The 25th Hour


David Benioff - 2000
    Wall Street speculators, the Manhattan downtown club scene, Russian gangsters, immigrant neighborhoods - all the elements in the urban turf of this finely crafted contemporary crime novel wed danger with excitement and possibility. They're the rewards that Monty Brogan, who stands at the center of the moral glare in this tale, has already lost, just as he's lost his Corvette, and the "sway" that opened the doors of exclusive night spots and guaranteed him courtside seats at Madison Square Garden. Tomorrow Monty's traveling by bus, to the federal prison in Otisville, for seven years. He's afraid, and all he'd ever really wanted when he grew up was to be a fireman. With the pulse of the city in its prose, this debut novel follows Monty through the twenty-four hours of his last day out. At the same time, it illuminates the worlds, and souls, of his two best friends: Frank Slattery, an edgy bond trader who gambles daily with financial ruin, and Jakob Elinsky, an English teacher who clings to illusions as he compromises his ideals. Friends since their high school days, the three of them nostalgically share a past, but warily they confront a future that can no longer accommodate their adolescent dreams. They meet. They drink, and talk, go clubbing, dance, drink, and remember. What neither Slattery nor Jakob know, however, is that Monty has a plan. It's a shocker.Originally published: New York: Carroll & Graf Pub., 2000.

The Goldfinch


Donna Tartt - 2013
    Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld. As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love - and his talisman, the painting, places him at the centre of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling power. Combining unforgettably vivid characters and thrilling suspense, it is a beautiful, addictive triumph - a sweeping story of loss and obsession, of survival and self-invention, of the deepest mysteries of love, identity and fate.

Like a Hole in the Head


Jen Banbury - 1998
    Soon, a polite assassin arrives, with the dwarf in tow, demanding the book back. But Jill has already unloaded the valuable tome, and, as she values her life, immediately sets off to recover it. As an outrageous cast of thugs, sycophants, and central casting rejects join in the chase for the elusive volume and the special secret it contains, Jill finds herself cheated, kidnapped, drugged, tortured, and even forced to work as a movie extra. Twisted and subversive, Jen Banbury's debut is a mad, breathtaking romp through a hilariously dark vision of contemporary America.

Cataract City


Craig Davidson - 2013
    As the two know well, there's more to the bordertown than meets the eye: behind the gaudy storefronts and sidewalk vendors, past the hawkers of tourist T-shirts and cheap souvenirs live the real people who scrape together a living by toiling at the Bisk, the local cookie factory. And then there are the truly desperate, those who find themselves drawn to the borderline and a world of dog-racing, bare-knuckle fighting, and night-time smuggling.     Owen and Duncan think they are different: both dream of escape, a longing made more urgent by a near-death incident in childhood that sealed their bond. But in adulthood their paths diverge, and as Duncan, the less privileged, falls deep into the town's underworld, he and Owen become reluctant adversaries at opposite ends of the law. At stake is not only survival and escape, but a lifelong friendship that can only be broken at an unthinkable price.

Before and After


Rosellen Brown - 1992
    But when the local police chief comes looking for their seventeen-year-old son Jacob to question him about the brutal murder of his girlfriend, the Reisers' lives begin to unravel. A compelling story that will capture you in the opening scene and hold you through its shocking conclusion, Before and After is a stunning novel that pits parent against parent, brother against sister, family against community, blood loyalty against law-as "deep questions of loyalty, honesty, and love are forced to the surface in this psychologically riveting tale." (Library Journal)

The Paper Wasp


Lauren Acampora - 2019
    Once a bright student on the cusp of a promising art career, she now languishes in her childhood home, trudging to and from her job as a supermarket cashier. Each day she is taunted from the magazine racks by the success of her former best friend Elise, a rising Hollywood starlet whose life in pictures Abby obsessively scrapbooks. At night Abby escapes through the films of her favorite director, Auguste Perren, a cult figure known for his creative institute the Rhizome. Inspired by Perren, Abby draws fantastical storyboards based on her often premonitory dreams, a visionary gift she keeps hidden.When Abby encounters Elise again at their high school reunion, she is surprised and warmed that Elise still considers her not only a friend but a brilliant storyteller and true artist. Elise's unexpected faith in Abby reignites in her a dormant hunger, and when Elise offhandedly tells Abby to look her up if she's ever in LA, Abby soon arrives on her doorstep. There, Abby discovers that although Elise is flourishing professionally, behind her glossy magazine veneer she is lonely and disillusioned. Ever the supportive friend, Abby becomes enmeshed in Elise's world, even as she guards her own dark secret and burning desire for greatness. As she edges closer to Elise, the Rhizome, and her own artistic ambitions, the dynamic shifts between the two friends--until Abby can see only one way to grasp the future that awaits her.The Paper Wasp is a thrilling, unexpected journey into the psyche and imagination of a woman determined to fulfill her destiny from one of our most unique and incisive writers.

Man Tiger


Eka Kurniawan - 2004
    The inequities and betrayals of family life coalesce around and torment this magical being. An explosive act of violence follows, and its mysterious cause is unraveled as events progress toward a heartbreaking revelation.Lyrical and bawdy, experimental and political, this extraordinary novel announces the arrival of a powerful new voice on the global literary stage.

Two If by Sea


Jacquelyn Mitchard - 2016
    In that moment, Frank’s own life is transformed. Not quite knowing why, Frank sidesteps the law, when, instead of turning Ian over to the Red Cross, he takes the boy home to the Midwestern farm where he grew up. Not long into their journey, Frank begins to believe that Ian has an extraordinary, impossible telepathic gift; but his only wish is to protect the deeply frightened child. As Frank struggles to start over, training horses as his father and grandfather did before him, he meets Claudia, a champion equestrian and someone with whom he can share his life—and his fears for Ian. Both of them know that it will be impossible to keep Ian’s gift a secret forever. Already, ominous coincidences have put Frank’s police instincts on high alert, as strangers trespass the quiet life at the family farm. The fight to keep Ian safe from a sinister group who want him back takes readers from the ravaged shores of Brisbane to the middle of America to a quaint English village. Even as Frank and Claudia dare to hope for new love, it becomes clear that they can never let Ian go, no matter what the cost. A suspenseful novel on a grand scale, Two If by Sea is about the best and worst in people, and the possibility of heroism and even magic in ordinary life.

The Driftless Area


Tom Drury - 2006
    Set in the rugged region of the Midwest that gives the novel its title, The Driftless Area is the story of Pierre Hunter, a young bartender with unfailing optimism, a fondness for coin tricks, and an uncanny capacity for finding trouble. When he falls in love, with the mysterious and isolated Stella Rosmarin, Pierre becomes the central player in a revenge drama he must unravel and bring to its shocking conclusion. Along the way he will liberate 77 thousand dollars from a murderous thief, summon the resources that have eluded him all his life, and come to question the very meaning of chance and mortality. For nothing is as it seems in The Driftless Area. Identities shift, violent secrets lie in wait, the future can cause the past, and love becomes a mission that can take you beyond this world.In its tender, cool irony, The Driftless Area recalls the best of neonoir, and its cast of bonafide small-town eccentrics adrift in the American Midwest make for a clever and deeply pleasurable read from one of our most beloved authors.

What Comes After


JoAnne Tompkins
    Next door, Lorrie, a working single mother, struggles with a heinous act committed by her own teenage son. Separated by only a silvery stretch of trees, the two parents are emotionally stranded, isolated by their great losses--until an unfamiliar sixteen-year-old girl shows up, bridges the gap, and changes everything.Evangeline's arrival at first feels like a blessing, but she is also clearly hiding something. When Isaac, who has retreated into his Quaker faith, isn't equipped to handle her alone, Lorrie forges her own relationship with the girl. Soon all three characters are forced to examine what really happened in their overlapping pasts, and what it all possibly means for a shared future.With a propulsive mystery at its core, What Comes After offers an unforgettable story of loss and anger, but also of kindness and hope, courage and forgiveness. It is a deeply moving account of strangers and friends not only helping each other forward after tragedy, but inspiring a new kind of family.

Wimmera


Mark Brandi - 2017
    Almost teenagers, they already know some things are better left unsaid.Then a newcomer arrived in the Wimmera. Fab reckoned he was a secret agent and he and Ben staked him out. Up close, the man's shoulders were wide and the veins in his arms stuck out, blue and green. His hands were enormous, red and knotty. He looked strong. Maybe even stronger than Fab's dad. Neither realised the shadow this man would cast over both their lives.Twenty years later, Fab is still stuck in town, going nowhere but hoping for somewhere better. Then a body is found in the river, and Fab can't ignore the past any more.

Apartment


Teddy Wayne - 2020
    1 BrooklynIn 1996, the unnamed narrator of Teddy Wayne’s Apartment is attending the MFA writing program at Columbia on his father’s dime and living in an illegal sublet of a rent-stabilized apartment. Feeling guilty about his good fortune, he offers his spare bedroom--rent-free--to Billy, a talented, charismatic classmate from the Midwest eking out a hand-to-mouth existence in Manhattan.The narrator’s rapport with Billy develops into the friendship he’s never had due to a lifetime of holding people at arm’s length, hovering at the periphery, feeling “fundamentally defective.” But their living arrangement, not to mention their radically different upbringings, breeds tensions neither man could predict. Interrogating the origins of our contemporary political divide and its ties to masculinity and class, Apartment is a gutting portrait of one of New York’s many lost, disconnected souls by a writer with an uncommon aptitude for embodying them.

The Lion's Tail


Luna Miller - 2018
     Gunvor Strom may be in her sixties, her hands might be too shaky to perform operations and her body complains every time she works out. But her mind is as sharp as her scalpel. And she embraces change. After the divorce, she moved from a well-heeled Stockholm satellite to the far-from idyllic, inner suburb of Fruängen. It gets a little lively, but she likes being in the middle of things. She’s smart, experienced and innocent-looking – all qualities appreciated by a detective agency. As the agency’s rookie, she gets a surveillance job. A straightforward case, they say. Typical domestic. A wife suspects infidelity. Just track the husband. But when the husband is attacked and viciously beaten, his wife calls off the assignment. Too late. Gunvor is on the trail. The agency aren’t paying her, but her free time is her own business. After intervening in an incident of bullying, Gunvor finds herself with two unlikely allies. David is a young, jobless waster who hangs about Fruängen tube station. 19-year-old Elin is shy and introverted, after spending too long in her bedroom hiding from her parents’ fights. Out of curiosity, the pair join forces with Gunvor. Who’s going to notice two young people and an elderly lady slinking around the Stockholm streets? Only someone who’s watching their every move, biding his time, waiting to pounce. Curiosity can be deadly. A story of violence, madness, passion and bravery. A cat-and-mouse game of life and death. Never play with the lion’s tail.

Girl Through Glass


Sari Wilson - 2016
    Enduring the mess of her parent’s divorce, she finds escape in dance—the rigorous hours of practice, the exquisite beauty, the precision of movement, the obsessive perfectionism. Ballet offers her control, power, and the promise of glory. It also introduces her to forty-seven-year-old Maurice DuPont, a reclusive, charismatic balletomane who becomes her mentor.Over the course of three years, Mira is accepted into the prestigious School of American Ballet run by the legendary George Balanchine, and eventually becomes one of “Mr. B’s girls”—a dancer of rare talent chosen for greatness. As she ascends higher in the ballet world, her relationship with Maurice intensifies, touching dark places within herself and sparking unexpected desires that will upend both their lives.In the present day, Kate, a professor of dance at a Midwestern college, embarks on a risky affair with a student that threatens to obliterate her career and capsizes the new life she has painstakingly created for her reinvented self. When she receives a letter from a man she’s long thought dead, Kate is hurled back into the dramas of a past she thought she had left behind.Told in interweaving narratives that move between past and present, Girl Through Glass illuminates the costs of ambition, secrets, and the desire for beauty, and reveals how the sacrifices we make for an ideal can destroy—or save—us.

The Glass Hotel


Emily St. John Mandel - 2020
    On the night she meets Jonathan Alkaitis, a hooded figure scrawls a message on the lobby’s glass wall: Why don’t you swallow broken glass. High above Manhattan, a greater crime is committed: Alkaitis is running an international Ponzi scheme, moving imaginary sums of money through clients’ accounts. When the financial empire collapses, it obliterates countless fortunes and devastates lives. Vincent, who had been posing as Jonathan’s wife, walks away into the night. Years later, a victim of the fraud is hired to investigate a strange occurrence: a woman has seemingly vanished from the deck of a container ship between ports of call. In this captivating story of crisis and survival, Emily St. John Mandel takes readers through often hidden landscapes: campgrounds for the near-homeless, underground electronica clubs, the business of international shipping, service in luxury hotels, and life in a federal prison. Rife with unexpected beauty, The Glass Hotel is a captivating portrait of greed and guilt, love and delusion, ghosts and unintended consequences, and the infinite ways we search for meaning in our lives.