The best new books this month chosen by us and other
independent booksellers across the country.

This Month's #1 Indie Next List Pick...

In the Dream House: A Memoir

By Carmen Maria Machado

(Graywolf Press, 9781644450031, $26)

"Welcome to the Dream House in this daring new kind of memoir that defies boundaries and boldly discards the conventions of genre. Inside, Carmen Maria Machado bares her soul in all of its pain and beauty, offering an intimate and profoundly vulnerable look at her own life, love, and sexuality. Machado has a gift for exposing the raw nerves and small miracles lurking beneath the surface of our daily lives. Her words move with a strange kind of urgency, surreal and yet true, like late-night phone calls when the rest of the world is asleep. I didn't feel like I was reading a book so much as observing a person's innermost thoughts. In the Dream House is a unique and extraordinary book."

--Jason Foose, Changing Hands, Tempe, AZ

This Month's #1 Indie Next List Pick Author Interview

(photo: Art Streiber/AUGUST)

Indie booksellers across the country have chosen In the Dream HouseA Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado (Graywolf Press, November 5) as their number-one pick for the November Indie Next List.

In the Dream House recounts Machado's abuse at the hands of a charismatic but volatile woman with whom she had a relationship while in grad school. Each chapter is driven by its own narrative trope--the haunted house, erotica, the bildungsroman--in offering essayistic explorations of the relationship and the historical depiction and reality of domestic abuse in queer relationships.

Machado is the author of the 2017 short story collection Her Body And Other Parties: Stories (Graywolf), which booksellers named number-one on the October 2017 Indie Next List. Her Body was also a finalist for the National Book Award and won the Bard Fiction Prize, the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction, the Shirley Jackson Award, and the National Book Critics Circle's John Leonard Prize. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Electric LiteratureTin HouseGuernica, and the Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy, Best Horror of the Year, and Year's Best Weird Fiction series.

Machado has an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and has been awarded fellowships and residencies with the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, Hedgebrook, Yaddo, and more. She is the Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania and lives in Philadelphia with her wife.

Here, we speak with Machado about her second book, which has so far received starred reviews in Publishers WeeklyKirkus Reviews, and Booklist.

Why did you decide to write this memoir and why now?

It's such a simple yet complicated question. I've been trying to write this book for a very long time, and I think what happened was a kind of confluence of events after Graywolf bought my first book. I had some time at some residencies where I was finishing up Her Body and Other Parties, and I had spent the in-between time working on the memoir. And then when Graywolf asked me if I had anything else, I said, I do actually, I have this weird memoir that I feel like would be perfect for you guys. So I feel like a lot of things came together. I think if I had written it earlier it wouldn't have been as good, and I think if I had tried to sell it before I sold Her Body it wouldn't have sold. 

In the book, you write, "The nature of 'archival silence' is that certain people's narratives and their nuances are swallowed by history. We see only what pokes through because it is sufficiently salacious for the majority to pay attention." How do you think you would have benefited from seeing more books, movies, and other cultural representations of domestic abuse in LGBTQ relationships when you were younger?

It's hard to posit how my whole life would have been different, but I think there is sort of a two-fold answer here. If those kinds of narratives had been in my mind even before I met this woman, I wonder if it would have been more clear-cut to me. Maybe it wouldn't have, maybe the same thing would have happened. But also I think that afterwards, when it was over, I was really struggling to find a context for myself, and once I started putting language to it, I sort of realized what had happened and in a weird way, how mundane it was. When you don't use gendered pronouns to describe what happened, it is very clearly an abusive relationship; that's not even a question. It only becomes confusing when suddenly you're like, what does it mean that I was abused by a woman and not a man, as a woman? It's complicated. But I do wonder what it would have meant to have had context, in the same way that I wonder what it would have been like to have had narrative context when I was a young person who didn't quite know that she was gay or queer.

Each chapter features a different narrative trope (Dream House as "X"), including Dream House as spy thriller, as diagnosis, déjà vu, the apocalypse, haunted house, bildungsroman, Choose Your Own Adventure, and even as an original fairy tale, "The Queen and the Squid." Why did you decide to write it this way?

I would be lying if I didn't say it was more manageable as a text, but I also think there's something to be said about the shape of the book honoring the contents. I really struggled for a long time both because I didn't have the distance from it that I needed, and because I was trying to tell it in a straightforward way and it's not a straightforward story. I think that it's sort of this process of defamiliarization; everybody here knows this is a story of domestic violence, but what does it mean to back up and tell it in this way that reflects the inherent brokenness and the inherent trauma of the experience? And I feel like once I lit upon that form, the whole thing opened up in this way that was really meaningful to me. 

I knew I wanted to center it around the house, because I'm really interested in haunted houses and architecture and those different spaces, and so much of the story happened in the context of that house where we lived in Indiana and other houses. And the idea of the house has so much loaded terminology when it comes to domestic violence, so I knew I wanted it to serve as a sort of visual metaphor. So after ruling out the working title, House in Indiana, I went through all these titles and thought, well, what about the Dream House as a concept? I think it operates on these different levels: building your dream house, a Barbie Dream House, a house of dreams. There are just a lot of moving pieces to the title which I think works.

In the book, you refer to the Motif Index of Folk Literature to create footnotes that illustrate the different allegorical aspects of the story. That same pull toward fairy tale and folklore is echoed in parts of Her Body and Other Parties. How did your interest in this area first come about?

As a kid I had a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale book and the stories in there are really f***ed up, which you know if you've ever read Hans Christian Andersen. They're weird and they're kind of dark. Like The Little Mermaid! As a kid I liked stories that were a bit scary or disturbing even though I was a big coward, a big chicken. I was afraid of them but I also moved toward them, and I feel like that is kind of my personality in a nutshell. So it started fairly young, I think, like a lot of kids. I was attracted to the darker elements of fairy tales and urban legends and folktales. I also had this book as a kid called The Dark-Thirty, which were these weird ghost stories from the South that I just loved.

The thing about fairy tales and myths and folklore is that you can sort of categorize them, and there's this really interesting taxonomy associated with those stories. Looking at this idea of, what does it mean to be living in a story that is kind of a cliché? And then how do you subvert that cliché and how do you move around it? So for me, folktales have so much to do with these different categories, but then at the same time, you can really look at them in new ways and open them up and turn them inside out and see what they actually mean, even in the context of their own familiarity.

In the Dream House features the splitting up of your point of view into "you" and "I" sections, illustrating the fracturing of the self as a result of trauma. How did the decision to do that come about?

The funny thing is that when I sold the book it was written in the second person, and I barely registered that that was true. I didn't do it on purpose. And my editor said, when we're ready to work on this with you, something we might want to talk about is this second person perspective: what's happening there? He thought that because I just wrote it that way automatically it might have been some kind of trauma response, and he asked if I could just look at it, and maybe explore that creatively, and I said, cool, sure. So I went back to it, but a lot of the pages that I had already written lost all their energy when I read them in first person. So I had an idea; I was thinking a lot then about Justin Torres's We the Animals. It's this stunning novel that has this really traumatic gut punch of an ending where the perspective becomes fractured, and I thought that was so devastating and so beautiful. I was really moved by it. And I thought, what if I actually do this very conscious thing where I split apart the perspectives? And that really did make the whole thing sync up. 

You're currently on your second book tour. Her Body and Other Parties was a bestseller, received numerous awards, and is currently being made into an HBO show. What has this whirlwind journey of success been like for you?

It's been amazing. Obviously, I am deeply grateful to indie booksellers. They have been selling my book like crazy, selling it everywhere. I never in my wildest imagination could have ever guessed it would happen. I really thought I'd be lucky to make back my advance with that book, so for anyone to have read it...I feel like the success of it still sort of surprises me and I don't really know what to make of it exactly. Even though honestly, it makes me super happy. It's just been incredible and a little overwhelming. For the last couple of years, I've been adjusting to a new life, a new way of being and a new way of living, and of organizing my time and my practice as a writer. I can hardly believe I'm heading into a second tour. I think this is something that happens to a lot of writers where they can imagine writing their first book but getting past that book feels impossible, and I felt that, too. But there has been this sense of forward propulsion that I think was made possible by the success of the first book. --Liz Button

More Indie Next List Great Reads

The Starless Sea

By Erin Morgenstern

(Doubleday, 9780385541213, $28.95)

"Rarely is a book such an absolute feast--for the senses, for the intellect, and, above all, for the soul. Morgenstern dazzles in her latest novel, an intricately wrought tale populated by lovers, mystery, and sumptuous magic. The Starless Sea is an ode to book lovers everywhere, reanimating the excitement as well as the pure possibility felt when reading books like Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings for the first time. I am reminded of the famous C.S. Lewis quote, 'One day, you'll be old enough to read fairytales again.' When that day comes, The Starless Sea will be waiting for you."

--Laura Graveline, Brazos Bookstore, Houston, TX

Nothing to See Here

By Kevin Wilson

(Ecco, 9780062913463, $26.99)

"When a politician's young wife hires her old school friend as a nanny for her two stepchildren, the main duty will be to keep the twins out of sight and out of trouble. That's because the kids' father is a senator and under serious consideration to be the next Secretary of State. But what if the children can't control themselves? Who is the best person to take care of children who are afflicted with spontaneous combustion? Obviously, a woman with no fear of fire, nothing to lose, and nothing to gain. At turns hilarious and heartbreaking, this unique novel explores family dynamics, resentment, and retribution, leaving the reader with a new perspective on motherhood and what it means to be loyal to those you love."

--Laura Simcox, Sunrise Books, High Point, NC

On Swift Horses

By Shannon Pufahl

(Riverhead Books, 9780525538110, $27)

"This densely atmospheric debut sinks its hooks deep into post-war America's tender underbelly, exposing the homophobia and bigotry beneath a nation's renewed spirit of hope and opportunity. Muriel and Julius are restless outsiders, siblings-in-law who share a passion for gambling as well as their more furtive passion. Both are trying to make their own opportunities to find love and happiness--a gamble that one will unexpectedly win and one will just as unexpectedly lose. An immersive and rewarding first novel."
--Karen Brissette, Shakespeare & Co., New York, NY

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers

The Revisioners

By Margaret Wilkerson Sexton

(Counterpoint, 9781640092587, $25)

"Set in 1855, 1924, and 2017, this story features Ava, a modern single mother and divorcee who, down on her luck, moves in as a caretaker for her grandmother, whose lingering racism becomes more pronounced as her mind begins to fail. Also told is the story of Ava's grandmother's great-grandmother, Josephine, who is a slave as a child and later in life the widowed owner of a 300-acre farm. Ava and Josephine both have the ability to 'revision,' seeing into others' souls and guiding them to a different place. Sexton does a beautiful job of developing her characters while accurately describing the racism that is never far away no matter the time period. This story is loving and devastating in the best way."

--Todd Miller, Arcadia Books, Spring Green, WI

The Bromance Book Club

By Lyssa Kay Adams

(Berkley, 9781984806093, $16, trade paper)

"In just a few short years, Gavin and Thea have gone from starry-eyed young lovers to married with twins. Gavin is at the top of his career in baseball, but Thea is feeling like she's lost who she is--there is definitely trouble in paradise, and Thea wants out! But Gavin's teammates invite him to join a book club that just might reignite that spark the couple once had. Can reading romance novels teach Gavin how to win back his wife? I absolutely love the concept of this novel. The writing was fun and light, yet maintained depth and value. I could relate to Thea as a wife and mother and still rooted for Gavin."

--Miranda Atkins, A Little Bookish, Ooltewah, TN

Little Weirds: Essays

By Jenny Slate

(Little, Brown and Company, 9780316485340, $27)

"Little Weirds, a collection of essays by actress and comedian Jenny Slate, is pure magic--a joyous, thoughtful, and deeply gorgeous peek into the soul of an extremely bright and unique individual. Jenny's mastery of the English language, the way she arranges words to tell a story, the vulnerability with which she does it, and the purity of her heart is so astounding at times that reading a paragraph once or twice is simply not enough. Little Weirds cuts deeply into what it means to be a woman here on this earth. It is about friendship and growth and learning to love ourselves in all of our tender and wild strangeness."

--Jenna Schenk, BookTowne, Manasquan, NJ

Get a Life, Chloe Brown

By Talia Hibbert

(Avon, 9781982135706 hardcover, $28, 9781501197420, trade paper, $15.99)

"Get a Life, Chloe Brown is such a wonderful, inclusive, body-positive, fun, moving, and steamy book, the kind of novel I want to shove into every person's hand who says they don't read romance. Chloe Brown is a plus-size black British woman with chronic illness who is confident, sharp, sarcastic, brilliant, and adorable as hell--and, to my great relief, totally comfortable and happy with her looks and her size. After being temporarily knocked down by her illness, Chloe decides to reclaim her life, so she makes a to-do list: ride a motorcycle, have meaningless sex, go camping, etc. It was such an absolute treat to read a novel about a plus-size woman with a disability having amazing, mind-blowing sex and loving her life. I truly cannot say enough wonderful things about this book, so instead I will just force everyone I know to read it."

--Elissa Sweet, Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT

The Family Upstairs

By Lisa Jewell

(Atria Books, 9781501190100, $27)

"Just having children does not make you a parent, and that truth is apparent in the pages of this book. A wealthy family in London seems to have everything--a great home, private schools, mentions in the press--but it is somehow not enough. Once you open the door to the unknown, can it really ever be closed? The influence of the charismatic egotist is told with flawless accuracy and stark images. In these situations, the children suffer the most; they are powerless and easy prey. This book details an unfolding family crisis where abuse can take many forms. Hard to put down and with several huge twists, The Family Upstairs will satisfy even the most discriminating fan. Lisa Jewell has exceeded all expectations!"

--Jackie Willey, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC

Ordinary Girls: A Memoir

By Jaquira Díaz

(Algonquin Books, 9781616209131, $26.95)

"Too often, those of us who grow up below the federal poverty line spend the rest of our lives erasing ourselves. If we manage to migrate out of poverty, we do so at a cost. The gatekeepers of academia, and of literature, often only want to hear our stories if we make a spectacle of our people, or if we tell our stories in the language of the elite at the expense of our own voices. I think this is one of the most powerful things about Ordinary Girls. Díaz tells her sad and beautiful stories in her own voice, a voice that still holds the people and the places that made her. What a gift. Growing up poor means that we are taught, every day and in a million tiny ways, that our families are wrong, our speech is ugly, our stories shameful. This is oppression and Díaz banishes it with beauty, love, honesty, and insight. Ordinary Girls is a book that makes me feel less alone in this world."

--Tina Ontiveros, Klindt's Booksellers, The Dalles, OR

Indies Introduce -- outstanding debuts as selected by independent booksellers

Twice in a Blue Moon

By Christina Lauren

(Gallery Books, 9781982135706, $16, trade paper)

"This is a story about forgiveness and second chances, and it is full of heart. When 18-year-old Tate, the long-lost daughter of a famous actor, has a whirlwind vacation romance with Sam, he sells a story about her to the press for the big bucks. Now, 14 years later and an established actress herself, she has to work with Sam while trying not to let him see how his betrayal changed the course of her life. This novel feels more subdued, a slow burn dealing a lot with trust issues and complicated family dynamics. If you're looking for a sweet (and sexy) romance with depth that will keep you up until the wee hours of the morning, this is it."

--Leah Atlee, Bright Side Bookshop, Flagstaff, AZ

Running With Sherman: The Donkey With the Heart of a Hero

By Christopher McDougall

(Knopf, 9781524732363, $27.95)

"Running With Sherman is one of those special books that just makes you happy. Sherman, an abused donkey adopted by Christopher McDougall and family, needs a task, and that task turns out to be joining the World Championship of burro running in Colorado. In his inimitably engaging style, McDougall has taken the best of his two previous books--the personal stories of Born to Run and the history from Natural Born Heroes--and created the most enjoyable book I've read this year. I laughed, I got teary, I smiled a lot. Sherman is my new hero!"

--Pete Mock, McIntyre's Fine Books, Pittsboro, NC

The Crying Book

By Heather Christle

(Catapult, 9781948226448, $16.95, trade paper)

"To be a writer is to be both in constant awe and in constant envy of other writers. Heather Christle is no exception. She is a writer to whom a world of poets look for playful imagery and careful affect. The Crying Book is not billed as poetry, but it's not prose--it's something very deeply embedded between genres. There are no line breaks, but there is lyricism and a poetic philosophy of the intimate relationship between things: tears, grief, war, motherhood, friendship, partnership, science, history. The literary world has already likened it to Maggie Nelson's Bluets, but Christle's work seems to me more delicate, as though each turn of a tear-soaked page allows readers the permission, as Christle puts it, to be held. And to be held by a book is, I think, exactly what a reader craves."

--Lauren Korn, Fact & Fiction Downtown, Missoula, MT

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me

By Adrienne Brodeur

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9781328519030, $27)

"This extraordinary memoir is destined to become a classic in the genre. Brodeur is a gifted storyteller with a doozy of a story to tell, as she is 14 years old when her mother makes her complicit in the decade-long affair between her mother and her stepfather's best friend. Everything about this book is rich--the setting on Cape Cod and the strong sense of place; the unforgettable character of Brodeur's mother, the incomparable Malabar; cinematic moments that stop the reader in their tracks; and layer upon layer of provocative themes around mother-daughter relationships, family secrets, and identity. I can't stop thinking about this book."

--Allison Hill, Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, CA

Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA

By Amaryllis Fox

(Knopf, 9780525654971, $26.95)

"Her unconventional childhood--think playing unsupervised on the streets of Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Washington, D.C.--prepared Amaryllis Fox for a career in the CIA. She was recruited because as part of her master's studies at Georgetown's School of Foreign Service, she developed an algorithm that was amazingly accurate at predicting where terrorist cells might pop up in the world. Soon, she was deployed as a spy in the Middle East while posing as an art dealer. After 10 years, Fox left the CIA and is now a writer, a current events analyst, a peace activist, and a mother. One wonders what is next in her fascinating life!"
--Sally Wizik Wills, Beagle and Wolf Books & Bindery, Park Rapids, MN

Eat Joy: Stories & Comfort Food From 31 Celebrated Writers

By Natalie Eve Garrett, editor

(Black Balloon Publishing/IPS, 9781936787791, $22)

"The visceral quality of food as it relates to memory is unparalleled--sometimes we eat our favorite foods as comfort during grief, or a dish prepared by a friend becomes healing food from then on. Eat Joy is a lively collection of autobiographical stories in which food plays a starring role (recipes included--and they are lovely!). A diverse selection of celebrated authors tell their stories of growth, loss, healing, and homecoming, and the resulting collection is nothing short of magical."

--Mary Wahlmeier, Raven Book Store, Lawrence, KS

The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness

By Susannah Cahalan

(Grand Central Publishing, 9781538715284, $28)

"Susannah Cahalan, the bestselling author of Brain on Fire, is back with another riveting true story of madness and the mental health system. In the 1970s, Dr. David Rosenhan convinced seven sane people to join him in committing themselves to mental hospitals as patients and trying to get out on their own. What begins as an inspiring and daring story of experimentation darkens and twists as Cahalan closes in on a story shrouded in mystery--who were these seven 'pseudopatients' in Rosenhan's groundbreaking study, and what really happened to them? The Great Pretender is not-to-be-missed narrative nonfiction."

--Megan Bell, Underground Books, Carrollton, GA

All This Could Be Yours

By Jami Attenberg

(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 9780544824256, $26)

"I am in love with Jami Attenberg's writing, and was gripped by All This Could Be Yours from the opening pages. Everything about the Tuchmans felt so true to me: Alex's confusion and anger toward the family's toxic, now-comatose patriarch, Victor; Barbra's isolation in her later years after a long marriage to a brute; Twyla and Gary's unwinding secret selves--all of it is so perfectly told and paced. Full of Attenberg's trademark dry wit and precise, uncomfortable insight into the psychology of family love (and its close cousin, family hate), this novel had me laughing with genuine joy and crying in real sadness at the same time."

--Liv Stratman, Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, NY

The Deep

By Jonathan Snipes , Daveed Diggs , Rivers Solomon and William Hutson

(Gallery/Saga Press, 9781534439863, $19.99)

"Solomon is perfectly suited to expand the concept of a civilization of merfolk whose origins were born in the violence of pregnant African women sent to the depths from the vessels of white slave traders. The Deep focuses on Yetu, whose role as historian is to be individually burdened with six centuries of memories of all the wajinru (merfolk), and the consequences when she abdicates her responsibility. With shades of Hans Christian Andersen, Ursula Le Guin, and Lois Lowry, plus inimitable explorations of difficult social interrelationships, Solomon's short tome is, indeed, a deep read."

--Maryelizabeth Yturralde, Creating Conversations, Redondo Beach, CA

The Accomplice

By Joseph Kanon

(Atria Books, 9781501121425, $28)

"Joseph Kanon has produced his best effort yet, bringing us along on a mission to the Buenos Aires of 1962 to hunt down a reputedly deceased Nazi concentration camp doctor. With the backdrop of the earlier elaborate capture of Eichmann, this one is a homemade operation reluctantly carried out by the nephew of a camp survivor (the eponymous accomplice) and involving the CIA and Mossad. The Accomplice explores the life of a socialite in Buenos Aires, the conflicting emotions of the target's daughter and the reluctant spy, the limits of familial loyalty and of trust, and the danger of playing all sides. Emotional zigs and zags leave the reader spellbound as the cat and mouse game closes in on the capture of a detestable unrepentant Nazi."

--Darwin Ellis, Books on the Common, Ridgefield, CT

The Adults

By Caroline Hulse

(Random House Trade Paperbacks, 9780525511762, $17)

"What a fun read! Put a copy into the stocking of every adult family member (and rejoice when they all go off to their separate corners to read quietly). Exes, step-parents, vacation hijinks, secrets, and screw-ups--this funny novel has all the right ingredients to entertain and cut the tension surrounding big family holidays."

--Mary Laura Philpott, Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN

Bowlaway

By Elizabeth McCracken

(Ecco, 9780062862860, $16.99)

"At the turn of the 20th century, Bertha Truitt is found lying unconscious in a frosty New England cemetery with no explanation of how she arrived there and a past she is unwilling to talk about. In a bag by her side are a corset, a bowling ball, one candlepin, and 15 pounds of gold. Thus begins a story of love, bowling, and how Bertha Truitt would influence the town of Salford and its residents for generations to come. Elizabeth McCracken once again brings us superb storytelling that shows how our lives don't always follow a straight line to where we thought we might be going."

--Jessie Martin, Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, MI

Come With Me

By Helen Schulman

(Harper Perennial, 9780062459145, $16.99)

"A gripping, expertly written story of love and fate, Helen Schulman's Come With Me resonates for all of us who are engaged in our modern, complex families; intrigued and confused by the technology in our lives; and curious enough to wonder how our lives might have turned out if we had made different choices."

--Linda Kass, Gramercy Books, Bexley, OH

The Dreamers

By Karen Thompson Walker

(Random House Trade Paperbacks, 9780812984668, $17)

"A strange virus invades a small university community, sending its victims into deep, seemingly endless sleep and infecting them with extremely powerful dreams. This backdrop provides a perfect scenario for examining the delicate, often unrecognized line between reality and perception. As the crisis deepens, the characters are caught up in a phantasmagorical world that challenges normal conceptions of existence. A thoughtful, provocative novel of strength and beauty."

--Bill Cusumano, Square Books, Oxford, MS

Family Trust

By Kathy Wang

(William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062855268, $16.99)

"Family Trust is a novel that I did not want to end. From the start, I was completely immersed in the Huang family dynamic, complicated as most families tend to be. In one sentence you feel real sympathy for a character, and in the next you are laughing out loud. It is a true gem. From the first pages, I was completely swept in to the lives of the Huang family. I have a feeling this will be my go-to hand-sell for the fall! Those who loved The Nest and Crazy Rich Asians will eat this right up! A very well-written, highly enjoyable read."

--Kaitlin Smith, Copperfield's Books, Sebastopol, CA

The Far Field

By Madhuri Vijay

(Grove Press, 9780802147967, $17)

"Few seasoned novelists--let alone a first-time novelist like Madhuri Vijay--are able to construct scene after scene with compelling interior drama, tension, and forward momentum, but you'll never want to stop reading as Vijay skillfully combines a personal journey and family mystery with a political examination of the Kashmiri-Indian troubles. Shalini, the narrator of this extraordinary work, has a mother who immediately belongs on any shortlist of literature's great characters. If I read a better novel in 2019, then 2019 will become my favorite year of the 21st century."

--Brian Lampkin, Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC

Little Faith

By Nickolas Butler

(Ecco, 9780062469724, $16.99)

"I loved this story about friendship, family, and how faith influences life-changing decisions. Nickolas Butler beautifully captures the people, landscape, and seasons of northern Wisconsin over a 12-month period. The characters and their relationships to each other is what this book is really about. You will love or hate them, but you will feel part of this community when you finish."

--Susan Murphy, Pages Bookshop, Detroit, MI

November Road

By Lou Berney

(William Morrow Paperbacks, 9780062663856, $16.99)

"Lou Berney's engrossing novel November Road unfolds in the immediate aftermath of JFK's assassination, but the heady confusion and shock of that dark day play second fiddle to the stories of Frank Guidry and Charlotte Roy, two desperate individuals seeking to outrun the entanglements of their very different lives. Guidry, a once-trusted player for the Marcello mob, is a marked man fleeing for his life; Roy, a weary housewife, seeks better prospects for herself and her daughters, so she must escape from both her dead-end town and deadbeat husband. Told in sharp, cinematic prose, this novel explodes the boundaries of the typical crime novel and offers up something more literary, a finely tuned exploration of the will to change."

--Mike Wysock, The Book Stall, Winnetka, IL

Queenie

By Candice Carty-Williams

(Gallery/Scout Press, 9781501196027, $16)

"Positively brilliant. I was completely blown away by this debut, in which 25-year-old Queenie Jenkins is navigating a lot. She recently went on break from a long-term relationship, she can't seem to find her stride at her job with a national newspaper, and she's constantly trying to figure out how to navigate the various components of her identity. The biggest question of all: Can't she be loved just because, without her blackness being seen as exotic or a caveat? Candice Carty-Williams' debut is a completely fresh voice that shines light on a literary perspective frequently overlooked--that of young, black women. An absolute must-read."

--Destinee Hodge, East City Bookshop, Washington, DC

Those Who Knew

By Idra Novey

(Penguin Books, 9780525560586, $17)

"This book packs a punch. While slender, every sentence, every word, is well-chosen and thought-provoking. However, as intellectually stimulating as it is, it's still accessible and enjoyable. Every chapter, though small, gives you a snapshot of who a character is and drives the plot along. I picked this book up on a whim and from the very first page I couldn't put it down. I can't recommend this book enough!"

--Erin Gold, Pages Bookshop, Detroit, MI

Unsheltered

By Barbara Kingsolver

(Harper Perennial, 9780062684738, $17.99)

"A brilliant novel set in two different centuries, eras when lies trumped truth and superstition overruled science. Kingsolver illustrates human resiliency with insight, humor, and compassion in this deeply satisfying novel. While showing the cost of leadership built on false promises and lies, it also illustrates the strength of the human spirit with characters who will not be broken by their times. Kingsolver's characters, including historical figures Mary Treat and Charles Landis, shine as they make their way through the maze of survival set before them. Great reading."
--Deon Stonehouse, Sunriver Books & Music, Sunriver, OR

The Weight of a Piano

By Chris Cander

(Vintage, 9780525563587, $16)

"A hulking black piano of Russian origin links the stories of two women: Katya, who must leave behind her beloved instrument when she immigrates to the U.S., and Clara, who is forced to sell her family heirloom when she loses her boyfriend and her home. The obsessive love each woman holds for the piano unfolds as the instrument journeys across continents. Chris Cander has crafted a novel of compelling beauty and characters who are complex, deeply flawed, and magnificently haunting. This will be a five-star beginning to any avid reader's 2019 book list."
--Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books, Excelsior, MN