The best seller lists can be a great source of new reading material, pointing interested readers toward popular, award-winning, and worthy books. The five titles included in this roundup have all won a heap of praise and sold incredibly well, and they are all highly recommended.
by Don Delillo
Scribner 128 pages, $22.00
Don Delillo’s The Silence is a frighteningly prescient novel about an all too plausible global catastrophe. On Super Bowl Sunday in 2022, a retired physics professor and her husband are preparing to host a dinner party at their Manhattan apartment. One of the guests is a former student and, as kickoff looms, the three of them await the arrival of a couple who are due to fly in from France. Then, during the last commercial before kickoff, an unexplained disaster strikes: digital devices worldwide cease working, leaving people with no electronic means of communication and connection. Unfortunately, for those at the dinner party at least, the inability to rely on digital communication seemingly reflects a lack of interpersonal communication skills, although Delillo ensures that they have weighty monologues and plentiful internal strife to share. It’s an unusual take on a post-apocalyptic situation as the characters embrace the mundanity of societal collapse rather than seeking out the cause and solution.
The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World
by Laura Imai Messina
The Overlook Press 416 pages, $25.00
Everything in Yui’s life reset on March 11, 2011––the day a devastating tsunami hit Japan. It was the day she lost both her mother and her daughter. Sometime later and still consumed by grief, she hears a rumor about a disused phonebooth that bereaved people have started to visit so that they might talk to and about their lost loved ones and, in that way, begin to heal their pain. Yui decides that she will chance to visit the phone booth, but once she gets there, she feels unable to actually lift the receiver and start talking. Instead, she meets a grieving widower whose daughter has stopped speaking in the wake of his wife’s death. Yui’s journey through heartbreak and loss is deeply moving and, ultimately, uplifting as it portrays how those touched by tragedy have to live with the resultant feelings forever, while the rest of the world is able to move on. Laura Imai Messina’s The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World is a beautiful exploration of grief and healing. Its meditative tone makes for a quiet yet profound read.
by R.H. Herron
Dutton 368 pages, $26.00
What do you do when it appears that everything you have always believed in might just be founded on lies? That’s the question that Jojo Ahmadi has to face in Stolen Things by R.H. Herron, a crime story based on real-life events. Jojo’s dad is the chief of police in her California hometown while her mom is a 911 police dispatcher, so it’s no surprise that she’s always considered the members of the police department to be her family. It’s also no surprise that when Jojo is found drugged and in pain in the house of Kevin Leeds, a professional football player, the whole police department rushes to investigate. Also in the house is the dead body of Leeds’ trainer, while Jojo’s best friend Harper is missing from the scene. Leeds seems the most likely suspect but Jojo is convinced he would never hurt her. She embarks on her own investigation and, in the process, learns far more than she bargained on. The crime and Jojo’s subsequent investigation make for a shocking thriller that certainly packs a punch as a host of secrets and lies are revealed.
Before You Go
by Tommy Butler
HarperCollins 272 pages, $26.99
Tommy Butler’s debut novel, Before You Go, is a life-affirming work of speculative literary fiction. It follows Elliot Chance from childhood through to adulthood as he gets ever closer to understanding why he has never felt that he belonged to this world. Although he doesn’t know it yet, the answers he seeks lie back in the time beyond memory, when humans were created with a hole in their heart and their creators didn’t realize their mistake. In the present, he finds a pair of unlikely allies in his quest for understanding in Sasha, a young woman who is compelled to send coded messages out into the ether, and Bannor, a man who knows far too much about the future. With the support of his new-found friends, Elliot at last feels able to get on with the business of living, but the problem of the hole in humanity’s heart will not be so easily solved. Elliot’s journey through depression and disenfranchisement to awakening to the beauty and possibility of life is uplifting, while the sense of magic realism that characterizes his world elevates the story to something really special.
by Mary Adkins
HarperCollins 368 pages, $27,99
A timely tale of campus life and both gender and social politics in the #MeToo era, Mary Adkin’s Privilege is set in Carter University, allegedly the “Harvard of the South.” Annie Stoddard was a big fish in the small pond that was her Georgia high school, but now she’s enrolled at Carter, she realizes just how marked she is by her economically underprivileged upbringing. Similarly, Bea Powers is wondering if she made a mistake by putting aside her fears of being a biracial student in the South and deciding to attend Carter, especially as everyone seems to have a different idea of what justice and equality mean. Meanwhile, Stayja York works at a campus coffee shop and has to cope with serving Carter students all day as she attempts to save for her own education. The lives of the three women unexpectedly intersect when Annie accuses a male student of sexual assault, and they will all be profoundly changed by their encounters. Told from the alternating perspectives of all three women, the story is thought-provoking and surprisingly tense, mixing contemporary real-world concerns with campus fiction tropes.