Braised Pork, by An Yu
This smashing debut is a dreamscape of a novel set in Beijing. Jia Jia discovers the body of her distant husband in the bath with an unusual drawing of a “fishman” beside him. Using the sketch as her guide, she begins a journey of self-discovery through the smog-choked streets of Beijing, to a village in Tibet, and a mysterious world of water. Exquisitely attuned to the complexities of human connection, and an atmospheric and cinematic evocation of middle-class urban China, Braised Pork explores the intimate strangeness of grief, the indelible mysteries of unseen worlds, and the energizing self-discovery of a newly empowered young woman.
Simon the Fiddler, by Paulette Jiles
In Jiles’ deeply satisfying work of historical fiction, Simon Boudlin has avoided conscription into the Confederate Army for the last time. The young fiddler had been making his way through the South playing his music until the fateful day when he was rounded up and sent to an encampment on the Rio Grande. There, at the war’s end, he sets his eyes on a beautiful Irish girl indentured to a Union colonel. She captures his heart and is gone. Thus begins Simon’s long and treacherous journey working and playing music across the postwar Texas landscape to find her. Hope and yearning rise off every page, along with characters and an unforgettable story crafted in exquisite detail.
Redhead by the Side of the Road, by Anne Tyler
Micah Mortimer is a middle-aged man living alone in Baltimore. Although his family is raucous, he lives a very regimented life alone in his basement apartment, where he is the building super. He is also the self-employed Tech Hermit, carefully driving to his appointments under the approving watch of the Traffic Gods. He is myopic, yet the appearance of a teenage boy claiming to be his son and the break-up with his comfortable girlfriend yield a clearer vision of his life. Tyler has produced yet another charming and absorbing read.
Sin Eater, by Megan Campisi
Condemned to be a Sin Eater after stealing a loaf of bread, May must get used to a life of being shunned and feared. At first confused and distressed, she eventually grows into her role and uses it to her advantage. A twisted tale influenced by a not-so-ancient practice of absorbing one’s sins by eating from atop their coffin or deathbed, Campisi has cooked up a delightfully macabre novel that is sure to stick with you. The Handmaid’s Tale meets Alice in Wonderland in this gripping and imaginative historical novel about a shunned orphan girl in 16th century England who is ensnared in a deadly royal plot and must turn her subjugation into her power.
The Book of Lost Friends, by Lisa Wingate
From the New York Times best-selling author of Before We Were Yours comes a new novel inspired by historical events: a dramatic story of three young women on a journey in search of family amid the destruction of the post-Civil War South, and of a modern-day teacher who rediscovers their story and its vital connection to her own students’ lives. In her distinctive voice, Wingate brings to life startling stories from actual “Lost Friends” advertisements that appeared in Southern newspapers after the Civil War, as freed slaves desperately searched for loved ones who had been sold off.
Afterlife, by Julia Alvarez
Antonia Vega, the immigrant writer at the center of Afterlife, has had the rug pulled out from under her. She has just retired from the college where she taught English when her beloved husband, Sam, suddenly dies. And then more jolts: Her big-hearted but unstable sister disappears, and Antonia returns home one evening to find a pregnant, undocumented teenager on her doorstep. Antonia has always sought direction in the literature she loves — lines from her favorite authors play in her head like a soundtrack — but now she finds that the world demands more of her than words.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, by Grady Hendrix
Patricia Campbell’s life has never felt smaller. Her husband is a workaholic, her teenage kids have their own lives, her senile mother-in-law needs constant care, and she’s always a step behind on her endless to-do list. The only thing keeping her sane is her book club, a close-knit group of Charleston women united by their love of true crime. One evening after book club, Patricia is viciously attacked by an elderly neighbor, bringing the neighbor’s handsome nephew, James Harris, into her life. James is well traveled and well read, and he makes Patricia feel things she hasn’t felt in years. But when children on the other side of town go missing, their deaths written off by local police, Patricia has reason to believe James Harris is more of a Bundy than a Brad Pitt. James is a monster of a different kind — and Patricia has already invited him in. Steel Magnolias meets Dracula.
Navigate Your Stars, by Jesmyn Ward
Speaking about the value of hard work and the importance of respect for oneself and others at Tulane University’s 2018 commencement, Ward inspired everyone in the audience with her meditation on tenacity. Navigate Your Stars is a beautiful, inspiring book about striving to be the best you can be. Beautifully illustrated in full color by Gina Triplett, this gorgeous and profound book will charm a generation of students — and their parents. Ward’s voice shines through as she shares her experience as a Southern black woman, addressing the themes of grit, tenacity and the importance of family bonds. A perfect gift for anyone in need of inspiration from the author of Salvage the Bones, Men We Reaped, and Sing, Unburied, Sing.
American Harvest, by Marie Mutsuki Mockett
Having grown up in Carmel, California, when Mockett inherits a massive Nebraska wheat farm that had been in her father’s family for generations, this Japanese-American woman sets out to learn about the land in the middle of America, its people and culture. She travels with a group of evangelical Christian harvesters, led by Eric Wolgemuth, the man whose team cuts the family’s wheat. They follow the ripening from Texas to Idaho. Along the way, she thoughtfully explores the connotations of the divide: the politics, religion and science. There are lessons in history, the Bible, farming methodology, and a renewed appreciation of the vastness of this stretch of the American landscape.
The Heart: Frida Kahlo in Paris, by Marc Petitjean
In 1938, just as she was leaving Mexico for her first solo exhibition in New York, Frida Kahlo was devastated to learn from her husband, Diego Rivera, that he intended to divorce her. In early 1939, anxious and adrift, Kahlo traveled from the United States to France — her only trip to Europe, and the beginning of a unique period of her life when she was enjoying commercial success on her own. In The Heart, Petitjean delves into Kahlo’s time in Paris, her whirlwind relationship with the author’s father, and the darker corners of her personal narrative.
The House of Kennedy,
by James Patterson
The Kennedys have always been a family of charismatic adventurers, raised to take risks and excel, living by the dual family mottos: “To whom much is given, much is expected” and “Win at all costs.” And they do — but at a price. Across decades and generations, the Kennedys have occupied a unique place in the American imagination: charmed, cursed, at once familiar and unknowable. The House of Kennedy is a revealing, fascinating account of one of America’s most storied families, as told by one of America’s most prolific storytellers.
A Book for Escargot,
by Dashka Slater
Oooh la la! Escargot, the adorable French gastropod, is back for another adventure. On a mission to try something new, Escargot ventures to the library and sets out to be the star of a magnifique book of his own. Silly, fun, and just a little French, Escargot is sure to become a story time favorite. (Ages 3-5.)
I Found a Kitty!, by Troy Cummings
Adorable, lovable Arfy from Can I Be Your Dog? has found a friend. Unfortunately Arfy’s humans are allergic so in the ultimate pay-it-forward move, Arfy sets out to find a place where Scamper can play, cuddle, get brushed and sing but most of all a place where he will be adored. (Ages 3-6.)
Roy Digs Dirt, by David Shannon
Some dogs dig bones, some dig big comfy couches and some dig fancy collars, but Roy? Roy digs dirt. Giggle-inducing and just plain fun, young readers will really dig reading about Roy’s adventures again and again. (Ages 3-5.) PS
Compiled by Kimberly Daniels Taws and Angie Tally