Ill Will (Dan Chaon) — This literary thriller by a National Book Award finalist left me disappointed. Call me lowbrow, but I am disappointed when I read a book that is partly a murder mystery and there’s no actual resolution at the end.
The Fortunate Ones (Ellen Umansky) — Rose Zimmer’s parents save her life by sending her on a Kindertransport from Austria to England in 1939. After the war, she desperately searches for her family’s Chaim Soutine painting, stolen by the Nazis. The search leads her to Lizzie Goldstein, whose father was the last owner of the painting — which has been stolen again, on Lizzie’s watch. I loved this story of family history and secrets.
A Piece of the World (Christina Baker Kline) — The story behind the subject of Andrew Wyeth’s famous painting, “Christina’s World”, this novel is a lovely exploration of family, friendship, and art.
All Grown Up (Jami Attenberg) — Forgettable coming of age novel about a woman in her thirties — much too old to be coming of age.
The Association of Small Bombs (Karan Mahajan) — Shortlisted for the 2016 National Book Award, this is one of those literary novels that failed to engage my emotionally. I’ve read many other books about India that received less acclaim but that I connected with more.
Pachinko (Min Jin Lee) — Entertaining and enlightening at once, Pachinko grabbed me from the beginning and wouldn’t let me go. I loved the characters and was fascinated by the experiences of Koreans in Japan. However . . . I didn’t love the writing style. I was frequently distracted by oddly structured or ungrammatical sentences.
We Were the Lucky Ones (Georgia Hunter) — An extended Polish family (five grown siblings, their parents, and spouses) are separated during World War II — miraculously, all survive after many years of unspeakable suffering. The story is based on the experiences of the author’s family, and is a tribute to their courage — and luck
The Passion of Dolssa (Julie Berry) — I was transported into another time and place as I read this wonderful story about a young mystic in medieval Provence, hunted by French inquisitors, and her friendship with three sisters who run a village tavern.
The Second Mrs. Hockaday (Susan Rivers) — There’s nothing I love more than an epistolary novel. The author’s use of letters and diary entries heightens the suspense in this amazing story, which is based on a real-life court case from the mid-19th century. It’s a gem of a book!
Books for Living (Will Schwalbe) — “Much love” doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about this inspiring book for book lovers. I can’t imagine a better way to start your reading year than by picking up a copy of Books for Living. The chapter on Stuart Little is worth the price of the book.
Small Admissions (Amy Poeppel) — Would I recommend this title? Yes, if you’re in the mood for something light and fluffy, the literary version of a rom-com. I have a weakness for behind-the-scenes novels set in admissions departments, and I’d never read one that takes place in the crazy world of New York day schools.
Idaho (Emily Ruskovich) — One of those books that sounds promising but turns out to be a disappointment. I kept reading with the hope that the story would coalesce, but it never did. The writing is lovely, but everything about this book seemed implausible to me.