CW: It’s March.
So, we’re just going to just do the whole month of March thing again, as if a year ago Nashville wasn’t hit by multiple tornadoes, and then a global pandemic? OK, fine. If we can’t skip March 2021, we might as well have good books to read while we’re here still processing March 2020, right? Right. And luckily, the books are good, folks. They’re really good. Without further ado…
|Recommended by Karen
By Lily King
What would you sacrifice to pursue your dreams? Casey is a writer, but life keeps getting in the way of this calling. She is grieving the loss of her mother, living in a converted garage while waiting tables in Harvard Square, when she meets two men who send her life in a different direction.
Watch our event with Lily King in conversation with Ann Patchett!
|Recommended by Lindsay
I don’t know how to describe this novel in the same way that I don’t really know to describe the Internet — a collective stream of consciousness? A primal scream into a void? What I do know is that Patricia Lockwood has created a beautiful, strange book about being online. Lockwood’s poetic debut novel is a perfect read for fans of Jenny Offill and Sigrid Nunez.
|Recommended by Elyse
A wild, page-turning adventure. Beautifully written and complex about love, heartbreak, family and loss. Literary fiction at its best.
Watch our event with Chang-rae Lee in conversation with Ann Patchett!
|Recommended by Sarah
By Eman Quotah
I’m always looking for novels that pull me into cultures I know little about. This simmering family saga tells the story of two Saudi Americans negotiating issues of family, tradition, loss, and hope after their daughter is born and their marriage falls apart. It tenderly addresses the beauty and the struggles of being an expat from a widely misunderstood place. I read it in two sittings and loved every minute.
|Recommended by Sissy
I love thrillers about books, and in the darkest days of 2020 I needed a few laughs alongside my murder. I had missed DS Harbinder Kaur and was so excited to see her in another novel. Fans of Anthony Horowitz will love this.
|Recommended by Heather
By Meg Mason
An engaging, heartbreaking and hopeful story of a life of promise that isn’t turning out as expected. Something is wrong with Martha and no one can figure out what it is. The misinformation that is the basis for her actions and decisions is crushing. But truth, and the freedoms that come with it, prevails. This is in my top five books for the last year!
|Recommended by Kathy
A young girl has to come to terms with her mother who runs a whore house and the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.This is an adventure story with a wild cast of characters including the city of San Francisco itself. If you like unusual historical fiction, this is your book.
|Recommended by Kay
Grace Porter’s carefully planned life is interrupted when she wakes up in Vegas married to a late-night radio host she’s never met. As Grace explores what a life with her new wife might mean, she runs up against the sharp edges of her strict life plan and ambitious career goals. What unfolds is a lyrical exploration of love, chosen family, and anxiety that sinks straight into your soul.
|Recommended by Heather
By Jane Harper
The perfect book to curl up with on a cold winter day: a beach town in Tasmania at the end of summer, wonderfully interesting characters that you connect with, great dialogue and a plot that draws you in and twists and turns like tunnels in a dark cave. I finished the book at 5 in the morning because I just could not stop reading. All thumbs up!
|Recommended by Marcia
Ava moves from Iowa to New Orleans to live with her artist grandmother (who has memory problems) after her mother dies. Not having been in each other’s lives, this is a beautiful story about family, finding out who they are, and forging a path together.
|Recommended by Erin
At the height of World War I, a group of Smith College alumnae sailed to France. In a countryside decimated by war and under constant shelling by the Germans, the Smithies helped war-weary civilians rebuild shattered lives and homes. Based on a true story, Willig’s novel is a moving account of friendship, forgiveness, and self-discovery in a rapidly changing world.
|Recommended by Ben
By Kevin Barry
While this book came out in January, it’s always a good time for a quality short story collection! Imagistic without being overwritten, Barry’s prose invokes the damp melancholy of rural Ireland, the atmosphere of gloaming, the country’s collision of old and new. Each character carries a unique desperation, desiring love (and sex) and connection throughout these finely wrought stories.
|Recommended by Rae Ann
By Sarah Penner
On a trip to London, a woman stumbles upon the story of an 18th century apothecary who only served women seeking revenge. This historical mystery tucked into a modern-day story is an immersive, atmospheric read.
|Recommended by Kathy
Magnificent rendering of the Great Depression from a woman trying everything to save her family. Must-read if you liked Grapes of Wrath.
|Recommended by Chelsea
Finlay is a recently divorced author suffering from writer’s block and stressed from overdue bills. When a meeting with her agent is overhead and misinterpreted, she finds herself with a lucrative offer to “get rid of” another woman’s husband. Cosimano’s adult debut is a wild, hilarious ride about Finlay’s choices and the consequences of her actions.
|Recommended by Ann
By Joan Didion
These are previously published but uncollected essays which go to show that Joan Didion’s cast offs are still better than other people’s first rate work. Don’t skip the fantastic introduction by Hilton Als.
|Recommended by Ann
By Mark Harris
I read this because I was such a fan of Mark Harris’s first two books and wound up being fascinated by Mike Nichols. I found the book incredibly relaxing, in the same way going to the movies can be relaxing. I felt entertained and taken care of. It was an enormous treat.
|Recommended by Steve
When Georgina Lawton gets the results of a DNA test, it doesn’t so much turn her identity upside down as offer objective evidence that it had been upside down up to this point. Her brown skin and curly hair finally have an origin that makes sense — but one that had been kept from her. A frank, briskly written and thoroughly engaging investigation of race and family.
|Recommended by Patsy
McGhee posits that both Black and white people are economic losers when racism is in play, demonstrating with example after example: public pools, public parks, unions, public schools. She debunks the widely held theory of a zero-sum game — that is, if some gain from investing in the public good, others must lose — and shows a timely way forward when people of all races engage together to solve problems.
I’m a great fan of ambition in a novel. Nothing is more pleasing to me than a book that is far-reaching, unexpected, and makes me look at the world with fresh eyes. So often ambition is associated with length, as if finding new ways to tell a story requires a minimum of eight hundred pages. The fact that Patricia Engels’ Infinite Country shows us just how much life can be packed into just over two hundred pages is definitely worthy of our full attention.
It’s not only the scope of Engel’s story that’s dazzling. It’s the quiet assuredness of her prose. Every sentence is a deliberate act, an important decision. Again and again, I thought I knew what this book was about and where the story was going. I had no idea. If that’s the way life is, shouldn’t that be the way novels are, too? Infinite Country proved itself to be deeper, richer, and yes, more ambitious, than anything I’ve read in awhile, and it does all of this without any shocking stunts or narrative explosions. It does it by listening, watching, and being true to the characters. It is a study in how to do more with less.
I hope you enjoy this gorgeous, important novel as much as I did.
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.