October 11 A Gesture Life by Chang-rae Lee
A Gesture Life is the story of an upstanding citizen who has come to epitomize the decorous values of his New York suburban town. Courteous, honest, hardworking and impenetrable, Franklin Hata is a Japanese man of Korean birth who is careful to make his neighbors comfortable in his presence and to never overstep his boundaries. Precipitated by the small events surrounding him, however, his life begins to unravel and the mystery that has shaped the core of his being is revealed: his terrible, forbidden love for a young Korean Comfort Woman when he served as a medic in the Japanese army during World War II.
November 8 Heat and Light by Jennifer Haigh
Forty years ago, Bakerton coal fueled the country. Then the mines closed, and the town wore away like a bar of soap. Now Bakerton has been granted a surprise third act: it sits squarely atop the Marcellus Shale, a massive deposit of natural gas.
Told through a cast of characters whose lives are increasingly bound by the opposing interests that underpin the national debate, Heat and Light depicts a community blessed and cursed by its natural resources. Soaring and ambitious, it zooms from drill rig to shareholders’ meeting to the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor to the ruined landscape of the “strippins,” haunting reminders of Pennsylvania’s past energy booms. This story is a dispatch from a forgotten America.
December 13 Florence Gordon by Brian Morton
Meet Florence Gordon, a blunt, brilliant feminist. At seventy-five, Florence wants to be left alone to write her memoir and shape her legacy. But when her son and his family come to visit, they embroil Florence in their dramas and threaten her coveted solitude. Marked with searing wit, sophisticated intelligence and a tender respect for humanity, Florence Gordon is cast with a constellation of unforgettable characters. Chief among them is Florence herself, who can humble fools with a single barbed line, but who eventually finds that there are some realities even she cannot outwit.
January 10 Wind/Pinball by Haruki Murakami
Wind/Pinball, a unique two-in-one volume, includes, on one side, Murakami’s first novel Hear the Wind Sing. When you flip the book over, you can read his second novel, Pinball, 1973. Each book has its own stunning cover.
In the spring of 1978, a young Haruki Murakami sat down at his kitchen table and began to write. The result: two remarkable short novels—Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973—that launched the career of one of the most acclaimed authors of our time. These powerful, at times surreal, works about two young men coming of age—the unnamed narrator and his friend the Rat—are stories of loneliness, obsession, and eroticism.
February 14 Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper
Etta, 83, has never seen the ocean. Early one morning she takes a rifle, some chocolate, and her best boots and begins walking the 3,232 kilometers from rural Saskatchewan, Canada eastward to the sea. As Etta walks further toward the crashing waves the lines among memory, illusion, and reality blur. Otto wakes to a note left on the kitchen table. “I will try to remember to come back,” Etta writes to her husband. Otto has seen the ocean, having crossed the Atlantic years ago to fight in a far-away war. He understands. But with Etta gone, the memories come crowding in and Otto struggles to keep them at bay. Meanwhile, their neighbor Russell has spent his whole life trying to keep up with Otto and loving Etta from afar. Russell insists on finding Etta, wherever she’s gone. Leaving his own farm will be the first act of defiance in his life.
March 14 The Fortunes by Peter Ho Davies
The Fortunes recasts American history through the lives of Chinese Americans and reimagines the multigenerational novel through the fractures of immigrant family experience. Inhabiting four lives—a railroad baron’s valet who unwittingly ignites an explosion in Chinese labor, Hollywood’s first Chinese movie star, a hate-crime victim whose death mobilizes Asian Americans, and a biracial writer visiting China for an adoption—this novel shows that even as family bonds are denied and broken, a community can survive—as much through love as blood. Building fact into fiction, spinning fiction around fact, Davies uses each of these stories—three inspired by real historical characters—to examine the process of becoming not only Chinese American, but American.
April 11 The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but is especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape.
Cora’s journey is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.
Get tickets to the Library Live program with Colson Whitehead.
May 9 The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver
In 2029, the United States is engaged in a bloodless world war that will wipe out the savings of millions of American families. Overnight, on the international currency exchange, the “almighty dollar” plummets in value, to be replaced by a new global currency, the “bancor.” In retaliation, the president declares that America will default on its loans. “Deadbeat Nation” being unable to borrow, the government prints money to cover its bills. What little remains to savers is rapidly eaten away by runaway inflation. The Mandibles have been counting on a sizable fortune filtering down when their ninety-seven-year-old patriarch dies. Once the inheritance turns to ash, each family member must contend with disappointment, but also—as the U.S. economy spirals into dysfunction—the challenge of sheer survival.
The Mandibles is about money, but also about surreal generosity, sacrifice, and transformative adaptation to changing circumstances.
June 13 A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery.
Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.