Ten Riveting New Reads

book listA glowing tribute to George Eliot, a rich debut novel and more riveting recent releases recommended by O, The Oprah Magazine.

1.  My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca-Mead – Rebecca Mead was a young woman in an English coastal town when she first read George Eliot’s Middlemarch.   After gaining admission to Oxford, and moving to the United States to become a journalist, through several love affairs, then marriage and family, Mead read and reread Middlemarch.  In this wise and revealing work of biography, reporting, and memoir, Rebecca Mead leads us into the life that the book made for her.

2.  The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson -Regina Robichard works for Thurgood Marshall, who receives an unusual letter asking the NAACP to investigate the murder of a returning black war hero. It is signed by M. P. Calhoun, the most reclusive author in the country.  Once down in Mississippi, Regina finds that nothing in the South is as it seems. She must navigate the muddy waters of racism, relationships, and her own tragic past.

3.  The Visionist by Rachel Urquhart – After 15-year-old Polly Kimball sets fire to the family farm, killing her abusive father, she and her young brother find shelter in a Massachusetts Shaker community called the City of Hope.  The City of Hope has not yet been blessed with a Visionist, but that changes when Polly arrives. As she struggles to keep her dark secrets concealed in the face of increasing scrutiny, Polly finds herself in a life-changing friendship with a young Shaker sister named Charity, a girl who will stake everything–even her faith–on Polly’s honesty and purity.

4.  I Forgot To Remember: A Memoir of Amnesiaby Su Meck -In 1988 Su Meck was twenty-two and married with two children when a ceiling fan in her kitchen fell and struck her on the head, leaving her with a traumatic brain injury.   Although her body healed rapidly, her memories never returned. Yet after just three weeks in the hospital, Su was released and once again charged with the care of two toddlers and a busy household.  In her own indelible voice, Su offers us a view from the inside of a terrible injury.   Piercing, heartbreaking, but finally uplifting, this book is the true story of a woman determined to live life on her own terms.

5.  Queen Sugarby Natalie Baszile –  Charley Bordelon’s late father left her eight hundred sprawling acres of sugarcane land in rural Louisiana.  Recognizing this as a chance to start over, Charley and her eleven-year-old daughter, Micah, say good-bye to Los Angeles.

They arrive just in time for growing season but no amount of planning can prepare Charley for a Louisiana that’s mired in the past.   As the sweltering summer unfolds, Charley must balance the overwhelming challenges of her farm with the demands of a homesick daughter, a bitter and troubled brother, and the startling desires of her own heart.

6.  This Dark Road to Mercyby Wiley Cash -After their mother’s unexpected death, twelve-year-old Easter and her six-year-old sister Ruby are adjusting to life in foster care when their errant father, Wade, suddenly appears. Since Wade signed away his legal rights, the only way he can get his daughters back is to steal them away in the night.

Brady Weller, the girls’ court-appointed guardian, begins looking for Wade, and he quickly turns up unsettling information linking Wade to a recent armored car heist, one with a whopping $14.5 million missing. But Brady Weller isn’t the only one hunting the desperate father.

7.  Glitter and Glueby Kelly Corrigan – When Kelly Corrigan was in high school, her mother neatly summarized the family dynamic as “Your father’s the glitter but I’m the glue.” This meant nothing to Kelly, and  after college,  she took off for Australia to see things and do things and Become Interesting.  In a matter of months, her savings shot, she had a choice: get a job or go home. That’s how Kelly met John Tanner, a newly widowed father of two looking for a live-in nanny.  In that house in a suburb north of Sydney,  her mother’s voice was suddenly everywhere, nudging and advising, cautioning and directing, escorting her through a terrain as foreign as any she had ever trekked. Every day she spent with the Tanner kids was a day spent reconsidering her relationship with her mother, turning it over in her hands like a shell, straining to hear whatever messages might be trapped in its spiral.

8.  Out of the Woods: A Memoir of Wayfindingby Lynn Darling -When her college-bound daughter leaves home, Lynn Darling, widowed over a decade earlier, finds herself alone. Searching for answers, she leaves New York for the solitary woods of Vermont. Removed from the familiar, cocooned in the natural world, her only companions a new dog and a compass, she hopes to develop a sense of direction—both in the woods and in her life.

9.  On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee. Set in the distant future, On Such a Full Sea chronicles the odyssey of Fan, a descendent of Chinese immigrants living in the B-Mor (formerly Baltimore), an agricultural hub that funnels customized vegetables and tank-raised fish to the Charter villages, gated communities where plutocrats cruelly dictate the fates of serfs. Interspersed among the villages and B-Mor are the counties, lawless regions where enslavement and murder are the norm. After her boyfriend, Reg, vanishes, the pregnant Fan strikes out on her own, risking physical assaults and reversals of fortune to search for him.

10. Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle. A tale inspired by the life of Henry VIII’s sixth wife follows her reluctant marriage to the egotistical and powerful king in spite of her love for Thomas Seymour, a situation that compels her to make careful choices in a treacherous court.

O, The Oprah Magazine Picks 10 Best Books of 2013

oO, The Oprah Magazine has highlighted some wonderful books throughout the year, but has chosen the following as the 1o Best Books of 2013.

The Isle of Youth by Laura van den Berg – This book explores the lives of women mired in secrecy and deception. From a newlywed caught in an inscrutable marriage, to private eyes working a baffling case in South Florida, to a teenager who assists her magician mother and steals from the audience, the characters in these bewitching stories are at once vulnerable and dangerous, bighearted and ruthless, and they will do what it takes to survive.

Country Girl: A Memoir by Edna O’Brien – A rich and heady accounting of the events, people, emotions, and landscape that have imprinted upon and enhanced one lifetime.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert – A 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.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell – A magical new collection of short stores.

The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner – The riveting story of a young artist and the worlds she encounters in New York and Rome in the mid-1970s—by turns underground, elite, and dangerous.

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride – The story of a young boy born a slave who joins John Brown’s antislavery crusade—and who must pass as a girl to survive.

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer – The summer that Nixon resigns, six teenagers at a summer camp for the arts become inseparable. Decades later the bond remains powerful, but so much else has changed.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith – A brilliant mystery in a classic vein: Detective Cormoran Strike investigates a supermodel’s suicide.

Dog Songs by Mary Oliver – A collection of new and favorite poems, celebrating the dogs that have enriched the poet’s world.

The Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shacochis – In riveting prose, Shacochis builds a complex and disturbing story about the coming of age of America in a pre-9/11 world.