The May 2008 Book Sense Picks & Notables Preview

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Here is the full listing of May Book Sense Picks, with booksellers' comments, as well as a preview of the month's Notables. Independent booksellers in the Book Sense program will be receiving their May Picks fliers in the April Red Box.

Friday, April 4, is the deadline for the June Picks list. Booksellers can submit Book Sense Picks recommendations via e-mail to or via the electronic nomination form on ABA's trade website,

The May 2008 Book Sense Picks

1. THE OUTLANDER, by Gil Adamson (Ecco, $25.95, 9780061491252 / 006149125X) "The Outlander is a breathlessly told tale of a murderess widow who flees into the mountain wilderness, pursued by her vengeance-seeking brothers-in-law. As she makes her hapless way, she meets up with an entertainingly odd series of characters who propel her on her journey, their eccentricities mirroring her sometimes faltering mind. A marvelous adventure in the early 1900s North American West." --Kathleen Johnson, Prairie Lights Books, Iowa City, IA

CHILD 44, by Tom Rob Smith (Grand Central, $24.99, 9780446402385 / 0446402389) "The remarkable achievement of Child 44 is its invocation of a paranoid, brutal Orwellian domain in which society's moral compass is spinning like a roulette wheel. This snowy, bitter world is realized with cinematic vividness, and the plot maintains a nerve-wracking tension throughout. A great thriller for people who don't always read this genre." --Ken A. White, SFSU Bookstore, San Francisco, CA

SO BRAVE, YOUNG, AND HANDSOME, by Leif Enger (Atlantic, $24, 9780871139856 / 0871139855) "Enger again explores the often transparent line between good and bad, focusing his story on characters who fall in the gray in-between. Failed novelist Monte Becket accompanies his friend, Glendon Hale, a former outlaw, to Mexico to find Hale's estranged wife. Their adventures along the way, and the surprising end of their journey, make for an exciting and thought-provoking read." --Erica Caldwell, Present Tense, Batavia, NY

THE GOD OF WAR, by Marisa Silver (Simon & Schuster, $23, 9781416563167 / 1416563164) "Marisa Silver's story of 12-year-old Ares Ramirez, living with his mother and younger brother in a trailer at the edge of the Salton Sea, tells us unvarnished truths about those who are different, whether physically, emotionally, or by virtue of circumstance. The result is a novel that is as true to life as it is unforgettable." --Betsy Burton, The King's English, Salt Lake City, UT

THE WHITE TIGER, by Aravind Adiga (Free Press, $24, 9781416562597 / 1416562591) "The very talented Aravind Adiga's debut novel of chauffer Balram Halwai and his dark rise in society left me just too amazed for words. I knew something of India from other books I have read, but never has any other writer captured the way of life as well as Adiga does in this book, nor conveyed it in such a strong voice." --Ellie Joubert, Bear Pond Books of Montpelier, Montpelier, VT

THE GIRL WITH NO SHADOW, by Joanne Harris (Morrow, $24.95, 9780061431623 / 0061431621) "Take a handful of magic, flavor it with Paris, mix in a large splash of folklore, cover it with chocolate and you've got a fool-proof, deeply satisfying recipe for a rich, absorbingtale that will keep you reading late into the night. This sequel to Chocolat is, quite simply, extraordinary." --Debbi Burton, The Rediscovered Bookshop, Boise, ID

THE GIFT OF RAIN: A Novel, by Tan Twan Eng (Weinstein Books, $23.95, 9781602860247 / 1602860246) "Set in Malaya over several decades, the book opens in 1939, when Philip, a half-Chinese, half-British teenager becomes the student and guide for a Japanese diplomat who becomes his Sensei master. It is only after the Japanese invade Malaya that the boy realizes that his teacher, to whom he has proudly shown and told so much, is a Japanese spy. Intrigue, love, politics, and war are intricately woven together in this story of complex and fascinating characters." --Elaine Petrocelli, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA

THE HOST, by Stephenie Meyer (Little, Brown, $25.99, 9780316068048 / 0316068047) "Earth's population is slowly being taken over by an alien species who implant themselves in host bodies to stop humanity from destroying itself. One of them finds herself in the body of a rebellious young woman named Melanie, who is determined to reunite with her young brother and her boyfriend at all costs. This multifaceted story that keeps you turning pages until the exciting conclusion." --Holly Frakes, Schuler Books & Music, Lansing, MI

THE PLAGUE OF DOVES, by Louise Erdrich (HarperCollins, $25.95, 9780060515126 / 0060515120) "Louise Erdrich's complex history of the families in a North Dakota, mixed-blood reservation town reveals its secrets slowly through the unique voices of the community. These characters require us to pay attention and to move from psychological and philosophical musing to delightful storytelling full of magic and intrigue. Thoroughly enjoyable." --Kathleen Costello, Maria's Bookshop, Durango, CO

PEACE, by Richard Bausch (Knopf, $19.95, 9780307268334 / 0307268330) "This short novel set in Italy in WWII follows a small band of soldiers step by brutal step through one horrendous night. They struggle with torturous elements, an awful ethical dilemma, and an unseen enemy. Bleak and relentless, Peace is an excellent novel about the moment-to-moment, awful reality of war." --Stan Hynds, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, VT

THE HOUSE AT RIVERTON: A Novel, by Kate Morton (Atria, $24.95, 9781416550518 / 1416550518) "Grace Bradley, now 98, recalls her time as a young maid working at Riverton Manor at the dawn of WWI. She is witness to an incidentduring a summer party, the suicide of a famous poet. What happened that night between the poet and the beautiful young sisters of the manor down by the pond? As Grace tells her story, Kate Morton slowly reveals all the mysteries of decades past. A wonderful, evocative novel." --Karen Vail, Armchair Bookstore, Dennis, MA

THE ROMANOV BRIDE, by Robert Alexander (Viking, $24.95, 9780670018819 / 0670018813) "Revolutionary Russia is the setting for this novel of love, loss, and redemption. Robert Alexander's third Romanov novel examines the tragic lives of a young revolutionary and the widowed duchess, Elisavyeta. Adeptly presented with alternating points of view, readers will be intrigued to discover the compelling drama of one of Russia's lesser-known historical figures. Heartily recommended." --Dave Lederer, Vero Beach Book Center, Vero Beach, FL

BONK: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex, by Mary Roach (Norton, $24.95, 9780393064643 / 0393064646) "An absolutely fantastic book that will have you laughing and blushing at the same time! As she did with Spook and Stiff, Mary Roach again uses her wonderful storytelling talents to combine her knowledge of science (this time examining current and historical studies of sex) with the curious and absurd." --Lori Kauffman, Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA

THE LEGEND OF COLTON H. BRYANT, by Alexandra Fuller (Penguin Press, $23.95, 9781594201837 / 1594201838) "Alexandra Fuller's new title is a vivid recounting of the raw and poignant life of a young oil-rig worker in the modern-day American West. Writing about what she knows gives Fuller the ability to develop an unparalleled truthfulness and depth to both her scenes and subjects." --Kathleen Thut, Inkwell Bookstore, Falmouth, MA

THINGS I WANT MY DAUGHTERS TO KNOW, by Elizabeth Noble (Morrow, $22.95, 9780061122194 / 006112219X) "This novel of a mother's letters left for her daughters after her death is a gift from mother to daughters wrapped up in a story that will make you miss your own mom. Give it to her for Mother's Day. She'll love it." --Keri Holmes, The Kaleidoscope: Our Focus Is You, Hampton, IA

SKELETONS AT THE FEAST, by Chris Bohjalian (Shaye Areheart Books, $25, 9780307394958 / 0307394956) "Set duringthe end of World War II, Skeletons at the Feast tells the story of the Emmerichs, a Prussian family who leave their estate and head west to escape the approaching Russian army. Based on the real diaries of a family friend, Bohjalian has captured the horror and senselessness of war as well as the power of friendship, love, and family." --Laura Lucy, White Birch Books, North Conway, NH

A VOYAGE LONG AND STRANGE: Rediscovering the New World, by Tony Horwitz (Holt, $27.50, 9780805076035 / 0805076034) "Tony Horwitz fills in the blank (and decidedly bloody) century of American history between the voyage of Columbus in 1492 and the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620, breathing life back into forgotten Spanish conquistadors, Elizabethan colonists, and massacred Indians, dispelling historical myths and giving an additional nod to the Vikings, who settled briefly in Newfoundland around 1000 AD." --Arlene Cook, Watermark Book Co., Anacortes, WA

THE CONVERSION, by Joseph Olshan (St. Martin's, $24.95, 9780312373917 / 0312373910) "Joseph Olshan's The Conversion is delicately, yet powerfully, rendered, taking the reader through layers, twists, and turns to a surprise ending in a novel of deep and intricate characterization. Beginning in Paris, the characters travel to an Italian villa that is so carefully and evocatively described that it, too, becomes one of Olshan's beautifully drawn characters. A must read." --Susan Morgan, The Yankee Bookshop, Woodstock, VT

THE STORY OF A MARRIAGE, by Andrew Sean Greer (Farrar, $22, 9780374108663 / 0374108668) "This sensitive novel about a love triangle in 1950s San Francisco is a wonderful stew of race, sexual identity, family, and war. Greer's lush prose is full of gems, and the plot's twists and turns fairly take your breath away." --Matthew Lage, Iowa Book LLC, Iowa City, IA

AFTER HOURS AT THE ALMOST HOME, by Tara Yellen (Unbridled, $14.95 paper, 9781932961485 / 1932961488) "Tara Yellen's debut novel is a delicious character study. We've all been to the After Hours bar, although it probably had a different name. Yellen has a remarkable ability to touch and identify our own character traits and to deliver them to us in this touching, sometimes uncomfortable, book. A vivid snapshot of today's celebrations and pathos. Highly recommended." --Nancy Simpson, The Book Vault, Oskaloosa, IA

The May 2008 Book Sense Notables


CATHEDRAL OF THE SEA, by Ildefonso Falcones (Dutton, $26.95, 9780525950486 / 0525950486)

CHEZ MOI, by Agnes Descarthe (Penguin, $14 paper, 9780143113232 / 0143113232)

CLIMBING THE STAIRS, by Padma Venkatraman (Putnam, $16.99, 9780399247460 / 0399247467)

THE FORGERY OF VENUS, by Michael Gruber (Morrow, $24.95, 9780060874483/ 0060874481)

OF MEN AND THEIR MOTHERS, by Mameve Medwed (Morrow, $24.95, 9780060831219 / 0060831219)

RIVER OF HEAVEN, by Lee Martin (Shaye Areheart Books, $24, 9780307381248 / 0307381242)

THE SUGAR QUEEN, by Sarah Addison Allen (Bantam, $22, 9780553805499 / 0553805495)

WRACK & RUIN, by Don Lee (Norton, $23.95, 9780393062328 / 0393062325)


COMFORT: A Journey Through Grief, by Ann Hood (Norton, $21.95, 9780393064568 / 0393064565)

FOOD 2.0: Secrets from the Chef Who Fed Google, by Charlie Ayers (DK, $25, 9780756633585 / 0756633583)

HALF-ASSED: A Weight-Loss Memoir, by Jennette Fulda (Seal, $15.95 paper, 9781580052337 / 1580052339)

PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions, by Dan Ariely (HarperCollins, $25.95, 9780061353239 / 006135323X)

SUNDAYS IN AMERICA: A Yearlong Road Trip in Search of Christian Faith, by Suzanne Strempek Shea (Beacon, $25.95, 9780807072240 / 0807072249)

UNTAPPED: The Scramble for Africa's Oil, by John Ghazvinian (Harvest, $15 paper, 9780156033725 / 0156033720)

THE WOMAN'S FIELD GUIDE TO EXCEPTIONAL LIVING: Practical Steps for Living a Big, Bold, Beautiful Life!, by Corrie Woods (Morgan James Publishing, $14.95 paper, 9781600373954 / 160037395X)


QUIVER, by Peter Leonard (St. Martin's, $24.95, 9780312379025 / 0312379021)