Literary Fiction

North woods : a novel book cover

North woods : a novel

Daniel (Daniel Philippe) Mason

FICTION Mason Daniel
Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

"When a pair of young lovers abscond from a Puritan colony, little do they know that their humble cabin in the woods will become the home of an extraordinary succession of human and nonhuman characters alike. An English soldier, destined for glory, abandons the battlefields of the New World to devote himself to apples. A pair of spinster twins navigate war and famine, envy and desire. A crime reporter unearths a mass grave--only to discover that the ancient trees refuse to give up their secrets. A lovelorn painter, a sinister conman, a stalking panther, a lusty beetle: As each inhabitant confronts the wonder and mystery around them, they begin to realize that the dark, raucous, beautiful past is very much alive"--

Anne M's picture

I really enjoy Daniel Mason’s writing. I loved The Winter Soldier. (Now that I think of it, I should read that one again. It’s so good!) But Mason really surprised me with this book. It is refreshing, funny, and a little chaotic. It follows the history of a single piece of land in the woods of western Massachusetts from first contact into the future. It’s the story of the land, the animals that live there, and the house that stands on it and how they change with each generation, but also how each generation is influenced by the land and the house. It is full of these beautiful connections woven throughout the generations—sometimes in completely unexpected ways. One of my favorite parts of the novel are the ghostly ballads written by two twin sisters that are used as interludes between chapters. Yes, this novel is ambitious. And Mason succeeds. -Anne M

The vaster wilds book cover

The vaster wilds

Lauren Groff

FICTION Groff Lauren
Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

"A servant girl escapes from a colonial settlement in the wilderness. She carries nothing with her but her wits, a few possessions, and the spark of god that burns hot within her. What she finds in this terra incognita is beyond the limits of her imagination and will bend her belief in everything that her own civilization has taught her. Lauren Groff's new novel is at once a thrilling adventure story and a penetrating fable about trying to find a new way of living in a world succumbing to the churn of colonialism. The Vaster Wilds is a work of raw and prophetic power that tells the story of America in miniature, through one girl at a hinge point in history, to ask how--and if--we can adapt quickly enough to save ourselves."

Anne M's picture

A lot of “pandemic novels” are coming out right now—at least narratives inspired by or written during the pandemic and everything that happened within that time. They provide a window into what authors were thinking about, working through, or grappling with during the height of the pandemic. Lauren Groff’s thinking was pretty bleak. Her thoughts turned to the “Starving Time” of Jamestown: crops failed, disease flourished, and those that survived ate everything. The narrative centers on a white servant girl, who is called many different names in her short life, and her decision to run away from the colonial settlement and strike out on her own in hopes of finding the French. She is hungry and afraid in the settlement and what is unknown to her beyond the palisade holds better chances for survival. The story follows her during those first few weeks with glimpses into how she found herself on this side of the Atlantic. This survival novel is engrossing, and it takes on quite a few subjects: colonization, land use, 17th century religion, and the oppressively hierarchical structure of English society. But also, what does it mean to be human when you are alone? What does real survival mean? Groff left me with more questions than answers, but good novelists do that. -Anne M

The awakening, and selected stories book cover

The awakening, and selected stories

Kate Chopin

FICTION Chopin, Kate
Fiction, Classics, Literary Fiction

Annie's picture

A fast read with gorgeous writing and imagery. This book was censored for decades after its publishing in 1899 for its depictions of female sexual desire and a protagonist who opposed traditional social and gender norms. If you haven't read this Romantic classic yet, I highly recommend it for Banned Books Week! -Annie

My dark Vanessa : a novel book cover

My dark Vanessa : a novel

Kate Elizabeth Russell

FICTION Russell Kate
Literary Fiction

2000: Bright, ambitious fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher. 2017: Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa. Now Vanessa finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? -- adapted from jacket

Amanda's picture

This book was absolutely stunning. The writing, the phrasing alone is brilliant, and though the story can be difficult to read and process, I became as immersed into it as I could. Just beautiful. The author does a great job of getting us into the main character's headspace so you can better identify with her feelings and desires and reactions. -Amanda

The secret lives of church ladies book cover

The secret lives of church ladies

Philyaw, Deesha, author.

FICTION Philyaw Deesha
Literary Fiction, LGBTQ+, Short Story

"The Secret Lives of Church Ladies explores the raw and tender places where black women and girls dare to follow their desires and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good. The nine stories in this collection feature four generations of characters grappling with who they want to be in the world, caught as they are between the church's double standards and their own needs and passions"--

Bailey's picture

Every single story in this collection is beautifully crafted, emotionally impactful, with characters you'll feel connected to even in just a few pages. This was truly a delight to read, perfect for taking a pause between weekend errands. -Bailey

The last true poets of the sea book cover

The last true poets of the sea

Drake, Julia, author.

Fiction, Young Adult, Literary Fiction

Inspired loosely by Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, teenaged Violet is shipped off to Maine after her brother's hospitalization, where she searches for the lost shipwreck that her great-great grandmother survived and for answers about her family's long struggle with mental illness, all while falling in love.

Casey's picture

I'm always in for a Shakespeare retelling, and Twelfth Night is one of my favorites. I've heard The Last True Poets of the Sea is really good, but have yet to get to it. Maybe this year! -Casey

A gentleman in Moscow book cover

A gentleman in Moscow

Towles, Amor, author.

FICTION Towles Amor
Fiction, Literary Fiction

From the New York Times bestselling author of Rules of Civility--a transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel

Casey's picture

This is the book in 2023 that I am determined to tackle. It's been on my list for at least four years and I have multiple family members who adore this title. I'm coming for you, Amor Towles! -Casey

Bea Wolf. book cover

Bea Wolf.

Zach Author Weinersmith

Kids, Graphic Novels, Adventure, Literary Fiction

A modern middle-grade graphic novel retelling of Beowulf, featuring a gang of troublemaking kids who must defend their tree house from a fun-hating adult who can instantly turn children into grown-ups. Listen! Hear a tale of mallow-munchers and warriors who answer candy’s clarion call! Somewhere in a generic suburb stands Treeheart, a kid-forged sanctuary where generations of tireless tykes have spent their youths making merry, spilling soda, and staving off the shadow of adulthood. One day, these brave warriors find their fun cut short by their nefarious neighbor Grindle, who can no longer tolerate the sounds of mirth seeping into his joyless adult life. As the guardian of gloom lays siege to Treeheart, scores of kids suddenly find themselves transformed into pimply teenagers and sullen adults! The survivors of the onslaught cry out for a savior―a warrior whose will is unbreakable and whose appetite for mischief is unbounded. They call for Bea Wolf.

Angie's picture

New middle grade graphic novel alert! Bea Wolf is a modern middle-grade graphic novel retelling of Beowulf. I would have loved to have read Bea's story in school instead of of Beo's. Even still this amazingly creative retelling also mimics the original's language by using alliteration throughout. Kids will enjoy this retelling, and not realize they’re also learning about a great classic! Plus, it was laugh out loud funny in many parts; a true delight! -Angie

Foster book cover


Claire Keegan

FICTION Keegan Claire
Literary Fiction

"An international bestseller and one of The Times's "Top 50 Novels Published in the 21st Century," Claire Keegan's piercing contemporary classic Foster is a heartbreaking story of childhood, loss, and love, now released as a standalone book for the first time ever in the US. It is a hot summer in rural Ireland. A child is taken by her father to live with relatives on a farm, not knowing when or if she will be brought home again. In the Kinsellas' house, she finds an affection and warmth she has not known and slowly, in their care, begins to blossom. But there is something unspoken in this new household-where everything is so well tended to-and this summer must soon come to an end. Winner of the prestigious Davy Byrnes Award and published in an abridged version in the New Yorker, this internationally bestselling contemporary classic is now available for the first time in the US in a full, standalone edition. A story of astonishing emotional depth, Foster showcases Claire Keegan's great talent and secures her reputation as one of our most important storytellers"--

Anne M's picture

"Foster" is a quiet, brisk novella that packs a punch. Claire Keegan is beginning to be one of my favorite authors. -Anne M

Empty theatre  book cover

Empty theatre

Jac Jemc

Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

History knows them as King Ludwig II of Bavaria and Empress Elizabeth of Austria, icons of the late nineteenth century who died young and left behind magnificent portraits and palaces. But to each other they were Ludwig and Sisi, cousins who shared a passion for beauty and a stubborn refusal to submit to the roles imposed upon them. Ludwig, simultaneously spoiled and punished for his softness and "unmanly" interests, falls hard for the operas of Richard Wagner and neglects his state duties in the pursuit of art. Sisi, married at the age of sixteen to her beloved Franzl, bristles at the restrictions of her elevated position, the value placed on her beauty, and the simultaneous expectation that she ravage her body again and again in childbirth. Both absurdly vain, both traumatized by the demands of their roles, Sisi and Ludwig struggle against the ideals they are expected to embody, and resist through extravagance, petulance, performance, and frivolity.

Anne M's picture

Between the podcast "Noble Blood" and the recent movie "Corsage," you might be familiar with King Ludwig II of Bavaria and his mysterious murder and Empress Sisi of Austria and her beauty habits. Jemc brings these people to life in this historical fiction novel giving meaning to the eccentricities, while also giving us a good dose of humor. Highly recommend. -Anne M