“Good books do not invite unanimity. They invite discord, mayhem, knife fights, blood feuds.” Joe Queenan
(Descriptions mostly come from Amazon.)
Don Gillmor – Mount Pleasant
In middle age, debt has become the most significant relationship in Harry Salter’s life. He was born to wealthy parents in leafy and privileged Rosedale, at a time when the city was still defined by its WASP elite. But nothing in life has turned out the way Harry was led to expect. He’s unsure of his place in society, his marriage is crumbling, his son is bordering on estranged, and on top of it all his father is dying.
As he sits at his father’s bedside, Harry inevitably daydreams about his inheritance. A couple of his father’s millions would rescue him from his ballooning debt–maybe even save his marriage. But when the will is read, all that’s left for Harry is $4200. Dale Salter’s money is gone. Out of desperation and disbelief, Harry starts to dig into what happened to the money. As he follows a trail strewn with family secrets and unsavory suspicions, he discovers not only that old money has lost its grip and new money taken on an ugly hue, but that his whole existence been cast into shadow by the weight of his expectations.
“A wisely, darkly, deeply, hysterically funny novel. I could have read a thousand pages of Harry Salter’s insights into the absurd and terrifying enlightenments of middle age.” —Linden MacIntyre
“Don Gillmor’s beautifully written Mount Pleasant is a brilliant comic autopsy of Toronto, the financial tsunami, and a generation—or two. You’re going to be absolutely wild about Harry!” —Linda Svendsen
Sheila Heti – How Should A Person Be? A Novel from Life (On the long list for the UK Women’s Prize for Fiction)
Reeling from a failed marriage, Sheila, a twentysomething playwright, finds herself unsure of how to live and create. When Margaux, a talented painter and free spirit, and Israel, a sexy and depraved artist, enter her life, Sheila hopes that through close—sometimes too close—observation of her new friend, her new lover, and herself, she might regain her footing in art and life.
Using transcribed conversations, real emails, plus heavy doses of fiction, the brilliant and always innovative Sheila Heti crafts a work that is part literary novel, part self-help manual, and part bawdy confessional. It’s a totally shameless and dynamic exploration into the way we live now, which breathes fresh wisdom into the eternal questions: What is the sincerest way to love? What kind of person should you be?
“Utterly contemporary, wickedly clever, and profoundly irreverent.” – Lilith Magazine
“A perfect summer read. It is also one of the bravest, strangest, most original novels I’ve read this year…We care about Sheila’s plight, but the souls in limbo here are, ultimately, our own. With so many references to the world outside of the fiction, this novel demands to know: Can art inform our lives, and tell us how to be?” – Christopher Boucher, The Boston Globe
“It’s a bawdy, idiosyncratic novel about art, sex, Toronto, female friendship, and the endless quest to learn how to live. The title makes me quake with envy. All good books should be called just that.”–Chad Harbach, Entertainment Weekly’s “Hey, what are you reading?”
I.J. Kay – Mountains of the Moon
A highly original novel about a young woman’s journey from shattered youth to self-discovery. After ten years in a London prison, Louise Adler (Lulu) is released with only a new alias to rebuild her life. Working a series of dead-end jobs, she carries a past full of secrets: a childhood marked by the violence and madness of her parents, followed by a reckless adolescence. From abandoned psychiatric hospitals to Edwardian-themed casinos, from a brief first love to the company of criminals, Lulu has spent her youth in an ever-shifting landscape of deceit and survival. But when she’s awarded an unexpected settlement claim after prison, she travels to the landscape of her childhood imagination, the central African range known as the Mountains of the Moon. There, in the region’s stark beauty, she attempts to piece together the fragments of her battered psyche.
Told in multilayered, hallucinatory flashbacks, Mountains of the Moon traces a traumatic youth and explores the journey of a young woman trying to transform a broken life into something beautiful. Dazzling novel from a distinctive new voice.
Harriet Lane – Alys Always
On a bitter winter’s night, Frances Thorpe comes upon the aftermath of a car crash and, while comforting the dying driver, Alys Kyte, hears her final words. The wife of a celebrated novelist, Alys moved in rarefied circles, and when Frances agrees to meet the bereaved family, she glimpses a world entirely foreign to her: cultured, wealthy, and privileged. While slowly forging a friendship with Alys’s carelessly charismatic daughter, Frances finds her own life takes a dramatic turn, propelling her from an anonymous existence as an assistant editor for the books section of a newspaper to the dizzying heights of literary society.
Transfixing, insightful, and unsettling, Alys, Always drops us into the mind of an enigmatic young woman whose perspective on a glamorous world also shines a light on those on the outside who would risk all to become part of it.
“A sneaky little novel. It starts out all innocent and charming, but turns sophisticated, manipulative and creepy by the time you reach the end.” Tracy Sherlock, Vancouver Sun
Dan Rhodes – This is Life
In Paris, art student Aurélie Renard throws a stone and sets in motion a chain of events that will turn her life upside down. Suddenly finding herself in sole charge of a stranger’s baby, and with no idea how babies work, it’s only thanks to the help of her adoring professor and her gun-toting heartbreaker of a best friend that Aurélie is able to navigate her way through the most extraordinary and calamitous seven days of her life. Meanwhile, in a Pigalle cinema, a naked man is doing his best to show the people of Paris, Aurélie among them, what it means to be alive.
“A charming and warm-hearted book, full of dark paradoxes and witty ideas and sexual jokes and people you would like to spend time with.” —Observer
“It is irresistible: quality froth infused with restrained comic irony, some very nice touches of dark humour and one or two genuinely arresting moments.” —Daily Telegraph
Francesca Segal – The Innocents
Winner of the 2012 Costa First Novel Award. (On the long list for the UK Women’s Prize for Fiction)
A smart and slyly funny tale of love, temptation, confusion, and commitment; a triumphant and beautifully executed recasting of Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence. Newly engaged and unthinkingly self-satisfied, twenty-eight-year-old Adam Newman is the prize catch of Temple Fortune, a small, tight-knit Jewish suburb of London. He has been dating Rachel Gilbert since they were both sixteen and now, to the relief and happiness of the entire Gilbert family, they are finally to marry. To Adam, Rachel embodies the highest values of Temple Fortune; she is innocent, conventional, and entirely secure in her community–a place in which everyone still knows the whereabouts of their nursery school classmates. Marrying Rachel will cement Adam’s role in a warm, inclusive family he loves.
But as the vast machinery of the wedding gathers momentum, Adam feels the first faint touches of claustrophobia, and when Rachel’s younger cousin Ellie Schneider moves home from New York, she unsettles Adam more than he’d care to admit. Ellie–beautiful, vulnerable, and fiercely independent–offers a liberation that he hadn’t known existed: a freedom from the loving interference and frustrating parochialism of North West London. Adam finds himself questioning everything, suddenly torn between security and exhilaration, tradition and independence. What might he be missing by staying close to home?
Kerry Hudson – Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice Cream Float Before he Stole My Ma
A dazzling new Scottish voice. When Janie Ryan is born, she’s just the latest in a long line of Ryan women, Aberdeen fishwives to the marrow, always ready to fight. Her violet-eyed Grandma had predicted she’d be sly, while blowing Benson and Hedges smoke rings over her Ma’s swollen belly. In the hospital, her family eyed her suspiciously, so close she could smell whether they’d had booze or food for breakfast. It was mostly booze.
Tony Hogan tells the story of a Scottish childhood of sordid council flats and B&Bs, screeching women, feckless men, fags and booze and drugs, the dole queue and bread and marge sandwiches. It is also the story of an irresistible, irrepressible heroine, a dysfunctional family you can’t help but adore, the absurdities of the eighties and the fierce bonds that tie people together no matter what. Told in an arrestingly original — and cry-out-loud funny — voice, it launches itself headlong into the middle of one of life’s great fights, between the pull of the past and the freedom of the future. And Janie Ryan, born and bred for combat, is ready to win.
“More than just one of the best debuts of the year; one of the best books of the year.”– Louise Welsh Herald ”
Elif Shaftak – Honour (On the long list for the UK Women’s Prize for Fiction)
A novel of love, betrayal and clash of cultures. ‘My mother died twice. I promised myself I would not let her story be forgotten’ And so begins the story of Esma a young Kurdish woman in London trying to come to terms with the terrible murder her brother has committed. Esma tells the story of her family stretching back three generations; back to her grandmother and the births of her mother and Aunt in a village on the edge of the Euphrates. Named Pembe and Jamila, meaning Pink and Beautiful rather than the names their mother wanted to call them, Destiny and Enough, the twin girls have very different futures ahead of them all of which will end in tragedy on a street in East London in 1978.
A powerful, brilliant and moving account of murder, love and family set in a Kurdish village, Istanbul and London.
Robert Goolrick – Heading Out to Wonderful
It is the summer of 1948 when a handsome, charismatic stranger, Charlie Beale, recently back from the war in Europe, shows up in the town of Brownsburg, a sleepy village nestled in the Valley of Virginia. All he has with him are two suitcases: one contains his few possessions, including a fine set of butcher knives; the other is full of money. A lot of money. Heading Out to Wonderful is a haunting, heart-stopping novel of love gone terribly wrong in a place where once upon a time such things could happen.
“Deliciously dark, and dangerous.” – O: The Oprah Magazine
Maggie Shipstead – Seating Arrangements
A San Francisco Chronicle and Daily Candy Best Book of the Year
Winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize
The Van Meters have gathered at their family retreat on the island of Waskeke to celebrate the marriage of daughter Daphne to the impeccably appropriate Greyson Duff. The weekend is full of champagne, salt air and practiced bonhomie, but long-buried discontent and simmering lust stir beneath the surface.
Winn Van Meter, father of the bride, is not having a good time. Barred from the exclusive social club he’s been eyeing since birth, he’s also tormented by an inappropriate crush on Daphne’s beguiling bridesmaid, Agatha, and the fear that his daughter, Livia—recently heartbroken by the son of his greatest rival—is a too-ready target for the wiles of Greyson’s best man. When old resentments, a beached whale and an escaped lobster are added to the mix, the wedding that should have gone off with military precision threatens to become a spectacle of misbehavior.
Beneath the surface of this summery romp lie animosities, well-paced sexual suspense and a clash between appearances and authenticity. . . . Waltzlike.” —The New York Times Book Review
“This gorgeous, wise, funny, sprawling novel about family, fidelity, and social class, is the best book I’ve read in ages.” —J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Maine
“A wickedly clever tragicomedy of manners that unfolds with the plotting of a juicy mystery and the sharp eye of someone only too aware of the subtle, seemingly pointless class distinctions within the one percent.” —Slate
Alice Kaplan – Dreaming in French
A year in Paris . . . since World War II, countless American students have been lured by that vision—and been transformed by their sojourn in the City of Light. Dreaming in French tells three stories of that experience, and how it changed the lives of three extraordinary American women.
All three women would go on to become icons, key figures in American cultural, intellectual, and political life, but when they embarked for France, they were young, little-known, uncertain about their future, and drawn to the culture, sophistication, and drama that only Paris could offer. Yet their backgrounds and their dreams couldn’t have been more different. Jacqueline Bouvier was a twenty-year-old debutante, a Catholic girl from a wealthy East Coast family. Susan Sontag was twenty-four, a precocious Jewish intellectual from a North Hollywood family of modest means, and Paris was a refuge from motherhood, a failing marriage, and graduate work in philosophy at Oxford. Angela Davis, a French major at Brandeis from a prominent African American family in Birmingham, Alabama, found herself the only black student in her year abroad program—in a summer when all the news from Birmingham was of unprecedented racial violence.
Kaplan, whose own junior year abroad played a prominent role in her classic memoir, French Lessons, spins these three quite different stories into one evocative biography, brimming with the ferment and yearnings of youth and shot through with the knowledge of how a single year—and a magical city—can change a whole life. No one who has ever dreamed of Paris should miss it.