Best New Books: Week of 4/16/2019

Trying to keep up with all of the great books that come out every week can be a bit challenging. No matter how much you like to read, there’s only so much free time in a day! Still, every week while putting together this list, I am only all too happy to add more and more books to my “To Read” list, and this week is certainly no exception. Normal People is of particular interest to me, but honestly, nearly every title here is getting added to the pile. Here’s hoping I can find a few extra hours for books this week!



FICTION



Normal People by  Sally Rooney

normal peopleAt school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.

Description from Goodreads.

Normal People tackles millennial concerns with nineteenth-century wit . . . the millennial generation would no doubt be happy to accept her as its spokesperson were she so inclined.” – Elle 

“I’m transfixed by the way Rooney works, and I’m hardly the only one . . . like any confident couturier, she’s slicing the free flow of words into the perfect shape. . . . She writes about tricky commonplace things (text messages, sex) with a familiarity no one else has.” – The Paris Review

“Funny and intellectually agile . . . [combines] deft social observation—especially of shifts of power between individuals and groups—with acute feeling . . . [Rooney is] a master of the kind of millennial deadpan that appears to skewer a whole life and personality in a sentence or two.” – Harper’s Magazine 

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook


Miracle Creek by  Angie Kim

miracle creekMy husband asked me to lie. Not a big lie. He probably didn’t even consider it a lie, and neither did I, at first…

In the small town of Miracle Creek, Virginia, Young and Pak Yoo run an experimental medical treatment device known as the Miracle Submarine—a pressurized oxygen chamber that patients enter for therapeutic “dives” with the hopes of curing issues like autism or infertility. But when the Miracle Submarine mysteriously explodes, killing two people, a dramatic murder trial upends the Yoos’ small community.

Who or what caused the explosion? Was it the mother of one of the patients, who claimed to be sick that day but was smoking down by the creek? Or was it Young and Pak themselves, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? The ensuing trial uncovers unimaginable secrets from that night—trysts in the woods, mysterious notes, child-abuse charges—as well as tense rivalries and alliances among a group of people driven to extraordinary degrees of desperation and sacrifice.

Angie Kim’s Miracle Creek is a thoroughly contemporary take on the courtroom drama, drawing on the author’s own life as a Korean immigrant, former trial lawyer, and mother of a real-life “submarine” patient. An addictive debut novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng, Miracle Creek is both a twisty page-turner and a deeply moving story about the way inconsequential lies and secrets can add up—with tragic consequences.

Description from Goodreads.

“With so many complications and loose ends, one of the miracles of the novel is that the author ties it all together and arrives at a deeply satisfying―though not easy or sentimental―ending. Intricate plotting and courtroom theatrics, combined with moving insight into parenting special needs children and the psychology of immigrants, make this book both a learning experience and a page-turner. Should be huge.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

“This stunning debut by Angie Kim is both an utterly engrossing, nail-biter of a courtroom drama and a sensitive, incisive look into the experiences of immigrant families in America.” – Nylon

“[A] masterpiece of grief, hope, and recrimination . . . A complex novel of parenting, prejudice, and putting blame where blame’s due, this one is not to be missed.” – Crime Reads

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook



MYSTERY



The Department of Sensitive Crimes by  Alexander McCall Smith

department of sensitive crimesIn the Swedish criminal justice system, certain cases are considered especially strange and difficult, in Malmö, the dedicated detectives who investigate these crimes are members of an elite squad known as the Sensitive Crimes Division. 

These are their stories.

The first case: the small matter of a man stabbed in the back of the knee. Who would perpetrate such a crime and why? Next: a young woman’s imaginary boyfriend goes missing. But how on earth do you search for someone who doesn’t exist? And in the final investigation: eerie secrets that are revealed under a full moon may not seem so supernatural in the light of day. No case is too unusual, too complicated, or too, well insignificant for this squad to solve.

The team: Ulf ‘the Wolf” Varg, the top dog, thoughtful and diligent; Anna Bengsdotter, who’s in love with Varg’s car (and possibly Varg too); Carl Holgersson, who likes nothing more than filling out paperwork; and Erik Nykvist, who is deeply committed to fly fishing.

With the help of a rather verbose local police officer, this crack team gets to the bottom of cases other detectives can’t or won’t bother to handle. Equal parts hilarious and heartening, The Department of Sensitive Crimes is a tour de farce from a true master.

Description from Goodreads.

“McCall Smith . . . extends his gift for comic situations and insightful commentary to a projected series set in Sweden . . . Detective Varg promises to be a complex series character, and the department itself looks certain to deliver more oddball yet poignant cases.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“The celebrated Scottish storyteller has turned his pen to Scandi-crime, setting his latest series with Detective Ulf ‘The Wolf’ Varg heading up a department of singular characters in the Swedish city of Malmö. It’s as if Fox Mulder, Lisbeth Salander’s maiden aunt, and Kurt Wallander collaborated on a new unit, and it’s great fun.” – The Washington Post

“The author of more than 80 books has not lost his literary touch, but his latest account of the doings at Sweden’s Department of Sensitive Crimes hits a new high of hilarity.” – The Washington Times

Available Formats:

Print Book | Audiobook | eBook


The Better Sister by  Alafair Burke

better sisterThough Chloe was the younger of the two Taylor sisters, she always seemed to be in charge. She was the honor roll student with big dreams and an even bigger work ethic. Nicky was always restless . . . and more than a little reckless—the opposite of her ambitious little sister. She floated from job to job and man to man, and stayed close to home in Cleveland.

For a while, it seemed like both sisters had found happiness. Chloe earned a scholarship to an Ivy League school and moved to New York City, where she landed a coveted publishing job. Nicky married promising young attorney Adam Macintosh, and gave birth to a baby boy they named Ethan. The Taylor sisters became virtual strangers.

Now, more than fifteen years later, their lives are drastically different—and Chloe is married to Adam. When he’s murdered by an intruder at the couple’s East Hampton beach house, Chloe reluctantly allows her teenaged stepson’s biological mother—her estranged sister, Nicky—back into her life. But when the police begin to treat Ethan as a suspect in his father’s death, the two sisters are forced to unite . . . and to confront the truth behind family secrets they have tried to bury in the past.

Description from Goodreads.

“The fans who put Burke’s last domestic thriller on the bestseller list are going to be happy with this one, a gimmick-free murder mystery with a two-stage surprise ending and uncommonly few credibility straining plot elements…. You’ll kill this one fast and be glad you did.” – Kirkus Reviews

“Mesmerizing…. Burke paints a poignant portrait of sisterhood and sacrifice with this twist-riddled, character-driven whodunit.” – Publishers Weekly

“Sure to be one of the year’s most celebrated suspense novels….Burke brings readers into an enticing world and then shatters them with one startling revelation after another, always keeping a firm grip on the suspense and packing each sentence full with feeling.” – CrimeReads

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook



SUSPENSE



Redemption by  David Baldacci

redemptionAmos Decker and his FBI partner Alex Jamison are visiting his hometown of Burlington, Ohio, when he’s approached by an unfamiliar man. But he instantly recognizes the man’s name: Meryl Hawkins. He’s the first person Decker ever arrested for murder back when he was a young detective. Though a dozen years in prison have left Hawkins unrecognizably aged and terminally ill, one thing hasn’t changed: He maintains he never committed the murders. Could it be possible that Decker made a mistake all those years ago? As he starts digging into the old case, Decker finds a startling connection to a new crime that he may be able to prevent, if only he can put the pieces together quickly enough…

Description from Goodreads.

“David Baldacci keeps finding new ways to raise the stakes for Amos Decker, who continues to stand out in an overcrowded genre, and Redemption is one of his better books in the series so far.” – The Real Book Spy

Available Formats:

Print Book | Audiobook | Playaway | eBook | eAudiobook



SCI-FI & FANTASY



The Binding by  Bridget Collins

bindingImagine you could erase grief.
Imagine you could remove pain.
Imagine you could hide the darkest, most horrifying secret.
Forever.

Young Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a strange letter arrives summoning him away from his family. He is to begin an apprenticeship as a Bookbinder—a vocation that arouses fear, superstition, and prejudice among their small community but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.

For as long as he can recall, Emmett has been drawn to books, even though they are strictly forbidden. Bookbinding is a sacred calling, Seredith informs her new apprentice, and he is a binder born. Under the old woman’s watchful eye, Emmett learns to hand-craft the elegant leather-bound volumes. Within each one they will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, a binder can help. If there’s something you need to erase, they can assist. Within the pages of the books they create, secrets are concealed and the past is locked away. In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, rows upon rows of books are meticulously stored.

But while Seredith is an artisan, there are others of their kind, avaricious and amoral tradesman who use their talents for dark ends—and just as Emmett begins to settle into his new circumstances, he makes an astonishing discovery: one of the books has his name on it. Soon, everything he thought he understood about his life will be dramatically rewritten.

Description from Goodreads.

“Truly spellbinding… Many readers of The Binding will simply sink gratefully into the pleasures of its pages, because, like all great fables, it also functions as transporting romance.” – The Guardian

“Intense, immersive . . . A stirring, highly original piece of storytelling and world-making.” – Sunday Times

“A captivating fantasy novel with forbidden love at its heart.” – Good Housekeeping

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook



NONFICTION



Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out? by  Bill McKibben

falterBill McKibben’s groundbreaking book The End of Nature — issued in dozens of languages and long regarded as a classic — was the first book to alert us to global warming. But the danger is broader than that: even as climate change shrinks the space where our civilization can exist, new technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics threaten to bleach away the variety of human experience.

Falter tells the story of these converging trends and of the ideological fervor that keeps us from bringing them under control. And then, drawing on McKibben’s experience in building 350.org, the first truly global citizens movement to combat climate change, it offers some possible ways out of the trap. We’re at a bleak moment in human history — and we’ll either confront that bleakness or watch the civilization our forebears built slip away.

Falter is a powerful and sobering call to arms, to save not only our planet but also our humanity.

Description from Goodreads.

“[An] unsettling look at the prospects for human survival. . . . Readers open to inconvenient and sobering truths will find much to digest in McKibben’s eloquently unsparing treatise.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“[A] deeply caring, eloquently reasoned inquiry into environmental and techno-utopian threats. . . . Profoundly compelling and enlightening, McKibben balances alarm with hope.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

Falter is McKibben’s most powerfully argued book, and maybe his most important since The End of Nature 30 years ago. . . . It affirms him as among a very few of our most compelling truth-tellers about the climate catastrophe and the ideological forces driving it.” – The Nation

Available Formats:

Print Book


The Beneficiary: Fortune, Misfortune, and the Story of My Father by  Janny Scott

beneficiaryLand, houses, and money tumbled from one generation to the next on the eight-hundred-acre estate built by Scott’s investment banker great-grandfather on Philadelphia’s Main Line. There was an obligation to protect it, a license to enjoy it, a duty to pass it on–but it was impossible to know in advance how all that extraordinary good fortune might influence the choices made over a lifetime.

In this warmly felt tale of an American family’s fortunes, journalist Janny Scott excavates the rarefied world that shaped her charming, unknowable father, Robert Montgomery Scott, and provides an incisive look at the weight of inheritance, the tenacity of addiction, and the power of buried secrets.

Some beneficiaries flourished, like Scott’s grandmother, Helen Hope Scott, a socialite and celebrated horsewoman said to have inspired Katherine Hepburn’s character in the play and Academy Award-winning film The Philadelphia Story. For others, including the author’s father, she concludes, the impact was more complex.

Bringing her journalistic talents, light touch, and crystalline prose to this powerful story of a child’s search to understand a parent’s puzzling end, Scott also raises questions about our new Gilded Age. New fortunes are being amassed, new estates are being born. Does anyone wonder how it will all play out, one hundred years hence?

Description from Goodreads.

“Told without false modesty or overweening privilege, Scott’s story is a well-paced narrative punctuated with lyrical prose. This is a fascinating glimpse into a rarefied world.” – Publishers Weekly

“Fascinating for the painful personal legacies it uncovers. At the same time, it is also compelling for the parallels it draws between an earlier age of inequality and our own and the questions it raises about how contemporary stories of new-rich families ‘will play out, one hundred years hence.'” – Kirkus Reviews

Available Formats:

Print Book

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