Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal—an experience that shocks him to his core.
Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s best-selling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.
When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the black-skied Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.
The Candy House by Jennifer Egan
Bix is 40, with four kids, restless, desperate for a new idea, when he stumbles into a conversation group, mostly Columbia professors, one of whom is experimenting with downloading or “externalizing” memory. It’s 2010. Within a decade, Bix’s new technology, “Own Your Unconscious”—that allows you access to every memory you’ve ever had, and to share every memory in exchange for access to the memories of others—has seduced multitudes. But not everyone.
Sister Stardust by Jane Green
Claire grew up in a small town, far from the glitz and glamour of London. On the cusp of adulthood, she yearns for the adventure and independence of a counterculture taking root across the world.
When she’s offered the chance to start anew in Morocco, in a palace where famous artists and musicians—even the Rolling Stones—have been known to visit, she seizes the chance. Arriving in Marrakesh, she’s quickly swept up in a heady world of music, drugs and communal living. And Talitha Getty, socialite wife of a famous oil heir, seems to preside over the whole scene. As Claire is pulled into her orbit, the realities of Talitha’s precarious existence set off a chain of dangerous events that could alter Claire’s life forever.
Atomic Anna by Rachel Barenbaum
In 1986, renowned nuclear scientist, Anna Berkova, is sleeping in her bed in the Soviet Union when Chernobyl’s reactor melts down. It’s the exact moment she tears through time—and it’s an accident. When she opens her eyes, she’s landed in 1992 only to discover Molly, her estranged daughter, shot in the chest. Molly, with her dying breath, begs Anna to go back in time and stop the disaster, to save Molly’s daughter Raisa, and put their family’s future on a better path.
In ‘60s Philadelphia, Molly is coming of age as an adopted refusenik. Her family is full of secrets and a past they won’t share. She finds solace in comic books, drawing her own series, Atomic Anna, and she’s determined to make it as an artist. When she meets the volatile, charismatic Viktor, their romance sets her life on a very different course.
In the ‘80s, Raisa, is a lonely teen and math prodigy, until a quiet, handsome boy moves in across the street and an odd old woman shows up claiming to be her biological grandmother. As Raisa finds new issues of Atomic Anna in unexpected places, she notices each comic challenges her to solve equations leading to one impossible conclusion: time travel. And she finally understands what she has to do.
As these remarkable women work together to prevent the greatest nuclear disaster of the 20th century, they grapple with the power their discoveries hold. Just because you can change the past, does it mean you should?
Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole by Susan Cain
Bittersweetness is a tendency to states of longing, poignancy, and sorrow; an acute awareness of passing time; and a curiously piercing joy when beholding beauty. It recognizes that light and dark, birth and death—bitter and sweet—are forever paired. A song in a minor key, an elegiac poem, or even a touching television commercial all can bring us to this sublime, even holy, state of mind—and, ultimately, to greater kinship with our fellow humans.
But bittersweetness is not, as we tend to think, just a momentary feeling or event. It’s also a way of being, a storied heritage. Our artistic and spiritual traditions – amplified by recent scientific and management research – teach us its power.
Cain shows how a bittersweet state of mind is the quiet force that helps us transcend our personal and collective pain. If we don’t acknowledge our own sorrows and longings, she says, we can end up inflicting them on others via abuse, domination, or neglect. But if we realize that all humans know – or will know – loss and suffering, we can turn toward each other. And we can learn to transform our own pain into creativity, transcendence, and connection.
In a Garden Burning Gold by Rory Power
Rhea and her twin brother, Lexos, have spent an eternity using cunning and magic to help rule their small, unstable country. Rhea controls the seasons to show favor to their most loyal stewards with bountiful harvests and short winters, while Lexos keeps the tides strong and impassable to maintain the country’s borders.
Reigning over them both is their father, who holds dominion over death, using his most powerful weapon—fear—to keep the people, and his children, in line.
For a hundred years, Rhea and Lexos have been each other’s only ally, defending themselves and their younger siblings against their father’s increasingly unpredictable anger while also trying to keep up the appearance of unity and prosperity within their borders.
Now, with an independence movement gaining ground, other nations jockeying for power, and their father’s iron grip weakening, the twins must take matters into their own hands to keep the world from crashing down around them. But as Rhea and Lexos travel beyond the security of their home to try to save their family, they begin to draw very different conclusions about their father’s style of rule.
Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow
Summer 1995: Ten-year-old Joan, her mother, and her younger sister flee her father’s explosive temper and seek refuge at her mother’s ancestral home in Memphis. This is not the first time violence has altered the course of the family’s trajectory. Half a century earlier, Joan’s grandfather built this majestic house in the historic Black neighborhood of Douglass—only to be lynched days after becoming the first Black detective in the city. Joan tries to settle into her new life, but family secrets cast a longer shadow than any of them expected.
As she grows up, Joan finds relief in her artwork, painting portraits of the community in Memphis. One of her subjects is their enigmatic neighbor Miss Dawn, who claims to know something about curses, and whose stories about the past help Joan see how her passion, imagination, and relentless hope are, in fact, the continuation of a long matrilineal tradition. Joan begins to understand that her mother, her mother’s mother, and the mothers before them persevered, made impossible choices, and put their dreams on hold so that her life would not have to be defined by loss and anger—that the sole instrument she needs for healing is her paintbrush.
Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li
Will Chen, a Chinese American art history major at Harvard, has spent most of his life learning about the West—its art, its culture, all that it has taken and called its own. Despite this, he believes art belongs with its creators, so when a Chinese corporation offers him a (very illegal) chance to reclaim five priceless sculptures China lost centuries ago, it’s surprisingly easy to say yes.
Will’s crew, fellow students chosen out of his boundless optimism for their skills and loyalty, aren’t exactly the experienced criminals from Ocean’s Eleven, but he’s cast them into their respective heist archetypes anyway to help him execute the plan. Irene, Will’s sister, and a public policy major at Duke who can talk her way out of anything serves as the conman; Daniel, a pre-med student with steady hands and a FBI Agent father whose specialty is FBI Art Crimes, as the thief; Lily, an engineering student with a slick smile who races cars in her spare time as thier getaway driver; and Alex, an outlier, ex of Will’s and MIT dropout turned Silicon Valley software engineer, as the hacker tasked with getting them safely in and out each museum they must rob. Each student has their own complicated relationship with China and the identities they’ve cultivated as Chinese Americans, but they all have something in common: when Will asks them, they won’t say no.
The Lifeguards by Amanda Eyre Ward
Austin’s Zilker Park neighborhood is a wonderland of greenbelt trails, live music, and moms who drink a few too many margaritas. Whitney, Annette, and Liza have grown thick as thieves as they have raised their children together for fifteen years. While each of them has their own set of values and backgrounds, they share the belief that they can shelter their children from an increasingly dangerous world. The women’s three teenaged sons are about to begin a carefree summer as lifeguards. Whitney, Annette, and Liza’s friendship is unbreakable—as safe as the neighborhood where they’ve raised their sweet little boys.
Or so they think.
One night, the three women have been enjoying happy hour when their boys come back on bicycles from a late-night dip in their favorite swimming hole. The boys share a secret—news that will shatter the perfect world their mothers have so painstakingly created.
The Shadow House by Anna Downes
Escaping from an abusive relationship, single mother-of-two Alex seeks refuge in a rural community far away from her troubled past and the scourges of modern life that threaten to ensnare her teenage son. The beautiful forests of Pine Ridge are idyllic, and the community welcoming, mostly.
But Alex finds that she may have disturbed barely hidden secrets in her new home, and history starts repeating itself as a chain of events—eerily familiar to those who have lived there for years—is set off. Alex realizes that she and her family might be in greater danger than ever before, and she confronts the mysteries held in Pine Ridge.
The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth
Stephen Aston is getting married again. The only problem is, he’s still married to his first wife, even though she is in a care facility for dementia. But he’ll take care of that easily, by divorcing her–even if his adult daughters protest.
Tully and Rachel Aston look upon Heather as nothing but an interloper. Heather is the same age as Rachel and even younger than Tully. Clearly she’s a golddigger and after their father’s money. Heather has secrets that she’s keeping close, and reasons of her own for wanting to marry Stephen.
With their mother unable to speak for herself, Tully and Rachel are determined to get to the truth about their family’s secrets, the new wife closing in, and who their father really is. But will getting to the truth unleash the most dangerous impulses…in all of them?
Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang
Daiyu never wanted to be like the tragic heroine for whom she was named, revered for her beauty and cursed with heartbreak. But when she is kidnapped and smuggled across an ocean from China to America, Daiyu must relinquish the home and future she imagined for herself. Over the years that follow, she is forced to keep reinventing herself to survive. From a calligraphy school to a San Francisco brothel to a shop tucked into the Idaho mountains, we follow Daiyu on a desperate quest to outrun the tragedy that chases her. As anti-Chinese sentiment sweeps across the country in a wave of unimaginable violence, Daiyu must draw on each of the selves she has been—including the ones she most wants to leave behind—in order to finally claim her own name and story.