By Rebecca Zornow
Come find your next read with this guide of 14 books, most of them published within the last 12 months, and all recently read by me. The books are organized by category: Fiction, Nonfiction, and Other (e-books, young adult, collections, and scripts). Find your niche and pick your new friend.
Also, if you live in the Fox Cities area, pick up a copy of Appleton Monthly, free at local businesses. I’m now the book expert for the Great Reads section and will spotlight books each month.
If you find a book you want to read or would like to add your own recent read for others to consider, please comment below. Happy reading.
The Power by Naomi Alderman, 2017 You can’t go wrong with a book heavily endorsed by Margaret Atwood (of The Handmaid’s Tale). This speculative fiction story explores a world where women are stronger than men with a suddenly acquired biological electrical power. Alderman writes a stunningly provocative book simply by turning the tables. Spoiler: The world isn’t the paradise you might hope.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, 2017 As a very young woman, Sunja, falls in love with a rich and worldly man. She falls pregnant and decides to marry a Christian minister, choosing a life with self-respect over the taboo life of a concubine. Together, they travel to Japan, where they live in poverty and struggle to come to terms with the racism set against Koreans. Min Jin Lee’s writing follows generations of this family as they strive to reach their highest potential and become accepted.
Everything Here is Beautiful by Mira T. Lee, 2018 Two Chinese-American sisters fight to incorporate mental illness in to a livable life. With no one except each other, Miranda and Lucia waver between love and acceptance, and irritation and resentment. Miranda tries to help her younger sister live a balanced life but Lucia can’t or won’t accept her help. Each sister builds a career and finds love against a backdrop of mental illness and family ties.
Slade House by David Mitchell, 2015 Every nine years, someone disappears into Slade House on Open Day…and never comes back. This eerie page-turner has reading length of just 4 hours. It’s best explored without any spoilers and is perfect for a quiet, rainy night in. Fun Fact: Slade House is a side story to The Bone Clocks, which Nicole gave to Rebecca one Christmas.
Return on Investment by Magdalena Waz, 2016 After the empowering high of University life, adulthood is poor and unexpectedly difficult for Laurie. She struggles to find work in Chicago and decides that if the job market won’t include her, she’ll repurpose it for herself. She starts a controversial business, as a human breast pump. All of the characters in this tale have to fight against the economy just to make rent, dignity barely intact. Fun Fact: Magdalena went to Lawrence University in Appleton, WI.
What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton, 2017 If you’re still trying to figure out the 2016 election, this book gives a detailed account of the Clinton campaign by Hillary herself. The writing is intimate as well as passionate, and does everything from revealing campaign trail life to sharing Clinton’s expert political views. This book will be an important first source in time, but for us today, it’s a spelled out snap shot of what happened.
Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser, 2017 To be honest, I haven’t read this one yet! It’s 500 pages of Laura Ingalls goodness. I am most eager to read a more in-depth account of the long winger that nearly starved the Ingalls family and see real photographs of the sisters. Fun Fact: Rebecca still has her boxed set of Little House books from second grade.
Forever or a Long, Long Time by Caela Carter, 2017 Flora spent her life in foster care with only her brother, Julian, by her side. She’s been told that she’s found her forever home, but without any memories of her parents, or where she came from, Flora just doesn’t have faith in permanence. Flora’s new mother takes her and Julian on a trip to explore their past and learn what it means to be a forever family, perfect for young readers.
Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely, 2018 This Young Adult book takes place in a dystopian American West. Serendipity Jones runs away from the dead-end that is her home and escapes into the wide and open, only be accosted by robbers. A handsome stranger saves serendipity and they make their way to Cessation, a lawless city with an old-timey feel where Serendipity puts her sharp shooting skills to work.
Seven Stones to Stand or Fall: A Collection of Outlander Fiction by Diana Gabaldon, 2017 Gabaldon is a prolific writer. If you haven’t read her 8 immense Outlander novels, followed along with the Outlander TV show, devoured the Lord John Series, or read any of her shorter novellas…this is still the book for you. Set in the Outlander universe (British WWII nurse travels back in time to fall in love with brave Scottish warrior), these short stories explore dynamic characters within the series and, of course, time travel and love.
Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks, 2017 I’m a big fan of Tom Hanks movies so this was a definite read for me. The 17 short stories Hanks typed revolved around American truths: immigration, love, dreams, technology, and a time travel trip to the 1939 NYC World’s Fair. Typewriters pop up in each story: as a quiet background prop or as a catalyst for change in someone’s life.
It Occurs to Me that I am America edited by Jonathan Santlofer, 2018 This collection encompasses short fiction, art, comics, and poetry on the topic of the American Democracy. With standout contributors like Neil Gaiman, Mary Higgins Clark, and Art Spiegelman, as well as nearly 50 other writers and artists, the collection gives multiple perspectives of American life. It’s a great read-a-little-and-come-back-to-it-later type of book.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, & Jack Thorne, 2016 What happens after Voldemort? Ron takes over his brothers’ joke shop, Hermione becomes Minister of Magic, and Harry is a proper adult with a job and 3 children. But, why is Harry’s scar hurting now and how can he help his cursed child? This script is from the London play and your best bet in finding out what’s going on. Fun Fact: Noma Dumezweni, who plays Hermione, is from Swaziland, where Rebecca was a Peace Corps Volunteer, more in this blog post.
Spaghetti Head by Sarah Tyley, 2018 Spaghetti Head takes place in a future Earth affected by a mass natural disaster. The main character, Nell, grew up in this new world but has always had trouble with the erratic character, SID, that lives in her head. Nell goes to a rehab facility where she might just have met the love of her life–if she can straighten out the spaghetti in her head and figure out what the government system run by robots is up to. Fun Fact: Find it on Kindle Unlimited or purchase it for $3.48.
Let Nicole and I know if you found a book to read from this guide, or what you enjoyed reading recently by commenting below. Didn’t find something you liked yet? Check out this NPR guide to the top books in 2017, searchable by genre.