Julie Hale

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Set in 1893 London, Paraic O’Donnell’s The House on Vesper Sands follows an appealing cast of characters as they try to unravel a mystery involving missing working-class women and a menacing group called the Spiriters. Inspector Cutter of Scotland Yard takes on the case, and his investigative efforts are shared by journalist Octavia Hillingdon, who’s on the hunt for a good story, and university student Gideon Bliss, who’s romantically linked to one of the missing girls. Readers will enjoy losing themselves in O’Donnell’s atmospheric adventure, which explores themes of feminism, class and Victorian mores.

Clare Beams’ The Illness Lesson takes place in 1800s Massachusetts, where Samuel Hood and his daughter, Caroline, open a progressive girls’ school after his dream of establishing a utopian community fails to bear fruit. Trouble brews when Eliza, a smart, inquisitive student, starts experiencing seizures and episodes of mania. After Caroline and other students experience similar symptoms, Samuel enlists the help of a doctor who proposes an unusual treatment. Beams’ ominous historical thriller is rich in period detail and brimming with tension, and its questions concerning gender and female agency will inspire great reading group discussions. 

A Black teacher encounters ghosts both spiritual and emotional on a visit to her hometown in LaTanya McQueen’s When the Reckoning Comes. Mira is in town for her best friend’s wedding, which is taking place at the Woodsman, a renovated tobacco plantation that’s supposedly haunted by the ghosts of the enslaved people who were forced to work there. Mira hopes to see her old friend, Jesse, who was arrested for murder years ago. But events take a terrifying twist, and Mira is forced to come to terms with the past. Reading groups will savor McQueen’s well-crafted suspense and enjoy digging into topics like historical accountability and the weight of memory.

The House of Whispers by Laura Purcell tells the story of a 19th-century maid named Hester who goes to work for Louise Pinecroft, a mute older woman who owns Morvoren House, a lonely estate in Cornwall. Staff members at the house harbor strange beliefs related to fairies, superstitions that are somehow connected to Louise’s late father, a physician whose questionable work with patients took place in caves thought to be haunted. Beyond its eerie aura and propulsive plot, The House of Whispers boasts many rich talking points, such as Purcell’s use of Cornish legends and her ability to create—and sustain—a mood of omnipresent foreboding.

These atmospheric thrillers—quintessentially gothic, decidedly unsettling—are perfect winter book club picks.
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For the bibliophile on your shopping list, we’ve rounded up the year’s best books about books.

The Madman’s Library

The Madman’s Library: The Strangest Books, Manuscripts and Other Literary Curiosities From History by Edward Brooke-Hitching is a must-have for any bibliomaniac. Over the course of this splendidly illustrated volume, Brooke-Hitching reviews the history of the book, investigating a variety of forms and a wide range of media but always emphasizing the extraordinary. 

Along with a number of wonderful one-offs (a book composed of Kraft American cheese slices), there are giant books (the 6-foot-tall Klencke Atlas) and tiny books (a biography of Thomas Jefferson that literally fits inside a nutshell), books that are sinister (a volume with a cabinet of poisons concealed inside) and books that are sublime (the medieval Stowe Missal with its ornate reliquary case). Astonishing from start to finish, The Madman’s Library stands as a testament to the abiding power and adaptability of the book.

Unearthing the Secret Garden

Marta McDowell looks at the life of a treasured author in Unearthing the Secret Garden: The Plants and Places That Inspired Frances Hodgson Burnett. Born in 1849, British novelist Burnett published more than 50 novels, including The Secret Garden. McDowell delivers an intriguing account of Burnett’s botanical and literary pursuits and the ways in which they were intertwined. She highlights Burnett’s enduring love of plants, tours the gardens the author maintained in Europe and America and even dedicates an entire chapter to the plants that appear in The Secret Garden.

McDowell, who teaches horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden, has also written about how plants influenced the work of Emily Dickinson, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Beatrix Potter. Filled with marvelous illustrations and historical photographs, her new book is a stirring exploration of the natural world and its impact on a literary favorite.

The Annotated Arabian Nights

The Annotated Arabian Nights: Tales From 1001 Nights, edited by scholar and author Paulo Lemos Horta, provides new perspectives on a beloved classic. Rooted in the ancient literary traditions of Persia and India, the collection of folktales known as The Arabian Nights features familiar figures such as Ali Baba, Sinbad, Aladdin and Shahrazad, the female narrator who spins the stories.

This new volume offers a fresh translation of the stories by Yasmine Seale, along with stunning illustrations and informative notes and analysis. The tales, Horta says, deliver “the most pleasurable sensation a reader can encounter—that feeling of being nestled in the lap of a story, fully removed from the surrounding world and concerned only with a need to know what happens next.” This lavish edition of an essential title is perfect for devotees of the tales and an ideal introduction for first-time readers.

We Are the Baby-Sitters Club

We Are the Baby-Sitters Club: Essays and Artwork From Grown-Up Readers is a delightful tribute to author Ann M. Martin and the much-loved Baby-Sitters Club series she introduced in 1986. Propelled by memorable characters, primarily tween club members Kristy, Stacey, Claudia and Mary Anne, who run a babysitting service, the series tackles delicate family matters like adoption and divorce, as well as broader topics such as race, class and gender.

In We Are the Baby-Sitters Club, Kelly Blewett, Kristen Arnett, Myriam Gurba and other notable contributors take stock of the popular books and their lasting appeal. With essays focusing on friendship, culture, identity and—yes—the babysitting business, this anthology showcases the multifaceted impact of the series. Nifty illustrations and comic strips lend extra charm to the proceedings. Edited by authors Marisa Crawford and Megan Milks, the volume is a first-rate celebration of the BSC.


It’s almost impossible to peruse Jane Mount’s colorful sketches of book jackets and book stacks without being possessed by the impulse to dive into a new novel or compile a reading list. For her new book, Bibliophile: Diverse Spines, Mount teamed up with author Jamise Harper to create a thoughtful guide to the work of marginalized writers that can help readers bring diversity to their personal libraries.

With picks for lovers of historical fiction, short stories, poetry, mystery and more, Bibliophile: Diverse Spines brims with inspired reading recommendations. The book also spotlights literary icons (Toni Morrison, Sandra Cisneros, Ralph Ellison) and treasured illustrators (Bryan Collier, Luisa Uribe, Kadir Nelson). Standout bookstores from across the country and people who are making a difference in the publishing industry are also recognized. With Mount’s fabulous illustrations adding dazzle to every chapter, Bibliophile: Diverse Spines will gladden the heart of any book lover.

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

The universe of words is steadily expanding thanks to author John Koenig. In The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, Koenig catalogs newly minted terms for hard-to-articulate emotional states: conditions of the heart or mind that seem to defy definition. Ledsome, for instance, is his term for feeling lonely in a crowd, while povism means the frustration of being stuck inside your own head.

Drawing upon verbal scraps from the past and oddments from different languages, Koenig created all of the words in this dictionary. He started this etymological project in 2009 as a website and has since given TED talks and launched a YouTube channel based on his work. “It’s a calming thing, to learn there’s a word for something you’ve felt all your life but didn’t know was shared by anyone else,” he writes in Obscure Sorrows. Koenig’s remarkable volume is the perfect purchase for the logophile in your life.

Find more 2021 gift recommendations from BookPage.

Stumped on what to buy for the reader who’s read everything? We’ve got six picks for the book-obsessed.
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Each of these picture books explores the most complex emotion of all: love. They’re the perfect gift for a young child or a new or expecting parent, exquisite keepsakes for families to cherish and pass on as the years go by.

★ What Is Love?

Author Mac Barnett spins a remarkable story from a simple question in What Is Love?. When a boy asks his grandmother what love is, she suggests that he venture into the world to find an answer for himself, so the lad leaves home on an unusual quest. Along the way, he encounters a wide range of characters, each of whom offers a different perspective on the meaning of the emotion. 

For the carpenter, love is a house that “wobbles and creaks.” The structure may be unsteady, the carpenter says, “But in the end, the thing stands.” For the actor, love is applause from an adoring audience. “At that moment,” the actor tells the boy, “you know: You exist. You are seen.” Yet these and other responses fail to satisfy the boy. Not until he returns home, having reached adulthood, is he able to identify for himself the meaning of love.

Barnett’s story is profound and accessible, a tale infused with a sense of adventure and a timeless quality. Carson Ellis’ illustrations add color and energy to the proceedings. Thanks to her fanciful, detailed depictions, each character the boy encounters has a distinct personality. This journey will inspire readers to consider the book’s central question and come up with answers of their own.

Bigger Than a Bumblebee

In Joseph Kuefler’s delightful Bigger Than a Bumblebee, a mother introduces her child to the wonders of the world, but none of them compare to the miracle of the love they share. In beautifully poetic text, the mother explains to her “darling” that they are both smaller and larger than their animal friends—smaller than the brown bear and the giraffe, but bigger than the mouse and the porcupine. In the end, though, what matters most is love, an emotion that cannot be measured: “Love is me and you,” she says. “Our love is small, but it is big, too.”

Kuefler’s splendid illustrations portray an array of natural phenomena, from faraway stars in the night sky, to a stream teeming with toads and fireflies, to a patch of desert populated by birds and a solitary long-eared jack rabbit. Young readers will be captivated by the dynamic spreads and the creatures, great and small, that Kuefler includes. A moving celebration of the majesty of nature and the bond between parent and child, Bigger Than a Bumblebee powerfully delivers a heartfelt message: Love is limitless and unquantifiable, a force that knows no boundaries. 

★ My Love for You Is Always

In the warm, wonderful My Love for You Is Always, a young boy quizzes his mother about the nature of love. “Does it have a taste or a smell?” he wonders as he helps her in the kitchen. As she puts together a traditional Chinese feast for their family, his mother takes inspiration from the dishes they’re cooking to answer his questions. Author Gillian Sze’s text is full of sensory imagery. Love, the boy’s mother tells him, “tastes sweeter than the red dates I put in your soup. My love is that savored first bite of spun sugar.” When the boy asks, “Does it make a sound?” his mother replies, “Sometimes it’s crisp like winter radish. Other times it’s quiet like simmering broth.”

Michelle Lee’s colored pencil and gouache illustrations are sweet and soft. Through images of swirling fish, delicate cranes and a fabulous crimson dragon, she brings a touch of magic to Sze’s tale. The ritual of the family meal—sharing food that’s been prepared with care and intention—adds a unique layer to the story and underscores the sense of abundance and comfort that love can provide. My Love for You Is Always closes on a cozy note and an image of mother, son and other relatives gathered together for dinner. From start to finish, it’s a charming and delicious tale.

l’ll Meet You in Your Dreams 

Jessica Young and Rafael López pay tribute to the connections between parents and children in their lovely, lyrical book, l’ll Meet You in Your Dreams. It’s narrated by a parent who offers an inspiring message about the power of familial love to encourage youngsters to make discoveries about the world, pursue their passions and achieve independence.

Young’s rhyming text contains refreshing imagery and makes allusions to the natural world—a mouse and a mole snuggling in an underground den, and a hawk and an eagle soaring over the earth—to highlight the many facets of love, showing how it can nurture, protect and inspire. Her brief, uplifting stanzas add to the story’s appeal. “As you grow, I’ll be with you, / for every step, your whole life through,” the narrator says. “And where the future gleams . . . / I’ll meet you in your dreams.” 

López’s out-of-this-world illustrations reflect the buoyant spirit of Young’s text. They follow two different parents and their children in whimsical scenes that capture the marvels of wildlife and  the passage of time. A joyful examination of parental love and its ability to provide a solid foundation for children—a starting point from which anything is possible—I’ll Meet You in Your Dreams is a precious title that’s sure to become a family favorite.

Find more 2021 gift recommendations from BookPage.

These beautiful picture books, perfect for gifting, offer moving depictions of love in all its forms.
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Spanning 30 years, Mantel Pieces: Royal Bodies and Other Writing From the London Review of Books delivers a wonderful sampling of Wolf Hall author Hilary Mantel’s nonfiction work, which includes essays, reviews and autobiographical writings. In these erudite yet accessible pieces, Mantel tackles a variety of topics, from Anne Boleyn’s sister-in-law and other figures of Tudor history, to pop singer Madonna, to England’s current royal family. Mantel’s commanding intelligence and inimitable style are on full display throughout. Her examinations of history, female identity and popular culture make this collection an excellent book club pick.

Zadie Smith reflects on an unprecedented time in America in Intimations, a collection of six essays focusing on the year 2020. Despite its brevity, this powerful book gives book clubs plenty to talk about. In sharply observed, compassionate prose, Smith examines politics, the murder of George Floyd and its repercussions, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and life under lockdown. Themes of isolation, social justice, family and the writing process will provide points of connection for all types of readers as Smith draws on personal experience to create essays that are moving and resonant.

In The End of the End of the Earth, Jonathan Franzen explores environmental concerns and reflects on writers past and present. Franzen, who is a passionate birder, visits locales across the globe to indulge his passion, and his travels supply wonderful material for some of the book’s central pieces. There are also essays on authors Edith Wharton and William T. Vollmann, which offer new perspectives on both authors. Written with humility, humor and visionary insight, Franzen’s wide-ranging collection is certain to generate rewarding dialogue among book club members.

The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations brings together key nonfiction writings by Toni Morrison (1931–2019). Covering four decades, the volume collects more than 40 pieces including Morrison’s eulogy for James Baldwin, her Nobel Prize lecture on the importance of language, commencement speeches and works of political analysis and literary criticism. Morrison’s impassioned views on race, feminism and American society ensure that this book will stand the test of time. Reading groups will find no shortage of rich discussion material here.

Four beloved authors turn to the essay form in these incisive collections.
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Some poets have the power to illuminate and articulate the most secluded parts of a reader’s heart and mind. In these new books, three renowned poets offer compassion and fresh perspectives on the human experience.

Such Color

Such Color: New and Selected Poems provides a welcome overview of the career of former U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith. The cumulative effects of history and identity are central to much of the work in this magisterial book. In poems such as “A Hunger So Honed,” Smith probes human motivation and the nature of desire: “perhaps we live best / In the spaces between loves, / That unconscious roving, / The heart its own rough animal.” 

Smith also explores Blackness as a communal experience, one that connects her with past generations and those to come. In “Photo of Sugarcane Plantation Workers, Jamaica, 1891,” she sees herself in the figures captured on camera: “I would be standing there, too. / Standing, then made to leap up / into the air. Made to curl / and heave and cringe. . . .” These are poems of possibility, as Smith considers the past while looking for a way forward.


Communication in all its varying modes is a recurring theme, from social media posts and handwritten notes to the unexpected autocorrections of text messages. “In the Grand Scheme of Things” explores the limits of language: “We say the naked eye / as if the eye could be clothed. . . . We say that’s not how / the world works as if the world works.” Throughout this wise, lucid collection, Smith captures the wonder and bewilderment that come with being human. She’s excellent company for readers in need of connection.

In Maggie Smith’s wonderfully companionable collection of poems, Goldenrod, she takes on timeless topics such as nature, history, family and memory. In “Ohio Cento,” she writes, “What we know of ourselves / gets compressed, layered. Remembering / is an anniversary; every minute a commemoration / of being.” 

Poet Warrior

In her beautifully executed memoir Poet Warrior, Joy Harjo recalls her upbringing as a member of the Muscogee tribe in Oklahoma and reflects upon her development as a writer. Harjo, who is serving her third term as U.S. Poet Laureate, grew up with an abusive stepfather and a creative, hardworking mother. She learned early on that literature could provide solace and escape, and she takes stock of her poetic influences in the book, counting Audre Lorde and N. Scott Momaday as key figures in her development.

Harjo mixes poetry and prose, history and memory, Native lore and family stories to create a collagelike account of her experiences. “As I near the last doorway of my present life, I am trying to understand the restless path on which I have traveled,” she writes. Fans of nonfiction and poetry alike will savor this sublime memoir.

Find more 2021 gift recommendations from BookPage.

Three renowned poets offer compassion and fresh perspectives on the human experience.
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In How to Hold a Grudge: From Resentment to Contentment―The Power of Grudges to Transform Your Life, mystery and thriller author Sophie Hannah looks at the positive aspects of grudge-holding and how they can lead to personal growth. Drawing on her own experience and the input of psychotherapists, Hannah urges readers to stop trying to suppress negative feelings and offers advice on how to use grudges to strengthen relationships. She discusses forgiveness and the importance of letting go in a dryly funny, refreshingly down-to-earth tone in this guaranteed conversation-starter.

Shannon Lee passes on the philosophies of her famous father, action movie legend and cultural icon Bruce Lee, in Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee. Grounded in martial arts, a practice that Lee faithfully followed from an early age, the teachings shared in this inspiring book are geared toward self-realization and inner growth. The author emphasizes her father’s “be water” mantra and explains how it can help us be more flexible, adaptable and at ease in our daily lives. Highly relevant subjects such as living with change and defining yourself and your identity will get book clubs talking.

In You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters, New York Times contributor Kate Murphy delivers tips on how we can improve our listening skills, stop getting sidetracked and focus on the present. In a brisk and lively narrative, she talks with professional listeners (including a CIA agent) and checks in with psychologists and sociologists for insights into the process of listening. A rewarding selection for reading groups, Murphy’s book offers numerous discussion topics, including technology’s impact upon communication and the human need for connection.

Readers who are seeking a sense of purpose will find a helpful guide in Casper ter Kuile’s The Power of Ritual: Turning Everyday Activities Into Soulful Practices. Ter Kuile feels that even as traditional notions of community change, we can still find meaning, connection and (yes!) joy in our daily routines with pastimes like yoga, journaling and reading. Through these simple pursuits, ter Kuile believes we can cultivate contentment. His hopeful book will guide readers on their individual journeys, and his thoughts on the meanings of community and personal fulfillment will trigger lively dialogue within reading groups.

These truly inspiring self-help books will energize and refresh your reading group.
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Black History Month is the perfect time to acquaint youngsters with the traditions and accomplishments of African Americans. To help celebrate this period of observance, BookPage has rounded up a group of standout picture books—beautifully illustrated titles that will teach young readers about some of the seminal events and individuals that make the African-American legacy so rich. The history makers and groundbreakers featured in the books below helped shape our identity as a nation. Their stories are truly worth sharing.

Remembering a baseball legend
Spinning a treasured childhood memory into a winning story for children, Sharon Robinson presents a loving portrait of her famous father in Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson. This warm-hearted tale is set in rural Connecticut, where the Robinsons have a home on a beautiful lake. Young Sharon and her friends swim and dive all summer long; Jackie, meanwhile, refuses to go near the water. The youngsters don’t understand his reluctance to enjoy the lake until he bravely ventures out onto its icy surface one winter day. With this act of courage, the reason for Jackie’s fear becomes clear to Sharon and her friends, and their adoration for the great ball player grows. Focusing on her father’s life after sports, Robinson gives readers a glimpse of what Jackie was like away from the baseball diamond, as he assumed the roles of author, businessman and civil rights spokesperson. Author of a number of acclaimed books, including Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America, Robinson reveals the human side of a star athlete with this poignant story. Featuring playful illustrations by Coretta Scott King Award-winner Kadir Nelson, Testing the Ice is a touching memorial to a man of integrity.

Finding salvation in song
Sisters and music fans, Ann Ingalls and Maryann MacDonald became intrigued by the story of Mary Lou Williams when they lived in Kansas City, Missouri, former home of the jazz queen. Inspired by the sisters’ interviews, research and immersion into Williams’ music, The Little Piano Girl: The Story of Mary Lou Williams, Jazz Legend is a spirited tribute to a remarkable artist. Growing up in Atlanta in the early 1900s, Mary Lou learns early on that music will save her. At the age of four, she’s able to play her mama’s organ, and the experience is revelatory. But when the family moves to Pittsburgh to look for better-paying jobs, they leave the organ behind. The jeering and loneliness Mary Lou experiences as the new kid in town make music extra-meaningful to her: “Even without a keyboard she could do it. Tapping on the tabletop, she beat back the bad sounds and sang out her sadness.” After a kind-hearted neighbor hears about Mary Lou’s talent, she invites the little girl into her home and lets her practice on her piano. Mary Lou proceeds to enchant everyone around her with her marvelous playing. By the age of seven, she’s performing in public—showing signs of the jazz queen she’ll become. Giselle Potter provides the book’s beautifully detailed paintings, giving the story a vintage feel: The women wear dainty, printed dresses, the gents sport jaunty hats and everybody shimmies to Mary Lou’s music. This is a true story of triumph.

Taming the Wild West
A terrific way to introduce young readers to the Old West, Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshall tells the story of a legendary lawman. Big Bass Reeves sits proud in the saddle and cuts a forbidding figure, but he’s as honest as they come. A man of integrity and courage, he’s also an expert shot. Bass spends his early years as a slave in Texas, but after the Civil War, he becomes a free man. He settles in Arkansas and soon gets hired on as a deputy to assist Judge Isaac C. Parker in bringing justice to the Indian Territory. Bass is resourceful and successful at his job, using his wits as well as his gun to bring in 3,000 outlaws over the course of a 32-year career. He also stands tall in the face of racism, defying white men who dislike the idea of a black deputy. Author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson brings impressive authenticity to this story of bandits and cowboys, using folksy metaphors and slang words from the Old West. Beloved artist R. Gregory Christie captures the essence of Texas in his illustrations. Stark desert landscapes contrast with expanses of deep blue sky, and Bass himself appears immense and dignified, with a wide mustache, a dark, stately suit and a gleaming deputy badge. Nelson rounds out the tale with a bibliography, a timeline and supplementary information about the Indian Territory, making Bad News an irresistible history lesson.

In the Ring with Ali
Sure to have a magnetic effect on young readers, Muhammad Ali: The People’s Champion is a vibrant biography of one of America’s most outstanding athletes. Written by award-winning author Walter Dean Myers, the book provides a fascinating overview of Ali’s career. Born Cassius Marcellus Clay in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1942, the future champ starts boxing at the age of 12. At the 1960 Olympics in Rome, he wins a gold medal—the first in a string of triumphs that will eventually include three world heavyweight titles. In 1964, Clay joins the Nation of Islam and changes his name to Muhammad Ali. Outspoken on race and religion, he quickly becomes one of the most controversial figures of his generation. “I am America,” he says. “I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me. Black, confident, cocky.” Fighting until the age of 39, he retires with a record of 56 wins and three losses. Ali’s career is dynamically chronicled by Myers, who concludes the book with a helpful timeline of the boxer’s life. Adding wonderful energy to the narrative, Alix Delinois’ fluid crayon and pastel drawings swirl with kaleidoscopic color. A compelling little biography of an uncompromising athlete, this is a book that will interest readers of all ages.

Words to Live By
A stirring tribute to African-American history and to the important role religious faith has played in it over the centuries, The Beatitudes: From Slavery to Civil Rights by Carole Boston Weatherford takes readers on a lyrical journey through the past. Using the Beatitudes from the Bible as a platform for her extended free-verse poem, Weatherford traces the arc of African-American history, starting with the slave era and ending with the swearing-in of President Barack Obama. Along the way, Weatherford alludes to a host of notable African-American figures, including Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks and Marian Anderson—individuals whose determination and endurance helped make freedom a reality. Tim Ladwig’s beautifully realistic renderings of U. S. Colored Troops, Freedom Riders and civil rights organizers give the book a documentary feel. With The Beatitudes, Weatherford—winner of the Caldecott Honor forher book Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom—offers an inspiring review of black history and the ways in which spirituality has guided its leaders. The book includes brief biographies of the famous figures who appear in Weatherford’s poem. This is a special testament to the legacy of a people—a book that’s sure to be treasured by future generations of readers.

Black History Month is the perfect time to acquaint youngsters with the traditions and accomplishments of African Americans. To help celebrate this period of observance, BookPage has rounded up a group of standout picture books—beautifully illustrated titles that will teach young readers about some of the seminal events and individuals that make the African-American legacy […]
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At BookPage, we know there’s no better solution to beating the winter blues than escaping into the pages of a magical piece of fiction. So this month we’re spotlighting works by three visionary writers who take experimental approaches to storytelling. Employing elements of fairy tale and fantasy, these authors dispense with the principles of science, turn history on its head and redefine reality—and they make it all seem believable. So suspend your skepticism, dear reader, and get set for an adventure. A little old-fashioned enchantment is the perfect way to keep January’s chill at bay.

Alice, out of wonderland
Although it’s been a almost a century and a half since her first appearance in print, Alice Liddell, the adventuresome girl who provided Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) with the inspiration to write Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, remains a source of fascination for many a bibliophile. Melanie Benjamin uses her true story as a springboard in Alice I Have Been, her beguiling new novel. Fleshing out historical facts with fictional details to create a full-bodied portrait of Carroll’s heroine, Benjamin traces the arc of Alice’s life, portraying with authority her evolution from a high-strung youngster into a refined wife and mother.

In her 80s when the novel begins, Alice looks back on her past and serves as a lively, wry narrator. Among her memories are the days the Liddell family spent with Dodgson, the picnics and explorations they shared, and the eventual—and controversial—distance that developed between them. The novel passes effortlessly through various eras, moving from the 1930s to Victorian times and back again, and it’s during her mature years that Alice discloses her impatience with fame. The recognition brought to her as a literary character has proven burdensome, and in the end, she feels confined by the role that will ultimately immortalize her. This is an ingenious expansion of Alice’s story, convincingly conceived and meticulously crafted, a delightful bit of literary sleight of hand by Benjamin.

Adventures in time travel
Blending fantasy, history and mystery, Matthew Flaming offers an intoxicating mix of genres in The Kingdom of Ohio, his bold and inventive debut. The novel’s protagonist, a silver miner from Idaho named Peter Force, arrives in New York in 1901 and takes a job excavating tunnels for the city’s incipient subways. Not long after his arrival in Manhattan, he meets the mysterious Cheri-Anne Toledo, who tells him about a forgotten place called the Kingdom of Ohio and insists that she’s the daughter of its monarch. In Ohio, Cheri-Anne claims, she collaborated with the engineer Nikola Tesla on an apparatus that has, in a cosmic accident, carried her into the future and deposited her in New York. Peter doesn’t believe her at first, but when he and Cheri-Anne get caught up in a scheme that’s linked to Thomas Edison and J.P. Morgan, he realizes that she may indeed come from another realm—and possess knowledge that could change the course of history. Flaming examines big issues in this book—questions about the nature of reality and the ways in which technology has altered daily life—and his explorations give the narrative a rich thematic foundation. A spirited tale that channels the energy and verve of old New York, Flaming’s novel is fresh, artful and full of surprises.

A frosty fairy tale
Ali Shaw brings an uncommon world into being with his debut The Girl with Glass Feet. Set on a wintry archipelago called St. Hauda’s Land, a distant group of islands where albino beasts inhabit frost-encrusted forests and nature asserts itself in strange ways, the narrative focuses on delicate, melancholy Ida Maclaird. After visiting the archipelago, Ida finds that her body—feet first—is turning gradually into glass. Searching for a way to end this awful metamorphosis, she leaves her home on the mainland and returns to the islands, where she meets an introverted native named Midas Crook. Crook works in a florist shop and takes photographs, and he has a cold, hard exterior of his own. But after he meets Ida, he softens, and the quest to arrest her terrible transformation soon consumes him. Ida’s salvation rests in the hands of the reclusive Henry Fuwa, who knows secrets about St. Hauda’s Land. As Midas and Ida search for Henry—and as Ida’s mutation continues—the two find themselves in a race against time.

Written in the tradition of magical realists like Haruki Murakami and Gabriel García Márquez, The Girl with Glass Feet is a singular, slippery narrative that defies easy categorization. Shaw writes finely honed prose and knows how to wring maximum suspense out of a tightly woven plot. His is an accomplished first novel—a hypnotic book with an atmosphere all its own.

At BookPage, we know there’s no better solution to beating the winter blues than escaping into the pages of a magical piece of fiction. So this month we’re spotlighting works by three visionary writers who take experimental approaches to storytelling. Employing elements of fairy tale and fantasy, these authors dispense with the principles of science, […]
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Technology may have altered the face of publishing, but among true bibliophiles the old impulses persist. In the tradition of old-fashioned bookishness (long may it endure!), we’ve rounded up a delightful miscellany of literary titles. This holiday season, smarten the shelves of your favorite reader with one of these engaging books.

Daily inspiration
Booklovers can indulge their obsession on a regular basis with Hallie Ephron’s The Bibliophile’s Devotional: 365 Days of Literary Classics. Offering a book-a-day survey of time-honored works in addition to the classics of the future, this lively reference volume brims with author anecdotes, great quotes, plot précis and other literary tidbits. Ephron (yes, she is one of those Ephrons—sister to Nora, Delia and Amy) serves as an instructor at writing workshops around the country and as a book columnist for the Boston Globe. Spotlighting revered novels by Edith Wharton and George Eliot as well as popular modern works from Mary Karr and Salman Rushdie, Ephron provides a balanced representation of great books, along with insightful entries for each title—something for every reader. She writes with discernment, wit and evident affection for her subject matter, and her zeal is contagious. Just try to confine yourself to a single day’s devotional. Reader, it can’t be done.

Reconsidering Dickens
The genius who conjured some of the most enduring characters in world literature—Ebenezer Scrooge, Pip, Oliver Twist, the list goes on—gets a fresh evaluation in Michael Slater’s Charles Dickens. With this volume, Slater—emeritus professor of Victorian literature at the University of London and former president of the Dickens Society of America—offers the first biography of the author in 20 years. He brings a wealth of knowledge and a flair for factual storytelling to this comprehensive chronicle. Readers already familiar with Dickens’ history will welcome Slater’s in-depth focus on his work—the journalism, letters, lectures, plays and essays produced during a career that started in 1833, when Dickens published his first short story, and ended with his death nearly four decades later, in 1870. Slater also focuses on the author’s idiosyncrasies—his mania for organization, inclination for younger women and passion for social reform—and these richly explored traits add wonderful dimension to the narrative. As the reader soon realizes, there’s more to the man and his work than meets the eye, and Slater, who has written several authoritative books on his beloved subject, covers it all in this compelling biography.

A timeless institution
In addition to its more obvious functions—serving as a repository for books and a place of study—the public library represents a society’s finest efforts at civic improvement. In The Library: An Illustrated History by historian Stuart A.P. Murray, the most democratic of institutions receives a fitting tribute. Packed with colorful photos, illustrations and archival materials, this handsome volume traces the roots of the modern library back to ancient times and examines the role it played during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The institution’s evolution in the U.S.—growth that led to the nation-sweeping library movement of the 1830s—is also amply covered. A survey of the world’s significant contemporary libraries, featuring great collections like the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris and the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., rounds out the volume. Published with assistance from the American Library Association, this is a vivid historical tour of an invaluable establishment.

History of a classic
Survey the bookshelves of any editor, and one title you’re likely to find is The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. Initially designed as a classroom reference manual, this revered grammar guide was first published by Strunk himself—a Cornell University English professor—in 1918. Four decades later, White, a former student of Strunk’s, revised the guide for Macmillan and Company. Since then, Elements has sold more than 10 million copies. The evolution of this unlikely classic is documented in Stylized: A Slightly Obsessive History of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style by Mark Garvey. An award-winning journalist, Garvey brings an insider’s sensibility to this wonderfully readable chronicle of how The Elements of Style came to be. Using previously unpublished letters and photographs from White’s archives, he provides an in-depth look at the men behind the book. He also interviews big-name authors like Elmore Leonard and Adam Gopnik, who share their thoughts on the guide. A lively, well-rounded tribute to the volume that has become an editor’s bible, Stylized is a compelling account of the birth of a classic.

Addicted to Austen
With their plucky heroines, surprising plots and oh-so-delicious endings, Jane Austen’s books represent a perfect synthesis of the elements of fiction. Although they’re firmly rooted in reality, each of her narratives has the air of a fairy tale. The beloved novelist’s special kind of literary alchemy is celebrated in A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen. In this intriguing collection of essays, a diverse group of authors consider Austen’s singular appeal and examine enduring works like Emma and Persuasion. Among the admiring voices included here are Jay McInerney, who comes clean about his crushes on Austen’s female protagonists; Martin Amis, who ponders the pleasures of re-reading Pride and Prejudice; and Virginia Woolf, who speculates on what Austen’s career might have been like had she lived past the age of 42. Edited by scholar Susannah Carson, this fascinating volume offers a range of perspectives on the great lady’s work, supporting the theory that no one is immune to the allure of Austen.

Royal treatment
One of the best-selling books of all time, The Little Prince, written by French aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, was first published in 1943. This unforgettable fable about a young boy who leaves the asteroid he calls home to explore the universe has since been translated into 180 languages. Now, thanks to the wonders of paper engineering, the story has been recast in an interactive, three-dimensional format, and the result, The Little Prince Deluxe Pop-Up Book, is a magnificent twist on the original tale. Ingenious pull-tabs and cunning mechanical features enhance the prince’s extra-terrestrial travels, making his story more irresistible than ever. Cleverly designed and loaded with hidden surprises, the pop-up Prince is the perfect gift for Saint-Exupéry enthusiasts and a splendid introduction for readers unacquainted with the classic.

Julie Hale reads the classics in North Carolina.

Technology may have altered the face of publishing, but among true bibliophiles the old impulses persist. In the tradition of old-fashioned bookishness (long may it endure!), we’ve rounded up a delightful miscellany of literary titles. This holiday season, smarten the shelves of your favorite reader with one of these engaging books. Daily inspiration Booklovers can […]
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If you know any stagestruck youngsters begging for ballet lessons, a trio of new dance books will get them off on the right foot. As these stories demonstrate, everyone has a special sort of grace, an inner vision that’s worth expressing through movement. Share these inspiring books with aspiring Sugar Plum Fairies, and they’ll be demanding an encore.

Authors Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan have collaborated on several award-winning art books for young readers, including Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Through the Gates and Beyond. They have a gift for distilling multilayered historical incidents into appealing, easy-to-understand narratives. Their new book, Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring, is a fascinating account of the history-making collaboration that occurred in the 1940s between composer Aaron Copland, sculptor Isamu Noguchi and modern-dance choreographer Martha Graham. Re-imagining the give-and-take that transpired between the trio as they completed the legendary dance piece Appalachian Spring, Greenberg and Jordan offer readers a unique glimpse of creative minds at work.

The story takes place in the studio and on the stage, as Martha develops movement for the dance, which features a cast of American archetypes: The Pioneer Woman, the Preacher, the Bride and her Husbandman. Noguchi, meanwhile, creates minimalist sets to suit Martha’s aesthetic, and Copland composes “rarin’ to go rhythms” that synthesize traditional American musical genres—a blend of reels, ballads and hymns that provide the perfect melodic backdrop for the piece. The dance’s triumphant premiere takes place on October 30, 1944, with Martha herself performing as the Bride. Brian Floca’s detailed watercolors deliver a sense of the choreographic style—athletic, angular and somewhat primitive, with none of ballet’s gentle refinement—that would make Martha famous. For young readers unfamiliar with modern dance, this is a magical introduction to an important artist. Source notes, biographies and a bibliography supplement this accessible story.

Brontorina, a winning picture book by James Howe, shows that the spirit of dance can strike any species. When Brontorina Apatosaurus, an orange dinosaur of planetary proportions, appears at Madame Lucille’s Dance Academy for Girls and Boys, she’s dying to unleash her inner ballerina. Madame is initially confounded by her would-be pupil, but the children persuade her to let Brontorina take the class, where she proves surprisingly graceful—although a flip of her tail nearly flattens the students, and with every jeté, her head scuffs the ceiling.

Brontorina feels more at ease in the studio after Clara, a fellow student, comes to class with a surprise: a pair of ballet slippers in Brontorina’s size (that’s extra-, extra-, extra-large). When all is said and done, Brontorina’s large-scale talent exceeds the limits of the Dance Academy, and a search for an adequate performance space ensues—with unexpected results. “I want to dance,” Brontorina insists from the start. By the end of this amusing book, her dream has come true. Brought charmingly to life by Randy Cecil’s ebullient illustrations, Brontorina’s story will please ballet lovers of all ages.

The author of more than 50 books for young readers, Lesléa Newman presents an inspiring story about the importance of perseverance with Miss Tutu’s Star. Selena is a girl who lives to dance. It’s how she moves through the world. It’s what she does instead of socializing. Inevitable, then, is the trip she and her mother make to Miss Tutu’s Dance Academy so she can enroll in ballet class. At the studio, the lithe, limber Miss Tutu teaches an assemblage of adorable students—bewildered-looking boys and prim girls, all clumsy and uncertain as they struggle with new steps.

In class Selena is discouraged by ballet’s challenges, but her teacher provides encouragement: “Even when Selena fell, / Miss Tutu said, ‘You’re doing well. / What matters most is from the start, / My dear, you’ve always danced with heart.’” With patience and practice, Selena becomes more accomplished, and she makes a surprising stage debut that brings the audience to its feet. Delivered in delightful rhymed verse, her story is sure to strike a chord with little ballerinas. Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ colorful paintings convey Selena’s love of movement—the sheer joy she experiences through dance. A fun, frolicsome tale, Miss Tutu’s Star proves that practice pays off.

If you know any stagestruck youngsters begging for ballet lessons, a trio of new dance books will get them off on the right foot. As these stories demonstrate, everyone has a special sort of grace, an inner vision that’s worth expressing through movement. Share these inspiring books with aspiring Sugar Plum Fairies, and they’ll be […]
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Whether you’re shopping for a serious scholar or an armchair academic, a mystery addict or a collector, we have a title for every bibliophile on your list. Stuff a stocking with one of the books below, and you’ll look smart this holiday season.

Offering the inside scoop, so to speak, on what it’s like to live with a moody, complicated genius, The Diaries of Sofia Tolstoy, translated by historian Cathy Porter, provides readers with the rest of the story regarding one of Russia’s greatest writers. Sofia Behrs married Count Leo Tolstoy in 1862, when she was 18. Documenting their 48-year union, her fascinating diaries span five decades and chronicle events both personal and political. The daughter of a doctor, Sofia was smart and spirited, and she turned to journaling for both expression and confession. Tolstoy also kept a journal, and the two often shared their writings, no matter how hurtful the content.

As Sofia’s diaries make clear, the couple had a tumultuous relationship. Although she bore Tolstoy 13 children and supported him in his work, copying out his manuscripts and overseeing their domestic affairs, he was often cold and neglectful, and Sofia’s journals are filled with angst-ridden entries that describe her struggles to negotiate their shared life. Written with precision and earnest emotion, the diaries reveal the daily dramas—family quarrels, illnesses and financial concerns—that enlivened the Tolstoy household, and they show that Sofia was an accomplished artist in her own right. Featuring an introduction by Doris Lessing, this volume will strike a chord with both history buffs and literature lovers.

The title says it all: Writers Gone Wild: The Feuds, Frolics, and Follies of Literature’s Great Adventurers, Drunkards, Lovers, Iconoclasts, and Misanthropes catalogues notorious moments in the lives of famous authors. Compiled by journalist Bill Peschel, this tantalizing collection of true anecdotes documents a different kind of literary history—one of scandal and abandon, packed with scenes worthy of a bestseller. Peschel offers what amounts to mug shots of the literati, as he recounts incident after unbelievable incident: There’s Norman Mailer stabbing his wife, Adele, at the close of a night of carousing, and Theodore Dreiser slapping Sinclair Lewis during a formal dinner that becomes a bit of a brawl. Taking it to the streets are J.P. Donleavy and Brendan Behan, who duke it out on a London sidewalk.

Of course, the vino flows liberally throughout Peschel’s book, providing fuel, in most cases, for each writer’s act of passion. Peschel has organized the proceedings into chapters (“Public Embarrassments,” “Unfortunate Encounters,” “Fight Club”—you get the picture) and includes recommendations for further reading. An artful writer, he presents each priceless nugget of trivia with style and flair. Bibliophiles will love this enormously entertaining look at authors who succumbed to the very impulses they wrote about. When life imitates art, look out!

The Updikes and Munros of tomorrow are featured in 20 Under 40: Stories from The New Yorker, a terrific new collection compiled by Deborah Treisman, the magazine’s fiction editor. Proving that the short story form is as vital as ever, the volume presents a talented new generation of writers, all under the age of 40, whose work was showcased in the magazine this past summer.

The narratives are wonderfully varied, and the roster of authors is diverse. David Bezmozgis and Dinaw Mengestu, both transplants to the West, contribute powerful tales of the immigrant experience. Innovators Téa Obreht and Jonathan Safran Foer push the boundaries of the genre in stories that surprise, while ZZ Packer and Wells Tower use narrative voice as the foundation for their rich explorations of character. Bringing humor to the table, Joshua Ferris and Gary Shteyngart offer sharply realized satires.

The New Yorker has a reputation for fostering great fiction writers. With 20 Under 40, the magazine continues its tradition of spotlighting authors with fresh styles and exciting visions. Readers concerned about the state of literature in this digital era can rest easy: As 20 Under 40 demonstrates, the future of fiction looks bright.

Get ready for poisoned sugarplums and Santas who sleuth. Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop, edited by Otto Penzler, offers readers a different kind of Yuletide yarn. Penzler, a connoisseur of suspense fiction, owns the esteemed Mysterious Bookshop in New York City. Every year, come Christmas, he solicits a story from one of his partners in crime—i.e., some of the most popular mystery writers working today. For guidelines regarding plot and character, Penzler offers only the following: Each narrative should take place during the holidays, be centered around a mystery and use as its setting—for at least a few scenes—his shop.

Penzler started this spine-tingling tradition in 1993, publishing the tales as limited-edition pamphlets, which he gave to his customers as gifts. Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop brings the stories together for the first time in one volume. The 17 contributions include diverting whodunits and sophisticated crime dramas, as well as narratives written with good old-fashioned fun. Featuring pieces by Ed McBain (“I Saw Mommy Killing Santa Claus”), Donald Westlake (“Give Till It Hurts”) and S.J. Rozan (“The Grift of the Magi”), this roundup of holiday tales with a sinister twist is the perfect gift for the mystery lover on your list.

Movie fans and fiction lovers alike have Lisbeth on the brain—Lisbeth Salander, that is. The heroine of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy, Lisbeth is equal parts guerrilla girl and math geek—a street-smart genius with a knack for hacking who uses her computer skills to take on the baddies of Swedish society. Her adventures, chronicled in Larsson’s trio of bestsellers, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, have bewitched readers around the world.

Coinciding with the holidays is the arrival of the Millennium Trilogy Deluxe Boxed Set, a handsome slip-cased collection that will provide fans with an extra Lisbeth fix. The set contains new hardcover editions of the three novels, which have been outfitted with a fresh design that includes maps, unique engravings and one-of-a-kind endpapers. Rounding out the collection is On Stieg Larsson, a volume of previously unpublished essays and correspondence with the author, who died in 2004. With more than five million copies in print, Larsson’s thrilling trilogy has turned Lisbeth into the queen of crime fiction, and her story gets the royal treatment here. This lavish set is a must-have for Millennium devotees and readers in search of suspense.

Whether you’re shopping for a serious scholar or an armchair academic, a mystery addict or a collector, we have a title for every bibliophile on your list. Stuff a stocking with one of the books below, and you’ll look smart this holiday season. INSIGHTS OF A FAMOUS WIFE Offering the inside scoop, so to speak, […]
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In the spirit of the season, we have gathered a group of new novels that delightfully explore the elusive nature of love. If you’re looking for fresh insights concerning the inscrutable ways of Cupid, then peruse the books below. Here’s to true love!

Fans of old-fashioned amour will cozy up to Love Letters. The novel’s leading lady, Laura Horsley, is a bibliophile to the bone. When her bookstore closes and she finds herself out of a job, she impulsively joins the organizing committee of a literary festival. A misunderstanding leads the committee to believe that she has inside connections to Dermot Flynn, a celebrated writer notorious for his love of privacy. Laura, who has adored Dermot’s work since her university days, is dispatched to Ireland to sign him up for the festival. Can she charm the reclusive author into participating? It’s an incredible mission, and one that seems doomed to fail when Laura finally meets the difficult Dermot. Wrestling with his latest work, he’s moody and gruff, yet Laura finds him irresistible, and as she tries to commit him to the festival, the events that transpire defy her wildest fantasies of fandom. With Laura, British author Katie Fforde has created a spirited heroine the reader can’t help rooting for, and she spins her adventures into an unforgettable story. This hilarious romance will convince the harshest cynic that love conquers all.

A shrewd depiction of romance in an era of instant connection, Teresa Medeiros’ Goodnight, Tweetheart demonstrates the ways in which courting via computer can expedite seduction—but also trick the heart and muddle the mind. So it goes for the story’s central character, novelist Abby Donovan. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, Abby’s a writer with serious aspirations. How, then, to account for her addiction to Twitter, the famous social networking site that’s a bit, well, frivolous?

Led to the website by her publicist, Abby intends, at first, to tweet only for promotional purposes, but business gives way to romance when she connects with the bookish “MarkBaynard,” a charmer who can pack poetry into the briefest tweet. As the two forge an online relationship, Abby finds it increasingly difficult to concentrate on her work. Her story unfolds, in part, through tweets and direct messages, as she compulsively corresponds with a guy who seems, onscreen, like Mr. Right. But how much does Abby really know about Mark? The mysteries and questions Medeiros puts into play are timeless, and they give extra depth to this cleverly crafted tale.

A poet, food critic and radio personality, Hervé Le Tellier is known in France as a Renaissance man. His 15th book, a piece of chic, contemporary fiction called Enough About Love, chronicles the turbulent romantic lives of a group of well-to-do Parisians. Elegant, accomplished and on the brink of 40, Anna has a solid marriage and a pair of adorable children. Yet when she meets Yves, an offbeat writer, she’s more than a little intrigued. Likewise, Louise—a successful lawyer, wife and mother—experiences sparks with Thomas, who happens to be Anna’s psychiatrist.

Blindsided by emotion, the lives of all four lovers are transformed virtually overnight. This provocative novel unfolds in brief chapters, each of which offers the perspective of a different character, creating a richly textured mosaic of incident and emotion. For Anna and Louise, the comforts of family are threatened by surprising and potent passion. It’s a classic battle—sudden desire versus the long-cultivated bonds of monogamy—and Le Tellier uses the conflict to explore the difficult decisions that so often accompany love. A wise and witty writer, he brings Parisian flair to this tale of romantic entanglement.

A sensitive rendering of a remarkable friendship, The Intimates, Ralph Sassone’s accomplished debut novel, examines love in its many varied forms and the demands it makes on the human heart. Kindred spirits, Robbie and Maize gravitate toward each other in high school, but romance fails to blossom between them. Instead, they become steadfast friends, attending the same college and supporting each other as they enter the “real world.” Both struggle to make sense of adolescence even as they embark upon adulthood. Maize—at heart a sensitive writer-type—goes into real estate in New York City but finds the experience, to put it mildly, disillusioning. Meanwhile, Robbie, who has vague designs on the publishing industry, explores romantic relationships with men.

Although Robbie and Maize are driven by desires that change with time and experience, their special intimacy—a passionate yet platonic tie—endures. With authenticity and an eye for the subtle machinations that can make or break relationships, Sassone has produced a moving, often funny novel that beautifully reflects the complexities of love.

In the spirit of the season, we have gathered a group of new novels that delightfully explore the elusive nature of love. If you’re looking for fresh insights concerning the inscrutable ways of Cupid, then peruse the books below. Here’s to true love! A VERY LITERARY ROMANCEFans of old-fashioned amour will cozy up to Love […]
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They’re so much more than man’s best friend. These days, dogs occupy privileged places in our hearts and homes, improving us as humans and making our lives more purposeful. As the books here show, the love of a good canine can cure almost any ailment. 

When Jill Abramson, executive editor of The New York Times, adopted a golden retriever puppy named Scout, she blogged about her canine-related experiences on the paper’s website. Her posts proved surprisingly popular, prompting responses from readers around the country. We’ve got good news for Abramson’s followers: Her beloved blog has inspired a full-blown book, The Puppy Diaries: Raising a Dog Named Scout

In this wonderfully engaging narrative, Abramson documents the ups and downs of Scout’s first year. It’s a time of adjustment, as Abramson and her husband, Henry, struggle with a bad case of the empty nest blues made worse by the loss of their previous dog. Scout fills these voids, and then some, but she comes with a catch—a boisterous nature that suits Abramson’s country house in Connecticut but poses problems in her New York City loft. Exasperated by the challenges of raising a dog in an urban setting and by Scout’s bad habits (you name it, this puppy’s done it: chewing shoes, barking at mealtimes, relieving herself indoors), Abramson turns to behaviorists for help. The story of how she molds Scout into a compliant, city-dwelling creature will give hope to anyone who owns a problematic pooch. Along with humorous anecdotes and can’t-be-beat memories, Abramson offers sound counsel on breeding, adoption and diet, making this an invaluable guidebook as well as a sweet valentine to a lovable canine.

As the man behind the Newbury, Massachusetts, newspaper The Undertoad, Tom Ryan played the role of roving reporter for a decade. In 2007, ready for a change, he sold the publication and relocated to the White Mountains of New Hampshire with his miniature schnauzer pal, Atticus M. Finch. The move opened up new vistas for the pair—both literally and figuratively—inspiring the incredible adventures that Ryan recounts with flair in Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship

Stirred by the majestic terrain of his new home and moved by the death of a close friend from cancer, Ryan forms a plan to raise money to fight the disease: With Atticus by his side (accoutered in booties and fleece-lined bodysuit), he tackles the intimidating peaks of the White Mountain Range, climbing all 48 of them twice as a charity fundraiser. Up in the mountains, the two contend with frigid temperatures, snow and wind, and there are times when the weather makes progress impossible. It’s at these moments that Ryan’s affection for his pint-sized companion, who possesses courage and pluck of epic proportions, is most endearingly apparent. Not long after their return from the peaks, Atticus experiences serious health problems. What transpires for him and for Ryan on their home turf is just as extraordinary as their mountain journey. Following Atticus is an intriguing story of growth, possibility and the one-of-a-kind camaraderie that exists between man and dog.

Julie Klam has had lots of experience in the dog department. Her best-selling memoir, You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness (2010), was a delightful account of the way her under-populated personal life was enriched by a dog named Otto and grew to include a husband, daughter and small brood of adopted Boston terriers. Klam’s latest release, Love at First Bark: How Saving a Dog Can Sometimes Help You Save Yourself, exhibits the same humor and narrative panache that made her last book so appealing. 

With her wry, honest style in full swing, Klam shares personal tales of dog rescue and rehab that read, at times, like adventure stories. Traveling to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Klam finds herself in a swamp assisting with the retrieval of a feral puppy who has a jar jammed on his head. A Manhattan rescue named Morris—a burly pit bull—helps resuscitate the author’s fragile marriage. Another adoptee, a Boston terrier called Clementine, has a major (and messy) incontinence problem and a spirit so cheery that Klam can’t help but be inspired by her. At bottom, these stories share a single sentiment—that pets in general (and dogs in particular) have a rejuvenating effect on the human spirit. This is a lovely little book that will strike a chord with just about any breed of animal lover.

Globetrotting photographer Art Wolfe has aimed his lens at just about every kind of animal imaginable—canines included, of course. In fact, photographing dogs and the people who own them has been a pet (pardon the pun) project of Wolfe’s since 1984, when he snapped images of kids and their four-legged friends while on assignment in Tibet. Wolfe’s favorite dog-and-owner shots are showcased in the breathtaking new book Dogs Make Us Human: A Global Family Album. Remarkable for its reach and diversity, this international gallery features poodles and Pomeranians, purebreds and mutts, dogs that hunt and dogs that defend—canines of every conceivable breed and demeanor. Ditto the owners. 

Along with captivating images from every continent, this unique collection contains text by best-selling author Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, who examines the incomparable bond between man and dog. “Our relationship with dogs is the single most important symbiotic relationship between humans and another species on the planet,” he says. Wolfe’s photos support this statement. Standout images include a Yorkie in Tokyo perched on the seat of a moped, and a chihuahua in Seattle whose sunglasses and leather cap parallel its owner’s outfit—or lack thereof. If you’re trying to convert a cat lover, this collection should do the trick.

With Letters from Angel, Martin P. Levin offers a touching tribute to a much-missed pooch. After he was forced to put Angel, his golden retriever, to sleep, Levin decided to share her story with the world, producing this slender but substantial book. Told from Angel’s perspective in a series of letters, the narrative provides a dog’s-eye view of daily existence that’s utterly enchanting. Angel is frightened of fireworks, finds cabdrivers unmannerly and adores Mrs. Levin’s home-cooked lamb chops. She uses the letters to share memories—not all of them happy—of her pre-Levin life. Her take on humans and the world they inhabit is irresistible. Illustrated with delightful black-and-white line drawings, this is a book you can breeze through in a single sitting, but it’s better savored slowly. 

They’re so much more than man’s best friend. These days, dogs occupy privileged places in our hearts and homes, improving us as humans and making our lives more purposeful. As the books here show, the love of a good canine can cure almost any ailment.  DIARY OF A DOG LOVERWhen Jill Abramson, executive editor of […]

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