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Fiction Recommendations

Race to Splendor by Ciji Ware

History and character come alive in this new novel by Ciji Ware. Architect Amelia Bradshaw returns to San Francisco in 1906 to work with Julia Morgan (yes, Ware makes real-life Morgan, the first licensed female architect in California, a character in her book). Bradshaw is hired on in an architectural firm, due to Morgan’s influence, but no sooner does she get hired, than the April 18th earthquake strikes—demolishing the city. The tragedy becomes a catalyst that changes all of the characters. As Bradshaw struggles to start a life for herself and help rebuild the city, she faces corruption, politics, sexism and unforeseen romance. This is great summer read that ends up being more layered than you expect.

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A Race to Splendor Cover Image
ISBN: 9781402222696
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Sourcebooks Landmark - April 1st, 2011

Everything Beautiful Began After by Simon Van Booy

This is my favorite book of the summer, and I am unabashedly telling everyone to read it, but particularly book groups. This is the kind of gorgeous novel that you can’t wait to talk about, a painstakingly authentic story about three characters who come together in Athens and forge an immediate and strange connection. Their fate and the choices they make will keep you talking late into the evening. I cannot recommend this book enough!

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Everything Beautiful Began After: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780061661488
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Harper Perennial - July 5th, 2011

When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman

This is a unique and wonderful coming of age story. Starting in Corwall, England in the late 1960’s and ending around the time of the terrorist attacks in New York, the years that are traversed in this novel are simple and unimaginable at the same time. How do I describe the bonds that are developed between the characters of this book? We watch two siblings recreate magic through a Rabbit they name God, we watch a best friend promise to witness unspeakable acts, we watch the world stretch and break as war and terror become common day. This novel, told mostly through the view of Elly (who we first meet at 5) ultimately challenges the dilemma of how to say yes, staying open to life, when loss and longing are enough to make anyone say no. This is a beautiful, magical story, well worth the read.

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ISBN: 9781608195343
Availability: Out of Print
Published: Bloomsbury USA - May 17th, 2011

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

This is by far one of my favorite books of the season. Makkai has written a debut novel that is good enough to put you in a stupor of awe and appreciation. We are introduced to Lucy Hull, a children’s librarian who finds herself both a kidnapper and kidnapped when her favorite patron, 10-year-old Ian Drake, runs away from home. Ian is addicted to reading, but needs Lucy’s help to smuggle books past his overbearing mother, who has enrolled Ian in anti-gay classes with celebrity Pastor Bob. Lucy stumbles into a moral dilemma when she finds Ian camped out in the library with an escape plan that needs her help to carry out. What follows is a page-turning adventure with heart and depth. Book groups will be pulled into dialogue by questioning how far we should go to rescue someone from their own story, and when we should step back and hope they can survive and learn for themselves. This book is beautiful, engaging, funny, and heartbreaking (but in a way that works).

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The Borrower Cover Image
ISBN: 9780670022816
Availability: Hard to Find - Contact Store for Availability
Published: Viking Adult - June 9th, 2011

War Dances by Sherman Alexie

Before War Dances, I had only read Sherman Alexie’s novels. So I
am used to the feeling of having his stories and characters unleash
their quiet powers until I am willingly held hostage, both begging for
the release to have time to reflect, yet longing to have the experience
keep going, as I don’t want to finish his tale and say goodbye to newly
made friends. Therefore, I was hesitant to read Alexie’s short stories
only because I wasn’t sure if, in shorter form, Alexie could give me the
gift of the journey I was used to taking with him. But I was wrong.
These stories are a hurricane of strength. Each one makes you pull back
in awe, take spacious breaths when the chance is there, but lifts you to
spin, whirl, and ache at the connection that is so finely wrought
between the characters and the story he creates again and again. Do not
miss out on this incredible read.

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War Dances Cover Image
ISBN: 9780802144898
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Grove Press - August 3rd, 2010

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harback

One of the most talked-about books of the season is a debut novel by the cofounder and coeditor of n+1, the acclaimed magazine of politics, literature, and culture. But don’t worry; you don’t have to be an intellect or (it pains me to say) a baseball fan for that matter to be blown away by this book that is set around our national pastime. “Reading The Art of Fielding is like watching a hugely gifted young shortstop: you keep waiting for the errors, but there are no errors. First novels this complete and consuming come along very, very seldom.” —Jonathan Franzen, author of Freedom

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The Art of Fielding: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316126694
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Little, Brown and Company - September 7th, 2011

We the Animals by Justin Torres

This is a visceral account of three young boys growing up with a graveyard shift mother and temperamental father whose love is a dangerous, ferocious thing that simultaneously cements and fractures their struggling family. Together, these wild boys tear through childhood, creating and destroying; making this is an intense look at the childhood bonds that forever shape our lives. It may just be a slip of a novel, but it packs quite a punch.

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We the Animals: A novel Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780547576725
Availability: Out of Print
Published: Mariner Books - August 30th, 2011

Fantastic Women edited by Rob Spillman

Last year's big anthology release was My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, a book of smartly retold fairy tales. This year, it's Tin House's Fantastic Women, a collection of sublime and bizarre stories told by some of the best speculative and surrealist writers out there. Includes work by Aimee Bender, Miranda July, Karen Russell, and many more. A must-read for those who crave the gorgeous and the strange.

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Fantastic Women: 18 Tales of the Surreal and the Sublime from Tin House Cover Image
By Rob Spillman (Editor), Joy Williams (Introduction by)
ISBN: 9781935639107
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: Tin House Books - July 26th, 2011

Bitter in the Mouth by Monique Truong

New in paperback, this book is so much at once. A coming-of-age novel, a mystery surrounding family secrets, and a striking love story. Truong introduces us to ten-year-old Linda Hammerick, a young girl who has synesthesia—she experiences every word as having a taste. Not knowing that this is a neurological condition, Linda tells only her best friend about her odd capability. We watch Linda grow up and seek connection, but all the while keeping people at a distance because of the way she experiences life slightly askew. When a family tragedy forces Linda to return to her childhood home, Linda finds out that she has not been the only one in her family to keep aspects of them selves hidden. A quirky but poignant story well worth the read.

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Bitter in the Mouth: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812981322
Availability: Backordered
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - August 9th, 2011

Great House by Nichole Krause

Great House is one of the best books about writing I've read, though it's not really about writing. If asked, I'd have to say it's really about a large desk that manages to link together a cast of otherwise disparate characters. One of those characters is a writer, and her take on the habit and art of writing brings the story to life. This is a novel quite worthy of its National Book Award nomination.

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Great House: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780393340648
Availability: Not On Our Shelves, But Available from Warehouse - Usually Delivers in 3-14 Days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - September 6th, 2011


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