Here are our "long lists" - books that we're thinking about pitching for our 2015-2016 year. Let me know what you're thinking about pitching and I'll add them here. I'll copy the publisher's blurb to describe the book unless you want to give me a description for it.
As always, the long lists serve at least a couple purposes: 1) so people can research and consider books ahead of book-picking night; 2) so people can give feedback to the person who is thinking of pitching a book.
All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
- Winner of 2015 Pulitzer Prize
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.
My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante - see Suzanne's list below
Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, Jon Krakauer
From bestselling author Jon Krakauer, a stark, powerful, meticulously reported narrative about a series of sexual assaults at the University of Montana — stories that illuminate the human drama behind the national plague of campus rape.
Missoula, Montana, is a typical college town, with a highly regarded state university, bucolic surroundings, a lively social scene, and an excellent football team — the Grizzlies — with a rabid fan base. The Department of Justice investigated 350 sexual assaults reported to the Missoula police between January 2008 and May 2012. Few of these assaults were properly handled by either the university or local authorities. In this, Missoula is also typical.
A DOJ report released in December of 2014 estimates 110,000 women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four are raped each year. Krakauer’s devastating narrative of what happened in Missoula makes clear why rape is so prevalent on American campuses, and why rape victims are so reluctant to report assault.
Acquaintance rape is a crime like no other. Unlike burglary or embezzlement or any other felony, the victim often comes under more suspicion than the alleged perpetrator. This is especially true if the victim is sexually active; if she had been drinking prior to the assault — and if the man she accuses plays on a popular sports team. The vanishingly small but highly publicized incidents of false accusations are often used to dismiss her claims in the press. If the case goes to trial, the woman’s entire personal life becomes fair game for defense attorneys.
This brutal reality goes a long way towards explaining why acquaintance rape is the most underreported crime in America. In addition to physical trauma, its victims often suffer devastating psychological damage that leads to feelings of shame, emotional paralysis and stigmatization. PTSD rates for rape victims are estimated to be 50%, higher than soldiers returning from war.
In Missoula, Krakauer chronicles the searing experiences of several women in Missoula — the nights when they were raped; their fear and self-doubt in the aftermath; the way they were treated by the police, prosecutors, defense attorneys; the public vilification and private anguish; their bravery in pushing forward and what it cost them.
Some of them went to the police. Some declined to go to the police, or to press charges, but sought redress from the university, which has its own, non-criminal judicial process when a student is accused of rape. In two cases the police agreed to press charges and the district attorney agreed to prosecute. One case led to a conviction; one to an acquittal. Those women courageous enough to press charges or to speak publicly about their experiences were attacked in the media, on Grizzly football fan sites, and/or to their faces. The university expelled three of the accused rapists, but one was reinstated by state officials in a secret proceeding. One district attorney testified for an alleged rapist at his university hearing. She later left the prosecutor’s office and successfully defended the Grizzlies’ star quarterback in his rape trial. The horror of being raped, in each woman’s case, was magnified by the mechanics of the justice system and the reaction of the community.
Krakauer’s dispassionate, carefully documented account of what these women endured cuts through the abstract ideological debate about campus rape. College-age women are not raped because they are promiscuous, or drunk, or send mixed signals, or feel guilty about casual sex, or seek attention. They are the victims of a terrible crime and deserving of compassion from society and fairness from a justice system that is clearly broken.
The Children Act, Ian McEwen
At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: Adam, a beautiful seventeen-year-old boy, is refusing for religious reasons the medical treatment that could save his life, and his devout parents echo his wishes. Time is running out. Should the secular court overrule sincerely expressed faith? In the course of reaching a decision, Fiona visits Adam in the hospital—an encounter that stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. Her judgment has momentous consequences for them both.
Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier
"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again." That famous opening line is from Rebecca.
Rebecca is a novel of mystery and passion, a dark psychological tale of secrets and betrayal, dead loves and an estate called Manderley that is as much a presence as the humans who inhabit it: "when the leaves rustle, they sound very much like the stealthy movement of a woman in evening dress, and when they shiver suddenly and fall, and scatter away along the ground, they might be the pitter, patter of a woman's hurrying footsteps, and the mark in the gravel the imprint of a high-heeled satin shoe." Manderley is filled with memories of the elegant and flamboyant Rebecca, the first Mrs. DeWinter; with the obsessive love of her housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, who observes the young, timid second Mrs. DeWinter with sullen hostility; and with the oppressive silences of a secretive husband, Maxim. Rebecca may be physically dead, but she is a force to contend with, and the housekeeper's evil matches that of her former mistress as a purveyor of the emotional horror thrust on the innocent Mrs. DeWinter. The tension builds as the new Mrs. DeWinter slowly grows and asserts herself, surviving the wicked deceptions of Mrs. Danvers and the silent deceits of her husband, to emerge triumphant in the midst of a surprise ending that leaves the reader with a sense of haunting justice. -- From 500 Great Books by Women; review by Vickie Sears
As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner
As I Lay Dying is Faulkner’s harrowing account of the Bundren family’s odyssey across the Mississippi countryside to bury Addie, their wife and mother. Narrated in turn by each of the family members—including Addie herself—as well as others the novel ranges in mood, from dark comedy to the deepest pathos. Considered one of the most influential novels in American fiction in structure, style, and drama, As I Lay Dying is a true 20th-century classic.
Family Matters, Rohinton Mistry
Snow Angels, Stewart O'Nan
The lives of two small-town Pennsylvania families connected by tragedy are related in this assured and affecting first novel by the author of the short-story collection, In the Walled City. Narrator Arthur Parkinson has been haunted by the murder of his former baby sitter, Annie Marchand, which occured when he was in high school. As he relates the circumstances leading to Annie's death-the culmination of a string of rash and heedless acts that included leaving her husband, engaging in an affair with her best friend's boyfriend and proving negligent in the care of her young daughter-Artie also chronicles his own parents' acrimonious separation, which occurred during those same dreary months of 1974. Annie's decision not to reconcile with her wimpish husband, Glenn, who loves her devotedly and doggedly, is paralleled by Artie's mother's decision to divorce his father, the beginning of the family's downward economic slide. Both sets of adults behave like adolescents, and the effects on their children are grave and irrevocable. O'Nan is a skilled writer who views the lives of his working-class characters with unsentimental compassion; he understands how they are entrapped by social background and stark economics as well as their own personal inadequacies-in Annie's case, her impetuous reactions and fierce temper. The novel's elegiac tone is perfectly controlled, and angst and the lingo of male adolescence are rendered with wry fidelity. But O'Nan's triumph is Annie; in spite of her faults, readers will empathize as she makes the mistakes that will bring her heartbreaking life to an end.
The Broken Shore, Peter Temple
- Winner, CWZ Duncan Lawrie Dagger Award
- Best Crime Novel of the Year - Booklist - "This deeply intelligent thriller starts slowly, builds inexorably, and ends unforgettably."
Shaken by a recent scrape with death, big-city detective Joe Cashin is posted to a quiet town in on the Australian coast. But soon the whole community is thrown into unrest by the murder of a local philanthropist, a man with some very disturbing secrets. The Broken Shore is a brilliantly intricate crime procedural, and a moving novel about a place, a family, politics, and power.
Help for the Haunted, John Searles
- Winner, American Library Association's Alex Award
- A Boston Globe Best Crime Novel of the Year
- An Entertainment Weekly Top Ten "Must List'
The Sympathizer, Nguyen
A profound, startling, and beautifully crafted debut novel, The Sympathizer is the story of a man of two minds, someone whose political beliefs clash with his individual loyalties. It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong. The Sympathizer is the story of this captain: a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, a man who went to university in America, but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause. A gripping spy novel, an astute exploration of extreme politics, and a moving love story, The Sympathizer explores a life between two worlds and examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today.
Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner (author of Angle of Repose)
Called a “magnificently crafted story . . . brimming with wisdom” by Howard Frank Mosher in The Washington Post Book World, Crossing to Safety has, since its publication in 1987, established itself as one of the greatest and most cherished American novels of the twentieth century. Tracing the lives, loves, and aspirations of two couples who move between Vermont and Wisconsin, it is a work of quiet majesty, deep compassion, and powerful insight into the alchemy of friendship and marriage.
"It's deceptively simple: two bright young couples meet during the Depression and form an instant and lifelong friendship. "How do you make a book that anyone will read out of lives as quiet as these?" Larry Morgan, a successful novelist and the narrator of the story, poses that question many years after he and his wife, Sally, have befriended the vibrant, wealthy, and often troubled Sid and Charity Lang. "Where is the high life, the conspicuous waste, the violence, the kinky sex, the death wish?" It's not here. What is here is just as fascinating, just as compelling, as touching, and as tragic. Crossing to Safety is about loyalty and survival in its most everyday form--the need to create bonds and the urge to tear them apart. Thirty-four years after their first meeting, when Larry and Sally are called back to the Langs' summer home in Vermont, it's as if for a final showdown. How has this friendship defined them? What is its legacy? Stegner offer answers in those small, perfectly rendered moments that make up lives "as quiet as these"--and as familiar as our own." --Sara Nickerson, Amazon,com Review
Dead Souls, Nikolai Gogol
Augustus, John Williams (author of Stoner)
- Winner of the National Book Award, 1973
- "The finest historical novel ever written by an American." Washington Post
- "The genius of this astonishing American writer is that he shows how lives that seem utterly strange can be very like our own.” —John Gray, New Statesman
Butcher's Crossing, John Williams (author of Stoner)
With Butcher’s Crossing, his fiercely intelligent, beautifully written western, Williams dismantles the myths of modern America. It is the 1870s, and Will Andrews, ﬁred up by Emerson to seek “an original relation to nature,” drops out of Harvard and heads west. He washes up in Butcher’s Crossing, a small Kansas town on the outskirts of nowhere. Butcher’s Crossing is full of restless men looking for ways to make money and ways to waste it. Before long Andrews strikes up a friendship with one of them, a man who regales Andrews with tales of immense herds of buffalo, ready for the taking, hidden away in a beautiful valley deep in the Colorado Rockies. He convinces Andrews to join in an expedition to track the animals down. The journey out is grueling, but at the end is a place of paradisal richness. Once there, however, the three men abandon themselves to an orgy of slaughter, so caught up in killing buffalo that they lose all sense of time. Winter soon overtakes them: they are snowed in. Next spring, half-insane with cabin fever, cold, and hunger, they stagger back to Butcher’s Crossing to ﬁnd a world as irremediably changed as they have been.
"This story about the hunt of one of the last great buffalo herds "becomes a young man's search for the integrity of his own being...The characters are defined, the events lively, the place, the smells, the sounds right. And the prose is superb, a rarity in writing about the west."--The Chicago Tribune
- Whitbread Prize winner, 1986
- Booker Prize, shortlist
"It is postwar Japan and a now retired and seemingly discredited painter, Sensei Ono, reflects on his career, the limits to loyalties between teachers and students, and the life of art. Occasions such as the forthcoming engagement of his daughter (which involves investigations into the family background) bring his involvement with the political campaigns of the prewar regime painfully to the fore of his consciousness. Should he have remained a traditional painter of the floating world of geishas, tea houses, and such? Do his high-minded intentions excuse his propaganda posters? Should an artist follow an aesthetic of pure art or of social involvement? How does a personor a societycome to terms with mistakes of the past?" Carl Vogel, San Francisco P.L, a reader at Library Journal.
The Picture of Dorian Gray is the only published novel by Oscar Wilde. It tells of a young man named Dorian Gray, the subject of a painting by artist Basil Hallward. Basil is impressed by Dorian's beauty and becomes infatuated with him, believing his beauty is responsible for a new mode in his art. Talking in Basil's garden, Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, a friend of Basil's, and becomes enthralled by Lord Henry's world view. Espousing a new hedonism, Lord Henry suggests the only things worth pursuing in life are beauty and fulfilment of the senses. Realising that one day his beauty will fade, Dorian cries out, expressing his desire to sell his soul to ensure the portrait Basil has painted would age rather than himself. Dorian's wish is fulfilled, plunging him into debauched acts.
The portrait serves as a reminder of the effect each act has upon his soul, with each sin displayed as a disfigurement of his form, or through a sign of aging.
Giants in the Earth, Ole Rolvaag
Published in 1924, this is the story of a group of Norwegian settlers who attempt to stake a claim to, and settle on, land in the Dakota Territory. I read this a couple years ago and didn't pitch it because I don't like to re-read. But this book haunts me. I think about it every time I drive through western Minnesota. I loved the detailed account of how the settlers traveled by wagon across endless fields of pristine grassland -- no roads -- and then built homes from the sod, broke ground and planted crops. The settlers face myriad challenges, from the external environment-related challenges, to the internal battles for sanity.
The story is partly autobiographical, based on Ole's own life and on his wife's family's experience of settling this land in the 1870s. Ole's son Karl went on to become a Minnesota governor in the 1960s.
In love we find out who we want to be. In war we find out who we are.
FRANCE, 1939. In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn't believe that the Nazis will invade France … but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne's home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.
Vianne's sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can … completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.
With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women's war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France--a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.
The Translator, Leila Aboulela
American readers were introduced to the award-winning Sudanese author Leila Aboulela with Minaret, a delicate tale of a privileged young African Muslim woman adjusting to her new life as a maid in London. Now, for the first time in North America, we step back to her extraordinarily assured debut about a widowed Muslim mother living in Aberdeen who falls in love with a Scottish secular academic. Sammar is a Sudanese widow working as an Arabic translator at a Scottish university. Since the sudden death of her husband, her young son has gone to live with family in Khartoum, leaving Sammar alone in cold, gray Aberdeen, grieving and isolated. But when she begins to translate for Rae, a Scottish Islamic scholar, the two develop a deep friendship that awakens in Sammar all the longing for life she has repressed. As Rae and Sammar fall in love, she knows they will have to address his lack of faith in all that Sammar holds sacred. An exquisitely crafted meditation on love, both human and divine, The Translator is ultimately the story of one woman’s courage to stay true to her beliefs, herself, and her newfound love.
My Brilliant Friend, Elena Ferrante
A modern masterpiece from one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Ferrante’s inimitable style lends itself perfectly to a meticulous portrait of these two women that is also the story of a nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship.
The story begins in the 1950s, in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow, as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists, the unforgettable Elena and Lila.
Ferrante is the author of three previous works of critically acclaimed fiction: The Days of Abandonment, Troubling Love, and The Lost Daughter. With this novel, the first in a tetralogy, she proves herself to be one of Italy’s great storytellers. She has given her readers a masterfully plotted page-turner, abundant and generous in its narrative details and characterizations, that is also a stylish work of literary fiction destined to delight her many fans and win new readers to her fiction.
The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love)
A glorious, sweeping novel of desire, ambition, and the thirst for knowledge, from the # 1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love and Committed
In The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction, inserting her inimitable voice into an enthralling story of love, adventure and discovery. Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henry’s brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father’s money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Alma’s research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction—into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist—but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life.
Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, The Signature of All Things soars across the globe—from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who—born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution—bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas. Written in the bold, questing spirit of that singular time, Gilbert’s wise, deep, and spellbinding tale is certain to capture the hearts and minds of readers.
Leaving the Alocha Station, Ben Lerner
- Finalist for the 2013 James Tait Black Prize in fiction
- Runner-Up for the 2013 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature
- Winner of The 2012 Believer Book Award
- Finalist for the 2011 Los Angeles Times Book Prize (Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction)
- Finalist for The New York Public Library's 2012 Young Lions Fiction Award
- Wall Street Journal’s Top 10 Fiction of 2011
- The New Yorker’s Best of the Year in Culture 2011
- Newsweek/Daily Beast’s Best of 2011
- The Boston Globe’s Best of 2011
- The Guardian’s Best Books of 2011
- Shelf Unbound’s Top Ten of 2011
- New Stateman’s Best Books of 2011
- The Huffington Post "Yet Another Year-End List"
- The Guardian, "book I wish I'd published" by Canongate publisher Jamie Byng
- Work in Progress, "FSG's Favorite Book of 2012"