We spent the fall and winter reading reading reading ... all to bring you, at long last, the Winter/Spring Turnrow 20. Here are twenty titles we heartily recommend — some new, some a few months old, some decades old. There are expected favorites along with a few surprises. Some fiction, some non; historical and current. Set at home or far away and often both.
These books have one thing in common — an intense readibility and a quality of being conversation-worthy. These are the books we've read and discussed and can't help but entice you to read.
We'll expound on these titles soon, but for now, with links to our website for further description and/or purchase, is our Turnrow 20:
Above All Things by Tanis
High-climbing adventure meets romance in this fictionalized portrayal of Everest climber George Mallory and the beloved wife he left at home while pursuing his other great passion.
Benediction by Kent Haruf
The best-selling author of Plainsong returns to his Colorado community and delivers another quiet, moving portrait of small-town life that fans of Marilynne Robinson and John Williams' Stoner will appreciate. Signed copies coming soon.
The Black Russian by Vladimir Alexandrov
An improbable epic about a real-life Mississippian, the son of slaves who left his family's Delta cotton patch to travel the world and ended up a millioniar nightclub mogul in Moscow during the Russian Revolution. A fascinating biography colored with rich details from the late 1800s to 1920s. Author signs here March 21.
The Book of Job by Harold S. Kushner
The author of Why Bad Things Happen to Good People presents a compelling and persuasive conversation about one of the most difficult books of the Bible. This is an amazing read for serious scholars of the Bible or for the casual reader looking for more insight into this provocative scripture.
Chanel Bonfire by Wendy Lawless
We couldn't turn away from this compelling memoir about a heinously selfish mother raising two daughters while flitting from man to man, town to town, country to country, all the while spending lots of money and drinking herself into oblivion. If it sounds too painful, then this is where Lawless succeeds, giving us not a "poor me" portrait of family dysfunction but an inspiring tale of two sisters' grit and resilience in the face of colorful neglect.
The Dinner by Herman Koch
This best-selling Dutch novel is a real conversation starter. Two couples meet for dinner. It starts off harmless and pleasant, but there is a sinister undertone that grows with each course. Soon the diners' shared history is revealed, and as the circumstances of their meeting become apparent, we're already trapped at the table and bracing ourselves for the next course.
Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman
Two female journalists — the famous Nellie Bly and Mississippi girl Elisabeth Bisland — defy the mores of the time and race around the world in competing attempts to beat Jules Vernes' eighty days. At once a fast-paced adventure and an historical account of the beginnings of a new global age, engagingly written and loaded with interesting details.
The Expendable Man by Dorothy Hughes
From our beloved New York Review of Books comes another great rediscovery, a suspenseful 1963 novel about a man who becomes the suspect in the death of a hitch-hiking teenaged runaway after he innocently gives her a ride in the desert Southwest. Hughes performs a masterful turn by engaging readers even as she implicates them in the crime.
From Midnight to Guntown by John Hailman
Mississippi federal prosecutor and author (Thomas Jefferson on Wine) shares a career's worth of great stories that provide an irresisitible overview of colorful crime in the Magnolia State. This will appeal to fans of The Fall of the House of Zeus and provide plenty of statewide conversation. Author signs here May 1.
Ghostman by Roger Hobbs
An impressive and compulsively readable thriller about a mysterious fixer who sweeps in to clean up a botched casino robbery. Fans of Lee Child will flip over this midnight read, marking the start of a promising career. Signed first editions.
Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach
No one writes science like Mary Roach. Here she lends her twisted sense of humor and brazen reporting to an exploration of all the ways we receive (and expel) food and nourishment. You'll laugh and learn and think about these things incessantly as you're contending with your next meal.
The House Girl by Tara Conklin
An aspiring attorney in modern-day New York investigates claims that iconic paintings by a 19th century American artist may have actually been created by her house slave. The action switches back and forth from 2004 to 1850s Virginia with a satisfying story that constantly ventures into compelling new territory.
Jerusalem by Guy Delisle
A graphic art travelogue that depicts the artist's stint in Jerusalem, where is wife is stationed on a Doctors Without Borders assignment. Delisle maintains his sense of humor as he explores his temporary home as a house dad, gradually earning an understanding of the complex histories, rivalries, customs and dangers of life in a land at constant odds.
New & Selected Poems 1962-2012 by Charles Simic
A singular voice in American poetry, Simic's work reflects a host of beautiful contradictions — darkness and humor, surrealism and familiarity, simplicity and depth. Serious readers with even a passing fancy for poetry should make this collection, a fitting retrospective, part of their library.
Searching for Zion by Emily Raboteau
Subverting expectations at every turn, Raboteau's entertaining and highly impressive debut charts her quest for identity and faith as a biracial woman in a world of rigid categorization. She seeks outsiders and cross-pollinated cultures from Israel to Jamaica to Ethiopia and the American South. Her writing is fresh and funny, her reportage urgent and daring. Her insights into race and religion and self-realization are poignant and surprising. A book for fans of Dave Eggers, who said, "I doubt there will be a more important work of nonfiction this year." Signed first editions available.
Switch Bitch by Roald Dahl
Though best known for his children's literature, Roald Dahl had a naughty side he showed to his adult readers. In this recently reissued collection of four stories, we meet Uncle Oswald, a recurring character with imaginative tastes for all things carnal. We also spy on neighbors who learn a difficult lesson about the Tenth Commandment and another woman struggling to find a special kind of companionship. These naughty stories possess a class and wit not often found in tales of eros.
Tenth of December by George Saunders
Nobody skewers the modern age better than Saunders, and he does it while keeping several other balls in the air, including a stellar comedic voice, an eye for the absurd and heart-breaking, and a sense for formal experiments that don't bog down the story. He achieves it all with the balance of a true master. Signed copies available.
A True History of the Captivation, Transportation to Strange Lands & Deliverance of Hannah Guttentag by Josh Russell
An overlooked novel from last fall, this is the story of a young graduate student, her affair with a fellow student, her travels and unexpected lessons. Russell puts a fresh face on the campus novel. This is a fast read that will keep your heart pumping. Custumers are already raving that once you start this book, you cannot put it down.
Wash by Margaret Wrinkle
A tremendous debut novel about a slave owner in 1820s Tennessee and the man he hires out to breed. There is unexpected beauty and grace woven throughout the difficult subject matter, and Wrinkle's great strength is her ability to enter the heads of these characters and see the world in relatable terms. An artful achievement for fans of Faulkner and filmmaker Terrence Malick. Signed first editions.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
Set among the upwardly mobile in Seattle, this novel focuses on a family of over-achievers bound for Antarctica ... until mom Bernadette goes missing. Told in a melange of emails and narration by their genius daughter Bee, this quirky comedy caught us by surprise. It's a hilarious adventure for anyone who feels lost in the rat race.