Every month, we’re profiling new-ish releases that are getting critical and commercial buzz. For September, we’re looking at historical fiction about one of America’s most infamous families, a sweet tale of food-based friendship, a magical realism family saga, an atmospheric Victorian gothic fantasy, a well-researched chronicle of legal battles over agricultural pollution, and an audiobook thriller.
If you love historical fiction:
Karen Joy Fowler’s Booth (2022)*
As far as infamous Americans go, John Wilkes Booth is probably at the top of most people’s lists. Though there’s certainly already a lot of nonfiction and fiction devoted to understanding what made him tick, this novel is much more interested in his family, particularly in the perspectives of three of his siblings. The Booths were the children of a famous English actor hiding his own scandalous past, and the bitter Rosalie, icy Asia, and talented but turbulent Edwin all have their own takes on the family and their brother. This novel has received a lot of critical buzz for its complex characters, lyrical prose, and vivid historical setting. Not a fast-paced read but certainly an absorbing one.
*Ebook also available on Libby.
Recommended for those who enjoy the work of Sara Gruen, Anne Tyler, and Barbara Kingsolver.
Kim Fay’s Love and Saffron (2022)
If you like your historical fiction lighter and/or more modern than Booth, try Love and Saffron instead. Joan is a budding food writer in early 1960s L.A. when she sends some saffron, along with a fan letter, to Imogen, a middle-aged columnist in the Pacific Northwest. It’s the start of a friendship between the two women as they write about food, the men in their lives, and the historical events unfolding around them. This heartwarming novel relates the story through Joan and Imogen’s letters.
Recommended for those who enjoyed Mary Ann Shaffer’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.
If you enjoy family sagas with a side of science fiction and history:
Jamie Ford’s The Many Daughters of Afong May (2022)**
Jamie Ford’s Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet was hugely popular several years ago, and his latest book is a genre-bending mixture of historical fiction and magical realism. Dorothy Moy has struggled with debilitating depression all her life and becomes horrified when her small daughter also begins to not only exhibit symptoms but also seems to remember things from their ancestors’ lives. The shaken Dorothy desperately seeks for a cure and begins to probe her family’s own legacy of inherited trauma, which is juxtaposed against the stories of previous generations of Moy women, including Faye, a nurse during WWII with the Flying Tigers; Lai King, a quarantined patient in San Francisco’s bubonic plague epidemic in the early 20th century; and Afong, a 19th century immigrant who was the first Chinese woman to come to America.
**Ebook also available on Libby.
Recommended for those who enjoy the work of Julie Otsuka, Amy Tan, and Lisa See.
If you prefer atmospheric gothic fantasy:
J.M. Miro’s Ordinary Monsters (2022)***
If you enjoy lush historical fantasies, Ordinary Monsters–the first in a new series–is definitely for you. It’s 1882 London and two unusual boys, one named Charlie whose body is self healing and the other named Marlowe who has the power to both melt and mend flesh, are being ushered to a remote Scottish estate where other children with similar talents are gathered. But Charlie and Marlowe are being pursued by a mysterious man made of smoke. Clocking in at nearly 700 pages, Ordinary Monsters has gotten a lot of buzz for its elegant prose, intriguing world-building, and likable characters. The tone isn’t quite as dark as the description may lead you to believe.
***Ebook also available on Libby.
Recommended for those who enjoy the work of Victoria Schwab, Susanna Clarke, and Ransom Riggs.
If you like nonfiction:
Corban Addison’s Wastelands: The True Story of Farm Country on Trial (2022)
If you love stories about the proverbial little guy taking on the establishment and winning, check out Wastelands. Residents of a small town in coastal North Carolina spent years frustrated with the pollution caused by a meatpacking company. They finally banded together to raise awareness, document the pollution, and take the company to trial. Written by a novelist and lawyer, the author offers up a well-constructed, fast-paced legal thriller that’s written like a novel but is nonfiction.
Recommended for those who enjoy John Grisham and/or John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood.
If you want an audiobook:
Chris Bohjalian’s The Lioness (2022)****
This novel has been billed as Ernest Hemingway meets Agatha Christie, which is a pretty good summation. Katie is a 1960s Hollywood star, and she has grand plans for her honeymoon. Namely, ferrying her ritzy friends to Tanzania for an elegant safari getaway. They’ll view exotic animals by day and unwind with gin and tonic at night at their luxurious lodgings. There is political upheaval in the Congo, but Katie and her friends aren’t too concerned . . . until they’re kidnapped by Russian mercenaries. Complications ensue.
****Also available as physical book in the system.
Recommended for those who enjoy the work of Diane Chamberlain and Liane Moriarty.
What’s your favorite new-ish books? What books are you buzzing about these days? Have you read any of these books? Tell us in the comments! As always, please follow this link to our online library catalog for more information on any of these items or to place them on hold.