Fiction

Find Me
Laura van den Berg

(2015) Joy has no one. She spends her days working the graveyard shift at a grocery store outside Boston and nursing an addiction to cough syrup, an attempt to suppress her troubled past. But when a sickness that begins with memory loss and ends with death sweeps the country, Joy, for the first time in her life, seems to have an advantage: she is immune. When Joy’s immunity gains her admittance to a hospital in rural Kansas, she sees a chance to escape her bleak existence. There she submits to peculiar treatments and follows seemingly arbitrary rules, forming cautious bonds with other patients–including her roommate, whom she turns to in the night for comfort, and twin boys who are digging a secret tunnel.

Once the Shore
Paul Yoon

(2009) Spanning over half a century—from the years just before the Korean War to the present—the eight stories in this collection reveal an intricate and unforgettable portrait of a single island in the South Pacific. Novelistic in scope, daring in its varied environments,Once the Shore introduces a remarkable new voice in international fiction.

Snow Hunters
Paul Yoon

(2014) Though he is a stranger in a strange land, throughout the years in this town, four people slip in and out of Yohan’s life: Kiyoshi, the Japanese tailor for whom he works, and who has his own secrets and a past he does not speak of; Peixe, the groundskeeper at the town church; and two vagrant children named Santi and Bia, a boy and a girl, who spend their days in the alleyways and the streets of the town. Yohan longs to connect with these people, but to do so he must sift through the wreckage of his traumatic past so he might let go and move on.

The Woman Upstairs
Claire Messud

(2013) Nora Eldridge, an elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, long ago compromised her dream to be a successful artist, mother and lover. She has instead become the “woman upstairs,” a reliable friend and neighbor always on the fringe of others’ achievements. Then into her life arrives the glamorous and cosmopolitan Shahids—her new student Reza Shahid, a child who enchants as if from a fairy tale, and his parents: Skandar, a dashing Lebanese professor who has come to Boston for a fellowship at Harvard, and Sirena, an effortlessly alluring Italian artist.

The Emperor’s Children
Claire Messud

(2007) A richly drawn, brilliantly observed novel of fate and fortune—of innocence and experience, seduction and self-invention; of ambition, including literary ambition; of glamour, disaster, and promise—The Emperor’s Children is a tour de force that brings to life a city, a generation, and the way we live in this moment.

The Burning Girl
Claire Messud

(2017) The Burning Girl is a complex examination of the stories we tell ourselves about youth and friendship, and straddles, expertly, childhood’s imaginary worlds and painful adult reality—crafting a true, immediate portrait of female adolescence.

The Autobiography of My Mother: A Novel
Jamaica Kincaid

(1996). Powerful, disturbing, stirring, Jamaica Kincaid’s novel is the deeply charged story of a woman’s life on the island of Dominica. Xuela Claudette Richardson, the daughter of a Carib mother and a half-Scottish, half-African father, loses her mother to death the moment she is born and must find her way on her own.

Mr. Potter
Jamaica Kincaid

(2002). Jamaica Kincaid’s first obsession, the island of Antigua, comes vibrantly to life under the gaze of Mr. Potter, an illiterate taxi chauffeur who makes his living along the roads that pass through the only towns he has ever seen and the graveyard where he will be buried.

See Now Then
Jamaica Kincaid

(2013). This piercing examination of the manifold ways in which the passing of time operates on the human consciousness unfolds gracefully, and Kincaid inhabits each of her characters—a mother, a father, and their two children, living in a small village in New England—as they move, in their own minds, between the present, the past, and the future.

The Dog of the Marriage
Amy Hempel

(2005) The Dog of the Marriage, Hempel’s fourth collection, is about sexual obsession, relationships gone awry, and the unsatisfied longings of everyday life.

Naming the World: And Other Exercises for the Creative Writer
Bret Johnston

(2008) Interactive guide to the craft of narrative writing. From developing characters to building conflict, from mastering dialogue to setting the scene, Naming the World jump-starts your creativity with inspiring exercises that will have you scrambling for pen and paper.

Corpus Christi
Bret Johnston

(2005) A car accident joins strangers linked by an intimate knowledge of madness. A teenage boy remembers his father’s act of sudden and self-righteous violence. A “hurricane party” reunites a couple whom tragedy parted. And, in an unforgettable three-story cycle, an illness sets in profound relief a man’s relationship with his mother and the odd, shifting fidelity of truth to love.

The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel
Amy Hempel

(2007). Amy Hempel is a master of the short story. This celebrated volume gathers together her complete work — four short collections of stunning stories about marriages, minor disasters, and moments of revelation. With her inimitable compassion and wit, Hempel introduces characters who make choices that seem inevitable, and whose longings and misgivings evoke eternal human experience.

The Book Against God
James Wood

(2004). Thomas Bunting while neglecting his philosophy Ph.D. is secretly writing what he hopes will be his masterwork—a vast atheistic project. In despair over his failed career and failing marriage, Bunting is also enraged to near lunacy by his parents’ religiousness. When his father, a beloved parish priest, falls ill, Bunting returns to the village of his childhood. His hopes that this visit might enable him to talk honestly with his parents and sort out his life, are soon destroyed.

Evasions
Dan Albright, Peter Sacks (artwork)

(2012). Daniel Albright gathers parables, poems, dreams, translations, written during a three-year period following the death of his father. Accompanied by artwork by the poet and artist Peter Sacks, the cahier is an attempt to translate private experiences into something with public meaning.

How Fiction Works
James Wood

(2009). The book asks “some of the essential questions about the art of fiction. Is realism real? How do we define a successful metaphor? What is character? When do we recognize a brilliant use of detail in fiction? What is point of view, and how does it work? What is imaginative sympathy? Why does fiction move us?