Fiction A to Z
Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-BrenyahWhat it is: a complex, compelling debut story collection that tackles hot-button issues (from Black Friday shopping to racism and hate crimes) in unexpected ways.
Accolades so far: author Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah received the National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35 honor; authors George Saunders and Colson Whitehead are fans; Friday Black has been long-listed for the 2019 Carnegie Medal for Excellence.
For fans of: Nafissa Thompson-Spires' Heads of the Colored People.
Virgil Wander by Leif EngerWhat it's about: the rebirth (of sorts) of middle-aged Midwesterner Virgil Wander, who barely survived the accident that submerged his car in Lake Superior.
Don't miss: Virgil's interactions with Rune, a Norwegian looking for the son he never knew about (and who disappeared ten years previously); his regaining of the language skills he lost in the accident.
For fans of: the characters and depressed industrial towns of Richard Russo's novels.
Bitter Orange by Claire FullerStarring: anxious, lonely Frances; her unexpected neighbors for the summer, the hedonistic Peter and Cara; and a dilapidated, decaying English country house.
Why you might like it: Though much of the action takes place during one hot summer in 1969, the events are narrated after 20 years have passed, creating an aura of uncertainty and tension.
Read it for: a vivid, lush atmosphere; a sympathetic if potentially unreliable narrator; a twisty, explosive plot.
The Shape of the Ruins by Juan Gabriel VásquezWhat it is: an absorbing, immersive, and complex tale of political conspiracy and obsession (in which the narrator shares a name with the author).
Read it for: an introduction to 20th-century Colombian history, a host of photographs and other artifacts, and an array of stories within stories.
What reviewers say: "sweeping and magisterial" (Washington Post).
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry (Or Not)
The Last Days of Café Leila by Donia BijanWhat it's about: Reeling from a broken marriage, expat Noor returns to her native Iran for the first time in decades, with her rebellious teenage daughter in tow. There, she finds a changed Tehran and a father in ill health.
Read it for: strong family ties, mouthwatering Persian cuisine, and multiple perspectives on Iran's recent history.
Author alert: Donia Bijan is also a successful chef whose memoir is called Maman's Homesick Pie.
Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian LiWhat happens: After its hardworking owner dies, the future of the Beijing Duck House is unclear as various family members (and long-time employees) bicker about its prospects.
Read it for: the behind-the-scenes insight into a bustling, family-owned Chinese restaurant; the interplay of Chinese tradition and American capitalism; canny nine-fingered Uncle Pang.
Women in Sunlight by Frances MayesWhat it's about: For Camille, Susan, and Julia, traditional retirement communities hold no appeal; on a bit of a whim the four near-strangers decide to rent a Tuscan home for a year, where they meet a younger American expat and become fast friends.
Why you might like it: an upbeat, engaging novel, Women in Sunlight features lushly described settings and meals -- bringing Tuscany's best to your living room.
The Recipe Box: A Novel with Recipes by Viola ShipmanWhat it's about: Sam is a recent culinary school graduate whose career goes up in smoke when her volatile boss pushes her too far. Seeking refuge at her family's Michigan farm, she reconnects with her roots with the help of the family recipe box.
For fans of: delectable, sweet cookies, confections and pies; The Great British Baking Show; heartwarming, sentimental novels starring strong female characters who come to understand the value of family ties.
Sourdough by Robin SloanStarring: solitary software engineer Lois, whose primary social contact is with her food delivery service.
What happens: When Lois is gifted a strange and seemingly semi-sentient sourdough starter, her life changes in unexpected ways.
Why you might like it: Both a parody of and a paean to food-centric novels (and Silicon Valley start-ups), Sourdough teems with humor and quirky characters.
Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan StradalWhat it is: a collection of chronological short stories told from different perspectives, illuminating the influences on young Midwesterner Eva Thorvald, whose path to culinary stardom is crooked.
Who it's for: foodies...and those who love to satirize foodie culture.
Why you might like it: This charming debut novel is a bit like Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge, but with a lot more quirky humor.
Contact your librarian for more great books!