An Unnecessary Woman was written by Rabih Alameddine, one of Beirut’s most celebrated voices. The novel is a breathtaking portrait of a reclusive woman's late-life crisis that garnered a wave of rave reviews and love letters to Alameddine’s cranky yet charming septuagenarian protagonist, Aaliya, a character you "can't help but love," according to NPR. Read more »
Sinclair’s novel about the 1907 stock panic explores the inner workings of Wall Street at the time. In the novel, a prosperous New York lawyer, Montague, tries to help an old friend from Mississippi, who’s just moved to the city, sell a block of stock. Lucy, whose beauty makes men's hearts skip a beat, is eager to move forward and establish herself in the right social circles. But with that one transaction, they unwittingly became tangled in a web of unscrupulous power brokers who’ve concocted a daring scheme to manipulate the stock market for personal gain. Read more »
James McBride's National Book Award-winning novel tells the story of John Brown and his raid on Harpers Ferry from the perspective of a young, freed slave who is mistaken for a girl and spends much of the novel riding the circuit with John Brown. Offensive, hilarious, violent and sad, James McBride fills the Kansas Territory with characters straight out of a Mel Brooks movie and then throws in a dash of Quentin Tarantino for good measure. Told from this perspective, it is simultaneously comic and brutal.
Pius XI, who was pope during Mussolini’s rise to power in the 1920s, arranged to accept Il Duce’s political dominance in return for assurances of rights and privileges for the church. Over time, Pius XI became conflicted about fascism and Italy’s alliance with Nazi Germany. He prepared a statement condemning the Nazis as he was dying in 1938, but others in the Vatican prevented the original draft from being distributed. Kertzer explores ecclesiastical skullduggery and intrigue, including information revealed in recently opened Vatican archives.
A witty, warm and engaging book about Russians and the food obsessions of Soviet life; it is also a culinary history of the Russian Revolution and its consequences. In the great tradition of Russian memoirs, it presents a view of the country's past and culture in the mode of “laughter through tears.” A delicious read complete with recipes.
In The Last of the Wine, the long Peloponnesian War against Sparta underpins a story centering on the life of Athens and the circle of young men around Socrates. The novel focuses on the coming to manhood of its narrator, a young Athenian nobleman named Alexias, and of Lysis, the man who becomes the love of Alexias' life. The novel's chief concern is the sort of Greek love that inspired Plato's great dialogues, Symposium and Phaedrus. Read more »
Though Russia figures in this book, the subtitle best describes the work: A Novel About Secrets, Betrayal, and the Friend Who Got Away. Set in Cold War America and post-Soviet Russia, it is a mystery at the heart of which lies the story of the affection between girls and young women, love and loss. Inspired by the media sensation surrounding the letter of an American girl, Samantha Smith, to Yuri Andropov, the book has intrigue, plot twists, and ambiguity.
In The Faith Instinct, Wade investigates humanity’s transforming propensity for religion, showing how our innate piety has adapted to changing needs and conditions. Beginning as hunter-gatherers, humans were able to experience independent and personal access to the divine.Read more »
The Master and Margarita is woven around a visit by the devil to the fervently atheistic Soviet Union. In part, it is angled against a suffocatingly bureaucratic social order. The novel alternates between two settings. The first is 1930s Moscow, and the second setting is the Jerusalem of Pontius Pilate.Read more »
In The Flamethrowers, Kushner skillfully navigates huge swaths of politics and history, intimately intersecting the vivid lives of her characters with the external reality in which they move.Read more »