Every fall for the last thirty-four years the booksellers at Bloomsbury have an extra-tall stack of books on their bedside tables. We are all finding our own gems and many conversations begin with “You must read this now!” Publishers deluge us with galleys of what they believe will be the most important and best-selling books of the year. It’s a wonderful, frantic time of year and we work hard to be able to present to you the best books for giving and receiving. Is there better work to be found? Here are our suggestions for some titles we hope will entertain, inform and comfort you through winter ahead.
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I AM MALALA|
by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
In 2009 Malala Yousafzai began writing a blog on BBC Urdu about life in the Swat Valley as the Taliban gained control, at times banning girls from attending school. When her identity was discovered, Malala began to appear in both Pakistani and international media, advocating the freedom to pursue education for all. In October 2011, gunmen boarded Malala's school bus and shot her in the face, a bullet passing through her head and into her shoulder. Remarkably, Malala survived the shooting. At a very young age, Malala Yousafzai has become a worldwide symbol of courage and hope. Her shooting has sparked a wave of solidarity across Pakistan, not to mention globally, for the right to education, freedom from terror and female emancipation.
Recommendations by Bloomsbury Books
The author of Cloud Atlas tells a story about alternate realities, immortality and a feud more ancient than time. Entertaining, thrilling and absolutely unique.
BOOK OF STRANGE NEW THINGS
Fans of Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow will particularly love this monumental novel about other worlds, faith, family, the environment and love. This is a complex novel that merges the future of technology with the history of faith.
One of the most highly acclaimed American novelists returns to the setting of her Pulitzer Prize-winning GILEAD to tell the story of a girlhood lived on the fringes of society in fear, awe and wonder.
Widowed at forty in a small town in Western Ireland with not enough money and four children, Nora is one of contemporary fiction’s most memorable female characters. Toibin’s ability to capture the intricacy and drama of ordinary lives is reminiscent of the work of Alice Munro.
A HOUSE IN THE SKY
Amanda tells her story of being held captive for 460 days in Somalia by a terrorist group. A suspenseful well written account of her experiences traveling the globe and becoming a free-lance reporter only to be drawn to Somalia, the most dangerous place in the world to report on the conditions in that country. Kept in chains in a small room, she draws on her inner resources for survival. -review by Karen
THE LIFE & LOVE OF DOGS
This is a beautiful coffee table book about the love we have for dogs and the love they have for us. “Why do humans and dogs have a love for each other unlike that of any other relationship?” The photography is outstanding from photographers from all over the world. Think Christmas. This book would make any dog lover happy. -review by Karen
THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS
M. R. Carey
Given Carey’s history as a writer of chilling urban fantasy novels and horror comics it’s no surprise he wrote a dread inducing realistic take on zombies with The Girl With All The Gifts. Mainly told from the viewpoint of a ten year old plague survivor he reveals the horrors of his concept of the infestation and its ramifications through her oddly wonder filled eyes. As the reality of this story unfolds and predictably goes from bad to oh so much worse the story really focuses on the characters inner struggles not just mere survival giving its various ending all the more strength. I can say this is one of the grimmer apocalyptic novels I have read but it also manages to be the most oddly hopeful and uplifting. -review by Greg
This 2014 Nebula and Hugo Award Winner harkens back to the social science fiction of Asimov, Heinlein and Herbert while pushing the envelope link Banks and Elizabeth Bear in terms of consciousness, gender and self. Leckie’s story about a quest for vengeance tale told by a very unconventional heroine who’s perceptions may just challenge the way that you think. -review by Greg
What We’re Reading
FLORA AND ULYSSES
“Holy bagumba!” Kate DiCamillo has written yet another fabulous story for children of all ages…so fabulous that it won this year’s Newbery award! DiCamillo often writes of friendship and devotion between children and animals. This time the protagonists are a 10-year-old girl named Flora and a squirrel named Ulysses. When Flora saves Ulysses from a terrible accident, they become fast friends. Flora, a self-proclaimed cynic, becomes convinced that Ulysses has superhero powers. Her mission is to protect Ulysses from evil forces that would destroy him. This book is hilariously funny, as well as touching and tender. My favorite children’s book of the year! – review by Anita
A riveting true story of a modern-day homesteading family in the deepest reaches of the Alaskan wilderness – and of the chilling secrets of the maniacal, spellbinding patriarch. – review by Karen
The harrowing tale of the quest to settle a James-town-like colony on the Pacific coast. Just 2 years after the Lewis and Clark expedition concluded, John Jacob Astor funded two advance parties to settle the wild, unclaimed Pacific NW His plans were to establish a global trade network. More than half of his men died violent deaths. The others survived starvation, madness and greed. Astor’s dreams were not realized, but this expedition established to route for the Oregon trail. A riveting true adventure story. I couldn’t put it down. - review by Karen
When Perla is a little girl, her elderly neighbor gives her some sage advice. He tells her that when she is older she should find a man “who protects you, who feeds you first, who won’t take a bite of anything, won’t take a single piece of food or clothing or firewood until you’ve had enough first.” As a young woman, Perla finds such a man in the passionate, devoted Julian. But she soon discovers that this wonderful man she has fallen in love with hides a very dark past and secrets of his own. This is a beautifully crafted and compelling novel. -review by Anita
WHERE THE MOON ISN’T
The voice of the narrator, Matthew Homes, is both clever and endearing. And yet this same voice is also tragic and poignant, as a family tragedy becomes the catalyst for Matthew’s descent into madness. Filer has written an original novel with a vulnerable and very likeable protagonist. A fantastic book that you won’t want to put down! –review by Anita
The debut novel by renown food critic and best-selling author Ruth Reichl lives up to the name: Delicious!. I don’t know what part of me loves this book the most: the foodie; the library-lover; or story junkie. Reichl mixes the simplest ingredients to create a word feast that is both decadent and satisfying: an unminted journalist with an unusual flavor palette; a struggling food magazine; a small, family-owned cheese and delicacy shop; a locked library; and letters from a precocious aspiring cook to James Beard during WWII. Lulu’s letters and recipes paint a clear picture of wartime America; and baker-turned journalist Billie Breslin’s experiences at Delicious and the Fontanari’s shop are a fun foray into the flavors and textures in the modern food-world. -review by Becky
DOROTHY MUST DIE
This is an exciting return to an Oz gone wrong. When a tornado transports Amy (from Kansas, of course) to the land of Oz, she discovers a land corrupted by the evil powers of Dorothy. The tin man, scarecrow and lion (and even Toto the dog) are all villainous participants, and Amy must join forces with those that seek to save Oz and return it to it’s glorious past. The reader is transported back to the land of Oz to experience this dangerous and thrilling tale. -review by Anita
CONGRATULATIONS, BY THE WAY
The store is full of inspirational titles, but this is the one that made me want to change. Saunders, author of Tenth of December, is critically acclaimed, hip, funny and wise. He has written a book, not just for those starting out, but for anyone who needs to take stock and remember what is really important. I want to give a copy to everyone. –review by Sheila
THE STORIED LIFE OF A. J. FIKRY
This is the perfect feel-good-read for bibliophiles & booksellers. Each chapter begins with short book-review by A.J. Firky, the crochety proprietor of a bookshop on a small island off the Massachusetts coast. Firky is the best kind of persnickety—prickly on the outside and soft in the inside. He rediscovers love & family with the help of an orphaned baby, a quirky publishing rep, & a barrel-chested cop with a hidden gift for reading recommendations. This is a wonderful novel about why we love books, why we love each other, & how the two intersect. Keep a pen & piece of paper handy—this is one entertaining reading list.
ON SUCH A FULL SEA
China controls most of the world, including North America. Temperatures increase because of global warming, and cancer runs rampant—a fate generally accepted as unavoidable. Books have all but vanished, along with domesticated animals and outdoor farming. All food is grown in sterile tanks, tended to by working-class citizens living in worker-settlements, while the bulk of the food carted off and sold in the upper-class, wealthy communities. When Fan, a young tank diver, leaves her working-settlement (known as B-Mor) to find her vanished lover, she sparks a thought-revolution among those left behind. Both a folk-tale and an alarming prediction, this remarkable novel reminds me of a Margaret Atwood and Kazuo Ishiguro. Haunting, devastating and hopeful, this story lives far beyond the confines of the book. -review by Becky
KNITTING YARNS: WRITERS ON KNITTING
Ann Hood, ed.
Don’t miss this fantastic anthology edited by Ann Hood, which includes such notables as: Barbara Kingsolver, Sue Grafton, Elizabeth Berg, Andre Dubus III, Hope Edelman, Alison Lurie, Ann Patchett, Anita Shreve and Jane Smiley. Who knew knitting enjoyed such a literary tapestry… enjoy!
-review by Rebecca
These stories, by one of my favorite authors, are laugh-out-loud funny as well as full of pithy commentary on contemporary life. In Moore’s earlier fiction, the protagonists were often young girls or young mothers. Here, they are divorcees. They have teenagers. They’ve variously tried and failed at dating, holding down jobs, being kind or being sane. Perhaps that’s why there’s an undercurrent of sadness – and the book’s relationships, with one desperate exception, don’t end well. Moore’s stories, like Alice Munro’s, will haunt your dreams. -review by Sheila
ONE LAST THING BEFORE I GO
One could argue that great fiction is not remembered by the plot, but by unforgettable characters. Such is Trooper’s protagonist “Silver.” Frustrating but loveable, Silver is a divorced has-been, forty-something, muscian who is filled with numbness and regret. That numbness is about to explode as he is suddenly faced with a critical heart condition. Despondent, Silver refuses to undergo the imperative heart surgery that will save his life. Despite the profound and dire nature of the narrative, the writing is hilarious. Tropper manages to create a character that is completely original and reminiscent of an unlikely mix of Voltaire’s Candide, Carlos Castenada and David Sedaris. The dialogue leaves the reader hanging on every word for wit, truth, and gasping originality. Surprises and ephiphanies of all sorts abound, as one raptly turns the pages, never knowing if you will laugh or cry. -review by Rebecca
THE GRAVEDIGGER’S DAUGHTER
Joyce Carol Oates
I cried my heart out at the end of this book – something I have done seldom in my long reading life…Oates goes deeply into the characters’ psychology and does not flinch from her wrenching insights. Rebecca Schwarts is born on a ship in New York harbor to Jewish parents who fled Germany in 1936. Her father, once a math professor becomes the gravedigger in the small town of Milburn, New York. The portrait of the de-based immigrant family and subsequent events remains an indelible literary experience. But at the core of the novel is the unlikely hero – Rebecca Schwart. As the story follows her courage, fortunes, and will to persevere, the reader is drawn into her destiny ultimately life’s deepest questions of purpose and meaning. Hang on to your hat and your heart, as you read this book – the journey will throw away the map, and bring you to unforgettable and uncharted territory. -review by Rebecca
Nasaw was granted unrestricted access to the founder of the twentieth century’s most famous political dynasty. The elder Kennedy’s seemingly limitless ambition took him from an East Boston outsider to the first Irish American Ambassador to Britain, where his antiwar position made him the subject of White House ire and popular distaste. The tragedies that befell his family marked his final years with unspeakable suffering. Nasaw addresses the questions that have haunted the legend of the patriarch: Was he an anti-Semite and Nazi sympathizer? Why did he have his daughter lobotomized? Did he push his second son into politics then buy the election for him? Always fascinating, occasionally repugnant, this is a look at a supremely influential man. -review by Sheila
The Lowland is another masterpiece by Jumpha Lahiri. She tells a powerful story involving two brothers, their families, their deep secrets, and — one of Lahiri’s favorite topics – the immigrant experience. This riveting novel has already been nominated for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Award. A brilliant novel by an extremely gifted writer. -review by Anita
A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING
When sixteen-year-old Nao decides to take her own life, she first commits to telling the story of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun. Nao’s diary travels across the Pacific from Tokyo, and is washed ashore on a remote Canadian island. The diary, along with some mysterious letters, are found by a novelist, Ruth, who gets swept up in Nao’s story. This exquisitely told tale ties together the past and the present with intrigue, pathos and humor. -review by Anita
by Rivka Galchen
The cover caught me first—a precocious tabby perched precariously on a haphazard pile of household objects. The writing held me however: concise, yet expansive and unexpected; much like a feline—both predatory and cuddly, capable of cunning and economical movement. The literary and philosophic references highlight both the author’s formal education and her deeper grasp of the innovations humans hang their lives on. I will never again taste key-lime without thinking “Kantian sublime.” The quip about Walter Mitty is a stronger character reference than a paragraph of prose. Her vocabulary is extensive, but not over-reached. She knows this somehow, which makes her writing feel both studied and instinctual. I kept reading sentences aloud to anyone who would listen and, when I finished, I had the strange urge to start again from the beginning. -review by Becky
More Staff Recommendations
A must read with unforgettable characters and a suspenseful narrative. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old, finds his life in turmoil after the sudden death of his mother. With no responsible relatives to care for him, he finds himself isolated physically and emotionally. This is a book you will not want to put down. -review by Karen
A CONSTELLATION OF VITAL PHENOMENA
Anthony Marra’s first novel and winner of The Pushcart Prize. In Chechnya, a land engulfed in war, eight year old Havaa watches from the woods as her father is abducted by Russian soldiers. A story about people caught in the middle of a war torn environment and finding humanity in unexpected places. A powerful novel. -review by Karen
A fictionalized account of the life of Hildegard von Bingen, one of the most extraordinary women of the Middle Ages. She was given to the Church at the age of eight by her noble family and sequestered with another young girl in a small room for many years. Her time behind these walls and her much fought for release into the world to ultimately earn her place in history is brought to life in this well researched and insightful account. This book is an accessible way to learn more about this saintly woman. I was engrossed from the first page. Historical Fiction at its best. -review by Karen
Jeff Vandermeer, winner of the World Fantasy Award and teacher of multiple speulative fiction workshops for kids and teens has put together this magnificent repository of images, exercises and essays in a writers manual like no other. Wonderbook contains essays from many of todays best speculative fiction writers, numerous pieces of strange and inspirational artwork and exercise prompts keyed to the ideas in the chapters. Intended for amature and professional writers both its a work that should be on your shelf wether fantastical fiction is your thing or if more realistic paths are what you want to travel. A quick flip through should give you and idea if its your kind of thing. -review by Greg
GIDEON SMITH AND THE MECHANICAL GIRL
David Barnett has written a distinctly unique feeling Steampunk novel using all the usual clockwork, steam powered and airship kitch but tells a story more akin to the genre’s penny blood and scientific adventure roots. The story is at times wryly funny in ways only British writers achieve, hits highs of chase and fisticuffs fun, yet still manages to be very honest about the ills of the Victorian Era and the realities of class warfare. Its titular hero is a idealistic young man whose hero worship lead him to action when tragedy befalls him and expose him to the realities of “heroes” and leads to discoveries about himself and the people around him. Vampires, mummies, mechanisms and monsters abound … great great fun all well told. -review by Greg
Winner of the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novel from among a group of excellent and diverse nominees. This book shows the lives of the faceless barely named characters from science fiction TV whom are often the ones not to return from missions. John created his own “TV” SF setting like so many others and simulates the loose writing (to be kind) of the “TVshow” genre with deft skill and goes to unexpected places with the story. Its a fun. light diverting read when you need something on the lighter side among all the dystopic fiction out there. -review by Greg
New Books We Are Excited About
SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS
In The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction, inserting her inimitable voice into an enthralling story of love, adventure and discovery. Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, The Signature of All Things soars across the globe—from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad.
THE ROSIE PROJECT
Bloomsbury’s Staff says: “It was so good that I put off doing everything I was planning to do on Saturday so I could finish it! Becky, Rebecca, Karen and I all read it and loved it! I think this would qualify as a staff favorite!” -Susan
“This book is a riotous piece of feel-good fiction that had me in stitches and cheering aloud. Don Tillman is a professor of genetics who lives by routines, timetables and a standardized meal system – until he creates a questionnaire to help him find the perfect wife, and meets Rosie. A romantic comedy and coming of age/midlife crisis tale, I can’t remember the last time I read a book that feels so good!” -Becky
Mary Oliver has spent most of her life with a mind ripe with poems — and with at least one steadfast dog by her side. It seems fitting then that her latest collection revels in the carrying on of dogs. “Dog Songs,” out from Penguin Press on Tuesday, is a sweet golden retriever of a book that curls up with the reader, with 35 poems and one essay about the dogs who have shared Ms. Oliver’s days.’ (from the NYTimes)
WE ARE WATER
A disquieting and ultimately uplifting novel about a marriage, a family, and human resilience in the face of tragedy, from Wally Lamb, the New York Times bestselling author of The Hour I First Believed and I Know This Much Is True. After 27 years of marriage and three children, Anna Oh—wife, mother, outsider artist—has fallen in love with Viveca, the wealthy Manhattan art dealer who orchestrated her success. They plan to wed in the Oh family’s hometown of Three Rivers in Connecticut. But the wedding provokes some very mixed reactions and opens a Pandora’s Box of toxic secrets—dark and painful truths that have festered below the surface of the Ohs’ lives.
ONE SUMMER AMERICA 1927
Bill Bryson captures the outsized personalities, exciting events, and occasional just plain weirdness that occurred in the epochal summer of 1927 with his trademark vividness, eye for telling detail, and delicious humor. He populates this bustling age with notables including Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, Al Capone, and Herbert Hoover, but also with walk-ons eccentrics, authors, and actors. In that year America stepped out onto the world stage as the main event, and One Summer transforms it all into narrative nonfiction of the highest order. To put it simply, One Summer is one festive read, a signature Bryson reminder that, rightly told, history brims with interest.
Recommended Reading at Bloomsbury Books
THE EMPEROR’S SOUL
Winner of the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Novella
Fantasy set in the same world as his first novel Elantris; it is a departure for Brandon who is known for his sprawling huge epics to write a tight exploration of three characters and through them the nature of life, death and art. Though its a tighter format his skill at creating character and magic is not at all dulled. -review by Greg
Twins. Two identical girls. Each one possessing “senses” (which is their euphemism for having psychic abilities.) But while Vi embraces and uses her senses, Kate abhors and rejects her own abilities. When Vi draws media attention by predicting a pending earthquake, Kate becomes drawn into the drama. As adults, the two women have taken very different paths, but their lives remain connected in so many ways. A beautiful story of friendship, family and self-acceptance. –review by Anita
A LADY CYCLIST’S GUIDE TO KASHGAR
This wonderful novel engages the reader from the very beginning. The chapters alternate between two centuries. The first is 1923, where two English sisters are missionaries headed for the city of Kashgar – one sister an etheral religious zealot, and the other sister more interested in her green bicycle and a commission to write a book. The corresponding story takes place in present day London, where a young woman struggling to find her connection to the world, befriends an illegal immigrant who is fleeing from the law. Suzanne Joinson skillfully ties together eastern and western religions and philosphies, with vivid depictions of different times and places. This is Joinson’s first novel – I look forward to more. -review by Anita
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Warning: Reading this book may cause elevated heart rate and/or dry-mouth—and cost you a day off and/or a night’s sleep. From the first shocking pages, Lexicon exerts a mind-control on the reader—making us helpless to resist Barry’s warped, alternative reality. Connecting ancient concepts of language and persuasion with modern issues of data mining and privacy, this is a wholly original and smart thriller. Barry rigged explosions in all of the right places and threw plot twists fast and hard over the plate, reminding me of a cross between Chris Cline and Neal Stephenson. -review by Becky
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Elizabeth Strout “animates the ordinary with an astonishing force,” wrote The New Yorker on the publication of her Pulitzer Prize–winning Olive Kitteridge. The San Francisco Chronicle praised Strout’s “magnificent gift for humanizing characters.” Now the acclaimed author returns with a stunning novel as powerful and moving as any work in contemporary literature. With a rare combination of brilliant storytelling, exquisite prose, and remarkable insight into character, Elizabeth Strout has brought to life two deeply human protagonists whose struggles and triumphs will resonate with readers long after they turn the final page. The Burgess Boys is Elizabeth Strout’s newest and perhaps most astonishing work of literary art. available at our store
In the cobblestoned streets of Luxembourg, Kate Moore’s days are filled with playdates and coffee mornings, her weekends spent in Paris and skiing in the Alps. But Kate is also guarding a tremendous, life-defining secret—one that’s become so unbearable that it begins to unravel her newly established expat life. As Kate begins to dig, to uncover the secrets of the people around her, she finds herself buried in layers of deceit so thick they threaten her family, her marriage, and her life. available at our store
The acclaimed, award-winning author of the national bestseller The Financial Lives of the Poetsreturns with his funniest, most romantic, and most purely enjoyable novel yet. Hailed by critics and loved by readers of literary and historical fiction, Beautiful Ruins is the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962…and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later. available at our store
MR. PENUMBRA’S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE
Booksellers and book lovers alike will adore charming Mr. Penumbra and his towering stacks of mysterious, code-filled tomes, as well as the array of eccentric old men that make up the store’s late-night clientele. I now want to keep a log of our bookshop’s customers by Mr. Penumbra’s criteria: ‘You must keep precise records of all purchases. Time. Amount. The customer’s appearance. His state of mind. How he asks for the book. How he receives it. Does he appear to be injured. Is he wearing a sprig of rosemary on his hat. And so on.’ Wonderful! available at our store
The latest New York Times bestseller from the acclaimed author of In the Woods and Faithful Place. Broken Harbor is quintessential French—a damaged hero, an unspeakable crime, and an intricately plotted mystery—nestled in a timely examination of lives shattered by the global economic downturn. Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy always brings in the killer. Always. That’s why he’s landed this high-profile triple homicide. At first, he thinks it’s going to be simple, but the murder scene holds terrifying memories for Scorcher. Memories of something that happened there back when he was a boy. available at our store
The New York Times bestselling tale of an American undercover agent in 1945 Istanbul who must navigate a murky world of compromise and betrayal. Leon Bauer is given one last routine assignment. But when the job goes fatally wrong—an exchange of gunfire, a body left in the street, a potential war criminal on his hands—Leon is plunged into a tangle of intrigue, shifting loyalties, and moral uncertainty. How do you do the right thing when there are only bad choices to be made?
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