The end of the calendar year is always a time to look back, but it’s also a fun time to look forward. While I don’t always stick to a reading list, I do like to make one. Here’s what is looking good to me. What books are in your reading future?
(All summaries provided by individual publishers. I have edited for space.)
At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier
James Goodenough, whose family had originally settled in Connecticut from England brings his family to Ohio to carve out a new life for them in the Black Swamp in 1838, but as swamp fever gradually picks off their children and they wrestle daily with survival, this course will see their family engulfed in tragedy. Fifteen years later we pick up with their youngest son, Robert, who has been running west since then trying to escape his memories of what happened, taking solace in a very different kind of tree–the redwoods and sequoias of California. But Robert’s past catches up with him and he’s forced to confront what he’s running from and work out for himself that you can’t run for ever.
Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen
Over the past seven years, Bruce Springsteen has privately devoted himself to writing the story of his life, bringing to these pages the same honesty, humor, and originality found in his songs. He describes growing up Catholic in Freehold, New Jersey, amid the poetry, danger, and darkness that fueled his imagination. He vividly recounts his relentless drive to become a musician, his early days as a bar band king in Asbury Park, and the rise of the E Street Band. With disarming candor, he also tells for the first time the story of the personal struggles that inspired his best work, and shows us why the song “Born to Run” reveals more than we previously realized.
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
A gripping memoir and medical suspense story about a young New York Post reporter’s struggle with a rare and terrifying disease, opening a new window into the fascinating world of brain science.
In this swift and breathtaking narrative, Susannah tells the astonishing true story of her inexplicable descent into madness and the brilliant, lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn’t happen.
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
The enthralling story of how an unexpected romantic encounter irrevocably changes two families’ lives. Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. A story of love and marriage, death and divorce, and a dark secret from childhood that lies underneath it all.
Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo
The extraordinary narrative of one of the most far-reaching and elaborate deceptions in art history. Investigative reporters Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo brilliantly recount the tale of a great con man and unforgettable villain, John Drewe, and his sometimes unwitting accomplices. His story stretches from London to Paris to New York, from Manhattan art galleries to the archives of the Tate Gallery. Provenance reads like a well-plotted thriller, filled with unforgettable characters and told at a break-neck pace.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life—and her relationship with her family and the world—forever. As she struggles to cope with Alzheimer’s, she learns that her worth is comprised of far more than her ability to remember.
The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok
In the tradition of The Glass Castle, two sisters confront schizophrenia in this poignant literary memoir about family and mental illness. Through stunning prose and original art, The Memory Palace captures the love between mother and daughter, the complex meaning of truth, and family’s capacity for forgiveness
The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin
When Truman Capote gains access to New York high society, he builds an unlikely friendship with socialite Babe Paley.
Of all the glamorous stars of New York high society, none blazes brighter than Babe Paley and her friends, the alluring socialite Swans. But beneath this elegantly composed exterior dwells a passionate woman, desperately longing for true love and connection. Enter Truman Capote. Through Babe, Truman gains unparalleled access to the scandal and gossip of Babe’s powerful circle. Babe never imagines the destruction Truman will leave in his wake– even when the stories aren’t his to tell.
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
In this tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard.
What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan
Rachel Jenner is walking in a Bristol park with her eight-year-old son Ben when he asks if he can run ahead. It’s an ordinary request on an ordinary Sunday afternoon, and Rachel has no reason to worry–until Ben vanishes. Police are called, search parties go out, and Rachel, already insecure after her recent divorce, feels herself coming undone. As hours and then days pass without a sign of Ben, everyone who knew him is called into question, from Rachel’s newly married ex-husband to her mother-of-the-year sister.
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
A profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis who attempts to answer the question, What makes a life worth living? At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer.
What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir.
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