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Specializing in contemporary fiction, children's books, young adult, local authors, & a large Shakespeare & theatre section.

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Virginia Woolf wants you!

Join the Bloomsbury Book Club!
Share your passion for books with like-minded people. Meets the last Tuesday of each month, 7 pm on the Mezzanine at Bloomsbury Books. Limit: 25 participants.

Bloomsbury’s Book Club is starting up again!

labgirlWe will be meeting at 7pm on the bookstore mezzanine on the last Tuesday of every month. Our first meeting will be Tuesday, November 28th, at 7 pm. Our first book selection is LAB GIRL, by Hope Jahren. Please join us for a rousing discussion of this fascinating memoir about trees and life in a lab.

Bloomsbury Picks for November

bookofdustBOOK OF DUST
Phillip Pullman
Before Will there was Malcolm. Before Lyra underwent the arduous journey to fulfill her destiny, the witches prophesized of another boy, one who would protect a great treasure. Malcolm, an innkeeper’s son, faces a great flood and other forces of evil to deliver an infant Lyra to safety. In this return to the England of Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, a network of spies battle branches of secret service and an oppressive government. Pullman creates new characters for readers to care deeply about in the intrepid Malcolm and Hannah Ref, a historian-turned-spy whose work with the alethiometer will have far-reaching implications. –Becky
herbodyandotherparties HER BODY AND OTHER PARTIES
Carmen Maria Machado
The opening story in this startling debut collection is based on the classic ghost story about a bride with a ribbon around her neck, but Machado reaches for truths beyond a simple campfire tale. Each successive story takes readers deeper into the intimate lives of females: a woman undergoes bariatric surgery, but the ghost of her shame continues to live in her home even after the weight falls away; a virus spreads across the country, killing humans indiscriminately, as a survivor indexes a list of her former lovers; women are vanishing, and the shadows left behind fold themselves into the stitching in prom dresses. Machado’s writing is reminiscent of Clarice Lispector, achieving surrealism based in both the fantastic and the domestic. She uses ghost stories, urban legends, and myths to explore the interior lives of women as a map of their exterior world. This collection is stunning in its clarity, strength of voice, and sense of purpose. Disturbing, beautiful, haunting, and true. –Becky

Deck Your Bookshelves:
Holiday Audio Books

The days are short, the nights are long, and the season of giving is upon us. These holiday themed audiobooks, from classics to current fiction, are a great way to set the mood. Listen as a family or on your own and get ready to deck your bookshelves! Enjoy! View List

Holiday Gift Books: Because What You Read Matters!

Ron Chernow
Ulysses S. Grant’s life has typically been misunderstood. All too often he is caricatured as a chronic loser and an inept businessman, or as the triumphant but brutal Union general of the Civil War. But these stereotypes don’t come close to capturing him, as Chernow shows in his masterful biography, the first to provide a complete understanding of the general and president whose fortunes rose and fell with dizzying speed and frequency. With lucidity, breadth, and meticulousness, Chernow sheds new light on the man whom Walt Whitman described as “nothing heroic… and yet the greatest hero.” Chernow’s probing portrait of Grant’s lifelong struggle with alcoholism transforms our understanding of the man at the deepest level. This is America’s greatest biographer, bringing movingly to life one of our finest but most underappreciated presidents.

Walter Isaacson
Based on thousands of pages from Leonardo’s astonishing notebooks and new discoveries about his life and work, Walter Isaacson weaves a narrative that connects his art to his science. He shows how Leonardo’s genius was based on skills we can improve in ourselves, such as passionate curiosity, careful observation, and an imagination so playful that it flirted with fantasy. Leonardo’s delight at combining diverse passions remains the ultimate recipe for creativity. So, too, does his ease at being a bit of a misfit: illegitimate, gay, vegetarian, left-handed, easily distracted, and at times heretical. His life should remind us of the importance of instilling, both in ourselves and our children, not just received knowledge but a willingness to question it—to be imaginative and, like talented misfits and rebels in any era, to think different.

The River of ConsciousnessTHE RIVER OF CONSCIOUSNESS
Oliver Sacks
Oliver Sacks, a scientist and a storyteller, is beloved by readers for the extraordinary neurological case histories in which he introduced and explored many now familiar disorders—autism, Tourette’s syndrome, face blindness, savant syndrome. He was also a memoirist who wrote with honesty and humor about the remarkable and strange encounters and experiences that shaped him. Sacks, an Oxford-educated polymath, had a deep familiarity not only with literature and medicine but with botany, animal anatomy, chemistry, the history of science, philosophy, and psychology. The River of Consciousness is one of two books Sacks was working on up to his death, and it reveals his ability to make unexpected connections, his sheer joy in knowledge, and his unceasing, timeless project to understand what makes us human.

Geoffrey Ward
More than forty years after it ended, the Vietnam War continues to haunt our country. We still argue over why we were there, whether we could have won, and who was right and wrong in their response to the conflict. When the war divided the country, it created deep political fault lines that continue to divide us today. Now, continuing in the tradition of their critically acclaimed collaborations, the authors draw on dozens and dozens of interviews in America and Vietnam to give us the perspectives of people involved at all levels of the war: U.S. and Vietnamese soldiers and their families, high-level officials in America and Vietnam, antiwar protestors, POWs, and many more. The book plunges us into the chaos and intensity of combat, even as it explains the rationale that got us into Vietnam and kept us there for so many years. Rather than taking sides, the book seeks to understand why the war happened the way it did, and to clarify its complicated legacy. Beautifully written and richly illustrated, this is a tour de force that is certain to launch a new national conversation.

columnoffireA COLUMN OF FIRE
Ken Follet
In 1558, the ancient stones of Kingsbridge Cathedral look down on a city torn apart by religious conflict. As power in England shifts precariously between Catholics and Protestants, royalty and commoners clash, testing friendship, loyalty, and love. Ned Willard wants nothing more than to marry Margery Fitzgerald. But when the lovers find themselves on opposing sides of the religious conflict dividing the country, Ned goes to work for Princess Elizabeth. When she becomes queen, all of Europe turns against England. The shrewd, determined young monarch sets up the country’s first secret service to give her early warning of assassination plots, rebellions, and invasion plans. Over a turbulent half century, the love between Ned and Margery seems doomed as extremism sparks violence from Edinburgh to Geneva. Elizabeth clings to her throne and her principles, protected by a small, dedicated group of resourceful spies and courageous secret agents.

legacyofspiesLEGACY OF SPIES
John le Carre
The undisputed master returns with a riveting new book, his first Smiley novel in more than twenty-five years. Peter Guillam, staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley of the British Secret Service, otherwise known as the Circus, is living out his old age on the family farmstead on the south coast of Brittany when a letter from his old Service summons him to London. The reason? His Cold War past has come back to claim him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London, and involved such characters as Alec Leamas, Jim Prideaux, George Smiley and Peter Guillam himself, are to be scrutinized by a generation with no memory of the Cold War and no patience with its justifications. Interweaving past with present so that each may tell its own intense story, John le Carre has spun a single plot as ingenious and thrilling as the two predecessors on which it looks back: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,. In a story resonating with tension, humor and moral ambivalence, le Carre and his narrator Peter Guillam present the reader with a legacy of unforgettable characters old and new.

gentlemaninmoscowA GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW
Amor Towles
In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery. Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.

glasshousesGLASS HOUSES
Louise Penny
When a mysterious figure appears in Three Pines one cold November day, Armand Gamache and the rest of the villagers are at first curious. Then wary. Through rain and sleet, the figure stands unmoving, staring ahead. From the moment its shadow falls over the village, Gamache, now Chief Superintendent of the Surete du Quebec, suspects the creature has deep roots and a dark purpose. Yet he does nothing. What can he do? Only watch and wait. And hope his mounting fears are not realized. But when the figure vanishes overnight and a body is discovered, it falls to Gamache to discover if a debt has been paid or levied. Months later, on a steamy July day as the trial for the accused begins in Montreal, Chief Superintendent Gamache continues to struggle with actions he set in motion that bitter November, from which there is no going back. More than the accused is on trial. Gamache’s own conscience is standing in judgment. In Glass Houses, her latest utterly gripping book, number-one New York Times bestselling author Louise Penny shatters the conventions of the crime novel to explore what Gandhi called the court of conscience. A court that supersedes all others.

Mary Oliver
Throughout her celebrated career, Mary Oliver has touched countless readers with her brilliantly crafted verse, expounding on her love for the physical world and the powerful bonds between all living things. Identified as “far and away, this country’s best selling poet” by Dwight Garner, she now returns with a stunning and definitive collection of her writing from the last fifty years. Carefully curated, these 200 plus poems feature Oliver’s work from her very first book of poetry, No Voyage and Other Poems, published in 1963 at the age of 28, through her most recent collection, Felicity, published in 2015. This timeless volume, arranged by Oliver herself, showcases the beloved poet at her edifying best. Within these pages, she provides us with an extraordinary and invaluable collection of her passionate, perceptive, and much-treasured observations of the natural world.

rulesofmagicRULES OF MAGIC
Alice Hoffman
For the Owens family, love is a curse that began in 1620, when Maria Owens was charged with witchery for loving the wrong man. Hundreds of years later, in New York City at the cusp of the sixties, when the whole world is about to change, Susanna Owens knows that her three children are dangerously unique, and from the start sets down rules for her children: No walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles, no books about magic. And most importantly, never, ever, fall in love. But when her children visit their Aunt Isabelle, in the small Massachusetts town where the Owens family has been blamed for everything that has ever gone wrong, they uncover family secrets and begin to understand the truth of who they are. Back in New York City each begins a risky journey as they try to escape the family curse. Thrilling and exquisite, real and fantastical, this prequel to Practical Magic is a story about the power of love reminding us that the only remedy for being human is to be true to yourself.

Sarah Miller
Caroline Quiner Ingalls becomes a fully-formed character in Sarah Miller’s novel based on Little House on the Prairie. Her struggles, both internal and external, reveal the inherent isolation and rigors demanded of pioneer women. For Caroline, living in a settled land is not about society; she wants the spheres of her daughters’ worlds to expand beyond the four walls of their family cabin, a possibility which dims without access to an education and the company of other women. In language that captures the flavor of the original novels, Miller evokes the austere beauty of the wild prairie while exploring the challenges of raising daughters in a world that seems to be made by and for men. Whether you love the Little House books or not, this is an immersing, thought-provoking read that is full of history, and displays the unsung strength of pioneer women.

innerlifeofanimalsINNER LIFE OF ANIMALS
Peter Wohlleben
Through vivid stories of devoted pigs, two-timing magpies, and scheming roosters, The Inner Life of Animals weaves the latest scientific research into how animals interact with the world with Peter Wohlleben’s personal experiences in forests and fields. Horses feel shame, deer grieve, and goats discipline their kids. Ravens call their friends by name, rats regret bad choices, and butterflies choose the very best places for their children to grow up. In this, his latest book, Peter Wohlleben follows the hugely successful The Hidden Life of Trees with insightful stories into the emotions, feelings, and intelligence of animals around us. Animals are different from us in ways that amaze us—and they are also much closer to us than we ever would have thought.

Juli Berwald
Jellyfish are an enigma. They have no centralized brain, but they see and feel and react to their environment in complex ways. They look simple, yet their propulsion systems are so advanced that engineers are just learning how to mimic them. They produce some of the deadliest toxins on the planet and still remain undeniably alluring. Berwald’s desire to understand jellyfish takes her on a scientific odyssey. She travels the globe to meet the scientists who devote their careers to jellies; hitches rides on Japanese fishing boats to see giant jellyfish in the wild; raises jellyfish in her dining room; and throughout it all marvels at the complexity of these fascinating and ominous biological wonders. Gracefully blending personal memoir with crystal-clear distillations of science, Spineless reveals that jellyfish are a bellwether for the damage we’re inflicting on the climate and the oceans and a call to realize our collective responsibility for the planet we share.

youcantspellamericawithoutmeYOU CAN’T SPELL AMERICA WITHOUT ME
Alec Baldwin
Political satire as deeper truth: Donald Trump’s presidential memoir, as recorded by two world-renowned Trump scholars, and experts on greatness generally. Until Donald Trump publishes the ultimate account of his entire four or eight or one-and-a-half years in the White House, the definitive chronicle will be You Can’t Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year As President. Trump was elected because he was the most frank presidential candidate in history, a man eager to tell the unvarnished truth about others’ flaws and tout his own amazing excellence. Now he levels his refreshingly compulsive, un-PC candor at his landslide election victory as well as his role as commander-in-chief and leader of the free world. You Can’t Spell America Without Me is presented by America’s foremost Trump scholar Kurt Andersen as well as America’s foremost mediocre Trump impersonator, Alec Baldwin.

manhattanbeachMANHATTAN BEACH
Jennifer Egan
Manhattan Beach opens in Brooklyn during the Great Depression. Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to the house of Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that had always belonged to men. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. She is the sole provider for her mother, a farm girl who had a brief and glamorous career with the Ziegfeld Follies, and her lovely, severely disabled sister. At a nightclub, she chances to meet Dexter Styles again, and she begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have vanished.

childfinderCHILD FINDER
Rene Denfield
Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight-years-old now–if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as “the Child Finder,” Naomi is their last hope. As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life? Told in the alternating voices of Naomi and a deeply imaginative child, The Child Finder is a breathtaking, exquisitely rendered literary page-turner about redemption, the line between reality and memories and dreams, and the human capacity to survive.

smittenkitcheneverydaySMITTEN KITCHEN EVERY DAY
Deb Perelman
Deb Perelman, award-winning blogger and New York Times best-selling author of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, understands that a happy discovery in the kitchen has the ability to completely change the course of your day. Whether we’re cooking for ourselves, for a date night in, for a Sunday supper with friends, or for family on a busy weeknight, we all want recipes that are unfussy to make with triumphant results. Deb thinks that cooking should be an escape from drudgery. Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites presents more than one hundred impossible-to-resist recipes—almost all of them brand-new, plus a few favorites from her website—that will make you want to stop what you’re doing right now and cook. These are real recipes for real people—people with busy lives who don’t want to sacrifice flavor or quality to eat meals they’re really excited about. Written with Deb’s trademark humor and gorgeously illustrated with her own photographs, Smitten Kitchen Every Day is filled with what are sure to be your new favorite things to cook.

Bloomsbury Picks for October



Kazuo Ishiguro
This beautiful, haunting novel is a departure from Ishiguro’s usual fare. A combination of fantasy and myth, this compelling tale, which takes place right after the reign of King Arthur, is complete with knights and dragons. A strong theme throughout the book is of fading memories, perhaps hidden or taken by the mists that surround the countryside. Struggling behind a thin veil of confusion, an elderly couple, Axl and Beatrice, leave their village and set out on a journey to find their son who they can barely remember. Their deep love for each other proves to be tender and moving, as their adventure unfolds. So gently and alluringly written, even if you are not a lover of legends, this book may win your heart. –review by Anita

riseandfallofadamandeveRISE AND FALL OF ADAM AND EVE
Stephen Greenblatt
The two sparse Old Testament Genesis texts of the Adam and Eve creation story are perhaps the most consequential of their type in the Western world. Much of Western peoples’ relation to their physical world, the nature of Good and Evil, as well as the relationship between men and women have all been teased out from this source material. It’s a bit of a romp for Greenblatt to get through the millennia of religion, philosophy, mythology, history, arts, and sciences that have engaged with these texts, but he is very absorbing in his approach. –John

youdonthavetosayyoulovemeYOU DON’T HAVE TO SAY YOU LOVE ME
Sherman Alexie
in this powerful and emotion-charged book Alexie examines his troubled relationship with his recently deceased mother. His recollections, like individual patches in a quilt, also speak to the trauma of his childhood on the Spokane Indian Reservation, his days as a popular boy in a mostly white, rural high school, the painful legacy of genocide and racism, and his struggles as an adult to forgive and understand. –Brandon

Robin Sloan
As a computer programmer, Lois is proficient at identifying, solving, and forgetting problems. But life takes on new shape and meaning when she receives a singing sourdough starter. Baking, she finds, is the act of continually solving the same problem because the solution is always consumed. When trying to combine computer programming and baking, Lois stumbles across a solution to both her practical problem and her existential angst: confidence. A sourdough starter that sings, a subterranean market accessed by a skeleton key, and an unknown benefactor who speaks through a fish can be perceived as the strangest elements of this novel, but strangest of all is something more elemental: immortality. Life and death clash inside the sourdough starter, battle lines are drawn, empires rise and fall, “there’s revolution, alliance, [and] betrayal.” Sloan addresses the increasing role of technology in our lives, and the need to both embrace the old-fashioned ways of living, while finding ways to marry the two in a novel that is charming and delicious. –Becky

manhattanbeachMANHATTAN BEACH
Jennifer Egan
Pulitzer prize-winning author Jennifer Egan paints a moving and captivating portrait of Brooklyn in the 1940s. The war is raging, people are experiencing hard times, and the New York mob is alive and well. Anna Kerrigan, an independent and capable young woman, is working in the parts department of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, supporting the war effort. But she is determined, against all odds, to be a professional diver who repairs vessels. When her father, who was working for the mob, suddenly disappears, Anna is ultimately driven to discover what has happened to him. While devoted to her mother and severely, disabled sister, she fearlessly gets involved with the underworld to attempt to solve the mystery. Amidst a drastically changing world, Anna’s strength, resilience and passion create an extraordinary heroine. –Anita

Bloomsbury Picks for September

heartsinvisiblefuriesTHE HEART’S INVISIBLE FURIES
John Boyne
This heartbreakingly sad and laugh-aloud funny novel of Ireland is not to be missed. Cyril Avery is the adoptive son of eccentric twits, who consider themselves Irish aristocracy. His teen-aged, pregnant birth mother was shamed and banished from her rural parish by a priest who had fathered two children of his own. Cyril’s story from 1945, when the Catholic church ruled with an iron hand until 2015, when Ireland passed the Gay Marriage Act is filled with memorable, so-Irish characters, a tragic, repressive history and a droll wit, unseen in literature since Evelyn Waugh. Best novel of the year for me.

Claire Messud
Julia and Cassie are best friends as only prepubescent girls are, in a way that seems to remake the world just for two, that burns brighter and causes more obsession than lust or love, in a way that changes you indelibly and forever. But sometimes growing up means growing apart. Messud beautifully captures the formative female friendship in this suspenseful contemporary coming-of-age story set in a small town in Massachusetts. From realizing the fear inherent in inhabiting a female body, to recognizing the internal lives orbiting our own, Messud says something true about being on the cusp of womanhood. Gorgeous. –Becky
myabsolutedarlingMY ABSOLUTE DARLING
Gabriel Tallent
Turtle Alveston is a remarkable heroine, simultaneously strong and naive, with a knowledge of survival skills, weaponry, and the natural world that defies the modern age. She lives with her father, a man broken by time and life and loss, who prepares his daughter to face and survive her greatest enemy—him. Love doesn’t always make sense, and in his debut novel Tallent explores the hows and whys of loving someone who seems determined to break you. Tallent has created a world, rough and gritty but vivid with color, that will consume readers until the breathless end. Reminiscent of A Little Life, this is a book you can’t unread, but the marks the story leaves behind make us better people. –Becky

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Bloomsbury Picks for August

Emily Culliton
A fast-paced and fun read. Marion Palm runs away and leaves her family after embezzling money from her daughters’ school. She leaves behind a clueless husband, 2 young daughters, and a puzzled school board. The story is told through alternating voices of the characters involved. Marion is delightfully quirky, and easily gains the empathy of the reader. Culliton has written a sharp, humorous and clever first novel. –Anita

Lily Brooks-Dalton
An unnamed cataclysmic event strands an aging astronomer and a strange child in the Arctic Circle, while a group of astronauts returning from Jupiter lose all contact with Earth. Mission Specialist Sullivan and astronomer Augustine have one thing in common, a shared love and fascination with space. But while Augustine is content to view the stars from a distance, Sully finds herself drawn into the skies. The connections between their two seemingly disparate journeys are as far reaching and as dizzying as the universe itself. Brooks-Dalton beautifully evokes both the arctic and deep space, highlighting the isolation inherent in experiencing the alien beauty of both landscapes. Part meditative philosophy and part disaster tale, this is a book about missed connections, communication and, ultimately, what it means to be human. Breathtaking and suspenseful. –Becky

Sarah Schmidt
In 1892, Lizzie Borden hacked her father and stepmother to death with an ax. Or did she? Schmidt’s own reasons for writing a novel based on the case has a chilling element: Borden had visited Schmidt in her sleep and whispered, “My father has much to answer for.” And Schmidt found that the ghost, whether real or imagined, was right. She confronts long held assumptions about the American murder so infamous that school children still play games to a ditty based on the crime. Schmidt plunges readers into Borden’s head, which is a very dark, strange, sometimes gross and disturbing vantage point from which to view the story. I stayed up all night to finish this one. –Becky

Augustus Rose
A young, rebellious girl, a surfeit of disappearing teens, mysterious raves run by an enigmatic leader, and a centuries’ old invention. Lee is an improbable heroine, her father gone, her flighty mother remaking herself for men until she remarries. Lee turns to thievery to avoid being invisible, acquiring goods for her classmates and hoarding the money while planning her escape. Until she is caught, arrested, and starts a journey into an underworld that starts to feel Gotham-esqe. Modern and antique technology collide in this fast-paced novel with teen-crossover potential. Susan and Becky recommend this one. –Becky

Bloomsbury Picks for July

Maggie O’Farrell
Susan calls this book fascinating and disturbing. In the 1930s, Esme Lennox, a dreamy and bookish young woman, vanishes. Decades later, when the hospital where she has spent the last sixty years closes, Esme is sent to live with her great-niece, a woman who has no idea Esme existed. Atmospheric and compared to The Yellow Wallpaper and A Room of One’s Own, this is a compelling examination of the interior lives of women and the historic attempts made to control said lives.

what we loseWHAT WE LOSE
Zinzi Clemmons
For Thandi, the daughter of a South African mother and American father, growing up in Pennsylvania means always being an outsider. She is caught between not being black enough and not being white enough. In Clemmon’s beautiful, semiautobiographical, debut novel, Thandi searches for a place to belong.

donotbecomealarmedDO NOT BECOME ALARMED
Maile Meloy
This domestic thriller is a perfect summer read! The tropical cruise is everything cousins Nora and Liv want for their families during the busy holiday season, until the children go missing. Switching perspective between the adults and the children, Meloy explores the lengths to which we will go in the face of our deepest fears. This is a smart, readable, and probing novel that stays with you. –Becky

goldenhillGOLDEN HILL
Francis Spufford
NPR book critic Maureen Corrigan gave this book such a great review that I had to run out and buy myself a copy; I was not disapointed. This is an epic novel, one that comes around infrequently. This story of a disreputable Englishman in colonial New York involves a drunken mob, a duel, and a murder trial. Written in period langauge, Spufford’s novel brings history to life while never taking anything too seriously (least of all itself). –Becky

Bloomsbury Picks for June

Weike Wang

“What do you do with a sick chemist?
Or curium.
Or barium.”

What do chemistry and literature have in common? Both help us make sense of the world. Chemist Weike Wang’s first novel is an equation solving for love. Wang’s mostly unnamed protagonist is a chemist and the daughter of Chinese immigrants who struggles to let herself love and be loved in return. The writing is a cross between poetry and science—distilled and wise—and is unexpectedly funny. Pure alchemy. –Becky

norsemythologyNORSE MYTHOLOGY
Neil Gaiman
Follow the adventures of Norse gods Odin, Thor, Loki and many others in this superb retelling of classic Norse myths. Visit the northern sea where the Midgard serpent lurks, enter the great halls of the Frost Giants, and behold the wondrous creations—including Thor’s hammer Mjollnir—of the dwarfs who live underground. This at-times-dark collection is high on drama and excitement and includes the tale of the final destiny of the Norse gods. –Brandon

essexserpentESSEX SERPENT
Sarah Perry
A coterie of Londoners and Essex country-folk are drawn into the orbit of Cora Seaborne, recently widowed and freed from an abusive marriage. Cora’s desire to become a naturalist draws her to the rivers and estuaries of Essex where rumors of a water-monster have reawakened the locals’ fears of a long-ago evil The rumors fuel Cora’s hopes of discovering, instead, dinosaur fossils suitable for display in museums−and, perhaps, a living throwback to the geologic past. Author Perry is remarkable in her rich evocation of the Essex weather, earth, flora, and fauna that Cora eagerly encounters. Equally remarkable is Perry’s depiction of her late-Victorian cast who are anything but the fusty, repressed characters of modern imagination. In this work of historical fiction, ancient fears and superstitions clash with a thoroughly modern gamut of passion, science, and reason to propel Perry’s cast into one another’s lives and to the threshold of the 20th-century. –JG


Great Reads Now in Paperback

Thomas L. Friedman
Change isn’t new, but the rate of that change today is …breathtakingly so. Friedman considers this to be the Age of Acceleration. Expect to see the words ‘exponentially’ and ‘compounded’ frequently. If you’re an optimist like Friedman, this may be a glimpse of a brave new world. If not, prepare for a mind-boggling descent down the rabbit hole. Thank You employs the classic Friedman approach: a globe-spanning range of topics on a theme, generously leavened with Friedman’s personal observations and quotes from smart, articulate, engaging experts and players. This can be read cover-to-cover or dipped into as fancy —and ability to adapt—allows. Warning: Not for the change-adverse. –John Gaffey

difficultwomenDIFFICULT WOMEN
Roxane Gay
A ‘difficult woman’ has become shorthand for one who speaks her mind, who questions patriarchal power, and who refuses to be defined by a standard of femininity. The women who populate Gay’s story collection are all difficult in their own ways — mothers, sisters, lovers, some married and some single, most of flesh and one of glass — yet they are all searching for understanding, for identity, and for ways to make sense of a sometimes nonsensical, cruel world. Some of Gay’s stories are graphic, some are allegorical, and all are important commentaries on what being female looks and feels like in modern America. —Becky

littlenothingHISTORY OF WOLVES
Emily Fridlund
What comes first, your religious beliefs or the well-being of your child? Emily Fridlund’s explosive debut novel is a captivating study of human nature, the depths of belief, and the subsequent consequences. Fridlund’s voice is fresh, the writing is as clean and hard as a Minnesota winter. This suspenseful, provocative, and unique book shook me to the core and has continued to reverberate throughout my subconscious.
reviews by Becky

swingtimeSWING TIME
Zadie Smith
Two girls meet in dance class as 7-year-olds, but only one of them, Tracey, has “rhythm in her ligaments.” The book’s title comes from a Depression-era film Tracey and the book’s unnamed narrator watch as girls, when the narrator witnesses in Tracey what she witnesses decades later in a rural west African village: “All that fire with so little kindling.” Smith is an incredible writer, her facility with language, ideas, and the human soul is a humbling thing to behold. In the films that the book’s narrator and Tracey watch as young girls, whose plots are operatic and outrageous, “the story was the price you paid for the rhythm.” Swing Time has both. In her fourth novel Zadie Smith explores the politics of race, identity, and class through the lenses of female friendships and music, weaving a suspenseful and surprising story.
review by Becky

littlenothingLITTLE NOTHING
Marisa Silver
When Pavla is born a dwarf, she is initially despised by her elderly mother. But this beautiful child ultimately wins the hearts of her parents, who eventually take her to a quack doctor in their misguided attempts to “fix” their beloved daughter. What transpires is part fairy tale, part love story….a magical tale where things are not always as they appear to be, and the line between human and animal forms are fluid and metamorphic. An extraordinary novel!
review by Anita

themothersTHE MOTHERS
Brit Bennet
“All​ ​good​ ​secrets​ ​have​ ​a​ ​taste​ ​before​ ​you​ ​tell​ ​them.” The mothers of Upper Room Chapel church are no strangers to secrets, and the one shared by 17-year-old Nadia Turner and their pastor’s son, Luke, tastes bitter on all of their tongues. Even Nadia, already grieving the loss of her mother, cannot bring herself to speak the secret aloud, even to her best friend, Aubrey. As the three grow up, they come to realize what the mothers understood all along, the mathematics of grief: “The weight of what has been lost is always heavier than what remains.” Debut novelist Brit Bennet bravely explores race, implicit racism, and reproductive rights through ordinary people in this extraordinary coming-of-age novel.
review by Becky

nordictheoryofeverythingTHE NORDIC THEORY OF EVERYTHING
Anu Partanen
In The Nordic Theory of Everything, Anu Partanen, a Finnish-born journalist who married an American, explores how many policies and ideals Americans believe make us more free actually do the opposite. The Nordic theory of love states that authentic love and friendship are only possible between people who are independent and equal. According to Partanen, this mentality dictates policies that support the freedom of individuals, such as equal access to health care and education. She explains how current American policies create unequal relationships between parents and children, romantic partners, and employees and employers. Far from advocating a switch from democratic to socialist values, Partanen expresses admiration and affection for her new country, and simply explores ways to make her beloved new home a “well-being” state.
review by Becky

thetroublewithgoatsandsheepTHE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP
Joanna Cannon
After their neighbor, Mrs. Creasy, goes missing, precocious 10-year-olds Tillie and Grace spend the summer of 1976 hunting for Jesus, believing he can keep their sleepy English village safe. Jesus is everywhere after all, at least according to the vicar, but God sometimes shows himself in unexpected ways (and places). At the beginning of their quest the girls believe wholeheartedly in the existence of goats and sheep—those who fit in and those who do not—based on the Gospel of Matthew, but they discover that most of us are a little of both. Where is Mrs. Creasy, and why do the grownups of neighborhood suspect Walter Bishop? This charming and quirky debut novel is part coming-of-age tale, part mystery, and part examination of small-town politics. Delightful! –recommended by Susan, Karen, and Becky

thenixTHE NIX
Nathan Hill
What do a a failed writer (turned college professor), his estranged (and possibly terrorist) mother, an obese video game addict, and a serially-cheating college student have in common? Their lives are about to connect in unexpected and far reaching ways. In his ambitious, funny, and provocative debut novel Hicks probes Nordic folktales, the history of political unrest in the second half of the 20th century, and the impacts of social media and video games on the psyches (and empathy) of modern Americans. Hill has the knack for writing characters readers feel like we’ve known our entire lives, and his dialog is funny, wise, and alive. Be prepared to suck in your breath, to laugh helplessly, and to lose yourself in brilliant commentary (in the guise of an engaging novel) about the state of today’s world. –review by Becky

homegoingHOME GOING
Yaa Gyasi
Stretching from the tribal wars of Ghana to slavery and Civil War in America, from the coal mines in the North to the Great Migration to the streets of 20th century Harlem, Gyasi has written a modern masterpiece that is unforgettable. This is one of my favorite novels of the year.  –review by Sheila

lilyandtheoctopusLILY AND THE OCTOPUS
Steven Rowley
“A heart is judged not by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.” Lily loves ice cream, chicken and rice, tofurky, her red ball, and her dad, Ted. She loves the beach, but dislikes being wet. On Thursdays Lily and Ted discuss which boys they think are the cutest, and when they play Monopoly she likes being the cannon. Lily and Ted are more than best friends, more than dachshund and man, and together they undergo the adventure of a lifetime hunting an octopus on the open sea. This is a charming and quirky story that gives us permission to love our animals in the consuming, over-the-top, bizarre ways that we do. Lily is the Hobbes to Ted’s Calvin, the Enzo to his Denny, the Richard Parker to his Pi, and with one slow tug of a shoelace Lily bursts Ted’s heart open, and marks herself indelibly inside of a reader’s. –review by Becky

razorgirlRAZOR GIRL
Carl Hiaasen
Raucous, raunchy, and fabulous, Hiaasen’s latest revolves around two true news blurbs: first is the eponymous Razor Girl, whose niche calling in life is that she enjoys driving around South Florida rear-ending drivers while shaving her lady bits and kidnapping the smitten and stunned drivers. Second is a massive infestation of goat-sized rats in the Keys. These premises plus a handful of rednecks and a few effete Californians provide the ingredients for a spicy read indeed. As usual, Hiassen’s writing is witty (at one point requiring the reader to translate “whore beach” from Spanish to get a travel agent’s joke), and the dialog does not disappoint.
review by Janna


labgirlLAB GIRL
Hope Jahren
Questions are the heart of science. You don’t have to be a mathematician to be a scientist; “what comes first is a question.” Lab Girl is the incredible story of one woman who dared to ask why not me, determined to carve a career in a world dominated by men. This is also an enduring, unconditional friendship between two lab partners, and a breathtaking exploration of the natural world from the perspective of trees. Jahren touches on the political aspects of science as she battles bosses who ban pregnant women from the lab, and fights for the ever-shrinking funding available for scientists—“science for war will always make more money than science for knowledge.” This is a story of academia and laboratories, of friendship and marriage and motherhood, of dancing next to glaciers and taking detours to monkey zoos. This is a story that asks the all important question: “Did the first flower make the dinosaurs sneeze?” –review by Becky

Ann Patchett
As a child, Franny’s life is changed when her parents divorce, her mother remarries, and she is suddenly part of a blended family of siblings and situations. This is a tender and heartbreaking novel about the dissolution of families, the creation of new relationships, and the effect this has on the children involved. Beautifully written in Ann Patchett’s gifted style. –review by Anita

darkmatterDARK MATTER
Blake Crouch
This is a thriller of quantum proportions based on the many-worlds theory of quantum mechanics, which states that every possible outcome can and does occur. When Jason Dessen, a physics professor at a small Chicago college, is violently attacked, drugged and kidnapped, he wakes to a world that is not his own. His wife doesn’t know him, his son never existed, and Jason has just won a prestigious scientific prize for research he stopped decades before. Or did he? The harrowing journey home will test Jason in every conceivable way, including his understanding of the universe. This is a smart, fast-paced, consuming book that gives Schroedinger’s cat a refreshing twist. Becky and Susan recommend this read. –review by Becky

Shawn Vestal
The year is 1974, the year of Patti Hearst’s kidnapping and Nixon’s resignation, the year of the Fawcett flip and the year Eval Kneval jumps the Snake River. Lorretta (Lori), caught sneaking around with her boyfriend, is married, a “sister wife” and mother, at fifteen. A desert away, Jason rattles in the passenger seat of his grandfather’s Ford pickup. What do you think? He gonna make it? Jason ponders his grandfather’s question, imagines Eval Kneval shooting across that shadowed canyon. His answer is as uncertain as his faith and both are about to be tested. Lori and Jason will take the road trip that will change their lives forever, but not how they expect. Vestal’s writing feels like the desert, gritty and raw but unexpectedly—incredibly—beautiful. He displays both keen insight into the psyche of adolescence and into the Mormon faith. This is a coming-of-age story, also one of disillusionment and the idols we must cast away to find ourselves. – review by Becky

sportofkingsTHE SPORT OF KINGS
C.E. Morgan
“We are Kentuckians first and Virginians second and Christian third,” Henry Forge tells his young daughter. The Forges are more than a family, and they are more than horse breeders. They are a legacy of true-blue blood running back 250 years. Henrietta Forge is no ordinary Southern girl, just as Hellsmouth is no ordinary racehorse, both bred for greatness and born into destinies they cannot control. Likewise, Allmon is an extraordinary groom who pulls himself from poverty only by suffering exceptional loss. Henry, Allmon and Henrietta carry the heavy burdens of the generations before them; their blood binds them to this landscape, and their futures to the fate of one horse. This Southern Gothic is a great American novel—wide in scope and alive with the ghosts that haunt our nation. The writing is sure, evocative without being overbearing. The story and characters are unforgettable. –review by Becky


Bloomsbury Picks for May

Gail Honeyman
Eleanor Oliphant is a woman of routine. She works in the office of a graphic design company, eats lunch alone, and always does the crossword in the Daily Telegraph. The only deviation in this schedule is the Wednesday night phone calls with Mummy. When we meet Eleanor she has just begun contemplating radically changing her life. When she and her coworker, Raymond, save the life of an elderly gentleman who collapses on the street, she is forced to do more than just contemplate change. Once she opens the door, Eleanor slowly faces the reasons for her deep, habitual resistance to experiencing life. Honeyman delivers a book that is smart, funny, and germane in a world so focused on appearance and differences. She also throws in a few surprises and twists, making a book that is simultaneously suspenseful, funny, and thought-provoking. Readers of A Man Called Ove, by Peter Backman, Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper, and The Rosie Project will love this very Scottish story of coming-of-age mid-life. –Becky

extraordinaryadventuresEXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES
Daniel Wallace
Edsel Bronfman is 34-years-old, single, and lonelier than he can even admit to himself. A surprise phone call becomes the lifeline he doesn’t know he is waiting for. Now Bronfman has 79 days to find a companion to bring with him on the free weekend in Florida he has won, or lose his prize all together. Given his lack of confidence and his past, less than successful, experiences with women this is a Herculean, often hilarious (only sometimes heartbreaking), endeavor. With a cast of quirky supporting characters, including a woman who perpetually identifies people by the animal they most remind her of, and Bronfman’s mother (who was a single mother wearing red lipstick at a time when women of a certain age were supposed to be sexless house cleaners), this is the feel-good book of the spring. –Becky

Bloomsbury Picks for April

Matthew Desmond
Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Nonfiction
Evicted chronicles the evictions of eight families in Milwaukee, families of different sizes and backgrounds with a shared circumstance. Arlene is a struggling single mother. Scott is a nurse whose back injury led to an opiate addiction. Lamar is a war veteran, recovering addict, double amputee and resident father-figure to the boys of the neighborhood. Desmond tells complex stories that explore poverty not as a structural or cultural force, but as an interaction between rich and poor. He details the business of eviction, from landlords to eviction courts to the moving crew and the storage facilities. Housing is “too fundamental a human need” to be treated as just a business, Desmond argues. He proposes solutions, including increasing funding to eviction courts and a universal voucher program, but also declares, “If our cities and towns are rich in diversity—with unique textures and styles, gifts and problems—so too must be our solutions.” I couldn’t stop reading. –review by Becky

womeninthecastleWOMEN IN THE CASTLE
Jessica Shattuck
Marianne von Lingenfels, a widow in war-torn Germany at the height of World War II, valiantly continues her husband’s valuable work in the resistance after he is executed for his participation in in a failed assassination attempt on Hitler. Following the war, Marianne joins with two other “resistance widows” to form a makeshift family. As her once black-and-white world turns to rubble, Mariane must come to terms with not only her own political history, but that of her loved ones and fellow countrymen as well. Through the three very different lives and paths of these women, Shattuck explores how war turns ordinary people into both heroes and villains, pitting the best and worst aspects of human nature against each other as survival becomes more and more difficult. –review by Becky


Bloomsbury Picks for March

strangerinthewoodsSTRANGER IN THE WOODS
Michael Finkel
A young man parks his car and disappears into the forest in Maine. For three decades he manages to survive through freezing winters with no contact with anyone. A fascinating true story of survival. –review by Karen


edgarandlucyEDGAR AND LUCY
Victor Lodato
From the very first pages, young Edgar captures the reader’s heart. He is so fragile and so vulnerable. While his bond with his grandmother is strong and loving, his relationship to his mother, Lucy, is distant and complicated. And with a father long dead and gone due to curious, unspeakable circumstances, Grandmother Florence is Edgar’s lifeline. When she dies, he finds himself gravitating toward another pair of welcoming arms – those of the man in the green truck. A troublesome entanglement ensues, and lives are shattered and rebuilt. The story brutally, yet tenderly, examines the ties, lies and secrets between parents, children, lovers and the lonely. This is an absolutely beautifully written and compelling novel. –review by Anita


Caitriona Lally
Vivian keeps her great aunt’s ashes in a box rather than an urn because “death in a box is more real than death in a jar.” She doesn’t like verbs because they expect too much. She always checks wardrobes for Narnia, and spends her days searching for the portal to take her back to her real world—wherever that may be. At the novel’s onset Vivian is advertising for a friend named Penelope (so that she can eventually ask her friend why her name doesn’t rhyme with antelope). When Penelope answers the ad, Vivian’s quest to find her rightful place in the physical world may actually begin. Hailed in Ireland for an unusual voice and creative plot, Lally’s novel is charming, quirky, and full of literary allusions. –review by Becky


exitwestEXIT WEST
Moshin Hamid
This is a beautiful and sensuous love story, told against the backdrop of war and devastation. In an unnamed city, Nadia and Saeed meet and fall in love. But as conditions in the city deteriorate, they plan their escape. In fact, “all over the world people were slipping away from where they had been, from once fertile plains cracking with dryness, from seaside villages gasping beneath tidal surges, from overcrowded cities and murderous battlefields”. The story has a mystical element where in order to escape these refugees must pass through a magic door to another location. Hamid captures the spirit, despair and longing of those forced from their homeland to places unknown. “…everyone migrates, even if we stay in the same houses our whole lives, because we can’t help it. We are all migrants through time.” –review by Anita

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