Friday, January 24, 2014

BEST OF 2013: Adult Fiction & Nonfiction

There are a lot of potentially great 2013 books that I haven't gotten around to reading yet (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah and  Charles Graeber's The Good Nurse are next up in my towering to-read pile!), but after surveying our entire library staff, here are our picks for 2013's Best Books for Adults:


Fiction
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
Weaving back and forth through time and across characters, this compelling first novel begins with an eight-year-old girl who watched as her father was "disappeared" by Russian soldiers in the middle of the night.  Akhmed, the not-so-good physician of the local Chechen village and a family friend, is determined to rescue Haava from a similar fate and seeks the assistance of a cynical, tough-minded surgeon at a nearby hospital. The story centers on just five days of the lives of Haava, Akhmed, and Sonja, and yet it provides an almost magical look at the myriad connections—both discovered and never realized—that shape peoples lives, especially in a time of war.

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
Even before it was discovered that Robert Galbraith was a pseudonym for author J.K. Rowling, this compelling mystery  about a P.I. and his new office temp teaming up to investigate the suspicious death of a young model had the attention of critics. Describes by one reviewer for Library Journal as "a mash-up of Charles Dickens and Penny Vincenzi."

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
In this mesmerizing story of love, loss, obsession, and the haunting power of art, a young man who lost his mother in an tragic accident grows to adulthood, only to become entangled in the art underworld of New York City

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
In this stunning, thought-provoking novel, Ursula Todd goes through a series of  lives and deaths, experiencing wars and epidemics in ever-changing circumstances. Every time she hits a bad end—done in by Spanish flu, murdered by an abusive husband, killed in a bombing raid—it all begins again. Often, she has a nagging sense of déjà vu, but she can never put her finger on why. Reading Life After Life is like reading a sophisticated Choose Your Own novel for grown-ups, one that resets itself. Atkinson weaves an intricate web of parallel paths, detours, and intersections which is utterly fascinating, sometimes heartbreaking, and frequently startling with  unanticipated moments of sharp humor.

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri


This emotionally powerful story of two brothers born in a quiet village outside Calcutta spans decades and continents. In an era of political turmoil, the brothers choose divergent paths—Subhash retreating to a quiet university in New England while Udayan becomes increasingly involved in a Mao-inspired rebellion against India’s social iniquities—and yet their lives remain almost fatalistically entwined despite their estrangement. Perceptive and universal in theme, the story explores the myriad nuances of guilt, marriage, parenthood, moral conviction, loyalty, and betrayal through day-to-day events against the more expansive backdrop of world affairs. The Lowland unfolds slowly, but Lahiri’s elegant prose and full characterizations make for a riveting tale.
  From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Interpreter of Maladies.

The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood
A woman stuck in a loveless marriage and an obituary writer looking for her lost love discover a surprising connection. Part literary mystery and part love story, this novel is full of grief, shame, and hope.

The Returned by Jason Mott
The world is turned upside down in this emotional novel in which people inexplicably begin returning from the dead. At the heart of the story is an elderly couple whose 8-year-old son suddenly reappears nearly 50 years after his death.

Six Years by Harlan Coben
Six years after the love of his life left him to marry another man, Professor Jake Sanders learns that this rival is dead and that the woman of his dreams is not who she claimed to be. Betrayals and secrets are unearthed as Jake then races against the clock to track down the real woman he once loved and lost.

Sycamore Row by John Grisham
Reader favorite Jack Brigance, the attorney from A Time to Kill, makes a reappearance in Ford County, Mississippi, in this surprisingly suspenseful courtroom drama about wills, racial tension, and family secrets.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
The author of The Jane Austen Book Club creates another unforgettable work in this heartbreaking work about family dysfunction. This is a book best read "blind"; spoilers contained in some reviews and blurbs may ruin the experience otherwise.

Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts
Eli Landon is suffering from the public and police scrutiny after being wrongly impli- cated in the murder of his soon-to-be wife. He then takes refuge in a old family home and falls in love with resident housekeeper Abra Walsh, with whom he is entangled in an old, life-threatening mystery.


Nonfiction
Empty Mansions by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell, Jr.
A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and a distant family member reconstruct the life of a reclusive copper heiress in this fascinating tale of family scandal, privilege, and a surprising path to happiness.

Happy, Happy, Happy by Phil Robertson
The Duck Dynasty star chronicles his unusual life from childhood through the founding of the family business.

A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout & Sara Corbett
Through clear, gorgeous prose and raw honesty, Lindhout recounts the year she spent as a hostage in Somalia for over a year. The harrowing story is balanced by Lindhout's descriptions of her childhood, her youthful interest in world travel inspired by National Geographic, and her almost-accidental introduction into the world of combat-zone reporting.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
Facebook COO and and top-ranked businesswoman Sheryl Sandberg shares though-provoking advice for women, urging them to seek professional challenges and take more risks to find work that they can feel passionate about.

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
Through the deaths of five young men in her Mississippi community over the course of four years, the National Book Award–winning author explores the realities of poverty and blackness in America. This candid, beautifully wrought account maintains a light, humanistic touch but does not gloss over the gritty details.


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