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  • Miwa Messer 8:00 pm on 2018/09/10 Permalink
    Tags: B&N Discover Awards,   

    Discover Great New Writers Fall 2018 Selections 

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    We’re terrifically pleased to announce our Fall 2018 Discover Great New Writers selections—our third collection for 2018, another exciting mix of fiction, essays, memoir, and journalism from writers who aren’t yet household names, writers our booksellers believe we’ll continue to read for years to come.

    How it works: Every week, a team of our booksellers from around the country meets to review submissions; we start with roughly 1,000 books each year and select fewer than 60 for the program. We root for all of the books and their authors, waiting for the bookseller who says, “this made the hair stand up on the back of my neck,” or “I missed my subway stop,” or even, “I couldn’t stop holding my breath as I read, and I gave myself the hiccups.”

    What we’re looking for: In a word, WOW.

    We’re looking for stories we can’t stop thinking about, that entertain us, whisk us away to unfamiliar places (real or imagined). Stories that show us who we are in the world. Stories that tattoo themselves onto our DNA. Stories packed with characters we’d like to hang with in real life and don’t want to leave behind, even when we don’t like them very much. Stories spun from vivid imagination, hard work, and marvelous prose. We’re looking for stories that pulse with life and ideas and unforgettable imagery. We’re looking for universal truths in someone else’s details. We’re looking for books that readers can’t wait to press into the hands of other readers with a simple admonition: You’ve got to read this now.

    To check out other 2018 Discover picks, browse our now twenty-eight-year-old archive of past selections, or learn more about our annual Discover Awards, check out bn.com/discover.


    The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, by Imogen Hermes Gowar
    This incredible debut reminded us of novels by Discover alums Sarah Waters (Fingersmith and The Little Stranger) and Michel Faber (The Crimson Petal and the White) and 2017 Discover pick The Essex Serpent, by Sarah Perry. In 1780s London, a well-to-do merchant finds his life upended in a story of wonder, obsession, and desire. P.S. Madeline Miller, bestselling author of Circe, is also a major fan.

    The Lost Queen, by Signe Pike
    We can’t get enough of epic historical sagas like The Half-Drowned King, Linnea Hartsuyker’s 2017 Discover pick set in Viking-era Norway, a mystical and violent world, and we love Signe Pike’s debut, a story of a lost queen of sixth-century Scotland, the twin of the man who inspired the legend of Merlin, just as much. (Luckily for us, The Lost Queen and The Half-Drowned King are both first in a series.)

    The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris
    There’s so much story packed in this deceptively slim novel. Vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful, this illuminating tale of hope and courage—based on the true story of a prisoner forced to tattoo other prisoners at Auschwitz—is a testament to the endurance of love and humanity. Fans of gripping WW2 fiction like The Boat Runner, by Devin Murphy, won’t want to miss this one.

    The Waiter, by Matias Faldbakken
    There are times we just want to curl up with a dreamy story about wonderful characters, and this novel by a Norwegian artist is a terrific place to start. We were reminded of The Elegance of the Hedgehog and A Gentleman in Moscow as we read this charming and thoughtful story of a middle-aged waiter whose routine at a centuries-old European restaurant is turned upside-down by an unexpected guest.

    All the Colors We Will See, by Patrice Gopo
    My family’s presence in Alaska was a mixture of flavors…Jamaican roots and an American life. Family and faith are the heart of this warm and beautifully written collection of essays about the complex interplay between what it means to be different—and what it means to belong—by an author who has called Alaska, South Africa, and the American South home.

    All You Can Ever Know, by Nicole Chung
    What happens when you stop believing your own family mythology? This unforgettable memoir starts with one woman’s search for her birth parents and becomes a universal story of identity, family, and home. Like Discover alums Leah Carroll, author of Down City, and Sarah Perry, author of After the Eclipse, Nicole Chung turns a painful past into powerful art. Bestselling author Celeste Ng (Little Fires Everywhere) is a fan, too.

    American Prison, by Shane Bauer
    A groundbreaking inside investigation into the private prison industry and the forces that drive it, told by a journalist who was legitimately hired under his own name with no background check to be a guard for $9 an hour. From the history of the industry to the treatment of prisoners to the ugly changes he saw in himself during his employment, this is a gripping story that cannot be ignored.

    The Class, by Heather Won Tesoriero
    The incredible true story of an unconventional class and a band of whiz kids. Like 2015 Discover pick Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren, The Class is as much about the people as it is the science; the caliber of the high schoolers’ work will amaze you, and you’ll be rooting for these unforgettable students and their teacher at every turn. (The book’s editor, sweetly, calls this book “Friday Night Lights with nerds.”)

    Heartland, by Sarah Smarsh
    A perfect companion to 2015 Discover pick Evicted, by Matthew Desmond, this is an eye-opening personal story of working-class poverty, and an uncompromising look at what it means to have less in a country that often confuses personal worth with net worth. “There’s not a false note…This is just what the world needs to hear,” says George Hodgman, bestselling author of another 2015 Discover pick, Bettyville.

    Heavy, by Kiese Laymon
    We can’t stop thinking about this deeply personal book from a fearless writer. This revelatory memoir not only exposes what a lifetime of secrets, lies, and deception does to a man, it also delivers a powerful story of truth, love, and freedom. Kiese’s fans include Discover alums Lacy Johnson (The Other Side, The Reckonings) and Mychal Denzel Smith (Invisible Man Got the Whole World Watching).

    To Shake the Sleeping Self, by Jedidiah Jenkins
    Have you ever wanted to quit your day gig and hit the open road? Jedidiah Jenkins landed his dream job, but still wasn’t happy. So he did what many people only fantasize about doing: he quit his job to travel, bicycling the 10,000 miles from Oregon to Patagonia. This astounding and unflinching story of real-life adventure and self-discovery is also an inspiring call to build a life to believe in.

    The post Discover Great New Writers Fall 2018 Selections appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Miwa Messer 9:00 pm on 2016/08/08 Permalink
    Tags: announcements, B&N Discover Awards, , ,   

    Announcing the Fall 2016 Discover Great New Writers Selections 

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    2016 has been a good year for our Discover Great New Writers program: Cynthia D’aprix Sweeney’s The Nest and Emma Cline’s The Girls topped bestseller lists. Rumaan Alam’s Rich and Pretty got a nice boost from The Today Show. Yaa Gyasi’s striking debut, Homegoing, had rave reviews and was just featured on Late Night with Seth Meyers.

    It has been a good year for Discover alums, too: Colson Whitehead’s masterpiece The Underground Railroad is the newest pick of Oprah’s Book Club 2.0. Emma Straub followed her smash hit The Vacationers with with Modern Lovers. Today Will Be Different, Maria Semple’s follow-up to her blockbuster hit Where’d You Go, Bernadette, lands October 4, and Zadie Smith follows up her acclaimed novel NW with Swing Time on November 15.

    And the year’s not over yet. Here are the nine unforgettable titles that comprise our Fall 2016 list. We hope you enjoy them as much as our selection committee readers did.

    The Nix, by Nathan Hill 
    We picked up this very, very funny novel just after breakfast one morning and were two-thirds of the way through by dinner. This smart, laugh-out-loud, bighearted novel about love, loss, longing, and family secrets pings across decades, countries, and generations and features an unforgettable mother and son at the center of a raucous cast of characters.

    The Art of Waiting, by Belle Boggs
    The 34-year-old me has careful but limited savings, knows how difficult adoption is, and desperately wants her body to work the way it is supposed to. Belle Boggs draws on science, memoir, history, reporting, and cultural commentary to deliver a beautifully written, empathetic meditation about fertility and the choices we make to build our families.

    Blood at the Root, by Patrick Phillips
    Patrick Phillips brings to life an ugly and harrowing episode of American history in this meticulously researched and powerfully written history of his hometown, and the violence that kept the community all white, well into the 1990s.

    Children of the New World, by Alexander Weinstein
    We’re crazy for these inventive cautionary tales set in a near-future world of social media implants, manufactured memories, robots, and virtual reality games—and tore through these incredibly fresh stories in a single sitting.

    Mischling, by Affinity Konar
    We couldn’t stop reading this haunting, often dreamlike debut—and we’re still talking about it. The subject’s undeniably difficult, but Konar’s exquisite prose carried us through this kaleidoscopic story, as well as the waves of emotion (fear and longing and love are just the start) that accompany the unforgettable Zagorski sisters.

    The Wangs vs. the World, by Jade Chang
    A family falls apart and comes back together in this sparkling and sharp debut novel that reminds us of The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. An impulsive decision by a self-made cosmetics mogul rocks his family, but what happens next surprises all of them in this witty story of money and manners, identity and the American Dream.

    The Clancys of Queens, by Tara Clancy
    “I’m the whirling dervish of Queens, spinning around and around, arms flapping, my father’s boxing gloves like cinder blocks strapped to my seven-year-old hands.” We quickly fell in love with Tara Clancy’s inimitable and often wickedly funny voice, and couldn’t get enough of the ups and downs of her loving and offbeat family.

    The Lion in the Living Room, by Abigail Tucker
    Celebrity house cats ink movie deals, make charitable donations, and count Hollywood starlets among their Twitter followers. All that, and cats still have no use for humans. Dig deep into the history, biology, and science of house cats in this charming, highly informative read that explains how cats came to rule.

    Orphans of the Carnival, by Carol Birch
    This is the kind of thoughtful, immersive novel we love, like Erika Swyler’s The Book of Speculation or Leslie Parry’s Church of Marvels. Two concurrent storylines, each featuring a young woman making her way in the world, pull the past and present together in this atmospheric tale of fame and self-definition.

  • Jeff Somers 9:15 pm on 2016/02/19 Permalink
    Tags: B&N Discover Awards, , ,   

    Discover Great New Writers: Spring 2016 Selections 

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    Through Barnes & Noble’s Discover Great New Writers program, we’ve spent the last quarter century discovering and promoting new writers who stand out in a crowded field of worthy reads. Today, we’re proud to share next season’s selections for the most exciting new books coming to shelves everywhere. So make ready your favorite reading spot and discover a new writer today.

    Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi
    In many ways the story of the human race as a whole is, ultimately, the story of a family—a huge family, but a family nonetheless. Gyasi takes this idea to heart in her remarkable debut novel, which traces the descendants of half sisters Effia and Esi, born in Ghana in the mid-18th century. Effia and Esi never meet, but their stories and the stories of seven generations of their families form a glorious, sprawling story told with confidence and control. Gyasi traces the two branches of the family through slavery, love affairs, drug addiction, and political awakening, discovering the sort of deep patterns we’re all aware of—if only subconsciously—in our own lives. Absorbing and thought-provoking, this is a book everyone should read.

    Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch
    Crouch is already beloved by millions of fans for his Wayward Pines books and TV series, and for good reason. If you haven’t yet discovered him, Dark Matter is a phenomenal standalone novel that will give you an excellent introduction. Jason Dessen is a brilliant scientist who has given up high-level research in exchange for a humble teaching position and a happy home life. One night he takes a different way home and is kidnapped by a man who asks, “Are you happy with your life?” before drugging him. When he wakes up, several months seem to have passed… and his life is no longer his. A trippy, incredibly fun romp through time and space ensues as Jason uses his incredible brain to fight back against what has been done to him—which gets even more complicated when he discovers who is behind everything. Already in production to be a film, read this one before it becomes a national obsession.

    The Death of Rex Nhongo, by C.B. George
    This brilliant novel offers readers a multitude of pleasures. It begins as an almost scholarly examination of life in modern-day Zimbabwe in the wake of the mysterious death of Rex Nhongo, a.k.a. Solomon Mujuru, who had been one of the most feared and powerful men in that unsettled country. Then the story shifts to slices of life, following five couples as they go about their business and offering a glimpse of ordinary life in a country going through extraordinary political and cultural stirrings. The five couples are tied together, slowly but surely, by the appearance of a mysterious gun in the back seat of a taxi cab—a gun that may have been involved in Nhongo’s death, which his family (in real life) insist was an assassination despite an official ruling of smoke inhalation during a fire. This is the rare novel that doesn’t simply entertain, but offers insight into how people half a world away live their lives.

    The Fire Line: The Story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots and One of the Deadliest Days in American Firefighting, by Fernanda Santos
    For most Americans, wildfires exist mainly as breathless news footage, either of planes dumping chemicals or of ominous glowing flames encroaching on communities. Often forgotten are the incredibly brave and skilled men and women who race toward these fires to save lives and property. The Fire Line does for the Granite Mountain Hotshots what other recent books have done for our military, bringing these heroes to complex life while telling a thrilling story of danger, heroism, and adventure. It will be easy to forget you’re reading about real people and their real lives because the writing is so cinematic and evocative, but it also serves as a reminder that we collectively owe debts to the people who strive to protect us not from invasion or terrorist plots, but from Mother Nature herself.

    The Girls, by Emma Cline
    How do people get drawn into cults? How could a man like Charles Manson assemble a group of people and inspire them to do such unspeakably terrible things? Cline takes those questions and crafts a fascinating story of an unhappy teenager who becomes enamored of a group of cool, beautiful girls she first spies in a park. Slowly, she’s pulled into their circle, becoming a member of a cult surrounding a charismatic, manipulative man. Her obsession with the titular girls—and one girl in particular—is masterfully explored, as she finds her new life at the cult’s dilapidated ranch thrillingly exotic even as she’s slowly pushed toward an act of incredible violence that could change her life forever. People have been waiting for this book for a long time.

    Goodnight, Beautiful Women, by Anna Noyes
    Both a collection of stellar short stories and a larger narrative dealing with interconnected tales and characters, Noyes has created a universe in miniature, exploring both the inner and outer lives of girls and women in New England. From young girls experiencing the frantic, explosive energy of young love for the first time to a woman watching her husband throw everything they own into the abyss of a local quarry to an affecting story about a thoughtless lie told in childhood that reverberates years later, Noyes manages to make these stories nearly ideal: provocative, disturbing, and funny all at once. Ideal for both a long read and for quick snatches of literary beauty whenever you have a free moment, this is a book that will introduce you to one of the most gifted writers working today.

    Half Wild, by Robin MacArthur
    In a collection of stories defined by their setting in rural Vermont, MacArthur storms the beaches of literary fame with some of the most remarkably well-observed characters and settings in recent memory. The stories span four decades in the region, roving restlessly through a cast of varied characters, with the ultimate effect being almost novelistic in the comprehensive way it explores a region and the people who have made their home there—by choice or by circumstance. MacArthur has been showing up in the best literary magazines for the last few years, and anyone who cracks open this collection will see why.

    Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young black Man’s Education, by Mychal Denzel Smith
    History isn’t static, no matter what it seems like in official textbooks. History and the movements, ideas, and people that make it are always transforming and evolving. The story of being black in America isn’t told by one authoritative voice, and isn’t the same from year to year or region to region. Smith has created a powerful memoir that explores what it’s like to be black in this country right now—an age when a black man is President of the United States but black men seem to be under assault as much as ever. It’s a bracing, provocative exploration of a real person’s struggles, triumphs, and evolving thought, and it’s a book everyone should read if they want to better understand the people they share this world with.

    My Father Before Me, by Chris Forhan
    One of the most celebrated poets in modern times, Forhan revisits a troubled, tumultuous childhood in a dark, fierce memoir that explores his family’s roots and the impact his early childhood and his father’s suicide had on him—and the ways he resembles or doesn’t resemble his father, and what that might mean. As one of the most talented poets of our time, Forhan brings a beauty to the page even when exploring some of the most painful moments of his life—a beauty that is perhaps in part inspired by those same tragic moments. Both a fascinating story of growing up and dealing with the past and a revelatory exploration of one man’s fight—so like our own—to make sense of it all, My Father Before Me is a dense and beautiful piece of writing that will get under your skin and make you feel something.

    Rich and Pretty, by Rumaan Alam
    Friendship is complicated. Female friendship doubly so, and Alam focuses his sharp debut novel on a pair of long-time friends, Sarah and Lauren. Friends for more than two decades and once almost inseparable, the two young women have drifted apart as they pursue different routes through life: Sarah planning a wedding and working at a charity, Lauren as a single publishing professional charging through her career. Alam explores the concept of a “best” friend and whether the label still applies when two people have vastly different goals and senses of life—all told with sharp wit and a masterful control over language. Where so many stories are obsessed with romantic love, it’s refreshing to see a story that focuses instead on that other powerful kind of affection: friendship.

    Smoke, by Dan Vyleta
    Every now and again a novel comes along with a premise so astoundingly interesting it moves right up to the top of your must-read list, and Smoke is such a book. It’s set in an alternate Victorian England where people’s sinful thoughts take the physical form of “smoke” that pours from their skin, leaving a sooty stain on their clothes and hair. The upper classes take great pains to control their thoughts—and hence their smoke—in order to prove they are destined to rule, and the story centers on a trio of teens at a prestigious boarding school where this sort of self-control is taught. Utterly fascinating in the way it explores sin, morality, and the difference between thought and action, it’s also a story about young love, revolt against authority, and the power (and limitations) of self-control.

    South Haven, by Hirsh Sawhney
    Tragic stories are often simplistic, casting the survivors in a saintly glow in order to trigger our feelings of compassion, but Sawhney rejects such an approach in this absorbing new novel. Siddharth lives in New Haven, an ordinary suburb in New England, drawing and practicing his swimming. When his mother dies in an accident, however, he and his father struggle. Siddharth falls in with a gang of bullies, learning to drink and smoke. His depressed father turns to religious fundamentalism, raging against Muslims and cheering on violence. Their reactions are horrifying and disturbing, but utterly believable. When a new woman comes into their lives, there is a sense of a delicate opportunity to be reborn and have a second chance, and Sawhney’s writing is strong enough to make the reader desperately wish Siddharth and his father are smart enough to seize it.

    The Versions of Us, by Laura Barnett
    With a simple but powerful premise, Barnett’s debut explores three distinct versions of the relationship between two people—one in which they meet cute and marry, one in which they miss that first meeting and their lives spin along different lines until they finally catch up with each other, and one that is a dexterous mix of both. Barnett’s approach is fascinating because none of these timelines is presented as “ideal,” leaving it as an exercise for the reader to determine if any of them is actually preferable. Each version offers pleasures, triumphs, tragedies, and loss—avoiding one, in other words, for the rewards of the other has costs you might not wish to pay. Anyone who has ever wondered about the road not taken—which is to say, everyone—will find this remarkable novel a deeply satisfying read.

  • Miwa Messer 1:30 pm on 2016/01/26 Permalink
    Tags: , , B&N Discover Awards, ,   

    Drumroll, Please: Announcing the 2015 Discover Great New Writers Awards Finalists 

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    The booksellers who sit on our Discover Great New Writers program selection committee have a very specific mandate: find the best and the brightest, the unforgettable storytelling and indelible characters, from new writers.
    Books chosen for the Discover Great New Writers program are eligible for the Discover Great New Writers Award, in which two panels of acclaimed authors pick six new writers to share a cash prize of $105,000. First place winners receive $30,000 each and a year of promotion. Second place finalists receive $15,000 each, and the two third place finalists receive $7,500 each. Winners will be announced on March 2nd at 2 PM.

    Our booksellers handpicked 46 books—novels, short story collections, memoirs, and histories, among them—for the program last year, and we were thrilled to put them into the hands of our 2015 Discover Great New Writers Award judges: Eleanor Brown, Ben Fountain, and Thrity Umrigar reading fiction, and Scott Anderson, Candice Millard, and Cheryl Strayed reading nonfiction.

    These two panels of bestselling authors have chosen the top six Discover Great New Writers selections for 2015, and (drumroll, please) they are:

    Fiction Finalists:
    In the County: Stories by Mia Alvar
    The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
    The Unfortunates by Sophie McManus

    Nonfiction Finalists:
    Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family by Amy Ellis Nutt
    Bettyville by George Hodgman
    Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy

    More about the six 2015 finalists here and 2015 judges here. Previous winners of The Discover Great New Writers Award (including Anthony Doerr, Ben Fountain, and Cheryl Strayed) are here.

    We made a short film to celebrate our 25th Anniversary and it can be viewed here. Submissions guidelines for publishers (including 2016 deadlines) are here.

  • Jeff Somers 5:55 pm on 2015/08/25 Permalink
    Tags: B&N Discover Awards, , , , ,   

    Discover Great New Writers: Fall 2015 Selections 

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    While it might not be shocking to learn we’re passionate about books around here, we’re also passionate about authors. The Discover Great New Writers program has spent the last 25 years discovering new writers and making sure the signal-to-noise ratio is adjusted in their favor, and we’re proud to keep doing just that with our latest selections—some of the most exciting debuts to hit our shelves, picked because we think they deserve special attention from book lovers. Here are eleven debuts to put on your must-read list this fall.

    City on Fire, by Garth Risk Hallberg
    Any first novel that inspires comparisons to the work of Don DeLillo and Tom Wolfe is exciting, and Garth Risk Hallberg—who sold film rights to his novel even before it was picked up for publication—doesn’t disappoint. City on Fire, more than likely the novel everyone will be talking about this fall, offers a sprawling and tangled slice of 1970s New York City that delivers complexity, insight, and glimpses into the lives of disparate characters. Scions of a huge New York fortune, kids discovering the downtown punk scene, a shooting in Central Park, and the blackout of 1977 all come together in ways both poignant and unexpected. TL;DR: read this book.

    The Admissions, by Meg Mitchell Moore
    Anyone who has college-age kids or was once a college-age kid herself knows the incredible pressure behind the words “college applications.” Moore pulls off a tricky trifecta in this great first novel about the seemingly perfect Hawthorne family, giving us a story that’s equal parts hilarious and tense. Centering on eldest daughter Angela, who sets her sights on Harvard just as her grades, focus, and athletic performance all start to slip, the story follows the rest of her family members through their own tribulations: Angela’s mother struggles to sell real estate to the awesomely rich, her father has a dark secret that might destroy everything, and her younger sisters each have their own issues. Moore’s assured writing ought to make even established authors jealous, and this funny and realistic story will delight generations of readers.

    After the Parade, by Lori Ostlund
    Here is a debut novel that will resonate with anyone who has ever struggled to transition from adolescent angst to true adulthood—which is pretty much everybody. At age 40, Aaron Englund decides it’s finally time to take control of his life, leaving his manipulative partner and moving to San Francisco. There he discovers that to go forward, you almost always have to go back, which in Aaron’s case means back to the tiny Midwestern town where he grew up feeling like an outcast, and where his mother abandoned him decades ago. With a sudden clue as to her whereabouts, Aaron sets out on a journey of self-discovery and closure.

    And West is West, by Ron Childress
    Modern technology can be confusing and disaffecting even as it helps us find answers and makes our lives exponentially easier. Our fundamental connection to the technologies we use—and our culpability in the dark side of the gadgets and infrastructure we thoughtlessly rely on—can be difficult to understand, and it’s this difficulty that brilliantly informs Childress’s novel. An Air Force drone pilot ordered to kill women and children is connected in a surprising way to the creator of a Wall Street algorithm that allows investors to profit from the horrors of the War on Terror. When both lose their jobs due to the inhumanity and insanity of the system they serve, each has to face their role in that system. This timely, moving novel was awarded the 2014 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction.

    Barbara the Slut, by Lauren Holmes
    Youthful and vibrant, each one of these 10 short stories crackles with energy and a love of language that never descends into navel-gazing indulgence. Holmes offers up stories about young women struggling with sexuality, slut-shaming, orientations, parents, careers, and age-old questions of identity and purpose with the wit and panache of a much older writer. Her stories cover everything from choosing to work in a sex toy store instead of practicing as a lawyer, to the titular Barbara, a young girl trying to survive the final days of high school with her pride and her sex positivity intact. If someone uses the word “millennial” as a negative when discussing this collection, ignore him: Holmes is a writer you’re going to be hearing about for decades to come.

    Home is Burning, by Dan Marshall
    Diseases like cancer and ALS take our loved ones from us far too soon, and far too cruelly, and writing about them shouldn’t always be reserved and decorous—sometimes it needs to be profane and angry and above all hilarious. Marshall’s debut is a memoir telling the story of his return home to help care for his mother and father when his mother, battling cancer since his childhood, suffers a relapse and his father is diagnosed with ALS. His older sister is resentful, his gay younger brother is conflicted, his younger sister is flirting with dangerous behaviors, and the baby of the family seems to live in a fantasy world—and through it all, Dan’s voice is angry, rough, funny, and filled with language that will make your hair stand on end (the cover of the book is a clue as to what you should expect). No one who reads this book will come away unchanged, or bored.

    The Incarnations, by Susan Baker
    With an incredible premise and a depth of cultural and historical knowledge that’s breathtaking in its scope, Baker has crafted an amazing debut novel that’s already taken England by storm. Wang Jun is a taxi driver in Beijing who begins to receive mysterious letters from his “soulmate,” who claims to have known him throughout all of his previous incarnations, stretching back 1,000 years or more. The letters begin to tell Wang Jun about their prior adventures in previous lives, each one a self-contained (and exceptionally well-written) story unto itself. Giving the reader a glimpse of Chinese history, folklore, and lifestyle in the midst of a riveting mystery, Baker never loses sight of the human scale of her story.

    The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes, by Anna McPartlin
    Death remains the great equalizer. No matter how rich you are, how powerful, how smart, attractive, or unique, in the end we are all bound together by this single fact of life. Anna McPartlin has achieved something remarkable in this novel, which opens with Mia “Rabbit” Hayes entering hospice care after a four-year battle with breast cancer. The novel unfolds over the last week of her life, and is at turns tragic, inspiring, and hilarious. Rabbit’s family members bring their own crazy energy to each section of the book, and Rabbit herself will stay with you for the rest of your own life. You will be glad to have known her, if only briefly.

    The Last Pilot, by Benjamin Johncock
    Novels show us places, times, and people we might never otherwise experience—or at least some of the best ones do. The Last Pilot begins in 1947, when hotshot test pilot Jim Harrison seems destined to break records and make it to space. His wife’s surprise pregnancy takes Jim off the astronaut track, but tragedy leaves him unmoored. Diving back into his work, he joins the nascent NASA program as the space race gets underway. Anyone who loved TaraShea Nesbit’s The Wives of Los Alamos will find this book equally satisfying: a look at one of the most important moments in the history of America, humanity, and technology, told from a human perspective that never loses sight of the reasons we, as a species, are always reaching for the stars and beyond.

    Mãn, by Kim Thuy
    Some stories are so beautiful and delicate, you read them carefully, afraid that if you rush they will shatter, or suddenly fly off, lost forever. Thuy’s graceful and surprising Mãn is such a story. The titular character was born in Vietnam, orphaned, saved by a nun, and raised by her “third mother,” Maman. Maman seeks to secure Mãn’s future by arranging her marriage to a dutiful restaurant owner in Montreal, and despite her culture shock, Mãn flourishes there, discovering an almost-otherworldly talent for cooking: her dishes bring patrons to tears. But it’s when Mãn discovers love while on a trip to Paris that her story truly begins. Thuy tells the tale in remarkably beautiful, sparse language carefully translated from the original French, resulting in a poetic, lyrical novel that seems short and simple—only revealing its powerful impact after you’ve been caught up in it.

    Walking with Abel, by Anna Badkhen
    The world can sometimes seem fully settled—civilized and modern and somehow dull. But every now and then a book arrives to remind us how huge it is, and how filled with traditions and cultures beyond our ken. Anna Badkhen traveled to Africa to accompany a group of Fulani cowboys, an ancient nomadic tribe who’ve been enacting an annual migration since the Stone Age. With an unbroken link to the past, the Fulani still manage to embrace modernity and accept their struggle for survival—against Islamic extremists, against attrition as their young flee to the cities, and against the slow constriction of their lives. Badkhen, welcomed and embedded with the tribe as it moves, gives us a look into a world that has existed quietly for centuries, and we are better for it. In the tradition of Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Waking with Abel will expand your view of the world in a wonderful way.

    The Art of Grace, by Sarah L. Kaufman
    What does it mean to move with grace? To live with grace? Kaufman, who won a Pulitzer for her work as dance critic for the Washington Post, sees a paucity of grace in our fast-paced modern world, which always seems to celebrate results instead of technique. She explores what grace means, celebrates the moments of grace that still occur every day in sports, in the arts, and even in daily life, and seeks to inspire all of us to learn how to live gracefully—which has a lot more to do with feeling at ease in our lives and in our world than any specific way of moving. This debut book will inspire you to be more comfortable, and happier, in your own skin.

    Black Man in a White Coat, by Damon Tweedy
    We’re living through a remarkable moment in American history, when many racial issues that have been bubbling under the surface for decades are finally coming up to the surface, challenging assumptions and forcing all of us to examine our own actions and reactions. Tweedy’s memoir is about being a black man on scholarship at the prestigious (and very white) Duke University Medical School and practicing medicine in an America that is definitely not post-racial. It’s an eye-opening and essential read.

    The Three-Year Swim Club, by Julia Checkoway
    Inspirational stories that demonstrate the power of the human spirit never go out of style. In The Three-Year Swim Club, Checkoway tells a true story: that of a group of poor Japanese American kids in the late 1930s who were inspired by a teacher to train as swimmers for the Olympics. Fighting racism as World War II loomed on the horizon, these kids had no advantages or hope to speak of, and nothing but a bleak future of hard work in the sugarcane fields of Maui ahead of them—and their teacher couldn’t even swim. Despite these odds, they quickly became the most celebrated swimmers in the world, destined for greatness—until the war postponed their Olympic dreams until 1948. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to dig deeper into history, and to be reassured that humanity can overcome impossible odds.

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