26 Fresh Reads for Spring

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Not only did two of our very own team members publish books this month (congrats, River and Mary Laura!), but we also have 24 more fresh reads ready and waiting to be picked. Short stories, novels, essays, memoir, investigative journalism, poetry — it’s all here this month! Read on to find which one(s) you’ll want to take home next.

 

FICTION
Recommended by Ann

Lost and Wanted: A novel Cover ImageLost and Wanted

I’ve read all of Nell’s books and she never ceases to amaze me. This is the story of a Harvard physicist who may be getting messages from her dead best friend on her phone…or is it just wishful thinking? An extremely empowering story of women in science.

Want your copy signed? Lost and Wanted is also this month’s First Editions Club pick. When you sign up, you’ll receive a signed copy. (Learn more at the bottom of this post.) And/or: come meet Freudenberger at her event here in the store on Wednesday, April 10, at 6:30!

Recommended by Devin

Queenie Cover ImageQueenie

Maybe I’m a jerk and do this to make myself feel better, but I have to admit, I love a book about someone my age that doesn’t have their stuff together. Part Eleanor Oliphant and part Americanah (but don’t be mistaken, this 100% stands on its own), Queenie is light and dark, frustrating and hilarious, and a novel I could and will read multiple times.

Recommended by Mary Laura

Look How Happy I'm Making You: Stories Cover ImageLook How Happy I’m Making You: Stories 

The stories in this collection of short fiction explore every facet of motherhood — fertility, pregnancy, the baby-years, the flipside (childlessness), and more — treating the most intimate details of women’s lives with ruthless attention and tender care. If you loved Danielle Lazarin’s Back Talk, this is for you. (Also: this wins for my favorite title of the year thus far.)

Recommended by Sarah

Tiny Americans: A Novel Cover ImageTiny Americans

Murphy stitches together distinct moments over four decades in the lives of the Thurber family to create a complex and powerful story of family, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Each vignette, told from the perspective of a different family member, vividly captures the unique desires, flaws, and pain they experience amid the dysfunction that continually threatens to keep them apart. It’s quiet, moving, and real.

Recommended by Mary Laura

Beyond the Point: A Novel Cover ImageBeyond the Point

I’m always a sucker for a novel about female friendship, and this one’s set at West Point, a place I didn’t know much about before reading. (And in a travel-friendly paperback format? SOLD.)

Recommended by Kathy

The Age of Light: A Novel Cover ImageThe Age of Light

A wonderfully sensuous and atmospheric novel set in bohemian Paris between the wars, The Age of Light tells the passionate love story of Vogue model Lee Miller and photographer Man Ray. Things get interesting when Miller steps behind the camera and receives recognition as a photographer herself.

Recommended by Sydney

Trust Exercise: A Novel Cover ImageTrust Exercise

Sarah and David attend a competitive performing arts school. They experience a whirlwind romance before their relationship finally falls apart. When the novel takes a sudden turn and visiting students from England disrupt their class, we are forced to question Sarah and David’s relationship — along with the meaning of consent. Perfect for those who also enjoyed The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.

Recommended by Kathy

Little Faith Cover ImageLittle Faith 

What would you do if your beloved adult daughter made a dangerous choice for herself and your darling grandson? How much should you intervene to protect them both?

Recommended by Kay

The City in the Middle of the Night Cover ImageThe City in the Middle of the Night 

Set on a planet where one side always faces the sun and the other is always lost in shadow, this novel does a beautiful job describing the struggle of a colonial human society trying to survive in the narrow band of twilight. There’s much more, however, to this book than a clever setting, as Anders uses her dual protagonists to explore the many ways memory shapes us, both as individuals and as a society.

NONFICTION
Recommended by Ann

I Miss You When I Blink: Essays Cover ImageI Miss You When I Blink: Essays 

The relentlessly funny, self-effacing, charming and heartbreaking story of our own triple-A++ perfectionist.

Also recommended by Karen…
Mary Laura has written a memoir in bite-sized essays that is so tuned into the perfection-obsessed world we all live in. With humor and poignancy Mary Laura reveals that even when you seem to have it all — love, family, and challenging work — it doesn’t mean unending happiness. But knowing that you are not alone in feeling this way is part of the joy of reading this book.

And also recommended by Keltie
In the the end, I’m just a girl who really, really loves a book that makes her cry and laugh and cheer and think that she’s not alone in the world. I had that I’ve-been-there-sister moment on every page. I read the manuscript, and had to keep asking myself: Is this book as good as I think it is, or do I think it’s so good because I adore the writer? The verdict is in. It IS as good as I think it is. So there.

Recommended by Ann

Confessions of a Christian Mystic Cover ImageConfessions of a Christian Mystic 

River told me she liked it when I said she and her terrific new book are “peaceful with an edge.” If you’re into the spiritual thing, you’ll love it. If you’re not into the spiritual thing, you’ll still love it.

Also recommended by Karen
River Jordan reveals how the spiritual can appear in everyday life if you are open to it. Her quirky sense of humor is apparent throughout the book, and this light and relatable tone makes Confessions such a pleasure to read.

And also recommended by Keltie
River Jordan can really turn a phrase. Her language is gorgeous: one meditation on prayer left me holding my breath. But she is also a true storyteller in the best Southern tradition. Her book is a rhapsody on the mystery of faith and the elusive Divine told through a very modern lens. (AND there is a wonderful cameo appearance by Donna Summer!) It reads like a remembered song. Loved it.

Recommended by Mary Laura

Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir Cover ImageSave Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir 

I devoured every one of Reichl’s previous memoirs, so I knew I’d like this. But I especially loved how, by writing about her years at the helm of Gourmet magazine, she captured a time that’s relatively recent yet feels like a whole other era. (Was it really just over a decade ago when magazines still had whopping travel budgets?)

We hope you’ll join us on Monday, April 15 at 6:30 p.m. for an evening with the bestselling author and former editor-in-chief of Gourmet to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank. Learn more about this special event here.

Recommended by Betsy

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed Cover ImageMaybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed 

Lori is a psychotherapist practicing in California. When a relationship that she thought would lead to marriage ends suddenly, she finds herself in therapy. Told in alternating chapters between her clients’ narratives and her own, Lori’s memoir explores the humor and humanity behind a therapeutic relationship. I’m grabbing two copies — one for me and one for my therapist.

Recommended by Keltie

The Honey Bus: A Memoir of Loss, Courage and a Girl Saved by Bees Cover ImageThe Honey Bus: A Memoir of Loss, Courage and a Girl Saved by Bees 

You will never look at bees the same way. A combination of my two favorite subsets of memoir: a hardscrabble childhood with an unexpected hero (My Beloved Country, Educated, The Great Santini) and a person who finds herself through a relationship with animals (The Soul of an Octopus, H is for Hawk, Spineless). This is the story of a lost girl, her step-grandfather, and the beauty and order she learns from his bees.

Recommended by Keltie

Mama's Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves Cover ImageMama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us about Ourselves 

At Parnassus, we KNOW animals have emotions — the shop dogs are not shy about expressing theirs. Punctuated by poignant stories, this book explores the emotional life of animals through science. In the opening scene, Mama, a chimpanzee, is on her deathbed. Then a friend she hasn’t seen in years arrives. Slowly, she recognizes the man and uses her remaining strength to rise and hug his neck a last time. I cried.

Recommended by Betsy

Holy Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others Cover ImageHoly Envy: Finding God in the Faith of Others 

In her previous memoir Leaving Church, Barbara Brown Taylor navigated a shift from Episcopal priest to university professor. Holy Envy is her in the classroom, facilitating space for students to explore world religions. She reflects on the joys and complexities that emerge when a tradition different from one’s own becomes sacred. If Krista Tippett and Mary Oliver are for you, this for you, too.

Recommended by Lauren

Why We Dream: The Transformative Power of Our Nightly Journey Cover ImageWhy We Dream: The Transformative Power of Our Nightly Journey 

I can’t guarantee that you’ll have a lucid dream after reading this, but that’s exactly what happened to me. Dreaming, as it turns out, is far more essential to waking life than I imagined. Though I haven’t yet mastered communicating with the outside world from dreamland like these scientists, I’ve been talking about them at dinner parties since this came out last November. Read it now for sweet dreams later.

Recommended by Keltie

The Home Edit: A Guide to Organizing and Realizing Your House Goals (Includes Refrigerator  Labels) Cover ImageThe Home Edit: A Guide to Organizing and Realizing Your House Goals 

Less mystical than Marie Kondo, less fussy than Martha Stewart, this is the working girl’s pragmatic guide to getting that s%*& cleaned out and organized. It is a virtual “Organizing for Dummies” written by your two best girlfriends. Plus, it’s gorgeous. I may never have a “ballroom closet,” but I’ll know how to organize it if I do. (And the book includes your very own set of refrigerator stickers. I’m in love.)

Recommended by Cat

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle Cover ImageBurnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle 

We all get stressed, but most of us don’t know how to manage our stress in a healthy way and end up experiencing what Emily and Amelia call “burnout.” If you are a woman at any stage of life, you need this book. It’s wonderfully conversational and also full of applicable and eye-opening solutions.

Recommended by Keltie

An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago Cover ImageAn American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago 

In the summer of 2013, 172 people were killed and 793 were wounded by gunfire in Chicago. Only one in four of these murders will be solved; only 10% of the remaining shooters will be caught. In short, you have a good chance of getting away with murder in Chicago. This is not a policy book. It is the stories of the killed and the killers during one season in one city. There are no answers here, but there is humanity.

Recommended by Steve

Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do Cover ImageBiased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do 

Jennifer L. Eberhardt is an academic, but Biased is clear and jargon-free. And her calm, rational assessments — always backed up by research — cast an unmistakable light on the power and problematic nature of implicit racial bias. Biased is an urgent, timely, important read, and Eberhardt writes with heart as well as brains. It’s a rigorous systemic analysis told at a compassionate, human scale.

Recommended by Sissy

Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974 Cover ImageFault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974 

Kevin is a Nashville native and a history professor at Princeton. He also happens to be the king of historical smackdowns on Twitter. A fabulous communicator, he expertly outlines the historical trends that brought us to our present shaky political landscape.

Recommended by Andy

The Great Escape from Stalag Luft III: The Memoir of Jens Müller Cover ImageThe Great Escape from Stalag Luft III: The Memoir of Jens Müller 

Jens Müller was one of only three men to successfully escape from Stalag Luft III in March 1944 — the break that later became the basis for the famous film, The Great Escape. In this vivid, informative memoir, Muller details what life in the camp was like, how the escapes were planned and executed, and the story of his personal breakout and success reaching RAF Leuchars in Scotland.

Recommended by Andy

Let's Play Two: The Legend of Mr. Cub, the Life of Ernie Banks Cover ImageLet’s Play Two: The Legend of Mr. Cub, the Life of Ernie Banks 

Well-researched by award-winning sports writer Ron Rapoport, this is a fascinating look at the private and public life of Ernie Banks. Perfect for the start of the baseball season.

Recommended by Andy

Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland Cover ImageSay Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland 

The New Yorker staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe uses the abduction of Jean McConville by IRA militants to tell the larger story of the bitter conflict that consumed Northern Ireland. Say Nothing is a gripping narrative that is essential to understanding this period of Irish history.

POETRY
Recommended by Steve

Deaf Republic: Poems Cover ImageDeaf Republic: Poems 

This is a book of poems that reads like a novella — without losing the surface tension that gives poetry its power. Set in a country beset by an authoritarian regime, Deaf Republic considers the power of silence against interrogation, the power of story within silence, the power of love in the face of atrocity. Devastating.

First Editions Club: April Selection

Lost and Wanted: A novel Cover ImageLost and Wanted

I’ve been a fan and faithful reader of Nell Freudenberger since her debut collection of stories, Lucky Girls, came out in 2003, so I was thrilled that we were able to pick her new novel, Lost and Wanted, for our First Editions Club. It’s the story of Helen Clapp, a physicist at MIT who’s doing groundbreaking work on five-dimensional spacetime, and her old Harvard roommate, Charlotte Boyce, a writer and actress. It’s a novel that wrestles with what the rational mind knows and what the heart wants to believe. It’s also a lot about science, and about women in science, which is one of the many reasons to love it.

As soon as I read it, I sent a copy to my husband’s cousin, a physicist who spent his professional life working at the Sandia National Laboratory. He not only found the book enthralling, he said the science was impeccable. I then sent a copy to the novelist Richard Powers, who told me years ago that more people should be writing fiction about science. He loved the book as much as I did. In fact, everyone I’ve given this book to has loved it: it’s full of intellectual curiosity and tenderness, and it’s beautifully written to boot. Nell compliments us by assuming the reader is as smart as the heroine, and, by doing so, she makes us smarter. It is a terrific novel in every way, and we’re very proud to be able to put it in your hands.

Happy reading!

Ann Patchett

More about our First Editions Club: Every member receives a first edition of the selected book of the month, signed by the author. Books are carefully chosen by our staff of readers, and our picks have gone on to earn major recognition including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the PEN/Faulkner Award. Plus, there’s no membership fee or premium charge for these books. Build a treasured library of signed first editions and always have something great to read! Makes a FABULOUS gift, too. 

Parnassus Book Club — Upcoming Meeting Schedule  

April – The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
Monday, April 8 at 6:30pm
Tuesday, April 9 at 6:30pm*
Thursday, April 11 at 10am

*Date change for this month

May – The Only Story by Julian Barnes
Monday, May 13 at 6:30pm
Wednesday, May 15 at 6:30pm
Thursday, May 16 at 10am

Classics Club – Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Gray
Monday, May 20 at 10am and 6:30pm

Are you a member of our store book club? Would you like to be? Parnassus Book Club and Classics Club meetings are free and open to anyone. Buy the book, read along, and join the discussion!

“It’s all about the book.” More thoughts on reading from Kathy Schultenover, Parnassus Book Clubs Manager:

My favorite author question from the Shelf Awareness “By the Book” column is “Which book did you hide from your parents?” Many authors reveal that their parents didn’t pay much attention to what they read growing up. Such was the case in my home. My mother had four kids and a job, and my father worked 12-hour days. They were just happy to have a voracious reader in me, and they ignored my book choices.

Nevertheless, I knew that they would probably not be too happy to see Peyton Place in my possession. By the time I got to high school, this book had been out for years. The movie and TV show were must-see, shocking viewing. I didn’t care that the book’s recurring themes were “hypocrisy, social inequities, and class privilege,” or “three women coming to terms with their identity as sexual beings in a small town.” I cared about its shocking content of lust, incest, adultery, and murder. I managed to read Peyton Place late at night or on days when my parents were at work. In later years, my mother laughed when I told her about it. Turns out, she wanted to read it too, but never did.

Peyton Place sold 60,000 copies within its first 10 days of release in 1956 and remained on the New York Times bestseller list for more than a year. It has remained in the public consciousness for more than 60 years, even coining the term “Peyton Place” as an allusion to any small town or group that holds scandalous secrets. It’s still in print, now with an interesting introduction that examines the novel’s treatment of class, gender, race, and power, and that considers its influential place in American literary history. What about considering this as a classic choice for your book club? In 2019, it’s one you won’t have to hide from anyone.

Kathy Schultenover
Parnassus Book Clubs Manager

Is your club part of our book club registry? Local book groups can order and purchase their club’s reading selections at a discount! Your club’s chosen titles are also displayed in the store on the book club shelf with the club’s name, so members can come in and find their selections easily. Registered clubs also receive notices of special book-club-related author events and seminars. To register a club, simply stop by the store and fill out a short form at the counter.