The Summer 2015 Indie Next List for Reading Groups Preview

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Here is a preview of the Summer 2015 Indie Next List for Reading Groups, which ABA member stores in the IndieBound movement will be receiving in the July Red Box.

In addition to the Top Ten favorites chosen by booksellers, the list presents 33 additional titles in six categories — “Extraordinary Lives,” “Visionary Tales,” “Engrossing Nonfiction,” “Families … and Other Challenges,” “Exciting New Voices,” and “Compelling Characters” — offering the promise of great discussions for every kind of reading group.

The twice-yearly Indie Next List for Reading Groups is the most requested of any printed list that the American Booksellers Association produces. Stores are encouraged to use the list as a handout at author events and special reading group nights and to offer copies as a takeaway in in-store displays.

“Indie booksellers are strong proponents of reading groups of all types, and we are grateful to the many booksellers across the country who nominated their favorites to make this another outstanding list,” said ABA Development Officer Mark Nichols. “Now, we hope booksellers will take a few minutes to nominate some of their favorite new titles publishing this fall for the October and November Indie Next lists:

  • August 4 is the nomination deadline for the October 2015 Indie Next List.
  • September 4 is the nomination deadline for the November 2015 Indie Next List.

Booksellers can nominate their favorites using the form found here; by sending their thoughts to [email protected]; or by leaving comments on the book’s title page on either Edelweiss or NetGalley and checking the box to share with IndieBound.

Stores that would like to receive additional copies of the Summer 2015 Indie Next List for Reading Groups should send a request via e-mail to Nichols.

The Summer 2015 Indie Next List for Reading Groups

The Top Ten

1. Euphoria: A Novel, by Lily King
(Grove Press, 9780802123701, $16)
“Loosely based on Margaret Mead’s time in Papua New Guinea, this engaging, insightful novel features three young anthropologists in the 1930s who studied the remote, primitive Sepik River tribes. Euphoria is about cutting-edge research and revolutionary ideas, but inevitably, it is also about the complications within the scholars’ relationships when societal norms are stripped away, and love, greed, jealousy, and control are left unfettered. Artfully narrated, alternating between first person and third person as well as journal entries, King’s novel offers a unique view into these rich and complicated characters.” —Katie McDougall, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN

2. Boy, Snow, Bird: A Novel, by Helen Oyeyemi
(Riverhead Trade, 9781594633409, $16)
“In 1953, Boy Novak runs away from her home on the Lower East Side of New York and ends up in a small town in Massachusetts. She marries Arturo Whitman, a widower with an adored daughter named Snow, and the three live happily until the birth of Bird, whose dark skin exposes the Whitmans as African-Americans passing for white. Oyeyemi is a stunning talent who examines the disparity in how we perceive ourselves and how we allow others to perceive us. Boy, Snow, Bird is a bewitching and beguiling tale with unforgettable characters.” —Amanda Hurley, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL

3. The Husband’s Secret: A Novel, by Liane Moriarty
(Berkley, 9780425267721, $16)
“Many years ago, Cecelia’s husband wrote her a letter to be opened in the event of his death. She didn’t know it existed until she stumbled across it when she knocked over an old box of financial records. Its secret could change everything for three women and their families. What will Cecelia do? This literary page-turner raises questions about what is right, moral, just, and legal, while it also beautifully illustrates how interconnected we all are. Let the discussion begin!” —Keri Holmes Rojas, Cornerstone Cottage Books, Hampton, IA

4. The Empathy Exams: Essays, by Leslie Jamison
(Graywolf Press, 9781555976712, $15)
“The essays in Jamison’s collection establish her as a gifted emotional cartographer, a welcome anomaly in a world of cold, predictable think pieces. These essays explore our human need to be heard and understood, as well as the challenges we face as minds bound to bodies that experience pain and failure. Jamison’s investigations into the power and perils of empathy range widely — from a stint as a medical actor to participation in a conference for sufferers of a mysterious, some say imaginary, illness — but each leads her readers closer to an essential truth about what it means to care.” —Danielle Dubois Dimond, Brazos Bookstore, Houston, TX

5. Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League: A Novel, by Jonathan Odell
(Maiden Lane Press, dist. Ingram Publisher Services, 9781940210049, $16)
“In this revision of the previously published The View From Delphi, Odell writes with both passion and a heavy dose of reality about the town of Delphi, Mississippi, in the early 1950s. Two women — one white, one black, and both damaged by tragedy — are drawn to each other in spite of their differences, and together they work to conquer fear and discrimination. This is a must-read for fans of The Help. Here is my favorite quote: ‘You can’t divide us any more than you can divide air ... we all breathe through one another’s history.’” —Carol Katsoulis, Anderson’s Bookshop, Naperville, IL

6. Station Eleven: A Novel, by Emily St. John Mandel
(Vintage, 9780804172448, $15.95)
“In this spellbinding novel, St. John Mandel has created an unforgettable, alarming, and beautiful world. The story takes place in the wake of a flu pandemic which has decimated the world’s population, resulting in a bleak, dystopian future for the few who survive.​ Moving back and forth in time from the death of a famous actor on stage to the fate of a travelling musical troupe twenty years later, this frightening — and somehow heartening — novel is terrifyingly good. At once brutal, magical, and dreamlike, it begs to be read, recommended, and discussed!” —Tova Beiser, Brown University Bookstore, Providence, RI

7. The Plover: A Novel, by Brian Doyle
(Picador, 9781250062451, $16)
“A solitary sea journey for an epically disillusioned man named Declan O’Donnell evolves into a rousing adventure tale in Doyle’s The Plover. O’Donnell’s small boat becomes the refuge of a number of unexpected — and largely unwelcome — passengers, all of them anxious to leave their former lives bobbing in the ship’s wake. Lyrical and literate, this novel is as much a love story dedicated to the sea as it is an exciting and ultimately moving human drama.” —Alden Graves, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, VT

8. Radiance of Tomorrow: A Novel, by Ishmael Beah
(Sarah Crichton Books, 9780374535032, $14)
“Beah’s lush and beautiful prose draws the reader into a story both devastating and uplifting. What happens after true evil destroys a country? In A Long Way Gone Beah wrote a moving memoir about the carnage in his native Sierra Leone. Now, his novel deals with what comes after the battles are over. How do people confront what they have endured and move on? Beah creates many memorable characters, each with tales that will break your heart while they also give you hope for the future.” —Deon Stonehouse, Sunriver Books & Music, Sunriver, OR

9. Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening: How I Learned the Unexpected Joy of a Green Thumb, by Carol Wall
(Berkley, 9780425273838, $16)
“Aristotle described the highest level of friendship as ‘a friendship of virtue’ where there was no agenda other than a devotion to the welfare of your friend. The friendship that Carol Wall and Giles Owita share proves to be of the highest virtue. A gentle Kenyan who works in a grocery store and tends people’s gardens, Giles not only transforms Carol’s garden but also her life as he helps her to look beyond her fears and find something good in every day. Only at the end of the story do we learn how Mister Owita has risen above his own challenges.” —Heather Woodworth, Phoenix Books, Essex Junction, VT

10. Shotgun Lovesongs: A Novel, by Nickolas Butler
(St. Martin’s Griffin, 9781250039828, $15.99)
“The push and pull of a small Midwestern town is the driving force of this wistful novel about childhood friends who are bound together despite their desire to strike out on their own. Kip has left to earn his fortune in Chicago, Ronny to be a rodeo cowboy in Wyoming, Beth to find herself in Minneapolis, and Lee to New York to become a rock legend. Only Henry stays behind, taking over the family farm. Each is called back to Little Chute, Wisconsin, some to confront destiny and others to tackle their demons. This accomplished debut is sure to become a classic.” —Daniel Goldin, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

Extraordinary Lives

The Chronology of Water: A Memoir, by Lydia Yuknavitch
(Hawthorne Books, 9780979019931, $16.95)
“This is definitely not your mother’s idea of a memoir. Readers will ask many variations of the questions ‘Wait, you can put that in a memoir?’ and ‘Can you say that out-loud?’ as they work through Yuknavitch’s exploration of gender, sexuality, violence, the meaning of family, and the nature of memoir itself. Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, has said, ‘Rich with story, alive with emotion, both merciful and utterly merciless, I am forever altered by every stunning page. This is the book I’m going to press into everyone’s hands for years to come. This is the book I’ve been waiting to read all of my life.’” —Jennifer Norton, The Homer Bookstore, Homer, AK

If Only You People Could Follow Directions: A Memoir, by Jessica Hendry Nelson
(Counterpoint, 9781619024670, $15.95)
“Memory doesn’t move in a straight line. It is chaotic, digressive, and imperfect. While most memoirs force life into the restrictions of straight lines, Nelson embraces the chaos by moving back and forth in time, free-associating among memories and organizing her life into a series of essays. What could be just another memoir of a family disintegrated by substance abuse becomes a vibrant and challenging exploration of abuse, obsession, coping, family, friendship, and self-discovery.” —Josh Cook, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA

Little Failure: A Memoir, by Gary Shteyngart
(Random House Trade Paperbacks, 9780812982497, $16)
“Bursting with insight, pathos, and Shteyngart’s signature self-effacing humor, Little Failure brilliantly illustrates the struggles of an inveterate misfit from his early life in Soviet Russia to his youth in the United States. What sets this memoir apart is Shteyngart’s sparkling wit and warmth, and a voice that invites the reader inside his world. Like his novels, Shteyngart’s memoir displays an exhilarating mind at work and feels like a fresh, contemporary classic, an unforgettable lesson in growing into yourself and finding your own voice.” —Mark Haber, Brazos Bookstore, Houston, TX

Not My Father’s Son: A Memoir, by Alan Cumming
(Dey Street Books, 9780062225078, $15.99)
“Every so often reading a memoir feels like a conversation rather than a strict narrative or — the death knell for memoir — a self-indulgent romp down memory lane. Cumming’s memoir is a gorgeous, intimate conversation and it reads beautifully. The pace is perfect, the presentation truly lovely, and I felt like a close friend rather than an impersonal audience. Cumming’s early life was a struggle and he hardly shies from relating details, but the driving force behind this book is the demonstration of the many ways one can bring oneself to peace after hardship.” —Demi Marshall, Park Road Books, Charlotte, NC

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League, by Jeff Hobbs
(Scribner, 9781476731919, $16)
“On one level, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace is about unfulfilled potential and heartbreaking loss, but more importantly, it deals with the pressure we all feel to succeed and be happy in an increasingly competitive society. It is a beautiful eulogy to a friend and an accurate portrayal of what it means to be young, talented, and conflicted.” —Shawn Donley, Powell’s Books, Portland, OR

A Tender Struggle: Story of a Marriage, by Krista Bremer
(Algonquin Books, 9781616204495, $15.95; published in hardcover as My Accidental Jihad, Algonquin Books, 9781616200688)
“What a thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking work. I especially appreciated that Bremer doesn’t sugarcoat her story and is honest about the difficulties and foreignness of a bi-cultural relationship. Throughout her story love, understanding, and tolerance emerge. A Tender Struggle is perfect for book clubs as it will certainly stimulate very lively discussions.” —Adrian Newell, Warwick’s, La Jolla, CA

Visionary Tales

The Bees: A Novel, by Laline Pauli
(Ecco, 9780062331175, $15.99)
“Pauli uses real bee behavior as the basis for a tale of complex hive society, complete with a religion, a caste system, and threats from the outside world. The heroine, Flora 717, is an abnormally large and intelligent bee. Her size and strength give her opportunities to work at a variety of jobs, and as she begins to uncover the dark secrets of the hive, Flora makes a decision that could change the future of her entire hive. Well-crafted and filled with intrigue and action, this is a brilliant, thought-provoking, and completely original debut that does for bees what Richard Adams did for rabbits in Watership Down.” —Flannery Fitch, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA

The Bone Clocks: A Novel, by David Mitchell
(Random House Trade Paperbacks, 9780812976823, $18)
“Once again, Mitchell’s inventiveness and imagination prove to be nothing short of genius. He combines dark fantasy, boldly original prose, and finely drawn characters who will keep the reader riveted from Holly Sykes’ initial angst-ridden teen thought to the very last, hopeful sentence. Mitchell proves once again that he is a writer of no equal when it comes to the invention of language, place, and time, taking the reader to the edge of both the real and the imagined as if he were guiding you personally by the hand.” —Javier Ramirez, City Lit Books, Chicago, IL

The Book of Strange New Things: A Novel, by Michel Faber
(Hogarth, 9780553418866, $17)
“Peter Leigh is an evangelical Christian pastor whose mission to serve the Lord leads him into space, where he ministers to an alien race. But is he truly converting them, or is his faith leading them astray? Questions abound: Why wasn’t his wife allowed to accompany him? Why is everyone in the human base camp uninterested in the catastrophes that are befalling Earth while they are light years away? Why was Peter’s appointment as pastor to the aliens so urgent? Faber does a great job addressing the question of faith and its consequences. A great book group selection!” —Susan M. Taylor, Market Block Books, Troy, NY

The Darkest Hour: A Novel, by Tony Schumacher
(William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062339379, $14.99)
“Perfect for fans of W.E.B. Griffin and Philip Kerr, The Darkest Hour is set in 1946 London in an England where the Germans have won WWII and now occupy the country. Decorated British war hero John Henry Rossett has lost both his family and his humanity and is now tasked with rounding up Jews for deportation. Discovering a young Jewish boy hiding in an abandoned building, Rossett takes him on the run, determined to save him but unaware of the myriad forces — not just the Nazis — who are in pursuit. A powerful and suspenseful thriller!” —Carmen Perry, Stonecrest Book & Toy, Osage Beach, MO

The Queen of the Tearling: A Novel, by Erika Johansen
(Harper Paperbacks, 9780062290380, $12.99)
The Queen of the Tearling is a brilliant tale, brilliantly told. It has everything — magic, high adventure, mystery, and romance. Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, who was raised in exile, must reclaim her mother’s throne and learn to be a ruler despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles: the Red Queen, a powerful monarch in a neighboring kingdom; the Caden, a group of assassins tasked to destroy Kelsea; and her own Uncle Thomas, Regent of Tearling, who will do anything to stay in power. Kelsea must earn the trust and loyalty of her subjects and those who would protect her, and learn to use the Tearling sapphire, a jewel of immense power.” —Jerry Brown, The Bookstore, Radcliff, KY

Engrossing Nonfiction

Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade, by Walter Kirn
(Liveright, 9781631490224, $15.95)
Blood Will Out parses the convoluted relationship between writer Kirn and his Rockefeller friend, Clark, who turns out not to be a Rockefeller at all; instead, he’s a serial impostor, a murderous sociopath, and a con man of the highest order. Kirn unflinchingly reveals his own ambition, desperation, and fixation with wealth and social status that derail his shrewd writer’s instinct and allow him to be bamboozled, even as Clark’s mask slips. A blistering character study of both murderer and writer, Blood Will Out sounds an alarm about the way our own flaws compel us to see what we most desire to see and the grave danger that might put us in.” —Susan Gusho, Watermark Books and Café, Wichita, KS

The Hotel on Place Vendome: Life, Death, and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris, by Tilar J. Mazzeo
(Harper Perennial, 9780061791048, $15.99)
“This is a captivating story with a cast of characters the likes of which will never be seen in one spot again: Escoffier, Goring, de Gaulle, Churchill, Mandel, Laval, Morand, Capa, Gelhorn, Dietrich, Shaw, Proust, Cocteau, Sartre, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Chanel, to name a few. Mazzeo tells the story of the Ritz from its beginning during the Dreyfus Affair and then forward to the German occupation of Paris during WWII. Everything was happening at the Ritz and everyone wanted to be there — French, German, American — it did not matter; spies for both sides, journalists, actors, royalty, and high ranking Nazi officials. You do not have to be a history lover to enjoy this book. You only have to like a good tale about real people during a very terrifying time in history, and a hotel that turns out to be the largest character in the story.” —Lynne Pellerito Riehl, Nicola’s Books, Ann Arbor, MI

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Voyage of the USS Jeannette, by Hampton Sides
(Anchor, 9780307946911, $16.95)
“Sides tells more than a fateful story of exploration; he brings to life an entire era of discovery and the passions that drove it. We meet a wild newspaper magnate who, in addition to racing carriages at midnight in the nude, exiled himself to France after drunkenly urinating in his then-fiancée’s grand piano; an obsessive German cartographer who staunchly believed in a warm, open polar sea at the North Pole; and a strong-willed captain who fell madly in love with the impossible, glaciered grandeur of Earth above the 80th parallel. The meeting of these three eccentric minds led to the voyage of the USS Jeanette, and Sides tells the ship’s tragic story well with cinematic prose and a keen sense of his characters and their changing world.” —Michael Wallenfels, University Book Store, Seattle, WA

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stevenson
(Spiegel & Grau, 9780812984965, $16, available August)
“The history of incarceration in America is deeply colored by our history of racism and poverty. Stevenson’s work providing legal aid to death row inmates exposes truly inhumane, unjust practices and astonishing legal carelessness often fueled by outright prejudice. Just Mercy does not stop at reportage, but examines the costs of these practices to the individual, the family, the community, and society at large. This is a powerful book about one man’s efforts to address injustice and a clarion call for reform not just for those imprisoned, but for a society that has lost its way.” —Sheryl Cotleur, Copperfield’s Books, Sebastopol, CA

The Secret History of Wonder Woman, by Jill Lepore
(Vintage, 9780804173407, $16.95)
“This is a brilliantly written and fascinating look at the hidden history of Wonder Woman and her effect on the women’s movement. Through the course of the book, readers discover the context from which Wonder Woman sprang — the cultural and societal history as well as the personal life of her creator, William Moulton Marston. The story reveals the women who served as the inspiration for her genesis and influenced her story: Emmeline Pankhurst, Sadie Elizabeth Holloway, Olive Byrne, and Margaret Sanger. Lepore is particularly adept at revealing the many facets of the personalities involved — from their shining tiaras to their feet of clay. A very illuminating tale sure to spark great discussions!” —Rachel King, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany NY

Families … and Other Challenges

Bread and Butter: A Novel, by Michelle Wildgen
(Anchor, 9780345805430, $15.95)
“This is a tasty little novel that will appeal to all the foodies out there craving a story that is immersed in the restaurant business. Two brothers who own a staid, but very successful, restaurant in Philadelphia are thrown a tremendous curveball when their baby brother decides to open a competing place. Readers can expect lots of drama, love affairs, and mouthwatering descriptions of very creative dishes throughout each delectable chapter. Much to talk about — and salivate over!” —Mary Toni, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, CT

The Glass Kitchen: A Novel of Sisters, by Linda Francis Lee
(St. Martin’s Griffin, 9781250049636, $15.99)
The Glass Kitchen is a charming story of sisters, cooking, and starting over. Portia moves to New York City to be with her sisters after a humiliating divorce from a rising political star in Texas. Like her beloved grandmother, Portia is gifted with ‘The Knowing’ — an ability to ‘see’ a meal that she must cook, even though she does not know who the meal is for or what the circumstances might be. This is a warm and magical tale of love, family, and forgiveness — with some delicious recipes included!” —Patricia Worth, River Reader, Lexington, MO

The Good Girl: A Novel, by Mary Kubica
(MIRA, 9780778317760, $14.95)
“Independent and headstrong, Mia Dennett moves to the beat of her own drum. She has proudly distanced herself from her prominent, wealthy, and uptight Chicago family to teach art at an inner city high school. But, when she is abducted and held captive in a remote cabin in rural Minnesota, she wonders if her estranged family is looking for her or even knows she is missing. With Minnesota’s harsh winter bearing down, Mia and Colin, captive and captor, must forge a peace or succumb to the elements. As Colin’s motives become clear, an emotional entanglement ensues that is provocative, thrilling, and absolutely page-turning!” —Melanie Green, Bluebird Books, Hutchinson, KS

The Resurrection of Tess Blessing: A Novel, by Lesley Kagen
(SparkPress, dist. Ingram Publisher Services, 9781940716558, $15)
“After she is diagnosed with breast cancer, Tess sets forth to complete a to-do list before her impending death. She needs to make peace with her estranged sister, Birdie; scatter her mother’s ashes; help her daughter, Haddie, overcome an eating disorder; guide her son, Henry, over the bumps of adolescence; and restore the spark of her almost 30-year marriage to Will. Narrated by Grace — an imaginary friend, a guardian angel, or a part of Tess that can see beyond the circumstances — Kagen’s story is perfect for book club discussions!” —Arlene Lynes, Read Between the Lynes, Woodstock, IL

We Are Not Ourselves: A Novel, by Matthew Thomas
(Simon & Schuster, 9781476756677, $16)
“This is simply the most perfect, brilliantly written novel I have read in a long time! Suspenseful, full of heartwarming moments of lightness and love intertwined with dark moments of foreboding, it is the story of a marriage, a family, and the struggle to attain the American Dream. Most of all, it is the story of Eileen Leary, the daughter of Irish immigrants, and her unwavering strength, love, loyalty, and hopes for herself, her husband, Ed, and their son, Connell. The novel spans from 1951 to 2011 and is set primarily in New York, but the unexpected tragedy that befalls the Learys could happen in any town in any country. Immensely moving and thought-provoking!” —Maria Roden, Orinda Books, Orinda, CA

Exciting New Voices

Fourth of July Creek: A Novel, by Smith Henderson
(Ecco, 9780062286468, $15.99)
“Benjamin Pearl is a child being raised in the Montana wilderness who comes to the attention of Pete Snow, a local social worker. Mystery and darkness surround the boy and his survivalist father. Poverty and violence blend to make a bitter cocktail commonplace. While tracking the tragedies of the Pearl family, Pete is confronted with the limitations of his own relationship skills. Henderson balances the harshness of his tale with rich dialog and beautiful writing. This is an astounding debut that surprises until the very end.” —Luisa Smith, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA

A Man Called Ove: A Novel, by Fredrik Backman
(Washington Square Press, 9781496938024, $16)
A Man Called Ove by Swedish blogger and columnist Backman is one of those books you read and then want everyone else to read, too. It is also one of those books where you don’t dare go into detail about the main character, the setting, or the plot because that would ruin the experience for others. Suffice it to say that the man whose name is Ove is a curmudgeon. He’s grumpy. He’s cantankerous. And he is a delight! Long may he harrumph!” —Rene Kirkpatrick, Eagle Harbor Book Company, Bainbridge Island, WA

The Mathematician’s Shiva: A Novel, by Stuart Rojstaczer
(Penguin Books, 9780143126317, $16)
“After a famous mathematician’s death, her colleagues and rivals from all over the world gather along with her family to sit shiva and honor her memory. As the narrator remarks, it is a mistake to think that math is just about numbers, and that mathematicians are a passionate, contentious, and ambitious lot. Certain that the late Rachela Karnokovitch has solved the Navier-Stokes problem and taken the solution to her grave, the group looks for clues under floorboards, searches the house, and even interrogates her pet parrot. Readers, students of mathematics or not, will appreciate the depiction of love and family dynamics in this smart and funny debut.” —Lyn Roberts, Square Books, Oxford, MS

Painted Horses: A Novel, by Malcolm Brooks
(Grove Press, 9780802123817, $16)
“Brooks sweeps post-WWII American prosperity, ancient native traditions, and the rush to tame the still-wild West together in a novel driven by diverse and deeply realized characters that come together in a heart-pounding story. Catherine Lemay is a talented young archeologist defying the traditions of a ‘man’s world’ by accepting the challenge to explore a Montana canyon slated for flooding for hydroelectric power. What she discovers is beauty, history, threats, and John H — a former mustanger, Army veteran, and enigmatic canyon dweller. Far from her comfortable New York home, Catherine embraces Montana’s stark conditions and with John H uncovers both secrets of the region and truths within herself. A breathtaking debut!” —Cheryl McKeon, Book Passage, San Francisco, CA

The Wives of Los Alamos: A Novel, by TaraShea Nebit
(Bloomsbury, 9781620405048, $16)
“In 1943, families of mathematicians and scientists, escorted under high security, move to The Hill — Los Alamos, New Mexico. Not knowing where they’re going or why, these wives from all over the world cut their ties with friends and relatives to live in isolation, without telephones or uncensored mail. Based on the history of the development of ‘The Gadget’ — the atomic bomb — this novel reads like a collective diary of hundreds of wives. This unique first-person plural recounting of real events culminates with varied reactions to the use of this powerful weapon on the people of Japan. Nesbit portrays these delicate issues brilliantly!” —Jane Morck, Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, WA

Compelling Characters

Bark: Stories, by Lorrie Moore
(Vintage, 9780307740861, $15)
“Is there any living writer who can so effortlessly chronicle the messy absurdity, unintended humor, and quiet pathos of the human condition better than Lorrie Moore? I had been eagerly awaiting another short story collection from her, and Bark delivers in full. The Moore I’ve known and loved is back, replete with her trademark pithy one-liners, wry observations, wicked wit, and spot-on renderings of her characters’ quirks, failings, and stubborn dreams.” —Laurie Paus, The Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA

The Bird Skinner: A Novel, by Alice Greenway
(Grove Press, 9780802121059, $16)
“Following the amputation of one of his legs, ornithologist Jim Carroway withdraws from the world and settles on an island off the coast of Maine. His alcohol- and cigarette-filled solitude is interrupted when the daughter of a friend he hadn’t seen in 30 years arrives unannounced from the Solomon Islands. Jim’s memories of being stationed there during WWII as a coast watcher, as well as memories of his past life as a scientist, husband, and father, come back to haunt him over the summer the two spend together. Rich in fascinating cultural and scientific details, The Bird Skinner is a compassionate but objective exploration of the psychology of a broken man.” —Pierre Camy, Schuler Books & Music, Grand Rapids, MI

The Distant Marvels: A Novel, by Chantel Acevedo
(Europa Editions, 9781609562520, $17)
“Maria Sirena, the storyteller of The Distant Marvels, had me spellbound as she wove her tale of war, love, betrayal, and loss during Cuba’s Third War of Independence. As a group of frightened women wait out Hurricane Flora in Cuba in 1963, Maria Sirena, elderly and ailing, provides a desperately needed distraction by telling the story of her life and the story of Cuba’s struggle for independence from Spain. As captivating as Scheherazade, Maria Sirena skillfully and deliberately parcels out her incredible life story, the destruction and chaos of the hurricane no contest to the violence, sorrow, and occasional joy of her tale.” —Cathy Langer, Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, CO

Gemini: A Novel, by Carol Cassella
(Simon & Schuster, 9781451627947, $15.99)
“Life, death, genetics, parenting, and relationships are all woven into this multi-layered story. Jane Doe, the victim of a hit-and-run, lies comatose in a Washington ICU under the care of Dr. Charlotte Reese. The search for Jane’s identity reveals an intriguing history leading right back to Charlotte’s life. Using her own medical background and experience, Cassella delivers a timely novel that is fascinating, entertaining, and absorbing. Highly recommended for book clubs, who will find much to discuss.” —Nancy Simpson-Brice, The Book Vault, Oskaloosa, IA

Ruby: A Novel, by Cynthia Bond
(Hogarth, 9780804139113, $15)
“As a boy in the small East Texas town of Liberty, Ephram Jennings lost his heart to a beautiful girl named Ruby. As a middle-aged man, Ephram decides to risk the disapproval of nearly everyone in town and show his love, though by now Ruby has been nearly destroyed by the demons of her past, both real and imagined. Bond evokes Toni Morrison in her beautifully written and unflinching description of the realities of life in a small Texas town in the middle of the 20th century, where things are not always what they seem, and where the power of evil and the evil of power put up a strong fight against the power of love.” —Alice Meloy, Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, TX

Under the Wide and Starry Sky: A Novel, by Nancy Horan
(Ballantine Books, 9780345516541, $16)
“Just as she did in Loving Frank, Horan brings to life the story of a strong woman and a talented man — in this case Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne and Robert Louis Stevenson. Stevenson was not a strong man physically, which meant the couple spent much of their married life chasing climates and locations in an attempt to give him a chance at life as a writer. Fannie gives up her personal ambitions as an artist and writer to be Stevenson’s caregiver, but at what cost? This multifaceted book demonstrates all the twists and turns of life — love and loyalty, wealth and poverty, privilege and survival, success and disappointment, darkness and joy. Readers will want to revisit the works of Stevenson with new eyes after reading Horan’s wonderful book.” —Beverly Bauer, Redbery Books, Cable, WI

Wonderland: A Novel, by Stacey D’Erasmo
(Mariner Books, 9780544483897, $14.95)
Wonderland is a dreamy and hypnotic novel about a struggling rock star in the hotel rooms and train compartments of a last-ditch tour around Europe. In the quiet times between performances, D’Erasmo’s prickly heroine reflects on her love affairs and family relationships. Meditative yet pulsing with energy and intelligence, Wonderland is a hymn to human connection, sung in a strong clear voice.” —David Enyeart, Common Good Books, St. Paul, MN