5 February Favorites

Suspense, memoirs, and short stories to get you through the snowy days


Even if you’re not done with the bookish bounty brought forth under your Christmas tree, 2015 promises a whole new trove of literary treasures. So don’t worry that the groundhog says there’s six more weeks of winter. These five terrific titles will keep you happily reading in front of a roaring fire until spring.

Honeydew by Edith Pearlman (Little, Brown, and Company). Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Binocular Vision, Pearlman is owning the limelight in her third act. With Honeydew, her newest collection of stories, we encounter displacement and longing in the author’s signature mercurial style. In the title story, a girl struggles with anorexia in her waking hours, while dreaming of a culinary smorgasbord at night. Meanwhile, her middle-aged teacher frets over an illegitimate pregnancy, how to carry on in school, and how to win the father of the child. It may seem too much for one tale, but therein lies Pearlman’s genius for big themes delivered in taut packages.

There’s Something I Want You to Do by Charles Baxter (Pantheon). For fans of Baxter’s earlier collection, Gryphon, this new assembly of 10 interconnected stories first centers around the righteous elements of bravery and loyalty, before moving on to deadly sins. The characters showcase the duality in humanity — that both charity and gluttony exist, invariably, in us all. Depending on the day of the week. 

Leaving Before the Rains Come by Alexandra Fuller (Penguin Press). Best known for her first memoir, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight, the bestselling account of growing up in what was then Rhodesia, Fuller’s is a voice of impassioned activism and hard-won wisdom. In her newest memoir, the subject is divorce from the man she felt would save her from the uncertainty of life in Africa. After 20 years in America and three children, Fuller realizes she can no longer hold on to the notion of being rescued, particularly when she’s so often pulled toward her homeland. No one writes like Fuller, and few are able to make the subject of someone else’s divorce so evocative.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (Riverhead Books). One way to ensure your alertness on the workday commute is to read about a train beyond whose windows pass murder, addiction, and infidelity. Rachel, the 34-year-old alcoholic narrator, is mourning the demise of her marriage and career. She continues commuting to and from London every day when she begins mentally constructing a life for a couple whose terrace she passes every morning. One day, the real woman whose life Rachel’s imaginings are based on goes missing. The plot twists in this novel, by first-time author Hawkins, will leave you tearing through the pages right to the end.

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton (Grand Central Publishing). This, Scotton’s first novel, has been compared to other coming-of-age classics, but it stands on its own. The adult Kevin narrates his own childhood story, memorializing his brother’s death, his grandfather’s loyalty, and all the ways in which a small-town upbringing taught him about the natural progression of life. Through ruminations on everything from his Appalachian surroundings to the depredations of capitalism, Kevin tries to make sense of his place in the world and the people closest to him in it.

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