It’s a new year, and time for hope and self-examination and … maybe some new books? Visit your local bookstore and wish them well for 2021 — and don’t miss that new-in-paperback table, which might hold these recommended titles and many more.
“A Beautiful Crime” by Christopher Bollen (HarperCollins, $16.99, available Jan. 12). “What makes the crime in Bollen’s stylish new novel so beautiful is that the perps’ plan works out even better than they’d hoped — at least for a while,” wrote Washington Post reviewer Dennis Drabelle of “A Beautiful Crime” last year. In a plot that sounds very Patricia Highsmith-influenced, the tale focuses on two young New Yorkers and co-conspirators determined to carry out a fraudulent plan including some questionable silver and a crumbling palazzo in Venice, Italy. At a time when we can’t visit Venice ourselves, Drabelle suggests, “you might want to settle for a few cuticle-biting hours” with this book.
“The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World” by Melinda Gates (Flatiron, $15.99). Gates, a local resident and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has added a new afterword to her 2019 bestselling book in which she shares lessons learned from her work and travels, focusing on the lives of the women she’s met. The Los Angeles Times called it “a potent and laudable book,” noting that in it Gates asks challenging questions of both herself and her foundation (“humble empathy and good questions appear to be her A-level skills”) and makes clear that “she’s not just about lifting women up for their sake — though that’s absolutely important — but for the world’s sake.”
“Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick” by Zora Neale Hurston (Amistad, $17.99). Hurston, the beloved author of the 1937 classic of Black literature “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” died in 1960; now, six decades later, this highly anticipated collection of her short fiction includes eight long-lost stories written during the Harlem Renaissance. “Hurston was an avid student of her people, and it made her a master of her art,” wrote The Seattle Times’ Crystal Paul last February. “That mastery is on full display in ‘Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick’ as she deftly captures whole lives, tragedies and romances in a matter of pages, crafts epics from the thousands of stories that made up the Great Migration, and extracts familiar mythologies from the stories Black folk have been telling from unadorned stoops and porches for centuries.”
“The Resisters” by Gish Jen (Knopf, $16.95, available Jan. 12). The author of several novels and the nonfiction work “The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap” here turns her sights to dystopia, setting this 2019 novel in an “AutoAmerica” cruelly divided by class and surveilled by an all-knowing presence called Aunt Nettie. In this world, a baseball-loving girl with a golden arm is discovered playing in an underground league, and soon finds herself in dangerous territory. Seattle Times reviewer Michael Upchurch called the book “a rabble-rousing tale with an ominous edge to it” and concluded: “Best of all is [Jen’s] take on why even the ultimate surveillance society can’t quite muffle the human spirit.”
“The Dutch House” by Ann Patchett (HarperCollins, $14.99). A Pulitzer Prize finalist and New York Times bestseller, Patchett’s eighth novel explores the bond between two grown siblings, and their connection to the house in which they grew up. The book is “a paradise lost tale dusted with a sprinkling of ‘Cinderella,’ ‘The Little Princess’ and ‘Hansel and Gretel’” wrote NPR reviewer Heller McAlpin. “Patchett’s concern here, as in much of her fiction, is with the often unconventional families we cobble together with what’s available to us. Being Patchett, she brings her novel around to themes of gratitude, compassion and forgiveness. ‘The Dutch House’ goes unabashedly sentimental, but chances are, you won’t want to put down this engrossing, warmhearted book even after you’ve read the last page.”
“Uncanny Valley: A Memoir” by Anna Wiener (Picador, $17). Wiener, in her mid-20s, left a job in New York’s book industry to go work at a Silicon Valley startup; this memoir recounts her adventures in a strange new digital world. “The Brooklyn native stepped into an alternate universe of eternal youth, one chock-full of venture capital, step counters, thought leaders, optimization and workarounds,” wrote Seattle Times reviewer Emma Levy, calling the book “compelling” and concluding that “the future is a dark, unsettling frontier, and ‘Uncanny Valley’ is a call to vigilance and action.”