This fall, we are stepping into another season where we will be lonely and cooped up. So, why not open a good book? These ten books are certain to let your mind go and get away from reality. Something we all could use right now! Let's get to it.
Matrix by Lauren Groff: Cast out of the royal court by Eleanor of Aquitaine, deemed too coarse and rough-hewn for marriage or courtly life, seventeen-year-old Marie de France is sent to England to be the new prioress of an impoverished abbey, its nuns on the brink of starvation and beset by disease.
At first taken aback by the severity of her new life, Marie finds focus and love in collective life with her singular and mercurial sisters. In this crucible, Marie steadily supplants her desire for family, for her homeland, for the passions of her youth with something new to her: devotion to her sisters, and a conviction in her own divine visions. Marie, born the last in a long line of women warriors and crusaders, is determined to chart a bold new course for the women she now leads and protects. But in a world that is shifting and corroding in frightening ways, one that can never reconcile itself with her existence, will the sheer force of Marie's vision be bulwark enough?
Equally alive to the sacred and the profane, Matrix gathers currents of violence, sensuality, and religious ecstasy in a mesmerizing portrait of consuming passion, aberrant faith, and a woman that history moves both through and around. Lauren Groff's new novel, her first since Fates and Furies, is a defiant and timely exploration of the raw power of female creativity in a corrupted world.
Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Roone: Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend, Eileen, is getting over a break-up and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood. Alice, Felix, Eileen, and Simon are still young—but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They have sex, they worry about sex, they worry about their friendships and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world?
Five Tuesdays in Winter by Lily King: Told in the intimate voices of unique and endearing characters of all ages, these tales explore desire and heartache, loss and discovery, moments of jolting violence and the inexorable tug toward love at all costs. A bookseller's unspoken love for his employee rises to the surface, a neglected teenage boy finds much-needed nurturing from an unlikely pair of college students hired to housesit, a girl's loss of innocence at the hands of her employer's son becomes a catalyst for strength and confidence, and a proud nonagenarian rages helplessly in his granddaughter's hospital room. Romantic, hopeful, brutally raw, and unsparingly honest, some even slipping into the surreal, these stories are, above all, about King's enduring subject of love.
My Body by Emily Ratajkowski: Emily Ratajkowski is an acclaimed model and actress, an engaged political progressive, a formidable entrepreneur, a global social media phenomenon, and now, a writer. Rocketing to world fame at age twenty-one, Ratajkowski sparked both praise and furor with the provocative display of her body as an unapologetic statement of feminist empowerment. The subsequent evolution in her thinking about our culture’s commodification of women is the subject of this book.
My Body is a profoundly personal exploration of feminism, sexuality, and power, of men's treatment of women and women's rationalizations for accepting that treatment. These essays chronicle moments from Ratajkowski’s life while investigating the culture’s fetishization of girls and female beauty, its obsession with and contempt for women’s sexuality, the perverse dynamics of the fashion and film industries, and the grey area between consent and abuse.
Nuanced, unflinching, and incisive, My Body marks the debut of a fierce writer brimming with courage and intelligence.
Tacky by Rax King: Tacky is about the power of pop culture--like any art--to imprint itself on our lives and shape our experiences, no matter one's commitment to good taste. These fourteen essays are a nostalgia-soaked antidote to the millennial generation's obsession with irony, putting the aesthetics we hate to love--snakeskin pants, Sex and the City, Cheesecake Factory's gargantuan menu--into kinder and sharper perspective.
Each essay revolves around a different maligned (and yet, Rax would argue, vital) cultural artifact, providing thoughtful, even romantic meditations on desire, love, and the power of nostalgia. An essay about the gym-tan-laundry exuberance of Jersey Shore morphs into an excavation of grief over the death of her father; in You Wanna Be On Top, Rax writes about friendship and early aughts girlhood; in another, Guy Fieri helps her heal from an abusive relationship.
The result is a collection that captures the personal and generational experience of finding joy in caring just a little too much with clarity, heartfelt honesty, and Rax King's trademark humor.
Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout: Through her careful words and reverberating silences (The New York Times), Elizabeth Strout has long captured readers' hearts with her spare, exquisite insights on family, relationships, and loss. And never has her perfect attunement to the human condition (Hilary Mantel) been so evident as in these pages, as Strout's iconic heroine Lucy Barton, of My Name Is Lucy Barton, recounts her complex, tender relationship with William, her first husband--and longtime, on-again-off-again friend and confidant. Recalling their college years, through the birth of their daughters, the painful dissolution of their marriage, and the lives they built with other people, Strout weaves a portrait, stunning in its subtlety, of a decades-long partnership.
A masterful exploration of human empathy, Oh William! captures the joy and pain of watching children grow up and start families of their own; of discovering family secrets, late in life, that rearrange everything we think we know about those closest to us; and the way people live and love, despite the variety of obstacles we face in doing so. And at the heart of this story is the unforgettable, indomitable voice of Lucy Barton, who once again offers a profound, lasting reflection on the very nature of existence. This is the way of life, Lucy says. The many things we do not know until it is too late.
Reprieve by James Han Mattson: A chilling and blisteringly relevant literary novel of social horror centered around a brutal killing that takes place in a full-contact haunted escape room—a provocative exploration of capitalism, hate politics, racial fetishism, and our obsession with fear as entertainment.
On April 27, 1997, four contestants make it to the final cell of the Quigley House, a full-contact haunted escape room in Lincoln, Nebraska, made famous for its monstrosities, booby-traps, and ghoulishly costumed actors. If the group can endure these horrors without shouting the safe word, “reprieve,” they’ll win a substantial cash prize—a startling feat accomplished only by one other group in the house’s long history. But before they can complete the challenge, a man breaks into the cell and kills one of the contestants.
Those who were present on that fateful night lend their points of view: Kendra Brown, a teenager who’s been uprooted from her childhood home after the sudden loss of her father; Leonard Grandton, a desperate and impressionable hotel manager caught in a series of toxic entanglements; and Jaidee Charoensuk, a gay international student who came to the United States in a besotted search for his former English teacher. As each character’s journey unfurls and overlaps, deceit and misunderstandings fueled by obsession and prejudice are revealed, forcing all to reckon with the ways in which their beliefs and actions contributed to a horrifying catastrophe.
An astonishingly soulful exploration of complicity and masquerade, Reprieve combines the psychological tension of classic horror with searing social criticism to present an unsettling portrait of this tangled American life.
I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness by Claire Vaye Watkins: A darkly funny, soul-rending novel of love in an epoch of collapse--one woman's furious revisiting of family, marriage, work, sex, and motherhood.
Since my baby was born, I have been able to laugh and see the funny side of things. a) As much as I ever did. b) Not quite as much now. c) Not so much now. d) Not at all. Leaving behind her husband and their baby daughter, a writer gets on a flight for a speaking engagement in Reno, not carrying much besides a breast pump and a spiraling case of postpartum depression. Her temporary escape from domestic duties and an opportunity to reconnect with old friends mutates into an extended romp away from the confines of marriage and motherhood, and a seemingly bottomless descent into the past. Deep in the Mojave Desert where she grew up, she meets her ghosts at every turn: the first love whose self-destruction still haunts her; her father, a member of the most famous cult in American history; her mother, whose native spark gutters with every passing year. She can't go back in time to make any of it right, but what exactly is her way forward? Alone in the wilderness, at last she begins to make herself at home in the world.
Bold, tender, and often hilarious, I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness reaffirms Watkins as one of the signal writers of our time.
A Calling for Charlie Barnes by Joshua Ferris: Someone is telling the story of the life of Charlie Barnes, and it doesn't appear to be going well. Too often divorced, discontent with life's compromises and in a house he hates, this lifelong schemer and eternal romantic would like out of his present circumstances and into the American dream. But when the twin calamities of the Great Recession and a cancer scare come along to compound his troubles, his dreams dwindle further, and an infinite past full of forking paths quickly tapers to a black dot.
Then, against all odds, something goes right for a change: Charlie is granted a second act. With help from his storyteller son, he surveys the facts of his life and finds his true calling where he least expects it—in a sacrifice that redounds with selflessness and love—at last becoming the man his son always knew he could be.
A Calling for Charlie Barnes is a profound and tender portrait of a man whose desperate need to be loved is his downfall, and a brutally funny account of how that love is ultimately earned.
The Body Scout by Lincoln Michel: Kobo has some problems. His cybernetics are a decade out of date, he's got a pair of twin sister loan sharks knocking on his door, and his work scouting for a baseball league run by pharmaceutical companies is about to go belly-up. Things couldn't get much worse.
Then his childhood best friend-Monsanto Mets slugger J.J. Zunz-is murdered at home plate.
Determined to find the killer, Kobo plunges into the dark corners and glittering cloud condos of a world ravaged by climate change and repeat pandemics, and where genetic editing and advanced drugs mean you can have any body you want--as long as you can afford it. But even among the philosophical Neanderthals, zootech weapons, and genetically modified CEOs, there's a curveball he never could have called.
*Book descriptions provided by Good Reads