10 Not-to-Miss Fiction Books…


Dare Me byMegan Abbott

Following the direction taken by her last novel, The End of Everything, Edgar winner Abbott again delivers an unsettling look at the inner life of adolescent girls in the guise of a crime story. The setting is an unnamed, frighteningly familiar town that could be found anywhere in contemporary America. Narrator Addy has been lifelong best friend to Beth, now the powerful captain of Sutton Grove High School’s cheerleading squad. The cheerleaders are popular mean girls, and Beth is the meanest and most popular. Then a new coach, young and pretty Colette French, arrives. She immediately asserts her authority, not only taking away the girls’ cell phones, but also announcing there will be no squad captain. A battle of wills ensues between Coach and Beth…Compelling, claustrophobic and slightly creepy in a can’t-put-it-down way. 


The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

The deeply satisfying story of a Chicago family coming apart at the seams and weaving together at the same time. Former lawyer Edie Middlestein has always been a large presence, brilliant as a lawyer, loving as a mother, shrewish as a wife. Since early childhood, food has been her private if not secret passion. The novel is organized according to Edie’s fluctuations in weight, and the descriptions of her sensual joy in the gluttony that may be killing her are often mouthwatering. Sixty-ish Edie is obese and ravaged by diabetes. When her pharmacist husband, Richard, leaves her shortly before she’s scheduled for an operation, Edie’s children are outraged. Thirty-one-year-old teacher Robin is a fearful near alcoholic who has avoided intimacy since a disastrous experience in high school. Ironically, her new self-proclaimed hatred of her father opens her to the possibility of a relationship with her geeky neighbor Daniel, a gentle soul with a hidden but strong spine, not unlike Robin’s older brother Benny. Benny is happily married to Rachelle, a woman of fierce protectiveness who initially denies Richard all access to his grandchildren to punish him for his desertion. Is Richard a heartless, selfish man, or is he correct that Edie left him years before he left her? A little of both. All these characters feel more than one emotion at a time, and all are more than they first seem…A sharp-tongued, sweet-natured masterpiece of Jewish family life.


Gold by Chris Cleave

British author Cleave turns to the world of Olympic speed cyclists to explore the shifting sands of ambition, loyalty and love. Tom, who just barely missed his own medal in 1968, is coaching Kate and Zoe to represent Britain at the 2012 Olympics, which the 32-year-old women know will be their last. They are best friends but fierce rivals. Zoe, who already has won four Olympic golds, lives only to race and will do anything, including sacrifice friends, ethics and her own emotional needs, to come in first. Though technically as fast, Kate is a perpetual runner -up, and compared to Zoe, she seems almost soft; her willingness to put family needs first has caused her to pass up two previous Olympic competitions…In weaker hands this would seem a bit contrived, but Cleave knows how to captivate with rich characters and nimble plotting. Read our interview with Cleave online this week.

Rest of article here includes:

Canada by Richard Ford

The Prophet by Michael Koryta

Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand

The Gift of Fire / On the Head of a Pin by Walter Mosley

Ménage by Alix Kates Shulman

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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R.I.P. Ray Bradbury.

The author, who died this week at 91, wrote novels and short stories that highlighted the transformative power of a good narrative.

Ray Bradbury’s best-known work, the novel Fahrenheit 451, opens with a book burning—a mountain of stories and information and ideas on the funeral pyre.

“It was a pleasure to burn,” the narrator tells us, “It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed.”

Of course, Bradbury abhorred the idea of precious human knowledge going up in smoke. It chills us that the protagonist, Montag, isn’t bothered by the sight—he can only think of roasting a marshmallow over the flames, watching “while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch.” We hear the author’s horror in this descriptive image, which imbues books with so much life. They contain ideas, wings, and breath, and they can die.

Ray Bradbury died Tuesday night at 91, and it’s the same kind of sadness: A voice that spoke, and spoke clearly, has gone silent. He authored 27 beloved novels and an astonishing 600 short stories. He added entire new concepts to our lexicon—most famously, the butterfly effect, a term used in chaos theory. (It describes a minute change that has huge repercussions elsewhere, an allusion to his story “A Sound of Thunder.” )

I, like many others, first heard and responded to this electrifying voice when I was young. I encountered him in middle school, when my English teacher assigned us “All Summer in a Day.” The story is set on Venus, and it’s a gloomy, ashy planet that thunders with unending gray rain. The sun comes out only once every seven years, for just an hour, and the schoolchildren of Venus—let’s just say they very badly need some Vitamin D.

Except Margot—she grew up on Earth, and she regales her classmates with stories of the endless summers there, how warm, and how lovely, how much better summer is than rain and how she cannot wait to see it. And they hate her, because she remembers.

The setup alone shows Bradbury’s strengths—he could transport us, in deft strokes, to an alien world, one that feels as sharp and real and heartbreaking as ours. But what startled me most was what happens. When the sun starts to come out, the other children lock Margot in the closet before they run out to play. And it’s just as warm and beautiful as she told them. The idyllic hour passes all too quickly: the clouds sweep in, and the rains start pelting, and only then do they remember that their friend is weeping behind the door.

The absolute psychological truth of this startled me, and woke me up, like waking to the smell of smoke. I’d seen this cruelty before in childhood pranks and games, I recognized the sadistic wisdom of it, and I knew it to be real. The last, plaintive lines of the story stuck with me for years: