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Spring forward into great new books: Fiction, nonfiction, and sunlight

There is Just. Too. Much. Good. Stuff. To. Read. This spring, more good books are coming. And, praise be, folks are reading. Don't you love those deckle-edged paperbacks? We do. And those e-books. Below are some we have seen and recommend - but, brothers and sisters, this is but the merest glimpse of what's out there.

There is Just. Too. Much. Good. Stuff. To. Read. This spring, more good books are coming. And, praise be, folks are reading. Don't you love those deckle-edged paperbacks? We do. And those e-books. Below are some we have seen and recommend - but, brothers and sisters, this is but the merest glimpse of what's out there.


Human Acts, by Han Kang (Hogarth, January). An epic novel of family and friendship arising from the 1980 riots in South Korea. Han Kang, a Booker Prize-winner, throws her net wide.

Idaho, by Emily Ruskovich (Random House, January). Some novels you want to read just because you read the capsule blurb. In Idaho, a woman investigates the mystery of her husband's first wife and her two daughters.

The Impossible Fortress, by Jason Rekulak (Simon & Schuster, February). The author is a publisher at local Quirk Books. In this tale, set in 1987, two young guys concoct a plan to, um, steal Playboy magazine. From there, it just hops along. Rekulak will appear Monday at the Free Library.

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders (Random House, February). Saunders - you almost want to say sneakily, but he's not sneaky, he's great - has become one of our leading writers. Here, he summons up the death of Lincoln's son Willie in 1862, and the meaning of loss and grief. He'll be at the Free Library on Feb. 14.

Swimming Lessons, by Claire Fuller (Tin House, February). She hides letters to her husband in the books on his shelves, and then she drowns. Or does she? And what did her letters say?

The Orphan's Tale, by Pam Jenoff (MIRA, February). What a great setting: two friends, a traveling circus during World War II. Stories of sacrifice and survival.

Checkpoint, by Jean-Christophe Rufin (Europa, February). Europa publishing house is on a roll, with the novels of Elena Ferrante and a great noir series. This suspenseful novel is set in the world of international humanitarian aid. The author ought to know - he's the founder of Doctors Without Borders.

Universal Harvester, by John Darnelle (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, February). The author is the lead guy for the band known as the Mountain Goats - and a fine writer. His protagonist here is just a guy in a small-town video store - and mysterious things occur when he sees something on a tape.

Ill Will, by Dan Chaon (Ballatine, March). Your adopted brother is being released from prison - where he was put 30 years ago, thanks to your testimony. Good luck.

Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid (Riverhead, March). Nadia and Saeed meet in a country teetering on the brink of civil war. A love affair ensues amid the unrest convulsing their city. Hamid will be at the Free Library on March 9.

Men Without Women, by Haruki Murakami (Knopf, May). Seven stories about men who are alone. Murakami's great themes are here, including solitude, cats, women, the Beatles, and baseball.

House of Names, by Colm Tóibín (Scribner, May). In Tóibín's retelling of the great Greek House of Atreus cycle, Clytemnestra rules Mycenae now, along with her new lover, Aegisthus, and together they plot the murder of Agamemnon when he gets back from the Trojan War. Don't get in that tub! Tóibín will appear May 17 at the Free Library.

The Golden Cockerel & Other Writings, by Juan Rulfo, translated by Douglas J. Weatherford (Deep Vellum, May). Rulfo, considered one of Mexico's greatest writers, is one of the most influential 20th-century writers in Spanish. This, his second novel, published posthumously in 1980, is now in English for the first time.


Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America, by Michael Eric Dyson (St. Martin, January). Ordained Baptist minister, Princeton Ph.D., former Penn professor, Dyson takes risks starting right from the subtitle. Some people will see it and throw the book away. Don't. It talks directly to you, about issues deep, disturbing, and urgently in need of being faced.

Dear Friend, From My Life, I Write to You in Your Life, by Yiyun Li (Random House, February). What a beautiful title. She grew up in Chinese - and became a celebrated novelist in English. This is her long-awaited memoir about her literary career, emotional struggles, and breakthroughs. She'll be at the Free Library on March 2.

Why I Am Not a Feminist, by Jessica Crispin (Melville House, February). There are many kinds of feminism, feminists disagree on a lot of things, and there's a lot of pressure, and a great deal of history and well-meaning is just messed up.

To Be a Machine, by Mark O'Connell (Doubleday, February). Transhumanism is a movement interested in extending human limits via technology and science, as in bots, implanted programming, cryogenic freezing of (almost?) dead folks, and so on. O'Connell unleashes his prodigious researching and writing skills on what could be your future.

The Brain Defense: Murder in Manhattan and the Dawn of Neuroscience in America's Courtrooms, by Kevin Davis (Penguin, February). A 1991 trial involving a brain scan and a frontal-lobe cyst was one of the first uses of neuroscience in our courts - and from there, here we go!

American Berserk, by Bill Morris (Sunbury, March). Morris used to be a reporter at the Chambersburg Public Opinion, and this book gathers up some of the lurid, strange, true-life tales of Pennsy's Cumberland Valley.

Richard Nixon: The Life, by John Farrell (Doubleday, March). A great American odyssey, a great rise from the suburbs to world power, a great triumph - and a great tragedy. You could not have made up a life story more gripping.

South and West, by Joan Didion (Knopf, March). Two essays from her notebooks - one on a 1970 road trip through the South, and another (can't wait!) on the 1976 Patty Hearst trial.

The Rules Do Not Apply, by Ariel Levy (Random House, March). In 2012, pregnant, successful, married, this marvelous essayist for the New Yorker left for Mongolia - and within a month, it all collapsed.

Theft By Finding (Diaries, 1977-2002), by David Sedaris (Little, Brown, May). Of course you're going to buy, read, laugh, ponder, read. He is one of our best comic writers, one of our most thought-provoking, and - who knew? - a dedicated diarist.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, by Roxane Gay (Harper, June). This popular journalist, critic, and social-media addict explores her struggle to understand her body, and the anxieties around pleasure, denial, and the meaning of self-care. She'll appear March 24 at the Free Library.


When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities, by Chen Chen (BOA, April). This is here only because of its remarkable title. No, not really. This is here because Chen Chen's poems, about being Asian American, about sexuality, families, and life, are wondrous.

Galaxy Love, by Gerald Stern (Norton, April). National Book Award winner, Pittsburgh-born poetic "son" of Walt Whitman, Stern's a man who, since 1925, has been everywhere and remembered everything. What a voice, what a bardic roll. His poetry is a lifelong act of love.