The Winter 2014–2015 Indie Next List for Reading Groups Preview

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Here is a preview of the Winter 2014–2015 Indie Next List for Reading Groups, which ABA member stores in the IndieBound movement will be receiving in the January Red Box.

In addition to the Top Ten favorites chosen by booksellers, the list presents 33 additional titles in six different categories — “There’s No Place Like Home,” “When ... or If ... Tomorrow Comes,” “Indomitable Women,” “Structural Surprises,” “Engrossing Nonfiction,” and “War ... and Peace” — with books that offer 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 the champions of reading groups of all shapes and sizes, and we are grateful to the many booksellers from all over the country who nominated their favorites so that we could produce this wonderful list,” said ABA Development Officer Mark Nichols. “Now we hope booksellers will take a few moments to nominate their favorite new titles publishing this spring for the April and May Indie Next Lists:

  • February 3 is the nomination deadline for the April 2015 Indie Next List.
  • March 3 is the nomination deadline for the May 2015 Indie Next List.

To nominate, booksellers can use the form found here, send their thoughts to, or leave comments on the title pages of either Edelweiss or NetGalley and check the appropriate box to share with IndieBound.”

Stores that would like to receive additional copies of the Winter 2014–2015 Indie Next List for Reading Groups should send a request via e-mail to Nichols.

The Winter 2014–2015 Indie Next List for Reading Groups

The Top Ten

1. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry: A Novel, by Gabrielle Zevin
(Algonquin Books, 9781616204518, $14.95)
“Fikry is a bookseller with a small shop in a sleepy island resort town off the coast of Massachusetts. He’s a bit cantankerous, but with good reason: his wife, the ‘people person’ of the relationship, has recently died and his prized possession, a rare copy of Tamerlane, has gone missing. Despite those losses, there’s one strange addition: a baby girl left on his doorstep with an explicit request for Fikry to take her in. Zevin’s novel offers the reality of both death and rebirth, held together by the spirit of the bookstore. It’s a romantic comedy, a spiritual journey, and, if you include the chapter openings, a collection of short story criticisms as well. In short, it’s a celebration of books and the people who read them, write them, and sell them.” —Daniel Goldin, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

2. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed
(Vintage Movie Tie-In Edition, 9781101873441, $15.95)
“What the very best nature and travel writing does is take the reader on both a literal journey and an internal one. Strayed’s deeply moving memoir does just that, as she deftly parallels her travels northward on the Pacific Crest Trail alongside her personal development from rootlessness to rootedness. The concurrence of her mother’s death and the disintegration of her marriage lead Strayed to hit the trail despite her absolute lack of backpacking experience. What she finds along her brave journey is herself, but what the reader discovers is the redemptive power of challenge, wilderness, and change.” —Libby Cowels, Maria’s Bookshop, Durango, CO

3. Men We Reaped: A Memoir, by Jesmyn Ward
(Bloomsbury, 9781608197651, $16)
Men We Reaped is one of the rare nonfiction books that seem destined to become a literary classic. National Book Award-winner Ward intertwines the story of her life growing up poor and black in rural coastal Mississippi with the lives of five young men she was close to — including her brother — who died within a two-year span soon after she finished college. Ward writes with fire and passion as she captures the day-to-day systemic injustices and struggles that she and her family faced. Also clear is the deep love and roots that tie her to the people and place where she was raised. This book will break your heart, make you think, and get you angry. In the tradition of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, this is memoir at its finest.” —Caitlin Caulfield, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA

4. The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair: A Novel, by Joel Dicker
(Penguin Books, 9780143126683, $18)
“What at first glance appears to be another book by a promising young writer about the challenges of being a promising young writer quickly turns into a thrilling murder mystery. A blocked and struggling author sets out to prove his mentor’s innocence, and as the narrative slides back and forth through time, the truth proves to be as elusive as the innocence of any of the characters. In the end, everyone is guilty — not in a Murder on the Orient Express kind of way, but in the dozens of small ways the denizens of any town can be complicit in wrongdoings. A compelling read!” —Catherine Weller, Weller Book Works, Salt Lake City, UT

5. This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage, by Ann Patchett
(Harper Perennial, 9780062236685, $15.99)
“Readers familiar with Patchett’s fiction, from The Patron Saint of Liars to Bel Canto and State of Wonder, treasure her imaginative and heartfelt stories. Truth & Beauty, her memoir of her friendship with Lucy Grealy, defines loyalty and friendship. Now, in this essay collection, she confirms what her readers have always known: we would love to be her neighbor, knowing that she would wash our mud-soaked clothes in her dry laundry room after a flood; we would share her heartbreak when her dog Rosie died; we would cheer her feisty dedication to uncensored reading and bookselling. The story of her happy marriage is one her fans will savor. Patchett deserves this joy.” —Cheryl McKeon, Book Passage, San Francisco, CA

6. The Martian: A Novel, by Andy Weir
(Broadway Books, 9780553418026, $15)
The Martian is a piece of fiction that involves science so it will be called science fiction, but don’t let that dissuade you from discovering one of the best survival stories I’ve ever read. Weir’s first novel starts with a bang and the tension does not let up until the final pages. What makes The Martian stand above others in the genre is the humanity of the characters, and, surprisingly, the humor. This is a book I did not want to end, and the characters have stayed with me long after I finished reading.” —Martin Sorensen, Green Apple Books, San Francisco, CA

7. The Valley of Amazement: A Novel, by Amy Tan
(Ecco, 9780062107329, $16.99)
“Tan’s newest novel is utterly engrossing. Spanning more than four decades and two continents, this tale transports readers from Shanghai to San Francisco as it reveals the lives of two women, Lucia and Violet, an American courtesan mother and her half-Chinese daughter. The story details their attempt to undo their past, leading to forgiveness and bringing about redemption. The final pages signal the possibility of a sequel that would be welcome, indeed!” —Carol Hicks, The Bookshelf, Truckee, CA

8. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand
(Random House Trade Paperbacks, 9780812974492, $16)
“The saga of Louis Zamperini defies belief, and were it written as a novel it would be rejected as sheer fantasy. The former Olympic runner survived 47 days on a raft after his plane crashed in the Pacific during World War II, and then endured two-and-a-half years of brutality and sadism as a prisoner of the Japanese. The reserves of will, determination, grace, and resilience that enabled Zamperini and his fellow prisoners to survive the ultimate in human depravity make for a heartrending and, ultimately, inspiring story.” —Bill Cusumano, Square Books, Oxford, MS

9. The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls: A Novel, by Anton DeSclafani
(Riverhead Trade, 9781594632709, $16)
“In 1930, at the height of the Great Depression, Theadora Atwell is forced to leave the only home she has ever known and the family she cherishes to attend the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Not only has she been banished to a world she knows nothing about, but her life until this point has also been lived mostly in seclusion with her nuclear family on a thousand-acre orange ranch in Florida, an environment that could not be more different than the one in which she finds herself. The reason for her banishment is a secret slowly revealed. This is a coming-of-age story you won’t soon forget.” —Terry Gilman, Mysterious Galaxy, San Diego, CA

10. Let Him Go: A Novel, by Larry Watson
(Milkweed Editions, 9781571311030, $16)
“Like far-off black clouds with the faint sound of thunder on the horizon, Let Him Go crescendos into a violent Northern Plains thunderstorm as grandparents George and Margaret Blackledge set out on a journey to ‘rescue’ their grandson from his new stepfather. Confronting the hardscrabble Weboy clan that is equally determined to keep Jimmy can only have violent, tragic consequences. Watson has written a novel that rivals his earlier work, Montana 1948, in character development, storyline, and excitement. Stunning and riveting, Let Him Go will not be soon forgotten!” —Nancy Simpson-Brice, Book Vault, Oskaloosa, IA

There’s No Place Like Home

Brewster: A Novel, by Mark Slouka
(W.W. Norton, 9780393348835, $14.95)
“The setting is Brewster, New York, in 1968, at the peak of the Vietnam War. Sixteen-year-old Jon Mosher, the son of Jewish immigrants who escaped Europe during WWII, is searching for his own escape from a dead-end town and his guilt over his older brother’s death. He meets fellow student Ray Cappicciano and together they struggle to make sense of their quickly changing world. Jon discovers his strength in running track with his high school team, and Ray finds a similar outlet as a fighter. Raw and brutal at times, the well-drawn characters of this poignant story stay with you well after the book is closed.” —Helen Markus, Hearthfire Books of Evergreen, Evergreen, CO

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? A Memoir, by Roz Chast
(Bloomsbury, 9781608198061, hardcover, $28)
“Favorite New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast has produced an intensely personal graphic memoir dealing with the last years of her parents’ lives. With a mixture of wit and sorrow, Chast documents her personal travails in coping with her parents’ decline and demise. For those with viable parents, this book could be used as a preparation. For those whose parents have passed, it’s a gentle, reassuring, and sometime maddening reminder of those difficulties and emotions already experienced. For that difficult phase of life that we must all face, it is a tender and touching view of how one person coped.” —Darwin Ellis, Books on the Common, Ridgefield, CT

Everything I Never Told You: A Novel, by Celeste Ng
(Penguin Press, 9781594205712, hardcover, $26.95)
“This is the poignant story of a Chinese American family in 1970’s small-town Ohio agonizing over the death of a daughter. Issues of love, commitment, rejection, race, gender, disappointment, and forgiveness follow the grieving characters as they strive to learn the true story of what happened. Ng’s debut novel is haunting and not to be missed.” —Sally Van Wert, MacDonald Book Shop, Estes Park, CO

Someone: A Novel, by Alice McDermott
(Picador, 9781250055361, $15)
“‘Who’s going to love me?’ Marie asks her brother after she is dumped by her first boyfriend. ‘Someone,’ he tells her. ‘Someone will.’ Love is only one of the themes that weave together the stories that make up McDermott’s latest mesmerizing novel. The tale is told through Marie’s memories as a little girl, a mother, and an old woman. Snapshot after snapshot of events in a Brooklyn neighborhood come together seamlessly to tell the endlessly fascinating story of ‘someone’s’ life.” —Sharon K. Nagel, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

We Are Water: A Novel, by Wally Lamb
(Harper Perennial, 9780061941030, $16.99)
“Lamb combines complex characters and an intricate plot with an array of contemporary topics and timeless issues in this engrossing novel. A wife and mother leaves her family to pursue an artistic career and an unconventional relationship. A husband and father abruptly abandons his longtime profession as a psychologist. Their children wonder at these transformations but hide secrets of their own. As the plot develops and the narrative shifts among characters, secrets are revealed and motives become clear to the reader. Essentially, Lamb addresses the longstanding question of whether anyone can really know the truth of another person. The answer is a resounding ‘no.’” —Lynn Beeson, Loganberry Books, Cleveland, OH

When … or If … Tomorrow Comes

The Bone Season: A Novel, by Samantha Shannon
(Bloomsbury, 9781620402658, $17)
“Shannon has created a world that will set your imagination on fire and lure you in so absolutely that you will forget your surroundings. London in the year 2059 is the world of Paige Mahoney, a dreamwalker. Scion is the ruling government and it absolutely rejects any type of clairvoyant abilities among its citizens. If Scion finds that you have those skills, you disappear. Paige discovers that this is true, but the ‘disappearance’ is not what she has been led to believe. Mind-bendingly intense, rife with fascinating characters and an all-encompassing plot, The Bone Season will take you on one wild ride.” —Lynn Riggs, Books & Company, Oconomowoc, WI

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells: A Novel, by Andrew Sean Greer
(Ecco, 9780062213792, $14.99)
“This exquisitely rendered novel captures one character in three distinct and historically significant periods: during the flu epidemic of 1918, the wartime world of 1945, and the full-blown AIDS terror of 1985. Greer manages to achieve the near-impossible in making Greta believable in all three eras. Greta suffers and learns in each circumstance, though her hard-won, accumulated knowledge is of little help in solving the essential riddle that is life. Still, hers is a grand and brave journey that will not soon be forgotten.” —Marion Abbott, Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary and Garden Arts, Berkeley, CA

The Last Days of California: A Novel, by Mary Miller
(Liveright, 9780871408419, $14.95)
“Miller’s fantastic debut follows a Southern evangelical family on a cross-country road trip to California to witness what their father believes will be the final days of the Rapture. The narrative, led by the wonderfully guileless 14-year-old Jess, explores the skepticism, self-hatred, sexual curiosity, and vulnerability of adolescence without sensationalizing the experience or undermining it with ironic humor. Miller conveys the urgency of adolescence and the banality of the American road in a simple prose style that matches Jess’ naiveté yet belies a story of marvelous clarity and cultural understanding.” —Rhianna Walton, Powell’s Books, Portland, OR

MaddAddam, by Margaret Atwood
(Anchor, 9780307455482, $15.95)
“If you haven’t read Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood, now is the time! Atwood’s latest, MaddAddam, wraps up her dystopian post-apocalyptic trilogy using flashbacks to the biotech-crazed, pre-Flood world and Toby’s perspective among the surviving humans. A strange, manufactured race of humans, the Crakers, help the other survivors make an uneasy alliance with the Pigoons — pigs used to grow human organs and brain tissue — to hunt down two violent criminals threatening them all. An excellent end to an enthralling trilogy!” —Becky Jennings, The Secret Garden, Seattle, WA

World of Trouble: The Last Policeman, Book III, by Ben H. Winters
(Quirk Books, 9781594746857, $14.95)
“Winters has masterfully concluded one wild ride of a series following retired Detective Henry Palace. Having found peaceful serenity in a wooded New Hampshire sanctuary, Hank feels unsettled and leaves his refuge in search of his sister and only living relative. As the clock winds down to impact with a deadly asteroid on a collision course with Earth, will Henry have enough time to reunite with Nico before time runs out? Filled with twists and turns and mysteries to solve along the way, World of Trouble is an amazing finale to this trilogy!” —Bess Bleyaert, McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey, MI

Indomitable Women

Amy Falls Down: A Novel, by Jincy Willet
(Picador, 9781250050250, $16)
“A once-famed writer considered the voice of her generation 30 years ago, Amy now teaches creative writing online and lives a hermit’s life. One day, she falls down in her yard and receives a concussion, and afterward gives a most peculiar and stirring interview, none of which she remembers. While seemingly inconsequential, the interview restarts her career, and within a year Amy is once again the voice of writers everywhere. Amy Falls Down is a wonderful exploration of the business of writing in our modern era.” —Meaghan Beasley, Island Bookstore, Duck, NC

Guests on Earth: A Novel, by Lee Smith
(Algonquin Books, 9781616203801, $14.95)
“This is a haunting story about the treatment of mental illness in the early 1900s. Focusing on Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, where Zelda Fitzgerald died in the fire that destroyed the hospital in 1948, the story is told through the voice of Evalina Toussaint who was sent to the hospital as a young child. Evalina’s narrative is an example of the brutal early treatment of mental illness, when some patients became subjects for medical experiments. Any fan of the Fitzgeralds, the medical profession, or the history of medicine in the early 1900s will enjoy this book.” —Jackie Willey, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC

Mud Season: How One Woman’s Dream of Moving to Vermont, Raising Children, Chickens, and Sheep, and Running the Old Country Store Pretty Much Led to One Calamity After Another, by Ellen Stimson
(Countryman Press, 9781581572612, $16.95)
“Have you ever dreamed of moving to rural Vermont? Imagined the good life away from traffic, noise, and the difficulties of city life? Stimson and her husband did exactly that, moving from St. Louis with children and dogs and cats in tow. By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, Mud Season is the story of their immersion into a small town populated with crusty Vermonters who view ‘flatlanders’ with a combination of suspicion and amusement. This is a funny, self-deprecating memoir about making a new life in a beautiful place.” —Ellen Burns, Books on the Common, Ridgefield, CT

Quiet Dell: A Novel, by Jayne Anne Phillips
(Scribner, 9781439172544, $16)
“Award-winning author Phillips has been haunted by this story for 40 years. Her novel is based on the murder of the Chicago widow Asta Eicher and her three children in 1931. Lonely and out of money, Asta corresponds with a seemingly moneyed and well-mannered stranger named Harry Powers. She is lured to West Virginia, where, within a few days, the family is brutally murdered. Emily Thornhill is the Chicago journalist who becomes deeply involved in solving the sensational case, during which she falls into a passionate but problematic love affair. Phillips portrays the Eicher family so charmingly, especially the youngest child, Annabelle, that our horror and outrage are tenfold. This earns a place on the shelf with such classics as Night of the Hunter and In Cold Blood.”—Lisa Howorth, Square Books, Oxford, MS

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic: A Novel, by Emily Croy Barker
(Penguin Books, 9780143125679, $16)
“The great thing about Nora, the titular ‘thinking woman,’ is that she is completely relatable. Nora, a perennial graduate student who hasn’t made the best romantic choices, lands in another world that is rife with medieval attitudes toward women. She brings an analytical eye to a highly stratified, low-tech, but magical place, and by speaking truth to power she learns new lessons about herself. This beautifully written first novel reverberates with echoes of fairy tales and fantasy literature from Narnia to Harry Potter.” —Tonie Lilley, The Regulator Bookshop, Durham, NC

The Tilted World: A Novel, by Tom Franklin and Beth Ann Fennelly
(William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062069191, $14.95)
“In a compelling, poetic, and detailed manner, Franklin and Fennelly bring to life a little-known catastrophe in American history. The Tilted World weaves together the stories of two endearing characters — an orphan who grows up to be a decorated World War I hero turned Prohibition revenuer and a bootlegging firecracker of a woman who yearns for her lost child. Add the setting of a town on the brink of destruction by deluge and some unsavory characters looking to profit from calamity, and the reader will be swept away by their story.” —Sara Peyton, CoffeeTree Books, Morehead, KY

Structural Surprises

Alphabet: A Novel, by Kathy Page
(Biblioasis, 9781927428931, $16.95)
“This brutal novel of a young murderer’s imprisonment, his attempt at rehabilitation, and his struggles to remain feeling like a human while caged like an animal is jarring. Page is an amazingly talented writer and her unflinching look at what makes us human and what we deserve in life will be relevant for ages.” —Liberty Hardy, RiverRun Bookstore, Portsmouth, NH

Dept. of Speculation: A Novel, by Jenny Offill
(Vintage, 9780345806871, $15)
“Offill portrays the nuanced realities of marriage and human relations in a series of vignettes, the majority told in the first-person voice of the unnamed female protagonist. The fragmented narration allows the reader to experience changes in the protagonist’s psyche, changes in the relationship she has with her husband, and changes in perspective. Charged with bits of humor, dialogue, and emotional insight, Dept. of Speculation offers a beautifully written account of love on both its good and bad days.” —Carly Lenz, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

Enon: A Novel, by Paul Harding
(Random House Trade Paperbacks, 9780812981773, $15)
“Charlie Crosby has to face what no parent should ever have to — the death of a child. Enon is the town where Charlie, his wife, Susan, and daughter, Kate, lived until one September day Kate is run over while riding her bike home from the beach. Kate’s birth had bound Charlie and Susan back together and, according to Susan, was supposed to make them both better people. What now? Harding pulls no punches when describing Charlie’s life after Kate’s death. A moving meditation on living in a small town, the seasons of New England, and the mysteries of life, Enon is profound, powerful, and heartbreaking. Not to be missed.” —Karen Briggs, Great Northern Books & Hobbies, Oscoda, MI

Night Film: A Novel, by Marisha Pessl
(Random House Trade Paperbacks, 9780812979787, $18)
“When Ashley Cordova, daughter of cult filmmaker Stanislas Cordova, is found dead by an apparent suicide, disgraced journalist Scott McGrath feels that there is more to her death than meets the eye. McGrath, who lost his career and his family while trying to expose the elder Cordova, is driven by a desire for revenge. With her compelling writing and her effective use of web pages, documents, and photos to add context, Pessl has created a tense, gripping, and utterly original novel that kept me up all night!” —Flannery Fitch, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA

Thrown, by Kerry Howley
(Sarabande Books, 9781936747924, $15.95)
“Unlike anything you’ve ever read, Thrown is a philosophical exploration of what it means to be alive viewed through the lens of mixed martial arts. The work of an intense intellect, Thrown uses the lives of two combatants to struggle with the biggest questions of human experience, fighting for meaning and significance in our chaotic and confusing world. A major work by a major mind.” —Josh Cook, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA

Engrossing Nonfiction

Bad Feminist: Essays, by Roxane Gay
(Harper Perennial, 9780062282712, $15.99)
“Roxane Gay is one of the most important and refreshing voices of this century, and nowhere is this more apparent than in her timely, urgent, and thoughtful essays. She’s already proven herself to be a top-notch novelist; with this collection she takes a seat on the same literary stage as Joan Didion, Susan Sontag, Leslie Jamison, Montaigne, Geoff Dyer, and David Foster Wallace. Her indelible essays will have a tremendous impact on generations of writers.” —Michele Filgate, Community Bookstore, Brooklyn, NY

Badluck Way: A Year on the Ragged Edge of the West, by Bryce Andrews
(Atria, 9781476710846, $15)
“This memoir is a fascinating read, covering the subtle evolution of the author as he immerses himself in the rugged life of a Montana ranch hand. Peppered with interesting details about the daily, sometimes mundane tasks on the ranch, Andrews gives the reader a sense of the work and the mix of isolation and camaraderie that he experienced. This is not the story of a young man trying to find himself, but that of a young man growing into himself. The real story is in the growing relationship between the author, the work, the land, the weather, the cattle — and the wolves.” —Kelly Estep, Carmichael’s Bookstore, Louisville, KY

The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend, by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin
(Simon & Schuster, 9781451654684, $17)
“The authors present the epic story of Red Cloud, the only Native American tribal leader to defeat the U.S. Army in the West. Red Cloud could be vicious and savage and he used those attributes to achieve power. But he could also show patience and restraint in his efforts to defeat the Army’s expansion into the Powder River country of present-day Wyoming. This book presents an important chapter in American history that needed to be told, using Red Cloud’s own autobiography as a major source.” —George Rishel, The Sly Fox, Virden, IL

Hothouse: The Art of Survival and the Survival of Art at America’s Most Celebrated Publishing House, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, by Boris Kachka
(Simon & Schuster, 9781451691917, $17.99)
“Roger Straus, editor and publisher at FSG, was loved, loathed, feared, and admired, and the publishing house with which he came of age was — and still is — perhaps the mightiest producer of quality literature in America. Hothouse perfectly captures the often uneasy alliance between commerce and culture. Through anecdotes and firsthand reminiscences, Kachka weaves a compelling and sometimes hilarious history of 20th century American publishing, featuring the geniuses, the egotists, and the neurotics — namely the most important voices in writing and publishing — during a golden era of American literature.” —Mark LaFramboise, Politics & Prose Bookstore and Coffeehouse, Washington, DC

The Men Who United the States: America’s Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics, and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible, by Simon Winchester
(Harper Perennial, 9780062079619, $16.99)
“The always amazing Winchester turns his storytelling talent to America for the first time. As always, he gives the reader interesting and often obscure facts, this time about the uniting of the separate states into a nation. Explorers, inventors of transcontinental telegraph and highway systems, builders, and thinkers are part of the chronicle. Did it work? Are we ‘one nation, indivisible?’ These are questions to ponder as you read this fascinating story.” —Carole Horne, Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, MA

The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking, by Olivia Laing
(Picador, 9781250063731, $16)
The Trip to Echo Spring is a wonderful literary adventure, opening a window into the lives of some of America’s finest writers: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Cheever, Tennessee Williams, John Berryman, and Raymond Carver — men who appear so different from each other and yet, through their dependence on drinking, form a brotherly bond. In detailing each man’s journey through addiction, Laing strips away the myth of the alcoholic writer to show the terrible price that creativity can demand.” —Luisa Smith, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA

War … and Peace

The Girl You Left Behind: A Novel, by Jojo Moyes
(Penguin Books, 9780143125778, $16)
“In France, Sophie LeFevre’s husband was sent off to fight in World War I, leaving her with only a portrait that he had painted of her. Ninety years later that portrait, titled The Girl You Left Behind, hangs in Liv Halston’s house, a wedding gift from her late husband. When descendants of the artist claim ownership of the painting and demand restitution, Liv’s life becomes a battle, both legal and emotional. Liv fights to keep Sophie’s portrait and to learn everything she can about her, as she believes that knowledge can help her figure out where her own life is going.” —Melissa Oates, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC

The Illusion of Separateness: A Novel, by Simon Van Booy
(Harper Perennial, 9780062248459, $14.99)
“Van Booy’s newest novel simply reminded me about what it means to take joy in reading. The story, spanning a number of decades, delicately intertwines the lives of several characters who, at a glance, seem like strangers but are, in fact, making an unforgettable impact on each other’s lives. This book sinks its teeth into the hell of war, the pain and unspeakable joy of loving another human being, and what it means to grow up and grow older. With the introduction of each new character, pieces of the story begin to fall into place, building on a truth that Van Booy clings to — that there are no coincidences and the experiences we share with others are vital in shaping who we are as individuals. I could not put this book down!” —Hannah Hester, Lemuria Bookstore, Jackson, MS

On Sal Mal Lane: A Novel, by Ru Freeman
(Graywolf Press, 9781555976767, $16)
“In 1983, the Sri Lankan tensions between the Tamils and the Sinhalese broke into civil war. On quiet, secluded Sal Mal Lane, the Horvaths and their neighbors are not sheltered from the turmoil, and the prejudices of the greater world find their way onto their secluded street. The coming of age of the children on Sal Mal Lane and the loss of one innocent in particular shatters their world. On Sal Mal Lane is a beautifully written, heartbreaking story of a foreign yet somehow familiar time and place.” —Ellen Richmond, Children’s Book Cellar, Waterville, ME

Redeployment, by Phil Klay
(Penguin Press, 9781594204999, hardcover, $26.95; trade paper due in February 2015)
“In a whirlwind of short stories, Klay gives us a good, strong impression of how it must feel to be an American soldier in the 21st century. The whole gamut of emotions, including guilt, worry, post-traumatic stress disorder, and the difficulties associated with homecoming, are presented as real-life events. Sometimes chilling to the bone, sometimes heartbreaking, every story has its own value and will touch your heart.” —Jean-Paul Adriaansen, Water Street Books, Exeter, NH

Vanished: The Sixty-Year Search for the Missing Men of World War II, by Wil S. Hylton
(Riverhead Trade, 9781594632860, $16)
“Of the more than 56,000 servicemen and women of WWII whose resting place remains a mystery, two-thirds lie somewhere in the Pacific. Hylton’s fascinating account documents the search and recovery efforts of the devoted teams dedicated to finding these brave soldiers and bringing them home. By focusing on the crew of one missing B24 and the man who became obsessed with their fate, Hylton brings the story to a personal and poignant level.” —Betsey Detwiler, Buttonwood Books & Toys, Cohasset, MA

The Wind Is Not a River: A Novel, by Brian Payton
(Ecco, 9780062279989, $15.99)
“A grand tale of devotion and adventure set in a forgotten theater of World War II, Payton’s new novel is convincingly told. Along with journalist John Easley, the stranded protagonist, readers feel the Arctic wind screaming across Japanese-occupied Atta in the remote Aleutian Islands and are swept along by the parallel narrative of Helen, John’s wife, as she sets off from her native Seattle in a bold, imaginative effort to locate her missing husband. Compelling!” —Chris Wilcox, City Lights Bookstore, Sylva, NC