The Winter 2016–2017 Indie Next List for Reading Groups Preview [3]

Here is a preview of the Winter 2016–2017 Indie Next List for Reading Groups, which ABA member stores in the IndieBound movement will be receiving in the November Red Box.

In addition to the Top Ten favorites chosen by booksellers, the list presents 34 additional titles in eight categories — “Books for Bibliophiles,” “Extraordinary Lives,” “Exciting New Voices,” “New Works From Old Favorites,” “History as Fiction,” “Mystery and Magic,” “Intriguing Nonfiction,” and “Story Collections to Savor” — featuring 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 use the list as handouts at author events and special reading group nights and as takeaways in in-store displays and at the cash wrap.

The next Indie Next List nomination deadline is December 2 for the February 2017 Indie Next List. Booksellers are encouraged to take a few moments to nominate their favorites via e-mail [4], using the online nomination form [5], or through Edelweiss [6] or NetGalley [7].

Stores that would like to receive additional copies of the Winter 2016–2017 Indie Next List for Reading Groups should send a request via e-mail to ABA Development Officer Mark Nichols [8].

The Winter 2016–2017 Indie Next List for Reading Groups

The Top Ten

1. Kitchens of the Great Midwest: A Novel, by J. Ryan Stradal
(Penguin Books, 9780143109419, $16)
“At a time when I feel overwhelmed by our culture of irony and cool cynicism, Stradal’s debut shines like a beacon of warmhearted hope. Kitchens of the Great Midwest is the tale of Eva Thorvald, a young woman with a prodigious talent and otherworldly palate. Readers witness Eva growing from a girl who cultivates chocolate habañero peppers in her closet to the architect of the most exclusive pop-up dining experience in the world. A different character narrates and a different dish is presented in each chapter, and readers are left with a beautiful image of food, culture, and family. Kitchens of the Great Midwest is perfect for reading groups — with snacks!” —Amanda Hurley, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL

2. Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflections on Race and Medicine, by Damon Tweedy, M.D.
(Picador, 9781250105042, $16)
“This is the marvelous story of the pitfalls and problems of ‘doctoring while black.’ From a professor who mistakes him for a maintenance worker, to white — and black — patients who assume he is less competent than white doctors, Tweedy tells the engaging, personal, and compassionate story of his road to becoming an M.D. Addressing the current problems of both our medical system and our race relations, Tweedy offers memorable stories and great insights into both sides of the doctor/patient relationship, including the subtle effects of race on the quality of medical care for black patients. Great for group discussions!” —Tom Campbell, The Regulator Bookshop, Durham, NC

3. Fates and Furies: A Novel, by Lauren Groff
(Riverhead Books, 9781594634482, $16)
Fates and Furies is an engrossing and complex novel about a seemingly perfect marriage of beautiful people, told in two parts. The first is a gentle introduction to Lotto and Mathilde, their marriage, and their friends and family; the second, a violent storm to wash away all you thought you knew. Groff crafts amazing, shocking sentences and brilliantly reveals the lies and deceit hiding behind the perfect façade. It’s a book you will finish too quickly and then want to tell your friends about. Very highly recommended.” —Tarah Jennings, Mitzi’s Books, Rapid City, SD

4. Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf
(Vintage, 9781101911921, $15)
“In his final novel, Haruf once again casts an aura of spiritual resonance over the small town of Holt, Colorado. When an elderly woman proposes to her equally old male neighbor that they spend their nights together in conversation, chastely, yet sharing her bed in slumber, the talk among townsfolk begins to stir. Neither Addie Moore nor Louis Waters will allow slurred observations to impact what, for them, has become a blessing encompassing memories and the comfort of having the warmth of another body close on cold and lonely nights. Matters take a dramatic turn, however, with the arrival of Addie’s grandson, Jamie. His presence in the ongoing arrangement brings the inevitable question of moral behavior to the surface. As in a minister’s benediction, Haruf extends a wise and compassionate resolution to this story, the quintessence of his life’s work.” —Mark Ingraham, Powell’s Books, Portland, OR

5. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert
(Riverhead Books, 9781594634727, $16)
Big Magic is a sweeping manifesto heralding the power of inspiration and intuition as well as creativity’s force on human hearts and minds. Gilbert’s wit and wisdom are so unpretentious and unique, so relatable yet inspirational, that in a sea of ‘how to fix your life’ titles, Big Magic is beyond refreshing. Are you interested in becoming more receptive to the inspired, unjaded side of yourself? Are you an artist interested in eliminating those ‘tortured artist’ feelings and creating your work joyfully? Gilbert is realistic about her convictions and candid about her failings and doubts. The result is this marvelously meaningful book.” —Julia Sinn, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA

6. Did You Ever Have a Family: A Novel, by Bill Clegg
(Gallery/Scout Press, 9781476798189, $16)
“It has been some time since a book has affected me quite the way this novel has. I was struck by the authentic portrayal of characters that moved beyond the pages and made me see human beings in a whole new way. A tragedy of great proportion sets in motion an unraveling of lives, an examination of what people hold dear, and a recognition of how relationships with those closest are the most important facets of life. The writing is beautiful and the mystery at the heart of the book will keep readers riveted. This is the sort of work scholars are referring to when they explain why literature and the novel is so vitally important to our understanding of the human condition.” —Jenny Lyons, The Vermont Book Shop, Middlebury, VT

7. The Light of the World: A Memoir, by Elizabeth Alexander
(Grand Central Publishing, 9781455599868, $15.99)
“When Elizabeth Alexander loses her beloved husband, instead of retreating into the desolation of grief, she examines the depth of her loss and reveals the healing power of her memories. Alexander has not only written a tribute to her marriage, she has also built a sanctuary where readers can retreat to marvel at what love can be and ponder the glimpses of it in their own lives. The Light of the World is a memoir that sings with the poetry of Alexander’s writing, the love of her family, and the beauty of the life they created.” —Luisa Smith, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA

8. The Meursault Investigation: A Novel, by Kamel Daoud, John Cullen (Trans.)
(Other Press, 9781590517512, $14.95)
The Meursault Investigation is a timely and powerful reexamination of Albert Camus’ classic The Stranger told from an Arab perspective. It serves as both a complement to and a critique of its predecessor and should be required reading for anyone wanting a better understanding of post-colonialism and the current state of affairs in the Middle East.” —Shawn Donley, Powell’s Books, Portland, OR

9. The Muralist: A Novel, by B.A. Shapiro
(Algonquin Books, 9781616206437, $15.95)
“A star-studded cast of characters, a time of upheaval and change in both art and politics, and a plot that alternates between modern and historical heroines make for an engrossing read. Danielle Abrams, employed at Christie’s auction house, is obsessed by her mysterious great aunt, Alizée Benoit, a young abstract expressionist painter who worked for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and disappeared without a trace in 1940. Perfect for fans of historical fiction, art lovers, or mystery readers and fabulous for any reader who enjoys a well-researched and well-written novel.” —Coleen Colwell, BookSmart, Morgan Hill, CA

10. Grief Is the Thing With Feathers: A Novel, by Max Porter
(Graywolf Press, 9781555977412, $14)
“Porter’s slim novella is a beautiful book about a harsh topic. In a series of lean, spare vignettes, Porter depicts a family’s halting steps forward following the loss of a wife and mother. Though the prose is stripped almost to the bone, it delivers an outsized emotional punch. Candid but never maudlin, Grief Is the Thing With Feathers is a tiny gem, packed with both insight and artistry.” —David Enyeart, Common Good Books, St. Paul, MN

Books for Bibliophiles

Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse: A Novel, by Faith Sullivan
(Milkweed Editions, 9781571311122, $16)
“Whether you are familiar with the work of P.G. Wodehouse or not, you will want to read his books by the time you have finished this wonderful novel. Returning to Harvester, Minnesota, the location of her best-selling novel, The Cape Ann, Sullivan has provided a tale that will resonate with anyone who has been faced with the loss of a loved one, a challenge of faith, the gossip of a community, or the search for one’s independence. What better place to find grace than in the heart of a good book!” —Betsy Schram, The Bookshelf, Cincinnati, OH

The Last Bookaneer: A Novel, by Matthew Pearl
(Penguin Books, 9780143108092, $16)
“In the 1890s, a new law was set to go into effect that would put an end to the wild ways of the publishing trade. Up until then, international copyright laws did not protect authors, and publishers paid skilled ‘bookaneers’ to pilfer the pages of unpublished novels, thereby gaining possession of books that they could then publish abroad without having to compensate the author. As his livelihood was about to disappear, Pen Davenport, one of the most notorious and skilled bookaneers, chases one last prize: Robert Louis Stevenson’s final masterpiece. Pearl has written a love letter to books and to all who write, sell, and treasure them.” —Deon Stonehouse, Sunriver Books, Sunriver, OR

The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel, by Nina George
(Broadway Books, 9780553418798, $16)
“Everyone should have access to a ‘literary pharmacist’ to prescribe the perfect book for what ails them. Bookstore owner Jean Perdu is the victim of a long-ago heartache. While he can cure others, he is unable to quench his own grief. When Perdu’s life collides with a reluctant celebrity author, a chef, a neighbor with her own lovelorn past, and an unopened letter, he finds himself on a journey to reawaken his life before it is too late. George’s novel is a love song to literature and its curative powers. Launch yourself on a trip with Jean Perdu and company. Reading The Little Paris Bookshop is definitely a journey worth taking.” —Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books, Excelsior, MN

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend: A Novel, by Katarina Bivald
(Sourcebooks Landmark, 9781492623441, $16.99)
“One of the conundrums facing a true bibliophile has always been: books or people? Sara has spent her entire life in Sweden working in a bookshop and her answer has always been obvious: books. An unexpected pen pal relationship with Amy — an older book lover from Iowa — challenges that easy answer and forces her to reconsider her view of herself and the world. Amy invites Sara to come visit her one-stoplight town, Broken Wheel, for a summer of reading and getting to know small-town America. However, when Sara arrives, she is greeted by Amy’s funeral procession. Thousands of miles from home, with a return ticket dated two months hence, Sara is at a loss for what to do. So, naturally, with Amy’s collection of books, she opens a bookstore. Bivald’s feel-good novel explores that ever-present question: books or people? Read the book and enjoy reaching your own conclusions.” —Erin Figel, pages: a bookstore, Manhattan Beach, CA

Extraordinary Lives

Barefoot to Avalon: A Brother’s Story, by David Payne
(Grove Press, 9780802125170, $16)
“This memoir is the most courageous book I have ever read. The author takes readers with him as he endeavors to make sense of his relationships with his parents and siblings, mental illness, personal shortcomings, and the journey to becoming a writer. The book leaves readers amazed at how much pain the heart can hold and still emerge peaceful, whole, and full of hope. Payne holds nothing back, and his depictions of events are real and full of all that makes us human, both the good and the bad.” —Sharon Wheeler, Purple Crow Books, Hillsborough, NC

Home Is Burning: A Memoir, by Dan Marshall
(Flatiron Books, 9781250068866, $16.99)
“Emotionally devastating and also somehow incredibly funny, this memoir left me feeling grateful for the bonds of family. Marshall’s mother has been fighting cancer — and winning! — since he was a kid, but when his father is diagnosed with ALS, Marshall moves home to help battle this new medical challenge. It might have gone better if Marshall was at all the responsible, mature, and resourceful person the situation called for. Instead he flails and fails and acts wildly inappropriately — because what else can you do as your dad wastes away? Sometimes there’s nothing more important than looking mortality in the face, admitting we’re scared, and making a fart joke.” —Nichole McCown, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA

Rosalie Lightning: A Graphic Memoir, by Tom Hart
(St. Martin’s Press, 9781250049940, hardcover, $19.99)
Rosalie Lightning is a haunting and beautiful memoir that lays bare the love parents can have for their children. Hart’s simple renditions of his life before and after the death of his young daughter are successful symbols, lucidly conveying the widest range of emotions and thoughts. It would be a disservice to say Rosalie Lightning just made me cry — it also burrowed into my heart. Hart describes the most unthinkable, painful event that can happen to a parent, and even more extraordinarily, he describes the love and the life that is still available afterwards. Rosalie was a joy to read about, and even on the darkest pages, I am glad he gave this gift of a memoir.” —Lyla Wortham, Whistle-Stop Mercantile, Douglas, WY

The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan, by Rafia Zakaria
(Beacon Press, 9780807080467, $18)
“Zakaria weaves the stories of her aunt and the hopes and betrayals of Pakistan’s women in this important look at religious conservatism and political instability. In 1962, Zakaria’s family fled Bombay for Karachi, Pakistan, seeking a better place to practice their Muslim faith. All was fine until Uncle Scohail took a second wife without Aunt Aminas’ permission. The family was shamed and shaken, but this was a newly legal practice under the fundamentalist Muslim group now in power. Women’s rights, religious extremism, and the roots of volatile politics are presented in a powerful way in this family memoir.” —Barbara Theroux, Fact & Fiction, Missoula, MT

Exciting New Voices

Eileen: A Novel, by Ottessa Moshfegh
(Penguin Books, 9780143128755, $16)
“Psychological thrillers don’t get any better than this. Moshfegh masterfully captures the inner despair of a young mind filled with vitriol. Through atmospheric and unsettling writing, the cold dreariness of small-town New England seeps into readers’ bones even as Eileen’s twisted view of the world — desperate, angry, and vulnerable — seeps into the reading experience. Creepy, but morbidly funny too, Eileen, both the girl and the book, will be with readers long after the last page is turned.” —Christopher Phipps, DIESEL: A Bookstore, Oakland, CA

Enchanted August: A Novel, by Brenda Bowen
(Penguin Books, 9780143108078, $16)
“Four unlikely companions join together to rent Hopewell Cottage on Little Lost Island, Maine, for one glorious summer month during which they gradually open up to one another and rediscover their capacity to give and receive love. A brilliant homage to a beloved classic, Bowen’s debut novel is a sparkling read any month of the year.” —Rona Brinlee, The Book Mark, Neptune Beach, FL

Rage Against the Dying: A Thriller, by Becky Masterman
(Minotaur Books, 9781250038166, $15.99)
“Retired FBI agent Brigid Quinn is trying to live like a normal person, with a husband, dogs, and quaint domesticity, until one day a man claims to be a serial killer whom Quinn chased but could never catch. Just as the case seems to be finally closing, Quinn finds herself thrown back into the investigation and the apparent target of another murderer. Fast-paced, thrilling, and gritty, this is a tour de force of crime fiction that introduces us to a unique and intriguing female character.” —Meaghan Beasley, Island Bookstore, Duck, NC

The Sunlit Night: A Novel, by Rebecca Dinerstein
(Bloomsbury, 9781632861146, $16)
“The endless daylight of a Norwegian summer is the perfect backdrop for this warm and quirky debut filled with unusual characters and situations, a setting that is real yet somehow out of time, visual and precise writing, emotional warmth, and faith in the healing power of love. This tale of Frances and Yasha, their families, and their companions during a transformative summer in perpetual Arctic light is a perfect read for fans of Nicole Krauss’ The History of Love or Bill Forsyth’s classic movie Local Hero.” —Anmiryam Budner, Main Point Books, Wayne, PA

The Turner House: A Novel, by Angela Flournoy
(Mariner Books, 9780544705166, $14.95)
“The greatest testament to the skill of a writer is the ability to make what might seem alien to the reader completely recognizable and utterly engaging. Such was my experience reading The Turner House. Mine is a tiny white family from a small town with no sense of heritage, yet every moment I spent with the Turners — a family of 13 children shaped by the Great Migration to Detroit — I felt at home. Their struggles and joys are universal, yet told with an exacting eye that always finds the perfect detail. This is a truly impressive debut, and perfect for book group discussion.” —Kim Fox, Schuler Books & Music, Grand Rapids, MI

New Works From Old Favorites

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands: A Novel, by Chris Bohjalian
(Vintage, 9780307743930, $15.95)
“A very contemporary and controversial subject helps make this novel scarily real. The narrator is Emily, the 14-year-old daughter of parents who both work at a nuclear power plant in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. The plant melts down, both parents are killed, and there are questions about their responsibility for the disaster. Experiencing guilt by association, Emily goes on the run and ends up homeless in Burlington. She befriends a nine-year-old boy who is also on the run along with other loners looking to survive. Fast-paced, gritty, and believable, this is a novel perfect for book club discussions.” —Liza Bernard, Norwich Bookstore, Norwich, VT

Nora Webster: A Novel, by Colm Tóibín
(Scribner, 9781439170939, $16)
“This quiet but beautifully constructed novel of grief is the tale of an Irish woman caught between looking after her own emotional well-being and that of her four young children in the wake of her husband’s death. Her relatives and community mean well, but they trespass almost as often as they support. Like Nora’s own missteps, those of outsiders are also forgivable. Tóibín’s work gets deeper and richer with each new book.” —Susan Scott, Secret Garden Bookshop, Seattle, WA

Purity: A Novel, by Jonathan Franzen
(Picador, 9781250097101, $17)
“This is an engrossing story about a truly unique cast of characters whose relationships and endeavors revolve around conflicting social dichotomies. Franzen grapples with the responsibilities of the obscenely wealthy, the ability of any human to be completely transparent, the likelihood of any relationship to be completely equal, and the overriding guilt associated with committing a crime, no matter how noble the cause. The fast-moving action of this page-turning, roller-coaster ride of a novel will keep readers engaged from beginning to end!” —Phyllis Spinale, Wellesley Books, Wellesley, MA

This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!: A Novel, by Jonathan Evison
(Algonquin Books, 9781616206017, $15.95)
“With This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!, Evison has crafted an instant classic. Recently widowed 78-year-old Harriet embarks on an Alaskan cruise that proves to be the vehicle for her own self-discovery. As one shocking truth after another is revealed about Harriet’s life, readers come to love this woman who is anything but perfect, and whose life is anything but ordinary. With an inventive, addictive structure and prose that surges with life, humor, and compassion, This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! is a book to appeal to any reading group.” —Rob Dougherty, Clinton Book Shop, Clinton, NJ

History as Fiction

City on Fire: A Novel, by Garth Risk Hallberg
(Vintage, 9780804172950, $17)
“‘If the evidence points to one thing,’ Hallberg asserts in the opening pages of City On Fire, ‘it’s that there is no one, unitary city. Or if there is, it’s the sum of thousands of variations...’ Teachers, brokers, cops, journalists, artists, punks, kids, junkies, lovers — they are all part of Hallberg’s infinite city, and they are all about to collide in unexpected, irreversible, and awe-inspiring ways. Set against the upheavals, crashes, and eventual blackout of 1977, this is a dazzling, epic exploration of family, art, truth, and — most of all — people, in all their endless and astonishing variations. It is a novel about New York the way that The River Why is a novel about fishing, and it is gorgeous and arresting and seemingly limitless in scope.” —Sam Kaas, Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, WA

Neverhome: A Novel, by Laird Hunt
(Back Bay Books, 9780316370165, $16)
“Leaving her beloved husband behind to tend their Indiana farm, Constance Thompson binds her breasts and dons men’s clothing to become Ash, nicknamed ‘Gallant Ash’ by her fellow Union soldiers. With spare, poetic, transcendent prose, Hunt portrays the horror of the Civil War and the fallout from the trauma experienced by soldiers, their families, and the country at large. Ash is a fascinating and enigmatic character, keeping secrets from everyone she encounters and keeping the reader enthralled as her shocking story unfolds. Neverhome will surely join the ranks of the brilliant novels not just of the Civil War, but of war writ large.” —Cathy Langer, Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, CO

The Japanese Lover: A Novel, by Isabel Allende
(Atria Books, 9781501116995, $16)
“Past and present collide in Allende’s new novel. Alma Belasco flees the Nazi incursion in Poland and is raised in her aunt and uncle’s home in San Francisco. Alma and Ichimei Fukuda, the gardener’s son, have an instant connection but are separated when he is sent to a Japanese internment camp. Years later, while fleeing her own past, Irina Bazili begins work at Alma’s retirement home and finds herself caught up in the intrigue and delicate mystery that is Alma’s great love. Once again, Allende’s unique ability to bring forth light from the darkest recesses of humanity highlights the strength and courage it takes to live — and love.” —Anna Eklund, University Book Store, Seattle, WA

The Secret Chord: A Novel, by Geraldine Brooks
(Penguin Books, 9780143109761, $16)
“The Old Testament includes tantalizing references to a prophet called Natan. Brooks brings this mysterious figure to life as the confidante to and narrator of King David’s life. From David’s beginning as an unknown, fearless rebel fighter through his rise to ruling the Kingdom of Israel, the people, places, and politics of ancient times are brought to life. David is a complex and compelling character who jumps off the page, and Natan is his conscience and conduit to their God. Brooks once again proves herself a master of meticulously researched and vividly imagined historical fiction.” —Cindy Pauldine, the river’s end bookstore, Oswego, NY

Mystery and Magic

Dragonfish: A Novel, by Vu Tran
(W.W. Norton, 9780393352870, $15.95)
“Tran has written a highly original noir mystery involving Suzy, a Vietnamese immigrant, and her police officer ex-husband, Robert. Suzy goes missing in Las Vegas and her current husband, Sonny, enlists Robert’s help to track her down. During his search for Suzy, Robert discovers a packet of letters written by her to Mai, Suzy’s long-lost daughter, who is now a professional gambler living in Las Vegas. Suspenseful, cinematic, and haunting, Tran’s storytelling is superb, and Dragonfish is an excellent debut.” —Sherri Gallentine, Vroman’s Bookstore, Pasadena, CA

Seveneves: A Novel, by Neal Stephenson
(William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062334510, $17.99)
“In this exciting and cerebral epic spanning 5,000 years, Stephenson explores the effects of a devastating catastrophe on the course of humanity. After the moon is shattered by an unknown agent, small groups of humans survive the ensuing holocaust — some by digging deep underground, others by seeking refuge in space. Millennia later, the separate branches of mankind converge, inexorably changed. I was completely consumed by this book, both terrified and awed by Stephenson’s vision of our future.” —Emily Ring, Inklings Bookshop, Yakima, WA

The Library at Mount Char, by Scott Hawkins
(Broadway Books, 9780553418620, $16)
“This debut novel packs a fantasy punch befitting its size. When Carolyn’s parents were murdered, she found refuge in Father’s library — a place that holds secrets. When Father goes missing, Carolyn must learn the truth about her powers and the sacrifice she must make to secure the secrets she needs to maintain them. This is a superbly written and engaging fantasy for lovers of good prose. Not one to miss!” —Linda Bond, Auntie’s Bookstore, Spokane, WA

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto: A Novel, by Mitch Albom
(Harper Paperbacks, 9780062294432, $15.99)
“According to the Spirit of Music, the narrator of Albom’s latest novel, everyone joins a band in life — some of them play music, while others can be in a band of friendship, romance, or career. Frankie’s music is so powerful that he can actually affect people’s futures with the six magic strings on his guitar, but this gift becomes a burden for Frankie, impacting his loves and friendships, and, ultimately, his life. Albom offers a story destined to become a classic that will have readers looking at music differently than they ever have before.” —Karen Briggs, Great Northern Books & Hobbies, Oscoda, MI

Intriguing Nonfiction

Dancing With the Devil in the City of God: Rio de Janeiro and the Olympic Dream, by Juliana Barbassa
(Touchstone, 9781476756264, $16)
“Rio de Janeiro is one of the world’s most exotic cities and much in the news over the past few years, hosting both the World Cup in 2014 and the 2016 Olympics. Journalist and Brazilian native Barbassa presents a complex portrait of a city, country, and society attempting to present the best possible face to the world while having to confront numerous problems, particularly a level of crime that is almost beyond belief. Barbassa’s description of this massive change is informative, instructive, and mesmerizing.” —Bill Cusumano, Square Books, Oxford, MS

Empire of Deception: The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated the Nation, by Dean Jobb
(Algonquin Books, 9781616205355, $16.95)
“It was P.T. Barnum who said that ‘there’s a sucker born every minute,’ and there was never a better time to take advantage of that fact than during the Roaring 20s. This is the true story of the devious exploits of Leo Koretz, who forsook his Chicago law career to convince unsuspecting people to invest in a Panamanian oil field that he had concocted out of thin air, as well as an astute assessment of human nature. A fascinating tale of greed and gullibility.” —Alden Graves, Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, VT

The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey, by Rinker Buck
(Simon & Schuster, 9781451659177, $16.99)
“Inspired by a family trip in a covered wagon in the 1950s, Rinker Buck and his brother Nick set out by wagon to discover what remains of the Oregon Trail between Missouri and Oregon. Along the way, readers learn about wagon design, mule heritage, and what pioneers needed to endure traveling west in the 19th century. This is also a moving personal story of brotherhood, endurance, and the kindness of strangers. Buck weaves fact, action, and reflection together into a page-turning delight that history buffs and fans of contemporary nonfiction will not want to miss.” —Dick Hermans, Oblong Books & Music, Millerton, NY

Pirate Hunters: Treasure, Obsession, and the Search for a Legendary Pirate Ship, by Robert Kurson
(Random House Trade Paperbacks, 9780812973693, $17)
“Kurson, the author of Shadow Divers, follows a team of treasure hunters on their quest for the ultimate bounty of the oceans — a sunken pirate ship from the Golden Age of Piracy — as they race against the clock of international legislation and rival hunters. It quickly becomes clear that these are men who share more than a little in common with the pirates for whom they search. Pirate Hunters reminds us that the daring and romance of piracy’s heroes was good cause to inspire centuries of boyhood daydreams, which are still alive and well today.” —Sara Hinckley, Hudson Booksellers, Marietta, GA

Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, by Carlo Rovelli
(Riverhead Books, 9780399184413, hardcover, $18)
“With a deft sensibility associated more often with poetry than theoretical physics, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics not only makes understandable the transcendent physical discoveries of the past century, but also reveals their powerful relevance to the human spirit. A revelatory and concise account of quantum mechanics, relativity, and the delight in both finding answers and seeking new questions, this jewel of a book lyrically demystifies the extraordinary realities of the cosmos.” —Robin J. Dunn, St. John’s College Bookstore, Annapolis, MD

Story Collections to Savor

Memory Wall: Stories, by Anthony Doerr
(Scribner, 9781439182840, $16)
“When people say they don’t read short stories because a story lacks the depth and complexity of a novel, they should be handed this book. The title story alone is richer than many novels and is one of the best pieces of fiction I’ve ever read. The rest of the collection is outstanding as well, with settings as varied as Africa, China, and the American West and characters of all nationalities. Doerr expertly reminds readers of the power and beauty of memory and storytelling.” —Cody Morrison, Square Books, Oxford, MS

Mothers, Tell Your Daughters: Stories, by Bonnie Jo Campbell
(W.W. Norton, 9780393353266, $14.95)
“This collection is Campbell at her best and most audaciously appealing. At the center of each of these stories is a fierce, floundering, and unmistakably familiar woman. Mother of a daughter in some instances but always a caretaker, aware of and struggling with a hellish truth, or at justified peace with her right to impose her flawed self on a tragic other. These women’s violations — both endured and perpetrated — are most certainly recognizable, and their stories are stunning.” —Joanna Parzakonis, Bookbug, Kalamazoo, MI

The Tsar of Love and Techno: Stories, by Anthony Marra
(Hogarth, 9780770436452, $16)
“In The Tsar of Love and Techno, fans of Marra’s brilliant novel A Constellation of Vital Phenomena are rewarded with more glimpses of war-torn lands. These stories are interconnected, taking place from the 1937 Soviet purges to Chechnya in 2013. Recurring characters wind their way through these tales, and readers are offered their different viewpoints throughout the collection. Marra sets his stories in a suspicious and sorrowful world, but readers are still allowed glimpses of the tiny, brilliant bits of life that these characters live for.” —Jason Kennedy, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, WI

The Unfinished World: And Other Stories, by Amber Sparks
(Liveright, 9781631490903, $15.95)
“Short stories are my drug and The Unfinished World is just the fix I needed. Sparks’ stories, which are inspired by fairy tales, reside on the dangerous edges of reality with twists darker than Grimm. From ‘The Lizzie Borden Jazz Babies,’ about a set of twins who grow from dancing together to one dreaming of murdering the other, to ‘The Fever Librarian,’ who is in strict charge of society’s feverish passions, the tales in The Unfinished World will haunt you long after you’ve finished turning the pages.” —Caitlin Luce Baker, University Book Store, Seattle, WA