who needs a tie to the community to cull favor for his plan for the old stave church, with its pagan deity effigies and supernatural bells. When the pastor makes a deal that brings an outsider, a sophisticated German architect, into their world, the village and Astrid are caught between past and future, as dark forces come into play.
Lars Mytting, bestselling author of Norwegian Wood, brings his deep knowledge of history, carpentry, fishing, and stave churches to this compelling historical novel, an international bestseller sold in 12 countries. With its broad-canvas narrative about the intersection of religion, superstition, and duty, The Bell in the Lake is an irresistible story of ancient times and modern challenges, by a powerful international voice.

Description from Goodreads.

“Its magic pure and its mysteries primordial, Lars Mytting’s novel The Bell in the Lake is a tour de force set in the untamed wilds of Norway… Both heartbreaking and awe-inspiring, The Bell in the Lake is an unforgettable novel that celebrates untamed faith.” – Foreword Reviews

“Mytting has created something beautiful, a perfect evocation of a place and a culture, a melding of old Norse tradition with the encroaching modern world… every element of the setting and those who inhabit it is crafted with consummate skill. This first in a trilogy will have readers eagerly awaiting the next by this accomplished author.” – Booklist

“[B]eautiful… Mytting’s novel was based on local stories, but it is his evoking of the parsonage interior, the turn of the seasons and their physical impress on man and beast that give this book its vividness.” – Historical Novels Review

Available Formats:

Print Book | Hoopla eBook


The Return by  Nicholas Sparks

Trevor Benson never intended to move back to New Bern, NC. But when a mortar blast outside the hospital where he worked as an orthopedic surgeon sent him home from Afghanistan with devastating injuries, the dilapidated cabin he inherited from his grandfather seemed as good a place to regroup as any. Tending to his grandfather’s beloved bee hives while gearing up for a second stint in medical school, Trevor isn’t prepared to fall in love with a local…. and yet, from their very first encounter, his connection with Natalie Masterson can’t be ignored. But even as she seems to reciprocate his feelings, she remains frustratingly distant, making Trevor wonder what she’s hiding.

Further complicating his stay in New Bern is the presence of a sullen teenage girl, Callie, who lives in the trailer park down the road from his grandfather’s cabin. Claiming to be 19, she works at the local sundries store and keeps to herself. When he discovers she was once befriended by his grandfather, Trevor hopes Callie can shed light on the mysterious circumstances of his grandfather’s death, but she offers few clues — until a crisis triggers a race that will uncover the true nature of Callie’s past, one more intertwined with the elderly man’s passing than Trevor could ever have anticipated.

In his quest to unravel Natalie and Callie’s secrets, Trevor will learn the true meaning of love and forgiveness… and that in life, to move forward, we must often return to the place where it all began.

Description from Goodreads.

“As much a family drama as it is a love story… If you, like Trevor, are looking to slow down and focus on what’s really important, The Return is the heartwarming read you’ve been waiting for.” – BookPage

“Will sweep you off your feet… [a] story of secrets, seduction, and forgiveness you’ll want to read over and over again.” – CNN

“Deeply reflective… Sparks’s latest novel reminds [us] that we’re all human… Will pull you in from the very first page.” – Popsugar

Available Formats:

Print Book | Audiobook | eBook


A Deadly Education by  Naomi Novik

A Deadly Education is set at Scholomance, a school for the magically gifted where failure means certain death (for real) — until one girl, El, begins to unlock its many secrets. There are no teachers, no holidays, and no friendships, save strategic ones. Survival is more important than any letter grade, for the school won’t allow its students to leave until they graduate… or die! The rules are deceptively simple: Don’t walk the halls alone. And beware of the monsters who lurk everywhere. El is uniquely prepared for the school’s dangers. She may be without allies, but she possesses a dark power strong enough to level mountains and wipe out millions. It would be easy enough for El to defeat the monsters that prowl the school. The problem? Her powerful dark magic might also kill all the other students.

Description from Goodreads.

“Novik puts a refreshingly dark, adult spin on the magical boarding school setting of the spellbinding first fantasy in her Scholomance trilogy… Readers will delight in the push-and-pull of El and Orion’s relationship, the fantastically detailed world, the clever magic system, and the matter-of-fact diversity of the student body. This is a must-read for fantasy fans.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Intricate world-building, a nuanced and diverse cast and a thrilling plot culminate in the kind of pulse-pounding ending that resolves much, but sets up the next installment with unanswered questions and dangers both new and old… a dark, nuanced take on the magic school genre, featuring a heroine with sharp edges in a diverse world.” – Shelf Awareness

“The first book in an exciting new trilogy from the author of Uprooted, A Deadly Education is a riveting read packed with shiver-inducing monsters and a cast of well-drawn characters.” – BookBub

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


The Meaning of Mariah Carey by  Mariah Carey with  Michaela Angela Davis ★

It took me a lifetime to have the courage and the clarity to write my memoir. I want to tell the story of the moments – the ups and downs, the triumphs and traumas, the debacles and the dreams, that contributed to the person I am today. Though there have been countless stories about me throughout my career and very public personal life, it’s been impossible to communicate the complexities and depths of my experience in any single magazine article or a ten-minute television interview. And even then, my words were filtered through someone else’s lens, largely satisfying someone else’s assignment to define me.

This book is composed of my memories, my mishaps, my struggles, my survival and my songs. Unfiltered. I went deep into my childhood and gave the scared little girl inside of me a big voice. I let the abandoned and ambitious adolescent have her say, and the betrayed and triumphant woman I became tell her side.

Writing this memoir was incredibly hard, humbling and healing. My sincere hope is that you are moved to a new understanding, not only about me, but also about the resilience of the human spirit.

Love, Mariah

Description from Goodreads.

“…her best performance yet… an exceptional entry in the genre.” – Los Angeles Times

“Any reader… will appreciate and devour unapologetic chapters that aim to take back the narrative on Carey’s terms…” – USA Today

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook

The Daughters of Yalta – The Churchulls, Roosevelts, and Harrimans: A Story of Love and War by  Catherine Grace Katz

Tensions during the Yalta Conference in February 1945 threatened to tear apart wartime alliances among Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin, just as victory was close at hand. Catherine Grace Katz uncovers the dramatic story of the three young women who were chosen by their famous fathers to travel with them to Yalta, each bound by fierce ambition and intertwined romances that powerfully colored these crucial days. Kathleen Harriman, twenty-seven, was a champion skier, war correspondent, and daughter to US Ambassador to Russia Averell Harriman. Sarah Churchill, an actress-turned-RAF officer, was devoted to her brilliant father, who in turn depended on her astute political mind. FDR’s only daughter, Anna, chosen over Eleanor Roosevelt to accompany the president to Yalta, arrived there as holder of her father’s most damaging secret. 
Situated in the political maelstrom that marked the transition to a postwar world, The Daughters of Yalta is a remarkable story of fathers and daughters whose relationships were tested and strengthened by the history they witnessed and the future they crafted together. 

Description from Goodreads.

“A singular take on the history of the Yalta Conference, viewed through the eyes of the three notable daughters who supported their famous fathers, the ‘Big Three,’ and contributed in heretofore undocumented ways… A substantive debut work of first-rate scholarship… Katz effectively shows how these three often overlooked women proved to be indispensable in a variety of ways.  Engaging, multilayered history of the best kind, grounded in telling detail and marvelous personalities.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“This sparkling account offers a fresh take on a decisive moment in the history of WWII and the Cold War… Gleaning a treasure trove of details from memoirs, diaries, and letters, Katz documents poor sanitary conditions… at the ransacked summer palaces where the delegations stayed, analyzes diplomatic maneuverings, and shares plenty of spicy gossip… Katz debuts with a vivid and revealing account of… the daughters of Roosevelt, Churchill, and Harriman at the 1945 Yalta Peace Conference.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“An intricately detailed history… she offers an intimate portrait of the networks of friendships, shared professional histories, and other links that were forged in Anglo-American diplomatic circles and which shaped the conference’s progress.” – Booklist

Available Formats:

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Down Along with That Devil’s Bones: A Reckoning with Monuments, Memory, and the Legacy of White Supremacy by  Connor Towne O’Neill

In Down Along with That Devil’s Bones, journalist Connor Towne O’Neill takes a deep dive into American history, exposing the still-raging battles over monuments dedicated to one of the most notorious Confederate generals, Nathan Bedford Forrest. Through the lens of these conflicts, O’Neill examines the legacy of white supremacy in America, in a sobering and fascinating work.

When O’Neill first moved to Alabama, as a white Northerner, he felt somewhat removed from the racism Confederate monuments represented. Then one day in Selma, he stumbled across a group of citizens protecting a monument to Forrest, the officer who became the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. O’Neill sets off to visit other disputed memorials to Forrest across the South, talking with men and women who believe they are protecting their heritage, and those who have a different view of the man’s poisonous history.

O’Neill’s reporting and thoughtful, deeply personal analysis make it clear that white supremacy is not a regional affliction but is in fact coded into the DNA of the entire country. Down Along with That Devil’s Bones presents an important and eye-opening account of how we got from Appomattox to Charlottesville, and where, if we can truly understand and transcend our past, we could be headed next.

Description from Goodreads.

“An eloquent and provocative examination of the links between protests over Confederate monuments in the South and the resurgence of white supremacy… O’Neill writes with grace and genuine curiosity, allowing people on all sides of the issue to speak for themselves. This inquiry into the legacy of American slavery is equally distressing and illuminating.” – Publishers Weekly

“Essential reading…” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“…an amazing book… Readers of history and race relations will enjoy this fascinating work.” – Medium

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | Hoopla eBook

Home Style Cookery by  Matty Matheson

Matty returns with 135 of his absolute favorite recipes to cook at home for his family and friends, so you can cook them for the people you love. Home Style Cookery is his definitive guide to mastering your kitchen, covering everything from pantry staples (breads, stocks, and pickles) to party favorites (dips, fried foods, and grilled meats), to weeknight go-tos (stews, pastas, salads), and special occasion show-stoppers (roasts, smoked meats, and desserts). It starts with basics like Molasses Bread in an Apple Juice Can, Beef and Bone Marrow Stock, Kitchen Sink Salad, Thanksgiving Stuffing Butternut Squash, and the tallest Seven-Layer Dip you have ever seen. Next it covers comforting recipes like Littleneck Clam Orecchiette, Pho Ga, Sichuan Newfoundland Cod, Double Beef Patty Melt with Gruyere and Molasses Bread, and Matty’s take on the ultimate Submarine sandwich. And it closes with bangers like Fish Sticks with Kewpie Tartar Sauce, Salt Crust Leg of Lamb and Yukon Golds with Creamed Spinach, Texas-Style Prime Rib, T-bone Steak and Fine Herb Chimichurri, and Lobster Thermidor with Bearnaise and Salt and Vinegar Chips. It even has desserts like his wife Trish’s Chocolate Chip Cookies and Creme Caramel.

In Home Style Cookery, Matty shares his bold style of cooking. Along with beautiful photographs of Matty’s dishes and his farm, this book is filled with signature recipes that are equal parts approachable and tasty. Matty’s first book shared his culinary story, Home Style Cookery will help you build yours.

Description from Goodreads.

“A new cookbook shelf staple in the making.” – Amazon Book Review

“…packed full of hearty recipes. It’s a recipe encyclopedia, and kind of like a Joy of Cooking for Matheson’s fans.” – Modern Farmer

Available Formats:

Hoopla eBook

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