★ The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Susan Orlean offers an homage to libraries while investigating a mystery in The Library Book. Orlean delivers a riveting account of the 1986 Los Angeles Public Library fire, which burned for over seven hours, was extinguished with roughly 3 million gallons of water and damaged or destroyed approximately a million books. In recounting the aftermath of the disaster, Orlean chronicles the investigations that ensued and the eventual arrest of an arson suspect—a disturbed young actor named Harry Peak. Along the way, she tracks the history of the Los Angeles Public Library and interviews librarians about their duties and the challenges they face on the job. This intriguing title is also a touching meditation on the author’s lifelong love of libraries and the invaluable services they provide to society.
Queenie by Candace Carty-Williams
Queenie, a young woman of Jamaican British background, tries to forget her white ex-boyfriend as she reenters the complicated world of interracial dating in this smart, briskly paced novel that explores issues of gender and relationships.
Bowlaway by Elizabeth McCracken
Local eccentric Bertha Truitt opens a bowling alley in Salford, Massachusetts, in the early 1900s. The alley stays in her family for generations, becoming the foundation for a quirky, compelling narrative about inheritance, connection and tradition.
The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer
After learning about photography from the artist Man Ray, model Lee Miller embarks on a career in Europe, pursuing art and love to their ultimate ends. Skillfully blending fact and fiction, Scharer makes an impressive debut with this bold historical novel.
The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker
For dystopian fiction full of provocative questions but light on the violence often present in the genre, try Walker’s haunting portrait of a community torn apart by a mysterious, airborne sleeping sickness.